For Kids Who Love Space

astronaut-11050_1280My daughter Louisa wanted to study astronomy for science in homeschool. She is 12 years old and has her definite preferences, so I began a search for some resources to help. I discovered Apologia Science books for grades K-6 grade. The chapters are fun to read aloud together, and they have experiments at the end that we had a good time doing. The experiments didn’t use any odd ingredients, so I could really pull them together quickly—I love that!

As part of the course, the student develops a Science Notebook that contains their writing “narrations” of the things they have learned and also illustrations, vocabulary, etc.Louisa is excited about the cool science notebook that she is involved making. With Apologia Astronomy, Louisa is learning fast, is very interested and is having fun!

One of the things I really love about Apologia science books is that I don’t have to always be running interference, and trying to explain our faith in a God who created the universe. That seems to be a dominant problem when using secular science resources. I am always faced with the Big Bang theory, the “trillions of years old” stuff, and trying to keep faith strong in the face of scientific “proof” that we are all evolved creatures living in an accidental universe. This book is fabulous for giving reasons to support faith in God while teaching science! One of the things we recently learned together was that Venus spins the opposite direction than the other planets in our solar system. The Big Bang theory says a big explosion set the planets all spinning, whirling out the same direction from a central “bang”. If this was so, Venus should also be rotating the same direction. I love learning facts that make Christians not feel so stupid scientifically!

My only regret is that I didn’t discover the Apologia science books in time to teach them all in my homeschool. Each book is very specific to one field of science:  Botany, Zoology, Astronomy, Human Body, Chemistry and Physics…which is unusual for children’s science books. Most other elementary science textbooks cover a little bit in each area of science. But, I like them much better this way as we can really delve into each subject deeply and satisfy our curiosity thoroughly! There are enough books to do one each year from kindergarten through 6th grade, covering in depth all the fields of science! We loved our “Botany year”. We even dissected tulips, learning each part of the flower…fascinating for me too! These elementary Apologia science books are meant to be used an a family unit study, for kids ages K-6th grade, which I really appreciate. It is so much easier to teach all the kids at once on the same topic, and do the experiments together.

Another wonderful feature of these books is that they can be easily adapted depending on the age you are teaching. You can buy “notebooking journals” which are companion write-in study notebooks in two different levels of difficulty: normal and  “junior” (for K to 2nd grade). These books can replace the notebook made during each school year and have fun activities to reinforce learning.

Excellent science from a Christian perspective!

Click on any book to learn more:

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Gearing Up for School

Rebekah

Rebekah

Looks like it’s that time again. In spite of the fact that it is the dead heat of summer, you can’t miss the school supplies sales in the stores and the shut down of the local swimming pool. I wish summer lasted a little longer!

Since all the neighbor children are going back to school, it’s time to think about this year’s homeschool. The first thing I do is make a plan for each child, entitled “Educational Goals.” This is the master plan that I work from all year long. On the left hand side of a paper, I write down the school subjects I feel are important for this child for this coming school year. On the right hand side, I list the resources we’ve chosen to do the job. I list the textbooks but also jot down any experiences, trips, mentors, hands-on projects that come to mind. This “spiritual creation” really helps me focus on what is important for this child to know, and how I am going to help him learn it. I also ask my student about what he wants to learn, what he is interested in and consider his personality and talents when choosing curriculum.  The books/resources you use can either “make or break” your child’s interest in a subject, so I am looking for the very best!

Next, I look at the months of school on a calendar and jot down an overview. For example, for math, my son will practice Math-it at the beginning of every school day and then go on to do one Saxon math lesson. I can divide the table of contents between the school year and know where we will be in a month, 3 months, and by the end of the school year. In real life, my son will progress at his own pace. If it’s too hard or too much, we will do only a half of a lesson. If he already knows several chapters, we skip them. But having an overview gives us a general plan so that we don’t lose our focus and wind up coasting through much of the year without accomplishing our goals. It also helps me look ahead at which resources I will need to buy, and what field trips or projects we will want to do.  It gives me a plan!

