Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thankful Thursday: "how much more valuable you are than the birds!"

"Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; 
they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; 
how much more valuable you are than the birds!" 
- Luke 12:42

This week, I was talking to a friend of mine about finances, and how expensive living is.  Specifically, I was focusing on how we owe more than our mortgage payment toward paying off AC's student loans from college, and how when mine are no longer in deferment, we will owe even more than that.  I was mentioning that I wish I could go back and do things differently, not taking more than just what we needed for tuition, not assuming that eventually we will make more money and paying it all back would be no big deal.  

In that moment, it dawned on me, that even in our sin, as we took out loan after loan to live a comfortable life, God has provided for us, exactly what we needed.  As we now deal with the repercussions of mistakes made five to ten years ago, I am so thankful that God has given us the means to get back on track.  I am also thankful for His forgiveness for our shortsighted selfishness.  So, when I regretfully think it is hard to live virtually paycheck-to-paycheck because we have amassed so much debt, I am grateful to a God who knows exactly what we need, and lovingly gives it to us.  

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: "Blessed is the influence ..."

"Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another." - George Eliot

As we go about our lives, both in everyday activities and within our homeschooling adventures, there are things that I think it is very important for SC to see me doing.  Not everything that SC needs to be taught can be simply told to her or taught in a way that fits neatly under any of the educational styles, but rather she needs to have these things demonstrated and modeled for her.  

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

This week my top ten will focus on ten things I want to model to SC, and hopefully model well.

1. Love:  This is the most important thing I think SC needs to see me doing - loving both her and AC, as well as demonstrating love for family, friends and others in our community. My goal is to love in the way Jesus loved us, selflessly and without expectation of these feelings being returned, and in a way that emulates 1 Corinthians 13.

2. Faith:  This is the second most important thing for SC to see me doing, and I do not mean for her to simply observe an outward faith, one that I speak of on occasion when it is time for church.  I want her to really understand that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).  For me, faith comes from the heart, and it is the heart knowing a truth that the mind cannot comprehend.  I want her to see that I have this faith, and specifically faith in God and His promises; faith that Jesus died for her.  I want her to find this faith for herself and be confident in it.

3. Wisdom:  In our American culture it has become very popular to act unintelligent, to appear unlearned, and to make foolish choices in an attempt to create humor.  I do not think this has created a better civilization for us to live, but has created a culture of selfish, hateful citizens.  James 3:16-17 says "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy."  I want SC to see me using the intellect God gave me, making wise choices, and foremost, asking God for guidance so that I am sure my choices are wise.

4. Literacy:  Along with the growing popularity of foolishness and appearing unlearned is the declining popularity of reading.  This has been helped by the drastic development in technology, which has been portrayed by many as more fun and less work than reading books.   I think in order to combat this ideology, SC must see me choosing to use my free time reading, and expressing that reading is a pleasure.  Honestly, I love to read, so this in and of itself will not be difficult, but I know that when I read to her (and, eventually, when I ask her to read on her own) I need to make sure it is never forced or portrayed as a chore but as a way to enjoyably spend time.

5. Tolerance:  I think most Christians get a negative reputation for being intolerant, but I also think that is due to a societal change in the definition of the word "tolerance."  Mirriam-Webster defines tolerance as "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own," but our society has manipulated the word to mean not just accepting the existence of beliefs other than one's own, but that in order to be tolerant, one must accept those beliefs as, if not truth, then plausible.  This is not true tolerance, and for a Christian to accept other religions' beliefs as truth is counter-Biblical.  In John 14:6, Jesus tells the disciples “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."  That does not allow for much room for other religions' ideas to even be considered as plausible.  However, I do believe that Christians should be tolerant, as long as being tolerant means only accepting the existence of other beliefs while holding true to God's word.  This also means that Christians should lovingly follow the great commission, but that is another blog post.  All in all, I hope that I am able to demonstrate to SC true tolerance, but in conjunction with being tolerant, I need to make sure I am demonstrating love to those who need it and providing SC with Biblical truth.

6. Loyalty:  This is another characteristic that has become antiquated in our current American society.  Again, our society has become self-serving, promoting "winning" and financial gains over honesty and integrity.  I hope SC learns from me what it means to be loyal, just as God is loyal to us.  In Deuteronomy 31:8, Moses assures Joshua "The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."  I want to emulate God in this, and I want SC to learn to be loyal rather than focusing on her own selfish desires.

