Friday, March 30, 2012

Four Fast Fun Facts About Our Blogger Featuring...Marla & Ralene!

We hope you have been enjoying our series on "Four Fast Fun Facts," where we are learning new info about our bloggers!  Today's post features Marla & Ralene!  ENJOY!



Marla




What is one little known fun fact you would like to share about yourself?

I was the county 4-H fair queen in high school.  I got to wear a tiara to all 4-H events for an entire year.  The best part was that all the little girls would look at me with big eyes and ask if I was the queen!

What fun activities do you like to do in your "free" time?

I love reading education-related and child-development related research articles!  I also like to spend my free time planning creative and fun preschool lessons for my girls, researching new recipes, and reading (mostly books about education.)

Do you have a favorite fun food combo? 

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, served with a big glass of milk.


Where is one fun place would you like to visit that you have never been to before?


I would love to visit Australia one day!




To learn more about Marla visit her at either Marla's Motherhood Musings or Our Life in Lusaka.




Ralene


What is one little known fun fact you would like to share about yourself?


My dad was in the Army, as well as my husband, so I have lived in 6 states (Kansas-4 times; Virginia, Texas, Kentucky--soon to be two times, Colorado, and Hawaii) and 2 different countries (We were at 3 different places in Germany).

What fun activities do you like to do in your "free" time?

Between homeschooling, writing, and household duties, I don't have a lot of free time. When I do though, it usually includes a book or the TV, lol. On occasion, I do like to shop, go out with my friends, or take my kids somewhere new and exciting.

Do you have a favorite fun food combo? 

Hehehe...Trust me, this isn't as gross as it sounds. Nacho Cheese Doritos with soft-serve Vanilla ice cream. You use the ice cream like a dip--delicious. It was something stumbled upon by my friends and I in high school. Of course, it started out as a dare during lunch time in the cafeteria. I think my friend was running out of good dares.

What one fun place would you like to visit that you have never been to before?

I have my heart set on Italy. That's my dream vacation. Maybe I'll tell my husband to make that our 20 year anniversary present.


To learn more about Ralene, visit her at www.raleneburke.com.




Thanks for stopping by Growing Your Homeschool today!  Have a great weekend!



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nourish the Child: Music

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."
-Victor Hugo

I love talking about music education because I can, in no way, be misconstrued as an "expert"! I have very little formal music training, but I have been a voracious reader on the Japanese Suzuki method (that is in rather sharp contrast to the American Suzuki method). I have also taught myslef the piano and penny whistle and I really enjoy all forms of music.


So when it comes to my own children and music, I proceed by intuition more than philosophy, and the results are pretty exciting.

My children are familiar with a wide range of musical styles and can recognize a lot of 'famous' music and composers for the very simple reason that mom and dad listen to 'famous' music for sheer enjoyment and our enthusiasm just rubs off on the little people. (They can also rap and free-flow... thanks daddy... age appropriate lyrics, of course.)

An aunt gave my oldest a very nice children's piano before the age of 1 and it remains a favorite toy for my own children and all visitors. No curriculum needed, it is so natural for children to try to 'play' their favorite tunes on this inviting little instrument.


In the spirit of Suzuki, I play the piano for my children. I play children's songs and I also work (and boy, is it work!) through difficult pieces and they notice the progress I make. I had Isaiah in piano lessons for 1 semester to learn the basics of music reading (he is famously resistant to 'learning' anything difficult from me). His own books sit by the piano and he regularly plays out of them for fun. The younger two patiently wait their own turns to 'play' the piano nearly every day.

This year we invested in this Yamaha Touch Sensitive Keyboard. (Be aware that Amazon regularly puts this keyboardon sale for under $100.) We had to leave our antique piano behind in Kansas and I didn't want to be a year without a piano to enjoy. It was VERY inexpensive, but the quality is excellent. Keyboards, as long as they are touch-sensitive, are wonderful tools for music education. They are superb for self-teaching visual learners. (Sorta hard to explain, but all Yamaha keyboards have a feature that teaches musical pieces with a little screen for you to copy with your hands... you have to see it to get this.) Most keyboards also have a large memory of folk tunes and classical music that you can toy around with. My kids spontaneously play 'guess-this-tune' by turning the piano off after a few bars of a piece have played and trying to figure out what the piece is.

Next year, we are planning to learn the penny whistle (also called the tin whistle or celtic flute) as a family. My penny whistles were all lost in a move years back, so I am pretty rusty. My oldest son wants to learn the penny whistle from me versus going back to piano lessons, and my 5 year old daughter has begged to join. The penny whistle is a particularly good beginner instrument because it is cheap and the fingering is quite simple (simpler even than a recorder, that other excellent and inexpensive beginner's instrument).

This is the book I used 20 years ago to teach myself the whistle:

(Want to know how good this book is? A couple years after picking up the penny whistle for the first time, I was able to join in with a Celtic band made up of adult professional musicians! I am no prodigy, it's just a great book and an easy instrument.)

