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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Great List of Crafts for Kids!

I don't know about you, but we are in Idaho... and it's raining. A lot. This is not usual weather for us and so I was kind of taken back. I had nothing planned. *sigh* So I checked my email and lo and behold, I had a list of craft ideas sent over from my good friend, Cynthia. She's awesome like that and always has a ton of resources for homeschoolers.
Just in case you were looking for something to do inside with your little ones, I thought I would share the wealth. It's always good to find crafts for kids anyway - especially with the winter weather coming. Whether you are looking for interesting ways to keep kids entertained during the winter or you would are just looking to add on to your elementary / toddler lesson plans, here is a huge list with a lot of craft information.
This list includes crafts for toddlers to older children, with many of the sites appropriate for a wide age range. There are also individual crafts and group projects that can be easily adapted for homeschool children. I went through the list and added a few of my own as well and hope that you find this a pretty comprehensive and helpful list for art ideas.
Crafts for Toddlers and Smaller Hands
Sticker Glue:
Art project that is geared toward younger kids. It involves making an edible glue that little ones can apply to the back of paper to make their own stickers. We have begun using this recipe to make an alphabet sticker book :) Pictures should be coming soon for that one!

Home Made Paint - I actually posted this a while back, but thought I would include it in the list since it is a great way to do art with smaller kids and a cheaper option to buying your own finger paint!

Craft Projects for Elementary Aged Kids (and beyond)
A great way to reuse old plastic bottles is to make jewelry out of them! This site has a craft project using sharpies, plastic bottles, and a bit of creative know how. Simple projects that require some supervision.

Plastic Bag Beads: I know I have more plastic bags than I can ever possibly use stored under my kitchen sink. Here's a creative use for some of them. Because this craft requires the use of open flame, it is suitable for older kids only.

More Beads! Can't get enough beads? Do you have magazines lying around collecting dust? Well, here's a link to a craft where you make beads from paper.

Self Made Clay: (Homemade Clay) Polymer clay is amazingly versatile, but a bit pricey. Here's a recipe where you can make your own.

These next few links are yarn and weaving crafts:
Paper Plate Weaving -- Great for little hands and teaching dexterity.  

Bracelet Crafts:

If you still want more crafts suitable for teens, here is a collection of links with tons of resources:

Of course, there are many more craft ideas for kids out there but this should be enough to get you started. If there is a page that you love, please share! We'd love to add more ideas to the list!



Monday, November 11, 2013

A Freelance Writers View on Teaching Kids to Read and Write

I hear it all the time, "How do I get my child to read or write?" They want to focus on a secret way to teach homeschoolers English and it seems to make no sense to me. Every time, every single time, I shake my head. I just don't understand the concept of a child needing to be got to read or write. I was pretty much born with a pen in my hand. I remember wanting to know how things were spelled as a toddler. When I was five, I went to work with my father on a regular basis. I spent that time typing on an old typewriter and being happy as a clam. Figuratively speaking of course. Who knows how happy a clam is anyway?

I digress.

It's a foreign concept. Apparently it is a common question though and I would like to share my thoughts on English homeschool curriculums and what I feel their values are. First, I would like to say that I definitely see a point to having them out there. I do realize that there are two children currently and watching their interactions with books and the written word has been interesting. One already has a love of books and takes charge in reading to himself. He thinks that words are cool. The other, I had to force feed comic books until he was about 9. However, the older one would never have a problem with me reading to him. That being said, I get that different kids have different needs.

Who needs a curriculum?

That being said, not all kids need a pre-formulated plan on learning the language that is spoken around them all the time. Many kids out there have parents thinking that they do and because of this they are forced to sit down and suck down a litany of worksheets and beginner books that are boredom times a million. What better way to kill a child's interest in learning than to set them in a box and tell them to occupy themselves. There are kids out there that simply don't need it. It is far better to encourage a love of learning and exploring as the child sees fit versus what we as parents seem to think is needed. Before any parent goes out and buys a boxed curriculum and spends money on it, I think it is important to talk to the kids first and see if an interest is there. Ask them questions about what they want to know about and provide literature that fits those interests. Children that learn under structure and strive for grades and approval in a more traditional manner will do great with a curriculum and that is what they are there for. Other than that, save your money on other tools and go from there.

