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Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Merry Christmas

We hope you all had a VERY merry Christmas!

Out and about at the plaza de armas... a motokar covered in Santa garb... seriously.

Christmas carols

The Christmas story

Sleeping around the Christmas tree, a tradition.

Opening presents... thank you everybody!

Yummy dinner!! Martins & Nora, thanks so much for sharing it with us!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

O Christmas Tree

This year, I have seriously reconsidered Christmas decorations. Not that I consider anything wrong with them. Not at all. But it is different living here in a third world country. Many of the people we mix with don't even have a single Christmas decoration, let alone a Christmas tree; that would be considered a luxury. In that light, to put up all my decorations would seem to me to be over indulgence. So, simple it is. And it is nice. We only have 4 small decorated spots in our house this year. 1) the tree, 2) the window sill - the stockings are hung there, 3) the table centerpiece has a small glass nativity and 4) the shelf in our entry way has an arrangement of cards, another nativity and a bunch of mistletoe and some other small Christmas paraphernalia.

Simple is good.

Christmas trees. I like them. Especially Noble Douglas Fir Christmas trees. The ones with the branches kind of spaced apart... well, I never have seen a fake one. But if I do, I'll want it. Putting together a fake tree is not quite the same experience as traversing the wild with dear friends and family, out in the biting cold to choose and cut down your very own... those are memories and dreams. But if the tree can't be a Noble, it has to be a skinny tree. I like skinny trees. Tall if possible. Of course, for us to bring it down here to Peru it had to be NOT tall. It had to fit in a box that meet standard airline requirements for measurement and weight. I digress. Well, without further ado, here's our tree: ahem... and as Mya would say...


The kids put it together, lighted and decorated it ALL by themselves,
and I can truthfully say that I only redistributed the ornaments hung by Miss Mya
this year,
(she delicately put all 6 of hers on one branch).

Next to the tree, we have another most loved Christmas treasure, our collection of Christmas story books. Mostly picture books since we've been a family with little kids until only recently (I have been informed that my two eldest are now big kids). This of all the Christmas items, is THE most captivating to all, big and small. Who can resist the sentimentality of the stories that we only get to read one time of year? Gotta love books.

We're reading Mary's First Christmas at bedtime this week with the littlest, and Advent Foretold with everybody at meal time. Very different, both good.

Despite the fact that temperatures are in the 90s every day and it doesn't feel much like Christmas in that way, we are very much enjoying this time of remembering Christ, come as a baby. Immanuel. God WITH us. ABSOLUTELY astounding. Perhaps living here and celebrating simply has helped us to see in a real and tangible way Christ's own coming in humility and simplicity. From heaven to a stable. From angels to shepherds. From worshipers to those who were his own and received him not. Wisdom unsearchable, God, the invisible; love indestructible in frailty appears... Lord of eternity, dwells in humanity, kneels in humility and washes our feet. O what a mystery, meekness and majesty!

Bow down and worship, for this is your God.

This coming week separate time to stop, sit down and truly savor the sweetness of our Savior!


We've been back for almost 2 weeks from our cross-country trip... everyday that passed was yet another day I did NOT blog! ;) Once arrived, we DID school however, and here's a quick list of some of the things we've done:

This week (12/14-12/19), we started week 13 of Ambleside Online's year 5! Week 13 marks the beginning of the 2nd term, meaning we've finished several books from the first term, which in turn will be replaced with some new books, yay! That's always fun! Always Inventing, Story of My Life, Exploring Creation with Astronomy are some of the new ones.

Including some hit and miss, try-to-school-while-traveling days, we have a good 3 weeks of MEP math under our belt! We've been experimenting and changing up and I think we are a little closer now to getting down what we're going to do. Jave will start math in the morning during the scheduled math time (max 40min) and I'll work with Cull & Bria in the afternoon. This is still a work in progress. I don't want to alter our schedule until I have a pretty good idea of what is going to work. I didn't want to have to do two sessions of math during the day, but it is working very well to separate the boys (read the whole adjustment process here).

With Exploring Creation with Astronomy, we are all listening together, AOy0'ers - AOy5'ers, in an all-in-one-course. This is the first book we are officially combining EVERYBODY on (besides Bible reading which starts at birth, family fun read alouds & nature study... okay we've done *some* combining) I'm very much looking forward to having even more subjects to combine. Until now it has very unofficial, the littles could listen/participate if they wanted to. Now, they GET to :)

So, I've been trying to separate time to blog, it just hasn't happened yet. Micah is gone this long weekend, so I probably won't have time 'til the week after next since it's CHRISTMAS!! woohoo!

Anyway, hi and bye for now!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Going on a roadtrip... yay?

Tomorrow we begin the ever increasingly familiar journey to the coast =
2 days x 9 hours driving each day
+ 2 adults
+ 5 children in one red Isuzu Trooper
+ uncertainty of road conditions because of recent rain
- a working cd/tape player in the car
= need for prayer and patience and lots of activities to do in the car!

Abuelito wishing our carful of kids traveling mercies

So, what keeps your kids busy in the car?

Here are a few of our favorites:

The Quiet Game :)

RaceCar (did you know you can spell that the same way forwards and backwards?) - This is a uniquely tuttle invented game where each child picks a vehicle within sight and claims it... then they keep tabs on 'their' car and who is winning at any given time by who passes who, etc.

Who owns the Road? - Another tuttle kid invention in which the kids are each self-assigned to a window to look out of. Whatever they spy out their window, is theirs; cats, dogs, crops of sugar cane, an ox and plow, electricity poles, condors circling some dead thing, etc, etc. They are amazing at keeping track of all they have accumulated and what everyone else has as well. They can then trade with each other to have a more well-rounded supply of whatever... seriously, this has kept them busy for many an mile!

Animal Log - I bet you didn't have llamas on your kids' checklist to see on your last roadtrip! Here it is actually a common occurance... The boys sometimes keep logs with the following list of animals: Donkeys, Mules, Chickens, Horses, Goats, Llamas, Snakes, Sheep, Cats, Dogs. Then they keep a running tally. This can be left off and picked up throughout the LONG journey. A more modern version would be keeping track of colors of cars or state license plates... at least that's what I did when I was growing up.

Wikki-Stix. All I can say is, these are AWESOME. Thank you Wikki-Stix inventor! And to Oma & Hammy... please send MORE! Stick them on the windows or on a plastic clipboard... you name it!

Twistable Crayons. Do you know how VERY good these are? Normal crayons melt, or the paper gets torn off and they get broken, dropped and lost or worse, melted between the seats. Colored pencils have to be sharpened every other 13 seconds... and would you like some wood shavings stuck to your sweaty leg or in your seat? But twistable crayons are the BEST! Love them... even if they still do get lost in the cracks of the seat. I admit, I thrill when I actually find valuable stuff in there.

