Archive for October, 2010

Field Trip!

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

The boys pet goats at one orchard's petting zoo.

I love the spontaneity afforded by homeschooling.  I also love that Nate is restarting his business and is able to schedule some Fridays free.  Today we took a trip to two apple orchards (our little “orchard” won’t be producing apples for a few years).  The first offered a restaurant and a free petting zoo, but the apples weren’t within our price range.  We traveled about 10 minutes to another orchard where we found affordably-priced apples and a pumpkin patch.  We didn’t discuss the complex agricultural concepts of apple growing with our preschoolers.  However, the kids did learn an important economic lesson–one that we sometimes take for granted–by seeing where our food comes from.  They were able to look at and touch live animals, experiencing biology firsthand.  They also enjoyed the sun, fresh air, and exercise.  What better physical education is there?  Of course the drive gave us time to listen to some Greek songs on CD.  This is learning at its finest.

The World that Works vs. The World that Fails

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I was reading an article on the HSLDA site in response to an article written by a Pastor Tom Stein.  I encourage you to read both of them for yourself.  I am reminded of a speech given by Newt Gingrich a few years ago about the world that works and the world that fails.

One particular statement from the Stein article that troubled me is “So I ask: is it in the interests of the state, to keep an eye on [homeschooling]? I say yes.”

To this I say NO!  I have read both the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution.  The U.S. Constitution says nothing about this. Only Article 8 of the Indiana Constitution mentions “by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”  If you read Article 8 it pertains to the availability of Public Schools to all without charge and directs the funds to be used “profitably.”  I am not taking issue with this.  I question whether the average student or taxpayer is profiting much from them.

I take issue that any state has a “right” to make parents answer to the state for the education of their own offspring.  Really?  Homeschoolers on average rate at or above the 85% percentile on standardized testing, exceeding even privately schooled students.  Is there anywhere in life (except government) that those who are failing (public school system) tells those who are succeeding how to succeed?  That would be comparable to a homeless crackhead trying to tell Mark Zuckerburg or Bill Gates on how to make a billion dollars.  Does this even make sense?  I think not.

He tries to point out neglectful parents who homeschool.  Funny, I didn’t see any real examples of that.  It seems easier to me to send kids to school on the yellow cheese wagon as we used to call it.  Could there be parents not educating their kids?  Possibly, but even unschooling demonstrates that children are naturally curious and learn much on their own.

He points out that the public schools are trying to classify students as homeschoolers to fix dropout rates.  So we trust those to regulate homeschoolers that are trying to hide their own failures by artificially padding their graduation numbers and declaring “dropouts” as homeschoolers?

Pastor Stein further writes:

“As with many issues these days, we tend to run to the extremes.  One side might say, “Do not touch my home-schooling!” The other side might say, “Just outlaw it!”"

Pastor Stein, in closing, makes a false attempt at moderation.  He makes a point of wanting “reasonable” regulations.  Others want to outlaw it.  Both ignorantly trample the rights of parents to educate their children without the strong-arm of State telling them how to do it.  This has been the Hoosier way for over thirty years, via law and case precedent: the Department of Education is not neutral and only the courts have the power to determine if a child is not receiving an “equal” education.  I believe this is wise and works.

I say to Mr. Stein, if you want to improve education, you should focus on the public schools that serve 90% of the population and leave the 10% of us private schoolers alone.  Our track record as a group speaks for itself.

Coolest Manipulatives Ever!

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I’m not a huge fan of licensed characters.  I don’t forbid the kids from watching cartoon movies and shows, but I won’t be decking out their entire rooms with a character or buying all of the accompanying toys.  Still, when I saw Toy Story KerPlunk! on sale for $4.25, I thought it would make a good investment.  KerPlunk! (the classic game or otherwise) provides opportunities to practice early math skills like matching and counting.  The concept is pretty simple: you poke 30 little sticks through a canister (in this case, a rocket) and pour in marbles (or aliens) on top of that.  Then, you role a die with colored sides.  Whatever color you roll, you remove one stick of the same color.  If any aliens fall out when you remove your stick, you keep them.  Whoever ends up with the fewest aliens wins.

The boys weren’t into the traditional rules.  They preferred to shake the daylights out of the rocket until all of the aliens fell out.  That was OK.  We still counted the aliens, which are pretty cool manipulatives if you ask me.  The space theme would make a great tie-in for some science activities.  As a bonus, we got to do some subtraction to figure out just how many of the little guys had gone missing (11, as it turns out).

Levi was pretty excited to “do school” today.  He chose a shirt and “tie” for the occasion.  He wouldn’t let me tuck the top of the tie (or mismatched old sock) into his collar, so he was forced to hold it up to his neck.  When he tired of that, he discarded it on the table.  This explains the stray sock in the picture.

Isaac and Learning

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Isaac having water while learning to count

Although Levi is the student that is going through preschool, it seems  that Isaac is enjoying some of the lessons.  We put some counting audio and videos on the TV to get used to numbers and counting.

