Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do That?

You probably already know a couple of good uses for hydrogen peroxide ("peroxide"), and there is a list going around with a plethora of uses for it. But I don't think these two are spoken for yet. I use peroxide for EVERYTHING, so it's my go-to product when germs or bacteria might be causing issues.

When I washed off my vacuum cleaner filter recently, I noticed it had a mildew smell once it dried. I couldn't just pop it back in, so I decided to see what would happen if I squirted some peroxide on it. All I can say is "Eeeeewww." It BUBBLED like crazy. And it bubbled out caked on dust that I thought I had rinsed off! I let it bubble out, rinsed, and then doused it with peroxide again and rinsed. When dry, the smell was gone. GONE! I couldn't believe it. I mean, I'm not sure why because I use it all the time, but it still amazes me.

I also use peroxide for my flip flops when they get stinky. So when my son's entire room made me gag because of the stench of his soccer shoes and shin guards, I got out my handy dandy bottle of peroxide. I removed his shoe liners and doused them in peroxide. No kidding, they practically started bubbling before it hit them. I think they even smoked. I squirted some on the inside as well, which bubbled, but not as drastically. The shin guards came out smelling like new, but the inside of the shoes will need more treatments than we have time for right now. Going forward, I will make a habit of removing the liners after practice and treating them once a week with peroxide. I will be spraying them with a concoction of essential oils as well.
Anyway, just thought I would share these two tips because I know it will help keep your house and shoes germ-free. Of course you can clean with peroxide as well. I regularly soak my sponges with it. It is SO cheap, and such a great staple to keep on hand for its many practical uses. Oh yeah, it can be used for boo-boos as well! ;)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Common Core Propaganda

Today in my facebook feed, there were FIVE references (so far) to this same "Common Core" video. Attached were numerous (sometimes thousands!) of comments about how Common Core math is dumbing down our kids, how this method is stupid, how people can't believe our kids are being taught this, etc. The funny thing is, all these "Common Core" math concept videos are just showing what kids have been learning for AGES and it's sad that parents have had no clue what their kids have been taught.

Before I go further and lose all my anti Common Core folks, I *am* against Common Core, simply for the fact that it is 100% about federal control of our schools. Even if they included in Common Core curriculum everything I agree with (didn't happen BEFORE Common Core, probably isn't happening now), I would be against federal control of our schools. I am against a federal agency tracking my children and keeping records of everything they say, do, or believe from the day they set foot in a school. Additionally, even if I agreed with everything included in the Common Core curriculum, what about when they change something? Am I supposed to believe that someone who doesn't even live in the same community knows what's best for my children?

That said, I believe the videos and pictures going around against "Common Core" are doing us all a disservice. First, they are improperly blaming Common Core for methods that have been used for years. Common Core did not invent any new way of doing anything! It simply took methods of teaching concepts that were already being used. Second, they are distracting us from the real problem, which I stated above, the federal takeover of schools. Here is the video that is making its rounds this week:

Now... most of the comments against this method are, "Why can't our poor, coddled kids just learn to memorize the facts like we had to?!" This is just a plain ignorant statement. As I've stated before in another post, people want to be so against Common Core, they don't really even pay attention to what's going on in the math, or they immediately "don't understand it." Either I'm just WAY better at math than most Americans, or having a teaching degree and learning numerous methods of teaching math allows me to see what they do not.

The method in the video has been around for ages. While that problem in particular is simple, use the same concept for a harder problem and it allows kids (and adults) to do mental math without writing anything down. For instance, if you need to add 59 + 13, can you see how looking at it like 60 + 12 is much easier to solve in your head? You would be using the same concept as in the video. Of course, anytime you first teach a new concept you use simple numbers like 9 + 6. And to the people who have said, (and I can't believe they did), "Well after they wrote all that down, I've already come up with the answer because I've memorized the fact," you are missing the point. This is not taught so that kids don't have to memorize "the nines." It's taught so they can do these things in their heads and NOT write anything down. Writing it down is how the method is taught, which is pretty useful for the visual learners, eh?

This video was clearly on a news program and is going viral on facebook. This makes me realize that it's possible that these "examples of Common Core" are now being used to make us forget what really IS wrong with Common Core. It's a sort of propaganda...a smoke screen if you will. Also known as a red herring, or wild goose chase. Don't fall for this. Don't start thinking that if we just remove a few "crazy math" teaching methods, Common Core will be okay. It's also bringing out all the parents whose kids were already attending failing public schools, as if Common Core is the reason they are failing (remember "No Child Left Behind"?)! Schools were already dumbing down our kids before Common Core, and NOW they have a problem. I guess that's a good thing. Nothing wrong with being more aware, but don't prove that your own school dumbed you down by falling for the wrong reasons.

