Friday, December 24, 2010

Getting It Right



How do homeschooling parents 
know what to teach their children? 
 (i.e. what curriculum to follow for the specific grade level, etc.)

RIGHT!  That is the right question!!!

Before you purchase curriculum, do some homework! There is a lot of curriculum available to homeschoolers and it can be overwhelming and expensive if you don’t do a little research first.
What does your state recommend?  Look at the homeschool laws in your state using the Homeschool Legal Defense Association at this link: http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp

At that website you will find so much information, you might just want to spend an evening reading on that site!

After that, think about why you want to homeschool.  Are you concerned that your child is “behind”, “ahead”, “lost”, not getting enough, getting too much, or the many other reasons that a parent might begin looking into homeschool.  Think of those reasons.  Materials are available for the struggling learner as well as for the motivated learner.
  • Do you have a scope in mind?  An array of materials that you feel are the right materials or subjects at this time?
  • Do you want materials that will tell you what to say?  Materials that are designed to walk you, the parent, through the lesson, and give you the words you need to explain clearly?
  • Do you want to proceed with “outside of the box” or non-mainstream ideas?
  • Do you want to work on lessons for hours each day?
  • Is your child ready for independent work?
  • Does your child prefer “hands on” materials, doing it themselves, being read to, lectures, reading independently?
All of these questions and more are a good place to start as you begin your search for your own style of homeschooling.  Some parents feel free to pick and choose materials from across the spectrum; some parents choose a “boxed” curriculum; some parents do not purchase specific materials at all.

You Don’t Have To Make This Decision Today.

I give you permission to take all of the time you need to look at the various lines of materials out there.  
  • Take as much time as you need to familiarize yourself with styles of learning.  
  • Take the time to work with and talk to your children and figure out together what WORKS with them and what direction would they like to go.  
  • Furthermore, get out there and make every effort to meet other homeschoolers, learn from them, talk to them, and ask every one of your questions!
LOTS of website out there that appear to be informational are, often, disguises for selling materials.  YES, I do have a store.  But I strongly believe that you need NO MATERIALS AT ALL to begin homeschooling.  None.  That’s right.  It can be totally free.

Let go of the fear this moment. Go read with your child.  And allow yourself all of the time you and your child need before purchasing or acquiring any materials at all!

Relax.

How to homeschool parents know what to teach their children?

By taking the time to listen and to learn.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

As Marvin said, "What's goin' On..."


REHEARSAL!
Elizabeth's rehearsals have been taking up so much of our time!   And it is totally worth it!  This is her first time at the community theater level to have a lead part in a play and she is certainly up to the task.  I am frequently WOWed by her... seriously!  She has her lines memorized already...and that includes the FRENCH lines and the LATIN lines!  lol  She is really a delight to see on stage.
One day, as we were driving home from rehearsal, I asked her what I look like while she is on stage.  She puts on this HUGE smile and sits up ridiculously straight in her seat and squeals...
"THAT"s what you look like, Mom."


We are working on some interesting lessons lately.  John is still working on American Presidents, Critical Thinking, Central America, electricity, and a million other things.
Elizabeth is writing and reading constantly...when she's not at rehearsal..!

We've been happy to be spending time with Tim and Jessica (my stepkids, who are AWESOME!) a bit more now that their schedules allow it.  Tim is starting the police academy in January and Jessica is doing her part to save the alligator gar.  She is begging us to dig a six-foot-deep pool in the backyard for a breeding and protection project she has dreamed up.  If I don't watch Jerry carefully, we could have these beasts spawning in our backyard before you know it!
And alligator gars are NOT attractive fish!

We are also doing another thing that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!  We are hanging out together!  We are doing puzzles, playing board games, reading together, seeing Grandma, dancing, laughing, and just doing NOTHING together.  It is great...why don't we do this more often?

For our loved ones and friends, I hope that your December is just as you want it to be, filled with those things that you find meaningful and joyful.

Peace.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Homeschooling: Chapter One

atheist homeschool
You return home from the library with your arms full of books:  HOMESCHOOL SELF HELP BOOKS.  Your husband will see them, pause, and say, “Honey, you promised yourself to not bring home anymore ‘how to homeschool your child’ books.  Remember?  You promised me!!!"