Learning to Read

Learning to read can be done in a number of ways. There are many jobs as a freelancer that I didn't know how to do from the start of the job but by the time the project was finished, I was a bonafide expert. I learned WordPress this way. I mastered transcription this way. I have watched my own son master reading this way. In his case, the learning aspect came from the love of comics. While learning to read is a process and it won't happen overnight, my point is that a curriculum is not the only way to do this. There are other methods which focus on phonics, tactile learning, and trial and error. This isn't the full list, but the point is this... when a child wants to learn they will.

Challenge is Good

As I said, some of the ways that I learned my own trade was by jumping in. This can be done with English as well. When my son was learning how to read, since he was older, I handed him "Hatchet". He was not to a fourth grade reading level, but his maturity was at this level. Did he struggle with words? Yes. Of course he did. However, he also had interest in camping, hiking, and the other aspects that the novel offered. The point was that I wanted to find something that he wanted to read. I didn't give him a time limit but I did ask him daily questions to challenge his understanding. Sometimes he surprised me and had caught something that I had forgotten. Other times our talks inspired him to go back and read again. As he has gotten older I have offered more challenging readings on different topics. A love of war machines has given us "All Quiet on the Western Front" and interest in politics has inspired readings of "Animal Farm" and "1984".

Greed is Good

Money is a good motivator. Do I spend more time on clients that pay more? Sure, it's been known to happen. While I have a love for all of my clients, sometimes money talks. The same can be said for learning. Of course, you don't want to make it a constant. However, offering money to read something outside of the scope of my son has given him and I the opportunity to learn about new avenues and get writing. I once had a project for my own college class that I didn't want to do and I paid him to help me research. He ended up enjoying it much more than I did and he helped me get a better grade in the class. Every now and then he will ask if there is anything he can earn money by doing and I'll tell him he can write a report.

Finding Common Ground

At the end of the day it is up to you to decide what is going to work best for your kids. I have found that teaching children English is a task and that you do need to get them involved in the process. Once you find the way they learn, run with it. Don't let anyone else tell you how to do it and don't freak out if they don't meet a deadline. There is no need that a child needs to learn their letters by 3 or that they need to be reading at level right on time. Remember with homeschooling there is no standard and that because you spend one on one time with your child, chances are that they are going to catch up in their own pace. However, if you have concerns, don't be afraid to ask for help. Just don't take advice as the end all of the conversation. You know your teaching and you know your children. You are ultimately going to know what works best for them.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Time Management Made Us a Happier Homeschooling Home

I always mean to update on here. I need to make a pact with myself... I will update. However, in the past I have failed this... because at the root of it all, I am horrible with time management! So in light of this, I am going to start putting it on my calendar. That's right, I said calendar.

For those that know me, they know that time management is not my strong point. It's difficult. I have a 3 year old and a 13 year old in the same house. I have schedules for both while trying to teach the both of them at different ages. I still don't know how you guys with 3 plus kids do it! But in all honesty, keeping up with a schedule and planning a curriculum is pretty impossible in this house. Recently, I thought about this whole concept. I mean, I am teaching a couple of kids how to live and eventually they will have to have jobs, go to college (or whatever else they choose) and essentially how to function in the real world... Perhaps, just maybe, it is time to get on the ball about showing them what it is like to be a functioning adult that shows up on time to things. Teach by example, they say... right? So here we go! These are the steps that we took to take our lives and have a happier homeschooling household.

