Monday, December 26, 2005

Cured picky eaters?

My children are so picky.  I don’t know how that happened because I will eat anything, even if most people claim the food is not edible.  For example, I love sardines and canned smoked oysters.  I love raw oysters dripping in horseradish.  I sometimes wish I didn’t, but I do!  I even enjoyed the “bitter herbs” at a Passover Seder I attended once.  Guess the lesson wasn’t the same for me as it was for the other people who attended. 


When my children won’t eat things like my taco soup or my pizza casserole I am deeply wounded and offended.  They are better than anchovies, sardines, horseradish, and bitter herbs?


Recently, there has been a breakthrough.  I noticed that at least the meat portions from their plates have been eaten.  I was so excited!  Did I also mention that we had recently acquired a few extra cats?  I would never make a good detective.


Tonight, as I was commenting on how much food my children had been eating, I looked down and noticed half of a steak finger.  Two cats were licking their lips.  I guess the cats will be healthy. 


I don’t know how children know to only eat as much as their bodies need to survive and not a DROP or MORSAL more!  How do they do that??  I wish my body had that type of gage.  I eat even while FULL!  L


Oh well, thought I would share that. 


Happy Holidays.



Thursday, September 22, 2005

checking in (on Rita from Rita's)

After hearing horror stories from friends about what
evacuees are experiencing trying to get through
Houston or Dallas, I feel petty and selfish about not
being more chipper. My gal pal's aunts have been on
the road for 24 hours! (If I understand correctly,
they were only trying to get from Lake Jackson to
Houston – usually a one hour trip that turned into
20??) They lost their dog after they had to turn off
the a/c so that the car would not over-heat. The dog
died from the heat. (That's Houston) I’m hearing the
same thing about people trying to get to or through
Dallas! People having blow-outs and ditching cars?
Stations being out of gas! One family went from
Victoria up 77 and it took them twelve hours to get
from Hallettsville to Waco??? Once they hit I35
traffic picked up to 40mph? It only took me four and
a half hours to get to my destination - usually a 2 -
2 1/2 hour drive. We had it easy! (Victoria to San

At one point, a girl ran by our car and then ran back
by with some cokes (pops? for you Yankees). I jokingly
told the children, "Look! That lady is out-running all
of these cars and the speed limit here is 70 mph!" Of
course, those of us not-on-foot were only going about
2 miles per hour, at the time... I've heard of
families (in Houston) that waited until evening to
evacuate and were told to go back home, because of the
grid-lock on the interstate. They will be heading to
the VICTORIA area - where I drove FROM. So I might
just go back home tomorrow!

Rita (the hurricane, not my mother in law) is
projected to hit Beaumont. If people from Houston are
going to the Victoria-area, then I think I can go back
home! RIGHT?

My husband stayed behind. He was told that if he
didn’t show up for work that it was “his butt.” Now,
all the stores are closed in Victoria because people
had to leave town by 7:00pm and there is a curfew. He
works in a town RIGHT on the coast. He called the
police station and they told him that he would get
pulled over but if he was going to work, it would be
ok. I’m thinking, and don’t get any ideas, that
anyone could SAY that they were going to work??? I
took the food from the refrigerator so that it
wouldn’t spoil! Good thing we are a family that “opens
cans, we open cans…”

Oh, my car is acting up! That’s not a big deal to me,
but to my husband, it is. I’m thinking, “So it makes
a subtle grinding noise when I hit the breaks?” “So
what if it is having a tough time getting into the
next gear when I accelerate, I’m patient.” I’m hoping
that these problems are ONLY because of having to stop
and start for 4 ½ hours….. The car will cool down and
be ok tomorrow? So, you guys who were planning on
toughing it out back home in Victoria, give me your
phone numbers in case we get stranded and you need to
come and get us??? Surely I can make it home

How are the evacuees who end up grid-locked in Houston
able to sit in traffic for 20 hours?????? I wonder
what percentage of cars are breaking down trying to
evacuate there! I heard Rick Perry say, “I’d rather
people be in their cars, than experiencing the winds
of the hurricane…” (Something like that) and I’m
thinking, “Why would it be safer to sit in the Texas
sun all day, on black tar and asphalt, breathing
everyone’s car exhausts!?!?!” When the winds hit
them, will they fare better in their cars?” They’ll
be ok. Has anyone else heard from friends or family
stuck in grid-lock?

Were we so scared of the complaints over the ‘lack of
preparation’ during Katrina that we overcompensated
and experienced the flip side of the coin - panic?

Just thinking…. I wish I didn’t leave Victoria! I’ve
never missed my town. I was just starting to wish I
could escape it, but then I had to evacuate it.
Nothing like being told, “You CANT” that makes you
say, “I WANT TO.”

