Family of N

Books Read January – February

Posted in Education, Just for Fun by Laura on March 1, 2010

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Honey for a Child’s Heart (just the first half, which reads like a book — the rest is for reference)
A Bear Called Paddington
Farmer Boy
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
The Courage of Sarah Noble

I was surprised to find that I much preferred “Hemlock Mountain” to Dalgliesh’s more popular, award-winning “Sarah Noble.” The latter did have a lovely story, but it seemed to flit from scene to scene too quickly and without much description, so that by the end of it I felt like I had missed most of the story, as if I had read only one sentence from every paragraph. In “Hemlock Mountain,” Dalgliesh only sets out to describe one or two days’ happenings, and as a result this story is a much more satisfying read.

Farmer Boy was a fun one for me… at first I didn’t think I liked it as much as the other Little House books I’d read, but now I would almost say it’s my favorite. I still chuckle about how hungry that book made me, though. I think there is one chapter in the entire book that lacks some description of Almonzo eating — and most of them rather dwell on his gnawing hunger and describe every succulent dish set before him.


Miscellaneous Homeschool Links

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting by Laura on January 18, 2010

This has been sitting in my “Drafts” box for months, collecting lots of dust and not so many links. It occurred to me today that I could always post this link list now, and if more miscellaneous links came up, share them later. (Genius!) So, without further ado, here are some un-related homeschooling links that I’ve found most helpful:

Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing a Curriculum
Writing Composition
Composition Project Ideas
Dealing with Homeschool Bullies
How Experts are Made
Effective New School Years

Books Read 2009

Posted in Homeschooling, Just for Fun by Laura on December 31, 2009

I’ve not been much of a reader since sometime around middle school, but I’m trying to start back… with children’s books. Please don’t laugh. I think of it like Debt Snowballing. I’m a slow reader, and it’s encouraging to finish a book every now and then.

It’s with a little embarrassment that I share my humble list for this year. I know for many people this would be a month’s worth of reading. I think I actually read all of these in the last six months, but I’m well aware that that’s still not very impressive.

  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  • The Hundred Dresses
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • Understood Betsy
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Little House on the Prairie

All I can say is, I’ve had to fight to find the time to read even this many! Savannah is so taken with books that we have had to turn her bookshelf to face the wall, because she used to make a beeline for it any time the door to her room was open, and would proceed to unload the shelves if she got there before one of us did. She loves fanning through the pages of a real paper book, although we rarely give one to her because, um, pages get ripped out.

So needless to say, when I get a book out to read of my own accord, Savannah is soon at my side whining and reaching for the book — pointing at it, running her fingers over the pages, and ultimately gesturing that she wants to hold it. At this point, of course, the book goes away rather than into her hands, and I resign myself to trying another time.

So I’d say six is good progress.

And I continue to thank God that Savannah is our first child, rather than being at this can’t-be-trusted-near-books stage while we’re trying to homeschool another child.

Copywork: Practicalities

Posted in Homeschooling by Laura on December 21, 2009

I’m of the school of thought that handwriting practice should have the added benefit of teaching language and character. A child’s attention is not fully engaged by the repetitive strokes of his pencil, so the remaining attention should be devoted to something worthwhile. Good copywork provides this “something worthwhile” through the words and ideas the child is copying.

I could spend a little money and get good quality copywork workbooks, but if I’m going to spend money, I want something more customized to my family’s needs and values. I want to be able to vary the font size based on my child’s needs, and I want don’t want to have to choose between fonts I like and copywork passages that speak to me.

So what I plan to do is acquire (for purchase or for free) a good font that can be used for teaching handwriting. There are actually a few places where you can get free fonts for teaching handwriting (a few more are listed here, along with some commercial ones), but unfortunately I fell in love with the D’Nealian manuscript, a form of the italics font popular among today’s educators.

Jarman is the closest free font I’ve found, but the up-tick’s are too long for my taste. Especially if a Kindergartener is imitating it. I want a beginner’s handwriting to still be legible, and I think this fancy tail would interfere with that.

