Well we’ve been busy this holiday season! I still have our HumanLight, Christmas, and Kwanzaa plans to discuss but first I wanted to go over what I’ve been slowly working on over the past couple of months *expanding on what I already had in place*. I’ve put the finishing touches on these organizational things while on our break. I’m striving to be more organized to ensure we meet our goals. I’m still working out the lesson planning in a way that I can easily stick to it. I currently have a 3-ring binder that I use, but it’s not as affective due to having to constantly make print-outs/copies, and it’s rather bulky. I found the Teacher’s Lesson Planner and Record Book at our base book store and I’m planning to use that for our 2011-2012 school year. If it pans out I’ll order more to use every year, or go back to the drawing board and find another planning book to explore and test out.

So what are the organizational things I’m working with:

The first is our school meeting board. I got the idea from various places, one being a friend of mine who runs Wandering Quail Road, and the other sources were from the same blogs many of the printables used for the board come from: Homeschool Creations and 1+1+1=1. *The views and/or opinions of the blogs mentioned during this post or any post for that matter DO NOT in any way reflect the views and/or opinions of my blog, unless otherwise stated.*

The months of the year song lyrics come from THIS website, although we did end up changing it slightly *notice the blacked out portion*. The first time we went over it Child #1 started singing to a tune *and lyrics* he had picked up from one of the various videos or songs we’ve listened to over the years. Not 100% sure where we first heard the song at, I’m still in the process of tracking it down *by going through our various CDs and searching the list of Youtube videos we use*. Also on our board is our date tracker (Trend©) which I got from a school supply store in the states. There is our word of the week taken from Sacred Spiral Kids, our weekly spelling list comprised from the Saxon Phonics 1 curriculum we have, and our artist of the month *info and photo gathered from a simple search of the artist*. Lastly I also made up a simple printable with boxes for the boys and I to put what we are grateful for that morning. I think I will have us go back at the end of our school day and write what we are grateful for at the end of the day as well.

I found this clock on Amazon, it has six alarm slots…yes I am one of those homeschool moms. The alarm also allows you to personalize your alarms, so I had The Spouse do the recordings for us. That way when he is away we can still enjoy hearing his voice six times a day.

Now moving upstairs to our classroom…I found this cart at a store off base. The top shelf holds our laminator *which I LOVE!*. The second and third shelves will hold the teachers editions of any curriculum we are using.

This is the same kind of cart as above they were actually pretty affordable and fit perfectly in the room. Far better than anything I have seen on base, yeah for finding something affordable off base given the current Yen rate! This one sits between the boys' desk/chairs and holds their pencil/crayon boxes, as well as their flashcard boxes. Not sure what will go on the third shelf, I’m sure it will get plenty of use when the time comes to fill it though.

Next is the inside of one of the cabinets in our filing cabinet. The boys each have their own cabinet where I keep the work they have done. I have folders for each subject, and they are labeled with the grade level as well. I also keep extra school items in the front of the folders.

Here you have our planned out general schedule easily accessible to the children and myself. Also on this wall are file folders with the printouts/copies for that given day and subject. This allows me to file away at least a week’s worth of printouts/copies, and have them easily on hand when we need them. Plus when the boys get older I can just printout/copy what is going to be needed and they can grab and go for that day and subject. Both products come from Learning Resources.

Now this section is what has had my attention for the last month or so. First off on the wall are erasable schedules *which came from Lakeshore, but I don't see them on the site now*. I originally bought only two of these, but didn’t use them as I had intended to. Then a friend of mine gave me the two she had since she wasn’t using them either. After about a week of pondering what I might be able to do with the four weekly planners it hit me. I can place two weeks worth of plans for each of the boys on these four boards. Then they *our lesson plans* are easily accessible so I can grab out what is needed for that given week without having to flip through a bunch of pages in a book. I can also see everyday where we are suppose to be headed, and make adjustments as needed. They are hung on the wall using a bit of string and four clear Command™ hooks.

Lastly are our subject boxes. Each shelf is for a particular subject (Language Arts & Phonics, Math, Science, and History), and each box holds the items need for that days work. We alternate Math and Science so I would have that day planned out at least a day in advance. Which will make planning experiments and gathering all the needed items a lot easier to accomplish. Especially since we will be covering Physical Science next year *a mix of Chemistry and Physics*, and I’m planning to make that as hands on as possible. I got the idea for the boxes from various info I got on the Workbox System *refer back to blog disclaimer* *my system is only slightly like it...mostly because it involves boxes LOL...but I don't do 12 boxes for each of the boys. I just stick to subjects we are covering because I just don't have the space for all of that nor do I really need it. The boys have unlimited access to our school supply closet so materials are grabbed as they are wanted/needed which works just fine for now.*
Well that about sums it up. Now to just put all of these things to use! Which we will be doing starting on Monday, wish us luck! Woohoo!!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Things have been quiet here on our little blog not for lack of anything to post about, just an overall lack of time. We have been very busy this holiday season! We have still been covering the winter holidays like planned though. On the 21st we covered Yule.

For our learning fun we used the Pooka Pages Yule packet, did a family ritual, and made some yummy treats (Solstice Snowballs and a Yule Log *So many things went wrong with making this, the cake didn‘t roll the way I wanted it to, the filling was far too runny, and the icing was a bit off. I‘m convinced it was me, but considering it was the first time I ever made one I think it came out ok all things considered. It was edible that is the most important part right?! One of you will have to try the recipe and tell me how it turned out for you.*).

Our Yule activities not only work into our winter holidays learning but they also help the boys fulfill one of their SpiralScouts patches. While discussing Yule *particularly during our family ritual*, I talked about the various elements in Christmas that have their roots in Yule. This of course got The Spouses attention, he always finds tidbits like this interesting.

I’m looking forward to when the boys are a bit older, so we can watch the sunrise *or the sun being born as some say* like they do in the story we read in Pooka Pages. I think that would be a great way to bring our Yule learning full circle so to speak. But that will have to wait until they are old enough to really appreciate a sunrise *without the complaints of wanting to crawl back in bed or fussing that would follow from an early morning wake-up*, for now they can sleep and dream of the sweet goodies they will receive in just a couple of days.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

We have wrapped up our Hanukkah studies and are prepping for the next set of holidays. As a final Hanukkah hoorah our Co-Op enjoyed some Hanukkah themed stories today, after reading a bit of the stories I quizzed the kids on some Hanukkah facts. As I was rounding out the questioning, I asked who lead the Jewish people to victory. While the older kids were thinking about it Child #2 piped up “Judah Maccabee!”.

This was greeted with high fives and cheers of celebration. Then it hit me, they really are listening. Even when it seems like they are miles away, when the days don’t ever seem like they will end, when I‘m pulling out my hair, digging through resources, trying to figure it all out. They are listening… to every story, every explanation, every clever idea or catch phrase I create or borrow to help teach. In one really special moment Child #2 helped confirm that I can do this, WE as a family can do this for the long haul. It won’t always be easy, but they will be listening.