A whole bunch of stickers and blank paper. You'd be surprised at the number of different uses my kids have come up with for these. However, stickers on windows is absolutely prohibited... *hint: GooGone may be the weirdest, yuckiest, greasiest substance on earth... but it takes off the sticky-ew-goo-glue!

Snacks and a timer. Having a bag of animal cookies (or some other perhaps healthier snack, or not) and a timer with a beep* is an interesting way to mark the time. We give out a snack at every hour on the hour, curbing the ever dreadful and constant, "Can I have a snack now?" This may have been instrumental in my children learning to tell time :) *important note: The clock must be visible and readable by the majority of travellers or else please choose to use a timer with a beep! Having to wait for the beep is useful in curbing the ever more dreadful and incessant, "Is it __ o'clock yet? No? Then, how many more minutes?" followed closely by, "How many more minutes now?"

Reading books aloud. This really is our favorite. Sadly, with 7 people in a 5 person car travelling through the jungle, a sizeable portion of our roadtime is spent with all the windows down. This not being conducive to the reader's voicebox... unless of course you are one who is accustomed to yelling at the top of your voice from the front seat, contorting your body and straining your neck around to face your listeners who can't hear you anyway. *note to self: don't bother bringing school work in the car... somehow with all the other fun stuff to do, we have yet to get to it!

Singing silly songs.

Tell a story. This is probably the kids' all-time favorite. One of them will create a wonderfully imaginative saga for the siblings' listening enjoyment that can be picked up or left off at will. Surely, a creative parent will be able to weave some really good tales. A dear friend of mine, Deb, is an expert at this and is an inspiration to me with her stories that actually even teach a lesson... that much might be a stretch, for me that is, to try and add in something educational?! oh my. But I have periodically *thought* of making a well-intentioned albeit a feeble attempt to embark on an oral tradition of storytelling.

For babies and toddlers, may I recommend:
Keep diapers dry. Non-drip sippy cup with water (I love you Klean Kanteen). Keep them busy with non-messy snacks. Use those bibs that have the part that folds up to catch crumbs. For 1-2yo, give them a container (basket, purse, etc) full of smallish things that are interesting to them. They can take them out one by one, again and again. Just reload the basket or have 2 to rotate. Items to put inside, are: small board book, Little people, spoon, a pen that has no ink in it, a hand mirror, chew toy, coin purse with zipper and something small to fit inside it (we use hair bands), a small doll with removable clothes, an old watch, etc. Things that aren't typically toys usually hold attention a little longer. Reach back occasionally to hold a hand or foot just for love.

So, what are your roadtrip/travel strategems?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Handi-Crafty Kids...

Homemade Christmas gifts are the best. The time invested on toiling over some project in order to make something for someone special is really worthwhile. That said, I prefer, if my kids are going to do some craft that they make something worth keeping or giving away. Charlotte Mason pointed out the educational benefit of handicrafting:

"...that nature and handicrafts should be pressed into service for the training of the eye and hand..."
"The points to be borne in mind in children's handicrafts are: (a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children's work should be kept well within their compass."

By nature, I'm not super crafty... artsy, maybe... but crafty? Well, perhaps I could be, it's just that I don't like the clutter of those finished crafts! What do you do with all that stuff?! I agree with Charlotte that children should not be subjected to such futilities as are many modern crafts! But the process of being creative, developing skills and care - that's the important part! So, I've found a fantastic craft site that has lots of really cute and practical crafts, that employ sewing, and other such skills to produce something useful. (You know, the kind that you would actually not be embarrassed to give as gifts, or that you might keep around the house awhile!)

Here are a couple that I've seen on the site lately. Either of the following ideas would make delicious and economical gifts for one of those small people in your life. Dress up the package with creative gift wrap, and yippity-skippity, you've crossed someone off your gift list!

And my favorite...

Felt Harvest Meal

just follow the links for tutorials :)

Craft sites with lots and lots and lots of projects:

Kids Craft Weekly

Some other creative gift wrap links:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dealing with sleep issues

Of 5, only one my children has difficulty sleeping. And even one sleepless individual sure can make an impact on an entire household! This is a response turned blog post intended for my friend Jeanne at A peaceful day. In her thoughtful post Things that go Bump, she talked about her normally well-adjusted sleeper having trouble dealing with fear at night, and the things they've tried to settle her. She brought up the question: Does anyone else have any ideas?

Here's my response :)

As to the root of the problem being behavioral or genuine fear, I'll say two things. We have found a little of both with our precious non-sleeper. She has never really slept well, but there have been times of her life where she could actually sleep regularly through the night. Because of various fears however and not being naturally inclined to peaceful rest, she has suffered (haven't we all?) many periods of time where for many successive nights she would wake crying. Some of the things we did to calm her and/or cope did not bode well, and actually did cause a habit of 'needing' to be succored in the night. But I think with careful parenting and much prayer, you will be able to discern the best thing to do in your situation.

Coping techniques we've used:
1) Prayer is always the first thing we turn to. a)Going into her room to pray for her upon her waking and calling out to us. This resulted many times in my husband falling back to sleep in her bed... b)We pray before she goes to sleep this has become a requirement. c)We have taught her that she too must pray when she's afraid - that is trusting God.

2) Allowing her to come to our room where she could prepare for herself a mat on the floor made available for the purpose. (She is violent in sleep - tossing and turning recklessly... we learned that she had to have her OWN domain) Knowing that she was allowed to come to us gave her some power, but then she had to decide if she had enough courage to actually traverse the hallway in the dark!

3) Providing a magic blue night light that 'scares away all spiders and creepy-crawlies'. I don't believe this is lying... it is using our imagination! We've done several versions of this over time. Contriving elaborate stories of how the blue light works :)

4) Singing. We have a children's CD that has a song "When I am afraid I will trust in You". She learned it from the CD and I would sing it with her before bed. When she would wake, I would sing from my bed asking her to sing with me.

5) Supplying her with a CD player near her bed with Scripture CDs or Scripture songs. She usually falls asleep to it (serves a double purpose... great way to inundate with Scripture as well as calm fear!) and can turn it on by herself in the night when she is afraid. Obviously, the volume has to be kept low enough (she shares a room).

6) Explaining to her as I tuck her into bed, that she has a choice of whether or not she's going to be afraid. I've told her that if she's afraid of the dwarf that eats children when they least expect it (thank you neighborhood children), then she can either believe them and be afraid or STOP pretending with them that there really is such a dwarf! 'But I'm afraid!'... then stop pretending he's real! God is REAL and those things are NOT. Those children told you those stories to scare you and to be mean, they were not being true friends to tell you those pretend stories. **We are currently dealing with this, and I have had some luck with the previous topic of conversation... we'll see if it holds long-term success (she's almost 7yo).

