Better the Library than the Bookstore!

It has probably become evident by now that I have a small “problem” with books.  I love books.  I love reading for pleasure, I love reading to my children, I love seeing them read, I love discussing books I’ve read with other people…you get the idea.

I really prefer buying books.  I love having a nice, organized bookshelf full of my favorites, books I want to come back to again and again, books that make excellent reference material, that sort of thing.  Actually, our bookshelves are quite overflowing (Ryan likes books as much as I do, which is kind of disastrous!) and we have boxes of books in the basement.

My view towards books for school is no different.  I really would rather buy the stuff we’ll be reading.  That’s not really totally feasible, however, especially if we want to, I don’t know, continue buying groceries and paying the mortgage.  So, apart from our curriculum books, which I of course buy, I try to limit my purchases to certain types of books.  Books I know we’ll read over and over (the Ramona series, for example), books we’ll need over an extended period of time, special holiday books that may be hard to find at the library around said holiday.

Of course, even with those limitations, we own a lot of school books.  But, frequent trips to the library are also part of school.  Today, I needed to get the next Henry Huggins book, as we’ve finished the first three in the series.  This particular series will eventually be part of our permanent collection because it’s so fantastic, but as two of the books are part of future Sonlight cores, I’ll wait to buy the remaining books until we reach those grade levels.

So, in I went to get Henry and the Paper Route.  I found it right away, as I’ve become quite familiar with where the Henry books reside in the library.  After I found it, I looked around for a bit.  I left the library about 10 minutes later, not with the one book I had gone in for, but with eight!

I hate to think what my receipt would have looked like had I gone into Borders or Barnes and Noble, or even ordered from Amazon, and purchased eight books instead of one.  I’m sure I would fall prey to the impulse buy just as much as the impulse borrow, although I try to be more restrained with the credit card than I am with the library card.  I’m very thankful our area has a good library system to spare me some of the cost of my book habit!

A New Plan

I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me earlier. To be honest, and to my shame, it wasn’t even my idea–it was Ryan who came up with it.

When we started kindergarten last year, we began with Sonlight’s P 4/5 Core, but added Core K’s Language Arts and Readers.  The 4/5 stuff was just too easy–learning letters and their sounds and such, which Turkey and Bunny already knew.  Core K LA was a good fit, because it reviews letter sounds, and starts with reading simple, three letter words. And that was great for us when we started, because, even though they knew all the letter sounds, it took them some time to figure out how to turn that into words.

But for a few months now, Turkey and Bunny have been reading three letter words with ease, and have been venturing out into five and six letter words when they can.  So, in planning my curriculum for next year, I realized that the Core 1 LA and Readers may not provide enough of a challenge for them to last the whole year, but, they’re not something I can really skip, either.

So, Ryan had a great plan.  I’m going to order the LA and Readers from Core 1 next week, and in the meantime, I’m going to finish the Core K stuff by doing two letters a week instead of one.  This way, we’ll start the Core 1 stuff before we’re done with our kindergarten year, and if we accelerate the pace of that, too, we’ll finish them early into 1st grade, and be able to start on (and hopefully finish) the Core 2 LA and Readers by the end of 1st grade.

It seems like such an easy plan, now–if only I had thought of it before, we’d be well into the Core 1 readers by now!

School Update

I haven’t posted much about our homeschool lately, mostly because I’ve been really busy (can you imagine that?!?), but we’re still plugging away and learning a lot (even Mommy!).

In February, we had a field trip to our local fire station.  Turkey asked a great question there about the new rescue boat they had, and he, Bunny and Moose got to sit in a fire truck (we don’t trust Ladybug in a truck with that much power!).  Even as an adult, I’m amazed at how huge a fire truck is (especially the ladder truck) when you get up close to it, because you usually don’t get such a good view, and the children were just blown away by the size.  The firemen were very friendly, and they even had cookies and coloring books–we’re still using the latter in school to discuss fire safety.

We had a fun Valentine’s week, decorating a cardboard mailbox for all of our cards, making Valentines for the people in our family, stringing beads for hearts with daddy, and my personal favorite, making pink and red construction paper “Valen-swines” (just use your imagination–they were super cute!).  We also read some cute books–The Night Before Valentine’s Day, written in the same style as The Night Before Christmas, and Clifford’s Valentines.

The day before Ash Wednesday, we prepared for Lent by making Alleluia banners from construction paper, and decorating them with crayons and glitter.  We then put them away until Easter, when we can hang them up and proclaim “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”  We tried foods from two different cultures that day as well, trying “packzi” in the morning (like a jelly filled donut, but richer, if you haven’t hear of them), and jambalaya for dinner that night.

