Home and Family

Today’s library adventure

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We had such fun at the library today.  In our county there are branches of the library which all connect to the same system.  On our library day, we can walk to the branch nearest our home, or we load up my daughter’s van and try a different branch which is what we did this morning.  Such a good idea!

We discovered that a recently opened branch has a great children’s librarian, and attended one of the best story times in the valley.  So fun!  There were puppets, stories, songs, and handouts.  We also found a pile of picture books in the book sale area to supplement our home libraries for $1 each.  There is a large children’s section which has bean bag chairs, benches, a couch, and other fun places to sit, and- best of all- a children’s restroom entrance in the children’s section of the library.  No more running across the building to make a quick “potty stop” with the potty-training three-year-old. When I asked for help locating a specific section, one of the librarians smiled, and gave me quick tour of the entire area. And they placed over-sized cubes with beads and mirrors in the check-out area to keep the children busy while you get your books ready to take home.

The boys had a great time.  We had time to relax and enjoy being with them. A good day for everyone!  Next time, we’ll have to take a picnic lunch and enjoy the tables just outside the building!  WIN!

Homeschooling

Curriculum planning rant

It is that time of year again.  Now is often when homeschool moms get into the books for the coming year, and put an academic plan together.  If you use a programmed curriculum, it is fairly straight-forward.  You buy their books, and use what works with the learning level for your child.  It may require a tweak or two, but nothing too crazy.  Then again, if you are trying to assemble curriculum on your own (as we did), it can get confusing.  Let me explain.

Obviously you need math, language arts, history, science, and some fun stuff for the year.  Add in critical thinking, cultural arts, religious studies, life skills, and a bit of this and that and it can look undecipherable.  Let’s try making sense of it.

Math.  Pretty clear.  You have a text-book, flashcards, and maybe some math songs for learning basic skills.  Done.  But what about games and activities like tangrams, pattern blocks, or other math-related critical thinking options?  Is that math?  Is that critical thinking?  Is it just for fun, and not recorded at all?  Is cooking math, science or life skills?  Hmmm…

Let’s try it with language arts.  This generally includes reading and literature, spelling, vocabulary, penmanship, grammar, and writing.  Oh, boy.  Do you do spelling and vocabulary together?  One list for each?  Isn’t that a lot of writing?  If so, does it also count for writing?  Not really.  Oh.  Okay.  Grammar could be done in your best hand, and then it may also count for penmanship…or not.  Reading.  Simple enough.  Pick a book and read.  Literature means find a well-written, classic work.  Read and talk about it.  Okay.  If we are reading The Door in the Wall, is that literature?  Do we count it as history?  It does provide a great jumping off point for a discussion about life in medieval Europe. If we are reading Bible stories is that literature, history or religious studies, or something else?  If you teach them to outline on the computer, is that writing or computer skills?

Enough of that.  Let’s look at history and social studies.  History- the story of what has gone before us.  Social studies- the lives of people throughout the world.  Sounds pretty basic.  Where do you add geography?  Or is that a subject on its own which deals with different cultures and covers also orientation and map-reading skills?  If you study specific countries around the globe, and include commonly used phrases and a titch of their grammar, has that just become a study of foreign language or language arts?  What about political studies and law?  If you include a study of your nation’s founders, and the creation of your government is that history?  Law?  Or does it get a more specific title such as Government Studies?  Then there is economics.  It generally falls under the social studies umbrella, but does it count for math if you are working on interest rates, checking and savings accounts, and such?  Or do we call those things life skills instead?  Perhaps some of each?  And is the study of art and/music history part of history or cultural arts?

Is science any easier?  Are we simply working on a specific branch of science such as physics, or biology using reference materials and experiments?  What if we begin studying about Newton, and Darwin?  Is that still science?  Has it just become history?  Or if it is a classical work they have written, are we now doing literature (which is language arts)?  Do we teach evolution or creation science as science or do we create a comparitive study of them as a critical thinking exercise?  Is growing a garden and preserving the surplus considered botany and chemistry, or should you call it life skills?

