Monday, March 28, 2011

Entering the World of Lapbooks

I'm not really sure why they call them "lapbooks"; they are basically a file folder (or 2 or 3) that hold projects and information on a particular subject or "unit".  I think most homeschoolers use them for Unit Studies in which they use a broad subject to encompass all aspects of their schooling.  For example The Solar System could be your unit, while you were studying The Solar System , which is obviously science related, your child could write a Bible verse about space or creation for Bible and for handwriting practice, maybe a creative writing project about the planets, adding the 9 family since there are 9 planets etc.
When I started on my homeschooling adventure I was teaching my eager 4 year old to read.  He had played with the Fridge Phonics game endlessly, and after he learned all 26 Uppercase letters, their sounds and the alphabet song basically on his own, I purchased him the set of lowercase letters which came with a comparison chart to put on the fridge.  He literally learned them all in a week.  I knew then that it was time to teach him to read.  I'm not one to pass up an opportunity like that.  At 18 or 20 months this same child was potty trained.  Not because I pushed him to be, but because I was willing to go along with it when he tinkled on the potty on his own.  After that he ran around naked for 3 days and the deed was done.  I'm not saying every child is like that.  Heaven knows my others have not been!  I'm trying to give you perspective on my oldest son.
So, anyway, with an oldest child like that I was very driven and had high goals for my homeschool.  I still do, but my perspective is changing just a bit.  To this point I have been all about books.  I'm still all about books, but I'm excited about adding in some new stuff, particularly for the benefit of my younger "students" who don't read....yet.
When I look at preschool and early elementary curriculums I'm usually a little discouraged.  I feel like they are so general that it's almost not worth it for my kids.  I want to delve in deep! Let them catch what they can, and what they don't will be caught next time around when we cover the material again in another venue, as I'm sure we will.  So far this has worked for me.  But Apologia Science was a little bit much for us this year.  So was The Story of the Thirteen Colonies, our history book for this year (at least).  This is because we mostly just read aloud, there were few "experiments" and we found ourselves getting bogged down.
At Christmas I wanted to do a Christmas Unit.  I went to the Library each week and got countless books about Christmas around the world and the origins of Santa Claus but I had no way to document what we did other than a book list.  The kids got confused and bored with all the facts and timelines.  We didn't really do any projects so the whole thing really felt like a flop.
Several weeks ago I met for coffee with a homeschooling friend.  We've sort of been working through Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day together but separately.  We were trying to come up with a plan as we leave birds and delve into flying insects.  In the process she introduced me to lapbooks.  She's a much more hands on homeschooler.  She has a special needs child and really does a fantastic job; she's so creative.  Here is her blog in case you're interested.
I sure do wish I'd known about Lapbooks at Christmas time.  Anyway, for two weeks in March we did some projects and learned about Ireland, St. Patrick's Day and Rainbows.  It wasn't exhaustive, and I felt entirely disorganized in the process, but it was a good start and I'm pretty excited about how it turned out.

This is the front cover of the Lapbook.  My 3 yr old decided to color on it while I was getting the camera.

Inside the right flap is our Bible verse about Rainbows.

 While I do feel like some of the things we did were just so we could put something in the lapbook, some of what we did really pushed us--like our timeline of St. Patrick's life.  Counting by three's was relevant.  Something green was more for fun, since Silas has known his colors for many years now.

We added a flap to the center section so that we could fit more stuff in.  I will do this a little differently in the future, but for now this works.

 We created a pocket for his creative writing story to go in.  The pocket also served as a place for our Irish Reading List.  Here is an example of how this lapbook pushed us to another level.  This was Silas' first creative writing assignment.  Until now everything has been copy work for him.  He did a great job!  We did have some tears about rewriting for a perfect final draft, but overall I'm very pleased with his work.

 We talked about how rainbows are formed, and made a rainbow with a mirror, a glass of water and a flashlight.  The pictures of that didn't come out very well.  We also talked about primary and secondary colors and formed a "rainbow" in a glass.  Then we documented our work.  We put this in our lapbook too.  I just realized the picture of our color wheel isn't here.  If you look closely you can see it in the first picture at the top of this post.

Lastly we talked about Geography.  This is the back of the
lapbook, and a picture of Silas building the Europe GeoPuzzle
to the left.

