Sunday, January 31, 2010

How do you know what to teach?

I'm going on a cruise people!  No not that kind of cruise, I get motion sick.  This week I'm participating in a blog cruise with other members of the TOS Crew.  Our question of the week is "How do you know what to teach?"

The short answer is, "I don't and I don't care."  The long answer follows.


I've never concerned myself with scopes and sequences or what everyone is supposed to learn in the 3rd grade.  At the time of this writing the boys and I have been homeschooling for 7 years.  We have always purchased math curriculum, but other than that we've done lots of unit studies and lapbooks, read wonderful books, and taken interesting field trips.  If the boys had a subject or time period in which they had a special interest, we studied it.  At ages 11 and 13, the boys are well-spoken and articulate.  They are well-versed on any number of subjects, have a firm grasp of history, both American and world history, and are knowledgable in many areas of science and the arts.  And we're not finished yet!!! 


So, if this is a question you have about homeschooling, "how do you know what to teach?"  Here's my answer:  RELAX!  I had a girlfriend tell me recently that she was talking with a vendor at our local homeschool fair about how she worried about completing a unit study when her children were small.  Her concern was that they may not retain all the information.  The vendor said to her, "Don't worry about it.  You'll come back to that subject again.  It's not like this is the only time you're going to cover that subject." 


Your child will learn what he or she needs to learn.  It happens.  Sometimes it happens just by having in-depth conversations around the supper table.  Sometimes it happens with a great read-aloud.  Sometimes it's a movie or a field trip.  The bottom happens!!


If this is a question that plagues you, then by all means, buy a total package curriculum.  You can go to any of the major companies, Abeka, Bob Jones, etc...and get packages that will decide for you what to teach when.  But, the journey is the reward, and I wouldn't have missed the journey for the world!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I love fiction!

I had a great plan.  As I was readingBertie's War, I was going to post the quotes I was copying over the past couple days.  I did post one quote two days ago, but that's all I got posted!  Wouldn't that have been a great plan, though?  I could have sent you teasers of all these great quotes and then you would have been dying to read Bertie's War.  Good plan right?  Well, if I ever get to review fiction again, maybe I'll remember my brilliant plan.

I received a complimentary  copy of Bertie's War, a novel, from Kregel Publications so that I could write this unbiased review for you.

Bertie's War was a terrific book.  It was the story of Roberta, a very fearful little girl who was growing up in the middle of the cold war.  Her parents were the stern no-nonsense type.  She had an older sister who barely tolerated her and a younger brother who was her playmate.  She had a vast and rich fantasy life and was an avid reader.  Although she knew she was getting too old to play she was still drawn to playing pretend.  This is why her brother considered her a playmate, she could still pretend.  It was also why her sister finds her annoying...she could still pretend.

In Bertie's entire life she had never gone to the woodshed which was where her father doled out punishment.  Her two siblings spent lots of time there, but Bertie's main goal in life was to always follow the rules and avoid punishment.  This fed into her fear.   But she was also fearful of all the talk of nuclear war.  When her father watched the news, she ran for her playhouse. 

I read this book in 3 days.  I was immediately drawn into the main character, Bertie.  The book is not one with a riveting plot line.  I would say it's subtle.  But I still wanted to read more after each chapter.  The chapters were brief, which encouraged me to keep reading.  The plot and the words were not simplified.  Although this is listed as a "tween" book, it did not feel like I was reading a children's book.

I found myself really relating to Bertie throughout the book, not only as I was as a child, but now as an adult.  I learned a lot about myself as Bertie learned about herself in the closing chapters of the book.  And I did copy several quotes.  They were quotes that spoke to me in my life and quotes that were just good writing.

Kregel has many fiction and non-fiction offerings on their website.  They offer books ranging from children to tweens to adults.  Check them out and you will find something to meet your reading needs.

I enjoyed reading Bertie's war.  The book itself was well-made and felt good in my hands.  But, as always, check out the reviews of other crew-mates to gather the opinions of others.  And then check out Kregel Publications and Bertie's War.  It's a good book.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quote 1 from "Bertie's War"

The wild water captivated me as much as the solemn forest, but in a different way; the turbulent current felt the opposite of the serene forest, yet here they lived, side by side.  Chaos and peace.

p. 89

Bertie's War

by Barbara Tifft Blakey

Kregel Publications



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Learning to Play Guitar

We had dinner music tonight while having our family supper.  The CD player in the kitchen is broken, so I'm not going to tell you about a new CD.  It was LIVE dinner music!  Each of our sons played "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" on the guitar after just one lesson!  We began using Jean Welles Worship Guitar Class on DVD this week.  We received Jean Welles Worship Guitar Class Volume One to review and I'm so glad we did!  "Learn to play guitar" has been on my life-list for a long time.  As I've told you before I've played piano since I was 8.  But you know, the thing about playing the piano is that you can't take it along with you to the campfire.  I wanted to be able to play something "portable."  Since I have music experience, I don't need to learn music-theory or how to read music.    I can tell you after just two days, though, what I do need is CALLOUSES!  My fingers really hurt while practicing today.


