Friday, March 29, 2013


As we continue this journey along the homeschooling pathway, I am reminded over and again why I feel we are making the best decision for our family. There are those days, of course, that I think can't be avoided...but can be accepted: days when nothing really "gets done", whether because there are special circumstances, interruptions, lack of focus, or just sheer laziness on my own part; days when the kids are driving me crazy and I wish I just had a break; days when I worry we aren't doing "enough" or the "right" thing, days when I think their brains might turn to mush becase I somehow managed to allow television for hours, days when I think my entire home could be mistaken as a disaster zone that was created by some extraordinarily dusty food, clothing, and craft-related explosion.  Those days are frustrating, no doubt, and in those moments, I might find it difficult to quiet my inner stress-monster and see the greater picture. But here's the thing, it's those other days that keep me going. You know what I'm talking about: those days when you had no schedule and while merely playing and talking with your kids, you covered a variety of subjects, imparted wisdom and information, piqued their natural learning curiosity, engaged them in their world and basically lived a wonderful, informative day; or those days that may be a little less easy to identify some subject they specifically learned, but while tucking them in you realize that while they busied themselves building forts and obstacle courses, doll communities and crafts (unfortunate side effect being that disaster zone I mentioned earlier) they didn't argue once. They cooperatively played, using their imaginations without restriction and reaped the benefits of a fun, full, meaningful day and it is evident in the way we all smile and seem so relaxed. Because I believe character is just as important as wisdom, I recognize the value of this, in and of itself. And there is always the added benefit of lower stress levels, something I wish to foster as much as humanly possible. We could all do with a little more simplicity and a little less stress-inducing pressure in our lives.
So, when I think about the path we are on, seeing "how" we are currently homeschooling and I am looking for a way to define this, I come to this conclusion: for the most part, we go with the flow. I believe I mentioned before, that I consider my teaching style to be eclectic, a catch-phrase that I realize is often thrown around haphazardly. However, I think it is a good description of my "technique" because in a nutshell, my "technique" is this: just take it day by day, try new things, shift gears if something doesn't seem to be working, try to recognize when to push and when to let it go, take plenty of "free time" to let the kids do what they want; recognize when this leads to learning and don't feel guilty about it if it seemed to be nothing more than a day of "nothing" (kids can learn things from "nothing" just as much as "something" we think needs to be learned), and generally, don't sweat the small stuff. As far as philosophy goes, I've seen all the labels...unschooling, classical, themed/ unit, delayed, delight-directed, etc. Depending on my mood, or more often...the girls' moods, we use any combination of any one of those on any given day. Sometimes Tater Tot feels like reading, sometimes she would rather clean the house than do a single math problem, occasionally I might break out a worksheet, more often than not, the worksheet gets shoved aside and we do something hands-on, some days I stress more than needed and feel like she needs a push to "stay on task", others I wonder why I ever doubt how much she learns on her own time and in her own way. The point is, not only do I believe there is no one way that works for all children, but I also believe all ways can work at some point in time with any children. Can this be exhausting...keeping up with a changing paradigm and interests, sure, but it is definitely worth it. I can't count how often I have just completely switched gears mid-stream on a "lesson" I was giving because Tater Tot asked a question that deserved answering. Do I worry that we are not staying "on task". No, I'll let the compulsory schools deal with that fallout. If getting the most out of life, while giving yourself to it as a full and productive; contributing and useful member of society is the task, then I think we continue to be spot-on. No worries. I know what you may be thinking. "Your kids are in the early years. You haven't hit those really heavy-duty subjects yet. This lack of a specific curricula might work now, but you'll be singing a different tune later." Well, that is a possibility and something I think about often, because, of course, one of my biggest fears is to not prepare my kids well enough to be the adults I described above. "What if I miss something? What if I screw it all up?" But the conclusion I've come to is that I will likely be more specific in what I expect from my children in their early years than I will be later on. This is because I believe the proper foundations are of utmost importance, which leads me to my next point:
Even though I don't really have a defined way of doing things, I thought it was a good idea to define what it is I hope to accomplish. After much contemplation, I have determined that the foundation I feel is most important to lay for my children can be broadly categorized in just a handful of terms:
-thinking to learn and learning to think
I believe if my children have a strong foundation in these six categories, they will be able to learn anything, accomplish and task, and overcome any obstacle during their lifetime. Thinking and learning are my top priority, regardless of how that works individually for each of my children. They must know how to analyze, extrapolate and interpret everything they see and question everything. Nothing should be taken for granted. As my children continue to question the world they live in, they will continue to learn new things and to think for themselves. Thinking and learning how to learn seem to be all, but lost in our current educational system. Kids are no longer taught to think, only to regurgitate. Next, there is a reason the "3 R's" have been a long-standing basis of learning. If my children can read, write and speak they can then learn anything and communicate effectively in whatever manner is needed. Sadly, in today's world of texting and Facebook, I think that actual communication skills are also being lost. My children will have the edge. In addition, math is at the root of our universe. If you understand it, you have the ability to understand virtually anything else in the world and at the very least, are able to see the bigger connections between things. Lastly, but not least, is character. This encompasses everything I believe my children should be in order to be a useful, contributing member of society that will hopefully leave the world a better place for them having been in it. To name just a few of importance: honesty, integrity, compassion, and morality. I feel that once armed with these basics, my children will likely thrive in whatever they choose to accomplish and therefore, I won't worry as much about what, specifically, they are learning because I will feel confident that they have the tools to learn anything needed. This is why I believe it is more important to spend as much time as needed on these basics, regardless of standards and societal norms. After that...all the rest is cake. ;-)

