Why Left-Wing Politicians Feel Threatened by Homeschooling

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This week, the US Department of Education Secretary, John King, spoke at a breakfast and his comments on homeschooling have startled most people who follow the issues in this country. While he admitted that some homeschooling parents do a great job, he expressed concerns that homeschoolers at large do not get “rapid instruction” and “diverse learning opportunities” like their public school peers.

Education Secretary John King and President Obama

Education Secretary John King and President Obama

What Obama’s Education Secretary got wrong is that homeschoolers do get an amazing array of educational opportunities, which public school students can only dream about. Also, the “rapid instruction” in public schools renders 2/3 of eighth graders incapable of reading proficiently. Should we be interested in education which promotes “rapid instruction” methods? Continue reading »

Let’s face it. We all know some homeschooling families who don’t do much with their children in the name of this or that principle or simply out of laziness. Recently, a library director told me people like that have been around since the 60s and 70s. She was around back then. Unschooling can turn out some great results and then some not so great results.

At the end of the day, who can measure success and how? Some kids are not gifted in math, but they excel in foreign languages. Other kids play the violin and have very little interest in computers. I get it. But there are those families who neglect their “homeschooled” children just like there are public school families who do not stay involved in their children’s homework, activities, and friends.

When the family does not work together for the education of the child, the child suffers. As a result, the family suffers. The breakdown happens at every level.

But just because some people make a mockery of their freedoms does not mean all people should lose their freedoms. Just because some parents give homeschool a bad name does not mean that all homeschoolers should be given a bad name.

Make no mistake about it! What you hear out of the mouth of John King is the same message in a Democratic White House and Congress. I don’t usually get political on my homeschooling blog, but this statement from Obama’s Education Secretary tells me the Democrats are scared of private initiative whether in business or education.

Their agenda is clear, too: they want a Nanny State to keep everybody in check. With less than two months before the election, I think you should vote and vote wisely.


Rehearsals Have Started

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We have only seven more rehearsals until our children’s first concert on the stage of the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville. The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra operates six different ensembles for children on different levels of music skills. Our children auditioned this summer and got into Overture and Preludium respectively.

KSYO Preludium Practice

My son (in red shirt) during his first practice with KSYO Preludium

This experience may be a tad more exciting for me than for them, although I can see they like playing in their groups. They made some friends over the summer during String Camp and they were excited to see them again now that they are in the orchestra together. Continue reading »

Music lessons give people different memories and thoughts. Some have never had lessons and regret it. Others think it is really expensive to pay for music lessons and an instrument (it is not). Some people I talk to used to take music lessons and do recitals and then something happened in middle school. They gave up and got interested in sports.

I cannot tell you how many people have told me this. “I got interested in sports and my parents got tired of coaxing me to practice. So they gave up. I gave up. And now I see these adults who can play an instrument and they don’t even make a living with it, but they can just sit at the piano and play. I regret my parents did not insist with my music lessons.”

My experience is that my parents did not make me practice. So I got by with the most basic practice on my own and made it through eight years of violin and four years of piano. If I had been encouraged, I would have better skills. Nevertheless, I am able to help my children right now and can play what they play probably for the next few years.

This helps a lot, because in this way I can work with them at home in acquiring new music, for instance, while during their lesson their teachers focus on things that I would not know how to teach or challenge them with. It’s a team effort and the teachers are happy when they find a parent who understands music theory and practice.

Based on these testimonies and my own experience, I will continue to make sacrifices and keep my children’s music lessons going. Practicing is the hardest part, of course, but I keep telling myself they will thank me one day. By faith, we can move this mountain.


Pittman Center Heritage Day

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Once a year, the little town of Pittman Center celebrates Heritage Day. The event starts at 10 and offers guided tours of the local museum, music, a dog show, Southern food, several play areas for children, and horseback rides. Many vendors bring a booth with their wares: arts and crafts, mainly. The local school has a fundraising booth, mainly offering sugary treats concocted, God bless them, in the Land of Low Nutrition.

Daddy and children at Pittman Center Heritage Day

Daddy and children at Pittman Center Heritage Day

Many things are free: take a picture by a rusty truck decorated for fall, listen to country music, walk around, watch a dog show, let the kids jump in the pumped-up play area, and walk through the Heritage Museum. You must pay for food and arts and crafts. Continue reading »

We have not been there in a long time, so this year we decided to take the kids and show them an authentic Southern event. Our area was built on arts and crafts, before tourism became a thing. So Heritage Day is a history field trip, if you will, and a social studies one as well.

We were disappointed. There were very few people in attendance, the music made me wonder if they could not have booked somebody slightly better, and the food, of course, was junk. I don’t mean to sound negative, but that was just my impression around 1:30pm. Maybe it’s an inaccurate snapshot of an otherwise glorious day.