I also prefer the fonts that have at least the option to include the lines to write on. This would greatly simplify worksheet creation.

So, unless someone publishes a better free handwriting font, I am planning for our homeschooling budget to include the Fonts 4 Teachers package, which happens to include a beautiful D’Nealian font as well as a cursive script that will be useful later on.

With these fonts, I can create handwriting worksheets as needed to reinforce the Scriptures, poetry, and literature we are reading, or to introduce passages we are not able to cover during reading time. Perfect!

Meanwhile, the writing milestone we’re most interested is putting one’s writing utensil on the page rather than in one’s mouth.

That’s Never Going to Last!

Posted in Family, Homeschooling, Parenting by Laura on December 14, 2009

The Professor and I are used to doing things differently from people around us. We cook our food from scratch from whole food ingredients. Even before we had kids, we spent most of our free time at home rather than out at concerts or movies or whatever “normal” people do on Friday nights. We don’t watch TV (though we do enjoy the occasional movie at home).

Now, as parents, we see the trend continuing. I gave birth to Savannah naturally, at home. We use cloth diapers and exclusively breastfed her until 6 months. Savannah still nurses some even at 14 months. We’ve never put her in daycare. She’s never ridden in a stroller. She started using the potty at 6 months and has been half-trained on the potty for several months now. We made all of Savannah’s baby food and toddler food from scratch, with the lone exception of Cheerio’s. (Recipe? Anyone?) We keep her with us in worship services rather than sending her to a nursery. When she reaches school age, we intend to homeschool her.

Often when we have told people we were doing these things, the response is something like the title of this post: “That will never last!” or “Yeah, you think that way now, but just wait!”

I’ll admit: in the last year, our baking has taken a hit (though it has rebounded some in recent months), we’ve avoided making our hardest meals, and we have used disposable diapers in limited circumstances. But so far there’s no room for an “I told you so” from the nay-sayers.

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately — how can it be that people are so sure that it can’t be done (i.e. that we’ll give up on cloth diapers, or on making healthy home-cooked meals with a little one running around, or on keeping Savannah in church service) when the things we’ve tried have turned out not to be all that bad? I can come up with a few reasons:

  • 1) They don’t know how stubborn (I prefer “determined”) we are.
  • 2) They’ve never tried themselves, but it sounds like so much work!
  • 3) If they’ve tried, they didn’t have the support system we do (I get tons of tips from the Internet)
  • 4) They have more commitments outside the home than we do, so even if they had the support system we have, they would indeed find it hard to carve out the time or the energy required for the “project” in question.
  • 5) They don’t value the outcome as highly as we do, and as a result they don’t think it’s worth the moderate amount of effort that it requires.
  • 6) In some cases, they misunderstand our reasons for doing what we do. [I think this is the case with keeping Savannah with us during church worship services. To many people, it looks like maternal weakness — I’m sure my friends think I have an unhealthy clinginess to my “baby” (who is now more of a toddler) and am unwilling to let her grow up. On the contrary, my husband and I allow Savannah to participate in the adult worship services in order to lead her to a mature faith. And viewed with that lens, my conviction on this issue is not something that is going to fade with time as the hypothetical clinginess would.]

In writing this post, I am reminding myself that this can’t-do attitude is nothing new to my experience. People have been saying “it can’t be done” all my life. Most notably in college — I can’t count on my two hands all the times I was told, “You may have kept a good GPA in high school, but you’ll *never* manage a 3.0 at Georgia Tech.” In a similar situation, my mom’s college counsellor computed her projected GPA in college — and let’s just say my mom proved that dismal prediction wrong by a mile!

