Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More about "The Talk"

Every one of my friends has a story about their parents talking, or rather not really talking, to them about sex.  One guy I knew was just handed a book by his parent and told to go read it.  Several friends were asked by their parents if they had any questions--to which they answered "no." and that was that.  In my case, I don't actually remember talking to my mom about it ever.  I learned about it during sex education in seventh grade during a special assembly that all the girls had to go to.  Then, I was given a book by our marriage counselor to read before my husband and I got married.  But, the world was different twenty and thirty years ago than it is now.  Sex is everywhere now.  The magazines at the grocery store flash words about sex across their covers every week.

My mom recently told me that I'm good at making sure I talk to my kids about everything.  She commented to me that she didn't know how to do that when I was growing up--she didn't know what to say.  I'm not always sure what to say either.  I often find myself trusting the Lord to put ideas into my head and to prompt me when I need to talk with them.  My goal is to help them understand and cope with the world they live in.

My last post was about Jonathon McKee's book aimed at helping parents talk to their kids about sex. In my review, I did say that it is not the book I'd recommend to parents looking for a resource to help them talk to their kids about sex, but I didn't mention the books I would recommend.  A while back, I also reviewed a book by Elyse Fitzpatrick about "Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions".  I wasn't keen on that book either.

The book series I prefer to both of these is published by Concordia Press, Learning About Sex for the Christian Family.  There is a book for each age group.  I've read the first three with my children as they've grown.  The first book is for children 4-6 yo, the second for 7-9 yo, the third for 10-12 yo, and the last for 13-15.  The last is the only one I haven't read yet with my oldest.  There is a separate book titled How to Talk Confidently With Your Child About Sex.  This book is much more general than Johnathan McKee's book.  It will give you many ideas about how to approach different topics and questions.  You may find some that will work for you and others that won't.  Any talk about sex is personal and individual.  Every parent fits it their personality and that of their child(ren).

For girls, there is also the American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You.  For middle school girls, I really love So Long Insecurity for Teens by Beth Moore.  This book covers how girls dress and how to relate to boys in a way that I really loved.   I wish there was a great Christian book like this one for boys.  So, if you ever find one, please comment on this post and let me know!


The Talk

I've been reading a book over the past few months by Jonathan McKee, titled More Than Just The Talk.  It's a book about talking to your kids about Sex.  The book has been challenging, encouraging, and even discouraging at times.  McKee doesn't pull any punches in his book.  But, that's the point.  The author wants parents to step out of their comfort zone and talk to their kids about what many consider hard topics, uncomfortable topics.

McKee begins his book giving us an answer to the question of "Why do we need to talk to our kids about sex?"  The answer is pretty much because if we don't, they'll figure out the answers on their own and likely come up with a lot of wrong answers.  I agree with him.  One of the most powerful stories I've heard over the years about sex and kids is when a friend of mine shared with me about her experience teaching her fourth graders sex ed.  She found the clause in the district curriculum that allowed her to teach about abstinence.  After the talk, two kids came up to her and told her that two kids in one of the fifth grade classes had had sex.  Another girl came up to her and told her that she wished her 12 year old cousin had heard the talk because she was pregnant.  The stories McKee says are like these... and more.  He shared in the book about Game of Thrones, which I've heard of, but have never watched.  I had no idea how sexual the content of the show was.  But, recently, I was watching a show on netflix, Melissa and Joey, which airs on ABC Family.  The show has two high schoolers and their guardians.  Pretty much every joke is about sex or how girls or guys look.  The difference between the two shows is that Game of Thrones is very visually explicit and what it isn't explicit about, it implies.

McKee has given talks all over the US to parents and teens and he's heard more stories and heard more parents mention the stuff on TV than I've been aware of.  What I realized in reading his stories is that we need to talk to our kids.  It may make us uncomfortable, but they need to know that they can ask questions of us when they have them.  And that is McKee's point.