It was really hot that day and maybe most people came in the morning. Whatever the case may be, it was not something that made us want to put this on our calendar year after year. Having said that, it’s really close to our house and if we have nothing better to do we can always stroll through it. Doing things as a family of four always leaves an impression on the children, even if it’s not something to rave about.


Tuesday Tome Week 38 – The Silver Chair

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The Silver Chair did not seem very interesting to me at first. It took more than half the book to even understand the title. I felt confused by the whole layout of the land described and the Marsh-Wiggle called Puddleglum. (Uh, what’s a Marsh-Wiggle?)

The Silver Chair

The book begins with Eustace helping a school mate, Jill, while she is being chased by bullies. They both escape to Narnia just in time before the bullies get to Jill. Folks, this is 1950 and C.S. Lewis knew enough about schools in those days to put a bit of them in his books. The bullies today work just the same, if not worse.  Continue reading »

It made me realize there is a whole theme about education through Narnia. Peter complained about the school Edmund started attending. In fact, Peter claims the school Edmund started attending made Edmund a traitor and a liar.

Jill’s bullying in The Silver Chair makes me thankful we are able to homeschool and spare our children the grief. She attends an Experiment House where children can do what they want and teachers believe that if they just talk to the children with the right words, they can elicit the correct behavior. Sounds like the progressive education of the 21st century we see all around us, doesn’t it? Well, it all started 20 years before Narnia was published and so by the time Lewis wrote about it, it was developed enough to be analyzed and mocked by an intellectual of his caliber.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Professor wonders, “What DO they teach them in these schools?” when he realizes the children have no Logic principles. In yet another place, the question is repeated by another character.

The Christian overtones become very clear in The Silver Chair. Puddleglum sacrifices his health by stomping out the fire with his own foot in order to stop the witch’s spell. The children are given directions by Aslan, directions which must be memorized and obeyed (Scripture memorization?).

When they wonder what will happen if they do what Aslan told them to, Puddleglum reminds them that Aslan never told them what would happen. He just wanted their obedience. And as long as you listen to his words and trust they are the best for you, you will have done your duty.

Prince Rilian is tied to a silver chair when he comes back to his right mind, so that he may not escape from the Underworld. Reality and fantasy blend and become very confusing. The children don’t know if they should release him or not, because he is a totally different person when his “fit” comes over him. I could go on and on with examples of how deep this book goes into the Christian journey with its ups and downs, confusing and clear moments.

For those familiar with Plato, you will of course recognize his allegory of the cave. Lewis is a genius in coming up with a story which can show children philosophical principles.


Why People Don’t Homeschool

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A Romanian blogger detailed recently how she decided to enroll her child in fifth grade this year, after looking at three possibilities: private school, middle school attached to a high school (which implies the teachers would be infinitely better than in a regular ol’ middle school, since they are qualified to teach secondary education), or a five-day homeschool co-op (if you will, a homeschool school where all the teachers are parents who hold university degrees in their subject).

Funny education comic

Today’s classrooms focus on testing and less on art.

The blog post is titled, “Why We Feel Threatened by Homeschooling” and yes, it is in Romanian. The link above will take you there if you can read that language.  Continue reading »

Now homeschooling is not exactly legal in Romania, but it can be done if one enrolls in a school abroad, in the UK or the US for instance. In that case, it is called correspondence school and should you get inquiries from the authorities you will be left alone.

She ended up choosing a fourth possibility: staying within the same K-8 school her daughter has attended so far. Her post is long, but in short she said, “I did not have the courage to homeschool. I did not have the courage to assume the responsibility of my child’s education. It’s easier to have somebody else to blame if something goes wrong.”

She was perfectly honest about this. She admires her friends who homeschool, but she says she prefers to leave the responsibility in somebody else’s lap. Then, she said, it will be easier to blame the classmates or the teacher or the principal or the government for whatever goes wrong in her child’s education.

There you have it, my friends, straight from the heart of a very honest person. Most people do not homeschool because they would rather blame somebody else than themselves if something should go wrong.


Healthy Taste of Knoxville

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Today is the day when Homeschool Ways will take the show on the road. We will have a booth at an event called The Healthy Taste of Knoxville. This second annual event is held on Kingston Pike, the main highway that goes through Knoxville, just two blocks away from the University of Tennessee campus.

Knoxville Veggie Fest

The official poster for the event

It was a few weeks ago the organizers approached me and asked if I would like to bring my books and any information I may have about homeschooling to this show. They told me during the show last year a lot of people were inquiring about “alternative choices” in lifestyle and it included food, education, and spirituality. By a lot of people we mean over 1,000.

Continue reading »

I have personally been a vegetarian since 1992, so I could share a lot about healthy eating. I could even have a food blog. But, there is only so much time in the day and I have other priorities. By the way, my doctor tells me I am one of her healthiest patients when she sees me for my annual checkup.

