Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My daughters' poems

Two of my daughters' poems they wanted to post...


Silently, softly, falling,
White and wet,
Clinging to stems and branches,
Landing on leaves of withered plants,
Great clouds of white,
Flying in the wind,
Whirling like dust,
Sticking to the rooftops,
A white blanket many miles long.

                                                          By Autumn

A clock

Is like a ball on the wall or
a glob of glue.

Maybe it's a sun or
a rabbit's tail!

Sounds like when you drop a pebble or
snap your fingers.

Smells like wood or glass.

Feels like ice or plastic.

                    by Samantha

It is way too cold!

Yesterday, my middle daughter and I sat down for a poetry lesson.  Here's the poem we wrote together about Ice


Like a cold wind
or a hard stick,
Scotch-tape glass
that becomes a firecracker
when it breaks.

It is a nothing that is quiet
as a mouse
and as smooth as a rock.

It makes me always feel
like I'm going
to drop it!

I hope this cold goes away soon!

The Truth About Having Kids and Being a Mom

Some, like blogger Amy Glass, are proclaiming that being a stay at home mom is not hard and not as worthwhile as climbing the corporate ladder.  Last month, there was a big stink raised by a chef of an upscale restaurant when an infant fussed in his restaurant.  There has been much blogging, ranting, and throwing of spears at others due to these two rantings.  Our local paper quoted the local blogger Scary Mommy as being on the side of the chef--that parents shouldn't take kids to restaurants like that.


Does all of this ranting really matter?  One of the hardest things about being a stay at home mom is the feeling that you have to defend your position--you have to defend that what you're doing is valuable.  You don't get the affirmation that you do in the workplace when you complete a project well.  You don't get the satisfaction of finishing one project and moving on to another.  You don't get the continual social interaction with other adults at home that you do in the workplace.  

What's the best thing to do when a bully tries to bully?  

Walk away.  

My husband defined "terrorism" for my oldest daughter the other night as violence meant to instill fear in order to achieve social and political ends.  Terrorism deals with evoking emotions in people.  Just as bullying does--bullying provokes anger and insecurity.  Hmm...  

What was Amy Glass' purpose?  What does she want?  What is the purpose of her ranting?  Is she really a mean person that just wants to make stay at home moms feel worthless?  I'm not sure.  But, if I even try to hypothesize about any of these questions, I'm not able to come up with any answers that give warm, fuzzy feelings.  What does that say?  

To me it says that she's hurting.  Somehow, there's some bitterness and cynicism that's taken root that's motivating her.  Her ranting is completely and utterly cynical.  Cynicism finds its roots in bitterness.  

Would me responding to her allegations prove anything to her?  No, I don't think so.  But, I can pray.  I've had a bitter heart.  I fight against bitterness.  And it is God who has changed my heart.  

Rather than attacking back, the verse that comes to my mind is this one:

Matthew 5:43-48

English Standard Version (ESV)

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must beperfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Ms. Glass and the chef can't do anything or say anything that changes what I do every day for my family.  Their opinions don't change my responsibilities to my family and my desire to love them well.  I want to do my job well.  I seek to do this every day.  I falter and I struggle, but I try.  I do think my job is hard.  I did start climbing the corporate ladder over a decade ago, but I got off.  My job now is harder than my job was then.  I know it.  I had this come up recently when talking to a young couple who don't have kids.  I have 3.  I knew I couldn't explain to them what they had asked of me several years ago and how hard what they were asking was.  I just did it because it needed to be done.  I didn't say "You don't understand and talk down to them."  I could have.  But, that isn't loving.  

Sometimes the best way we can love people is by not lashing back when they are hurt and simply walking away.  This post could be construed as a response back to her.  But, it's not.  This is me just stating that I'm okay.  I learned a very long time ago, that it's hard to know what another person's shoes are really like unless you've actually walked in them.  My heart deeply hurts for Ms. Glass and the experiences that have prompted her to write her recent posts.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Learning Styles, Part 2

Part 2:
Teaching Styles... This term is used by many educators to refer to the structure of the teacher-student relationship. I am going to use this phrase differently. My own definition is how a teacher's learning style shapes his/her teaching. I find that I am prone to teach the way I best learn. When I began homeschooling, I gravitated to curriculum that appealed most to my husband and I. We liked the classical model and when I read The Well Trained Mind, it made sense to us. I am a reader and so is my husband. Kindergarten was hard for my oldest daughter and for me. I had super high expectations and I pushed her hard. I fell into the mindset that beset me when I was a public school classroom teacher. I was focused on achievement and the cultural idea that our children have to get ahead or they will be behind. I quickly discovered that homeschooling is very different than classroom teaching. It has strengths and weaknesses of its own.

