Monday, January 15, 2018

Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool

Time for week 2 in this year's Virtual Homeschool Fair hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. 


This week we are all talking about Our Method of Homeschooling. I've called our homeschool method a lot of different things, but Lit-Based Education seems to sum it up best.

When we started seriously looking at homeschooling, we attended a small homeschooling fair event in Colorado Springs.  That was early in 1999, and until we went there, I had no idea that there actually was curriculum designed for homeschoolers.  I assumed that in order to provide the type of education I wanted, I was going to be creating it all pretty much from scratch.

At that event, there was a booth for Sonlight, run by a family that included Mom, Dad and a boy of about nine.  I think there was a younger child there too, but those were the three who were actually talking with those of us who were browsing at the fair.  I was pushing Connor in a stroller, and Dale was wearing William in a Snugli.  Both parents were busy with "real" customers when we got to the table, and they had Basic 3 (now called something like Core D) laid out on the table.  I was mentally oohing and aahing over all the amazing books when the 9-year-old asked me if I had any questions.  So, I asked him how this Sonlight thing worked.

He proceeded to show me the Instructor Guide, talk about all the amazing literature, point out how easy it was for his mom to teach, and generally just completely blow me away with how enthused he was about history, and how he was intelligently conversing with strange adults.

I took a catalog.

And I read it cover to cover, multiple times, over the next few weeks.  Usually in the middle of the night, while nursing William.

I fell in love.

We used Sonlight very faithfully for the next decade, but I found myself trying some other things too.  Did a bit of classical, tried unit studies, did some textbook... and kept finding myself being pulled to more literature-rich approaches. 

One big discovery while doing classical types of things was the book Latin-Centered Curriculum by Andrew Campbell.  First off, that book freed me from the idea that classical education is defined as a 4-year chronological approach to history.  Second, he highly encourages reading aloud.  A lot. The biggest take-away,  for me, was the idea of multum non multa.  Basically, that means quality, not quantity.  We don't have to read every classic, we don't have to read every modern classic, and we don't have to learn every detail of history.  What we need to do is to do a few things well.  And read aloud a lot, without dissecting every piece of literature we cover.

A book a couple of years ago, The Eternal Argument by Robin Finley, pushed me into defining our style as lit-based.  It was emphasizing the need for discussion-based approaches, and I recognized that discussion was exactly what one of my kids desperately needed. 

William's school shelf: Core 300 and Illuminating Literature
We are back to Sonlight for a lot of our schooling.  William is working through Core 300, 20th Century History, and even though he is in high school, mostly I read the books aloud and we discuss them as we go, or he/we listens to an audiobook and we discuss them a whole lot.  A few books, he reads himself and we discuss.  He is severely dyslexic, and reading isn't a strength.  That means that we find alternate methods when readily available, and he reads when necessary.



The Core G shelf
Richard and Trina are doing Core G, World History, though that is going rather slowly.  And of course, we had to grab some other favorites too, like D'Aulaire's Greek Myths.

The big difference with us as far as Sonlight now versus Sonlight fifteen years ago is that I no longer stress about reading all the books, nor about doing all of the included discussion questions.  Some books we just skip entirely.  Some books we read and talk about, but I never look at the included assignments or discussion questions.

Sonlight chooses great books, they really do.  But we don't have to read them all to be "well read" and we certainly do not have to analyze them all either.

This means a lot of great books, and a whole lot of discussing the situations the characters find themselves in and what we think the author got right about a time period and what wasn't quite so authentic sounding.

When it comes to science, we make it a point to read at least one biography of a scientist for some perspective on the human side of great scientific discoveries.

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out!


Monday, January 8, 2018

1998 vs. 2018: Why We Homeschool

I am hoping that I will succeed in truly participating in this year's Virtual Homeschool Fair hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. 


This week we are all talking about The Reasons We Homeschool.  As I thought about this topic, I was reminiscing a bit about the reasons we started homeschooling, and the reasons we continue to do so.

If I could go back and have a cup of coffee with the me of fifteen to twenty years ago, I am pretty sure I'd be rolling my eyes a bit about her idealistic view of homeschooling.

