Progress  

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I have found myself doing so much outside writing (I'm not complaining!) that I don't feel like really taking the time to post here, which is sad since the whole intent of this blog was to stay apprised of the kids' progress. I wanted to give myself status updates on the kids. Hmph. The best laid plans of mice and men...


T is 1/4 of the way through Saxon 6/5. She has had no problems thus far, so I'm pleased. I think she's right where she should be. I am changing her Grammar program from Saxon 5 to Classical Writing with Harvey Elementary Grammar, though. I don't think she is getting enough writing instruction with Saxon, and I don't think that Writing with Ease is doing it either. In spite of WwE being a product of WTM, I find it very CM and not as much Classical. I have decided to go completely Classical with the Progymnasmata. I really think that T will enjoy it more. She has such an aptitude for grammar that the repetition of Saxon was getting to her. It is not really what I would consider a 5th grade level - maybe more 3rd grade. Maybe it's just that she was so well prepared with FLL that we have to go more rigorous. In any case, I'm looking forward to beginning Aesop and Homer for the older beginner. CW considers the older beginner to be 8th grade, but when they also recommend starting Aesop at 2nd grade. Considering Aesop should precede Homer, I felt older beginner was the way to go. I'm starting N with FLL 3 as soon as it arrives at the house. He's more than ready.

Speaking of N, he's more than 1/2 through Saxon Math 3. It is still quite easy for him. We rarely have to slow down, and I rarely have to say something twice to tell him how to do it. If I ever do have to actually "teach" him a concept, it is WWIII. He does not like not getting it right away. He has to constantly be fed new challenges. I'll be very curious to see if this math-fury keeps up when he finishes 3. He will be in 5/4 while he's still comfortably six years old. That's on-level 5th grade, advanced 4th grade, math. Remind me to post the article that I just wrote for Heart of the Matter Online on teaching gifted children...

M and M-C are doing quite well with phonics, but it hasn't quite translated to formal reading yet. I'm fine with that. They're four. I still think they'll be reading short books by five, but if they're not, they're not. They love AAS. I love my affiliate checks from AAS. It is so easy to sell a product that sells itself, and that I use unreservedly. The twins are also doing Saxon Math 1. I see the point coming very soon (as in probably next week) where I will have to split them up. M races through his work and wants more, and M-C likes to take her time and be very meticulous. She only wants to do the day's work, and that's fine. By the same token, though, I'm not going to hold M back, just as I've never held the other's back. Teaching four levels of math, though...Thank Heaven T basically teaches herself. I think that next year I will invest in Saxon DIVE. It will be her last year before Pre-Algebra, and I really want to make sure she is completely ready.

Apologia Astronomy is going rather slowly, but they are learning quite thoroughly that which they are learning. I can't ask for more than that.

We are studying American Indians right now, and *that* we are doing very thoroughly. We read a wonderful biography of Sitting Bull, and even M and M-C could retell much of it if pressed. We will place him in his broader context as a Plains Indian, and then move onto other kinds of Indians, geographically speaking. I have to really think about history. I just don't have a program that I love. Maybe I'll look at Connecting with History again. I just have to accept that I am never going to find a program that has everything that I want. I love all of the resources at Mater Amabilis, and that's fine for the youngers, but T needs something more intense. Am I talking myself back into Tapestry of Grace? We had never done history as thoroughly and intensely as when doing TOG...I just don't love the investment...or the Protestantism. It's funny. As I write that, I wonder whether I will cost myself writing jobs. I'm pretty sure that the "Salve Regina" outs me as a Catholic, but I am already pretty sure that there is at least one job that I didn't get because of my answer on the question: What denomination are you? Funny. I think I'll leave that there now.

I have to give kudos to Our Holy Faith. I love this series for Religion. It doesn't have the pretty pictures of Faith and Life (which, for some reason, seems very important to many parents), but it does have so much more. It is chock full, and T is learning so much.

One more brief note. I have just found Lesson Pathways. I would never use it as a full curriculum, but as an organization of Internet links, I'm all over it. I subscribed for $4.95/mo. and consider it money well spent. There is also one free pathway per week, so it's worth looking at just for that.

T's Stories  

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I get hit with migraines often. So often, in fact, that I often feel that my life is passing me by while I am abed. T sometimes will come in to keep me company, which she did yesterday. She began telling me stories from "The Meatball Chronicles." Don't ask me why (it's a long story), but our guinea pigs' tushies have been rechristened as "meatballs." In this particular episode, the guinea pig Telemachus was at Mass with his parents (Odysseus and Penelope - Odysseus is one of our actual guinea pigs). The guinea pig priest was named Fr. Yort (that should look vaguely familiar to you if you attend St. John Vianney!) He was a silver guinea pig who drank too much beer at lobster dinners (this is all out of the imagination of the eight year-old T!). In his homily, Fr. Yort began to speak of Jesus (pronounced in Latin, though, so it was "Yay-sus"). Telemachus came out of his somnolent state at the sound of what he thought was a familiar name! He began to chant: "Yay, Zeus! Yay, Zeus!" I guess you can take the guinea pig out of Greece, but you can't take the Ancient Greek gods worship out of the guinea pig...At least Fr. Yort at the good sense to spank his meatballs!