"Remember the last time? Remember how late you kept the kids up last time reading Twain, Ptolemy, Shakespeare? Honey, the kids are just now beginning to lose the whimper while they sleep. Our oldest has almost stopped the tic, it's almost unnoticeable now. Remember that time you didn’t sleep for forty-one hours straight while trying to construct a time line? The one that started in bedroom, ran down the hallway, around the house, and into the family room...

"Honey, please, remember the schedules? The attempts to create a homeschool curriculum from birth to age eighteen? The three year plan??? The single year plan? The monthly unit studies? Honey, do you remember the weekly memorization?  

"Why are you opening the book?! 

"Please, I could use your help moving the furniture around. Really, I have been wanting to see what that is growing out from under that base board by the patio door for a month or so now. It started growing there just a few days after the genetics experiments. 

Gee, I wonder if what we’ll find in these couch cushions, hmm? Let's vacuum! Come on, Honey. Put the book down and help me plan an Indian unit study. How about starting with a nice authentic Indian meal. We can use that dahl or we could make some nice Paneer Pakora. Let’s include some Indian map work complete with climate, political, and economic map studies. Do you know of any Indian philosophers? How about poetry? Art? Games??? Honey, PUT...THE BOOK...DOWN."

“We still have the completed dioramas of the Mayan temple or the Roman Gladiator scene.  I'm sure I could find them in the basement...boy, those were nice!  

"Hey, let’s go and get some ice cream, huh? 

"Remember those nerve pills, the ones the doctor prescribed after that time the kids decided that they all wanted to learn different percussion instruments. I still have those in the bathroom, can I get you one? I’m pretty sure there's one under the floss on the top shelf. Actually, hey, here’s the other homeschool helping book you started, here, under the table…it’s got some of that homemade playdough stuff on it...  Anyway, remember deciding to stop reading this book, Honey?  I remember you getting that look in your eyes; in fact, we’re still paying for that weekend getaway you needed… Hey, did the kids ever read any of these books over here? Nevermind, that’s not important now. Can I get you some tea?

"Look, Sweetie, the kids are here, wanting to play some multiplication game with a deck of cards. Maybe you'd prefer painting that popsicle stick Yert from yesterday's lesson. We could run down to the nursing home and sing some folk songs...I think I have that new Slovenian Folk Music book here somewhere. Look what I found! It's the puppet stage the kids love so much. Honey, let's take turns singing songs from 'Phantom of the Opera'; the kids know every word! Sing with us Honey.

"Honey. Honey, are you laughing? What are you laughing about? 
 ...Can I read it next? "

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tween/Teen Reading List

 

Tween/Teen Reading List

Of all the emails I get asking for homeschool book recommendations, my largest single request falls within the preteen  category which would be books for ages 9 to 12.  Somewhere around this age, readers get choosier about their reading or parents get frustrated when all their kids want to read is Captain Underpants or the “Twilight” series.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the popular reads.  It’s nice to have one of your children read one of these titles and announce that it is “lame” and offers nothing of interest to them!
Allowing your kids to read these lightweight and popular books is no problem as long as their reading diet includes other works of weightier content.  As the parent, we often want to offer some other titles to lead them into a direction that offers some substance.
There are many choices out there.  Some are great reads and some…some don’t quite reach the bar.  As a heavy reader myself I have found that you sometimes have to read quite a few books by frogs before you fine a true king or queen or writers.  Along these lines, I began putting together a list of tween/teen books that I can highly recommend.  Each of the following books I have read personally and many I have used with my book clubs to the delight of the readers in them!  I have purposefully NOT included “classics” as you can find these lists everywhere!

Here is my list and I welcome YOUR recommendations too!