I don't think I will do a complete Unit Study  again, I felt like I was doing things not because they were relevant to us, but because they fit with the study, which isn't really how I want our school to function, but I am loving this new venue and I am definitely going to use this to document our work as we study butterflies next month!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bear With Me Please

Since I started this blog I've been meaning to post my workout diaries on here.  I haven't forgotten about it.  I'm having technical difficulties getting them to upload onto the blog without being huge and looking really wierd.  I will persevere.  I will get them up!  Bear with me :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm a Home School Mama

I'll admit it!  I definitely have days that I ask myself  "Why, oh, why do I home school?"  OK, I have a lot of those days.  And I've looked into private schools in the area.  But for all that, I'm still a home school mama. Why? Well, that's what I'm about to iterate.
I'm not embarrassed to tell you that guilt plays a big roll.  I know every mother has angst when they send their children off on the bus, or drop them off at the main entrance on the first day, but those are mothers who believe they are doing the best thing for their offspring by sending them to school.  I don't.  So, guilt is a big motivator for me. 
I have always been a stay-at-home mom.  Before we got married, my husband and I talked and decided that we would give up anything necessary to allow me to stay home with our kids at least for the first 4-5 years of their lives.  I don't like daycare centers.  Not that I'm condemning you if you send your kids to one.  If that's OK between you and God, good!  It's a personal matter.  But it's not OK between me and God or my husband and God, so it was very important to keep our kids at home.  But the thing is that I did keep them for those first years.  I poured myself into them constantly.  We stressed obedience and God was a daily, hourly presence because I made myself very aware of "teachable moments" with my little ones.  So when it came time to think about school, to be perfectly honest I couldn't even consider it.  To do all that work, and then just hand him over to someone I don't know for 8 hours of the day, 5 days out of 7 was an unbearable thought.  What if our values don't line up with the teacher?  Classrooms are prime settings for indoctrination, and I don't want to spend what precious little time I have with my children correcting the education I'm exposing them to! 
Then think of their peers.  I know many parents argue that they send their kids to public schools to be salt and light.  Frankly I don't think my 7 year old is ready to be salt and light.  He's more likely to absorb the bad habits of kids who are allowed to do and watch things that I would never allow for my kids.  Then I can watch, in a matter of hours, all that hard work and time and soul of 5 or 6 years go right down the drain.  No thanks!  I want his values firmly established before I send him out to be salt and light in a dying world.
Now, we send our children to school for education.  We want them to be bright, intelligent, informed adults, right?  OK, then why would I send my child to a public school?  Listen, I know there are kids who come through just fine.  I went to a public school and I like to think I'm fine, but look at the statistics.  Public education is broken!  We keep throwing more money at it in hopes that it will change, but what it needs is a complete overhaul!  Outcome based educationWhole language instead of phonics?  Why take the chance?  Besides that, I want my kids educated on the facts.  Text books leave out so much, particularly in the area of history.  Not to mention the secular view of science without even a mention that there are other beliefs or ways of interpreting science.  Then we wonder why our country is going to hell in a hand basket.  I want my kids to know what really happened.
And Christian education isn't really all that different.  Yes, they teach science from a christian perspective, but they base their educational style on public schools, so it's still basically broken.
But lay all of that aside.  Even if none of those were factors, I would still probably be homeschooling because I want my children to learn how to learn, and to love doing it.  My main goal early on is to give them a strong foundation in a phonics based reading program. I'm using a different program with my second than I used with my first, but it's still phonics, not sight words and whole language, and I'm confident that when he's done he will be as good a reader as his older brother.  The reason for this is that, as Art Robinson says "knowledge is in books".  Or on the Internet, but either way you have to read to get at it!  Yeah, there are different "learning styles" but ultimately you need to read in order to learn.  And I'm not overly worried about missing something as I teach my kids.  I hope I don't, but if I do so what! If they come to a point where they particularly need that bit of information, they will know how to find it.  I think that is infinitely better than covering everything required in a classroom and then forgetting it, never to be learned again.
We are about to start a bug unit in our schooling.  On Wednesday we went to the Library for our normal "Library day" ever week, and checked out bunches of books about caterpillars and butterflies.  They have been poured over and devoured by all, and we haven't even started our unit.  To me, that alone is worth all the trouble.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Re-evaluating Everything

I had a thought the other day, and I've been thinking about it a lot.  The more I thought about it, the more right I believed myself to be.  The thought was this: walkers are fit but not trim; runners are thin.  I'm thinking about people I see walking/running through my neighborhood and along the Highways as I drive through town, and people I've worked with.  By and large walkers are middle aged to older women, most likely walking for energy, heart health and such.  In warmer weather, when they wear shorts they usually show muscular calves but their upper thighs are typically loose, they have thick or blocky mid sections.  By contrast I see runners of all ages in both genders and never do I recall seeing a fat one.  Runners have shapely legs and thighs, small wastes, and tight, high backsides, very proportionate and little to no excess fat.  There are, of course exceptions to every rule, but by and large this is what I notice.
One of the reasons I thought might be the case for this is that runners always seem to be training for something don't they?  I mean there are the 5K's, the 10K's, Half marathons, Marathons.  Once you accomplish a good time on one you've got to move on to the next right?  What do walkers do?  The walk the same route at about the same speed day in and day out.
So I've been thinking about this and my running goal and I was getting pretty excited.  I'm finally going to lose this excess flab I've been carrying around on my mid-section for almost 8 years.  Then my brother posted this video on Facebook.