February also brought our 100th day of school, which was a lot of fun!  We counted to 100, by ones, fives, and tens, we looked at 100 of different items (legos, pretzels, M&Ms, and Q-tips), and we had a special “100 cake” after dinner that night.  More proof that counting is fun!

March has been pretty quiet so far–we had some fun on St. Patrick’s day coloring shamrocks and doing mazes to help a Leprechaun find his gold, but we’re on “spring break” this week, so we didn’t do a big craft.  We are making coffee filter flowers for the first day of spring tomorrow, so that will be fun.

On a more serious note, fun holidays, trips, and craft projects aside, the actual “schooling” is coming along really well.  Their recall for Bible stories (as well as other stories) is amazing, Turkey’s printing is almost better than mine, and they’re both reading more and more…nothing is safe!  All of the sudden, they’re reading signs when we’re in the car. words in the TV Guide, more of their own books.  Adding and subtracting are being understood more and more, and counting is easy as can be.  I can’t believe how quickly and easily they learn, and how much they enjoy school!

I have some fun things planned for Easter, and I just got a new game to use in school–Sequence States and Capitals.  We haven’t played it yet, but I think it will be very helpful in learning what each state looks like, and the names of each state and capital.  More to come on that, I’m sure, after we’ve had some opportunities to play it.

Getting Ready

I have now purchased all of my “need” items for our homeschool (I, of course, still have a list of “want” items a mile long, but I’m taking it one thing at a time!). Most of it I have in hand–I’ve been to the parent-teacher supply, and gotten a calendar and an alphabet line (and a fantastically loud, old-fashioned school bell, to ring at the beginning of our school day–not a need, I know, but I just had visions of taking a bell in hand every morning, and since they had one, I couldn’t pass it up!). I got our basic supplies from Target and Wal-Mart–everything ranging from an extra bookcase to safety scissors to finger paints. I’ve placed three (I think) orders from Amazon, and have all but one–I’ve received all of the Little House on Rocky Ridge chapter books already (and my very own copy of The Well Trained Mind, which I can’t wait to take a highlighter to!), and am just waiting on my classical music compilation and a new printer cartridge (so I can print the Olympics lesson stuff I found online). Ryan picked up my CPH stuff for me, so now I’m just waiting on my Sonlight order (which may arrive as early as tomorrow–woo-hoo!) so I can really delve into my materials and get organized!

Speaking of getting organized, I’m planning on using my evenings next week to set up the school room (also known as the guest bedroom, but I think I can make it work for both). I have to set up the new bookcase (which has a great, no-tools assembly–thank you Target!), and get all the books and CDs organized between the two bookcases we’ll have in there–I’m thinking of using one for core materials and school supplies (I got a nifty little storage box for crayons, glue, scissors and such, which conveniently fits perfectly on the bookshelf), and one for “fun” books and CDs (but aren’t they all fun?!? I love books!). I have to hang up the clock I got (and it would help to remember to put the battery in first, I’m guessing–better put that on the to-do list, too) as well as the calendar and alphabet line. What else? Hmmm–need to drag up the card table and chairs, as that will be Turkey and Bunny’s desk, at least for this year. Also need to move the bed and changing table into their new locations, and set up the surge protector so that it’s in the right place for the lamp, CD player and phone. I think that’s all…but I’m probably forgetting something! Anyway, I’m really looking forward to getting it all set up, and if I’m feeling really ambitious, maybe I’ll post a photo of it when I’m done (read: maybe I can get my kind husband to do it for me, since I don’t know how!)

Book Review: “The Well Trained-Mind”

It’s going to sound cliche, but this book changed my life. Seriously. It was the reading of The Well-Trained Mind (and I’ll be honest, I didn’t even finish it before I had to return it to the library!) that really pushed us over the edge into homeschooling. It was my husband even more than myself that this book really impressed, and it made us look at the public school system in a new, and frankly rather unflattering, way.

This book was written by the mother-daughter duo of Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Between the two of them, they have experience teaching in public schools, colleges and homeschools, as well as advanced degrees and have even authored a history curriculum written in the classical method and geared toward early elementary school students.

