Monday, January 31, 2011

Critical Thinking Press-- a Review


Just before Christmas we got the chance to pick 3 books from Critical Thinking Press to review for Timberdoodle. I got to choose which books we wanted to try and let me tell you it was a hard decision... I finally decided that Tovah would get one since she needed some harder busywork, I also wanted to challenge Isaac, and I thought that Arin would enjoy it and he was short of curriculum as he was waiting for Rush to finish the Health book (I've found that they don't share books well).

They came just before we broke for Christmas but I had them start them so we would get a good 30 days done before I reviewed them (I didn't really know how much time off we would take for Christmas and yes, we take snow days if there is the opportunity). Right away Ryan told me I should have just ordered books for the other 2, or at least for Jonah since Rush's curriculum is set this year.

Isaac is doing Building Thinking Skills Book 3 Figural. He is challenged by the shapes but enjoys matching the congruent shapes. He struggled last week with expanding the shapes but worked through it. He likes to work on his own with very little input from mom or dad, this is something he can do by himself so he's happy but it also makes him think so it makes me happy. He is a lot like me, finding the right answer is not difficult but he needs to work on getting past his frustration when he can't do it instantly.

Tovah's favorite part of Beginning Word Roots is combining the roots to make new words. Last week she got to make the word "unicorn" which made her excited since she had just bought a new unicorn pillow pet with her birthday money. She is proudly showing me that she is writing her words in cursive, a brand new skill that the boys never wanted to have... She and Jonah are very lazy spellers and would rather have someone spell for them than sound out a word they are trying to write. With older siblings readily available and a distracted mom it's all too easy to just give them the letters than to remember to stop and have them think about it. The roots are giving her some tools (I hope) to be more independent (I'm about ready to become my 2nd grade teacher who always told us to look it up in the dictionary- it drove me nuts, if I knew how to spell it to look it up then I wouldn't have asked!)

Arin is working in Building Thinking Skills Book 3 Verbal. When I asked him about his favorite part he told me that it was, "Working with shapes." I've enjoyed our discussions on synonyms and how they are alike and how they may be different. We have discussed fine-tuning word usage to make a sentence mean exactly what you want it to say. Arin sometimes struggles with schoolwork and I'm glad to find something that he can enjoy and be successful at, while still being challenged .

Arin, Isaac, and Tovah all have different learning styles and strengths but I think that these books are reaching each of them. I wonder, as homeschoolers, if we sometimes do our children a dis-service by teaching to their strengths and learning styles. We will not always be our child's teacher, and they will at some point have to learn from someone else be it a Sunday School teacher, high school teacher, at college, or even on the job. Knowing how our children learn best is good but we also need to know where they struggle with learning and work with them to learn how to learn under less than optimal circumstances. When I choose the books for these three I knew Tovah needed some tools for spelling, Arin is my visual learner, and Isaac is very verbal. Each of them are working outside their area of strength but they are all being successful, learning some new skills, and enjoying the challenge; they can do their seatwork in any order and they almost always do their "word" books first.

Legal Disclosure:

As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of these books in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Taryn Michal

This is a speech I wrote and gave at school this week. The topic was Self-Introduction: Describe an Obstacle You Have Overcome. ~Erica

This is our daughter, Taryn Michal.

When she was 6 months old she was diagnosed with AML- Leukemia. On October 24, 1992 my whole world turned upside down and changed forever. Over the next 18 months, I learned a lot about myself, about God, and about being a good parent.

I learned that I can do all things through God, who gives me strength. Friends and family surrounded us but there came a moment when I could make it or I could break. Because of my faith in God I knew I could call on him, I learned to take it moment by moment and rely on Him to carry me through the tough spots. I learned that strength isn’t something you can train for or store up or save for later- It is provided at the moment you need it; for exactly as long as you need it. I am not as strong today as I was on any one day of that journey.

I learned that my husband really is my best friend. He was in school and working and caring for Nathan, our 3 year old down here while I was in Seattle with Taryn. Physically we were apart but we could communicate and I think it was because he wasn’t with me, bearing the brunt of my anger and fear, that he was able to support me by listening; and because he wasn’t getting reports from the doctors, I had to face my fear and my what if’s so that I could articulate the situation to him. He was far enough removed from the situation that he could react calmly and talk me down from my emotional “freak out.”

I learned to celebrate Everydays. Taryn should have died the day she was diagnosed- she had had a stroke and seizures from the leukemia in her brain. I really believe that God gifted us with an additional 18 months. The night we sat in the ER I grieved the loss of every milestone even as I held her and rocked her. I had another 500 days to make memories with her. I learned that memories sometimes have to be purposefully made and the mundane things are important and should be remembered. Taryn crawled, walked, cut teeth, grew, and matured even as her little body fought the disease.