But I'd also find myself saying, "Yes!  Hang onto that!" as she talked about why she was homeschooling.

We actually made the decision to homeschool before 1998.  I chose 1998 because it is a nice, even 20 years, and because I made my first homeschool purchase that year, and attended my first homeschool event too.

Back in 1996 or so, Dale was listening to a local radio talk show, where the host was interviewing people about homeschooling.  After listening to this week-long series, he concluded that we were going to homeschool.  I agreed, but mostly because I didn't think we'd ever have kids.  "Sure, we can homeschool our non-existent kids.  Whatever you say."

This is our family about the time I was coming to grips with homeschooling.

In 1997, that changed with the birth of Connor.  In 1998, William came along, and I lost my job while on maternity leave.  That was the point where I did finally own that decision to homeschool.

The reasons we decided to homeschool?

Honestly, I think a lot of it was about fear.  Fear of losing them to the mentality of public schools.  Fear of losing them to their peers.  A desire for them to be able to pursue their strengths, as clearly our boys were brilliant and would have lots of strengths.  A desire for them to learn what we thought was important.  A desire for close family relationships.  A desire to pass along our values.  I wouldn't have articulated it that way at the time, though.

Over the decades, those reasons have shifted, with some becoming more important, and with other reasons worming their way in.  I'd tell 1998 me to really hang onto the ideas about family relationships and values.  I'd reassure that me that fear isn't going to carry her through.  I'd roll my eyes about the brilliance of her kiddos, but catering to their strengths is still a reason that I have for homeschooling.  It's just that now I've learned a bit more about catering to their weaknesses too.

Now, in no particular order, I think we homeschool because:
  • We want to tailor learning to each child's strengths *and* weaknesses.
  • We want to enjoy this short time in life known as "childhood."
  • We love the flexibility.
  • We want theology and values to be a part of education.
  • We want learning to be a natural, normal part of life.

I can't help but wonder what the me of 2038 would have to say to the me now.  In twenty short years, Trina will be the age of that young me pictured above, and the boys will be even older.  I'd like to think that 2038 me won't be rolling her eyes at my current reasons.

But "me" of any year has always been pretty good at eye-rolling, so she'll probably find something.


Now, let's see what my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about The Reasons We Homeschool.





Friday, January 5, 2018

Circle C Stepping Stones {a Kregel Book Tour review}

I am so excited to review Andi Lassos Trouble and Andi to the Rescue by Susan K. Marlow.  These are the next two books in the Circle C Stepping Stones series.  Susan has written books about a delightful girl named Andi (or Andrea when she is older), and has four different series available.  Beginnings features a six-year-old Andi for ages 6-9, Adventures features a 12-year-old Andi for ages 9-14, and Andrea goes from age 14 to 18 in the Milestones series for ages 12 and up.


These books, in the Circle C Stepping Stones series, are books about Andi meant for 7-10 year olds. There are definitely more words than in the beginnings series, but there are still quite a few illustrations.  These are a pretty easy read for my daughter, who will be 12 next month, but she loves Andi and still thinks these books are great.  She told me that she thinks she and Andi would be really good friends.  I love that in a book character, I really do.  

The publisher's description of Andi Lassos Trouble:

"When the Circle C ranch decides to host a rodeo competition with two other ranches, dozens of cowboys are eager to prove they're the best riders and ropers in the valley. But they're not the only ones who want to show off their skills--Andi aims to lasso her way to the prizes, even if big brother Chad says the contest isn't for kids.

The roundup is meant to be a time for food, fun, and friendship. But before Andi can prove she's got what it takes to be a real cowgirl, the day turns dangerous. Will a friendly rodeo turn into a range war between ranchers and sheepherders? Can Andi and her family keep their neighbors--and themselves--safe?"


The publisher's description of Andi to the Rescue:

"This is so embarrassing. Andi's teacher, Miss Hall, is sick--and Mother is the substitute teacher. What will Andi's friends think?

But it turns out embarrassment is the last thing Andi needs to worry about when two outlaws kidnap Andi and her mother after school in a case of mistaken identity! They can't even tell the kidnappers a mistake has been made without putting themselves in even more danger.

