Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

O is for Opinions July 11, 2013

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:41 pm

It doesn’t take long at all to discover that homeschooling is just like a lot of other aspects of parenting — there are lots of people out there with strong opinions about how other people should do it.  From blogs to books to forums to friends offering advice, it’s a sea of often contradictory opinions.

Should you use a text book “school at home approach”, a relaxed approach, a classical o is for opinionsapproach, an unschooling approach or something in between? Should you take a summer break or school year-round? Start academics early or wait? Use an all-in-one curriculum, or piece it together on your own? Is spiral or mastery better for math? Should reading be taught with phonics, and if so what kind of approach to phonics?  Should we use a unit study approach to science and history, or a systematic four year rotation?

I’ve read or heard advice promoting all of these choice and approaches at one time or another.  Sometimes it’s just people shouting the praises of an approach or a curriculum that works well for them.   I like to do that too.  If I’ve found something works, I love to tell my friends about it.

It’s the people with slightly stronger opinions that can be harder to shake off.  I read a blog post earlier this summer that practically claimed it was a sin to not take a summer break from homeschooling.   Other bloggers are almost equally strong in proclaiming that we are modeling that learning is not a lifestyle or that we are conforming too much to the school system if we take the summer off.  Friends try and persuade other friends that curriculum X is the Best Thing Ever and Everyone Will Love It!

I think it’s pretty clear that different choices and approaches will work best for different students and different families.  Not everyone has the same goals.  Not everyone has kids with the same strengths and weaknesses.   We as parents may have different teaching styles and preferences.  We all have different scheduling situations, different budgets, different family dynamics and different climates we live in.  All those things and more can affect our homeschooling decisions.

I love to read what other homeschoolers have to say about their methods, approaches and curricula.  I love to talk shop with other homeschooling moms.  But I also know that at the end of the day, I (along with my husband) need to decide what’s best for our family — for who we are, for who are kids and and for the goals that we feel God has laid on our hearts for our family.

I’m writing this post as a part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge at Ben and Me (I’m trying to get caught up to “R” by next week!).
Blogging Through the Alphabet


N is for Newspaper

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:00 am

I really wanted to make it all the way through the “Blogging through the Alphabet” challenge, so I am going to try and catch up even though I am a few weeks behind.  🙂  Maybe I can do N, O, P and Q over the next few days to be in time for “R” next week!

N is for Newspaper — A “Neighborhood Newspaper” that Miss M decided to create a few weeks ago. This is Issue #2 (with full names removed for privacy):

Neighborhood News 1Neighborhood News 2

Miss M and Mr. E wrote out the text they wanted to have appear in the newspaper.  This time Mr. K drew a picture and a friend contributed the comic.  I helped with spelling, layout and adding the pictures.   We made a bit less than 20 copies, and Miss M delivered them to neighbors, and friends at tennis class.

The Neighborhood Newspaper is a project that I am definitely going to encourage.  I am hoping that Miss M wants to continue it even beyond the summer!  It’s a great project to wrap into homeschooling.   Miss M and Mr. E can practice writing, typing, photography and drawing.  I’m thinking I should be able to teach Miss M sometime soon how to arrange the newspaper in Microsoft Publisher.   And there are all kinds of possibilities for teamwork and collaboration as other friends want to make contributions (a friend has already contributed a comic for issue #3!).

This post is a part of the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge at Ben and Me:
Blogging Through the Alphabet


Hermann Heights Monument in New Ulm, MN July 10, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:04 pm

During our holiday weekend camping trip to New Ulm, Minnesota just after July 4th, we also took some time for a bit of sight seeing.  At the top of my list of places to see in New Ulm was the Hermann Monument, affectionately referred to as “Hermann the German”.  My childhood memory of this place was that it was a really huge structure, and my memory served me well — the copper statue and base has a total height of 102 feet, and provides a great view of the surrounding region from the viewing area:

Hermann Monument

The Hermann Heights monument comemerates the role that Hermann (also known as Arminius) played in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. — a victory for Germanic tribes over the Romans.   Over the centuries Hermann became a sort of national hero, and a much larger statue of Hermann can be seen in Germany, somewhat near the site of the battle.  You can read much more about Hermann and the monuments to him on Wikipedia.

In the base of the monument there is a small interpretive center with interesting artwork and displays:

Hermann Monument Interpretive Displays

The displays were quite interesting and I learned much about Hermann that I had forgotten (or never learned) since my childhood visits to Hermann the German.

Linking up to Fantastic Foto Field Trips @ HSBA Post!

Join Me at The Homeschool Post!


A Visit to the Wanda Gag House July 8, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:30 pm

This past weekend we took a three day camping trip to New Ulm, Minnesota.  It’s about a two hour drive from our home in Minneapolis, and is a town I lived in for about four and a half years as a child (from about age 5.5 to age 10).  Besides a fun and relaxing time spent camping, we also did a bit of sight seeing.

Miss M and I both were very excited to visit the Wanda Gag House.  Gag is well known as the author of Millions of Cats, and we have enjoyed several of her other picture books as well.  Gag lived in New Ulm her entire childhood in this house that is now a museum. I thought perhaps the boys would not be very keen on seeing the house — but they were excited to see it too!  So, we all went in to view the house.

Wanda Gag House

This was my first visit to the Gag house as well — The house was not purchased for restoration and preservation until the year after I moved away from New Ulm. The Gag home has been restored in a number of ways to the look it would have had when Wanda and her six siblings lived there.  After many, many layers of paint and wall paper were removed, decorative painting and scrollwork done done by Wanda’s father Anton Gag were visible on the walls!

