Friday, August 30, 2013

Crazy Busy

Coffee.  I am thankful it is Friday.  I've been on a very busy, bumpy road this week.  I haven't even gotten my coffee several mornings!

Every year I forget that the first week of school is hard.  There's always papers I haven't organized or copied and books or folders I realize that I need--and don't have.  I try to be organized.  I think through my schedule ahead of time and make my master planner.  I did a lot beforehand this year.  But, as always, there were a lot of unforeseen needs that popped up each day this week.

I suspect a lot of people are like me.  We know what we should do and yet we just don't do it!  I know I need to show myself and my children grace and ease into things.  But, I just don't do it.  I put a lot of pressure on myself.  I am thankful for my children and their grace for things (and for me).  We're working out the kinks together and making adjustments.  I haven't figured out how everything is going to get done.  But, we did school work today, helped a friend, went to the library, and ate 3 meals.  Oh, and we cleaned the house this morning.

The first week of school is never easy.  Maybe I'll try and ease into it a little more gently next year...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Christian Kids Explore Biology

This year we're starting a new science curriculum, Christian Kids Explore Biology.  I'm excited for it.  I like the way it's written and I think it's doable with the rest of what we're tackling this year.

I'm getting ready this morning for unit 1.  A friend of mine mentioned that her goal is to make all the copies she needs for the next month.  I thought that was an awesome idea.  But, I know I don't have the planning time Here are the resources that I needed this morning.  I'm going to add to this post what I need as we go, in case it might be helpful to someone else.

Extra Needed Resources:

First, I made a worksheet in Word that listed all the biomes and asked for a short description.

These sites can be used for kids' research:

Food Web worksheet:

It is hard to find sites appropriate for kids without a lot of advertising, but these sites seemed pretty good from my quick glance at them.

Great Book for Teen Girls and Moms!

A few months ago, I wrote a review of a book written for young women about modesty and had a lot of concerns about the messages the book sent.  I had intended to look into other books, but got caught up in the end of our school year. 

Then, recently, I had the opportunity to review another book for teen girls so long, insecurity (teen edition) by Beth Moore.  I haven’t read a book by Beth Moore in a long time because there are a few little quirks about her writing that don’t sit with me.  Well, actually, it’s just one, which I’ll explain later in this review.
One of the big issues I had with the other book I read was the pictures of girls in the book, in the author’s magazine for girls, and on her website.  They all were supposed to represent “joyful girls” focused on inward beauty and not outward beauty, except that all of them were thin, Caucasian, long blonde (or light brown) haired girls.  There weren’t any pictures in the book I read, so I went to the author’s website and read her magazine and saw her team of girls.  It grieved me.  Though the author’s words said one thing, the visual images she put forth presented another.  What does that convey to girls?  Well, I think it conveys the exact opposite of what the words of her books convey and sends the message instead, “It’s important that I’m beautiful on the inside, but on the outside I also have to look like this…  to be beautiful.”

Because of my concern about the other book, I began by perusing So long, insecurity.  This book is designed to look like a thick magazine.  The cover has a variety of girls on the front cover.  One has braces.  They all look different from one another.  Inside the book, the articles are interspersed with pages of Bible verses, anecdotes from young women, statistics and quizzes.  The book covers great topics like fashion, media, boys, popularity, jealousy/competition, and gifts/talents.  As I read each section, I was pleased with how Beth Moore tackles the topics.  Even her section on Boys.  The advice in this section particularly interested me in light of the book I’d read by another author that advocated a picture of boys and girls in which girls have very little to do with boys until they meet “prince charming” and marry in their twenties.  Ms. Moore’s advice focuses more on girls being themselves.  I love this quote, “As hard as this might sound, don’t let boys take over your thoughts.”  Earlier on the same page, she says this, “There’s nothing wrong with liking boys.  It’s natural—part of the way God has wired us.  God made us with a desire for relationships, and it’s good to want strong, trusting, healthy relationships with guys.  And at the right time, it will be great for you to find the right young man who may end up as your husband one day.  But, there are some things we need to get straight first.” Page 42. 

