Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's a home not a showroom! Enjoy your home and let your kids "be at home" in it.

 This is what our living room looks like ALL THE TIME!
Drawing/art/craft table for the two little ones.
Which they use constantly and we clean constantly, baby likes to come to find snacks here!
One week he had blue poop, then green then purple till we figured out he was sucking on markers.

Every time I look at the bathroom it looks like this.

Parenting Makeover!

These books are great: I refer to them often and the wisdom in them is enduring the test of time and use. I am a better mom because I implement the techniques in these books and learned how to think about the effect my choices have on my monsters.

Beginning to teach Reading with the amazing Spalding Writing Road to Reading

My son is loving his lessons, doing them willingly and making quick progress. He no longer looks at a vowel sound in a word freezes up, he also uses the syllables when reading scriptures daily. He is spelling better because he knows the sounds really well now. I am happy and so is HE! I have seen much progress in very few lessons once we memorized the phonemes. He took a week. My 6 and 5 year olds are nearly done with the 70 phonemes after 3 weeks. They write them all but have trouble repeating all the sounds for each one. They enjoy it though, it's quick pace keeps them occupied, they only write the letters once and move through the list quickly each day. My 5 year old is now filling paper after paper with sounds and proudly showing me.

My sister in law has homeschooled for 16 years and I have for 11 and we both taught our oldest kids how to read with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, it's some basic phonics and some sight words and every other lesson adds a new sound and reviews old sounds, and after a few lessons there are short stories. It's boring, and dry but does work for most kids. It is also easy to learn to teach and 10 minutes a day. My oldest hated it and struggled, the next two were younger than her and learned easily and read real books when we finished it, The Hobbit and scriptures. Lessons have student write two letters 6 times at the end of a lesson.

My oldest needed something better and struggled for years to read well and fluently, by the time she was 12 she was reading quickly and for fun. Her spelling also improved drastically as her reading did.

My fourth child took 4 years to teach to read and it was very painful and I spent lots of time praying and crying even, I was at a loss as to why he couldn't pick it up. So after asking a lady from church who I found out taught kids with learning disabilities to read, he apparently has dyslexia. So I used Hooked on Phonics and Rocket Phonics which both have serious flaws in them. Cycling through these two and the 100 Lessons helped but was not enough. He was barely at grade level. He's 9.

We both have switched to old school phonic lessons with spelling rules. Last month a friend gave me her old copy of The Spalding Writing Road to Reading. And last year my sister in law found a book called The Logic of English. Both teach the 70 phonemes needed to read and the 35 spelling rules for the English language, including the five reasons for silent e on the end of words. We both wish we'd seen these books sooner, they are amazing and we both love our new methods to teach reading.  For more information on The Logic of English you'll need to refer to reviews on the internet. I am going to buy it too. You cant have too many resources!

The Spalding method is one teacher text about $40, flash cards about $20 and writing notebooks with wide lines. I use regular notebooks and kids write on two lines. It takes some time to familiarize yourself with the method. Schools pay $550 for their teachers to take a spalding class for two weeks for four hours a day. So I studied for about 20 hours and then had a friend who homeschools come over for a half hour to answer my questions. The book is k to 8th.


*memorize the 70 phonemes, say them and write them adding new ones and reviewing old ones
*write them until student does them easily
*write daily spelling words, weekly list. may move quicker for older kids
*have a lesson on syllables, helps with reading and pronunciation and with spelling rules
*learn how to mark the spelling words- if a sound makes three choices and the word being spelled uses the second one you write a 2 above the sound.
* write the spelling rules in their notebook, a few a day until done
*discuss spelling rules as they are used in the daily writing words
*sentences are next, using words they already know how to spell
*grammar is added using words and sentences already known
*daily they read their list for reading and read their list for spelling, "read for reading" or "read for spelling" so they check rules and markings

The word list is included in the book. The grammar lessons are not, neither are the sentences. My friend who taught it in school, before homeschooling her kids, said you'd make your own lessons. Make up sentences with known words and let students make their sentences. Grammar is taught through writing, not worksheets, from my understanding.