As a side note, I have noticed that my Libertarian friends see the real issue with Common Core, my Republican friends share "I can't believe this new Common Core math!" memes to the point they go viral, and Democrats are largely silent. I'm going to leave you with that and let you think about it a minute.

Is it really about our kids, or politics?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Trampoline Fun

When we rented a house for three years, my kids knew that the lease stated "no trampolines," so the week after we purchased a house this past May, I bet you can guess what they started begging for! They wanted the trampoline before we moved into the rental, but I wasn't about to purchase one that I had to move, so they had probably been wanting one for 4-5 years! We had already raised the money through consignment sale proceeds, so it was just a matter of getting to it. We are now proud owners of a 15' Skywalker trampoline like this one:

My kids are 11 and 13 now, and you might think after a few weeks they would be bored with it already. However, even though it has been amazingly hot outside, they have continued to jump on it! They are learning skills like front flips and my daughter is working on her cheerleading jumps. It's great exercise and they come inside all sweaty, even when they jump in the cooler temps. My son has had knee problems for the past couple of years, so I'm hoping that the jumping is improving his muscle tone and endurance without straining his knee. He seems to think it's working. His goal is to slam dunk in basketball eventually!

I do think there is something to be said for making children learn patience with things they want. Both of my kids are really busy, and you would think they wouldn't have time for jumping on a trampoline. But they make time for it because they really appreciate having a trampoline FINALLY.
I know a lot of people have gotten hurt on trampolines, but the net on this one is very safe. As you can see in the picture, the covered springs are on the outside of the net. Also, the net really does work as far as "catching" a jumper if he misjudges his landing. I believe it's caught both of my kids' faces so far LOL. We do have it staked down so it doesn't end up in the neighbor's yard. I've heard many horror stories about that as well. If you get a trampoline, please make sure to stake it down!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Smart Kids Who Hate to Write

A few years ago, I heard Dianne Craft speak at our homeschool conference. She answered questions I never really knew I had, and I left equipped to "fix" my kids. My son hated writing. He also had little quirks about him that I just wrote off as "him" and found out he probably had nutritional needs that weren't being met. My daughter had a touch of attention problems, which is really what led me to focus on the Dianne Craft lectures, but once there I realized my son needed more help than she did.

He is a boy, so I never really grew too concerned when his writing was "off," even when his younger sister wrote much earlier and even better than him. Because she's a girl, after all, and wasn't that normal?

You would think I'd run home and start the protocol I'd gotten from the conference, but I didn't. As a matter of fact, it was a full year before I started it, and yes, I'm hanging my head in shame as I type this. It was actually not his writing that prompted me to start the "Writing Eight" exercises. It was basketball. I remembered Mrs. Craft speaking on how these writing exercises were often used by basketball teams to improve ball handling. I noticed that year how a pass would go directly to him, and somehow right THROUGH his hands. It happened about four times in one game. I couldn't believe it, and even though I have it on video, I STILL can't tell you how he missed them. So I knew something was not right.

He started the "Writing Eight" exercises when he started 7th grade. I can't remember how long it took before I noticed the results, but he did them Monday through Friday, for most of the school year. Basketball starts in November, so at most, it was about three months after beginning the program. Even though he was going through a HUGE growth spurt and had problems with his knees, his ability on the court was WELL improved from the seasons prior. I couldn't believe it. His improvement amazed me, but that's not the first thing that happened. In October, for the first time that I know of, he drew these cute little cats on our white board.

I literally don't remember him ever choosing on his own, without it being a requirement, to draw ANYTHING, at least not "publicly." He hated coloring as a child, hated drawing, and he certainly wasn't going around drawing for other people to see! (Yes, that's a dunce cap on his sister's can't fix everything at once!)

I knew it had to be the Writing Eight exercises. Then when basketball started up, I just knew we were on the right path. He also no longer complains about writing. He is more confident, more secure, and more "centered" if that makes sense. He's more comfortable in his own skin, even though he's in the most insecure time period of his life!

I wanted to share this so that others who don't get to hear Dianne Craft speak can learn about ways of helping their own children. Smart Kids Who Hate to Write is the program she provides to parents. Check it out! I hope it blesses your child like it did mine!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dance Class or Private Lessons?

I want to preface what I'm about to say with the fact that I am a thrifty kind of mom. I have to be, because I'm a single mom and I'm not rolling in the dough. So anytime I'm going to sign my kids up for something, I have to ask, "Can we afford this?"

