Monday, October 29, 2007
The reason I chose Sonlight 100 is because it is a very in-depth study of American history. As many of you know, my daughter plans to be a ballerina (which generally does not include the typical college track of most kids), so we plan to begin acquiring college credit through high school by taking the CLEP tests. Our plan centers around taking a course that would teach to a certain CLEP test and then studying for the associated CLEP. Thus, Sonlight 100 would correspond with the American History I and American History II CLEP tests.
Sonlight 100 has them work through Hakim's book series. She then reads the questions, commentary on the book (which often discusses Hakim's slant and her errors, as well as helps them understand the politics about why Hakim wrote what she did.) She is also reading several historical novels that correlate with the time period, which also includes questions and commentary. As well, she has a Bible class, with several books that teach her spiritually along with missionary stories, etc.
When she first began this course, she had trouble with answering questions after she had finished the reading. She is and has always been a phenomenal reader. So, it was not that the reading was difficult, she was simply not used to having such in-depth, specific questions asked of her after she read. She was used to narration and notebooking, which are great techniques that developed different skills. So, this amazing reader, who was devouring books from the time she was six years old, needed to learn how to read a book critically.
At first, she found herself reading the chapter twice in order to answer the question. She then spent a few weeks reading and then answering as she went along. Now, through this practice of answering critical questions about the book, she has learned how to be an alert and attentive reader - and can answer the questions after she has read the selection without referring back to the book. She simply needed to be trained how to read with an alert mind - attentive to every detail, nuance, possible foreshadowing, etc.
So, I am very pleased with the progress she has made so far with Sonlight. The best part is that I gave her the CLEP American History I practice exam, allowing her to answer only the questions that relate to the time period she has covered. She answered 100% of those questions correct. I'm very excited that this course may be all she needs to pass the CLEP exam. (She did study American history for the last two years, however; which, I'm sure, increased her understanding of what she is learning this year.)
Thus, as this point, I can highly recommend Sonlight 100.
Friday, October 26, 2007
When I was a young mom, my best friend, Heather, told me of a tradition her mom used to do. Every birthday morning she would go downstairs and find the kitchen decorated with streamers. She knew how special she was and felt so special all day. So, I, having but three little children at the time, found this to be a great idea. But I wanted it to be even more fun. So, I began the tradition of decorating when the child went to bed. They would wake up in the morning to decorations IN THEIR ROOM along with all their birthday presents and donuts (we are healthy eaters, so this was like candy). Their birthday essentially became like Christmas morning.
However, as they got older, they no longer went to bed at 7:00. And frankly, I simply did not have the stamina to wait until they fell asleep to decorate their room; these little homeschoolers (like many I know) were late nighters. Okay, so I decided to decorate the kitchen after they went to their bed, setting up a wonderful surprise when they came down in the morning.
Then, as time wore on, this task became increasingly more difficult as their bedtime got later and later (can anyone relate?). When I was dog tired, I found myself decorating the kitchen until later than my bedtime, until (drum roll, please) the kids suddenly decided that THEY wanted to decorate the house for the birthday child. I helped the first few years - showing them the special techniques for making streamers twist and how to place them just so. Now, they do it all. Every year, as these kids get older, the decor gets more elaborate, creative and exciting.
Last birthday, they set up a trap where the birthday child could not get into the kitchen (where all the donuts and presents gleamed in the distance) unless they broke through a barrier of paper - whereupon thirty ballons were positioned to fall on their head.
It's a fun tradition we have. My only worry is that they will one day find it disappointing to wake up and find that their college roommate or their husband/wife has not decorated the house in honor of their birthday while they slept. Am I setting them up for hardship later on? Well, at least they'll have great memories of their family on their birthday.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
When we become royalty, we must have a total shift in how we think of ourselves. No longer are we insignificant, nor do we need to strive for feelings of importance or value - we are important, valuable and significant. We don't ever have to feel less than special - for we are supremely special as children of the King.
How does a prince or princess feel about him or herself? They generally believe they were born for a purpose and with special significance in this world. Well, guess what? That's you!
God, the King, has given you, His child, a purpose in His Kingdom.
It's as if you were once a slave out in the field. In the distance, you could see the Big House, the house where the King and His children lived. Then, one day, the King and the first born son came out and brought you into the house. He chose you out of all the field hands to be invited in, not just as a guest, but to be adopted into the family and to share in his inheritance. He accepted you in the beloved and finds you acceptable, and special. He wanted you so much - not just for a visit - but to be with Him forever.
