Monday, December 7, 2009

If the Weather Outside is Frightful

I've been listening to the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Brrr. Not sure I'm ready for blizzardy type of snow. In light of the prediction, I thought I should remind everyone of the snow policy for home school assistance. If the Atlantic Public Schools cancel school, then there will be no home school assistance on that day. If there is a late start, I will also start late. So if you were scheduled to see me at 9:00, but school doesn't start till 10:00, I won't be there yet. We can either skip that week, or reschedule for later in the day, if I have an opening. When in doubt, give me a call:-)

To find out about school cancellations or late starts, listen to one of the local radio stations. KCCI out of Des Moines and WOWT in Omaha both list cancellations and late starts on their early morning broadcast between 6:00-7:00 am or on their websites.

Stay warm!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Gonna Try This Again...

Ok, so I need my kids here with me at work to show me how to put that Advent Conspiracy video clip on my blog!!! Here is a link to the video in case you couldn't open it in my last post :-) I do know how to do that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Here are a couple of items I wanted to pass along.

First of all, I know some people love to shop on the day after Thanksgiving. Personally, there are a lot of things I would rather do than face a crowd of mad consumers. I may be persuaded to pick up a couple of things we really need, but I don't really want to get sucked into buying stuff just because it's on sale. Maybe I could look at the experience as an adventure in spreading cheer to grumpy shoppers. That could be fun :-) If you're more into staying home and shopping online, I got an email from about their Black Friday giveaway. They will have some of their downloadable home school materials free on Friday only. So, I am planning on checking it out and thought some of you might want to as well.

Secondly, I thought I'd share a video clip from an organization called, Advent Conspiracy. My niece shared this with me and I thought some of you might appreciate it. They are all about spending less at Christmas, but giving more and worshiping more.

So, in light of that, I am going to be spending some of my time with your children in December doing some crafts that they could give to others as gifts. We will be wrapping up our fairy tale unit by writing some fractured fairy tales and may read a couple of Christmasey tales like The Elves and the Shoemaker, or The Little Match Girl. The rest of our time we will be making things! If you have any cute ideas or craft supplies to donate, let me know. When we resume in January we will be studying medieval times!

For Brown Bag, I will be reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson the first two Thursdays in December. I would like to take the last Brown Bag day (December 17) to do something like visit the nursing home or hospital caroling with the kids. If you have any other service oriented ideas, please pass them along!

Enjoy your families this weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Operation Christmas Child

First of all, for those of you wondering if I am still planning of showing Cinderella tomorrow (Thursday Nov. 5) the answer is YES!!! My fever broke last night, so I will be officially fever free for over 24 hours by tomorrow morning. So, Cinderella, my room, 10:00 am!!

Secondly, I am so excited to be able to do another Operation Christmas Child event with the children. We have been doing this for 4 years now and I have even had children asking when we are going to do it. I love to see children who are thinking more of others than themselves :-) You are doing something right at home!

So, NEXT Thursday (Nov. 12) at 11:00 we will pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child. If you are new to this, please check out the link. I also have some brochures in my classroom you can look at. OCC is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, which provides Christmas gifts to children all over the world who would not otherwise receive any gifts. Items are placed in a shoebox and collected at drop off centers around the US. You may either pack a shoebox as a family and bring it next Thursday, or you may donate items to be sent in boxes we will send as a group. Choose gifts for either a boy or a girl age 2-4. 5-9 or 10-14.

Some suggestions for gifts include; school supplies, small toys, hygiene items, hard candy, t-shirts, socks, ball caps, sunglasses, hair accessories etc. If you include something that needs batteries, please include extras. Do not send used or damaged items, war related toys such as guns or military figures. Also, no chocolate or other food, liquids, vitamins or breakable items.

Lastly, we will need to send $7 with each box to cover shipping, so if you feel led to help out with that, feel free. :-)

We will watch a short video clip about Operation Christmas Child before we pack the boxes. I will take photos of the children to send in the boxes and will give them the opportunity to write a short letter to the child who receives their box.