7. Compassion / Charity:  I lumped these together because I think it is hard to have one without the other.  Being compassionate should beget charity out of love, and the act of providing charity should have compassion as its motive.  I hope SC sees me give with a loving heart, desiring nothing in return.

8. Patience:  If there is one item on this list that I have to pray daily about, this is it.  I am naturally very impatient, especially with people, and SC tries what little patience I have.  That being said, I think it is very important that SC sees me being patient, both with her, as well as at other times when the desire to be impatient creeps up.  I think patience begets peace in that it allows time for understanding and, ultimately, wisdom to make Godly choices.

9. Diligence:  This is another unpopular characteristic in society - to be seen as having a passion for something, working hard toward a goal and achieving it.  It is much more popular to take the path or least resistance and accept what comes along.  Proverbs 18:9 says "He also who is slack in his work/ Is brother to him who destroys." I want SC seeing me work hard toward a goal, and sticking with something, even if it is difficult.  I want her to value quality results over quick results, and to learn the satisfaction and rewards of being diligent.

1o. Forgiveness:  Though this is last on the list, it is by no means last in importance.  It is commanded in the Bible that in order to receive God's forgiveness, we must first forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15).  However, I believe that this command is evidence that forgiveness is cyclical.  We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:7-21), and in His loving, he sent Jesus Christ, God incarnate, perfect and blameless, to receive the punishment we deserve in our stead.  This outpouring of love exemplifies his forgiveness of us, and if we are to truly receive this forgiveness, we must come to love others in the way that God loves, offering forgiveness.  I want SC to see me genuinely love by forgiving others (including her), and to learn that nothing that occurs to her is unforgivable.

Any comments, advice or opinions are welcomed.  Don't forget to check out other "Top Ten Tuesday" posts here. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday: "Flesh of thy flesh, ..."

"Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,
I here, thou there, yet both but one."
-Anne Bradstreet

I love the idea that Julia Black of Black Tag Diaries has of taking a day out of each week to talk about what she is thankful for, and I have decided to link-up with her site and do the same thing.

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This week I am hugely thankful for my husband, AC, and how hard he works to provide for our family.  This summer has been crazy and hectic because AC has been out of town for quite a bit of it.  

He has traveled to Boise, Idaho (twice!), San Francisco (over our 7 year anniversary), Detroit, Arkansas, New York City (twice), and Poughkeepsie, NY, all since the middle of May.  Even when he was at home, he was busy training people in Australia (on their hours - overnight for him) and helping his company host a huge conference locally.  He has literally been physically gone more than he was here for the summer.

However, as much as I miss him, and as hard it is to deal with SC's behavior when she struggles with separation from AC, I am thankful that he has a job that he loves to do, that he is good at and has a passion for, and because of this, he is able to provide for us in such a loving manner.  I know it is as hard on him to be gone as it is on SC and I, and I appreciate the sacrifice he makes when he travels.

**Check out the full poem "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment" by Anne Bradstreet, one of the first American poets!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"We dole out lip-service to the importance of education ..."

"We dole out lip-service to the importance of education--
lip- service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; 
we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; 
the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; 
and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, 
because we have lost the tools of learning, 
and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it."
-Dorothy Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning"

So far this week I have made only a little progress on my large list of books that I want to read in order to better understand my choices when it comes to educational styles.  The first article I read was Dorothy Sayers "The Lost Tools of Learning," presented by her at Oxford in 1947.

What struck me initially was that her understanding of what education had become sixty-five years ago is true today, if not more so.  She questions whether it is natural that "when the proportion of literacy ... is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined."  I wonder what she would think now think, with the technology boom of the 2000s allowing every child to have access to said "mass propaganda" at his or her whim?  She also states that this problem, coupled with modern educational methods, produces a graduate who "is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible."  