Step ONE: Declutter and Simplify

Above all else, one of the biggest things that gets me behind in life are all of the distractions around. I have instilled a couple of tools to help organize the household and to help us be able to find what we need when it comes to schooling. Decluttering the house, for homeschooling purposes, began with the office. Unfortunately, I don't have a before picture... but here is the after pictures.

Now before you tell me, "That's not organized!" Remember, we have no before pictures! HA! Seriously, it was a crazy mess up in here! I actually had some very astute friends come in and help me.

Step TWO: Schedule Stuff

Scheduling is a difficult task for me. Scheduling and putting things on the calendar mean that I need to be accountable for my actions. That's not always easy! But we did a few things. One, I set up my Google calendar to be a bit more formulaic. I color coded for the boys gymnastics, date nights, lessons, and even days off. Next, I got those updates coming to my phone. After that, I have someone now to remind me when things are. We also set up a family calendar. Unfortunately, to date it has been up for about 2 weeks and it has yet to be utilized. The important fact is that it is there!

Scheduling homeschooling isn't always easy when you have two kids out there needing completely different tasks to keep them busy and engaged, either.

Step THREE: Lowering Standards

One of the main reasons that I used to get all crazy about scheduling was because I had these high expectations that everything had to be just so. Truthfully, I wanted to get the oldest into Latin, Boy Scouts, sports, and a 6 hour lesson. We unschool, for the most part, and the anal retentive planning that went with my expectations just isn't reasonable considering our homeschooling style. I had to sit down and talk with the boys and figure out what they wanted to learn and what I was cramming down their throats. The younger one was easy, but the older has a varied interest pool and I needed to make sure that his learning was representative of his own interests. Otherwise, why bother with homeschooling in the first place? That is not to say that you should follow our lead. I mean, if you have things that you teach because you feel your kids should know and you follow your own curriculum or are planning oriented, then you might not find that it is shoving or anal retentive. I'm just saying that for me to implement what I wanted to, I had to be those things because it goes against the grain around here.

Step FOUR: Schedule Cleaning Before Learning

I am not one for a spotless house, however, I found that when I put off chores... so did the boys. I make sure that all necessary chores are done before schooling starts. I also began bartering for someone to come over and help clean. It's certainly okay to ask for help. You would be amazed what people will do for baked good, co-ops, or baby sitting. In my case, I have a massage therapist for a husband... it made bartering and organizing easy!

Step FIVE: Make Time for the Husband and I

Seriously, up until a month ago, the first real date night my husband and I had was over a YEAR ago. We were losing touch and grumpy. Mind you, I had surgery earlier in the year and we've been through the ringer in the last couple of years. In the end though, the family starts with the adults. If it weren't for adult time then the kids wouldn't be here. Having this time with my husband has made all the difference because we are in a place of friendliness rather than grumpiness. He knows what is going on in my world and we actually... gasp... talk again! It has not only brought us closer and been a benefit for the whole family, it's brought back some fun and spice. This makes for a happier mommy and in turn a happier teacher. It's truly win-win for everyone.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Homemade Finger Painting

I remember doing finger paints with my oldest and he loved it. However, I would purchase the paints and by the end of one session he would have mixed them together or dumped them all out and they would be done after one time. This was certainly not cost-effective. Of course, the internet wasn't as cool as it is today and thankfully, there is access to all sorts of cool things online that helps us to save money while doing art with this kids. Now there are many ways to make paint but one of the easiest that we found simply mixing corn starch and warm water on the stove.


1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
Food coloring 

Heat on the stove on medium until consistency is 'paintlike' This recipe will make about 4 cups of paint.

 Once it is warm and into the individual cups (you can also use muffin tins... something I didn't think of when we did this but will be trying next time) you can use popscicle sticks or metal spoons for easy stirring. Mix in a few drops of color and create the color you want. I have found that working with main primary colors is easiest because little fingers will mix it up anyways.
 This is the color making stage. We went with blue, pink, purple, and green. Very festive!
 Look... purple!

