Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Public School Parent's Guide to Homeschool Parents

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
I came across this article over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. As a homeschooling mom, you've got to love a blog with a name like that. ;) Kris makes some great points about the misconceptions that homeschoolers sometimes face from those who don't homeschool. So go on over and check it out, then come back and tell me what you thought.

What misconceptions would you add to her list?
What do you wish others understood better about the nature of homeschooling?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Right Start Math Activity

Believe it or not, we have finished Right Start Level A, and are starting in on Level B now. This little activity was in one of the first lessons of Level B as sort of a review for children moving from A to B. Little Bean had no problem completing this activity, and in fact it quite intrigued him, so I thought I'd post about it here.
To do this activity you need: exactly 55 tally sticks (wooden craft sticks) and basic number cards 1 through 10. The child is to lay out the tally sticks to represent the numbers on the cards. If laid out correctly, the child will use all the tally sticks. Little Bean kept saying that there was no way he'd use such a large pile of sticks to complete the activity. It wasn't until he got to setting up nine and ten that he finally realized that indeed he would use all the sticks.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

All About Me Lapbook

Little Bean turned 5 on Easter Sunday, and with his Kindergarten year quickly coming to an end, I thought it was the perfect time for an All About Me lapbook. The parts for this particular lapbook came from Homeschool Share. Little Bean loves making lapbooks; this one was our third--first we did the Australia lapbook, then a fire fighting one, and now this one. Up next is frogs, and then I am thinking about doing the human body...but we'll see. :)

Here's the cover:
And the inside. The middle portion flips up to extend the lapbook and give us more space to work with: Here he listed or drew pictures of some of his favorite things, and on the blue strips he listed favorite books:
Recent Photo in the paper mirror:
He dictated to me about his house for this mini book:

It'd be kind of fun to repeat this lapbook yearly just to get a feel for how he's grown and changed throughout the year.

Do you lapbook with your kids? What is your favorite lapbooking resource?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Piano Lessons

Little Bean started piano lessons a few weeks ago. He loves the lessons themselves, but doesn't care for practicing (for the most part). His teacher is a friend of mine from high school. She is really sweet and good with him! In this picture, he is showing me how he plays his first little song! :) I hope he'll continue to enjoy these lessons for a long time to come.

How important do you think learning to play an instrument is? Why?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nature Study In Urban Areas

(This stink beetle was carrying another smaller (live) beetle on his back. Not sure why, but thought I'd snap a picture anyway. Someone mentioned mating, which I thought of first as well, but since they were just cruising all around like that, I kind of thought not?...)

Since I started doing a little more research into Charlotte Mason homeschooling, I've become increasingly interested in nature study (something Ms. Mason was passionate about, I think). Having grown up in the greater Los Angeles area, I've always been quite the urbanite. My freshman year in college, my roommate came from Nebraska, and her stories of deer in the backyard and rows of corn on rolling farmland were like fairytales to me. Around here, we get excited when we see lizards! ;) Of course, my friends that came from more rural backgrounds we just as fascinated by the "big city" aspects here, like the way you can drive such a short distance and go from city to city without realizing it.

I've since broadened my horizons, lol, but until recently didn't realize that there were SO many places, even in an urban place like where I live to experience nature. At Christmas, my mom gave me a wonderful book called Fun Places to Go With Kids in Southern California, and it covers all the counties here (Ventura, L.A., Orange, San Diego, San Bernadino, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties). This book has been a GREAT resource for us!

We've tried out several of the nature preserves and large parks with hiking trails. Many of them are only a few acres nestled in a business district, but we do have a few semi-local large parks with hiking trails and such. It's been amazing and exhilarating for both my husband and I and our little ones.

We purchased this field guide a few weeks back after a few online friends recommended it, and have been taking it with us to identify the different plants, flowers and creatures we encounter. Having grown up with VERY little exposure to nature, this guide is a necessity. On our very first hike, I stopped and pointed out this plant to Little Bean because it has such attractive leaves. Of course as he reached out to touch it, my husband tried to stop him (a little too late though!). It was a stinging nettle plant, which apparently causes itching pain to the touch. was at this point I realized we really needed a field guide. ;)
Today we spent some time at a large semi-local park that is used a lot for camping, but you can get day passes as well. Out on the trails the kids encountered their first snake sighting! It slithered out right across the trail in front of us. Little Bean was so proud that he was the first to spot it. We also (yipes) saw a baby rattle snake, an abandoned bird's egg, two bee hives in hollowed out trees, and lots of smooth, black, stink bugs! Down at the stream, there were tons of tadpoles swimming the in the shallow water. The kids folded up their jeans and took off their shoes and socks to walk in the water and observe. We even caught a few and brought them home with us to observe the frog life cycle. From the research I've done, if we take proper care of them we can safely return them to their habitat as adult frogs.

