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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Saxon Math Teacher

A happy math teacher may seem to be an oxymoron to all of the unhappy math teachers out there. Math not being my strong point, I was, for a long time, just struggling with being a math teacher, happy or not. The happy adjective has been added to my job description because I am/we are realizing the fruit of a faith-choice in our math curriculum. We're using Saxon Math specifically Math 5/4 for Bethany, our 5th grader. Most know about Saxon's grade designations. Math 5/4 is for the average fourth grader or a 5th grader needing remediation.

I sat down today and made a list of how many different math curriculums we've used for Bethany. Between figuring out one that she could learn from and one that I could teach, it took awhile to find a good fit. Even after we found Saxon it still took awhile. She had gotten a bit spoiled from Horizons colorful approach to its workbooks. (Our son is happily using Horizons, I might add.) The problem I have with Horizons is that it doesn't really teach the why's of math. It teaches the how's. But if math doesn't come naturally to you....all the more reason to know the why's. It doesn't come naturally to Bethany, but interestingly, she says it's her favorite subject. The fun part of that is that she knows she will need math in farming, and truth be told, that's her present motivation. My Dad is a farmer/rancher, and so I find her love for math downright charming.

Saxon is not only giving Bethany a good foundation in math (early geometry and algebra) by teaching the hows and whys of math, it is also teaching her how to learn. It's teaching her to exhaust all avenues for understanding the concept before asking the teacher. In every question of the mixed practice section is a number that refers the student back to the lesson or lessons where the concept used was introduced. Bethany looks at the number, for example, lesson #21, turns back to that lesson to understand the problem that involves the terms perpendicular, right angles, intersecting, etc. When she came to me today, she had already on her own taken that important step of trying to read and research what she had already learned about the concept.

Another plus to Saxon is something I consider an important transition in education, a.k.a. a necessary evil, and that is, you don't work out of a workbook. All of the math problems are to be written out on paper (graph paper is best), and you have to show your work. Try explaining that to someone who knows the answer and doesn't think you should have to show your work. High school math requires it of you, so the student benefits by starting now! It's been an important tool in understanding accuracy in writing, transcribing problems etc. In summary, nothing but benefits in choosing Saxon math.

I am so thrilled to see these steps of maturity in Bethany's study skills and learning habits. Thanking the Lord for how He has led us in this triumphant procession across miles and miles of other math curriculum pages. Progress. Satisfaction. Foundation strengthening. Saxon. Peace at last for a math teacher in the works!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stone Soup Cleaning 101

Stone soup. You know the story. The soldiers come into town hungry and tired. They ask for something to eat, but no one has anything. So the soldiers find a big pot, add some stones and water, and it begins to boil. They wait. One by one, the town peasants bring onions, then potatoes, carrots, and you can see where this is going. Eventually their hunger is satisfied. I LOVED the story of stone soup when I was growing up. I could just see it, and, I think I could smell it too!

It all began on Saturday morning when I spotted my bargain bag of 3lb/$1 oranges. They were looking slightly shriveled as they lay in their netted bag, a bit dimpled. While on the official hunt for the official fruit bowl (which I find), I discover its contents to be a handful of much older clementines, two sweet potatoes, and one still nice and firm red onion. Knowing that my onions and potatoes are supposed to go in my orchard basket in the pantry, I open the pantry door. I spot my orchard basket, pull it out, and proceed to empty it of one bad onion, dried onion peel, a handful of Ritz crackers (cracker, anyone?), and oh, I think a twisty-tie or two. Now, not only is this becoming personal, (I just wanted to put away my oranges!), I conclude that this haphazard method of organization (oxymoron!) isn't doing anyone any favors. I can do better. And so begins the clean. One clean shelf begets another clean shelf, and that clean shelf begets another, and then another, and the next thing I know, contents of honey containers are combined, all snacks are happily packed away in the official snack box, and I could go on and on.

There's just something about things being in their place. We are a busy family in our own way. Though we don't have as many outside activities as most families, we have a lot going on that can contribute to a much needed dose of stone soup cleaning: homeschooling, worship leading, homeschool support group leadership, fun with friends, more fun with friends, Danny's ever-changing flight schedule, the mandatory doctor's appointments: it can get disorderly p r e t t y fast around here. Today just seemed to be the day to do something about it, and I couldn't be happier with the results. And to think this story began because I wanted to put away a bag of oranges!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Socks Blessed Off

"Dear Jesus,

Thank you for this food, thank you for my Mommy, thank you that she's homeschooling me, thank you that she is a Christian, thank you that she's raising me in the Lord, thank you for this food, and help Daddy to get back safe from work when he has to go, and thank you for this food. In Jesus name, Amen."
Brunch-time prayer of Thanksgiving by son as he and his sister play toys in her room. I love the heavy emphasis on being thankful for the food! Brunch was served atop a cardboard box table while they played. My own personal socks have been blessed right off. Blessing one: this prayer. Blessing two: having a family to serve. Blessing three: knowing it will count for eternity. At this rate, my socks may not go back on for some time. I would love to hear about your top three for today!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Making Curriculum Work for You

I'm posting a link from Chris at Wierd, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. This is one of the most clear-cut pieces on How to use your curriculum, and not let your curriculum use you that I've read in a while.

