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.