Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where We Homeschool

The new TOS Homeschool Crew is getting ready for new year and having a blast getting to know each other before we set sail. One of the new Crew members, Tristan from Our Busy Homeschool, asked the question, "What's your homeschool room like?"

I am very fortunate to actually have a room we call "the school room", a bonus room above the garage that formerly served as a full playroom. It was actually the feature that sold the house seven years ago. My husband took one look at that extra bedroom with a door at the end of a long hallway and said "This is the house for us!" In our previous house, we had given up a family room to the kids' "stuff" and it was constantly visible.

When we finally said goodbye to the humongous Little Tykes toys and got down to mostly games and Legos, I started to convert this area for school and had shelves and a long table built for one area.

My favorite feature is the cubby storage above the desks. I am going to be starting a modified workbox system with my son, so the magazine files on the left will serve as his boxes. For my daughter, I will be using the magazine files on the right to hold her books by subject and will be giving her a paper schedule. I can add and remove supplemental products from her files as we go through them. In the center you see my son's books, schedules and binders by subject and teacher manuals.

In this next picture, you see the main part of the room. For perspective, the left side of the photo shows the corner of the desk area where my daughter was sitting in the previous picture. The green unit holds CDs and to the right of that is a storage area that holds toys. I just purchased the shelving units on either side of the window from IKEA. The one on the left contains mostly Sonlight materials. I just can't give up those books! The one on the right has educational DVDs and magazines at the moment. The white table is an old train table that I've converted to a game storage/coffee table/teaching blackboard. The black handle thing you see in front of the window is a trampoline. It is a great tool for working out wiggles or frustration. The futon also serves as our handy kid sleepover bed.

My son is a Lego fanatic. Yes, every one of those bins contains Legos. When he was about four, I found an 18-gallon container full of Legos for $20 at a garage sale. I think it was my best deal ever! Usually, the Legos aren't in the bins, but all over the room and house - even in the washer and dryer. I've made a new rule that his creations cannot spill over the blue area rug in front of the storage. We'll see how long that actually lasts.
The door to the right of the white shelves in the photo above leads to the hallway. Across from Lego City is a large storage closet that houses more games and books than physically seems possible. I have to admit, these photos are very deceptively organized since I just purchased more shelving and rearranged. Normally my shelves are vomiting books and you can't even see the desks. When my kids saw the camera coming out, they thought I was taking pictures of the room clean to show them what it should look like once it got messy again!

Despite this great area, I'm constantly finding my son sitting at the top of the stairs, at the kitchen table, in my bedroom, etc. with his books because his sister is being too noisy. She likes to hum and sing when studying and he needs dead silence. What a combination. I've tried ear plugs, music in headphones, quieting big sis....sigh. We have trouble managing a classroom of two, I can only imagine how well thirty would go over. Even if the students aren't all in one place, at least the materials are!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Land of the Lost - Completely Inappropriate

I normally check sites like Plugged In or Kids in Mind before taking my kids to a movie, but I neglected to check the reviews prior to taking them to Land of the Lost. The previews for this take on the harmless show from the 70s didn't give me any cause for concern. It looked like a typical movie geared for kids.

This movie was completely inappropriate. I'm shocked they were able to even get enough clean footage to make the preview. It was filled with crude s*xual humor, the female character is constantly groped, and there is suggestion of a threesome of homosexuality. There is drunkeness and vulgar language throughout. I'm shocked that the movie wasn't rated R. The only thing missing was full nudity. We walked out of the theater and the kids are now watching a rented G-rated movie.

Now that my kids are older, I had become lax in checking reviews for every movie. I am going to be extra diligent now. The producers of this movie should be completely ashamed of themselves. The is not the family movie it is portrayed to be.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Future Scientist or Comedian?

My daughter just completed her finals week. It actually only consisted of two finals for online classes, Latin and Biology. However, having two finals, due a day apart from each other, was a new experience. I'd like to say she sailed through with calmness, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. I discovered a little panic attack post on her blog this evening.

In the end, she did absolutely fine. Both classes ended with excellent grades. Of the two classes, I think she enjoyed her Biology course the most. Now, she will try to tell you that she does not like Biology but rather tolerates it, though a little smirk usually follows. She was sure to tell me she disliked the dissections especially. For each one, the first step was to groan about the "disgusting" activity.

However, I would like to present evidence that she actually enjoyed the dissections...

Here is the very first dissection, an earthworm.

Next, we have a perch. When the lab was done, she decided to do an extra step and dissect the eyeballs and find the lens.

And lastly, here is her dissecting a frog (that's the liver in the tweezers),

I don't know, it looks like she may have enjoyed her labs just a bit. The real question is if we have a future scientist...or a comedian?

Coincidence or Shut Up and Listen?

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I purchased the Summit Ministries Lightbearer curriculum and hinted there was a story to be told.

I like people to say it how it is. Please don't dance around and hint. I'd much rather people be direct than leave the interpretation up to me. Otherwise, I'll either over interpret or don't get the message at all. Also, as my husband has discovered, please don't tell me something unless you have my undivided attention, especially if it is a request to do something. I'll soon forget it, if I heard it at all.

Fortunately, my heavenly Father knows everything there is to know about me. He knows I have trouble with "Be Still and Know that I am". I'm often not still enough to listen, fussing about on my own. He either needs to make me still or be quite obvious...and sometimes both..when I need a "talking to". Ever since I was quite young, God has approached this little quirk of mine with a sense of humor, with either "obvious" or "shut up and listen".

