Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Not About Me

I think parenting is hard.  Maybe it's just me.  It isn't about me and is about me at the very same time.

It isn't about me...

When I was a senior in high school, I decided not to run track and field.  I came home to hear my dad say, "How could you do this to me?"  I remember that moment.  Later on my high school graduation when my dad, scolded me loudly in front of all my friends after I'd tried to find him and his girlfriend (my parents were getting divorced) saying "How could you do this to me?"  I remember knowing at a very young age that what my dad wanted from me was a child he could brag about to his friends.  My achievements weren't mine.  They were his.  My failures...  well, there weren't to be failures.

I remember also knowing, even though I was the child in this relationship, that the decisions I was making weren't about him.  They were about me. I was a teenager and I was growing up.  I wasn't trying to be malicious and defy my father.

I remember the first time Autumn did something that really upset me.  I found myself saying "Why did she do that to me?"  ... all the old, bad memories from my childhood flooded back in.  I, like many other parents, don't want to repeat my parents mistakes.  It was so tempting to get caught in the trap of thinking that what my daughter was doing was about me.

But, it wasn't.  It still isn't.  Not when they're 2, 6, 12, or 18.

Can kids be malicious?  Yes, I've seen it in the classroom when I taught middle school.  After teaching at one school, I found myself so scarred that I never wanted to go back.  But, I believe that most decisions your children make aren't about you--they are their attempts to control their world--to get what they want, for better or for worse.

That trap of thinking it's about me makes it difficult to stay calm and discipline without emotion.  That trap can cause wounds in my heart that are hard to forgive.  That trap can damage my relationship with my child.

So, how is it about me then?  It's about me because I read in Susie Larson's book Growing Grateful Kids a great piece of advice that I often come back to.  I can't give my kids something I don't have myself.

I can't give them a loving heart if I don't have one.

I can't give them thankfulness if I don't have it.

I can't give them kindness if I don't have it.

Parenting is also very much about me.  Why does it even help to think about this?  I guess because it helps me get some perspective.  I have to work at staying calm.  The last few weeks have been really trying in our house.  My middle daughter's picky eating has been so stressful to our family of late.  I had a horrible battle with poison ivy for the past two weeks.  My son fell and now has headaches.  I'm worried.  Two of my children got glasses in the past three weeks.  And other family stress has been added to the mix from outside sources.  It's been a stressful few weeks for me and I feel pretty crummy this morning.  I'm working on my perspective.

Not taking my daughter's eating personally.
Trusting God with the headaches and praying for wisdom.
Getting the glasses and seeing if they help Eli's headaches.
Visited the dermatologist and took care of my poison ivy

I'm taking one step at a time.

Literature Units

I realized two months ago that I needed to come up with a plan about what books my kids are going to read for assigned reading in grades 3-8.  Books in our house are free to be read and so I knew that if I didn't hide these particular books away, they would be read before their time.  No prediction practice, no "in the moment" inference practice, no surprise or expectation.  So, my first page was to make a chart with the grades and genres listed.  Then, I plugged books into the genres for each grade.  I came up with a pretty full list.

Next, I put together my generic literature unit that could be used with any book.  I want to use this with half of the books, but not with all.  I want some specific literature guides that will help them think specifically about that text.  My hope (goal) is to find as many free resources for these units as I can.

I wanted to share my list (and findings) with you in this post in case it might be helpful.

I use a reader interspersed with book studies through the year (1 book study, 2-3 weeks reader, then repeat).

GU = I use my generic unit as detailed in this post:

Third Grade
Harcourt Trophies Reader and Practice Workbook, Grade 3
Literature Units:
(Fantasy) Charlotte's Web and (Realistic Fiction) Homer Price   On this site, you can pick and choose to put together your own book unit.  There's lots of ideas and activities to choose from.
Mr. Popper's Penguins

There are other units available here for grades 3-5:
Other Comprehension Guides for 2nd-4th:

Fourth Grade
Harcourt Trophies Reader and Practice Workbook, Grade 4
(Fantasy) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Secret Garden and (Adventure) A Door in the Wall:  I wrote units for these books.  If interested, please email me.  I have not posted them publicly yet.
(Mystery) Secret of the Old Clock: GU
(Historical Fiction) Anna All year Round, GU