In the middle of first grade with my oldest daughter, there were several days that both my daughter and I were in tears. I realized that the classical model didn't suit her. I could already see that she needed a curriculum that would give voice to her creativity—that would focus more on creativity than rote memorization and the trivium. I realized, too, that she was increasingly frustrated with the math we were using. She was in tears and so was I. She is very visual, geometry oriented, but not abstract and number oriented. So, I needed to switch gears. I looked and looked at math curriculum. I discovered that some teacher's guides made sense to me and others didn't. I wanted color, illustrations, and good formatting (I am a visual learner). I needed a book that didn't put too much on a page for my daughter, who also happens to be a visual learner. After a lot of looking, I found HSP math and it worked for us both. It is very visual, but also hands-on oriented. The wording is very clear and easy to understand.
Last year, I found myself in a different situation. I was using Considering God's Creation by Eagle's Wings. My girls loved it. The workbook was hands on—lots of cutting, pasting, and coloring. My middle, kinesthetic daughter was happy. But, the teacher book drove me crazy. I procrastinated and struggled to get through many of the lessons. It was all written in the same font and it was very wordy. I wanted to get to the point and know quickly what I needed to teach. I didn't have time to read a lot and plan before teaching a lesson. So, I switched this year to Christian Kids Explore Biology. I liked it. I liked the formatting. I liked the values of the author and how she explained ideas. But, after two months, my middle daughter requested a switch. She simply didn't understand it. My oldest daughter explained that she didn't either. This curriculum relied primarily on auditory read alouds and note-taking. Auditory learning is not the primary learning style for either of my girls. So, it wasn't working.

We had to switch mid-stream to something that would work for both of us. My oldest daughter, Autumn, requested a return to HSP Science (her science from third grade). I already had it in the basement and so we pulled it out. Autumn and Sami, my younger daughter, both set right to work. Autumn read the lessons on her own. She loves the easy labs and bright pictures. The formatting makes it easier for her to read. The text is written on her grade level. Sami likes the instant labs that are hands on in her book. She and I read her lessons together and then she records the answers to her reading comprehension worksheets afterwards. I hit all three learning modalities with her. It's a good fit—because it fits both them and me. I don't have time for prep. I need to be able to look at it and know what I need to teach quickly. I have realized that most public school curriculum is written to all modalities because every classroom is a mix.

If you've found yourself in any situations like any of the ones I've found myself in along the way with my children, you've probably gotten frustrated like me. You may have been puzzled. You may have tried something new like I did. You may be in this situation now and looking for new ideas about how to teach your child in ways that will be more effective and enjoyable for you and your children.

Part 3
So, where do you start?

  1. Observe and Survey: you and your child
      Complete learning surveys and then record your observations...
      make a list of which curriculum your child likes best and why
      make a list of when you remember them remembering and understanding best
      make a list of what frustrates them
  2. Assess your curriculum and how you teach each subject (many subjects you may teach the same way because that is how you are comfortable teaching)
ie. Hands-on, reading text and completing worksheets, oral discussion/presentation, visual, project-based

  1. Do they match?
    Sometimes the ideal isn't workable. As moms, we not only teach, but we take care of our homes and the needs of everyone in our family. We serve at church and need to feed our own minds as well. Which subjects match and which ones don't?

  1. Adapt and modify or switch curriculum in the future.
    The easiest way to meet learning styles is to choose a curriculum that works for both you and your child. But, if you're mid-stream in the year, then the best (and least expensive) option is to adapt and modify. From the list of learning tricks for your child's learning style, add in extra exercises that are doable for her and for you (in planning).
Last note...
I believe that there is a continuum between learning styles, differences, and disabilities. I had wanted to talk about learning differences and disabilities, but realized that I could only cover so much. Here's how I'd define them:

Learning styles are preferences. Children can learn from different modalities, but learn better from one than another.

Learning Differences are processing related. The greater the learning difference, the greater the inability of a child to process information presented in one or more modalities. It isn't just a preference, but an inability to understand and process visual or auditory information.

