This is where I try to pass on what little I know to a new generation of parent-educators, encouraging them as they teach their children, challenging them in their philosophies of education and choice of curricula, and inspiring them to innovation and creativity.

My greatest desire is for homeschool families to experience the joy of discovery, and for homeschooled children to be blessed with lifelong curiosity and a deep understanding of many subjects. My greatest concern is that the movement is too bureaucratic, too enamored of public school methods, and too commercialized. My greatest fear is that independent home education will die. Yet, my greatest hope is that home educators will come together in groups that focus on personal connection and instructional enrichment, rather than on creating school-like environments. My educational preferences are eclectic, (mostly) non-traditional, relational and unhurried, and rigorous of thought. My focus is primarily on homeschooling in Connecticut.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Living, Daring Confidence

The homeschool group with whom I volunteer had their Back-to-Homeschooling Picnic this past weekend (9/15/2012).  As part of the opening ceremony, I read the following before we broke for lunch.  I offer it to you, my readers, in the hope that it speaks to you wherever you are on your homeschooling journey.

In considering what to say for this devotion, really the first one I have ever done in all the years I have been part of CHOOSE CT (and I joined way back in 1995 when my daughter Katherine the Great was five years old;  she is now twenty-two), I thought it might be interesting to see what Luther had to say about education, since we are sitting in the outdoor sanctuary of a Lutheran church.

Having Googled "Luther on education," I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you, as home educators, do the same since the Father of the Reformation was an advocate for institutionalized education (in his day, of course, that meant parochial school).  In fact, in some of his writings, he said things like this:
"When schools flourish, all flourishes."
"...I hold that it is the duty of the temporal authority to compel its subjects to keep their children in school...For it is truly the duty of government to maintain the offices and estates that have been mentioned, so that there will always be preachers, jurists, pastors, writers, physicians, schoolmasters, and the like, for we cannot do without them."
And, perhaps harshest of all:
"The common people appear to be quite indifferent to the matter of maintaining the schools.  I see them withdrawing their children from instruction and turning them to the making of a living and to caring for their bellies.  Besides, they either will not or cannot think what a horrible and un-Christian business this is and what great and murderous harm they are doing everywhere in so serving the devil."
On the other hand, Martin Luther also said things like this:
"Parents shouldn't give up doing what is best for their children even when their children are ungrateful."
"But the greatest good in married life, which makes all suffering and labor worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him.  In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work..."
And, quite against his previous pronouncement about taking your children out of school:
"I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, and engraving them on the hearts of youth.  I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme.  Every institution in which men and women are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must be corrupt."
Given that last statement, I am not at all certain that Luther would denounce homeschooling out of hand today, especially if the Word of God was clearly taught and if he saw the current state of education in our country.  But whether a 16th century priest approved of it or not, more than a decade ago, my family decided to tackle home education, even when it seemed impossible at times and the school bus looked tempting.  We stepped out in faith daily, hoping that the Lord would finish what we started...and He a way that we could never have imagined.

But what does that daily faith look like?  When your toddler has emptied the Tupperware all over the kitchen floor for the umpteenth time while you are trying to finish a science experiment with your oldest child, what does that faith look like?  When the dishwasher starts leaking during a history lesson that should have been done a week or more ago, what does that faith look like?  When you answer the phone during "school hours" and, one by one, your children disappear to focus on anything but their assigned work, what does that faith look like?  Oftentimes, that daily faith-in-action eludes us, doesn't it?  Or at least it can feel that way.

