Friday, December 30, 2011

Homeschooling Blog Move

A couple of months ago I decided there was a need to have a separate blog for my homeschooling information.  I had been wanting to create a Word Press website for a while so it was the perfect opportunity for me to combine both of these into a new site.  You will see some of my older posts from this page on the new blog as well as a bunch of new information as well.

I'm keeping this blog up as a personal blog and place to share the funny and cute things that happen in our lives, but 99% of all homeschooling stuff will be on the other blog.  If you enjoy reading about our homeschooling journey or want to find out more information join us.  You never know what you might be missing out on.  My latest post is, "Why Do People Underestimate Children?".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Darci's Birth Scene

The day I was born I almost died. The doctor told my parents that he didn't know how I had survived, but it was certainly a miracle and the first one he had ever seen. My dad says angels were watching over me that day and that God had answered his prayers.

I was born a bluish-gray, the color of death, or so I've been told. At some point before birth the umbilical cord had wrapped around both my chest and my neck, so with each contraction the cord had squeezed around me tighter and tighter. Upon my blessed arrival when I should have been taking my first breaths, I was limp and lifeless. I remember my mother once told me how she held her breath and watched in disbelief as the doctor suctioned out my mouth and nose all the while demanding me to breathe. He then breathed into my tiny mouth and nose and gently shook me trying to stimulate life back into my body. I don't recall my mother ever making it past this part in telling the story. She would become quiet and I could tell she was trying not to think about it.

My dad, however, seems to enjoy telling the story. He goes into great detail about how the nurses scurried around me hooking up monitors while the doctor tried to get me to breathe. He says at one point the machines which had given a few soft beeps went eerily quiet and then the only sound in the room came from the doctor who would occasionally yell out, “Come-on, BREATHE!” while performing CPR. A long time passed without any change and my dad says he prayed over and over for me to live. Right about the time it seemed the doctor was giving up on CPR and was going to stop, my dad says that I took a deep breath. I then continued to breathe and within a few seconds my color began to look a little more healthy. He claims it was the happiest moment of his life.

Obviously I don't remember that day, but I'm sure there was an angel there with me. I keep hoping that one day I'll get to meet him or her. I'd like to ask them if they somehow gave me my gift or did they already know that I would be special? I have no doubt that my gift comes from God, but I'm curious if I was born with it or did an angel bring it to me on the day my life was saved. I guess it doesn't really matter though. Either way the outcome is the same, but that doesn't stop my questions from coming. Why do I have this gift? Why was I saved when other infants would have died at birth? How am I ever going to fit in with 'normal' people when I can't help but act differently?

This is an excerpt from a book I've been writing.  Comments welcome.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Red #40 and the Places it Hides

There are many, many articles available online about the food dye red #40 and it's effect on children.  It can cause major behavior problems, emotional upheaval, hyperactivity and cause normally happy children to act "possessed".  How do I know?  Because our 3 year old daughter is also one of these children who is effected by it.
Red #40 is a menace to our children and it can be found in the most unlikely of places.  Below is a list of the most bizarre places red # 40 can be found.  You'll notice I didn't list the obvious red/pink/purple things, but the food items that are white, golden, yellow, etc. may also contain red food dye so don't be misled!

Baked Goods:
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Pillsbury Supreme Frosting
-vanilla (yep! Check the label!)
Pillsbury Moist Supreme Cake Mix
Pillsbury Pie Crust
-Refrigerated Pie Crusts
Pillsbury Quick Bread & Coffee Cake Mix
-Cinnamon Swirl
Duncan Hines Deluxe Cake Mix
-Fudge Marble
Duncan Hines Homestyle Frosting
-vanilla (yep! Check the label!)

Trix Cereal
Eggo Waffles

Del Monte Fruit Salad
Yoplait-Trix Yogurt Snack Packs
Combos Pretzel Snacks
-Pizzeria Pretzel
-Most flavors
Little Debbie
-Fudge Brownies
-Swiss Cake Rolls
Smuckers Fat Free Topping

Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
Country Time Pink Lemonade
Crystal Light Pink Lemonade

Roughly 99% of the items below have red #40 in them:

lollipops and candy
cough syrups
liquid pain relievers/fever reducers

You can assume these items above have it unless it specifically says “dye-free”. Popsicles are easily made at home using various fruit juices. Annies brand organic fruit snacks use natural fruit and vegetable juices for color (check for these at Target, Publix and similar stores). Our latest find has been some awesome organic lollipops at the health food store. They're made by Yummy Earth, they taste great and are completely dye free.  Read the labels and make wise choices.  Your child will feel better and be healthier for it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Queen of the House

This was taken before her injuries.
Nap time together.
This was taken before her injuries.
Those who know even a little about me quickly realize I am an animal lover.  I've posted before about the number of farm cats we have (most are rescues).  This blog post is honor of our miracle cat, Paisley.  She's like a furry member of our family.  Or as our 3 yr old would say, "like a person in a cat suit."

