Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gotcha, Memaw!

Here is Rose with the girls on her Gotcha Day!  It was one year ago that Rose officially moved in with the family.  She had been adopted by the girls long before that time, even before we had Lydia, but it was very special to have her come live with us!

Rose is beloved by many and has adopted children in many places along with three loving children of her own.  We feel blessed to have her choose to live with us. 

We celebrated GD with  a surprise gift!  We saw a pizza maker one day and thought Rose would like to try that.  We hid it for a month and none of the girls spilled the beans. LOL  They must be growing up!  It has already gotten a work out of pizza making and also she made Reuben sandwiches with it the other day! Yummmmm!

The next day was her actual birthday!  We were very busy with school and household chores, and then we had church that night.  It probably seemed like we had not thought much about her, but we were planning a surprise!  After church we took her to Out Back.  This is one of her favorite restaurants because she loves the bloomin' onion.  Bob and Debbie joined us there and bought Rose this lovely jewelry set for her birthday.

The pink was a perfect match for the new dress she was wearing!  You can't see the earrings here but they are so pretty!  Going to have to keep the girls out of her jewelry! :)

We love you Rose!  We gotcha and we are going to keep you!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First Day of School

This was our first week of the new school year.  It has been really good so far.  I usually buy lots of cheap school supplies while things are on sale in July, but since we started early I visited the dollar store for a few items for the first day of school.

Thankfully the girls were excited about school and everyone was dressed and ready early.  I think some of the excitement was looking at the new books and school supplies. :)  Yes, they get excited about those kinds of things like mommy! 

Hannah is always the first to get to the school table.  She  loves to come down and let the cat out of the basement and cuddle with him.  She also likes to look at her checked work and complete any corrections before the school day starts!  She is always finished first, and usually well done for the most part.  This is a good thing because it gives her time for reading books or painting pictures! Her favorite item was the new pencil sharpener.  This girls needs a sharp point to be happy!

Sarah is usually the last down, but she comes with a great smile! :)  She often finishes her breakfast at the school table.  I am so thankful I don't have to get this girl on the big yellow bus, because she would probably never eat before I shoved her out the door! LOL  She always gives her best effort though in school and is quick to help others when they need it!  She especially loved the stickers that I bought for the girls to decorate their school boxes.

Mary and Lydia's room is downstairs, so Mary had the first peek at the school supplies.  She was thrilled about everything, but especially about the gum! :)  Mary loves the reading selections in school.  She likes to get on my bed and snuggle with the cat to read her chapters.  I have already read most of her books with the older girls, but we are reading some new ones this year so I look forward to those too! 

Lydia was also happy to see the pile of new items and particularly excited about the little notebook and mechanical pencil.  She has carried it all around the house and invented reasons to write in it.  She loved that it was for her to write whatever she wanted!  Lydia cried a little when we threw away her Kindergarten papers, but she is looking forward to the books and pages she will complete in first grade.  So far her favorite is Aesop Fables because she gets to read it all by herself!

My favorite items were the new expandable folders I bought.  We call these the daily work folders.  There are pockets for the main subjects.  I put their extra paper and "morning work" in the front.  Then any work books or papers can be kept in the folder.  At the end of the day the girls turn the folder in to my check box.  This keeps all the papers neat and orderly.  Then any papers they need to correct I slip in the front pocket with the morning work worksheets.  On the occasion that I have a worksheet for them to complete I just put it in the folder the night before, so it is already handed out at the beginning of the day!

This is what it looks like inside.  In the front you can see the weather calendar that is the first page of the morning work.  There are seven pockets behind that.  You can see Sarah's green Spanish workbook in the pocket.  

Here it is closed.  Since these came from the dollar tree, I am not sure how long they will hold up.  They are much better though than the simple pocket folders we used last year.  They don't have to dig through the papers to find the one I want.  They know exactly which pocket to check.  Love, love, love it! :)

With All My Heart~

2012-2013 schedule

The Atkins Home School is definitely flexible.  We have started as late as September and as early as June (this year).  Our summer vacations have also varied.  At first we kept a more traditional school year, but then I realized that when we lived in FL, I would rather work through the summer in our AC house and be off in the late-fall, early-winter time!  This year our summer has only been two weeks long, but we have made the most of it!

