Friday, October 24, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up

I haven't written about our school year thus far, so I thought I'd update that part of our lives. I have many books to share and add to my picture book pages on this blog, but there just hasn't been time. Hopefully soon.

I've begun watching a 9-year-old boy a couple nights a week, so that makes things a little busier, but he's a sweet boy and a welcome addition to our family (Landon, who accepted Christ recently). His grandma told me when she accepted my offer to watch him that he has ADHD, Aspergers Syndrome, and depression. His mother died when he was 18 months old, and he deals with anger over not having a mom, since all the kids he knows have one.

Oh, Lord. So much for a young boy to handle. Please say a prayer for him? I've suspected he was on the autism spectrum for quite a while now, but I do think he will do just fine in life.

In 2013 Aspergers Syndrome became an obsolete name in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It's now called Autism Spectrum Disorder on a severity scale, but that change is still controversial.

On to homeschool news...

Beth, age 5,  is learning to read with All About Reading Level 1, and Mary, age 7,  is learning to read more fluently with All About Reading Level 2. These programs do not typically take a whole year, so Mary will be in Level 3 before her third grade year. The materials do help tremendously with dyslexia, but the lessons are long and we can't do everything everyday, due to my girls' attention spans.

Peter the science teacher at work on experiment day

The object is to suspend a tissue paper butterfly in the air with magnets and get it to fly. It worked!

Peter's friend outside the window here. Peter took the picture.

I have Mary reread each story several times over several days, so I don't use the program exactly as written. Nonetheless, the difference in appropriateness in addressing Mary's needs is amazing. I'm so thankful to Marie at the All About Learning Press company, as the founder and writer of this program. I highly recommend it for any child struggling to learn to read, or for any child who has siblings with dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia. All these issues require explicit, systematic teaching, with only one new skill introduced at a time. Each new skill is practiced with many repetitions over days or weeks.

I bought All About Spelling Level 1, but we haven't added that in yet. The boys will use it too as it is suggested that all students start with Level 1 to learn all the spelling rules from the beginning. The rules don't necessary repeat as you go higher, and more are added each year, so you have to try to fast track your older kids through all the Levels. It is intensive spelling training and leaves nothing out, which, again, is necessary for any child with learning disabilities. Peter has dysgraphia and definitely needs intensive spelling training, although he has made a lot of progress with Sequential Spelling (also for dyslexics, but not as systematic).

Both girls are doing Saxon Math 1, but Beth is starting from the beginning, and Mary is 3/4 of the way through. We do the Morning Meeting together. They enjoy schooling together, and also pair up for Sonlight's Core B literature and history (World History Part 1). Paul reads the non-fiction Core B selections to them, and I read all the rest (really loving the read aloud selections so far, like Little Pear and Homer Price). Not all relate to history, but they are charming nonetheless. I have the full program on hand now.

Both girls also do Sonlight Core B science (Animals, Astronomy, Physics), but Beth is less interested, unless it's experiment day. Peter teaches them science willingly (he loves science!). I have my hands full with everything else, and I feel like both my boys are reaping many benefits from becoming teachers at their young ages.

The boys, ages 11 and 12, join together to do Sonlight Core G literature and history (World History Part 1, but for older kids). They are enjoying their school year, and Daddy is enjoying doing their read alouds with them before bedtime.

The boys especially love Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World Vol. 1. They will move into volume 2 (Middle ages) this year too.

I am doing WriteShop Junior Book E with both boys. We all really love this program, but we haven't abandoned Writing With Skill (Susan Wise Bauer) because that program is still excellent for teaching non-fiction writing, while WriteShop is excellent for fiction. The WriteShop company writes materials with learning disabilities in mind, just as All About Learning Press does. That's not to say all children wouldn't benefit from and love their materials! They're just excellent--hands-on, systematic, explicit, and fun. No more tears at writing time, that's for sure.

The boys are still both doing the same level in Teaching Textbooks (CD ROM) program for math, and let me tell you, I could hug and kiss the two brothers who wrote this program. It's excellent, multisensory, systematic, and with plenty of review. Peter has dyscalculia and really benefits from this program. He also needed the Times Tales multiplication DVD to learn multiplication facts, which we purchased about 2 years ago, when it became clear he just wasn't going to get it without a story attached to the facts. Teaching Textbooks is wonderful, but for your dyscalculic student, purchase something for fact memorization as well.

We still write in journals, and all my children really enjoy that time (about 10 to 15 minutes in the morning...any topic, or an on-going story).