Should I be concerned about T? Just kidding - I love her imagination. I don't know if I'll be able to look at our priest without laughing next week, though!

Fall Schedule  

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July 27, 2009




I don't know how well it will work yet (we'll need hands-on time for that), but I have a tentative "what to do when" schedule hammered out, complete with color-coded bullets. The first bullet is for independent student work. The second is for work with me work, and the third is for all together work. Of course, the twins, being four, do not actually have to participate in history, art, and science :) Everything after handwriting, phonics, and math is optional for them!
Sadly, I am a computer illiterate, and I can't post my schedule. Sad, sad day. At least I have one!




Preparing for School Again  

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July 24, 2009

I have to confess that I have not loved our mini-vacation. If one cares about the children's grade levels, than I feel that we stopped just short of finishing their prior grades. To a Type A like me, that feels like we're starting in the middle, never mind that we are just taking three weeks off for summer (one more week to go!). Still, I guess it will help me to organize my thoughts as to where we will be picking up. It seems as if I do that quite a bit. So, the kids' curricula will be as follows:

T - turning eight and starting 5th grade
Language Arts - Saxon Grammar and Writing 5 and Writing with Ease
Math - Saxon 6/5
Latin - Latina Christiana (but I'm still awaiting a recommendation from an expert on that)
History - Connecting with History (a Roman Catholic history program) VERY loosely, but
mostly my own devising. We'll spend at least a couple of months in Egypt (more if the kids want to), aided by a WEB interactive unit study by Brandenberg Studies. We'll then spend as much time as we want to in Ancient Greece. If we get to Rome this year, great. If not, we'll continue next year. Along the way, I'll document what we do and what we read, because I still feel very called to write a curriculum.
American History - Joy Hakim's books will be our spine here, but I plan to use many OOP books available on Project Gutenberg (and pray that a Kindle drops into my lap) to really make this a living books, read aloud subject for everyone except T (about whom, ironically, I am writing now). Again, I am going to document how and what I teach as I go.
Science - Exploring Creation with Astronomy. I really think the kids are going to enjoy this one, especially once we get past all of the young earth nonsense.
Religion - Our Holy Faith 5 - Living Like Christ, in Christ. I'm really happy with this series. T likes it, too. It's comprehensive, meaty (but not on Fridays), and highly readable. We'll also continue with Fr. Laux's Chief Truths of the Faith. She *really* likes that book. I'm trying to figure out how I can work in Bible History. Maybe I'll wait a few years until I get get all four together.
Handwriting - cursive practice combined with copywork/catechism on magistra-created worksheets with the aid of Startwrite.
Art - Meet the Masters online edition

I'm really excited about the Saxon Grammar. It starts with Grade 5, which is just right for us. I can tell that much of it will be repitition for us (thanks to the awesome work of FLL), but I can't skip her to 6 because of the writing lessons, which look really good. The format is just right for her learning style, so she's happy about it, too, although she was originally skeptical. I think this year will work really well for us. I bought her an assignment notebook, and every day I will write the assignments that she and I have to do together in one color of pen, and those that she can do alone in another color. That way, she will always know what to do, and she will never have any "dead" time.

N - just turned six and starting second grade
Language Arts - FLL 2 and Writing with Ease
Phonics - Explode the Code 4
Spelling - Spellwell Aa
Math - Saxon 3
Latin - Prima Latina
History/American History/Science - same as above
Religion - listening with T and bible stories
Handwriting - my creations with Startwrite
Art - same as above

M and M-C - four years old and starting K
Phonics - ClickNKids
Math - Saxon 1
Handwriting - Startwrite worksheets
Spelling - All About Spelling One
Religion - Bible stories
Any part of any other subject to which they want to listen.

How do I plan to schedule all of this you ask? Good question - I have actually been doing most of it prior to now. I'll post my schedule in a coming update. I am blessed with independent workers (mainly T, obviously) and all-around great kids.

As for me, I still work for edHelper, and I love what I do for them. I also review materials for The Old Schoolhouse and for Teacher Book Bag. Further, I am rolling around a plan for a business of my own...it's just all about the time! N started coach pitch this year (he sort of had to "try out" for his team, and they've already started practice, even though sign-ups don't even end until the end of September! I can't believe how competitive they are already at this age. M is still in t-ball, so we won't even know his team for at least a month. Thank goodness! I expect to be at the field five days a week this fall! T has dance for 1 1/2 hours, and M-C for an hour. I should get a lot of knitting done once the year begins in earnest :)

Ruminations  

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July 19, 2009

Just a brief post. I've just started rolling an idea around in the back of my mind. T and M-C were going to be in Little Flowers this fall, but due to a change in the leader's schedule (a baby!), that seems to be off the plate. I could put them in another group, but more and more I am wondering what they would get out of it. Everything that LF does, we do here at home: saints, virtues, and catechism. My main goal would be for the (ahem) socialization, and that primarily for T. However, at eight, she would be the oldest in the group, and she doesn't really interact much with girls younger than her. She is so darn old. Hence, I am faced with a dilemma, and I must make dilemmonade.