I wish I knew more people in real life whose success in these counter-cultural choices I could draw hope from. But I don’t. I have a few homeschooling acquaintances at church, and a few more who are SAHM’s to their young children, and I know one older woman who kept her children in the pew with her many years ago. Other friends of ours cloth diapered for a while until they couldn’t figure out how to get rid of their son’s rash without switching from cloth. We even have some peers with a baby girl 7 months Savannah’s junior who have (or, rather, whose Vietnamese mother/mother-in-law has) toilet trained their infant. (Does that make us slightly less weird? Please?)

But I do have access to many real people who have gone before us and who have written volumes to encourage those of us who are wandering alone in this counter-cultural wilderness — I just don’t happen to know any of them in real life. 🙂 My hat goes off to the families who homeschooled before there was an Internet, because it is so helpful to have a reminder sitting in my Google Reader every day, telling me that, yes, it *can* be done. After all, the Headmistress has done it seven times over. Cindy has done it nine times over. Kim has done it nine times over and is preparing to do it a tenth time.

You can’t fill your void for friendships by reading blogs, and you can’t make a three-dimensional role model from what you read on a blog — there just isn’t a complete enough picture.

But what that blogroll does for me is tell me is that It. Can. Be. Done.

And you’re not going to see me giving up any time soon.

A Feast in September

Posted in Family, Food, Homeschooling by Laura on September 7, 2009


Photo by Sasakei / (Creative Commons License)

I love family traditions. When I was a child, my family took a vacation together every summer, and we visited grandparents every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The format was predictable but the adventures were fresh and exciting every time.

The Professor and I are homebodies more than my parents were. So as you would expect, our traditions are different — maybe a little less glamorous than a trip out West, but every bit as special.

Case in point: This week corn went on sale at every grocery store in our county. So for the third September since we’ve been married, we came back with ten ears of corn and made Ina Garten’s delightful cheddar corn chowder (more appropriately described as Gain Back Your Pregnancy Weight Soup). September is a great time to get fresh corn, and the soup is a comforting reminder that autumn is on the way.

If we had this soup regularly, I wouldn’t consider using half-and-half or a whole block of cheese or most of a slab of bacon in it. But for a once-a-year feast, we look the other way as we pour in the last few ingredients.

As I make plans to homeschool Savannah, one of the things that has appealed to me from (gasp) a method other than Charlotte Mason or classical has been the Waldorf idea of seasonal rhythms. I want to teach Savannah to experience each season fully — to shower herself in the summer sun, to jump in piles of many-colored autumn leaves, to tumble in the snow of winter, and to learn the cheerful songs of the birds in spring.

I also want our family to have traditions that celebrate the rhythm of the year. Corn chowder in September. Apple-picking in October. Turkey in November. Christmas cookies in December. All the year round.

There are books that have great ideas for seasonal traditions, but don’t you think it’s more fun to come up with your own?

“You’re going to post to the Blog? I thought the Blog was dead… You’re going to revive it?” — The Professor.

Never thought you’d be reading an undead blog, did you? 😉

Links for Lena: A day in the life

Posted in Homeschooling by Laura on May 1, 2009

One of the advantages of reading homeschool blogs is to get a picture of what homeschooling can be like. When you read a variety of them, you start to see that there are so many ways to do it — structured or flexible, learning at the kitchen table or outdoors, in groups or individually, and so on. I will use this post to collect some posts where homeschoolers share what a typical day looks like for them. I only have a few so far, but I hope to collect more as time goes on.

A typical Charlotte Mason day from Dominion Family
To Maintain Control, Maintain a Schedule
Homeschool Schedule from School @ Home
A Typical Day and Night Here from Mental Multivitamin (some PG language but lots of good homeschooling thoughts aside from that)
Getting it All Done from Handmade Homeschool

…and just for fun: We have a very busy schedule from Mental Multivitamin

Have you found other examples of homeschooling days? Let me know so I can add it to this list!

Window of Opportunity

Posted in Preschool by Laura on April 6, 2009

Childhood is full of rich opportunities for learning, and sometimes the best opportunities are fleeting. When you have an infant around, sometimes you feel like every time you blink you miss a dozen of them.