A phoneme page, with guide words and rules
A word list page, words are learned with syllable divisions and marked, there is a chapter teaching how to mark them. It's basic and easy.
 The guides for parts of speech from the spelling list for each level.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

favorite art books

Discovering Great Artists is a book I use over and over again, even for the same kids. As they grow their art develops so doing the same project is different each time. These are real art project, no crafts. Some materials are on hand and others you'd need to purchase, but it's reasonable. There is a paragraph about the artist and a project to emulate theirs. This is a good way for kids to try lots of techniques and styles and develop their own art personality. Does not have pictures of artist work in it, I get these off the internet and show the kids the art before we do the project.
These books by Mike Venezia are fabulous, funny and varied, they cover most of the famous artists and include their childhood and life story. They have great photos of art work, including other artists living at the same time period. My kids reread these and discuss the artists in everyday conversations. It's great!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mastering Weakness

The most frustrating thing about parenting for me is that our kids learn by watching what we do, this is a double edge sword. I am super impatient and get very irritated at distractions, kids who leave without finishing a task(our 9 year old son), and I also get irritated at messes, not accidents but when it's careless I get irritated that the mess is going to cost me time, that it will delay the thing I'm trying to accomplish. I have come to know myself well and a lot of times I'm not happy with what I see. I spend too much of my time irritated at things in life that are going to happen daily. Do I really want to spend my days irritated inside myself? No Way! Two talks I read and reread weekly are Elder Hollands April 2007 The Tongue of Angels and Be Slow To Anger by Elder Christensen April 1971.

Elder L. Ray Christensen: Parents may tell
                                           But never teach
                                           Unless they practice
                                           what they preach

        And this poem is now hanging three locations in my home and we all have it memorized:
                                                 A Little Explained
                                                A Little Endured
                                                 A Little passed over
                                                And the quarrel is cured
He counsels us that "frustrations often offer us the means of progression, for by overcoming them harmoniously, we grow and become more Christlike. He also said this and this is my theme running around in my brain when I battle for control over my thoughts so my words are loving, " the size of a man may be measured by the size of the things that make him angry"  He teaches that in life , "We are constantly exposed to irritations as we mingle with others—and even when we are alone. How we react to these irritations is a reflection of our personalities and temperaments. It would seem reasonable to believe that in order to develop a healthy, pleasing personality and to become useful and an influence for good, one must avoid being easily provoked to anger. Not only would we show, thereby, more maturity, but we would also be able to resolve disturbing situations more intelligently, because seldom, if ever, is any good accomplished while persons are in a rage. Anger does not contribute to good. It is a destroyer, not a builder."
The following is one part of Elder Hollands talk that I have highlighted and again read regularly.
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” 4
"Well, that is pretty straightforward! Obviously James doesn’t mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is “full of deadly poison.” But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,” James grieves. “My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.”
Is this something we could all work on just a little? Is this an area in which we could each try to be a little more like a “perfect” man or woman?"
While being realistic about shortcomings I also believe we should see our growth and recognize when we have had a victory. I am a more patient person that I used to be, I keep a journal faithfully and when I reread it I see insights into myself I am sure would be overlooked if not written down. I have improved, yet daily I struggle with the same bad reactions. It's been a learning process to curb unkind words when I'm irritated. I do know I can do it though.

Last week I was in the living room and hear a crash and the sound of glass shattering. My first thought was oh it was probably my grandmothers bowl but I didn't say that, what I chose to say was,
"Don't move, nobody move, we don't want anyone hurt." This response allowed the child in the kitchen to speak up and say what happened knowing I was concerned about them and not an object.

For every victory I achieve over my inner reaction to be irritated I feel a step closer to becoming perfect like Christ has asked us to become. I try not to count my slips, that's not fun and becomes overwhelming. What ever bad trait or habit we'd like to over come it is a way for us to become closer to Christ and use the atonement to forgive ourselves, know that He does understand how we feel and will support us in what we desire to become.

So whatever I am working on and you are working on we can support each other in our path to perfection by forgiving and restraining judgment and looking for each others' talents and positive traits.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Art for the whole family!