7) We've left lights on as well, but that didn't actually deal with the fear itself which was to her so real whether faced in the dark or light - to her lights left on made no difference.

Discerning Manipulation:
At some point about a year and a half ago, I realized that she was habitually calling my husband in to sleep with her because she didn't like being alone or even because she was truly afraid, and it was really disruptive not only to sleep but to our relationship as well. He went on an extended trip, and I tried some of the other previously mentioned ideas. This is tricky and I continually felt that I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. But, I called her bluff, and told her that she was to stay in bed, that I knew she was a big girl to sleep all the way through the night. I offered her a much coveted incentive for 5 nights successive sleep. She didn't sleep the first two nights, but I woke and reminded her that she could decide to go back to sleep and win her prize. This was motivating for her. I don't think she knew that she could do it! She won her prize for 5 successive nights without calling out to me (she probably woke, but she put herself back to sleep without a peep). This showed me that she COULD do it. When my husband got home, she tried her old tricks on him... I calmly called to her reminding her that she COULD sleep... she'd proved it to me... and voila! We had several months of peaceful sleep :)

Anyway, peace to you! This too shall pass! :) Pray!

PS. I'm curious what CM would say about fears... I've read something about it, but can't recall. I might go look it up!


Fisher Academy International Teaching Home
Tarapoto, Peru

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Writing Sample: 11yo

The assignment:
Use as many of the following spelling list words as possible
to write a fictional entry in your diary:

Rated P.O. = Parent's Only
for contents that include violence.
Dearest Diary,

I feel inclined to write the history of a dear, dear friend of mine, whose name was Buck Smith. He was tall, strong and the bravest of the bunch. Yesterday, five men walked through the town dressed in black and struck the town with the edge of the sword. But Buck came to the rescue! They were no match for Buck Smith! BOOM! BANG! CRASH! SMACK! Those were the sounds of his mighty club. He felled four of them like logs, but the fifth got away to tell his master. That made Buck hero of the year. People all around the world said, “That dude is awesome!” And the people of the town said:
“Let us make him our leader! Let him protect the world!”
So, he practiced Kung Fu to the highest level! He did the same with sword, ax, bow and arrow, and club fighting. But an army of infinity bad guys came. They were too much for Buck, but he fought bravely. He sent them up in the air by the dozen! BOOM! BANG! CRASH! SMACK! But he could not expect to beat those bad dudes. “Pick on somebody else!” he said. But they were very naughty dudes and did not listen. Then they captured him. They chained him between two poles and whipped him 'til his mortal wounds were many. When he was exhausted, and when they stopped laughing at him, they piled wood and hay around him and lit it. Then they threw oil on the fire. It flew high. They heard a crack, and then a roar, and out of the fire came Buck, hot chains swirling. And that was the last time we saw the bad dudes and Buck Smith.

Rip Van Javen

** Written in the Kung Fu Panda style by:

An Evolution of Math Drill

Learning basic math facts has been a bittersweet experience in our family. I'm sure many people can sympathize! While one of my kids really enjoys math, another does not. I have come to realize that much of their individual success or failure with math has had to do with how well they know their basic math facts. I never knew just how important this is! I'll explain why it is indeed so important, and how drilling math facts can be of help in this area.

photo by rolve
IF you know your addition facts, then subtraction is WAY easier and vice versa. Having the facts on the tip of your tongue cuts down on time spent on math considerably.
Imagine if as an adult you need to do the problem 876-284, and you have to get out your base 10 blocks for each simple operation. 6-4=2, find the six block, the four block - good. Now, 7-8... oh, get the blocks out again...7 is less than 8, so I'll have to borrow from the 8 hundreds space, which makes that 8-8=0, okay, get the blocks out then 7-2=5...Yes. This must be frustrating even for the kids! Knowledge is power!
IF you have your multiplication tables down, not only will you spend less time doing bigger multiplication problems, but division will be much less intimidating as well. The better you have the facts down, the more you can do in your head, the quicker the whole thing goes! Sometimes it's not really that math is hard, but that it takes too much time... more time than we want to spend on it!

photo by januszek
SO... Realizing how important it is to learn these facts, we could see no other option but to put other things aside and just concentrate for some time on mastering those necessary evils. Thankfully, my husband took charge of this area spending time with the kids and their flashcards! I recommend using fun math games throughout that reinforce the math concepts being memorized/mastered. If your child has memorized the facts without drill, way to GO! The following advice is for those having some trouble with memorizing basic math facts.

Here's how the use of math drill might evolve over a longer period of time:

Step one: Let the kids have some time for the facts to set in naturally, through experience and play. Don't drill. Though, for certain kids who WANT to drill at this age... by all means, drill!
When our kids were first learning their math facts, we didn't drill at all. We just kept it light hearted. Counting objects, adding some, taking some away, etc. We let them be entirely dependent on their math blocks and visual aids. This lasted at least until the boys were about 8 years old, around 2nd grade or so.
Step two: When they have had ample exposure to the natural method, and you are ready to have them start buckling down and memorizing, start with short and simple. Go through the facts orally, or use addition flashcards here, here, or make your own. Find multiplication flashcards here, here, or again, make your own. Start by letting them build the problem with their blocks if they don't know the answer right off. Or, if they don't answer it within 5-10 seconds, before their face falls, quickly tell them the answer. Have them repeat it after you. "Five and five makes ten." Don't use the timer at this point (unless you have a very competitive child who likes to compete with their own time - I have one of these). Spend 10min on this 2-3 times a week.
By the time our kids had gone over all the facts, when they knew a good number of them if they had all the time in the world to think, we started drilling with flashcards. We kept it short and simple. For 5 minutes, or 2-3x through the +3s for example and that's it for the day. We did this while continuing on with our math curriculum. When I felt they had a pretty good handle on the facts I took a break from this.

photo by iprole
Step three: If in the course of time, the kids still are not fluid with their basic math fact recall (mine were not), you might choose to spend some time really cementing the facts before moving on. This might include separating time a week or more where the only math you do is drills. Print off some drill sheets and start timing them. Perhaps you won't tell them you are timing them if they would be intimidated by that. In that case, you'd just keep the information for yourself in order to see their problem areas and progress. Use the information (repeated trouble with the +7s for instance) to know which facts to work on. Go back to the flashcards or find a fun game to play to reinforce those missing facts. See my links below for drill sheet links and a downloadable record sheet.
We had finished Beta (Multiple-digit addition and subtraction and other topics) and recently started on Gamma (Single and multiple-digit multiplication and other topics ) when I realized, the boys were slow with their +6, +7 and +8 facts. They were having to count on fingers or get out their math blocks for these simple operations. It was taking too much time, and they were getting frustrated. I realized that it was essential that they master these facts before moving a step further in their curriculum. So, we stopped everything and decided to drill.
Here's how we did it:

We made reusable drill sheets: I found drill sheets online at (in those days she didn't have so many level options available!) I made the sheets reusable by printing Drill Sheet A on one side and Drill Sheet B on the other side of a sheet of card stock, then had it laminated. The boys used overhead markers (less smeary than dry erase). When they were finished, I just rinsed the sheets off under the faucet (no paper towel mess).