There are only two concerns I have about this book and it is a concern I have had about all of Ms. Moore’s books.  It is something I disagree with her about she approaches the Bible.  She asks readers to “read” into the text of the Bible.  Periodically in this book, there are stories of Bible characters.  Ms. Moore puts herself into the shoes of the women from the Bible like Hagar, Leah, Rachel, and Potiphar’s wife.  I think there is a danger in this.  We don’t know how Potiphar’s wife felt.  It isn’t elaborated upon in the bible.  We need to be careful not to “add” to the Word of God.  By putting ourselves into these characters’ shoes, we can infer emotions and motives that weren't true.  The stories in the Bible are meant to point us to God not to the people in the Bible. 

There is one other note that I want to make about this book for parents.  This book is not written from a reformed theological perspective.  The only time this has a significant impact on the book is at the end in the section “Beginning a relationship with Christ”.  Ms. Moore states “it would be my greatest privilege to introduce you to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.” On pg. 150.  The rest of the next three pages give a young woman the impression that having a relationship comes about because of a choice she has made.  “now if you are willing, it’s time to start living the life you were created for.” Pg. 150  How she words it may not strike you in a certain way, but I realized that this was what my husband is sensitive to.  It sends the message that having a relationship with Christ is 1) all your decision (not God working in your heart) and 2) because of the work of another person (not God).  I don’t mean to be nitpicky, but it’s just one of those things that I have begun to take notice of. 

All in all, I really like this book.  It’s one of the best I’ve seen for teen girls and their parents.  I loved the sections on jealousy, boys, and fashion in particular.  I will definitely use this book as a resource with my daughters as they go through their teen years to discuss issues they’re facing. 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Tyndale Publishing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Savoring the Moment

Yesterday, we went bike riding with our kids.  It was one of those awesome times.  All three kids are riding their bikes without training wheels and they love it.  We went on a trail near our home that is mostly flat with a few slight ups and downs.  All three were able to ride.  No major spills.  Chris finally has a bike that he likes and I have a bike that I like just fine.  

As I trailed my family, I was just thankful.  I was thankful that we could do this.  I was thankful to be with my family.  I was thankful to live in a place where we can get to a trail and ride.  Where I grew up, we didn't have anything like what we rode on yesterday.  

(I snapped this picture while riding and holding my camera.)

For two hours, our lives slowed down.  We were outside on a day with a perfect temperature.  It was overcast, but it didn't rain on us!  I had peace and I was present in the moment.  It was a wonderful respite in a busy season for me.

I've been thinking a lot over the last week.  My kids have soccer practice Monday through Thursday...  The girls were put on opposite nights.  Saturday games start next week.  It makes my life busy.

Most of the time, I talk with other homeschooling moms.  The group at soccer practice is different for me.  95% of them are working moms whose kids attend public schools.  They way they view education, sports, family time, priorities, and time for themselves is very different than how I view it.  I love talking with other moms and learning about their families and who they are.  All summer long, I've approached moms at our community pool.  I've had a lot of interesting conversations.  But, I felt more comfortable there somehow.  This past week I tried to start a lot of conversations.  Some of them started, faltered, and then died.  Some never really took off to begin with.  

Along the way, I began to realize a lot of things.  I've been speaking with great angst to my friends about trying to cope with four days of practice plus two Saturday games for three months.  But, to these moms this is totally normal and even expected.  Several of the moms talked about doing even more activities on top of soccer with their kids.  Several participate in adult sports teams which requires weeknight practices and weekend games that consume entire days.  One mom said she needs time for her.  

I've been left with a couple of questions...  how often do they get to eat together as a family? What do they do as a family together?  Do they go on dates with their husbands?  How do they juggle all of it?  When do they rest?  How much are they home?  What are their goals for their children?  What do they see as their roles in their children's education?  What do their husbands expect of them?  

