Friday, December 19, 2008

Classical or Charlotte Mason?

Some of my main goals include raising my boys to be adults:
  • who will embrace Truth as revealed in the person of Jesus and trust Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.
  • who are relevant, engaging culture and their peers for the purpose of wining others to Christ.
  • who have the ability to intelligently defend their faith, both in speaking and writing, but do so with great respect.
  • who are well educated, entrenched in the classics, so they may pursue future endeavors they may feel God calling them to without hindrances from any educational lacking.
  • who are emotionally healthy, prepared for meaningful and fulfilling relationships with spouse, family and friends.
  • who are physically fit yet understand that "for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." - 1 Timothy 4:8
And this is not an exhaustive list. When I was teaching public school I always told my parents on "Meet the Teacher Night" that I wanted their children to excel not only in the "Three R's" but to grow as people during their nine months with me - to be be more emotionally and socially mature. The reality though is that with 20-24 children in my class and six to ten subjects to cover daily, there just wasn't enough time to devote to this noble endeavor. Truly I was stepping outside my job description anyway which was to solely educate their minds.

In contrast, one of the great benefits and blessing of homeschooling is that we are responsible for and able to educate the whole child: mind, body and spirit. When we started our journey to homeschool one of the first books I read was The Well Trained Mind. TWTM resonated so much with many of the things I had in mind for my children and provided the education I wish I had. We eagerly started on our journey using Susan Wise-Bauer's book as our road map.

Yet, I had begun feeling in recent months that while I was happy with much of the education I was providing for Thatcher there were holes - very big holes. We are so busy for so much of the day that while I am challenging his mind the focus on body and spirit is sorely lacking. I know this is not the case in many families pursuing a classical education, but it definitely is for us. The severity of Thatcher's ADHD means that lessons that take a typical child 20 minutes take us two or three times that much time. There is little time each day for anything other than academics.

I began to think about and research our options. I remembered several things I had always read about Charlotte Mason's educational theories, many of which are very intriguing for me. Short lessons, educating the whole child, nature studies and her focus on character development and habit training were things that stuck in my mind - and honestly just about all I knew about a CM education.

I have decided to seriously study up on Miss Mason's theories to decide if we need to change our trajectory in regards to educating my children. I love TWTM but is there a better way to meet our educational (mind) goals without sacrificing meeting the other goals I have for my children, especially now with our formal diagnosis of Asperger's?

I have started reading Volume One of Miss Mason's work in modern English from Ambleside Online. It's free! In the small amount I've already read, I have clearly seen that while TWTM is in line with my head CM aligns more with my heart. I will post my thoughts as I work my way through the series.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Asperger's Resource

I am a researcher by nature. As a mom, I have purchased and read countless books by different authors who all have their own take on how to raise children. Once we decided to homeschool the first thing I did was start learning all I could - books, websites, message boards and anything else I could get in my hands. Our realization of Thatch's ADHD was no different, more books added to our bookshelf and more bookmarks on my computer.

And now Asperger's has entered our life...

When I asked what the one book was that all moms starting on this journey needed to read first, I got this answer time and again: The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Tony Attwood.

I thought I would share here just in case you ever have a child with Asperger's cross your path - friend, family member, a child in church or any other way.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A New Path

A year ago, in December of 2007, we received a referral from our pediatrician to have Thatcher evaluated by a Developmental Pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital here in Houston. We sent in the paperwork and waited...and waited...and waited. After eleven months the day of our appointment arrived this past Tuesday.

We have always known he had severe ADHD and lots of what his therapists called "Spectrum Disorder tendencies." Spectum Disorder is the umbrella under which a few things fall: Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger's and Autism are a few of the more common.

He has always had unnatural fixations on things starting with lights and then his hands when he was less than a year old. As he got older his fixations changed from keys to automatic doors and then to cars. As a two year old he could tell you the name of every single car on the road. "Mom, that's a Ford F150. Oh, there's a Lincoln Navigator and a GMC Yukon XL." Lot of kids have interests but it is the level to which they dominate a child's life that make them stand out for some kids. Thatch talked about cars from the moment he woke up until the time he fell asleep at night.

Thatcher also received speech therapy from the age of eighteen months to three because he only used language to label things, never to get his needs met or communicate wants. He never once said, "I'm hungry (or thirsty or hot or angry or sad...). In speech therapy terms it is called pragmatic use of language - using language for different purposes. He would simply tell you what something was whether it be a giraffe, chair, car, house or whatever. His vocabulary was full of nouns but no verbs!

His non-verbal skills were almost non-existent when he was younger. We could not get him to use sign language no matter how much we tried. He also never pointed nor would he take you to show you what he wanted. It was like he wasn't even aware he had needs/wants. He would just go along with whatever toys/food I set in front of him. This was true up until the age of four! Very different from his brothers who expressed desires from twelve months on.