I thought you might like to see what each girl will be studying this year. (If you want to know more about our curriculum choice, you can look here.)  I got my first taste of teaching 3 levels this past year, but K is pretty light.  This year Lydia will be doing a little bit more.  She is definitely ready!

Bible (Daily)
Y1 reads one page of her child's Bible daily to me.  This is very short, but she enjoys it.  Then she and Y4  will read Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus, by Sinclair Ferguson with me.  This simple 34 question catechism has suggested readings and activities for the week.  Y7 girls will read a chapter from their Bible and enter a favorite scripture or question or thought in their Bible notebooks. (These are not the same notebooks I spoke of in the previous post.)  We may discuss the chapter some weeks but mostly we will dialogue through the notebook.  This will be moving them to more independent study.

Bible History (One reading per week)
All will listen while I read aloud a story from Trial and Triumph, which is a book on the heroes and martyrs of the early church.  (This will probably be done as part of family worship since Daddy and Memaw like to learn church history too!)

Bible Devotional (One reading per week)
Y4 will read a short devotional passage to Y1 at bedtime.  The book we are using this year is The Little Girl's Treasury of Precious Things compiled by Annie Brooks.  This was given to Sarah by dear Mrs. Ruth from church.  The Y7 girls will be reading Raising Maidens of Virtue by Stacy McDonald.  This will be read and discussed with Mom, possibly at bedtime.

Year 1 -- early history, focusing on people rather than eventsI will read to Lydia one or two stories per week from the books An Island Story by H.E.Marshall and Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. She may narrate if she likes.  We may put a picture or two on our timeline on the wall each week.
Year 4 -- 1700's up to the French Revolution and American Revolution.  Mary's main history book is This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall.  But as this will only have one reading per week, she will also be reading some historical fiction for the time period.  She will read Betsy Ross by Ann Weil, and The Will Northoway Series by Susan Olasky which has 4 books. These 5 books will be spread over the year. I will also read to her from George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster.  This is a wonderful book telling in story form about all the other major world events during the lifetime of George Washington.  She will be making a folding time line of the years this covers and placing photos of significant people and events on the timeline. We also buddy read one night per week an historical fiction book.  During the year we will read The Sign of the Beaver, Calico Captive, and The Reb and the Redcoats.
Year 7 -- 800-1400's Middle Ages.  This is the second pass (for a few major events it is the third) at this part of history for the oldest girls so hopefully some of what we have studied will be familiar to them.  We will be building on and adding to this previous learning! We started a Book of Centuries that year so it will be fun to look back at it and add to it or even redo it.  The girls will be using mostly historical fiction for history, but one book that will be used all year is The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill.  This is the first volume of a 4 volume set.  It covers from Julius Caesar's conquering of Britain up to the discovery of the New World.  Along side this, we will be reading 2 books per term.  Many of these historical fiction books are from G.A. Henty since we love his books:  In the Days of Alfred the Great, The King's Shadow, In the Days of William the Conqueror, Winning His Spurs, In Freedom's Cause, The Daughter of Time, and Ten in Time (a great book written by a local author and given to me as a gift from my favorite teacher, Becky Hancock).

Geography (1-2 days per week)
Y1  will listen as I read to her from the book, Paddle to the Sea, in which "a young Indian boy carves a little canoe with a figure inside and names him Paddle-to-the-Sea. Paddle's journey, in text and pictures, through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean provides an excellent geographic and historical picture of the region."
Y4 will read Minn of the Mississippi by the same author about a turtle, Minn, as she travels downstream in the Mississippi. The big girls have read both of these and Mary "heard" them also but I wouldn't be surprised if they all want to listen in on it again.
Y7  On the AO page for Y7 are some links to maps for the time period.  The girl will be using these as we read about the events.  Also we are learning the countries of the seven continents.  So far we have completed North America (learning the 50 U.S. states also) and South America.  We will begin with Europe next since this is the region of the history they will be studying.  I am really enjoying this too!

Science/Nature Study (2-3 days per week)
All- 1 day per week we go outside (backyard, park, etc) and study something in nature).  The girls have these beautiful Nature Journals made by sweet Maralena and her daughter. 
Y1 will listen to Burgess Bird book stories and other animal stories (1 per week).  On the other days she can color a picture or look at picture books for the bird or animal.  The girls love to visit Wild Kratt's on the web.  We also had a subscription to Discovery: Scripture and Science for Kids.  I will probably read one story per week to Lydia from these.
Y4 AO recommends the Story Book of Science by J. Fabre.  We will probably read two stories a week. The older girls didn't use this in Y4 so they will join her for this.
Y7 Sarah received a chemistry set for last Christmas.  I have been terrible about helping her do the experiments.  We will be doing a couple each week until we have completed them. This will only be for the first term.  Following that we will use Rod and Staff Science as the spine for science.