I learned to have fun. That seems like it should be instinctive but when faced with a catastrophic situation the body wants to close in on itself to protect itself from further hurts. There was a mom who was about 6 months ahead of us on the journey who modeled fun to me. Her little boy had no chance of survival from his very rare form of cancer. But she made every single day of his life special and she shared her Joy with the other mom’s on the floor. One night she brought in the strangest flavors of ice cream she could find for us to try; another night she snuck in Lethal Weapon for us to watch in the playroom (it was Rated R so against the rules but the nurses turned a blind eye since all the kids were tucked up in bed).

I learned to trust my mommy instincts. I knew something was wrong from the day she was born- she had enlarged lymph nodes and was sick all the time; not just sniffly nose in cold season type sick but needing antibiotics and chest x-rays type sick. But the flip side of that is that now, when I have healthy kids, I know that they won’t die if they pick up some germs. That’s not to say I don’t ever worry, but I can pray about it and turn it over to God and usually let Him deal with it (after I give them ibuprofen and a Gatorade).

I learned that God is with me at all times- because He cares for me. This is the most important lesson I learned. This means that He cares about who I am, He cares for those I love, He cares about what worries me, He cares about my hopes and dreams. I learned that I could talk to Him about anything, I could rage at Him and He’d never hang up on me or stop being my friend. In the dark hours just before dawn I can still rely on His promise that He will never leave me or forsake me.

Taryn died May 3, 1994.

Since then we’ve added Rush, Arin, Isaac, Jonah, and because God likes to keep things fun, #6 was a little girl who is now 8 going on 20. Nathan is 21, married, and deployed to Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan. Do I worry about him? Yes, he has orders to only tell his mom about the boring bits. Do I fret? No, I know that he belongs to God and God cares about him more than I do.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Project 365- Week 3


15- Jonah's a muddy mess...The Webelos planted trees for their Conservation badge. 3 Webelos, 1 Den Chief (Arin), and 4 adults: we planted 100 seedlings in 2 hours.  A week later my shoulders still hurt. It was "This is not the career you want" Day (or another reason to stay out of jail when you grow up). We did manage to finish before the monsoon rains started.

16- Rush saw this t-shirt at Old Navy and said we had to get it for Jonah. This picture is for Cassidy from Family Camp.

17- The floor in front of the bookshelf in the office seems to be the catch-all. Everything that doesn't have a home seems to congregate here. I trip over the piles for a couple of weeks then it drives me crazy. This pile includes my Sunday basket, my rainboot box, and clothes for Tovah to grow into.

18- I have a hazelnut shrub that I have to follow for Botany. Every day or so I have to check it for signs of spring, I took this to show Ryan that I could see it from the house... I still have to walk (or drive) over there to check on it. There are some filberts (different from the native hazelnut) in the same area that are really old. There used to be houses, the train station, and a hotel along that part of the railroad.

19- We got the kids a new video camera, it's on the left next to my cell phone. The videos are just as good as our old 8mm Handicam and it cost A LOT less. We wanted to get them one a year ago for Christmas but missed all the great deals. We got this one from Amazon for less than we had planned on spending and it's actually a better camera.

21- Today Ahvri would have been 2 years old. I was doing fine until a friend texted me a picture of a primrose. I stopped and bought a couple and dropped one off with Rita. When I got home Ryan had stopped and got me 4 on his way home. Since Taryn was at Children's primroses have always been a reminder to me of God's promises and that spring is coming.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A New Pretty


I love the sterling silver jewelry at The Vintage Pearl. Last fall I won a gift certificate from Domestically Speaking and I knew that I wanted a piece with all the kids' names on it. It came last week and I couldn't wait to wear it (no pictures, I didn't think about it yesterday when I was dressed up for church). I ordered it with an 18" chain and its a little too short so I thnk I'm going to order a second chain that's a bit longer, I think I'll put the 6 kids on the new chain and leave Taryn and Ahvri on the shorter chain, that way I can wear the double chain or just the longer chain.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Project 365- Week 2

8- 4 pairs of handknit socks drying on the back of my kitchen bench. Most of my socks can be washed and dried but a few pairs can't go in the dryer.

9- 2 pictures today, it might not be in the rules but I can make up my own rules.
      The first is a peaceful picture of the family room, when I get up in the morning and it looks like this my whole day seems less chaotic (I should remind myself of this more often and make sure the family room is picked up before I go to bed).
      The second picture is of the little bit of snow we got last Sunday, it started at 4 and by 5 we had a good inch. It was totally gone by Monday morning.

10-  Jonah and Rush grabbed the wrong black sweatshirts off the black carpeting. It doesn't seem too long ago that 3 of the boys all wore the same size shirts. That summer we just kept all the t-shirts and shorts in a trunk and they pulled one of each out to wear that day. If we had to go somewhere they had matching outfits to wear.