He was also very delayed in other areas, always meeting all developmental milestones but months to years later than his peers. He had low muscle tone, refused to self-feed until the age of 18 months (even with a dietician working with him weekly) and would refuse all foods unless they were brown and crunchy. I could go on and on but I am sure I've bored you stiff by now.

All these were pieces to a puzzle but we just didn't have the big picture to put them all together yet. Our hope was that this appointment might do this for us. We would have a yes or a no in regard to whether or not his "quirks" (and we all have them!) were enough to label him with something on the autism spectrum. I went into the appointment really hoping the doctor would say something along the line of, "Yep, lots of spectrum disorder stuff but not enough to warrant a label. He'll outgrow most of this with time." That's not what we got.

Instead we heard, "Your son has Asperger's Syndrome." I even pushed back a little saying that this diagnosis can be somewhat subjective and my concerns about this being over-diagnosed as it is the "hot" label right now. She replied that we could take Thatcher to ten doctors and she was confident that all ten would have the same diagnosis. After all I've learned in the past five days, I now agree. Honestly, I have known for some time in my heart the reality that this diagnosis was coming, but it's still incredibly hard to hear.

So where do we go from here? If you asked me on Tuesday I would have said that I was filled with a strange mixture of relief (that I am not a horrible mother who couldn't control or fix her son) and great sadness, too. It was weird, to say the least, to have such contrasting emotions exist simultaneously. Today I would have to say that the dominant emotion is thankfulness. I am thankful that now at least we know what path we are on so that we may learn how to best help/support/teach our precious son. I wish I had been doing more all along to educate myself these past few years when we had suspicions but am ready for what lay ahead. Ask me tomorrow and you may get a different answer though. This is quite an emotional roller coaster for sure.

Here's to a new journey, a new path and helping our son be all that God created him to be.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here is the Christmas card we are sending out this year (with a few modifications for anonymity's sake!). In the past we had friends who were professionals do all this for us...this year we did it by ourselves - or to be more fair, dh did it all by himself as he spent the better part of yesterday retouching photos, designing our card and ordering! Thank you dh!!!

May your days be merry and bright...
from Smooth Stones Academy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Look what flew over my house yesterday!

One of the perks of living less than five miles NASA's Johnson Space Center is that sometimes you get the chance to experience some really neat things! I got a call from dh yesterday around 12:30 in the afternoon; he told us to hurry into the backyard. Not three minutes later look what we saw.....

NASA was transporting Endeavour from its last landing spot in the California desert back to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It stopped here at JSC and before finishing the flight to KSC they flew the shuttle throughout the area to give everyone a good look. On one of its circles it flew directly over my backyard! It was extra-special considering that the shuttle program ends in 2010. There won't be many opportunities to see anything like this again!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Chicken in the Sticks???

This morning as we started our Thanksgiving break the boys were building with Lincoln Logs and Mega Blocks while listening to Hallelujah Handel followed by Tchaikovsky Discovers Amercia.

A song came on that Haddon recognized and he asked, "Mom, what's the name of this song? Isn't it Chicken in the Sticks?" To which I answered, "No sweetie, it's actually called Turkey in the Straw."

Lol! I had to leave the room so he couldn't see me giggling! :)


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nutrition 101 - Part Four: More About Dyes

I have thought of a few more things in regard to dyes; I thought I would share them before moving on to the next topic.

First of all, I did remember to check, and Life cereal is still made with dye. Crazy!

Medicines...Can you imagine how much dye it takes to make a bottle of pain reliever/medicine that pretty purple/red/pink color? The dye-free products shown can be hard to find and unfortunately I have yet to find a less expensive store brand. We buy the national brands and pay a little more. I do try to use a coupon and pair those coupons with a store sale; then it's not too much more expensive than generic. I have not found a solution to many other over-the-counter and prescription medicines that come in every color from cotton candy blue to electric orange. I think that will be rapidly changing as consumers are demanding more dye-free options. If you know of other medicines that are dye-free, leave a comment! I would love to stock my RX cabinet before flu and cold season hits. :)

Instead of dye (and corn syrup) filled breakfast bars or toaster tarts, try Healthy Valley Organic Bars/Tarts. They are not whole wheat, but I have yet to find a ww version my kids will eat. These are great for mornings when we need a quick breakfast to get started with school or when we are out the door for church. These paired with fresh fruit and an organic drinkable yogurt make a great start to our day.

For the occasional treat when we go to the zoo or on other field trips we love the Florida's Natural line of "fruit snacks" and "fruit string". We discovered these when we were on a gluten free diet and my kids have loved them ever since! They are 66% fruit ingredients and have no artificial dyes. They do have a little corn syrup but you can't win them all! Like the medicines, these can be a little hard to find so I stock up when I see them.

For a quick lunch my boys love Back to Nature's 100% Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese Dinner. I cut up nitrate/nitrite free chicken or turkey hot dogs, mix them in and presto - a gourmet meal (if you are under 10 years old, anyway!) :) Annie's also makes a whole wheat mac and cheese. We don't like it as well but it is a good second choice.