Now that my daughter is 11 years old, I can look back on the decisions we made for her dance training and state with some degree of certainty what was a mistake, and what I would have done differently if I knew better.

When she was four, she took her first group class. It was the typical recital where girls on stage had no clue what they were doing, except for every five seconds where they would do their thing and then get lost again. Complete waste of money and time. Thankfully, my daughter didn't want to dance anymore after that, because she really preferred doing her own dances at home anyway. Yay for me!

When she was six, she was a cheerleader for football at our local football league and did SUCH a great job learning the cheers and dances that she decided to start taking a dance and gymnastics class at the same studio she went to at age four. She joined in December, and did great at the spring recital.

The following year, she still wanted to dance, but we chose to drive an hour away for a dance studio at the YMCA. The next year, she tried out for the competition team at the same YMCA and made it! Not only did she make it, but she was one out of two, and the youngest, who was added to the veteran competitors who were more advanced. She was excited. (By this time, we had moved to Wichita, where the competitive team was located!)

Then the "girl crap" started. I probably don't have to elaborate, but I will just say there were some bratty girls in dance class who made dance class a little less fun than it should have been. By Thanksgiving she was ready to quit, and by Nationals, she decided not only was she not going to compete the following year, but she was not going to dance at ALL.

What a difference a year makes! Now, I'm fairly certain that the problem stemmed from the fact that she is homeschooled and has never been programmed to think this girl behavior is okay. It's not that she couldn't deal with it, it's that she didn't see the point. Why spend HOURS with girls every week who are more focused on creating drama than on dancing? I mean, she was there to become a better dancer, but instead, she decided it wasn't worth the trouble.

Now, however, I have figured out the solution. I always thought her dance teachers were adequate. I never had many complaints about that, other than some unneccessary yelling and a little bit of favoritism that a few girls received. The teachers were a little immature, but I never knew (or thought about the fact) that they might be inferior in their instructing. I was not a dancer, so what did I know? In any case, we have found an AMAZING dance teacher who also happens to be a homeschool mom. My daughter has been taking small classes off and on with her for the past year, and she has learned more with her than she ever would have if she had stayed at the other studios. I think this is partly because the teacher is better, but also because the individual attention is MUCH more beneficial to dancers than taking group classes. Why is this?

When she was in group classes, there were so many different levels of ability. If one teacher is teaching ten girls, those ten girls might all be doing something wrong. And more than likely they are all doing something different wrong. How can all those things be corrected in a timely fashion? While larger dance classes are cheaper, how much is a child really being taught, other than how to do the dance that they will be performing at recital?

My daughter has not had a recital in two years, since she quit competitive dance. She has learned more about dance and the correct way to do things, because it was taught and corrected on the spot. She is learning combinations and has focused on ballet, jazz and contemporary, as well as musical theatre, since that's what she loves. In the end, I have saved money, because I'm getting more bang for my buck, as well as not having to pay traveling expenses or costume fees (and not having to buy tap shoes at all!)

If I had to do it over again, I never would have started the typical "cutesy dance class" classes and would have had her take a private or semi-private lesson once a month. Right now, she is planning on learning a solo dance in the fall and considering competing with it. She's always wanted to do solos anyway, so I guess we are where we need to be.

If you find yourself wondering why you send your little one to an hour long dance class every week when you could teach her the same moves at home (use Google!) you are not alone. If you are a homeschool mom and this is her only chance of interacting with other girls, then you may feel differently. This homeschool mom knows not everything works for everyone, and we have options that sometimes come to us a little late. Or was it perfect timing? Hmmmm...

If you live in or near Wichita, KS and would like more information about our dance teacher, just comment below and I will provide it for you. I'm not kidding when I say she's amazing. We will never take from anyone else. My daughter loves her, too, and you can't argue with that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

NOT Common Core

You've seen this meme on facebook, probably 5-6 times already. Where did it come from? I don't know. All I know is that it's not accurate, and it drives me nuts every time it makes its rounds again.
The math problem is depicted to be a product of Common Core Standards. While I am certainly NOT a fan of Common Core, the labeling is incorrect in this situation. As a matter of fact, nothing can really be blamed on Common Core, because really all it does is pick and choose the teaching methods and concepts which have already been used in the schools. Supposedly, it raises standards for those schools who are "behind," but shouldn't change much for most schools, as far as what is actually being taught.

