Pandemic Causes Questioning of Education

With the pandemic, I know that many families are in an educational conundrum and investigating homeschooling. I have seen increased traffic on my site, which I assume has to do with homeschooling. Parents wonder if school will be live in the fall. Will their kids have more e-learning? Will their kids bring home COVID-19 to an at-risk family member? What educational gaps will occur because school was missed or may continued to be missed? There are so many questions and unknowns.

I just wanted to take a minute to share that we are still homeschooling successfully. Eleven years strong. I am thrilled with my children’s education. They each speak two languages. They each play two instruments sufficiently. Our science work rivals my pharmacy school (I went to pharmacy school and then medical school.) biology and chemistry classes. Mathematically, we are on track to complete calculus in the junior year of high school. Athletically, each child has picked a sport they love and practice year round. They each know how to cook. They (can) help me with laundry. I have some fantastic art pieces hanging here and there. They love to watch a good historical documentary or a stupid, cheesy Hollywood movie. They are interesting PEOPLE to be around.

We have a bunch of fun, and I love my family dearly. This is exactly what I envisioned when I realized that I could not practice medicine and raise my family the way my heart wanted to. I had to make a choice. I am a bit particular, and there was not enough of me to raise my kids so that I had no regrets.

I keep very busy heading a gymnastics non-profit club and assistant coaching high school volleyball, and I have not made time to write here for a long time. I would like to. But no matter what, I want you to know that homeschooling can be an exceptionally successful educational platform.

I check my site for comments and questions routinely. If you have homeschooling questions, I can share our experience so you can hear one family’s personal experience.

Here is what I am telling myself during this pandemic:

I WILL see opportunities to learn from tough times. I will NOT FOCUS on the storm in front of all of us now, although I will do what it takes to weather it and see its reality. I WILL know that, although we cannot do what we did before, we can find things that we CAN do. I will know that, although it feels like nothing is going right and everything is going badly, if I am honest, I can find at least a couple of things that are good that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had to go through this storm.

Best wishes,

Terri F

Life’s Interruptions Are Teachers

I have interacted and connected with so many of you and have missed that! It has been months now since I have written. I wanted to tell you that all is well. I still love sharing about nutrition, health, and my experiences with homeschooling; I plan to keep my little spot here on the internet and do that again as soon as time allows.

(I had started another “bones” post before I was abruptly interrupted! I hope to finish that one day! I had so many comments and questions regarding my “Crumbly Bones” post that I wanted to write a follow-up.)

In March I unexpectedly took on a big project for a community program one of my daughters is involved in. It has “interrupted” my “crafted” life and requires way more time than I have. But it has been good. I’ve learned that I’m never too old to learn anything! And that life will keep bringing me the same challenges over and over again, hoping I’ll get off my hamster-wheel and finally face my fears so I can get out of the hamster tank.

(You’re never too old too learn anything. Face your repetitive fears and anxieties to gain freedom.)

I’ve also continued to see that honest communication is the best policy and that keeping your eyes on the common good will help you to arrive at your goals.

(Be honest. Keep your eyes on the common good.)

I hope you’re feeling great inside! I hope your families are well! I hope that you get off of the hamster-wheel, that you get out of the hamster tank, and that anxiety and fear flee.

Take care and best wishes! I do plan to bring you more practical, useful, and thoughtful posts about nutrition, health, homeschooling, and family-life as time allows.

Terri F

Image attribution: Doenertier82 at the German language Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No changes were made to the image.

Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part II

Here are some pieces of our ninth grade curriculum. I’d be happy if anything I write helps you in your decision-making process for your own curriculum! I know I scour reviews and blog posts as I look for ways to teach.

Mathematics: Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics (Second Edition)

I selected the Second Edition of Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics because I want the program the way John Saxon designed it, with geometry integrated. Newer editions break away from integrating geometry.

Back in my school days, I used Saxon math from sixth grade Math 7/6 through senior calculus, and so I use my own positive Saxon experience to help teach. Art Reed’s valuable newsletters on his website also helped me tremendously: which books to select, how to address transcripts (You might find it interesting that my own high school transcript titled my year in the Advanced Mathematics book as “Trigonometry,” but when I read forums now, it is discouraged to call the class “trigonometry!”), how to handle bumps in the road using Saxon math, and other fascinating stories to get lost in!