We started out having the boys fill in the sheets taking as much time as they needed. After a week of this, I started timing them secretly, but I didn't tell them their times, and just kept the records for myself. I also kept track of the date, drill sheet used and number of problems missed. Download a copy of my record sheet here. They started catching on, and wanted to know their times and soon it became a great game. I intentionally never pitted them against each other, that would have been disheartening for the one boy. I would correct their sheets (or better yet, have them correct their own work) and they would make corrections. Often they would do this later in the day as they were about done after the drill itself.

After a couple weeks of this, they had their math facts down! Because we were doing this as remedial work, we actually did addition, subtraction and the x0, x1, x2, x5 at the same time but on a separate laminated drill sheets. In retrospect, I would advise doing a little bit of drill all along the way from earlier on through maintenence long after the facts are mastered. I would definitely recommend the use of LOTS of supplemental math games reinforcing the same concepts. We didn't. We just left it with that.
Step four: Once the kids have gained proficiency with their facts, decide on a day of the week or once every other week to pull out the drill sheets just for fun. Have them try to beat their old record. Keep it light and fun. This takes about 5-10 min.

Step five: Use online games throughout the whole process for timed drill practice to increase speed and accuracy... if they are anything like my boys, they'll have so much fun playing, they'll forget they are even doing math!

So, while it may be possible that lots of math can be learned using only fun and games, I believe there are some parts that require discipline and serious study. Basic math facts are so important that I think it worthwhile spending the extra time and effort to get them down.

**Please let me know if this information has been helpful by leaving a comment. :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Timed Drills...Living Math?

After my two oldest boys had spent an entire year struggling to get down their addition and subtraction facts, we spent a month or two doing no other math than timed drills in order to cement those facts before moving on in our Math-u-See book. It helped a lot!

In particular the drills helped my eldest son (then 8-9ish?) not to rely so much on counting with his fingers. There was absolutely no time pressure, unless they wanted to try to beat their old time. I just used the information for my own use. I kept track of the date, the drill sheet used, the time in which they finished the sheet, and number of problems missed. I had 4 drill sheets that I rotated, they had different combination of problems. I didn't tell them their time, unless they begged for it ;) But I did have them go back and do corrections. I must add here, that despite the increase in speed and accuracy on their basic math facts, the drill practice did nothing for their love of math. This lasted for awhile and then we went on in the MUS book. (As a side note, I do think it would also be helpful to pull out the drill sheets once every other week or so just to keep fresh.)

For my BOYS who are by nature competitive, the use of timed drills has been very helpful.

Secondly, just recently actually, I am seeing the benefit of timed drills once again. They are now 10.5 & 11.5, and participating in contest week, which has a combination of non-timed drills as well as timed drills in the format of a race against other students for the most questions answered correctly within a set time. It has given life to my boys' previously practically non-existent interest in practicing math... once again because of the competition factor. They have seriously spent many hours over the last week and a half doing math!! This is amazing considering one of my boys wrote the following last week:
"I hate math. I can read. I can spell. I can build. I can lern everything esily, but not math. Math is not fun, it is not interesting."
Because of the online contest he is suddenly doing VERY well at math. He is attempting problems he's never even done before and excelling! (I put him at the level he should be for his age, though he is a year behind to keep the boys together in their curriculum... so he's doing next year's math in the contest!) Yesterday, he actually called himself a 'human calculator'. So it seems that the timed drills handled properly can actually raise confidence levels (for him, I put absolutely NO pressure and really didn't propose for him to participate in the contest, I only offered the option to his brother who likes math, soon however, after watching his brother, he too was lured in :).

So, timed math drills have earned a place in our home, even though I wouldn't have thought it possible! :)

My opinion: I am leaning more and more towards supplementing our math learning with 'living math' activities. At the same time, I think that cementing the basic math facts is so VERY necessary that even if it requires nothing but drill (may it never be so! ;) they ought to gain proficiency in quick access to these memorized facts. Timed drills may not be overly 'living', but for the boys because of the competition factor timed drills have worked quickly, efficiently and beautifully. However, for some kids it might not work at all! For some the pressure of the time, or the fear of not doing well might inhibit success. In fact, if it would have worked for my kiddos to cement the facts purely through playing games, I would have loved it! But game or no game, they knew and resented that they were having to do math! :) I am super thankful for whoever posted the link on the living math forum to this math website, just when we were needing an extra boost in math motivation! I'll have to let you know how my up and coming daughter does when she gets to that age... she may not even need reinforcement of the basic facts if she keeps up at the pace she's going now! ;)

Well, there you have it! That sums up my research ala fisheracademy :) heheheh.

What is your experience with timed math drills? How do you use timed drills in your family?
What success or difficulty have you seen? What other methods do you use to cement those basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts? Would you classify timed drills as living or non-living math activities?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

CM Early Years giveaway

As I was saying...
I need to revamp our toddler/preschool techniques. Of course I LOVE CM principles and I put forth my best effort to keep learning and trying them out, learning more and trying them out, learning and... well, you get the idea. So, in keeping with that theme, someone has come up with a new Charlotte Mason preschool guide, The Early Years - and of course it's Simply Charlotte Mason! And what do you know, there just happens to be a contest to win it!
Go here for details.
So, I have a post of my own in drafts with my ideas for keeping our toddlers/preschoolers occupied and learning so that the rest of us can do the same... so maybe I'll just have to get that out and finish it! We'll see. Most of my time is spent in real-life doing which doesn't leave much time for writing about it all. Anyway, good luck in the contest :)


Here's one of my favorite recent pictures my little youngest preschooler, the toddler terremota {sp, earthquake} ...though from the picture you'd think she was an angel :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where did it go?

