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