Saturday, July 7, 2018

Where did June (and the last two decades) go?!

June 2018 was jam packed for this homeschooling family. The many daily decisions and tasks accumulated into major milestones for us to acknowledge and celebrate. Acknowledging a college graduation was one of the big events.

Our oldest, graduated from college. Home schooled through high school, our "experimental child" graduated summa cum laude, with a B.S. in accounting, top 25 in his class, and with a start date to a real job in September. It is not really our accomplishment to claim as a family, but his as an individual student. And though it may not be our accomplishment to claim, it is a testament to family, dedication and to homeschooling. What we (our family & homeschooling families generally) can claim is that homeschooling works.

When I watched as our oldest son, our first homeschooling student, walked in the graduation procession, taking a sit among those young adults, all with the shared academic accomplishment of completing a college degree, my heart swelled with pride. Seeing him cross that stage, I finally and completely left my doubts about our choice to home school behind.

I have always loved homeschooling and have never regretted the decision for our family. The personal and family benefits have been so amazing, many and ongoing. However, I did often question my own ability to teach academic subjects and fell woefully short in some. I like other homeschooling parents, sometimes wondered if we were doing the right thing, or how prepared our kids would be for participation in the mainstream. Those doubts were frequently fed when they intersected with the unsolicited doubts and questions that came from others outside of our immediate family.

Graduating from a university, previously home schooled or not, is major life event for each and every one of those students crossing the stage, what they don't (nor should they, necessarily) realize, is the major life event it can be for their parents. For myself and my husband, after the years of early attachment parenting that led us into homeschooling; the wonderful days of extensive time together, learning, growing and exploring are changing dramatically. While each year has brought changes, I had no idea how wonderfully exciting it would be to see each of my children launch into the world, their own unique lives to develop, their own challenges to overcome and their own contributions to make.
I am beyond proud of who they have become, how competent they are and I am excited to see where they each go.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourth of July 2018

In celebration of Independence Day 2018, I am re-posting the following thoughts and ideas from the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Star Parker is the Founder of CURE whose writings I have been following for several years. The Executive Vice President of her organization, Derek McCoy, sent out the message below on July 4, 2018. He suggests three ideas for each of us, to educate and review for ourselves and our families, the history of the founding of the United States of America.

Derek McCoy's message:

As we celebrate our 242nd birthday, let’s make sure we preserve our memory of these unique governing principles.  Here are three simple things you and your family can do:

1. Read the Declaration of Independence. It is both a pleasurable and a rewarding experience that should be enjoyed by every citizen. The Declaration is a deep, rich document, giving the twenty-seven reasons that America was birthed, and also setting forth in its first 155 words the six immutable principles of American government – the six principles on which the Founders later erected the Constitution of the United States – the six principles that still produce American Exceptionalism today.

2. Learn something new about those who wrote the Declaration. Look at the names of the fifty-six signers; find one you don’t know – perhaps one you’ve never heard of before, and look him up and read a short bio about him (perhaps from sites such as Colonial Hall) or get a copy of Lives of the Signers, so that you can have a short bio about each one of the signers. In short, rediscover a new Founder.

3.  John Adams said that Independence Day “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” So enjoy the fireworks and parades and celebration – but also make sure to honor and thank God – make it a day celebrated “with solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

Together we can make a difference,

Derek McCoy
Executive Vice President  
CURE Center for Urban Renewal and Education

USA History learning resources:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Where they lead...

As parents, no matter the plans we have for our families and specifically each of our children, their ideas, talents and interests are their own and the more they are allowed to develop them and their own thinking the more we may find ourselves in unknown territory, assisting them in accessing the resources and training they need to explore and develop their own unique gifts and talents.

It is an adventure to see where our children, in the developing of their own unique gifts, might lead us as we explore, learn and enjoy the world together.

