Friday, June 29, 2012

Ways for Kids To Earn Money Around the House

If your kids are like mine, they love to have a little cash on hand. While we do have give our children a weekly allowance (see Our Allowance System), they are often looking for ways to earn more money. My youngest enjoys a few extra dollars to buy Lego sets or, more often, candy. My daughter has her eyes on saving for big-ticket items, like a nice camera.

My problem has always been that, while I know there are lots of extra jobs that need done around the house, I can never think of them when the kids seem to want them. I finally took the time to come up with a system that I wish I had thought of years ago: our Money Makers file. 

{Check out details about Ways for Kids to Earn Money Around the House on The Homeschool Classroom!}

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sailing in Tennessee

Sailing is in my earliest memories. I remember watching the sailboats at the Yacht Club when I was just three years old, wrapped up in a towel and enjoying the warmth of the sand and sun and my mother's arms.

I remember driving down Main Street in my hometown and seeing Seneca Lake spotted with white sails: a Sunday afternoon regatta. Within a few years after moving from Southern Illinois to the Finger Lakes region of New York, we bought our own sailboat, lovingly known as The K-Boat. Not long after that we bought a Sunfish. My parents and brothers had taken sailing lessons, and by the time I was 12 I'd had several years of lessons already. Most of the lessons revolved around being hot, cranky, tired, and then capsizing the boats. I knew nothing.

One afternoon when I was about 13, my third brother took me out on our Sunfish and taught me to sail. All those years of lessons may have given me proper names for sails and such, but my brother made me understand the feel of wind and waves, the language of the sail itself.

Seneca Lake is a big, deep lake, two miles across and 700 feet deep. Now I live in Tennessee, which I love with almost all my heart. But the lake a couple miles away is just a Tennessee Valley Authority lake, created to generate electricity decades ago by harnessing the power of the Tennessee River. The lakes are beautiful in the summer, but nearly as ugly as strip mines in the winter when the water level is lowered. I resisted sailing on this lake for a long time.

But you can sail on these lakes, even if the wind isn't as strong and the shores are too close. For Father's Day this year, my third brother brought his own Sunfish over and we spent the afternoon sailing. My youngest son is a natural sailor, and my brother is already teaching him. For my father, who is 87, sailing is still easy. He is nimble and strong, easily in the shape of a healthy man in his 60s. But the real joy of the day was sailing with my mother. She is 85 years old and full of aches and pains, but still she squatted down and slid off the dock into the little boat. She was glowing. She was joyous.

Sometimes it takes awhile to get the vision of perfection out of one's memory in order to enjoy what is here and now.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Guide to Navigating the Homeschooling Community

Post image for A guide to navigating the homeschooling community We homeschoolers are an opinionated bunch. After all, at some level one of the reasons we home educate this is because we want to do things our own way. And, well, let’s get down to it:

We often think our way is the best way, and we want to share that with as many of you as possible.

 We are prepared to opine on any number of topics, from science programs to parenting philosophies to clothing choices. We like to raise our eyebrows, give a little shake or nod of our heads, and give you knowing smiles. …

{Come on over to Simple Homeschool today to read the rest of my post, and find out the 2 Golden Rules to remember when navigating the homeschooling community.}

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In the Smokies: Andrews Bald

Last week we finally hiked Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mt. National Park (GSMNP) to see the flame azaleas. The weather was absolutely perfect—cool enough for jackets and jeans, which is unusual in June in East Tennessee.

The drive to Andrews Bald from our home in Blount County was longer than the hike itself, at close to an hour and a half. To get there, head toward Clingmans Dome, which is one of those well-traveled spots in the GSMNP. It's about 20 miles from Sugarlands Vistors' Center near Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road. (If you need to use the restrooms, I'd recommend stopping at Newfound Gap, as the facilities are nicer there than at Clingmans Dome.)

The trail to Andrews Bald is off to the left from the parking lot. Most people will be heading right up to the lookout tower at Clingmans Dome. (You should go there, too, if you never have. It would be another mile round-trip.)

The hike is a gradual downhill 1.8 miles, with plenty of stone steps. Apparently the trail used to be rather rugged, but a park service grant was put to use to make the trail really nice. We planned our hike in early June so we'd catch the flame azaleas and rhododendron, and we weren't disappointed.

We took a picnic and just meandered about the bald. 

The views were spectacular; we really picked a perfect day to go.