Now to just ensure that what they are hearing are things I always want repeated. ;)

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Hanukkah *or Chanukah* started on the 1st and we are currently on day three of our yearly Hanukkah lessons. So far once again we have gone over why Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, what the menorah is as well as the name for the tallest *lead* candle-the Shamash-*because it is hard for little kids who aren’t Jewish to remember all this stuff since they only hear about it once a year*, and we’ve done some crafting *with more to come*.

So far each of the boys have made a Star of David, which once completely dry, they will further decorate and then we will hang them up to go with the rest of our holiday d├ęcor. I also found a great template online that has turned out to be the perfect window menorah. I colored the Shamash and each of the boys got to color four of the candles. We are alternating turns, and on their night they will pick which of their candles gets cut out and placed *glued* into the menorah.

After it is glued in, the menorah is returned to its place in the window, which fulfills the mitzvah *commandment* that the miracle of Hanukkah be publicized.
While that is my reflection that IS NOT my van...just wanted to put that out there. LOL.

We are currently in the process of getting a silver menorah, but it won’t be here until after the holiday is over, so I figured we would once again make our own menorahs. Last year we used an empty egg carton, some air dry clay, and birthday candles. This year I got a bit creative and made each of the boys menorahs in the shape of the Star of David. I’ve been waiting for them to completely dry before I allow the boys to paint/decorate them. After which we will have our window menorah to fulfill the mitzvah and then the boys will have ones they can actually light.

Aside from the more crafty things we will also be using our Knowledge Books starting today. I have finally finished filling them with Hanukkah coloring pages and worksheets to go along with our studies. Today we will learn where Israel is, as well as what their flag looks like, we will spend some more time discussing the Star of David, and learn a bit more about the Maccabees.

To add to our studies we have a Hanukkah word wall and our nightly bedtime story has come from a list of Hanukkah themed books I gathered at the library.

To bring in the food element we will be having a traditional Jewish meal either Saturday or Sunday night *I had wanted to do this the last night of Hanukkah but life happens and plans must change…*.

On Monday our co-op learning will be an extension of what we are doing at home, then on Tuesday we will focus on just the dreidel with activities that center around what the boys often call “Their favorite thing about Christmas”, which always ensures a puzzled look on someone’s face when they ask “What’s your favorite thing about Christmas”. We will learn a bit about gelt as well, including the history behind giving coins *especially chocolate ones* during Hanukkah. I’m not 100% what to do for the last day, I’m thinking a review of everything, possibly a large craft, and eating of their favorite items from our weekend meal.

Well that’s pretty much it folks. Not too involved, most of it is centered around reading, some coloring pages/worksheets, and crafting. Which works very well for their age groups. Each year we’ll get more into the history, maybe visit a synagogue so they can experience a Hanukkah celebration like the ones we’ve been reading about. But for now I’m going to attempt to make yummy latkes and sufganyot, not burn the challah, and hopeful win the next game of dreidel!

Here is our booklist:

Hanukkah by Norma Simon
Beni’s First Chanukah by Jane Zalben
Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story by Laura Melmed
The Runaway Latkes by Leslie Kimmelman
A Picture Book of Hanukkah by David Adler
On Hanukkah by Cathy Fishman
When Mindy Saved Hanukkah by Eric Kimmel
Pearl’s Eight Days of Chanukah by Jane Zalben *it features an activity for each night!*
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel *a friend of mine shared that he loved this story as a child, so I’m eager to read it to the boys*
And last but not least Our Eight Nights of Hanukkah by Michael Rosen

And here is the link list:

Link 1
*activities, crafts, coloring pages, recipes, and more*

Link 2*word wall, games, songs, crafts, coloring pages, and more*

Link 3*Hanukkah information, crafts, reading list, coloring pages -where our Israel flag coloring page came from-, and more

Link 4*crafts-Star of David craft came from this site-, recipes, coloring sheets, and more*

And lastly just for fun:


Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Well it’s that time of year, the lights are hung and the tree is up *all earlier than we usually do these things since I wanted to take advantage of a Shutterfly sale*. The kids are getting anxious, and I’m ready for our winter break that starts in about two weeks.

Even though we will be on break, we will still be getting plenty of use out of our Knowledge Books, and I will be knee deep in 2011-2012 school year prep. I’ve also been putting some finishing touches on the classroom, organizational wise which I will share more of once I have it all completed.

Slowly, but surely we are getting a grasp on homeschooling in terms of our family and what works best *not too bad for only our second official year of homeschooling as far as I‘m concerned*. It is very much a lifestyle, even the holidays can’t escape it’s educational opportunity reach.

But it fits us so well and I can’t picture having it any other way.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of good food and fabulous family and friends. We had wonderful friends over *and thought often of our family and friends back home*, because yes homeschoolers do socialize with people. *Gasp*!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

*Yes, I know it’s only Wednesday night in my part of the world, but I will be VERY busy tomorrow. *

This is usually a Secular Thursday post, but since this Thursday is Thanksgiving I figured I would make a thankful post that is secular homeschooling focused.

Number One on this list is obviously that I am thankful that we have the means and ability (freedom) to homeschool our children. It is a personal choice that not everyone gets the pleasure, fear, and frustration to make.

I’m thankful that we homeschool for secular reasons (most importantly for the pursuit of facts, knowledge, and evidence that we can use to form our own opinions and grow as people). There is freedom in being able to question everything, even if the questions require mommy to stay up late into the evening hunting for the answers.

I’m also thankful for access to two libraries *one of which employs a very dear friend of ours*. Having these buildings of knowledge at our disposal has been a treat. We often find items that we have longed for *one of those items being the Life series I picked up yesterday that I have wanted to purchase but have held off on it due to the price tag*, and also items that are extremely useful and occasionally show themselves on one of our many visits. The find this week happens to be Thanksgiving themed!

The book is called Thanksgiving: The True Story and it has a wealth of information! It also lead me to track down America’s Real First Thanksgiving: St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565.

I had never heard of this book until I picked up Thanksgiving: The True Story, and I’m so glad I now know about it! I tracked it down on Amazon and it also has a teaching guide/manual to go with it! It was written by a fifth grade teacher in 2007, and thankfully she was kind enough to make a teaching guide/manual to go along with it. Since I *like most Americans* had never even heard about the 1565 Thanksgiving (until now), and was only taught the Plymouth story a teaching guide/manual will come in real handy. I’m planning to purchase the set, and some other items to go along with it, and work them into our studies this time next year.

This homeschooling journey of ours has been and will continue to be a ride, but I am truly thankful for the moments we are able to create because of it. As well as for the wonderful friends we have meet on this adventure, who continue to be a source of inspiration and support.