One of the ways we’re trying to take advantage of this stage of constant learning is through frequent language exposure. At this age, our goal is for her to be able to be familiar with a wide range of sounds used in different languages, so at least twice a week, Savannah and I listen to podcasts (selected from this list) spoken in a few different languages.


We’re subscribed to feeds that teach Swedish, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese. I also have bookmarked recordings of the Old Testament read in Hebrew.

Typically we do Korean first and one or two others afterwards. My reasoning is that I don’t want Savannah to fall too far behind her cousin in Korean language study. 😉

I don’t actually expect her to learn the languages from this, but I do hope that it will make language acquisition easier down the road, because the sounds won’t be so foreign to her. My sister and I have always found language learning, and especially pronunciation, easier than most people find it, perhaps because as kids we would regularly come back from the library with language tapes to listen to. From a young age, we filled our ears with sounds from around the world. I want the same for Savannah.

I’m also planning to start asking more of my multilingual friends at church to speak to her in their second language. Savannah was positively engrossed this Sunday when one friend began speaking Vietnamese to her. If we had enough time to devote to this kind of language exposure, it would probably be the best way for her to learn a second language. (Though I won’t refuse a copy of Rosetta Stone if anyone’s dying to get rid of theirs!)

Next step will be narrowing down the language options and choosing one or two to begin studying with her. That’s a couple years away, but I do like to plan ahead. 😉

More of the Charlotte Mason/Classical Blend with Tenniel

Posted in Homeschooling by Laura on January 21, 2009

I first started reading homeschool blogs in 2005, at the end of my junior year in college. I thought I wanted to teach grade school students, and I started digging for blogs on educational topics. I found that the typical “edublog,” while interesting, focused mostly on the politics of education (tracking, charter schools, testing, etc). What I wanted was thoughts on the process of teaching from folks in the trenches.

Somehow, I stumbled onto a homeschooling blog and realized that this was where I would find teachers talking about the everyday adventures of teaching. I made my way to Tenniel’s blog, School@Home, and followed it for a couple of years. This is where I found my earliest homeschooling inspiration. She doesn’t blog as much now, but even if she never posted again, her archives are a fantastic resource.

I think I always assumed Tenniel was a unit studies homeschooler, but apparently, she’s a blend of Charlotte Mason* and Classical. (Aside from her accidental unit studies.) As a result, her homeschool looks a lot like I envision the Family of N Homeschool looking like.

Homeschool Methods
Homeschooling or Public School at Home?
Favorite Childrens’ Books
YouTube Schooling
Useful Websites for Homeschoolers

On her sidebar, she has links to her favorite lessons from each year. They have some fun ideas up there! I couldn’t possibly link them all here, but the whole list is a great resource for lesson planning. Creativity is a big advantage with homeschooling, but sometimes, stealing other people’s ideas is just as good. 😉

*Side note so Harmony can laugh at me: Everyone’s turning out to have some CM in them these days. I used to think Cindy was exclusively Classical. It was a while before it clicked that the Common Room family did CM. (Um, I know. I’m slow.) Next thing you know, Mungo (sorry, still Mungo in my mind… now he goes by Drew) is going to go CM on us. 😉

Reading, Thinking, and Learning with MMV

Posted in Homeschooling by Laura on December 31, 2008

“Read. Think. Learn.” After reading a some posts over at Mental-Multivitamin, you’re sure to hear this mantra more than a few times! This homeschooling mom is also a professional writer, and it shows. She always has a book to recommend, and her writing is absolutely engaging. I rarely come away from her blog without a renewed desire to educate myself, not to mention Savannah!

I used to read her blog more than I do now, so everything I’m linking is from a few years ago. Good, meaty stuff, though.

Advice to a New Homeschooling Mother
Simple Ways to Inject Fun into Your Children’s Learning Days
Hearing Poetry
Learning Alongside Your Children
One Hundred Words Every High School Student Should Know

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