I have been blessed to have two very good friends whose children attend public schools. They've shared a lot of their thoughts on these questions with me over the past few years.  But, I feel like my two friends are very different than a lot of the moms I'm meeting right now.  Both of them have chosen to live on less so that they can be stay at home or part-time working moms and have more time with their kids.  Both of them actively have volunteered in their children's classrooms over the past few years and actively communicate on a regular basis with their children's teachers.  

Honestly, after just glimpsing how I feel after this past week, my respect for what they do for their families and how they juggle things has grown leaps and bounds.  I have always respected them a lot for how they love their families well.  I don't think I could do what they do.  They juggle getting kids up in the am and to school at a certain time, after school pick ups, part-time jobs, sports, dance, music, girl scouts and the like on top of the school day plus church and small groups.  I know each of them savors the days off when their kids are home from school.  

On the other hand, I discovered a couple of things about myself as well as I thought about these moms I've been meeting.

I can't go nonstop two days in a row.  A friend of mine told me this recently about herself and I think the same is true of me.  

I want to savor my kids.  The less you have of something, the more you want to savor and appreciate what you do have.  

I value family dinners.  I agree with Walt Wangerin's introduction (that I've often cited from Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?)--that we need to give our children a safe haven and fill our homes with laughter.  But, it's easier to do that if we're home and have time together.  I don't want to fill our lives with constant activity.

Soccer is a good thing for my kids.  There's lots of great lessons that I've been watching my children start to learn on the soccer field.  This is just a season, so I am going to hang on and make this a priority for this time.  But, I wouldn't want to keep going like this all year round.  Next summer, we're going to do swim team--in the mornings.  This is will be much more doable for my family and it won't be on top of our school days.  I definitely prefer afternoon activities to evenings.  

I probably think way too much about all of this, but I'm realizing that it's just the way I'm wired. But, I need to pause my pondering because I need to go get dinner in the crock pot and start my day!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Music Curriculum Ideas

Our children have taken piano lessons each year that I've been homeschooling, so that has been their music curriculum.  But, yesterday I brainstormed with a friend of mine ideas for music this year for her kids in grades 1 and 2.

Here was my idea:
Make a composer notebook.
Study one composer a week.        
1.  For each composer, read a biography on or  These are very brief.  Then, find a past episode of Classics for Kids on the composer to listen to with your children.
2.  Making Music Fun has a composer job application.
You could also make your own if there are other details you want your children to record.
3.  There are coloring pages dot to dots and word search worksheets for the composers on Making Music Fun.          
4.  Look at this page for other ideas:
5.  Check out a cd from the library for that composer that you listen to in the car as you're going to and from places all week.

The cost of curriculum can add up and we all choose what items are most important to us and save where we can.  If music is one of those areas you find yourself seeking to save money on this year (but is a required subject where you live), this might be a free way of studying this rich subject this year!  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What My Kids Give Me

What my kids give me:

Their Patience.

Their Love.

Their trust and belief in me.

Their forgiveness.


Last week, Time Magazine ran a cover article about "The Childfree Life: when having it all means not having children".  On yahoo, there were two columnists that posted their dialogue about the article  and many others in the media weighed in.  I read in one article on the LA Times which mentioned that most dialogue has been focused on whether a couple's decision to be childless is right or wrong.

My concern about the cover article of Time was not a matter of right or wrong.  I do have friends who've decided not to have kids.  Most of them for health reasons.

But, I remember one friend (who got married before I did) telling me that she and her husband never wanted to have kids.  She was honest with me and said, "We're just too selfish.  We like our life the way it is and don't want to change it."  I was a bit taken aback.  I hadn't considered this before she openly shared this with me.  Ten years later I found that friend on Facebook (in the old days when I was on Facebook) and discovered that she and her husband had a son.  I smiled.  Something must have changed.