So generally, my philosophy is- create joyful access to music of all sorts, enjoy it yourself, and watch your children learn. I will never forget when a good friend of mine sharply criticized my musical "method." She asked "what if Tiger Woods' dad, or the Williams' sisters' dad, or Mozart's dad had said, 'well, I just want my kid(s) to enjoy golf/ tennis/ music?"

Personally, I want my children to find their way in this life by their own internal compasses. I encourage, provide access, and give support. I am not out to create prodigies, though I would support one if God planted one amongst my offspring. Rather, I think what we do in our home makes for well-rounded thinkers who, I hope, will appreciate beauty even if they don't make music or art their life's work. (And as someone who chose to make art her life's work... some days I dearly hope my little people do NOT choose music or art as their life's work!!!)

"A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence."
~Leopold Stokowski

"The joy of music should never be interrupted by a commercial."
~Leonard Bernstein

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Attending a Homeschool Convention

Having attended many homeschool conventions, I sometimes forget what it is like for a first time attendee. Then, this year, my husband decided to attend a spring homeschool convention with me. It will be his first. As we discussed all that we could do at the convention, he started to get a glazed over, too much information, sensory overload look. I realized what I now consider typical homeschool convention information was way too much for a first time attendee. Taking a few steps back, I started over and explained it all again.   


Are you considering attending a homeschool convention or conference this year? In an effort to better explain homeschool conventions, I have broken down the information into a question and answer format. It is my hope that this information will be beneficial to you.

What is a homeschool conference or convention?
These organized meetings for homeschoolers occur in a variety of locations around the country each year. Most are scheduled in the spring and early summer months. Organized lectures, workshops, curriculum fairs, and encouraging seminars may be some of the events planned. Primarily, each conference or convention has several purposes, but one main purpose: to encourage you to start or keep homeschooling. To find a homeschool convention near you: search here.

Who should attend?
Anyone interested in homeschooling or actively homeschooling should consider attending, if possible. Also, grandparents of children homeschooled or supportive friends/family members who are interested in learning more about homeschooling might consider attending a conference or convention.

How does one prepare?
If you have already decided to attend a conference or convention, then perhaps you are wondering how best to prepare for it. Several suggestions follow.
  • Read through the speaker/workshop/break out session schedule. Decide which sessions you definitely want to attend, would be nice to attend, and could skip. Rank the sessions if needed. Also, if there is more than one session at a given time, and you'd like to attend both, then consider purchasing the audio for one of the sessions after the conference. By deciding which sessions you must attend, you can then devise a plan or schedule for your day(s).
  • Obtain a map of the convention center. This will help you learn the set up and plan your travels through the curriculum hall. (Maps are essential for large conventions.) I have found it helpful to highlight the rooms or booths I want to visit during the convention.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Most people will recommend sneakers. This is a great choice. However, I have a pair of sandals that are actually more comfortable and more accommodating for a full day on my feet. So, wear something you are comfortable walking and standing in all day long.
  • Wear light layers. Convention halls can vary in temperatures. Large halls may be cool, but as they fill with people temperatures may increase.
  • Consider your accessories. If you are going to be purchasing books bring something light, compact, and on wheels that you can roll behind you. It is much easier on your shoulders than a heavy back pack. Also, it can be carted across long distances, like to your parked car, easily. However, if you aren't purchasing books a large shoulder bag or backpack may be ideal for carrying your notebook or clipboard and pen for note taking.

What is the one essential thing to remember when you are there?
Remember your plan. When you get to a convention, especially for first time attendees, it can be, well, overwhelming. The homeschool conventions I have attended have crowds of people, lots of curriculum booths, ample speakers, and multiple sessions each hour. It can be sensory overload. Having a plan in place can make the convention easier to navigate. While you are at the convention, remember what you want to do and see. You are attending the conference for a reason. Be sure to fulfill your reason by completing your list of priorities outlined in your plan.

What about after the conference?
After the conference, you can sort through your notes from the lectures, workshops, and seminars. Pulling out the information that is vital to your homeschool and attempting to implement any changes. Also, remember that after the conference you can sometimes purchase audio feed to any sessions you missed.

If you can't attend a homeschool conference or convention, then perhaps you might consider an online option. Many workshops or seminars are now offered online. A few places to consider: Ultimate Homeschool Expo; Heart of the Matter Conference; and HSLDA @home E-vents.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beating the Homeschool Blues.....

Around here the weather has been lovely. Warm and sunny and completely un-March like.

It's been tough to concentrate on school when the girls want to be outside on the playground, and I want to be planting my garden, or getting rid of the cobwebs on the patio furniture, or finally cleaning my windows. Okay, that last one - not so much.
But you get the picture! It's so hard to concentrate on school when we {kids included!} are ready to be DONE.

