New friends, PE day

Last night we went and visited a family for the first time. It was another family that uses Christian Light Education. I was given their phone number while in Virginia for training. For several reasons we haven’t been able to get together until last night for dinner at their house. They only live about 5 miles from us. They have 8 kids ranging from 2 months to teenagers. Karen and Richard had fun playing with the younger ones while we visited. We stayed until around ten. We hope to get together again.

Today we got up early to be at a school at 9 for PE Day. The district got a fitness grant. Today they tested the kids on things like running, sit ups, push ups, flexibility. It took longer than planned. They expected to get the testing done in the morning then do outdoors activities in the afternoon. Instead they didn’t finish testing until almost 2 and canceled the outdoor part. Now that they know what to expect, I hope they can schedule next time better. They have 4 more days this school year for these tests to track their progress.

They tested 6 or so kids at once. The others played group games. It was supposed to be grouped by grade so the younger kids would do games while the older ones did the testing then switch. It wound up just being random who went when. I think part of it was there were more families than expected that showed up.

Richard was in the last group. He had a lot of fun. They did a lot of running games. He won’t admit it, but he’s pretty tired this afternoon. There were a few other preschoolers Karen played with. She’s taking a nap now. (I’d like one too, but need to keep the fire going.)

At times it was only slightly controlled chaos, especially late morning when they were supposed to play Capture the Flag. Kids were just everywhere. (That’s not the best mixed-age game.) Not everyone knew where to go. Some just didn’t care and were doing their own thing. They didn’t have any morning snack which I think would have helped the younger ones at least because they were pretty tired and hungry at noon. Again, next time should go more smoothly. Another thing that would have helped is a whistle rather than shouting to be heard or to get kids attention. Overall, it was a fun day but I wouldn’t want to do it very often.

I made a fire before leaving home this morning. Still, it was 59 when we got back this afternoon. I got it going again and now it is warming up.

In my kitchen

Today’s post is a fun one. No more deep thoughts on this sunny (if rather chilly) early winter day. As temperatures drop, I tend to spend more time working in the kitchen. I found this kitchen post over at The Mennonbrarian at homesteadblogger. It seemed like fun so I’m giving you a similar tour of my kitchen.

Welcome to my Kitchen

1. Do you have magnets on your fridge? yes. An eclectic mix. Mostly ones left behind by tenants although a few treasured keepsakes or kid gifts. All useful for holding up all our papers.

2. Do you have a calendar in your kitchen, if so, what’s the theme of it? We have a wildlife calendar from World Wildlife Foundation.

3. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool? Either a rolling pin or grater.

4. Are you lucky enough to have a pantry of some kind? yes, above our stairs are many deep shelves.

5.What is your favorite appliance? My bread machine

6. Do you have an eat in kitchen (table in it)? A counter with chairs. We have a nice table in the living room when we have guests.

7.Do you have a bread box? No.

8. Do you have a picture of your kids on the fridge? No

9. Do you ever cook breakfast in your PJs? Yes.

10. Do you have a favorite cookbook that you use? More with Less and a family cookbook called Made with Love

11. Are you lucky enough to have recipes that were passed down from your mom or grandma? Yes.

12. What’s your favorite food? macaroni & cheese

13. What’s your favorite thing to cook? casseroles

14. Is your coffee pot electric or stove top? We don’t drink coffee.

15. Do you ever make your own bread?  Most of our bread is homemade in the bread machine or occasionally by hand.

16. Name one thing that you have hanging on your wall in your kitchen. A picture of sled dogs

17. Is there a clock in your kitchen? Two. One digital on the stove. The other battery with a face by the wood stove.

18. Do you have a bowl of fruit sitting on your table or counter? When the bag gets empty. Usually we just have big bags of fruit on the counter

19. What type of canisters do you have? Plastic cereal keepers with oatmeal, wheat, and powdered milk.

20. Does your kitchen have a theme? No

21. What’s for supper tonight? Meatloaf and stir-fry vegetables with rice

22. Do you have enough cabinet space? Almost.

23. Does your family use paper plates? Not unless on a picnic.

24. Do you have a good set of china packed up? My husband has a nice set for festive occasions and we have good old Coral Ware for everyday use.