Fifth Grade
(Fantasy) A Wrinkle in Time  or
(Historical Fiction) Carry on Mr. Bowditch Combine: + GU +
(Mystery) The Invention of Hugo Cabaret GU +
(Realistic Fiction) The Railway Children short unit:
(Historical Fiction) Johnny Tremain  (5th/6th grade unit)
abbreviated list of questions:
(Fantasy) The Cricket in Times Square  click HERE   It is a 3rd grade packet, but I like the activities, and the level of work you require from your child will determine the difficulty.  You can also add some of the GU unit worksheets to make it more challenging.
Multiple Choice questions for each chapter (printable):
another one:
(Fairy Tale) The Light Princess (available to read online for free) use GU
Other: Pollyanna  use GU
If you want to watch the Masterpiece Theatre version and discuss it with your child, there is a discussion guide here:
Only the first 3 pages of this guide are helpful--the chapter summaries and theme list:

There are several other novel activity books written by the gal who wrote the Pollyanna activity book here:

Sixth Grade
(Biography) George Muller: YWAM Biography GU
(Historical Fiction) The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson GU
(Mystery)  The second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L.Konigsburg  GU
For these three books, I plan on also possibly writing comprehension questions.
(Realistic Fiction)  Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli  (there are lots of units for this book out there)   brief unit with questions and a few activities
Thorough unit that covers vocabulary, comprehension, extension activities, includes a teaching calendar and lesson plans:
(Adventure) Around the World in 80 Days  GU
(Fantasy) Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh  short but sweet unit.  I would supplement with worksheets from the GU
(Fairy Tale) The Princess and the Goblin GU
Other: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Other units:

Seventh Grade
Mirrors and Windows Reader
(Science Fiction) Ender's Game   First Unit of multiple choice and open ended questions, with activities as well,  or just a set of questions on the chapters from the book
(Autobiography) The Story of My Life by Helen Keller GU  Many of these activities could be used to supplement.
(Historical Fiction) Number the Stars
(Mystery) Wonderstruck GU, book report project, +questions from:
(Realistic Fiction) Flipped

Freak the Mighty plus use GU worksheets for story elements and chapter summaries.
Great info on heroes--don't miss this one:
(Adventure) Hatchet
(Fantasy) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland GU brief.  Assign to write an outline for a sequel.  Then, read Through the Looking Glass.  How did the real sequel compare to the student's?  Compare/Contrast.  What did they like/enjoy?
(Folk Tale/Fairy Tale) A Christmas Carol

Other units are available on

Eighth Grade
Mirrors and Windows Reader
(Autobiography) Chinese Cinderella
(Historical Fiction) Witch of Blackbird Pond
(Mystery) The Westing Game
(Realistic Fiction) MC Higgins the Great   GU
(Adventure) The Fellowship of the Ring
(Fantasy) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(Science Fiction) The Giver  This book is one of my favorites and if your student enjoys the first one, I'd encourage you to have them read all 4 and write a summary of each.  After each, discuss the themes of the story and ask what they thing the author wants them to ponder.  After the 4th, Son, discuss the Trade Mart and the idea of trading for something they want.  What is something your student has wanted?  What do they have?  Discuss the fact that they were created exactly as God wanted them to be.  Does he or she believe this?  Make a list poem...  I am...
(Fairy Tale) Beauty by Robin McKinley
Other: Jane Eyre
Red Badge of Courage

Whew.  I don't think we will get through all of these, because I will look more closely when we get to the coming year when it arrives.  But, I need to be on the safe side and pack all of these books away!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Dangers of Listening and Not Being Present

Yesterday, I realized something.  The Word exhorts to not--give up the habit of meeting together.  But, we live in a world of lone wolf Christians.  There's so much teaching out there on the web.  Sermons from thousands of pastors and inspirational speakers.  

There's something that can happen when we listen without being present--without a relationship with the speaker.  Legalism.  When I say legalism, I mean the belief that whoever we are listening to has the "right" answer and that we need to live exactly as they say.  If we do, then we, too, will be living "rightly".  

I found this explanation on by Matt Slick
"In Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc).  This legalism can take different forms.  The first is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation.  The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation.  The third is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed.  Let’s examine each one more closely."

I thought his explanation was very interesting.  I think the way I mean legalism is the strict adherence to teaching to maintain salvation.  We hear the actions and focus on the actions or applications (practical and philosophical), rather than the heart of the speaker.  

Teaching can get twisted because we often can't hear the grace without the relationship.  It reminds me of people calling in to Dr. Laura's show for advice.  One of my friends who's a doctor explained that she doesn't like the show.  Her concern is that Dr. Laura has never seen the callers as counseling patients.  Stories are complicated and often callers only tell part of the story on air.  