Here are some fun ideas: 

* Call a local homeschool friend. See if you can get together and do a day of school together.

* Take a day off. In the grand scheme of things, is it really so bad to take one day off? Nope. It really isn't!!
* If you absolutely can not take an entire day off, take a half day. Please. It's worth it, I promise. 

* Do school outside! It's so lovely to be out in the fresh air and warm breezes! Tale a nature walk, study the clouds, race down the street...the possibilities are endless!
* Take an ice cream break. Talk about how ice cream is made and then visit your local ice cream parlor.

* Visit a gardening center and talk about the difference kinds of plants, trees, bushes...even fountains and fish. Generally you can find a helpful employee would will be happy to impart their knowledge.

* Hit the zoo, the art museum, the children's museum, the aquarium....you get the picture. Try to visit them now before the summer crowds arrive. Also, many schools schedule field trips towards the end of the school year. Beat the rush!
There are so many ways that you can have fun with school - and remember, one of the best things about homeschooling is that it can be flexible!

What can you have fun learning about today? 

Aurie Good is a pastor's wife, a "retired" youth minister, and probably the most relaxed mom that you'll ever meet!  She blogs at Our Good Life with quips about life as a stay at home mom to two girly toddlers, two wild & crazy dogs, and one cranky cat.  She is married to her best friend and consider the simple life that they've created absolute bliss!  They are currently fostering a lively two year old little girl who keeps them on their toes!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Not Enough Time


 Often, it strikes me that there is just not enough time.  I have only 18 years to teach my girls everything that they need to know before heading out into the world.  Only 18 years.  That used to sound like a long time, but not anymore.  Now, 18 years sounds so short.  How can I ever teach them everything they need to know in just 18 years?  There is not enough time!  I want my girls to have hearts for God's work.  I want them to reach their full academic potential.  I want them to be creative, dedicated, motivated, and independent.  I want them to have the opportunity to explore their own interests and talents.  I want them to have active social lives with other children their ages.  I want them to be prepared to be wives and mothers.  I want them to grow up to be the women they were created to be.  How can 18 years possibly be enough time to prepare them for all of that?  

Every day, I struggle with what is the most important way to spend our day.  How much time should be dedicated to academics?  In what sports and extracurricular activities should we participate?  Are they getting enough free play time (or too much)?   

After almost two years of homeschooling preschool, I am still struggling with the issue of not having enough time and I don't think the problem will ever go away.  However, I am starting to realize that we can't do it all and am becoming better at making the choices over how to best utilize our time.  There will never be enough time for everything that I want to teach, but there will be enough time to prepare my girls to become amazing women.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Four Fast Fun Facts About Our Bloggers Featuring......Dorie & Jessica!



This week marks the 3rd week in our series "Four Fast Fun Facts" about our bloggers.  If you missed the first two weeks and would like to learn more about Sam, Tracy, Aurie, and Delena, just click on their names and it will take you back to the posts.  This week we are featuring Dorie and Jessica!  Enjoy!




Dorie


1.  What is one little known fun fact you would like to share about yourself?


 I have an identical twin sister, who does not homeschool her children.


2.Can you share a little about one of your funniest life moments?


 One time that still cracks me up was when my mom taught my sister and I how to drive. My sister was driving, my mom was in the passanger seat, and I was in the back seat. We were driving along a back road, when my mom asked my sister to pull over and give me a chance to drive. My mom requested she pull way over to the side of the road. You know, for safety. My sister did. When I opened the back door on the passanger side, I almost stepped out and down a cliff. She had precariously parked right on the edge of a steep decline.

3.  What fun activities do you like to do in your "free" time?


 I like photography, hiking, art, & listening to my husband play the drums.


4. What is one of your favorite funniest quotes?


"There's no crying in baseball!" from A League of Their Own.


To learn more about Dorie you can visit her at  These Grace Filled Days and Homeschooling...Just Next Door.



Jessica

1. What is one little known fun fact you would like to share about yourself? 


I was the lead singer in a rock band in college. We won the battle of the bands on campus one year!


2. Can you share a little about one of your funniest life moments? 


Once, when I was a girl, I was thrilled to find a freshly cured stretch of brand-new sidewalk. I put my head down and peddled my bike as fast as I could, loving the speed I could pick up on the smooth surface. I looked up just in time to see the telephone pole that knocked me off.


3. What fun activities do you like to do in your "free" time?


 I love to run, read, crochet, knit, and talk. Okay, mostly talk...and Facebook.

7. What one fun place would you like to visit that you have never been to before? (You could also answer this one as your favorite fun place to go.....)


 I would love to visit Ireland one day. I'm only 1/8th Irish, but have always felt that I 'came from' the emerald isle!


To learn more about Jessica, visit her at her blog, Close Enough.




