Friday, July 20, 2012

No Funnies on this Friday: In the wake of a tragedy

There just isn't anything funny about this Friday.  Last night, a 24 year old man walked into a sold out movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and within minutes, 12 people were dead and dozens were injured.  My heart is heavy for everyone involved, and the community as a whole.  I have seen differing views of this tragedy in regards to media and gun laws, all with valid points.  But, we all agree that is was a horrible, senseless act of violence.  In the end, no amount of arguing and debating about the what if's will change what has already happened.  I do believe in the power of prayer, and more than ever, we need to be praying for the individuals and families affected by this tragedy and the community as they mourn the losses of loved ones and try to make sense of something that will never make sense.  Like I said, there just isn't anything funny about this Friday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Funnies on Fridays: Cow Appreciation Day

One of my family's favorite 'holidays' is the annual Chick-fil-a:Cow Appreciation Day.  It's the one day a year that you get to dress up like a cow and get your food for free. 

 Three of the cutest little calves you'll ever see.

The first year we participated, (before Sunshine was born), I printed out the designs that the CFA website offers and just taped it to our shirts.  It worked, but I decided to 'beef' it up a little this year by cutting out felt pieces and doing a quick hand-stitch.  This makes it easy to remove later without leaving a lot of holes.  The ears are just pinned on to headbands, scrunchies, (and a ninja mask~his choice), with safety pins.  
"Will moo for food!"

Then, we 'hoofed' it on over, via the minivan, to join the other cows on this wonderful day of celebration.  The clerks behind the counter even rang the cowbell when we walked in.  It was so much fun to see all of the other herds that came in while we were there, each with their own branding.  I would say that the entire meal order being free was the best part, but it wasn't.  The best part was making fun traditions and fun memories with my little ones.  There may come a day when they think they are 'too cool' to dress up, so I'm going to enjoy it every year that I can while it lasts.  
Whether you dress everyone up like a cow or not, I urge you to make fun traditions with your family that they will remember long afterwards.  I will leave you with one more picture...
The whole "Three Kids & We" herd

If you can't laugh at yourself, laugh at me!!  
God bless!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My 2012-2013 Curriculum list and a few wishes

If you homeschool, or ever have, you know that there comes a time, every year, when you have to plan for the next year.  For me, I start evaluating, researching, and planning after Christmas because I want to know exactly what I'm doing and exactly what I'm going to need before all those wonderful used curriculum sales start, come spring time. 
For this next year, our math curriculum is being totally switched up.  While I'm excited about what it will offer my children, I confess that I'm totally nervous.  It's a whole new concept and style of learning than neither my children or myself are used to.  Language Arts and spelling will also be different this year, and...I'm also adding a foreign language to the mix.  Yay, me, lol!
So, here's what we will be doing when school starts...

 Math U See for both children at their appropriate levels

Language Lessons for the Elementary Child by Sandi Queen (for the 8yo)

Explode the Code, Bob Books, and other readers (for the 6yo)

All About Spelling for both children

Various real books and other reading material for the 8yo

The Holy Bible for both children (although I'm still looking for a specific curriculum)

A Reason For Handwriting for both children (continuing with print for the 6yo and continuing cursive for the 8yo)

Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day: Exploring Creation with Zoology 1Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day and Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day for both children.  The 8yo will do the Junior Notebooking Journals that go along with them.

Story of the World Vol. 4: The Modern Age for both children

Prima Latina for the 8yo

The Usborne Piano Course Book One for both children

Since I homeschool on a budget, I'll leave a few things I wish I could be using and may incorporate if/when I get the money...

All About Reading ($99)

We Choose Virtues character training ($70~$100)
An extra Math U See Manipulative set ($35) so they can have their own sets or extras

Rosetta Stone Spanish ($100+)

Prima Latina instructional dvd (around $40ish)

A 5 bedroom/3 bathroom house with a wrap~around porch leading to a sun room, a big, flat, backyard, oh... and a bonus room...for our homeschool, of course, and a piano.  (I did say it was my wish list, so, I'm wishing!)

God bless!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Homeschooling: What About Socialization?

"What about socialization?"  I believe this question is probably made the biggest deal out of.  And it is a big deal, but not the way people think.  Let me explain...

The definition of socialization from is as follows: "noun 1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position."