Here are our tadpoles. It appears we have two different types in there, although you can't tell from the pictures. We took some pond water with us, as well as some of the sand from the pond. We can see the tadpoles in there munching on the algae! Little Bean has just finished up a lapbook called All About Me, so up next will be (of course) a frog lapbook!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Alright, moms, I need advice. My Miss O has the sweetest spirit, and she loves to make other people happy. When she is playing with a toy or has something Little Bean wants, if he complains, next thing you know she is giving up her toy without having enjoyed it yet, saying she wants to make him happy. Or the other day, Little Bean got in trouble and wasn't allowed on the couch (since he was jumping on it or some such thing). When bedtime story time came, I asked Little Bean to sit on the floor since he wasn't allowed on the couch. Of course he complained, and so Miss O, wanting him to be happy chose to sit on the floor too. This of course took away the punishment aspect of sitting on the floor because if both of them are doing it, it ceases to be a punishment and becomes normal.

I love her sweet personality, how she is always thinking of ways to make others more comfortable and happy. But unfortunately, Little Bean is not like that at all. He is a very typical child, always looking out for himself, and hoarding toys and opportunities for himself. Sharing and compassion do not come naturally to him at all. If anything, he is a bit of an instigator. At every turn he takes the chance to annoy Miss O, take her things when she isn't looking, etc.

I feel bad for Miss O, and it's hard to teach Little Bean a lesson by making him share because if he whines enough, Miss O will say something like, "It's okay, Little Bean can have it because I know that will make him happy". On the one hand, I want Little Bean to learn to share and be kind, but on the other hand, I want to continue to foster Miss O's generosity. I don't want to inadvertently turn her into a hoarding, non-sharing child either by making her demand fairness in every situation, if that makes sense. She does get mad when he constantly pesters her, and she'll say that she isn't going to play with him anymore, but then moments later she has forgiven and is playing with him again, which doesn't teach him that there are consequences to not treating people nicely.

So, what do I do? How do I help Little Bean learn to share and be kind if Miss O is constantly mending fences when I want him to feel the consequences of his actions (which are so often against Miss O)? I'm really at a loss here...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Incorporating Classical Music Into Our School Day

As I mentioned recently, I've become increasingly interested in Charlotte Mason of late. One of the things that she mentions is incoporating music into the curriculum. This was something simple that I could do right away, and so can you!

Incorporating music the Charlotte Mason way is all about exposure. So just go through your CD collection, find a composer you think you and your children will enjoy, and expose them to his or her music for a term. I (sad to say) didn't have a single classical CD to my name, so I went to the thrift store and chose one from the rack. I purchased a "best of" Mozart CD for a whopping .50 cents! Amazon works well for this too.

Each school day, during Little Bean's independent work, I slip the CD in as background music. The goal is that over the length of a term (6 to 12 weeks), the kids will internalize the music and be able to recognize it as Mozart's style. No formal instruction about the composer is necessary, but after we've gotten used to him, we may incorporate some notebooking pages and make a continuous notebook of the different composers we listen to over time.

One of the first comments Little Bean made after we had been listening to the CD for a few minutes was, "Mom, doesn't it sound like something is going to happen?". I thought that was pretty cute!

If you are interested in more information about music study the Charlotte Mason way, here is a great lens to check out on the subject--Composer Study--Charlotte Mason Style.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Update--Little Bean's JXG

You may remember several months back I shared about Little Bean's JXG. If not, you can read more about it here. The gist of the story is that my little man has a rare, benign, skin disease called Juvenile Xanthogranuloma. Because it is SO rare, our regular doctor, and even the pediatric dermatologist who sees Little Bean regularly know very little about this disorder (we see a derm because the first manifestations of this disease are shown on the skin). As a result of her little knowledge of JXG, Little Bean's derm told us very little about this disease, and as a result of that, I was under the (false) impression that JXG in general is relatively harmless.

I'm so thankful for those parents who also have children with JXG who commented on my last post about this and directed me to some different resources online where I could educate myself and my husband about JXG. We've since learned that while the first manifestations of JXG are papules (orange lesions on the skin), which Bean has lots of, are pretty harmless, the more the disease grows, the more danger the patient is in. Little Bean has had it for 3 years, and his lesions are still growing, but not rapidly. Most of the parents I've met so far (online, I mean) have infants who by age 1 are already leaving JXG behind.

We learned that in some cases the JXG can move into the eyes and cause blindness. Since the majority of Little Bean's JXG is very close to his eyes, and even on the eyelids, we became very concerned about this aspect. We learned that many people with JXG also have high cholesterol, something our doctors never tested for or mentioned to us. We learned that in severe cases, surgery or even radiation and chemotherapy can be necessary because JXG can become systemic and result in the deterioration of vital organs like the liver, the brain and the spine/nervous system. Sometimes, if treatment doesn't work, children with JXG even face death. If you have a child with JXG, a great resource is the Histiocytosis Foundation of America. They even have a message board where you can meet others with children dealing with this disease and others like it.