11- Tuesday night we were expecting inches of snow, we got a light dusting that was gone by morning. Now it's warm and rainy and we're on a flood watch. Tovah and I tried to take some pictures of individual flakes on black paper but it didn't work out too well. These flakes are on the hood of my van.

13- I get to school at about 7:15 each morning. It's been pitch black for weeks now. The other morning the greenhouse caught my eye- it was lit up against the black sky. I played around wiht my camera trying to take a photo in aperture mode but the best one I got was taken in full-auto mode. One of my goals for this project is to become more familiar with using my camera in manual modes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How We Homeschool- Complying with 11 Subjects

Here in Washington we have to teach our children 11 subjects: reading, writing, spelling, language, math science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation. But before you freak out, the Legislature realizes that homeschooling is less structured and more experiential in nature (their words) and therefore the subjects can be taught how ever the parent choses- it's written into the law this way. Several years ago I sat down with several other moms and we created this list explaining how teaching the 11 subjects isn't a daunting task, most of it is taught by doing what you're doing every day. Now that my kids are older we do rely more on workbooks and traditional teaching and less on hands on and experiential learning.

Reading = reading but can also include books on tape, being read to, learning to follow directions (recipes, projects, etc.). Take advantage of the library’s summer reading program and Book-It for reading incentives. And don’t forget to read “real” books, not just reading curriculum- fairy tales, mysteries, poetry, biographies, books about places, cookbooks, magazines, etc. Field Trip ideas: library, Barnes & Noble (don’t forget to get your Teacher’s Discount Card), Scholastic Book Sale (a mom field trip)

Participating in a Redwall Feast- there was food, fellowship, music, Redwall trivia (Reading, Social Studies, Health, Art & Music Appreciation)

Writing = writing (fiction, non-fiction, poems, letters, reports, Bible verses, grocery lists, etc.) You do not need a specific curriculum to teach writing- have them copy or dictate to you until they have the skills to complete sentences and paragraphs. We use the book “Write, Now” for fun writing ideas. Field trips: Newspaper, radio station, Toastmasters

Language = grammar (nouns, verbs, punctuation, adjectives, prepositions, complete sentences, paragraphs, learning the parts of a letter, etc.) Schoolhouse Rock is awesome for teaching the parts of grammar. “Writer’s Inc.” is good resource for specifics on how to use them and for reference. Field Trips: See Writing

Spelling = spelling all those nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. correctly You don't have to use a separate spelling curriculum, but incorporate it into anything written at all (thank you notes, reports, displays, etc.) Field Trips: See Writing

Math = math. There are a lot of fun math resources out there, we’ve gotten books on counting Cheerios, M & M's, and jelly beans. There are books on learning fractions with pizzas and chocolate bars, the books about Sideways School are good math puzzles for your random thinkers (concrete children don’t get it). Learn fractions through cooking (and take care of occupational education and health at the same time). Find a copy of Family Math for fun activities for all math skills. Field trips: Bakery, any manufacturer who uses CAD, engineering firms, surveyors

Social studies = any study of cultures other than history (current events, learning about where your church's missionaries live, geography, etc.) Passport Club, Scouts, 4-H, Awana, etc. all expand your child’s horizons and count as Social Studies. Reading biographies & fiction about children in other places and times, missionary stories, etc. Field Trips: Cultural events (Seattle has a lot, also local colleges and universities), Fairs, International Fair, Hands On Museum, Children’s Museums, working farms, Westport Maritime Museum, Pikes Place Market, Olympia Farmers Market

Isaac wanted to bake Na'an, an Indian bread cooked over an open fire (Social Studies, Math, Health)

Packing Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (Social Studies, Health, Math)

History = study of times past. All you need is a time line and books. Pick a period of history and go to the library to get books about people and places and events during that time, don’t forget fiction written during or about that time period. For fun you can place your ancestors in their time period and see what was going on around them, after all, genealogy is the study of your family’s history. For more formal study we have used Story of the World and A Child's History of the World to provide a backbone to our learning.
Field Trips: Museums (Lewis County Historical Museum, Veteran’s Museum, Vintage Motorcycle Museum, State History Museum), Living History (Pioneer Farm, Ft. Nisqually, Ft. Vancouver)

Museum of History and Industry, Seattle (History, Social Studies, Art & Music Appreciation). The same day we went to the Burke Museum on the University of Washington Campus and saw fossils, gemstones, animals, and photos of an Anarctic expedition

Science = learning about the world around you. This can be as formal or informal as you like. For years we didn't officially study science, but we watched lots of videos about animals and the planet and anything that caught our fancy at the library, we also picked up lots of books with pictures that caught our eye, my kids have always done exceptionally well on the science portion of the CAT test and I'm convinced its just because they were interested in lots of things. The past few years we have done some formal studies with Answers in Genesis' books and Boy Scout merit badges. Field Trips: Mt. St. Helens, Creation Museum, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Zoo, NW Trek, Science Museums, working farms, DeGoede’s Bulb Farm, Seminary Hill Nature Preserve, Ape Caves & Lava Canyon, Mima Mounds, aquarium

Staying up late to see the Lunar Eclipse

Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium- the shark tank is always a favorite stop

Building a worm bin- actually we built 2 and found that the one in the cardboard box did better than the wooden box.

