Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Little Star

This seems to be my week for book reviews (check out my other blog)- which I would happily do anytime, by the way!  Part of living a "Barefoot" life, one that thrives on intention, creativity and community, is reading lots of books!  The latest book from Anthony DeStefano reminds me that Christmas is just around the corner.  We adore Christmas at our house, so I'm always happy to find a new book to add to our Christmas book box. 

This story is about a little star who struggles to be noticed by the other stars until one day he, the unlikely hero, notices the One, an unlikely savior.  Little Star recognizes that greatness is not determined by your size or importance, but by who you are born to be, and he gets to reap the benefit of that lesson. It is nice to find a unique Christmas book with such a great lesson to learn.

I enjoyed the idea of this book, though the illustrations unevenly alternate between looking old-fashioned-dark and overly-cartoonish.  Maybe they are just not my style.  DeStefano attempts to weave a tale of triumph that resonates in some parts but is sidetracked in others ("twinkle-talk"?) by some awkward moments (I doubt a star would keep a baby warm) and formulaic plotting.

My resident children's book expert (4 year old daughter) seemed unimpressed and did not ask to read it again, though we did our usual "unpacking" of the story, which she enjoyed.

All in all I think it is a sweet, fairly biblically accurate book, and I know it will make a great gift under the tree for the little book lover in your life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Halloween Conundrum

I did trick-or-treat once or twice in my childhood, it just wasn't a big deal.  I don't feel like I missed anything.  As an adult I'm turned off by the commercialism, the candy and the greed that permeates this holiday, BUT I can't deny the fact that it is the one holiday that really promotes community.  When else do you get to wander around your neighborhood, knocking on doors, and not one gets slammed in your face?  So... I've been struggling with whether or not to celebrate Halloween in our family for a few years, knowing that we could buy some time while our eldest was so young. My husband has no moral issue with it, leaving the decision up to me.  Yikes.  But this year I've finally reached a decision (I know you are all waiting with bated breath). 

The answer is "yes."

Now for the Why:

  1. Halloween builds community.  We live on a corner lot, across from a park, under a streetlight, in a very family-oriented neighborhood.  I knew there would be lots of kids out, tonight.  Every parent who came to the door with their kids now knows we live here.  They saw that we have two girls, our house isn't perfect, and we care.  They are learning to trust us.  If there is one thing that my husband and I feel called to do, it is build community where we live.  Love God, love people.  As a homeschooling family I don't want to be completely isolated (and we definitely are not) from the neighborhood kids and the world around us.
  2. My desire not to do Halloween was entirely too wrapped up in worrying what people think of me and confusing myself in the process.  Ok.  Maybe I was passing a little judgment, too, if I'm honest with myself.
  3. Jesus loved the un-lovables.  He probably would've hung out with that werewolf kid from down the street, too.  Not that he would have gorged on candy, but I like to think he would at least give something out at his door.
  4. We can hold our moral ground as a family and still have fun.  We know where we draw the line for our kids, and that's the only line we need to worry about.  The kids will be exposed to "scary" stuff.  That's life.  And honestly, I don't think Halloween is half as insidious as Christmas.  Don't hate me for saying that, I do LOVE Christmas.
I'm fairly certain we are all familiar with the "why-nots" of Halloween.  I just thought I'd share a little of my process in working through this tough topic.  You know what's best for your own family, right?

We limited our small kids to one community event and handing out candy at our door.  Our focus is definitely on fall and the changing of the seasons, and has always included pumpkins, pumpkin patch trips, leaf jumping and more.  I suppose each year will add more excitement, a line drawn a bit further down the road, and more discussion about the meaning of Halloween.  In the meantime, stay posted for my overly passionate dissertation on Block Parties!  Coming soon- hopefully next summer, straight to you from the lady who over-thinks everything.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Planet Homeschool

Somehow my homeschool classroom has become centered around science.  It must be what interests my eldest student most (the youngest being a mere 10 weeks old), since she's managed to finagle all sorts of unit studies out of me (how do strawberries grow?  Why do trees lose their leaves?  I want to learn about being an astronaut!  I want to be a doctor... etc.).  You can learn reading, writing and arithmetic using just about any subject, but it's easier to create interest around those things when the subject is fun for the student.  Recently we've been learning about space, mostly because I wanted to teach about calendars and time, so we had to understand how time works, first.  I divided the awesomely vast subject into a few days (we could have taken a whole year):

1) Planet Earth- from the inside out- rocks and minerals, continents, basic geography, etc.  Very basic overview.  We reviewed our volcano study from earlier this summer, too.