The Well-Trained Mind focuses on providing children with a classical education in the home. The basis of this method of instruction is the trivium–three sequential learning stages which are grammar, logic and rhetoric. What makes this book so fantastic are the extensive suggestions for resources for every part of the curriculum–from history and handwriting to Language Arts and Latin; from math and music to Social Studies and science, and everything in between. It is split up into stages of learning, and from there split into subjects. An enterprising parent could put together an entire curriculum based on the recommendations given! While I’m not that ambitious, I have noticed that Sonlight uses and/or offers many of the books listed in The Well-Trained Mind, and I also plan to supplement the curriculum we’ll be purchasing from that company with a few additional recommendations from this book.

The end of the book is also extremely helpful. The authors cover things such as making schedules (daily, as well as how to structure the school year, with a focus on year-round schooling in three different models), keeping records, standardized tests, tutoring and preparing for college. Basically, there are over 700 pages of awesome contained in this book. It was recommended to me by other homeschoolers when I was just considering homeschooling, and I will concur that anyone who thinks they might want to try homeschool should read this book, because it is a valuable resource.

This book deserves more than five stars as far as I’m concerned. I will be ordering a copy for my personal use from Amazon as soon as possible, and I can’t wait to sit down with it and a highlighter, and mark all the books we definitely will be reading, as well as others I would like to add to our studies. I think this will become one of my most useful homeschooling resources, and I plan on using the suggestions in it to help me educate my children for many years to come!

I Have a Plan!

So, after spending the last several weeks going through homeschooling catalogs and websites of all kinds, as well as talking to people online, I think I have a plan for this year!

We’re going to start with Sonlight K, but not the newcomer package, because I decided to use A Reason for Handwriting instead of Handwriting Without Tears, which is what comes with the newcomer set. (And how much does all this agonizing I’ve done over handwriting curriculum even matter? Everybody is typing nowadays. But they still need to learn to write properly!) I realize that most people who have tried Handwriting Without Tears have loved it, but I really prefer the more traditional look that is taught in A Reason for Handwriting, and I also like that the practice is done with Bible verses (even it is selections from the Living Bible. *sigh* I’ll have to see how the lessons are presented, and how easy it would be to substitute with the ESV). So, my big challenge is going to be making sure I order everything else that would have come in the newcomer package, just switching out the handwriting materials, and also adding Ready, Set, Go for the Code for additional learning to read help.

I know some people would probably recommend starting with the P 4/5 curriculum, since I’m going to be working with a four and five year old. But I’ve been over both the K and the P 4/5 materials many times, and I really think they would both be bored with the 4/5 stuff. I don’t want to sound like the typical bragging parent, but both of my older children are pretty advanced, which was partly the reason we decided to homeschool, so they could be more challenged, and I think they know most of the stuff from the 4/5 curriculum. I guess at worst we end up stretching out or repeating the K curriculum, but I really don’t think it’s going to be an issue.

As long as homeschooling goes well this year, and I feel comfortable with what I’m doing, I may look into switching out other parts of the curriculum. Not the core, obviously, because that’s the best part of Sonlight–all of the reading, and the natural learning method as far as history, geography, etc., goes. In the future, though, especially if I actually get to a curriculum fair, I think I may want to try Apologia for science (maybe starting at grade two, so I can do the astronomy, botany, and three zoology texts before general science hits in seventh grade), because I always loved science in grade school (and high school and college for that matter, except for physics, but that’s a whole other story!) and the Apologia curriculum looks really cool!

I’m also hoping to get a chance to compare Saxon math to the Horizons curriculum that Sonlight recommends, because I know it’s a tried and true method, and a lot of homeschoolers use it, so I figure I should at least check it out. Hopefully I can make that decision before we start grade one next year–that way I won’t end up doubling up on manipulatives sets (I know I could put together my own, but that idea is still intimidating to a new homeschooler like me!).

Eventually I know I’m going to want to move away from the religion that Sonlight provides, as well. I’m already adding the Lutheran Children’s ESV to our materials for this year, to beef up the Bible curriculum that they provide, and maybe some Arch books, too. I’m OK with Sonlight’s offerings (supplemented by CPH material) up through about grade two or three, but then they A.) start using Bible translations I’m not fond of, and 2.) start teaching some stuff that could be contradictory to Lutheran theology, at least from what I can tell so far. I can always fall back on CPH’s dayschool religion curriculum or *gasp* prepare my own–I was a DCE before children, after all, so if there’s anything I should be able to create on my own, that would be it!

The reading, read-alouds and Language Arts all look good to me, so no worries about replacing those. The electives look pretty good, too–certainly more about music and art appreciation than I ever learned in the early elementary years. And while I’m not using Sonlight’s number one recommendation for handwriting, and I may decide on different math and science, all of those materials are still available to order through Sonlight (and I think still eligible for the member discount), so except for the religion materials, it appears I can keep all of my business in one place. Very convenient!