Literature/Poetry/Shakespeare (1-3 days per week)
Y1  Lydia will read an Aesop Fable and narrate it.  Every three weeks we will read a Just So Story by Rudyard Kipling.  She will also read a phonic reader story to me from Pathway Readers.  For poetry, we will read together a poem from A Child's Garden of Verses by R.L.Stevenson.
Y4  Mary will listen to ( and follow along with 2 chapters per week of Robinson Crusoe, Kidnapped, and The Incredible Journey (one book per 12 week term). 
 Y7 The girls will read a chapter a week from Ivanhoe for the first two terms and Little Men for the last term.
 Y4 & Y7 I have a copy work book for big girls which is mostly poetry so we will use this to combine poetry and copywork. 
ALL-  Also once a week they will all listen to a fairy tale from H.C.Anderson or a Shakespearean tale retold by the Lamb's. (This is one area I do not follow AO.  I do not care to use the actual plays at this point.) This will probably be at snack time.  Nothing like "tea time" and a short story! ;)

Grammar/Spelling/ Copywork (Daily work - 10 min. lessons)
Y1 Daily copywork - very simple word lists basically at this point.
Y4 Mary will listen to one chapter per week of Grammar Land and will complete the spelling Y4 from Rod and Staff. Weekly copy work poem as mentioned above. Mary will be beginning dictation this year slowly. 
Y7 The girls will complete spelling Y7 from Rod and Staff.  They will also do one or two days of grammar lessons from Rod and Staff. One day per week, they will have a poem for copy work and study it for dictation later in the week.

Math (30 minutes per day)
Y1 Lydia will continue working on Saxon 1 which we started in K.  We are working very slowly and using other workbooks and games to reinforce as we go along. I have some Saxon 2 pages that we may use to bridge between Saxon 1 and Rod and Staff 3.  
Y4  Mary will finish Rod and Staff 4 and begin Rod and Staff 5 at her own pace.  I don't rush math. We just work slow, steady and consistently.  
Y7  Hannah and Sarah will be finishing Saxon 76 and then will begin Saxon 87.  Again, I don't worry if we aren't finished with a book by the end of the year.  I like them to work at their own pace and master the concepts before we go on.

Foreign Language (20-30 minutes daily)
Y1 Lydia has her own Spanish workbook for next year.  She will also do many vocabulary games/flash cards with us as we continue to learn together.  We love the Salsa videos so we will be watching one per week again this year!
Y4 Mary also has her own Spanish workbook to work from.  She will do many of the games/flash cards with Mary as well as Salsa.
Y7 The biggest difference will be for the big girls to try a more formal approach with the middle school level spanish books I bought.  We will see how it goes.  I am still praying for a native/fluent speaker to help us with this.  Also the big girls will be completing Vocabulary Bridges (Latin and Greek Roots) from Trivium Pursuit.  I was able to get this download for free.  

Picture Study/ Artist  and Composer/Music (30 min weekly)
ALL - We have loved picture study for the last several years doing AO, but I really wanted something more this year.  We will still have a main artist for the term whose work will be displayed and discussed during the 2 weeks per term, but we will also use the book Discovering Great Artists to study about more than just 3 artists per year.  Likely we will do artists around the same time period as the main artist.  This is something we all do together as much as each one is able.
 Similarly, I enjoy the composer study as well, but wish to do more.  We love to listen to Classics4Kids for the composer for the term.  I also have been teaching the girls to read music and play piano.  This will continue and I plan to start teaching harmony singing for voice.  

Other school related activities are handicrafts (sewing, plastic canvas, etc.), typing, free reading, and home economics.

This will keep us very busy in the weeks to come!  We are looking forward to a great year!

