Independence Day

I love Independence Day.  I love it so much more than the Fourth of July

Independence Day speaks to me of our country’s history: of standing for the cause of justice.  And freedom from tyranny.  Stepping out in courage to say that wrong is wrong.  Calling it the Fourth of July feels like just an excuse for a party.

One of my favorite parts of the day is listening to NPR’s recording of the Declaration of Independence.  Here it is: last year’s version.

Happy Independence Day to you.

Rosetta Stone: a Few Remarks

Our former home school school had a nice perk: they offered each family six free curriculum items to borrow.  The first year, I checked out PowerGlide Spanish, some consumables, a spelling curriculum, and a science textbook.

The second year, I passed on PowerGlide, spelling and the science textbook.  I borrowed only the consumables.  Much of what they offered– it being a school-based program– was so schoolish

We took a year off, and I found I didn’t miss anything I had borrowed in the past.

The following year, we went back, and I got Rosetta Stone.  (They stopped offering the consumables by that point.)  J– being a visual learner– hated it and begged to quit.  Since he was already learning Latin, I agreed.  The younger two really were too young to understand what R.S. was asking them to do, so nothing much happened with it.  This year, I had some computer glitches that prevented us from using it for much of the year.

But we’ve just bought the new Rosetta Stone 3.something.  The homeschool version.  And wow!  It’s much better.

O (now eight) and M (almost seven) are both flying through it and really learning.  The newer version is very clear in its organization, and the lessons are so stepwise.  The kids can see where they are, and the lessons are short enough to make them feel like they are accomplishing a lot.  There is also more available for writing and speaking, although I can’t get the speech recognition part to work.

I’d have to give the new Rosetta Stone a thumbs up.

Homeschooling FAQ: How do you plan and keep track of your year?

There are probably as many ways to plan your homeschooling year as there are to do it.  And which is more important, really?  For me, however, the plan really helps me.

Some other homeschoolers who blog have much more elaborate systems than mine, and I’ve linked to a few of them here.  Obviously if you buy a packaged curriculum, you have their lesson plans already made for you.

Charlotte Mason recommends alternating subjects by type.  History (in which we are absorbing information) can be put between a nature walk (physical activity + close observation) and math (which requires calculation).   But wouldn’t want to do copywork and drawing back to back, because they both require the same type of mental effort.

We do most subjects (Bible, math, writing, reading) daily.  We do foreign language and science usually three days per week.  Once a week we’re at a homeschool enrichment program.  I schedule picture study, composer study, and nature study once a week on different days.  I write this down somewhere as my template, but it’s not set in stone.

Then I look at each of our content subjects (upper level math, history, science, foreign language) to get a rough idea how many lessons there are for the year.  I make sure I have roughly a corresponding # of days on that subject.  I pencil these into my calendar.  For subjects which are continuous– workbooks, piano lessons, copywork, Bible reading– I don’t bother to plan.  As long as we do a little every day, I figure we’re doing all right.

Each Sunday night, I pencil into my planner what we’re doing for the week.  Is it our week to volunteer, or do we have guests coming?  I plan less, accordingly.  I write our plans, and then check them off when we do them.  See:

my planner

If we don’t get to something, I cross it out (or erase it) and rewrite it on another day.  As we go along, I tally the days we’ve “schooled” to make sure we’ve satisfied my state’s requirement for “days educating” (though we all know a lot of education happens on days we’re not formally “schooling”).

Other options abound.   One of my friends writes out each day’s lessons (without a date) in a spiral notebook and writes the date at the top when they get to that day.  The online planner at Simply Charlotte does a similar things but then lets you designate which child it’s for, what the scheduled and completed dates are.  It stores old lessons and assignments so you can generate a new combination of lessons for another child without reinventing the wheel.  It looks very thorough and satisfying if you’re computer-savvy.  Kendra at Preschoolers and has great resources for planning and record-keeping.  Several of my friends (who are spread-sheet lovers) swear by Managers of their Homes, which tackles the planning of much more than home education.

A Happy Blog You Should Check Out

My friend Heidi discovered this great blog last week and pointed me to it.  And I’m enjoying reading the back posts, checking out the sidebars, and laughing at the humor.

It’s Like Mother, Like Daughter, and it’s written mostly by a very funny named Leila, who has all sorts of great tips for making your daily life better.  For instance, she recently posted on how to declutter an area.  And she gave the courage– and the skills– necessary to tackle the Dreadful Corner of the Counter.  (Friends, you know what I’m talking about.)

I used to read ablogwhichshallremainnameless and recommend it to you, until I couldn’t take its tone any more.  It had lots of great tips for running my household well– and enjoying it, even– but the blog was cheerless and preachy.  I took it off my links and my blogroll and think I’ve been a happier person since I stopped reading it.

But Like Mother, Like Daughter is a happy blog, and helpful– with just the right amount of humor and humility.  And it helped me turn this

into this

St Nicholas Day is Coming!

(This is a reprise post, prompted by a few folks asking how we celebrate St Nicholas Day– and what we do about Santa.  We don’t "do" anything with Santa… but we sure do celebrate this example of St Nicholas!)

I cherish Advent as a church season for many reasons.  I love that it is a season of waiting, of expectation, and that the prize (as it were) is Christ, Incarnate.  We don’t go out to shop much, but my kids still manage to pick up on the "__ days til Christmas!" fever around us, so I enjoy Advent as a time to focus on giving to others, especially to the poor.

Saint Nicolas Day falls on December 6, and he is a great figure of charity in church history.  We like to read about him for several days leading up to the holiday; there are good retellings of his story on the internet, as well as a few beautiful picture books.  The Real Santa Claus: Legends of Saint Nicholas by Mariana Meyer (the second on the left) features many beautiful classical paintings of the saint.


(A note of caution: the Demi book is a little gruesome, as it highlights the children cut up and put in the stew.)  Focusing on Saint Nicholas as a person has diffused the Santa Claus thing at our house– he’s an historical figure, rather than a mythical Arctic guy whose purpose in life is to bring me presents.

We then give the children many ways that they can give to others.  This has been harder than I thought it would be: many charity organizations are not set up for younger children to participate.  But here are some ways we have found to share what God has given us with those less fortunate:

  • packing backpacks full of non-perishable food and things like band-aids and wool hats, to give to the homeless we see around the city
  • participating in Operation Christmas Child , through Samaritan’s Purse
  • allowing our children to choose a gift to give to a needy family or child overseas, from  Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog, World Relief’s Catalog of Hope, World Vision’s Gift Catalog, or The Heifer Project.  (The book Beatrice’s Goat tells the story of a family in Africa who were transformed by the gift of a goat.)
  • collecting coats and blankets from our neighbors for a coat drive
  • hosting an Advent party and asking everyone to bring a food item for the local food pantry.

Four years ago, we also hosted an Advent party for our friends and neighbors to let them know about World Vision and World Relief’s holiday catalogs.  We had a great time with food and fun, and they also went home with a catalog to encourage their own giving.  The kids had a great time making a poster of what they had chosen to give from the catalog– ducks, or goats, or mosquito nets to prevent malaria.

Be sure to check out Kerry’s post and Amy’s post on St Nicholas!

Third Annual Advent Carnival

Kerry at A Ten O’Clock Scholar is hosting the Carnival of Advent Traditions.  Advetn begins Sunday, November 29, and the Carnival opens Saturday the 28th.

There will be posts on how we understand Advent as Christians, what Advent looks like practically in people’s families, how observing (celebrating!) Advent deepens our understanding of Christ and Christmas– lots of good stuff! 

Please check it out!

Christmas Crafts

Wow– thanks, friends for some wonderful, thoughtful comments on my Gaudy Night post.  You are an encouragement to me!  Now, on a lighter note…

I would so love to have an entirely homemade Christmas, but… well, it takes two to tango.  So I keep plugging away at my own gift giving habits and don’t worry about everyone else’s.  I’m trying to instill in my children a love for making gifts, rather than my usual way of going about things– nagging.

So we’ve been making lots of snakes, and Christmas ornaments, and we’ll be doing some freezer-paper stencils.  And I’ve been doing lots of knitting.  Fun, fun, fun!  What are you working on?

Thinking of Gifts

This happens to me every year, and every year it takes me by surprise.

In the winter, I think, “We just had Christmas.  It’s too soon to be working on gifts for next year.”  Then the spring comes, and I am consumed by gardening.  In the summer, we travel and have lots of guests, and it’s hard to make my knitting/sewing a priority.

Then the fall hits.  All of a sudden it’s October, and I haven’t started knitting anything for Christmas.

Well, here’s what I’ve got:

Hmm, you think.  (I can actually hear you thinking.)  Isn’t that the same photo she posted here?  Well, almost.  Except that the February post was the first of eight Christmas stockings I was knitting, and this is the eighth.  Hooray!  And I’ll still have six weeks to knit the forty-seven other things I have planned for Christmas.  (And no, I’m not expecting twins, I’m just knitting stockings for the six of us PLUS my parents who spend Christmas with us.)

If you’re looking for gift ideas, you should check out this post  of Sarah’s.  I love her blog– it feeds my love of color, beauty, thought, and writing.  There’s also Sew Mama Sew— they usually have a whole month (in November) of handmade gifts, often with tutorials.  Check out last year’s Handmade Holidays ideas! from November’s archives.