With our boys, providing for physical activity was always a priority, allowing for exploration and the opportunity to develop the physical skills they wanted to possess meant being outdoors and active; learning to ride tricycles, bicycles, skates, skateboards. It meant sports, organized and unorganized, golf courses, driving ranges and many summers at the baseball field; community sports, travel team sports, and athletic teams in the local public school.

Our daughter, our youngest, could have followed in their footsteps, and she did in a family backyard playground, kind of way. However, when it came time to participate in an organized activity, she declined. There are many girls in our community who play baseball and many who play softball, but apparently, she had had enough of running the bases. She was interested in dance and gymnastics. Her pursuit of gymnastics and invitations to join competitive teams led us to finding and her receiving excellent training. We traveled to regional and national competitions. She found one of her passions. She accomplished so much. She developed relationships with other dedicated girls who became her best friends. And then...

Change is inevitable and when our daughter chose to focus on dance training, we were in for another learning experience. So much to learn while following another potential passion; ballet, variations, modern, contemporary, and shoes, shoes, and more shoes, pointe, flat, jazz, and character shoes.

Ballet class leads to ballet performances and stage time, individually and as a group. Those performances lead to behind the scenes parent volunteer time and more learning opportunities for family members in unexpected places.

In homeschooling families, the learning of a particular subject matter often carries over to siblings as they watch and support one another. Her older brothers have attended (and actually enjoyed) more ballet performances then any of us would have ever anticpated.

The learning, thankfully never ends and based on our youngest's participation as a dancer, we are headed into another new experience this summer. The same daughter, on the verge of  becoming a young woman, will be attending a many week summer dance intensive, away from home! As a homeschooling family, (if you are one, you'll get this) we have very rarely even spent overnights away from each other. This is a wonderful opportunity, it is an exciting adventure, that puts her, as a student on her path to independence, a little sooner than we might have predicted. We are headed, once again, into uncharted territory. For her, a summer of new and advanced training, a summer of hard work and learning away from family. For us, a summer with many days apart from our youngest, still a teen.

Wish me well as we hit the road, to take her to this exciting new adventure. I'll be coming back home to an almost "empty nest". I'll be coming back to work on some long neglected projects and passions of my own. There are so many, I won't know where to begin!

What unexpected learning, adventures and travel have your children led you to? Leave me some comments, I'm going to need the company!

A Round Up of Ideas for Summer

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Not Taking the Field - This Year

This is the first spring in many years that no one in our family will be taking the field to play a season of baseball (little League, travel team, high school or otherwise). This is the first spring in many where we are not discussing the upcoming practice game schedule, not hearing the team roster or even the new jersey color and design. I will not be watching from the bleachers, wrapped in blankets, because early spring weather is the most unpleasant at our local fields.

Our middle child and youngest son is a young adult, freshman in college and though initially it looked like he would continue to play baseball at the community college where his is doing his first years of higher education, he has decided not to take the field with the team.

He determined that though he loves the game and though he is actually pretty good, his future is not as a professional, big league, minor league or even college player. He is a smart pitcher, long and lanky, he does well on the mound. However, he evaluated his plan for college and realized continuing to hone his baseball skills there, while personally rewarding weren't the skills he needed to focus on, to become equipped to earn and contribute in our society. He determined that an increased focus on his academic goals is more important for him to grow into the adult he wants to become.

After years of investment as parents; of time, money, emotion, teaching and coaching (on my husband's part), learning (on my part), we are done with the game, as parent spectators of our own children. They are all are done as full out, committed training players. Despite our awareness that this day would come, it is bitter sweet. And in all honesty, a few hopes of our own are being set aside. So much attention is given to highly talented and skilled athletes in our culture that it is easy to hold the dream images, of full ride college scholarships or a pro athlete careers, as a justification for the time and energy spent on the activity of sports with our children.