So now what?? I don't know.  I'm going to keep running for now.  But I'm also going to be researching this more.  When I come up with a new plan I'll post it here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lift Up Your Hands!

Isaiah 61:3 "To grant those who mourn in Zion giving them a garland instead of ashes. The oil of gladness instead of mourning.  The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness The planting of the Lord  that He may be glorified."

All of week one in "Breaking Free" was so powerful, but day 5 was huge for me.  I have so many things I want to be freed from, but pride was not one of them. Pride didn't really enter the picture until this week.  I felt like it wasn't that big of an issue for me and I would deal with it later.  Some of these other things seemed so huge and overwhelming to me, but the study kept coming back to pride. You see, I'm not saying I don't have an issue with pride, I'm sure I must.  Everyone is prideful in some way, right?  I've just never been able to understand just how it plays out in my life.  Maybe that's the embodiment of pride, I don't know.  But I asked the Lord to pinpoint it for me since it kept coming up.  And so the floodgates opened. 
This phrase was life altering to me "Like Israel and Judah, much of our captivity is caused by failure to remove pride, idolatry, prayerlessness, and spirit quenching legalism" Honestly all of these things hit home for me, but to think that I am quenching the Holy Spirit with my legalism -- everything hinges on that. Everything! I realized that my pride takes the form of spirit quencing legalism.
Christ's ministry is a ministry of the heart.  Sure, it involves my head, but ultimately it's my heart He's after.  I am much more comfortable with the intellectual than with the emotional.  A lot of knowledge that I have about God never actually reaches my heart.  I don't want to be the center of attention, I don't want to put on a show.  People who know me will say "but you got up there in front of the church and sang for all those years!" Yes, I did.  But it was pretty much forced on me, because I decided to study music in college. I got comfortable with it, but it is not something I chose.  I much prefer a choir setting.
Part of this is personality.  I'm not one of those people who have trouble thinking before I act.  I think until everything becomes foggy.  I tend to be afraid that what I do or say is going to be the wrong thing so I do and say nothing.  I fear what people are going to say.  Now I realize this is all pride.  I never saw it that way before.  I thought "I'm protecting myself"- WRONG! I'm hiding who I am.  "I'm protecting my husband"- WRONG! I'm hurting us both by clamming up and never saying what I really think and feel about a situation. 
Another big revelation was about music.  I have been very distrustful of CCM for several reasons.  I'm an old fashioned girl at heart.  I come from a background of hymns.  I grew up in a Catholic setting singing hymns.  When I got saved I went to a church that sang old fashioned hymns.  I LOVE old fashioned hymns.  They speak to me.  I don't know how they could not speak to someone who listens, but that doesn't make praise music wrong.  It doesn't make Southern Gospel wrong.  It doesn't make Contemporary Christian Music wrong as a whole.  (I do think some take it too far, however) But regardless of the type of music, music speaks to the heart.  And whether it's an old fashioned hymn or southern gospel at church or praise and worship music at home, when it speaks to my heart I have a hard time expressing that.  I hide my tears if I'm moved to tears.  I fight the urge to raise my hand in praise for fear someone might see.  PRIDE.
I think it's going to take some time and work for me to open up completely, but Beth explains that in Exodus 3:7 "I know their sorrows" "The hebrew word for know suggests a deeply intimate relationship or perception." {ding! ding! ding! ding! ding!} Jesus already knows!  He is deeply intimate with my fearful pride and He can overcome!! If I will only let Him.  "He gives a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting so they will be called oaks of righteousness that He may be glorified"! Can anybody say Amen!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Running Plan