Saxon’s math curriculum routinely defies all mass education norms, and his book Advanced Mathematics (second edition) is no exception:

  • It is not designed to fit neatly into a 180 day school year. (Was math designed for school–or school to teach math?) It is intended to take 3-4 semesters.
  • It mixes material from four different math classes: geometry, advanced algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. (I did supplement geometry with a mix of some extra on-line materials I found for proofs and geometry terminology.)
  • It is incrementally and cumulatively taught such that material from the first lesson will be phased out and then brought back many lessons later for review. It’s not “learn and forget” with Saxon!
  • It continues to be graphically “boring.”
  • Its story problems contain advanced vocabulary and are quite humorous, if you get Saxon’s kind of humor.

My ninth grader seems to pick up math easily, and she has pushed through the Saxon books at a good pace, arriving at Advanced Mathematics. She does half a problem set one day and the other half the next. Since every student deserves a little autonomy (Ha! Such freedom!), she gets to pick if she does even problems one day and odds the next–or if she does problems 1-15 on the first day and then problems 16-30 on the second day.

In years past, since she grasped math quickly and fluently, I would selectively allow her to skip problems (which she knew how to do in her sleep while running from an axe murderer). However, when these old “easy” problems were brought back for review 15-20 lessons later, she had to do them to keep retention. Saxon discourages skipping problems, and I understand why.  This year, we have not skipped problems (and have even added in some extra geometry problems).

Composition: Time for Writing

We tried something different this year for writing, since I’m not a very good writing instructor. I tend to go a lit-tle crazy marking up my kids’ papers. They go a lit-tle crazy defending their work. It gets a lit-tle crazy around the house. (Best to find a new way, yes? Yes.)

We tried out two classes at Time for Writing, a program offering on-line writing classes. (I actually used it for two of my students this year.) How was it? I think that both students increased their writing skills, and I only had to put up with a lit-tle grief– instead of a lot!

  • Work was graded by a teacher, not me.
  • Concise, sequential lessons
  • Helpful deadlines
  • The classes are priced at $119 for 8 weeks, which divides out to be about $15 a week.
  • When I had to correspond with teachers, they were very helpful, kind, and seemed to like communicating with the students and their parents.
  • Actual grades were assigned.
  • Grading seems to be done on a rubric.
  • Variety of writing topics
  • Immediate start date
  • Can extend or pause a class a little bit if needed
  • Most of the actual work is paper writing. There is not much busy work, although there are reasonable on-line assignments and quizzes.

Now what about more of the cons?

Well, if you have a student who struggles with significant writing blocks, I do not suggest this program unless you have a writing tutor or the ability to work cooperatively with your student yourself. For a writer who is afraid to write (or who is motivated to start and has great ideas, but gets writer’s block as soon as she has to type, handwrite, or dictate words), this will still be a tough class and will not address that stumbling block.

However, if you have a student who has no problem getting started with the writing process when he or she puts his or her mind to it, but just doesn’t appreciate your awesome parental feedback or believe in your deadlines, then this certainly could be the program for you. It provides those things! It just doesn’t provide any help for writing block.

Speech

We used Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW) Speech Bootcamp. Loved it! A small group of students met every Friday morning for one semester. The course comes with DVDs, a teacher’s workbook, and a student’s workbook. We followed the syllabus closely. It was clear and easy to follow. Very well designed and user-friendly! The videos were fun and painless to watch.

We added in extra, too: fun speech exercises; some psychology to think about that interferes with our ability to be ourselves in front of a crowd; watching and discussing some famous speeches and speakers; and a scientific presentation. Parents and siblings were invited to class to watch the students’ speeches.

This was a fun class. I liked the IEW Speech Bootcamp because it was so well planned and put together. As a teacher, I could have just followed the workbooks and videos without too much planning. Adding in more was super easy to do without interfering with the flow of what Andrew Pudewa (the Speech Bootcamp teacher) was trying to accomplish.

Closing

Ninth grade has been lots of fun, and it’s stimulating to see the teenage spunk and spirit culminating and exerting itself.

What I have written is not all-inclusive of what we read, do, or learn. We round out our curriculum with history, grammar, music, PE, and classes offered in our community.

Guess that’s all I have to say for today! If you have any questions on our use of Saxon math, Time for Writing, IEW Speech bootcamp, or anything else I’ve mentioned, ask below!

Take good care!

Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part I

De_Re_AnatomicaHere is what our ninth grade curriculum looks like. The ability to tailor education to the individual is by far one of the greatest strengths of homeschooling. Simply amazing!

I love to talk homeschooling and education, so if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I know it can be hard to decide which resources to use to educate your child. There are SOOOOO many out there!