The organizers said, “We would love it if you could bring information about homeschooling. People who are open-minded about changing their diet are also open-minded about schooling options for their children.” Isn’t that the truth?

Well, I’m glad to serve!

For clarity’s sake, let me repeat the main facts below.

 

What: Health Fair and Vegetarian/Vegan Tasting (Gluten Free, too)

When: September 18, 2016 1:30PM-4PM

Where: 3611 Kingston Pike, Knoxville TN

Why: To taste delicious foods and learn more about health

How: FREE and FREE parking

 

Your humble correspondent will have books available for sale about homeschooling. I prepared vegan burger samples to share with folks. Many vendors will be present to share delicious vegetarian and vegan free samples. Some vendors will have items for sale.

Last year, this event drew over 1,000 people, and they expect it will double this year. The weather seems to be at least overcast but never fear, the event is inside. The building looks like a gym. There will be parking attendants to direct you. If you follow the posters on the road, you should have no problem finding it.

The Knoxville Police Department has sent us some officers as well, so do not be alarmed if you see a police presence. They are there to help smooth out the traffic going in and out of the campus. See you there!


The Things We Dare Not Tell

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Homeschooling blogs abound, but what are the things we dare not tell about our homeschooling experience? Just like in anything else, there is a fine line between encouraging and discouraging our readers. We share our successes to encourage others and we end up discouraging those homeschooling moms who are already not very self-confident.

Woman with sealed lips

Sealed lips

We share our vulnerable moments to encourage homeschoolers and risk being ridiculed by moms who put their children in the public school every morning and never think twice about dropping their children off in a building for the next seven hours. “See, that’s why I don’t mess with homeschooling. Life’s too short to pour over algebra with my kids. Plus we need a second income to afford a vacation and nice clothes every year.”  Continue reading »

Whatever you do with a homeschooling blog, there will always be the things you do not share. Let’s get the record straight. There are some things that are better left unsaid. It’s nobody’s business but your own. In this day of TMI (too much information) and oversharing through social media, it’s good to have a sanctuary of privacy for your family.

I believe privacy can be overrated as well, but there needs to be a circle of inner intimacy and privacy around your homeschooling experience. If nothing else, to protect the innocent in our lives.

As I thought about these things, I came across this poem from public domain. It deals with some issues of privacy due to prideful silence and it’s probably not 100% applicable to homeschooling blogs, but it’s a great poem and I thought I’d share it.

 

The Things We Dare Not Tell

by Henry Lawson

The fields are fair in autumn yet, and the sun’s still shining there,
But we bow our heads and we brood and fret, because of the masks we wear;
Or we nod and smile the social while, and we say we’re doing well,
But we break our hearts, oh, we break our hearts! for the things we must not tell.

We see but pride in a selfish breast, while a heart is breaking there;
Oh, the world would be such a kindly world if all men’s hearts lay bare!
We live and share the living lie, we are doing very well,
While they eat our hearts as the years go by, do the things we dare not tell.

We bow us down to a dusty shrine, or a temple in the East,
Or we stand and drink to the world-old creed, with the coffins at the feast;
We fight it down, and we live it down, or we bear it bravely well,
But the best men die of a broken heart for the things they cannot tell.


Strawberry Shortcake

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As a breakfast food or as a dessert, strawberry shortcake does not disappoint. I like mine in the morning, for breakfast, with the sauce over it and topped with banana slices. The picture does not do it justice, but then I have already told you this is not a food blog, right? Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake

 

Ingredients

1/3 c oil

3/4 c non-dairy milk

2 Tbsp. Sugar-in-the-Raw

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c flour

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder

1 lb. strawberries, fresh or frozen

2 Tbsp. cornstarch Continue reading »

1 c water

bananas, optional

 

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Spray a round cake pan with oil spray. Mix wet ingredients together in a large cup or mixing bowl with a lip. Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well. You should get a rather stiff dough.

Spoon it into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean. While the cake is baking, wash and chop your strawberries. Transfer them to a pot cover them with water. Add a pinch of salt to get their juices flowing. If using frozen fruit, it will take a couple of minutes before you can stir and separate them. Let the heat do its job to thaw your fruit.

Once they are boiling, reduce the heat. In a clean cup, whisk water with cornstarch until you can see or feel no more lumps. Then add the mixture to the fruit and mix well to distribute it evenly. Add sweetener of your choice and cook until thickened, another five minutes or so.

Pour over your sliced shortcake and top with non-dairy whipped cream, vegan cream, banana slices, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or any other chopped fruit. You could use any other fruit instead of strawberries: blueberries, peaches etc. Enjoy with moderation!