I look forward to doing this and as always, thanks for sharing your children with me!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, a three year old little red haired girl sat on her mother's lap, staring at a black and white television. She was captivated by the music and mesmerized by the action of the 1965, made for television, Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her mother says that she hardly moved for two whole hours.

That little girl was me, and I still find myself singing, "In my own little corner in my own little room, I can be whatever I want to be..." and truth be told, dancing around the room with a broom in hand. Thirty-two years later in 1997, I was just as captivated by the re-make staring Brandi as Cinderella. The colorful costumes and sets were amazing and even now it would still be my go to comfort movie. (along with Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz... what can I say, I'm a kid at heart)

So far this year at Home School Connection, we have taken a closer look at several fairy tales. We've looked at Snow White and did a science experiment "poisoning apples" with bleach and rubbing alcohol. We've read Little Red Riding Hood and done projects ranging from using balloons to see how far a stomach can stretch to making puppets, maps of the forest and rewriting the story changing an element. We read my grandmother's 1941 edition of The Three Little Pigs and have seen the old Disney Silly Symphony, animated in the early 1930's. We have read The Three Pigs and the Scientific Wolf and learned all about simple machines. We've designed our own wolf catching machines and have compared and contrasted real wolves with fairy tale wolves.

Cinderella is next. There are so many ways to go and I have many fun activities planned. We will look at the original story and compare it to the many Cinderella stories from all over the world. I have some science experiments in mind. One looks at ashes and cinders and the chemistry of how things burn. Another takes a close look at pumpkins and their seeds. There are also a couple of others that we may not get to. If you are interested in doing any of these or related activities at home, let me know. I would be happy to share ideas!

I would also love to share Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (the 1997 version) with any of the kids who would like to see it. I will plan on showing it on Thursday November 5 from 10:00-12:00 in my classroom. I'll have some popcorn here and you can send a juice box or something else to drink with your children. This will take the place of Brown Bag and Books for that day.

But if your children come home singing, "Impossible, for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a gold carriage, impossible..." I'm sorry. :0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Did You KNow?

Recently I had the opportunity to watch some of the Did You Know? videos. The original was called Shift Happens, and it along with the Did You Know? updates share statistics about our rapidly changing culture and the effects of technology upon our culture. Some of it is very interesting. For instance, it took radio 38 years to reach a target audience of 50 million. Television reached that same size audience in only 13 years. The internet reached 50 million people in only 4 years, the iPod did it in 3 years and Facebook...only 2 years.

We currently have 540,000 words in the English language. That's 5x as many as during Shakespeare's lifetime.

The amount of new technological information is doubling every two years. That means for a student going to school to get a 4 year degree in a technological field, the information you were learning would be outdated by the 3rd year of study.

While all of this is very interesting and certainly has relevance to how and what we teach students in this day and age, I think it's important to remember that while technology is changing at record breakneck speeds, some things don't really change at all.

I find myself thinking that there are some "most important things" that I need to teach my kids that will be relevant no matter how our society changes. It is my responsibility to purposefully and diligently teach my children my values and core beliefs, and to teach my children self-discipline. If I fail to teach my kids, they'll still learn values, but they won't be mine. They'll learn from the culture.

From an educational standpoint, I believe it's crucial to teach kids to be independent, creative thinkers and problem solvers. They need age appropriate practice solving problems and making decisions, and yes, using higher level thinking skills. It is true that we are preparing kids to work in jobs that have yet to be created and they will be functioning and communicating in a different type of world. But knowing that, it becomes even more important to prepare them for their futures as family leaders...mothers and fathers. When the family falls apart, then the whole fabric of our culture will follow and it won't matter how much technology we have.

Click on the links and watch the videos. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Brothers Grimm

I can't believe how many tales the Grimm Brothers collected in their native Germany. Did you know that there are a total of 211 tales in the complete collection? They collected stories in a section of Germany now known as Fairy Tale Road. It goes from Hanau in south central Germany all the way to Bremen in northern Germany. There is a good website that shows the road and stops along the way, complete with pictures of the split timber houses popular in that area, and pictures of Sleeping Beauty's castle and Rapunzel's tower.