That's all the updating for now. I hope all my homeschooling friends are having an excellent year!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Delicious Whole Chicken Financial Blessing

I'd like to share how I bless my family with whole chickens, priced at my Walmart for $1.54/pound. We usually choose the largest chicken. The higher price per pound compared to what else is available is due to the absence of hormones and steroids in this brand.

How to Prepare and Save:

1. In roasting pan, place whole chicken, rinsed or not depending on your preference. I disinfect the sink and handles right after rinsing and I don't use my dishcloth in the process. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with garlic pepper and lemon pepper. Add liver to roasting pan if desired, or discard with neck. Roast with veggies if desired.

2. Roast at 350 degrees until the provided thermometer pops up. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before carving. In the summer we use the crockpot on low for 7 hours, or high for 4 hours. The oven being on for 2 hours helps heat the house, so I don't mind.

3. After filling your family with the chicken, pull off the remaining meat (husband does this) and refrigerate for tomorrow's chicken noodle soup. We separate white meat from dark meat, and my husband takes the dark meat for two lunches, and we use the white meat in strips for the chicken soup.

4. Place carcass and bones in a crockpot or stockpot, and fill with water one inch over the carcass, or there about. Place older carrots and celery in with it if desired, or just peppercorns. I usually don't add anything because I spice the broth later. Simmer until morning on the lowest setting. Boiling is not desired, but that's hard to avoid with our gas stove, and with some crockpots.

Turn off heat and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Skim off fat and refrigerate broth until ready to use (within 4 to 5 days to be safe). I use my largest pitcher to hold the broth, plus an old pickle jar for the extra. Refrigeration will allow you to skim off more fat later. If you need it right away, just use it as is. It will have significantly more fat grams, but if you're in a hurry...oh well.

5. Do not discard bones! Just drain broth and fill up your stockpot or crockpot with water again, and simmer the bones for another 12 hours. Follow procedure above for broth, and use within 5 days for another type of soup. We make navy bean soup, black bean soup, etc. I do not freeze the broth, but that's just my preference. Instead, I label it with the date and use within the appropriate time. Some sites say it is good for 5 - 7 days with a tight seal and as long as you plan to bring it to a full boil before use, but use your discretion on this.

5. Place broth in stockpot that night for dinner, along with:

~ 1 tsp. garlic powder
~ 1 1/2 T. salt
~ 1 tsp. pepper
~ 2 T onion powder
~ 2 celery stalks, chopped
~ 15 baby carrots, chopped, or 2 large carrots, chopped

6. When veggies are halfway soft, add in large bag of egg noodles and set the timer as instructed on the noodle bag.

7. When timer sounds, turn off heat and add in spoon-sized strips of chicken from last night's roasted chicken.

8. Enjoy with cornbread. Use this link for cornbread and you won't be sorry. Everyone who comes here for dinner raves about this honey cornbread recipe. I use white whole wheat flour in it, or regular whole wheat flour. The wheat marries with the honey and it's heavenly. I don't use the heavy cream, but just 1 cup 2 percent milk instead.

To recap the savings, consider this return on my $13 - $14 initial investment in the chicken:

~ 1 meal for whole family the first night
~ 2 lunches for my husband
~ 1 soup meal for the whole family the 2nd night
~ 1 lunch of homemade soup for the kids and Mommy
~ Full stockpot of broth for another type of soup

That's value! Enjoy and let me know how it goes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When the Broken Come Knocking

As I drove home from the grocery store at 9 PM, two police cars blared their lights at 12-year-old Miss L's house. The mother in me wanted to run over there and take the 2 kids home with me, but instead I prayed and waited for morning, not knowing if someone was arrested or what happened.

Miss L.'s mother is an adult child of an alcoholic, but her parent stopped drinking when his grandchildren were born, or there about. In her thirties now, Miss L.'s mother leads a self-destructive life, with her two children knowing no normalcy, safety, or hope, especially now that their grandmother has died.

Late the next morning the kids knocked on the door. I heard the whole story about the inebriated adults and the arguing and threats, and the eight-year-old brother calling 911. The police were not much help; no arrests were made, and a violent, angry boyfriend came back after the authorities left.

Lord have mercy on these kids, who only want normalcy and real love--love that tucks them in and reads them stories and doesn't smell of alcohol or drugs. Every child, Lord, deserves to be a tucked-in, prayed-for child, covers all lovingly arranged and kisses deposited generously on a freshly-bathed face.

But our world is broken and the enemy wins more than Christians would like to admit. Too many of us born again by his blood, pursue the wrong things. Our hearts don't weep enough for the unsaved, the broken, lost, and wretched. 