You can crunch up the art when you are done and it comes out in crinkles like this. We have hung them on the sliding glass door and it adds a nice ambiance to the room. We also have another which was blue and pink. They came out really cute.

Monday, February 25, 2013

World Trade Center Bombing - 20 Years Later

September 11... 

Everyone remembers this as the day that the World Trade Center was bombed in New York.

February 26... 

The World Trade Center was bombed in New York... but people seem to forget this day.

20 years ago, though, there were six people who were killed and over 1,000 people who were injured when the World Trade Center was attacked. This could have easily been 9/11 - only 8 years earlier. In fact, the goal of the attack was that the first tower would topple and take down the second tower. Thankfully, the plan failed and only blew a hole into the parking garage.

On site, security has stated that they thought a breaker went out. Power was lost to the building and they were unaware that a bomb had gone off. They soon realized what had transpired and men and women rushed to the scene. New York fire fighters, police officers, and civilians joined in to rescue, as they would do again.

This day should never be forgotten, nor the lives of those lost. John DiGiovanni, Stephen A. Knapp, William Macko, Robert Kirkpatrick, Wilfredo Mercado and Monica Rodriguez Smith (who was also pregnant at the time and scheduled to start maternity leave the following day)... We remember all of you.

1993 Word Trade Center Bombing - Eric Ascalon

There will be a ceremony and a moment of silence held today @ 12:18 EST. Our home will be joining in and thinking about the souls that perished that day, the people who were hurt, and the families of everyone involved.

This day is important to be taught to our kids as one to remember side by side with 9/11.
The names of those killed in the Feb. 26, 1993 bombing will be included with the National Sept. 11 Memorial and will share a spot with those that also perished on the 9/11 attack.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Science at Home

"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in a different time." 

~Rabindranath Tagore

Our children are born onto a precipice of education, learning and experience. Utilizing the tools that are available outside of the classroom allows for them to learn in a way that was not seen before at home. While some households may spend the time to purchase lengthy science kits, high priced curriculum, and partake in complicated projects, there is still something to be said for exploring the world around us and finding learning through every day venues.

One of the greatest advancements in education for our children is the fact that that science and technological learning is so easy to get our hands on. It no longer has to be expensive. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, if you live in decently populated area with a city nearby, chances are that there is going to be a science or space museum that will allow your child to explore the subject ad nauseum without any additional purchases at home. However, if you are like some of us, we like to bring the science home with us. Doing so no longer has to be pricey or inconvenient though thanks to simple products like 2 litre bottles. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for bunson burners and microscopes, but simple experiments are easy to do without all of the hullabaloo.

In fact, here are a number of science lessons that we've tried in the recent years that worked out quite well from the kitchen table.

The Water Race:

(1) 2-litre bottle for each participant or
team; stopwatch for each participant or team; paper
and pencils; water, sink or basin

Fill the 2-litre bottle with water. Record prediction
of how quickly the bottle can be emptied of all the
water on a piece of paper. Without squeezing the
sides of the bottle or swirling the water, empty the
bottle into a sink or basin. Using the stopwatch,
time how long it takes to empty out all of the water.

Repeat this experiment three times to be sure the
data are accurate.

Fill the bottle to the same level as before. Give the
bottle a swirl. Time how long it takes to empty the
swirling water out. Repeat three times.
Discussion: How close was your prediction?

Explanation:  The action of swirling the water in the bottle
while pouring creates a vortex, which looks like a tornado in a
bottle. The opening of the vortex allows water to flow out of
the bottle while air molecules move upward into the bottle.
Without the vortex, the water and air molecules have to

Tornado in a Bottle

(2) 2 liter bottles for each participant or
team; tube connector; water; optional glitter, beads,
small plastic animals, trees, houses, etc.