A parallel track of my mind has become increasingly preoccupied with the notion of modesty. I have always been preoccupied with this notion, particularly where my daughters' dress is concerned. Thanks to the influence of my dear friend, P, however, I have become even more conscious of my own modesty (anyone who knows me probably thinks this is kind of funny; I don't even wear shorts). Still, modesty is an inherent part of femininity (such a better term than "Godly womanhood". We Catholic ladies simply must coin our own term here), and it is nothing less than a strict responsibility of all women. It is a lesson that they have to learn as girls. I could write forever on this subject, but I'll cease temporarily. Let's just say that all of my thinking on what it means to be a young lady is tied up in modesty of all kinds. It's not just about dress; modesty of manner is crucial. Boasting and self-aggrandizement are ugly on anyone, but I think that humility can be taught to young ladies in the context of modesty.

Finally, the culmination of all of these seemingly random thoughts is this: a tea club. Rather than Little Flowers (we'll just continue to learn Catholic girlhood at home and by example as we have been for the last eight years of T's life), I'm thinking of starting monthly teas for T, M-C, and maybe other girls as well - T's friend S, for example. At said teas, little girls can practice being young ladies (have I already written on the subject of my girls not being teenagers, but, rather, young ladies? We're skipping the teen years altogether). They can dress up, discuss relevant girlhood issues (determined ahead of time by yours truly), and (at least in the case of my girls) prepare the tea and tasties ahead of time. You may wonder what this has to do with LF - nothing directly. Further, it likely won't introduce my T to girls she doesn't know. Rather, the dissolution of her LF group before it started was the genesis of the idea, or, more correctly, the nudge to get me moving.

As I said, just ruminating right now. Hmmm...thinking about that word...if it relates at all to ruminants, I'm not sure I love the connotation.

Review of E-Book: "I Want to be a...Doctor"  

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Within the past several months, The Old Schoolhouse has introduced many new entries into its “WannaBe” E-Book series. Until being presented with the opportunity to review “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a…Doctor”, I had never read one of these books. Now I want to read all of them! While I concede that the editors have found a catchy name in “WannaBe E-Book”, I regret the fact that the name does not truly convey all that these books have to offer a homeschooling (or even an afterschooling) mom.

So much more than just an E-Book, “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a…Doctor” is in fact more of a unit study on the career of medicine. It begins with a biographical sketch of a family that practices medicine, which I rather naively assumed would comprise the majority of the E-Book. I actually would have loved to have read more about the Drs. Atwi, but the editors of this E-Book had so much more in store for me! After reading about the day-to-day doings of the Atwis, the E-Book continues with the all-important salary information for the medical profession, as well as with a reading comprehension style quiz.

Then the real fun begins! The next ten pages of this E-Book consist of optometry-specific information. How do our eyes work? What is a lens? What is color blindness? Activities including vocabulary, a diagram of the eye, and a test to diagnose color blindness are included in this section of the E-Book. While all of the text is written at a level that is easily understood by children, there is much in this book that can benefit parents as well. After all, for many of us, it has probably been several years since we have studied these subjects ourselves!

One of the preeminent features of this E-Book is its versatility. In addition to providing solid information for students who might seriously be considering a career in the field of medicine, the E-Book also contains plenty of material for younger siblings, who might merely be along for the ride on this particular lesson. A hidden pictures activity (a favorite with my preschoolers) and coloring pages are included for the youngest scholars, while a crossword puzzle and a word search are included for slightly older students. Copywork and handwriting practice are incorporated for all age levels. Finally, end-of-unit activities and games round out the student portion of the E-Book. For mom, the E-Book closes with several pages of resources that can be used for further study, including books, videos, and websites.

This E-Book has much to recommend it. I must confess that my favorite part of the book is the story of Dr. Atwi and his family. I think it is this kind of personal narrative that is likely to draw students in, and to make them truly consider what it means to have a career in the field of medicine. Any student who reads this E-Book has, most likely, already expressed an interest in a medical career. Reading about a faith-filled man, who is committed both to God and to his patients, is likely to deepen that interest. The activities that follow can then be used to hone a student’s focus on the “what next” aspect of his possible career path in the kind of fun and hands-on manner to which most homeschoolers are so well accustomed.