We do homeschool in the morning hours and I keep that time free from all interruptions (including phone and doorbell). After noon is the time that we schedule extra activities such as Children’s Drama class, music lessons, jobs, or taking a class at the local high school. I try to stick with this schedule as I find it nearly impossible to do homeschool in the afternoon (I’m too tired!), and if I allow children to come and go on different schedules, nothing seems to get accomplished.

sharingfun_l&m I’ve never met a teenager that wanted to go back to public school for any other reason than social life. Friends are important! Just think of “Social Life” as another subject in homeschool, because it deserves your attention just as much. I plan activities where the children will get social contact right along with our academic plans. Even just getting your children together with other homeschool families one day a week helps fill that need. A co-op school is ideal! A support group with regular activities has always been a vitally important part of our homeschooling.

Once you get your educational goals set and your plan for the first month written out, turn to organizing your school room or area. Even if you only have one shelf to operate out of, each child can have his name on a piece of masking tape stuck to a section of shelf where his books can be placed. When I first started homeschool, I picked up 6 identical small cardboard cookie boxes from the grocery store (free) and labeled each with a name. My children’s planners, textbooks, and a pouch for pens, etc. all fit into the box and they worked from it. Sure beats stacks of school books all over the family room! Nobody had to wander off in search of a book or pencil. Everything was stored in the bin, and handy.

I stock up at the back-to-school sales on paper, spiral notebooks, art supplies, pens, glue, scissors, etc.— buying enough for the entire year, and putting them all together in one place. If you have room, it is handy to gather resources by subject. All our art supplies are on one shelf. I have a shelf for math that holds math games and manipulatives for all ages. Stacking bins or even cardboard boxes will also work. Don’t forget to make a bin or low shelf for the little ones so they can get out puzzles, games and coloring books on their own.

"All Set for School" Curriculum Kits

“All Set for School” Curriculum Kits

This is the time to weed through all the books you’ve accumulated and pass judgment on them. I have come to view any book that has “just one good chapter” as an enemy: it just takes up space, is hard to remember to use, and clutters up my life. With the exception of readers before 1950 (when they were still phonetic), most everything that I ever dragged home from the public school cast-off sales, I have not used. Many of those books are slanted with an agenda, or so out-dated as to not be interesting or true. There are exceptional books being produced for the homeschool market that are wonderful to use. If you are stumped where to start when choosing curriculum, take a look at my “All Set for School” Kits. These were created after years of counseling new homeschoolers on how to get started.

Above all, gearing up for school means recommitting yourself to this infinitely great work of teaching and sharing yourself with your children. I think all of us entertain (perhaps very briefly) the idea of putting our children back in school each fall. It takes work and devotion to teach homeschool! But I so enjoy being with my children and helping them learn! Be assured that no one can do it better than you can, no matter how educated and talented they are, because no one cares about your child’s success as much as you do!

 

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What Does Homeschooling Look Like?

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What does homeschooling look like?

It looks like LOVE

Children bask in the time Mom spends with them, and what better way to spend time than learning and discovering together?  Love is spelled “t-i-m-e”.

It looks like FUN

Exploration, books, science experiments, art experiences, projects….what’s not to like?!

It looks CURIOSITY SATISFIED

Curiosity is a hallmark of childhood. Children are known for “Why is the sky blue?” and a million other questions.  It is very satisfying to get those questions answered.  We live in a day when the internet allows us to instantly find answers!  We have looked through a webcam on the internet at an arctic snowfield where meteorites are hitting the earth regularly! We have seen a picture of a real giant squid, something that was unknown for centuries! We’ve oohed and ahhed over the fabulous photographs of the nebulas in space. So much to learn!

It isn’t just children that get their curiosity satisfied in homeschool!  I have a college degree, but I have learned far, far more homeschooling my children!

It looks like CONTENTMENT

Ahhh…my children all around me, time to delve into learning, time to explore and learn and try things. If homeschooling is going right, you will all feel rich contentment!

Life is good!