Unfortunately you can find dyes in just about everything from vitamins to dairy products like ice cream, yogurt, flavored milk, butter spreads and cheese. Some breads and salad dressings have dyes and many pre-packaged "treats" are loaded with dye. The key is to start reading labels - every label. And beware if a package says "artificial colors and flavors" because sometimes that is all the warning you get.

I'll move on to something else in my next post. Happy hunting in your grocery store!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote!

Today is the last day to cast your vote over at the Homeschool Post for the Homeschool Blog Awards. Voting ends at midnight tonight. Go and cast your vote if you haven't had a chance before it's all over. :)

Join Us at the HSBA!


Kids Who are Different

Kids Who Are Different

Here's to the kids who are different,

The kids who don't always get A's,

The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers,

And noses that go on for days...

Here's to the kids who are different,

The kids they call crazy or dumb,

The kids who don't fit, with the guts and the grit,

Who dance to a different drum...

Here's to the kids who are different,

The kids with the mischievous streak,

For when they have grown, as history's shown,

It's their difference that makes them unique.

--Digby Wolfe


Monday, November 17, 2008

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Well it's the 17th and halfway through the month but I couldn't miss the opportunity to support MOD (and my precious friend, Darcy, and her Trouble) in their efforts to bring awareness to this issue.

I do not have a preemie; all of my boys were born at the exact same day of gestation - 37 weeks and one day. All three! But I have a few friends who have had prematurity touch their lives in varying degrees. It is heartbreaking to see babies who could have, would have, even should have been born perfectly healthy if given their nine months. But something happened, even though their mommies did all the right things, and they came to us too early.

If you want to learn more about why you should care about prematurity click on the purple tag above and read an informative post from Darcy. And then read this one and then follow up with this one (and be sure to click on the link to learn all about Kyle). Then read Darcy's post titled, Why I Missed My Own Son's Baptism. This one is a don't miss but please make sure to have a Kleenex in hand if your eyes are still dry. They won't be after you read her story.

I am blessed to call Darcy a friend and have even had the opportunity to meet her. But I can't wait for the day when I can meet her Boybarians and hug them...especially that little Trouble!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Book Review: Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World

Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons is the best book I have ever read on the subject of ADD/ADHD. It provides not only help but hope! So many of the things Thatcher does that most people, including myself, have always found quirky to downright irritating are actually common in the world of right brained learners (which Thatcher tested very strongly in the checklist given by the author). In describing ADHD children it was as if Mr. Freed had been a fly on the wall in our living room for years.
The child with genuine ADD typically has just two speeds: full tilt and collapse. He consistently has a short attention span, which means he fails to hold a thought for more than a few seconds. He rarely finishes a task, bouncing like a pinball from one activity to another. He doesn't have a built-in "brake" in his brain that tells him to look before he leaps. His lightning-fast visual mind flashes from random thought to random thought; his thought patterns are like a brain storming session run amok. He is nonlogical, nonsequential and nonverbal (although he talks constantly), physically and socially clumsy, and hopelessly disorganized. He may or may not respond well to medication. Rather than being labeled as ADD, this child might be more accurately termed a "hyperimpulsive random visual processor." Whatever you choose to call it, it's a tremendous challenge to parent and teach this kind of child.
p. 25-26
Amen, Mr. Freed! As a mom I have always known "what" Thatcher did but not always the "why" behind the "what". After reading this book I feel I truly know my child so much better - what makes him tick and how to get inside his head (and subsequently his heart!). I also learned that I am a strong left-brained learner which has been a cause of much of my frustration. He learns so much differently than myself and the things the author explains I don't know that I ever would have figured out on my own.

The author describes how he believes many children are moving towards being visual learners due to our culture and society. Unfortunately schools have not kept up, teaching largely the way they did for the past 100 years - primarily to auditory learners. These methods made sense in a world pre-television, pre-computer and pre-picture books where the predominate means of communication was auditory: radio, literature readings and oral story telling. Today children's brains are different and require new teaching methods. He believes that many children (if not most) who are labeled ADD/ADHD are actually visual learners who are simply having a difficult time coping in a classroom not geared towards their learning style. He believes that only 2-3% of the population are true ADD kiddos and the remainder are pseudo-ADD. They way to tell the difference is to examine, "the degree of severity" and "whether the behavior is pronounced both inside and outside the classroom."

Whether or not your child is true ADD or what he terms "pseudo-ADD" you can greatly benefit from this book. After making his case that ADD is a "learning style" he lays how to work with children who demonstrate these characteristics in a chapter titled "Ground Rules for Working with the ADD Child" and then follows up by walking though each subject one by one describing specific techniques to help these children attain success.

