“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

~Albert Einstein



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Reading Program

This is great find for a summer reading enhancer program.  This is simple, easy to use and takes only 30 minutes a day.  I got my copy for FREE on my Kindle.  I thought it looked interesting so I downloaded it, I mean the price was right.  You can get it too on your Kindle, click here.  To be honest it will take some work for mom, making copies and being prepared.  The book gives enough poems with lessons plans to fill 8 weeks.  The poems are all by Bruce Lansky and are really cute.  Amy Buswell has added the reading stuff and it is so fun.  More Poems can be found at the Giggle Poetry Website.  This is the full title of the book:  Giggle Poetry Reading Lessons: A Successful Reading-Fluency Program Parents and Teachers Can Use to Dramatically Improve Reading Skills and Scores.  I share this in case you are looking for something fun and schoolish to fill your summer days, try this - the price is right.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Math Drills with IXL

We need something different for Math.  It needs to be something that I can monitor.  We have used Math-U-See on and off for years.  The kids learned but not as consistently as I would like. This is not their issue but mine.  I get so busy that waiting until tomorrow to correct todays paper ends up being a week without math.  This is no way to make progress.  I asked a friend to review Ron Paul's curriculum and part of the response was that he was very happy with IXL for math and for basic grammar.  I looked into it and I like that there is an audio version that reads the question out loud with a push of a button. 
 
 
I paid for access to the IXL site.  I included the grammar and was very disappointed that this is not on audio yet.  (YET, they tell me it will be soon.  I would not have paid for that part if I had known. If your children do not struggle with reading, then this might work well for you.)   Overall I am happy and I feel my money was well spent.  Click here to be directed to the IXL site.
What am I getting for my money?  Anyone can use IXL just visit the site as a guest.  The site will not keep track of your work.  When you pay into the access it then tracks it all and generates reports.  The site keeps track of the amount of time spent working as well. This is the part that I like.  I know the kids will make progress and remember more as we establish the habit of spending 30 minutes each day working on it.  My only problem with this site is that it just drills.  I feel that this is a I made them all start at the
 beginning and we are working 30 minutes each day.  Right now was are building the habit.

 
 

 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Homeschool Connections

 

 

Online Classes
for Homeschoolers

Complete live online classes
for middle and high school students --
Educating the heart, mind, and soul
in the Catholic tradition.

My last post was about the Ron Paul Curriculum and I still have to say that I love the model and set up.  That particular program is not for this Catholic Homeschooling Family.  I love the model though.  I can't just use textbooks anymore.  My older kids were bored and lost interest. The model of a video class to keep them connected and engaged is so intriguing.  Due to the amount of learning issues we have worked with in the past and that we still have with rest of the bunch, I know that offering a book and expecting a report and test is not the way to gauge how much they learned. I saw this even with the on-line with audio version of Introduction to Catholicism that we did this year through My Catholic Faith Delivered (I should offer a review for them but in a later post).  We were hearing the material but not necessarily comprehending it.  So even offering the audio version is not completely engaging.  The truth is I do not have time to sit with each child and present each class with the enthusiasm they each deserve.

I have never liked just offering the books, even if they come with audio.  That has been a great option considering the kids long for some independence for high school.  I was so drawn to the Ron Paul set up because it really does offer the video and the independence.  I just need it to be a little more cost effective and a little more Catholic.  I attended the homeschool conference and once again got into a nice discussion with Walter Crawford.  He is one of the individuals behind Homeschool Connections. I really want to see if I can take the archived classes offered through Homeschool Connections.  I want to offer a Catholic alternative but loosely following the Ron Paul model.  I am not sure how this will all work but we will try to get started by June 1st and that will allow us to tweak it until we get it going.

I can't wait to see if we can make this work. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ron Paul Curriculum

Did you know that Ron Paul left his life of civil service and started creating a curriculum for homeschoolers?  His hope is to find a way to help save America.  I have not yet joined but look forward to.  I think the pricing is just right.  I need to wait until I have a little extra time to explore.

I don't know that we will actually use his curriculum in depth but I want to really examine the model.  He had organized a set of self directed classes that can eventually add up to a middle school and high school education.  The site claims that this is all self directed. You really must click here and  visit the web site to start investigating for yourself.
I toke one idea and ran with it, already.  I have had the kids each create a blog and the idea was taken directly from this curriculum.  Read about that idea here, written by Gary North called School Blog. For now ours are not public but eventually will be.  We also used Blogger and maybe I need to look into why he recommends WordPress.  I prefer Blogger just because I am familiar with it.