The math algorithm shown in this picture is called "Counting Up" Subtraction and is part of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum which has been in development since 1983. This is one of the "new math" problems parents have been complaining about for at least a decade. They have other math algorithms that will shock you as well, and you will scratch your head, wondering what was wrong with the "old way"? Which is really funny, because most responses on facebook are by people who can't figure out what's going on in this algorithm, which tells me it's possible that they never developed a good number sense the "old way" so maybe they should give the "new way" a pass and consider that kids might understand numbers better when they are adults.

But since everyone wants to be against Common Core, they see this problem which they think is associated with Common Core and immediately throw up their hands. It's funny how our brains work. I bet if someone said you could have a million dollars if you can explain the algorithm it would take less then two minutes to do so.

Unless Common Core requires ALL schools to use Everyday Mathematics, this algorithm will not even be seen by your students who do not use this curriculum. I have seen numerous math curricula and none of them have these algorithms which are specific to Everyday Math. My kids did attend a school which used this curriculum, so I saw it first hand and can say overall it is an adequate curriculum. It does not force students to pick any certain algorithm for computations, but it does teach numerous ways of solving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. Now, those of you demanding that everyone be taught the SAME OLD WAY, think about that when you argue against schools because they don't teach to individuals' learning styles.

Now, do I think Common Core has merits? No. I think it's overreaching of the federal government, which wants even more control over our children's minds. Just another reason to have a Stay At Home Child...

Here's a great video by Julie Borowski about Common Core

Friday, February 14, 2014

Students Who Don't Like Math

I can't even believe I'm writing this. Raised in a family of math geniuses, it is hard to admit that the words, "I hate math!" ever fell from my child's mouth. They did. I was shocked.

When my son was in kindergarten I remember working on math with him and how he would sometimes come to an answer really quickly. He wasn't guessing, but he knew the answer. I asked him how he got the answer and he couldn't tell me. This drove me nuts. I learned in college that children should grow up learning how to communicate about math, and here I was, his kindergarten teacher and I was a total failure! Why couldn't he tell me?!

Now my son is 12 and over the years I've realized that sometimes the "experts" were wrong. While I couldn't figure out my son's methods, I didn't necessarily have to understand it in order to teach him. At this point, he is figuring out the answers much quicker than me. And still, he does a LOT of it in his head.

Usually I heard, "I hate math," when something got a little hard and required extra brain power. Sometimes kids are lazy and just don't want to do math RIGHT NOW. Adults are the same way, aren't we? But what if your kid NEVER likes math? What do you do then?

First, don't ever tell your child that you were bad at or did not like math. They will grow up thinking they will be the same way. If you have already done this, undo it. Get excited about math and act like it's all the rage. If your kid looks at you funny or asks you what's wrong, just say you have discovered how much fun math is and work the problems with him. If you had mediocre math teachers, it's possible that looking at math from your adult perspective will make the work easier to understand. If you are still intimidated by the numbers and calculations, make sure to enlist some help in the math area. There are lots of videos online that can help you both. You don't have to know everything all the time, you just have to have a learning spirit and excitement about working with numbers.

Second, figure out what your child really doesn't like. It could be that he is really struggling with a certain concept. Just because addition was a piece of cake doesn't mean subtraction is going to come easy. Help him climb the obstacles rather than struggle, fall, and give up. Imagine coming to a difficult concept, realizing there are only more difficult concepts behind it in the future. Not fun. Most kids like riddles or puzzles. I've always viewed each math problem as a riddle to figure out. If you are excited, even if your child is struggling, he will plow through if he has your help. The benefit of schooling at home is you can spend as much time as you need to get the concept down. Don't rush it! Let him get comfortable with a concept before jumping to the next "obstacle."

Third, make math fun. Some things are just going to be work, like learning math facts. For this, we use Try to take something your child enjoys and incorporate it into math. Now that my son is older, we try to see who can come up with the answer first. There are some things I will never beat him on, but other things I can. He gets a kick out of the times he beats me, and works harder to beat me on the others. If you don't have a competitive kid, this won't work. But maybe he is very active and likes jumping on the rebounder, bouncing on a ball, or getting M&Ms. Yes, bribery works, too! You know your kid, figure out what works and make math the most fun subject of the day. If you are really creative, make a treasure hunt, lasting over the course of a week. Each day's assignment provides another clue. Each clue takes him to the next location of the "riddles" to solve, eventually leading to the treasure. I bet he will want to start with math each day!

Your child will learn to like math if you provide the environment that makes math exciting. That doesn't mean that he will be good at it, but it will be easier when he is willing to do the work. Although we have met our own obstacles, I don't think my son will ever say he hates math again. However, we are just in pre-algebra now and I've still got high school to go so I'm not going to hold my breath! Good luck teaching parents, and have fun!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Was Our Country Really Founded by Godly Men?