I love this DVD.  We dusted off Big Mac's youth guitar to begin our first lesson.  But before we could begin lesson one our little guitar needed some serious tuning.  Well, of course, this DVD has a section about tuning!  We were able to tune our guitar to Jean Welles playing guitar on the TV.  It was great.  We were off to our first lesson.  Each of us took turns playing along, rewinding the DVD, and playing some more.  At the end of lesson one which didn't even last 30 minutes, each of us could play a halting "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." 


Today, we didn't proceed to the next lesson but decided to continue practicing the two chords we learned yesterday.  At dinner tonight the boys could play our first chorus pretty well!  Me?  My fingers hurt... but I'm playing!  I'm so excited to continue with the next six lessons.  There are seven total lessons in Volume One.  With each lesson you learn a new song.  So after we finish this book we are going to know seven worship choruses!  This program totally rocks!


The video is a no-frills instructional DVD.  It is just Jean Welles sitting in a pleasant indoor setting, playing, and talking.  Her voice is calm and gentle.  Close-ups of her fingers on the strings really helped us to see what we should be doing.  She even told us how to hold the guitar, which each of us really needed!


If "learn to play guitar" is on your life-list, pick up Jean Welles Worship Guitar.  As long as your children are big enough to hold the guitar, they can learn from this DVD.  She makes it very easy to understand.  You can buy volume one for $29.95, or you can get all four Volumes of the DVD which comes with lots of extra e-books for $99.80.  Add the books to the 4-DVD set for a total of $119.80.  We will be continuing with lesson two by the end of the week, so it should only take two months for us to work through all of Volume One.  This should give you an idea of how quickly you could work your way through the four DVD set. 


There are quite a few products  offered at, so check them out.  And you can contact Jean Welles here.  When we received our package it contained a lovely note from the company encouraging us to contact them if we had any questions, so I know you are welcome to contact them with your questions or concerns.


And, of course, please don't take my word for it.  Check out the other crew reviews here.  But please, check out Jean Welles products if you have any interest in playing the guitar.  She gives God all the glory.  At the beginning of the Volume One DVD she talks at length about learning how big our Great God is!  That's the kind of company I want to support.




Jean Welles Worship Guitar provided me with a free copy of their Volume I DVD and Book to test and use in order to write this review.

Monday, January 4, 2010


I love calendars.  Every year at the end of the year I sign up for almost every freebie I can get.  I have one hanging in our kitchen for the family to use.  I have one on the refrigerator on which I write the daily menus.  I have on with my devotional book on which I write special prayer requests each day.

But I recently received a really fun freebie from Oriental Trader.  They have a free calendar you can get here.  But the thing that's fun about this calendar is that they've recorded special days on it.  It's really a blast.  Since you may not have your freebie yet, here's a list of the fun dates in January:

1/3 - Festival of Sleep (I MISSED this one!)

1/4 - Trivia Day

1/6 - Cuddle Up Day

1/13 - Make Your Dreams Come True Day

1/16 - National Nothing Day

1/20 - National Buttercrunch Day

1/21 - National Hugging Day

1/23 - Measure Your Feet Day

1/25 - Opposite Day

1/28 - National Kazoo Day

1/29 - National Puzzle Day

The boys and I are loving checking this calendar to see what fun we can plan.  So get your buttercrunch, kazoos and puzzles and get ready for January!  But DON'T have fun on the 25th!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Music Lessons Online

Since November, the boys and I have been having fun learning some very basic music theory using Kinderbach.  I've played piano since I was in 2nd grade.  I tried to teach the boys, but because I'm not organized and didn't stick with regular lessons and making them practice, neither of them play the piano.  Music is a required subject in PA, so I need to teach them a little music each year.  Quite often I teach it to them in the form of music appreciation by going to concerts and listening to classical composers.  But, we were given a complimentary membership for a few months to Kinderbach on-line piano lessons.  Even though the age range is much younger than our boys' age-group (Kinderbach suggests ages 2-7), we gave it a try.