After the introduction, McKee goes on to talk and give reasons why kids should wait--reasons you can use in your talks.  Then, he addresses many questions kids have, masturbation, and pornography.  After the introduction, it felt like the focus of his book was on masturbation and pornography.  You can tell these subjects are heavy on his heart.  I didn't always agree with some of his answers to the questions, but it's a starting point.  With any book I read, I find I don't usually agree 100%.  The book will make you feel pretty dire about what our kids are being barraged by every day.

So, what do we do?  Can we hope that our kids will be in the small percentage that don't end up struggling with these things?  Maybe, but either way, our responsibility as parents is prepare them for life--and that includes talking to them about topics that may be uncomfortable.  We want to raise our children to love the Lord and understand what it means to glorify Him in our lives.  Part of that is teaching them how to guard their hearts and minds from temptation and turn away from it.

While this book has some great information in it, I didn't really think it is a book that will prepare you to talk with your kids.  What this book is great for is motivating you to get out of your comfort zone and talk with your kids--because it's really important!  It will shock you with the stories and alarm you with fear, frankly.  That can be good and bad.  Never forget that God is in control.  We can lift our children up in prayer and love them well.  God doesn't want us to live in fear.  We can talk with them and help them learn how to understand the world they live in.  We can let them know that they can always talk with us about anything...

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Should've known better...

Yesterday, I had a conversation that I wish I hadn't.  It's funny.  When you've been hurt by the words of several people from a group of people, one would think that you wouldn't go back and talk to them again--about the same things.  But, that's not the way it often works for me.  I realized just now that I'm searching for hope--I'm searching for the needle in the haystack to contradict the other words. Sadly, the pile of words only got bigger yesterday.

Many homeschooling parents have felt animosity from public and private school teachers over the years.  I've had more experiences of public school teachers looking down on me when I begin to talk about teaching and homeschooling than positive experiences.  I have not felt the same negative feelings from parents of children in public and private schools though. The teachers I've met (unless they are personal friends) often get defensive and go on the attack within a few sentences of conversation.  And that's just what happened yesterday.  The teacher I spoke with teaches at a public school and has young children of her own.

Out of the blue, she stated that she doesn't have a problem with people--like me--who were classroom teachers homeschooling their kids.  But, she has a big problem with parents homeschooling their kids without degrees (in teaching).  My response was that about half of my friends who homeschool were teachers and half of them weren't, but that the ones who weren't have learned on the job.

Her next statement was interesting to me.  She said that she wouldn't have someone who wasn't an accountant do her taxes.

Hmmm...  That was where I stopped.  I walked away.  From her and the conversation.  Inside I was really mad.  I felt defensive of my friends who weren't classroom teachers before they started homeschooling.  I felt like I'd been given a get out of jail free card because I was a teacher and I didn't want it.  The truth is that homeschooling is different than classroom teaching.  Very different.  It has a different set of challenges and needs.  People always think that homeschooling is easier or folks who've been classroom teachers first.  Maybe, maybe not.  I had to let go of a lot of my expectations of how things should be at home.  I had to figure out what were reasonable expectations of my kids at home and in our classroom--for behavior, academics, speed of working, writing...  And it took years for me to figure these things out.  I had to set aside the idea of grades and learn how to teach for understanding and mastery.  I had to reset my classroom ideas about what the best assessment methods for my kids would be.

But, I also chuckled inwardly about the ladies comment (after I got over being mad) when I thought of our accountant and how he tells the story of when I first met with him about our taxes.  I filed our taxes for over ten years and we just recently switched to using an accountant.  He told me that I'm the lady who knew some things he didn't!  Several years later, he'll still harken back to that first meeting and my discussion with him about the ins and outs of our taxes and the research I'd done.

I'm not an accountant.  But, I did our taxes.  We use an accountant now because it takes pressure off of me and it's that double check and it's comforting.

My mother in law did her taxes for years and never had any issues.

She also homeschooled five of her 6 children and 4 of those 5 all went on to college and earned degrees.

She's not an accountant or a trained teacher.  But, she educated her children and did her taxes.

My husband reminded me last night that people love to hate.  They love to hate people who have chosen a path that may question that what they are doing is right.  People want to be right, not wrong. If I am right to homeschool, then where does that put her?

