Friday, June 29, 2007

Year in Review: Duncan

June 29, 2007

We’ve been on break for a month now and I’m only just getting around to review our year. June has not exactly been a vacation month!

Duncan’s kindergarten year was splendid. He turned out to be a surprisingly diligent student and extremely, well, smart. I’m not surprised that he’s smart, it’s just that he’s always been more interested in, well, candy.

Math with Horizons K was a breeze for him. I’d not used Horizons before and was very happy with it. We’d used Saxon 1 with Laurel for kindergarten, which was also fine. (Jesse was in public school for kindergarten.) Horizons is colorful and inexpensive, so that worked for us. After using Singapore, Saxon, Wal-mart workbooks, and Horizons, I can say that they are all quite similar for these workbook type programs (as opposed to MathUSee or Making Math Meaningful, etc). Saxon is by far the most expensive at this level. On the agenda for next year: Saxon 2, simply because we have it already. If I were going to buy a new book, I’d probably continue with Horizons.

Of course reading was our primary focus this year. I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, as I did with Laurel. I love the simplicity of this book. I’m sure my kids would have loved a bells-and-whistles program like Sing, Spell, Read, Write, but 100 Easy Lessons has served us well. By Lesson 75 Duncan was reading admirably, and we skimmed the last 25 lessons. We also added the Leap Frog DVD series that includes Letter Factory, Math Circus, Talking Words Factory, and Story Book Factory. Duncan loves TV, so this series really spoke his love language. I saw huge progress after he began watching these; in fact, I would consider them pivotal to his really grasping reading!
This summer he is reading Hop on Pop-type books successfully, so I look forward to hearing his progress. On the agenda for next year: Explode the Code 1-3 and First Language Lessons. Explode the Code will take him to the next level of phonics awareness. First Language Lessons is my pick for best language arts (grammar, comprehension, memorization) in the primary level. Of course he’ll continue reading aloud to us each day.

For history we half-heartedly did Sonlight K. We read and loved all the books, some of the Children’s Encyclopedia, and some Hero tales. Honestly I had so much reading to do with Jesse and Laurel’s Sonlight that Duncan’s history was most often vicarious. On the agenda for next year: American History with Duncan and Laurel together, using some Sonlight Core 3 and lots of extras.

For handwriting we used A Reason for Writing. My kids have always enjoyed coloring the pictures that go along with the lesson. One year we used Getty-Dubay Italics program with Laurel and once Rod and Staff for Jesse, but we’ve always gone back to A Reason for Writing. As a combo reading/writing enrichment, I also had Duncan copy Dolch words. On the agenda for next year: I picked up a $1 first- grade handwriting book at McKays, so I’ll plan to use that instead of buying a new Reason for Writing. We’ll also continue with the Dolch words exercise.

Science was all natural this year. Insects, occasional kitchen experiments, walks in the mountains. We also did a botany lapbook from In the Hands of a Child. I had to take this down several levels for Duncan, but he enjoyed it. On the agenda for next year: we’ll do some experiments from some of our Usborne Science experiments books and do nature studies more seriously. He’ll be ready to have his own nature notebook.

We are blessed to have a fabulous enrichment class program through our support group. First and second session Duncan took Hands-on Math, which included everything from tangrams to estimation to measuring and much more. It was a great supplement to his regular math program. He also took Spanish. He learned a lot in the class and enjoyed it some, but we opted out of taking it second session. Other classes included: Dr. Suess books; Book Cooks (the kids prepare a no-cook item that correlates with a book they’ve read); Bible Super Heroes; Ocean Life; and Patriot unit study. He loves enrichment classes and still asks on Mondays if it’s Monday Funday. On the agenda for next year: the enrichment class schedule isn’t out yet, but he’s up for anything.

Duncan is probably most excited about getting to be a Cub Scout next year. He attended twilight camp a couple of weeks ago and is chomping at the bit to buy a Cub Scout shirt. He’ll continue with Upwards Soccer in the fall, and possibly join Laurel in swim practice of that works out.