With All My Heart~

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Duty

Fathers do many things for their children.  They provide for them. They protect them.  They discipline them.  They teach them.  They lead them.  I am sure if you made a list of things a father should do it would be similar, but you are probably thinking of physical needs, protection, discipline, teaching and leadership.  Did you know that God expects a greater duty? 
Alpheus holding Hannah

The Bible calls fathers (and mothers) to do something else. 
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 - "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."(NIV)

Ephesians 6:4 - "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."(NIV)

Genesis 18:19 - "For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."(NIV)

In just these few verses, the Bible makes it clear that God expects fathers to teach their children His ways and His Word.  This is the greater protection, provision, discipline, teaching and leading.  

God knows that most fathers, even those who don't read the Bible, will take care of the physical needs of their child.  

Alpheus fishing with the girls.

Luke 11:11 "What father among you, if his son asks for bread, would give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake instead of the fish?  (ISV)

Physical care is not enough though if you are a Christian father.  You are commanded to care for the spirit of your children as well.   God holds ALL fathers (not just pastors, Sunday school teachers or deacons) responsible for bringing up children in the admonition of the Lord.

Alpheus snuggling with Sarah
I thank God for a husband who consciously seeks to fulfill these commands through the power of the Holy Spirit as he submits to God!  As Alpheus often reminds us, he may not be perfect as a father, but by God's grace he is purposeful as a father.

Here are some of the ways that Alpheus has purposed to admonish, teach, and direct our girls to God and His Word.

Red Oak Mountain near Alpheus' childhood home.

*Since the girls were babies we made family prayer time a part of all meals, driving in the car, bed time, and whenever we heard of a prayer request.  This is a very simple thing to add to your family if you aren't already doing it.  It is not hard to say a prayer asking God to bless, heal, lead, or whatever the need is.  But what a powerful impact this has on our girls.  They know that when there is a problem, big or small, that we pray about it.

*We have also made it a practice to buy godly videos, games and books on their current level.  We have also made it a practice to watch and read them together, because this allows us to talk about any errors, or missing parts, or parts we wanted to emphasize.  These have been given as gifts because we want them to see that this is something special for them.  If you are a bit rusty on your facts of the Bible, a Bible trivia game is a great way for both of you to become familiar with events and people in the Bible!  Sermon stories will catch a child's attention if they have heard the name or story before!  Our girls often nudge me and smile when these coincidences happen!

Alpheus reading during family worship (too close to bedtime for Mary!)
*When our two oldest were 2 and 3 we started having family devotions.  At first this time was only about 15 minutes and involved a lot of singing (by parents) and running/dancing (by toddlers).  As the girls have matured, our family worship has matured.  We sometimes spend up to an hour if we are reading a chapter from a biography, or if we are watching the Jesus of Nazareth movie, or singing and reading scripture and praying.  Alpheus definitely makes reading a portion of scripture an important part of family worship time. 

Ready for church, Daddy! January 2007
*We have made God's day (Sunday) and holidays different from the rest of the week/year.  For example, we try not to do any house work or shopping on Sunday, but instead do all those things other days.  We only read certain books or watch certain movies on Sundays.  We always go to church.  (We would do this even if he wasn't the pastor.  When Alpheus was between churches we never missed  Sunday worship.  If we are on vacation, we find a like-minded church to attend.) Also if we celebrate a holiday that has a Christian meaning to it, we don't emphasize the worldly side of it.  In these ways our children see that we are different from the world and we then can teach them about why we make these choices, pointing to the scripture that has convicted us.

*Alpheus models humility and repentance to the girls.  Even if it isn't a sin against them, he may tell them about it to show them that the walk of a Christian is not easy, but filled with times of victory and failure, repentance and praise.  

Hannah and Lydia helping Daddy pick green beans.
 * Recently God led us to another way in which Alpheus can lead them spiritually and it has been such a blessing to his bond with the girls. For the last several years the biggest girls have taken notes during the sermon.  When Mary started 3rd grade we had her begin to take notes too.  At first the notes were just on loose paper and were discarded after a cursory look by me.  Then Alpheus had the idea that it would be good for them to keep them in a notebook that they carry to the church.  Then he began to look at the writings.  The girls would bring them to him at the end of church and he would put them in his office to be read during the week when he returned to study.  He would then write notes to them answering any questions, encouraging any thoughts they had shared, or explaining the ideas further.  It has been nice to leave the notebooks at the church because it has kept us from forgetting them.  The girls really look forward to seeing what Daddy has written to them!

