Sunday, February 28, 2010

Have you thought of taking a school trip into Narnia?

I hope that you will consider a family trip to Narnia. It is so worth the investment. The power that you leave with knowing that once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia. (That picture is taken from a great website with all kids of interesting ideas. Visit them at The

I want to share with you how wonderful a family read aloud can be and how we have turned some simple books into a rich experience for all members of the family. Some books are just too great to hand to your child and say read this we will talk about it later. Unfortunately that is how I handled most of the great works of literature that I required our oldest child to read. Looking back I am sad that I let those moments that we could have shared slip away. Pooker now sees how excited we are getting into our daily adventures in the Chronicles of Narnia and feels a little left out. Sorry Pooker.

Our adventures in these books started with our last minute choice for a New Years Eve movie. As a family we always watch a series of movies together. This year it happened to be The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe with Prince Caspian to follow. I refer to how great that has been for the family here in a post from our family blog. That all being said we dove into this series and have loved every day. On the weekend the little ones ask why I am not reading. That is a true sign that they are enjoying the books. Not many of us want to do school work on the weekends.

A few ideas on how we have added to our read alouds. It is hard to entertain the mind of the older children and those of the younger children at the same time. I decided to notebook our adventures, having each child create a "notebook" about this time we are spending on this book. We are including all kinds of wonderful tidbits. Copy work, coloring pages, word games, narrations in pictures or words depending on age, and then a completed book report at the end.

Each book of the Narnia series is separated by a page that we create. After a Google search of the book title I then save the pictures of the various covers that have been used over the years in the different publications of the books. You might be surprised how many different cover pages will apply to just one book. After printing several small copies of each cover and cutting them out evenly I pass them out. I give each child their choice of the cover copies and a piece of card stock paper. They create a college of the various covers. That is placed in a protective sheet. This makes a perfect divider in the notebooks. We have been using the cheap paper 3 ring folders for now but will move those into a more permanent plastic folder as soon as we are finished. We plan to make elaborate covers for our notebooks soon as well.

Coloring Sheet links:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (there are more sites but they all seam to offer the same pictures.)

Prince Caspian (This is a french site, the pictures are great. Click on "fermer" to close.)

Unfortunately these are not easy always to find. For the other books I google anything that I have taken from the books to create coloring sheets. The mythical character of a faun will produce many possible coloring sheets. Often this means that I need to do some reading ahead to find something for them to work on. When nothing is found a blank piece of paper with a handful of coloring pencils give an opportunity for a simple narration of what is being read.

Word searches for each book.

Activities for all the books are linked here.

This is such a wonderful set of books in so many ways. The literature is so good. I love to hear the children quoting the books. I have found inspiration and growth in our faith in these delightful tails. I did break down and purchase a book to help with all those connections. This was a book that I stumbled upon but often the references are easily found in general searches of the title on the Internet. We are using the book "Believing in Narnia, A kid's guide to Unlocking Secret Symbols of Faith in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia" by Natalie Gillespie. This is a simple little book that lays out the symbolism. It is a reference to me and to the children guiding some of our discussions. I have found that once one child makes one little connection on their own it takes off from there. We don't really need this book but I like referring to it when the conversation is dying.

I am not a good cook so this did not appeal to us, but if you like to dive into a book through cooking you will enjoy this link. We don't try to cook we shop instead. I did buy some Turkish Delight Candy while reading the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It was OK.

Another thing to remember is that these books bring alive the imagination. They are great books for boys and for girls. Everyone has a beautiful place in Narnia. Each child will pick out their own favorite character. They will all want to dress in nice flowing clothes, borrow a sword and defend their great kingdom. They will love Aslan, and hopefully make the connection to Christ, so much that they will do their other homeschool work "For Aslan". If you let yourself go along for the ride you will begin to see some wonderful things as well. Another family post describing just that.

So if you are looking at March, April and May at the end of your school year and wanting something different, something fun , something that might just reunite and excite the mind; then allow me to suggest planning a family trip to Narnia. For your family it might be a second or third visit but it doesn't matter. Let the imagination run with this. Let your children enjoy this read aloud. Let yourself cry every time to meet Aslan in the book. Let the family laugh together when Edmund leaves his new torch in Narnia. Let your children believe that they themselves are called to greatness. Let your children remember that they are to someday share in His Kingdom, making them true Kings and Queens in the eyes of their creator.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The new anti-homeschooling buzz word! The old one was socialization. Home schoolers around the world have proven that our children are better socialized than those in school. Now the "fear" that outsiders have to homeschool is the accountability of the parents. That "fear" seams to mirror the latest arguments from the teachers unions, which I am not a fan of either.