Yet, Hebrews 11:1 reminds us:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I like Luther's paraphrase as well:
"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times."
May you all know that kind of faith this year as you teach your children.  Amen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shakespearean Fairy Tales

Over the past few days, this video has circulated amongst my friends on Facebook.  I think it is hilarious but, more than that, it is an example of what could be used as an assignment for an English class, especially if you were studying poetry or Shakespeare.  A couple of years ago, my homeschool group held a class where the high school kids read aloud Much Ado About Nothing.  If I were to repeat that class today, I would do a bit more work on understanding iambic pentameter and would probably ask the kids to rewrite a favorite fairy tale as if they were Shakespeare retelling the story.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Military Reading Lists

I am always on the lookout for reading lists, especially ones that 1) speak to the parents of young children to get them interested in books and 2) speak to high school students and adults to get them to think critically and expand their knowledge/understanding of a broad range of subjects.  Last week, I received a flyer from my local Navy Exchange.  In it was the latest ad for the Navy Professional Reading selections.  I have checked these lists before and have always found some great books here.  This time, while perusing the U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List, I found this:
Effective immediately, Commanding Generals and Commanding Officers are to incorporate the new lists into the command and unit professional military education programs.  Each Marine is required to read teh Commandant's Choice, First to Fight:  An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps by Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, USMC (Ret).  Each Marine shall also read a minimum of one book per grade per year.  I strongly encourage Marines to discuss and debate the issues raised by the books on this list to broaden their perspectives and benefit from the experiences of others.  These discussions, conducted professionally, should unite Marines of varying ranks by providing a common literary frame of reference.  Completion of this requirement shall be noted in the individual Marine's proficiency/conduct remarks or fitness report, as appropriate.  How a Marine demonstrates completion of the annual requirement is at the discretion of the command.
Did you catch that?  Each Marine has to read at least two books per year, one from their rank reading list and the Commandant's selection.  For a recruit, that amounts to 1004 pages across just three books.  That is not light reading.  Did you also catch that the completion or non-completion of this assignment is recorded in their professional service record?  I wonder if they get a reprieve from this requirement during combat tours.

Anyway, my purpose in posting this resource is to give the parents of high school students some ideas for books that they may wish to have their children read.  To access all the military professional reading lists, visit the National Defense University Library Professional Military Reading List.  To read any individual list, just use one of the links below.  A quick note:  these lists contain more than just military strategy books.  They also include some classics like 1984 by George Orwell and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.  Enjoy!

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Professional Reading List
U.S. Navy Professional Reading List
U.S. Marine Corps Reading List
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Reading List
Coast Guard Commandant Reading List
Joint Forces Staff College Commandant Professional Reading List

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Titus Brigade

A few weeks ago, a homeschool friend sent some information to me about a new mentoring effort within the homeschooling movement.  Since I am a veteran homeschool mom who still volunteers in my local homeschool community, she thought I might be interested (which I am).  The following is from the website of Mary Hood, Archers for the Lord®:
The Titus Brigade is our new mentoring program.  We are hoping to encourage older, experienced homeschooling mothers and ex-homeschooling mothers to act as mentors to younger, less experienced moms.

- snip -

Please help us get the word out about this program.  We're hoping it will grow into a national movement!  New homeschoolers are being barraged with curriculum choices and urged to tie into formal, accredited programs.  They need to be reminded of other choices, and that they can do a good job on their own in a relaxed, family-oriented environment.
I am interested in learning more about this program, possibly to provide a way (through my local homeschool support group) for the veteran homeschool moms in my area to help the younger generation tackle the challenges of home education so that everyone, parents and children alike, enjoy the journey while cultivating a deep desire to understand many different subjects and while learning many different skills and abilities, and doing this on a timeline that fits your family.  If you, too, are a veteran homeschool mom who wants to minister to homeschoolers in your locale, visit Archers for the Lord®.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. --- Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)

Note:  No compensation was received for promoting this program.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Neighborhood Fungus

Photo by Plush Duck

For several weeks, the Japanese maple tree across the street from our house has been sporting this interesting shelf fungus.  My daughter was the first to notice it;  today, I inquired about taking a photo. This is one of those natural phenomena that, if accessible for investigation and discovery, provides a wonderful opportunity for children to learn more.  Here are some study ideas for making the most of a neighborhood fungus:

1.  Take several photos, like the one here.  Get as many close-ups as you can to collect as much identifying data as possible.  You can use the photos themselves for a photography project, while the information about the fungus can be used to direct your research, helping to learn as much as possible (age appropriately, of course) about the particular specimen under investigation.