Every family goes into sports participation with different ideas, dreams and goals. Dreams for our children's future are important, so is their developing useful skills. Factors in ours son's choice, as he began training with a higher level team, was his understanding of what it takes to excel and his recognition of the team expectations and culture. For obvious and valid reasons, the college team focus was athletic skill. The expectation was that players make their team participation their top priority. He recognized, that his long term goals required him to make academic achievement his top priority. Doing everything well at the same time isn't always possible. His decision to prioritize his time to accomplish his academic goals and to surround himself with support for those skills was a smart and mature one for him to make.

The awareness of what it takes to truly be excellent in a chosen area of study or skill development was in no small way, made possible by his participation in sports. To achieve what he did as a baseball player, routinely featured on the pitchers mound on a high school varsity team, took many hours of practice beginning at a young age. There was much fun and many rewards along the way but there were also sacrifices made, on his part, to achieve that goal. All three of our children have acquired the knowledge of what kind of commitment it takes to achieve excellence in any given field through their development of skills as athletes. That knowledge will serve them well.

As a family we also gained; many special memories, community connections, time and new experiences together. We all developed friendships with coaches, mentors and peers. We gained relationships and goodness and joy that we continue to value.

We are letting go of some dreams and the pre-organized ongoing summer family activity.
I will miss; the regularly scheduled time outside, watching my son on the pitchers mound, watching him grow and develop that specific skill. I will miss the opportunity to observe first hand as he excels. I will, especially miss, seeing my husband teaching, working with, encouraging and enjoying his children at the park and on the field.

As much as baseball interfered with plans and ideas I may have had for other summer family activities, there was also the up side of having so much of that planned and organized for us. It may have not been the longed for trip to the beach or Disney but it was something we all attended together, outdoors, with each other, friends and community.

Our family will continue to follow baseball at a few levels. When the Little League World Series comes around we'll probably watch a few of the televised games. We'll reminisce about our own trips to Williamsport as spectators and the seasons we had high hopes of being one of those accomplished and very lucky teams. Favorite college teams will be on our radar and the local pro teams stats (Cubs or Socks?) will provide conversation fodder over a family meal.

But as for active, get your gear ready participation, for Run Ran Fam, that's a wrap.

For a continued worthwhile read with more on the benefit of community team sports participation, read high school senior, John Pesce's award winning essay recounting his Little League experience. Play ball!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Doing Laundry On-line

Life is filled with ups and downs, peaks and valleys. If we are lucky enough we experience more peaks than valleys. Adventures, travel, celebrations of accomplishments and transitions are some of the highlights we all look forward to. But most of life happens in between those events.

Three of my peak experiences were giving birth to my children. But with each of those tremendous birthing experiences came more of what life is really made up of, the tasks and chores of everyday life.

Meals to be prepared, dishes to be done, meals to be prepared, dishes to be done, meals to be prepared and more dishes to be done... Our peak experiences are strung together by daily routines, days filled with work that has to be done over and over again.

We have enlisted the help of machines and devices to help us accomplish all that we have to do and to reduce the drudgery. I use machines to do what needs to be done. But I have not always gone there willingly. I wish I had the option to walk for more of my errands. For years I only owned a bike for transportation. I still prefer a phone call to an email or a text and I consider the little spring thing in a wooden clothes pin to be useful advanced technology.

Laundry is one of those ongoing daily tasks that demand my attention.

I rarely use the dryer.
I hang my clothes to dry. I love to hang my clothes outside to dry.

I like the heavy feel of a clothes basket full of wet clothes balanced on my hip as I lug it out across the yard to the line.I like the bend and stretch of grabbing clothes from the basket and reaching to put them on the line. The movement feels good.

I like the feel of the sun on my back while I work and the smell of clean laundry mixed with the smell of the grass, especially if it's newly mowed.

I like doing chores outside.

When my children were young there was nothing quite as satisfying as a row of clean bright white diapers hanging on the line. Those cloth rectangles hung orderly on the line represented at least one task completed in the fight to keep the chaos at bay. Those diapers were flags waving surrender, (or maybe victory) delivering a brief moment of peace and order.