Happy Thanksgiving All!
Now Go Eat and Be Merry!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

It’s been a week since I posted! Yikes! We’ve had a lot going on, and very little of it is school related. We’ve taken days off to spend with The Spouse, then there is the holiday prep which always seems to send the whole world into a tailspin, as well as birthday prep for Child #1. So needless to say we are rather busy. What I have been debating on the school front is how to tackle the teaching of Thanksgiving. I don’t like the glossed over teaching that you often get, with the fairy tale of everything being just peachy keen. So I went looking for resources. I’ve found two so far.

One being the History Channel’s piece on Thanksgiving, naturally, and the second being Nat Geo for Kids. The Nat Geo site actually does mention some common myths surrounding Thanksgiving as well as how Wampanoag people feel about the day now, and what they do instead.

I’m currently *along with everything else on my overflowing plate* trying to figure out how to make this information into an informative but interesting lesson. Right now I’m leaning towards printing out some clip art, and playing some Truth or Fiction. I’ll have more of what I actually put into action after the insanity of this upcoming week passes.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

I’ve mentioned before about my issues with so called “neutral” homeschooling science materials. While I was configuring the changes for our science learning I really tried to tell myself that I could handle the term “neutral” when it comes to Physical Science, Chemistry, and Physics. But I can’t. So what am I going to do? Well let me backtrack a bit about my plans and then I’ll tell you my solutions.

We currently do a Space/Earth/Biology combo when it comes to science. I’ve decided starting next year we will add in Chemistry and Physics/Physical Science. I also want to add in more structure *for myself as far as planning* to ensure that they get some core information. I really wanted something to use as a guide to ensure I hit important topics, and to also use as a fall back when I just can’t come up with some sort of activity for the topic at hand.

At first I considered using Real Science 4 Kids *Chemistry and Physics*, but the more I learned about the author the more disinterested in the product I became. So then I found myself in a tough situation, where would I turn to solve this problem in front of me? I decided to look at public school textbook sellers again, even though I wasn’t happy with the bundle I purchased at the start of the year, I figured looking again wouldn’t hurt.

So I searched around and came across THIS. It is Prentice Hall Science Explorer, one of the top middle school science programs in America. Yes I said middle school. I searched through the elementary programs and found them mediocre at best. I guess for students who have never been exposed to very much in the way of science the elementary programs are great, but in our home they would serve as mere paperweights.

So I will be using middle school textbooks as our guide in science. I personally feel we dumb down scientific education in America to start with, and we underestimate the abilities of children. Just take a look at the table of contents for the Prentice Hall Science Explorer books, a lot of it is very simple basic stuff. Especially, since we will be using it as a guide and adding in reading books to further teach the topics *so we can go in depth as needed for their level of maturity and attention span*.

I’ll be purchasing the Physical Science one to meet our Physics/Chemistry learning for next school year. I’m going to alternate years, starting next year will be the Physics/Chemistry year, then after that will be our Space/Earth/Life combo. Once we end our Elementary years I’ll purchase some high school level science books and we will spend a year on each topic *Space/Earth, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics*, from there they will be entering their high school years and should be ready for intro college level science.

Am I crazy for tackling our science this way? Possibly. But then again I’m probably crazy for home educating so this really isn’t a big departure from my overall craziness. I also have flipped through enough textbooks in my day to know that what a middle school science book has to offer is something an elementary student with time, support, and a library card can figure out and actually understand. Which I’m sure says something about the current state of Science in America.

But I’m sure I don’t really need to spell that something out for anyone reading here.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

I mentioned a few times here that we do SpiralScouts at home, I’ve even discussed starting a Circle *we currently have a Hearth due to it just being our family taking part*. We have various badges we are working towards, but the main ones are part of the Wheel Of The Year series, which requires learning about the Pagan Sabbats.

I wasn’t 100% sure as to how to tackle teaching the boys the Sabbats, and so I went searching online for things to help teach them. I came across a few books online through Amazon, but they were clearly for parents who were Pagan/Wiccan and raising their children as such. Which doesn’t work for us, so I formulated a plan. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I wanted to get out of it, so I just went ahead and made it myself.

The Waldorf Homeschooling Method mentions “Main Lesson or Good Books”, but these are something to be made by the child as a way to keep track of their work. The “books” I made could be seen as similar since they will hold work the kids will do *or have done*, but they already hold the knowledge I want them to learn *hence the name Knowledge Books*, and they were made by me, not the boys. If we update them *which depends on them being affective first off* then I’ll probably let the boys take over in the creating department.

I set off making the first Wheel of the Year book, and as I was doing it, it hit me that I could do the same thing with our winter holidays as well. This would allow for all the information to be in one spot, and the boys will have something lightweight, full of info, and readily available as we work through the December holidays. So after I got through the knowledge books for the Wheel of the Year, I tackled the winter holidays.

I’m really considering making other ones for the other holidays that take place throughout the year, possibly one that focuses on patriotic holidays *The 4th, Flag Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day*, then one for the other holidays that are scattered throughout the year. Put I’ll see how this work for us. So you want to see what they look like? Ok here you go!

Each “book” is made out of a 3-pronged folder in the boys’ favorite colors. All images were acquired though a simple search of online images. I would just plug in what I was looking for “Wheel of the Year”, “Santa Claus”, etc., and then scan through the results until I found images that I liked.

Wheel Of The Year Knowledge Books

Winter Holidays Knowledge Books

On the inside of each book are markers so we can easily find the holiday we are covering.

They will most likely be temporary since they are just post-it markers and aren’t built for a lot of pulling, over even general wear and tear. Not sure just yet what I will use on the ends as tabs, any ideas are welcomed though!

For each holiday there is an image that ties into the holiday glued onto cardstock, and then on the back of the cardstock I glued a little write-up of the history for each holiday. I found the histories doing a basic search, the Pagan Sabbats info came from Proud To Be Pagan, and the Christmas info in particular came from the History Channel website *LOVE that channel and their website*.

The images for the Sabbats books were found online, they were images from a calendar dating back to around 2007. They were perfect for the book and I’m so glad I found them.

On the inside of the Sabbats books I placed another Wheel of the Year image since it mentions the various names that the Sabbats go by.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out, the next goal for these "books" is to fill them with activities the boys can do to further their knowledge. The “books” took a couple of weeks to finish, due to running out of some supplies *the sheet protectors, card stock, and glue sticks*, as well as having a mile long list of other things I needed to accomplish at the same time. But, all in all the project was fairly easy.

Curious as to where I’ll be getting some of the things I will be filling these “books” with?

Well there is Pooka Pages, which I used to discuss Mabon back in September. There is tons of stuff there that is all kid based and makes learning about the Sabbats fun. Proud To Be Pagan KIDS has some fun useful stuff like recipes, which we will probably do and then add pictures of our creations to our “books” along with the recipes for future reference.