Today I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, Monumental:  In Search of America's National Treasure, a documentary hosted by Kirk Cameron. I am not writing about this movie, but about the thoughts that resulted from watching it (and also from recently watching the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate).

Whenever the topic of our founding fathers arises, anti-Christians and atheists are quick to point out that our country was founded by atheists, agnostics, and non-believers, and we just need to “get over it.” Unfortunately, many of us, Christians and atheists alike, have been undereducated about this topic, because the whole truth has been removed from the public school system. So most Christians don’t really know how to respond, even if they have a good idea that they are right.

Monumental covered the Pilgrims and the difficulties they endured coming to America. They were clearly highly religious people, but atheists are quick to point out
1) there were already people settling in America before the Pilgrims arrived,
2) by the time our founding fathers established our country and government system the Pilgrims were long gone, and
3) the Salem Witch Trials, as if that is the ONLY thing the Pilgrims ever did. The Salem Witch Trials, while certainly religiously motivated, are more a testimony for mass hysteria rather than a point to make against Christianity. We have endured many other instances of mass hysteria in our country, but I’ll leave that for another day so I don’t lose you before I even get to my point. Right now, I’m going to focus on point 2.

The assertion that the original Pilgrims were long gone before the establishment of the United States is not incorrect. But the assumption made by that point is that by the time the founding fathers started their work, the country was made up of atheists or, at best, agnostics. I am going to examine nothing other than well known historical documents of our country to show why this assumption is NOT correct, no matter how many atheists tell you it is.

The book Words That Built a Nation by Marilyn Miller includes numerous historical documents and exactly what is stated in them (or parts of them). I will start with the Mayflower Compact, just in case there is any doubt about the Pilgrims’ beliefs. This document is said to be, “the first document of self-government for North America,” by author Marilyn Miller. It states in part,
In the name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by the grace of God, of great Britaine, France, & Ireland king, defender of the faith, &c.
Having undertaken, for the glorie of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine ourselves togeather into a civill body politick… (I tried to include all their errors, but I may have accidentally corrected some.)
As you can see, they were, as reported originally in history books, a religious group of people.
Let’s move on now to Benjamin Franklin, author (among many other things) of Poor Richard’s Almanack from 1733-1758. Included in his almanac were writings and popular sayings that reflected hard work and common sense. One included in the book was, “God helps them that help themselves.”  Marilyn Miller says about his proverbs, “He borrowed many from popular sayings and the Bible, often rewriting them. More colonists read Poor Richard’s Almanack than any other publication except the Bible.” This demonstrates that not only did Benjamin Franklin read and quote the Bible, the people during his time read the Bible as well!

Next up is Thomas Paine, with his well-known (well, I guess we should say “well mentioned”) pamphlet called Common Sense, published on January 10, 1776. This publication included…
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith… For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their Christian names.
Common Sense, which was very popular with colonists, included numerous biblical references apart from the quote provided above. There were WAY too many to list here. I do want to say that the book I am using only showed limited paragraphs of Paine’s fifty page pamphlet. It did include references to God, but it is similar to how students’ textbooks refer to historical documents- not mentioning the authors’ Christian roots or even displaying the entire document.

The next document, the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, refers to “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them….”
It also states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The last paragraph starts, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…” and it closes with, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The Declaration of Independence was signed by fifty-six colonists who agreed with these sentiments. They were certainly not the words of atheists!

Moving on to 1789, we come to the most controversial document affecting present times, the Bill of Rights. As most people know, the first amendment states in part,“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

This one single statement provides so much controversy for present times, we could debate it for hours. Rather, I should say, atheists could debate it for hours just because they would need that long to exhaust their opponent who knows what this statement intended to mean. This statement is where “we” get “separation of church and state.” Surely by now you know the words “separation of church and state” appear nowhere in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, or any other historical document. They are buzzwords used to confuse the undereducated in our country into believing that God has to be removed from schools, from courts, and from any other public domain. If you put the words into their historical context, the intention was that the colonists would not allow the government to force the people to subscribe to any particular religion as they had endured in England. It was not intended to remove God from our daily lives.

Lastly, let’s look at the Declaration of Sentiments written by women at the Seneca Falls Convention on July 20, 1848. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, there is similarity in the texts. Here are just a couple of parts of this document:
He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
This document arising from a meeting a feminists, shows not only that church and God were important to these women, but also that feminists were NOT atheists!