All in all, kindergarten was wonderful. I wasn’t expecting Duncan, the original looking-for-a-party guy, to be such an eager student. Surprises like that are always pleasant.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What He Said

June 27, 2007

I'm glad Dr. H. blogged about all the gory details of our van disaster, so that I don't have to. As I told folks last night, "Don't ask me about the van. We're in denial." So I'll focus instead on the actual camping trip, which was the whole point of the weekend. And I must add that, although our van breaking down in inconvenient and costly, I am amazed at how God provided for us: by the location of our breakdown (right outside the campground entrance), by our amazing friends, and by Randy's summer paycheck coming in just a couple of days. And so, back to denial and to our camping trip:

The spot we like at Smokemont Campground in the Carolina side of the Smokies is right by the river.

But before river play comes camp organization, including putting up the tents. Watching three teenage boys (two of whom are Boy Scouts) putting up a tent resembles an episode of The Three Stooges. They did get their tent up, eventually.

Duncan and Emily can have fun anywhere. Here they are making the best of having to wait for the rest of the tubes to get air.

Now these four are ready to head to the river...

And this is what the youngest 4 campers spent most of the day doing: tubing down a short rapid in the frigid refreshing mountain river.

Here are Duncan and Emily discussing the fine art of navigating the rapids...

When they weren't swimming, they had card games and board games to play, and Duncan and Emily always invent their own mysterious games.

All that fresh air and cold water wears out both man and beast. And what were the three teenaged boys doing all this time? Mostly they took very long walks, ate Slim Jims and poptarts, and listened to their iPods.

We broke camp Monday at noon and had a little time to kill before heading to the repair shop in Cherokee to check on our van, so we stopped in at the Oconaluftee Visitors' Center a few miles outside the campground.

The kids enjoyed a brief walk around the pioneer homestead exhibit (brief because it was hot and they've been there before).

We were all weary to the bone by this time, and Duncan and Laurel were asleep by the time we got to the car repair shop in Cherokee, just a few minutes later. Since we were only there long enough to hear the words "rebuild the transmission," they kept on sleeping half the way home.

And it is always good to be home. I'm nearly done with the laundry and am restoring some semblance of order to our home. The kids are somewhat recuperating, although Laurel's late swim meet last night (we left the pool at 10:15 p.m.) will probably result in some grumpy children today. That's always the downside of a camping weekend: the load of laundry and the days of recuperating on the other end. Oh yeah, and that van sitting somewhere at the casinos...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Do People Honk Their Horns in Tunnels?

June 25, 2007

That is one of those things I just don't get. We went through about a half-dozen short tunnels in the past 48-hours, and invariably, horns are honking all the way through. What Randy says is, "They like to hear the echo." That explains nothing to me. Please don't honk your horn in tunnels. It makes no sense, and you are probably waking up a sleeping child who is exhausted from a weekend of camping and being the Original G-Man, and who has walked 1 mile to get from his family's broken down van to their camping spot. Yeah, but that's a good story for another day. 'Cause I might as well blog all day tomorrow since I won't be GOING anywhere since the van is 2-hours away at a casino repair-shop in Cherokee, NC. And, hey. Have I mentioned lately how much I love our village people?

Friday, June 22, 2007

And now we return to our regularly scheduled summer...

June 22, 2007

This has been THE WEEK--that week that is so completely packed with activities that our heads are spinning like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. And not just run-of-the-mill activities: this week has been American Heritage Girls camp for us and Cub Scouts camp for the boys. What that translates to is this:

For the past 2 weeks, Caroline and I, as the troop's chairwomen, have logged 44 volunteer hours in planning for and implementing AHG camp. We had lots of help, of course. We couldn't have done it without our 7th-12th grade Pioneers and Patriots, who also spent hours planning and then served as camp leaders at our Monday-Wednesday camp.

These girls were phenomenal, all 15 of them. In this photo, they are about to shout with joy because this was the closing ceremony--the very last activity-- at camp. They are teaching the girls the hand motions to "Day Is Done."