I’m most excited about Sonlight’s core, though–I can’t believe how much we’ll be reading! I think I’ve looked at the book lists for almost every grade, and there are so many familiar books from my childhood that I can’t wait to share with my children. And I love the way they use “real” books to teach history, instead of just dry textbooks. I know I remember much more from the stories I read as a child, whether they were true, or just entertaining fiction, than I do from any textbook I read. I know this isn’t the only way of learning, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me, so I’m especially happy Sonlight has put together such a nice curriculum for me–I wouldn’t even know where to start doing this on my own!

I can’t believe we’ve actually made the decision to homeschool. I certainly never saw myself as a homeschooling parent. Then again, our family has always been a little unorthodox, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that this seems to be such a good fit for us–we’re good at going against the grain! I’m especially grateful to my husband, because he was obviously listening to me, (at times when I didn’t even realize I was talking!), and was open minded enough not only to consider this, but to actually do a complete 180 on his opinions on homeschooling. I never even would have seriously considered homeschooling without his support, but I feel that with God calling me to do this, and Ryan’s encouragement, I’ve been set free to do something I always wanted to do, without even really knowing it at the time.

My Favorite Things–Books

I own a lot of books. A whole lot. And my taste in books is pretty varied. I will admit that most of what I read is Christian fiction (primarily Biblical), but I also have a lot of other genres on the shelf. I thought I’d share a list of my very favorite titles from my bookshelves, in case anyone is looking for some new summer reading.

Anything by Francine Rivers, but my favorite two are And the Shofar Blew and The Atonement Child

The Lowlands of Scotland series by Liz Curtis Higgs (the second book, Fair is the Rose, is one of the most heart-wrenching tales I’ve ever read!)

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

And, the authorized sequel, Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley

A Skeleton in God’s Closet by Paul Maier

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (a favorite from my childhood that I still pick up from time to time!)

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls (I’m enjoying sharing these with my children.)

Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer

Katharina Von Bora by Rudolf Markwald and Marilynn Morris Markwald

The Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella (embarrassing to admit, yes, but I do enjoy some chick lit from time to time.)

Sisters, Ink by Rebecca Seitz (combining my two favorite hobbies, reading and scrapbooking, and actually doing a good with both!)

Dress Your Best by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly (what can I say? I loved What Not to Wear back when we had cable)

Magdalene by Angela Elwell Hunt

The Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson (more books from my childhood that I can’t put down)

Captivating by John Eldredge (I think all daddies of daughters should be required to read this!)

Right from the Start by Shirley K. Morenthaler

Antiques by Sharon Gillenwater (her other Texas books are also good, but this one is my favorite)

Women of the Bible by Ann Spangler (this is supposed to be a daily devotional, but when I first got it, I sat down and read the whole thing straight through. Not sure the theology is always 100%, but it’s really interesting.)

The Millennium trilogy by Judith Reeves-Stevens and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (When I was reading these books, I felt like I was watching a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine movie. Extremely well done, keeping the characters true to themselves.)

Haddasah: One Night with the King by Tommy Tenney

The Potluck Club series by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson


I never thought I’d be the type of parent to consider homeschooling. I’ve never had a problem with it, it’s fine for other families, just figured it was something that wouldn’t really work out for us. Ever since we registered our oldest for Kindergarten, though, I’ve felt this growing sense of trepidation. Not about him leaving me (although I’ve thought about the tears I will shed that first day of school!), but about what kind of things he’ll learn at school. And not just picking up stuff from the other children that I’d rather he not be exposed to. I’m worried about the stuff he would actually be taught.

First of all, I really don’t want my children being taught evolution. I don’t mind them knowing the theory is out there, but I don’t want them learning it as truth. I 100% believe in Creationism, and I fully intend to teach that to my children. But if the school system isn’t on board with that, I’m going to spend time that would be better used elsewhere trying to undo their teachings. And evolution will trickle down into other subjects besides science. Things like history and biology will also be affected.

Then there are “family life” units that I really have a heavy heart about. I feel that it is my responsibility to teach my children what a family is, based on the Biblical perspective. Again, I don’t want a public school curriculum mucking up what I’m trying to instill at home.

Sex ed is another concern along those lines. I really don’t think the school system needs to be teaching that. Now, I realize that schools teach it because so many parents are hesitant to, but I’m not other parents, and I want my children learning those things from their parents, not from people who may have very different ideas from me as to what is appropriate sexuality.