There is a LOT more information regarding the founding fathers, the colonists, and the history of Christianity and God in our country, but I’m only including these texts here. In defense of our religious beginnings, you might hear atheists say, as mentioned earlier, “But what about the Salem Witch Trials?!” Or you might even hear, “The Pilgrims didn’t establish our country, no matter how religious they were.” And when provided with the facts, you might even be slapped with, “What does it matter?!” (Forget the fact that they are usually the ones who bring it up!)

Well, this is only one aspect showing the decline in our country resulting from the decline of our belief in God and the decline of morality. Many of our documents extolled liberty, and the colonists pursued it for themselves and their descendants. Where does one think liberty was born? It came from our Creator and that is what the founding fathers believed and assumed we would continue to believe. As our love of God has been replaced with dependence on government and loss of control of our lives, we are ending up exactly where England was when the Pilgrims found their escape. We are losing our liberty.

We must teach our children both sides of history. God and religion has been removed from secular science and history texts, and it has been done for a reason. I suggest reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine in its entirety and teaching it to your children. Our country was founded by men and women who worshipped God and Jesus Christ. The only question that remains about that is from the people who don’t want to see it. The next time you refer to our Christian roots and are met with an eye roll, I hope that you know how to respond to those doubters!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Just Another Junkie

At church this morning, our pastor covered Day 4 of Creation, “the heavenly bodies.” He cleverly demonstrated the comparable sizes of earth, the sun, and other stars, and then tied up the sermon with the connection between the sun and the Son. What if the sun just decided to stop shining? You know, sort of how we don't shine the light of Jesus? It really hit home, and I left church contemplating how I can share Jesus in my day to day life.

A few hours later, I saw the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed away from a drug overdose. How sad! I don't know if others do this, but whenever someone famous dies (which seems to happen much more frequently these days) I find myself wondering where they are now. I mean, if you are an atheist, you're laughing right now. But I'm not...and I care about the souls of, yes, even those I never knew. It is ironic that Christians spend billions of dollars every year on movies to watch people that, in the end, we really have no concern for. We want them to entertain us, but other than that, we have no use for them, nor concern for them. (We are the same way with the people around us, so I don't know what I really expect...)

I read it in a comment to an article about Hoffman's death: “Just another junkie.”

Just another junkie.

Now, I don't know if that comment came from a Christian or non-Christian, but in any case, it's kind of cold! It's like saying of someone, “Just another sinner,” because the truth is, we all are. We all have bad habits, ill thoughts, and moments we regret. Some of us have addictions that take over our lives, that take our lives, and I don't think anyone wants to be remembered after death as “just” anything negative. Philip Seymour Hoffman was an excellent actor, and without going into the psychology behind actors and their addictions, he was still a person. A soul. A soul that was bound for an afterlife, and I have to wonder, did anyone ever discuss this with him?

I realize the hypocrisy. So for all of my friends who don't know Jesus or who gave up on Jesus, I hope that one day you will find yourself opening your heart to the possibility of a Holy Spirit working in your life for YOUR good, and the knowledge of a man who died for YOUR sins so that you might live forever with God in heaven. It is difficult to understand when you try to use your head. There are times I find myself culturing doubt, which is quickly extinguished when I hear a song, or the Word of God, which causes goose bumps, chills, or free-flowing tears. Then, I know. The heart knows. I'm sure all of my friends have made a decision at some point to open their hearts to Jesus, or not to. We don't only get one chance, but I'm asking you to soften your heart before you run out of chances.

To my non-believing friends, I pray for you daily. I pray that you will choose Jesus, because I know in my heart what that means for you and eternity.

Because I don't want to wonder if you will be known as, “Just another sinner.” You are much more than that. We all are, and so was Hoffman.

If you are interested in watching sermons on the Creation and book of Genesis, here are our sermon archives. You will also find a great sermon by Dr. Tom Sharp.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Science Labs Are NOT Necessary for Learning

A few years ago, I remember hearing a lecture by Dr. Jay Wile at a homeschool convention, where he stated that science labs are not necessary, even for high school students. My kids were little at the time, so I didn't give it much thought. Until yesterday.

All of a sudden, it hit me. What he said sank in. I'm not sure if it's because I've been planning my 7th grader's high school years already, or because my friends with high schoolers seem to be worried about getting enough science lab experiments, but it really came full circle and suddenly made a lot of sense.

Dr. Jay Wile has expressed that experiments and teaching your child to use the scientific method early on are very important in the elementary years. As they enter middle school and high school, they should switch gears to focus on more gaining of knowledge than how many experiments they can do. (Dr. Jay’s Top 10 Homeschool Science Tips). He has also said that, "Labs are fun and interesting, but not a necessary part of learning." (Page 7 of these notes, which are the exact notes given to us at the lecture. You will find other interesting information included!)