We hope all our readers are enjoying this fun facts series of posts!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Preserving Memories


This is a photograph of the first time my son went bowling. 
My husband said he had never seen him have that much fun before!


If you haven’t already, please read my posts about “Making Good Memories” Part 1 & 2.  I discuss the importance of making good memories with your children, and some ways you can do that.
While you are making memories, think of ways you can preserve the memories.  Create items your children will treasure as they grow and when they become adults.  A few ways to do this are:
1. Keep photo boxes.  Fill them with photos of special family memories.  You can also create digital albums to store, especially in the advent of all the new technology.
2. Create keepsake boxes.  You can fill them with baby clothes, teeth, hair snippets, baby dedication forms, blankets, etc.
3. Video.  Whether you have a video camera or just use your phone, video is a great way to store memories.
4. Baby books.  A lot of the baby books now go all the way up to kindergarten.  You can record those memories for your child to read about later.
5. Journals.  Create a journal for each of your children where you write to them individually as they grow up.  Share your feelings with them about their birth and special events such as birthdays and Christmas.
As they get older, include them in the process.  Make a time capsule together and fill it with new treasures on their birthdays, or other special occasions.  They will enjoy looking back at baby teeth or something they drew in the first grade.  It is a great way as a homeschooling family to see some visual progress.
Making good memories is so important to your children.  I believe it will make them more secure people, confident in who they are, and secure in your love which will help them as adults fulfill their purpose in history, God’s great story.
Many blessings to you on your journey through parenthood,
In Him,
Beth

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Looking Ahead

"Spring Break" seems to be the breaking point for many families. It is the time of year when parents consider different arrangements for their children if their current situation is not a good fit. We never went back to our school after spring break three years ago. It is the time of year I get more questions about homeschooling than the other three seasons put together.

Spring can be an ideal time to look into other schools or methods of schooling. It gives parents and caregivers the opportunity to visit and tour schools with out as much time pressure. It gives children more time to adjust to the idea of a change. It allows just enough time to gather loads of information about trying something new before it's decision time. It leaves that last quarter of the school year for experimentation.

When we began homeschooling, we decided to try the final nine weeks of the school year at home. That way, we reasoned, if it was a complete disaster we would have the summer to make different arrangements. We had no curriculum, no experience, no sense of certainty that we were doing the right thing.

But we were willing to take the chance.

Now that we are homeschooling, spring break becomes the time of year when I begin to assess our curriculum. I consider changes for the year to come, talk with the children about what needs they feel are not being met and if they would like to consider a different arrangement in any way. I pour over the curriculum catalogues and reviews, I read about the other homeschool families doing the same thing.

Each year, I plan far more than we ever actually manage to fit into our day. I always come back down to earth after the first couple of weeks and root myself firmly in reading, writing, math and excellent historical literature. I am drawn to the same curriculums and activities that are in line with our approach to and goals for homeschooling our children.

If you are struggling with a poor fit in your life, now is a great time to step back and consider making a change. There is not a single correct way to parent, to discipline, to educate, to be a family. There is, however, a right way for your specific family. If you do not feel you have found that way, please consider making a change. It might be as simple as choosing a new homeschool curriculum, writing your own lessons this year, or changing the math program for one of your children who is struggling with it. It may be as complicated as switching to a different school, moving to a new town, or beginning a homeschooling journey. Come back to the basics of who your family is, what your needs, goals and convictions are. These will help you find your way to the right fit for your family right now. It may change in six months or a year, but you can spring ahead and try something new.

What are you reevaluating this spring?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Nutritious Lesson...

Last year my son, P, had an allergic reaction to Amoxycillin--a REALLY bad reaction.

Ever since his stomach has really bothered him, and his cheeks and ears turn bright red among other symptoms.

I finally took him in to see what the problem was, and after a semi-traumatic bloodwork session, we found out that the child has a HUGE build-up of yeast in his small intestine all due to the antibiotics and the horrible reaction he had.

[This public service announcement is brought to you by...me.  If you or anyone in your family needs to be on an antibiotic, wait until the end of the prescription and then immediately start pushing a Pro-biotic into your/their system.  The result could save you/them from several different ailments!  And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.]

So, the doc tells us he's got a yeast problem.

Remedy:  Put the child on a strict anti-yeast diet.

If you're like me, you might think, "Oh, okay--no bread!"

I was wrong.

He's not allowed to have carbs or sugar--that's what starves the yeast in his body and makes it die a horrible death.

Meal planning has never been so...complicated!

Uh, Delena?  How does this apply to homeschooling?

Ever since we got the "anti-yeast diet" news, P has been REALLY interested in food, nutrition, and diet.

We have even worked this into his science lessons lately.

While looking at a photo of the Food Plate (did you know the food pyramid is no longer in use?  I feel so OLD!), he now can tell you what he is not supposed to have, and he can identify whether it's "protein" or "carbohydrates" or "dairy."