As for the winter holidays, I’ll probably use Enchanted Learning printouts, the library, and various things (printouts, activities, recipes, crafts, books, etc.) I’ve collected over the past few years since discussing winter holidays is a yearly thing in our home. The only holiday that has me stumped is HumanLight. It is fairly new, but it is a Humanist holiday and more inline with our family’s beliefs and practices. So I wanted to teach the boys about it, and potentially have it be a holiday we actively take part in. But finding things to go with it is proving difficult. I guess I’ll just have to be a bit creative on that one.

So for more information you can checkout the following sites:

Pooka Pages

Proud To Be Pagan, and for the KIDS

History Of Christmas

History of Hanukkah

Kwanzaa Official Website

Humanlight Official Website

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Well our little ol’ blog received an awesome award from Life’s Adventures! Thank you Life’s Adventures! It is the Stylish Blog Award…someone thinks this blog is stylish! How awesome is that?! *WAY Awesome!…Look I’m talking to myself I’m so excited*…

...Anyways, here are the rules and what not:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass this on to 15 other great bloggers you recently discovered.

4. Contact the selected bloggers and tell them about their awards.

*Ok I’m tweaking the rules a bit because like with the last award I got I just didn’t get around to telling the folks I selected that I had selected them, and I don’t foresee me being able to do that this time around either. But I’ll still pass it on to 15 bloggers…this will just be my way of contacting you all*.

Now for 7 facts about myself…oh geez…this could get interesting….

1. I’ve been to many places in my life *and I still have many more places to see and experience*, but I haven’t found anywhere I really call home. Obviously, my current location is “home”, it has my children and my husband. We grow, learn, laugh, and fight in this home. But I don’t feel like I have roots anywhere. Just scattered branches here and there. I’m not sure I ever will have roots anywhere *and I‘m comfortable with that*…which brings me to #2...

2. I’m a nomad, and the thought of staying somewhere too long makes me feel restless. I love the idea of living where we do for as long as we plan to simply because, there is so much to see and do and SO many travel opportunities that I don’t feel like we are stuck. I felt that way in the town we left before The Spouse joined the military. Now I feel like the world is our playground, and there is a strange comfort in that, probably because of what I mentioned in #1.

3. I never planned to homeschool, and truly never even considered it an option for us. As Child #1 moved from a bouncing baby, to a clever toddler, and then a precocious preschooler addressing his educational needs became a reality far sooner than we ever thought they would be. The plan for both boys to attend public school *preferably one near where I would be working or in the same school I would be working in* quickly changed to me seeing no better option than for them to be educated at home. Of course it took some convincing to get The Spouse on board, but it has been a decision I’m very pleased with *even on the rough days*.

4. I get random ideas in my head and try my best to write them down so I don’t forget them. This habit has resulted in various stacks of papers and notebooks. The Spouse refers to them as clutter, I refer to them as moments of beautiful *creative* insanity.

5. I would much rather pop in a documentary to learn something than drop over 500$ on college textbooks that I may only open once or twice. But I’ve been a college student off and on since 2005.

6. My family really is dysfunctionally functional. And yes that probably makes no sense to anyone, but us.

7. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now to name the lucky 15:

bore me to tears

Finding the Fantastic…

Lost Persons Homeschool

I Capture the Rowhouse

Zachary’s Classroom

You’re Not Lost…

Athena Academy

Enlightened Life

Life With Monsters

St. Louis Homeschool…

Raising Three Thinkers


Grab Your #2’s

Elle’s Beads Blog

Bill Maher's Blog
*He won’t ever get this…but I love me some Bill Maher! Oh yes I do indeed. LOL.*

Enjoy the award folks! Sorry I can’t swing by each blog and leave a special comment, but I have a to-do list that needed to be done yesterday. I’m sure you all can understand. And once again thanks Life’s Adventures!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Well Child #2 isn’t much a tot anymore, he is a preschooler and this preschool status has had me mulling over for a while the best way to tackle his education. What shall I do with this bouncing sponge that is my child. He already knows some of the basics *colors, body parts, how to say the alphabet, and count to about 12 without mistakes*. We are currently working our way through letter and number recognition.

Number recognition is proving challenging not because he doesn’t get it, but because he insist on saying everything is the number of his age. Even if he knows it isn’t, and you can ask him to count the objects and he will count them and give you the correct answer. He just prefers everything to be the same number he is…which is actually kind of cute, but still slightly frustrating because I want to know that he really knows this.

I’ve tossed around for the last few months the idea of getting a box curriculum *nothing expensive* just something to get our feet wet on the kindergarten end with Child #2, since he is ready in some respects, but not ready in others. That way when the 2012-2013 school year rolls around we could either start formal kindergarten or our K/1st combo, since we’ve never really had solid grade levels it’s always just a combo of things.

For instance Child #1 is on a 1st/2nd combo *1st in Language Arts and History, 2nd in Reading and Math (their science topics are beyond what is usually taught in 1st/2nd grade so I don’t count it)*. It works and ensures each need is being meet, and while I’m finally at a point where I feel I have a good grasp on Child #1’s plans I am just now looking at the full picture with Child #2.

Should I go box to expose him to formal lessons since he is so vastly different from Child #1 or should I piece together something from what we already have and see how that pans out? I was so close to going box, just to help me figure out what exactly I should do with him. But then I realized I already know this child. When I really sat down and thought about it, I already know exactly how he learns.

He is a mover, a shaker, and a creator. He is a lover of bodily functions and knows how songs in their honor either freaks grown-ups out or sends them into hysterics. He is our little entertainer and constant source of laughter and frustration. He is definitely not a child meant to fit into any sort of box, and for to even consider it seems blasphemous to the very essences of who he is.

So now what? I realized getting a box was out of the question even though there was one I really wanted to try *mostly just because I wanted to try it…I’m an educational material junkie…don’t ever leave me alone at a homeschool convention please!* So what am I going to do with him for the 2011-2012 school year…well a lot of what we do now, with a little more emphasis put on it.

I currently have the PreK Learn To Read program through HOP, and we have used that a little. My current plan is to increase our usage of it throughout the rest of this school year, since it is fairly easy and can be completed before the end of our school year. After that we will move to the Kindergarten program that HOP has which we already own. I’ve started using it a bit just to see how Child #2 would react to it, and he enjoyed it. We just spent a few minutes playing the audio disk and flipping through the alphabet cards, but it appealed to him.

I know whatever I use with him, it will have to allow him to do something on his own *like flipping the cards*, as well as not confine him to a single area *an audio disk means he can move about the living room going through the cards while listening…which makes him very happy and even more eager to do a quick lesson*.

While I have phonics down, I still have to tackle the issue of math. It is such an easy subject for Child #1 and a lot of what he knows he taught himself . I have yet to actually teach him a math lesson this year, I just handed him the Saxon Math 2 workbook 1 and he has been going through it, reading the questions, asking for help when needed, and getting the work done.

He even takes it upon himself to write the days of the week on our class board so he doesn’t have to ask me to spell them when prompted to give a day of the week in a math problem. He has always been like this…Child #2 on the other hand is his polar opposite. And has to be taught accordingly, this I know.