I look forward to the future ways God will show Alpheus to shepherd our children's hearts!  I would like to encourage all Christian fathers who might read this.  May the Lord help you start making changes as God directs you to fulfill this duty required of you.  

***Dear Sisters who may not have a godly husband to lead your children.  I pray that you would take heart in this scripture, "He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows. God rules from his holy palace." Isa 9:17   God will use you and possibly other godly men in your church or family to meet the spiritual needs of your children.  

With All My Heart~

Friday, June 15, 2012

Making Memories

The girls wanted to camp out in the yard tonight.  We might have considered it if it were a bit warmer, but it is a little chilly right now.  The girls then asked if they could have another "sleepover" tonight.  Since we are winding down our official summer, I want them to have some extra fun!  I suggested they "camp" in the guest room (AKA Papa Jim's room).

Here is the tent of many colors! They used various blankets for this tent.  Each girl has her own section underneath.  The blankets are held up with books or purses or the lids to the laundry hamper (the black thing on the corner of the desk).  It will be very interesting to see if they actually end up with this up all night.

Here they are playing salon before lights out.  They styled hair for each other and they put on lotion and lip gloss. These are the only beauty items they are allowed to have right now.  Finger nail polish has been banned for a while, even if it is very light in color.

Hannah was more interested in reading her book, but she does plan to join the sleeping party at lights out time.

The girls don't often have sleep-overs elsewhere because I like having them home, and it is kind of nice to just have my own, because if things get out of hand, I can simply send them all to their normal beds! LOL

I am pretty sure they will remember times like these for several reasons.  First, because I have documented it here! :)  Second, because they remember many things I forget that we have done! Third, because I still remember doing things like this. I remember one time we had the youth group over to spend the night.  I remember vividly that my BF and I slept under our dinning room table that night!  I also remember one time Mom let us sleep on the porch.  I don't really remember why she let us, but I remember thinking it was very special! :)

Even doing small things with your family can turn in to special memories.  For example, we drove home from a two-day trip to Culpeper today.  As we were leaving, Alpheus announced that in honor of flag day, which was actually the day before, we would count the flags as we drove home.  Then he asked everyone to guess how many flags we might see driving home.  The one closest to the correct number would have the privilege of selecting the ice cream flavor that we would have for dessert at home.  I am sure the girls will always remember "that time we counted the flags and Lydia won the closest guess contest."  These unique moments will come back as sweet memories when the girls are grown.  (By the way, in case you were wondering, we counted 122 American flags in that 3.5 hour trip.) 

Thank you God for the sweet simple treasures in life!

With All My Heart~

Update: They did make it through the night, all of them, and they "loved" it.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our Curriculum: A bit of why and how

We use AmblesideOnline for our curriculum.  It is founded on the principles of Charlotte Mason who was an educator in England at the turn of last century.  She ran a school called Ambleside.  I came across other CMers at Home School Blogger and was intrigued by the things they mentioned.  I am so thankful to have found this source.  I was doing a classical style education but finding some things weren't quite the right fit.  Finding AO has been the best for us.  I know God led me to it.

One of the reasons I felt drawn to CM is that all content areas are to be studied with story-type books versus a text book.  CM believed that one author who is passionate about the topic would create a much more accurate and interesting account of the material.  For this reason, most of school feels like reading time.  We might be reading from 6 to 7 books to complete history, science (nature in early years), literature, and even grammar!  This literature-based learning fits right up my alley and I think is especially suited to girls. (Though many CMers of boys have no complaints!)

One of the best things about CM is that young children learn to narrate the stories, which means they retell as much as they can remember of the story.  When they are young, the stories are very short so they can remember the details.  You also don't have them narrate for everything at first either.  You give them time to get used to that, but they still listen to the readings.  Lydia is already narrating events or stories without being asked.  She has heard the girls do it for a couple of years now so she just thinks it is natural.  The other day Mary was so excited to narrate about what she learned from a book called "If You Lived in Colonial Times", and as Lydia listened she was enthralled.  She asked me after, "Will I get to read that book too?"  Isn't it wonderful that she is already excited about reading this book!  Unlike curriculum where the child reads a portion and then answers questions, narration forces the child to organize the events in order and to recall important (to them) details.  This not only increases the likelihood that they will remember more of the presented information, but it also helps them to make their own connections to the material to discover what is helpful or needful to remember.