And these two moms, BrownSugar and Kelly, were so unbelievable. Not only did they work through the entire planning process with the girls, but they worked in the kitchen during camp so that no one got scorched or poisoned. Plus, they're just really fun and make us laugh all the time.

We had 55 campers plus 15 girl leaders and 8 moms helping out. The focus of the week was our Native American badge. On Monday the girls played various games; made pottery and beads, popcorn balls, sandart; learned Native American sign language and symbols; and heard some stories.

On Tuesday we went to two local museums that are treasures of Cherokee information: Ft. Loudoun and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. In the photo above, the girls are waiting to get inside this replica of a Cherokee home.

We started off Wednesday with a fabulous presentation by one of our AHG families (above). Mr. Montoya is a Hopi, and he regaled the girls with tales of growing up on the reservation. His sons (Desmond is shown above) told us about their naming ceremony and showed us other family treasures. Our little AHG girl, Lenora, is in the back in full costume (which she promptly ripped off when their talk was over). After the Montoya's talk, our girls had another full day of games, activities, crafts, stories, food, and history.

I think they all had a great time. We have an amazing group of girls, and they are delightful to work with. So, while all this was going on during the day, Duncan was hanging out with various friends. He was exhausted by Wednesday, but not too tired to enjoy swimming with the PartyofFive family.

And I'm sorry to say that, on two of these days, Jesse was at home, sleeping late and then fighting boredom. He had a great day Tuesday celebrating Son2Dad2Three's birthday, but other than that...he suffered some long mornings.

Photo by Lynn Freeny

Photo by Lynn Freeny

But his evenings were probably even longer. Not only did Randy and Duncan go to Cub Scout camp, but Jesse also went as volunteer staff. This Twilight Camp runs from 6-9 each evening and is confirmed by all to be absolute chaos with 200 campers in a mass state of disorganization.

Photo by Donna Williams

Nonetheless, Duncan is having a blast. Because he's pretty much happy wherever he goes and finds a friend. And so, at the end of a long week, we have a weekend of camping with friends to look forward to. Laurel and I are about to head out for a grocery-shopping trip while the boys are at their last night of camp, and tomorrow, we'll head for the mountains. There is absolutely nothing like a campfire, a river, friends, and mountains to restore one's sense of balance and peace.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wedding Songs

June 21, 2007

So last week Dr. H blogged about movies he's watched recently, including the Neil Young concert. Toward the end, Neil played "Comes a Time," and I said, "Hey! That was one of our wedding songs!" And then I thought to myself, we are probably the only people in the U.S. who had that song as our recessional. Maybe ever. Probably even Neil Young didn't use it in his wedding. Of course we were somewhat young and very wacky when we got married, but looking back on the lyrics, I think I would still include this song in our wedding:

Comes a time
when you're driftin'
Comes a time
when you settle down
Comes a light
feelin's liftin'
Lift that baby
right up off the ground.

Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It's a wonder tall trees
ain't layin' down
There comes a time.

You and I we were captured
We took our souls
and we flew away
We were right
we were giving
That's how we kept
what we gave away.

Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It's a wonder tall trees
ain't layin' down
There comes a time.

I will have to think about who will sing that when we renew our vows sometime on a mountaintop. In autumn. Perhaps Jesse will play guitar.

And so then I had to remember our other wedding songs. Before I walked down the aisle, it was Simon and Garfunkel's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her":

What a dream I had
Pressed in organdy
Clothed in crinoline
Of smoky burgundy
Softer than the rain

I wandered empty streets down
Past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
Tripping down the alleyways
As I walked on

And when you ran to me
Your cheeks flushed with the night
We walked on frosted fields
Of juniper and lamplight
I held your hand

And when I awoke
And felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair
With my grateful tears
Oh I love you, girl
Oh I love you

And as special music in the middle, I think when we were lighting our candles, was Gene Cotton's "Forever and a Day." This particular song was a "village" tradition: we all swore to use it in our weddings.At least a few of us did, but the tradition eventually died out. The lyrics are beautiful, but I can't find them online and I surely can't remember them.