In a similar way, teaching can get twisted.  I have grave concerns about Martha Peace's book The Excellent Wife.    The book is very black and white.  She sites scripture and uses a tone in her writing that makes it sound as if there's only one way to submit to your husband and honor him.  One can't argue with scripture.  I have heard The Excellent Wife used to justify enduring abuse from a spouse.  One can't argue with scripture.  Yet, I don't believe that enduring abuse is biblical.  When a spouse stays in an abusive marriage without help and counseling for both parties, he or she is enabling the spouse to continue sinning.  

I realized this the other day when some advice was given to me.  The advice was given based on the person's own life, marriage, and perspective.  We all do this--give advice based on what we've learned and believe.  The danger I see is in forgetting that one size does not fit all.  We are only able to see part of the other person's life and we also may not see the fault lines in our own thinking.   A few days later, I had another conversation with a friend and found myself explaining my feeling that as we love others in the body of Christ we need to consider what they want and need, not necessarily what we would want in their shoes.  I am a person who loves contact and phone calls when I'm sick or a family member has been hurt.  Others don't feel that way.  I was once told in no uncertain terms a while back by someone not to call a friend of mine when a relative of hers had died.  I didn't know what to do.  Do I defy the person who told me this?  I already had defied it before the person made this explicit.  And my friend had been so glad I'd called.  I had planned on calling again.  What did I do?  Should I call?  Not call?  I called.  I thought about what my friend would want, not what the person telling me not to had wanted.  That's another reason relationships matter.  We need to know the people we want to love well.  I don't believe there are blanket one size fits all rules about exactly how to love others and glorify God in our lives.  

I was just reading this week in Matthew about how we are to love God with all of who we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is what we are to do.  

These are the reasons why I think we have to be careful. 

About what we say.

And about what we listen to.

Reading for 5th-8th graders

I just volunteered this week for our library's book sale.  It was hard to see the carts of books filled with Y and YA fiction.  None of it was stuff I want my kids to read.  So, what then?  

I'm working on a post with our reading lists for fifth through eight grades with free lit units that can be found online.  But, in addition to that, I thought I'd list some reading lists with books that could also be used.  

My approach to literature is to use both a reader and whole books.  Readers provide short passages and text specific questions.  They expose students to a wide variety of writing.  Whole books help students to see a story from beginning to end and see the big picture of how characters change and grow.  What are the themes of the book?  Author's purpose?  Specific characteristics of the book that make it fit a specific genre?  Summarize the book...

So, here are some lists I found:

This site has high school summer reading, plus junior high lists.  Some of the books on this list I like, but some of them I know I don't.  It is a more varied list.

Christian publishers many friends look to are Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, and Veritas Press for reading suggestions.

One thing that I've found about resources on the web, is that they don't always stay--on the web.  So, I'm going to take a closer look at the lists and then print them off so I can look at them later when I need to!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day Thoughts

“Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”

I heard this quote when I was watching Nicholas Nickleby this week.  We live in a society that tells us to expect happiness.  That happiness is the point.  

Tonight my oldest daughter was disappointed with how her night turned out.  I know she's 9 1/2 years old, but still I understood.  I tried to explain to her that sometimes that's just how life is.  So instead of wanting things to be another way, we have to enjoy what we can and accept when things are different.  I find that a lot of life is that way.  

Mother's Day was not what I expected.  Sunday is a busy morning for me.  There's always something else that needs to get done before we get out the door and on our way to church.  My son fell at church and bonked his head--hard.  So, I sat through church a little worried with a daughter next to me who was worried.  Then after church, I checked in with my husband and my son who'd gone home together--so far so good.  We went to Panera, which thankfully wasn't busy, with my mom and mother in law.  It was just a strange day.  I think our culture says that Mom should have a day off on Mother's Day.  But, my Mother's Day doesn't work that way.  I know my husband and kids love me, but honestly, it just doesn't work that way.  

So, what will I remember?  

Going for a bike ride with my kids at the high school two blocks away.  All 3 kids and me.  We made loops and coasted down hills.  We went to visit their friends and they jumped on a trampoline (not my son since he'd bumped his head earlier).  I spent another day being mom.  That's my job that I've been blessed to have.  

I hope you spent Mother's Day with people you love--even if it wasn't a day of rest.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Free Elementary State Report and Fourth Grade Social Studies Curriculum

For Social Studies this year, my oldest daughter (who's in 4th grade), studied one quarter of geography, one quarter on the states and capitals, one quarter on the Regions of the United States, one quarter for a state report.