Photo by Soren Astrup Jorgensen

The sheer joy of a giggling toddler running face first through sun warmed sheets, eased the initial irritation about the smudges left by dirty hands.

Hanging laundry outside connects the laundress with nature and with neighbors. Doing laundry has been, for most of human history, a communal activity not the isolating chore it has become. Going to the river to do wash was something women did together, an opportunity to share work and socialize.

My great grandmother hung clothes to dry on the prairies of Nebraska. Homesteading there a full line of laundry could signal the presence of another family and peace of mind in the midst of desolation.  More recently, the laundromat offers an opportunity to meet neighbors.

When I first moved to the Chicago suburbs, I don't think my neighbor hung her clothes outside on a line to dry. Apparently, she liked the idea. I like to think it was my influence that got her out there. When we were both outside hanging laundry we would usually take the time to chat a bit over the fence. We had an unspoken rule though, we always finished hanging the clothes before our backyard banter.

A kind of friendly competition developed as well. Early on a bright sunny morning, perfect for getting some laundry done, I might push hard to get a load of clothes washed and out to the line. Even though in my mind, I started this thing, frequently I'd see my neighbor's clothes, in the next door backyard already dancing in the breeze. As I was hanging mine, she'd poke her head out her back door, "I beat you!"

Getting clothes back in can be a challenge as well. I've procrastinated bringing the laundry in until the distant rumble of thunder forces the issue. Those storms are most likely to come rolling in right about dinner making time, Trying to complete another task, I wait until I hear the fat splats of the first rain drops to run to save one of the days accomplishments.

There is an art to removing the clothes quickly - pluck, pluck, grab, pluck, pluck, grab, until your arms are full of sweet smelling freshly dried clothes, drop them in the basket and repeat. I may have returned to a crying child (afraid of thunder) and a pot boiling over on the stove but the laundry was safe and dry.

After dinner in a moment of calm, listening to rain drops, a glance out the window reveals that my neighbor isn't home, her clothes line sagging under the weight of drenched and drowning clothing. She may have beat me in the morning but I won in the afternoon.

There are highlights within in the drudgery. Even a bit of fun at times.

When I first wrote this description of doing laundry online for a Toastmaster's meeting, I told my neighbor about the topic and her appearance in my speech, she laughed and had two questions; Was I going to protect her identity? and Was I going to mention that sometimes the clothes hung outside for days?

Monday, April 23, 2018

NatureGlo's eScience Review

For myself, as a homeschooling mom, if life gets busy and academic subjects get short changed, it is usually math that suffers first. Despite having wonderful resources available, it is so easy for us to let slide the needed ongoing regular practice that is so important for maintaining the fundamental skills of math. So when we were offered access to NatureGlo's eScience curriculum of MathArt Online Class Bundle for reviewing it was an excellent opportunity. It provided added incentive to keep the math study going.

natureGlo's eScience

Math Connections with the Real World 6-week class
Math Art in Ancient Cultures 6-week class
Mathematics in the Arts and Sciences 6-week live or recorded class 
MathArt Patterns in Nature 6-week live or recorded class

MathArt Online

For the review we focused on the course Math Connections with the Real World. Like the other courses available in the Bundle, it is laid out in lessons, for a six week class. Each class has between 5 and 9 lessons within. The lessons are divided into sections and consist of slide show power point lectures and videos from a variety of sources. There are downloadable and printable pages with questions encouraging interaction with the material presented in each lecture. Each class includes an online quiz at the end of the series of lessons. Each class also includes achievement awards for students to keep track of progress. A certificate of completion is also provided following the completion of the entire course.

A pyramid photo accompanys a
lesson achievement award.

MathArt Online includes a substantial amount of varied resources that reinforce the subject matter being presented. I went through the lessons of Math Connections with the Real World with my teen daughter. I was amazed to see all of the related video sources that Gloria Brooks has pulled together in one place to describe specific concepts. We were (o.k., I was) even delighted to view, as supplemental material, a 1957 Disney film featuring Donald Duck, explaining in quack speak, the magic of mathematics. There is so much information available to all of us online these days that finding the best and narrowing it down can be time consuming.