The thing is that homeschooling or not homeschooling isn't a matter of right and wrong.  It shouldn't be seen as a threat.  How parents choose to educate their children is not a moral choice-- a matter of right and wrong.  It isn't a matter of sin.

Ironically, we met with one of my mom's doctors yesterday who I gave an explanation to of what made me want to homeschool ten years ago.  It was the moment when I was listening to a friend who's kids were in public school (and who subsequently withdrew them to homeschool them) and I realized I wouldn't get to teach my kids right and wrong if they went to public school.  As a side note, I do have many friends who's kids are in school and I know they are teaching their kids right and wrong.   But, for me that moment made me realize that I wanted to choose what my children were taught.  I wanted to choose the curriculum.  I had taught in the public school classroom.  And that's where the seed was planted in my heart to homeschool.

I know I always have an agenda in my head.  I want people to see and hear that homeschooling isn't bad for kids.  I remember a zoo volunteer I met several years ago who had never had kids of her own. She shared with me that before she worked at the zoo, she had always thought homeschooling was a horrible thing to do.  Then, she began to volunteer.  Now, she can do nothing but rave about homeschooling as a good thing because she's seen how different the homeschoolers are than she thought they'd be.  She thought they asked great questions and were very respectful of the zoo and of her as an adult.

It's hard to stay strong and do what you think when people are hostile to it.  My mom said that she has people tell her all the time that it's a bad idea for me to homeschool my kids.  She just lets it go, though, and says "Well, it's what we're doing."  She's not the one homeschooling, but she supports us in homeschooling our kids and has no concerns about it.  She may have at one time, but she's seen my kids thrive and she is glad that I'm homeschooling.

One of the things about life is that everyone is not always going to agree with you or with me.  We live in a culture today where we want everyone to tell us that we're okay.  We don't anyone to tell us that we're not okay.  But, this is a dangerous trap.  The truth is that God tells us over and over that He will guide us and that we can trust Him.  When we seek Him, we will find Him.  The peace that comes from trusting God is what we need--not the false peace, which is really assurance, that we get when people agree with us.  Assurance and encouragement is nice, but the hole we're trying to fill can really only be filled by the Lord.

And that's where I come back to.  A long, long time ago, I prayed about homeschooling our children.  So, did my husband.  We felt convicted that it was the decision we should make for our family.  And we did.  I still have that same conviction for my family.  And so we'll press on...


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When it Clicks

There are many of blessings of homeschooling.  There are tough parts, too, as with any job.  But, this post is about one of the best parts.  Yesterday, I gave my middle daughter a spelling test.  It was a watershed moment for me and for her, I think.

Two years ago about this time, I began to realize that Sami was really struggling with spelling and writing.  She read 2 grade levels above where she was at and comprehended at grade level or about one grade level above where she was.  But, I could see she was in trouble with her encoding (breaking apart words) skills.  I felt bad for having missed it that year and felt guilty, but I trusted that the Lord was showing me what I needed to see when I needed to see it.

I set about that summer completely revamping her spelling program.  I tested her on all of the initial consonant blends to see which ones she did and didn't hear correctly when they were said.  There were about 10 that she needed to work on.  I printed off the worksheets on Cherry Carl's website  and she proceeded to work through them the next school year.  Additionally, I abandoned the Spelling Power Spelling Lists and implemented my own plan and spelling sheet (see this post).  I began with the Dolch Sight Word Lists and the Dolch Noun Lists using this weekly plan.  (I got the idea to use these words from the owner of the local homeschool bookshop who used this approach to help her son learn to read.  I used these lists for spelling, but she used them to help speed up her son's reading.)