If you have a child you suspect of being ADD/ADHD (the author uses these terms interchangeably) this would be a great book to add to your reading list. Beware that he is a little harsh on the public school system and public school teachers. He makes a lot of generalizations and remember that there are always exceptions (although in my experience teaching ps for seven years many of his statement are true). Also, this book is not just for homeschooling parents, although he does hold a favorable view of homeschooling. He devotes a few chapters at the end of the book to helping parents help their child(ren) have a more positive experience in the public/private school system.


Thursday, November 13, 2008


I just wanted to take the time to say a heartfelt, "Thank you!" to all who nominated me for a Homeschool Blog Award over at the Homeschool Post. On Monday morning I headed over to check which of my bloggy buddies were nominated. I was honestly shocked to see my name on a list. I didn't think my blog was old enough, that I posted enough, that I ... :)

And a huge "Thank you!" to all who have voted for me as well. There are tons of amazing blogs nominated. Have fun checking them all out and if you are so inclined you can cast your vote for my blog here! Congratulations to all the nominees; I have had so much fun reading all your beautiful blogs. I wish that there were more awards to give out because I know of many more amazing and faithful bloggers who deserve to be noticed as well. The blogging world is truly incredible and I am thankful to be a part of it!


Saturday, November 8, 2008

I Did It!

I subscribed to all my favorite blogs in a reader! Dh has been telling me for several months now how much time I could save by doing this, but you know it's that whole change thing. :)

I am recommitted to getting back on top of household routines: meal planning, cleaning, grocery shopping/coupon clipping, laundry, managing finances and so on. I need to save time everywhere I can. Well after watching this simple video I was convinced. It's so easy; it only took five minutes to set up. I have loved it this past week. I hope the video helps a few of you, too. It's a little corny but really does a fantastic job of explaining the "What?", "Why?" and "How?" of using a reader!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thank You

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments and emails. Even though I have been quiet (in a blogging sense) this week, they have been a great source of comfort and encouragement. My body is healing; my heart is taking longer. I know only time will truly mend that, but there has been much to be thankful for in the midst of our sadness, too: my wonderful dh, my three beautiful boys, amazing friends who have showered me with love and care beyond measure, a church body who has grieved with us and so many more. Thanks to each of you who are a part of that sweet blessing. Sometimes it's in times of great sadness that you see joy so clearly.

This song was playing in the car when dh left the doctor's office after our sad news. It's from Ray Lamontagne's new CD called Gossip in the Grain. Later that night he hugged me tight and told me, "This is my heart for you," as I listened for the first time. I have listened again and again since then. It's amazing how when someone puts your experience to words it can be so comforting - even if it's in a sad sort of way. I thought I would share it with you, too. (Not a great video but it's a new song so there are not too many options on YouTube yet!)

Let It Be Me

There comes a time,
A time in everyone's life
When nothing seems to go your way,
When nothing seems to turn out right

There may come a time,
You just can't seem to find your place
For every door you open,
Seems like you get two slammed in your face

That's when you need someone,
Someone that you, you can call.
When all your faith is gone,
It feels like you can't go on

Let it be me
Let it be me
If it's a friend that you need
Let it be me
Let it be me

Feels like you're always comin' up last
Pockets full of nothin' ain't got no cash
No matter where you turn
You ain't got no place to stand
You reach out for somethin' and they slap your hand

I remember all too well
Just how it feels to be all alone
To feel like you'd give anything
For just a little place you can call your own

That's when you need someone,
Someone that you, you can call
When all your faith is gone
It feels like you can't go on

Let it be me
Let it be me
If it's a friend you need,
Let it be me
Let it be me

Let it be me
Let it be me
If it's a friend you need,
Let it be me
Let it be me
Let it be me


Friday, October 24, 2008

My Heart is Sad

Today we took the boys to my 16 week OB appointment to find out if the baby was a girl or a boy. There was no heartbeat. This is my third miscarriage and the second one to happen out of the first trimester. We are at home needing to make some decisions about our next steps. I would covet your prayers. My heart is broken today.


Homeschool Blog Awards!

Today is the last day to vote!!!

I hope my favorite bloggers get to put a big fat "Nominee" button on their blogs! :)

That's some of you who are reading, by the way!!

Join Us at the HSBA!

Have you voted yet? There are only a few more days left and then the chance to nominate your favorite blogs will be over. Don't miss the chance to give your favorite bloggers a huge thank you for all they do by taking a few minutes to cast your vote! Here are the categories for this year's Homeschool Blog Awards (you can go the the site and see descriptions of each category):

1. Best Home school Mom Blog

2. Best Home school Dad Blog

3. Best Blog Design

4. Best Artistic Content Blog

5. Best Crafts, Plans & Projects Blog

6. Best Family or Group Blog

7. Best Encourager

8. ‘Live-What-You-Believe’ Home school Blog

9. Best Unschooling or Eclectic Homeschooling Blog

10. Best Geographical Blog

11. Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog

12. Best Homemaking or Recipes Blog

13, 14, 15. Best Teen Girl Blog, Teen Guy Blog, Teen Group Blog

16. Funniest Home school Blog

17. Best Cyber-Buddy Blogger

18. Best Curriculum or Business Blog

19. Best Variety

20. Best Thrifty Homeschooler


22. Best Nitty-Gritty Home school Blog

23. Best NEW Home school Blog

24. *new!* Best Homeschooling Methods Blog

I voted for my favorites today. Now it's your turn!!!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nutrition 101 - Part Three: Dyes