Last I knew it was September. I cannot even fathom the fact that everywhere I look and go people are saying it is now November. I barely blinked and October was gone... and that's even my birthday month, my absolute favorite month of the year! What this means is that 2009 is almost done, and the year of the Jetsons (I always thought that we'd all be driving hover craft by now), 2010 is right around the corner. Where has this year gone?! I guess for us, the whole year has been spent in moving (3x so far), and all the packing, traveling and adjustments that accompany this kind of lifestyle (especially when moving to somewhere with such extreme temps and living conditions!). However, considering all that, we have done a LOT this year. Praise the LORD!

For anyone who actually does occasionally read this blog, I just wanted to say that we are alive and well, happily settled in our new home in the jungle (only a few boxes left, that will have to stay until we have some closets... come Papa Jim!!).

Ahhh... the kiddy pool!
Are there words adequate to express how important this little recipient of water has been to our sanity here?!
Micah and the kids all regularly take advantage with quick dips in the pool to cool off.
I don't usually go to the trouble of changing clothes, drying off, getting dressed again,
all in order to be just as hot and sweaty again in a few minutes...
matter of fact, I have only donned my swimsuit twice since we came!
I have gotten wet a couple of times... I know, I am such a killjoy.

We are currently 8 weeks into our school year, and I feel really good about that. It has helped significantly that I didn't have internet as a distraction. Did you know that one can in fact live without an internet connection at home? I previously may have doubted that assumption, but now I know :) My trip to the States was a big success (amazing itinerary and all), and I was able to bring back everything needed for this school year, with exception to only a few minor things.*

Overall, school is going pretty well, though we are having to work on some minor motivation issues lately. Recent activities include (but are not limited to :)...

  • Cullen (10.5yob) is excited and proud to be participating in an online math contest. Javen (11yob) may also participate if he feels confident enough, but he's not really into math, so there's absolutely no pressure there (note: motivation problem area #1). That said, he's doing really well thinking about it as a game, I'm so glad I didn't make it an assignment! ;)
    Go here if you have a child interested in participating.
  • We are 8 weeks into our school year, and very much looking forward to a week off for Thanksgiving break, when we will be traveling to Trujillo.
  • The boys are 2 weeks away from finishing this year's math book* ...yikes! I hadn't planned on them getting through it that quickly, so we're trying to figure out what to do about that. (It seems that Micah had them doing a LOT of math while I was gone! ...a week's worth each day!!) It's a good thing I brought a whole bunch of living math books back with me from the US in September! I also bought a subscription to Quarter Mile Math online... (which was looking like it was NOT going to work out while we wondered if we would ever get internet!) All that to say, we are forced to look at math a little differently as we don't have an official curriculum. I think it will be a Godsend actually :) I had been looking into converting to a Living Math atmosphere anyway, right?! We might actually become more motivated about math!!
  • Bria (6.5yog) has finally officially started school this year which includes, reading, cursive practice, phonograms, intro to basic arithmetic, and even her own AmblesideOnline year one readings. She seriously beams when she shows me her work, or reads her words!
  • I've been trying to encourage Siah (5yob) to be more creative in play, which is seriously a strange thing since it came so naturally to the older boys. I never even thought of teaching them how to play. But he has become obsessed with marbles (because now that's what the older boys are into) and has no desire whatsoever to do anything else most of the time... so we're working on that. We went hunting with sticks in the backyard the day before yesterday as we played Robinson Crusoe. We played goat pens, turtle eggs and all!
  • Mya (2yog) is a serious challenge. I can't say more at the moment without risking sounding negative or complain-y... even though I don't feel that way at all... just as a taster I'll share with you that, today I turned around as she said calmly, "Mommy...Ow." There was blood dripping from her hand and bloody handprints on the salad spinner. She had cut her finger on the cheese grater attachment to the food processor. It was just last week that she finally attempted to climb over the gate into the kitchen, it has been non-stop disaster since then as we have zero cupboards. So... I guess we've got to update our toddler management techniques again. :)
Okay, so now that you know we're alive, I will sign off with peace of mind. I'll try to give a couple updates now and then. There really is so much I'd love to say, but to take any more time to say it would mean I'm not doing something perhaps more important... once again giving my life for my kids.

Have I ever mentioned that I don't do kiddy pools?! This is definitely a Daddy/kid activity in our home!
This picture documents the first time since we've had the pool (about a year)
that I've done more than just wet my legs! I am working on enjoying life more... :)

Enjoy the day!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Home Management: Scheduling

Scheduling is one thing I didn't know I needed to know anything about when I first became a home manager, aka wife & mother. I just did what needed to be done, when it needed to be done and for the most part I had plenty of time for everything and even had time for my hobbies. I didn't have to really follow a plan, I had enough brain power to keep track of everything mentally. hah!

Matter of fact, we made it through 'winging it' for at least the first five years even though our lifestyle was amazing with many moves and lots of international travel. However, after having settled overseas, speaking a different language (really drains brain power), with 3 children, the older two in need of some schooling, outside-the-home ministry commitments, a household to run (complete with an housekeeper - but don't get your hopes up, it was actually MORE work to have hired help in my home), it became obvious that a little formal planning/organization would be helpful if not absolutely necessary.

Fast forward several years, and find me today, add in 2 more children and lots more international moves and...
I would seriously lose my mind without my schedule!
My schedule is my mind on paper. It keeps us all happy. I know what I 'should' be doing, the kids know what to expect next, and it gives me something to show Micah and anyone else who wonders what we do all day!

So, without further ado, see our schedule here.

Some of my notes on scheduling:
taken from pdf link above
A schedule is so helpful as a guide. Yet, I cannot let myself become a slave to my schedule. You see, many times something happens that throws us off, and we need to be flexible enough to
realize that God sometimes ordains interruptions! We use our schedule so that when the
inevitable happens, we can get back on track quickly and easily. Sometimes we pick up where we left off, other times as the situation allows, we skip the stuff that can be skipped and just take from up wherever we are at the time, after we’ve cleaned up the toothpaste from all over the hallway and can focus again on the things at hand :)

Because I’m the main one to keep everyone on task, I’ve listed my name first, then kids in
order from oldest to youngest, and lastly Micah... he’s only on here so that I can have a general
idea of what he’s doing. He’s agreed to all of the above, and his work hours are obviously left
blank. :)

Sometimes {okay, many times}, having multiple children it is hard to keep track mentally
what everyone should be doing at any given moment & the kids are quite expert at scattering... all throughout the day, but, especially during schooltime! On the timetable, ‘table time’ is highlighted to call attention to the times that we all should be gathered together. This is mainly for me, so that with one quick glance at my watch and then the timetable, I can easily see what is coming up :)

Some days we head out at lunchtime to eat a ‘menu’. On these days the schedule will change, @ 12:30pm we’ll leave the house, to return around 2:00pm. We’ll just take our memory
box with us.