I think a lot of us, though we are now sons and daughters of the King, true royalty - having a glorious inheritance and all the promises that only the children get - still feel like we did when we were out in the field. We still feel fearful, rejected and unimportant. We still feel insignificant and like a failure. We still feel unacceptable.
However, when the King brought us in from the fields, he gave us a new name, a new identity, a new life. The King finds you so acceptable, so precious that He actually delights over you with singing. You are like a precious jewel to Him! You bring Him joy, just because you are you - not because of anything you do or don't do. He brought you in and rejoiced over you when you were still wearing field clothing, still filthy from all that you used to do. He loved you and thought you were so precious even then - when you were a real mess. How could He not feel the same way about you today? Indeed, He does! His face lights up when He looks at you.
You are a special, royal member of God's family. Believe it. Receive this truth and bask in the love, significance and value that are yours forever and ever.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I did not allow the boys to journal last year because their spelling was atrocious - they couldn't even spell "they" or "where" or any of the common words found in a typical journal entry. Charlotte Mason taught, and I believe, that children should not be allowed to write misspellings as it ingrains improper spelling into their minds. I think this is true for some kids - maybe the visual learner, whereas others are less affected. So, I did not allow my children to write in journals for fear of further ingraining misspellings.
After we knocked out the common words with my Spelling Solutions program, and made even more headway with spelling through Phonics Intervention, I felt it was time to begin daily journal entries (this is in addition to copywork).
They now write a paragraph or two each morning about something of interest to them. I usually look over it and pleasantly talk with them about punctuation and spelling ( I don't say anything if they misspell large words). I'll ask them, "Where does the period go?" I might also explain why a comma would be necessary here or there. I'm not critical of their writing style or the content (even though I don't just love to read a whole page about how hard it is to win at Zoo Tycoon).
With these journal entries, I can actually watch their writing progress over the weeks and months. Our short and sweet discussions on grammar have served to compelled them to apply the correct usage more regularly. I'm noticing capital letters at the beginning of sentences as well as periods where they belong.
I've also noticed that the physical ability to write has improved for both of them. They began by writing three sentences in each entry (with some moaning) and can now write a whole page without whining a bit. The muscles for writing need to be exercised and once they are built, writing isn't such a chore.
I am one of those people who regularly kept a journal through junior high and high school. I believe that journaling nurtures the writer within. However, I don't believe that journaling produces good academic writing; it does, however, make it easier to produce academic writing. As they journal, they are truly learning to regulary apply the rules of grammar they have learned and becoming proficient at writing lengthy pieces. These are two necessary ingredients to producing quality academic writing.
My goals for my boys this year (ages 9 and 11) were that they would learn to spell and learn to write papers, essays and reports. I am pleased that we are well on our way to achieving those goals.
Because of the success I'm experiencing with the boy's writing, I have also implemented journaling with my seven-year old daughter. She's a natural speller (a typical girl) and, though she does quite a bit of copywork, really needs to be challenged to write more. I've already noticed that her ability to write has also improved.
When she did her copywork, her writing was beautiful and perfect. However, when she wrote notes to me or others, her words were all smacked up next to one another with no separation and they were all different sizes. She would throw capital letters into the middle of a word and begin with lower case letters and the like. She was accustomed to producing excellent work when she did her copywork, but was unaccustomed to putting forth effort in personal writing.
I strictly required her journal entries to be done with excellence (Can you hear the whining?). It was hard at first because she had to do a lot of erasing (with an insulted expression on her little face); but after only a few days of this, she began to work harder on her writing. I believe this new practice of working with diligence and meticulous effort on her journal will positively affect her writing in other areas as well.
I would love to hear from some of you who with older students who required your children to journal. Would you consider them reluctant writers, or do they enjoy writing today? I'm really curious to hear personal testimonies on the effects of journaling in the homeschool.
You can post a comment or email me at email@example.com
Friday, October 12, 2007
I am using it with my eleven year old son, but have decided that my fourteen year old daughter would benefit from it as well. She is doing Cambridge Latin (a whole to parts course), but I feel the simple and concise explanations found in Lively Latin are very helpful to an overall understanding of the Latin language. So, I added it to her schedule.