Connecting math and art.

I truly appreciate having someone else pull together this great variety of information into a lesson format. It reinforces the subject matter. Different videos or activities are useful for different people. Art activity suggestions aid in understanding the concepts. Including many videos from different sources also increases the chances of each student understanding the material. However, my daughter felt there were actually too many videos to view for completing each class. For her, for the presentation of certain concepts, less would have been more.

Gloria Brooks, the creator of NatureGlo's eScience, offers live online classes classes as well as the recorded lectures. The option to take a live class online has many benefits. And would certainly be a preference for some homeschooling families. For us, at this time in our homeschooling journey, adding a predetermined time to our schedule would have been difficult. The slide show lectures we viewed had previously been recorded from an online class. These recordings included the added interaction of students from the live class. The student voices increased the feeling of being in a class with others even though we were listening to a recording.

Initially getting started with the online course structure was a bit confusing but after following through a few times we had it down. After each activity, in each of the lessons, there is a mark complete button. It's a simple thing but because we thought we might return to review a section we didn't initially make use of the button. The general lesson on that was - follow directions - it made viewing through the sections much easier to navigate.

Overall NatureGlo's eScience courses are thorough, interactive and very well researched. We will continue to work through the series of classes and broaden our appreciation of and understanding of math connections in the real world. Thanks, Gloria for creating this comprehensive program!

MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle {NatureGlo's eScience Reviews}

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Movie Night

Movie night was revived in our house to review Princess Cut from Watchman Pictures. Our currently full and busy schedule doesn't allow much time for family movie nights. The age range of teen through independent young adult to my husband and I, as well, (let's leave out the age reference here) parents of these, it has become increasingly difficult to find movies of interest to all of us.

Watchman Pictures

Delighted to have something appropriate to view, my husband and I watched Princess Cut with our sixteen year old daughter. The subject matter of finding love and making plans for marriage is relevant to a teens interest and important for a family's conversations. Important considerations regarding choosing marriage partners are overlooked in our current culture, leaving the topic vague in discussions and leaving young people open to relationships of trial and error.

Princess Cut The Movie

With a Christian perspective, Princess Cut presents the topic of marriage. It addresses considerations important in choosing a life partner in a warm and sweet way. It presents an approach not widely found currently in our dominate culture but one that deserves thoughtful attention. In the film, these considerations are all shared within the context of a family. A family actively transmitting values to younger members as they grapple with life transitions. The life phase of parenting young adults, in my experience, is not a frequently addressed parenting stage and is conveyed in this movie in a believable and welcome way. Most importantly, this film opens the door for and encourages viewers to continue the conversation within their own families about love and marriage. This movie is worth the viewing. Pop up some popcorn!

Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews}

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Review of A Product That Acknowledges Achievement

This post is a review of a standard but high quality product that is available for recognizing a high school graduate from Homeschool Diploma. As we move into the spring, celebrations of accomplishments fill our calendar. For homeschool students and their families creating unique celebrations for completing academic studies based on grade levels is often part of the plan. Those ceremonies are as unique as each family. They may or may not include items typically associated with academic achievement. Acknowledging the completion of high school is worth noting though and in preparation, we ordered and received, a beautiful standard diploma in anticipation of our youngest's high school graduation in 2019. 
Homeschool Diploma offers more products for acknowledging achievement at different grade levels. Review Crew members have posted their reviews for products for Kindergarten and eighth grade as well. You can find links to those reviews at Homeschool Review Crew.

Homeschool Diploma

Celebrations, certificates, ceremonies and awards all potentially acknowledge achievement. As a family we are coming to a place of many transitions for each of our young adult children. Our oldest is graduating from college this June. For this accomplishment he will be participating in his first formal convocation. His completion of high school was as a home school student and our celebration was small and informal. We did little more than a family dinner. He moved on to this academic adventure without much pomp or circumstance. We will be attending with pride and much joy, as he  is acknowledged for his dedication to his course of study and presented with a diploma for a Bachelors degree.