While we were visiting my parents this last week, my dad had a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  P was VERY quick to start telling him that that was a carbohydrate, and that it was NOT good for him due to the fact that it breaks down into sugar.

I've created a nutritional monster!

This week he is learning about complex carbohydrates vs. simple carbohydrates.  He's five years-old, and he's fascinated!  We've went around the kitchen trying to identify complex and simple carbohydrates, and he's gotten REALLY good at it.


This whole experience has made me, once again, appreciate homeschooling.  The fact that we can take something real going on in our lives and learn more about it--he just wouldn't have that opportunity anywhere else.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's an Art Party!

The day has finally come and gone. Birthday party extravaganza for the girls was this past Saturday. While we didn't have the expected turnout (mostly due to illness that seems to be floating around), everyone still had a wonderful time.

So, what did we do for an Art Party? Well, art, of course!

The kids enjoyed some bubble painting. I stirred food coloring into large bottles of bubbles (I probably could have done it with smaller ones). They took turns dripping the bubble solution on the papers and blowing bubbles on them. They made some fun looking pictures.

Then they moved onto finger painting. A fellow mom (whose son shared the party with the girls), taped off everyone's name on half sheets of poster board. The kids proceeded to use a hundred colors--give or take--to smear over the entire page. After they dried, we peeled off the tape. The result? Lots of color! White names.

We had a cupcake pinata. No, that doesn't have much to do with art (although people do decorate cupcakes...right?), but the girls have been begging us for one. So...why not?

To add to the "creating art" concept, we had the kids make mini-pizzas. A few toppings choices and they just went to town--big hit. We opened presents and did the cake thing while we waited. Big surprise--no one wanted the mini-pizzas afterwards. That's ok...hubby and I ate them afterward. lol...

Speaking of cakes...I was originally going to make a six layer rainbow cake. However, given the amount of people that were coming (and how TALL of a cake that would be), I decided to do three two layer cakes since we had three kids celebrating birthdays.

Over all, the party was a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed themselves. After the guests had gone home, Alana continued to enjoy the balloons until I made her sit down to watch a cartoon before bed. Then she all but passed out. Sleepy heads are a good sign of time well spent.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nourish The Child: Art

Art is a part of our family. It is an effortless joy for us to look and learn from great and beautiful pictures. We have an impressive collection of art books, nearly all of which were bought by my husband and myself before we even met. Because he and I value beauty, our children have inherited a sense of awe and reverence for art.

I realize it isn't so natural for many homeschooling families. There are hundreds of (mostly pricey) art programs that promise to produce little art historians and such. But even for a homeschooler who is completely unversed in the visual arts, I think it's mostly overkill.

An art center in your home doesn't require much space at all. A couple drawers in the kitchen will suffice, plus a place to display some books or prints.

I mostly stock our art center with better quality PLAIN WHITE PRINTER PAPER. Coloring books are a silly invention. Children don't need them. Children are creative. They will get the pictures they want. They will experiment, trace, beg mummy to draw whatever it is they need. "Draw me an 'A', Mommy!" (My children actually call all writing, drawing. They 'draw' instead of 'write' letters and words.) "Draw me a squirrel on a branch, Mommy!" (Um, dear, go find that in your nature book...)

To go with your white paper you'll need crayons, colored pencils, and markers. Don't be sweduced by the fancy brands- beeswax crayons are not magical. Believe me I have used every art supply on planet earth, and for children under the age of ten, and for most children OVER the age of ten, washabe Crayola is fine. Don't buy the cheaper brands because they really don't work as well, but save the fancy Lyra, Prismacolor, Stockmar, and Koh-I-Noor stuff for older children who really want to pursue art seriously.

The best accompaniments I have found for these simple supplies are Ed Emberley's drawing books. Have a child with poor handwriting who hates to practice? Hand him or her Ed Emberley's Make a World or Ed Emberley's Animals on a Saturday morning and see what happens. These books utilize basic handwriting strokes to make very cool, quick, fun drawings of anything and everything. The child is motivated to observe closely and make the strokes properly in order that the item (s)he is drawing comes out right. Just don't require anyone to work out of these books or I think you'll really spoil the effects!

For clay play, regular or homemade play-dough and some fun tools will do the job. Older children may enjoy Plastalina, a clay that never dries. (It's what's used for claymation movies.) A stack of construction paper is all most children need for endless crafts (cutting, glueing, and sculpting masks, teepees, paper dolls, and whatever else), with maybe a couple of magazines for cutting out nice photos and pictures to use. I'm very amused by the kits and packs sold for homeschoolers with pre-cut shapes for different 'crafts', as if children with a pair of scissors and a pile of colored paper needed any of them!

Really, that's all you need. We also have lots of craft sets that have been given as gifts, as well as pan watercolor paints. Any other paints are at your discretion... sometimes too much paint creates insane mothers, if you know what I mean.