She speaks specifically that schools no longer teach children to think, but rather "subjects," and because of this, "intellectual skills bestowed upon us by our education are not readily transferable to subjects other than those in which we acquired them."  She goes further by stating that because of the advancement in technology (remember, this is 1947), because of this lack in their education, when students are constantly battered by words, "they do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects." Our current culture has found a way to combat this, though it is a poor one -- society has drastically reduced the level of education needed to both communicate and understand the media, so far that many people not only use poor grammar and "text-speak" in their written communications, but actually supplement their spoken communication as well.  I am not ROTFL; I am horrified.

So far in the article, I agree wholeheartedly with Sayers' judgements.  One of the reasons I am second-guessing public school for SC is because my recent experiences (and those of our friends) has left me to wonder whether SC will develop into her "best" self if left to the devices of the Texas school system.  In fact, as I began to look back on my own educational career, much of the problems Sayers points out that have occurred under the modern educational system I, myself, avoided because my parents pushed me to ask questions, and when the answers were not found at school, I continued to look for them on my own by reading.  However, I am very much aware that SC is not me, and I do not really want to just take my chances that she does well for herself.

The remainder of the article Sayers breaks down her ideas for classical education, what she calls the Trivium.  While modern education is subject-focused, Sayers states that "medieval education concentrated on first forging and learning to handle the tools of learning."  It consists of three stages: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.  The Grammar stage is based around learning language; the Dialectic stage around how to use the language, defining terms and making accurate statements; the Rhetoric stage around expressing himself through language.  For ease of quick-reading, I will summarize each stage through a bulleted list.

GRAMMAR (approx. age 9-11)
  • the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar, which should be begun as early as possible
  • observation and memory are most active, so anything and everything which can be committed to memory should be memorized, specifically through recitation
  • students should learn a contemporary foreign language (French or German)
  • focus on reading classical stories (myths, legends, etc) in poetic and narrative forms
  • learn the dates, events and personalities of history and geography
  • come to identify and name scientific specimens of "natural philosophy" 
  • memorize the facts of math, like multiplication tables, and recognize geometrical shapes, which will lead naturally to addition and subtraction
  • become acquainted with the story of God and Man in outline
DIALECTIC (approx. age 12-14)
  • introduce formal logic, the art of arguing correctly
  • concentrate language lessons on syntax and analysis, as well as the history of language
  • focus on reading essays, arguments and criticisms, as well as attempting to write the same
  • lessons should take the form of debates, and include dramatic performances rather than recitation
  • advanced forms of arithmetic, algebra and geometry should be introduced as a sub-department of logic
  • history should be discussion based, focusing on constitutional history and ethics
  • focus to include events from student's daily life as subject of discussion and argument
RHETORIC (approx. age 14-16)
  • student needs the freedom to learn what they feel they can "specialize" in
  • literature should be focused on appreciation rather than criticism
  • writing should be focused on self-expression rather than argument
  • "subjects" will be difficult to separate
  • Latin grammar may be dropped; focus can be turned to more modern languages
  • each student should learn to do one or two things very well, but continue other subjects so as to continue understanding the inter-relation of all knowledge
Sayers sums up her arguments for the Trivium by mentioning that parts of this medieval method can still be seen in modern education, but states that "however firmly a tradition is rooted, if it is never watered, though it dies hard, yet in the end it dies."  She believes in order to restore our civilization to its high point, education must return to these medieval roots.

While I definitely agree with Sayers' assessment of modern education as "an educational structure that is built upon sand," at this point I do not necessarily agree with the menu she puts forth specifically to fix the problem.  I personally understand that much of classic writing cannot be translated perfectly into English, but I do not at this point see a need for the study of Latin.  I think a student of the Rhetoric stage can be taught the mechanics of building a good argument based on the styles of the classical writers/orators without him or her actually reading the works in the original Latin.  I agree that young children are memorization sponges and should be introduced to as many facts and stories from history, science, literature and the like, as well as mathematical facts, as early as possible, but I think that this plan needs to be tweaked for each individual child.  I wonder how my probably-gifted child fits into this plan, especially since we are starting semi-formal schooling at age four.  

I also think that children of all stages should be familiar with all forms of writing, and that well-written modern works have as much to offer as many of the classics.  However, the onus is on the parent to read and decide which works those may be, and if a parent lacks understanding in this area, it may be difficult.   I also disagree in that I think formal logic can be introduced as early as the grammar stage, as long as the parent/teacher has a sound understanding of formal logic.  How do you talk to your child, especially when explaining to him "why?"  Do you use logical arguments to model, or do you say "because I am the mom/dad" and vague things of that nature? 