We all acutally enjoyed these lessons.  They were very short.  They were entertaining.  And they were physically involving.  The boys were up dancing, or playing rhythm instruments, or playing a "song" on the piano from the very beginning.  For almost every lesson there are pages to print.

The pages had activities for the boys to do that had to do with the lesson.  There was also coloring opportunities.  What's great about this is that we have to submit a portfolio to the school district showing progress in each area of study.  Having these pages in the music section of our portfolio will definitely fulfill that requirement.


I enjoyed taking part in this program.  I'd love to see how far I could get the boys in music theory and piano by using these lessons.  There are six levels of lessons.  If used weekly, they would take over a year to complete.  We began with level one and completed that before our complimentary subscription ran out.  As I said the lessons are brief but entertaining and I like Kinderbach's approach to music theory making it fun for children.


Kinderbach has pricing plans as low as $7.95 a month.  They also have DVD options and other products available here.  If you would like to contact them directly, Kinderbach's address is P.O. Box 181 Le Claire, IA  52753.  Their email is and telephone, 1-563-332-0587. 


We really enjoyed using Kinderbach's lessons.  If the boys were smaller, I would definitely give this a try to give them a "jump" on music instruction.  All you need to get started is an internet connection, a printer, and a thrift-store keyboard.  We've seen small keyboards at thrift stores quite often.  They would be put to good use when learning via Kinderbach.


And you can give this a try for free!  They offer a series of free lessons.  Sign-in for free lessons here.  I love when you can try out a program before you buy it.  So give Kinderbach a try!  If you don't want to take my word for it, check out the reviews of the other crew members here.


I received a membership to Kinderbach for a little over 2 months in exchange for this un-biased review of their product.


My dad made me take 2 years of typing in high school.  I was advance college-prep, why was I taking 2 years of typing?  Of course, at that time I was a teenager and I knew everything, so...  Anyway, I took one year and then, Dad made me take another!  The audacity.  It didn't take me many years after high school to thank him over-and-over-again for making me take 2 years of typing in high school.  I earned money typing papers for other students in college.  Ever since high school, I've been a fast typist.  Our sons are amazed because I can type and look at them while they're talking.  I'm like superwoman!

I've always wanted to find a program similar to what I had in school for the boys.  I did find some fun keyboarding lessons on-line.  The boys know the basics from that, but I've never really found a program similar to how I learned in high school.  The way I learned has allowed me to become very quick and accurate.  I wanted something like that.  Then I received two copies of Christian Keyboarding's Keyboarding for the Christian School. 

I added keyboarding lessons to the boys homeschool schedule about 2-weeks before Christmas.  They weren't thrilled to have one-more thing to do especially when they were beginning to get the holiday itch, but they grudgingly made their way to the PC to complete lesson one.  After that, getting them to do their typing lessons has not been a problem at all.  The lessons are brief.  At the beginning we are focusing on proper posture and just a few letters a day.  There are timed tests you can have your child do in addition to the short lesson.  There is also an encouraging verse of scripture for the boys to read every day.  In the ending pages and lessons, students will type psalms and other spiritually encouraging texts.  I love the Christian aspect of this typing curriculum, but I also love that it is similar to the thorough training I received in high school. 

The elementary version of Christian Keyboarding is 87 pages in length, and has 31 lessons.  Lesson 31 actually contains the timed-tests for the rest of the program, so it's really 30 lessons.  The revised edition which is geared to those above 5th grade, is 127 pages long with 41 lessons.  Lesson 42 is your timed tests and lesson 43 is tables.

I printed the entire book for each of the boys (T-bone is using the elementary version and Big Mac is using the revised edition).  I printed 2 pages per page so that I used less paper.  Even printed this way the pages are easy to read and follow.  I propped the printed e-book on our study-pod and the boys took-off with their lessons.  I really like this typing curriculum and am hopeful that it will give our boys the typing skills I have relied on for more than 20 years.

Keyboarding for the Christian School, Revised Edition is $15.95 from Christian Keyboarding's website.  This program was developed for Grades 6 and up.  Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Version is $12.95 at Christian Keyboarding's website.  You will also find information on the many other products this company offers in their home-page.  They run specials on their typing programs, so check often.

At the time of this writing the crew blog doesn't have an entry page for the Christian Keyboarding product.  So I can't give you the link.  But I'll try to remember to update this post when the link is available.  Be sure and check out the other reviews by the crew, they will give you a balanced description of this program.  Contact Christian Keyboarding here if you want more infromation directly from them.  There is also a history of the company on that page.  It's worth a look.

I received a complimentary copy of these two versions of Christian Keyboarding in order to complete this review.