Isaac surprisingly was following along with the counting.  He also enjoyed the bedtime stories Mandi read with him and Levi.  The real surprise was when he started repeating back the Greek “alphabeta” and the sounds of each letter without any prompting.  Although he is not “in school,” he is learning much along with his older brother.

We try to make learning fun and enjoyable.  It is amazing what children simply pickup without any prompting.  I am enjoying both of our boys as they are learning new things everyday.

The Write Start

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Today’s first “official” day of homeschooling cemented in my mind that Levi is not ready for a classroom.  He spent a couple of hours on self-directed Starfall while I worked.  He looked through some of their Greek myth e-books, including the Minotaur and King Midas.  I’m not sure how much he actually read, but he did pick out words here and there, and had the computer pronounce others.  I also printed him out a few pages of dashed letter As (capital and lowercase) to trace.  He copied the letters in the blank spaces, but he didn’t trace the dashed ones (Isaac did trace some of them).  Instead, he colored them in.  I attempted to model the tracing and even guide his hand, but he wasn’t having any of it.  Later, when getting dressed for bed, I noticed that he had written a very convincing E, I, and O on his thigh in ink pen.  Go figure. As with most things, he seems to want to do it his own way, and that’s OK.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew how to write all of the capital letters (albeit, not “correctly”).  I have seen a few, and he generally knows more than he lets on.   If tracing isn’t for him, we can try simple copywork instead.  I have to keep in mind that he is still very young, and that he may not be ready for much instruction at all.  We can put it away for a few days (or weeks) and try again with another approach.  Thank goodness we have that flexibility.

We Have a Plan

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Mandi and I discussed how we are going to begin preschool (K4) beginning tomorrow.  We have developed a basic schedule what days we teach the main subjects.

The time spent on each item may take about 15 – 30 minutes per day.

Each week we plan to do:

  • Two days of formal math.
  • Everyday of about 15 minutes of fun reading and contextual math.
  • Two days of handwriting.
  • Two days of working in a reading primer (directed Starfall and accompanying activities).
  • One day of Latin or Greek vocabulary and writing.

Optional subjects.  Not necessarily done every week.

  • One day of informal history.  Coloring books or movie, etc..
  • One day of hands on science.

This translates into 5 – 10 hours a week over 5 days.  Some weeks will have more hours than others.  We will post our progress and changes as time goes by.

Making Ends Meet

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Here I am nursing while making a secondary income!

Most homeschooling families have only one parent who works outside the home. I’ve had friends express how they’d love to stay at home with their kids but can’t afford it. We worried about this, too, but we’ve found that each time we take a risk in the interest of our family, we’ve come out ahead–even financially.

Part of our gain comes from simple lifestyle changes. We don’t pay for TV, I cut everyone’s hair, and our clothes come from Goodwill and rummage sales. Sure, the first time I attempted a cut, Nate came out looking like he’d been attacked with a weed whacker, but overall, it doesn’t feel much like a sacrifice to me. Like I expressed before, I almost prefer online TV, and thrifting has always been a hobby.

Another way we’ve found to supplement our income is my working at home. If you look in the right places, there are numerous opportunities available. I have dabbled in several and have had the most success with two in particular. My regular part-time job is with Lionbridge Technologies. Although I am not at liberty to discuss details of the position, I will say that it’s interesting work and that I am fairly compensated.  If you want to learn more, I encourage you to apply for any of the positions listed on their careers page. Occasionally, I also write freelance articles for Demand Media Studios. Compensation varies by article, and if you’re a quicker writer than I, you could potentially earn $15-25 per hour. I’d like to move into more serious freelancing gigs in the future, but Demand is a decent supplement for now.

If you’d like to work from home, but neither of these are your cup of tea, there are plenty of other legitimate work at home opportunities available in transcription, customer service, and more.  The best source of information is often others who work at home.  You can network with them on message boards such as or Work Place Like Home.

Homeschooling can make household finances a more challenging to juggle, but with a little budgeting and a little more creativity, you will find a way to make it work.

A Rendezvous With Destiny

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Levi running up a mountain trail

Levi wasn’t certain about climbing a mountain or even what exactly was the mountain.   Once he got going he did start to enjoy the walk or run.  It was work, but the reward made the climb worth it.

As I said in my first article, the time is soon at hand that Levi will “officially” start preschool or as Well Trained Mind calls it, K4.  This means a little more “systematic” teaching and taking attendance.  Although technically attendance is not required until he is 7 years old, we will keep those records starting Monday.

We have been reviewing various curricula covering language and math.  The boys seem to taken well to most of the items we have reviewed with them.  The spreadsheets are ready to track educational progress and attendance.  We still have some work to do on age appropriate ancient history resources, but we will get those in order soon enough.

I believe we are prepared for this endeavor with our children.  As Ronald Reagan said, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.”  And so we do, together, as a family.