As a first time reader of a book in this growing series, I was very pleasantly surprised by how comprehensive and interesting, while still compulsively readable, “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a…Doctor” was. Many elements combine to make this book well worth the nominal monetary investment. My only suggestion would be to create a separate E-Book entirely entitled, “When I Grow Up, I Want to be an… Optometrist”, and separate out the optometry material from this E-Book. In this way, students who are specifically interested in eyes can be directed toward that profession, while students with a general interest in medicine, an extensive field in its own right, can focus exclusively on the broad-spectrum discipline of medicine, exclusive of optometry. Overall, however, this E-Book is a welcome addition to the WannaBe E-Book series from The Old Schoolhouse.

Review of E-Book: "Embracing the E-Book Revolution"  

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I have a confession to make: like the contributors to the E-Book “Embracing the E-book Revolution”, I, too, am an E-Book junkie. While I would never permanently trade the delicious experience of a “real” book, I recognize the immense value of E-Books – both the financial and educational value. Due to the fact that I consider myself something of an E-Book connoisseur, I was skeptical as to whether I would learn anything from this new 42 page offering from The Old Schoolhouse’s storefront. What a pleasant surprise I had in store for me as I delved into the E-pages!
Once again, as is often the case with offerings from The Old Schoolhouse, about half of the nine chapters are written by names that should be quite familiar to many homeschoolers. All of the chapters end with brief biographies, demonstrating that each author is eminently qualified to comment on the subject of E-Books in particular, and homeschooling in general, which I find to be quite a nice touch. In two separate cases, I found myself navigating to the Internet in order to find out more about these particular, less familiar (at least to me) authors.
One of the best features of this E-Book is that there truly is something for everyone. Whether you, like me, are already a fan and a user of E-Books, or whether, like many of the homeschooling moms I know, you are just slightly intimidated or put-off by the whole idea of electronic media, you will find something helpful in this E-Book. The chapter entitled “E-Books: How am I supposed to Read Them?” is a great primer for someone very new to the genre. If you have never downloaded an E-Book, you might want to start here. Kim Kargbo walks you step-by-step through the process of reading, printing, binding, and storing E-Books.
For someone more familiar with this type of media, though, chapters five and six on the topic of storing E-Books will be particularly delightful. Isabelle Lussier and Michelle Amos have so many great ideas for organizing and storing E-Books. After all, E-Books are useless if, once downloaded, you can’t find them on your computer! Whether you prefer a more micro or macro approach to your organizational technique, both of these chapters include some impressive ideas guaranteed to help you find your E-Books more efficiently.
While all of the information contained in this E-Book is well worth reading, it is the other features of the E-Book that make it truly exceptional. The glossary at the end of the book is a huge a bonus for those people unfamiliar with E-Books, as it defines key terms used throughout the book. Best of all, these terms are hyperlinked in the text. Perhaps you’re reading along, mesmerized by the possibilities of these things called E-Books, when you come to p. 31, and find that your E-Books can be stored on a flash drive. The only problem is, you have never heard of a flash drive. No problem. Merely clicking on the words will take you immediately to a definition of the term at the end of the E-Book. Problem solved, with almost no interruption in your reading.
In addition to the glossary, though, all of the companies mentioned in the E-Book, including many homeschool favorites such as Homeschool in the Woods and The Mystery of History, are hyperlinked as well. Effectively, if you click on the company’s name, you are directed to that company’s website on the Internet. Thus, the E-Book “Embracing the E-Book Revolution” demonstrates one of the very best features of E-Books in general: the ability to navigate the Internet directly from a book! Thus, the activities of reading and research are truly integrated in a unique and amazingly advantageous way! Everything from lesson planning to writing your own E-Book (another topic quite ably covered in this E-Book) is now so much easier than ever!
Finally, since you will now certainly want to delve even further into the universe of E-Books, “Embracing the E-Book Revolution” provides several sites for you to explore. I can personally vouch for the treasure trove of material to be found at all of them. The one thing that this E-Book does not mention is that you can actually be a part of making even more E-Books available to the general public! Both The Baldwin Project and Project Gutenberg, two of the sites mentioned in “Embracing the E-Book Revolution”, rely on volunteer proofreaders to bring even more E-Books to their sites. Anyone can be a volunteer proofreader for these sites (I volunteer for both!). It is one more way to bring more E-Books to more people – an idea that I feel certain the authors responsible for “Embracing the E-Book Revolution” would endorse!

Ambitious Plans and Time Constraints!  

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This week I truly feel like I am falling behind my life. Yes - my life is finally getting ahead of me. We made the mistake of starting to clean out the playroom. Now my wonderful friend P is coming to stay the night before we go to an icon writing presentation and Divine Liturgy at my other wonderful friend Pe's Byzantine church, and all of the playroom cleaning has to get "swept" back into the playroom. I hate starting something I can't finish. I hate doing something halfway, or really doing anything that I can't do perfectly. Of course, since my initials aren't JC, I tend to live a very frustrated life. Anyway, I have what I loathe: a busy week. I'm taking T to the library today for a knitting club with her friend S. Tomorrow is AMC movie club for $1 movie. Thursday is Byzantine day. Friday is T-ball party day with the boys. Somewhere in there I have to find the time to finish my work for http://www.edhelper.com (work I really enjoy - I just have to find the time!). I was also fortunate enough to be asked to write another review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - an ebook on ebooks! It's right up my alley (look for the review here), but I need time! Time! Time! Tempus fugit...