When she was just ten months old she was hit by a car and sustained three broken legs.  After many hours of surgery, ten weeks of cage rest, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and a ton of prayers our sweet cat was eventually able to walk again.  It took another 4-6 months before she was able to run, climb and jump.  All of this was accomplished through the daily prayers of our young children, my husband's willingness to spend a whole LOT of money on a cat, my dedication to doing the physical therapy & hydrotherapy (it's true that cats really don't like water) and the dedication of the veterinarians at Bit & Spur Animal Hospital.  She not only survived, but has surpassed the veterinarians' highest hopes.  Though Paisley is left with a limp due to her right front leg being shorter than her other legs, it doesn't seem to bother her and it certainly doesn't keep her from jumping on dressers, or climbing around behind the entertainment center.

Just 2 weeks after surgery.
Paisley is now a little over two years old and is living the good life of being ruler of our house.  We love her and in exchange she brightens our days by getting in her favorite "dead cat" sleeping position right in the middle of a walkway so we have to step over her.  She sleeps where she chooses, in whatever position she chooses and brings great comedy to our family.
Best friends watching cartoons.

Her favorite way to sleep post-surgery.  I think she became so
accustomed to sleeping in odd positions due to the external
pins on her front leg that she just prefers this now.

Lying right in the middle of Luke's school work.

This cat truly sleeps where she wants, when she wants.  She was sound asleep in the pictures above until I disturbed her with the camera flash.  Far left she's in the bathroom sink, middle she's on top of my dresser and far right she's laying in a basket of clean laundry (note the paw lifted up to block the camera flash from her eyes).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Constantly Amazed by the Ignorance Around Us

Have you ever seen someone that doesn't seem to have ANY common sense at all?

In the news we hear about the people who think it's okay to leave their young child in the car alone while they run into the store, post office, etc. Typically one of three things happens: the car is stolen with the child in it, someone takes the child, or the child finds a way to get out and the mother drives off leaving the child behind unknowingly. What is wrong with these people? Sometimes drugs or alcohol are involved, but many times it's just a seemingly normal mom who thought it would be quicker to run into the store without the child.

Friday evening our family was in Sears Essentials and a little girl of around 4 or 5 years old was skipping and running up and down the toy isles.  What caught my attention was the fact that she was barefoot and completely ALONE.  Not an adult in sight anywhere.  I kept my eye on her for a while thinking her mom or dad would come from the next isle over any minute, but no one ever came looking for her.  The young girl just looked at a few toys here and there then ran to the next isle.  At one point she even ran around a few isles in the electronics department which was right beside the toys, then apparently realizing there were no toys over there she ran and skipped back to the toy department.  A good 7-8 minutes had gone by at this point with no adult supervision of this child.  We were ready to leave the toy section so I let one of the sales associates know about the young girl by herself.  As soon as we turned to walk off the mother of the girl came walking over from another part of the store.  I overheard her tell the sales associate she had been keeping an eye on the little girl.  Yeah right!  I had looked around many times hoping to find a parent watching her from a distance and saw no one.  The way the girl was running back and forth from one isle to the next there was no way anyone could have kept track of where she was without being right there.  I just shook my head and went on with our shopping.  A while later we walked near the toy section again and I noticed the same little barefoot girl was back, skipping up and down the isles by herself.  I don't think her mother had a clue in the world that leaving her young daughter alone like that was a danger.

Common sense is partially instinct, but the larger portion of common sense is learned. This means people need to be taught by their parents, grand parents, teachers and other mentors things like:

  • You cannot leave young children unattended ANYWHERE (car, home, front yard, etc.)
  • You cannot let an elementary age child play games on the internet without some supervision to make sure they are playing what they’re supposed to be playing and haven’t accidentally clicked to something that is not child friendly.
  • Children should not walk around in public areas barefoot (neither should adults for that manner). The floors in stores aren’t THAT clean, not to mention who lets their child walk barefoot through a parking lot to and from the car? Broken glass, sharp rocks and hot pavement are the first dangers that come to my mind though I’m sure there are others.
  • Put all trash in a trash can, don’t throw it out the window of your car or leave it in the parking lot. Adults who litter are teaching their children to litter. Children learn more by seeing and observing than they do by listening.
I could go on and on, but what’s the point? The people who NEED to read this the most are the ones who are least likely to read it (again the common sense thing). All I can say is we should try to be good mentors to others and by doing so hopefully we can help the next generation improve.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Going Against the Grain