I've been reading quite a few of the tales in their original form in the collection. Some of them are a little darker than their Disney counterparts, but I've been amazed at the truth hidden within them. In Snow White, the evil queen finds out from her mirror that Snow White is fairer than she and this is how she is described;

This gave the queen a great shock, and she became yellow and green with envy, and from that hour her heart turned against Snow White, and she hated her. And envy and pride like ill weeds grew in her heart higher every day, until she had no peace day or night...

I was struck as I read that with how hatred grew in her heart. The truth that our actions reflect the condition of our heart is big as life in this story.

Last week I read Mother Hulda, a lesser know tale to 3 precious little girls. It has the classic step mother who loves her child but mistreats her step child. In the story, the hard working and kind step child is rewarded by another character (Mother Hulda) and the lazy child ends up being covered in sticky tar. As the story closed, one of the girls said to me, rather emphatically, "What that girl needs is a bath and some lovin'!" and her sister added, "Yeah, and mommy's should love all their kids the same!"

Wow! Out of the mouths of babes! I wasn't expecting so much truth out of these old tales. I can hardly wait to read another and see what other nuggets of truth I can find.

Thanks for sharing your kids with me. They are truly amazing people!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another Year Off To A Good Start

Well, another year is off and running. Forms are turned in, the schedule is set and I've even met with a few families already. Today I've enjoyed reading the old Grimm Brother's version of Snow White and have experimented with injecting "poison" into apples to see what happens and how they change. Did you know that many fairy tales have 3's and 7's in them? I did not know that until recently and it's amazing when you start looking. In Snow White, of course there are 7 dwarfs, but there are also 7 mountains. The wicked queen visits Snow White 3 times at the cottage and there are 3 birds who visit Snow White as well. Kind of interesting, huh?

For those of you who would like to see my September schedule, you can go to my web page and download it as a PDF file.

Also, I wanted to let you know that the Atlantic Nursing and Rehab Center has asked our home school assistance program to host the September birthday party for the residents on Tuesday September 22 at 2:30 pm. We are responsible to provide cake and ice cream for 50-60 residents. We have the honor of serving the goodies and then are welcome to provide any entertainment we may have. Would any of you like to volunteer to bring a cake or some ice cream? Do you have any entertainment ideas? Let me know and we'll get something planned.

If you are receiving this as an email, you can also find this post on my blog. I use the blog as a way to communicate information and ideas to the families I work with in our program. You can make comments there and those are always welcome! You can also find older posts from last year and links to learning styles inventories and more. Check it out. And have a great week!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Where did the summer go?!!?

I can hardly believe that summer is almost over! We just finished up a busy week at the Cass County Fair and now it's time to regroup!

By now you should all have a packet of forms from me for the new school year. I have started getting a few back in the mail already. Thanks!

Just wanted to let you know that I will be gone for about 10 days. I am leaving tomorrow with my husband and his family for a trip to Alaska, and will not be available to answer any questions till I get back. I will be in my office on Monday August 17, and also on Wednesday and Thursday of that week. On Tuesday of that week, I'll be at the State Fair watching my kids show calves :-) So, if you need to talk to me, call today (Friday August 7) or it can probably wait till I'm back.

Hope you enjoy the last few weeks of summer. See you soon!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sweet Memories

I've spent the past couple of days updating forms, filing curriculum, putting away books and art supplies and reminiscing about memories from the past few years. As each school year draws to a close, I say good-bye to your children for the summer. Most of them I will see over the church, at the YMCA, the pool or county fair. Most of them will be back next year, but there are always a few that move on, some to public high school, some move to new communities, some just grow up, darn it!