Fill one bottle 2/3 full of water. Screw on the tube
connector to the bottle of water and then screw an
empty bottle on top. Flip over the bottles and again
observe how the water moves from one bottle to
another. Then swirl the bottle with water in it and
watch as the tornado is created. Add some of the
above items and create your own vortex or tornado.
Observe the vortex and answer these questions:

Where were the plastic houses, beads or
animals before you swirled the water?

Where did they move when the vortex was

What similarities are there between the
vortex created in the bottle and a real

What other variations can you come

What if you use more or less water?

Does it make a difference if the water is hot or cold?

Explanation: A vortex is defined as “a whirling liquid.”
When swirling the water it causes the liquids to travel in a
spiral. As the water swirls in the experiment above it moves
the houses, beads, glitter etc. These items will move at
different speeds depending on where they are in the vortex.
This is similar to a tornado. A tornado is defined as “a violent
destructive whirling wind.” It is a rotating column of air
ranging in width. Air and water droplets create a tornado.
The water droplets form condensation, which is the visible

Liquid Fireworks
Water is denser than oil and the two will always separate from each other. Since food coloring is made mostly of water, it will drop through the oil and finally disperse into the water. This experiment produces "liquid fireworks."
  • Baby oil
  • Small bottle or small plastic prescription vial
  • Tablespoon
  • Two-liter bottle with top 7.5 cm removed (save this part to use as a funnel)
  • Water
  1. Place 1 tablespoon of baby oil into the small bottle or plastic prescription vial.
  2. Add 2-3 drops of each different food coloring into the bottle or vial (example: 2-3 drops of red, 2-3 drops of blue, 2-3 drops of green and 2-3 drops of yellow).
  3. Secure the lid and shake until the all the ingredients have mixed together.
  4. Fill the two-liter bottle almost full with tap water.
  5. Pour the food coloring and baby oil mixture from the small bottle through the funnel and into the container of water.
  6. Observe the interactions of the liquids.
When the bubbles sink, their oil coating rises back to the surface. The color seems to disappear because the drops of coloring are not powerful enough to change the color of the water.

Bubble Machine
Bubbles can be a thin, ball-shaped film of liquid that has a gas trapped inside. Air inside the bubble pushes outward against the watery "skin." Simultaneously, Earth's atmosphere pushes inward on the outside of the liquid "skin." This equal balance of two forces creates a shape with boundaries at an equal distance from the center and produces only one shape – a sphere. Here's a fun way to make bubbles.
  • Medium-size bowl
  • Water
  • Blue or green liquid dishwashing soap
  • Granulated white sugar
  • Top half of a two-liter soda bottle (cut to resemble a funnel without the cap)
  • Teaspoon
  1. Fill the medium-size bowl halfway with water.
  2. Add several squirts of liquid dish soap and one teaspoon of sugar to the water.
  3. Stir the mixture thoroughly and vigorously until small bubbles appear. Add more liquid soap if needed.
  4. Dip the nozzle of the funnel into the soap solution. Lift it up and blow through the large opening toward the inside of the nozzle. If no bubbles appeared, repeat and/or add more liquid soap to the bowl of water.
  5. Dip the large open end of the funnel into the soap solution and blow through the nozzle.
Which end of the funnel produced the best bubbles?

Waltzing Raisins
Drop raisins into a bottle of clear-colored soda and watch them rise, fall and hover for several minutes. This experiment is what I call "variation on a theme."
  • Two-liter soda bottle
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Box of raisins
  • Tablespoon
  1. Fill the two-liter bottle half-full of water.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of baking soda into the water. (You'll observe a chemical reaction as vinegar and baking soda interact – carbon dioxide bubbles will be produced.)
  3. Drop a few raisins into the bottle of water. The raisins may sink at first, but will "waltz" around soon thereafter.
The vinegar and baking soda produce carbon dioxide bubbles, which gather under the raisins until there's enough to make the raisins rise to the surface. When the raisins reach the surface, the bubbles burst, causing the raisins to sink. The process of lift-and-sink may repeat several times.