 

 

 

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The King of Me

Self-control is so sorely lacking in our society! Troubles caused by lack of self-discipline range from littering to illegitimate babies to college shootings. We must start very young in teaching our little children to master themselves. They can never call God “Master” until they can call themselves the “King of Me”.

“The Bible teaches us to discipline our children and to love them. These are not opposites. They blend together. Loving discipline will grow in the child into self-discipline. And that is a prerequisite for the life of learning we hope he will lead.” (Ruth Beechick)

It starts by learning to obey Mommy when a child is not yet even able to talk. Teach your children that they must learn to be masters of their bodies and their minds. Coming first time when mother calls, sticking with a chore, not eating candy until after mealtime, saying “please” and “thank you”, or sitting quietly in church and during family devotional are all good practice. They really can learn to do it, little by little!

I like my little ones to memorize this clever poem to remind them who is really in charge! Making a paper crown with the words “King of Me” on it is a good reminder too.

      King of Me

I said to my feet, “Keep still!”
I said to my hands, “Just stay!”
I said to my all-over-everywhere self,
“I’m in charge of you today!”
I’m ruler of my mouth,
And I’m the “King of Me”

So when I tell me it’s quiet time,
I’m quiet as can be!

                                                                                   —unknown

 

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Training A Child in the Way He Should Go

abigail_blocksI feel close to Hannah from the Bible. Hannah wanted a baby—a feeling that I fully comprehend. I don’t understand, however, how Hannah was willing to give him up (back) to the Lord when he was weaned. I can imagine that lengthy and emotional nursing relationship!

Hannah did not just mother Samuel. She trained him up in the way of the Lord. Young as he was, Samuel already “knew better” when Hannah delivered her son to the temple into Eli’s care. He had been trained to honor the Lord.

To train our children in the way he should go is a vitally important job!  You only get one chance at it, and you can’t go back and re-do it. The future depends on parents to do their job well. Here are a few gems of wisdom, gleaned from other wise mothers, that I have depended on in training my children.

Start Early and Look to the Future

water-263054_1280One evening my husband and I were eating in a restaurant when I observed the family at a table next to us. The mother and father were blessed with two darling little boys, probably one and three years old. Having raised boys, I looked at those sweet boys with tenderness. They were so precious, so teachable, so vulnerable. As they were waiting for their meal, the little ones began dabbling in their water glasses, dripping water down their sleeves and all over their clothes, place setting and chairs. I watched, appalled that the mother did or said nothing. Eventually she commented that they were getting all wet. How I yearned to tell that mother that neglect in training now at their young and teachable age would yield teenagers that had little self-control and scant respect for proper table manners to say nothing of authority, property, or law and order. It is so easy to teach a three year old how to act and so impossible to teach a thirteen year old. Start young when your gentle guidance is so effective. Young ones are so eager to please you! Teach them how!

Honor Daddy

baby-539970_1280Studies show that children imagine God as they view their own father. God planned for daddies to lead the family. Mom, you will do yourself a favor if you make sure that Daddy gets the biggest piece and constant gratitude for what he provides by working daily for the family’s upkeep. Just as Heavenly Father grants us blessings, Daddy’s diligence at work brings the needed material blessings. I have tried to make it a habit to include gratitude for our Dad in our family prayers. I wasn’t surprised to hear my children begin to follow my pattern, but I was surprised to hear them also to thank Heavenly Father for all their Mom does too! Nice payback!  If you are critical of your husband, the children will also criticize him, plus they will criticize you, too. Appreciation creates respect.

feet-266848_1280Don’t Train Your Children to Ignore You

“What?! I don’t train them to ignore me!” we may protest. But that is exactly what we parents tend to do. First, we ask our beloved child to get his pajamas on. Then we do nothing to make sure he obeys. Then, after awhile, we say it again. Then we do nothing to make sure he obeys. After a third or fourth repeat of the command to put on pajamas, we feel angry and scolding and wonder why our child just won’t obey us! But we have very effectively taught a memorable lesson which is, “I only mean what I say 1/3 or less of the time so chances are you don’t have to obey me”. In the end, our own inconsistency creates a parent-deaf child.

haflinger-320030_1280Don’t Give Your Children a “Hard Mouth”

A neighbor who works with horses taught me that you can ruin a horse with a heavy hand. If you consistently pull too hard on the reins, the horse’s very sensitive mouth will eventually harden to protect itself. Then instead of an instant response to your slightest pressure, you will have to tug and yank at the horse to get it to follow your directions. Ah, and true with children! A three year old does not need a harsh scolding when he breaks a rule. He needs a gentle nudge in the right direction. If you are too heavy handed, just as with a horse, your child will become insensitive to your discipline.