   Purchasing art curriculums is a tricky business, many are trying to cover necessities of art terms bu really kill the fun of art. Just like grammar worksheets killed all desire to write in many of us. I've seen some and they are not good for lessons, they can help the parent/teacher learn but then you'll need to let the kids learn by hands on art. A lot of art is inherent in kids, they know that lava spewing out of their drawing needs wavy lines to show the flow. They know that down slanted eyes and brows look mean or angry and that pointy noses indicate a villain. Art curriculums tend to spell this out and the kids feel insulted and bored. My preference is to teach from real artists, not companies trying to fill a hole in their curriculum. Again this is an example of dead versus living knowledge. One method is torturous and the other engaging.
    I've got 7 kids and have taught hundreds of lessons to local homeschooled children in our area. My philosophy is that if the kids are bored and uninterested then you are teaching it the wrong way. God created our spirits to love learning and crave new ideas and knowledge, this leads us towards other truths and we feel light and fulfilled. I have ruined many good topics by a horrible lesson. I watch to see if my method is sparking interest or dread, if it's the latter I go back to the drawing board and begin again. I ask the kids what they want to learn about the topic and get their ideas on how to make it interesting and ask what method they'd like to learn it through. They have great suggestions.
    Idea #1)  A fabulous book for mom/teacher to read and use with kids of all ages is "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. Published in 1978 and still the best around to get kids and adults to use their creative side and turn off the left uncreative part of the brain. Move through the 21 chapters teaching one at a time then after the students try the art technique you do the next lesson, review as you go and use the first activities to start each art session because they activate the right side of the brain.
  These are drawing lessons and materials they need include pens, oil pastels, and a selection of various pencil leads and a large pad, nothing smaller than 11x14.
#2 See if your local art museum has a program to educate adults in art so you can teach children. In Phoenix the Phoenix Art Museum has a seminar for a day every September, for close to $25 educators get many classes, hands on lessons, a guided tour with conversations about art that are just what you'll go home and replicate in your discussions with your students, a set of 4 to 6 poster size prints of art work in the museum to keep. The seminar discusses art terms and concepts and teaches you how to talk about art. I attend every possible year and am very disappointed when I cant make it. Two years I missed due to pregnancies and I called the class coordinator and she mailed me the poster sets free of charge. The museum has sponsors who help cover the cost of printing the posters and they are trying to encourage the public to make good use of the program.
#3 Either from a book or online list - find a list of art terms and discuss them while looking at art work. Kids will automatically try them out in their own work without being told to do so. The Phoenix Art Museum and many others have online galleries. After the kids learn the terms the subsequent discussions can be shifted from instruction to review and searching for examples of technique.

Provide lots of art time and stay away from coloring books and crafts, these are not art. These are for people who think they are not creative and want to follow a script, directions or rules, like in a coloring book where kids must stay in the lines.

My 6 year old son loves to draw monsters and he was adamant he couldn't draw anything else. So we sat at the computer and looked at boat pictures and I told him if he'd draw a boat I'd give him a piece of candy. He tried a simple boat and liked the results and kept working on more boats that each got more details and he was thrilled. Now he tries new things to draw, houses, people, plants he makes up. The feeling in his art is wonderful, very alive and inspiring.
  Keep your kids sketch books or take photos of what they draw, it's great for memories and records and to see progress. You can "frame" them by taping them to black poster board cut an inch or two larger than the picture. We thumb tack them to the hallway walls or to their bedroom walls and hang them on the fridge.

 The two following paintings are from our 15 year old daughter. She loves watercolor.

Below: notice the wavy arm and bent body, this is the mean guy chasing the good people

 This guy is "bad" notice the slender body and sharp long claws. Opposite feeling from the fat round friendly monster whose being eaten.
 This family is dangerous! And their long tongues are poison.
 A trick or treat kid with ghost and moon and stars in the sky.
 This guy is friendly. Always ask your artist to tell you about their art work, for young kids there's usually a great story involved. My kids are proud of their creations when I write the story on the back of their picture.
 This guy is dizzy. The use of lines in art really is natural in kids.
 Another bad one. My kids are very captivated by what makes a person or creature bad, evil, dangerous, or nice. We often have discussions that animals are not mean, they are trying to protect themselves. Art shows us what our kids think about. It is a wonderful stress reliever and a great way to spend time together.