I tested her until she had 5 words to work on each week.  I know public schools give the kids 10 words each week, but 5 has seemed much more manageable to Sami and she was getting spelling practice in her Explode the Code Books as well as the phonics worksheets, so I felt it was enough.  After she tested out of the Dolch lists, we moved on to the list from Eagles' Wings Guide to spelling.  The list that I found closest to the words on these are here on the Reading Rockets Website:   There's also a list of Fry's 1000 words here:, but I would add the months of the year, days of the week, and colors.  A lot of the lists I noticed don't include those.  I went by Spelling Power's approach.  When I gave a test, I tested until she got 5 wrong and those 5 words became her list for the week.  Spelling Power gives the direction to have children only practice the words they don't know how to spell.  This makes sense to me.  There's also an interesting chapter on sight words here ( which recommends giving kids 5 spelling words.

It took us a year and a half to get through the 600 words.  Then, I wondered what I was going to do next with her.  I thought about continuing on with my spelling sheet and just using new lists.  But, what lists?  Then, I noticed something in her reading and writing.  She struggled with words that had multiple syllables.  So, I pulled out Dolores Hiskes Reading Pyramids book that I purchased several years ago.  I use Phonics Pathways after my kids use How to teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Anyways, the pyramids give kids practice reading and paying attention to the smaller words in sentences and work on not skipping words (something advanced readers are prone to do).  And I began to look around.  I found on EPS Books website a word study program called MegaWords that focuses on Multi-Syllabic words.  I love EPS books because their curriculums do well for both learners who excel quickly and slowly.  She started using the first book (completing one page a day) and she enjoys it... which leads us to yesterday.

It was dictation day for Sami and she had to hear the word and break it into syllables and then put the words back together.  As she spelled the first few words, I realized that she could do it and that the words were spelled correctly!  She spelled all of the 2 and 3 syllable words correctly except one which I pointed out.  She knew what the error was immediately without me telling her and she fixed it!  I sat there and cried.  I praised God for pointing me in the path of the right curriculum for her and for connecting the dots in her head.

She's come so far.  And I got to see it.  What a joy!

One of the greatest lessons I've learned from homeschooling came via conversations with a homeschooling mom who wrote the book Heads Up Helping and from the book itself.  The lesson was that in order to homeschool well, you must become a student of your student.  Learn how they learn.  This experience reinforces that lesson for me.

My oldest daughter spells completely differently.  She tests through a list in Spelling Power every day and is working on the end of 8th grade lists (in 6th grade).  This works for her without frustrating her.  I test her so that I can make sure she doesn't have any gaps in her spelling skills.

My son... well, I don't know yet what kind of speller he will be.  I don't start formal spelling instruction until 3rd grade, but he has asked to do it in 2nd.  I think I will start with the Dolch Sight words as I did with Sami and then go from there, switching to Spelling Power in 3rd grade if it works for him.  We'll see!

Friday, May 8, 2015

New Worksheets and Spring Curriculum Changes

A friend mentioned to me recently that she had looked at my curriculum plan, which made me realize that I hadn't updated it in a while.  This winter spring, I made some modifications and made my own worksheets to facilitate certain subjects.

I've posted two of the worksheets I made.
#1  A long time ago, I wrote a post about my weekly spelling plan here:  and
But, I just realized that I never posted the Weekly Spelling Sheet (printable) that I wrote to go along with it.  You can now find thate HERE.

My middle daughter finished learning the 600 most common word list using this weekly sheet and is now working through the first book of MegaWords by EPS.  I realized that she needed extra practice with longer words and this covers both vocabulary and spelling by practicing encoding and decoding at the same time (just like Explode the Code but for older students).

#2  I altered my writing this spring.  I realized that my curriculum that I use for 3-6 grades (Write Source) needed a framework so that we were consistently editing, revising, and publishing.  So, I implemented this Weekly Writing Sheet, which you can find HERE.

I made a plan for each of the girls for the last 9 weeks of school that I included with this writing sheet that required them to tackle one type of assignment a week.  I still used the Write Source Curriculum, adding in the particular worksheets they'd made for brainstorming, Grammar, and exercises.  But, this was our basic format.

