Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for November 17th

Hello, everyone! I hope that you're having a wonderful week! Around here we are just good and... sick. After a week and a half, I am the last one standing while the bug circulates through our house. We're clearing our schedule and camping out at home while we wait for everyone to feel better, and in the meantime, here are a few fun things for you all! 

God's Not Really That Holy, I'm Not Really That Bad - "If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you, too, have known people like this. Over time it became clear that their faith had been a mirage. They had deceived the people around them, but they had first deceived themselves. And any time I see these people fall away I am left asking, What would have marked them as true believers? How could I have known that they really got the gospel? How could they have known that they really got the gospel?" (Challies.com)

Secondhand Christmas Gifts: Money-Smart or Scrooge at Heart? - See, I'm not the only one! (The Humbled Homemaker)

(Actually, I love receiving second-hand gifts. They feel like they have a history, and like they've been specially selected. Anyone else feel this way?)

How Long Do Homeschool Lessons Really Take? - This is truly the down-and-dirty, minute-by-minute per subject, per grade level. Pure gold here. (Raising Arrows)

What Keeps Moms From Getting Enough Rest? - Excellent points from several mamas. I agree - it's always over-commitment and lack of planning that gets me. (Jess Connell)

Shutting Down the Homeschool Fight (Before It Even Starts) - One of the best (and funniest) articles I've ever read on the subject of answering questions and challenges posed to home educating families. (Simple Homeschooling)

Remember, everyone....

If you're putting together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, collection week began this past Monday, November 16th, and lasts through Sunday.

This is our first year making an OCC shoebox in a very long time. It was fun!

I have to admit the sorry truth. I didn't start this project with truly philanthropic motives. I really just wanted to have an antidote to the me-me-me attitude that some people's children (certainly not mine) may or may not exhibit around Christmas.

But as we progressed, we all got interested in the project, and it was a lovely time of others-focused ministry. The children had a wonderful time, and we are planning to repeat this every year.

Packing an Operation Christmas Child box can be pricey - or not! Here are some of the ways we saved money to it a bit more economical:

  • I stocked up on school supplies during July, when they're on sale here in Arizona. (Pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers).
  • I shopped at Goodwill. Items need to be like new, but that's easy to find! (Stuffed animals, hat, ball, matchbox cars).
  • I let the children add some like-new toys of their own. (LEGOs)
  • I filled in loose ends at the dollar store. (Pencil sharpeners, paper pad, candy.)


From the Recipe Box

Radishes! Radishes! Did you know that cooked radishes are a great substitute for potatoes in low-carb cooking? Yes!
I used radishes in a low-carb beef stew, and also in this wonderful hash browns recipe. I used bacon grease instead of cooking oil, and cooked them for about 20 minutes before browning. Once you get past the pink color (I just thought of them as mini red potatoes), they were delicious!

Four bunches of radishes, quartered.



From the Bookshelf

I originally thought that this book was a summary book of "sugar and health." It is, but it also has a specialty area - diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a condition about which I knew very little before reading this book. 

And now I know a lot!

This was a fun book. Easy to read, lots of great information. A great read for those of us who read obsessively on health, or, for the rest of the normal population, a great book for those who want to learn more about diabetes management and the treatment, reversal, and prevention of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. 

I came to this book reluctantly, as I didn't care for the title (and still don't). But it was recommended by a friend, so I decided to give it a go.

And was I glad that I did!

This was an amazing book, full of awesome food chemistry and food history. It contains a thorough review of all of the modern concerns in the "health vs. food industry" wars - fats, sugars, food additives, etc. - and the handling is both in-depth and user-friendly.

If you want to learn about food (and to avoid the myriad of problems caused by modern fake foods), this is an awesome resource.

George Washington's Spy

The basic plot: Children travel back in time to the Revolutionary War, where after getting separated, some shelter with Tory Loyalists and some join the Patriots.

This is my current reading book for our daily history reading time. It's a fascinating book that I am greatly enjoying, and am finding (so far) much better than the Magic Tree House books. I love the balanced approach of showing the good (and bad) sides of both Whig/Patriot and Tory/Loyalist forces.