Which means I have to be creative, yet still tackle my own personal feelings of guilt about potentially leaving something out in his education. I’m not 100% sure of how I will handle this in the higher grades, but for his PreK/K work I’m leaning towards various workbooks and hands on activities.

I can get workbooks from the base bookstore for very little money and we own a box full of math manipulatives, which will at least give us a base to spring from. Hopefully, it sparks his interest and then I can see about working in Saxon Math sometime during the 2012-2013 school year. And then just go from there.

As far as his science and history go, well I’m finding that just letting him be present has proven good enough. He enjoys doing our hands on stuff with us, and he is actually absorbing what he hears, even if it seems like he could care less. He just chooses to blurt out random facts *like that we live in the milky way* while holding a glass of milk at dinnertime.

Of course this earns mommy another point as The Spouse looks on in shock that his preschooler knows our galaxy, but it also helps ease my fears a bit. Maybe, just maybe if I’m consistent enough he will absorb it all and there is truly nothing to fear. Not like there isn’t any pressure not to screw him up or anything….

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Well it’s that time again in the states. If you don’t know where your nearest polling place is head over to, they have tons of election information *including a polling place finder/search*.

And here is a little Schoolhouse Rock *who doesn’t love Schoolhouse Rock?* to get you through the day.

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Remember that Halloween post I made about ten hours ago in which I talked about people who harp on the "evils" of Halloween and clearly don’t know the history of the holiday? Well folks here is

Exhibit A:

And Exhibit B:

This was handed to my husband *who was dressed like Mario* by a child, *and the child knew the character at that!*, yes I said a child! You know it really irks me when fundamentalist get their children to do their dirty work. It’s so lazy, sloppy, and downright sad. Instead of getting to have fun this poor child is jetting out of his front door to hand out pamphlets to grown-ups. Seriously? Can we say parenting FAIL!

If you want to try to convert us do it yourself, at the very least I will be able to tell you to take the stick out of your butt, before skipping off to beg for more candy with my costume clad children. Because I’m really not “evil” enough to direct a child that isn’t mine to the latest work by Hitchens, Dawkins, or Harris, no matter how much I may really want to.

It's not my place, nor is it anyone else's place to stick something other than treats in the hands of my family members on Halloween. I don't go around handing out pages from The God Delusion, I don't want to be handed your dribble about the "evils" of Halloween! It's 2010 learn the history of the holiday it's not that hard! It's right HERE! Click HERE! Educate yourself and your children! Please! Or at the very least leave other people alone and let them enjoy their night!

I do find the timing of this, along with the previous blog post, and a conversation with a friend oh so amusing. If I was looking for a sign that we are on the right path with seeking out knowledge and facts this was it.

On a happy shiny note though we are currently making our way through this:

Yes next week’s lessons will be very energetic I’m sure!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Well it’s October 30th here, which means trick-or-treating, because I can’t recall ever going trick-or-treating on a Sunday night. My wicked little heathens and I are impatiently waiting for the clock to strike the witching hour, signaling the time we will depart into the night to collect pounds upon pounds of candy.

Now I won’t go on into how silly I think it is that they move the date of trick-or-treating, why? Because while I think it’s silly I take advantage of it. I’m not getting out of bed at 9am to sit in a pew and listen to someone preach about the evils of well…everything. So I can *and do* stay up until 2am tweaking out on candy. I personally would like to see Halloween *the secular candy fest we celebrate today* moved to the last Saturday of October, because it would make my life easier *see above mentioned 2am pig-out*.

What does annoy me is all the evil occult stuff you hear about. “Oh we have to protect the children from the evil SATANIC witches! They want to corrupt them, and destroy their soulsssss, *cue smoke, mirrors, and overdramatic stage presences*.

Seriously, if folks want to “shield” their children from the “evils” of Halloween fine, but learn about it first. There is no excuse in this day and age to be ignorant about the origins of any holiday celebrated by the masses.

So what exactly is the history of Halloween?

Well here are some snippets of information:

You can obtain the full write ups at the History Channel website. Thank you History Channel!

“The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.”

“By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.

The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.”

Emphasis mine!

Want to learn more? Well head over to the History Channel website for the rest of the story. They go into Halloween’s history in America and where exactly all the costume wearing, pumpkin craven, and candy grabbing comes from.

And remember to have a wickedly fun time!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

We made this fun little “pizza” the other day using a paper plate, some construction paper, and shapes I got from Enchanted Learning *I used pages from their shape book and shrunk them down before printing* . I’m pretty sure I got the idea from, although I can’t find the exact link that mentioned it now.

Ideally the paper plate would have been colored brown for the crust, but the only plates we had were the ones with the plastic type coating on them *and I wasn‘t about to go out and deal the typhoon freak out crowd*. So we couldn’t color them brown and red *which is why I cut a red circle out of construction paper*. The red circle is our “sauce” and our “crust” is just special.

Anyways, I gave Child#2 the coloring pages and he looked at them and then decided he didn’t want to do anything *although he had just said he wanted to color*. So I figured if I did it with him, then maybe that would change his opinion. Thankfully it did. As soon as I picked up a crayon and said I would like to join in with him, he got really excited and off we went coloring pages and humming together.

While I don’t have photos of us coloring together, there is that moment you can’t capture on film, that twinkle in their eye that comes from that special one-on-one they can’t get anywhere else. While homeschooling isn’t always a bed of roses…in fact some days it’s more like a bed of rose thorns. But those special moments, with made up crayon inspired songs, make the thorns worth it for us.

After coloring, I cut out the shapes and handed Child#2 a glue stick, and he spent some time pasting his “toppings” onto his pizza. Afterwards we went over the shapes, I was shocked *and very pleased* that he pretty much already knew most of them.

He was able to show The Spouse when he got home from work and got multiple high fives as he named off the shapes. I think that may have been his favorite part of our little activity. I know his smiles and giggles sure made it seem that way.

Ah…the little moments. I should print this out and hang it up, so I can remember why we do this when he is gluing things to our walls and demanding candy.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

The Spouse is a skeptic and not just when it comes to religion, but also when it comes to my ability to drive, that anything made with peas will taste good, and homeschooling. I’ve slowly been winning him over as far as Child #1 is concerned. He can see the work that we do, he can ask him questions about what we have learned, and he can hear Child #1 read to him, be it a story or a street sign that happens to be in English.

With Child #2 though the doubts are still there. Mostly I think because with preschool age kids there isn’t much you can do that produces anything you can hold and examine *like worksheets or journal entries*. There are arts and crafts which help the learning process, but to a skeptic it’s just a picture. Take for example a painting of circles, to a homeschooling parent it’s more than just a painting of circles, it’s shape recognition, fine motor development, and a craft. To a skeptic it’s just a painting of circles.