I think that most people pick more traditional songs than we did. I'm glad I didn't know that then because, even now, I'm not sure I'd change a thing. Our wedding songs reflected who we were then and who we were to become. We chose them very carefully, as each song had a story behind it for us. And so even if we are the only people in America who had "Comes a Time" at their wedding, that's OK. I'd do it all over again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Love My Village

June 18, 2007

The African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" has become a phrase that makes many shudder merely by association since Hilary Clinton's book came out a decade ago. This is not a forum to debate the book or her definition of "village" because 1) this wasn't her proverb in the first place, and 2) her village isn't my village. And because, well, I love my village. My village isn't raising my children, but my village makes raising children easier and a whole lot of fun.

Our village consists almost entirely of our homeschooling friends and, from November-April, my parents. In my village, we figure out who has to go where, and when, and how we can best work this out. In my village, just today, my youngest went to another villager's house to play during our AHG camp, because that made them both happy. And I was at ease, knowing he was safe. I have one villager's daughter here with us over the next two days and nights because that makes life easier for that family. And my youngest is spending the next two nights with two other families because that makes life easier for me. And my oldest will get to hang out with another family tomorrow so that he doesn't have to spend the day by himself. And another villager's son is spending the whole week split between two other villagers. And rides here and there--I can't even keep track of all the times we hitch rides with other villagers or they hitch rides with us.

In my village, the dads recognize that sometimes moms need an hour-long phone conversation, a night at Panera and a good book. In my village, we sit by the pool on summer evenings watching our kids swim. In my village, we camp and explore new places and sometimes meet new friends who come all the way from another country to be part of our village. In my village, we talk about curriculum and activities and where to shop for those really cute shirts, while our kids play. In my village, we keep an eye on each other's teenagers and don't hesitate to share concerns. In my village, we pray for each other.

In my village, I know that I have a network of loving families who will, at a moment's notice, be there for our family in whatever way they are needed. I pray that my children will feel the comfort and security of being surrounded not only by our family, but by this solid group of families that truly care for and love them. This is a treasure well worth cherishing, nurturing, and preserving.


Monday, June 18, 2007 - THAT is a village.

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

We have talked about this many times - how blessed y'all are in Blount.
We so often feel like an island.
There are other islands around too, but not many bridges.
We were talking just the other night... "do you think life really would be different in TN?" I said yes - because of the village you have there.
Kristina just read some parts from Crunchy Cons to me (while I was working on the bathroom) that speaks of the importance of the village:

'... the Lawlers relocated their large family from Boston to rural central Massachusetts, and settled around an abbey, which they knew they could make the center of their family's spiritual life. Seven or eight other orthodox Catholic families, all involved in the same schooling method, joined them. Their little community celebrates holidays together, and supports each other through the ups and downs of daily life... if you don't find some kind of community to be a part of, being a countercultural family is almost impossible.'

While I don't think that we need to become orthodox Catholics and move near an abbey, this illustrates how important it is to have a village. Homeschooling is countercultural. Heck, being married to one of the opposite sex and having a family is countercultural. Why does the village our family wants to be a part of have to be in another country?
Does anyone down there in TN want to sponsor us?

(sorry to make my comment almost as long as you blog entry)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - LOL'd have lots of sponsors down here!

Posted by eclecticityTia (

Sarah said it perfectly...that "village" phrase has come to mind often, especially as we sit here contemplating a major life change move when here we have exactly what we've prayed for for years and years....a community! I don't see how we could leave it, nor how we could really do anything but move back closer to it.

Crunchy Cons is a great book some ways just "preaching to the choir" for us and in others, very redefining.

My kiddos are at camps in Maryville because of their "village" today; not just because that made it easier for us but because without that village, their attendance would have been impossible! Our village changes our lives for the better over and over again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - I have to say..