Now they're being held in a remote cabin until Mother can teach the man in charge how to read--and he's willing to go to any length to make it happen. Andi must escape and find help. But can she lead a rescue party back to Mother before the outlaws take their new teacher--and disappear forever?"




Trina's review:  It was a really good book, I think the entire series is something that kids my age -- well, any age -- would really enjoy.  Andi is fun, and the interactions between her and her brothers are really good. I feel like I am learning something about life in this time period, which is some time in the late 1800s in California. (Mom's note -- Andi would have been born in 1868, so this series takes place towards the end of the 1870s.)

My take:  Andi is a delight.  She is mischievous, and certainly gets into her fair share of trouble, but she is endearing and generally repentant.  You know, a typical kid.  I like her, and I seriously love that these books grow with Trina.    I am wanting to purchase the Adventures books for Trina's birthday, and going over all of this again has me thinking that I have to do that.

The other really amazing thing is that if you visit the Circle C Adventures page, you can download some fantastic activity pages for each book.  These are a great way to learn a bit more as a school assignment, or even just to learn more in general.  If a child is reading these for fun, skipping some of the more school-like pages is a great idea.  That still leaves a number of really neat things to do or to learn about.  Some of the pages give more information about something that happened in the book.  For Andi Lassos Trouble, there is a page giving more background on what a roundup is, for instance, followed by a word game activity.  There is also a page about the first cowgirl, and an activity that has you comparing Andi to that first real cowgirl.

Some activities are a lot more hands-on.  For Andi to the Rescue, there is a section on schoolyard games that includes things like jump rope (including some chants), hopscotch, jacks, and red rover.  This book also has an activity that involves doing some mapwork for the country of Mexico.

For those who really want to get into this, there are also lapbooks available for purchase.  Which is something else I'm actually considering.

I cannot possibly say enough good things about these books. 

Disclaimer:  I received this book through Kregel Blog Tours.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year, New Bible Reading Plan

I don't exactly make New Year's resolutions, but in December, I was looking for something to help me to systematically work through the Bible.  I intended to start right away, not worrying about a January 1 date, but then I ran across a book, Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan, through Logos.

 It has a 365 day reading plan with a reading for every day from the Old Testament, from the New Testament, and from somewhere else -- basically the wisdom literature.  In January, you start off with Genesis, Matthew, and Ecclesiastes. 

In addition to the suggested Bible readings, there is a short devotional related to one (or more)  of the passages.

I decided to start on January 1 after all.


The devotional for yesterday (yes, I'm behind already, only two days in) was titled "Scripture for War or Peace?" and the focus was on Matthew 3-4.  Of course, you also read Genesis 3 yesterday, so it applied some there.  Both Satan and Jesus are quoting scripture, but the aim is different.  This really hit me:

This story raises the question, “Will we use Scripture to defend our own positions, or use it to defend God’s?” It’s easy to quote Scripture only to defend our personal theological position. Sometimes we are too focused on being “right” and not necessarily on helping other believers. However, while we might believe that being “right” will ultimately help them, it’s possible that we’re inhibiting the gospel message instead. We might even be the one driving them away.
John Barry ends the day with a question -- "How do you need to change the way you’re using Scripture?"

That is something to think on.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Grocery shopping with Digital Coupons

I used to blog a fair amount about saving money, or getting by with a small grocery budget.  I maybe ought to go back to that.

One thing I have been doing recently is making use of digital coupons.  This came about at least partly because the food pantry at our church was so short on food, so if I could pick up a couple of cans of soup cheap, that was a couple more families who would actually get a can of soup.  That reminded me that I really can do well with the coupons.

King Soopers -- our Kroger chain in Colorado -- recently did a 25 days of Christmas event with a whole lot of great digital coupons.  Like their Free Item Friday promotion, the idea was that you have to log in on the given day and load the coupon to your card, and then you have some time to actually use it.

This was the result of my most recent shopping trip.  I certainly didn't use every coupon they had available, as things aren't always a good deal.  But I will pick up anything that is free, and donate it to pantry if we can't use it.





This shopping trip cost me $13.69, and it is all stuff I will use.  Some I'll need to be a bit creative about.  Like what does a family my size do with ONE Cornish Game Hen? 