Poetry collections are real treasures.
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
The 39 Clues by various authors
ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing
HATCHET by Gary Paulsen
HOLES by Louis Sachar
ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O’Dell
JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Jean Craighead George
THE PERFECT STORM: A TRUE STORY OF MEN AGAINST THE SEA by Sebastian Junger
TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson
THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE by Avi
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou
ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by David Sedaris
NIGHT by Elie Wiesel
OCTOBER SKY by Homer Hickman
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
THE OUTSIDERS by S. E. Hinton
ERAGON: INHERITANCE by Christopher Paolini
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J. K. Rowling
THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien
THE LOST YEARS OF MERLIN by T. A. Barron
REDWALL by Brian Jacques
THE THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke
AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko
GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier
JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Forbes
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd
SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER by Bette Greene
FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
WITCH CHILD by Celia Rees
BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE by Dee Brown
FAST FOOD NATION: THE DARK SIDE OF THE ALL-AMERICAN MEAL by Eric Schlosser
THE GREATEST SCIENTIFIC PROBLEM OF HIS TIME by Dava Sobel
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel
PROFILES IN COURAGE by John F. Kennedy
WASHINGTON’S CROSSING by David Hackett Fischer
THE JOY LUCK CLUB by Amy Tan
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston
THE WHALE RIDER by Witi Ihimaera
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon
THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown
THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold
ROMEO AND JULIET and WEST SIDE STORY by William Shakespeare, Arthur Laurents, & Stephen Sondheim
THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver
THE PRINCE by Niccolo Machiavelli
BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett
MY SISTER’S KEEPER by Judi Picoult
PLAINSONG by Kent Haruf
BEE SEASON by Myla Goldberg
THE BRONZE BOW by Elizabeth George Speare
THE CHOSEN by Chaim Potok
THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley
NOT THE END OF THE WORLD by Geraldine McCaughrean
PEACE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant
THE CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau
ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH by Jules Verne
JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert A. Heinlein
Avi, The Crispin: Cross of Lead
Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Blue Balliett, Chasing Vermeer
Brandon Mull, The Candy Shop Wars
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Jon Scieszka, Time Warp Trio Series
Christopher Peter Grey, Leonardo’s Shadow: Or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant
Cordelia Funke, The Thief Lord
D.J. MacHale, Pendragon Series
Edward Ormondroyd, David and the Phoenix
Eva Ibbotson, Island of the Aunts
Gary Paulsen, Hatchett
Gordon Kormon, Schooled
Alan Gratz, The Brooklyn Nine
Hester Velmans, Isabel of the Whales
Jean Craighead George, My Side of the Mountain
Joseph Bruchac, The Code Talkers: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II
Wm. Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”
Justin F. Denzel, Boy of the Painted Cave
Lois Lowry, Gossamer
Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society

Friday, December 3, 2010

Atheist Christmas



OF COURSE we celebrate Christmas!
We don't do the *Christ in Christmas* thing, of course!
Instead, we have created some wonderful family traditions that entertain and delight us.  We have created a few games, there are plays, songs, performances of every kind, there are gifts, shared meals, music, laughing, and lots of love.
We invite beloved friends and family and call it the "Christmas Open House".  People do drop in and stay all day long!

As for the questions about how atheists can celebrate Christmas, I don't even have to use my snotty voice to simply remind the questioners that this time of year is celebrated in many traditions and I am thrilled to celebrate the love in our family ANY DAY!

One thing I really love about the holidays are the cards.  I enjoy the evenings that I spent with my address book, cups of tea, and a package or two of holiday cards.  I truly enjoy the opportunity to send my good wishes for happiness and joy for the season and for the upcoming year.
I've been looking for secular holiday greeting and~VIOLA!~I stumbled on this website devoted to the newest thing...ATHEIST holiday cards!  Wouldn't you want to be the one to create these little gems?  "REASON~the Reason for the Season"...things like that.  I saw this little cutie and thought I'd share it with you.
If you are interested in checking out the website:
http://www.orderofstnick.com/
From the sweet, professional, and cute to the snarky, you won't want to miss this website!
Too bad I already bought my little snowman cards...

Also, as for homeschool lessons, we're still working HARD.  We've been a bit less busy lately, so we've gotten more done each day.  What a relief to have gotten past that CRAZY few months!
Even the kids are happy to be accomplishing more.  John has continued to work on his multiplication tables...Why can't he memorize 144 problems when he can totally memorize 6,478 Pokemon cards???  He's also working on various countries of the world, the presidents, and some critical thinking.
Elizabeth is writing, reading literature, working on her play, and helping me with a scavenger hunt at the excellent local art museum.

This year for the holidays, we are having gift giving, our usual gift games, and we've invited a new family to celebrate with us:  a Christian family who is far from their families.  We are very open as atheists, so I'm hoping these folks will be able to come over, join in the fun, and have themselves a Merry Little Christmas.