Archive for September, 2010

Resource Review: TumbleBooks Library

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I know that some in classical homeschooling circles are not fond of electronic media.  Some materials can be the equivalent of intellectual “junk food.”  Junk food is OK in moderation, but what about using electronic resources as an everyday part of your curriculum?  The Internet is an inextricable part of daily life in our family–in fact, our family wouldn’t be here without it!  I firmly believe content is much more important than format.  That’s why I really appreciate when I find a quality e-resource.  TumbleBook Library is one such resource.

TumbleBook Library is free to me (and to any of you who live in my hometown), since it is offered on the website of my local public library.  I’m not sure how it authenticates, but you may be able to access it from the link on the Marion Public Library’s home page.  If not, ask at your own library.  If they don’t have TumbleBook Library, chances are they offer some great alternatives!

A screen shot showing an e-book in the Tumblepad interface

TumbleBook Library includes interactive fiction and non-fiction titles for kids in the elementary grades.  If you’re looking for classics, there aren’t many in the collection. However, it does include many good quality selections from contemporary children’s literature.  Also included are several fun modern-day interpretations of classics, such as the version of of The Tell-Tale Heart pictured here (this one includes tell-tale beets).  Really, this fits right in with the classical education concept of introducing basic ideas to build on later.  When we get around to Edgar Allan Poe in later years, the story will sound familiar.

Once a book has been opened, the electronic interface is easy to control, even for young children.  Levi can easily navigate through a book on his own.  He isn’t able to handle searching and browsing yet, but an older child should be able to do so.  The stories engage children’s interest with animation and sound effects, but maintain a literary feel by providing the entire text along with the narration.  As the narrator reads, the corresponding words are highlighted in the text.  Some books even provide reading help, which allows users to click on a word and hear it pronounced.  Users can watch the book on “auto” mode, or navigate the pages manually.  So far, I have mostly used the e-books, but the database also includes games and puzzles that go along with the books.

TumbleBooks provides an excellent choice for entertainment and recreational reading.  I find it especially helpful these days when most library materials I bring home end up having helicopters drawn inside the covers.  TumbleBooks are delivered through a web browser, so we don’t have to worry about lost or damaged books.  I like to cue up several stories and play them for the kids while I’m working.  Of course, e-books are no substitute for sitting together as a family and enjoying a good, old-fashioned traditional book, but TumbleBooks gives us yet another way to enrich our home with literature.

Levi’s Glasses

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Levi is not so sure about his new glasses.

About two weeks ago, Nate wrote about Levi’s eye appointment.  We picked up his glasses on Monday.  So far, he’s only been wearing them in short bursts, but we’re working on it.  Even though they help him see better, he seems to have trouble with the feeling of them on his face.  You will see in the picture that he’s wrinkling his nose (this looks different from the squinting he was doing).  I imagine it will take him some to get used to them.  Also, Isaac is used to playing with cheap sunglasses and the like, so he makes a game of grabbing them from Levi’s face.  Thank goodness we got carbide lenses and bendable frames!  It was an investment up front, but it will save us replacement costs.  Another sound investment might be a pair of cheap nonprescription glasses for Isaac.

Today, Levi wore the glasses for several minutes while watching e-books on Tumblebooks (this is an awesome database offered by our local public library that I plan to highlight in a future post).  We read (or rather, watched) I Wish I Had Glasses Like Rosa by Kathryn Heling.  The story is  narrated by Abby, a little girl who longs to have glasses, and tries in vain to obtain them in a variety of funny ways.  Levi likes to play along, so each time Abby tried on a new pair of glasses, he would put his on too.  Pretty soon we had moved along to another story and he forgot he was wearing them.  That was when Isaac showed up.

Despite a few setbacks, we’re off to a good start.  Hopefully now that he can see better, he’ll be able to learn and express himself better.  He’s right on the brink of reading, and this could be just the nudge that he needs.

No Cable? No Problem!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Something we had on vacation that we don’t have at home was cable.  We have no religious or ethical opposition to TV–we just don’t need it.  We’d rather put that money toward super-fast Internet. ;)   After this trip, I can now confidently say that I’m glad we don’t have it.

It’s not that we don’t consume our share of media as a family.  We have our TV connected to a computer so we can watch shows online.  We are able to catch episodes of some of the more popular shows on Hulu.com.  Hulu also offers a variety of good family movies like Benji.   When watching online, we are able to save less age-appropriate shows for after the kids are asleep.  Most popular kids shows are not available (legally) on the Internet, so we don’t generally see them.  Both our cabin and our hotel room had cable or satellite.  We watched a few cartoons, more out of novelty than anything.