Learning Disabilities occur when a child's learning is significantly impaired because his or her brain is unable to process information. Typically learning disabilities are auditory and visual. An example of a visual processing disorder is dyslexia. Auditory Processing Disorder is called just that. A child's brain doesn't hear sounds the way they come in.

This is really a separate topic, but I do want to mention something that the Lord laid on my heart this summer as I was pondering my children and how they learn.

I was researching handwriting. You see, my children write many of their letters from down to up. All three have varying degrees of mixed dominance, though only my youngest is left handed. As I looked for resources online to help me learn more about how to teach handwriting, I realized that people spoke about learning disabilities and differences as if something was wrong with the children. I remember mentally being taken aback. I recoiled. Nothing is “wrong” with my child just because he writes his letters from top to bottom. That's how his brain is wired. Yes, it is quicker to write top to bottom. But, instead of trying to fit him into a mold his brain didn't like, I realized I should try and help his fine motor skills speed up instead—I needed to help him cope with his difference. I was talking with my friend the other day who's son is autistic. I expressed this idea to her and before I could finish—she finished it for me.

Links to My Teacher Pages and Student Pages:

The copyright for these pages remains with me.  Please do not print and resell any portion of what I've made here.  But, you are free to print them as many times as you need and share them with homeschooling friends and classroom teachers who are interested.

In the Learning and Teaching Profiles, there are a lot of forms included and I would never encourage someone to fill all of them out.  Instead, I'd encourage you to consider what you think would be most helpful in understanding your child.  Take a Friday one week and give them the survey as a break (perhaps the afternoon when everyone is ready to be done for the week?)  During the week, use the page that says "what's working/what's not" to observe your child and think about what works well for them and what doesn't.

I'm going to write a post soon about observing children and how to do that, but in the mean time.  The book, Heads Up Helping, is a wonderful story of a homeschool mom observing her children and what she learned about them.


Learning Styles Profile pages:
Great resource on Learning Disabilities: http://www.integra.on.ca/WAM%20LD%20handbook.pdf
Explains different types of processing disabilities and gives practical strategies of how to adapt lessons and teaching.
Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Information: http://americantesol.com/DunnLearningStyles.pdf
Learning Styles Inventory Tests:
Multiple Intelligence Survey for Kids: http://lauracandler.com/free/misurvey.pdf
Brief Learning Styles Online Survey: http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/LSI/LSI.htm
Interest Survey Collection: http://www.pedagonet.com/quickies/interest.pdf

Learning Styles, Part 1

This past Saturday I led a homeschool conference session on Learning Styles.  Honestly, it's a hard topic to talk about in an hour.  I'm going to break it up into several posts and post the information on this blog....

Learning Styles, Teaching Styles: Meeting in the Middle

Copyright 2014, Reproducible only for personal use and not for resale

Main Points:
  • God gave you to your child and your child to you—you are the parent and teacher that your child needs. You know them better than anyone else and will understand them better than anyone else—they are a part of you.
  • Observing your children's learning styles and your own learning style (and teaching style) can help your children learn more efficiently with less frustration and with more success.
  • As my mother in law puts it, homeschooling is a calling. It's tough. God works on our children and us in the process of homeschooling. We need Him.
  • Continually be a student of your students. Observe them. Ask what's working and what's not.
  • Get help when you or your child needs it.


Have you ever written down why you are homeschooling?

Here are my priorities:
I want my children to learn--
To gain life and academic skills so that they will be able to live independently as adults.
To enjoy reading.
To love others well and serve others with the gifts God has given them.
To pursue their interests and enjoy the life God has given them. (Eccl. 2:24-25)
How to learn.

My husband always puts it this way: We homeschool because we believe it is the best thing for them. We are concerned about their spiritual, academic, emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development. Our society values social and/or academic over all the rest. Whenever I say I homeschool, these are what people always immediately ask me about.

School has two basic components: What children learn and How they learn. Curriculum and Methodology. There's so much that goes into that.

How our children learn is a complex process. Honestly, it amazes me every day. I fluctuate between amazement when they grasp and assimilate new concepts and impatience when they don't grasp what I think they should easily. That is my humanness. I fall into a mindset of impatience when I shouldn't. I realize that I am often most impatient when my kids are frustrated and can't master what they're working on. I know it should be the other way around, but if I'm honest, it isn't.