We decided to teach Latin in our homeschool because it is difficult to teach a living language without a native speaker exposing the children to conversational language on a daily basis. If my children want to learn a living language, I think Latin will give them a foundation that will make it easier to aquire other languages. Also, there are so many great Latin courses for homeschoolers and so few courses for living languages that are effective and appropriately priced. Also, Charlotte Mason believed every child should know Latin. Last but not least, my son wants to learn Latin because he wants to be a scientist and believes Latin would be the most helpful. Thus, we are pursuing Latin as our foreign language. However, I'm not beginning my children until sixth grade as there are so many other things to learn before sixth grade that are more important, and a sixth grader is more independent with every other subject, so that makes it easier on mom.
I like Lively Latin's approach because it really explains some of the most basic things, such as gender, declensions, inflection and endings in a way that is easy to understand. The program is not teacher intensive, although I stay involved because I'm learning along with him.
Each lesson has a set of vocabulary words that are to be put on index cards and memorized, along with its gender, a set of chants that include declension endings which can be heard on the website so you know that are pronouncing them accurately, as well as a whole series of exercises, history lessons and picture studies. The website also has online games for each lesson to help the kids learn their vocabulary or whatever new material is being presented.
There are 15 lessons, each one quite lengthy, colorful and well organized. Lesson 1 begins with an explanation of nouns, an explanation of gender, a set of vocabulary words, the first declension chants and lots of exercises to get the kids familiar with the vocabulary and the first declension, as well as a history lesson on the origin of Rome. Lesson 2 goes into the cases (Genitive, etc.), by lesson 4, they are learning verbs and reading short Latin phrases, by lesson 8, they are writing their own Latin sentences and by Lesson 13, they are translating very short stories. I think it's a great progression for a beginner Latin course using the parts to whole method. As an aside, I also think the whole to parts method is great because the kids begin reading Latin right away, so I have added in some Cambridge Latin into our week to give my son some fun with reading Latin.
Lively Latin's Big Book of Latin costs $55.00 and comes in a PDF file as an eBook. It's several hundred pages to print, so you might wait until it comes out in hardcopy if you want to purchase it.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Well, we’re a few months into the school year. Most of us are now finding out what is working and what is not working for school. So, it’s time for a little curriculum review. I’ll begin with the program I’m using to help my struggling reader/struggling spellers. It’s called Phonics Intervention, strangely published by Saxon Publishers. Why do I say strangely? Well, because it just does not seem like a Saxon product. The author was a special education teacher that wrote the curriculum based on her need to find an effective way to teach her own struggling reader how to read. I can honestly say that it is very well done.
As many of you know, one child of mine is dyslexic – well, I shouldn’t say IS dyslexic. Dys means “hard or difficult” and lexia means “to read.” So, perhaps I should say is overcoming dyslexia, for he is well on his way to reading like a pro. It’s just been a long, uphill hike; yet, I feel we are reaching the pinnacle of the high alps we needed to climb to get him reading and spelling. I can honestly say that Saxon’s Phonics Intervention will play a major role in moving him into the right direction.
After using my Spelling Solutions program, which enabled my son to spell the most common words found in the English language, I knew it was time for him to relearn phonics, as he had missed so much in his early years. I didn't want to do a basic phonics program; he needed something that honored his intellectual maturity, while still teaching the basics that he missed in K - 3rd, when he was struggling to see the words on a page clearly (Dyslexics generally see words swimming around on a page, not sitting still as we see them).
Saxon Phonics Intervention moves much more quickly than Saxon Phonics for K-3rd , teaching to an older audience. The assumption with the program is that you are using this with an older student (5th grade or older) that still cannot read or spell well. It’s an intensive phonics program using coding of words, spelling tests and reading comprehension assignments. It also adds in vocabulary (which you could skip, but my kids LOVE) as well as alphabetizing. It’s not a complete grammar program, as it doesn’t not teach grammar rules, such as capitalization and such.
Since we started the program, I have seen a marked difference in my child’s ability to spell. I can’t speak to the reading aspect yet, as we were already making immense progress with reading.
It really surprised me that coding words helps the struggling speller. I don’t think a normal reader/speller needs to spend the time and energy on coding words as it does expend a lot of time and energy. I know there are a lot of programs that require the child to code words. My good speller never did anything like this and actually never even learned the “rules” for spelling; she simply spells everything perfectly well (I’m always asking her how to spell things). However, for an older child that doesn’t spell well, the act of coding words helps them immensely. I’m doing this with both of my boys (ages 9 and 11).
