Sweet Happy Mr. Little-Bit

Just had to share some of the sweet baby goodness that is Mr. Little Bit.  He is truly the happiest baby that DH and I ever remember having and so...jolly!  He's chewing on everything that he can put in his mouth and is showing signs of having sore gums and starting the teething process.  Even when he's sad, if you say "Hi Baby ***" in a sweet sing-song voice he'll break out in a huge toothless grin and then promptly pout.  He can't even be sad, sad without smiling!

Sooo...here he is at 4 months and 10 days.  One of these days I need to post pics of the rest of our beautiful crew!!

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Weekly Wrap-Up: The Curriculum Sharing Edition

Ooooh...I *love* curriculum sharing posts.  At least I love reading what others are using.  I'm always a little hesitant to post my own, since I can tend to be a bit of a curriculum junkie and maybe a wee bit indecisive about my homeschool curriculum.  Perhaps if I post it, I will feel more compelled to follow-through with the plan so as not to look flaky!  LOL 
A bit of explanation might be needed for a few of these things.  The 5th grader is a strong reader but struggling speller and the 3rd grader is a struggling reader so we are working through Phonics Road levels 1 and 2 at an accelerated pace.  We should be done with level 1 in about 5 weeks and then my hope is to work through level 2 at double the pace doing 2 weeks of work in 1.  I am already seeing an immense improvement in spelling and reading confidence so I am excited at what the next level will bring to us.  I feel they could both use some more narration and dictation practice as well, so we will use WWE.  I think the foundation that it will lay for organizing their thoughts will be so good for them!  Mr.. Fix-It just turned 6, is an older Kindergartener and I am excited to get him on the road to reading this year with Phonics Road.  I am confident that I will not need to go back and remediate when he is older by using this program now.  We will do minimum seatwork, lots of hands-on and plenty of trips to the trampoline to jump the wiggles out.  
So, here it is: 2010-2011 Homeschool Plans!! 
Miss J - 5th grader:
  1. Phonics Road
  2. Writing With Ease
  3. Peterson Directed Handwriting Cursive
  4. Math U See
Mr.. Lego - 3rd grader:
  1. Phonics Road
  2. Writing With Ease
  3. Peterson Directed Handwriting Cursive
  4. Math U See and Math Mammoth
Mr.. Fix-it - Kindergarten:
  1. Phonics Road Level 1
  2. Peterson Directed Handwriting Cursive
  3. Math U See and/or Liberty Mathematics K
Miss Paya - Pre-school:
  1. MFW Preschool
  2. Before Five in a Row
  3. Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD’s
Family Subjects:
  1. Biblioplan Ancients – covers history and geography
  2. Outdoor Hour Challenges and State Conservation Activities - science
  3. The Tutor – Charlotte Mason fine arts
  4. I Can Do All Things
  5. Piano lessons for the older 2
I think that about sums it up.  Lots of trips to the library, read-alouds, memory work and “life skills” will round out our year!

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My husband is amazing!

My husband is truly amazing.  He provides for us selflessly.  He works day after day, even when his job is a bummer, without complaint.  He takes the kids out for fun time so I can stay home and enjoy a moments peace and quiet sometimes.  He snuggles our babies, kisses boo-boos and plays game after game with the older kids.  He spoils our oldest daughter, but in the best way a Daddy can.  He teaches our boys all sorts of things I never would, but that the boys love.  He reads "bookie" after "bookie" to Miss Paya and isn't afraid of changing a dirty diaper. 

He takes such good care of me, too!  Like surprising me with my favorite treats (Mint Milano's) and copies of my favorite books (Jan Karon's "The Mitford Series")!  He listens to me rant and rave after watching too much news.  Nods and acts interested when I go on and on about various curricula, homeschool trends and things and people that frustrate me.  He never tells me to be quiet or acts like he isn't interested or doesn't care.  Even though I am sure there are times he wished I would talk less!  ;-)  He goes along with it when I throw out every package of "junk food" and doesn't say a word when I ask him to bring home cookies. 

He reads his Bible, he prays for our family and I know that he is trying to be the spiritual leader that God has called him to be. 

And yesterday, I came home to find he made me a new blog banner that is so pretty!  He is the technical genius that can make forms, edit photos into amazing pieces of art and create with a computer in ways that make my head spin and throw my hands up in frustration. 

So, my dear husband.  I love you and will be forever grateful for the blessing you are in my life.  You are everything I never knew I needed and so much more than I ever wanted! 