On the subject of personal exercise, I don't have it scheduled. If I were really trying to lose weight, or in need of some extra self-discipline in that area, I'd probably schedule it in on the main schedule. However, my reality is that some mornings I do try to get out for some exercise and I have an alternate schedule for those days. Otherwise, I’ll use my afternoon free time when it isn’t TOO hot outside.

Though I have all the kids chores/duties and school subjects listed here for quick reference,
we use other charts/schedules to keep track of those. {I’m ever-so-slightly-list-crazy} Technically, we should be able to get by with just this list.

** Momma’s free time is (barring all exceptions & interruptions which are all too common):
Tues, Thurs, Fri from 2 - 5:30
Mon, Wed from 4 - 5:30

** Bria and Josiah’s school is new this year and is loosely as follows:
9-9:45 (@table) Bible, color, trace/copy letters
10 (@table) Math games
11-11:15 AO Read-alouds (no required narration for Siah) & SWR phonograms
11:15 (@table) Phonograms, Rule cards, 3-5 fingerspell practice drills
Read-alouds at bedtime

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Learn Hebrew

Evonne Mandela helps you teach your kids Hebrew quickly and easily!
I just heard a talk over at the Heart of the Matter Online Homeschool Conference by this fun gal:

Not a Christian site, but lots of fun kids stuff:

Here are some sites that came up in discussion:

BTW, you can still buy a ticket to the conference for only $12.95! and though you've missed most of the conference, it gives you access to the mp3 downloads and the awesome drawings and the freebies/handouts, etc. SO... if you're interested!

Now, I've got to get away from this computer! 2 posts in an hour... and I'm packing!! ;)

Nature Study: Links

Have I posted these already? Well, these deserve a re-visit! Take a look to get inspired for nature study!

Jimmie's CM Nature Study Lens - for the how-to


Handbook of Nature Study Blog - for some serious inspiration!

I can't wait until we get back to the jungle to get going again on our nature studies! I miss it!

For an update on why we are not in the jungle anymore/yet, see my update post here and over here.

** Here is another link that might have some interesting resources:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reading Readiness.

I found the following list helpful.  CM Reading lessons aren't an exact science, and nothing is set in stone as it were... so these ideas do help to have some idea of what to be working toward.

Early Language Arts Skills:

Pre-reading Skills

  • can ID the name and sound of each upper and lower case letter almost by reflex (which should have developed out of or helped to develop new attention to differences in the appearance of the letters -which is a foundational skill in learning to read and spell the CM way - this prerequisite skill cannot be emphasized enough)
  • associates the sound of each letter with a given word (such as d for
    dog, b for baby.)
  • through word building experiences, understands and is comfortable with the concept that two or more letters can, at times, make only one sound(ie- th, ng, ph, etc.)
  • is familiar with the concept of rhyming sounds
  • understands the concept that a specific group of letters (a word) is a symbol for a specific idea
  • can visualize some of the words explored through early word building
  • has enough habit of attention skills and application of will to attend to the instruction given in short CM styled lessons (but keep them short, even if that means that less than a whole lesson is studied)
  • wants to learn to read
  • has appropriate visual development (to know this for certain requires an
    examination by a qualified professional such as a developmental ophthalmologist. The symptoms of poor visual processing appear much like laziness or fatigue or etc. If, during lessons, you become concerned about weak visual memory, contact your local professional and make an appointment.)

Composition - Word Sense - Linguistic Patterns

  • informal recitation of nursery rhymes, 'real poems', and
  • reading books over several times
  • these two help to develop word sense and linguistic patterns
  • (the reading of a story *one* time is used for 'attention', which is different than developing linguistic sense)
  • the child's telling of his own day
  • the child's interactions with you about nature
  • these two help to develop descriptive and narrative 'composition' skills

    Information compiled by Lorraine Nessman and posted to the AOy0 e-mail list HERE.

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    A peek at what's been happening in July...

    Classes have been on semi-hold for 2 weeks. We only have 2 weeks of schoolwork left to finish off the school year by the end of this month. August will be back to basics; just math, copywork, and reading. Even though we have a year-round schedule, can we call this our summer holiday?


    Yay. It is a much needed slow time. Of course life hasn't slowed down, just school, for now. We are all very much looking forward to starting the next year's readings... At the end of August, I'll be making a trip back to the US to get all our AO year 5 books. Yay!

    The kids are playing Webkinz (thanks Hammy!) it is totally a group affair. They all like to help,
    advise and watch each other build their webkinz's rooms, play games, open mail, etc., etc.

    So, that's why we've been apparently missing in action and will probably remain so for a little while, at least 'til we get back to Tarapoto, I'm guessing. Unless I can sneak in a couple already-in-progress posts here and there ;)

    I am mulling over some new post ideas and hope to finish up the following post subjects...

    Living Math - parts 2 & 3
    Portfolios of Kids' work
    Bible Study
    Keeping Preschoolers Busy
    An Open House
    Learning Spanish
    etc, etc.

    So, we will see :)

    I hope you all have a wonderful day!


    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Nature Study: Praying Mantis

    SO cool!

    The boys spotted this yesterday outside our house just above my bedroom window. How cool!! Today in our school Bible time, we read about how 'God Made All Things Good' in Leading Little Ones to God: A Child's Book of Bible Teachings by Marian M. Schoolland. And boy did He ever! I'm just SO excited when the Lord provides us with a special object lesson! He is a personal God! He was showing off his creation! Today, I think what I saw was an egg case above my door! I'm going to try to get a better picture of it a little later... We may just get an up close and personal look at mantis nymphs after a little while! Here's a kinda blurry picture of what I suspect might be the egg case. This little yellowish-brown thing is right where we saw the mantis yesterday in the crevice up between the top of the wall and the roof.

    So in order to have a really productive nature study, we looked up in Travellers' Wildlife Guides Peru (our Peru field guide), for mantis AND Handbook of Nature Study ... Nothing!

    So a-googling we go...