Based on this definition of socialization, do I want the current public educational system to be the standard for which my children acquire their personal identities, norms, values, behavior, and social skills? Not really. Except for a few individuals within the government and political arena, our government of today is void of standards and values that reflect my worldview. (I'm not saying they have no standards or values~they just certainly don't reflect my own.) Even with all of the Christian teachers and leaders that are in the public school system, their hands are mostly tied behind their back when it comes to bringing any of their worldview into what they are teaching. I personally don't want my children learning to base their identity, norms, and values on a system void of any reflection of Christ.  I have the wonderful opportunity to show Christ in all parts of my children's education. That Christ is part of it, not something separated from it. The study of Christ isn't something we should just be learning at church or aside from school work. It should be integrated into all parts of it. I can't force my children to choose Christ. Ultimately, that is their decision alone. But, I can show them how Christ is in everything we say and do, every part of our world.

In the public school system, evolution is taught as the norm, as if it is fact, not theory. As Christians, we believe in Creation, which isn't even allowed to be discussed in most public school systems.  Sex Education, and the various lifestyles surrounding it, different religions, and  other sensitive subjects are being taught and exposed to the children at younger and younger levels.  It should be my decision on when my children learn about different lifestyles, beliefs, and certain facts of life, as I believe they can handle it, not the government's.  It should be my decision, not the government's, on how and when I teach them about the world around us.  What message then, are we sending to our children when we send them to an 'expert' to educate them, but then tell our children when they get home, that what they are being taught is wrong, according to what we believe ? Or try to explain something heavy to them that they were exposed to at school, that, as a parent, I know they are not ready to shoulder yet?  No wonder children don't have a firm foundation on who they are or what they believe. Perhaps I home school because I don't want my child 'socialized,' not in this way.

What most people mean by the word 'socialization' is the interaction with others and opportunity to make friends with others. Most people want to label home school kids as 'weird', or 'loners', 'socially inept.' I dare you to take a walk in any public high school hallway, or even a junior high school for that matter, and see how long it takes you to spot the 'loners' and 'weirdos'. You can even spot a few already developing in elementary schools. I would be willing to wager money that it won't take you very long, and I don't bet. I believe home life and/or school peers have more to do with being a 'loner' or a 'weirdo' than where or how a child is educated. School shootings and killing sprees are evidence of that. That being said, my children, as well as most homeschool children I know, are far from being lonely or being socially inept. 

That thought brings me to the next point. I'm far from convinced that it is necessary for children to be forced to deal with bullying, teasing, and being stereotyped into a specific group, which often stays with you through the rest of your graded school years, as a 'normal' part of school and of growing up. In my own experience, it has no positive benefits. I was a skinny, buck-toothed girl growing up. Though my parents loved me very much, I was often made fun of by my school peers for being so skinny, among other things, to the point that I remember crying both during school and after school and it only got worse in the junior high grades. Once I hit high school, it wasn't so bad. But, because of the ridicule and rejection I had experienced for so many years, I constantly doubted myself and what others saw in me. I carried these feelings all the way through college. In fact, it made for a rocky start when I first started dating my husband and through his efforts and the wonderful grace of God, I have been finally able to shrug that lack of confidence and self doubt.  (Although it tries to creep back in every so often.)  I don't believe for a minute that any of this was necessary, except that I might have more understanding for others in that situation.

One of the frequently asked questions on the Focus on the Family website is, "Do you think home schooling might negatively impact the socialization process?" James Dobson had a lot to say on this issue, but this quote sums up my feelings on the current matter, "If acquainting them with ridicule, rejection, physical threats, and the rigors of the pecking order is necessary to socialize our children, I'd recommend that we keep them unsocialized for a little longer."

For the most part, (just as there are 'weirdos' in the school system, there are a few being home schooled too,) home schooled children are very well rounded and adjusted among their peers. Home school students are privy to all kinds of activities where they can learn to interact and become friends with others. They are usually busy with some kind of sport activity, music, dancing, 4H clubs, Boy/Girl Scouts, name it, they do it. Home school kids are exposed to a wide variety cultures, backgrounds, family dynamics, and other situations that will help expose them to the wide world we live in. There are home school cooperatives, known as 'co-ops', that many home school students attend with others in a class-like setting. In fact, studies conducted over several years are now showing that home school students are actually more confident with themselves, more socially adjusted, and less peer dependent than their traditionally schooled counterparts. Contrary to popular opinion, home school is more than just sitting at the kitchen table. It is a very busy and active lifestyle that takes education out of the doors and into the real world. While traditionally schooled students are put in a class, behind a desk, for several hours a day with same age peers and not given much opportunity to interact with different ages, home school students often take classes and participate in activities with many different ages, giving them the social advantage of learning how to interact with peers of different ages and interests from early on, which I'd say is better preparation for the 'real world.' (I've yet to work in a job where they separated us by age, have you?)