2.  If you don't have a camera with you, make a sketch of the fungus.  You can use the illustration itself as an art project, or the drawing can serve as an accompaniment to any reports you write or presentations you create.

3.  If you can, take samples of the fungus.  Look at it under a microscope to observe cell structure, etc.  Make a drawing of what you see.  If applicable or desired, color your illustration.

4.  Using the Internet or library books, try to identify the fungus.  If you are having trouble with this task, contact your local nature center for help.  Two useful online resources in this area:
The latter site contains an entire section on studying mushrooms.

5.  If, in the process of identification, it becomes obvious that the mushroom is edible, take the samples you collected and cook them or eat them raw.  Record how you prepare them and what they taste like.

Warning:  I would have this step in the identification process completed by a professional mycologist as some mushrooms can be dangerous.  Shelf fungus, like the one pictured here, are generally NOT edible.

6.  Write about your investigation and discovery results in a journal.

7.  Make a spore print.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Angel by older students
Today, while Katherine the Great (my daughter) was at choir practice, my husband and I trekked over to Home Depot to investigate supplies for creating chalkboards.  Our homeschool support group is having a Curiosity Class on Tuesday;  topic:  Sidewalk Chalk Art.  The plan is to divide the kids into two groups by age, Kindergarten through twelve years old and teens.  Each group will work together to create a chalk "painting" that will use some basic concepts illustrated by a classic piece of artwork.  For example, the older children may work on learning some of the skills used by Monet in his water lily paintings, while the younger set may work on re-creating a Mondrian with his bright blocks of color.  I do not know exactly what the art teacher has in mind, but she has done some wonderful things with the kids in the past.

Artwork by younger children
To create our chalkboards, King Richard (my husband) purchased five 2'x4' pieces of 1/4" birch plywood and spray painted them with chalkboard paint.  Four of the boards will be used for the group project.  Two boards will be pushed together to create a 4'x4' drawing space.  The fifth board will be cut into smaller pieces so the preschool age kids can doodle on them while their older siblings enjoy their class.  Hopefully, I will have some photos of the finished art projects.

Photos added September 29, 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Favorite Books for Young Children

Back in August 2006, I wrote this post for Gooseberry Lane, my other blog.  Since deciding to create a separate blog for my homeschooling articles, I have been culling through my archived posts.  Tonight, I found this one and thought I would share it here.  Frankly, I just might go back and read some of these books myself.  Seeing the world through a child's eyes makes for a great perspective check once in a while.
Yesterday evening, my family and I watched Nanny McPhee, a recent film starring Emma Thompson and Colin Firth. Based on the “Nurse Matilda” books by Christianna Brand, which I have never read, the film brought to mind a few books for children that I have read and that my daughter very much enjoyed during her early childhood years. Most of these recommendations are for children ages 3-8, but can be read aloud to those somewhat younger as well. I heartily encourage daily read-aloud time for all families in order to encourage listening skills, to establish the habit of reading, and to instill a love of literature in children. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did (and do!).

Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Calico the Wonder Horse by Virginia Lee Burton
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Verdi by Janell Cannon
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Come Again, Pelican by Don Freeman
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin & Maurice Sendak
What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin & Maurice Sendak
Alphabeasts by Dick King-Smith
Frederick by Leo Lionni
Let’s Make Rabbits by Leo Lionni
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. & John Archambault
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
The Hole Book by Peter Newell
The Slant Book by Peter Newell
Topsys & Turvys by Peter Newell
Topsys & Turvys 2 by Peter Newell
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco
The Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi
Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak
Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
Pierre by Maurice Sendak
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Snuggle Piggy and the Magic Blanket by Michele Stepto
Gooseberry Lane by Bethany Tudor
The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber
Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood
Piggies by Audrey & Don Wood
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion & Margaret Bloy Graham