Once we had our fill of views and gouda, we headed back up the trail. We passed a dozen people or so, but nothing close to the crowds that were hiking up to Clingmans Dome. If you want to get a taste of the Smokies, watch this video that I took back at the parking lot after our hike. That loud noise is the wind blowing.

Great hike for families with a total of 3.6 miles. I don't recommend this for anyone who is wobbly, as the stone steps are a bit tricky to navigate. I imagine this would be a slippery-when-wet trail, also. If you want to see the flame azaleas and rhododendron, definitely aim for the first weeks in June.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Family Read-Alouds (for ages 5-12)

Back in April I wrote about our Top 25 Read-Alouds (for ages 5-12) on Simple Homeschool. Today I'm faced with the challenge of narrowing those 25 down to only 10.

Why did these books make the final cut? These are the books the kids and I remember with almost a tender fondness and sometimes almost awe. These are the books that made us laugh and cry more than the others. These were books that seem like part of our family.

This is very, very difficult, and I am going to cheat by listing a series as one book; but it's my blog so I can do what I want. (To read the rest of my list and descriptions of each, please visit my  Top 25 Read-Alouds (for ages 5-12) at Simple Homeschool!)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

2. The Little House on the Prairie series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

3. Harry Potter series (JK Rowling)

4. Cheaper by the Dozen (Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey)

5. Little Britches (Ralph Moody)

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Roald Dahl):

7. The Ramona series (Beverly Cleary)

8. The Boxcar Children #1-4 (Gertrude Chandler Warner)

9. Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink)

10. Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio (Peg Kehret)

And one final word: this is my list. In our reading-aloud life, I often took the day shift and my husband took the before-bed shift. His read-aloud list would be somewhat different and would certainly include The Hobbit, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Cricket in Times Square.

What's on your list? You can link up at Angie's Top Ten Tuesday!

This post is part of iHomeschool Network's Top 10 in 10 series and also linked up with Top Ten Tuesday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Elemental Science Winner and Update

First of all, thanks for all the great responses to my Elemental Science, Biology for Logic Stage review. Congratulations to Amanda for winning her own Biology for Logic program!

Next, I feel the need to give an update on Duncan's science project. You can see from my review that we did an experiment from Week 6—to grow mold on bread. So after 4 days, the sliced sandwich bread was still moldless. We decided to try a slice of supermarket bakery Italian bread as well. Within two days, that bread had a nice spot of mold. Four days later, well, take a look:

French bread after 3 1/2 days

Sliced sandwich bread after 11 days.
Yeah, so we're pretty grossed out by all the preservatives in the sandwich bread. Then again, we hardly ever eat it, so I guess it's good that it doesn't get moldy!

For those of you who didn't win, don't forget that you can purchase your own Elemental Science program! Obviously, I highly recommend it. And, um, don't open the ziploc baggie if you do the mold project. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I Don't Show You (and Why I Blog Carefully)

I once showed a picture of our living room on Facebook—I can't remember what prompted it—and a friend commented that she truly hoped that what lay outside the photograph was messy and cluttered, because what the photo showed was way too neat and clean.

So today I'm going to show you what I want to show you around the yard, and then what I don't want to show you. Come along.

Here is our one of our beautiful seating areas. Isn't it pretty and inviting?

And here is a hand in a dumptruck.

Here is another picturesque bench.

And the broken down shed right behind it that I carefully cut out of the above picture.

Here is the cute blue chair that welcomes friends:

with all the junk right next to it for real:

 Here is a pretty lily in the back flower bed.

Here is a 19-year-old fire truck that was recently discovered in the tangle of poison ivy and brush in the back yard. 

Here is a carefully edited picture of our front flower bed, cropped to eliminate the distractions of people's butts bending over in the background, the broken-down yellow shed (see above), the random toys scattered about, and the bird bath that hosts a party of mosquito larvae.

Here is said bird bath.

Here is the lovely fire we enjoyed last night, on a rare cool evening in June.

 Here is the "bad guy named Joe" that Duncan nailed together and then burned in the fire.

I could go on and on. I haven't even showed you the weedy garden, the English ivy growing over the tree that we never moved when a storm knocked it over, or the poke weed growing up in the middle of the ornamental crab-apple tree.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, about how we, as bloggers, can pick and choose what we show you, our readers. I can share with you as little or as much as I wish to. I can show you who I am in bits and pieces. I can give you tips and techniques for homeschooling, or perhaps sometimes touch something in your soul with a slice of life.