My first example of this was when I was a child. I had a small stuffed eagle that I carried around everywhere. Ok, I had an unhealthy obsession with this thing. I was visiting a friend one day when I lost it somewhere on their large piece of property. It was winter. It was dark. It was time to go home...and I realized my stuffed friend was missing. We did a quick look, but it wasn't found. I was in a quiet panic and said a quick prayer as they started to pull the car out of the drive. As the car was turning around, the headlights illuminated the very spot on the ground where my eagle was sitting. Ok - it wasn't exactly a miracle. However, it was enough to get the attention of a 7-year-old and an example of an "obvious" answer.

Another example, much later in life, was when I was a working mom. The original plan, our plan, was to work until we had two children and day care costs would jump, taking a bigger chunk of my salary. About six months after returning, I heard a little voice that maybe I should quit sooner. The schedule was hectic, there were problems at the day care, new issues at work and our marriage was starting to suffer. I pretty much ignored the voice. My husband and I did take the first step and started putting all of my income in savings to see if we could live only on his salary comfortably. We could, but I continued to not act. Next, my daughter started catching every possible virus in day care. This meant missing quite a bit of work. Then she started sharing her germs with us. We own a business and my husband couldn't miss work, but should have. Ignoring. Finally, I woke up one day feeling terrible. I soon had blisters on my hands, feet and mouth and experienced my very first ear infection. Yep - hand, foot and mouth disease compliments of my daughter and all her day care friends. I was one of the 10% of adults who never developed immunity. I think that was the most miserable virus I ever had. However, it made me still and quiet. I listened - and quit the next day.

So, what does this have to do with Summit Ministries?

Recently, I was cutting some poultry while multitasking with math lessons. I don't recommend that. I ended up slicing my finger open within a millimeter of my tendon. I wrapped up my finger and headed to the walk-in urgent care clinic the next town over. The last time I was at this clinic, I thought I should maybe call the doctor's mother and let her know her son was practicing medicine. Man, I felt old.

Admittedly, I was a bit cranky. I've never had stitches -and I knew I needed some - and wasn't looking forward to being a learning experience for some young doctor.

My first surprise, after waiting for an hour, was the fact that the doctor was at least a decade older than my not-so-young self. He asked how I sliced my finger and I told him, letting the math lesson part slip. I generally don't like to announce we homeschool in medical facilities that I don't regularly attend. I've experienced very rude and probing interrogations or opinions by doctors or medical staff at the simple mention of homeschooling in the past. Somehow this slipped, but perhaps he wouldn't connect the dots that is was a weekday. At noon. In April.

Dr: "Are your kids on break from school?"

Obviously he doesn't have any listening problem.

Me: "Um, no. We homeschool and were doing lessons." I quietly anticipate the next comment...

still, quiet and reclined,

with no feeling wrist up and the doctor stitching away.

Dr. "We really considered homeschooling. All the agenda taught in schools really bothered us and we wanted them to have a quality education. However, we decided we couldn't devote the time to it full time and instead bought materials for after school."

(Note: He was not only old enough to have children, but they were grown too!)

Me: Relieved about the homeschooling, but still not thrilled about my finger too much to appreciate it and looking up instead of at the sewing work...."Uh-huh."

Dr. "We used materials from Summit Ministries."

Me: "Oh. I've never heard of them." Nice ceiling tiles...

Dr. "Summit Ministries. should look into them."

Me: Slight nod, eyes still staring at the ceiling so I don't see my finger...I wonder how long before my hand feels normal size again?

We made a bit more limited small talk, he finishes up and it is time for me to leave. He actually walks me up to the counter and says, "What denomination are you?"

Now, I've only told this man I was cutting poultry while doing math lessons. I never mentioned I was a Christian.

Me: "Uh - I go to a Baptist church."

Dr. "It's non-denominational, but evangelical. Summit Ministries. You should really look them up."

Okay then. I make a mental note to look up S-U-M-M-I-T Ministries.

So what do I do when I get home? I'd like to say I ran home and went straight to Google. I didn't. Apparently God needed both still and obvious this time.

Several days later, I decided to look at the schedule for the upcoming Midwest Homeschool Convention's Teen Track program for my daughter. I go to the convention website, start looking at the workshop topics for the teens, and click on one of the descriptions. What do I see? S-U-M-M-I-T Ministries! Summit Ministries was hosting the entire teen program. Wait...did I just feel something smack me upside the head?

Yes, I visited the website and discovered they sell curriculum about worldview. Coincidentally, after recently taking an adult worldview class at church, I had put "do a worldview study" on my mental list of things I'd like my daughter to do soon. I hadn't really done anything about it yet though or looked for materials. Enter obvious. I vowed to at least check out their booth.

We attended the convention a few days later and my daughter loved the workshops by Summit Ministries. I visited the booth and even explained how I heard about them, showing them my finger. The booth was small and in the back; I doubt I would have stopped normally. I had the pull of stitches in my index finger the days leading up to the convention to remind me to stop, so no forgetting either. The curriculum looked great, but it still took me a full day to think about it. I buy so many things and end up not using them, I wanted to make sure this was the right item.

Yes, I bought the curriculum in the end. I just previewed some of the DVDs from the program and am really excited to use it with my daughter this fall. Even so, I can't help to revert back to my interpreting tendencies. When I've told my friends this story, most don't think this chain of events is a coincidence. My husband, however, gave a questioning look when I explained to him how I found this great new curriculum and why I bought it. Maybe he wasn't listening or I wasn't being obvious of what I was implying...

Was this a situation a be-still-and-quiet-so-I-can-present-the-obvious event or just a strange coincidence that makes for an interesting blog post?

What do you think?