One of the things we avoid around here are all synthetic food dyes...well not ALL the time but the huge majority of the time anyway. What's wrong with synthetic food dyes? Did you know they are made from petroleum (look at the last question in the article)? Yep, one barrel of oil goes to the refinery to produce gasoline for your car and the next to an FDA approved factory to make all those pretty dyes that color your M&M's and just about everything else we eat. I don't know if it happens exactly like that but that's how it works in my mind! Did you know they can cause significant reactions in children with ADD/ADHD and other medical issues (allergies, migraines...)? Heck, the official FDA site only says there is a "reasonable certainty of no harm". I don't like "reasonable certainty" when it comes to the food that is entering my boys' bodies. How about you? And just for good measure, here is one more article from Web MD that talks about food dyes.

What are other options? You have to be a little creative but we've found tons of fun alternatives so my kids never feel they are missing out. Here is a link that shows you how to make homemade grenadine. Beware before clicking that link; know that you are going to an amazing cupcake blog. Proceed with caution! :) I keep this delicious syrup in my fridge at all times and we use it for ton of things listed below. I have used the same recipe using POM tangerine juice as well. One thing I do change in the recipe is I sweeten the syrup with agave nectar instead of sugar (We also avoid refined sugar as much as possible.). It does not thicken like a traditional syrup but it is every bit as yummy and much healthier!

We use this syrup for snow cones (We actually bought our snow cone maker at Wal-Mart for $15 at the start of the summer but this will give you an idea.) on hot summer evenings. We also make homemade cherry "Sprite" which is simply a mix of seltzer water, a little white grape juice concentrate and a spoonful of the grenadine. Yum! Thatcher actually prefers a little of this syrup on his pancakes some mornings rather than the pure maple the rest of us adore.

Instead of popsicles that cost too much and are full of dyes and refined sugar we use an inexpensive popsicle maker I picked up for super cheap. We fill the cups with different diluted juices and my kids love it!

Also, you can make yummy jello with your child's favorite fruit juice and plain gelatin. The gelatin is less than $1 a box and you can use the juice you have at home. The recipe for Knox Blocks (the same idea as Jello Jigglers) is right on the back of the box and will take you five minutes to prepare. Again I use the agave nectar to sweeten rather than sugar if needed at all. Plain Jello has not one good thing in it; it's full of dyes and chemicals and artificial flavors. Ick! Try this instead. We cut ours out using cookie cutters in fun shapes to celebrate whatever season we are in for some extra fun, too!

These yummy Sundrop candies are great substitutes for M&M's and my kids love a few of them sprinkled in a bowl of freshly popped popcorn! My kids also love jelly beans or gummies we buy at our local health food store made with only natural dyes, too. The same company that make the gummies also makes a great candy sprinkle that is artificial dye free, too. My boys love these sprinkled on the occasional homemade ice cream, sugar cookie or cupcake.

For a special drink on the go my boys love 100% fruit juice boxes (avoiding ones with preseratives...and yes labels can and do say 100% juice but have yucky stuff added in) or Vitamin Water.

In the realm of breakfast cereal we stick with Cheerios, an organic version of Rice Krispies from Erewhon (to avoid the BHT in many breakfast cereals) or cereals from the Envirokidz line. No Froot Loops here! :) You would be surprised what cereals have dyes in them. At one time Life cereal had dye (Can't say if it still does because I haven't checked in over a year.). Why??? Life is a brown cereal; why dyes are needed is beyond me!

One last thought...the more you buy that is organic the more you are able to avoid artificial dyes. This is true for everything from breakfast cereal to granola bars to lunch treats. I know what my store carries and stock up on these items when they go on sale about once every three or four months. I don't pay full price for anything! :)

If you have your own favorites, please leave a comment. Or better yet write a blog post and link it here so we can all see what other great ideas are out there!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Encouragement for Parents of ADHD'ers

I am currently reading Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your ADD Child. It is fantastic, by far the best book I've read on the subject as of yet. I wanted to share a quote the authors included that is actually from still another book.

What I like most about this quote is that it reminds me that I define my child, not the culture, not well-meaning friends/family members/teachers/coaches/scout leaders/et al, not anyone else's ideas of how they think a child should act. That awesome and wonderful power is mine and mine alone...well mine and dh's! And I am committed to doing a better job of not letting those titles in the first group of words stick but those in the second and so many more. We hear those first adjectives so often that they tend to seep into our souls, maybe much more than we realize - at least speaking for me, more than I realize. But if I choose to define his behavior as energetic rather than hyperactive and sensitive rather than irritable, well just that mental shift can make a huge difference in how I relate to my child and come to think of it how others will relate to him too.