Posted by partyoffive (

I love being a part of your village...and can't wait to have Duncan with us tonight!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - transitions

Posted by DrHibiscus (

Back in college we had a village too. It was a very different village because we all had different interests and priorities than we do now, but it was a village nonetheless. It was a tight-knit group of friends who shared much and looked out for each other. I remember the shock of moving away from that village and being sad thinking that we would never have it again. And for many years in Ohio and Iowa we did not. But now it's back, and in a much fuller and more mature way. Our interests and priorities have changed, but we've found a village that shares many of those interests and priorities, and that makes our whole life much richer. I'm sure that people can live very happy lives without a village, but I'm really glad we don't have to. So to all of you "villagers" out there, thanks.

Hey - maybe we should call ourselves "the village people" :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - The Village

Posted by LaDonna (

I so TOTALLY love Dr. H's idea of calling it "The Village People!!" I say let's bring up the name change next Monday night!!!! :)


Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - We can only be THE VILLAGE PEOPLE if ...

Posted by Dad2Three (

I get to be the Indian, Randy gets to be the leather-clad biker guy (WITH the HUGE mustache) and Tim Richardson gets to be cowboy.


Permanent Link Edit Delete

Thursday, June 21, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by StillHisGirl (

You ARE incredibly blessed in your village! I know lots of people in my city/church who homeschool, but a village we're not. My village is made up of other friends and neighbors, but we don't have the homeschooling factor in common, which sometimes is hard. Thank God every day for what you have!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by ApplesofGold (

Your village sounds wonderful!! I love feeling like a part of a community with the HS families that we are close with, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Moccasin Overloada

June 16, 2007

I am seriously going to go into convulsions if I have to look at one more book or website about Native American crafts, food, games, or history. We've been preparing for our American Heritage Girl's summer day camp for several weeks now. (The badge focus, of course, is Native American.) Our 7th-12th grade girls, who will actually lead the camp, have done an awesome job with preparations; however, there are many, many odds and ends that Caroline and I have to do to be completely prepared. Camp starts bright and early Monday morning and ends Wednesday. This week we've spent 3-5 hours per day cutting, glueing, researching, making copies, writing, shopping, organizing, punching holes, etc. etc. etc. My eyes are about to pop out of my head. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The younger kids are at loose ends today. We had a late night with dinner guests, and they had a busy week with sleepovers (Laurel), Super Hero camp (Duncan), and their regular swimming practice. I did take some time out today to do a craft with Duncan (below).

I love Usborne's series that includes I Can Cut and Stick. This was one of the first Usborne Books I ever bought, and when I became a consultant, I acquired the rest of the series. I gave up selling years ago, but Donna would be happy to help anyone who is looking for Usborne! I Can Cut and Stick was always my favorite of the series because the projects are so simple but yield fabulous results. Duncan was thrilled with this 20 minute project.

But as usual, I digress. It's back to a couple more hours of camp preparation and then a relaxing evening with my family, who think I have gone AWOL. Oh, and the most awesome Native American book we have found is called More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life. I highly recommend it for any Native American or American History study. It's packed full of crafts, food, games, toys, and other easy projects.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Memory: Little River Girl

June 11, 2007

Our screensaver is like a constant "Monday Memory" in that it's set to have photos rotate every second or so. Yesterday I blogged briefly about our day by the river and today this flashed by on the screensaver. Laurel is close to 4 here.

And here she is yesterday, roughly 6 years later. She still has little girl in her for sure, although she's lost that rounded, baby look. She is made now of sleek and slender muscles, her swimming shoulders taking a more distinct form each year. I am happy that she still splashes about and giggles, clinging to rocks and grabbing onto her Daddy for help. She blesses me every day with her gracious smile and gentle ways.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

By the River

June 10, 2007

The best thing to do on a Sunday if you were dis-invited from eating birthday cake is to go to the mountains. Do we really live just 20 minutes from this amazing place? I will never grow tired of this place. We spend a lovely afternoon near Tremont at a quiet spot on the river. Duncan and Laurel enjoyed a natural water slide while the rest of us soaked in the kind of peace that you can only find when surrounded by rhododendron thickets on the banks of a mountain river. More about the rest of our week here at my Project 365 blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kindergarten, In Other Words

June 7, 2007

I think it’s fun to translate edu-speak into life at home. When I was in college, I certified to teach at the secondary level. I had to take all kinds of education courses, of course (but not nearly as many as primary school teachers). I was in a state of perpetual confusion (no comments, please), because I remember always thinking, “Why do education professionals have to come up with complicated terms for simple things?”