I do like that the Rhetoric stage allows for much personal choice by the student, because if a student has a solid background in the basics of every subject, he should be able to choose what interests him and excel rather than continue to sit through "survey style" courses that offer only remedial knowledge to fill in the gaps.  I think the only reason schools in Texas continue to do it the latter way is because students have so many gaps from missing information during the learning years when "subjects" were poorly taught, due, honestly, to the required standardized testing being much of the focus at those ages. There will be students who simply test poorly and should be helped with "tricks" and whatnot, but to turn every classroom into a test-review center, eschewing actual knowledge in lieu of only what is on the test, has created an educational farce, one that I am loathe to participate in.

To further my study of educational styles, I should either be reading "The Great Conversation" by Robert Hutchins or The Paideia Proposal: an educational manifesto by Mortimer Adler next, depending which looks more enticing at the moment.  Depending on how strongly I feel about each, I may post a review of each of the works, or simply a general review of my understanding of classical education.

If anyone has any suggestions, advice or opinions about anything I have posted here, please comment!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: "The meeting of two personalities ..."

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung

Last week I read a guest post by Tara Ziegmont on The Pelsers' blog about getting to know your homeschool student.  Specifically, it asked the question "do you know your [child's] learning style?"  I, unfortunately, had to respond in the negative.  These past few months of pseudo-homeschooling while we just live life I have not taken any steps to learn what learning styles even are, nor how to focus what SC's are into a better educational experience for her.  

Since this year I really want to take a serious look at whether or not homeschooling is the best choice for our family, at least for the near future, I spent some time reading up about Myers-Briggs typology, analyzing myself, analyzing SC (analyzing AC, of course, too), and trying to use this new knowledge to apply it back toward my teaching plans for this year.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

This week, for the "Top Ten Tuesday" linkup, I have decided to apply my new knowledge and understanding, and create a list of the top ten challenges I will face this year with SC.  First, however, I must state that after analysis of us both, I have a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) INTP, while SC has a MBTI of ISTP.  Though these are quite similar, there are a few differences between us that will make for some big challenges for me as a teacher, as I attempt to adapt to SC.

1.  Theoretical vs. factual:  My inclination to indulge in intellectual exploration and theoretical avenues are at cross purposes to SC's desire for solid facts and evidence.  I think this will manifest itself in almost every area, which is why I think it will be the biggest challenge I will face.  It will require me to literally remove myself from the way I think about everything and attempt to see it how SC might perceive it.

2.  Kinesthetic vs. reading/writing:  This challenge is almost as difficult as number 1, because this is another major area where INTP and ISTP personalities differ.  SC will need as much kinesthetic/hands-on activity in each subject area as I can create, but since I am a reading/writing focused learner, I am going to have to do more research and utilize the ideas of others to make this happen.  Luckily, this is one area that I had already observed, so our curriculum plans include programs that have quite a bit of hands-on activities that directly accompany the subjects.

3.  Journey vs. goal:  For an INTP like me, the most important part of learning is the journey.  It does not bother me if I never get to solving the problem as long as the journey is enjoyable.  However, for an ISTP like SC, the most important part is the solution.  This will be a challenge for me to remember not to think only of the journey, but to know there needs to be a concrete and practical outcome that SC needs to reach with each lesson.

4.  Self-interests:  ISTP personalities typically struggle in most school settings because they can be single-minded, only focusing on what interests them.  My challenge here will be to make new subjects and lessons interesting to her.  However, this blends into challenge number 5.

5.  Teacher as obstruction:  When ISTP personalities are presented with information that is not part of their current interest area, they will go around or ignore the teacher completely in order to get to the information they want.  This will be a challenge to both motivate her within her interests, but keep her learning in other areas as well.

6.  Time regulation:  SC already wants to do things when she wants, where she wants, with her own goals in mind.  My challenge will be to help her regulate her learning into realistic day-to-day activities, so that she progresses well in all subject areas.  I also will have the challenge of really getting on a schedule that is manageable for us, as I tend to allow interruptions that do not really need to happen.  I hope to print out an easy-to read graphic schedule for SC so that she can also keep track of what we are doing when. 