" The big house is where we live and the little houses are the neighbors."
In reality our house is the same size as the neighbors but the size drawn simply indicates that our house is more important to the artist than the neighbors homes.
 Mom and puppy. by 4 year old girl who was too impatient to wait for her paint to dry.
Our 15G loves animals and reads, paints and writes stories about animals.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Great Grammar, NO worksheets!

    I've only skimmed grammar with my kids for fear of making them hate it like I did in school. So after coming across these two articles and others on the same theory, I am jumping in. So far it's going well and we have learned great things. Links below two articles I found that I felt inspired by, they feel right for us and so my plan is to teach how to use the grammar and literary devices by having the kids look for them in their writings and from reading good things like the founding father's quotes or children  literature  or history books.
   We are starting a notebook with grammar notes and  quotes the kids liked from their reading. They will use the grammar notes and mark the quotes they like. It will also include a copy of the English spelling rules (35)(and no I didn't always know there were English spelling rules), and literary devices. They will use this as their reference book as they create it. When they write we are going to look for literary devices in their writing and edit it by adding examples of ld's to their writing as they go. It will become a hard copy of what they have studied and their resource when editing their writing.
  Journals are great for free writing, nobody edits or reads them and the kids get to write freely and get their self going. They have written stories, reports, answers to a question of their choice, persuade, teach or argue a point in writing. Everyone should keep a reading journal too. (more about that another day)
   Mom should keep a notebook of everything she’s teaching and learning, I wrote and took notes as I taught the kids and they see me doing it so they know its important, also so I don't have to create lessons from scratch each time for each group of kids I teach. My 3 oldest go together and then 3 others and Henry will be last. The kids can also read, study, or copy my notes. And they do this on their own, they compare it to their notes and decide to add to theirs if needed. We all learn together, this shows them the process of accumulating knowledge from multiple sources and following a natural flow from one source to another. It’s quite amazing and I love it as much as the kids.
    My school education never felt liberating and exciting, but it was never me choosing what to learn, either. I and every other person on the planet in a public school were told what to learn and told we should like it and not question it either. My hubby says this sounds like the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany.
    I have found some great websites online, I'll include the links. I also have an English text book for highschool(used at a retired teacher sale) that I can refer to for grammar and sentence structure, but wont make the kids go through the boring exercises, the examples in the text are dead, there’s no feeling and no tie to their world (living knowledge through a real persons writing and reading).
   The lesson I did last week was fun and the kids loved it, it stuck with us all; it started with metaphors and we read some out of the bible then we discussed chiasmus and looked up passages in the bible and book of Mormon with this literary device, it’s ancient, the Hebrews used it and the whole chapter of Alma 36 is a very complex one. It was a great lesson, we discussed analogies and parables and metaphors/similies from Christ's teachings. The lesson definety struck a chord with us all. There are people who have studied all the literary techniques used in the bible and Book of Mormon and have them on the web. 
   Once we had this lesson we are seeing them in our scripture reading , “Ye are as the salt of the earth”  and when Christ said to the woman at the well, “I am the living water”. I can not think of a more important text to learn about literary devices and why they carry such a strong feel and meaning with them, than in scripture!
   I'm glad somebody was smart enough to warn against using worksheets and memorizing to learn about our language. Sometimes I wonder if these horrible methods were created on purpose to make us hate learning. Who comes up with such dead ways and then makes it mainstream? It feels like the school system is deliberately pitiful sometimes.