My current project is the composition of my own history curriculum. I love Tapestry of Grace, but I have felt quite strongly that Catholic children deserve a Catholic curriculum, especially given that the history of the Western world *was* a Catholic history, prior to the Protestant Revolution (okay, okay, you might know it better as the Reformation). It would be nice if it was presented in an unbiased light (and maybe, someday, someone can do that ;-) ). Seriously, though, there are so many amazing Catholic resources out there that are just not tapped in Protestant curricula. Also, there is a tendency to gloss over, for example, Egypt because "it was pagan, and, therefore, did not have much to contribute to Christianity". That's pretty close to a direct quote from one popular homeschooling curriculum. Egypt may not have contributed much to Christianity, but we're still studying it because of its amazing early insights into farming, medicine, engineering, and other fields. Plus, kids love learning about Egypt. What better way to engage them in history early on in their education? Mummies, pyramids, the Nile, rituals, gods, myths, etc...We're going to start reading G.A. Henty's The Cat of Bubastes as a read-aloud this week, as a matter of fact...

The spine, if you will, of our history program will be Warren Carroll's five volume A History of Christendom (the fifth volume of which is not yet written). It is the only comprehensive Catholic history of civilization of which I am aware. T has studied Old Testament history until she is blue in the face. Both she and I are so ready to stop wandering in the wilderness that we consider ourselves honorary Jews, but the younger kids haven't studied it at all. Hence, although I run the risk of them not understanding the parallel track of history, we will not study OT history right now. With T, though, I will continue Religion, using Fr. Laux primarily, although now supplementing with Peter Kreeft as we start talking about the compilation of the canon. When I start actually to write the history curriculum, I will write in a big section on the compilation of the canon. It's something about which I suspect a lot of Catholic parents don't know much themselves, but which I have studied and enjoy. It is almost mini-apologetics to know why the books in the Bible are there, while others are not. It's also great Church history.

My mind is running so fast that my fingers can't keep up. It's funny. There are two kinds of homeschooling parents (okay, there are many more than two, but there are definitely at least these two): my type is looking every day at curriculum, wondering what is out there, and how I can fit more into our day, or how I can adapt it to what we do.

To be honest, what I am usually thinking is "how can I write something better than this that is ideally suited to Catholic classical homeschoolers?" The other type wants her curriculum simple and uncomplicated. If it works for her, she's happy. She likes her lesson plans to tell her what she needs to accomplish each day, and she likes to know that in May she is done for the summer, and that in September her children will begin a new grade. In no way do I mean to suggest that Mom B is inferior to Mom A. In fact, I sometimes envy her. The fact is, though, that I am the polar opposite of she, and I wonder sometimes if my kids suffer. I can point to their Math and Language/Reading curricula and tell you that 5 year old N (6 in a couple of weeks) will solidly be a 2nd grader by September, and that 7 year old T (8 in a few weeks) will unquestionably be a 5th grader by September, but their Science is somewhat sporadic and informal (they both know a ton of Science, though). Their art instruction has yet to begin (although I can tell you about every single great and not-so-great art curriculum out there, and I own three of them!). They are both way above level readers and are great spellers thanks to a very solid phonics foundation, and they both seek out non-fiction above fiction at least 50% of the time. I have been (usually obliquely) questioned for allowing/encouraging them to get ahead of their grade level, but why on earth not? There is no shortage of knowledge out there, and I plan to homeschool them through high school. You get to a point when you can afford to spend a whole semester studying Shakespeare in high school if that is what you choose to do, right? I digress and I ramble. I cease.

School Updates  

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Since I posted a review, I guess I should post an actual school update. The official (read: public) school year is coming to a close this week, and here is where we stand:

  • T is finishing up Saxon Math 5/4 and will start Saxon Math 6/5 immediately thereafter. We will skip the first 20 or 30 lessons which constitute an insulting review. She's doing quite well in math, so I'm not worried about doing so at all. She is halfway through FLL 4, and I'm probably going to buy Rod and Staff grade 5 for her tomorrow at The Homeschool Store. I wish so much that FLL had a level 5, but no luck. Maybe by the time N is ready. T is doing Latina Christiana now, but that will probably cease when she starts Grammar I through the CLAA (http://www.classicalliberalarts.com), as she will begin learning Latin and Greek almost simultaneously, and I expect that her progress in Latin will begin to pick up. That covers core subjects (aside from History, about which I am kind of ambivalent right now). Her favorite subject is Religion, for which we are using Fr. Laux's 1930s high school course (whose name escapes me at the moment). It's Baltimore based, it's thorough, and it's wonderful!
  • N is in the middle of Saxon Math 2, and is finding it so easy that I am resisting the urge to skip him to 3. I don't know why I'm resisting the urge when I skipped T...but I am. He is also about 1/3 of the way through FLL 2, and he doesn't really love it. He does just fine, though, and it's funny to hear the twins chant the "be" verbs and the helping verbs along with him. I'm thinking about how to start him on Latin, but given that he is so close in age to the twins, I really may hold him off until they are ready so that I can lessen my work load. We'll see. He'll join us for History in the Fall when we dive in full force again. He does, of course, do copywork (camping phrases right now), and his handwriting is surprisingly good! He is doing Explode the Code 3, but it is so easy that it's kind of silly. ETC 4 should provide a little more challenge.
  • M-C and M are doing Saxon Math K and http://www.clicknkids.com. It's a really neat and fun approach to Phonics, and so far we like it. At four, they are too young for much else.

All of the kids are about to begin Mark Kistler's http://www.draw3d.com, about which I'm really excited. Commander Mark taught my brother how to draw even better than he already did! I think they'll really enjoy it, and it will make a nice change this summer (as we continue to do school full time). We're doing a couple of unit studies for Science as I decide which Apologia book to do next, so that, too, will be a little change for them.

On a private note, T made her First Holy Communion a couple of weeks ago, and I was so proud of her. She was the only child who looked like she had a clue. She made a beautifully reverent genuflection, and then received on the tongue. It was textbook. I have to say, she is my daughter. It seems that I still struggle with pridefulness.

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine  

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I am coming out of hibernation for a worthy cause: to review the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. This year's planner is even bigger than last year's version, while still retaining all of the features that made last year's such a valuable and eye-popping resource. Checking in at 374 pages, it is almost a misnomer to refer to this all-inclusive resource as a planner. It is, in fact, a collection of educational resources, combined with planning forms which can easily replace your current day planner. It is further a cookbook, a reference guide, and a compendium of all of the homeschool forms that you are likely to need, whether you homeschool pre-schoolers or high-schoolers, and whether your style is unit study or unschooling. Best of all, the planner is delivered as a writable .pdf download, meaning that you can begin exploring it and filling in dates on the calendar immediately.

With almost 400 pages, and not a single one wasted, it is literally impossible to discuss each and every feature of this amazing resource, so in an effort to convey the reasons for my excitement, I will instead elaborate upon my favorite features.

First, the Schoolhouse Planner replaces all of your existing planners, both personal and homeschooling. It perfectly merges both of your roles as homeschooling mom (or dad!) and head (or co-head) of household. The search for the perfect system of recordkeeping is over! At first, the sheer number of forms may seem overwhelming, but it need not be! Simply peruse the planner, and make note of the pages that you want to print (if you're the kind of person that needs to see it all in pen and paper, like I am). Print only the forms that you need, and rest assured that the others are there for you if you change your mind. Personal financial inventory? Check. Grocery lists and menu planners? Check. Garden planning? It's there, too. The homeschooling section includes all of the forms that you would expect, from full planners (including twelve year plans!), to library reminders, to an extracurricular activities log. There is even a section for handwriting practice for the little ones! Once you print and organize the forms according to your specific needs, you truly can fit your life into one binder!

Second, for each month of the year, The Schoolhouse Planner focuses on a single topic and covers that topic in depth. Articles by many familiar authors lead off the month, followed both by actual resources included in the planner, and by lists of additional resources available through The Old Schoolhouse Store (as a nice touch, these items are hyperlinked, making purchase temptingly easy!). The month concludes with recipes that are both appealing and practical.

Finally, the section entitled "Miscellaneous Educational Information" is a goldmine of possibilities. Everything from lists of famous composers and artists and their associated works, to lists of inventions, to states and countries and their captials, to various conversion tables is included in this section. While it is true that all of this information is available elsewhere, it is wonderful to have it consolidated in one place: in my planner! I see mini-lessons galore as we wait in doctors' offices, during "adult swim" at the pool, and on those days when school is just not happening the way I want it to. There is more than a year's worth of educational joy just waiting to be explored in these pages!

I generally dislike reviews that don't suggest ways in which the resources could be improved, but I would be disingenuous if I tried merely to "come up"with some suggestions. My only hesitation is that some users might be chagrined by the sheer size/length of The Schoolhouse Planner. 374 pages is a lot of material. To any such user, I would simply urge patience. Spend some time looking through it, and getting to know the forms. Make use of the excellent table of contents, which is linked to the document itself (meaning that if you click on a form in the table of contents, you will be taken there in the document - a HUGE timesaver!). There *is* something in this planner for everyone!