One of the things I am regularly confronted by as a parent is my selfishness.  When I got married, I glimpsed my selfishness and had to learn to compromise.  But, when I had kids I saw it even more.  Except the thing is that as a mom I didn't have a choice.  I had to push through it.  My kids needed me.

I still struggle with selfishness.  I get tired.  I know my own weaknesses and know that I'm not a perfect parent.  But, I also wouldn't give it up for the world.

I also can't imagine growing up and being alone.  Not having children or grandchildren.  Not having nieces and nephews.  Being alone.  I can't imagine missing out on the joy I had tonight watching Sami play soccer for the first time or Eli run around the goal post in the middle of the pack.  I can't imagine not laughing with my children at silly jokes they make up about "hot" dogs in the car today.  I can't imagine not being there when they needed me today.

I can't imagine missing out on having my kids.

I am not so much angered by the article, but saddened by it.  Our culture believes that being happy comes from having the "things" we want.  What people miss is that it is the "people" not the "things" that bring joy and memories into our lives.  No "thing" could take up the space that my kids take up in my heart.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Common Core and Homeschooling

I heard an interesting thing last week that I didn't get a chance to write about, but I think it's important.  

There is a new set of education standards that are being adopted across the country.  These standards are what public school teachers use to determine what students at every grade level need to be taught and need to learn.  There have always been state standards around (which have always been problematic and difficult for teachers to implement).  But, there are some new things with the common core--notably the tracking system that is tied to it and education funding/teacher evaluations that are being tied to their implementation.    

Here's the definition of what the common core is from their website (
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.

Currently there are core standards for Mathematics and Language Arts.  The state we live in is in the process of training teachers to understand and implement these standards.  I heard mention of these standards thirteen years ago when I received my professional teaching license in Colorado.  First year teachers receive a provisional license and can apply for a professional license the next year.  There were rumblings.  Then back in 2010, the core standards came out.  Obama's administration has been pushing them for the past few years and has tied extra education funding to their implementation. States, always wanting more funds, have of course been opting in.  

Rather than getting into the issues of why these are concerns, I want to link to HSLDA's website about the Common Core:   A lot of criticisms of the common core seem to be a bit extremist, but I found a lot of what HSLDA put on their website to be very helpful and informative.

But, here are some of my concerns based on my experience as a former public school classroom teacher, former private school teacher, and now homeschooler:

Last week, I heard a private school administrator explaining that the rumblings and concerns among the networks of private school administrators is how the implementation of these standards will affect the college board tests that private school students must take in order to almost all four year colleges.  I have to be honest, I hadn't really given much thought to it until I heard her concern.  

I think she's right.  As much as homeschoolers want to teach their students for the sake of learning and not achievement, we can't run away from the common core.   HSLDA points out several other concerns on their website, including the tracking of all students from PK-grade 12 and into the workforce.  Honestly, any system that tracks my children and locks them in concerns me.  A system like this can have a number of deleterious effects.  The first one that pops into my head is that parents will be less likely to let their children be tested for learning disabilities unless their are serious concerns and a lot of borderline students who do need help won't get it.  The parent's hesitancy is valid. 

Thankfully, state standardized tests aren't required for homeschoolers at this point in the state we live in.  But, in many states they are.  If homeschoolers' statistics are tracked in such a system and the scores are significantly below that of public schoolers (because we use different curriculum with different scope and sequences), I can imagine a lot of legislators vehemently attacking homeschoolers privacy and rights to direct their children's educations.  Last spring, I administered the ITBS again to a group of homeschooling students.  Before the social studies test, I made a point to explain to the students that this test is about social studies, rather than history--which is what most of them have been learning about.  The goal of both subjects is to give students a sense of where they are in the world and within history--to give them some bearings.  But, they arrive at it by going on different paths and this affects such a test.  