As parents we always try to do what is best for our children. We give them healthy foods, constantly watch over their safety and teach them what they need to know at appropriate times. What do you do with a child whose birthday falls after that dreaded "September 1st" mark which deems them to wait another year before starting Kindergarten? Do you just go with the flow and wait another year? Experts tell us the first three years of a child's life are the most important. This is when they learn to walk, talk and socialize both verbally and through facial expressions. So if you are an assertive parent perhaps you taught your two year old her colors and then at three you taught her shapes and how to count to ten. When your child is four you teach her everything a typical preschool would teach; letters, the sounds they make, counting to 20, etc.

Getting back to the "after September 1st" birthday.... Now that you have prepared your four year old for Kindergarten, what exactly do you teach your child who is now turning five, but will have to wait another year to start Kindergarten? Do you continue on and teach them the basics for reading, counting to 100, and so on? Or do you give them the year off and just let them play and "be a kid" until they start Kindergarten the next year?

I personally believe that giving them the year off is a total waste of the super-powered learning skills that young kids have. Ask any expert and they will tell you the best age to learn a foreign language is age six and under. It's not that older children can't learn a foreign language, but it requires a bit more work. Obviously the average American isn't trying to teach their five year old a foreign language, but I feel it's important to continue teaching children in fun and engaging ways throughout the year (yes even during the summer). One of my favorite books on this subject is "Learning All the Time" by John Holt. I think this should be required reading for all parents and caregivers. Children have a true LOVE of learning as youngsters, but too often they lose this by the time they reach 8-9 years of age due to boredom and lack of being engaged (another topic for another day). If a child is ready to start Kindergarten at the age of four, they should be allowed to do Kindergarten level work, regardless if they are at home or at school. I know what many of you are thinking... What about social skills? Just because a four year old is academically ready to start Kindergarten doesn't mean she is emotionally and socially ready. Well, I agree with you, but what if the child was tested by two separate teachers and then allowed to participate for a day of Kindergarten before making the decision. Either the child has what it takes or she doesn't. (I'm using she throughout this simply because it's easier than saying "he or she".)

Now, to get to the real issue. Our three year old will be turning four this November. She already knows her colors in English (and many of them in Spanish as well). She can count to 15 in English (to 10 in Spanish), and she knows the alphabet and basic shapes. I have done very little formal education with her, yet she watches educational cartoons and participates when we play hide-and-seek in which we always count in Spanish (you should try it, it's fun!). The next logical thing for her to learn would be the sounds each letter makes and to count to 20. I have all of next year to teach her this (remember she will be turning four in Nov.), however once she's learned all of this the next stage is beginning to read. As a homeschooling parent I feel that the September 1st birth date deadline is simply a "suggestion" and not a firm line for every single child. I'm not saying that our child is exceptional, but what I am saying is that I refuse to just sit back and wait for our child to be old enough to start Kindergarten. I think education should always be based on ability, not on what everyone else is doing. If your child is ready to learn then by all means show them the way and make it fun. Education should never stop, not for our children and not for adults either.
This is just one of the many ways we play games and have FUN while learning.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Going With My Instincts and Against the Crowd

I base much of my parenting on instinct and what just "feels right". For me it really feels wrong to drop off one of my children with strangers. Yes, I know that everyone starts off being a stranger until you get to know them, but it's not just the teacher that is a stranger. It's the class full of children that are strangers as well. As a parent, why should I want my child to hang out with a group of children their same age for 7-8 hours a day, 180 days out of the year? Is it not better to allow shorter periods of socialization with a widely diverse group of people? I think so and research proves it is so.

The paragraphs below are from "Homeschooling Step-By-Step" by Lauramaery Gold & Joan M. Zielinski. In this part they are discussing the transitions involved when children start off in public school and then are home schooled.

"First, you and your children have become strangers while they were in public school. They were gone all day and were under the extended control of homework-assigning teachers all night. If your children were in school for a prolonged time, you may not even like one another all that much. Don't worry. This will pass. As you and your children learn again what it means to be a family unit--a group of people who actually live and eat and play and work and learn together --you'll soon find yourself enjoying their company, discovering their personalities, and learning to like them all over again.
Second, your children may not trust or like you. They've been 'sent away' to strangers where they were taught habits and beliefs and mannerisms that just don't sit well with mom and dad. It takes time and trust for them to unlearn bad habits, to learn to interact with adults and to appreciate your commitment to teaching them. Give it a chance. Those strong ties that existed when they were young are still there, and they'll spring back into place given sufficient love and nurturing."