This book does provide some fairly detailed less-than-pleasant historical details, including: public hangings, tar and feathering, chamber pots, medical bleeding, death, etc. - so make sure that any child to whom you give this book isn't too young or sensitive to handle the material.

This book is actually the sequel to the original "George Washington's Socks," which our library unfortunately doesn't have. I hope to find a copy of it some day!

Especially for Locals

Getting Started Homeschooling
Saturday, January 16, 2016, 10 AM - 1:30 PM

If you’re new to homeschooling or thinking about this exciting education option for your family, be sure to join us for this 3-hour seminar. AFHE board members will present three workshops including Getting Started Homeschooling, Curriculum Approaches, and Ideas for Lesson Planning and Scheduling. Lunch is included.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT: Desert Foothills Library, 480-488-2286
More information here.

This event includes some of my favorite local home education speakers. If you're new to home education or are considering it, this will be an awesome event! 


Dear readers, have a wonderful week! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for November 7th

From the same site, an exciting new series: Supporting Women When a VBAC Doesn't Happen.

Pride and Destruction - How pedophiles use the church. (The Common Room)

Choice and Freedom: You Didn't Get Them From Feminism - Excellent material here. (Growing Home)

Seven Homemaking Rules to Break (And Three to Keep) - Good stuff here. My favorites are nos. 2, 6, and 7. (Pint-Sized Treasures)

Activism, Apathy, or Affliction? - So much good material in this post. I think that the author's conclusions are very valid. Check it out! (Gentle Reformation, hat tip to challies.com)

Study finds improved self-regulation in kindergartners who wait a year to enroll - "A new study on the mental health effects of kindergarten enrollment ages found strong evidence that a one-year delay dramatically improves a child’s self-regulation abilities even into later childhood." (Stanford News Center, hat tip to Contentment Acres)
"According to the study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee, children who started kindergarten a year later showed significantly lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity, which are jointly considered a key indicator of self regulation. The beneficial result was found to persist even at age 11."
Why Our Children Will Not Have Cell Phones - "Yes. In many ways, smart phones are easier. But to me? What is lost is far greater than what is gained." (The Humbled Homemaker)
From the same site: 10 Ways to Prepare for Cold and Flu Season - Great stuff here. Too bad I'll probably forget to do any of it till it's too late.

A Godly Woman - Sober and Self-Controlled - "Isn’t it easy to just forget that Scripture actually defines what character qualities we should be cultivating?  And not just for ourselves, but what we should be teaching the younger women and our daughters?  I think it’s so interesting to compare the culture’s definition of a strong woman to the biblical one.  How often are we bent on indulging our flaws under the culturally accepted guise of “this is who I am, like it or leave it“?" (Generation Cedar)

From the Bookshelf

I'd heard this one recommended in several places, so I finally picked it up.

And then I put it down.

I'm sure this book has great material. But I didn't want to wade through King's word choices to find it.

I'm sure it's a good book. It just wasn't for me. 

I saw the movie in elementary school, and now, twenty-five years later, am ready to tackle the book. I can't wait! The first few pages have been superb. 
We are two weeks away from diving into our study of the American Revolution, and both the 9yo and I are champing at the bit. We just finished reading Toliver's Secret (excellent, and a great read-aloud!) and I've just maxed out our library cards requesting every last book in the library on the Revolution. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.)

American Liberty, here we come!

The Recipe Corner

I plan to try these pumpkin bars soon, probably for our weekly church potluck. They look great! (The Modest Mom)
From the same site, I'm looking forward to working through 10 Simple Homemade Granola Bar Recipes

This week the family had Mexican Mess while I had Low Carb Taco Soup. Both were great!

 For Guy Fawkes Day ("Remember, remember, the fifth of November...") we had English parkin - a sticky oatmeal gingerbread that is delicious with whipped cream.

We used the recipe from Story of the World Year 3, but here is one that looks good.

We memorized this poem a few months ago when we covered Guy Fawkes in our history course. The 9yo likes to recite it with a faux-dramatic voice that is really quite killing.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot. 

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow; 

By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

If you ignore the finer historical details (ugh!), it's a fun holiday. We also had a bonfire (an alternate name for the holiday is "Bonfire Night"), proving an important fact about bonfires - that we don't know how to make one. We kept it going for 20 minutes by pouring an almost continuous stream of lighter fluid on it, and then gave up for the night.