The Blistex was the free Friday Download from December 15.  The Knorr Selects was a Free download from December 18 of the Christmas deals.  Everything else I paid for.  But not much:

  • Spectrum Organic Shortening - $2.99
  • Meatballs - $1
  • Sargento Sharp Cheddar Cheese - $1.69
  • Cornish hen - $1.74
  • Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup - $.50
  • Smokies - $1.25
  • Simple Truth Organic Cream Cheese - $1.19
  • Pepperidge Farm Crackers - $1
  • Betty Crocker Potatoes - $.50
  • Bic Lighter - $1.83
Most everything was half off -- so the Smokies were $2.50, and the coupon download was for $1.25 off, the Cornish hen was $3.49 with a $1.75 off coupon.  The shortening (which I only tend to use around this time of year) was $5.99 with a $3 off coupon.


The deals where you have to log on to get the coupons tend to be a lot better than many of the regular sales.  King Soopers/Kroger has a tendency to do a weekend deal as well.  This weekend, you can log on to download coupons for two different items each day.  I'm seriously thinking about a trip to town tomorrow, when I can get Campbell's Chunky Soup for $.75 a can, and Kettle brand chips for $.99 a bag.  Not sure on the chips yet.

I also have some free Friday coupons I can use, including free Barilla pasta, and the one YOU could go grab today in the Free Friday download:


I make it a habit to log in to both Safeway and King Soopers on Fridays to see what digital coupons they have, and what kind of weekend specials might be happening.

That is one way I save on groceries.

Friday, December 1, 2017

From This Day Forward: a Bethany House review

From This Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling is the fourth book in the Song of Blessing series.  I have previously reviewed A Harvest of Hope (book 2) and Streams of Mercy (book 3).

This book does stand alone, however, I do think it would be better if you have some experience with the characters and how they relate to one another.  Picking this series up from the start would be my preference.

One of the things I've loved about visiting the fictional town of Blessing, ND is that it reminds me of home.  Some of the crazy and very Scandinavian names are familiar to me from the older generation living on my newspaper route, for instance.  The characters seemed like younger versions of people I knew growing up.

I love that.



From the publisher:
Deborah MacCallister, head nurse at the Blessing hospital, has loved Toby Valders since her school days, but she's had enough of their on-again, off-again relationship. With the help of the young women of Blessing, Deborah decides that by the end of the summer she will either have won Toby's heart--or she'll give up on him forever.

Toby truly cares for Deborah, but he's never felt like he could commit to marriage or a family. When Anton Gendarme, the new schoolteacher, comes to town, sparks fly between Deborah and Anton. The sudden competition makes Toby do some serious soul-searching, but is it too late?

As the town of Blessing prepares for harvest, Deborah faces the most important decision of her life. But where does her heart truly belong?
That description is pretty spot-on, which is always nice.  The characters in the Song of Blessing series struggle with very real issues and very real decisions, and they are written in a way that you can truly believe they are actual people with real lives.

Everyone doesn't live happily ever after.  Not every conflict is neatly wrapped up by the time the final credits roll.  Life is a bit messy and complicated.  Messy and complicated does not necessarily mean dark or depressing though.  Overall, the characters are seeing the beauty of their lives and are working for better for themselves and their community.

This is what keeps drawing me back to Blessing. 

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Other Side of Infamy: a Tyndale House Blog Network review

A year or so ago, I had the opportunity to hear a speaker talk about his experiences at Pearl Harbor and World War II in general.  He was absolutely fascinating to listen to.  Not terribly long after that, I had a chance to review his book.  The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War by Jim Downing and James Lund is absolutely terrific, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Once I got a couple of chapters into the book, I had a tough time putting it down.  Jim's life is fascinating, and the book is well written, so you really feel drawn in.

My high school senior is studying 20th Century for history this year, and we have just gotten through World War I.  I plan that once we hit World War II, he will be reading this book.

It is far more than just a war memoir.  Jim was constantly doing things to be reaching others for Jesus, including the weekend of Pearl Harbor.  Reading about all these major events from the point of view of one very small player in the whole drama was interesting enough, but reading how he was trying to act as Christ's representative in the midst of all of this drama made it so much more fascinating.


Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.