2) The planets and our solar system- names of the planets, the name origin, how planets orbit and spin, etc, time and weight, gravity, etc.

3) Stars and other bodies- primary focus on constellations and space exploration.

NASA is an amazing resource online, but not the only one, that shows actual video and interactive activities about space exploration and our solar system.  A simple google search yields many great sites for kids.

Of course, we read lots of books at our house.  So here are three of my favorite storytelling books, one for each day above, about space.  Every subject in school deserves good stories!

1. Whole World  This is a Barefoot Books rendition of the old classic song.  The focus here is on stewardship and also on the various environments of our planet.  The song is catchy, of course, and the illustrations quirky and fun.  It opens the door to all sorts of discussion about what our planet is all about and how we can practice planetary stewardship.  There is also a workbook to accompany the book, but it's a little advanced for my darling student.

2.  Star Seeker is a Barefoot Books title that truly is a journey- beautiful illustrations of the planets and a lyrical story that keeps the imagination going long after the book has ended.  The end notes have tons of scientific data about our solar system and beyond, successfully linking story to science.  Hooray! 

3.  Zoo in the Sky is a great book about the constellations.  My daughter used this book to develop her own constellation pictures, which is actually quite easy for a four-year-old since they can be fairly abstract.  Again, lots of info at the back to blend science and story.  This book has great illustrations showing actual star placement within the constellations.
Of course we read lots of non- fiction books, too, about astronauts, planets and space.  I can't wait to revisit this topic when we come back to it in a few years!  And a year is 365 days, a day is 24 hours, an hour is 60 minutes, a minute is 60 seconds, etc... what better way to learn about time than through stories?  Happy storytelling!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Princesses and Dragons

Princesses and Dragons abound in our house.  If a day goes by that my four year old doesn't dress up as a princess, I assume she's sick.  We play Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and many others including an old classic- Sleeping Beauty.  Sometimes (ok- OFTEN) I get very tired of playing out these stories with her (though Cinderella does like to help with chores).  I'm always in search of new ways to re-create the old tales.  Here's my pick of the week:  Snoring Beauty.  It's not a Barefoot Book, but it is absolutely wonderful to read again and again.  The classic tale of Sleeping Beauty is waylaid by a hearing-challenged fairy who turns the curse of "death by pie-wagon" into "sleeping dragon" who can only be awakened by a "quince" rather than the traditional "prince."  The story is hilarious, the illustrations are perfectly matched to the story.  The funky fairies absolutely steal the show: Hexus and Blexus, Nostrilene and Umpudine, Fleabitis and Tintinnitus, and Fred (who wasn't really a fairy, but no one had the heart to tell him).  So, if you're tired of playing princess, try out Snoring Beauty.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Do you have a Tiger inside?

Yesterday I chased my daughter around the house, trying to trap her under a plastic laundry basket.  She insisted that she was a tiger who needed to be caged.  The growling, showing of claws and pouncing verified her identity.  She was clearly seeking a safe place to feel "tiger-ish," but I don't want her to be caged... I want her to be free.  How to do I teach my daughter that her "tiger" feelings are ok? 

I've been blessed with a kid who has a lot of feelings.  Or that's how we describe it.  Some would say she's also a "sensitive" child.  This means we encounter lots of tantrums, some harsh words and actions that require tough consequences, and an overabundance of goofy fun!  Knowing that soon she'll be sharing her life with a baby sister, we've been encountering more than the usual outbursts from our deep feeler.  We've just finished a little homeschooling unit about Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in which we also discussed trees, family trees and lots of other fun stuff.  Our last "fruit" we studied was "self-control." 