I remembered Jeremiah and acted boldly, when later the kids came back and Miss L. expressed pain and worry over her mother's threat to commit suicide, after learning that money was gone from her purse. Her poverty drives many of her decisions--spiritual and financial poverty both.

I had a messy house to clean on a deadline before a 4 PM children's Bible study, but I remembered Jeremiah. "Come in and play while I write a letter to your mother."

I sat at the computer and amazingly, wrote amid the chaos of three neighbor kids and my own four. I told her about my upbringing and alcohol's ugly presence. I told her about all the battles the adult children of alcoholics face, and how we feel ashamed and less-than and isolated. How we don't know how to have fun or play because our childhoods were too short and too serious. As such, there's potential to find all the wrong people to attach ourselves to, finding love in all the wrong places, and never knowing our worth or potential.

But God. 

I pleaded with her to end this path and mark out a new one--one full of hope, love, peace, wholeness. God can redeem all this and he loves you, I wrote. You were wonderfully made by your loving Heavenly Father, and he wants to bless you...give you hope and future.

Decide right now that you will no longer cling to people who can't take responsible care of themselves. I ask this out of love for you and for your children. You were created for so much more than dysfunction.

I directed her to the literature from Adult Children of Alcoholics (or of dysfunctional families), copying and pasting as much of it as I could in the letter.

There's an estimated 50 million adults who come from alcoholic or dysfunctional homes, needing to find their way. Please, have a look at this literature below, and know where to obtain it when you meet a self-destructive mother, failing her kids and continuing the ugly cycle of addiction. It is spiritual--it's about God, but doesn't lock the sufferer into believing in God right away, or having to be a Christian to be healed. Some people go through twelve-step spiritual programs and do become Christians, but others do not. This literature is still valuable--you can add in the Bible's perspective yourself.

As he did for me, God will give you an opportunity to participate in someone's transformation. Don't take it lightly...don't get too busy or too preoccupied, but do help with boundaries in place.

Bless you as you work to bless others through His holy name.

I don't know the outcome for Miss L's mother. There's free will and not everyone chooses wholeness and love. But I took the opportunity given me, praying with the kids, writing a letter, opening my door. That is what the Lord expects from us...nothing more, nothing less. He puts people in our lives, and we must respond.

Adult Children of Alcoholic's Literature: found here:

The Problem:

Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either became alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.

We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.

These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us ‘co-victims’, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.

This is a description, not an indictment.

Adapted from The Laundry List

The solution is to become your own loving parent.

As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.

The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.

This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is a Higher Power whom some of us choose to call God. Although we had alcoholic or dysfunctional parents, our Higher Power gave us the Twelve Steps of Recovery.

This is the action and work that heals us: we use the Steps; we use the meetings; we use the telephone. We share our experience, strength, and hope with each other. We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time. When we release our parents from responsibility for our actions today, we become free to make healthful decisions as actors, not reactors. We progress from hurting, to healing, to helping. We awaken to a sense of wholeness we never knew was possible.

By attending these meetings on a regular basis, you will come to see parental alcoholism or family dysfunction for what it is: a disease that infected you as a child and continues to affect you as an adult. You will learn to keep the focus on yourself in the here and now. You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting.

You will not do this alone. Look around you and you will see others who know how you feel. We will love and encourage you no matter what. We ask you to accept us just as we accept you.

This is a spiritual program based on action coming from love. We are sure that as the love grows inside you, you will see beautiful changes in all your relationships, especially with God, yourself, and your parents.

Twelve Steps

We admitted we were powerless over the effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, that our lives had become unmanageable.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Admitted to God, to our selves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry it out.

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Friday, October 17, 2014

This Just In: Neighbor Boy Becomes Christian!

Despite the fact that the second Ebola-affected nurse's parents live uncomfortably close to us, and she visited them this past weekend, there is something else on my mind.

Landon, a 9-year-old neighbor boy who has been coming to our children's Bible study for almost two years now, and playing here after school for longer than that, became a Christian today! My Peter is quite the evangelist and he could have done it, but he brought a very interested Landon into the house today so I could lead him to Christ. And I did! It was magnificent--the first time I've ever led someone to Christ. I hugged him and told him how exciting it was, and inside my soul rejoiced.

Here's this child who all this time would never pray with us, though he'd listen well enough during the studies. We could never quite figure out how receptive he was, but last year it was clear that he wouldn't identify himself as a sinner. We didn't think much fruit was coming from the Jesus Storybook Bible Study, which has nine lessons left, and now this!