Reading these paragraphs really breaks my heart. I do not want my children to become "strangers". I also cannot imagine missing out on so much, like watching their faces light up when they figure something out. As for homework, school teachers already have the children for 7 hours each day, why should they have to be burdened with even more school work at home? (I'll answer my own question here.) Because the students CAN'T learn everything in school. There are too many distractions and interruptions, not to mention an often overwhelming feeling of boredom or failure.

We all know there are good teachers and not so good teachers, but the truly GREAT teachers have a way of taking a child's least favorite subject and making it FUN! Yes, it is truly possible! I really wish more teachers would be enthusiastic about what they are teaching. Enthusiasm is catching and almost any subject can be turned into fun and interactive games with some effort. Re-arrange the desks into a circle or a few small squares. Instead of teaching AT children, ENGAGE them in the discussion and INVOLVE them in the educational process. Get out of the chairs and stand in small groups around the room to answer questions. The different ways to make a class more fun are boundless. It just takes enthusiasm and effort.

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on how the school system is not for us and why I've chosen the path I'm on. There is no way that a child can learn better in an environment surrounded by their peers than they can when surrounded in a loving, home environment. Numerous studies (do an online search to find them) have shown that home schooled children not only learn MORE, but they tend to have a love of learning that continues into adulthood. Plus it cannot be denied that the teacher- student ratio of 1:2 is better than any public school in the nation. :o)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Getting Organized and Keeping a Loose Schedule

I've been wanting to write this for a while now, but just now found the time. About six months ago I wrote about getting things ready for homeschooling first grade. Well we started homeschooling first grade back on May 25th and the children have been learning 4 days a week since then. (Side note: I firmly believe that children are learning all the time and learning doesn't stop for weekends and holidays, however we have what I like to call "official school days" 4 days a week during the summer.) So, now that I'm about 6 weeks into homeschooling I can tell we definitely need to be more organized in some areas.
I found this really cool storage box at a missions yard sale a few months ago. It was just too awesome to pass up and now I'm so glad I have it. I've organized our homeschooling materials in the slots by subject and since there are way more slots than subjects I've filled the others with supplemental magazines on art, science and geography. I've read online that most homeschooling families use a filing cabinet. Well this box is my "filing cabinet" and it doubles as a bench or play table in the kids room. I think it's a great use of space!
As for organizing a schedule, many homeschooling families have a strict schedule they follow. Example: 8am Science, 9am PE, 10am Math, 11am Science, and so on. We have a much looser schedule than this because I've found that life on a farm with young children will always bring daily surprises. We start our school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and Lord's Prayer then our first grader works on handwriting and spelling words while our 3yr old works on a page or two out of a preschool book. After about 20 minutes of this we go to another room and play some math games on the floor (counting/adding marbles, pattern blocks, addition bingo, telling time, etc.). The math games usually take up 30-45 minutes, but I never stop if we're all having fun. I don't think learning should be about watching the clock, it should be more about being in the moment and learning what is going on around us. After the math games we will either have indoor PE, music, or art depending on what day of the week it is. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how enthusiastic the kids are about what we're doing.
After our morning lessons we usually have a snack around 10:30 and then
play educational computer games (Jump Start, Math Blaster, Raz-Kids, etc.). This allows me to get some housework done or help them where they need it. Most of our Science and Bible lessons are after lunch. If we have a Science project to do I will read the lesson and let them follow along with me looking at the pictures then we will do the project later after quiet time. Quiet time is from 1:30-3:00 and the children can play quietly in their room, look at books, watch an educational (and calm) cartoon such as Signing Time, or play on their learning laptop (a kids computer with tons of games for ages 5-10).

Pretty much that's it. It's certainly not a "set in stone" schedule and occasionally things have to be shifted around for vet appointments, swimming, impromptu playdates, etc. It is summertime after all and as I said before, learning happens all the time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why Do People Sit There?

Lately we've been eating out more than usual. Not fancy restaurants, but just places like Zaxby's, Moe's, Waffle House, etc. What I don't understand is WHY do so many people eating by themselves sit at a booth that could hold 4 people instead of choosing a smaller table? Many times our family of four is left with trying to rearrange tables (if they are moveable) or pulling up extra chairs. Waffle House is the worst for seating, because they only have 4 booths that will sit a family of four. I can't tell you how many times I've been to Waffle House and had no where for us to sit other than at the bar stools (we have young children so this wouldn't work very well) or at a tiny booth intended for two people. Why do couples feel the need to sit at the larger booths? It shouldn't matter if it's Panera Bread or the local diner. If you are seating yourself choose a table that will appropriately seat you and your party but don't take up the extra space. Be courteous and leave the larger booths for those with more in their party. (Whew! That's the end of my rant.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Southern Girl or Something Different?