Here are some things I used to discuss self-control with my almost-four-year-old:
  • In preparation I found this great behavior template from the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) about teaching young children self-control that helped me think about what exactly I wanted to teach and how I would teach it.
  • We listened to The Music Machine song about self-control.  We've been adding a new song for each "fruit" and discussing what they mean.
  • We read the book "Emily's Tiger" by Miriam Latimer.  This is a great Barefoot Book about learning self-control and understanding your feelings before they control you!  We talked about some of the coping skills Emily's grandmother helped her learn.  And she saw that there are safe people in your life who want to help you learn to cope.  Another great book about self-control is "Pinkalicious" by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann (not a Barefoot Book).  It's more about controlling your desires than your feelings, but still great.  We also discussed Adam and Eve in the garden and their lack of self-control when faced with temptation.
  • I helped my daughter make little monster faces, each expressing different feelings.  We talked about what her body feels like when she's feeling these different things and then we hung them up on the back of her door in her room.  When I send her to her room to take some space (not a time-out- it's not a punishment, just a chance for her to calm down), she can look at her monsters and decide how she's feeling (happy, sad, angry, lonely, etc.).  Then we can discuss what happened with a better point of reference.
  • Of course we did actual school work!   Careful cutting and pasting, working with her writing and reading, and math skills all require great self-control and discipline.
How do you handle the issue of self-control in your family?  I'd love to hear more ideas, as I'm sure the topic is far from exhausted in our house!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Homeschool Activities in Central Oregon

This is a comprehensive list of all the activities available to homeschooling kids in Central Oregon as shared by homeschoolers who live here. I've included links, where available.  Below the list I've also included a wish-list, and a listing of the co-ops and active support groups here in Central Oregon.  This information was gleaned from a survey of nearly 100 families in Central Oregon who currently home educate.  If you see anything I missed, please comment and I'll add it in!  Enjoy!   These are all Local Resources, except one or two that are online only, but important enough to include, here.  I hope you will share this list with others!  Enjoy!


Wish List (as wished for by my local home educators):

  • Gathering space (specifically for homeschool events)
  • Homeschool Resource Library
  • Homeschool Resource Store
  • Math Club (my husband tutors upper-level math and may be interested in getting this started)
  • Museums (more and better)
  • State funding for the arts
  • Support groups for specific styles of teaching (I.e. Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, etc.)
  • Symphony Halls (more and better)
  • Tutoring Center
Local Coops and Support Groups:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mama, why is the sun hot?

If you aren't familiar with They Might Be Giants and their "Here Comes Science" album, it's time to hop on board!  Of course, they've done lots of kid albums, but there is just something about their quirky, punky rhythms and lyrics that have always cheered me up.  And I'm a grown up.  My husband thinks he would have gotten a lot more out of school if they'd taught science through songs like this... I tend to agree!   June loves "the sun song" and so do we.  So we had to share one of favorite creative ways to teach using story and song with you all.  Enjoy our science lesson for the week.  Oh- you can get the album on i-tunes and see more of the videos on YouTube.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"O" is for Octopus

This week we embark on the adventure the letter "O!"  In my homeschool, we usually do two letters a week (mostly as a review for my pre-reader).  I enjoy picking out special books for the letter of the day and hiding them until the day they are to be unveiled.  This Wednesday we will be cutting out a capital "O" and small "o" to glue on a page, then we add stickers, glue pictures and write the words that we can think of that start with "o."  Then we will learn about Octopuses and the Ocean in general as well as owls and the color orange.  We will make yarn octopuses as well as doing some pre-writing activities (dot-to-dot, this week).  There is a plethora of great resources online for such things, but nothing beats a good book in the hand.

Along with few great books I ordered from the library, and one or two I had on hand (Owl Moon, of course!), I also plan to incorporate Barefoot Books' brand new Octopus Opposites.  Barefoot Books always does such a great job of introducing educational themes in a creative way.  I'm grateful to be part of such a great company!  Hey- you can be, too!  Right now is a great time to join us as an Ambassador.  Sell books, buy them for yourself at a discount, and make a little cash on the side.  Or forge ahead into a business that can supplement your family's income.  It costs zero dollars to sign up as an Ambassador- this company allows you to invest, grow and build your business at whatever pace feels right for you.  Click on the banner, below to find out more.  Join my team and enjoy all the benefits of living Barefoot with me by your side!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

...Ode to a laminator...

I apologize for being absent
my life has become "grab and go"
with one child beginning to homeschool
and the other just starting to grow

2 months of winter still waiting
and my printer is near out of ink
there must something to help simplify
if I could just sit down and think

I could use some glue, or a giant grater
I'd settle for an amicable alligator
I could use a heart, a hello or some help
but all I really need is a little laminator.