Maybe next year.

Dear readers, have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Around Here Lately, November 2015

Remember about how I was worrying about not having enough homeschool field trips over the summer?

Mwa ha ha ha ha!

As usual, as soon as September hit, we were overwhelmed with field trip opportunities - so many that we've had to turn down quite a few just to keep from absolute overload.

From now on, I am going to remember that summer is our "slow season" with regard to field trips - and that's okay. It will help balance against the insanity of September through December.

Here are a few of our recent outings:

Our field trip to a local Mexican restaurant. The children colored, learned words in Spanish, got a tour of the back of the house operations, and enjoyed some burritos that they rolled themselves.

In one of our homeschool groups, each member is responsible for planning one field trip per year. This year I planned a field trip to one of our local airports. It was fun (though nervewracking - I do not like being in charge of an event) and went well.

Speaking of home education, I am thrilled that I have figured out our curriculum choices for next year!

And I kept those choices for a whole 24 hours before changing them!

Seriously, I'm pretty sure that our decisions are made (as far as they can be). Believe it or not, curriculum ordering time is only a few short months away - and I'm thankful that (most of) the angst is over.

That is, until I throw everything to the winds and decide to start from scratch.

Stay tuned for that.

This year we almost missed the pumpkin patch, but thankfully remembered before it was too late. The children always love this one!

Our church took a day this past month to visit Canyon Lake. The children had a wonderful time! They spent almost the entire day in the water at the shoreline, and also had a chance to go boating and tubing for the first time.

My husband also got to try wakeboarding, which he found much more challenging than waterskiing! He didn't quite make it up on the board, but he hopes to try again some time. We didn't get any pictures of that adventure.

When we got home, we were so tired that we fell asleep, each and every one of us, by 8:30 p.m.

We hope to go back soon!

We also attended our local library's annual "Star Wars Day" - the 9yo had a marvelous time.

And finally....

Yes! Merry Christmas!

Apparently our idea of letting the boys decorate early for Christmas last year set a standard, because they're never going to let us forget it.

It's okay by me. Maybe this way we could put our Christmas decorations away in January, as opposed to, say, April. (Once we actually got to May.)

The one thing that I didn't like was having such a short time with our fall decorations. Fall is my favorite season, and by the time I remembered to put up my two fall decorations, it was only three weeks till Christmas decorating day!

Next year, autumn starts on September 1st - even if it is still 110F outside!

Ending with a few random pictures!

Our little lady is pulling to stand and doing a bit of cruising. Now she's to the "let go and go boom" stage. Walking is just around the corner, as is her first birthday!

The 3yo goofing for the camera - he is a complete ham.

One of his nicknames is "Accessory Man" - he has not yet seen a costume, boot, hat, glove, etc. that he didn't immediately love. Combine that with his other nickname, "Worker Man," and you've got a child who spends his life piling on the extras, clothing-wise.

As a final note, I am happy to report that our family survived the Great Phoenix Earthquake. This earthquake was so strong that it almost woke me up. Boy, howdy. These desert earthquakes are really somethin'.
(This was actually the first earthquake that any member of our family has actually felt since moving to Arizona from California thirteen years ago. Ahhh. It felt just like home. :)
Dear readers, I hope that each of you is having a wonderful week! Love to you all!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How We Teach Homeschool History

As long-time readers know, finding a history curriculum for our home education program has been one of the most difficult, intimidating, mind-twisting problems that has yet beset my addled brain.

Thankfully we are now at a good place with history, and I'm really excited to let you all know where we are and how we ended up there!

Let's get started.

Choosing a curriculum for any subject is challenging, but I think that history poses a special challenge. There are just so many choices! Additionally, there are many, many different styles of teaching homeschool history: literature-based, textbook, unit-study, Classical, Charlotte Mason, four-year rotation, six-year rotation, linear, non-linear geographical, and more.

(I'm getting nervous just thinking about it.)