Too often we give children answers to remember rather
than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

Homeschool Victoria

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

FW: Mandatory Vacation (evacuation)

We are getting ready for a mandatory road trip!  I had to wait in line to ‘top off’ my gas tank for the first time in my life, today!  My husband stood in line for over three hours to get some plywood so that we could board up our windows.  He was lucky!  We’ve never done that in all of my life, and I grew up right on the gulf.  RIGHT on the gulf; we had a pier in our backyard.  Now that I live 30 miles up coast, I find myself boarding up windows? 


The children loaded up the car today with toys and clothes.  I caught Kelsey walking by with an armful of clothes and she was just walking up to the car and throwing them in!  So, we had to clean the car out…  My mom said that when we evacuated for a hurricane when I was a child that she told me to pack only what I couldn’t live without.  When she looked at the car, I had filled up the back seat with all of my plush toys (stuffed animals.) 


Some of my family members in Port Lavaca are going to stay and tough it out.  They stayed through Carla.  Older people are harder to convince to leave!  My cousin drove down from San Antonio to try to talk them into going back with her, even though she already has 15 people at her house!  The city officials in Port Lavaca said, “If you refuse to leave, please write your name and social security number in permanent marker on your body so that you can be easily identified.”   (I think it was PL)


My gal pal tried all day to find a hotel to stay at and everything in Texas was booked!  Their word of advice, “Try Oklahoma.”  


Anyway, I thought I would keep you guys up to date on what we are going through over here….  I’ll have access to my e mail at my mother-in-law’s house, coincidentally named, Rita.  Hee hee


Oh, on our homeschool group’s webpage I put some links to our local news station, newspaper, and a few local web cams, just in case you want to take a peek in where the hurricane is projected to slap down.



Hurricane Rita

Headline Stories - Wednesday, September 21st 2005

Golden Crescent Hurricane Preparations
Newscenter 25Web posted on: September 20th, 2005 - 10:43 pm
**All Golden Crescent residents are urged to make hurricane evacuation plans now -- just in case mandatory evacuations are issued in the coming days.**As of Tuesday night, only Jackson and Refugio counties have issued voluntary evacuations.

Victoria County: A hotline has been set up for Hurricane Rita Information. Call 485-3600 or 572-2711. Full Story


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Family Camera: Kelsey's Self Portraits

My digital camera is docked by the family computer and the children are welcomed to it anytime, without having to ask for permission. This 'open camera' policy means that I am always happily surprised by the lively unconventional images that I find on my camera when I finally pick it up to use it.

Each child documents their play through photographs. Kelsey likes to take self portraits or mug shots. She will take about 10 pictures of herself in various poses making different faces. She is our little family photographer. But, her subject is so cute, how can she go wrong?

Oh, to be a child!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Multiplication FUN FUN FUN!

Memorize your multiplication facts by playing fun interactive games! (I think the was posted through the Texas Home Educator’s List) - Links to interactive games, free downloadable software, and ideas to help give your child added practice with multiplication! Why do the worksheet when you can play games to learn or master the same skills while having fun? - Learn Multiplication through FREE interactive Games, including Multiflyer! (remember that game that was sent out months ago?)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I would rather a child appear "behind" in Math and LOVE Math than for a child to be considered 'on track' while hating it.

I feel like such a fruit loop! I hope there are no cereal killers out there! All the cool little worksheets and activities that I was planning on doing today are just not her "thing!" I keep forgetting that she has her own natural scope and sequence and that we should follow hers and not someone else's - or the one I imagine for her. She completed the silly math worksheets that I printed out for her (up to the 12’s) in just a few minutes. She completed them just to show me how beneath her they were. Oh well, we are having some good laughs at my expense! I guess I should go back to letting her interests determine our activities and her interests guide our day – I need to be more trusting. But it is really hard! She seems to learn more and “higher level” stuff when I am able to follow her lead. Repetition insults her.

For example, my idea of school was to do some fun little work sheets that I had found on the web. She thought they were silly (actually, she's more creative than the worksheet allowed) and she decided to do some work out of her brother's 5th grade math workbook that he used years ago. By letting her do what she wanted to do, we ended up doing something that was above her 'age-level.' She loved adding and subtracting 3 and four digit numbers and asked me to create "more" each time she would work a page of problems. So, we are keeping a Math journal.

Today, August 23, 2005, I gave her several equations and she had to find the different variables (a, b, or c) to make the equation true. 2+b=7, b=? a+6=13, a=? 8+4=c, c=?

She loves adding and subtracting four and five digit numbers. This is what she wants to do for Math. I started to "stack the numbers up" by giving her about 4 four digit numbers to add. This naturally led into multiplication-division and I showed her the many different ways that you can express "division" including fractions. She believes that Math is fun, and that is my goal!