Just out of curiousity, I was scouting around to see the scope and sequences listed in various school systems. These excerpts of one from a Connecticut school seem fairly universal but put plainer than many. I was not surprised to see that Duncan has, in simple terms, passed kindergarten...

Through aesthetic experiences and hands-on activities, both two-dimensional and three dimensional, which emphasize perception and sensitivity, art production, art history, art criticism and appreciation, students gain heightened self-awareness and an important body of knowledge. The fundamentals are taught through the use of mixed media, painting and printing techniques along with the exploration of simple clay and construction projects. Fine motor skills are strengthened along with listening, problem-solving and socialization skills…. Children develop their visual and tactile abilities as they produce works in various media in response to varied stimuli. …
As youngsters learn that art is enjoyable and each child’s work is unique, they become aware of the positive aspects of criticism and learn to value art. …

In other words…
Duncan loves art. He knows all his colors, including Macaroni and Cheese. He can cut, glue, staple, make cool stuff with play-dough, paint, color, draw, make all kinds of two- and three-dimensional creations using his imagination and our box of inventing supplies. He likes his artwork. He wants it to be hung on the bulletin board. He appreciates his siblings’ artwork, as well. He definitely values art.

The Technology Applications Curriculum has four strands: Foundations, Information Acquisition, work in Solving Problems and Communication. The Foundations Strand addresses use of technology related vocabulary, concepts and strategies. The Information Acquisition Strand includes the identification of task requirements; the plan for using search strategies and the use of technology to access, analyze and evaluate the acquired information. The Solving Problems Strand involves students in individual and group tasks that require them to select the technology appropriate to the task, synthesize knowledge, create a solution and evaluate the results. The Communications Strand includes tasks that require students to make appropriate selections of formats and use the tools to communicate information to diverse audiences. Students will have opportunities through a variety of assured experiences integrated into the daily exploration of curriculum topics to apply and practice these skills. …

In other words….Duncan loves the computer. He does all kinds of stuff on it. He knows how to insert and eject a CDROM, find a few approved websites, and type his name. He even has a blog. The computer is just part of our everyday life, and someone is almost always on it!

Students will learn safety rules to be followed in the classroom, on the playground, in a car and on the bus. They will learn about potentially hazardous situations at home and school and the procedures to follow in the event an emergency does occur. … The importance of eating a good breakfast will be emphasized and youngsters will identify nutritious snacks. Many areas of human growth and development will be explored including dental hygiene, personal grooming and how the body changes as one grows. Children will discuss different kinds of families, how families change and how families work together. In discussions about basic feelings, youngsters will learn how people affect other people’s feelings. Children will describe feelings and discover healthy ways to handle their feelings. Children learn about the helpful and harmful effects of drugs. …Children talk about characteristics of colds and ways to prevent them as well as identifying other contagious diseases (e.g. AIDS) and non-contagious diseases. In accordance with State Statutes (C.G.S. 10-16e and P.A. 88-112), parents who wish to exempt their children from AIDS or Family Life Education can do so by submitting a written request to their building principal. However, it is our strong recommendation that all students receive this education.

In other words….Duncan knows that gaping wounds require stitches, smaller ones require band-aids. He tries to stay out of poison ivy. He doesn’t tease dogs. He blows his nose and covers his mouth when he coughs, usually. He knows that when he puts his fingers in his mouth and nose, that he might be inserting the germs of some really gross kid who also picked his nose. He washes his hands when we come back from Walmart. He usually washes his hands after he uses the bathroom and before we eat. He doesn’t know anything about AIDS. We didn’t have to submit a written request to the building principal. And he knows about how families work together.