So what is one to do? I’ve taken the “I’m just going to do what I do and you will see in the end” road in order to save my sanity. Although I have to admit when little moments like the one I’m going to share happen, I do add points to my homeschooling mom ego.

*Child #2 wanted an apple so I took one out of the fridge for him and while I was slicing it up he ran into the living room and proclaimed the following*:

Child #2: “Apple starts with A, and A says /a/.”

At which point The Spouse who was in the middle of a video game shouts towards the kitchen “Did Child #2 just say *repeats back what Child #2 just said*?” Before I can answer Child #1 pipes in with “Yeah dad because apple does start with A, and A makes the /a/ sound, like in apple…/a/ apple, get it?”

Two points for mommy! Oh yeah! Not like I’m keeping score or anything…

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Science Programs

I’ve been scoping out products to use for next year, especially in science. I still haven’t come across a program, set of books, or even a textbook that doesn’t annoy me. Why do they annoy me? Because of the term “Neutral”. I get this allows them to sell more books, they don’t just get the secular market but the members of the Christian market who want an “scientific” science program without having to deal with evolution. But how in the world can a science program be considered “scientific” when it ignores such a major portion of science.

I don’t want “neutral” I want accurate, if it says “Real” science *there are two curriculums that wear this term* then when I go through it I want to see REAL science. Not some sugar coated, mediocre, dribble that makes every respectable scientist turn their nose up in shame. Yes, I realize I’m only teaching elementary age right now, but so? They aren’t ignorant, or incapable of understanding the basics. Especially if the program is well written.

Yes, I know I can just make up something myself. That is basically what I have been doing for the last couple of years, but I’m not 100% pleased with it *for various reasons...mostly due to the lack of a workbook they can go to when needed*. I like the way it flows. I have made some changes, as far as when we will cover what. This year we started with space and will end with human biology. Doing it this way allows them to see how everything is interconnected *working in evolution so they can understand it without getting bored out of their minds*. Next year will focus on chemistry and physics alternating each month between the two. Then the following year we will do our space to human studies *more in depth with each topic*, and so on. Switching it up each year, going more in depth with each passing year.

Planning this gets EXHAUSTING! I like having something to use as a guide at the very least, to help me make sense of it all, to give me ideas for science experiments, subjects/topics I should focus on, or even a worksheet to go with a subject. I would actually prefer a workbook, because it would give them something to look back on and review during breaks. As well as visual documentation of what they have learned.

But when I go to hunt for something even remotely usable I get the dreaded word “Neutral”. *Bleeping* neutral! How can we have cherry picked, hole punched science books? What good are they? Yes, they act as a simple guide, you insert what is needed for your family, while the publisher gets to ride the comfortable, profitable “neutral” line.

What is so wrong with accurate science books though? How is that asking too much from people who claim to actually have science degrees?

Last year I bought a bundle from a publisher that sells books to public schools and even that science book sucks. It was an expensive bundle too. But the topics are useless, we already know the importance of recycling, taking care of the Earth, etc. We may possibly be able to use the very brief life cycle information they mention when we get to that after the holidays, but that is it. My current goal is to try and sale it and hope to at least get enough money from it to blow on another watered down science product. Since it will be for chemistry and physics I stomach the purchase, but what about the year after that?

No curriculum will ever flow the way I want it to, or even meet my standards because nothing is perfect, I know this. Which is why I don’t purchase box curriculums, but I would like some various textbooks/workbooks/guides to help me achieve the goals I have down for the boys. Items that actually tackle the information I need them to, items that aren’t “neutral” or “safe”, but ACCUARTE, FACTUAL, and REAL!

So to all the scientist who may come across this, and aren’t afraid to go there, throw this homeschooler a bone. My children and I *as well as a large (and growing) number of secular homeschoolers* would thank you a million times over.

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

For this month in our science learning we are covering the Earth’s structure, some simple plate tectonics, as well as some features *like volcanoes, mountains, etc.*, and of course earthquakes. During our co-op activities we discussed Earthquake safety and how earthquakes happen.

We also did a fun little experiment I’m going to share with you all. It’s really simple, but tons of fun to do.

First gather your supplies.

You will need:

(We used large ones and small ones, and I think hindsight being 20/20 I would have just purchased the larger marshmallows. Why? Well the little ones, while easier to eat especially for young kids, are stickier and not as builder friendly. So my advice stick with the big marshmallows for building, and have a small cup of mini marshmallows for fine motor skills work and light snacking for the under 4 or 5 crowd).


(These are what connect your marshmallows in your building(s), I highly recommend the toothpicks that are round with the pointy ends. I was only able to get my hands on the flat squared ones, they get the job done, but I think the sharper ones would have worked easier with less breakage.)

Paper towels

(You will build your buildings on these, it allows for easier clean-up, and ensures you don’t pick up whatever is on the top of the table if you happen to be working somewhere other than your home or the home of a friend. A sheet long enough to catch the building if it falls should suffice (about 2-3 sheets long)).

And lastly, Two Tables (The tables will create your fault line, and of course your earthquake *with a little help*).

Now that you have your supplies let the kids loose to create whatever kind of building they want. The goal is to try and build something that could withstand an earthquake.

Once everyone has put the final touches on their marshmallow buildings, set up your “town”. Then make sure everything else is removed from the table especially any breakables. Have everyone step back and then begin the EARTHQUAKE. Moving the tables back and forth against each other did the trick, and my arms got a little workout in the process so it was all good.

After the earthquake assess who still has a building and who is literally picking up the pieces. With an older crowd you can then go into why they think certain buildings were able to withstand the earthquake. *What was different about the way they made their buildings compared to other buildings, how close were they to the fault line? Did any of the buildings closest to the fault line withstand the earthquake? If they did why do you think they did? And so on*.

For a younger group we found they enjoyed clean up the most. Either way it was all good fun, and the kids got to see first hand what happens to buildings in an earthquake. While all of these kids have lived through a number of quakes here, it is a completely different experience when you are creating it in a classroom and when your bedroom is shaking.

I think it is safe to say they preferred the marshmallow building quake more.

*Just a heads up for those with smaller children: We found it necessary to monitor the little ones while they were taking apart/eating their buildings, since the squared toothpicks were easily breakable they would break in the marshmallows upon dismantling. And of course kids being kids, they still attempted to eat them without looking first. Both mommies got sticky fingers from toothpick removable, but thankfully no one ate any toothpick pieces. Just something you should be on the lookout for if you do this activity with smaller children. And another reason I highly recommend trying this with the sharper/stronger toothpicks. *

Copyright(C) 2010 Rayven Holmes

The following link will take you to a series of post over at We Have Always Lived In A Homeschool. This family is facing problems with DFS and their local police department and not by any fault of their own. Please head over and read the posts about this situation and if you have any advice or contacts that could be of assistance to this family PLEASE share them. Thank you.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

I’m always on the look out for something I can use in our schooling or to organize our day/lives. The other day while getting my holiday shopping done I peeked over at the discounted/clearance section in our base exchange. I found this for 2$!:

It features magnets on the back…

And yes it does actually stay stuck to the fridge…

I bought two, since each packet features 52 pages I now have two years worth for only 4$. I’ve been mulling over the best way to use it. I’m thinking since each day features five blocks I’ll use the 1st, 3rd, and 5th blocks for menu planning. This way while I’m getting out plates, cups, and utensils out I can glance right over and see what I had planned to make for that day. The 2nd and 4th blocks will be used for me to see what hands on items I had planned. For instance on the day we make our volcano I’ll have that in the 4th block since it will take place after lunch.