Density of liquids
Water molecules are constantly in motion. This bouncing and bumping of molecules is called "diffusion," which also occurs in gases and solids. Diffusion in our air causes fragrances to spread all around a room (i.e., flowers, cologne, cooking odors, etc.).
  • water
  • food coloring
  • scissors
  • two-liter plastic bottle
  1. Cut the top 7.5 cm off the bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle about 3/4 full with water.
  3. Carefully drop 5-7 droplets of food coloring into the bottle of water.
  4. Observe how the food coloring falls to the bottom of the bottle, leaving peculiar trails.
  5. Let the bottle sit undisturbed for a few hours. What happened to the trails?
 Homemade lava lamp
Years ago, lava lamps were the coolest devices to own! For hours one could easily sit and stare at the colorful globs as they slowly moved up, down, fused together and separated into extraordinary shapes. What were these bizarre globs?
  • two-liter plastic bottle
  • vegetable oil
  • food coloring
  • water
Soda bottle lava lamp
  1. Pour vegetable oil into the bottle until it is 1/3 full.
  2. Add 3-4 drops of food coloring.
  3. Carefully fill the bottle the rest of the way with water and tighten the cap.
  4. Allow enough time for the water and oil to separate.
  5. Slowly rock the bottle back and forth and observe the wave action.
  6. Slowly tip the bottle until it is upside down and observe the same lava lamp effect.
Water is denser than oil. This makes water stay on the bottom of the container while oil "oozes" to the top. Changing the temperature of these liquids has interesting effects, too!

Lung simulator
Your spongy, elastic and expandable lungs are located in your chest cavity and protected by a strong rib cage. When you inhale, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles contract and expand the chest cavity. This expansion lowers the pressure in the chest cavity below the outside air pressure, draws air in through the airways and inflates the lungs. To exhale, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles relax, air flows out and the chest cavity gets smaller. This decrease in volume of the cavity increases the pressure in the chest cavity, which is higher than the outside air pressure. High-pressure air from the lungs then flows out of the airways to the outside low-pressure air.
  • 10" to 12" party balloon
  • punch balloon
  • two-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off
  • rubber band
  • cellophane tape
  1. Cut the nozzle end off the punch balloon and slip it over the bottom of the plastic bottle, leaving a little slack. Secure the punch balloon with cellophane tape. (The punch balloon represents the diaphragm.)
  2. By holding onto the nozzle of a balloon, stuff the remainder of the balloon through the bottle's mouth.
  3. Secure the party balloon's nozzle around the mouth of the bottle with a rubber band. (The balloon represents the lungs and the bottle represents the chest cavity.)
  4. Pull down on the punch balloon (diaphragm) and observe what happens to the balloon (lungs) inside the bottle! Release the diaphragm.
  5. Push the diaphragm into the bottle and carefully observe what happens to the other balloon (lung).

    ( Many of these were found at - a great resource that we have found for our own projects at home)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Every Day Is Different

So, I was talking to my friend about homeschooling the other day and she mentioned that she didn't understand how I did it. She conveyed an interest but at the same time mentioned how she would go absolutely crazy being home all day with her kids. I always laugh when interested parents think that homeschooling would be any different than when the kids are in school. I mean, when your kids are in any other kind of school aren't there difficulties? Personally, the few times when my older son was in school I found that it was WAY more difficult. I had to deal with teachers, administration, massive amounts of homework that didn't seem engaging or interesting, and the "friends" that came over. Frankly, give me the "hardships" of homeschooling ANY DAY over what parents have to deal with when it comes to carting the kids to school in the morning on a set time and having to stick to that schedule. I guess it just goes to show that each family has their own definition of what works.