7.  Complexity: ISTP personalities learn best when the subjects they are learning are technically complex.  This predisposes them for STEM subjects.  While I have a solid understanding of certain STEM areas, I would not call my knowledge base complex by any means.  The challenge here, though probably not immediately at a K4/1st level, will be to push SC forward in these areas even as she leaves me behind.  At some point, I will have to rely on her self-interest and desire to increase her practical knowledge to guide her toward what she needs to be learning in those areas.

8.  Social issues:  The "I" from ISTP stands for "introvert," which is definitely a characteristic that SC and I both share.  For both of us the challenge here will be to make sure we are making the most of social times, including in our out of the house activities (her dance classes, gymnastics and piano lessons), as well as meeting up with other homeschooling families that live in the area.

9. More social issues:  Though ISTP personalities are introverted, they connect best with people when they are involved in kinesthetic activities together rather than simply a dialogue-based relationship.  At SC's young age, however, she has a hard time understanding personal space, that pushing and shoving are not acceptable, and that she can hurt people.  

10. Have fun!:  Maybe this one should have been at the top.  In everything we do, I need to remember that SC is only four years old, and that she needs even her learning time to be enjoyable.

Any comments, advice or opinions are welcomed.  Don't forget to check out other "Top Ten Tuesday" posts here.


Friday, August 17, 2012

"The more you read, the more things you will know."

Before we officially start school (which we do not have an official date for, but will probably coincide with the beginning of September) I have set myself a task to learn about some of the various styles of schooling and homeschooling.  I thought I had a good grasp on the differences between classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori and interest-led/unschooling, but after making a comment to my friend J. about why I thought I only agreed with some of the classical ideas, he told me that I really needed to actually read some of the works written about classical schooling.  He gave me a short list of essays and a book, which he specifically recommended as concise and clear about classical education, and to it I have added a book or two about each of the other styles, to get a good grasp on each.  Then, hopefully, I will fully understand my own ideas and be able to apply the information I learn that I feel applies to SC to our homeschool this year.  Here is the list of books I will be reading over the next few weeks, though most likely not in this order.

"The Lost Tools of Learning" by Dorothy Sayers

"The Great Conversation" by Robert Hutchins (I think this is the whole of the book-length essay he wrote)

The Paideia Proposal: an educational manifesto by Mortimer Adler

The Well-Trained Mind: a guide to classical education at home by Susan Wise Bauer

The Well-Educated Mind: a guide to the classical education you never had by Susan Wise Bauer

A Charlotte Mason Education: a home schooling how-to manual by Catherine Levison

The Montessori Method: the origins of an educational innovation, including ... by Maria Montessori

Montessori Today: a comprehensive approach to education from birth to adulthood by Paula Lillard

Because we only have one child, we don't really know what is "normal" until someone points out what SC is doing is not.  Also, both AC and I are advanced (though, interestingly enough, he is math/science/technology and I am more rhetoric/language), so what seemed normal to us apparently isn't normal to everyone else.  However, it wasn't until SC started desiring knowledge and learning that we really thought about what it means for her to be advanced, and specifically, what it means for SC's learning (both from us and from any potential teachers she might have in the future).  After reading an article from Childhood Inspired about parenting a gifted child, plus hearing some of the same things going through my head voiced on the accelerated learner forums at The Well-Trained Mind Forums, I have decided to add these books as well.  Being advanced myself has in no way helped me understand my gifted child, whom I suspect is actually far past both myself and AC, and I need to hear what others have to say to give me ideas on how to provide her the best experience in both school and just life.

Genius Denied: how to stop wasting our brightest young minds by Jan & Bob Davidson

The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids by Sally Walker

A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb

Gifted Children: myths and realities by Ellen Winner

If anyone has any suggestions, advice or opinions about anything I have posted here, please comment!

**This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure statement.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Curriculum 2012-2013: K4

Since we started to homeschool PreK officially in January, we are really only mid-way through our first  whole year.  However, we have learned quite a bit about what we like, what we do not like, how SC learns, and the direction we want to head, so we will be making some changes and additions for this 2012-2013 year, which I am considering a K4/1st year.  For those who did not read my first post, I will briefly sum up the decisions made and what we have already done as I move into what (I hope) this year will bring.


For Bible lessons we will be continuing with the "Beginner" pages from Bible Study for All Ages I really like this program because I am actually reading straight from the Bible to SC, and reading whole chapters, not just what some might consider familiar stories.  It has each reading broken down into five or six blocks to color, with questions and a summary that is very age appropriate.  Then, it has a short story that helps the young student relate it to life, plus a coloring page to go with that story as well.


We have already finished Get Ready and are most of the way through Get Set from the Explode the Code series.  Even though SC is really strong on her letters and their sounds, I think it couldn't hurt to finish the Go for the Code book before moving on to Books 1 - 4 of the series.  I have been doing a "letter of the week" along with a read aloud that focuses on that letter as well.  We are also thinking about using the online program if we have extra funds after the rest of our school supplies are purchased for the year.

For reading we have been going through Collection 1 and the K/1st Sight Words Collection from BOB Books.  We will continue with this, plus add in I Can Read!  books that we have and others like that.  For read alouds, I plan to create a list that backs up the history program I have chosen, as well as adding in some classic literature.  SC is fairly jumpy, so we do not get very far when we cuddle up on the couch to read.  My goal is to work our way up to her being able to listen for a thirty-minute session.

We are in the middle of A Reason for Handwriting level K and it has been a very easy introduction for SC to writing.  I do not push her too hard to make the letters perfect, but I do know what she is capable of.  She tends to get silly when she writes (turning her letters into people, adding "babies" for the letters to take care of, adding bugs or monsters for the letters to run from), so only having one letter to focus on each day helps her to get at least a few that are good.  I have started circling the ones that are really good, and she loves that, so she strives to get a few good ones before decorating.  When we are done with level K, we will move on to level A, which has Bible verses to work on as practice.

In conjunction with the Bible verses in A Reason for Handwriting level A is the spelling lessons in A Reason for Spelling level A.  We will not start working on spelling until we can start level A handwriting at the same time.  I am interested to see how this program works together, with the spelling words coming from a story that is based on the Bible verse, which is the verse she will be practicing writing.


Not really liking Before Five in a Row for us, I was in the market for a new main curriculum.  I had a friend who suggested Sonlight as a good literature-based core program.  I looked into that, and had actually decided on it, but as I was searching through the great Well-Trained Mind forums, someone mentioned History Odyssey and I absolutely loved the look of it.  The one problem I was having with Sonlight was that I personally think history needs to be taught from the beginning on, and like all subjects, taught deeply rather than widely.  I have never liked "survey" courses, even when I was in school.  Sonlight's Core A, which is where I felt SC should start, teaches history from the beginning all the way through to WWII.  I couldn't help but wonder how much SC would actually get out of a history that goes that fast.  So, we will be starting Ancients Level 1in September.

We are also halfway through the "Primer" level of Math-U-See, and will start the "Alpha" level.  I really like this math curriculum because it makes so much more sense to me than how I learned even things like addition.  In "Primer" has gently introduced SC to addition, but not in a way that she is counting, but in a conceptual way that she is "knowing."  For example, 2 + 3 = 5 is not 1, 2 plus 3, 4, 5 equals 5, but 2 and 3 together are equal to (or the same as) 5.  I doubt the way I explained that makes any sense, but I am so un-mathematical that I cannot explain it any better.  Anyhow, I am really looking forward to moving her on to Alpha and getting deeper into math.  We will also be adding some Lollipop Logic, mazes and other critical thinking activities.


Science was another area that I really did not like the way Sonlight blended multiple areas of the sciences together in a wide, rather than deep, focus.  After research on many blogs and forums, I decided that we would give Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy a try for this year.  I have read many, many great reviews, and was able to physically take a look at both the text and the junior notebooking journal, and it looks like it will be perfect for SC's first taste of real science.  We are contemplating getting a membership to the local Natural Science and History Museum so we can take advantage of both the astronomy exhibits and the planetarium, but like the online Explode the Code, it will depend on how much of our budget is left after purchasing supplies.


While I appreciate and understand the reasoning behind the classical learning model to teach Latin so that students may read the great thinkers in the original, for our family, we are going in a different direction.  SC already has very worldly ambitions and loves learning about other places, so we have decided to teach French to her as a beginning second language.  Part of this decision had to do with the fact that my father-in-law is fluent, so we have someone we can pester about things and to practice with.  Part of it had to do with my own desire to learn French, and I think that doing it alongside SC would be great.  So, after much research, we have chosen to use Le Francais Facile! junior level, plus Little Pim dvds from the library and any worksheets or coloring books we can use to supplement with.


I am very excited that I just signed up SC for a piano readiness class at a local university.  I had attempted to teach her piano fundamentals on my own, but it had been so long since I had taken lessons myself, I just couldn't keep up with her desire to learn.  After much searching, I finally found this "early education" music class that actually teaches piano (and not simply "music appreciation") to four-year-olds.  SC also takes two dance classes each week, plus also attends a gymnastics class.

If anyone has any questions or wants to offer advice or just their own opinions on any of the choices I have made, I would love to hear from you!

Top Ten Tuesday: PBS Kids Shows

At our house, we watch quite a bit of TV.  We don't sit in front of the TV all day, but when I really need to get something done and don't want "help," we turn on PBS Kids.  SC also watches many of these shows on her iPod or our iPhones using Netflix kids, plus interacts with the games and videos on the PBS Kids website.  So, I have experience with the entire morning (and at times afternoon) line-up that our local PBS station shows, and I do have "favorites" that I would rather listen to while doing the dishes over others.  So, here are my top ten PBS Kids shows, along with why (though many of the reasons have to do with SC).  I have also included two shows I really do NOT like, and that I actually limit SC's watching.  It should be noted that when SC was asked for her favorite, she gave the politically correct response of "I like all the shows."

1. Sid the Science Kid
Sid the Science Kid is my absolute favorite of all the shows on PBS Kids.  It is genuinely entertaining for both SC and I to watch.  At the beginning of the show, Sid, the main character, generally has a question about something, and through both his parents and his teacher at school, he discovers the answer.  The characters are likable, the show itself is upbeat, including a few brief songs, and it also shows good science habits, like taking observations and making predictions.  It teaches rudimentary science in a fun, interesting manner, and always includes a "you can try this at home" experiment that uses supplies most families probably will have on hand. 

2. SuperWhy!
SuperWhy! is a close second in the top ten list.  This show focuses on reading, but in a very interactive way for a television show.  SuperWhy! also begins with  a problem that needs to be solved, and they gather up the "book club" members to help solve it.  Each member has a special power, like 'the power to spell," and "the power to read," but the best part of this show is that they specifically "look in a book" to solve their problems.  They choose a book that has a similar problem and read/interact with it in order to learn how to solve the problem they are having.  So, along with teaching letter recognition (both visual and verbal), they also are teaching that you can compare your own situation with that of characters in literature and learn from them.

3. Martha Speaks
Martha Speaks is a show that introduces vocabulary words in real situations through the use of a talking dog, Martha.  If it sounds odd, it is, but in a good way.  The dog in the show takes the place of a young child (like SC) who has the ability to talk, but just doesn't have all the words to say what he/she is thinking.  Through their various every-day "adventures," Martha and the human characters learn how to express themselves better.  If this sounds boring, it really isn't, due to the chaos that a talking dog causes.

4. Arthur
Arthur is a show that is based on the books by Marc Brown, which I remember reading as a kid in elementary school.  Now, to accompany the books, they have this great tv show that expands upon the social and emotional development the books touched on.  This show covers everything a younger child might encounter in his/her daily activities, including things like dealing with siblings, school, friends, wanting things, saving money, working hard, bullies, and even attitude issues.  It also is a great show to bring up topics for conversation with SC.  We can always talk about appropriate responses and behavior, using examples of both good and bad, from this show.

5. Wild Kratts
Wild Kratts is a show that teaches about a range of animals through the animated adventures of real-life brothers Chris and Martin Kratts.  In these adventures, the two brothers actually "become" the animals they are learning about through the use of special "creature power suits," which allows them to get closer and teach deeper than a show that simply tells the facts.  The brothers and their team also typically have to solve a problem related to the animal in question, be it saving them from other people who wish to exploit them, learn how to do something "like" the animal to win a challenge, or keep a group of animals together due to an ecological problem or injury of their leader.  I like that it is so informative, but due to the "adventures," it is very engaging.  I doubt SC realizes she is learning when she watches this one.