Curriculum

Spanish: We use Spanish Honors Three with Señor Ray Leven via Pennsylvania : Great, intense, live on-line class which meets once a week for a year. During class, Spanish is spoken, and conversation is in Spanish. There is a lot of homework. Expect it. Students read Spanish literature, and they write papers in Spanish. Younger students may need to be coached on time management skills to ensure they keep up with Spanish and their other courses, especially if their other courses are a bit tough. Señor Ray Leven is an amazing teacher. He is honest, frank, and willing to work with you and your student to get them fluently speaking and writing Spanish; his expectations are high, so the student must be willing to give it all he or she has got. But his passion for teaching, Spanish, and student development is unparalleled. His classes are fun, interactive, and witty. If your student really loves Spanish, the financial investment in this class is exceptionally worthwhile.

Biology: We use Miller and Levine’s Biology curriculum. I bought the textbook, the worksheet book, the test book, and the lab manual. Sometimes I do not like the way the textbook presents things. There are gaps or the writing is not clear. When this happens, I supplement with the Campbell Biology book and the Preparing for the Biology AP Exam. I really like the Preparing for the Biology AP Exam book a lot. It takes everything that needs to be known and condenses it into outline form. I use this book to check myself as a teacher at the end of a Miller and Levine chapter/unit. Did I teach my student what was covered here? If not, do I need to? If I am not sure the depth to cover certain topics in, I try to find someone who might know. For example, I don’t like teaching about plants. I didn’t do much plant biology with my pharmacy and medical school background. So I found someone I knew who had a plant emphasis in her background and asked her. She kindly sent me her botany class notes so I would know what to hit well.

The Preparing for the Biology AP Exam book roughly follows the Miller and Levine topic sequence. It follows the Campbell Biology sequence even better, but the Campbell book is written at quite a high reading level and contains too much information.

I find the Miller and Levine worksheets very good, but my student gets bored if we do them for every chapter. So I mix it up. I find worksheets on-line for some chapters. I also use on-line videos and documentaries to try to keep biology interesting for her.

Lastly for this section, you may be wondering if my student will take the AP Biology test since I am using the AP Exam book I mentioned. I may suggest to her that she does this. However, I find the concept of AP classes and exams somewhat repulsive. I feel like it is a money-making scheme which boxes students in and squashes the creativity and fascination of learning. If my homeschooled students can do well on any AP exams, fine. But I feel like my whole 23 years of institutionalized education did nothing but make me a monkey who follows orders. I am hoping for better for my children.

Closing

I’ll get the rest of the curriculum up in posts which follow. I adore homeschooling, and I am super grateful that our country (the United States) allows it. I mean, it should allow it! But there are many countries in the world which I consider fine countries, countries which I love (or would love) to visit, which do NOT allow homeschooling AT ALL. But American independence and free-thought thrives, and I’m proud of that. Love to all. Be proud that your neighbor can have such radically different thoughts and opinions than you do. It is a neat thing! Go for curiosity, not animosity! Curious minds LEARN! Angry minds shut down.

Terri F.

Image attribution: De Re Anatomica is in the public domain. {PD-Art} {{PD-US-expired}}

How Long Does it Take to Teach a Fourth Grader?

Syllable notesA while back, a non-homeschooling mom friend was intrigued that my homeschooled, elementary-aged children were mostly done with “formal” school by lunch time.

To me, it was no big deal. It’s just the way it is with homeschooling. You move forward by capability rather than blocked off time and required busy work. But she thought it was fascinating, so I thought I would share how we get through a fourth grade school day in about 3-4 hours rather than 7-8.

We spend 20-30 minutes on math.

We spend 20-30 minutes on language arts (grammar, spelling, and writing).

Ten minutes on handwriting (cursive).

We spend about one hour on Spanish.

About 15-20 minutes on history and geography.

About 15-20 minutes on music.

We incorporate daily silent sustained reading.

We cycle through art, science, and poetry at different times of the year in different ways. Doing a sporting activity is important to our family, and we make sure the kids are exposed to and find a sport they enjoy.

That’s about three or four hours of school. A little more if you count the evening sports activities.

With the rest of the time, there are playdates, meal cooking, some laundry, plenty of giggling in the family, Lego building, and some technology time.

Not everyone would want to homeschool, but if you get the chance, it’s an amazing experience. If you love to learn, and you can share that with your child in such a way that sparks and inspires them, what a gift. I try to push my kids as far as they will allow me to, but pull back just before they burn out.