All my love,

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TOS Review: Travel Kits – A Simple Way to Bless Others

“…It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

I wish I read this *before* going on a 10+ hour car ride with my kiddo’s over the 4th of July weekend.  It would have been so helpful to have a bit more to throw back at the children than little cups of Cheerios! 
Travel Kits – A Simple Way to Bless Others, written by Donna Rees, has 14 chapters of ideas on gifts, how to package them, who to give them to and plenty of inspiration to get you started.  This full-color guide is a complete resource for those either traveling with family or wanting to bless other families that will be traveling.  She even gives examples of how to plan out the distribution of the gifts.  It won’t do much good if your bag of tricks are all used up 2 hrs, into a 16+ hour car ride.  Numbering the gifts and then letting alternating children open them one at a time would be a good way to let everyone in on the fun and keep them spread out through the trip!
My favorite part of the book are the concrete examples of things to put in the Travel Kits for different age groups.  I know if I went to the Dollar Store, things would jump out at me, but I like concrete examples to get me started!  A rubber snake for a 4 year old boy, new hair bows and ribbons for a little girl or a princess tiara, a Starbucks gift card for Dad.  Since the children will be busy enjoying *their* Travel Kits, don’t forget to give Mom one as well!  A peaceful van full of happy children means some quiet time for Mom to catch up on some reading, listen to some favorite music or flip through a favorite magazine and snack on some chocolate! 
This book is a wonderful resource for any family of any size and could be used as a ministry to others!  We are in the midst of planning for our Holy Day trip to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  I am looking forward to using this guide to help me put together little “Quiet Time Kits” for several children to use during the various church services, as well as some fun items to use in the hotel at the end of the day and for travel to and from our Feast Site.  We have several members of our church that are home-bound and are unable to travel to Feast so I will also be using this to plan a special basket of items that they can enjoy every day during the Feast.  I look forward to being a blessing to others in this way! 
You can find Travel Kits at The Old Schoolhouse Store along with several other great resources on making gifts!  Travel Games to Sew would make a great complement to Travel Kits and would encourage even your children in creating items to include in the kits! 
Don’t forget to check out The Homeschool Crew Blog to see what others have to say about the Travel Kits E-book!

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**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Valedictorian Speech...

Aha...this is why I homeschool (among other reasons) and I am soooo excited to hear other young people who are coming through the system to recognize it for what it is and to recognize the potential in each of them to make a difference!

(The following was read as the valedictorian's speech at Coxsackie-Athens High School in recent weeks, creating quite a stir among administrators, to great applause from students and many of their parents)

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master: "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen?" The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." (The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast - How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" (Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking." Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, "You have to learn this for the test" is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a "see you later" when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

Erica Goldson

Athens, NY

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TOS Review: Travel the World June Module

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed
the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he
formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
—Isaiah 45:18 2010JunModuleCoverSM

O.K....when I was in school "Geography" meant memorizing map after map of different places, learning the points on a compass and that pesky latitude and longitude.  Which is too bad, since there are much more interesting ways to study Geography, like the "Travel the World" Planner Module from TOS.  I love this quote from the introduction, "When you study geography, you are studying God's stage, story and plan for man on earth."  Wow!  Now that sounds much more exciting than just memorizing different places on a map!

This E-book from The Old Schoolhouse is packed full of information and activities for children from Kindergarten through High School (and for those of us who don’t *remember* anything about Geography!) all coming from a Biblical perspective, reminding us that the earth is His stage for His story to be played out.  I used it with children from K-5th grade and it was enjoyed by all.  The coloring pages were fun for my pre-schooler, too!  This has made a fun way to introduce some geography concepts that we haven’t studied yet as well as brush up on a few things we haven’t talked about in awhile.  I especially enjoy the “link” feature included in the passages of the e-book.  As we were reading through a section on longitude and latitude we were immediately able to jump to a website that gives us more information and fun games to help cement what we are learning.  There are a *ton* of included links to everything from definitions to interactive maps and quizzes.  It makes it nice to have those extra fun things included and I don’t have to try to find them myself! 

We reviewed the 7 continents and the oceans as well as learned about latitude, longitude and why a map is handier to carry around than a globe. ;-)  There were coloring pages for the continents, word puzzles to reinforce vocabulary, rebus puzzles and maps for labeling the different continents.  I also had my 2 older children do some of the included copywork, both in cursive and print options.  The copywork selections include bible verses, definitions and quotes. There are also simple lapbook activities included.  It took us about a week to finish the module, but we could have easily taken longer by expanding on each of the different sections

The Planner Modules are only $7.95, and you’ll get an even better deal if you buy one of several bundles they have available.  There are many different titles to choose from including Adventures in Reading, Amusing Mathematics, and Insects Galore!  The Planner Modules are created to expand on the different themes found in each month of The Old Schoolhouse Planner.
Check out what my fellow Crewmates had to say about the “Travel the World” June Module at the Crew Blog

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**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Paya girl reading...

Last night (after she was supposed to be sleeping already...) my hubby found Miss Paya reading "Are you my mother?"  It went something like this:

"Are you my mother?" (turn a page)
"Are you my mother?" (turn more pages)
"Are you my mother?" (turn more pages)

To Daddy: Hey, I'm out of pages!!

Daddy: You must be finished.

Miss Paya:  No, I'm not.  He didn't find his mother yet.

That girl cracks me up!!!

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Blog with Substance Award.....

Awwww....Linda at Training 6 Hearts 4 Him passed along the Blog with a Substance Award!  If you haven't stopped by her blog, then click the link and say Hi!  She is a busy homeschooling mama of *6*, 5 crazy boys and 1 sweet girl.  She blogs about homeschooling, raising boys and recently downsizing her home.  She has such a sweet spirit and has been such an encouragement and inspiration to me! 

The rules for the Blog with a Substance Award are easy...

1)  Sum up your blogging philosophy in 5 words!
Mmm...this is tricky for me, as I haven't been blogging long enough to have a philosophy yet, but off the top of my head I would say:
realistic, encouraging, homeschooling, inspiration, family

2)Pass the award to five others:

Tina at Life of the Gilbert Gang - Tina has been such an encouragement to me!  She is so willing to share her wisdom and experience with the rest of us and I have gleaned much from it.

Kysha at Love's School - Mama of *5*, 4 boys and a sweet girl!  She has continued to homeschool through many trials and ups and downs and is such an inspiration. 

Kaleesha at The Bigger Half - Mama of 6, soon to be 7.  She is my hero!  A houseful of babes, milking goats, a big garden...my homesteading dream. 

Jennifer at Classless and Lovin' It - I read her blog when I need to laugh.  Her style cracks me up!

Betty at Peace Creek on the Prairie - Check out her new planner she created!  A kindred spirit as Anne would say...she loves planners and organizing stuff as much as I do.  She is also on the TOS Review Crew with me!

These mama's blog from their heart and are very encouraging to me.  Be sure to let them know you stopped by!

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I am tired of feeling guilty about *everything*.  What my kids eat, do, wear, watch, learn...everything.  Add homemaking, being a wife and a woman (am I a woman or just a wife and mom?) and it's paralyzing.  And I am *DONE* with feeling guilty.  Done with feeling bad that we don't have a pretty chore chart, that we ate trail mix bars with chocolate chips for breakfast and that my kids have a deep love for Pokemon, America's Got Talent and {insert other seemingly unacceptable thing here}. 

I read on a blog, maybe an e-mail loop recently, to Save Guilt For Sin!!  What an idea!  To save guilt for the things that I really should be guilty for (being judgemental maybe, or unforgiving...the list is probably long) and not for things that aren't sinful!  Like not studying Latin until middle school (or gasp! not at all) or not following a 4 year history cycle.  Or not keeping a glorious science notebook every year.  Or eating McDonald's for lunch yesterday.  Or doing school in our pajama's because the laundry is still on the couch.  I am paralyzed by perfection (thank you Flylady for the term) and can't do it anymore.  I am not, nor will I ever be perfect.  My home, my homeschool, my kids, my husband, nor myself will ever be perfect and I can't keep waiting for it to be so before I actually *live my life* and *do my work*!! It is exhausting and I can't do it anymore. 

Anyone want to join me on a "No Guilt" diet?!

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There are serious fireworks over at TOS....check it out!!

I woke up to a great deal waiting for me in my inbox!  The Old Schoolhouse is having an amazing 4th of July sale on a subscription to their magazine!  I took advantage of the great deal and received a *TWO* year subscription for only $17.76.  Not to mention 5 free e-books and a Homeschooling with Heart Tote Bag.  I heart pretty tote bags!  Now I will have two...one in Pink and Brown for be-bopping around town and another in Blue and Brown to hold my Bible and journal to take to church!  Yay!!

This is a limited time offer, so run on over to The Old Schoolhouse and get your subscription and Homeschooling with Heart Tote Bag!!

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