I can see a difference in their spelling across the board. Coding helps, I believe, because they spend time with each word, becoming familiar with the words, understanding the rules of spelling by actually doing something tangible to represent different spelling rules. This activity seems to ingrain correct spelling as well as the spelling rules into their brain, which apparently translates to other similar words.
If you are not familiar with coding words. Here is an example: They are given the word BRAIN to code. They underline the digraph AI, put a macron over the A and cross out the I – showing that the digraph AI only sounds out the long A, and the I is silent. If they are given the word HUNTER, they will put an arc under the ER showing that it’s a combination, and they’ll put a breve over the U showing that it’s short. They will also separate the word into syllables and write the VCCV pattern under the letters. It’s a lot of work, but seems to really make something click in their brain.
So far, this has been one of the most successful programs to teach spelling for my dyslexic and my struggling speller that is not dyslexic (and I think I’ve tried every single program out there).
Saxon Phonics Intervention is pretty expensive, over $100, and the program requires a lot of you, the teacher. I don’t normally recommend teacher intensive programs, but if you find that your child in sixth grade or above is really and truly unable to spell the most basic words, this program is a must. Most children naturally “get” spelling some time during fifth grade or before. So I don’t recommend you make the investment in both money and time unless there really is a problem.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Do you have a dream in your heart? Is there something you have always wanted to do, but just haven’t found your way to do it? Is there some special desire that keeps creeping into your thoughts, something you shelved years ago. Or maybe it’s still in the “someday” category. I believe God has given you that dream and wants you to seek Him for its fulfillment.
I blogged about our children having been created for a purpose; this week, I felt I should also address the fact that YOU, also, have been given a calling, a special intention for your days on earth. As homeschool moms, we are co-laboring with God on behalf of our children. Yet, for us, that’s not the only objective God has for our lives – most of us will live for another forty or fifty years beyond our homeschooling days. If you don’t have some special interest that you would love to pursue, I believe God will give one to you one day.
When I first became a Christian, I thought it was selfish or wrong to want to accomplish the dream that was in my heart. I didn’t realize that God was shining His light upon my little unsaved heart and guiding me into His purposes for my life. A few years after I found the Lord, I gave my dream to God and told Him I would let it go for Him. As I did, I felt an assurance from God that the dream was His, not mine alone, and He would bring it to fulfillment. It was if I could finally relax, and let God bring it about. My dream was to write a book. Now, God had to refine that dream. I wanted to write a novel in my younger years, and a Bible study in my older years. God continues to work on and refine my dreams. My job is to maintain a close walk with Him so that I stay within the center of His will for my days, weeks, months and years. I can be like that little lamb that gets drawn away by the interesting things on other paths. Thankfully, my Shepherd always comes and finds me and steers me back onto His perfect path. Then, I stray again…but that’s another blog. I want to talk about you.
What if that dream doesn’t seem like something that is ministry oriented? God created us in his image and He has passed on His own creativity and ingenuity to us. When Adam named the animals, he did so to the glory of God. When Abel reared his cattle, he did so to the glory of God. When the Proverbs 31 woman made and sold belts and sold real estate and looked after her servants, she did so to the glory of God, using her special gifts and talents with excellence. God is glorified when we express His character, His creativity, His beauty and excellence in the things we do. I’ll never forget the phrase in Chariots of Fire when the mother said something to the effect of, “You can glorify God by peeling a potato for Him.” Indeed, Eric Liddle glorified God when He ran in the Olympics.
What is that special calling He has put in your heart? What is that dream? As we enter into relationship with the Lord, spending time in His Word, in prayer and fellowship, He will begin to reveal His purpose. He will refine the dreams that you have rustling in your heart. Then, as we seek Him for strength, peace and power, He will move us (sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly) into that place where we joyfully fulfill the purpose He has for us, and find satisfaction in Him as we walk along the path He has carved out just for us.
But what about defeat? What about failure? Do the failures you experienced yesterday still haunt you, making you afraid to dream again? Remember that a righteous man may fall seven times, but rises again. Don’t let your past failures keep you from pursuing the purpose God has for you.
It’s time to allow God to resurrect the dream that has been buried all these years. Allow it to come to the surface again so that you can place it into the hands of your loving Father. He will reshape, refine it and make it even more beautiful. He will then hand it back to you as His special gift to you, His beloved child.
Monday, October 8, 2007
The Lord is my Shepherd. El Rohi.
A good shepherd knows his sheep by name and cares for each and every one of them. Like David, who fought lions to save one single sheep, God fights the enemy to save us from his evil clutches. Like the good shepherd, David, God will not give up until his lost lamb is safely back in the flock, following the paths to the green pastures and the quiet waters.