A fantastic way to teach writing and speaking and grammar skills is through Excellence In Writing by Andrew Pudewa. All of his programs are fun and very through. They are pricey, I've had friends teach classes that my kids attended and I watched all his videos for EIW and they teach very well. Due to prices I would skip paying for Levels A, B and just buy C or even D. They teach slowly and build and repeat in each level so definitely start at C for ages 11 and up.     this teaches what a chiasmus is and walks you through identifying it's corresponding parts using Alma Chapter 36

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Educating Children

 I'll share with you what I like and have come to value in educating my kids and as you begin to learn at home with your kids you will find the path that’s right for your family.
   Start slow and steady, don't race or you get burned out  and stressed, I know. I’ve seen moms start homeschooling and want to do more faster and they test a lot and work all day and don’t play enough and  make it miserable for the kids. Then the kids balk at it and dig in their heels and the mom puts them back in school.
   We are never done learning and the journey is what we are concentrating on, not really the finish line. Progress isn't always seen right away, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and it has flown by and my kids like learning and reading and ask tons of questions and search out answers for themselves. They don't believe what they hear until getting second opinions from other sources when it comes to news and political views, so I think we are on the right track.
   Other times moms try too many ideas or too much in a day and they chop and hack away at a lot of things and don't finish any of  them. Too much going on makes the vision(your families goals) get blurry. It’s nice to take time to finish something and bask in the moment, rushing on stops things from sinking in. Like praying then jumping up and leaving before you listen to the answer. Let kids have time for projects or learning, and sit and discuss results or what went good or not good.
Another thing I realized recently trying to teach Aaron to read and Collin to write is that they did not want to try when they were worried about doing it wrong. Teach them that mistakes help us learn, if we are afraid to make a mistake we don't progress(a FHE lesson on repentance and how God made a way for us to get rid of spiritual mistakes is like learning and knowledge mistakes, they aren't permanent). The MTC teaches that people learning a language make 80,000 mistakes and they ask the missionaries a question, do you want to make them here and now or out in the field?
Our kids need to know that mistakes are part of life and to be learned from. You cant skip the learning process, and mistakes are capable of teaching just as fast as successes can. 
   Also remember that there will always be fine tuning and tweaking going on. I approach it with the attitude that I will always be home teaching and so I will fix and add as we go, I have seen moms start and they say to me , “I’m going to see how it goes, if it doesn't work I’ll put them back in school” and when it’s hard they quit and put kids back in school. My opinion is that they are not fixing their problems they are giving up, I think of it as a marriage, marriages have to be worked on and fixed with effort and trials and pain and joy. If we said, as the world likes to say, “ I’ll try being married and if its too hard we can get a divorce” no one would keep homeschooling. I think of home education this way, that I’m going to stay doing it and make it work.
   My first tip, because I have to tell myself it daily, is to realize time is limited and you will not get everything done everyday. So what I do is make a list and a schedule and if something gets left off the day before then today we do it first and rotate through so nothing gets missed too many times. Also, I used to put ‘unnecessaries’ last and we’d never do them, so since art is my kids’ favorite we put it first some days and give it as much clout in our schedule as math. Because to be frank, we are homeschooling so we have fun and like life. Once you find your top interest subjects even if its an unnecessary one, don't neglect it. The kids like to know that what they value is worth supporting them in. 
  Vision- or goals, or plan. Sit with both parents and decide or brain storm about your reasons for home schooling. Write the list down and list what steps to get working on to get the goal met. Keep it and refer to it, use it to keep you on track. There are a lot of good things to learn and like President Uchtdorf spoke about one conference you have to decide between good, better or best. When you  have an idea of the plan then have a family session and ask the kids their goals and plans, secular and religious. They will go hand in hand, one example I always give Aaron is that for him to be a great missionary he needs to learn how to read. And everything the kids learn will be taught to their kids and used to serve people around them. Decide how often to review progress, monthly or weekly as needed. Each child can meet with both parents and discuss and review their week. Ask the kids about difficult things and record them and discuss what is going well and record those things too. Keep a notebook of each persons goals and progress. Discuss year goals and 5 and 10 year goals, if you can.
   Being together as a family daily and learning with and from each other is so rewarding and worth every minute of labor and stress. There is nobody in the world better to teach kids than their parents. It requires love and diligence not a college education or math skills or patience. The saddest thing I ever hear, and I do hear it frequently from moms is the statement, " I like my kids at school, they drive me crazy during the summer. I wouldn't be able to stand having them all the time." Home educating is difficult and a lot of days I feel crazy and probably sound crazy but my kids always forgive me and tell me they love me. I don't have to be perfect to teach them, I just have to be willing to try.