I would rather a child appear "behind" in Math and LOVE Math than for a child to be considered 'on track' while hating it.

The child who loves it, will not be “behind” for long! I was "on level" and I hate it to this day! Maybe I would have loved Math if I would have been allowed to focus on the things that I loved about it and to spend more time with Mathematical concepts, instead of just busy work.

I remember when she Kelsey learned to read; she would lock herself in her room because she didn’t want me to know that she could read. Sounds silly, but I think she had a fear of not being 'perfect,' as if she was still working on the skill and she was not ready to take it public? I caught her reading a book to her beanie babies and that’s how I found out that she could read. Back then I felt like a fruit loop too, because at this same time I was trying to teach her "a apple...." It insulted her because she already knew how to read, but she wasn't letting on to it! Has anyone else experienced this?

Who's doing the teaching?

I always start off the year with fantasies of the perfect day filled with learning and excitement. Well, I’m the one learning today! I gave Kelsey our little Fact Family Graphic Organizer Math worksheet that I mentioned a few blogs ago, and she rolled her eyes like I was stupid. She exhaled and said, “Mom, this is too easy.” I didn’t mean to insult her with the worksheet, just to live out my school-room fantasies! To me, easy is fun.

I said, “Oh, it’s just for fun, really! You just start with the answer and think of all the equations!” Then she said, “There needs to be more spaces because I can do 1+1+2 to get four.” I felt really stupid because I had never thought of that! When I read ‘fact family’ I imagined 2+2, 3+1 and 1+3….. as did the person who designed the worksheet?

She is more creative than I am. Talk about thinking outside the box! She thought of more answers than spacing allowed! I saw the directions as a “no-brainer” and she saw them for people with ‘no brains.’ She saw the directions as limiting her where I saw them as obvious. So, once again, my kids are teaching ME!

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

Create Your Own Worksheets! (hey, they are free!)

You could create individualized activity sheets for free! It is easy to make up little "work sheets" to go along with anything that you read with your children. This only takes a few minutes for YOU to create and only a few minutes for your CHILD to complete!

I took a few paragraphs from our Nature Reader and designed an activity sheet around them. I selected some words that could be used for Spelling, took a few informative sentences that could be used for copywork or handwriting practice, and then created a little activity to demonstrate one of the concepts that the selection taught. I combined Spelling, Handwriting, Science, Reading, and Drawing into one! Less time, less stress! You could even go to Puzzle Maker to make puzzles with the Spelling words that you have selected! Collect these activity sheets in a three ring binder if you feel you need to document what your child has learned....


“A Look at an Ant”














The body of an insect is divided into three parts. The first part is its head which contains the mouth, eyes, and feelers. The back part, or abdomen, of the body of many insects is fastened to the middle part, or thorax, by a small joint. God Created insects in this way because they need to bend, or even double up, to do some of their work.

Draw an ant to show the three parts that make up an insect:

(Reading selection from Christian Liberty Nature Reader)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Math with Graphic Organizers!

Today, for Math, I printed out the 'math facts' graphic organizer sheets from this website:

For example, the “facts that add up to 4” page: Instead of working from the ‘bottom up’ and having Kelsey review by completing the math equations, I want to have her think ‘top down’ and come up with the equations herself! This is just a twist on the standard way we did Math in school. The ‘worksheet’ actually looks really cool as it has the number four in the middle of the page surrounded by cute shapes where the equations can be added.

It allows her to be a little more creative! Instead of finding the answers, she’s going to give the questions!

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

Our Greek root for this week is SAUROS "lizard."












Homeschool Victoria


Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Morphing educational philosopy...'Rebecca humor' (be warned)

This is the meanest roughest draft that you will ever meet!

I was rambling earlier:

My philosophy of education has changed since I first started teaching my own children. I started out teaching the way that I had been taught and our style was very much like a public school. Playing school was very comfortable to me and I've had plenty of practice. I went to public school for 13 years of my life and was raised by two public school teachers. I would often help my mom grade tests. Not only that, but I used to line up my plush animals and teach to them, create tests for them, and then take those tests for them so that I could grade them. Yes, I even kept report cards for each of my plush students and sent them to the principal's office when they misbehaved. Guess who their principal was. You got it. I find myself constantly rediscovering our family learning style and reevaluating my philosophy of education. The definitions of the words "learn" and "teach" have dramatically changed over the years, for me, and I can see a difference between "education" and "schooling."

I decided to homeschool my child while obtaining my degree in education. I didn't have anything against public schools, I wanted to be a teacher, and my parents were teachers, but I really wanted to teach my child myself. I was really excited about the concept of home-education. I had all these wonderful fantasies playing out in my mind of me, the teacher/mom, teaching to my very interested and attentive student/child.