I have to admit, I felt like a really lame parent after realizing how serious JXG could be, and having done virtually nothing for him other than bi-annual check ups after his diagnosis. In general, I suppose I trust medical professionals too much, and when they told me it wasn't serious, I believed them. Little did I know, they just had no clue themselves whether it was serious or not.

After reading how serious it could become, I became filled with fear as well. I literally broke down crying reading some of the stories parents of kids with JXG had to tell, and reading the information that is out there on this disease. It was then that I really realized that our life is not our own, our children are a gift, and it is impossible to keep them totally safe from harm. I really had to put my concerns in the hands of God at that point or I'd not have made it through.

We have since been back to the dermatologist who Bean has been seeing since we noticed the papules. I usually have my husband take him to the appointments, but this time I came, and I came armed with new knowledge and questions for her. I asked that he be seen by an eye specialist to ensure his eyes were clear--she referred me to the surgeon who actually did his biopsy 3 years ago, and as it turns out, his eyes (at this time) are clear of JXG. I asked that his cholesterol be tested. All his blood work came back normal. I asked her more about the possibility of his case becoming systemic, and therefore more serious. Her opinion was that his case was not severe enough to be a concern (basically she said that the more skin lesions, the more likely it would become systemic as well).

So for now, we just watch and pray. He is a healthy, happy, little boy in every way right now. I only hope and pray that things stay that way until the JXG disappears.

On a side note, those of you who read my first post on this may remember I was asking for advice on how to handle the constant (rude) questions of others about this. Little Bean asked me the other day, "Mom, will my xantho ever go away?" to which I replied that the doctor said it would probably go away within 4 to 10 years. He replied, "I don't EVER want it to go away--it makes me handsome!". So I guess we are okay in that department! :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Giveaway--Two Historical Picture Books


After searching through my curriculum cupboard for something to giveaway in the Big Curriculum Clean-Out, I remembered that I had these two fabulous books to pass along. Both of these are historical picture books that go along with Winter Promise's Hideaways in History curriculum. These are great read-aloud companion books to any history program (we use them with Story of the World), and are packed with interesting information and illustrations to enjoy with your child. By mistake, the company ended up sending me two copies of each of these, and when I asked about returning them, they said to just keep them (thanks, Winter Promise!). So, both of these copies are brand new, and since I don't have use for two copies of the same book, I am passing them along to you!

There will be two winners for this giveaway. When you enter, you are entering for either book, not one book specifically, and not both books. This giveaway will run from April 12th to April 24th. I will randomly choose two winners and will contact you within a few days of the giveaway ending. If I don't receive contact from you within 3 days of me contacting you, then I will choose a new winner. Sorry, this giveaway is open to US only.

You can get a total of two entries:

1) Required entry--leave a comment on this post telling me one interesting fact about yourself, your family, or your homeschool (don't stress; it's just for fun!).

2) Optional entry--follow or subscribe to my blog, then leave a separate comment and tell me that you are following/subscribing. You can only get ONE additional entry for this, even if you subscribe and follow. If you already subscribe or follow, just leave a separate comment and say so--that counts for your second entry.

Be sure to leave your contact information in your comment, otherwise you will not qualify to win. And, don't forget to check out all the other great giveaways going on at Our Homeschool Creations.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Curriculum Clean-Out

I'm so excited about the curriculum clean-out that's going on over at Our Homeschool Creations for the next couple of weeks. I entered several giveaways last year, and actually won one or two of them. So be sure to hop over there and see what's being given away--you never know, it may be just the item you have been looking for!

As for me, I am searching my cupboards for anything I can part with, with the hope of not only entering the giveaways this year, but doing a little giving away myself!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Visit to the Fire Station

After we finished our unit on fire fighters and then made our fire truck hideaway, I still felt the unit wasn't complete without a visit to a real fire station. Last Saturday, we set out to do exactly that. Our closest station wasn't able to give a tour, but we found one relatively nearby that was happy to give us a look around.

Miss O in particular was really into this! She was running from place to place and eager to sit the fire truck and have her picture taken. The kids learned all about fire trucks in the unit we studied, and it was cool to have the real firemen using those same vocabulary words that they had learned.
In the middle of our tour, the fire house got a real call (it was a really windy day, and a power line had blown down; they were needed just in case a fire started before the workmen could repair the line), and our tour guide was the engine driver and had to leave! It was really neat being allowed to watch them suit up quickly and drive out of the garage! We really got lucky with that one! Once they left, another fire fighter finished the tour for us.

I honestly don't ever remember visiting a fire house as a child, so this was my first time as well. Not sure who was more intrigued--me or the kiddos! ;)
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