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Our most recent unit was on horses.  My girls enjoyed learning so many things they did not know about horses, as well as pretending to be horses...complete with four-legged racing and shiny tinsel manes and tails.  This was a fun unit for them.

The front of our horse folder

The horse picture is removable and used elsewhere in the folder.  That is Glory B, the horse that Tater Tot and Boo Bear are learning natural horsemanship lessons with.

We learned about breeds and types of horses and included these on the first inner layer of the folder

The next layer in the folder

We learned to identify horse leg and facial markings

We continue learning basic math concepts and I created a number line using the concept of a horse race, utilizing lines to count by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, and 100s.  The horse can be moved from the front cover and placed on the popsicle stick, which can be moved back and forth along the number lines.

We discussed the Kentucky Derby and it's history and fashion, and added a compilation of horse facts.

We discussed primary horse uses in time

And used a matching game to identify horse colors

We labeled the parts of a horse and some of the common accessories used when riding a horse

We had a little aside about optical illusions and I created this "spinner" to demonstrate one.  We also looked up numerous illusions on the computer.  Tater Tot thought they were very neat.

The girls pretended they were horses on various occasions, and even fashioned a tail and mane out of some scrap tinsel.  (I am still finding stray strands of golden tinsel all over my house.)

Tater Tot even created a "Silly Horse" book putting a horse in some unusual circumstances.

The girls made crafts and drew lots of horse pictures and pretended to be princesses in castles.  We even discussed a little about Paul Revere and what his contribution was by riding his horse through the towns with a warning of danger.

Some of the books we used for our information:

Some websites we used for this unit:

Common Core...The Downfall of Our Youth?

I have recently become aware of a new initiative in schooling known as the Common Core (CC) standards.  Now, from what I have read, this is a very, VERY bad thing and it will undoubtedly effect EVERY SINGLE CHILD, whether publicly, privately or home schooled.  Here it is in a nutshell, as I understand it.  Please feel free to correct me if I am inaccurate or to generally provide additional information on this subject.  So, here we go:  The CC is an initiative that is meant to be implemented nationwide as a means to align all schools to a specific, nationalized K-12 curriculum.  These standards that children would then meet are meant to give them an "equal", all-inclusive education.  Sound good?  Sure, except that this means all children will be placed in a classroom together regardless of whether or not a disability is present, will be expected to meet the exact same standards as all the others, not only in their own classroom, but in all other classrooms across the U.S.  "That's great!", you say.  "If we move from one state to another, the kids will all be on the same page!"  Okay, sure.  That aspect might sound appealing, but here's the problem:  it's unrealistic.  Let's just take a very basic A is out for bad weather, school B is not, yet they must all stay on track or else they will receive "poor" marks by a governing body...there goes your school's funding and status.  How will they overcome this? pressing on.  "Don't understand the stuff, little Johnny?  Sorry, the timeline says we are done with this subject." 

 Here's what you should know:

-This is not created at a state level.  Your state did not have anything to do with creating this curriculum.  They, have, however been essentially strong-armed by the promise of more funding (which only a handful received) for adopting the curriculum.

-No teacher, parent or school administrator helped to develop this curriculum.  It is solely the product of two Washington, D.C.-based organizations, outlined and shaped by bureaucracies and testing companies.

-The "highest bidder" is essentially who is behind the curriculum standards and will now have control over our future.  Unsure what I mean?  If you could shape history and education to promote a very specific viewpoint in the next generation's minds...say, politically...wouldn't it be pretty easy then to get support from those future voters?  Our kids' educations will be so micro-managed that their ability to think freely will be all but squashed out of them.

-Because these CC standards are meant to align ALL schools in the nation along the same guidelines, this poses a serious threat to any school that currently takes a differing approach.  Read:  bye-bye private, religious-based, charter and homeschool.  These will certainly be in violation of this mini-New World Order style educational regulations.

Texas has already slipped in what is essentially their adaptation of the CC in a subversive form, known as the CSCOPE.  Here is what is known about that program:

-CSCOPE has successfully taken over the majority of Texas schools already.

-The entire school year is mapped out with exactly what is to be studied each day and for how long before moving to the next subject.  Any deviation from this earns the school poor marks.

-CSCOPE micromanages teachers by the use of "enforcers" that will come into the classroom and grade the teachers based on specific things.

-Teachers are given bad marks if their students are observed using textbooks.  Seriously, understand this...a teacher is graded poorly for using a book.

-Teachers are graded poorly if they are giving a lecture.

-Teachers are graded well if the students are working in a group.  This may sound good, however, it doesn't matter what the children are talking about, because they get to determine what the correct answer is, as well.  No right answer?  So, basically...majority think wins, not correct thinking?  Sounds like the way our country is already going, not surprising in the classroom now.

-Teachers are graded well as long as they are only facilitators, e.g., no longer actively teaching.  Teachers aren't allowed to teach under this curriculum.  Sounds great, doesn't it?

-Another extremely interesting fact that I, in particular, find very disturbing, is that Texas teachers have been forced to sign an non-disclosure contract that states criminal action can be taken against them if they share any of the lessons of CSCOPE with parents.  As one of my girls used to say..."What the flagnot?!!"  That's right parents, you aren't allowed to know what your kids are learning.  Now, what would be the need for such subversive tactics unless there was something distasteful in the curriculum worth hiding?  Can we say brainwashing?

Would you like an example?  One of the activities is to create a pretend socialist nation and design a flag.  Are our youth on the way to being the supporters of the new American Socialists?

Consider this little tidbit, as well...the K-12 lessons "denigrate America and Christianity, but are glowingly positive for Islam and global government" -Janice VanCleave (taken from her article in the Jan-Mar issue of Practical Homeschooling, a magazine I have just received for free as a trial issue and HIGHLY recommend you each get, if for these articles alone.  See more about VanCleave and the initiative against CSCOPE here

More things to consider about the new CC standards:

-Our children are expected to know much more at a much younger age and if they do not meet these standards, because, say, they are late bloomers, or boys (who traditionally struggle more academically early on), then they will be labeled "learning disabled".  This title will stick with them permanently.  Let's forget about just the detriment to our children's self-esteem for a moment and consider how many doors will then be closed on that child that might have been brilliant but chose at 5 years old to want to play rather than demonstrate "algebraic thinking" or write "informative/explanatory reports".

And if you aren't convinced that title will follow them:

-As a condition to receive funds, states are expected to link all children's data from entry into preschool through workforce.

-And, regulations now allow for student's personal information to be shared with pretty much all government  and some private agencies that can show some miniscule, broadly defined link to needing that information for some educational reason.

So, what could all this mean?  Governments, who have already virtually taken over our schools, will be essentially the only authority and provider of our future's education.  Teachers will no longer be allowed to teach.  Anyone who strays from the program will receive consequences.  Parents will not be privy to what the children are taught.  Children will be held to arbitrary standards and then judged by them their entire lives, likely categorized and then placed on specific paths based on those labels.  (How easy now to find the children that would be easiest to manipulate, who might be trouble, who might be threatening, etc.)  Our children will be monitored and tracked, watched and evaluated...not just legally, but required and these findings will essentially be "sold" to the highest bidder.  This sounds a whole lot like the makings of a new regime to me.  I'm truly scared by this...scared for our future in the hands of children that will not learn to question things at a minimum and frightened by the fact that if it comes to the worst case scenario, I will be in a dire predicament.  I will be a lawbreaker.  I will not subject my children to that, but may no longer be allowed to homeschool.  You think that one will not effect the other?  Consider this:  A German couple seeks asylum from our country because they homeschool and it is not legally sanctioned in Germany.  Our Federal courts granted asylum.  The Obama administration overturned the ruling, basically stating that since Germany does not allow homeschooling in basically all circumstances, it is not a violation of the citizens rights to force them to put their children into public school.  So, basically, our government feels that as long as a rule is made that everyone is under the same rule and homeschooling is deemed illegal  to everyone, not even sanctioned for special circumstances, then for those people who then choose to homeschool will not have any legal right to do so.  Even more to the point:  government says no = basic rights, amendments, freedoms don't matter, even though we have already shown that we are legally within our rights to raise our children as we see fit.  In the future we're headed for, will they still be our children to raise?