What defines a Southern Girl? Is it the food she prepares for her family? Is it the hospitality she shows her guests? Perhaps it's the clothes she dresses her children in. I hope it's none of these, because I only cook when I have no other choice. I'm a bit scatter-brained and not real into having formal guests (or unannounced guests either). As for dressing our daughter in the current style of monogrammed everything, pillow-case dresses, ruffled pants (or clown pants as I like to call them) I really would rather not unless I absolutely have to because someone gave the outfit to me. Why is it that everyone I know just adores these types of children's clothes?
Perhaps I'm just not Southern enough? I was born in Mobile and other than five years spent in Indiana as a preschooler (that I barely even remember) I've spent the rest of my almost 33 years here in South AL. Maybe I'm just Southern at heart, but not in my head. Is there even such a thing?
My idea of cooking a family meal is making tacos. When friends or family come over I might remember to offer them a drink if they are here long enough. I also expect them to tell me if they need something (I know, shame on me! I really was taught better!). As for dressing our children, they wear shorts and t-shirts. Yes, even our daughter (gasp!). Don't get me wrong, she has plenty of dresses that she wears to church and some play dresses too. Ninety percent of the time though she can be found wearing a t-shirt and shorts. As a little girl once myself, I find that dresses inhibit climbing and crawling. Plus there's that dreaded issue of 'you aren't supposed to do flips or hang upside down from the jungle gym wearing a dress. *sigh*
Parents, let your children play and get dirty. Let them spray each other with the water hose and splash in the mud puddles they create. Enjoy watching as they create mud pies or dig holes in the dirt with sticks. I have never understand why a parent would dress their child in a frilly white outfit and then send them to preschool where they are expected to do what...? PLAY! That's right... finger painting, running and climbing on the playground, falling in the dirt, etc. It all happens no matter what clothes a child has on, so be real and dress your children appropriate for the occasion. They aren't mini-adults (someone needs to tell the clothing designers this), nor are they dress-up dolls.
I know this blog is starting to sound like a rant (not my intentions) and I'm sorry if I've offended anyone. Perhaps I didn't play with dolls enough when I was a child. Maybe I'm just wired differently from all the other Southern moms that I'm around. I'm not sure what it is, but when I'm surrounded by a bunch of moms who love to do all these seemingly Southern things I feel a bit like an alien. Me feeling like I'm from a different planet is MY issue, not yours. Knowing the problem is the first step, right? I'm working on it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer School Begins

I had big plans for the start of our summer. I even had an official start date for when to start homeschooling again (June 14th). This start date would give us about three weeks of summer break. Everything began to change when just two days after Kindergarten graduation our son started asking for some first grade school work. At first I told him later because I was busy with housework and it was inconvenient. We had a field trip planned with some homeschooling friends later that same week and the morning of the field trip our son looks at me with excitement on his face and asks, "Is today the first day of 1st grade?" He had repeatedly been asking this question all week and his hopes were dashed each time I explained that this was his summer break. So this time I looked into his big blue eyes and replied, "Yes, today is the first day of first grade." Then I watched as he jumped in the air with enthusiasm and said, "Awesome! I always wanted to take a field trip on the first day of school, thank you Mommy!"
That was last Wednesday, May 25th, a far cry from my plan of June 14th. Since then our little first grader has been happily practicing his handwriting, learning spelling words, practicing his addition and subtraction, and reading "1st grade books" as he calls them. He is happy and loving every bit of it. I know his enthusiasm will wear off eventually, but it gives me a happy heart to see him smile and laugh as he learns.
This picture is from our field trip to the Weeks Bay Estuary, his first day of first grade. :o)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Language of Her Own

We've known for a while now that our little girl is quite unique. I mean, all children are unique in their own way, right? Well our three year old has created her own language. She knows English quite well, but enjoys making up new words for various everyday items and situations. Apples are "apps" and bananas are "banoonoos". She calls her bottom a "cat" (I have no idea why) and when she needs to go potty she says, she needs to go "I" (pronounced "eye"). There are many others, but these are the most common ones she uses daily.
In addition to all the new words and new uses for old words, she has trouble saying the r sound. Words like corn, horn and Lord come out sounding like "cone", "hone", and "Lowd". No wonder young children need a translator (typically mom or dad) so other people can understand them. Sometimes mom and dad need a translator too!