    Here are the most interesting Praying Mantis facts:
    Facts taken from article at this link )

    Most commonly known as the Praying Mantis, order mantodea is a group of about 1800 carnivorous insects which prodominatley live in tropical regions of the earth.
    "...mantids were created for hunting and killing prey."
    The head has the ability to turn 180 degrees. With their prominate pair of compound eyes located on the sides of the head, the mantis can almost see 360 degrees around.
    These legs can regenerate if broken, but only in the molting process. These limbs that regenerate are always smaller than they were originally. A full grown adult that no longer molts no longer possess the ability to regenerate limbs.
    "...mantids are fairly weak flyers."
    The mantid is an auditory cyclops, which means it only has one ear. The ear is 1mm long with cuticle like knobs at either end and two ear drums buried inside. The ear is specially tuned to very high ultrasonic freqeuncies of sound waves from 25 to 65 kilohertz. Apparently, the ears primary purpose is designed to respond to the ultrasonic echo-location signal used by hunting bats. The mantis primarily uses its ultrasonic ears while in flight. When a mantis senses a bats ultrasonic echo at close range, it curls its abdomen upwards and thrusts its legs outward creating a drag and resulting in a sudden aerial stall. This flight manuever of the mantis creates an unpredictable flight pattern for the bat, and
    is very effective at avoiding hungry bats.
    There are three ways to distinguish between female and male mantodea. The male has 8 segments, while the female has 6. The second is size, the female is always bigger than the male. The third is behavior, the male mantis is more prone to take flight in search of a mate, while the female often remains stationary.
    "...some species will eat anything from small birds to reptiles."
    Mantids attack by pinching, impaling prey between its spiked lower tibia and upper femur. The mantids strike takes an amazing 30 to 50 one-thousanth of a second. The strike is so fast it cant be proccessed by the human brain.
    The egg laying process takes 3 to 5 hours long. There can be anywhere from 30 to 300 eggs laid in a sitting. Emerging nymphs feed on whatever small insects they can get their claws on, including their brothers and sisters.
    "The primary enemies to mantids are spiders, birds, snakes, mammals (especially bats), and man."
    The mantis has four primary methods for defense. The mantids green and brown exo-skeleton color help aid in camouflage. The mantids ability to stand perfectly still for extremely long periods of time cause it to be over looked by predators. When confronted by an enemy the mantis asumes the startle display, rearing its fore legs up and spread apart, and rattling its wings. The ultrasonic ear is also a form of defense for the mantis.
    The praying mantis plays an important role in natures insect pest control plan. The praying mantis is one of the few predators with that are
    fast enough to catch mosquitos and flies while their in flight.
    For thousands of years they have captured our imagination, and curiosity.

    "The word mantis comes from ancient greece
    and means diviner or prohpet."
    Many cultures have credited the mantid with a variety of magical qualities. In the southern portion of the U.S. it is believed that if the brown saliva of a mantis ever comes in contact with you, youll go blind. This mystical saliva also has the potential to kill a horse. In France it is believed that if a lost child is ever in the woods and cant find his way home the praying stance of the mantid will direct them toward safety. The Turks and Arabs believe the mantid always prays toward Mecca. During the European Middle-ages it was thought that the mantis was a great worshiper of god due to the great amounts of time spent in prayer.
    "In China it is believed that the roasted egg cases of mantids will cure bed wetting in people."
    In Africa, if a mantid ever lands on someone it will bring that person good luck. It is also believed that the mantis possess the power to bring the dead back to life.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Pilgrim's Progress post updated

    I've updated several links in my Pilgrim's Progress post! Now you can find coloring pages as well as video and links to audio files :)


    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Living Math - part one

    This is the first post in my Living Math series.

    In part one, I'll start out with our math history :) This will give you a little insight to our struggles and why we are turning to more living math methods! Then, I'll list some living math ideas that are working for us, and where we're headed. And last, I have a bunch of links I've found in my research of the topic, that I'd like to have handy and hopefully they'll help someone else out too. And then someday, I'm going to post again on the books that have really helped my boys - this is spoken in true faith :) ...they WILL be helped!

    ...this is my oldest (several years ago) doing math the painful way!

    Our story:
    One of my boys is seriously coming to deeply despise math. I have come to terms with the fact that math will never be his strong area. But I will not settle with the excuse that he has to hate it! Now, I didn't care much for math either growing up... too time consuming. So, I know that not everyone will like math, though if you're like me, maybe you will like it more later on when you see the practical use for it. The real problem is the effect it is having on his outlook on learning in general. I've heard him or his brother say things like, 'Oh, he's just not that smart...' And that simply cannot be! We have tried a few things over the years. I'm not in a position to try every curriculum out there, but we've seen some stuff. Everything I buy I have to mail or bring down in a suitcase which about triples its price. SO... for the last 3 years, we have been using MUS (which I actually really like). But the fact is, I don't want to try everything, I just want one thing that will work. Now, that should be easy, right?
    --We used Miquon and it was from what I could see similar to Singapore... yikes. Teacher intensive. That was tearful for both of us (I might add though, the lady at the homeschool convention who recommended it to me really liked it! ;). We tried MEP for approximately 3 weeks... WAY too much work for me! I have too many kids for that! I did like that math, had it not been so intensive, I probably would've kept with it. I have experience with Saxon as well, too many problems! I knew that wouldn't go over well in our house!--
    I have two boys, the younger of which is really quick to catch on, he is good at memorizing facts... you might say he's naturally mathematical. On the other hand his alter ego is represented in my oldest boy (older by 12mos). The main thing my struggler has a problem with, is simply memorization of facts. I thought it was a problem with curriculum. Matter of fact, I even had them both redo a year (this wasn't totally fair for the one boy who was doing fine, but since he didn't really seem to care, it worked). But for my oldest, math has always been a struggle. Since day one. ALL the math facts have been hard for my boy. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and now Division have all been the same. He knows it one day, and then I am not kidding, forgets it the very next day. It IS astounding. However, we are realizing that it IS there... somewhere... deep. way deep, deep down in there. He has this mindset problem. He thinks he can't do it, and by golly, when he's thinking that way, no matter the consequence, no matter how long he tries, he can't do it!

    So. In the last year we have begun to incorporate some Living Math into our studies. This means fun math, really. Real life math. I'm doing this to try to remedy the fact that my boy HATES math and seriously is beginning to think poorly of himself because of this problem area. I want him to see the other side of math, that math can be enjoyable... and that mathematicians are people too... even if he isn't ever one of them!! ;)

    We will get into that in the next post :)

    Stay tuned :)

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    CM on Habits and the Sinful Nature

    A Childlight article: Flesh and Blood by Art Middlekauff

    Very good. Reconciles the seeming parodox between forming habits as a means of acquiring 'holiness' and sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit. He quotes extensively and knowledgeably from Charlotte's works.