HA! (Shouted like the 'basket case' when she interrupts Molly Ringwald's pity party in THE BREAKFAST CLUB)

When I first started homeschooling my now 13 year old, we ordered the K5 Abeka, but he was already reading when it came in the mail, UPS was on strike that year. Needless to say, much of my purchase was a waste of money! We had been playing around with refrigerator magnets and reading many books together. I think that THAT interaction or life-style was enough to make him a reader.

He quickly learned Math in pretty much the same way. He could count, so with a Math Blaster computer game and an abacus, he learned quickly how to solve basic math problems so that he could save the world. (He had to work about 10 Math problems before he was allowed to fire at invaders..) He learned basic math skills so that he could save the world. What motivation! His kindergarten Math book was completed before Christmas, "for the fun of it."

I liked Abeka because it was what my brothers and my sister were using at their private school and I was very comfortable with it. I had helped them study for tests by quizzing them. I guess I tried really hard to play classroom here in my home but it just wasn't working out that way! I lacked the 20 other students to help encourage my son to sit still? That was hard for me!

I can remember reading out loud to my son as his body would move very much like the minute hand of a clock: his head would start out pointing to 12:00, like in my fantasies, but would end up at 6:00, 9:00, and 3:00.. feet in the air. He always knew what I had just read, but his body couldn't be still! In fact, if I forced him to be still, he couldn't comprehend what I read because he was focusing so hard on trying to be still! It took some rethinking of what "learning" meant to allow me to accept my son's hyper-learning style. It wasn't a discipline problem, but how he learned.

He seemed to be learning in non-conventional ways. He learned better when he played educational games or read what he wanted to read or researched what he wanted to research. He was so far ahead that we didn't use curriculum for a few years - just let him collect and label bugs or focus on whatever other hobby he wanted to dive into. He had the audacity to continue to learn without school! I experienced what Mark Twain meant when he said, "I never let schooling get in the way of my education." I don't know if I would have ever understood that quote before I saw it lived out in front of me.

For third grade, we tried to use Abeka again and we lasted a whole year! We did the tests and kept report cards! (Though that's not required in Texas.) He made all A's, of course. When you homeschool you don't move on to the next concept or lesson until the child has mastered it, so you can't make a C or fail! It's not possible. (No pass no play? No pass no turn the page!) I was so proud of his A's and it was a very fun year and I felt so productive!

The next year I decided to start out by quizzing him with some old tests that he had previously aced. I was shocked and appalled that he couldn't remember most of the answers! The facts and details of what he had learned for the tests the year before didn't seem to make their way to the long term memory or to survive the summer! That's when I realized that I probably didn't remember the answers to many of the tests that I had passed either! He could still read, though, thank God. I guess learning to read is like learning to ride a bicycle, without the skinned knees.

I decided that "tests" and "grades" would not be our educational goal, but rather skills that he could use for the rest of his life. For example: What if we focus on finding the answers and asking the questions instead of memorizing the answers? What if we made research a major part of how we learn here in our home? This skill can come in handy when he is in college and expected to write a research paper or thesis. My favorite quote is by Roger Lewin, "Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve." While looking into Classical Education I ran into another quote that I really love. It is by Dorothy Sayers: "Is not the great defect of our education today...that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils subjects, we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning." If I remember correctly, she was referring to the Nazi educational system. They had taught much, but no one seemed to be able to think for themselves or to think. She warned that when people are not able to think for themselves they will easily be controlled by a tyrant.

Instead of doing a traditional study or course called "English" what if we learned all we could about our language by learning where each word originated and what the history behind how the word came to mean what it means today? What if we focused on our language and its rules in action and in context by reading often, aloud to each other and silently to ourselves? We could learn the rules of our language from a deductive approach instead of an inductive approach. (I asked ZOLAonAOL to define 'inductive' for me and she said, "The act of eating waterfowl" so I am not sure if I am using 'inductive' and 'deductive' right.) Becca I. had mentioned that Jack London taught himself to write by copying the writings of his favorite writer, Mark Twain. We would learn Greek and Latin roots as a family and read together often!

Focusing on a Greek or Latin root a week gave us a small history lesson, as the root usually had a story behind it. Focusing on roots also introduced us to a list of new words (spelling) and helped with our vocabulary! I made it my goal to find other ways to combine several subjects into one - to free up time for more important things like playing or traveling or visiting friends.

Each time we read a book together something mentioned in the book sparked an interest or curiosity about some other topic. When we read "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" we became interested in researching and learning more about orbits, satellites, and eventually the solar system. I guess we allowed literature to provide us with ideas on what we could research and learn more about. The children's curiosities provide the energy, but following those curiosities is a bit like trying to steer a sailboat without a rudder: we are moving, forward maybe, but I don't know what our destination is or when we will 'arrive.' There is always more to learn about any topic or subject!