Today Landon complained to Peter about the cussing his grandma and aunt do, and somehow Peter turned that into asking Landon if he wanted to become a Christian. Landon said yes and willingly went through three steps with me:

~ Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that his death on the cross completely covers your sins? Yes, he responded.

~ You need to ask God to forgive all your sins. Are you ready to do that? Yes, he responded, and he repeated a simple prayer of forgiveness.

~ Would you like to ask God to come into your life to be your Lord and Savior? Do you want to live for Him now? Yes, he responded, and repeated a simple prayer asking the Lord to come into his life. 

So simple, but so long in coming. Such an illustration that God is faithful, and that his timetable is not ours.

While the Bible doesn't speak of a "salvation prayer", which is more of a recent thing in our churches, it does teach that we have to believe, to confess, and to make Jesus our Lord.

Whether you consider yourself an evangelist or not (I am not one), it's always good to remember these three simple steps:

ABCs of Salvation

This simple method is easy to remember:

A - All people need forgiveness from God (Romans 3:23).

B - Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and has died for your salvation (Romans 10:10).

C - Confess that you have sinned, and invite Jesus to take control of your life (Romans 10:9)

In a church sermon a couple weeks ago, our pastor went over the past, present, and future of our salvation. Our salvation wasn't and isn't just a momentary thing involving a salvation prayer--it's an on-going miracle :

1. Past - When you first became a Christian, you were justified.

2. Present - Right now you are being sanctified.

3. Future - When you get to heaven, you will be glorified.

Justified, sanctified, glorified.

Thank you, Jesus! May fruit abound in Landon's life, and may his grandmother, who is raising him, come to you very soon. May there be many more who come to you from the list of people we know and love, and from random and regular readers of this blog. Bring them, Father, and may we never be too busy or too embarrassed to speak of our Hope...our first Love...our Beloved Jesus. Thank you for the privilege.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Teaching Literary Analysis in Your Homeschool

In just a wink, my oldest will be in high school, and with that comes new homeschooling challenges as well as exciting beginnings. Think: transcripts, grading, rubrics, credits. While Peter is very well read (thank you, Sonlight), there are some holes in his literary knowledge, specifically in the area of literary analysis, which is essential for writing high-school and college-level essays.

Not to mention, literary analysis is always an outstanding higher-level thinking exercise. He's done plenty of discussing, but not enough written literary analysis, so as a teacher I must morph myself into a secondary-education specialist. Homeschool mothers by necessity must reinvent themselves; never does boredom set in.

As I find middle- and high-school literary resources, I'll be sharing them here, for the benefit of the homeschooling readers. Happy writing, fellow mothers. You'll definitely be writing samples with your child, before asking him to write his own five-paragraph literary analysis essay. Or, there will be tears--yours, his, and the traumatized siblings'.

1. From Homeschool Creations, I learned about: Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education, and Ready Readers

The link above is to a Cathy Duffy review on these products, which are put out by the Center for Literary Education. The products teach and assist the parent in how to provide literary instruction using the Socratic questioning method (very comprehensive instruction here, including all you would need to design a high-school literature and composition curriculum for your student). For the sake of brevity, I'll just have you click on the link if you're interested. Prices range from $29 for a teaching workbook, and $89 for the teaching workbook and 4 instructional DVD's. All these products are explained in Cathy Duffy's review. Most homeschoolers know this already, but Cathy Duffy writes the best, most comprehensive reviews. My two cents: Never buy anything without checking her review on it first.

The Ready Readers (books not included) sell for $29 for each of the four levels. Ready Readers help the teacher apply what she's learned in the workbook and DVD seminar above, using 5 different classic children's books, including the teaching of conflict, plot, setting, characters, theme, and literary devices. There are four levels of Ready Readers, including one that provides teaching instruction on the entire 7-book Narnia series.

2. There are also generic resources you can refer to that are published on the Internet by high schools or colleges, such as these literary analysis questions by Chandler Unified: web view

3. There are also 41 literary terms (web view) the teacher and student need to become familiar with and be able to use in essays.

4. Online also are complete guides (PDF) on writing a literary analysis essay (this document put out by

5. Along with the writing of formal essays comes the question of rubrics for grading them. Which one to use? Samples abound on the Internet, just like these: Rubrics for teachers. And this one from readwritethink. And this sample, specific to a literary analysis essay, by Lake Washington school district.

So go ahead, reinvent yourself into a high-school lit teacher. Exciting times ahead. 

Or not, but I remain positive, despite the dysgraphia involved for my oldest. The Lord is my shepherd, and my partner in all things homeschool.


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