I'm sure you've heard how innocently stupid sheep are. Sheep, though they have a brain, apparently don't use it the way other animals do.
They don't know the right way to go, the right things to do; when abundance is only a few feet away, they'll wrestle each other for the scraps found at the bottom of the trough. When their leader is missing, they'll forget how to walk the path they have taken for years to the pasture . They go astray often. They are easy prey for the wild beasts.
The difference between their understanding and human understanding can be likened to the difference between our understanding and God's. This is why God tells us to lean NOT on our own understanding...we need His.
We are like sheep to God. Like sheep, we need a shepherd to guide us and lead us.
Though we sometimes think we are intelligent and capable of running our own lives, our tendency is to go astray, be led astray and fall into a pit or the mouth of a lion.
"For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."
Monday, October 1, 2007
We knew the cast list would go up last night. After I dropped her off at ballet, the phone rang..."Mom! I'm CLARA!" She was so excited. I was so excited. It was a moment.
My sweet daughter desires with all her heart to be a professional ballerina. The funny thing is, I've always believed that God can reveal to us early where our children's gifts, talents and future might lead. Because God says in His Word that we were created for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do - we have a special purpose, a calling to fulfill. Our ministry may be a vocation that appears secular, or a vocation that is specifically Christian. Our children might be Christian doctors influencing the world, or they might be missionaries, pastors, teachers in a Christian school. God already knows, our job is to cooperate with Him to guide our children according to their specific, God given bent. Yet, it never occurred to me that my child would actually begin pursuing her path this early.
She began her first serious ballet class around eight years old. She had the most darling teacher that made the classes a delight. She enjoyed it so. Later, as that studio began moving towards hip hop type dancing, we moved to a studio that focused on classical ballet. Wow. That was a wonderful move. We were now in an environment where beauty and refinement were honored, and the level of training increased tenfold.
It wasn't long before we realized that she had a passion and talent for ballet, but she needed to choose her path. As a multi-talented artsy child, she was in drama, piano and many other extra curricular activities. She was pretty good in drama, but it wasn't her strongest talent. She was great at piano, but she didn't love it as much as ballet. If she were an only child, perhaps we could have done more than one activity; but at age eleven, she chose ballet over all other activities. It was a true sacrifice because it meant that she would not be spending as much time with her homeschool friends. It was a hard decision and one that we made after much anguished prayer. We did, however, decide to make certain that we nurtured her spiritually edifying friendships, even though her entire life would now seem focused on ballet.
As time continued, we learned that there is a lot more to becoming a professional ballerina than taking ballet class. Summer intensives and taking ballet and pointe every day become increasingly important as you enter high school. It's been an interesting learning curve. These little girls are training to begin their full-time career at age 18, an age that most people just begin discovering their paths in life. They generally finish around age 30 or earlier and begin teaching others ballet, or stay home and homeschool their children (my hope for her!).
My daughter leaping at the Washington School of Ballet this summer.
Though it's unusual for a child to begin their careers so early, I believe most children show early signs of their purpose. God has designed them with the seeds of it in their hearts. What lights their fire? In what arena do they feel the most success? What interests them? As parents, we should focus and hone their talents rather than focus on their weaknesses. Yes, we do need to lovingly and patiently work on their weak areas, but the focus of our schooling, our time and energy should not be on their weakness, but on their strengths. By doing this, we give them an opportunity to succeed in their giftings and callings, and we begin to cooperate with God's plan for their lives.
I've noticed that one of my children truly has an unusual love for and passion for animals that has endured through the eleven years of his life. My other son gets extremely excited about government and leadership, and has big dreams of being a senator (thanks to Teenpact!). Because of this, I plan to give them as many opportunities to experience these interests as I can. What must they do to succeed in these fields, should they decide to pursue them? I want to cooperate with God in developing excellence in the passions of their hearts.
Pray earnestly that God would give you insight about your children's particular bent. As He reveals their special interests, callings and passions, don't fight it (as I did, at first). Release your own hopes and dreams and allow God to replace it with His plans and purposes for your child. Then, help your child to develop and hone their special interests.
Because we homeschool, we do not have to get bogged down in work that is time consuming and ineffective at developing the person our children are meant to be. We can toss out useless and unproductive methods and mechanisms, replacing them with the things that add value to their lives.
We're looking forward to a busy Nutcracker season!