To wrap up all the questions, I am in no way saying any of this is true of EVERY public school student or EVERY home school student. There are always exceptions to the rule, both for the good and the worse of the situations. I just want you, whoever you are reading this, to know that there is more to home schooling than what is on the surface. It is hard work, but, so is everything worthwhile in life. Even if you don't feel a calling to home school, educate yourself on it. There are a ton of good books out there on the subject of homeschooling. I will try to post a list of some of my favorites that you may find helpful to understanding this way of life. I'm sure you can find them in your local library, or from a friendly home schooling parent, so you don't have to purchase them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homeschooling: Missed Opportunities?

Homeschooling: Aren't my children missing out on opportunities?

"Aren't my children missing out on opportunities?"  This question was certainly a forerunner in our own list of concerns we had when deciding to homeschool. It is definitely something not to be taken lightly when deciding on how to educate your children. Ultimately, there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of this issue. In the end, you have to decide what opportunities are worth giving up for the other opportunities, and which ones are not optional. Obviously, this is a very personal decision because each child and each family are going to be different, have different goals, values, etc.

One of the biggest opportunities that parents are often concerned about is sports. If I home school my child, then he won't have the opportunity to play on team sports and he also might miss out on a scholarship. I will admit, this was a concern within my own household. However, if you know myself or my husband, then you know that neither one of us went to college on a sports scholarship. I would actually much rather my children go to college on an academic scholarship because, in my opinion, intelligence is more profitable than physical ability in the long run. Just to be noted, many Ivy League colleges and universities and other very elite schools are specifically seeking home schooled students out and recruiting them to attend their schools. This is because on average, home school students are mature, independent thinking, creative, and oh yes, perform above the national averages on the ACT and SAT.

There are also other venues to play on a sports team than just through a traditional school setting. Upward Sports is a great way to get your young child involved and their are leagues and other teams for the older child. Home school children are often eligible to play on private or public school teams, as well. (We do still pay taxes for public education, so I don't feel a bit guilty about this.) Tim Tebow was home schooled all the way through high school. A local private school allowed him to play on their football team, he was recruited by University of Florida, and achieved the Heisman Trophy as a college sophomore.

What about band, homecoming, and proms? Home school students have all of these. Well, maybe not homecomings. But, they have winter formals and other alternatives.  Home school students also have opportunities that their traditional schooled counterparts may not have. Did you know that many local community colleges welcome home school students to take part in their classes, as well? A high school level home school student can graduate from high school with an associates degree, at the same time!! (We happen to be friends with one such young lady!) They can also take their dance lessons, music lessons, swimming lessons, and other lessons during the day, instead of trying to work them around after school, home work, and other after school activities. It is part of their education, not something thrown in extra, if you can manage the time. The world is their classroom! Every outing can be a field trip, an educational experience. Oh, yeah...and way too much fun!

Because we are home schooling, we didn't have to fit our vacation somewhere between June and July, when everyone else has to fit there's in. We are actually on vacation right now, the week after Labor Day. Since President Obama recently went on what he called a 'working vacation,' I'm going to call ours a 'schooling vacation.' We took Buddy's basic school lessons with us, then used the great out doors, and our other visits we decided to take, as hands-on learning time. (Our "sit down" lessons only took about an hour, so don't feel too sorry for him. Sweet Pea had not yet started schooling and Sunshine was not even thought about when this was originally written.) We all observed a turtle in it's natural habitat, went to a museum about the local history of Waynesville, NC, then we spent a whole day on a 'field trip' to Cherokee, NC to learn about the history and culture of the Native American Indians. Who knows where our 'schooling vacation' will take us before it's all over!  What student is going to complain about a week of school like that?  *(This actually happened a couple of years ago, now.)*

I could go on, but I hope you get the idea that home schooled students may miss out on a few opportunities, but there are so many more opportunities out there for them, they really aren't missing anything at all.