But here is what I want to say. A lot goes on in SmallWorld that you don't know about. I decided long ago never to tell stories that might hurt someone else, even if those stories are partly my stories. I don't share personal struggles that my kids go through, or things that are happening in my friends' or families' lives. It's not because I am scared to show you who I am, but because I believe in protecting people's privacy.

I had a professor in graduate school who insisted that I couldn't tell a story without telling someone else's part of the story. I disagree. 

I could tell tragic stories that would shoot my blog stats into Mom-blogger Stardom. But those stories would hurt other people, even if I don't particularly like those other people. Even if I'd kind of like to hurt those other people. Even if those other people hurt me.

Oh, don't worry. Nothing is happening in SmallWorld that is cause for concern. I've just been distressed for the past several weeks because of a blogger who is hurting a friend over and over again, pouring salt on a very open wound. I don't ever want to be that person.

And so, I give you  as real as I can be without dragging anyone down or revealing a story that might embarrass or hurt someone else.  And sometimes, I just give you the beautiful because I really, truly do have a beautiful life.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

10 Reasons Grads Liked Being Homeschooled

I thought it would be fun to hear what some homeschooled graduates had to say about why they liked being homeschooled, so I asked several young adults who were once part of our large homeschooling support group. Here is what they had to say:

1. I'm glad I was home-schooled because it kept me focused and away from all of the drama and drugs and bad influences that can be found in public (and private) education. I was able to work more independently which helped me to focus on college and getting my Master's degree.

2. I had the chance to be a quirky, weird, and creative kid without intense ridicule. I was then able to develop that all into socially acceptable quirkiness as a college student.

3. I loved the feeling of community that came with homeschooling. I always had a sense that I was part of a rather large and strange family.

4. I got to travel a lot with my family.

5. I got to learn at my own pace, whether it was faster or slower than the "norm."

6. I knew how to study better on my own coming into college than a lot of my classmates.

7. Homeschooling really allowed our family to be much closer than it would have been had we all been in public school.

8. I was able to focus on my own interests rather than whatever the class was focusing on.

9. I loved the flexibility of being able to experience school in a "hands on" way. There were no limits. I could go to the mountains, band birds and catch salamanders and get science credit for it.

10. {And…you knew this one was inevitable}…I got to sleep in late!

This post is part of iHomeschool Network's Top 10 in 10 series and also linked up with Top Ten Tuesday.

{If you haven't yet, check out my Elemental Science review and giveway for a chance to win a fantastic science program!}

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: Elemental Science, Biology Logic Stage {and Giveaway!}


Confession Time

I have become extraordinarily lazy about teaching science. It's ridiculous, I know. One of the reasons we started homeschooling in the first place was because our older son's public school experience was severely lacking in science education. And my husband teaching biology at a large university, for Pete's sake! 

I did so much science with my firstborn; I am sure he read through every single science book on our well-stocked bookshelves dozens of times. Then the other two kids came along, and I slacked off. I have relied heavily on the science classes that are offered through our co-op's enrichment class program.

It's time for me to start a more serious science program with Duncan (6th grade), so I was excited when I received the opportunity to review Biology for the Logic Stage by Elemental Science.

First of all, let me say that I won't review just any homeschool product that comes along. When I am offered a chance to review a product, I look at the website first to determine if it is something I will actually use in our homeschooling

I knew as soon as I downloaded sample pages that I may have actually found the science program for which I'd been searching.  Biology for the Logic Stage is a 36-week study of plants, animal life, and the human body, geared toward 5th and 6th graders. The package (available via e-book or printed version) includes an easy-to-follow teacher's guide (with 2-day/week or 5-day/week options) and a student's guide.

My Experience with Elemental Science {Thus Far}

First of all, I loved author Paige Hudson's introduction and how-to-use pages. Here is an example (click for a bigger picture) of how clear and concise the instructions are (anything that promises something "in a nutshell" is appealing to me!):

Hudson provides ample flexibility in the teacher's guide. For example, she suggests ways to make this work with older and younger students, to match ability to writing requirements, and to study a topic in a broader context, such as with biographies of scientists.

Once I read the whole teacher's guide, I decided that we would, indeed, be using this for science in the upcoming school year. I ordered the two required spines: DK's Encyclopedia of Nature and The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia.

Both are lovely, fat books. As soon as I opened the box and put the books on the coffee table, my older two kids (14 and 19) grabbed them up. Reading assignments are given from both books with nearly every lesson, so I knew I'd need to buy them rather than borrow from the library. The text in both is in short segments with plenty of pictures and diagrams.