Mathematics is similar.  The math curriculum that our county uses requires students at very young age to do abstract thinking (which is what the Common Core Standards also require).  This type of thinking is very difficult for students and teachers, students, and parents that I know all dislike this curriculum.  But, for some reason, it is still being used.  I have not heard one person say anything positive about this math curriculum in the past eight years that I've lived in Maryland.  Homeschoolers have the freedom to choose a math curriculum that will allow their students' to develop their mathematical thinking skills that is appropriate for them individually.  The common core is an indirect threat to this freedom at this time.  It is directly threatening public school teachers' abilities to adapt lessons to their students' needs.  

I went into a friend's classroom last fall.  She had asked me to come observe her and give some suggestions. It was truly eyeopening to me.  I shared my list with her after the class session and she said no to 95% of my suggestions.  Not because she wanted to.  All of the things I suggested contradicted what the district or school administration required of her--how her classroom be set up, what equipment she use, how she manage two groups of simultaneously talking students, the colors and lighting in the classroom...  Teachers don't get to teach anymore.  They are having to become robots and so are children.

My brother sent me an article from the Economist magazine touting the benefits of individualized education facilitated by computer programs.  There is a school in California where a teacher will be supervising 100 students a day working on computers.  Can you imagine?  I've never known 100 elementary kids in the same room to be able to stay on task without disrupting others with only 1 adult present.  Let me take that back.  I have known schools--they are the ones with children who come from families in a higher socioeconomic status.  At the schools I've taught at with children in lower socioeconomic statuses, this would be a recipe for disaster.  I know this may seem a bit like a rabbit trail, but it all comes back to my biggest concern.  I don't believe that a computer can always educate children better than a human person.  

What I've learned most through homeschooling for the past seven years is that children are not robots.  They cannot all learn material at the same pace or by the same benchmark (whether age or grade).  Their brains are each uniquely wired.  If standards are too high, a lot of children will simply fail and I don't know how our education system will cope with them.  Either they will remediate them with the belief that all students can achieve the same academic goals, or they will hide them.  What if students who've received extra help still can't achieve the specific goals that the education system sets for them, what will happen then?

We live in a country that adamantly believes that everyone can achieve the same thing if they just have the right tools.  But, this is a fallacy.  We aren't all supposed to be clones of one another.  Some people are gifted electricians, some people are cosmetologists, some are gifted care givers, some are gifted in engineering and architecture...  Some people like to read books and others don't.  Some people process information best visually, some auditorily, and some kinesthetically.  Our brains simply don't all work the same.  Tying 50% of a teacher's evaluations to students meeting the core standard benchmarks is a horrible idea in my opinion.  But, more than that, basing a child's worth (which will be indirectly communicated to them) upon their achievement of such standards is an even greater travesty.  What will we be telling the children about what is important?  

Teachers need to be held accountable and students need tools, but we need fight against practices that want to turn both into robots.  Teachers need to be held accountable and students need tools, but we need fight against practices that want to turn both into robots.  Having academic goals/standards for students and teachers is not an entirely bad thing. They help provide a common base of knowledge and guide teachers in what they should teach.  It is the implementation, requirements, and regulations that are coming with this set that are problematic.

I just wanted to share my thoughts about this.  I'm concerned for our education system.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Phonics/Spelling Plan

My Phonics/Spelling Plan! 

Okay, well, this is my plan.  No, I haven't used it yet. 

My daughter is entering 3rd grade, but she needs work on her encoding and spelling, so this is the plan for both that I'm going to implement this coming school year with her.  