If any of this intrigues you, I suggest watching the full 26 minutes of the 6th-12th grades being explained in a video form.  I am so excited about the possibilities.  Now I have not forgotten that I have kiddos with learning issues and reading is a huge issue not to mention writing.  I think I might just adapt some of this and the ideas into a real successful curriculum for my own kids.  I do what to change some of the classes out to insure a more Catholic approach.  I agree with the reasons why we need this. 
I don't need to be convinced to homeschool.  I just need to refresh my methods and tweak here and there. If you have more experience with Ron Paul's Curriculum, please share!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Parenting Book Study

I posted this on the family blog.  I felt that it also belonged here.   
 
http://www.amazon.com/Backtalk-Steps-Ending-Rude-Behavior/dp/068484124X
 
 

If you are looking for some help with dealing with the backtalk of children, I want to take the time to recommend this wonderful book. Backtallk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids.  Over the years I have referred to this little gem over and over again.  My kids cringe every time they see it.  In fact I just found out that Pooker hid the book for a few years.  God Bless that child. 

So with Lent starting and the desire to be a better parent I decided it was time to read the book again.  My biggest issue is remaining consistent. The first week is tough, the second week isn't bad but by the third week I am letting too much slip by.  With each read I do grow stronger in my parenting but I wanted to be a better parent with more peace in my home by Easter.  I also wanted support as I went through it this time. 

I sent out the following invitation to my homeschool group.  I knew that to "teach" something you must know it yourself.  I was happy to have made a commitment and then setting up three meetings over 21 days I knew that I could be more effective in changing myself. 
                                                                                

 

“Your kids are so good, you should teach a class!”
 

I have heard that more than one time over the years.  I disagree that my kids are “that good” but I have found one book to be extremely helpful with bad behavior.  My kids cringe every time they see me pull it out to read, so it works.  They know that I get the book out to remind myself how to be a better parent.  They don’t always like it because I will be more consistent in my parenting.  This in turn changes their behavior. 

My kids and I need a refresher.  As I sat and started to reread the book, I decided it would be more fun to share the journey.  So the title, the work, and the joy of watching our families transform is something we can all enjoy with the support of each other.  I will lead a book study and discussion coupled with my personal experience over just 3 meetings.  I am hoping that by Easter I will be a better mom, my children will be better children and we will all grow closer to Christ.  If you would like to join me on the dates below just email me and let me know so I can find a space that will accommodate us.   I strongly recommend this book even if you can’t make the 3 meetings.


I really wanted to give this my all.  I prepared my notes, gave out suggested homework and enjoyed sharing what has worked in our home over the years while learning from my peers.  I share some cards that offered the 4 steps with my notes about each one with everyone. 


Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids

                                   Written by      Audrey Ricker  And  Carolyn Crowder

 

Step 1:  Recognize Backtalk  Does it hurt, embarrass,   annoy or leave you helpless?

Step 2:  Choose appropriate Consequence  Have backups ideas on hand—like time out, kneeling, dead horse, chore.

Step 3:  Enact the Consequence.   You can briefly identify the backtalk, express how it hurt or was inappropriate, state the consequence, put child in place, set up chore, oversee the initiation of Consequence (not the same as a punishment). 

Step 4:  Disengage  I find that this can be the hardest step.  Do not engage in conversation about the consequence.  Have a “go-to” on hand to change the subject if needed.  Say a prayer out loud or start singing a song.  It will soon be known that as soon as you disengage there is no use continuing the reaction.

 

I wanted to give this 100% for my friends.  Jason was so encouraging.  I was shocked that the night after my first discussion/class Jason and the kids had come by and left flowers on the car.  Aren't they cute!?! 
 
The best part was having friends to share consequence ideas with.  So many ideas from some great mothers.  I think that we might continue to gather one time a month to offer continued support from like minded moms. 
 
I recommend this book with all parents out there.  Don't be afraid to do this wrong, just do something.  We owe it to our children to parent them.  This book gives some wonderful ways in which we can positively parent.  If the form of consequences in the book don't work for you, change it up.  If the ones I offer don't work for you, change it up.  Just do something and be consistent.  Your children will thank you for it (they might also hide the book on you) but they will eventually thank you.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Still Homeschooling

I am still at this crazy game and the more time I have spent doing it the more I feel I need to learn.  We have three graduated from our T Homeschool Academy with one more graduating this January.  All of those three are in college and doing well in classes in spite of the various learning issues each on has had.  Don't give up, not matter what.  Don't let what others say about you change what you in your heart know to be true.  Don't give up. I have watched too many people back track later and then ask what they did wrong.  I could see all along that they did not stay the course.  Hey it isn't easy out there.  It can get messy.  Laws of the legal system and in-laws of the family system can try to force you to change.  Stay the course, you won't regret it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Morning Out

Dad works from home.  This has been great at times and a real pain at other times.  J had a very important conference call scheduled.  He needed to give the call his absolute attention.   It was much easier for us to vacate the home for the morning.   After morning Mass I took the crowd to a fun McDonalds (has a play place) for breakfast.