I was more annoyed than offended by what I saw.  Most of it came across painfully stupid while at the same time preachy and didactic.  I can’t remember seeing one adult character that wasn’t portrayed as stupid or clueless or cruel.   And there were ads–wow, were there ads!  Online, we see one ad (or at most two) every ten minutes or so.  Most of these sell household products or grocery items.  Nearly all of the ads shown during cartoons bombarded kids with yet another piece of plastic crap that they need.  A Barbie with a built in video camera?  Really?  I’d almost rather they watch adult shows.  “Inappropriate” humor is usually disguised so kids don’t understand it.  Materialism, on the other hand, reaches up and slaps them in the face.

Could we have just turned it off?  Absolutely.  Should we have?  Probably.  Sometimes you just can’t look away.  Thankfully, we don’t usually have to make that choice.

Back Home in Indiana

Monday, September 27th, 2010

We are back home in Indiana today.  The kids did fairly well with most of the trip home.  We split it over two days. If I had to do over again, I would have paid Hotwire for cancellation insurance and driven it in one day.  Oh well, live and learn.

As Mandi posted yesterday, today is our 7th wedding anniversary and the 8th since our first date.  On some days it seems like 27 years and others it seems like yesterday.  As she wrote our marriage is truly a partnership.  I agree with what she wrote.  I won’t repeat it here.

In our annual tradition, we ate at Applebee’s (where we had our first date).  Vacations are nice, but it is good to be home.  Levi will be starting preschool officially next week.  We will post his progress and interesting tidbits of family life.

Its good to be home.

A True Partnership

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

In just about half an hour, Nate and I will have been married for seven years, and together for eight.  I remember waiting anxiously in front of Applebee’s to meet some guy I’d talked to online.  He never arrived.  As it turns out, he had a different idea about which entrance was the “front.”  Fortunately, I decided to check the side entrance (which he still believes is the front).  Despite his refusal to see reason (haha!), we grew into best friends and beyond, and a year later, became husband and wife.  The rest is history.

Just like on that first date, we often see things differently.  In fact, as I sit here and listen to him snore, I wonder if arguing isn’t a hobby for us.  However, our disagreements tend to be over petty things.  Where it truly matters, we could scarcely be more in sync.  To us, marriage is not just about us as a couple, but about the whole family.  We do need some time to ourselves, and we take it when it is reasonable to do so, but the needs of the family come first.

I am thankful to have found someone who puts family first and will defend us at all costs.  Romance and passion are important, and we have a little of those, but that’s not what I appreciate most about our marriage.  We have something rare and invaluable–a true partnership.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Still on the Road and Horsing Around

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Daddy leading a pony with Levi riding

The family is still in Tennessee.  We took the boys for pony rides way out in the country.

We visited the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm & Exotic Petting Zoo near Sevierville, TN.  It is a nice horse farm and petting zoo.  It’s about 15 minutes from Pigeon Forge.

It was nice and cool day today here in Tennessee.  I led both boys for a pony ride.  Isaac didn’t like it and we took only one walk around the circle.  He wanted down half way through the track and wouldn’t hold on.

I took Levi next on the “big pony” as he called it.  Levi was a little scared at first, but after he petted the pony he really enjoyed himself.

This is our last night in Tennessee.  It’s been fun.  I look forward to returning home and back to normal.

An Uphill Climb

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The kids and me at the observation tower at Clingman's Dome

Today we hiked up a half mile trail which rose 330 feet over its length.  On the way up we received looks of sympathy (and possibly some disapproving glances from people who thought we were cruel for making our children walk all the way up there).  We carried all three of them for at least part of the way.  It was hard work, but at the top we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Great Smoky Mountains from 6643 feet above sea level.

Levi’s misunderstanding of scale was endearing.  When we told him we’d be climbing a mountain, he set his sights on a twenty-foot tall pile of boulders near the trail head, which he thought was the mountain.  It took some encouragement to get him to walk up the trail.  I don’t think he ever fully understood that what we were walking on was the mountain.  How time and age change our perspectives on the world.

I’m glad we followed through and made the climb.  The effort was definitely worth it.  For me, it’s helpful to see parenting from the same perspective.  Did we really want to take three small children on what was supposed to have been a romantic getaway?  Not really.  Sometimes we make decisions in interest of the whole family, and we have to put in a little extra effort or endure a bit of inconvenience  as a result.  Sometimes, like during today’s climb, we can’t see our destination and wonder if it’s worth it.  We just keep on climbing, knowing that one day we will get to the top.  When we get there, the challenges we face now will seem small in perspective.  And the reward?  Immeasurable.

Taking It on the Road – Gatlinburg, TN

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The boys playing with the pool table

Greetings y’all.  We are in a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  This is will be a short post after the long drive.  We are taking a family vacation for a few days.

Along the drive was plenty of interesting scenery.  All three kids enjoyed looking out the window at mountains, signs and other interesting things along the way.  We do not have rear DVD players or a lot of toys.  The boys didn’t care.  They slept some of the time and looked out the window other times while they talked about what they were looking at out the windows.

This is our first family vacation outside of our home state of Indiana.  So far the kids are having fun and learning about nature and reading signs.