There are a couple of things that I’m really pleased with about our curriculum. I am really happy that we have time to teach cursive, which is being removed from the modern public curriculum. I really would like my kids to be able to read any old fascinating family letters and also historic, legal documents. (I would like my kids to be able to read the Constitution first-hand.)

I am also happy that my kids will be bilingual because we have started their Spanish instruction at such a young age. It does take the longest of all the subjects taught.

Lastly, although this post summary reflects the time it took my older kids when they were in fourth grade, too, it no longer reflects their current schedule. In addition to a fourth grader, I also homeschool a ninth grader and seventh grader (and a preschooler). The older kids’ work takes much longer.

Have a great day!

Motivation to Eat Better

Was eating better one of your New Year’s resolutions? It’s five weeks later. How are you doing? Do you need a little boost or a complete turn around? I’ll give you one.

Stop eating processed food. Go on, now, stop it!

“But how?” you ask?

Not will power. Not self-discipline. But facts. Stories. Emotions. Your religion. Those are the tools you’ll need to finally make the long-term commitment to eat better almost every day. Stop trying to use will power and discipline.

Fact

You are made of elements. And, for the most part, the only way to get the required elements into your body so your heart, lungs, brain, blood vessels, immune system, and kidneys can work right is through that 2 inch by 1 inch opening sitting under your nose and above your chin.

The elements you need, put together in the combinations you need them in, have been stripped out of processed foods. When you look at a box or a box of crackers, a loaf of squishy white bread, or a bag of crunchy chips, I want you to see the package as EMPTY! You’re paying for EMPTY! There’s nothing in there!

Stripped. Gone. Absent. Not there. Missing.

And you eat them. And then, guess what? Your body lacks certain elements.

Then, pick up an orange and see vitamin C, potassium, folate, and thiamine.

Pick up broccoli and see vitamin K1, vitamin C, chromium, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and manganese.

Pick up some sunflower seeds and see selenium, copper, B vitamins, and magnesium.

Guess what is a part of your body: your brain. Anyone noticing an increase in mental illness around us? I am. The brain likes to have enough magnesium, enough potassium, and enough carbons put together just the right way. Eat real, whole food.

So you don’t eat right? Not pulling in those elements? Eating EMPTY? Oh, you’re lucky. It’s okay! The body does have some storage capabilities to pull from to get your organs the elements they need. Like… your bones! The body can pull from elements stored in the bones for its needs, leaving you with weak, crumbly bones.

Real, whole foods are rich in the elements you need, put together in the way you need them. They’re FULL! Choose real, whole foods for almost all of your food intake!

Use facts to keep you motivated to make good choices every bite and shopping selection.

Stories

Since I was a wee kid, I have always made up stories to make boring or unpalatable situations more fun and endurable! Fourth grade sucked, so I made up stories that I was in college going to classes. My medical school general surgery rotation sucked. So when I had to be in the operating room, I pretended I was the best retractor holder that ever existed, and the renowned surgeon wouldn’t do his surgeries without me. (It must have worked. I never got yelled at in surgery! Those general surgeons love to yell!)

Make up stories to make eating healthy and losing weight fun! Bring back your creative side, even for this!

Here could be a story:

Once upon a time, there was an overweight man. He was embarrassed by his weight and his eating. But he couldn’t stop. He was on four medicines for cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes. One day, he decided he was going to go on a diet for a year. He loved life. He loved people. He wanted to look good again. He had at least 100 pounds to lose. He joined the YMCA and the people greeted him every day there, making him feel special. He walked on the treadmill. He rode the bike. When he rode the bike, he knew he was Lance Armstrong in disguise. When he rode that bike, he saw the crowds all around, and he heard his phone ringing with financial endorsements rolling in. After about 6 months, he was still losing weight! He was excited when Weight Watchers (WW)  called him to ask him to be a spokesperson, and he saw himself speaking at seminars and on TV, sharing his enthusiasm for life and fresh, whole food. He lost that weight!

But, Terri, isn’t that a lie? Isn’t that lying to yourself? No. That’s fun. That’s imagination. That’s perseverance. That’s letting oneself dream. That’s what we did as kids, when nobody could stop us!

Make up your own story. Don’t latch on to this story as truth. The truth of your life and the story that comes along with your healthy living will unfold on its own. Don’t force a story. I’m just asking you to use your imagination to make this new lifestyle fun!

Emotions

Love is a good emotion here. Who do you love? Who loves you? If you were physically fit all your life, what could you do with the people you love?