I hope this quote is an encouragement to you as well. If you don't have an ADHD kiddo, feel free to pass this link along to someone who does and maybe it will lift up a friend who has had a tough day with her unique child!

Instead of thinking of your child as...Think of him as...
a daydreamer...imaginative thinker with a wide focus
attention deficit disordered...unique

-Dr. Thomas Armstrong, The Myth of the ADD Child


Friday, October 10, 2008

Inspirations from my Notebook

Here are the quotes from the "Inspirations" section of my Teacher's Notebook. Leave a comment if you have a favorite or two not listed here.


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
—Deuteronomy 6:5-7

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
–Proverbs 24:3

Character Building

My children, my darling precious children, what I want them to be - I must become myself.
--Elizabeth Prentiss

It is no good to preach to children if you do not act decently yourself.
-- Theodore Roosevelt

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
-Frank Outlaw


Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.
--William Butler Yeats

Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man,
and writing an exact man.
--Sir Francis Bacon

Don't let schooling interfere with your education.
--Mark Twain

The purpose of education is to bring out the best in you.

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.

Nine tenths of education is encouragement.
--Anatole France

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

The secret of education is respecting the pupil.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is possible to store the mind with a million facts
and still be entirely uneducated.
-- Alec Bourne

Thank goodness I was never sent to school;
it would have rubbed off some of the originality.
--Beatrix Potter


They may forget what you said but
they will never forget how you made them feel.

We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how.

It's not what is poured into a student, but what is planted.
--Linda Conway

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.The great teacher inspires.
--William Arthur Ward

Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to
discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing.
--Albert Einstein

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy
in creative expression and knowledge.
--Albert Einstein

Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.

I wake up every morning determined both to change the
world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes
planning the day a little difficult.
--E. B. White

Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events,
small minds discuss personalities.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

Life is too important to be taken seriously.
--Oscar Wilde

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel
that you, too, can become great.
--Mark Twain


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Teacher's Notebook

I have spent a lot of time in the past few weeks putting the final touches on my Teacher's Notebook. It will always be a work in progress but I am very pleased with where it is now. I wanted one place for me to keep all things homeschool related. Last year I had lesson plans in a notebook, inspiring quotes in a file on my desktop, ideas for next year in a spiral in our schoolroom, goals for the kids filed away in my brain...Not so efficient for sure.

Here are the different sections I divided my book into:
  • Inspirations: These are quotes, scripture or other sources that encourage me and remind me why I do what I do!
  • Year-at-a-Glance
  • Family Rules
  • Weekly Schedule
  • Family Goals: I typed out objectives for myself as well as for each of my boys this year. They include academic, social, emotional, physical and spiritual goals.
  • My Reading List: Books I want to read, homeschool related or not.
  • Future Curriculum Ideas: One central place to keep track of all the great programs I read about mostly on the Well Trained Mind Message Board or on other mom's blogs - probably many of yours :) .
  • Thatcher's Reading Log: A place to keep track of all the books we use as read alouds as well as all the books Thatch reads to me. These are only the non-history/science readers as I keep track of those in my lesson plans for each subject.
  • Wishlist: Books, manipulatives, videos, software, learning games, school room supplies/furniture or anything else I would like to buy for our school.
  • Weekly Lesson Plans
  • Things to Make Me Smile: A place for those precious quotes my kids spout off, a sweet drawing offered when I am sick or down, a copy of this hilarious cartoon I first saw at Mater Magistra's blog or anything else that makes me happy!

Is there anything else important I left off that you would include?


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Deconstructing Penguins: A Review

One among many homeschooling goals I have is to help my children become thinkers: to be able to engage a book, movie, lecture or any other aspect of culture and discerningly embrace the good, noble and redeemable from that which is false or ungodly. I realize this road I desire to lead my children down is one I have just begun to journey myself as I was not given these tools in my education.

I was your typical memorize and regurgitate the facts kind of kid. I would figure out just what the teachers wanted from me in order to get the grade I desired, and unfortunately thinking was rarely a part of the equation. Specifically, when it came to reading I was typically given a book and then asked to do a report or answer a series of basic comprehension questions – again, no real thinking, just spitting out facts.

In comes Desconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids and the Bond of Reading. This book is an account of the authors’ experiences leading literature discussion groups with second through fourth graders at their local library. In these groups they taught the participants (and through them, now us) how to determine the protagonist and antagonist, analyze the setting, identify the climax and ultimately to discover the hidden meaning in a book. And all this was done with seven through nine year olds! In addition they showed the children how to “grade” the author: Did s/he achieve his/her objectives and did they break any rules doing so? There is also a wonderful chapter (possibly my favorite) on poetry.