Take No Lip

It is not okay for a child to complain, pout, grumble, sulk, sass, badmouth or judge his parents when asked to do something. I used to think if my child obeyed my command, I had succeeded. I used to say such things as, “You don’t have to like it, but you have to do it.” I allowed complaining and back talk. Now I realize that the seeds of disrespect are sowed in negative words. Don’t let them have a place to thrive! Thumper was right all along: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

One mother solved homeschool grumbling by setting a little cup for each child on the school room table. Every complaint by the children went uncorrected, but sure as shootin’, a button clanged into their cup. At the end of school time, buttons had to be paid for by completing ten math problems. You can get creative here…washing 10 dishes…etc.  In our house, we’ve tried having teenagers pay for a sassy response with a $5 bill. It is amazing how quickly these little measures can teach us all to control our tongues. Keep it playful, but don’t allow your children to disrupt the family leadership with grumbling.

I marvel that Hannah did so much to train her child in the few short years given her! To raise up a child to bring honor to the Lord—I am certain there is no more noble and worthy work.  Sure makes home life a lot more enjoyable too!

 

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Gratitude Journal

 

Isaac_bouncingGrumpy attitudes?

Kids complaining?

You getting weary?  

Here’s a quick fix! I read my Gratitude Journal whenever I need a lift!

A Gratitude Journal can just be a document on your desktop of your computer, that you write on every Sunday, for example. Or a list on your fridge or bulletin board that you try to jot on daily. As a title I have written at the top, “What am I grateful for today?”

The point is that being thankful is “good medicine”—it helps you put your problems into perspective and moves you in the right direction of trying to focus on what is going well in your life or on simple comforts. We are used to making “to do” lists that require our energy and work to accomplish. But making a list of what we appreciate, what is pleasant for us, requires no effort on our part other than recognizing happiness. It is a very positive experience.

crocus-582980_1280To make an entry, I write the date and then number 1 to 4 on the lines below. Then I consider what I am truly grateful for and jot it down, just by keyword or phrase. I don’t read any of the other entries first, but try to use my own original thoughts at the moment and make my entries unique. I try to choose something besides the obvious (my family, my house, my car, my health, my freedom, etc.)  Children may find it more fun to draw their 4 choices, rather than write them. Moms may find that more fun too!  See my watercolor journal here!

This little exercise doesn’t take much time, but it makes a huge difference in my outlook. Reading back over a few entries—after I’ve written —I am always amazed that my gratitude is prompted by such simple things. Here are a few random examples, looking back in my Gratitude Journal:

April 4
1. A wispy cloud next to the mountain.
2. I am not ill.
3. The daffodils are blooming
4. My new grandbaby!

August 11
1. The morning is cool and the rooster is crowing.
2. There is an abundance of inspiring religious art and music in this day,
compared to the time I grew up in.
3. Louisa cleaned my bedroom for a surprise!
4. Carpeting that is so soft and such a pretty color of green

January 27
1. Time to sit and rest.
2. My laptop computer that makes life so easy
3. My wonderfully naturally curly hair
4. Fire and how it comforts me (candles)

orange-188082_1280Of course, there are days when I feel hard-pressed to come up with even just one thing to be grateful for! I know that sounds absurd to even say, living in America with so many freedoms and privileges and luxuries. This is an especially good exercise for me on those days. I have listed such simple things as “oranges” in my Gratitude Journal. When problems weigh you down, perhaps that is the only thing you can identify to appreciate!