While narration is building their skills of organization and description like pre-writing, copy work is building the grammar base.  CM students spend time each day copying in their best handwriting quality words, sentences and eventually paragraphs.  Of course there are many options of quality writing.  Our girls often copy scripture they are working on for memorization or catechism questions which discuss answers to questions about God and the Bible.  Sometimes I have them spend time copying short classic poems, or portions of their reading that they really enjoyed.  Sometimes it is famous quotations from the people of the history they are studying.  In any case, the physical practice of spelling the words, placing the commas, capitalization of certain words and so on teaches many wonderful grammar lessons!  Think of it like the toddler who keeps walking around the same room over and over to build his muscles.  Or the preschooler who sings the same songs over and over to learn the sounds and the words.

So as the children continue to read (or listen to) quality literature, and copy quality writing, and narrate the information that has sparked interest in their minds, they are building muscles which will help them to become communicators, writers, logical thinkers, inventors and problem solvers.  I am still very early in this process, but I am starting to see the beginning of this in the older girls.  Hannah was reading a book for fun the other day.  I asked her if she was enjoying the story.  She said the ideas were pretty interesting but the writing was not very interesting as if it were written very simply for a little kid.  This book is about Rose Wilder the child of Laura Ingalls.  Rose never wrote about her life, but the author knew how so many loved the Little House books.  I am not saying he is a poor writer at all.  I have read the book.  But I know what Hannah meant.  Compared to some of the classic literature she reads for school, it is simple language.  I am glad to see that she can appreciate the more complex writing.  I related this to her own writings.  I mentioned that this is a good lesson for her to remember as she chooses her vocabulary or the way she writes things.

One of the other things I love about AO curriculum is that the recommended books are usually older classics that are so popular you can find them at most thrift stores or they are in the public domain so you can find them for FREE!  This is such a big help!  I try to carry the book list with me when I know I will be visiting a thrift store or yard sale, so I can pick up any I am still missing.  Any books I buy, I mark the AO year on the spine so we can tell at a glance to what year it belongs.  I have never had any of the girls whine about time to read the books.

AO has curriculum for up to year 11.  They have never done a 12 level because 8 through 11 is high school level anyway.  There is a yahoo chat group that is so helpful if you are using AO.  Actually there are several and I won't list them all here, but if you visit the link I put above, a link is given in the first paragraph of the curriculum page for the email support group!  I have gotten so many wonderful links, hints, and encouragement from these moms (and some dads!). I am not sure if I would have enjoyed this near as much without this group!

I have much more to say about AO curriculum, but I will leave this for now and see if anyone asks any questions.  I would be happy to update with those answers!

Most importantly, seek God and His guidance for your curriculum.  Don't just use what you can get from a friend, or what other homeschoolers are using, or even what looks easy.  Seek God and research to find the best fit for your teaching style and for your children to learn. Most of all you both need to be enjoying it.  Yes, we all have days when we think we can't do this, but if most of your days are happily spent teaching  and you see the fruit you desire from your labors, then thank God! :)  I do!

With All My Heart~

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Summer Fun

We have been enjoying our two weeks off.  We stayed up late and slept late in the morning (except DH).  We spent many hours doing just what we please.  We have occasionally done what was needful but mostly we have just relaxed.  It has been really nice.

Hours of play dough fun! 

Lydia's creation  "girl sitting in her chair"
Mary's volcano

Hannah's nature scene: Bird w/worm, mushrooms, flowers and butterfly

Attending a tea party next door.
They decided to dress up in the princess clothes.

Watching the garden grow and eating the lettuce and peas so far!

 The first picture was taken May 25th and the next one was taken June 12th.  What a difference a few weeks make!

Swimming at the pool.  
I didn't get a good picture of the other girls.

Playing board games.

Bowling with the KidsBowlFree program.

Playing and exercising at the gym.

 Watching movies! 

And no summer would be complete for us without a summer reading program at the library.  My girls would read anyway, but they love getting prizes for it!
 Can you guess which one loves to read the most?  

Our "summer break" may be almost over, but we have packed lots of fun into it.  Personally I am ready to get back to some of the routine of the normal school day, but I know the girls have loved doing some of their favorite things.   

Oh, yes, and blogging! :)

With All My Heart~ 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I think home educators should get more credit (tax credit, that is)!