Lent  

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Oh, Lent. A good one can make for a joyful and meaningful Easter, and a poor one can make for a PITA Easter, whose main issue is at whose parents' house to convene. I must confess that I absolutely dread Lent this year, primarily because I have determined that this Lent I must be joyful. I must be happy. Anyone who knows me, and knows me well, realizes how almost laughable this goal is, and how it will be more difficult for me than giving up chocolate any day of the week. I don't do joyful. I do dark, brooding, sarcastic, put-upon, and melancholic. It is who I am (no, really, it is! I took a personality test!). Unfortunately, it's not getting me anywhere. My children snap at each other, my husband doesn't think I'm sweet (he called me that once when I was 18; 15 years later, I still remember it with fond amazement), and I have a friend who is so genuinely happy that it radiates from her like sunbeams. I wonder what it would be like to...well, to be like that. Part of me likes my "shtick". It's genuine, but it's also kind of farcical. I haven't quite concluded why people think I'm so funny. Am I the perpetual fat girl making people laugh (regardless of what my weight may be any given year), or is that dark sarcasm that just boils over into every day life? Regardless, on the inside I am grateful, and I am going to use Lent to scrape away some outer layers to let that gratitude shine through. It may very well kill me.

On another note, the ever-odd T has decided to read Shakespeare. Yes, she's 7. There are many, many heavy and dark books lining my bookshelves. She asked if any of them contained the great Bard. I pointed to that one (the Tragedies), and that one (the Comedies), and that other one (misc. works). She pulled out the Tragedies (she is *so* my child) and pulled up some couch. I'm sure she'll get back to me when she's ready. The very next day, I rebuked her for something at lunch. She turned away from me and rolled her eyes Heavenward. I came somewhat unglued, and rebuked her even more sharply for her show of disrespect. She turned to me incredulously. "But, Mommy," she implored, "I was praying to Jesus to help me not to talk back to you!". What will I ever do with this child?? I studied her face for signs of dissembling, but just couldn't tell. I hmmphed, and suggested that in the future, her prayers should probably not included eye rolling when I was already peeved with her, as it might serve only to inflame the situation.

I apply for freelance jobs almost every day, but get no responses. I wonder if it is more indicative of a) the glut in the freelance market b) the economy c) the fact that God wants me to focus on caring for my family. I once told my friend that God would not drop Vin Diesel through the Church roof as a sign to her that she should begin dating (long story), but it would be nice if such overt signs were part of his oeuvre. I think I'll speak to Him about that.

My 25 Random Things from Facebook...I'm an Exhibitionist for Posterity  

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1. I am a very traditional Roman Catholic, and my Faith is more important to me than anything. I will take my Eucharist on the tongue, my Mass in Latin, and my Priest facing the altar (if only).

2. I am an Anne without a Diana. While I have had best friends, I have never been anyone's best friend, and this loss perturbs me far more than it should. I have just about given up hope.

3. I am extremely shy in large groups, but can be almost gregarious one on one. This verbosity is largely faked to cover up my discomfort until I know you well.

4. I prefer being home to being anywhere else. Similarly, I prefer the company of my family (read: husband and children) to anyone else's company, save my very own. If I never had to leave my house, I would be quite pleased. I am four children and one husband away from being a crazy cat lady (oh, I would need some cats, too).

5. I gave birth to four children in 40 months, but I cheated and had twins. All births were medicated, and I don't feel like Superwoman. You labor for 23 hours unmedicated, and then we'll talk.

6. I love the English language. I love grammar. I love words. I love writing. I freelance. I make essentially no money, although I fantasize about writing a bestselling novel. Unfortunately, I lack creativity, ideas, time, and inclination.

7. Someone I loved died when he was 23. I dream about him at least once a month.

8. I am the very definition of the Melancholic personality type. Further, I also personify the Introvert.

9. I am gobsmacked by how gratified I am by the friendships that I have encountered on FB. I have created/ renewed friendships with people I never really knew very well, and am able to keep up with people I otherwise wouldn't. I, who scorn social networking...go figure.

10. I am passionate about Classical Homeschooling. My children are all grammar stage learners, and I read to them from the "Good Books" daily. We are currently reading "Alice in Wonderland". My seven-year old probably knows more about Old Testament History than you do.

11. I am working on humility. It's a lifelong struggle.

12. Latin est in villa.

13. I have an 80 gb iPod, which is 100% full. It has no songs on it. It is full of old-time radio shows and audiobooks, both of which I am addicted to (never end a sentence with a preposition, unless *not* doing so makes the sentence unreadably awkward). I have over 75,000 old-time radio shows, and have been collecting them since I was 11. Thank God for MP3s.

14. I am an auto-didact. I have most recently taught my daughter and myself to knit and crochet via YouTube. I am now knitting an afghan, my first knitting project, since everything in my world is "the bigger the better".

15. Related to #14, I crave longer books. I read very quickly and voraciously; hence, a longer book is a huge bonus.

16. A semi-colon, properly used, is a thing of beauty.

17. Unlike my sister, I re-read books frequently. A wonderful book is like a true friend, and deserves to be revisited often.