Thus the reminiscing. I have some great memories from this year. I hope your children do. Some snippets running through my mind include eager children packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, the chaos of cutting fleece and sewing machines buzzing as we made hats for children in Pakistan, cutting, measuring & messy gluing trying to make models of the Washington Monument, and the White House. I remember giggling with kids as they wrote stories and showcased their humor and imagination. We laughed through Hank the Cowdog books and were sad when we thought Hound Dog Bates was murdered, and later were touched to find out what really happened. We were amazed at the number of stupid pets different presidents had. With your children I have learned about crop circles, possible locations of the Ark of the Covenant, tasted new chocolate concoctions and solved the mystery of the Art Fraud Detective. We've twisted nursery rhymes into mysteries and created I Spy pictures.

Thank you for trusting me with your children. Thanks for allowing me to share in the joy of who they are and who they are growing up to be. Have a wonderful summer!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Hammock and a glass of Lemonade

Ok, so I have several favorite times of year. Today I would say my favorite is late spring/early summer (but if you ask me in September, I may say football season) There are many reasons I like this time of year so much. Winter is really over!! School is almost out and summer dangles out in front of me like a piece of chocolate on a string. The bugs are not bad yet. It's not very humid yet. The lawn still looks nice. The birds sing in the morning outside my window. Everyone around me is happy, and smiling. I could go on and on.

When the weather gets like this, one of my favorite things is to find a great book and read outdoors. On the deck, (or in my new hammock I got for mother's day) Books and words facinate me. I love how a good author puts them together and I love being taken away to a different world. Right now I am rereading C.S.Lewis's The Last Battle, from The Chronicles of Narnia.

I wrote my mom a short letter for mother's day. In it I thanked her for giving me such a love of reading. She had such a huge part in cultivating that in me. She took me to the library and helped me find books she thought I would like. She read to me and with me. I saw her take time out of her busy day to get lost in book after book.

You are also having a huge impact on your kids and their love of reading and books. Not every kid will spend countless hours lost in a great story, but even if your child doesn't live to read, they can have a great appreciation for a good story.

As summer approaches, I know it will be a little of a battle for me to get my youngest son lost in literature. If I follow my own mom's lead and guide him toward a book he can get hooked into, that will help. The statistics show how important it is.

• Students regress three months in achievement and these losses are cumulative creating a wider gap each year. By the time a student reaches middle school years, the reading loss can add up to two or more years of lost reading achievement (Franzen & Allington, 2003).

Yikes! The good news is, reading only 5 to 6 books over the summer is sufficient to prevent a decline in reading achievement.

Looking for some good ways to encourage your kids to read? The public library has a great summer reading program. New this year, I will be joining the "Principal's Challenge", providing an extra incentive for home school students to read over the summer. Ask Julie at the children's desk for more information.

Also, Scholastic has a summer challenge you can join on their website. You can have your kids journal about what they read. Discuss what they like and don't like about a book. Have them act out or illustrate a scene from a book. They could write an alternate ending or draw out part of the plot as a comic strip. Or... just curl up in a hammock with some lemonade and get lost in Narnia!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Garage Sale Bliss

You can pull into a million driveways and not find a single treasure, but then there is that one garage, the one where you find the perfect thing at a better than bargain price. That's what keeps me going back for more. I am guilty like the rest, of taking something home just because it was cheap, only to take it to Goodwill a few years later, untouched. But then there was the time I found a solid oak nightstand, painted of course, brought it home for a few dollars and then let my son refinish it for 4-H. It now has a prominent place in his room. Or one time, I round the whole set of math manipulatives for Saxon for under $10. Wow! It's the thrill of the hunt that makes the car slow down when I see the familiar array of junk in someone's lawn. As they say, one woman's trash is another woman's treasure!

If you enjoy the hunt, or even if you don't, you don't want to miss the opportunity to look through treasures at one local garage sale this coming weekend. It's at 2501 Olive Street and is being put on by several families. I happen to have the inside track that among the merchandise, Galynn will be selling most of her homeschool curriculum and many great books at this sale. As many of you know, she has home schooled 4 children and has a wealth of materials. You won't want to miss the chance for some great bargains. The doors open at noon on Friday May 8 and it will go till 7:00 that evening. Then they'll be open again for business on Saturday from 8:00 till noon.