Then I think about my own day. My family gets up when they have had enough sleep, for the most part. Tristan would probably sleep all day if you let him... so I guess really, I get as much sleep as I need. I wake him up when I get up. But once we get up, we eat, and we get started on our day. Sure, I have a schedule in mind but I don't stick to it if something comes up. All that is on my mind is providing a learning environment where he is going to get experience and educated. There are days where I want to pull out my hair. Those are the days we take apart the car or go on a hike. It's called practical learning. I never will get what is supposed to be learned in a classroom that can't be learned in day to day life. But hey, that's just me.

When I am asked what I do all day, I can't ever give a simple answer. I can't say that day to day we do lessons or that we sit from this time to this time. I can say that we spend a solid 6 hours doing something. I can say that sometimes "school" happens on the weekends. I can say that I don't count summer or winter break as time off. Learning is possible at all times - even on vacation. I don't encourage turning the brain off. I don't offer down time. Even movie night constitutes merit. Work and play go hand in hand. Every day looks different.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Grading Grudges

Homeschooling our kids means that we educate them away from an established school... but most any homeschooling parent I know will tell you that a large part of their children's education does not happen in the home. Education can come in many forms and the glory of homeschool is that if you so choose, you can forgo standardized testing in lieu of actual life experiences. While there are those parents out there that saddle up with curriculum and weekly vocab tests, there are also a large number of us that use unschooling and modified curricula to educate our kids on life. How can you grade that?

My family lives in a home where we also help to care for other children that are not our own. My sister in law works out of the city a lot and so we also help her with her son. It's a bit difficult at times simply because her son goes to public high school and my two kids are here at home with my husband and I. It is a markedly different environment for education and I must say, it's an interesting sight to be in the middle of two different eduction systems on similarly aged children. While my nephew is a couple of years older than my son, the stuff they work on for school work is not all that different. This is not to say that my son is some uber genius. Quite to the contrary. My oldest is just an average kid that likes to explore. He has his own lesson plans and can learn at his own place. It just so happens that he likes science and math, but with a mother who has a BA in English Lit that he is forced to do more reading than he would like at times.

I don't do grades at the house. I think they are silly. I have worked for corporate America and I currently run my own business. In neither environment did I ever receive a grade for my work. While it is true that in corporate America, I did get reviews... it was more like a communication from my employer on what my strengths and weaknesses were. I never got a letter or a number that defined my work. That being the case, I have never bothered to label my own kid's learning that way. I am a staunch believer in that school and education should be done for the desire to learn, to be present in one's life, to help foster a sense of societal responsibility, and to propel ones interest to knowledge and experience. How can you put a letter or number on that???

On the other hand, since we have moved in to our current situation, there is so much focus on grades. My own husband and I have even gotten caught up in it. I mean, what else can a parent or guardian of a public school child know regarding their kids' education without a grade? It's not like you can talk to the teachers and check in on your child. Oh wait, you can. This is what leads to my own frustration. When I try to talk to the teachers, they invariably refer back to the grade that the student was given. A few teachers have been willing to work with us, seeing that we were interested in helping our nephew to succeed, but most of them simply said that our nephew wasn't doing the work well enough or at all. It is all foreign and I feel like I am walking around the in the dark. I'm the blind leading the blind. Truth is, I am ill-equipped to help a kid get good grades in school, especially since I think that their rubrics are so silly. At the root, I am biased.

Watching these two students struggle with their learning, my bias also leads me to see the difference in learning. My nephew doesn't much care for school. He doesn't really seem to give a hoot whether he gets n A or a D. I have asked him how he feels about class and if he needs help, but he'll tell you himself that he is going through the motions. I have brought up homeschooling with him and he has no interest. He wants to be with his friends. I am sure this is the teenaged angst of a high schooler talking. Still, I am not in the market to push him into doing something that he doesn't want to do. That still leaves me with the quandary... how do I get him to take his schooling seriously.

I wonder if there is a way to unleash that joy of learning that I see with many homeschoolers and instill it in a publicly schooled child? Can I make it so grades are less important? Society feels that those public school grades are important. Colleges are going to refer back to those grades. Nope, I don't think I can wipe that slate. So I wonder again, how can I change this up?