18. Almost nothing is more important to me than fostering the relationship between my children. The sibling relationship is the one that will endure the longest for most people; thus, it is one of the most crucial. I want my children to understand that friends are never more important than siblings, and that family sticks together, no matter what.

19. I detest the discipline in which I hold my Ph.D. From the very first day of graduate school, the 7 1/2 years that I spent earning my Doctorate were sheer hell. I loathe statistics, I resent quantitative methods, and I don't like Political Science. However, I love American Government, I am prouder than anything that I am Dr. Laura D, and I have a degree that less than 1% of the population has.

20. As seen from #19, I am tenacious. My husband likens me to a bulldog with a steak. That tenacity definitely cuts both ways.

21. I would like to be a far better mother.

22. My favorite group is Gene Loves Jezebel, followed closely by Marillion.

23. My hair was just about red before I had children. Now it is largely brown.

24. I have an undiagnosed facial flushing condition. If I flush when I am talking to you, I am not embarrassed, but the redder my face gets, the more embarrassed I will become. What a vicious circle.

25. I have had migraine headaches since I was 6 or 7. I have been offering up the pain for the poor souls in Purgatory since that time. I sometimes wonder if anyone has made it out because of my headaches.

25.1 I met my husband when I was 18. He was 24. He was helping a friend to deejay my freshman orientation dance at UST. He was my college sweetheart, but I was not his (he graduated UST before I started). We got married the day after I turned 21; I was a junior in college. Because of his support, it was a no-brainer that I finished college and grad school, and am now a SAHM. Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done, but definitely the most worthwhile. After all, we're going to get each other to Heaven!

Too Long Have We Been Separated...  

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Why is it so hard to find time to write? I write in my head all day long! Or maybe that's just my talking to myself...

School wise, T has finished First Language Lessons 3 and had moved on to Level 4. They literally published it just in time! Unfortunately, she is CHARGING through it, and I don't know how quickly they are working on Level 5. We may have to move to Rod and Staff after this level, and I'm not sure if I will be able to place her correctly. She will be at least Junior High level. She's 7. Sigh. When a kid loves to diagram and loves to read, what are you going to do? On a similar note, Writing with Ease has turned out to be the perfect complement to our Language program. N's narrations have improved, and all of my kids have become intensely interested in The Good Books. We are reading Alice in Wonderland now, and they can't wait to finish so that we can move on to Doctor Dolittle, Pinocchio, and others. God Bless Wise and Buffington for making it so easy.

N is 28 lessons away from Math 2. Again, I see no reason to artificially slow him down simply because he is 5. He is doing well, and demonstrating mastery of the material. He makes high As on all of his tests. Hence, we move forward. When he needs to slow down, we will. This summer, I fully anticipate spending more time on Tapestry of Grace, and somewhat less on the core subjects. That way, we can really immerse ourselves in History and Geography, giving those subjects the consecutive hours that they deserve. As always, we'll play it by ear.

A Holy Family Mom is starting a Little Flowers Girls' Club in the Fall, about which I am so excited! I have always opposed Girl Scouts, and I refuse to support them by putting my daughters in Brownies, much less in a higher level. However, I would love for them to have a girls' group to which to belong. Now they will. A Catholic Girl Scout troop is still a Girl Scout troop. I don't understand why other Catholic moms don't understand that point! Little Flowers is Catholic through and through - and, of course, it is named in honor of my beloved St. Therese!

My twinners are just being twinners. M loves school much more than M-C. That's okay. More and more, I truly think that she will make her way on the stage. She loves dance, she loves to sing, and she is an actress through and through. I am going to look into drama for the girls, at least, this summer. I know there's a program near here...now to find it.

As for me, I seem to suffer from a terminal lack of ambition. Apart from teaching myself how to knit and crochet (can you say hard-core addict), I can't seem to motivate myself to do anything. I know that I must have a gift of some kind that God wants me to share, but I can't find it. I try not to let that get me down. The ol' "but you have a PhD" with which I console myself is wearing kinda thin these days. I have lost the desire to post at the Melting Pot, and only do so when I fear getting fired. Something about the thought of getting fired AGAIN is rather spirit-breaking (disclaimer: Principal says that none of the other times that I have been fired have been my fault; in fact, edHelper says that I am very good at what I do, and it would welcome submissions from me. Unfortunately, there's that lack of motivation issue).

In any case, we're chugging along in school. We are supplementing All About Spelling, which I still absolutely love, and believe is crucial as a first step in spelling, with Spelling Power, mainly because I like the alphabetizing and proofreading skills. It also gives T one more independent thing to work on while I work with N. Wow - I've totally fallen into "homeschooling busywork" trap. It's not busywork, though. Not really.

I'm feeling so incredibly unmotivated that I think I'll go knit my afghan. At least I have something to show for myself when I do that. Seriously, could I be any more negative? Only the knowledge that no one reads this allows me to be so real!