For the past two years, we used Galloping the Globe, a geography-based country unit study program geared for K-8. We have had a great time with it - see my review here. This past year, we moved to its sister program, Cantering the Country, which focuses on individual states in the U.S. It likewise has been great (I will post a review later this year).

I knew that we also needed something a bit more linear (i.e. studying history in a chronological fashion) - but I was stumped.

On the one hand, I love literature-based studies and unit studies and all of that fun stuff. On the other hand, home education while raising a family is a crazy-busy, exhausting life, and the last thing I wanted was another huge chunk of to-do items on my already overcrowded list. Thus, textbooks were also extremely appealing.

The literature-based studies that I found most appealing were those outlined in Susan Bauer's "The Well-Trained Mind." But there's one big problem with "The Well-Trained Mind," namely that reading it for more than five minutes at a time usually causes my brain to explode in a mess of overwhelmed despair. It's just too much awesomeness per square inch for my mind to handle. Each time I tried to wade through it, I would retire from the scene, thoroughly worsted and more determined than ever to ditch it and use textbooks.

Thankfully, a church friend (whose eminent sensibility far exceeds my capacity for common sense) took me in hand and showed me how to use Story of the World (the curriculum authored by Bauer and described in "The Well-Trained Mind") in an easy and fun way. We've used it for the first half of this year, and it's been a grand success.

What is Story of the World?
(And how do I use it?)

Story of the World is a four-year history program, working through a chronological rotation from the Ancients through modern times. American history is incorporated into this, rather than being taught separately.
  • Year 1 = Ancients to 400 A.D.
  • Year 2 = 400 to 1600 A.D.
  • Year 3 = 1600 to 1850 A.D.
  • Year 4 = 1850 to Present
It is expected that a child will start with Year 1 in first grade, and cycle through the curriculum three times during their 1st-12th grade education. (Really, you can start in any year for any grade.) Subsequent children can jump in with the rest of the family as they begin school.

(If you choose to use this curriculum for high school, additional supplemental materials will be necessary. See "The Well-Trained Mind" for more details. Many families use this curriculum only for their 1st through 8th grade students, and then choose a separate curriculum for their high schoolers.)

We chose to start with Year 3, which is where we would be had we used this curriculum from first grade.

For any year that you choose, you will need a textbook and a student activity book. (Purchase at Peace Hill Press.)

That's it, really!

(Though a good library card helps.)

The SOTW textbook provides the read-aloud text, divided up into chapters (one chapter per week) with usually two sections per chapter.

The SOTW activity guide provides sample narrations, review questions and answers, map work directions, supplemental reading lists, activity ideas (crafts, recipes, games), and the student pages for copying or printing (maps, coloring sheets, activity pages).

* I recommend purchasing the PDF of the student pages as well (the student pages are part of the activity book), so that you can print from the student pages rather than having to mangle your book (and lose your temper) trying to copy them.

Story of the World does contain more material than is needed for a 36-week year. For example, in the Year 3 book, there are 42 chapters - six more weeks of material than are needed. Families have a couple of options: skipping chapters that you find less interesting, doubling up chapters (two per week), reading through extra chapters without doing the accompanying work, or taking longer than one year per book.

How We Use Story of the World

Here's a sample week of Story of the World history the way we use it:
  • Monday - Read one textbook section, answer review questions orally.
  • Tuesday - Read one textbook section, answer review questions orally, and narrate.
    • (Narration is when a child "tells back" the story that has been read aloud. Usually this requires prompting! Right now I write down the third-grader's narration for him to copy.)
  • Wednesday - Map work. (Takes ten minutes, max.)
  • Thursday - Coloring page.
  • Friday - Activity.
Map work (maps and instructions), coloring pages, and activities are all included in the student activity guide.

This schedule varies greatly by week. Though there are generally two sections to read per week, occasionally there are up to three or only one. When there is more than one activity that we wish to do, I'll double up the map work and coloring page onto one day so that we free up a day for the extra activity.

We also do 30 minutes of "history reading time" on most days - everyone grabs a library book and reads until the timer goes off. (Is this a challenge with a 3yo around? Why, yes. Yes it is.)

How's it working for us?

Story of the World has been a resounding success for us. I love that it is well-organized without burying me in details and "extras." I love that it is simple, easy to use, and does not require the purchase of a million-and-one supplies and curriculum supplements to make it work.