Before you read this post, please know that I support public education for those who want and need it, though I may not support all individual programs of a school system.   I also support freedom of choice for those who don't want or need public education.  I have many dear friends who are public school teachers, and I joyfully substitute in our local schools, so this is not a reflection on their ability to educate the students.


I love homeschooling.  The only thing I find frustrating about homeschooling is having enough money to buy the materials that I need or want. I found our current home school curricula because I was searching desperately online for a less expensive way to home school. I find this especially frustrating when I think about how much would be spent on my children if they went to PS.

New York state spends around $18,000 per student per year, and Utah "only" $6,000.  Here is one of the many articles I read on the cost of public education.  Just to make it easy, lets assume that it is $10,000 per child on average which is probably pretty close, will be easy to calculate,  and will certainly demonstrate my point!

I have 4 children (4 x 10,000) so per year the state would pay $40,000 to educate my children.  Did you see that number??  I could pay completely (with some left over) for a new van for the price to educate my children for one year.  

Okay if that isn't mind-boggling enough, let's see how much the state (taxpayers) would pay to educate my children for all 13 years.

 $40,000 x 13 = $520,000

WOW!  The state is going to spend over a half million dollars to educate my 4 children and my girls won't really be able to get more than a minimum wage job when finished.  I am not sure whether to laugh or cry.  I am just still reeling from thinking about all the money that the state must pay each year for all the kids in VA alone!

Okay, back to my little world. LOL
One of the best all-in-one-box, Christian curricula that I have seen is Sonlight.  This program averages $800.00 per grade level. I would need to buy it each year for the oldest, but then I could reuse it mostly for the others only having to buy replacements for workbooks and such.

Let's assume I would spend an extra $200 per year following the first year to buy the consumable parts.  Let's just round up to $1000 per year for the entire 13 years of educating all 4 of my children using Sonlight.

$1,000 x 13 = 13,000

Did you see that?  I could buy 13 years of a read-set-go curricula for all of my children for the equivalent of a year and half in public school.  If the state would pay me for just one year what they would pay if my children went to public school, I could easily fund all the years my children will be home educated.

So what do families that sacrifice to stay home and educate their children get from the state or federal government?
 Tax credits?  No!
Vouchers?  No!
 A thank you?  Not even that.

Usually we get suspicious looks that we are abusing our kids or teaching them some harmful ideas.  Occasionally we get mild curiosity mixed with statements like, "I could never teach my kids." Or "Don't you think a qualified teacher would be better?" or "What about socialization? (which translates "Your kids won't know how to be normal because you don't let them in the real world.  As if a room filled with their peers and one adult is the real world, but I digress.") 

I have never had anyone thank me for taking on a job that they would have to shell out big bucks to do for me! 

So on a modest single-income, we needed to find a way to afford the materials.  As much as I loved the looks of Sonlight or Veritas Press, I just couldn't swing the costs.  As I was searching, I found this wonderful site, AmblesideOnline and discovered that some other dedicated moms had been in the same situation.  They collected and organized these resources outlining a program for K-12th grade.  The charge?  $0.00  Nada!  Zilch!

Okay, nothing is free really, is it?  Here is the nitty gritty:
* you need internet to locate many of the resources they use, but most families have that anyway
*you need a computer to be on the internet
*most of the books are either in the public domain and therefore free to read from the internet (and now the Kindle or other e-readers) or they are classics that are easily found at thrift stores, book sales and especially at the library
*you must have the time to locate these resources
*math is separate though they do make recommendations

As I researched this site, I realized that it was very reasonable for us to use this each year.  Again, like other programs, my largest expenditure would be for the older girls materials that would be reused for the younger girls.  I am thankful to say that we have never spent more than $250 per year (not including internet service or computer replacement). 
 Not only were these materials affordable and lesson plans free, but the methods and style of a Charlotte Mason education were a wonderful fit for our family.  I will share more of this in a future post.

So do I wish that home school families would get a portion of the taxes collected for education? YES!    If anyone ever proposes a bill to give home school families a tax credit for expenses incurred homeschooling, I will vote for it! :)

But I am okay without it too.  I know God will continue to supply our needs!