A number of works of Wanda’s art are displayed on the main floor of the house, while works of art by younger sister Flavia (who was also an author and illustrator of children’s books!), and her father Anton are on display on the 2nd floor and in the attic space.  We learned many interesting facts about Wanda and her family.  One little tidbit I found interesting — the hand lettering featured in Millions of Cats and some of Gag’s other works was not done by Wanda but by one of her younger brothers.  What a talented family!

We bought our very own copy of Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw to take home with us.  We greatly enjoyed this picture book biography on at least two occasions from the library.

Linking up with Fantastic Foto Field Trips @ HSBA Post!

Join Me at The Homeschool Post!


Book Discoveries this Week: A potpourri of chapter books July 2, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 2:14 pm

Despite how busy we’ve been in the past couple weeks, it feels like we’ve actually done quite a bit of reading.   Afternoon nap time for the toddler is a perfect time to read aloud to the rest of the crew (and it is nice “down time” for them between all our outside activities).  And summer evenings seem to lend themselves well to reading a bit later than usual with Miss M.

I usually try and stick to one chapter book per post…but I’m afraid if I don’t condense some of them into one post, I’ll start to forget what we’ve read.  😉

With Mr. E (age 6) as my primary audience, we finished The Mouse and the Motorcyle by Beverly Cleary and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  We’re working on Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator right now, so I’ll save Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for a future post about both books.

Both Mr. E and Mr. K (age 4) listened to The Mouse and the Motorcycle, though Mr. E  the mouse and the motorcycleenjoyed it a bit more.  Miss M read it all in one afternoon after we finished.  🙂  The Mouse and the Motorcycle is a great story for young boys in particular.  They can all relate to a boy who loves to play with his toy cars and beloved motorcycle.     Keith befriends Ralph the mouse while staying at an old motel that is home to Ralph and his family.  He even allows Ralph to take joy rides on his beloved toy motorcycle…which can really move if one make pb-pb-pb-bbbb  sounds, of course.  This leads to all kinds of adventures and trouble for Ralph, who learns a big lesson in responsibility.  We’ll be reading the sequels about Ralph the mouse sometime soon.

With Miss M, I’ve finished a couple complete books as read-alouds, plus we’ve done a few shared readings where I started the book and she finished it.  This is new for us, and it seems to be working out quite well to help her discover new books she was a bit more apprehensive to dive into on her own.

wonderful ONot being quite sure what I wanted to read after The Little White Horse (linked to my review), we started a shorter book, The Wonderful “O” by James Thurber.  This is a funny little story about two pirates who, unable to find any treasure on an island they visit, decide to forcibly outlaw the letter “O”.   Not only do they outlaw speaking the words themselves that contain the dreaded “O”…but the objects themselves.  Everything from pools to floors to clocks to chocolate to dough is outlawed.   There’s a lot of wordplay going on as words are spoken without their “o”s and o-less synonymns are found for objects with O-filled names.  Eventually the pirates are cleverly kicked off the island for the residents to get their beloved “O”s back.   This short book only took us two evenings to read.  It’s definitely funny and a bit strange as well.   I think it’s one I could have “passed” on (and let Miss M read on her own), but since it only took two nights to read it wasn’t really such a bad use of time.

The other full read aloud we’ve finished is The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley.  I checked this out for Miss M to read a few months back based on Amy’s recommendation, but she prairie thiefnever got around to reading it before it had to go back to the library.  Since we are on a roll with more fairy-tale type read alouds this summer, it came to mind as one we could read together.

This is a bit of  “Little House”-meets-fairy-tales sort of a story.  Louisa Brody is a young girl living on the prairie in 1882.  Her Pa is accused by their neighbors of stealing household items, and then is carted off to jail.  With no one else to take her in, Louisa has to stay with those same neighbors who accused her Pa of being a thief.    Louisa knows that her Pa is not the stealing type, but she can’t quite figure out how the Smirch’s things got into their old dugout — until she meets a tiny little fellow who lives in a home under the hazel grove.

Both Miss M and I really enjoyed this one.  It’s an exciting story, with some interesting twists and turns (and a happy ending, of course).

Miss M and I have also had some “shared reading”.   I read the first “section” of Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken out loud, and Miss M finished the rest of the book fairly quickly.  This book is really hilarious and ridiculous (in a good way).  Arabel’s father brings home a raven that was hit by a car.    Just when it seems the raven might be a goner, it eats everything in the refrigerator.  Then it eats the stairs (it really likes eating stairs).   It also answers the phone and says “Nevermore!” on a regular basis.  It can even occasionally be helpful in the process of catching a thief.

We also started The Bad Beginning, the first book in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” series, outloud together.  After just a couple chapters, I knew that I didn’t care to read the rest of it.  As the author so politely warns, if you like stories with happy endings, you probably don’t want to read this book.    I know it is supposed to be “funny” how many bad, bad things happen to the poor Baudelaire children, but I just had a hard time enjoying the humor of it I guess.   Miss M thought otherwise and quickly finished both the first and second books in this series before taking a break to read the third Mysterious Benedict Society book.

We’re currently reading/shared-reading.  Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand.  This book may become Miss M’s read.  We’ll be discussing it tonight.  She seems to love this story of a magical nanny with some very naughty children.  I’m not such a big fan — I don’t think it is nearly as good as Mrs. Piggle Wiggle or Mary Poppins (though I am judging based on the movie of Mary Poppins, not the book — I’ve never read the book).  Nurse Matilda strikes me as being a mean version of Mary Poppins.  😉

Whew, that’s a lot of books!  I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!