Also, SOTW history doesn't take a lot of time in our day. Anywhere from fifteen minutes to however long we want. I tailor it day by day according to how much time we have!

Additionally, I love that almost all of the extra supplies for the projects (should I chose to do them; they're not mandatory) are things found in one's home, not requiring days of running around town looking for insanely difficult-to-find items. Rarely do I have to buy extra items. (And when I do.... we usually just skip the project. Simple enough.)

Year 3 of SOTW has been wonderful. It's especially well-suited for boys, with lots of adventure, seafaring, pirates, wars, kings, and adventure literature like Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Sign of the Beaver.

(I'm still dreading Year 1, as I simply cannot make myself interested in ancient history. If Bauer succeeds in making ancient history interesting - as opposed to finding myself in a near-death state from total boredom - she will indeed be a mastermind.)

But wait! What happened to Galloping the Globe?

I'm glad you asked!

Story of the World and Galloping the Globe/Cantering the Country actually make a great macro-micro combination for history. Story of the World covers the "big stuff" of history - kings and queens, wars and armies, the movements of nations and eras. For example, in Year 3 we have learned about:
  • The execution of Charles I, Cromwell, and the Restoration of the throne to Charles II
  • The Jamestown Colonists, the New France Colonists, the New Amsterdam colonists (and various sequelae thereof)
  • The Black Plague and the Great Fire of London

Galloping the Globe (GTG) and Cantering the Country (CTC) cover the smaller details of history - the things that are important (and fascinating), but which might not make it into the big-time history books simply due to lack of space. For example, in our Cantering the Country state studies this year, here are some of the topics we have studied (these studies also include some science topics):

  • CALIFORNIA - Death Valley, desert animals, Hollywood, San Francisco, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Ishi, Mt. Whitney, goats, redwood trees, John Muir, Yosemite, the Gold Rush and the forty-niners
  • ALABAMA - George Washington Carver, Jesse Owen, cotton farming and textile production, the boll weevil, slavery, Jim Crow laws, plantation life, Rosa Parks

This combination works beautifully in providing both the large scope of history and the small details. For now, we're sticking with this duo, and we love it.

You're doing TWO history curricula at once? Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

But don't be too impressed. (Or wait, maybe I should just let you be impressed.)

While we do the full program for Story of the World, we don't do a full program (activities, crafts, maps, etc.) for Galloping the Globe/Cantering the Country. We mainly use it as a source of read-alouds, with the occasional map, lap-book, or recipe thrown in. This provides us an excellent source of good-quality read-alouds while learning about states and countries, and we save the more intense work (maps and projects) for Story of the World.

Additionally, we use a more relaxed pace for GTG/CTC studies. For our schedule, I am doing one SOTW history book per year. With GTG/CTC, we work at a "however long it takes" pace. We check all of the books out from the library on the subjects under a particular country or state, and when we finish them, we move on to another country/state. This is taking anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on the amount of material available. (1)


One great side-effect of our history program is that I myself am finally getting a decent history education. I no longer have to wonder who Cromwell was, or what "Restoration England" meant. I've learned about things I'd never heard of before - like the Thirty Years' War - and I've learned about great figures of history who were never mentioned in my history classes (Peter the Great, etc.).

My history education (in an institution that shall remain nameless) was less than stellar. Very little of any value was taught. It was dumbed down, politically correct, and wasted a lot of time on irrelevancies. I am thrilled finally to be getting an education in history through the education of my children, and I'm so excited that they too are learning so much good, solid history. (2)

So that's what we're doing for history this year! While we will doubtless make changes in the future, this is working beautifully for us for now.

Thanks to all the curriculum authors (Loree Petit and Susan Wise Bauer, in this case) who make these wonderful resources available to home educating families!


(1) A friend of mine who also uses the combination of SOTW and GTG/CTC has developed a ten-year rotation using each resource separately: 6 years of SOTW, 2 years of GTG, and 2 years of CTC. See more about her plan here.

(2) Despite this, I did have a couple of exceptionally excellent teachers. Mrs. Marshall and Mr. Tuttle, I'm talking to you!