This plan is the result of my reading and research.  Many of these strategies are what I gleaned from reading about spelling difficulties in many online documents and learning about how children encode language.  I listed some of what I read in a previous post if you're curious. :)

Pre-Spelling Assessment:  Testing a Student’s Encoding Processes
1.    Test beginning blends.
2.    Complete tests on phonics and phonological awareness
3.    Design a spelling and a reading program to remediate student’s weaknesses.
      I made a grid worksheet and tested her to see if she could hear the initial blends that are in this ebook:  There is also a chart here that can be used to quiz:

To Remediate segmenting portion of the Encoding Process:
1.    Practice segmentation M/W/F  start with basic list here:
Start with 2 phoneme words, then once a child is competent with these, move to the 3 and then 4 phoneme words. 
      Begin every week’s spelling lesson with a segmentation game or activity from:
3.    Once a week practice a new blend. 
a.       Day 1:  Make a flashcard of the blend and place it in front of the student.  Say the blend to the student and have them repeat it.  Say it again and have student trace the blend with their finger.  Ask student to think of a word that starts with this blend.  Ask student to write a sentence with that word in it.  Write the blend at the top of the page.
b.      Day 2:  Show flashcard.  Ask student to list as many words as they can that start with this blend on a piece of paper.  Read the list aloud carefully pronouncing the blend with the student after it is written.
c.       Day 3:  Place flashcard in front of student and give list of words beginning with the blend to student.  Have student say the word and circle the blend.
d.      Day 4:  Give worksheet(s) using the blend we’ve been studying to student.
e.      Day 5:  Ask student what blend we’ve been studying.  Write a List Poem, expository paragraph (2-4 sentences), or story using words from the word list from Wednesday.
4.    After practicing initial blends, test ending blends, then prefixes and suffixes.  Or you can use Explode the Code, but explicitly teach the segmentation portion from each lesson and use all books of the series (including half books).  My plan is to do this.  If my daughter struggles with any of the blends, suffixes, or prefixes, I will follow the plan above to reteach those sound combinations.  My mistake was that I didn't explicitly teach her as she was doing the beginning lessons.  Autumn was able to simply understand them and remember them by doing.  Many children are this way.  But, Sami's a different type of learner.  

Spelling Program Design
For this year, I’m going to start by using Eagle’s Wings 600 sight words. (this list is similar to the dolch lists or Fry's lists).   These are the most common sight words in the English language and make up the majority of what we read—and write.  So, it makes sense to start with these.  If these are mastered, then student can spend their time remembering and sounding out the more difficult words they wish to write.  After mastering these words, return to Spelling Power—making sure to teach the spelling rules associated with each list.
      Continue to Use Sniffen Weekly Spelling Plan—with modifications (revised activity list with more tactile/multi-sensory actitivities. 
a.        Monday: Pretest Word list
Sound out each word and segment the words into sounds.  Place each sound in a box on segmentation worksheet.
PLUS: Write words that are misspelled 3 times in sand, on magnadoodle, or on chalkboard.
b.      Tuesday: Spelling Power Spelling Sheet
c.       Wednesday:
1.       Make a worksheet with the misspelled words.  Have student circle the correctly spelled words. 
2.       Write down the spelling rule (paraphrased in mom’s word)
3.       Either:  sort words into categories and list or write words in alphabetical order.
d.      Thursday: Copy Spelling Rule on top of today’s activity sheet.  Choose a spelling activity from Spelling Activity Sheet.
e.      Friday: Post Test

If silent letters are an issue with any particular words, put a star above the silent letters when students practice the words on Tuesday.

Testing Phonemic Awareness and Remediating

I'm still working on my project and trying to come up with a plan in my head.  I think I'm getting there...
I just found this great page in the process...

These are oral activity cards that can be cut out and used to practice phonemic awareness skills with kids in grade K-3.  My plan is to pull out 2 or 3 at lunch or breakfast each day.  I probably won't even get them done that regularly, but my goal will be to get through the batch of them at least once in the next school year.  I know my kids will have fun with them and probably be quite silly about it...

Tackling Spelling

I haven't written much on this blog in the past month.  It has felt like a whirlwind, one thing to cope with after another.  Nothing major.  Just life stuff.  Last week was VBS and we were gone every morning.  I just have to say, Yuk!  My kids loved it and I loved it, too. I got my haircut and saw friends I hadn't seen all year.  But, Yuk!  I was gone every morning of the week and by Friday I had begun to feel frantic about getting my house clean and back in order.  People always talk about homeschooling in terms of whether it is best for the child.  I always say that homeschooling is the best choice for our family!  We are out less at night.  Our days involve less running around and we focus on schooling.