And there are the days that you find it difficult to stop at #4. That helps too. It helps in reading back to see that life is up and down, and when you are feeling low, seeing that pattern helps you have hope and know that you’ll have “overflowing blessings” days in the future.

There’s another reason for keeping this journal. Think how well your children or grandchildren—and generations unborn—will we be able to see right down into your heart and life in a positive light through your Gratitude Journal!

Once you get in the habit, you’ll find everyone’s attitude improves when looking for things to appreciate!

 

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Facing the First Day

Brothers Ammon and Nathan arm wrestling!

Brothers Ammon and Nathan arm wrestling!

It’s fall time—back-to-school season—and many mothers are facing the first day of homeschool for the very first time. Talking to a few of these mothers made me yearn to write to any mother who is in that wonderful and overwhelming position! If you are bringing children home from public school to homeschool, you may be wondering how you’ll ever manage. Maybe this quick how-to will help you evaluate where you are and what you need to be thinking about.

1. Look the Part

Children are used to going to school on the first day of the new school year and seeing a decorated schoolroom, bulletin boards, name tags, and other well-thought-out preparations for the new school year. It really doesn’t take much effort, but in this case, a little goes a long way. For $10 you can easily “look the part.” School supplies are on colored-pencils-374146_1280sale in the fall, which is a good reason to stock up anyway. But the mental fresh start that new markers create makes them well worth the few dollars you spend on them. I like to buy each child a new pencil box with scissors, glue stick, crayons and a few new pencils in it.

If you don’t have the luxury of a school room, the kitchen table works fine. Just make sure there is a spot for each child’s books and supplies. This can be a portion of a bookshelf or just a decorated cardboard box from the grocery store. If you don’t have a bulletin board, you can use a portion of the wall where you will be having homeschool by just cutting out a few construction paper shapes (apples, sunshine, books, etc.) or get them at the dollar store to stick up or post pictures of interesting animals you will study, or write out the words, “Welcome to Homeschool” or “We Love to Learn!” It doesn’t take much time or expense, but you can be sure your children will notice, and they will feel that you really take this new project seriously.

lip-gloss-303125_1280It helps if you look just a little differently too. Fix your hair and put on lipstick, or put on a skirt. That relays the information that Mother feels this is an event worthy of getting ready for. School in session!

2. Have a Plan

It is easy to feel nervous and wonder what exactly to do as you start on this adventure of homeschooling. Even though a plan may be changed many times, it is important to have one. Jot down an outline of what you intend to teach each day, and in what order. I have found that with a family of children that includes 5–8-year-olds, you will have about a 30- to 40-minute maximum attention span. So you may want to plan your lessons or activities in blocks, alternating with something active. When you feel like you are floundering, give your children a 10-minute recess while you pull things back together. A read-aloud story can save even the worst homeschool day.(Keep The Adventures of Tom Sawyer on hand!)

3. Need Books

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“All Set for School” Kit

Obviously, everything you want your children to know isn’t in your head. You will need something to learn from! I start with the basics. Each child needs to have the 3 Rs (a math program, a reading program, and a writing program). AmmonsChartFrom there, you can teach science and history as a Subject of the Day, just using library books if you want.  I’ve put my favorite resources into kits by grade: my “All Set for School” Curriculum Kit might be a good place to start in your homeschool.

I also find it essential for each child to have an assignment tool. This can be a student planner, assignment notebook, or a check-off chart—just something to record assignments so that both you and your child can see accomplishment taking place.

4. Find Friends

If your children are accustomed to attending public school or private school, you will find that one of the greatest challenges is the absence of the peer setting. While this is of benefit, it still takes some adjustment. You can help things along by organizing opportunities for them to get together with other homeschooled children. It doesn’t take very long before children that are no longer in public school feel like they don’t fit in very well with those who still attend, mostly because they aren’t involved in all the school stuff (who fought who on the playground at lunch recess, the latest fads and fashions, Mr. Brown’s horrible test Friday, etc.).

boys-286151_1280The cure for this is to make new friendships that don’t depend on the school culture for conversation. I think often new homeschool mothers get deeply involved in which books to use, lesson plans, and the how-to of the actual teaching and forget that their children are social beings that need to have friendship and companionship to be happy. They will become much better friends with their parents and siblings in homeschool, and that is a great blessing. But, they will need your help in getting together with other children so friendships can develop.