The art books and prints you choose to have in your home should be those you love and really enjoy looking at. Some kid-friendly artists include Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Raphael, Pontormo (Italian), Velazquez(Spanish), M.C. Escher, Grandma Moses (a wonderful choice when studying American History), and Rembrandt. Another lesser-known artist whose work is very informative and appropriate for children is the painter Morandi. He is what is called "a painter's painter"- meaning painters love him and most other people have never heard of him! It is very good to have several books of individual artists so you and your kids can get a true feel for their particular styles. For a wide variety of artists is one book, try the Come Look with Me series of children's art books.

Tracing paper can be helpful for a child who wants to copy pictures out of these books- my oldest son recently spent days tracing and freehanding the Mona Lisa. He decided, in the end, that there was a good reason it was one of the most famous pictures in the world!

Used book stores and Barnes & Noble's bargain section are wonderful places to find art books economically. A cheap acrylic or wooden book display that allows a book to be held open is a nice touch, with the book and page changed often. Many libraries have full-sized, framed art prints you can check out for 6 weeks at a time. My husband checks out a diferent print for our home and his office faithfully every month.

None of this promises that your children will become extreme art lovers, prodigy art historians, or draughtsmen of wonder. But it does promise an easy, inexpensive, enjoyable way for your whole family to explore the visual arts.


"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
~Pablo Picasso

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."
~Edgar Degas


"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?""
~Howard Ikemoto

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beginning Nature Walks

Have you tried nature walks with your children yet?


Did you take along all the guide books, nature journals, pens, markers, coloring pencils, rulers, magnifying glasses, nets, and baggies?

Did your children dress in long pants, long socks, long sleeves, boots, hats, and just about coat themselves in bug spray?

Were you tired from all these preparations before you left the house?


On the walk, did you require your children to find, draw, color, measure, name, and classify a plant and an animal?

Did you expect them to have a relaxing stroll through the woods, showing interest in every plant and animal you encountered?


Years ago, on our very first 'official, school counting' nature walk, I could have answered yes to every single one of these questions. 

It was awful.

The walk was very stressful for me as I tried to make them learn about something - anything
With in minutes, the children were taxed, and so was I. 
It was just too much!

We didn't go on another nature walk for the rest of the school year.
Yes, that's right. We took off the entire rest of the school year from nature walks because our first was that detrimental.

Another school year began, and I thought perhaps we should try another nature walk.

This time, I decided to leave it all behind. No guide books. No pencils, notebooks, or magnifying glass.   I'm not even sure we had bug spray.

Instead, our only goal was to enjoy the afternoon and creation.
It was transcending and freeing.
Not only did we enjoy the day and creation, but we learned.
We observed.
We noticed.
We savored every moment.
It was everything I had ever hoped a nature walk would be.



That walk was the first of many low-key, enjoyable nature walks that still continue to this day. While we don't always leave all the guide books behind, and sometimes we even tote a magnifying glass or two, we still use a casual approach to our nature walks.

So, if you are thinking about implementing a few nature walks
for the first time this spring,
then might I encourage you to start with just one goal?
And, perhaps this one goal could be to just enjoy the day in nature?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting back in the Swing....

After Christmas and our vacation in January I've had a hard time getting back into the swing of school.

Sophie and I have been working on the alphabet, shapes, colors, painting and writing. We read a Bible Story in the morning and talk about the wonders of creation.

However, I keep thinking that I should be doing more. Teaching more. Talking more. 

The Apologia Live conference came at a perfect time for this tired momma!  Here are the Top Ten Tips that I came home with:

10. Remember the reason that you decided to homeschool. Put in in front of you, repeat it over and over, post it so you can see it.
9.   Be flexible. If the curriculum isn't working, get rid of it. If the schedule isn't working change it.
8.   Don't forget about your marriage in the midst of homeschool. Cultivate your relationship. Work at it. Make it a priority, even when you are exhausted.  You need to.
7.   Laugh. Seriously - on the days that are never ending, and the milk gets spilled, and the floors are a mess.....you need to laugh.
6.   Cultivate the wonder of God in your children. Everyday. They should never loose their awe of His works.
5.   Expect opposition. Stay clear minded and alert.
4.   A lack of encouragement can cause a child to lose heart. Encourage them. Love on them. Laugh with them.
3.   Set good boundaries. Children need to know what is expected of them.
2.   Truth is truth. Period.
1.   God didn't call you to homeschool to fail. He has given you every tool that is needed in this journey.

What lesson would you add to the list?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blogging Benefits Homeschoolers

Last spring, Ralene asked friends to join her in creating this homeschooling blog.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity.  Other than a private family blog that chronicles our children's days/experiences, I had never blogged and had spent very little time looking at blogs.  However, the prospect of sharing my experiences with others sounded like a fun adventure.  I initially started blogging as a small hobby.  I really enjoyed writing for this blog and soon created my own blog, where I write about the activities we do in our homeschool preschool.  Little did I know when I created that blog that being a homeschooling, blogging mommy would actually help me become better at homeschooling.  Today, I would like to share with you the top 5 ways that blogging benefits homeschooling moms.