Remember in school when you had to take the Presidential Fitness Test every year?  Boy did I dread that! Ms. MacGuire was the tiniest, fittest, and in the springtime the tannest person I had ever met.  She loved to run.  She always ran the mile with us and I wanted to be like her; but I always got a cramp, and my legs were so sore for days afterward!  When I was in Jr High.  There was a girl who lived down the street that ran and I wanted to get in on it, but I had no real idea how to go about it.  I remembered running the mile in grade school and what that was like and I convinced myself that "I'm just not a runner".  I don't come from a terribly athletic family.  None of us really plays sports. Although I do have a younger brother and sister who ran cross-country, they were not runners then.  So this was a logical conclusion.  In High School I thought of running again.  I tried to join the crew team, but I was pretty shy and when I approached the coach, who was really cute, proud as a peacock, and not terribly enthusiastic about my abilities, my resolve crumbled and I never thought of it again.  I would occasionally "go for a run" outside my home, but I had no idea how far I should go or how far I was going, or for that matter how fast I should go.  I tried to run with a friend once, but my mom freaked out and made me eat first and I got physically ill.  So I have gone an entire 30 years as a non-runner, thinking of it now and then and dismissing it.  Recently, however I have become more and more aware of a number of aquaintances becoming runners.  This has renewed an interest in me.  I want to be a runner too! But how?? I have no endurance and no time. 
We bought a treadmill with my husband's bonus this year. We bought an elliptical too, but that's beside the point.  It's something we've talked about off and on for quite a while, so we decided to go for it this year.  Anyway, these machines came with level 1, Jillian Michaels iFit cards.  Naturally I took full advantage.  I was surprised at first how easy the routine felt, then at how soon it got harder than I expected.  It was great, but it was a walking card (she says walking burns more fat than any other form of exercise) and it ran out pretty quickly.  After that I had no idea what to actually do on the treadmill.  Sure I could get another, but they're pretty expensive.  Enter familiar frustration and feelings of defeat--remember that cardio is part of my new mold and shape plan.
Then something miraculous happened: My 3 year old son spoke.  No he is not a mute!  We were at the kids PE gymnastics class and he noticed the running shoes of the woman sitting beside us.  I knew she was a runner.  We've talked a few times about this or that--really nice lady.  But my son said to me "Mom, she has shoes just like yours!" they were nothing at all like mine.  Hers are blue, mine are pink.  Hers are Nike, mine are Saucony. So I say to my son "yes, sweetie, they are similar, but they are different brands.  Mine have a Saucony symbol  and hers have a Nike symbol. See?"  So she turns and smiles at him and says wryly "It's ok if your mom wears Sauconys" "Ha ha. I say.  I'm not even a runner! I've tried but I always fail" Turns out she's teaching a "Run for God" class and asks me if I have a plan. What? a plan??  I didn't even know there was such a thing.  WOW!  Now, I'm not going to be taking her class; I can't spare 3 nights a week away from my family.  But I have a treadmill and what I did do was go online when I got home, as she suggested,  and print out one of the several running plans that I found.  Now I have a plan.... and I'm ready to run!  YES!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wonderful Cast Iron

I just reseasoned all my cast iron pans, well, most of them.  I forgot about the grill pan.  It needs to be done now and then, (and I have been putting it off for a while) but I've managed to go 6 years since I bought them!
I love cast iron for cooking! I also love exclaimation points! :) Anyhow, cast iron is great for cooking for several reasons.  It is great for heat retention and distribution, if seasoned properly it's a wonderful non-stick surface, it's fantastic for slow cooking, and it's a great way to get a little extra iron in your diet. I have a few pans.  I use them all the time!  I also have a million things on my wishlist :) and they're all at my store.  But, cast iron gets a bad rap, I think.  And I think it's because nowadays Lodge, and other companies sell "pre-seasoned" cast iron.  It's already black! It's beautiful! It's "country"! It's authentic! So we buy it, we use it, and we are really disappointed.  Everything sticks to it, it's impossible to clean and then it gets rusty.  What's up with that??

Friday, March 4, 2011

About to Break Free

I just started a new Beth Moore Bible Study, "Breaking Free".  To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know the we were beginning a women's study at church.  But God works in mysterious ways, and He had a plan for me. If I had been able to just drop off my youngest in his nursery class, I would have gone into the auditorium as usual, and sat through the service.  Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.  I love to hear our preacher!  But God knew I needed this study, even if I didn't. 

As it turns out, I ended up waiting for the nursery worker to show up for about 15 minutes or so and then got into a conversation with another mom about ear infections (more about that another time), so I was only maybe 2 or 3 minutes early for the service.  I should mention that I don't just randomly show up 45 minutes early for service; the kid's AWANA program is on Wednesday nights and it starts 30 minutes before the service, and I have 2 different places to drop children off before 6:30.  Anyway, as I was about to walk into the Auditorium to find a seat I ran into a friend who was looking for the women's Bible study, and so I decided to join her.  I am so thankful that I did!
I didn't realize that I was in bondage.  I didn't know this study would be relevant for me.  I didn't even know the title of the study until it was well underway.  But as I sat and listened , and as she read lists of testimonies; things women had been set free from, I said to myself repeatedly "that's me".  As she explained the cyclical destructive thought patterns that she terms stongholds, several issues came to mind that cause destructive thought cycles and discouragement and I began to be overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord for allowing me to be a part of this study here and now. I am so excited at the prospect of being freed from these strongholds that have held me captive for so long, and which keep me from complete fellowship with my God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What About Recycling?

There's a lot of hype out there about saving the planet for the next generation.  "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has been the mantra for most of my life.  I remember being scared out of my wits in the fourth grade when CFCs became taboo for burning a hole in the Ozone.  On top of that we're killing the polar bears by driving our cars and burning incandecent lightbulbs in our homes.