Beautiful - Adorable


It ended up being a fun morning.  The twins are just days from turning one and they had a blast.  Adorable and Beautiful preferred to be together in the tubes. 

I post this to remind us all to enjoy time to have fun.  I know too many homeschoolers that are so super focused on school work that the kids are stressed out.  One dangerous trap is that too often these over focused families loose site of the goal of heaven.  I have seen so many families use an intense programs, then not have time to take breaks and enjoy each other's company.  Some of these families end up with kids that are college drop outs.  Once the kids have a little freedom, they rebel completely.  We all look into the eyes of our little one year old and see the world.  I still see those endless possibilities in my adult children.  They are open to life, all of it - including the learning, the fun, the worship, the joy.  The well rounded person sees the world for that it has to offer not what it can for you.  To my dear fellow homeschooling moms, remember to enjoy your time with the children.  Teach them to seek Heaven in all that they do. In the end it is the only thing that is important.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Great Investment for the Catholic Homeschool

Over the years I have tried different things to teach the younger ones about the Mass.  My hope has been that the more engaged they were at a young age, the more they would grow to appreciate it as they got older.  I also hoped that understanding would improve behavior during Mass. 
 
 
Years ago I purchased the Mini Mass Kit from Our Father's House listed below and at a Catholic Homeschool Convention I found the vestments.  These were quit pricey.  I probably invested a little over $300 in a few years creating the Mass Box that the kids could only play with respectfully and properly.  This means that we only allowed the boys the play priest and wear the vestments. 
Jumba grew up with the Mini Mass Kit in the house and was not interested.  When shopping for Confirmation gifts a month ago I found this cloth version called My Mass Kit.  It was only $70.  I liked it because it was very portable and self contained.  It was also quiet making it just the trick I needed to engage my "very bored" 5 year old at church.  He brought the kit to the car the entire first week but not into daily Mass.  He would get to the car after Mass and then pull the pieces out and try to remember how the priests had used them.  The second week he took it inside two times and only one time did we take it into the cry room and actually get the pieces out.  We were alone for daily Mass and I let him set it up and then watch the priest to compare the real items to his kit versions.  This is not a toy that I think should be brought to church all the time.  I think of it as a tool that works wonderfully at teaching a young one about the Mass. 

The learning book that came with the kit is pretty good.  If you only have girls I would still get this version.  They don't really play Mass with  this version, it isn't real enough.  I still think it is a fabulous teaching tool.
Wee Believers My Mass Kit
I was even more thrilled when I got home and examined the packaging.  My favorite Cardinal is quoted on the box!
" . . . will capture the imagination of little children with regard to the most sacred realities of life." 
~Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, D.D., J.C.D., Prefect, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostoic Signatura



Now it is time to go old school.  I ordered this kit years and years ago, probably to help with teaching Pooker for her first Holy Communion.  I know it is well used but I could not find old pictures.


Our Father's House Mini Mass Kit
The goal was never to try to convince the boys that they needed to be priests but to make the option real.  Just like having a doll and pretending to be mom and dad, the kids have also played Mass over the years.  In our play they don't have two girls get married and in the same way they only have a boy as a priests.  This isn't political it is just the way it is. 
 
Bear is actively looking onto several different seminaries and trying to decide which one is the better fit for him.  I don't know that he will be a priest for certain but I do know that today he thinks that is what his vocation truly is.  Pickle declared a few weeks ago that he also would like to become a priest.  His true desire is to be an NFL star but a good back up option is the priesthood.  I thought J was going to panic about the family name living on when Jumba announced the other night that he too wants to be a priest.  I am not sure about any of them but most of all doubting the current dreams of this loving 5 year old.  I say all that to let you know that even if none of them end up as priests I still think that the these investments were money well spent!  (Oh and in your spare time, Please offer up a prayer for my boys and their vocations, whatever those vocations might turn out to be.) 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Where to Start

One might be surprised how often I am asked this question.  I will be honest and tell you that it depends on where you are in life.  Pulling a teen out of public middle school is different than pulling a highschooler out of Catholic high school.  Everyone knows that their child is very different and so is each mom trying to learn something new.  There is no one set way to begin.  This post is to focus on mom though.