Now, my question is, if labs aren't that important to the author of science textbooks and a former university professor, why are moms going out of our way to spend money and time shuttling our kids to science classes so they can get lab experience?

My guess is because we did labs in school, and we don't want to "neglect" our children just because they are homeschooled. Also, if you pay attention at all to what public schools do (or argue about when it comes to money), you know how much emphasis the school boards put on new and improved science labs, and you may have even seen them spend hundreds of thousands more to relocate classrooms to upgrade science labs to some arbitrary standard set by someone, somewhere (Washington?)  So we were told in school, lab time is important. We are told by the school board, we MUST have the best labs in our schools. (Which is ironic given the failure of our schools already, right?) You really have to get off the ride and stop and think about it for a minute. How many students actually have ANY interest in pursuing science, and how many actually do?

Now let me tell you something that might blow you away. I don't know how many hours I spent in the lab in junior high and high school. But I did not spend ONE MINUTE in a lab during my four years in college. GASP! And guess what I ended up teaching my first year after graduation? Seventh grade science! Let that sink in a minute.

And let me be perfectly honest, there are high school graduates who make better teachers than those with college degrees.

After taking the usual biology, chemistry, physics, (and I also took extra science, including anatomy/physiology) in high school, I did not want to repeat those courses in college. So I took an astronomy class and a class on the physics of sound, both of which were very interesting. But the truth is, there is a very small fraction of people who EVER need to know what even happens in a lab. Those people should do as many labs as they need to. The average student...not so much!

So don't worry about fitting that science lab with other homeschoolers into your schedule. If it's right down the street and fits your schedule perfectly and you happen to have extra money laying around to pay for it, go for it. But don't stress out if you don't or can't do labs. Your student will not suffer for it and the world WILL go on. I promise!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Block Scheduling for Homeschoolers

This year in our homeschool, we tried something different. "Experts" refer to it as block scheduling: having fewer classes (or subjects) each day. The way we blocked our school year is into semesters. We took the classes for the year, divided them into two groups, and then did half of the classes in fall semester, and the other half of classes in spring semester.

So, how's it going?

Wonderfully. So wonderfully, in fact, that we aren't even finished with the school year and I had to tell you how well it's going.

Fall semester consisted of history, science, grammar, and smaller classes like health, logic, and for my daughter, spelling (which she will work on all year).

Spring semester consists of reading/literature, writing, and math.

This schedule is working out for us for numerous reasons. First, it works better for me. As a work at home mom who also happens to be single, it has kept me sane. I only have to worry about a few subjects daily. Also, I chose the more tedious subjects (the ones that tend to get neglected) for the start of our year, and will finish the year with the more enjoyable subjects (for me/us anyway). So when spring fever sets in, we will be working on subjects that we will have an easier time completing.

Secondly, my kids are spending more time on their subjects daily, rather than going from one to the next quickly. Imagine only reflecting on three ideas you focused on that day, rather than six or more. This gives them the time to go more in depth with what they learn, as well as tying it in with what they already know. Cramming more information into one day tends to prevent in depth learning on any given subject.

Finally, it helps with cost management. Except for the textbooks I will hand down to my younger child, we aren't holding on to texts all year. As soon as we are done with it, I sell the curriculum to make room for the next semester. It also allows me to find good deals during the school year rather than buying everything at one time, in late summer or early fall, when everyone else is shopping. Right now I'm scoping out deals for next year, as I already know what we will be doing. I guess that's more a benefit of planning, while the block scheduling helps me spread out the money being spent.

You might be wondering how old my kids are. They are currently in 6th and 7th grades. I wonder if we could have used this schedule when they were younger, as I've heard many moms say, "That won't work for my child because they have to have math everyday." Or, "I could see doing it when they are older, but when they are younger, topics need to be reinforced daily." I can tell you that these arguments are not valid in my home. I believe if I had done a similar schedule from early on, it would have worked just as easily- with my kids. Everyone has different needs and kids learn differently. Before you write it off in your family, imagine what it would be like and see if it might work in your home. It breaks away from the mold a bit, and for us, it has turned out to be a huge blessing as I've retained my sanity this year. A LOT of homeschool moms can't say that at the end of May! (I will report back in, I know it's only the end of January!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

What to Do When You Accidentally Delete Photos From Your Camera

At 1:21 am, my eleven year-old daughter woke me up, in tears.

"Mommy, I accidentally deleted ALL the photos off my camera!"