As this argument was being presented to me the other day I couldn't help but wonder about society as a whole. We are so motivated by what others think, say, and how they judge us. What methods are used for judging. We might be judged by appearance of weight, clothes choice, hair color, hair cut, and now piercings and tattoos. The next level of judgment goes to income, how much do you make. Another level is your education level, and while in school your grade point average. I have spent years trying to avoid that sort of training for my children.

The states have very different rules and regulations on homeschooling all across our country. The entire world is so divided over parents rights vs. the governments involvement. It is a scary line in some cases. Yes there are parents out there that do a bad job of parenting. Yes there are parents our there that abuse their children. I must tell you though that I am fed up with being compared to that type of parent. The numbers are so small in comparison to the number of wonderful, engaging parents and yet we are now given all kinds of laws because of the few bad parents.

To the point that homeschool parents are not being held accountable I must respond.
To whom should homeschooling parents be held accountable to?

"You should have to answer at least to the school district." I was told. I have to laugh. We, most homeschoolers, find that the local school is inadequate for the education of our child. It isn't a matter of money but motivation. No problem goes away with more money. In the world of learning issues it takes very hard work and motivation from the student. This is best inspired by the family. The family, the mom and dad, have the most at stake here, not a paid employee of the school. I am not saying the the resource teachers do not care. They must to do the work that they do. BUT the parent cares much more about the outcome than that teacher. I know that my child will need to succeed in life. I can't just pass them off to another teacher or another program, I must get the child to succeed.

"Your kids need a report card to prove that they are learning." I can make a report card if you really want one. We have made several. In fact most homeschoolers do. We keep records of what we have done for the year and how each child has progressed. Now many of these records are the bare minimum to full fill the legal requirements of the state. Some require so many hours per subject, some require so many days in the classroom, and some states ask for the results of yearly testing. sometimes the children like to see their own progression, which is the biggest motivator to many parents. If your child wants to see a record then you as the parent provide it.

"I have not seen any testing done on your children." Yeah, so. Even when I was in school those tests and their results were a private matter between the child and the parent. I love using those test when the time has come to see where we are. I have used the California Aptitude tests in the pasts. I have purchased them from Seton Home Study. I like using them because they are a little cheaper and I can administer them myself. As the children get older I have uses the SAT tests when administered to the local homeschool group. These results have always been for my benefit. They tell me where my child's strengths are and where their weaknesses are. This is not a something that is used by my husband to "fire" me as the child's teacher. The benefit is that I don't teach the test.

If given the time and an open mind listening I would have taken the time to explain. I am very accountable. I answer to the highest of authorities and through that to my own children. When my children were baptised I promised God that I would all that I could to teach my children about Him and lead them on the path to heaven. I can't force my children to behave but I can teach them the consequences if they do not. I must show them right from wrong and in that provide for their development and education. I vowed to GOD here people. I don't take that lightly. During my confessions I reveal how accountable I am to my Lord.

Let me point out how important I take my children's education. They must succeed in life. If they do not then I am stuck with them into adulthood. I love my children but I do not want to keep them around in a perpetual immature state. Why would I ever want that. I need them to mature and grow up. Now if an accident or event were to alter that and they were incapable of independence then I would deal with that but I assure you that is not our goal.

I owe it to the 9 beautiful faces that look to me for guidance to teach them their boundaries so that they can leave the home and become productive members of society. When I have a bad day or fail to do some parenting I let them down. I love them too much to continue to let them down and not expect the best from them. I push them harder than any teacher and with more vested in the outcome than anyone else.

I buckle my children in the car when we drive around town. There are laws that state when I should buckle them in, how I should buckle them, and in some cases at what ages. I know the laws exist but that isn't why I buckle. If we were to be in an accident it isn't a ticket I fear. I am accountable to my children. I owe it to them to use every means necessary to keep them safe while on the road. I know that their are some individuals that see no purpose in seat belts and probably strap in just because they are accountable to the law. NOT US. We really feel that we are accountable to the children.