Mind the Math Gap

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When I visited London in the late 90s, which, by the way, seems like a lifetime away, I learned a phrase they use on the subway (or underground) every time doors open and people get on and off. The recording says, “Mind the gap!”

The gap refers to the hole between the platform and the inside of the train. It’s a small gap, but nevertheless people can get caught in it if they step a certain way, or if not people, their rolling luggage or a pet or whatever is dragging behind them on the floor.

I will have to ask my friends who live in London if they still say that on the underground. It’s very catchy, especially if you hear that seven times in the morning and seven times at night on your daily commute. I suppose one blocks it out after awhile.

Math Mammoth First Grade

Math Mammoth First Grade

When I recently read about the homeschool math gap, I remembered the London underground. But then I came back to my homeschool reality. This is some serious research and some good information to have, my dear homeschooling friends.

Continue reading »

Did you know that homeschooling students fare a lot better on the language arts section of standardized tests than in the math portion? It is a lot easier to teach children how to read than to drill them in math facts. When one can go to the library and bring home 10 books and repeat the process every week, one’s vocabulary grows at a nice rate.

But what about math? There are so many complaints about children being in tears about math all over the internet. So we come up with manipulatives and unusual ways to explain abstract concepts to little people.

I myself have already tried four math curricula, while still eyeing more from a distance, and we don’t even have tears during math. We went from Singapore Math to Right Start Math to Math Mammoth, while using Life of Fred as a fun supplement.

We are happy with Math Mammoth for now and I think we will be here to stay through sixth grade. Maybe. But that does not mean that we don’t play some of the math games we learned through Right Start or other games, which I found online, using dominoes.

I will close this post about math with a testimony from a friend of mine, a mom of two small children, who was homeschooled in her childhood. She took me aside and whispered to me, “I am preparing to go to dental school and have a hard time remembering math facts. My mom never drilled me. I have to stop and think about 6×8, for instance. Please make sure you drill your children, otherwise they will be handicapped for the rest of their lives. Here I am reciting multiplication tables to myself at night, a mom of two, going to graduate school!”

She was nice to share her testimony with me, wasn’t she? I thanked her profusely and made mental notes of her words. In big block letters. Red. Must drill math facts. Must. Must. Must. I don’t want a gap between my children’s math scores and language arts scores, do you?


The Beauty of Homeschooling

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The beauty of homeschooling is that no two days are alike and you never know what is around the corner. Six months from now or even six days from now you might be switching curriculum and things get better in whatever subject your child was struggling or not thriving. It’s never too late or too early to learn anything.

Logic of English Foundations

We will give Foundations a try.

When you homeschool, you have a committee of two: you and your spouse. In some cases, you don’t even need to discuss it. Spouses should trust each other with decisions, but it’s always nice and encouraging if you share in the decision-making process.  Continue reading »

I recently decided that Essentials was so good a spelling curriculum for my third grader, I wanted my first grader to experience it. Of course, Essentials is for older children, so we bought Foundations, which is for ages 4-7.

My first grader can read and she enjoys her reading curriculum (The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading) and readers (McGuffey), but I think that she would enjoy Foundations even more. For one, it’s colorful. Then, there is a workbook. She likes to doodle and match and stay busy with a pencil in her hand.

Last but not least, it is reading, spelling, and penmanship in one great language arts curriculum. My daughter is almost finished with learning how to write lower case letters, so this penmanship practice will be a good recap of her handwriting work so far.

There is a short placement test on their website. After answering a few questions, I got the result that she needs to start with Level A. So I ordered A and B, teacher’s manuals and student workbooks. I also ordered Doodling Dragons. It seems like fun and I have a friend who uses this curriculum and she said it was nice to have.

I have all the rest of the kit from, having done Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive with both my children and, of course, Essentials.

I wish I had thought of this before but regret does not lead me anywhere. Regret is not productive. I choose to rejoice in making this decision now and to learn from it. You only know which curriculum works if you go through several weeks with it. Essentials works for my third grader and so I will now give Foundations a try with my first grader.

It helps to have a friend who showed me her Foundations teacher’s manual and student workbook. It’s very different from Essentials and it convinced me my first grader would like it.

One last thought: my children have learned to read almost on their own, because I read them 1,000 books before kindergarten. They don’t always sound things out, because they have seen words so many times, they know the whole word. This does not help with spelling, I have found out. So we need to go back to the basics and decode sounds at the most foundational level.

The Moore philosophy of delaying academics kept me from ordering this until now, plus I thought they are just “selling us products,” like any other curriculum provider. But my daughter is almost seven and Foundations is for ages 4-7, so she will be at the end of the spectrum. And I can see from my son’s experience that being an excellent reader does not necessarily translate to excellent spelling skills.

I choose to stay positive and embrace the beauty of homeschooling. And I am thankful for friends who homeschool and share their experience with me, so that I may learn from them.