I pray for God to be our curriculum guide and to bring educational opportunities into our lives and to help me be able to recognize and take hold of 'teachable moments' in our every day lives. When I start out our day with that prayer and mindset the random dots that pop up throughout the day seem to become connected and to form a more tangible picture of where we are going.

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to
solve. -Roger Lewin

Monday, May 09, 2005

Kelsey's game...

Kelsey made up a little game. I have to share it, not just because I’m proud of her, but because this game turned out to be very educational for the whole family! It seemed to give us practice with both Math and Language Arts! The rules are as follows: The first person rolls three dice, calculates the total from their roll, and writes that number down on a piece of paper. The person that rolled then has to create a sentence made up of the exact amount of words that the dice totaled. With three dice, you will get a possible total of 3-18 words, so you will create sentences using 3-18 words. You can think of your sentence really fast. I like to touch each dot as I say each word so that I know about how many I’ve used and how many I have to go. This allows for some instant split second planning. You might need to write down the sentence and count each word to make sure they total the roll. Somewhere between saying the sentence out loud and writing it down you usually forget a word or accidentally add one.

The next person rolls and creates a sentence. I don’t know how you would actually win this game or if you would care, it’s the playing that is fun!

At first I didn’t think there was anything educational about this game but as we played I realized that it was educational on many levels. I found as we tried to create a sentence with, say, fourteen words we would usually accidentally be one word short or one word over. This creates a little challenge and brings in the Language Arts practice. If you are one word short you will have to think up some describing words to add to one of your nouns. If your attempt at creating a sentence left you one word over your total roll you would be forced to look to see if you could make contractions or take out any words that weren’t absolutely necessary.

This gives a little practice with Math: adding up three numbers. Kelsey and I think alike: instead of being able to add three numbers we both rearrange the dots in our minds to get the total.

The more we play, the more ways we will find how educational this game is. For now it’s just fun!

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

My Halloween Paradigm Shift

I researched the Druids and Samhain for an English course in college and got totally turned off by Halloween. It grossed me out. All the telling of the future by reading entrails, yuck! My family won't be doing that type of thing! Thinking that a gourd with a face cut into it could ward off demons, silly! We are not a superstitious family! Humans have such imaginations! I wanted to avoid Halloween just because of the associations and hints of the various cultures that contributed to its existence.

My "anthropology of magic witchcraft and religion" course had pretty much grossed me out too! I learned some things in that course I really wish I hadn't. We learned a little about the origins and history of Halloween and the rumors or reasons as to why we believe what we do about, say, witches. I can't even tell you some of the things that I learned, it would insult you. I want to tell you.... about why..... anyway.... let's just say we won't.... do that.... in this house... So, we didn't participate in any Halloween activities for 11 YEARS!

I went to "Fall Festivals" just because I felt really weird and paranoid sitting in a dark house with porch lights off, hiding from children....

Then, as I was researching it again I realized what we do for Halloween in America is NOTHING like all those things I detested. I remember how innocent it was. How excitedly we would look through my pumpkin! We really water it all down and poke fun at much of the detestable things. Our version of Halloween is meaningless and maybe insulting to a real Druid or Celt. And our portrayal of witches: that's an insult to real wiccans and they have often complained about it! Real witches don't have green skin, wear all black, or have a big nose. Real witches don't ride on brooms, which by the way, is totally impossible, laugh like a drunken Granny, or make bubbling stew in a black cauldron. So, Halloween is actually poking fun at all of those things for which we avoid Halloween! Does that make sense? Just my thoughts as I look back on my morphing opinions on Halloween. I guess I've had a Halloween paradigm shift!

As a child, I associated the scary costumes with Halloween and not with "evil." Evil was something else. Anytime I saw something scary: a witch or a ghost, I associated it with Halloween - pretend. I knew scary costumes could be made by a human, purchased in a store, and worn by anyone. As an adult I know that real Evil is something that you can't see. Real evil is the twice convicted child molester down the street who is actually a handsome young man. Real evil is not as easy to spot as a scary costume. The only costume that evil wears would look attractive, religious, pious, and moral. Otherwise, you would see it for what it is and not be tempted by it or fearful of it.

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"Standardized tests and alternatives to testing"

"How do you know that your children are learning?" Standardized tests and alternatives to testing. Notes for a Tailor Made meeting:

Standardized tests:

What are standardized tests?
Though it’s about standardized testing in the public schools it can give us an insight into why public schools utilize achievement tests in the first place. This way we can decide if it’s something we want to include as a part of our home. I don’t feel these tests are important in my home as I only have three ‘students’ and I know what they know because I live with them and love them! Standardized tests might make more sense to a teacher who has 30 students or for a nation with millions of students.