Ammon during a homeschool soccer game

Ammon during a homeschool soccer game

We have met the social needs of our homeschool children in a couple of ways. Some years, we have met with 3 to 4 other families one morning a week for a cooperative school (co-op). Mothers rotate teaching science (complete with experiments) or another subject, and then we have an hour of playing and learning sports.

As soon as our children turn 13 years old, they are included in our teen parties. We invite all the homeschooled teenagers we know over about once a month for a potluck dinner and games. Everyone is welcome and is encouraged to bring a friend. This has been one of the best things we’ve done, as teenagers can feel awkward meeting new friends, both boys and girls.

We put on an annual Harvest Festival (in place of Halloween) and other activities throughout the year, such as performing a play together with other homeschooled children. Although this may sound exhausting, the efforts we have put forth in creating wholesome activities for our children have paid big dividends! It helps children connect with other children with similar values where friendships can blossom. It also fills a void that would be left aching if a child was taken away from the social school environment he is used to.

Homeschooling is a rapidly growing movement and support groups are popping up everywhere that offer field trips, park day get-togethers, and co-op school opportunities.  When I started homeschooling years and years ago, there was not much to help moms, but now even the major book stores accommodates homeschoolers with a discount.  Do a search for homeschooling groups in your area will bring you all the friends and activities you want!

5. Add Pizazz

You’ve set up a homeschooling spot in your home, you’ve got a plan, you’ve got your books, you’ve found connection another_lush_dayto other homeschoolers’ group activities so you’ll have friends for your children. What more could you possibly need to do to make homeschool work?

I suggest that you need some pizazz, some spice, some fun! That is what makes homeschool so unique and exciting! All of us enjoy work that is varied and meaningful. Instead of just practicing penmanship, letter homemade cards in your best writing to be given away to elderly neighbors with a plate of cookies. Instead of drilling the times tables, play multiplication games. Instead of just studying the science unit on fish, catch a fish and eat it for lunch, taking a good look at it in the process. When you teach the math concept of cups, pints, quarts, and gallons, use measuring cups and bottles and learn it with water outside in a hands-on way that possibly ends in a gallon-size water fight. That is the beauty of it! Homeschool is perfectly suited to individualized, interesting, hands-on, FUN learning.

Last, but not least:
Remember everyday to thank the Lord in your school prayer, that you have the freedom and the blessing to be learning together with the ones you love, and that you will be able to prepare your children to live well the beautiful life he has given us!

 

 

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Don’t "Un-train" Your Kids!

seaworld

This past week, we visited Sea World in San Diego and enjoyed ourselves! I couldn’t help noticing the children in the crowd—and the training their parents were unknowingly giving them—in contrast to the sea animals and the purposeful training they were carefully receiving.

When the walrus even turned his head in the right direction, the trainer responded with a big handful of fish, stroking his skin, and praising him. It was obvious that if the trainer ignored good behavior, or approached wrong behavior with a slap or criticism, the walrus would quickly “un-train”. It took constant positive reinforcement to keep the animals willing to do the trainer’s bidding.

walrus-74080_1280Children are not walruses, of course, but as I observed the crowd, I saw parents interacting with their children and it was very instructive. I saw children behaving wonderfully well, but they were given no positive reinforcement or attention at all. Misbehaving children were given plenty of negative attention, scolding and occasionally a spank. Some misbehaving kids were actually bought off with treats or souvenirs to shut them up and keep them happy. It is amazing with this kind of parenting that we don’t “un-train” our children and numb them from ever trying to please us, or respect any kind of authority!

Soothing words, kind treatment, genuine quiet praise, focused attention, sincere appreciation for cooperative behavior, rewards skillfully given to those who are really trying to control themselves and behave—this is what truly works in the long run.

Both with walruses and kids!

 

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