So, how can I help them be less frustrated and me? How can I help my children learn better-- more efficiently, with better retention?

One way is to think about the whole picture...
In 2003, Information Processing Theory was expounded by Feden and Vogel. They explained that input (receptive) is the information that comes in, then we process that information into our working memory and long-term memory and finally, it comes out through Motor Output (expressive). Our children can struggle with processing input information, memory, or the expression of what they have learned and know.

(Here's a link to a chart someone else made that's easy to read.  Scroll down on the page to find the chart. I lump short-term and long-term memory together and call it processing, the second portion of the theory.)

Learning styles and other educational habits focus on the first two parts of that cycle (what inputs we provide and how they are processed). A helpful place to start is to make a Learning Style Profile for each of your children. A profile is based on their observations and yours. Why right it down? I'm sure you observe your kids all the time and notice things. Well, it's the same reason that we do Bible studies. We write down our answers, because it helps us process what's in our head in a succinct way. It also helps us remember when we can go back later and read what we've written. I don't know about yours, but I just can't keep everything in it!

So, a Learning Style Profile can include a bunch of different information. It can cover the modality they best learn from, their learning personalities, their talents and interests, natural strengths and weaknesses, character, best learning environment, and love languages. These are different options. The point is just to get a picture of how your child best learns. I've put together a sample packet of forms and list of resources to help you do this if you'd like to. Today, I'm going to focus on learning styles and just touch on the other topics.

But, just as importantly is how you learn. There are learning styles and there are teaching styles. So, first I'm going to talk about learning styles and then about teaching styles. This is really a huge topic, so I'm just going to touch the surface.

Part 1:
What are Learning Styles? A learning style is the term used to describe how one prefers to learn.

Visual learners learn by seeing and looking.
Auditory learners learn by hearing and listening.
Kinesthetic learners learn by touching and doing.

Some people break it down farther than that into 6 or 7 different learning styles. But, these are the three primary learning styles people focus on.

In Melinda Boring's book, Heads Up Helping, she tells a story of going to a Christmas Bazaar with her daughter. Before going in, she tells her daughter not to touch anything. She can look and see everything, but not touch. Her daughter's face fell as she explained to her mom, “But, Mom, seeing is touching.”

65% of the population are Visual learners
30% of the population are Auditory learners
5% of the population are Kinesthetic learners

The traditional model of teaching was to hand a child a book. Let the child read a passage silently and then complete a worksheet on the material. This an entirely visual way of learning. Then, there's the high school and college classroom model-- A lecture, which is auditory, along visual aids. Assessment is done with reading and written assignments (visual).

I thought of an easy example of how this can be applied.
Math Flash Cards:
Using xtra Math.com, a visual learner looks at the cards and types in the answer using 10 key
Using flash cards, a parent quizzes a child orally to the auditory learner.
Using cds with music like Multiplication Mountain or 100 Sheep and Counting, a kinesthetic child learns to count multiples and their multiplication facts by singing along to the music.

I am a visual learner, so it worked for me when my third grade teacher handed me the math book and told me to work my way through it. But, it didn't work for me with my third grade daughter who is kinesthetic, full of energy, and needs to be taught explicitly.

This summer, I realized that how I had been teaching my middle daughter wasn't working for spelling and writing. She was very frustrated and so was I. Frustration, I think, is the biggest clue that there is struggling afoot. Teachers and parents alike want answers when teaching and learning isn't working. Everyone wants children to learn and enjoy what they are learning. So, I knew it was time for me to step back, think, and pray. I needed a remedy. I needed to understand. I needed to love my daughter better than I had been by understanding her better. So, I stepped back and assessed what was working and wasn't. How does my daughter learn best?

...to be continued.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What do you do with a Martha?

There's a song in the Sound of Music about Maria.  There's a line that goes "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"  It came to my mind because I was thinking of Martha.  Mary and Martha.

How do you solve a problem like Martha?  