Hudson's list of materials in clearly laid out. One of the things I loved about Sonlight's elementary science program is that one could buy the box of supplies that were needed. An experiment kit with "all the hard to find or difficult to get materials for the experiments" is also an option with Biology for the Logic Stage. Because I am a terribly last-minute person, I will most likely go ahead and order this kit; however, if you would rather gather your own supplies, the necessary materials are clearly indicated for each lesson. 

Although we are now on summer break, I decided to go ahead and try out the program with Duncan. We started in Week 6 with Mold and Fungi because, well, what 11-year-old doesn't want to grow mold? Here is a shot of the 2-day/week lesson plan:
 And Duncan preparing his experiment:

Each day Duncan observes his bread and records any changes in his student notebook. He knows what's going to happen, of course. Moldy bread is practically a staple in our kitchen. But how much more fun it is for him to actually observe it and watch the changes, rather than announcing, "MOM! The bread is moldy!"

What I Love {So Far} About Elemental Science

1. I can't emphasize this enough: the program is well organized and easy to navigate.
2. The science is good, solid science. Hudson is a good writer, and the two spines that go along with the program are colorful, detailed, and easy-to-read and absorb.
3. Hudson doesn't shove religion into science. As she explains, “although I am a Christian, I have tried to write Elemental Science as non-sectarian. I have done my best to write each program in a manner that focuses on the science being studied instead of a person’s religious viewpoint.” The "science being studied"—hurray!! I am so happy for a program that doesn't try to squeeze Bible verses in everywhere just to make a point.
4. The program is flexible. You can do with it as much or as little as you wish, depending on your own schedule.
5. The experiments are fun and simple. Complicated experiments are frustrating to me and, in turn, frustrating to my kids. Hudson provides clear directions and explicit details.

What Else Does Elemental Science Offer?

Oh, lots and more to come.
  • The current biology programs include (besides the Logic Stage reviewed here) the Grammar Stage for K-2 and several "Lapbooking Through..." titles. (See Fruit in Season's review of Lapbooking Through Habitats for a great example.)
  • The current Earth Science and Astronomy program includes the Grammar Stage (2nd/3rd grades) and Logic Stage (6th/7th grade) as well as lapbooks. (See a review of the Grammar Stage ESA at Meet Penny.)
  • The current chemistry program is Grammar Stage (3rd/4th grades) only but more to come.
  • The current physics program includes Grammar Stage (4th/5th) with Logic Stage (7th/8th) coming soon.

Your Turn!

Would you like to win your own Biology for the Logic Stage program? All you have to do is leave a comment below between now and Thursday, June 7.  For additional entries,
• let me know that you've followed Elemental Science on Twitter
• Take a look at the Elemental Science website and tell me what product you are most interested in.

Please remember to leave a comment for each entry!  Giveaway will close on Thursday night, June 7, at midnight.  The winner will have two days (until midnight on June 9) to reply.  Make sure you include your valid email address with your comments!

Tomorrow, stop by Jessica’s blog at Bohemian Bowmans to read about her experience with Physics Grammar Stage. She’ll be having a giveaway as well. Be sure to visit Aadel’s blog review from Friday to learn more about Lapbooking through the Human Body.

**Legal disclosure: No purchase necessary to enter or win. I received this product for free and will be compensated for the review; however, I was not required to present a positive review and the opinions are my own. The review was arranged by

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Three Beautiful Things

1. New oven. This is the first time in our 23 years of marriage that Randy and I have purchased an oven. We lived in apartments for the first 11 years, and an oven came with the house we've lived in for these next 12 years. It finally went kaput, and we got our new oven installed just in time for Randy's brother and sister-in-law to come. Perfect timing because…

2. Feasts. Randy's brother and his wife graced us with a spur-of-the-moment visit when their trip to Charleston was tropical-stormed out. They are inventive, elaborate chefs, and we feasted for three evenings this week. Great company, great food, and…

3. Red Chairs. This is our new favorite outdoor seating area. For the past couple of years we've been clearing out this area (which used to house a big stump). This year we added these sturdy seats that make me sooo happy, lights in the crepe myrtle, and mason jar candles dangling from other trees. Randy and I sit out here nearly every evening, and it's even better when friends and family are here to join us.

What beautiful things are in your world lately?

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.  
~Ralph Waldo Emerson