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Couponing Giveaway

Are you overwhelmed by the coupon guru's out there?  How do they do it?  I love to save money and use coupons, but I confess...I am not a coupon diva.  I have often wanted to sit at the feet of one and glean their knowledge about how they work the coupon world.  Well, Ann I Am is giving away a free copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing" to the winning contestant!!!  This book has lots of tips and advice to help any novice learn how to make the most out of couponing and save LOTS of money.  And who doesn't want to save money???  Enter here today!!  (I already did!!)

Funky Monkey Snacks Giveaway (for kids of all ages!)

If you have kiddos, then I know you are always looking for that healthy AND yummy snack to give them.  Funky Monkey Snacks sounds like the perfect combination.  They are freeze-dried fruit snacks with no extra additives, preservatives, or as I call it...'junk.'  They come in a variety of flavors and are individually packed.  My friend at Ann I Am will give away a set of these delicious snacks to one lucky winner!!  To enter this giveaway, click on Ann I Am: Funky Monkey Snacks Giveaway.  They also make a great healthy snack choice for adults.  Try them today and enter the contest to win them for free!! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

To Answer the Question: Qualifications

HomeSchooling: Am I qualified?

Inevitably, when I first tell someone that I home school, they usually start asking all sorts of questions. I really don't mind them, though, because how do any of us learn about something if we don't ask?  I asked myself some of these same questions before making the final decision.

There are almost as many questions about home schooling, as there are homeschoolers. But, I'm going to focus this series on what I feel are the three most frequently asked questions. You also have to remember that these are my answers and my opinions. Although many of my answers are based on a lot of studying I have done to prepare my heart and mind for this mission, (my basis for answers are not just random and made up), and there are many who share my thoughts and views, ultimately, I'm only speaking for myself.

I also want to share something with you up front. Although I choose not to use the public school system, I do not believe that everyone should pull their children out the public school system and start home schooling. I sincerely believe that as a Christian, home schooling is a calling from God. I applause the Christian teachers that are out there in the class rooms every day, teaching and guiding the leaders of tomorrow. I also support the children that are in these classes as well. I shudder to think about a public school system void of all Christians. Schools are a wide open mission field, ripe for the picking. If all the Christian teachers and students would consistently stand firm in their faith and live out their faith for others to see, we would see a change unlike no other. So, the answers I give are not necessarily against those going and working in public schools. It's just perhaps, a view to the other side of the spectrum. An understanding of the other side of the story.  So...

 "If I don't have an education degree, am I qualified to home school?" We could even take this further and ask, "If I don't have a formal college education, or a college degree, am I qualified to home school?" I'm sure these questions alone have brought doubt and confusion to many home schooling parents, and perhaps, have caused a few to not do it at all. Therefore, I think this question is worth addressing.

Education degrees are vital and important and not to be taken lightly.  I believe the overall purpose of an education degree (but not the only one) is to prepare the teacher to instruct several students at a time on a specific subject, in a designated amount of time. A degree does not mean they have to be an expert in all areas of education. Let's say the average teacher has 20 students per class. At the beginning of the year, she (and I'm going to use She to make it easy, but the He's are not forgotten),  probably doesn't know much more about the students than the names on her list. And each of these students are beautifully different than the rest. They have different interests and learning styles, not to mention how different each family and home situation is. The government and school system tell the teacher what must be taught throughout the year, (not to mention the government decides when/what grade levels certain things are to be taught and what curriculum to use), and each lesson is given a specific amount of time to go over. This teacher also has to keep in her head that the test results of her students at the end of the year are seen, not only as a reflection of the student, but of the teacher, as well. This my friends, is not an easy undertaking, and that's just the "tip of the iceberg" of teacher responsibilities. This is why I support teachers and feel they are among the most underpaid professions in our world today. This is why they need an education degree.

ADHD. Their minds are ready to go go go, and they have to wait wait wait. At home, when I know my child fully understands and grasps a concept, we can just keep on moving at his speed, not someone else's, or someone else's system. It doesn't take a college educated person to do this. Just a parent, that knows their own child.

I know many college educated people that don't have any sense to them. I also happen to know several people, who never earned a 4 year college degree, who could better teach than some others. My parents and in-laws, for example. None of them have 4 year degrees. But, I believe they can teach my children how to learn many necessary concepts, such as math, spelling, reading, writing, history, etc. They are among some of the smartest people I know. My parents helped me with my homework and come to understandings that I didn't grasp in the hour of class at school designated for that subject. I can say for certainty that my in-laws are no exception to that. I have even witnessed them helping grandchildren learn. Teaching your own children doesn't take a degree. It takes understanding your child, a willingness to help them be the best they can be, and a love for your child that no teacher will ever have. The learn along with them! There is always something new to learn. Education and learning should be a lifestyle, not just a means to an end.