1. You get to reflect on your experiences.  Sitting down to write about the lessons you completed with your child gives you the chance to think about their effectiveness and come up with solutions to problems.

2. You have a record of the work that you did with your children.  Your online journal becomes a portfolio of your child's work for you to review, to share with others, and to show your children.  I love going back and looking at the work we have done over the last few months and so does Abigail.

3. Linking up to linky parties forces you to look at the blogs of other homeschooling moms.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many fabulous learning ideas I have found by reading other moms' blogs.  If I did not blog, there is no way that I would spend time looking at other blogs!

4. You can connect with other homeschooling moms (even if only online).  Blogging about our homeschool has provided me with a network of other moms who support me and I support them.  We share feelings and ideas online.  I also got connected with a local preschool homeschooling group because one of the mothers saw my blog.

5. Blogging can keep you accountable in your homeschool (even when you don't want to do it).  Since my girls are still very young (ages 1 and 3), there are no legal requirements for my children to attend school.  We have chosen to begin homeschooling now because we feel that it is best for our girls.  There are some days, though, that I do not want to do it and would rather spend the day playing (or catching up on housework).  However, I want to have something to blog about (and don't want any of my online friends to question why we are taking another day off), so we still homeschool. 

Are you a blogger?  How does blogging help in your homeschool?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Four Fast Fun Facts About Our Bloggers Featuring...Delena & Aurie!





Last week we started a series of posts to help our readers get to know the ladies that blog for Growing Your Homeschool a little better.  The writers were given a list of questions, and they had to choose four, in order to answer "Four Fast Fun Facts" about themselves. If you missed the first one, you can check it out here.  This week we are featuring Delena & Aurie!



DELENA




What is one little known fun fact you would like to share about yourself?


I have an endless supply of random trivia floating through my head about serial killers.  I graduated from college with the idea that I would go on to get my PhD (pause here for laughter) in the Psychology world and then sit down with serial killers and pick their brain.  What can possess a person to do something like that?  What as your childhood like?  What's going through your head now?  So, I studied serial killers so much for three years that my brain is overflowing with facts.  Gacy, Bianchi, Gein, Fish...it's really fun to bring up at dinner parties with people you barely know.

What is your favorite funny movie?


My favorite funny movie of all time has to be "Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation."  It doesn't matter how many times I've seen it, I still crack up every year when I watch it.

Do you have a favorite fun food combo?


Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with homemade ranch dressing drizzled over the top once it's on my plate.  It makes people take a second look, but it's DELIGHTFUL!

Where is one fun place you would like to go?


I would love, love, LOVE to go to Italy.  Anywhere in Italy would be fine.  Preferrably when I'm not pregnant or nursing so I can have a glass of wine in my hand the whole time while we travel.


To learn more about Delena, or to read her blog, you can visit her at itsonmytodolist.






AURIE




What is one little known fun fact you would like to share about yourself? 


I am a first degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. 

Can you share a little about one of your funniest life moments? 



We were down by the river last year and Sophie was sitting on the bank splashing her little feet. Some ducks glided by and Sophie tried *talking* to the saying {more like yelling} "quack quack!".  The poor ducks were so unnerved that they changed direction and went the other way. Not to be deterred, Sophie got up and ran along the rover edge yelling "Quack Quack". It was so cute :)

What fun activities do you like to do in your "free" time? 



I like to scrapbook or knit. We also love running/biking on the towpath along the river.

What one fun place would you like to visit that you have never been to before?



England!! We have been talking about London and Sophie knows all about Big Ben, Parliament, and the Royal Family. She is really into all things London right now - so we are thinking long term how to get there :)


To learn more about Aurie, or to read her blog, you can find her at Welcome to our good Life.


We hope you are enjoying learning more about our writers here at Growing Your Homeschool.  Please check back next week when we will be featuring two more bloggers!  Have a super weekend!





Thursday, March 8, 2012

Curriculum Shopping!

It's that time of year again. Time to start making decisions about what worked this year in your homeschool and what didn't.

Did you find some keepers for next year, or was it all a bust?

{Sam's Noggin}
In our homeschool we have had plenty of busts, not as many keepers. It has been hard to find something that works well with the majority of my children, as we try to use our curriculum in a group.

If you are keeping what you used this year, because it works well, good for you! Just bump up the levels and you are set. If you are starting from scratch, please take some time to figure out what didn't work with your current curriculum before throwing books in your cart.

Do you need to change learning styles?