On Mondays since that is the day we do our homeschool co-op stuff I’ll write down some things I need to do before we go out the door in the 2nd block. That way I have what I need when we leave out the door after breakfast.

I’ll probably head back to the exchange this weekend to see if they have anymore left. These seem like they will prove to be very useful to us. Especially, next year since our science stuff will involve tons of experiments, but I’ll have more on that later.

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Bad Morning
Here I sit
With my shoes mismated.
I's frustrated!

Langston Hughes
Some days you just have to admit that things aren't going to go the way you planned. Today was one of those days for us. Not a Terrible, Horrible, Rotten, No Good, Very Bad Day, but a day where one throws their hands up and says "Screw it there is always tomorrow".
Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Ah yes another change. Currently Child #1 is on a 1st/2nd grade reading level *when he actually tries to read*. He doesn’t always like to do it, and I can’t say I blame him. The selection for kids in that reading range isn’t very exciting. Of course the only way to get to the exciting stuff, is to wade through the not so exciting stuff. Over the summer we did two reading programs, both of which he thoroughly enjoyed. Mainly because, he got prizes after reading X-number of books or for an X-amount of time. I figured why not extend that to our everyday learning.

Now I’m not a big fan of the paying kids for grades thing that is sweeping parts of the US. Since I don’t see school as a job *or something a child must be paid to do in order to excel*, instead I see schooling as something far more complex. Where good grades are not the goal, but actual acquisition of the knowledge is. Hence our homeschooling, I do however think a little treat, something fun to work for, can get a non-interested reader started on path of unlimited possibilities.

Now how would our reading log be done? We will use a simple reading log printable off the web like one of *these*, and after ever ten books Child #1 will receive a sticker or a small piece of candy. Nothing outrageous or outlandish, no big screen TV *yes some student got a big screen for making straight A’s*, or flashy new gizmo. Just a sticker or piece of candy. Not much to most kids now-a-days I’m sure, but to our kids little things like that are awesome.

Now would I use this same method with grades later on down the road? No. Why? Because, we don’t do “grades”. As I stated previously, I feel education is about learning the material not about making good grades. Right now whenever Child #1 does something and hands it to me to check I go through it and if I notice something wrong like a misspelled word on a spelling test, or the wrong answer on a math problem I hand it back to him. I then instruct him to look over the problem again and double check his work, or if it is a spelling word I will say it again, making sure he listens closely *the majority of his spelling work right is heavily phonics based* We also keep a Language Arts binder with spelling rules in it so they are close at hand when he needs them.

I know I will have to keep “formal” grades once the boys get in the higher grades or if we move to somewhere that requires that. My plan for that are to take the initial grade and then the grade for the corrected work. I think that would be a far more accurate indication of what they can do then just the initial grade alone. Either way though they won’t get any cash from us for good grades. Now stickers and a piece of candy, well sweets do make the day brighter.

Now to go stock up on our sticker collection!

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

As part of my tweaking last week I redid our learning poster. I got the idea for a learning poster from Brightly Beaming Resources, but haven’t stuck to it very well. Hopefully with these changes I can actually stick to it. The poster was originally designed to go with Brightly Beaming’s Prep Curriculum, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I did like having a letter to focus on weekly, as well as the shape/color/number learning. I just needed to do it in a way that works for us.

So here is the original poster:

And here is the revised one:

I’ve gotten rid of the weekly theme, vocabulary word, and nursery rhyme. Instead of those we have our weekly poem, and our monthly virtue. Along with the virtue there is a weekly quote, the quote won’t always tie into the virtue, instead it would act more as food for thought. This learning poster will be for both boys to use as well *unlike the previous learning poster*.

I’ve dropped the letter of the week and have made a phonics section. It will feature a weekly letter for Child #2, but we will be focusing on the letter sound as well. I found these awesome phonics cards at our base bookstore. On the front they have the letter *upper and lower case* along with a picture of items that have that letter sound, then on the back there is a list of words with that sound as well.

For Child #1 I’m using the combination cards, which also feature words on the back that he has to read to me each day. To further help Child #2 learn the letter sounds and recognize words I’ve also added the words to a small dry erase board. He reads them with us every morning to help him hear the weekly sound in the words, and of course get a jump on the reading process.

I use to do this with Child #1 as well, we kept the small board on our front door, and before we left the house we would read the words. The words would either have the same letter sound or they would belong together some how *like family members, or rooms in a house, etc.*.

Also on the board is a math section. I’m going to alternate every week between numbers, colors, and shapes for Child #2. For Child #1 I made sheets with addition and subtraction facts on them, and he has to read a new sheet everyday.

So far the poster is working out great. The boys enjoy doing each piece, and Child #1 really loves reading the words with his brother. He gets to help his little brother learn while showing off what he is capable of doing, and while they are busy at work with their learning poster I can actually get breakfast cooked. It’s great!

Copyright(c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Well as I mentioned previously I have decided to use our break as a chance for me to make some changes/tweaks/etc. The first tweak I’ll discuss is our schedule. As I’ve shared previously we school for four days and then take three days off. We are also homeschooling on a year round schedule, which is a rather new development, but over the long haul it seems to make the most sense for us.

Originally, we schooled Monday-Thursday with Fridays being our field trip/social time. This year since we are taking part in a co-op opportunity with another homeschooling family we have switched to schooling Tuesday-Friday with Monday being our co-op/homeschool buddy/field trip/social time. It still allows us to have our four days on, three days off which I think is important, while still having the days be consecutive. Once our friends PCS we will more than likely go back to our Monday-Thursday schedule, since I prefer starting on a Monday. I count the Monday/Friday off day in our schooling, since we do usually do something school oriented as well. It just wouldn’t be our usual formal lessons.

Aside from that change around I have also been having to plot out school breaks. Our year round schedule starts in July and ends at the end of June/ first week of July. The actual cut-off date depends heavily on what day of the week the 4th of July falls on. That holiday will signify our last break before the new school year. It will be a week long and then we will start on that following Monday.

Instead of doing a six weeks on, one week off type of deal I have planned out breaks to coincide with birthdays and certain holidays. So we start back in July, then we would school through September/October, I still haven’t worked in a break for that time frame because I would love to do our biggest break/family vacation during that time period. Then we would take a week off in November for a birthday and Thanksgiving, then two weeks in December for winter holidays and the New Year. From there we would go until the last week of April and take two weeks of for Earth Day and the National Day of Reason. Lastly a week in June for a birthday, and then the week for the 4th of July.