I think this is pretty universal as far as the needs of each woman deciding to homeschool their kids.  Actually this is crucial for all of us especially stay at home moms.   We need to find your passion or what you enjoy and then find like minded women who share that passion.  Humans are social creatures.  We learn and feed off of each other.  We will benefit from social time.  Our need for social time with like minded peers begins with our girlfriends when we are very young and it doesn't go away when we get married.  Sure our hubby is our best friend but all girls know that you sometimes get mad at your best friend.

The first step in homeschooling, even if you are thinking about maybe homeschooling your current newborn 5 years from now, is to find a support group.  You might have to create one.   I have discovered that for Catholics it is crucial to build a Catholic homeschooling group or to create one.  (Catholic friends that have gone to other groups mostly non denominational but Christian have had their children decide to abandon their beliefs in young adulthood.)  There is nothing better than the Catholic support.  Build your faith and your child's faith while at the same time creating a community within a community of like minded people.  The risk is that sometimes you will run into the "supercatholic" that tends to bash anything and everything of the world.  It is better to find balance with someone over doing it than it is to maintain your beliefs with others that are out to safe you from those beliefs.  Don't ever loose focus on the goal being Heaven and the path being the Catholic Church, homeschooling can help in finding that path.  I think that like minded peers is more important for mom than it is for the kids.  The students can play with siblings but mom must have support.  If it doesn't exist in your area create it and visit others in near towns via the internet and yahoo groups.

I was recently asked where to begin by a new mom to the stay at home world and one who wants to later being a homeschooling family as well.   My advice to find friends that are also on this path.  You can help each other.  They will keep you sane.

These are a few of my friends.  The picture taken a few years back.  We now try to meet each week for Coffee and a study of our faith.  Yes we mostly discuss our lives but it helps so much that we have each other.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The BEST way to School your kids

I need to post here more often.  I am sorry that I have neglected this blog the past year.  The surprise twins are my only excuse.  Last school year was not a great one.  This year will be.  Visiting other blogs has brought an old topic to mind. 



 It is often said that home schooled kids will not be socialized.  If you met one of my kiddos that would not be a question you would ask.  I become more and more confident of that as my children get older.  It is funny to watch certain friends realize it.  Some never will but I have good kids, I know I do.  I am blessed.  They have not been ruined by formal school.  Every time I have thought, "Well maybe I should send 'so-in-so' something has happened to show me that we are on the right path.  Maybe it isn't for everyone but I believe that for the most part it is the BEST path.  This cartoon sums it up nicely.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Geography Program that I LOVE!!

This falls into my best buy ever category.

Visualize World Geography

The Mental Mapping Curriculum  
"Each continent is covered by the unique Visualize World Geography pictography. Disclaimer: Not only does the VWG method forever change the way you see a world map, but it definitely works only for people who do not take themselves too seriously! If you can appreciate the use of humorous puns and/or storylines as a way of associating the shape of a country with its name, then you can allow the VWG method to equip you with a mental map of the world to recall at will and draw from memory while giving you reason to smile! "  as worded by the VWG people.

This was sold to me at the homeschool conference.  I walked pass a huge banner that read something like, "Can you pick Italy out on the map? Learn how to spot all countries the same way."  Two ladies were standing there watching me read the sign.  They then challenged me.  I walked over and they told me about a duck named Stan.  I could then spot Afghanistan and Pakistan on any map.  That was cool.  I went home and told J about it.  Geography is something that we always touch on but I never felt that I taught it very well.  J said go ahead and I made a huge purchase.  I got the full package.  Kind of expensive but for me it was worth it.  A program that I can use for 8 children means the cost per child isn't too bad.
My only issue with the program is that it isn't really written as a class but as a tool. That means you have to take the tool and figure out how to use it to teach. I would purchase the entire program again, I love it. I have learned so much. I have always thought it was cool when someone could spot any country out on the map without having to look for the labels. It just helps to have a general knowledge of where things are in the world.

We watch the videos together.  We do just the mapping pictographies first and then later go back to the social studies part of the DVDs after we know most of the countries in the region.  Those days we spend a few hours on it.  On our days of just learning the pictographies we will watch the videos a few times and then drill each other.
I test ever so often with blank counties and colored pencils.  I would give the instruction to color a certain country tropical blue and then wait and watch as everyone found that country.  I must say that the pace I am going is too slow for the older kiddos but just right for the younger ones.  Even Jumba knows his stuff.  On the news the other day he heard the name of Chili mentioned.  He got really excited and said, "Chili is part of the pepper!"  I love it!
I included the pictures of the kiddos to show another trick for reinforcing the information.  Notice that in both the dinning room and the breakfast room I have maps on the tables.  They remain there all the time.  The USA map is in the breakfast room and various world maps are in the dinning room, where we gather for our morning studies.  I show the DVDs on my laptop. 
Bundle-VWG Curriculum
DVD's, Textbook, Posters, Workbooks on CD-ROM, Flagbook