I'm asking this question with affection, because I am Martha through and through.  This week has been an absolutely crazy week for me.  We are going to be selling our home that we purchased two years ago.  The home that seemed so clearly for us turned out to be one thorn after another.  Faith, perseverance, patience... God has taught me so many lessons through this home!  Now all those problems and that mile long list are done.  Whew...  Amidst all the stress of recaulking the kitchen sink this week, calling a roofer for a consultation (yay--it was good news!), calling an electrician (will be here Monday), painting a wall inside a closet with only 4 inches of space between the wall and the washer/dryer, replacing a board of trim, painting the trim around two windows, moving our shed...  and finally painting our basement walls... amidst all of this I have been thinking and praying a lot.  I've been sharing with friends that we are going to move and that it is time.  

In the course of one conversation, I clearly began to see what a Martha I've become.  I have taken on a lot.  And I see God taking me out of it--while giving me peace that this is right.  How do you reset the priorities of a Martha?  In my case, I can see that it means to take me completely out of my Martha environment.  It means challenging me to think.  It means helping me see that I need to be more aware of who wants me to care and who doesn't.  It means helping me to not take for granted priorities that I've invented for myself.  

It is a good thing.  I don't know that it is going to be easy.  I felt myself bristle a little this afternoon at the unfamiliar.  I cling to the comfortable and where I feel safe.  But, it is time.  

It is time for change.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Guilt, Sacrifices, and the Struggles of Life

A few days ago, I had a conversation with someone that I wished immediately I could rewind.  I wanted to say something differently than I had.  I was talking with someone about the choices we make and sacrifices we choose to make.

I have continued to ponder what I said and that it was not what I actually feel.

Sacrifices are sacrifices because they cost us something.  I struggle with sacrifices.  I am often resentful and irritated about the ones I have to make--the ones that I do not choose of my own free will, but are rather forced upon me.  I wish I was more welcoming of these sacrifices that are required of me.

I don't think I'm the only person to struggle this way.

What I said in that conversation a few days ago highlighted a difference in my life from theirs.  It made it sound like I was luckier in some way.  But, I'm not.  Everyone's lives are different.  I sincerely believe in God's providence and that he is in control of everything.  I also believe that he knows how much and what each of us can bear and what will bring Him glory in our lives and draw us to Him.

I never (not in a million years) expected to be a stay at home, homeschooling, mom of three.  Never.  On many blogs about homeschooling and life, I've found that people only want to talk about the good parts of life.  It presents this idyllic picture of what life could be out on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, hearing the only the wind and no traffic when you step out of your house.  I do, by the way, deeply appreciate the sound of the wind on early Sunday mornings when I go outside before the world has woken up.  I am not putting that picture down, but I realize that no one's life is actually idyllic.  There has been sin and suffering in this world since the Fall and because of it, life is not easy--for anyone.

I have to be very careful in my own mind of thinking other people's lives are easier than my own.  Their circumstances may be different, but we each face challenges.

We have a choice to focus on those sacrifices we must make and become downhearted, struggling and fighting with them each day with them or tackle them and move on.  We can focus on the blessings that others receive from those sacrifices.  We can focus on what sacrifices the other people we are sacrificing for make for us.  We can focus on where God has put us and find contentment in trusting Him.

As for that conversation, I see huge blessings in their lives.  They have happy, healthy, energetic children that they love spending time with.  They love spending time together as a family whenever they get the chance.  There is love in that family.  They make the most of the time they get together and are thankful for the blessings God gives them.  They have their challenges, too, juggling work schedules and school schedules.  But, I pray that God gives them reprieves and grace so that they can bear with the sacrifices they are making.

But, there's another side to sacrifice.  It's guilt.

We can feel guilty for the sacrifices we need others to make on our behalfs.  It is hard to ask someone we love to give up something for us.  Sometimes we aren't asking, but we know that sacrifices the ones we love are making are because of us, for us, or because of decisions we have made (or had a hand in).  It's easy to regret and feel guilty because of these sacrifices.

Or at least it is easy for me.  I have to remind myself of a few things...  1) if it's a sacrifice required because of a decision we made together, I have to remember that.  We made the decision together.  2) God is working and I am trusting Him.  3) I am trying to make things as easy on the one I love as I can.  I try to make that sacrifice easier to bear.  

Just a few thoughts...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Easy Word Searches for Kindergarteners

My oldest daughter is sitting in a chair working away at a word search.  Of course, my youngest son wants to do one too!  He asked, so I went searching.  I found some very easy ones right at his level at this site: http://www.sightwordsgame.com/sightwordgames/sight-word-games-easy-word-search-2/

There's several more here on the same site HERE.

Happy Searching!

And Happy New Year!