I learned these terms (protagonist, antagonist, climax, setting…) in school and probably was even tested over the material in a “match the word to its definition kind of way”. Unfortunately, I was never taught that most books (at least most good ones) have great underlying themes that I could discover on my own using these elements as a type of road map. I thought the protagonist was simply the good guy and the antagonist the bad guy, and the main significance of the setting was to identify what genre of literature I was reading. After reading this book I feel much better prepared to walk my children a little farther on down the road to becoming real thinkers and I will be journeying right along beside them!

If you could use some help teaching your children how to do real and meaningful literature analysis then read Desconstructing Penguins! You won’t be sorry. Also, leave a comment if you have other books you can recommend that would help me on my journey to become a thinker. I’d love to add a few to my wishlist for Christmas. Next, I'll be reading Mortimer Adler's classic, How to Read a Book.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Introducing the Newest Members of our Family

This adorable guy's name is Wrigley. He is an eight month old Golden Retriever puppy who came to us five weeks ago. We had been contemplating getting a dog for quite some time now but were unable to decide on a breed. Each breed we looked at seemed to have some strike against it: not suited for our climate, too expensive/rare, not good with very young children... I finally decided that a Golden Retriever is what we needed with three energetic boys. Not 24 hours later an email entered my husband's inbox from a family who owned this precious guy but was no longer able to care for him. They were looking to give him away to a loving family for free, and they agreed to allow us a two week trial to be certain we were ready for the added responsibility and that he would indeed be a good fit for our family. Well the two weeks passed and we couldn't imagine giving him back. He is a complete joy and a wonderful addition to our crew!

Here is the second new addition to our family. We are expecting Baby #4 to make his/her arrival sometime around the end of March!!! I am now 12 weeks and feeling the full effects of first trimester exhaustion and sickness (although the sickness hasn't been nearly as bad as in previous pregnancies). We should know at my next appointment whether we are to be adding pink to our home or more blue. Our guess is blue since dh's family has not seen a girl in six generations - yes you read that right... six generations!!!

Soon I will be back to homeschool topics after quite a break from anything homeschool related! I have almost completed my Teacher Notebook for this year and I need to post our first Weekly Report (to actually cover the first 6 weeks!).


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nutrition 101 - Part Two: Now What?

Well I posted awhile back just a few thoughts on nutrition. Here is my first follow-up: Now What? Several have asked me what I feed my family after eliminating all the aforementioned things. Well, read on!

In this post I just wanted to focus on nitrates/nitrites in food. Here is another link that talks about these preservatives in food with several helpful links at the bottom: How Stuff Works - What is Sodium Nitrate? Like so much of this stuff, there is no definitive answer that can be found as to exactly how dangerous these substances are and in what quantities they must be consumed to cause problems. The reality is that we may never know, but there is enough research that shows them (especially nitrites) to be cancer-causing that my family avoids them altogether. Just look at those links and see what else those substances are used in and you'll probably never want to feed them to your family again!

Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite is found in lots of prepared meats you buy at the grocery store - especially breakfast meats and deli meats. Luckily there are tons of alternatives that are really tasty available now. You need to look for uncured natural products. Here are some examples. Click on each photo to go to that product's site and see other products available!

Here is a list of a few of the foods I buy that are natural and uncured: turkey bacon, bacon, ham (I cut into slices and freeze in packs of 3 to cook for breakfast for the boys), chicken breakfast sausage (see photo above), turkey and chicken hot dogs, specialty sausages to grill (my favorite is chicken apple sausage on a big crusty hot dog bun with tons of mustard!), lunch meat (turkey, ham and roast beef), salami and prosciutto. I have yet to find uncured pepperoni to buy in any of my local stores but I keep looking. One of my local stores does carry a gourmet frozen pizza made with uncured pepperoni though!

Each store in my area carries a different selection of these items. What I do is when I happen to be near one of these stores I stop in and stock up. Almost every product I mentioned can be easily frozen. I will buy five packages of turkey bacon and freeze four. I will pull one out each week for the next month before I need to go back to that store. Now before that happened I had to acquaint myself with what each store carried. I also talked with the manager of my default store and requested all the items I wanted. They actually were willing to order several with the stipulation that if they didn't sell, they would not be ordered a second time. A few have stuck around and a few haven't but I was so glad I asked. If you happen to live near a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods your life will be much easier in this regard.

Last, here is a simple recipe for homemade breakfast sausage. You'll never need to buy the pre-made, chemical-filled stuff again. This only takes a few minutes longer than buying the Jimmy Dean chub and knowing how many chemicals you are eliminating is worth those few minutes.

Maple Breakfast Sausage

1 pound ground pork (no msg, nitrates/nitrites and not low fat!)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon sage
3 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup (yes get the real stuff! :)

Mix thoroughly and form into patties. Cook and enjoy! Freeze any leftovers and reheat when needed.