I'm not sure what she thought I could do. But wait...WHY is she still up?

Earlier in the evening, she had shown me the images for her Barbie stop motion video. She had spent about ten hours on it, which if you know anything about stop motion, relates to about a 30 second video. Watching the pictures quickly go from one to the next, I could tell that the video is going to be hilarious. No, seriously, I laughed so hard, it took me a minute to catch my breath. So THIS is what she had been doing when she was supposed to be doing her school work!

But now they were all gone. Hours of work were wasted.

"Maybe God made me do this because He knew I could do a better one," she said, trying to look on the bright side.

Maybe He was punishing you for not doing your school work first, I thought.

I was already on the computer, Googling "how to retrieve images deleted from SD card." I knew it was pointless, but I had to look like I was trying to do something to help.

It turns out, it wasn't pointless. Did you know that even though it says they are deleted, they aren't? Just like deleting things from your hard drive, they are still there. You might not be able to find them, but someone could if they wanted to and if they knew how. I downloaded a program called Panda Recovery for- get this- FREE. WORKED! One after another, 532 photos were retrieved and my girl was happy again. So there ya go.

You might think the story is over, but it's not. As I got back into bed with a smile, I decided that while MOST of the time I have to be the "bad guy," it feels good to be the hero. It makes all those other times worth it. Today, I'm back to the bad guy again because someone has to get her school work done...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What do I do with all these stuffed animals?!

My kids have a gazillion little stuffed animals that they just can't seem to part with. My daughter stored hers on a shelf in her room, but she needed the shelf space for all her hair accessories and jewelry. I looked on Pinterest a little bit, and didn't really find anything that jumped out at me, so I decided to make a trip to Lowe's to see what I could find that might work. Lattice! I decided not to nail this to the wall since we might be moving soon. I used a few nails in the beam in our basement and the stuffed animals are super happy. This piece is 4' x 8', but it is easy to cut if it's too large. I happened to get a multi-purpose tool pretty cheap at just before getting the lattice and got to try it out. I just had to cut one row off since the beam was lower than the ceiling. This size lattice was $17.98 at our Lowe's. For the animals that didn't fit in the holes, my daughter used her Rainbow Loom to make straps to hold them on. She hasn't finished putting on all her stuffed animals. She wanted me to make sure you knew that!

Binding Your Child's Stories Into Books

Thirty years ago, when I was in the sixth grade, I had an awesome artsy teacher who LOVED making us do projects that were crafty. At the time, it was a tedious project, and I certainly did not appreciate getting to do it, but one of the things she taught us was how to bind our stories into our own self-made books.

I bring this up now, because recently my daughter came across the books I had made, and read them over and over. Then my son joined in. I saw how much they liked them, so I said, "We can make these when we start our writing curriculum next semester."

"Okay!!" they both exclaimed excitedly.

What? My kids were excited about writing? I mean, they don't hate writing, but HAVING to write something can be laborious and not so fun. Now, however, they had a purpose. If they wrote a great story and bound it in a cool book, they have something to keep forever!

Even though it wasn't time to start our writing curriculum, I wanted to take advantage of their excitement, so I had them write a Halloween story, a Thanksgiving story, and a Christmas story. I expected to get a three to four page story at most, but my daughter actually wrote...get this...a chapter book! I couldn't believe it! And it was good! My son decided to write a series using the same characters and he did a great job as well. I do have to admit that my daughter's got shorter each story that she wrote, so I know that the assignments were too frequent in such a short time period (two months). She is the little critic, however, and said about my stories, "Some of these don't really have endings..." She was right! I had run out of time in the classroom, so they just stopped with no real ending. The joys of being homeschooled and being able to finish projects...

Here are their books. I challenge you to try this with your child, or come up with other ways to excite your kids about writing! If you are curious about how to make these, we will be creating and uploading a video soon!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Great Poem

Here is a poem from a young friend of mine that you might enjoy reading...


We've heard it in lesson after lesson
We've seen it when people cry
The words they hurt
They bruise and bleed
And we just turn our eyes
How long can we sit and live like this
While we know that others die
Inside and out they're broken
Till they can't bare it anymore
But this shouldn't be the case, I say
When we're taught to offer love
Acceptance, truth, and understanding
Should be the only thing we show
So lets stop this injustice, this cruelty, this lie
This isn't what we're meant for
To spit in others eyes
To get comfortable in our pews
Or to sing in a church choir
This is not what we should do
I'm here to offer one last word
A suggestion that is due
Let's practice what we preach
And show the world we are true

~Morgan Elizabeth