When you are asked about accountablity just smile and remember that you answer to God and to your children. Here in the United States we are not forced into false accountabilty to the government or a state run organization. Thank God!

Now I really must get back to work so I don't let Him down, or my children.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Phonics Practice

I got something the other day that was cheap but very helpful. I purchased some inexpensive write on/wipe off boards. Individual boards for each child. New concept for us but very old school when you think about it. Schools of early America had personal slates for the students to write on. I can't believe that this old idea added our "classroom" so much. I write this post to encourage you to find the cheap, simple solutions to every day problems. With our big family it is hard to allow every body board time yet practicing writing on a board can be very helpful. It is also a fast way to test phonic comprehension, site word study, and spelling words. We even played hangman tonight. Pickle tried to stump me with his site words. He is really learning here with such a simple cheap tool. When your kiddos need something more or you need to change the school room, don't panic. Take your time to evaluate what you really need. It might be a much cheaper and more simple answer than you might think. I spent $4 per board with the knowledge that we will need more pens soon. The expense was minimal compared to the exciting results.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

High School Science

Often I am asked how I handle it when the topics get difficult.   Often I have found that it depends on the resources you pick.   I am not gifted with an understanding of science (or math).  Science needs to be taught and taught well for the high schooler for them to succeed in college.   This was the field that often caused me the most concern.   That was until I ran into Apologia Science.  The science resources I found from this group were wonderful.   I have yet to be disappointed.  

I found a group of text books produced by Apologia written by Dr. Jay Wile.   Each are titled with Exploring Creation through . . .  Dr. Wile is a Nuclear Physicist and author of 10 text books.   He is a creationist and advocate for homeschooling.   Visit the Homeschool Speaker and Vendors Association page on Dr. Wile to learn more about him and about his various thoughts on homeschooling, and even creation.   All of his papers are very interesting.

As Catholics we are not exclusively creationist and these books are written from a Protestant slant but they are the best books I have found.   I have looked for years.   The Catholic books are either too light in science or too light in faith.   These books are heavy in faith and very challenging in Science.   What I like most is that they are taught (worded) in a way that is designed for the homeschooler.   They are challenging for the young scientist and heavy in the scientific method and yet worded to be understood by the student.   I have made sure that my 1000 Years of Catholic Scientists  resource is close at hand.   If something is mentioned I try to back it up with this resource giving a full Catholic understanding to this Christian presentation.  

We do not use the schedule that Dr. Wile proposes for these books.   My children are not gifted in science.   We wait to use the Dr. Wile books until the highschool years.   But we do follow his recommended progression through the books.  

1) Exploring Creation with General Science is recommend as the resource for 7th graders.   We use it for the first semester of Freshman year.  I was also able to locate an audio recording of the books that have helped me with my dyslexic children.  They can listen and read along.  So this keeps them on track when I am not able to read out loud with them.            

2) Then his 8th grade book that we use for second half of Freshman year is Exploring Creation with Physical Science. 

3)  They then move onto Biology as a Freshman and we use it for Sophomore year.  It is more challenging than the first two but still worded in a way that takes this difficult teaching topics and presents them in an easy to understand manner.  Exploring Creation with Biology.

4)  Then we try to get through Chemistry for our Junior year.  Exploring Creation with Chemistry

5)  Then the company offers Physics, Advanced Biology, Marine Biology, Advanced Chemistry, and Advanced Physics.   All great selections .  We didn't use them except for the Advanced Biology.  You see we also ordered the disection kit. Pooker fell in love with this and wanted to pursue biology.  We got her the Advanced Biology which is called  The Human Body:  Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.  This led Pooker to an interest in nursing.  She is curently pursuing this possible career in her college courses.  This is something that I owe to these specific sets of books.  I could have never presented this material in such a loving and respectful manner.  These books give the glory to our creator while challenging the student to learn. 

They are so well written that they are very easily self taught.  A student can be given the task of pursuing a chapter/module on their own.  I require that my students keep a list of all bold face words and write out their definition, and answer all questions in a notebook.  I let the test be open book as long as they can do it in a short amount of time and get it correct.  We talk about the chapters at great length to make sure they understand what they are learning.  My goal is to inspire the mind more than tax it with tests.  That being said this series of books can not be beat for that purpose.