Do you know people you love dearly, like maybe your parents, whose health decisions (or lack thereof) are affecting their lives? Are their poor health decisions affecting your life? How does that make you feel when they won’t change their health for you?

I love my kids, and I can’t wait to teach their kids all about volleyball. I can’t wait to hike with them in Europe and South America. (Notice the story!!!) I love my husband, and I want to be able to take care of him when I’m old. I want us to be little old people together. I love these kids and this man! I have to eat, not for now, but for 40 years from now!

Use anger to motivate you. Use hope to motivate you. But notice your emotions, and latch on to the ones that keep you excited to keep eating whole, real food!

Religion

If you’re not religious. Skip on. For me (who is spiritual), I had to realize that God cared about my physical body and what I fueled it with. I had to realize God is a jealous God, and that means He didn’t like me resting with a headache that came from eating too much junk. He didn’t like my constant fatigue from eating processed foods and not eating mostly real, whole foods. I don’t think He’s happy with our obesity problem. He loves us too much. He’s jealous for our thoughts, and too many of us (me included) put food before our bodies, which were made by and for God, to serve God and those He loves through us.

Closing

If you aren’t really going to eat real, whole foods and change, then get it out of your mind. If you’re not really going to do it, then put it down. Keeping it dangling in front of yourself while you go sit down, knowing you’re not really going to try, is only making you feel disgusting inside. That’s no good. I don’t want that for anyone.

But if you’re ready, then I hope that some of the things I’ve learned to keep me motivated through the years will help you.

If you want it, it’ll take lots of different ways to stay on track. Self-discipline and willpower are simply words for all the different ways that a motivated person figures out how to pull themselves out of (or stay away from) a rut.

Make it fun.

Terri F.

You See What You Look For

2015-10-21 14.28.04What are you trained to look for and sense? You don’t just automatically see things that are there. What we look for can be changed and nurtured. I wasn’t born recognizing goiters and melanoma signs or the way kids squirm or hide when they’ve soiled their diapers.

I never used to see vitamin D and omega-3 when I looked at grilled salmon. Nor did I think cellular phospholipid bilayer villains when I looked at fast food French fries!

What are your eyes seeing in yourself and your life right now? Do they need to be trained to look for something else? Are they seeing the wrong things in yourself? Are they seeing failure? Have you trained your eyes only to see failures–your failures, other’s failures?

What We Look For

Just think about all the fascinating things we train ourselves to see!

Has your kid ever had lice? Did you notice how quickly after they had lice that you became a lice-finding expert? It didn’t take long to learn to find those tiny brown, shiny attachments about 1/4 an inch up the hair shaft.

Do you hunt morel mushrooms? Really hunt them? Then you can come home with hundreds of them, while I come home with none.

Did you sell sweet corn every summer from your big corn patch as a kid? Then when you go to the supermarket as an adult, you don’t have to peel back the husk to determine if that ear of corn is ripe. You simply put your fingers around it and you know. You can tell if it’s overripe or not filled out.

Were your parents abusive as a kid? I have a friend who has an uncanny ability to pick out both toxic and angelic personalities the minute he spots them. He says it’s because he had to watch his parents closely when he was a kid.

Train Your Eyes

We’re trainable! We’re smart! We can train our eyes to look for lice, morels, perfectly ripe sweet corn, and even toxic people.

I don’t know. Just think about it as you go along today. What “eyes” are you using? Do you need a new set of eyes? Do you need to train yourself to see something in a new way?  How can you go about doing that?

If you’ve trained your eyes to see failure, you’ll see it in your food choices, your exercise, your family, and your work. You’ll notice the one day out of 365 that your car doesn’t start. You’ll see it after you had a bad night’s sleep. Failure.

So. What do you want to see? Is it there and you just don’t know how to look? Is everything running together and you can’t see what’s most beneficial for you to see?

Because I love examples, I ‘ll share what I’m training my eyes to see right now. I’ve challenged myself to start looking for two things:

  • The opportunity in things that don’t turn out the way I want
  • The fear behind my self-critical thoughts.

Well, I’ll close this Friday morning. Wishing you well! If all you see is defeat, frustration, and powerlessness, then that’s what you’ll see. Might as well move to the Amazon and step on the snakes you can’t see (but your guide, who has trained eyes, can). No, don’t do that.

It might take a LOT for you to see hope, opportunity, and success in each situation, but if you’d be willing to re-train those eyes and senses to start seeing hope, opportunity, and success, it is 100% do-able!