For Geography, I used a Daily Geography book from Evan Moor that I bought at a garage sale for $2.  If I hadn't had this book, I would have looked for resources online.  I tried this today and found it difficult.
So, here's what I'd make sure to cover:
1) Parts of a Map     Get a map that shows where you went on vacation last summer or on a day trip in the past year.  Trace the route you took and explain all the different parts of the map along the way.  Brainstorm other routes that you could have taken.  Make sure to point out the compass rose and map scale.
There's a few map skills worksheets on this page:
2) Look at a map of the world and point out the globe lines.  Identify the Equator and Prime Meridian.  Explain longitude and latitude.  Identify the Northern/Southern hemispheres and the Eastern/Western Hemispheres.  If they don't already know all of the continents and oceans, print off a world map like this one.  Have your child label and memorize the oceans and continents.  Here's a worksheet you could use with this section:
3) Find a map of North America and identify the countries of North America.  Here is a site with notebooking pages you could do for Mexico, Canada, and a basic page for the United States
4) Put together a travel plan.  Let your child pick 4 countries around the world that he or she would like to visit.  Make a cover.  Then, print off a country page and map for each country from this site.  Go to the library and find book(s) for each country they'd like to visit.  You can also use the internet, but I've found that it's often simpler to use books because you don't know what ads are going to be on the websites your kids are going to be looking at.  Research one country a week.

This plan for Geography should take about 8 weeks, studying geography once a week.  It's also a chance to give your student due dates.  Choose to begin the Geography assignment early in the week and assign a Friday due date.

For the second quarter, we memorized the states and abbreviations using free resources from 5J's.  I also ordered a book from Amazon for $4 (including shipping) titled Yo, Sacramento! (And All Those Other State Capitals You Don't Know)  to help my daughter learn the capitals of the states.  One thing I found that helped memorizing the abbreviations was to look at the address where food products came from or were packaged when we took them out of the cupboard at home.

Third quarter, we did a Regions Report.  I used the first few lessons of Harcourt's States and Regions 4th grade textbook.  I wrote questions for it, so if you ever want a copy, please email me via the contact information.  I'm not going to post these because it's such a specialized book.  Then we did a regions report.
Here are the resources I used:
 Region Report
1. Map of US.  Use this site for region maps and country map:
2. Information about the United States  I like this map of the US as a specific map activity.
3.  Information about Washington DC.  Here is a great site with a lot of information:   You can also use this worksheet to help students learn about Washington DC.  You can print the worksheets on this page.  Have your child read them and answer the questions at the end.
3. To explain the idea of regions, print this explanation.
3. Census Worksheet
3. Region Maps I printed a map from eduplace (above) for each region.
4. Region Activities: Pick 1-2 for each region  Click on the links for each region.  I copied the information into a Word document and printed a page to let my daughter choose an activity.  Or, you could just choose 1 or 2 activities yourself for your child to do.
5. Choose 1 state from each region. Copy sheet from US Map Book, research, and complete.
This is a great site to help your student find information on the web that they need:

Fourth quarter, my daughter did a state report.  I had found a state report book from Abeka at a garage sale last year for a $1, so I used that.  But, since I won't have one for my other two children, I looked around the web for a good report I could use in the future and found these:
3.  Third Option

So, that's our free (or almost free) 4th grade social studies curriculum. :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Photography Unit

I just realized that I never posted a link on this blog to the 9 lesson Photography Unit that I wrote.  Or at least I didn't tag it and make it searchable on this blog!

This spring my kids and I did a 9 lesson photography unit that I wrote for them.  It went really well!  I am very excited about it.  I've posted it so that I could share it with other families.

One note that I want to make about the unit is that I encountered one trick to making it doable and not overwhelming.  In the lessons, I wrote a specific number of pictures for children to take.  Stick to this number.  For the first two lessons, I didn't and ended up overwhelmed by the number of pictures we had to look through.  Once I made them stick to the number of pictures I specified, then all went much better.  My oldest daughter became much more conscientious about thinking about each picture she took.

Here is a link to the unit:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Learning the Books of the Bible

Last month, I realized that my children all really needed to learn the order of the books of the Bible.  It was time.  So, I looked for a free song on youtube and online that I liked (and didn't grate of my nerves).  Finally, I came back to the two songs that Awanas uses.  My kids were in Awanas a few years ago.  I really like the Old Testament and New Testament songs.  They stick in my head!  

Old Testament Song:
New Testament Song:

They're $.99 each.  I really tried to find some free songs, but I realized after several minutes of searching that I needed to simply purchase the songs, because I needed the time back that I was spending searching for free versions of these two songs!