All measurements are to taste. The pork I buy is only preserved with salt so I don't need to add much more. You may want to adjust seasonings depending on the pork you buy. This does not work with chicken or any other lean meat - trust me ;). I make this for my boys so the sweet maple is perfect for them. If you prefer a spicy breakfast sausage google a recipe and you'll get tons of ideas! I usually triple this recipe and freeze the extra sausages in groups of three. I pull one packet out for breakfast, pop it in the microwave on defrost and it's as yummy as when you first make it.

Have fun searching out your local stores' collections of natural products. Let me know what you find.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Life on the Gulf Coast

I wish I could paint an accurate picture of what is like around here post-Ike. It is just sad. So many have lost everything, even some of my closest friends. I cannot get into their homes to help with demolition due to health issues I have right now. Instead I spend my days coordinating meals and childcare for families so they can spend their days at the shell they once called home - homes that are now coated with raw sewage and the dredges of the ocean. I am collecting clothes, books and toys for one homeschool family who lost everything they owned other than five outfits per person and one small bag of toys that they took when they evacuated. Saturday I cooked meals for four families. Everyone here is exhausted because there are just so many needs and so little time. The race is against toxic black mold (a huge problem in Texas) which is already starting to grow in most flooded homes due to the lovely Houston heat and humidity.

Galveston Island (30 min south of my home and where we go several times a month to play on the beach or visit a museum) is still closed and most people haven't been able to get back and see their homes. A friend of mine was able to tour the island because her husband is a firefighter there. She said that you can start to smell the stench before you even reach the causeway (huge bride that connects Galveston to the mainland). So many thousands haven't been back home and power has been out for ten days now. Everyone has food rotting in refrigerators, not to mention restaurants and grocery stores. Also there are dead animals everywhere because so many didn't take pets with them when they left two weeks ago and they died in the storm. They won't let you onto the island without getting a tetanus shot and giving you a special mask to protect from mold and the horrible smell.

Yet there is an upside to all this. It is an amazing thing is to see how people pull together in times like these. Disaster creates community and the community has been incredible. People are driving through neighborhoods (or what's left of them) and dropping off hundreds of lunches to families and volunteers. People everywhere are jumping in to help people they have never met. I saw a man buying ten generators (and those are not cheap!) to deliver to complete strangers who still do not have power. The stories that will come out of Ike will be incredible.

Here is a portion of my dh's blog post about Ike and I couldn't say it any better:
This won't be a quick story with a short ending. We will have work that will last months, some maybe even more than a year. But I'm reminded of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 16:9, "...for a wide door for effective work has opened to me..."; I am very encouraged at the fact that I think a great door to the Gospel has been opened by the violent hands of Ike. Self-security and presumption have been trumped by 110 mph winds of an eyewall that went, literally, through my neighborhood...and the neighborhood of those I believe God has called us to reach through our local church. This may sound funny to say, but I'm excited about the future. I'm excited to see how wide the door will open for the grace of God in Christ in the Bay Area. I'm excited at how many people will decide to become Followers of Jesus or recommit to their followship of the Lord. I'm excited I get to be a part of it all by the grace of God.
And what's even better is that I believe I have an entire church that's feels the same way!

Thanks Ike.

I put on my sidebar a button you can click if you would like to donate to help victims of Ike. It is set up through my church and 100% of the money will go directly to those who need it most - not one dime to administrative costs.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We are back home again! We left last Thursday at 3:00 am to avoid traffic, brought another family with us and headed out of town. We just returned today after learning our area had power and a clean water supply. Our home survived the storm with minimal damage: about 50 shingles off our roof and a section of fence down. We are very, very blessed. The debris line in my yard shows how close we came to having water in our home. Thankfully, the storm surge was only 10 feet instead of the predicted 20+. Just on the other side of the main road where we live is almost complete devastation - five or more feet of water in most homes. We even have friends who returned to find their refrigerator floating in their kitchen. My life will be back to normal in a few days once I get my home cleaned, the last of the evacuation tubs unpacked and my fridge filled with groceries but for so many in my area their lives will not return to normal for many months. Yet God is still good and we still praise Him.

Thank you for all the sweet emails and messages and please pray for those who suffered damage and great loss due to Ike.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Same Song...Second Verse

Ike is heading for the Texas Coast and we are right in his path. We are officially evacuating this time. There are too many unknowns with this storm. Even the experts are saying this is a highly unpredictable storm and they really can't be certain where it will hit nor how strong it will be when it makes landfall. The best guess is somewhere between Corpus Christi, Texas and Houston, Texas and anywhere from a Category 2 to a Category 4. A Category 4 direct hit on Galveston (Houston) would put my house deep underwater. So once again we are packing to leave but this time we really, really are! We are heading for the Texas Hill Country and hoping we have a house to come back to after this storm hits on Saturday.

If you are the praying sort, please pray for safe travel. This news is coming so late that the roads are already jam-packed. It is very possible our five our trip could be double that or more. Three young, busy boys and 10-15 hours in a car = no fun. Hopefully that won't be the case though. I am not really worried about my house or anything in it; insurance will replace all that. I just want my family out of harm's way.