Thankfully, VBS is just one week of the year and so next week we will be at home...except for soccer practice that starts and will be every night of the week!.  Can you hear my anxiety?  I've avoided the every night of the week plus Saturday activity schedule for 9 years.  But, it's finally come to our home and we will tackle it over the next three months!

In the meantime, I have some other projects to tackle this week before we start our school year and add everything back onto math.  My projects are 1) to finish writing Autumn's US History curriculum and 2) to study learning methodology when it comes to spelling struggles so that I can design a new reading/spelling/writing program for Sami.  She does very well with decoding (sounding out) words, but struggles with encoding (breaking apart and attaching sounds to letters).

Here is a list of what I'm reading:   a paper on Kinesthetic learners (Sami cannot sit down and does all her work standing up)‎   was very helpful and interesting.  You do have to 
download it to read it, but it should open in protected view on your computer.
A spelling unit with rules in it--not for grades K-3.  These are higher level words.  This page has some interesting info in it.  The programs they refer to are very expensive, but I'll post a summary of my conclusions from all of these pages at the end of this post.   A great pdf file with consonant blends and endings.

A great explanation of how spelling can be taught to children with learning disabilities or spelling difficulties:
1.  The first part is on reading, but pages 9-16 are on spelling.

  My husband pointed out to me that all of this is educational theory--it is not fact.  It is theory based upon research testing and observation.  

This is interesting to me to remember.  As a homeschooler, my job is to help my children learn.  I observe what clicks and what doesn't.  I read a book a few years ago that made a very good point to me.  It titled Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them by Ross W. Greene.  His point was that rather than diagnosing and labeling kids, we need to identify their struggles and help them learn coping strategies to help them instead.  I think the same can be said of learners.  How a child learns is very complex.  I am continually amazed at how God has wired our brains!

More food for thought...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Writing A Homeschool Teacher Resume

I'm helping a friend who's switching jobs write a resume.  She hasn't written one in years, so this is something new.  I began working on her resume, but then stopped to write my own because I thought it might be helpful.  

Being a homeschool teacher may not seem to many like an occupation or career, but it is.  I used the combined form of resume for myself.  I began with the basic information, then moved on to strengths (the combined skills/experience part), education, Occupational Experience, then Related Experience, Certifications, Computer Skills, and mentioned at the end... References Available Upon Request.  

Sometimes homeschooling parents have to reenter the workplace because of family changes and needs.  How could you express what you've been doing in a way that's acceptable for a resume?

Well, here's my take on it...

Teacher, Homeschool                                    200_-Present
●  Write curriculum to meet the individual learning needs of students
●  Identify sources of students’ academic struggles and implemented modifications to assist students to learn to their full potential
● Balance needs of students, family, and home maintenance and repair while completing a rigorous course of study with students in different grade levels
● Research and choose appropriate curriculum for students’ ability and grade levels
● Teach lessons, continually assess students’ mastery of material, and follow through trajectory to help students reach their yearly academic benchmarks.
● Conduct Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) bi-annually to groups of 6-10 students
● Meet yearly state and umbrella requirements for homeschooling families

The reality is that homeschool teachers do many tasks that are similar to that of classroom teachers and they require just as much skill!  In fact, as a homeschool teacher, I've been able to hone my skills as a reading teacher and learn about learning disabilities/struggling learners in a way I couldn't in the classroom.  God has laid it on my heart.  I'm working this week on a new spelling curriculum for Sami to help her improve her encoding and writing skills.

Under Related Experience, I included my photography, blogging, and web site manager experience for our church (which is small, but does require work and skills from me).  

I think the key for people reentering the workplace or making career change is thinking about what you can do and what you choose to do that could make you valuable to a future employer.  