The general teaching of morality is also a concern in the public system. Again, I want to instill morals in my children, morals which are all traced back to my faith. I don’t need a school system to do that for me.

I don’t how many of these things are a concern right now where I live. But I have heard horror stories from school districts around the country, and I know it’s only a matter of time before that kind of mentality seeps in everywhere. Public schools have changed so much, even from the time I was a child (although I didn’t attend one), so I know they will continue to change, and probably not for the better.

The really weird part about all of this, is that while I was going through all of these arguments with myself in my head, I was apparently also talking about them at home, without even realizing it. And now, all of the sudden, my husband, who has always been pretty opposed to homeschooling, is also thinking that this may be the best solution for our family, as long as we don’t have a Lutheran dayschool in our area and/or that we can afford. I’m really getting the feeling that maybe this is what God wants us to be doing, because we sure didn’t come up with this plan on our own!

Here’s the other thing–I want my children to continue to be who they are. They love drawing pictures of church, talking about church, talking about Jesus, reading Bible stories. On the one hand, I know my children could be a good witness to the Gospel because they are so outspoken with their child-like faith. On the other hand, I don’t want their faith to be crushed when they’re told that they can’t talk about those things in class, maybe can’t even draw pictures relating to their faith (I just read a news story addressing this very issue–something else that contributed to my heavy heart).

And the issue of holidays. For example, we don’t do Halloween at all. We’ll celebrate fall with a trip to the pumpkin patch, but we don’t carve those pumpkins. No dressing up (we can do that other days), no trick or treating (what a great idea–go beg food off of strangers on a threat, and overdo it on sugary snacks!), etc. Public schools (and some Christian schools, I know) make a big deal out of this day. Or, on the other hand, Christmas. Public schools can’t focus at all on the true meaning of Christmas–no hymns, no Christmas story, no baby Jesus. But the secular stuff–songs, Santa, presents–that they’ll over-emphasize. Well, we don’t do Santa either, and I’ve already spent the last five years trying to make sure that the focus of our celebration is Jesus; I’d really rather no have to undo all my efforts when teachers and classmates talk about Santa all the month of December. And the same kind of thing goes for Easter and the ridiculous story of the Easter bunny. Let’s face it, we’re the kind of family that is going to have angry parents beating our door down because our child told their child that Santa isn’t real. (And no, I would never tell my children to do that–I try to be very respectful of that tradition, even though I disagree with it, but my children can be honest to a fault!)

My children just love Jesus so much–I just want to continue to encourage that in them and help it grow, and I really think the best way I can do that is by choosing what they learn, what curriculum they use, and teach it to them myself. Who has their best interest at heart more than I do? And wouldn’t the one on one time I could give them be much better than being lost in a classroom full of students, all with differing needs? And, I can personalize the lessons to them–help them learn more about the things they’re really interested in, help them work on the stuff that gives them trouble.

I know it won’t be easy. Part of me was looking forward to the oldest two being in Kindergarten and Pre-K half days this fall–being able to run errands during the day with only two children in tow had it’s appeal. And it’s going to be expensive. The curriculum I’m looking at right now will run about $800 for the year–that’s about a quarter of what a Lutheran dayschool tuition would cost, but still a lot more than public school. But looking at the curriculum, I can’t help but be excited. Our faith can be present in all of the subjects, from reading to science, to the Bible lessons we’ll do daily. We’ll be able to look at things from a Creationism perspective, read Bible stories, learn about the true meaning of Christian (and maybe Jewish) holidays. When we do calendar in the morning, we can do both the date and look at the liturgical calendar. It’s so exciting to think of all the ways we’ll be able to include God in our daily lessons!

On the other hand, the curriculum I’m looking at also uses secular material, which I’m happy about. I don’t want to isolate my children from the outside world, I just want to filter it a bit. We’d read books I remember reading as a child, have regular language arts, math, etc. Eventually, they’d also be introduced to the theory of evolution, which is fine by me, but it would not be presented as the truth.

I think I could do this successfully (do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself?). I was an early childhood ed major at one point, and had I the wisdom in college that I do now as an adult (well, at least I have a little more wisdom now than I did then!) I would have stood up for myself and would probably have my teaching degree. Hindsight is 20/20, and I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself then, so I didn’t finish the education track, but as a DCE, I do still have some experience in that area. Teaching is not without it’s challenges, but I think that I am up to that challenge.

Despite my past reluctance, homeschooling is really beginning to look like a win-win situation (financial investments aside!). Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a decision for sure soon, and then I can start planning.