I may just see you there!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Is it really almost May?

Whoa! Where has this month gone! I can't believe it's almost May. The crab apple tree outside of my classroom is blooming and it's absolutely beautiful! That means it's time for me to get the annual Kid's Collection put together, so I am extending a last invitation for kids to submit writing or artwork to our publication. Deadline of next Tuesday, May 5. I have collected many neat things throughout the year and have started the process. I will try to have them ready to send home by the middle of May.
On another subject, I get regular emails from Parenting with Love and Logic. I don't know if any of you are familiar with Jim Fay or the Love and Logic Institute in Colorado. One of my sister-in-laws teaches Love and Logic classes. Anyway, I thought today's post was a good reminder. You probably have perfect children who never question what they need to learn :-) but for that occasional day where they do....well, enjoy!

Are you ever confronted with the following? If so, experiment with these responses.
Possible Adult Response #1.
"Every time your brain is learning something new it starts running faster so you can learn the things you want to learn easier. Thanks for asking." Possible Adult Response #2.
"Learning things you don't want to learn grows the brain so that all other things are easier to learn. Thanks for asking." Possible Adult Response #3.
"If you don't figure out why by the time you master this, ask me that question again." Child: "IT'S TOO HARD, I CAN'T DO IT."
Possible Adult Response #1.
"Aren't you glad I don't believe that?" Possible Adult Response #2.
"Wouldn't it be sad if I believed that?" Possible Adult Response #3.
"Nice try. Let me know when you are finished."
One of the guiding concepts that has served as a pillar of the Love and Logic philosophy is, "I don't become what I think I can. I don't become what you think I can. I become what I think you think I can."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Resources to Check Out!

We have had some new materials added to the curriculum library in the HSAP room, as well as some new items in the "garage sale" area.

Shelli B. came in and donated many items to the library, especially in the areas of science and social studies. Laura O. has also donated some items both to the curriculum library and for give away.

I also have an area in the room where moms have brought in used items they would like to sell. Shelly S. brought in Saxon 87 math and has a bargain price of $20 on it. I still have many items from Galynn H. on the shelves.

Sue C. from Audubon, came in yesterday and brought many items that she would like to sell. They are in the room and have prices on them. She also has most of the Sonlight curriculum grades 1-9 or so, and some A Beka curriculum she would like to sell. If you are interested in any of her curriculum, send me an e-mail or give me a call and I will tell you how to get in touch with her.

It's a great time to be thinking about next year's curriculum. And with the economy the way it is, buying used and borrowing items are a great way to save money. Let me know, if there is enough interest, maybe we could have a "Swap Day". Another idea would be for moms to list items they would be willing to trade or sell and leaving those lists with me. We could also put out a "wish list" if there are specific things you are looking for. Remember that E-Bay is another good resource for home school items. If you have any other thrifty ideas, feel free to share them with me!

Speaking of being thrifty, on Thursday April 23, the local Evangelical Free Church will be hosting a live simulcast with Dave Ramsey. Dave is the host and author of Financial Peace University as well as a popular radio talk show host. He will be speaking with regards to living in our current economic situation and then answering people's questions. The event is free. It begins at 7:00pm with doors opening at 6:30. My husband and I took the Financial Peace class a year ago and I would highly recommend Dave's wisdom!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great Fun!

Thanks to all of you who participated in last Thursday's special activities. I want to share some photos from the Mansion Mystery. We had a lot of fun. Some of the kids came in "costume" and really got into their parts. In the end, the mystery was solved. It was a little silly but that just added to the fun. Thanks for sharing your children with me. They bring me joy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Officer Bart Coming to Super Sleuths

Officer Ben Bartholomew from the Cass County Sherrif's department will be with us on Thursday at 11:00, for Super Sleuths. Better known to students as "Officer Bart", Ben will be sharing crime fighting and investigation techniques with the kids. Bring your sack lunch and plenty of questions. I am sure Officer Bart will do his best to educate us and answer our questions.

Also, a reminder to let me know if you would like to participate in A Mansion Mystery, the following Thursday, March 26. We need at least 8 children to fill the main characters, but can use as many as 25. The mystery party starts at 12:00. Each student will play a part in the mystery and read lines from character cards. They are handed out as we go so that no one knows the outcome of the mystery. At the end, we all vote on who we think "did it". Should be lots of fun! There will be pizza at 11:30 for any interested. Cost for the pizza will be $2 per child. Let me know as soon as possible so that I can assign the parts and order the pizza.
Have a great week!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's day is celebrated on March 17 each year by the Irish as well as many others. St. Patrick was born around 380AD in Britain. It is hard to distinguish between legend and fact concerning his life, but he is generally credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Hands of a Child has just published a new lap book project for children PK-3. It is a free download this week at and would be a great project to do with your children to learn about St. Patrick and the holiday that bears his name. Although it is written for younger children, it could easily be adapted to older children as well, or be done as a group project with all of your children sharing in the work. If you are not able to download it, let me know. I can print it for you.
I also have a video tape available for check out in the HSAP room. It's called, Irish Dancing Made Easy. I actually did this with some students a couple of years ago and it's kind of fun. Let me know if you would like to borrow it.
One of my favorite books to read around St. Patrick's Day is Jamie O'Rourk and the Big Potato, by Tomie dePaola. Tomie is half Irish himself, so many of his books have an Irish theme. Another favorite is The Irish Cinderlad, by Shirley Climo. This is an interesting Cinderella story set in Ireland. As you probably guessed, the main character is a boy rather than a girl. It is fun to read and then to compare and contrast with other Cinderella stories you know.
Do you have any other ideas for St. Patrick's day? Feel free to post a comment.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Pickled Pepper Mystery

Today I am sharing a creative twist on a nursery rhyme. Try it yourself. Choose a rhyme and then be the detective. Ask questions and look for clues. "Was Mother Hubbard robbed? Why was Humpty Dumpty on the wall? Did he fall or was he pushed?" Anyway, enjoy!

A Pickled Pepper Mystery
By Corrisa, Angela & Mariah
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Setting: Newsroom. Reporter, Mariah is live on the air giving an account of a late breaking story on Mother Goose News.

Reporter: Hello, and welcome to the Mother Goose News. Today we are live with Peter Piper. Did he really pick the peck of pickled peppers? Or did he steal them? We go live to Peter…
Peter: I did not steal the peppers! I picked the pickled peppers!
Reporter: We will find out. We have a witness here today who claims Peter stole those pickled peppers. Please welcome Corrisa.
Corrisa: Hi, I’m Corrisa, and he stole my pickled peppers. My beautiful pickled peppers, and I will press charges.
Peter: I am innocent. I buy stuff. I do not steal.
Reporter: Well today is going to be interesting. Peter, will you be kind enough to tell us what happened?
Peter: Yes, I went to town to buy some pickled peppers for my mom. I went to the Humpty Dumpty Grocery Store and bought my pickled peppers.
Corrisa: Liar! You stole my pickled peppers. My dog even saw it!
Reporter: How did your dog tell you this?
Corrisa: I just know these things.
Reporter: Well I think that about raps this mystery up. But how do you pick a peck of pickled peppers? Don’t you have to pick the peppers before you pickle them?
Peter: You buy them already pickled.
Reporter: Well, that’s a rap. Join us again tomorrow for Mother Goose News!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Legislative Information

I wanted to share some information with you about what is going on in the state legislature regarding home schooling. As some of you know, last year the legislature cut the funding to home school assistance programs from .6 to .3. Because of the changes, it opened up the door for making legislative rule changes regarding home schooling. In response to this, there are a couple of new faces lobbying for home schooling at our capital this session.
In the past, only NICHE has had a constant presence at the capital. The problem with that, was that NICHE lobbies for families who don't use home school assistance programs, and they don't advocate for the needs of Iowa families who are in home school assistance programs. So, Ed Dickerson and a few others have formed the group HAIL, Homeschool Alliance for Iowa Learners. On their website, they describe themselves as; a grass roots, non-partisan homeschool lobby group dedicated to having an inclusive lobbyist working for Iowa Homeschoolers at the State Capitol. This resource is designed to assist homeschool families and their state legislators communicate with each other on Iowa homeschooling issues.
If you are curious about what they are up to and the kinds of things they are advocating for, check out their website. You can also sign up for e-mail updates from them.
Another new presence at the state capital is Andrea Farrier. She is a home school assistance teacher from eastern Iowa who represents the Iowa Home School Assistance Professionals, a group that I belong to. I also get a weekly update from her on the happening at the capital with regards to home schooling. In her last update she stated that we have Democratic sponsorship for parent-taught driver education in both the house and senate. This is a positive thing, but there is still the possibility that the governor will veto it as he did in 2004.

If you and your children are interested in seeing more about how the legislative process works, there is an opportunity for home school families to be a part of this on Monday March 2. Families will be meeting in the rotunda area at 11:00 and there is a capital tour scheduled for 1:00. I will not be able to attend that day, but if any of you can, it would be a very educational experience! I went once last year and it was a great experience.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Be My Valentine

My Valentine's Day memories are full of things like;
  • construction paper hearts glued together in pinks and reds
  • wondering whether the person who stuck the conversation hearts in the flimsy little envelope read them first and if it was a message for me
  • those little red heart suckers
  • the sappy card and chocolate from Mom
Valentine's day is traditionally thought of as a time for couples in love, but really it's a celebration of love itself and a perfect opportunity for a mom to teach and express genuine love for her kids.

My niece wrote about her memories of Valentine's Day on her blog, Musings of Foreign Hearts. Check it out. Her mom puts me to shame with individual poems for her children and a feast ending with individual heart shaped cakes for each of her five children. Actually though, it inspires me to want to make a special effort this year to let each of my kids know how much I love them and cherish them as individuals. I haven't decided yet exactly how that will play out, but let me know if you have any great inspirational ideas!

In the meantime, make some glittery Valentine's boxes with the kids, do some baking, read about St. Valentine, or just go to the store and buy some boxed Valentines. I am putting together some little heart things with pixie sticks shooting through them for my students. There are some great ideas at The and a reading list of Valentine's Day books at Apples for the Teacher. Let me know how you show love and teach your kids about real love by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Giving students choices

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Alfie Kohn, a nationally known speaker and expert in the field of education. His audience was public school teachers and his message encouraged them to give students choices in their education. Research shows that students are more creative and more productive when they are given choices rather than having everything dictated to them.

One study he referred to had five and six year olds create a collage. The first student was given a wide array of materials to choose from to make his collage. The second student was given the same materials the first one chose. The next student got to choose his own materials and the fourth student was given the materials the third student chose and so on. At the end, the collages were judged on creativity. The collages of the students who were given a choice in materials rated much higher than those who had no choice.

In another example, one group of high school students were given a chemistry lab and all of the instructions were spelled out for them. They just followed directions and did the lab. The second group of students were given very little information and had to figure out in groups how to do the lab on their own. When tested later, the second group learned the information much better than the first. When students are not spoon fed everything, they take ownership and pride in what they are doing. Real learning and thinking takes place instead of just rote memorization that is quickly forgotten.

As I listened to Mr. Kohn speak, I kept thinking that public educators can learn a lot from the practices of home school educators. Many home school families take a child's interests and let the child learn and discover as much as he or she can on that subject. In a home school, choice is an easy thing to encorporate. Would you like to read the book you chose in your room or outside on the porch? Would you like to do your math in the morning or the afternoon? What is your passion? Anthropology? Ok, lets learn all we can about anthropology this month. Why do your eyes dialate? Why don't you try to figure that out. Here is a flashlight and there is the closet. Do an experiment and let me know what you find out.