Can you find Italy on a world map... because it looks like a boot? Be able to find all countries as easily with the VWG method. This method replaces randomness (info your brain is not designed to process) and replaces it with meaningfulness which is easily processed by design! Once your brain is given a meaningful object in place of otherwise squiggly lines which define a country's borders, within nanoseconds, it automatically rewires itself so that now your visual system can ONLY process it as meaningful. Consequently, what your brain was unable to recognize before as being a specific country, it now can easily see, mentally manipulate, and automatically store within long-term memory. In fact, you will forever see it as that object. Try looking at Italy and NOT see it as a boot! VWG Curriculum Bundle contains entire product line in one package. Price: $215.00
This is direct from their website.  Please make sure to get the one from Tender Heart Press and not what Amazon is selling,  they are not the same thing.  This is really that wonderful.  I wish everything I taught could be learned this easy and with this much fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You are the mom!

Sometimes just reminding yourself that you are the mom, the one in charge, can bring you peace.  I love my kiddos and I find them to be very insightful.  They know what they like to study.  They are also very aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.  I pride myself in listening to them.  Over the years I have tried to cater to their needs and desires more that that old preconceived notion of the school year that I created when I was in college learning how to teach.  So to be fair my kids have actively shaped their education and at times it has been too much and at other times it has been lacking.  I believe that in the end  Pooker is doing well in college after finder her groove and I suspect the others will when their time comes.  After years of worrying about getting it all in I have settled down to realize that I want to enjoy the process more and worry less. 

This summer has been a little difficult.  As my oldest establishes herself while growing into an independent woman there are some growing pains.  One of those pains is her pointing out my faults.  This is not deliberate or vindictive just part of it.  I watch her grow closer to her boyfriend and his family and they will blend the best of both worlds to some day create their own, God willing.  Seeing what she will throw out from her side and take from his can be hard to watch if you over analyze it.  (OK I admit that I have wasted way too much time thinking about it all.)

Last night I sat with two girlfriends discussing our approach for the upcoming school year.  They are both looking forward and I was expressing a little dread and doubt in what I wanted to do.  Then I was so lovingly reminded by these ladies that I have great kids.  Even if Pooker is seeing a gap that doesn't mean there is one.  These children were given to me for a reason.  They are my path to heaven and in that same respect I am part of their path as well.  God linked us for the greater good.  My choices are the right ones for these guys.   

Many times over the years I have listened to others tell me their choices for their families.  I have held my tongue while thinking, "That sounds horrible, how can they even think about doing that?"  Only to observe the situation over time and see that it was in fact the right choice for that family.  It would not have been right for my family but it was for them.  I trust that in these situations and need to also trust that in my situation.  Oh the PEACE that has again entered my heart and the JOY I am having as I prepare for this school year.  I know that I am not perfect but what I am offering my students is prayed about and I need to trust that outcome, I need to trust my outcome, God does.  I am the mom, I get to make the choices. 

 
So to help you as you prepare to begin your school year.  Trust yourself.  Don't care too much about what your best friend is doing.  Don't worry too much about what your mother-in-law says you are doing wrong.  Don't worry about too much time on what your son wants to study.  Don't questions yourself.  Trust that God made you the mom for a reason, you got it under control.  You are the mom!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rejuvenate

The 2011 Texas Home School Coalition Southwest Convention and Family Conference was held last weekend. I joined the group to help with any legal issues that might arise someday in regards to homeschooling and to support the political actions to keep and this option legal. THSC is a great organization.
This is so what I needed. I have only attended the Catholic Conferences in the past. This year it wasn't in the cards, Possible had surgery on her arm that weekend. I wanted to hear one of the speakers and look around the exhibit haul.
I am amazed at how many people attended. This group ran tracks for moms, dads, teens, little ones, and everyone else that might be involved in a home school family.
The exhibit haul was full of vendors. I was overwhelmed by all the material available. When I started 15 years ago it wasn't that easy to find exciting material to use. I love all of the choices and support that is out there now. I was not a pioneer but an early settler.
It is always rejuvenating to be surrounded by like minded people. I was soaking in the advice and prayers. Then, to my joy, I ran into friends. This is just what I needed for my home school year. I can be on the right track now. The most important advice we can give each other to remember to revisit your reasons each year to help you stay on track.

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