Language Arts
Our goal is to have students become life-long readers who use language effectively for communication, learning, and enjoyment. Our program provides many opportunities throughout the day for students to self-select books, to reflect and interact with print through personal response, and to discuss literature with the teacher and with one another. …Westport’s approach includes a wide range of fiction and nonfiction material from all subject areas. This allows students to read for enjoyment as well as to increase their background knowledge needed to read new texts.…

In other words…
Duncan loves books. He loves to thumb through books that he “self-selects.” He loves to be read to. He thinks about books and talks about them. He looks forward with great joy to his bedtime reading with Daddy. He is making huge progress with his own reading, and sounds out billboards, which isn't always a good thing.

The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that teachers and students are effective users of information and ideas. … The library media curriculum works best when it is integrated with the classroom curriculum. To this end, teachers and library media specialists are encouraged to collaborate and students use the library at all times during the day as well as during regularly scheduled classes.

In other words…Duncan's been a library regular since infancy. We go to the library most weeks. We hang out, check out books, play on the computer. We try to remember to bring our books back on time. And in case we run out of library books, we have our own home library, with bookshelves in every room.

In kindergarten, mathematics is usually viewed not as a separate subject, but as an integral part of daily activities. Number sense and numeration are developed through constant counting, starting with attendance and carrying through with the interpretation of graph data. … Children look for patterns throughout the day whether it is through a science investigation with leaves or the recognition of changing shapes and colors. As children have more experience with sorting and classifying, they start to notice similarities and differences in things around them and patterns appear everywhere. … Pattern blocks, geoboards, tangrams and other building materials provide rich experience in developing spatial awareness and an understanding of geometry. Throughout all of the specific skill strands, we emphasize thinking skills as children solve problems which arise naturally throughout the day. The children are encouraged to use mathematical language to communicate their thinking and to explain their reasoning. In all activities, we hope to help children gain confidence in their own mathematical abilities.

In other words…Math happens everywhere in our home. Sometimes through a math workbook, more often through dividing a bag of M&Ms into equal parts among three siblings. A quarter is more than a penny, but pennies are nice, too. You need 2 quarters to buy a gangsta necklace from the candy machines at Walmart.

Music Education should provide the opportunity for students to perform, create, and respond to music. Through singing, playing instruments, moving and creating music, students will acquire musical skills and knowledge. Learning to read and notate music allows students to explore music independently and with others. The study of music develops self-awareness through aesthetic experiences. It develops an appreciation for the students’ own history and cultural heritage and that of the global society.

In other words…music is everywhere. Folk, rock, Americana, country, heavy metal, classical--everyone in our family has different tastes in music, and some kind of music is often playing in some room. Playing the recorder in one’s sister’s ear is annoying. Duncan dreams of playing the drums and a black electric guitar.

Physical Education
Physical education is an integral part of the general education program that significantly contributes to the total growth and development of each student, primarily through movement experiences. It is unique because it provides a balance of activities that reflect and challenge the divergent needs of students in the psychomotor, cognitive and affective domains. … Students are provided the opportunity to experience personal success, develop self-esteem, promote respect for others and acquire interpersonal skills. As physical educator we are committed to guiding our students to making healthy lifestyle decisions.

In other words…Duncan can run, jump, skip, and hop. He can swim, play soccer and catch a ball. He can ride a scooter and pedal a bike. He can hike on a trail and climb rocks in the mountains. He knows that being outside is much healthier than watching TV.

The kindergarten curriculum offers many opportunities for students to become more aware of their senses and to use them to observe the world around them. By observing the patterns of seasonal changes, students will begin to understand the important concepts of change and continuity that allows scientists to interpret the past and sometimes predict future events. Humans and many other animals use their senses to gather information about the world. Students will identify their senses and use them throughout the year to make observations. A key concept is that people can often learn about things around them by making careful observations.

In other words…
Duncan watches the clouds and comments on a beautiful sunset. He collects fall leaves and jumps into piles of them. He observes ants, snakes, and other critters. He helps me plant and care for flowers. He discusses seeds and growing. He mixes together substances just to see what will happen. He experiments with magnets, trying to see what all he can attach. He observes his big brother doing all kinds of interesting experiments...