That puts at 225 days in a school year, without the break in September/October. When we plot out that break it will knock a good 25 days or so off, bringing us to about 200 days in our school year. Which I think is fairly good compared to what our public/private school counterparts usually do in a school year. Getting into the habit of planning at least 200 days of schooling will also work well when we return to the states, since we could end up in a state that requires a certain number of days for schooling. This way we can ensure we always meet the minimum requirement for the state, regardless of what may happen throughout the year.

As far as our daily breakdown that isn’t changing. We will still do a morning meeting after breakfast, followed by outdoor time *weather pending*, language arts/phonics, break, lunch, quiet time, art/music (alternating), math/science (alternating), history/social studies (alternating). I am adding in 30minutes of Japanese language learning after our history/social studies time. Another small change will be the way we do our virtues learning.

At first I had planned to do a weekly virtue, with 52 virtues so we had one for every week of the year *regardless if we are on a school break or not*. That just seems too much to me though for their ages, so I’m cutting it back to one virtue for every month. Once they reach about 8/10 years old then we will convert it back to a weekly virtue. For now though I think it would be best if the spend some time over the course of a month doing virtues learning, so they can really learn it and not just have a ton of info thrown at them.

That’s pretty much it as far as our schedule goes. I’ve made other changes/tweaks in some other areas as well, and I’ll get to those later on in the week. For now I’m off to prep for Monday!

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Well we are in our second day of our week long break. I figured after 51 days of schooling it was time for some down time. We had originally planned for a much longer break to coincide with a family vacation, but due to some work stuff on The Spouse’s end we had to toss our plans in the trash. Such is life…or at least that is what I plan to tell myself. So instead of the pre-planned three week break that was suppose to run for most of October, we are just taking off this last week of September and starting October bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

I’m going to use this time to make some final changes to our schedule and the way we do things. We are committed to year round schooling *it makes the most sense to us and gives us the most flexibility*, so now I have to figure out exactly how breaks will work. I think I have a good idea down, and I’ll have more on it once I‘ve put on the final touches. I’ve also been looking at how we do science, and have come up with a plan that I think will serve us well in that area as well. Now it is just a matter of putting all the various elements I have been tweaking together to make one solid customized homeschool plan for our family.

With that, planning each year after this one should flow rather easily, since I will know what subjects we are covering and what materials I need to gather. We’ll have an idea as to when we need to plan family vacations, *at least on our end…plans are always subjective to change*. This is where our flexibility will come in, I can plan for x-amount of days in a certain month, but if things change then we will just pick up our lesson plans and keep going until we can take our extended break for family vacation.

I’ll have much more on our lesson/schedule plans/changes/tweaks later on in the week…or possibly weekend.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes

Also titled Teaching Religion.

*I should have posted this yesterday…better late than never though.*

Why would I want to teach my kids about religion? Why should anyone teach their children about religion? Let my first start by saying teaching your kids about religion and indoctrinating your kids into a religion are two different things.

Teaching them about various religions *including your own beliefs* means presenting them with the information on the various religions *actual, factual information about holy days, the belief system, how it got started, and so forth*. Indoctrinating is when you expect your children to unquestioningly accept your way of thinking, even if it means spreading myths about other belief systems *no Atheist don‘t worship the devil hate to break it to you folks!*.

Secular homeschooling had an article on teaching the bible for cultural literacy, but I think it needs to go beyond just the bible. In America we have non-believers, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, Mormons, Pagans, Scientologist *yes…I know…I know…* on top of the Christian population. Each with its own set of beliefs, way of operating, and so on. Now can we possibly give every single religion on this planet its own special bit of time, no, but we can make sure to acknowledge most of them and spend a good bit of time on the major ones.

Why though is it so important to discuss other religions? Well from this non-believers stand point it allows for the kids to see the parallels between many of the world’s big religions. This of course allows them to think critically about these belief systems, especially if approached by someone from one of those belief systems. Also by being well versed in the religious texts of the big religions they will have a firm grasp on books that have been used for centuries to justify various acts *good and bad* that have taken place. They can understand what drives many in those belief systems, and understand that they have the right to believe as they wish *even though we may not agree with them, and that we don’t have to respect beliefs that we deem harmful and hateful*.

Finally by being taught about religion they will be able to confidently state what it is they do and don’t believe. Instead of just repeating back what they think we want to hear, they will be able to look at everything and go “yes this makes sense to me, no this doesn’t make sense to me, yes I like that part, no I really despise that part”.

Do my kids currently repeat what they hear The Spouse and I say, of course they do, they are kids. We don’t take much stock in it, given their ages. We do use it as a chance to push them to further state why they feel the way they do. Is it because we said that or is it because they have reached that conclusion on their own. Child #2 really isn’t interested in discussing religion *or anything for that matter…but given his age that I don‘t expect him to be*, Child #1 though is at the age where he can start putting things together on his own. He is still too young for The Spouse and I to say whole heartedly that his beliefs are coming strictly from his own opinions, but it is a stepping stone to further critical thinking about religion.

So how do we go about teaching religion? Well a couple of years ago I started talking about other religious holidays that took place around the same time as Christmas. Each year we have grown more in what we discuss. Last year for our Hanukah discussion we lit a candle every night and read a traditional Jewish blessing, as well as talked more and more each evening about the history of Hanukah and some of the things Jewish families do around that time of year.

Then we read stories and enjoy traditional food items of that particular holiday. The rest of the holidays go the same way, recently we branched out from winter holidays, and discussed Mabon. Our Spiral Scouts activities help with discussing Pagan holidays because it actually makes me aware of all of them. At first I was apprehensive about how we should work on the Wheel of the Year patches, I have found they are working in great with our religious education work.

I also have plans to devote at least two years to full on religious studies. Where we will do a comprehensive study of the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. As well as minor studies *full reading of important religious text(s) but not on the in depth level of study as the other two* on Buddhism, Hinduism, UU, Mormonism, Paganism, and Scientology. From there we will look at how Catholicism differs from mainstream Christianity, and how religious views impact political views and visa versa.

This of course would be when the boys are closer to their teens, but I am looking forward to those two years because I have always found religion interesting. I plan for us to visit various houses of worship to observe and then discuss afterwards, and the boys will need to write a “term paper” *for lack of a better word* on what they learned, and how what they learned impacted their own set of beliefs, at the end of our in depth two year study of religion.

I think it would be safe to say that at that point The Spouse and I would see their beliefs as being based on their own experiences and not on just what we say. Thus ensuring that they beliefs are genuine to them and they are not just parroting their parents.

Yes secular homeschoolers have reasons other than religion for wanting to homeschool, but it *religion* is still an important topic that should be tackled right along with reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Copyright(c)2010 Rayven Holmes