Basic standardized achievement tests like the Stanford Achievement Test, the Iowa, and the California Achievement Test (CAT) cost money and usually have to be administered by a certified teacher or someone with a college degree. If you decide that these tests are needed in your home, here are some web sites where you can read about them or order them: from

Rebecca I. said that you can administer the CAT test through Seton
( You administer it to your child, send it in, and they run it through the "check the dot" machine and send you the results for just $25.00.

A FREE way to see that your children are learning and how they compare to their peers: You can find released (last year’s) TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests online: You will have to print these out.

Online Practice tests and tutorials for any state’s mandated tests: These may be interactive where the child can take them right at the computer, while online.

Amanda gave information about TIP, Duke University’s Talent Identification Program
When thinking about tests and testing what type of information is test worthy? Is simply knowing the names of certain concepts superior to demonstrating those concepts or being able to use the concept? (I may not know that “she” is called a “pronoun” but I can properly use one!) Is it more important that a child live or demonstrate knowledge of a concept than to answer a question about it on a test?
Is it possible that the facts and details of the tests that you and I took and passed could be stored in our short term memories and forgotten after we take the tests? (It’s actually proven to be the case) If so, was it really learned? What makes details remain in our long term memories? It’s proven that stress actually works against learning and memory. We don’t want our children to freeze up during an exam, later, when the exam “counts,” because of something we did when they were young. I don’t want my children to have negative associations with testing. I want them to have positive experiences with tests so that they will do well! Knowledge should shape the way we live and think. We should be able to bring what we learn into our lives and to live it. If it’s not important enough to become a part of us, make it’s way into our long term memories, it’s not important. If it’s something we are only memorizing for a test is it something that is meaningful?

Alternative Methods:

Homemade Tests: You could make up tests for your children or you could test them verbally. Maybe even in a very informal way: a discussion or an oral quiz. You could make FUN tests if your children need to learn test taking skills so that you can avoid test anxiety. You and your children probably have a different take on various subject matter depending on your family hobbies and interests. If your family hobby is entomology, you might know more details about the chapter on the metamorphosis of the butterfly than the text book actually gives! If your family business is breeding Egyptian Arabians, you might know more than you wanted to know about the reproductive system. You might know about the economical or business side of the story! If you, as the parent/teacher, wanted to make a test, you could probably even come up with better questions than the text books or at least come up with questions that are more relevant. But, if you are LIVING it, you don’t need to be tested on it – it’s a part of your life! (long term memory)

Child Created Tests: How about letting the child create tests for the parent! This will showcase what they know and just creating the test would be a review and give them more familiarity with the subject matter. And this could be fun for both parent and child! It doesn’t have to be written, it can be oral. One day, while folding clothes, Matthan quizzed me on states and capitals, he got a kick out of how I couldn’t remember most of them!

OBSERVATION: You can observe your children as they talk or play and see if they can demonstrate what they have learned – look for evidence that learning has taken place from their play, writing, or their speech and conversation. You live with them, so you know how to determine if they have learned. You can assess them orally in a formal (oral exam) or an informal way (discussion).

Portfolios: “Portfolio Assessment” (there’s an edu-word for you!) You can keep portfolios to document what you have done, and to display things that your children have worked on, and to keep track of their improvements over the year or over the years. Where a test might show you what your child knows at the moment he takes the test, a portfolio will be able to document improvement. You can save a writing sample from the beginning of the year and compare that sample to a writing sample taken at the end of the year and note improvements. Their portfolios can include the tests that we mentioned above, notes on what you know they have learned, and anything else you think will show that learning has taken place – field trip log! It could include poetry that they have written, pictures they have drawn, and photographs of competed projects or experiments. Some states are satisfied with the portfolio method of assessment as are certain colleges. I want to know more about this!

Notebooking and making books: Cindy Rushton’s “Homemade Books! Yes, You Can Be a Writer Too!”
You could make little books or collect family research in a three ring binder to show what was researched and learned. Cindy Rushton actually sells the books that she made and her son sells the books that he made too! Apparently, he was very interested in the Civil War and combined his research and now sells it. I think he even sells a Civil War book for students to use for their Copy Work. More information on making books:

Scrap booking: Photographic Journaling to display what your children have experienced or learned. You could document activities and projects through pictures! Trish shared one of her scrapbooks. What a wonderful way to chronicle activities, field trips, and anything else that your child experienced. When the child gets involved with putting together a scrapbook of things learned or accomplished throughout the year, this will also serve as a review and the child can take pride in what he/she has learned and then created! The sharing of memories helps engage the long term memory. Trish also brought a print out of Cindy Rushton’s “Scrap booking! Catch the Fever! Yes! Homeschooling CAN be FUN!” from “Homeschooling the Easy Way” somewhere in: Trish also shared an interview with Lisa Whelchel: she talks about how homeschooling can be fun and she mentions scrap booking. You can see this interview at

Journal: You could keep a journal of what your children are learning or let them keep a journal; even if it's just personal thoughts. We tend to write about what we have learned ‘after the fact’ because many of the educational moments that we experience were not planned. You could even engage in an interactive journal where every few days you read the student’s journal entries and add some encouraging comments and some questions for them to consider or expound upon.

Web Log BLOG IT!: This could even be in the form of a family web BLOG to document or display activities; to chronicle what is being learned or experienced. Katherine thought that this would be fun for the kids in Creative Writing. They could BLOG their stories, poems, or their journals. I sent these notes to my blog site! Notice the last e mail address up there in the “to” field?

Create a web page: Teach a child some basic HTML and allow them to create a web page showcasing what they have completed or learned! This experience would be an education in itself, as HTML programming is another subject that they might want to explore. You could count the experience as a “technology” credit? Making a web page is as easy as using a word processor, harder than a blog, and easier than Power Point.

Video Journal: You could video-tape a play that they performed in or wrote. (I video taped the kids singing the ‘body part song’ in Latin. I also taped them reciting a fabula in Latin. Really because I knew they wouldn’t remember these things forever, but they sure did look impressive! As we watch this tape, it serves as review and brings back wonderful memories!)

Power Point Presentation: Older children could put together a Power Point presentation of what they have learned! This is a fun program to create lessons or tests. Well, fun if you want to play around with the program, not fun if you are forced to use it. What a wonderful way for your child to display what they have learned; this is a skill in itself! If your child is familiar with Power Point he/she has computer skills that you could count towards a technology or computer credit and might even give them an edge when they get into college. I know that right now as homeschool students graduate from CHEC they have to prepare a Power Point presentation that will be viewed. I know people who are willing to pay someone experienced with PP to help them create the presentation! (Matthan, for Crain 7th grade, had to create a power point presentation, so this is an experience that public and private schools require.)

And finally, of course, you could just know they know because you know they know! You live with them and you eat, sleep, and breathe with them, so you probably were there for most of those "light bulb" moments. You were probably right there when they learned most of what they learned or you learned it with them! You might not need to test them because you know them inside and out! Testing may only be to prove something to other people.

Karen from A2Z: You know they are learning because:
-you've seen learning happening (observation, they’ve demonstrated certain skills)
-you've watched the learning being solidified through life experiences (learning manifested in everyday life)
-you've listened to your children share with you what they've read, watched, listened to, experienced (oral assessment, daily conversation and discussion)
-you see that they are happy and healthy and you don't worry about "what" they might be learning, as healthy and mental well-being have to be present first before any learning can occur (hierarchy of needs)
-You were right there learning with them! (You are living and learning with your children!)

Lyn from A2Z:
I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words -
They often passed him by, unheard.
Despairingly I turned aside,
"How shall I teach this child?" I cried.
Into my hand he put the key -
"Come", he said, "and play with me."

Pros and Cons of Testing:

You can see where your child stands in comparison to other children his/her age in the country.
If your child is a great test taker, it can validate what you are doing in the home!
You can use the test results to fill in the gaps or focus on the child’s strengths (bents)
If your state requires testing, you will be in compliance!
You can use the test to keep them on the same level as their public school peers, making entering public school a very smooth transition
Standardized tests are a very conventional method of assessment.
Most people rely on this type of measurement
Public schools will respect this type of evaluation
Higher level institutions will accept these types of assessments
If your child tests really high there are certain programs that he will be eligible for (Amanda knows about this)

Children shouldn’t be compared to other children, and this is the purpose of standardized tests
There are bents or strengths that will not be reflected on a standardized test
Tests only tell you what the child knows right then and there. (Do you remember everything you were tested on?)
Some children freeze up during tests so their score isn’t an indicator of what they actually know.
Some questions are confusing to the child who over analyzes questions (you might have an Einstein or an Edison!)
The tests may not reflect what the child really knows! The child might actually know more than the test asked.
The child might not be developmentally ready for some of the concepts at the time of the test, so the results may not be a true indicator of the child’s future abilities or what he/she is capable of!
Tests are not effective measures of a child’s intelligence, what the child knows, or the child’s skills. (There was a celebrated Scientist who, when given an IQ test, tested way below average! Einstein was kicked out of school because he “couldn’t do his sums” and Edison was kicked out of school and thought of as “stupid” also. You may have a lateral thinker!)
Many experts and researchers oppose early testing and even testing at all
When schools focus on teaching to the test much real and natural learning is lost
The quality of text books are compromised as text book publishers collect and present information to meet the standards of the tests (Why teach about certain fun and exciting concepts if the state’s test isn’t going to ask questions about those concepts? Or for example: if “test scores” determine my salary then it might make more sense to me to teach your children how to take a test and constantly give them answers the questions that might appear on the test. When this happens, the quality of learning is compromised and learning is not meaningful or fun.
If your goal is a life long love of learning then testing isn’t your focus, but learning is!
Testing isn’t learning
Practicing for tests isn’t learning (we know that our schools ‘teach to the test’ and constantly practice taking the TAKS – that’s wasted time!)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Give a child a computer.... and they might teach YOU a few things!