I mean, I don't not grade my own children, I just do it differently. I don't know how I would even begin to apply it to a child that is not homeschooled. I come to think that perhaps this is a good life lesson on my own grading skills. One day my own son will have to prove his worth to a college if he chooses to go. I know how to set up his portfolio for college and we work on SAT and ACT testing skills, even at the age of 12, so that some day he is going to know how to do it.  I tend to like the atmosphere of the house without fear of the dreaded report card. Finding a balance between this has to be possible, but I have yet to find out how. For the mean time, I am going to trust that each boy knows his own path and that they are old enough to be responsible for their education. You can't make anyone learn who doesn't want to and berating for lack of trying or poor grades has never gotten anyone anywhere. I just keep telling myself that as I bang my own psyche on the proverbial brick wall.

Man, I've got a headache!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Hero: Mary Leakey

Happy Birthday Mary Leakey! 

She's one of my own personal heroes and looking back she and her husband not only propelled my own interest in physical anthropology, she also influenced my decision to home school. I know... I'm a dork. When I was 13 I found the book, "Origins" by Louis Leakey. I was absorbed and couldn't get enough. I then read "Origins Reconsidered" and 'Making of Mankind". I've read both 'Origin' books over and over through the years and after writing this post would probably read it again.

What I took away in my early teen brain was that this woman followed through along side her husband, traveled around the world, and didn't allow childbirth to stop her. The Leakey's raised their children on anthropological digs and followed their own rules regarding the scientific community a number of times. They seemed like scientific rock stars and I wanted to be just like them.

When I first started going to college, I had already determined that I would be an anthropologist someday. I let my own self down when I got pregnant and realized that having a child and planning to complete college by going to Berkley was probably not going to work for me. However, I realized that it didn't have to stop my dreams.

When my son was old enough to go to school, Mary Leakey was one of my own examples of women who could work and tailor an education for a child. She was known to be an artistic and articulate woman. She was not only the wife that followed her husband to Africa, even though it was his own desire to dig in Olduvai Gorge, which is located in now Tanzania. She had previous archaeological experience and it was in the field that she met Louis Leakey and the dynamic-anthropological duo came forth.

Mary brought her own skills to the table and was a large part of Louis' success. After three years of courtship, they were married and then moved to Africa. While in Africa she made her own discoveries of Proconsul africanu and Australopithecus boisei. With her husband, Team Leakey made other discoveries including Homo habilis, nearly a 2 million year old find. Their own discoveries together allowed for advancements in anthropology and archeology. She continued to search for the past even after Louis died and found one of the only signs of habitation of bipedal hominids in Tanzania as well as links to the past by fossils evidence.

There is bound to be more that the woman did, but this is what I remember from my own readings over time. She was an amazing woman before her time and created a niche in the field where women were allowed, but not nearly as well-received. She paved the way for Jane Goodall, who worked with her on her own groundbreaking studies.

For me, I probably would be homeschooling. Maybe. Maybe not? I always referred back to her as my own initial spark for homeschooling. At a young age she was my model of the woman who could do it all. So today, 100 years after her birth I say thank you and Happy Birthday.

If you would like to learn more about the Leakey's the Mary Leakey Foundation continues her legacy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Back from the holidays!

Well.. that was quite a long hiatus. The Clan Campbell made their way to California and saw family, the ocean, and what it takes to manage kids from 2 - 15 in a car for over 13 hours. Wow! It was certainly fun though. I personally had my fill of Starbucks to last me until the next time I venture out of Idaho and it was great seeing people I haven't in oh so long.

Now, we are back to the grind and the oldest is studying volcanoes. The smallest is working on his shapes and colors. Mom and dad are still kind of recovering! It's crazy that as you get older, you need a vacation from your vacation!

I will be having quite a few projects for kids of both ages being posted soon but in the mean time, tell us about it... How was your holiday and what are you planning for the new year?