The next and bigger piece, though, is connecting to everyone you know and networking.  Let them know you're looking for a job.  Even in this day and age of computers, the largest percentage of jobs are still obtained by "knowing somebody who knows somebody" and getting your foot in the door.  If I were looking for a job outside our home right now, I'd make a list of everyone I know and what they do.  Then, I'd narrow my field of vision to what kind of jobs I want to pursue and start talking to people.  "Do you know anyone who...?"  "Could you let me know if there are any jobs opening where you work?"  "Could you keep me in mind if you hear of anything?"...  

And then, I'd just start talking and trusting--Trusting God to help me find the job he wants me to be in.  We are supposed to actively pursue things and not be lazy, but what God has made clear to me with every one of the jobs I've had is that I've gotten the job because of a key piece that was not in my control--but was in His.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thoughts on Parenting: aka What I've Learned So Far...

This morning I had the privilege to get to share a devotion at a baby shower for a friend.  These were the thoughts I shared...

I get excited when my friends are expecting. 
What is this little one going to be like? 
What new adventures are in store for him or her?  And for mom and dad?

There’s all the normal things that people think about.  Getting the nursery ready.  Registering.  Labor.  Nursing.  Labor.  Packing your bag for the hospital and being ready.  Labor.  Just kidding… 

Then, the other day, I started thinking about the biggest things I’ve learned about parenting and from my children.  So, of course I started a list… Some of these overlap a little…

#1 When a child is born, it is one of the greatest reminders to me of how amazing God is.  The way a child is knit together from his or her parents is breathtaking.  Truly breathtaking.

#2 God matches us up uniquely.  You and Kyle are the parents your son will need and you need him.  Your personalities and who you are will help you understand your son in ways that others won’t. 

#3  Savor and try and remember.  Push the pause button often.    Jenny has often advised me to “simplify”.  She knows I’m apt to go go go.  It’s good advice.

My son, Eli, likes to play a game sometimes called “Lamppost Truck.”  Basically, every time he passes a lamp post, he says “Lamppost truck!”.  Such Silliness!

#4  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  (I take myself way too seriously.)

#5  There’s no guarantee or “right way” to parent.  There’s no mathematical formula: x + y = z  Parenting is about love and grace.  No one has the “right” answers.  Renee told me this one.  I agree with her.

#6  Hang on! Sleep will come, tears will pass, and God will give you strength even when you don’t want it.  Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

#7  Unconditionally love this little one—tell them you love them a lot.  Eli once asked me why I tell him so often why I love him.  I answered, “Well, what if I didn’t tell you at all?”  He wasn’t sure what to think of that.  Then I told him “Because I want you to always remember this.”  My mom gave this gift to me and I’ve never forgotten it.

#8  Boys ARE different from girls.  Boy, are they different!  They are louder, jump higher, bounce more…  But boys are different from each other too.  Some aren’t so loud or crazy.  Some are.

#9  You can’t give your kids something you yourself don’t have.  They are you.  They will mimic and imitate you.   Susie Larson talks about this in her book Growing Grateful Kids.  When she put it this way, it stuck with me.  

#10  Everything is for a time.  Hang on when the tears wear on your nerves and laugh every time you get a chance.

#11  You can’t be everywhere.  You have to trust your children to God and trust that He will take care of them.  There may be a time when you look away and something happens.  There may be a time like when my 1 ½ year old daughter went straight for the patio door and tumbles down 3 cement steps and bonks her head.  She was faster than me.  Then, my second daughter was just walking down the hall of our home when she tripped and broke her foot!  Nothing was in her way and my husband was heading out the door that afternoon for a long business trip.  Ay ay ay!  My mother in law told me when I cried that I have to trust God and remember that He loves my children even more than I do.

#12  Laugh.  Walt Wangerin says it so well in this book I’m reading.  You can read what he says on Amazon in the preview for his book…  Give them laughter. (see here.)

So, it’s not really a top 10, but maybe it’s my Top 12!