6. WordGirl
WordGirl is another vocabulary show, but this one is more of a super-hero adventure.  The main character is a regular girl who masquerades as the superhero WordGirl when a villain attempts something criminal in her town. WordGirl is also know for her correct use of large vocabulary words to describe the situations she is in.  There is also a brief game-show style review where the words are gone back over with both a definition and a visual example.  All-in-all it is a fun and educational show, though I would prefer to watch Martha Speaks if I had a choice.

7. Clifford, the Big Red Dog
Clifford, the Big Red Dog is another show based on books that I read as a child.  This one focuses on social and emotional development in a similar way to Arthur, though the characters are Clifford and his normal-sized dog friends that live on an island.  Since in this show the dogs are actual dogs, not pseudo-people, their adventures take place as they assist their human owners in whatever is going on in their lives (though they can, of course, speak to each other).  It is a fun show, but as with WordGirl, I prefer to watch Arthur because I think it handles the same issues in a better way.  Arthur is also more worldly, while Clifford is very focused on their imaginary island.

8. WordWorld
WordWorld is the show I have seen the least of, because they took it off our local station very soon after SC was born.  However, the few episodes I have seen, I have really loved.  Each of the characters is actually made up of the letters in the word (see the image to the left).  In fact, EVERYTHING in WordWorld is created from the letters that make it up.  It is an entire world that has been labeled for emerging readers.  In the show, the characters, of course, solve problems, that usually involves creating new words and applying them to the situation.  I really wish we could get this one on our local PBS station, because SC is right at the age where this show might have the best impact.

9. Dinosaur Train
Dinosaur Train is another show that targets social and emotional development, but has the added bonus that the characters are dinosaurs and spend quite a bit of time learning about their own kind.  I think that the show does a great job introducing dinosaur science facts, but it is at the bottom of the list because some of the episodes do a better job than others dealing with the family and friends aspects.  I do love that the T-Rex character has been adopted into the family of Pteranodons, however unlikely that would be in dinosaur times.  SC is also wishy-washy about this one, liking it for awhile, then not wanting to watch it.  I think she picks up on the same issues I have, but cannot express the problems other than she is "bored" with some of the episodes.

10. Sesame Street
Sesame Street is on here, but at the bottom of the list, because I just have a hard time liking it now that the people in charge have crammed so many issues that are at the forefront of society into it (obesity, homosexuality, etc).  I do not think children should be sheltered from the way things are, but I also think it is a parent who should bring them up and discuss them with their child.  I do like many of the segments in an episode, and I think they do a great job providing useful information about a variety of topics, but it just seems like Sesame Street isn't what it used to be.

Now, two shows from PBS Kids I just cannot like.

Curious George
Curious George, in my opinion, is a very mis-informative show for a young child to watch.  My problem with this show is that the main character, George, is a monkey, and has very unrealistic adventures for a monkey.  He never asks permission to do things like using sharp objects, leaving the house alone, answering the phone, turning on large, dangerous machines, and pretty much everything else he does.  For a child to see George do these things, he/she could understandably think it would be okay him/her to do it.  On top of the not asking permission, when George causes problems or creates a mess, someone else always fixes it, and there are no consequences, natural or otherwise.  I do understand it is a fictional world, but in order for it to really be educational rather than simply entertaining, it has to offer something.  This has been a huge problem at our house because SC really like to watch Curious George.  I have started having to meticulously watch the episodes with her and ask her questions about what George should have done, what would happen if she did something similar, and the like, to make sure she understands that it is a pure fantasy.

Caillou is a show that originally was created in Canada (broadcast in French), based on the books of Christine L'Heureux.  My biggest problem with the show is that the main character, a young boy named Caillou, whines incessantly.  I cannot stand to listen to the show because of the whining.  On top of that, his parents always give in to his whining.  It is not a behavior I want SC to repeat.  Luckily it has been relegated by our local station to the early afternoon, a time when we almost never have the TV on.  I do wish I had the opportunity to view the original French-language version of the show to see if it is any different.

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