We have found our fit in curriculum with Trail Guide To Learning from Geography Matters. This curriculum is great to use with the family, and is a literature based unit study kind of curriculum that is Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick friendly. We will be using it again next year for everyone but our high school student. It will be the easiest purchase year ever, as I already know several things we are going to use for him as well.

Was the curriculum too easy?

Sometimes you just don't have your child in the right fit for difficulty, and they get bored. Ask your child how the school year has gone so far in their opinion, and if they have ideas about what changes they would like moving forward.

Does the curriculum fit your lifestyle?

Perhaps you find yourself in the car often, and love to stop at the park to do your studying. Choose easily portable curriculum, you won't want to pack the car full of books and lug them around with you.

Is it in your budget?

Sometimes we droll over a particular curriculum, but the price is beyond our reach. Try to decide what you most like about the curriculum and try to find something similar. You'd be surprised at how many things are out there with a few differences.

{Sam's Noggin}

I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have as much to buy, and will be reusing what we have used in the past. Now that we have found something we love, it will happen eventually!





Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Five Ways To Welcome Spring to Your Homeschool

Spring fever is here! Embrace the opportunity you have with the flexibility of homeschool and enjoy the changing season. These are five suggestions for simple ways to incorporate welcoming spring into your routine.

1. Get outside! Do your reading sitting on the porch. Take chalk to the park and do some math on the sidewalk. Encourage children old enough to work on their own to take their materials out of doors to complete their assignments.

2. Plant a seed! Whether you scoop some dirt into a pot or let your children trowel up some flower bed throwing off it's winter sleep, let them try their hand at growing something. It is extra special if children choose their own seeds and do all the work themselves. This past week, without my even knowing, my third grader planted three rows of peas and twelve seed potatoes while I was working with his little sister on school.

3. Take a nature walk! Gather up some small storage containers for samples, carry a small backpack with drinking water and sketch books. Find a place for an unhurried, schedule-less walk and encourage your little ones to touch, feel, and save samples (in ways that are respectful to mother nature!). Find a warm, comfortable spot to sit and help them draw something they see.

4. Eat something fresh! Most of the farmer's markets in our area haven't begun yet, but a trip to the store can help you teach your children about seasonal shopping, the benefits to your health and the earth's that comes by way of eating fresh foods, and a tasty treat! Spinach, radishes, and green onions would make a wonderful salad or dipping tray.

5. Watch for and talk about signs of new life! At our farm, the chickens are laying eggs now, the mama cows are birthing their little calves, the bulbs have shot up their first greens, the wheat is thickening. Point out these things to your children as you are going about your daily lives and enjoy the renewal that spring can give your spirit and home. Open your windows and let spring into your homeschool!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Child, you just got schooled!

This post is written by Delena, published by Sam due to technical difficulties.


Right now we have three (soon to be four this summer!) children, and our oldest is in Kindergarten.  P is five.  D is three, and E is 16 months.
 
This was my first year to homeschool, and I made sure I was ready.
 
I researched different curriculums.  I attended the Catholic Homeschooling Conference in our area.  I had the books, the supplies, the fun stuff to make school "exciting."  
 
I did not, however, anticipate what it would be like to homeschool one child with two other children at home.  
 
I know a lot of moms who start school at 8:00 on the dot.  When we started school in September, I tried this 8:00 approach.  I quickly realized that Miss E needed a little more time and attention from me than I expected.
 
So, we now start school at 10:00--otherwise known as "when the baby naps."  This allows the boys to eat, get dressed, and play for several hours before P starts school. 
 
I then realized that my three year-old, D, was NOT happy that his big brother was going to be taken away from playing with him for an hour each day.  I have tried giving him coloring books, alphabet books, and number books--he's not interested.
 
I have given him an entire book of stickers and a stack of paper and told him to go to town.  This worked for three days.
 
He went back to being unhappy, and I am now adding "stickers" to our grocery list.
 
I made homemade playdough for him--only to find that this distracted P while he was trying to HIS work.  This would cause me to mutter out loud, "How did people do it in one-room schools?!"
 
 
Sigh.
 
 
The other day, just when I thought my patience was gone because P couldn't concentrate, and D was doing everything he could to get our attention, a tiny little bit of light was shown on the situation.
 
D was playing with his animal figurines when I suddenly heard him say, "Tyger, tyger, burning bright.  In the forests of the night.  What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
 
Yes--my three year-old can quote poetry now.
 
And he can write lower case letters--something I've never worked with him on at all!
 
While he's running around the dining room table causing my blood pressure to escalate, he's also LEARNING.  He doesn't realize he's picking up on the same stuff P is learning, but he is retaining information.
 
 
So, I quit contemplating taking my blood pressure for the moment and smiled.  There can be frustrating moments while homeschooling your children.  I think there are even MORE frustrating moments when you have one in school and two...or three...or four...who haven't reached school-age yet.
 
To know that your kids are still learning and retaining information just from hearing what goes on at the dining room table every morning--well, it makes it all worth it.




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