You get the idea.  In all seriousness, Mom, don’t over-think this!  The answer to these questions if YES;  you can place this material where ever you see fit.  Set your goals.  Choose your materials.  Put your plan together, and get to the exciting business of learning as a family!  If you have high-school age youth who will need a transcript, you may find it helpful to use more diverse labeling for their studies in order to include what they will need for college admissions.  (Just ensure that you cover enough information to be able to claim completion of that subject!)  What matters most is that your children receive a broad, well thought out, and challenging education that provides them with the knowledge base, discipline and study habits to serve them throughout their lifetime.  However things were categorized when they were children, they will remember it as part of their education.  Isn’t that what really matters?

Homeschooling

Handcart list- preschool

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners.  Today’s portion focuses on early learners (birth to preschool age).

  • Board books-I admit to a bit of an attitude when it comes to board books.  If there is as much text as you find in a picture book, get the picture book.  Board books should have fun, interesting pictures, minimal text, and if there is chewable handle or other tactile addition, so much the better!  Sandra Boynton, Jan Brett, Winnie-the-Pooh, and so many others are great.   Non-fiction is a great way to go as well.   It is a waste of time to bother with odd or harsh illustrations, and bad text.
  • Bath toys i.e. cups, bowls, boats, funnels, rags- Bath time was one of my favorite times of day as a young mom.  Not only were my kids in a confined space, they were able to experience things in the tub that got them in trouble anywhere else!  Water is a fascinating substance.  Let them splash, play, and experiment in it.
  • Music recordings and songs sung by Mom- Lullabies, folk songs, children’s favorites, religious music.  Expose your young children (and the rest of the family) to a variety of musical genres, and arrangements.  Orchestral, choral, solo, barbershop, silly, action songs (i.e. Eensy, Weensy Spider), and Mom singing to them all help them experience the wonder of music in a different way.  Take them to live concerts (outside at the park, or at the local school where you can leave when you need is best).  Play recordings at home, in the car, or sing as you work. Try to vocalize various instruments.  Add harmonies if you can.
  • Basic toys i.e. rattles, balls, blocks, dolls and stuffed animals, cars, shape sorter, stacking cups, something with buttons to push and knobs with which to play, lacing cards.  There is such a variety of textures, materials, colors, and sounds that can be explored  through toys and play.  Have fun with it- just be sure to purchase things that will not break with the first use.  Cheap toys are not just a let-down, they can be unsafe.  Often you can create your own.  Use fun pictures glued or laminated onto cardboard for lacing cards.  Re-use clothing fasteners (from discarded pieces) to produce a practice board for buttons, snaps, velcro, buckles, etc.  Look around.  You may be surprised by what wonderful things are available.
  • Give them time with clay, sand, salt dough, mud, etc.- make a mess.  Let them pound, stomp, squish, spread, and generally get dirty. An old shower curtain or some newspaper makes a great drop cloth for easy clean-up, or go outside and have fun there.  Large and small motor skills can be developed as they try making snakes, crude pots, and other objects.  As they grow older, form letters, numbers, maps, etc.  Work with them.  Children love to participate with the adults in their life!
  • Basic art supplies- crayons, watercolor, large pencils, chalk, paper.  They will need supervision while they learn how and where to use these supplies, but early exposure with no expectations of neatness or or quality of work allows them to freely explore these media.
  • Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready  by June R. Oberlander or Teach Me Mommy by Jill W. Dunford- not sure where to start, or looking for a more structured approach?  These books are full of great ideas! 
Home and Family, Parenting

Bring it on!

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

– Helen Keller

This life is a testing ground.  As we raise our families, we need to remember that our job is not to avoid every storm, but rather, to prepare ourselves and each other to meet them.   Every person of great strength and integrity I have ever known has become who they are by standing firm and facing what life throws their way.  And those who are best at this are the most joyful people I know.

Some of the challenges I see around me include large families, couples who want more children but have been unable to bear them, military deployments, health challenges, financial problems, children with learning difficulties, and too-much-to-do-too-little-time.  I don’t know anyone who has an easy life.  If we are looking for one, we will miss so many of the greatest lessons we can learn in this life.

There are challenges which may enter our life through the poor choices of others, but they need never define who we are or what we can accomplish.  Our goals, habits, and pursuits are up to us.  I have chosen to become the woman God sees in me regardless of what others do, and I hope to be able to give that gift those with whom I come in contact.

We can do hard things.