Social Studies
Kindergarten social studies seeks to bring about a child's understanding of being an individual, a unique and valuable person; that each person is among many with similarities and differences. … Individuals develop unique identities that are determined by physical characteristics, talents and abilities, likes and dislikes, and feelings and attitudes. Individuals are members of a family with special relationships that might include mother/father, sister/brother, grandmother/grandfather, aunt/uncle niece/nephew, cousin, etc.

In other words… Duncan knows, by virtue of being in our family, that he is “a unique and valuable person.” He has friends of all shapes, sizes, and colors. He spends copious amounts of time with family members, including his grandparents. He has a strong sense of community.

The excerpts from the Westport school are about 1/16th of the actual requirements given for each subject. What struck me most is that all these rules, all these guidelines---it's just natural living. Developing one's unique identify. Learning to color. Observing the world around us. Going to the library. Interacting with people of all ages. It's just life, and I'm glad to have all my kids at home to help them navigate this journey--and to travel gladly with them.

Post A Comment!.....


Thursday, June 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

I am convinced that all of the fancy words and long-winded explanations are designed to impress and make you think that they know stuff.
If they put it all in simple terms, as you did so well, people might think, "Hey, I can do that... I'm going to homeschool."
This happens in construction all the time. The consultants put together big, thick binders with lots & lots of specifications that often have nothing to do with the project. They just pull together old specs and bind it up to make it look like they need to get paid lots for all of the work they did. They must get paid by the pound.

I like that Duncan knows that it is slightly more important to wash your hands when you come home from Walmart than it is to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. At least when you go to the bathroom, you know where your hands have been!

One more thing... We find that Math & Library go hand in hand. Paying late fines is one way we like to support our local library!

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Thursday, June 7, 2007 - hey ...

Posted by onfire (

you are really brilliant, you know that?

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Friday, June 8, 2007 - And just yesterday....

Posted by eclecticityTia (

I had a nurse tell me a the doc's office that it made no sense to her why anyone would homeschool until at least middle school, "because you need the schools to teach them all that basic stuff first".

Yeah....okay. Excellent post. :-)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (

I absolutely love this post! Especially your last paragraph. Don't they know that is what life is all about?

Heidi at Mt Hope Academy

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007 - Great post

Posted by Anonymous (

I like this very much--hate educationalese too. I'll link back. Mama Squirrel at Dewey's Treehouse

Monday, June 4, 2007

Monday Memory: Castle Street

June 4, 2007

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”
~Elizabeth Lawrence

I grew up in the perfect neighborhood. We had big front porches, sidewalks, endless backyards, a creek, woods, and orchards beyond the woods. As if that wasn't enough, we lived right beside Cornell University's NYS Agriculture Experiment Station ("the Station"), where many of our fathers worked. I had playmates all the time. In this picture are (left to right front): Jeff W., Jeff Harmon, Kim Walter; back row: Karen Walter, Michelle W., and me. I have no idea why Jeff and Michelle W. are in this picture. They were our sworn enemies and weren't even allowed to play in our yard. Back then I was told that it was because they swore too much, but I learned later that their parents were prejudiced and that my mother simply couldn't tolerate that. Aah, my heart swells with love for my mother. Kim and Karen lived on one side of us. We spent countless hours together playing Barbies, babies, and house. I can still hear the sound of their mother's melodic voice calling them in at night: "Kah-rin!" Kim-mee! Kah-rin! Kim-mee!" (She was from Antigua.) Jeff Harmon and his brother Doug were my other constant companions; they lived on the other side of us. Our games focused more on jungle gyms, capgun, kickball, adventuring, and tree climbing. We played nightly games of hide-and-seek, ghost-in-the-graveyard, and kick-the-can. There were other kids in the neighborhood that joined in regularly, but Kim and Karen and Dough and Jeff were my daily companions.

In sixth grade, we all built houses in the country and moved away. Even though we attended the same middle school and high school, our friendship bond was severed along with the physical bond. I have often pondered how strange it is that we children who spent seven years together could just go our own ways. What makes the neighborhood friends thread so much more tenuous than others?