It's almost nine in the morning, I'm still in my jammies, and we haven't started our homeschooling yet. Yesterday, Bethany and I cracked the first book at 7 in the morning. Today, it will probably be 9 a.m. Hubby had to get up at 3:30 to fly, and honestly, I feel like I used to feel when the children were infants and I was doing that middle of the night feeding, and attempting to function, and....I'm sure you know the feeling. So, as I sit in my red and white striped jammies and a cup of very good coffee in hand, I am at rest in my homeschooling mama's heart. A Saxon math book awaits, and behind it First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, and shall we not forget as well, Apologia Biblical Worldview Curriculum. And about that copywork! On the heels of reading this inspiring post, I'll enjoy X'ing out every other math problem, and doing a 20 minute language lesson instead of a 30 minute lesson. I plan on starting with the fun "experiements" that are in our Bible Curriculum today. (You wouldn't believe how quiet it is in my house right now!) Now, click on the link and hop on board a really inspiring article. I'm due for a coffee warm-up!

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers: Making Curriculum Work for You

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where Most People Don't Go On Vacation

Bethany had always said she wanted to live in the Antarctic. She's doing a project on Antarctica for her literature class (we haven't made the connection yet, but we think the teacher knows what she's doing. This is for one of two co-op classes she's taking). This video is one of the things I came across while looking for some informative websites. Watch this:

It's not uncommon for children to want to be a policeman, no, a fireman, wait, a Doctor, and ...well, you get the idea. In our house it revolves around moving, and where they want to live. Antarctica was tops on Bethany's list, then it became Pennsylvania where she would be an Amish person. Once we explained how difficult it was to break in to their tight knit communities, she decided to strike out on her own and move to Wyoming. Some would say that's like Antarctica. Now that Israel is at the top of her list, Antarctica makes a nice safe project for her to write about.

Favorite quote : "Difficulties are just things to overcome." from Sir Ernest Shackleton, the English Explorer of Irish descent who became fascinated with the South Pole. He made several expeditions in an attempt to cross the Continent of Antarctica. Although he did not accomplish that goal in particular, the story of his attempts are nothing short of inspirational. This is a short clip featuring a documentary called Endurance. I hope to watch it in its entirety someday. Video from everywhere!

Favorite thought
: I probably won't have to travel to Antarctica to visit my future grandchildren.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thought Provoking

I just returned from attending the Memorial Service of a very special friend's Father. My friend, Kristi, blogs here. (This is Kristi on the right, with her papa, and her other sister to the left.)

I have to tell you that Kristi and I met at a local Mall. We were total strangers about 6 years ago when we went with our children to the mall that neither of us frequented. While taking a respite in the play area with our respective children, we met (by divine appointment), and became instant friends, so much so that we shuttled our children up the elevator to the food court(she only had two at the time, but now has four blessings!), and had lunch together. The best part about meeting Kristi was not just meeting a new friend, but meeting a sister in the Lord.

Over these last few years we've gotten together many many times with our families, shared meals, been to their family get-togethers, and have become just that, family. They always were so quick to include us in birthday parties for their children, and in fact, hosted my own surprise party when I turned forty-five. So, today, it was not a hard decision to make in deciding to travel an hour and 1/2 north to honor the life and memory of Larry William Price. He went home to be with Jesus on Christmas Eve.

Today, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about Mr. Price, and I learned more about my dear friend, Kristi.I learned that the apple truly does not fall far from the tree. Five minutes of reading Kristi's blog will reveal wit and humor that apparently has come right down the pipeline, atleast as far up as her Dad anyway. As a young man, Larry once feined being blind, cane, sunglasses and all, in order to get in free to a movie, a drive in, with friends. Pretty funny. Pretty clever. After all, he shouldn't have to pay if he can't see. On a different side, I also learned that Kristi's mother and father invited a family of six to live with them when Kristi and her sister were small. This was a family in between homes, (they worked for a rescue mission) and needed a place to stay. The Price family embraced them and welcomed them just like Kristi and her family did with us. I realized that Kristi's gift of welcoming was modeled by her mother and father. One of the most profound moments to me was when his childhood friend, an individual who confessed with his own words that he was not a person of faith, shared with us this: what and who everyone was saying Larry was in their lives; lover of God, lover of family, faithful to his wife, faithful to his church, honest, hard-working, humble,was who he was when those people were not around. When the walls were down, his friend testified, Larry was the same. There was no difference. There was no double standard, no hypocricy. I cannot think of a summary any better than that of what our lives ought to be to the world around us. My prayer is now that this man would come to know the Saviour of his soul. I hope it will come soon for him.