With All My Heart~

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Having a Large Family

Some of my favorite bloggers have large families.  Now many of my friends consider my family to be large.  I have heard the same comments as other large families.  "Are they all yours?"  "You are done now, right?"  "You have your hands full!"  "Better you than me."  As a mother of four daughters there are times when I feel my family is large.  For example, when they were 9, 8, 4 and 1, and I had to dress them and fix each one's hair for church! Or when we were in a restaurant and one needed to use the bathroom and we all got up to troop off because I didn't want to repeat this three more times! I especially notice in our van when they are all talking!  But compared to these moms of 6, 8 or 12 my family is not big.

Today the 4 Moms answer the question, "How did you know you wanted and could handle a large family?  I encourage you to read their responses if you are praying about having children or having more children or just in case you are curious and won't need to ask that family in the grocery store! LOL

Hannah a few years ago with her large family of babies! :)

For the last several years I have been wanting more children.  Reading these posts has reminded me that none of these women planned for large families at first.  God doesn't necessarily give every family lots of children.  He blesses as He chooses and not always with children. 

I am encouraged by these ladies and would be even if I only had one child and so did they, because they are seeking to grow in grace and be the mother God would have them to be. 

My heart's desire now is to be the best mother to these four that I have.  If God should bless us again through adoption or a physical miracle, I would be thrilled.  But if He does not give us any more children, I praise Him for blessing me so much already.

For any friends, or readers, who may be considering these things for your own family planning, I would encourage you to do nothing permanent  to prevent you from having children.  I would also encourage you to look in God's Word for your answers!

For those who haven't or can't have children by birth, I pray that you would consider adoption.  It is a wonderful, difficult, scary, joyful process much like giving birth!  If you think you can't afford it, neither could we.  God provided every single penny for our adoption through His people! It was an amazing thing to watch. 

Today, and every day, I want to be thankful for what I do have, and strive to be worthy of the responsibility God has given me! 

With All My Heart~

(recent photos by Sarah and Mary)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Time Fun

Summer break is a good time for dental and doctor appointments! 

Here is Lydia getting her six month check up.  She is always such a trooper and actually looks forward to the dentist.  She had to have x-rays this time. She said, "It only hurt the roof of my mouth a little bit, Mommy."  What a trooper!  She was given chocolate toothpaste which she said was good.  Best news - no cavities!  Her back teeth are starting to touch now, though, so it is time to learn to floss!  She loved the cool shades.  When the dental hygienist asked, "Would you like to give me the sunglasses, now?" I think Lydia almost said, "No." :)  She was pleased though with her Princess Bell toothbrush, Dora sticker, and ladybug (her favorite insect) bouncy-ball.

While we were waiting for the dentist to come and look at her teeth, she was reading a book from my kindle.  This book is one on counting/adding which was free at amazon.  The hygienist had asked Lydia if she would be starting K this year when she saw she was 5.  Lydia just giggled and shook her head.  I explained that we home school and she would be starting 1st grade.  I don't think she believed me until she heard Lydia reading to me! :)   Lydia didn't know I was taking a picture until she looked up.  She was in the middle of saying one of the words.  She asked if she could leave her sunglasses on to read the book. LOL  She cracks me up.

Hannah has started a special summer project.  She is painting the panes in a window for a decoration on Grandmom Short's wall.  She is doing a different theme for each of the six panes.  If you are wondering where she is painting, it is our unfinished portion of the basement.  She has the window resting on the washing machine.  (The cat is asleep on the pile of dirty clothes. LOL Btw, the pile is not waist high to Hannah.  It is stacked on other tubs.)

Because of drips and accidents she is only allowed to paint in here or out on the deck.  Since Daddy was smoking the ribs for dinner Hannah chose to paint down here.  The lighting is very good right there so she was pretty happy with the set up!  The first scene she painted is the branches of a dogwood tree.  She was looking at the journal you see in the picture, but she did her own version of it!

Oops, I think my camera was upside down when I took this photo!  Oh well, Grandmom, you get the idea here in this sneak preview! :)

The younger girls were looking for something to do and decided on a princess tea party!  Mary used her princess invitations to request the presence of the other princesses.  Sarah was in charge refreshments and like any smart princess, called up the best caterer she knew, Memaw Rose!  The table was set, music arranged, and guests warmly welcomed promptly at 1PM. (They had been kindly turned away at 12:30 for coming too early!)

The night ended with a movie, snack with Daddy, and a "sleep over" in the downstairs bedroom.  Oh the fun of summer time freedom!  We are all looking forward to free time tomorrow!

With All My Heart~