For my oldest daughter, her 9 assignments were these:
____ Week 1: Writing Paragraphs, Review Basics

____ Week 2: Write a Persuasive paragraph.

____ Week 3: Write a Persuasive Essay.

____ Week 4: Write a one paragraph Summary of an Article.

____ Week 5: Write a 3-5 paragraph summary of your favorite book.

____ Week 6: Write a Comparative Paragraph.

____ Week 7: Write a Comparative Essay.

____ Week 8 and 9: Write a report on a person, historical event, or topic of your choosing (ok'd by Mom)—4-5 paragraphs with 2 illustrations and cover.

For my middle daughter, she was given these 9 assignments:
____ Week 1: Lists
Write 2 lists with complete sentences and go over the writing process.

____ Week 2: Write a Descriptive paragraph.

____ Week 3: Write a Narrative Paragraph.

____ Week 4: Write a How-To Paragraph.

____ Week 5: Write a summary of your favorite book.

____ Week 6: Write two poems

____ Week 7: Write a report—1 paragraph with

____ Week 8 and 9: Write a report—3 paragraphs with 2 illustrations and cover.

My girls have loved this switch because it makes them feel like they are actually accomplishing something each week with their writing.  

Last year, I tried Evan Moor's Daily 6 trait writing as a writing journal exercise, but it ended up being frustrating to my kids.  The Friday exercises, though good, were far longer than the 5 minutes that I allot for journal writing.  If I use it again, I will omit the Friday exercises because we do longer writing assignments with our writing curriculum.

The third change in our homeschool life this spring was a pretty big one.  We've always (9 years!) gone by a routine method of scheduling our days.  What I mean by this is that we had an order to what we needed to do each day.  We started around a certain time (within an hour or even 2 sometimes) and then ended when we were done with that list for the day.  It was great when my kids were little and I'd say up until 3rd grade, it worked really well for all of us.  But, when my oldest daughter hit 4th grade and my second was in 1st/2nd, our days started getting pretty long and we would be doing school until dinner time.  No homework after dinner, but still the days became long.  

In March, I felt nudged to switch to a time schedule.  I think this came after I had sat down in February and made a curriculum plan/schedule for Autumn for grades 7-12 so that I could transition her in and get her ready for high school classes (which really start in 8th grade, not 9th in order to fit everything in).  I considered a time schedule and tried to find one that was reasonable for us.  It turned out to be this:

Daily Schedule

7:30 am Get up and Get Ready

8:00 am Breakfast

8:30 am Walk

9:00 am Devotions and Read Aloud

9:15-10:30/45 Math
11-12 Writing/Spelling/Grammar

12-1 Lunch

1-2 Tues-Fri Reading

2-3/4 Specials

After School: Instrument Practice

I moved some things from our school day to after school.  Homework took on a new role in our schooling.  I have seen some very positive things come from this switch and also have seen some guards in place that I didn't even know where there.  At first, homework was a motivator to focus for my middle daughter.  Now, it's a natural consequence for not doing her work in the time she has.  (Just in case you're curious, I've looked at the questionaire for ADD and she doesn't fit it).  One thing that can happen with a time schedule is for kids to rush through their work in order to get it done fast and... have no homework.  My kids know, though, that if the assignment isn't completed well enough (with long enough answers/incorrect answers) they'll need to fix it or revise it--so better to do it right the first time ;)  I have heard that many kids rush through assignments when they're on a time schedule and this practice acts as a guard against it.  

My oldest daughter perceived homework as a punishment from the get go, so I needed to explain to her that almost every 6th grader has homework each night.  So, it's something she needs to get used to when she isn't able to get all of her work done during class, because next year she's going to have a lot more homework in 7th grade.  

Having a time schedule gives us a definite end  to the day.  I allotted one special to Tuesday, Wed and Thurs., since we have music on Mondays and Horseback Riding/Volunteering on Fridays.  I had some white dry erase sticker for the wall and posted this schedule on the wall.

As with most things, I was really good at sticking to the 9 am schedule at first, but I have to constantly work on getting started then.  Sometimes we make it and sometimes we have to push devotions to later and start around 9:30 am.  But, the schedule has helped a lot.  

Homeschooling is always evolving in our house and these are some of the ways it has changed this spring.  I'm always thankful to see how we change together and adjust so that our homeschooling works better and runs more smoothly!