Mr. Price was a well-respected Nuclear Engineer. He was the first to receive a degree in Nuclear Engineering from Arizona State University. He was at the top in his field, in his faith, and in his family. Today he is with the Lord. Today, I love his daughter even more. I'm going to spend quite a bit more time thinking about everything I saw and heard today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Today's Grace

Today I am giving myself the grace to clean and tidy up. We've all been a little punky with colds lately, and things are not where they need to be. I have the next two weeks of lesson plans in the planner, but today, it waits. (Note: Generally I don't discard school plans to clean unless things are in such disarry that I can't function.) Tonight, the Homeschool Leadership meeting is at our house, and will be for the remainder of the semester. Danny and I are co-directors with another couple, the McAffees. Since we moved end of September, our fall meetings were at their house. Now it's our turn. (Oh, to erase all doubt, this is a picture from the computer. Couldn't find a recent "clean" picture of our house....)

A couple of years ago I heard the phrase that as homemakers, our goal is "to bless and not impress." I have adopted that for myself. I can get pretty pushy and bossy when I am under pressure, and my gentle spirit can bark out the orders with the best of 'em. Time becomes like a hammer when I have a deadline, and the closer I get to the deadline, the harder I hammer. I have three eye-witnesses. Oh, four. Yes Lord, you know it all! Great, so you bless the guests by having things in order, but you karate chop your family to accomplish it. Not so good. So, while I have grace to clean, and I am convinced I do, I need the Holy Spirit to follow me around like a dust mop and make sure I'm not scattering seeds of discord in the process.

God, thank you for the grace to clean. I am leaning on You and trusting
that You will coach the pushy Mom in me to become more like you. Oh, this is
your way of cleaning and transforming me? I get it!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Beginning Again

If you're looking for a wide selection of Through the Bible reading plans, check out this website. I actually have one that I printed out from last year that I will continue to use. No, I didn't make it through the Bible last year. Fortunately, God's mercies are new, truly they are, every day. With that in mind, perhaps I'll begin again in my efforts.

One of the things I wanted was a place to click off my reading online so I could see my progress. To the tune of $14 I can do this, but....must I? I think I'll settle for the paper version.

The website I have provided the link to has some AMAZING Bible reading plans, perhaps the most variety I've seen. I especially liked that they had one for new Christians. So please go and check it out. Someone will be encouraged and strengthened because of your efforts.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One of the best parts about Homeschooling is my own renewed love for learning. I have a new found love for History, Science, and dare I say Math. I already loved Language Arts and anything related to that topic. (Deep inside is a frustrated journalist, architect and geologist, all areas that have interested me over the years.) We also include the Bible. When I look at the list of all the subjects I am interested in there is not a one that is not somehow addressed in the Bible. Yes, even journalism. Enter: Apologia Biblical Worldview Curriculum, Volume 1. This is our Bible curriculum.
For a number of years I would buy a really good Bible Story book, and that met our needs. I am seeing with Daniel that he still has a great need to go over those again. I want them to know the hallmark/anchor stories of God's word. They'll recall them over the years at different times just as I have done. However, Bethany's needs are changing somewhat, so I began to look for a good Bibilical Worldview curriculum. I think I've found it. Two weeks into volume one and my own life is being challenged.

We've been studying how to build our lives upon the rock, and conversely, what to do if we want to build our lives upon the sand. Thank you, but NO, to that. I have "sand moments" as I'll call them, and I much prefer the rock. Romans 12:2 is one the feature verses for the beginning of our study. The more I think about it, the more I like it and want to let it be my mirror verse for the year, the one I stare into to see how it's going, so to speak.

"Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God."

As we were working our way through this together I had my own little lightbulb moment. I began to think about the difference between being conformed and being transformed. Conformed is a shaping that comes from an external source, either through something or someone, that we allow. It could be an outside pressure or perhaps a worldly mindset that we've embraced. Transformed, though it may have external components, begins in the interior of the heart and mind. It is a work of God. I cannot transform myself. I can allow myself to be conformed, pressured and shaped, by others and other influences, but only God can bring real transformation.

This year I am praying for transformation. Transformation for myself, our finances, my health and how I take care of my body. I can see how every area of my life is due for an overhaul. A transformation. A work of God. I can see how this verse is like a lifeguard for my heart.

Has God given you anything for this next year? Oh I have more to share, but this is long enough probably. Father in Heaven, have Your way in our lives this year. Help us to surrender all that we are and desire to Your will. Thank you for another year. May we bring glory to Your great name.