I put our old computer in my 8 year old daughter’s room. Just leaving it in her room and allowing her to play on it unsupervised has taught her so much! She has figured out how to use the Paint program to design wall paper for her computer. One day when I walked into her room the marquee told me, “Kelsey’s Room GET OUT.” Watching her at the computer is very puzzling because she uses many shortcut keys that I didn’t know existed. She has picked up on other things that are a mystery to me, too. She’s recognized and explained some HTML coding to me!

Today, while browsing the internet looking at some homeschool family websites, I happened onto a web site created by a child. His web page was simple and listed his hobbies, his siblings, pets, and finally, a drawing. I called my daughter into the room so that she could see his artwork. She was very excited and said that she wanted to make a webpage to show off her artwork. I was thrilled. This is my dream: to have my children design their own web pages!

I opened up Netscape Composer and showed Kelsey how she could easily change the background and fonts. That’s where I always start (play) when I make a page; color and style. To my dismay, we couldn’t get the background to change colors. Netscape wouldn’t accept our selections! You never notice how frustrating something is until you try to explain it or show it to a child. She wanted the page light blue and every time we made that selection and pressed “ok” the page was white! This kind of thing never happens to me when I sit down and make a web page; why does it happen when you try to show someone else?

I decided to check the HTML source to see what was going wrong and I noticed that Netscape was giving us selections using a different code in the menu than was actually being written into the HTML source code. So, we started playing around with the numbers on the HTML source page until I made a terrible mistake and erased the whole background color code. I went to the menu again to change the background color, selected light blue, and viola! The background changed to light blue! It had to be broken before we could fix it.

What really fascinated me was that my daughter knew what color each numerical value in the parenthesis represented. The source code would define a color by three variables: (x,y,z) the X stands for red, the Y represents blue, and the Z represents green. (it might be blue and then green) When we were trying to change the background color through the menu, it would give us HEX codes to choose from. Hex codes look like this: f#abcdef where the alphabetical letters can be any numeral. I found several HEX charts on the internet so that we could figure out how to make any color we wanted directly in the HTML source. By sitting down with my daughter and encountering problems I learned so much!

Every time my daughter would make changes to her page, I would show her how those changes looked in the html source. She knew what tags started the page and what tags ended it and that HTML stood for “Hyper Text Mark-up Language.” All the codes to tell the browser how to display the web page would appear in-between those two symbols. I don’t know what these TAGS are called, technically, but we call them “start” and “the end.” I guess we use a form of REDNECK HTML here at our house.

Growing up, I always referred to the “control” key as the “citril” key, because I didn’t know what the proper name for it was.

History as Family Reading Time

We are reading from “The Story of The World” for History-Family Reading. Thursday’s chapter was on Hammurabi and the Babylonians. I read a list of laws from the Code of Hammurabi to Kelsey and asked her if she thought they were fair. She thought many of them were fair, even the “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Today, I walked into the backyard to find Christian hitting the slide with a big rock. Upon closer examination I noticed that there was a tiny spider running in circles trying to escape the blows. The poor spider lost his battle with the giant and the rock before I could say anything to generate guilt from my three year old. Christian finally hit the spider and asked, “Where did the spider go?” He didn’t realize that he was the reason the spider had taken on a different form.

Before I could mourn, Christian was already showing me how his big rock was faster at going down the slide than his little rock. He had been up to some experiments with gravity all alone in his backyard.

Later, Kelsey proudly presented me with a bouquet of hand picked wildflowers. Christian patiently awaited his turn and stuck out his hand. In his hand were tiny pieces of leaves and grass. He had a very big grin on his face as he emptied the fragments into my hand. I love the three-year-old stage!

More cute things that Christian did today:

Christian brought me a gummy bear still warm from his pocket and said, “Here, eat this; I found it on my carpet.” When I was hesitant he tried to tell me that he had eaten one too. I guess that makes it all better. : )

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin