Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homeschool Book Review ~ Betsy Ross by Alexandra Wallner

This cute little book was a hit in our homeschool classroom (aka the dining room.)  Even my 10 year old, who said she knew all about Betsy Ross, was sucked in.  Not only was she interested in the story, before the book was over, she had taken it and started reading it to her sisters.  Later, she snuck it upstairs to read, so I wouldn't know she was reading the book that she said would be boring.

The illustrations are cute without being overly juvenile.  The colors are vibrant, much like colors used in colonial times.

Wallner presents a simple biography and the traditional story of how Betsy Ross contributed to the design the first flag.  She also includes an author's note at the end of the book, explaining that there is no way to prove that this story is true or that Betsy Ross actually did make the first flag.

At the end of the book, we are taught how to make a five pointed star.  This lead to a fun time designing our own 13 star flag.  This entertaining activity helped my children learn about our flag and it's symbolism.

I recommend this book for elementary aged children K-5.  Here's the link to the copy at the Bellingham Library.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


As a homeschooler, I'm hardly the person to ask about preschool.  But, I have opinions anyway.

Generally, I'm not one who thinks preschool is all that important.  Yes, the skills learned are important.  Kids need to learn colors, numbers, letters, how to wait their turn, and basic classroom behavior.  Any involved parent can teach these skills at home and by involving the child in church or some other program.  

However, two of my children did attend a formal pre-school.  Both Keegan & Dawnlynn have developmental delays.  After participating in the Birth-to-Three early intervention program in our area, they each attended our local public school district's special education preschool.  I can state with conviction that early intervention works.

At school they received speech and occupational therapy that I couldn't provide at home. Keegan went for approximate two hours a day, five days a week.  

Dawnlynn went for the same until January of this year.  She'd begun begging to stay home and crying about going to preschool.  In addition, her development is at target, with the exception of a few speech sounds.  Finally, she was showing a great interest in the schooling we were doing at home.  Over Winter Break, Dawnlynn was much happier staying home with us.  Now she goes to preschool one day a week to continue speech therapy.  

As for my other children, Kathleen was a bright child who was always ahead.  She would have been bored in preschool.  She joined a public school strings class with no problems in 5th grade.  Due to her developmental delays, Constance would have benefited from the early special-ed program.  Baby Benjamin isn't old enough to make the preschool decision yet.

For a typical child, I wouldn't worry about preschool as long as Mom is playing with and teaching the kiddo.  We count stairs while we are climbing them, talk about colors in the produce section at the grocery store, and read together.  We also attend church weekly where the children learn what's expected when in a group.  

Socialization is always a question.  But, how much socialization does a three, four, or five year old really need?  If s/he's an only child, there's an argument for getting some extra outside socialization.  But, if there's more than one child of somewhat similar ages in the family, playing with each other and with other neighbor kids some is plenty of socialization for that age.  

Finally, I don't think that preschool is bad.  I don't think that parents who put their kids in pre-school are bad.  There are lots of good reasons that families make the choices they do.  I just don't think that a child who doesn't go to preschool is doomed.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Unveiling the Girls' Dormitory

After months of work, we have moved the girls into the Hogwarts style girls' dormitory.  Our goal was to use limited space efficiently to create private and shared spaces that girls can use to rest and to play.  We've done most of the work ourselves, but have had **lots** of advice and instruction.  Here are some pics.

Before:  small, leaky window, no heat, active wasp nest, dusty, stinky, full of spiderwebs and dust.

 Nearly ready for move in:  new sheetrock, insulation, window, flooring, lighting, heating.

We still  need to build the door for the access hole on the left.  The storage space is also insulated and provides some needed room to put things like the Christmas tree.

After move in: still some work to do. 

Each of the four girls has her own corner of the room.   Each girl has two can lights in the ceiling, one over the head of her bed and one over the dresser.  She has her own switch to control her lights.  She also has two outlets.  We wired plenty of circuits to make sure that multiple hair dryers can be used at once.    

A different perspective to show a room divider mounted from the ceiling. 

There is a wooden wall divider mounted on the left and the right side of the room.  Where the dressers are now will have freestanding closets added.  The dressers will be scooted over toward the walls, in front of the room dividers.  Each girl will have a ceiling-to-floor curtain hung in the "doorway" of her space, so that she can have complete privacy and the ability to escape into her own personal world.

The other side of the room.

The girls chose their own wall colors.  Kathleen has a bright cheery yellow.  Constance chose a lovely shade of lavender.  The two little girls went with a soothing shade of blue.  The ceiling and trim are white.  My mom says they are "Easter Egg" colors.

The flooring is the cheapest laminate from Lowes.  It was chosen to blend with the rustic hardwood in the rest of the upstairs.  There is one step up to get into this bedroom, so while the flooring doesn't match exactly, it goes well enough to blend nicely.

We still need to add legs to the beds (which my dad made.)  We will also add underbed storage bins to hold the girls' assorted stuff.  

Across the hall is the room that they have been sleeping in. It has a full height ceiling and will be used as a play room.  We call the two upstairs rooms the "children's suite."  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's your child's (or your) Learning Style?

For the month of May, you can find out for free through an arrangement that Homeschool Buyers Co-op has made with Learning Success Institute. Click here for more info.

I love the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  They always have good deals on homeschool curriculum, on-line programs, materials (like the Lego science kits), etc...  Deals change throughout the year.  I've been a member for several years now.

One more nice thing about the Homeschool Buyers Co-op is that you can get homeschool student and teacher IDs through them.  They are free if you print them out yourself (I laminate ours) or, for a small charge, they'll make up a credit card style one for you.

I don't get anything for posting this, I just really like them & wanted to share.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Animated Hero Classics: The Wright Brothers

Let me start by stating the I really don't like cartoon versions of history (don't get me started on Pocahontas), but, I was *very* impressed by this.  The characters were drawn to actually look like the real-life Wright brothers.  The video included real science and discussion of what breakthroughs the Wright brothers accomplished.  It also brought in additional related characters and events from the time period.  Finally, there were no made-up animal friends!

The video told the story in a straightforward, easy way to follow.  My 4 yo, 7 yo, and 11 yo all sat down to watch and enjoyed it.  Although she won't admit it, even my 13 yo was caught peeking.  I, also, learned new things. (I had no idea what wing warping was or why it is important.  But, now, the whole family knows.)

After watching the video, we took the quizzes that came on the DVD.  The multiple choice questions gave me the opportunity to evaluate how well my kids understood the video.  Each question has the option to watch a small snippet of the DVD again to learn the answer.

The video has language tracks in English & Spanish, and has subtitles in both languages.  It's available through the Whatcom County Libary System.

Evidently, this is part of a full series of DVDs.  To be honest, I'd probably not checked this out had I known it was part of a "character building" series.  It's not that I object to character building; it's just that often they tend to be too sappy for my taste.  After trying this one, I'm going to check out some more from our library.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When does life begin?

To listen to all the news on Abortion, one side is full of misogynists who want to keep women barefoot and pregnant, while the other-side is full of lazy, selfish, morally corrupt baby killers who use abortion as their only form of birth control.  We all know that those extremes don't really portray most people on either side.  Throwing those stereotypes around like mud doesn't do much to help get to the heart of the matter either.

There's talk about the mother's, the father's, and even grandparent's rights.  But, during all this debate, there is next to no mention of the fetus or baby, other than choosing which word to use to refer to it/he/she.  This lack of discussion confuses me.

I have my own opinions of course, but I'm curious what other people think.  At what point do the two cells become "living?"  At what point does the developing fetus become "human?"  At what point does it gain "human rights?"  Are those human rights different because the fetus lives in and is dependent upon another human?  How?  Do those rights change over the course of the pregnancy?  If so, how?  Does the fact that a woman is carrying a fetus change her rights?  Where do the two beings (woman & fetus) rights intersect?

I'm only interested in this small part of the topic of abortion.  Abortion is an emotional subject.  But, I ask that we try to keep the emotions in control.  I'm interested in serious contemplation and discussion.  The ability to sit back, cool off, and think about what I am going to say is one of the benefits of internet based discussion.