Isaac likes to grow hot peppers (and yes, he does eat them).

Health = Learning good hygiene, nutrition, P.E, exercise, anything to do with taking care of yourself. Playing sports, Gym Time, playing in the backyard, meeting friends at the park, doctor and dentist appointments. Field Trips: Dairy Days, bakery, Fair, Doctor/ Dentist, Hospital, Seminary Hill hikes, farmers markets, dairies
Backpacking trip with the Troop

Archery with Grandpa

Homeschool soccer co-op

Occupational education = Any life skills that they learn (dusting, vacuuming, doing the dishes, cooking, booting up and playing games on the computer, typing, raking, baby or child care, building things at Home Depot or with Daddy, etc.) One day I was cutting quesadillas with scissors and one of the boys told me that I was doing it just like the ladies at Costco, that was occupational education in action! Any activities you do that introduce them to what they may want to be when they grow up. Field Trips: Any of the above

Fire Truck at Home Depot: Occupational Education twice- we met the firemen and built a project

Cooking Man Cakes after watching Man vs. Food (Math, Health, Occupational education)

Art & Music appreciation = This is not necessarily learning to read music or play music, but can include: listening to musical selections by different composers, learning about the lives of different composers, learning to distinguish the sounds of different instruments, writing music, singing in kids' choir, etc. Listen to the radio in the car and see how many instruments you can pick out...that's music appreciation! Visit a music store sometime and look at the different instruments. Better yet, ask for a demonstration! Art appreciation is the same idea as above but related to works of art. Field Trips: Rays Violin Shop (he not just sells stringed instruments but also manufactures violins and bows), ArtTrails, Art Jamboree, Glass blower (there are 2 in downtown Centralia now). Community theatre: Centralia College, Evergreen Playhouse, Tenino Young-At-Heart Theatre, W.F. West HS, Centralia HS, Adna HS all offer inexpensive tickets to family-friendly productions. Tuesday nights are free music at McMenamin’s for all ages, we’ve heard music of every variety there. If your child wants to participate, both Evergreen Playhouse and Tenino’s Young-At-Heart Theatre have annual productions for children to act in. Free concerts and art events abound in Lewis County (watch the loop or local bulletin boards for upcoming events)

Drive Thru Christmas Pageant

Hope this helps clear things up for you. No more stressing out over nothing, OK? :-)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ni and a Shrubbery


This week really tickled my funny bone, in Spanish we learned about indefinite and negative words, ni... ni is neither and nor. In Botany we discussed the difference between a bush and a shrub. All I could think about was Monty Python's Holy Grail....

Project 365- Week 1

Last year I didn't hear about Project 365 until about the 10th of January and in my perfectionism I just couldn't start late. This year I've already got too much on my plate but after stewing for a year about doing it last year I just had to go ahead and start. I missed one day- Wednesday the 5th but that's our craziest day of the week so I let myself off the hook.

1- Jonah's friend Reuben with one of those spring-loaded, rubber-sucker toys stuck to his forehead. It was bedtime and I HAD to get a picture if I was going to do the project. I thought I'd go in and get a sweet picture of Rush reading to the 2 boys...

2- We had dinner with Oliver and his parents and Fred & MaryLinda at Izzy's in Olympia. We had Crystal and Adam over for dinner early in January last year so this must mean it's a tradition. They moved to Medeira, CA last spring so this was a special visit.

3- My first Botany lab assignment was to find a Hazelnut plant. The darker branch is the native shrub and the bigger lighter amends are from our filbert shrubs (the difference between a bush and a shrub is that botanists call them shrubs, just thought you might like to know).

4- Ryan got his new gas grill. He and Rush assembled it in the dark and ice and sub-freezing temperatures so they could grill steaks for dinner. It has 4 burners, a lid, and a thermometer so he can try smoking in it. It also has a side burner so I can use my wok and make mongolian BBQ all summer (I'm not a die-hard griller). Rush is the Beaver in the family- he reads and follows instructions so he's always assigned to help Ryan (the Golden Retriever) when some assembly is required.

6- Tovah started Chess Club this week. She doesn't want to play in any tournaments, we'll see how long that lasts. Isaac is looking forward to going to State again.

7- I had to take a picture of Rush and email it to the school for his ASB card. He's all paid up and ready for baseball to start (as soon as I get his medical form signed and turned back in). He won't get a haircut until the night after his first practice (at least that's what he told Coach last month).