An official certificate recognizes academic accomplishment.
Our second son attended a public high school. He successfully completed his high school requirements there. His attending classes at the local high school was a new experience for our family. Any events surrounding his achievement there were organized by the school and we attended. He participated in the large graduation ceremony with the usual stroll across the stage as his name was announced and he was given a diploma.

As we move toward our youngest completing high school as a homeschool student next year, we have begun to make plans for her next steps in study and life. She, like our oldest has continued as a home school student through high school so the and built in activities and ceremonies are not a part of the planned acknowledgement. 

Before enrolling in a college course of study, we plan to set aside some days of celebration for her as a family. Our celebration will include presenting her with a copy of this official and beautiful diploma. We allowed her a glimpse, of the as yet, unsigned document. It is worth admiring and might provide at least a touch more of motivation for her senior year. The cover of the diploma is embossed with gold lettering. It includes an official seal. We will be honored to present it to her upon completion of her high school studies and to display it during family festivities. She is also planning some activities for herself with some of her closest friends. Displaying an official diploma during that time will add a nice touch as she receives congratulations from all.

Kindergarten Graduation and Junior High Diploma for your Homeschool  {Homeschool Diploma Reviews}

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Creation Illustrated Unit Studies Review

Creation Illustrated is a published print and digital periodical. Produced with outstanding quality and beauty, the family produced magazine is true to the family's publishing mission " share the wonders of God's creation." 

Review Crew members were offered access to two Creation Illustrated editions and the additional materials of one corresponding unit study for each to use and review. Downloadable unit studies focusing on Pine Trees and Intricacies of Snow were made available along with the Fall '17 Digital Edition and the Winter '18 Digital Edition

Creation Illustrated

The publishers of Creation Illustrated take the appreciation and learning possibilities a step, (or two) further, with these additional educational materials. The educational materials are compiled into thorough unit study packages for students and teachers to increase understanding and appreciation of the natural world. The unit studies are suitable for home or classroom. They include a complete range of lessons incorporating an approach from many disciplines from language arts, to geography, to bible study and math. Compiled for Grades 5-8, I agree with the Unit Study tagline, "Primarily for Grades 5-8, but valuable lessons can be gained by everyone!"

My home school student and I chose to focus on the Creation Unit Study of Pine Trees. Given that we live on a suburban property that includes many evergreen trees, it seemed an ideal opportunity to learn more about the ever present evergreens that surround our home. Each Unit Study package begins with a useful list of reading and educational resources to use. The list begins with a link to The Creation Illustrated edition that relates to the subject matter but also includes other resources to augment the study. As a homeschooling parent, I appreciate having a list that someone has taken the time to create. Finding the right resources can take a lot of time. The resource list of reading and video resources alone is a valuable addition to the study of the topic of Pine Trees. All of the suggested activities presented an interesting approach to the study. The vocabulary was extensive enough to increase a students word usage and also, in our case, offer some validation of already understood language. As a family that appreciates and creates art and crafts, the addition of a drawing suggestion is also welcome.

Fall 2017, Vol. 24, No. 3

The "Intricacies of Snow" Unit Study package follows the same format as that of "Pine Trees" with a resource list and activities based on different disciplines. The Snow Science page, while condensed includes many science concepts. In this unit study the vocabulary is also an important component. And including two art activities brings it all back around to the joy of learning for us.

Winter 2018, Vol. 24, No. 4

Creation Illustrated periodicals include photographs that are stunning. The articles include fascinating information that improve one's understanding and appreciation of God's creation. The unit studies are thoughtful resources that add further to that comprehension. These resources are beautiful and comprehensive. They have presented ideas for approaching a given topic and have added value to our home school learning this season.

Creation Illustrated Unit Studies {Creation Illustrated Reviews}

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