Just last week one of you gave me an example of this at work. One student is passionate about pigs and just loves the Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo. Her mom took the opportunity to let her daughter write her own Mercy Watson book. Is there a difference in the passion she will have for writing that as opposed to doing a worksheet in a language arts workbook? You better believe it! And the opportunities for reinforcing spelling, capitalization, punctuation and grammar are probably better because now they are relevant to something that matters to the student.

In the next month or so at the Home School Connection I will be giving your students some choices. The older students are going to be writing mysteries and they will have a lot of choice in what they write about. The younger students are going to be choosing mysteries by Ron Roy, from the A to Z Mystery series and the Capital Mystery series to read and do some activites with. If you see that your child is really enjoying these and you would like to do more at home, I found some excellent educator guides from Random House on the web that can easily be adapted to a home school setting. You can find them by clicking on the links above. Many of the books are available at the public library.

As I reflect on the times in my life when I was really learning and using higher level thinking and problem solving, it was not when I was listening to a lecture or filling out a worksheet. It was in times of discovery, research, using creativity and times when I had some choice, even if it was only a small choice, in what I was learning or how I was learning it. I am sure if you look back, it was the same for you. Do you have an example you can share that would encourage another parent? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Perfect Blustery Day

The weather in the midwest is down right frightful today. My rather romantic notion of a perfect blustery winter day includes things like a fire in a fireplace, (don't have one) a cup of coffee, something yummy baking in the oven and reading some hilariously good book aloud to my children. (Hank the Cowdog, with me doing all of the crazy voices would work). After awhile, we would switch to board games. Maybe a little Rummy Cube, or some Life on the Farm ( a monopoly like game), or Jenga.

In my perfect senario, there are no cattle chores to do outdoors, no laundry piling up and the dirty dishes created by the yummy baking would miraculously clean themselves.

I was listening the other day on my ipod to the book of Ecclesiates while I was working out at the gym. I was reminded that there is a time and a season for everything, and that much of what we do is just chasing after the wind. Unfortunately, some days seem to get complicated. For example, our teenage boys' car won't start, and is dead in the high school parking lot. So I got up very early to take one boy to wrestling practice, went back home, got the other boys up for chores. Hubby is traveling and out of town, so I can either leave the boys' car in a parking lot and let him worry about it, or I can figure out how to handle the problem later today. Since I am his helpmate, I'm thinking trying to find a solution on my own would be less stressful for him when he returns home.

So....where am I going with this? There won't be any fire, yummy baking, Hank the Cowdog or board games for me today. I have to brave the cold, do what I'm called to do today. There are days for letting the laundry slide, and days for getting an old car started. Days to bake and days to go to work. Days for reading aloud and days for letting the kids study diligently on their own. Days to do neat science experiments and days to read silently. Days for worksheets and days for art projects.

I don't know what your day is unfolding to be today. If you are fortunate to be able to stay in your warm house and let learning take place in a fun relaxed leave the laundry for tomorrow sort of way, rejoice and do it! If your day is a little more hectic, rejoice and do it that way! If you are car schooling more than home schooling today, so be it. Be encouraged. Tomorrow will be a brand new day. Live today. Laugh today. Learn today.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Spy

See full size imageHappy 2009!
For Super Sleuths this Thursday we are going to have some fun with I Spy pictures and riddles. We are going to create some collages in the style of the popular I Spy books and then write riddles to go along with them. If you have any small stickers, or old magazines we could cut pictures out of, send them with the students.

To whet your appetite, I have a link to the I Spy web page. Try some of the interactive games, or activities on that page. I found all of the items in The Library, but it took me a little while.

Another related activity is to make an I Spy bottle. Recycle a plastic water bottle or soda bottle. Take off the label and fill it with a combination of sand and tiny objects to look for. You can use small toys, paper clips, anything really little. Replace the lid and shake it up. Make a list of object, or write an I Spy riddle to go with your bottle. Have some fun challenging your friends to find all of the objects in the bottle!

See you Thursday at 11:00.