25. Do you wear an apron to work in your kitchen? Yes. When doing dishes, baking, or something else messy.

26. Name one thing, if anything, that you would like to change about your kitchen. Get rid of the dishwasher Then turn that space into a dry goods storage for bulk milk powder, flour, oatmeal, etc. And we really need new flooring.

His first mile

One of the reasons I like homeschooling, is being able to explore Alaska whenever we want. Part of this includes winter trips. My son got his first skis for Christmas last year but only went around the driveway and near the house last winter. Yesterday evening I took him skiing at the Dog Musher Hall field. it’s this big open field we hiked a few weeks ago. Now it’s covered in snow. Snow machines have packed a nice trail.

I wouldn’t consider myself that great a skier, not even a pratically good one, so it seemed like a good idea we both learn together. This field is a great place. Its open and flat. We did have to cross a small snow berm but that was relatively easy. Anyway it is a half mile to where we turned around so I know we went a mile. Unfortunately, when we got back and had taken off out skis, I realized I had dropped my pager somewhere along the way. There was no choice but to go back and look for it. We walked this time.

Luckily, I found it. Of course it had to be at the far end of the field. This means we both skied a mile then I walked that same mile. Richard only walked half way the second time. Well, it was good exercise and a little adventure to our day.

This was his first mile on skis! I’m proud of him. We hope to go again. We both had a lot of fun.

Once we get better, I’ll try him on hills. There’s no lack of cross country ski trails around here. It’s a good year with enough snow already and temperatures around zero, although I wish it were about 10 degrees colder.

New thoughts on Halloween

After reading more about the subject by both sides, pondering Bible verses, and of course prayer, I’ve decided Halloween is still evil although modern consumerism and Sunday-only Christianity tries to tell us differently. How can pretending to be the devil, ghouls, dead of all other kinds NOT be evil? How can excessive revelry (and often drunkenness) when we are told to be sober be fine?

Let me examine briefly what the Bible has to say about three common reasons (justifications) Christians and most non-Christians give for participating in Halloween’s “harmless fun”.

1. No one gets hurt.

Murder and violent crimes spike during Halloween. Even if you may not be physically hurt, but your soul is in danger. “Envyings, murders, DRUNKENNESS, REVELINGS, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” [emphasis mine] Galatians 5:21 “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them” Deuteronomy 11:16.

Also, it is often filled with over-indulgence of alcohol. As with most holidays, drunk driving accidents and related deaths also spike. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” Ephesians 5:17-19 “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” Titus 2:12

2. But it’s just a silly costume! It’s pretend.

” Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17 [emphasis mine]

Why put your eternal reward for an otherwise good life at risk for one (or two) nights of fun? “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:16-17 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” 1 John 5:17-19

3. It’s just a party. All my friends will be there.

I’m not against all parties or holidays. I just think Halloween is a poor reason to celebrate. Why celebrate evil? Why celebrate the (un)dead? Why have a holiday for Satan? This holiday is traditionally celebrated at night for a reason.

“Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” John 12:34-36 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Some have hinted that is is almost child abuse to not celebrate Halloween. That’s silly. No one has ever been hurt by not participating in Halloween (except those that would have been anyway such as victims of drunk driving). However, I have given several reasons we could be hurt if we DO celebrate Halloween.

There are many more verses that warn of the dangers of associating with evil and sin. I can find no verse that says it’s ok if it is fun and everyone else is doing it. Don’t be deceived or misled. Halloween is not harmless fun.

3rd grade and beyond plans

Now that I’ve decided on science, I have most of next year (and likely beyond) figured out. Yeah! 🙂

I think we are finally on track as far as curriculum goes. These align with state standards to progress through his correspondence school district’s goal levels, and his learning style. This may change of course as he progresses, but I’m satisfied we have a good mix for now.

It’s important to have a general outline of where you want your student to be when. Then you can plan how to get there. Hopefully you will stumble upon a curriculum that works well you can stick with. This keeps students on track and helps prevent any obvious gaps. I’m not advocating school at home. I’m just saying you should have a plan after they are good at reading of where you want them to go. Many families seem to get kids reading then flounder with what to do next because they don’t have a general learning plan. It doesn’t need to be set in stone or super specific.

That’s what this post is. My general learning plan for my son’s next few years. He’s finishing the one I made when we were learning to read this year. This  plan should take him up to middle school.

Here’s how things are shaping up:

Science: The God’s Design series we’ll explore for several years as we study different aspects of physics, biology, and chemistry.

Real Science 4 Kids level 1 student texts, workbooks and teacher guide $135

God’s Design for Chemistry: Properties of Atoms & Molecules, Properties of Matter $36

God’s Design for Heaven & Earth: Our Planet Earth, Our Universe, Our Weather and Water $54

God’s Design for Life: Animal Kingdom, Human Body, World of Plants $54

God’s Design for the Physical World: Heat and Energy, Inventions and Technology, Machines and Motion $60

Math will continue with Math-U-See.

History: we’re enjoying WinterPromise and will likely continue a few more years.

3rd: WinterPromise American Story2 (w/out African American focus) $385

4th: Adventures in Sea & Sky (combined history & science)

Christian Light is redoing their 6th grade social studies. Not sure what level it will wind up. It is a Biblical view and perspective of world history using God’s World-His Story. I need to call them and find out what the plan for this is. I really think it is an important and unique way to study world history. It is now a year long course.

After these we will shift focus to civics and government for a few years.

Language Arts continue with Christian Light Education.

Reading continue with Christian Light Education.

Literature books to coordinate with WinterPromise.

Art depends how he likes the Artpac.

Other subjects the district requires us to do are technology, health and PE, career development, and cultural awareness. Much of these will either be learned as part of other projects and subjects (researching and typing reports for technology) or topic specific short lessons and outdoor play.

Bible continue with Christian Light Education.

Switching science programs

Science curriculum problem solved.

I’m not very happy with the WinterPromise World Around Me. There’s nothing wrong with it. He just needs more details. It would have been good for him last year or kindergarten. Plus, its only a single year. I’d need another program next year anyway. I can use it in a few years when Karen starts science so it wasn’t a total waste of money.

I found a blog (thanks Dee) that mentioned a science program, Gravitas Publications Real Science 4 Kids. Its a relatively new program that has more planned. I read the reviews on Homeschool Reviews and The Old Schoolhouse and they were good. is the website of the publisher.

Level pre1 is grades K-3: Chemistry & biology

Level 1 is grades 4-6: Chem, bio, physics

Level 2 is grades 7-9 Chem

The books are clickable. You can actually read the entire texts online. My son sat in my lap to look over the pre-1 chemistry. He really enjoyed it and understood what they were saying. It is presented in a fun rather than watered down way. The lab books incorporate the scientific method in every experiment write-up they do. I ordered level pre-1 for this year.

I ordered it from Rainbow Resource cheaper ($130 for pre1 level and level 1 will be $135 not including the extra books called cogs that tie chemistry to 6 other subjects like art, philosophy, and language for $140/set). I asked the coordinating teacher to switch to Real Science 4 Kids as our primary science curriculum and am submitting the purchase order. She said it should arrive within a couple of weeks.

Then next year, I can order level 1 and the God’s Design books. It says grades 4-6 but if he understands it and has already done level pre1, why not? That’s one of the great things about homeschooling; kids can learn at their own pace. Those should last him a few years. Then we could do Level2 of Real Science. I feel these two are very complimentary series and fit his learning style. Plus we’d like to do WinterPromise Adventures in Sea and Sky for fourth grade (perhaps along with the God’s Design for Heaven and Earth books).

Phonics for speech difficulties

My son has a mild speech difficulty. It’s nothing very serious. He’s just harder to understand than other kids his age. When he was younger we took him to have his hearing and mouth checked to rule out any physical problems. He’s fine.

Most parents and educators agree phonics are a valuable way to teach kids how to read. I have also discovered by working with phonics orally, my son’s speech has improved. At first is wasn’t very noticeable. Then as the sounds he was learning increased in difficulty, his speech began to improve. Now in second grade he is learning about syllables, stressed and unstressed sounds and syllables, silent letters. He really has to carefully pronounce the words to get the answers correct.

The reading program we started with (Abeka) was very phonics intensive as is the program we use now (Christian Light Education). They are both good programs for learning to read (CLE is more gentle of the two). They both focus on phonics first then sight words. Phonics are the core of these programs rather than an extra thrown in.

Another important thing with kids that have speech difficulty, is parents paying attention to the speech patterns of their friends. My son had a friend who used souther drawl such as ya for you, dropping the in -ing ending words or changing -ing to -na (gonna instead of going to). When I noticed my son copying his speech, I spoke to the other boys mom and explained the problem. I corrected both boys and made a game of it after awhile so the other boy didn’t feel picked on. Eventually, both boys speech was much better. I wasn’t trying to punish the other boy or get rid of his accent, just make him easier to understand and keep my son’s speech improving.

We still need to tell my son to slow down and speak carefully at times, especially when he is tired or excited. Phonics and good modeling were the keys to helping him.

Cape dresses = comfortable

What do you think of when you hear the term “cape dress”? Do you even know exactly what this is?

A cape dress is a hand made dress with a cover called a cape over the body. It can be attached or separate. They frequently have a zipper up the center of the back. They hang well below the knee. Sleeves are at least to the elbows and often 3/4 or full long sleeves. Necklines are high and can be with out without a collar.

Old fashioned, conservative, fuddy-duddy, repressed, legalistic are terms some use to describe both the dresses and women who wear them. I would doubt if anyone who said these has ever worn one. If they would, they may change their minds. I did. After wearing them, I prefer comfortable and modest to describe them. While the fit will vary between pattern, the cape dresses and other modest dresses I have are the most comfortable clothes I own. In fact, I just ordered 6 more.

Cape dresses are most often associated with the conservative Christian denominations of Mennonite and Amish. Other Anabaptist groups such as Old German Baptist wear cape dresses as well. There are several differences between them however. The Amish dresses tend to be of a solid neutral color. The cape and apron are separate and worn over the top of the regular dress. Mennonite cape dresses often have prints on the fabric. The cape is attached and sewn on at the shoulders and waist. They usually don’t have an apron. I was once told by a Mennonite woman that she could tell generally what church others attended by the dress she wore. Usually women tend to make dresses from similar patterns, print size and type of others in their church or district since they frequently get their fabric from the same stores.

At first glance, most cape dresses seem alike. However, after spending 2 weeks in a conservative Mennonite community last summer, I was impressed with the tremendous variety of dresses the ladies wore. They were all conservative, long, mostly cape dresses or prairie dresses (long, modest dress without a cape). However neck shape, collars, sleeves, buttons, and pleats made each lady’s dress different.

Wearing a cape dress isn’t limited to these denominations only though. Many women like me have discovered the cape dress to be a comfortable way to dress modestly. Some Christian women wear them to be set apart from the world. They make a distinct statement that as a Christian you aren’t following worldly fashion.

It takes a bit of self-confidence (or perhaps total lack of) to so drastically change your clothing style when starting to wear long, modest dresses. Perhaps wear one just once in awhile then see how you like it. They aren’t only for adults either. My daughter loves her longer dresses. I think you will agree that a good fitting, modest dress is very comfortable. They need not be expensive. You can often get them online for less than $20 or custom made for between $30-$50.

If you can sew, you can save even more money; the fabric and notions aren’t expensive. There’s a set of Home Ec units available from Christian Light Education about sewing a cape dress to help you get started if you’ve never sewed a dress before. They include everything but the actual pattern and fabric. There are many places that sell modest dress patterns and fabric which would work for this (I have links to a few on my Web Links page).

For those of you who don’t sew, you can buy cape dresses on E-Bay. I have bought several this way, just type “mennonite dress” into the search box. They don’t have S-M-L type sizing but instead are listed with bust and waist measurements. This actually gives a better fit than traditional sizing. There are other sites that sell them custom made.

UPDATE 9/12/09:

I recently switched churches to a more conservative church. The ladies there have been very complimentary of my dresses and encouraging me to sew my own. So this week, I bought the Ladies Simply Modest Dress pattern from Candle on the Hill. The #205 Contemporary Plain Dress from Friend’s Patterns is another good cape dress pattern.

Ultimate non-partisan politics

It’s election time in the US again and again there is the usual talk about working on both sides of the aisle and non-partisan political ideals. Will the winners hold to these campaign promises? Probably not likely for very long. No matter who wins, we all need to remember that God is in control. With some groups trying to interject their version(s) of will of God in politics, I found this in Job 36: 7-12 and seemed important to remind everyone of a few pertinent verses.

He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; Then he showeth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He openeth also their ear to discipline, and comandeth that they return from iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge. Job 36:7-12

We need to return our nation to its strong Christian foundation. We need to show that sin will not be tolerated. We need a strong leader who won’t coddle to the liberals because that is “politically correct”. I don’t want our wonderful country to die by the sword for the iniquities of its leaders.

The modern interpretation of the 1st Amendment as total separation of Church and State is twisted and wrong. It is a non-establishment clause which states the government should not set up an official government endorsed religion like the Church of England and Catholicism in some countries. It was meant to protect religious freedoms, expression, and diversity. Instead it has recently been used to stifle public religious expression. We need to return to the original interpretation and embrace religion in public. We need to be proud of God and His role in our country, not pigeon-hole Christianity into a secretive, Sunday morning church only.

For those of you who have never read the Bill of Rights or if it’s been awhile, here’s what Article 1 says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceable assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Many politicians (both national and local) say they are Christian. Let them start acting like it. Again, let’s see what the Bible has to say in Mark 8:38:

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man [Jesus] be ashamed…

That’s not my words folks but Jesus himself! Pretty straightforward. Let’s start doing rather than just mouthing the morals, values, and judgments of Christianity as given in the Bible. Our leaders shouldn’t be ashamed to be counted as true Christians. Its the best way I can see to get our country back on its feet.

Starting art

Today we started art. We skipped the first lesson. It was a review of coloring in the lines. He’s good at that already and the picture wasn’t interesting for him. Today’s lesson was 302: shading. He really enjoyed this lesson and discussion. It talks about how to find the light source relating to the subject then how to shade accordingly. The coloring page was 4 fruits. He did good. If we manage to finish our usual Friday work, I may make this a regular addition to our week.

I went ahead and bought Artpac 3 (available from Christian Light and Rainbow Resource). I was pleasantly surprised. It is better than the glorified coloring books of 1 and 2. It has more teaching of techniques. It didn’t take any longer for me to introduce and get him started than any other CLE lessons. Each lesson has a list of materials needed and clearly stated purpose. There are 40 lessons. It is very basic with black and white pages (a bit dull compared to some glossy full color art books). It would be better if the examples were color and bigger. However, it fits very well with the other CLE materials: wholesome, gentle, thorough, kid and parent friendly. My son loved his results with this first lesson.

Now he’s sitting in my rocker singing with his “Praises for Children” and “Wee Sing” songbooks. I’m not sure how much he understands about reading the music or if he’s making up his own with the words. He knows some of the songs from CD’s and church.

He really loves God and Jesus. I think it helps that we limit what influences him and his sister. They don’t watch much TV or popular radio. We scrutinize their books, trying to give them wholesome reading material with good moral lessons (including any drawings and pictures). As he gets older, we can let him have more choices about what to do but for now while he is young and impressionable, it is best to keep a close eye on their influences. I think this is part of the reason there are so many young people with social problems. They don’t have a secure, solid moral base established before they are slowly exposed to different ideas. This leaves them confused and rebellious, seeking security from their friends rather than parents.

The arts are one way kids are exposed to different lifestyles and cultures through painting, drawing, music, and drama. This can be good and bad. It’s also one reason I had a difficult time choosing an art program. I wanted something more meaningful than just crafts but still wholesome. Several of the mainstream art programs do a good job of showing various art techniques but aren’t very wholesome for young students while many of the Christian art programs are wholesome but not much more than crafts. I think the Art the a Purpose Artpacs are a good medium. I can choose which artists to study while it covers drawing and painting techniques. Then when the kids are older and have a good moral and basic arts foundation, they can study more mature themes in the arts.