Prologue to: To Answer The Questions of Homeschooling mini-series

A few years ago, in another blog, not so far away, I answered three popular questions that homeschoolers are frequently asked.  I've decided to re-post these on my new blog.  Some have been edited, updated, or revised, and others have not.  But, the answers are the same.  I'm going to spread the questions out over the next three days to make it easy to digest.  I'm certainly not trying to talk anyone into homeschooling, or out of it.  Just trying to help others make sense of it all from a homeschooler's point of view.  Although a lot of the information is based on lots of studying, the rest is my opinion.  That, and 50 cents, will buy you a can of certain locations.  Comments, respectful disagreements, and of course, agreements are welcome. 

God bless!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thankful Thursdays-Independence

As we just celebrated America's Independence, yesterday, I think it is only appropriate for me to say in writing how thankful I am for a free nation.  I am thankful for the men that fought hard, many who gave their actual life, to keep this nation free from religious and governmental oppression.  I am thankful for their wives and children who had to deal with hardships of all kinds, including threats to their lives.  I am thankful for all of the men and women that were brave enough to do something different and stand behind their decision, no matter the cost, so that the rest of us could have a better way of life.  And, I'm thankful for all the men and women, past and present, that continue to fight for our freedom and security each and every day.  I am so thankful to be an American. 

God bless!

Check out these great giveaways!!

I wanted to share some love by sharing these great giveaway contests from some great bloggers!!!
Enjoy their blogs and have fun with the contests!! 

Christian Momma: What's In The Bible? Vol. 8
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Ann I Am!: Tiny Prints Invitations
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Pillow Case Style Dresses

What else do you do when you have two girly girls, but learn how to make things for them?  I have had my mind on learning how to make a pillow case style dress for quite some time and finally got the nerve up to try it.  (Seriously, the only other thing I've ever sewn with the machine is a tissue cover!)  My basic design came from The Polkadot Chair pillowcase shirt tutorial.  She has a LOT of great tutorials for many different things.  But, I liked that she used 'fat' quarters and I thought that would be easy enough.  I did look at a LOT of other tutorials, though, and kind of used ideas and tricks from several of them.  For Sweet Pea, it turned out nicely as a 'shirt dress' (that's what we call long shirts.)  And it's a full dress for little Sunshine.
 (Sunshine wasn't too sunny at the moment, lol!) 

I've always been told to wash and dry all fabric before sewing...and so I did.  When I took the fabric quarters out of the washing machine, however, they were unraveling something fierce!  I untangled and cut as much as I could, then hoped for the best as I put them in the dryer.  (Which didn't seem to cause further harm.)  I'm not sure if I should have used pinking shears on them first, or what, but they survived without too much material lost.  I'll definitely have to figure out what to do before my next attempt.  
I did the "J" cut for the armholes as suggested on several sites I studied.  For Sweet Pea, I measured down 
5 1/2" and over 2", and for Sunshine, I measured down 4" and over 2".  Sweet Pea's shirt was the first one I made, so I learned a lot and Sunshine's was much easier.  I used pinking shears around the entire outline, but didn't use it around the armhole cuts after they were made on Sweet Pea's, then tried to trim it after it was already stitched~not easy.  I also did not use the pinking shears on the coordinating trim on Sweet Pea's shirt, another lesson learned before I attempted Sunshine's.

For each dress, I did a 1/4" stitch around the entire dress form, front and back pieces, before I did anything else.  I don't have a surge machine, so I figured this would help reinforce and hold everything together a little better.  
I attempted to do the trim around the armhole, as instructed in the above mentioned tutorial, but was very confused, so I just left that part out.  I am just going to see how it holds up with just the basic 1/4" hem.  Next time, I will either figure out how to cut a better piece from the bias and use it, or buy bias tape.  
I never could get the bottom trim to line up equally on both seams, either.  One side would be even, but the other would be off by 1/4" to 1/2".  But, I'll figure that out one day.

I am quite pleased, though, with my first ever attempt at sewing something to actually wear.  I made these in time to wear to the 4th of July picnic at church, where the pics were made.  My Sweet Pea is very happy with her momma's creation, and that makes it all worth while.  And Sunshine, she likes having an outfit just like her big sister.

God bless!!