Friday, August 27, 2010

A Life Well-Lived

This week in my classes at Grand Canyon, we're talking about observations.  It's fun to read about the different lessons that my students have learned through observing--from learning how to make fried chicken from their grandmas to lessons on life.  The conversation this week reminded me of a lesson I learned from my Dad as a teenager, just ready to head off to college.

One day, I got a call from Bank One, telling me that I was hired.  That was great, except I had never submitted an application or done an interview.  I had no idea that I was even in consideration for the job--or even that they were hiring!  It turns out that my Dad had mentioned my name, and I was hired solely on the basis of his character. (Of course I proved myself, too, later on!)  Amazingly, since I was going off to college, I couldn't work at our local branch, so I was transferred to a branch in Flagstaff with high recommendations--even though I had never worked a day at the bank!

My Dad wasn't a wealthy man.  He didn't have any "standing" in the community.  In fact, he was the assistant manager at the local grocery store.  Everybody knew my dad because of his smile, I think.  He was always smiling or joking with one person or another.  It didn't matter what was going on in his life, my Dad always had something to be thankful for and a kind word for everyone. 

But it wasn't just his good attitude or his kind words that people noticed.  He was also a man of integrity.  Dad always did what he said he would do.  He lived a life worthy of God.  And while the benefits weren't monetary, to my young 18 year old self, getting a job just on the basis of my Dad's character made a huge impression on me.

I hope that one day my kids will be able to say the same about me--that their mom was a person who lived her life with integrity and kindness and always a smile to share.

Karen and Dad

Phil. 1:6:  Have confidence that He who began a good work in you will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Homeschooling Curriculum

Among homeschooling moms, the conversation often begins with the scintillating question:  "What curriculum are you using?"  So, I thought I'd share my wonderful curriculum choices with my reading audience.  ;-)

Last year, we switched from Saxon math to Horizons.  We started with Saxon because we started out with Veritas Press.  They recommend starting K with 1st grade math and so on.  However, Megan hated the boring black and white pages, so I went on a search for new, more colorful curriculum.  We decided on Horizons, mostly because of its Christian emphasis.  Singapore math was a close 2nd.  I'm a little conflicted about the K Horizons because the method of teaching addition is a little strange.  But everything else is good. 

For phonics, I use All About Spelling, which uses flashcards and manipulatives to teach the phonetic spelling of words.  Megan was doing the Veritas Press Phonics Museum for K, which was a lot of fun, but only got through the short vowel sounds and the consonants by the end of the year, but expected her to memorize huge lists of words every week.  She got so frustrated because there was no predictability.  She learned all the phonograms and was reading within 2 weeks with AAS.  I like that it does double duty as a spelling and a phonics text and that it utilizes different learning methods--auditory, visual, and sensory.  I also supplement with Explode the Code.  It's just fun to say.  And it does a great job of getting the kids to practice the skills they're learning in AAS.
Shurley English Homeschool Kit, Level 1
This year, we're trying out Shurley English.  In part because the homeschool program we think we might join at some point uses it, in part because it's a well-recommended part of any classical curriculum, and in part because we're still kinda sorta following the Veritas Press model.  I really do like it (Veritas Press & the Phonics Museum), and I would use it again in conjunction with All About Spelling.  :-)

For literature, we're using the reading list from Veritas Press.  I'm pretty happy that I have a lot of the books on the list already (yes, I have good taste.  lol), and we make trips to the library every Sunday, so we'll supplement the rest with free books!  Yay!

Handwriting Transition Student Worktext (Reason for Handwriting)Handwriting--we use A Reason for Handwriting.  I just love that they are practicing writing verses every day.  This year, we will be doing a lot more writing.  The kids have been writing a letter a week to a friend, so that is one way we're practicing.  I think book reports will be in order, and I think I remember seeing quite a lot of writing in the Shurley English books, too.  As an comp teacher, I'm always running into the same problem with my students--they freak out so much about grammar and spelling that they can't get their ideas down. So I didn't worry about those things with Megan--just get your ideas down and then edit.  But in her 'real life' writing, which she does a lot of, she doesn't do the editing part.  SO...we need some more practice.  :-)

That's quite a lot already, don't you think?!  But we wouldn't be complete without history and science.  This year, thanks to a wonderful new friend who let me borrow her book, we'll be doing Apologia Astronomy.  The kids spent an hour looking through the book tonight, so I think they'll like it.  Megan wants to try all the experiments.  And Tristan, well, his ears perked up when he heard Science.  Why?  Because his book on Nascar says that you have to be good at math and science to drive a racecar.  Thank you Nascar!  ;-)

I would love to do Story of the World for history, but for now, I think, we're going to continue with the TruthQuest American History we have from last year.  This year will be some catching up, for sure.  After a year of "fast school,"  the kids are going to love (I hope) having time to really have fun learning instead of having to rush through everything.  That's one of the benefits of homeschooling--it adapts to your life! 

Some other things I'd like to throw in--Spanish, cooking, art. Oh!  And Megan begged and begged to learn Latin.  So, we're going to work on that, too.  So, we've got a lot going on this year.  Hopefully we'll keep it together.  Maybe next time I'll share with you how I juggle all I have on my plate.   :-)  And I think something that we tend to forget--the overall goals of homeschooling, at least for our family.

Thanks for listening!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fall Gardening in New Braunfels

One of the things I have missed most (besides my family and friends, of course!) about Arizona is my garden & fruit trees.  I was so excited to see actual fruit on my trees this year, and we were taken away before getting to taste it!  I even had blackberries ready to ripen on the vine.  God was so good to give us a house here in TX with fruit trees.  Granted, they are two fruits I have never eaten in my life (figs and persimmons), but they are fruit trees, none the less.  (Ok, I have eaten figs--in newtons.  lol) But, I still missed the fun of picking all the ripe tomatoes our of our garden. 
(Don't you love the hat?)  Can you guess what this is?
So, I was really excited to find out that New Braunfels has a second growing season in the fall that lasts through November!  I've heard that we can plant a second crop of tomatoes and zucchini right now, plus plant cold weather crops, like broccoli and lettuce. 
The kids all got to help.

Carrying the big planter to the back yard.  Ryan also made two small ones.
 So, Ryan built planters for me, and yesterday we went and bought soil (to fill the planters), tons of seeds (I left all mine in AZ--oops!), and some seedlings from the Plant Haus.  I planted tomatoes, zucchini, & bell pepper plants.  And from seed, broccoli, celery (a first for me!), sweet peas, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, and green onions.  Plus, I bought a chocolate mint and a thyme plant, and planted chamomile, basil, oregano, dill, and cilantro.  I'm really excited to see what grows!
This is where I planted the sweet peas (two kinds!), lettuce, carrots, radishes, & onions...You can see one of the four fig trees to the right in the picture. 
 Next spring, when the fruit trees arrive, we'll be buying several dwarf varieties that will live in pots for a few years until we have our own house.  Pretty much everything grows here--from apples and pears to citrus.  Even bananas!  How cool is that?! Even in the little things, God is faithful. :-) 

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