    "Whether invisible prayer or tangible “ruts” in the brain, all of these are from God, to sanctify us, and make us like His Son." ~ quoted from article

    She quotes this from an article in the old Parents' Reviews, from 1902, called Limitations of Theory:
    "I believe strongly in the importance of cultivating right habits, and in the power they exert over us; but sometimes I have felt that there was a danger of putting habit almost in the place of God--of thinking that everything can be accomplished by careful training, and that a child can simply, by care and watchful oversight, be turned out a great and good character. Valuable as habit is, it cannot renew the heart, and the mother who trusts entirely to her training is in danger of sad disappointment. It seems to me that those who place too great importance on habit run the risk of leaving God no room to work.
    ... To change an old saying, we might say, "Habit is a good servant, but a bad master." What is done merely through habit is more or less mechanical, and there is a danger of want of adaptation to surroundings in those who are too much bound by it."
    I have noted that quote before, and still have yet to wrap my whole mind around the concept and place of habits. They are SO useful a tool... and yet nothing more than a tool. May habit training alone not become our whole goal and focus.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Pilgrim's Progress - Progreso del Peregrino

    Our lives following Christ are exactly like this book describes! I can't believe how true to life it is and how it remains relevant in spite of being written in the 1600's! It is because they are spiritual truths contained within... not ever-changing cultural norms.
    Oh the pleasure.

    This single book has had a LOT of impact in our family's collective spiritual life.
    I read this when I was quite young and I still remember some of the parable/illustrations from WAY back then! My husband read it when he was a little older, and it was one of those instrumental books in his spiritual development early on in those pre-missionary preparatory days (not that we don't do the same things now! the impact was just greater the first time!). Sensing its worth, he has subsequently over the years, read it aloud to our two older boys several times through at bedtime. He uses a revised, but unabridged version, that retains much of the beautiful old English. Last year, the boys read independently a simplified version as catch up from AOY3 (we were in the US and the book was here in Peru, so we postponed their individual reading of it as they had clearly had exposure to the book). We did not have them narrate (only periodically discussed) the reading from the old English... but they did narrate every section when they read independently.

    I've read it so many times, and I'm still not tired of it! In fact, writing this post whets my appetite for another dose!

    Whenever we want to, you and I can come right here and watch this little video that reminds us of the wonderful truths contained in this book. (We actually own this video in español on VHS, but it is here in English on in 4 parts.)

    Part two
    Part three
    Part four

    Here's AmblesideOnline's page on Pilgrim's Progress studies. You'll find links to the text divided into reading selections over 36 or 72 weeks for easier implementation in your AO homeschool.

    Coloring Pages! My littles LOVE to color while they are listening! Click here for TONS of downloadable .pdfs

    Online version (to print):

    From Christian Classics Ethereal Library in a .txt file
    In one word syllables: FREE from, paraphrase by Lucy Aikin

    Free Audio versions:
    In English: {in a 12+ part download, part two of Christiana is also available} {in a 12+part download, part two of Christiana is also available}
    En Español: {in a 5 part download}
    and at {in a 17 part download}

    What we used:

    The boys read independently the Abeka books version that has discussion questions at the end of each section. And our unabridged version was something like one of the following, I will update the link to the exact book if it is available when I can get my hands on the ISBN#.

    Kindle version:

    Someday Items:

    I hope this book comes to mean as much to your family as it does to ours!

    Friday, May 29, 2009

    The Homeschool Conference: Help or Hindrance?

    Surely, the homeschool conference is among the most overwhelming experiences you will face as a new homeschooler. As an experienced homeschooler, they are simply over-stimulating; from choosing the most engaging speakers, or those talks most applicable to your homeschool, to becoming disoriented with too much information and getting lost in the Vendor Hall. Be that as it may, I have learned what it takes to enjoy them!

    Pros and Cons:
    One of the greatest benefits of homeschool conferences are networking with your local homeschool families, making friends and contacts for support. There are always inspirational talks on pretty much every category, and if there's not a speaker, there's a vendor or experienced homeschool families on hand to talk to. Sometimes you can get material at a discount, but at the very least you can buy it there and won't have to pay shipping.
    However, I can't really imagine any environment, that I've experienced apart from Disneyland and the like, that is more overwhelming and over-stimulating. There's a lot you can learn, but there's an awful lot you'd be better off not even knowing about! There's simply too much. The only way to do it is to set your expectations ahead of time, maybe even go with a friend who can help you stay on task, but most importantly, have your plan ready.

    Yikes, look at all those people!
    The lady who took this said it wasn't even half!!
    My Experience:
    My first 2 homeschool conferences, I probably looked like a deer in the headlights the ENTIRE time. I felt like a deer in the headlights. I was stunned. I'm sure I walked around in a daze. I know that I bumped into people! It was astounding! I never knew there were so many homeschoolers... and it seemed they'd all written their own books and every other one was selling their own curriculum! It all looked so GOOD! My kids were too little (preschool) to realistically get excited about too much, but it was all so new and fascinating. I was wide open, I didn't have any notion of what I was going to do, and I had no books or anything to do it with either... so, I did the logical thing, I went to the conference!

    In retrospect:
    In my ignorance I did things backwards. I should have figured out what I wanted, and then gone to the conference to fill in the cracks... well, those were the days before everyone and her sister were blogging about homeschool, writing curriculum reviews online and the availability of buying used curriculum online and at amazon wasn't nearly as prolific as it is now. But nowadays, there is no excuse. One must research online. However, one cannot do it all. Before doing anything, sit down and really figure out your kids. Look at yourself, how do you learn, how do you teach? THEN go to work online figuring out what will work for your family. There are websites designed for this very thing. Start there LONG before going to a conference. However, once you know what you want, conferences can be a very enjoyable experience. If you can put your 'blinders' on, tune out most of the noise and stay focused on what your family's necessities are... you'll do fine!

    Since those early days, I know our family's style, I've investigated some online, I have my list of books and resources I'd like to look through for a given subject made out ahead of time. I always study the list of speakers in the weeks before the conference to determine between those which will really be a help to me and those that are good but really just added 'noise'. If I can, I like to go to a conference every year. Obviously, living in Peru has prohibited that in the last years, but never fear, there are now online homeschooling conferences! Will we ever escape?

    This subject merits a whole page of its own. I'm sure someone has done it somewhere... don't you just love google? ;)

    Each of the following are the conferences I've attended over the years:

    Heart of the Matter Online
    The link to this year's conference: 2009 Parenting and Home Education Conference

    (I really enjoyed being able to be in my own home and listen to the speakers at my leisure!  You also don't miss any of the speakers... you can listen to ALL the workshops!  The other cool thing is they give you the mp3s for FREE, so that you can listen again later!
    This option does not help with the local networking aspect or with cutting down on shipping costs for curriculum, however. )  I posted about my experience HERE.  The price is now a lovely $12.95! 

    The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators
    This year's conference: June 5th and 6th at First Federated Church
    Des Moines, Iowa

    Washington Association of Teaching Christian Homes
    They are going to have KEN HAM this year!!! I so, so, SO want to go!
    Conference & Family Retreat
    August 7-8, 2009

    Oregon Christian Home Education Network
    June 12 & 13, 2009 Oregon Convention Center
    Portland, Oregon

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