Monday, March 31, 2008
Today, my hot spot is my purse. Yes, I think my purse counts towards the big purge. Gee, it could take all day. Who knows what lies inside that bag? But I have confidence that I can handle it.
What are you purging today?
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
For years, my friend Amy has run the middle school reading group for local homeschoolers, and I've run the high school group. Recently, just for a change of pace, we switched.
I'm enjoying the middle school group a great deal, but I have to say that it is a whole new ballgame. Of course, the reading material is completely different. It's been a change going from Till We Have Faces to The Giver.
The big difference though has not been so much the book choices, but the pedagogical approach. When I lead the high school group, my preparation consisted of simply reading the book. Oh sure, I'd do a little background reading here and there, but that was about it. This is a group of homeschooled teens who LOVE to read. They come prepared, already with years of experience deconstructing books, and they hardly need me to show them how to find the author's underlying meaning.
Middle school students need more guidance. My first priority was to show them how to look beyond the surface of the story. To get beyond the facts of the book's plot and find what the plot was really saying. For example, on the surface Animal Farm is about a bunch of animals taking over the farm. Yet, that is not what the book is really about, is it? With a gentle touch we can help the student see that the plot is about communism. Now, I don't know if my middle school students are going to read Animal Farm (actually, that's the high school book for April), but you get my drift.
Another priority for me is not to overdo the analysis. Nothing can kill the joy of reading faster than paragraph-by-paragraph dissection. I need to look for balance between an all-out gab session and a deep analytical dissection.
I found help in Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (from the public library). The authors are a married couple who lead a parent/child reading group at their library. The tone of the book is conversational which, in all honesty, is hard for me to take at moments. But, overall, the book has been a goldmine for me. It is laid out very simply and in layman terms.
Yes, I wrote a book on teaching through literature, but that was from a mom perspective, not a college literature professor perspective. I need literary analysis dumbed down for me. (Whew, I feel better getting that off my chest.) Honestly, do we really need high-brow literary analysis when we're teaching 7th and 8th graders?
Deconstructing Penguins teaches the reader how to get kids excited about "deconstructing" literature. The title comes from the authors' first attempt at running their parent/child reading group where they all read Mr. Popper's Penguins.
The book is written with upper grade school students in mind, but I had no problem taking the authors' lessons and applying them to my middle school reading group. This month, the students had chosen Inkheart by Cornellia Funke and I followed the authors' advice from Deconstructing Penguins extensively in running the discussion.
First, a little background. We don't meet in the library. The free rooms in our library are very dungeon like. Not fun. We meet instead at a coffee house. The atmosphere is very grown up and the kids love it. This is a large coffee house that actually has a couple of private seating areas. The high school students sit in one area and the middle school students in another. Back at my home are several of the parents watching the younger siblings. In fact, they have their own little reading group. For April we're reading Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Then, when the big kids go off to the coffee house next month, the parents and littles will watch the Charlotte's Web movie and do some fun, hands-on activities.
So, back to Deconstructing Penguins and middle schoolers. This is getting to be a long post, but hang in there. We're getting to some good stuff yet.
I had a couple of new kids in the group this month. Kids who weren't too sure about this reading-for-fun thing. Especially, big thick books. But, they were willing to give it a try. I started out by asking them if they knew what a genre was. I explained that it was a French word meaning "style" and in this case the style of a book. I then asked what genre Inkheart fit into. Most agreed it was a fantasy novel. I then suggested that it was a mystery. In fact, all fiction could be classified as mystery. Their eyes lit up. After all, we're looking for clues in the plot trying to figure out what's going to happen in the end. We're asking questions: Why did this character do that? How did that happen? What is the author's underlying message?
We then delved into why the author used certain plot devices, introduced certain characters, ended the book the way she did. Did she have a lesson to teach us? Was there a moral to the story? We did this as though we were detectives solving the mystery and the kids were really into it.
Next we talked about antagonists and protagonists. I was surprised that only a couple of the students knew what these words meant. Following the advice in Deconstructing Penguins, I showed them through everyday life examples how to find the protagonist and antagonist.
In the end, they learned a little bit about literary analysis but not so much that they were overwhelmed. It was a very fun time together. We meet monthly, so we have plenty of time to build on our lessons. Next month we'll talk about the importance of location and maybe a little bit about character development.
Remember the kids who weren't too sure about join a reading club just for fun? I got calls from their mothers telling me that all they talked about for days was Inkheart, the reading group, and April's book, Dragon Rider (also by Cornelia Funke).
Makes it all so worth it!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Do you remember the choir teacher from when we were at Holy Ghost? I remember one year she was wearing red and we asked her about it. She said that it was some saint's feast day. He was the patron saint of Germany and on his feast you're supposed to wear red. Much like the Irish wear green on St. Patrick's feast day. I can't remember for the life of me the name of the saint. Do you know? I looked up "patron saint of Germany," but there are tons of them.I'm sorry, but I have no idea what Chrissy is talking about. I remember the choir teacher, but not the red nor the saint. Can anyone help my sister with the saint's name?
Monday, March 24, 2008
Oh, you don't know Kaleb? How can you not know Kaleb? Well, golly, I guess I better start at the beginning.
Some years ago, I was invited to speak at a Catholic homeschooling conference in Texas. The lovely Nation family was assigned the task of picking me up at the airport. We had the most wonderful conversation driving to the restaurant and later to the hotel. It turned out that the two oldest boys loved to write and were excited to talk about all things writing.
I told them all about our teen writers club here and they were terribly jealous. They lived a a pretty rural area and there weren't many homeschooling friends. So, someone, I'm not sure who, came up with the scathingly brilliant idea to start an online writers club for homeschooled teens.
Most of the kids were into writing fantasy and a few were even writing novels. Kaleb was an active member, helping others with editing as well as sharing his personal writings. During this time Kaleb also showed a talent as a web designer (he designed my Catholic homeschooling website) and as a radio dj (The Top Five).
Well, here it is years later with Kaleb in his first year of college. The online writing club isn't very active these days but Kaleb has sure kept busy. He went and got himself an agent, who went and got Kaleb a contract.
The first book of Kaleb's fantasy series, BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE, should hit the bookstores in 2009 or 2010.
I promise to keep you all up-to-date on the book's progress. How about in the meantime, you all join me in giving Kaleb a big round of applause! Homeschooled kid makes good!
The best present the Easter Bunny brought to our house was Blendy Pens. He left them for the 5-year old, but everyone loved them. Everyone! Even the 18-year old. All seven kids immediately set to coloring upon discovering their Easter baskets yesterday morning. I had to remind them three times to get dressed for Mass. Not that I don't usually have to tell them three times to do anything.
The pens came with us to the B's for our Easter gathering as the kids wanted to continue coloring in the car. They even planned a coloring contest.
The funny thing is that the Blendy Pens were an impulse buy -- something I normally advise against as The Thrify Homeschooler. But, you see, the Easter Bunny waited until all the littles were asleep Saturday evening to buy the Easter candy and Meijers was almost out of everything. There wasn't a single Peep in the whole store! Thankfully, there were some chocolate bunnies and Starburst jelly beans left. But that was it. So, the Blendy Pens were added to the littlest guy's basket.
If you haven't seen these pens, they're markers that you can pair up with one another to make new color compinations. The kids had fun blending the colors and figuring out how to use them for shading. They come with some very nice coloring pages and blank stickers.
I noticed this morning that not all of the reviews at amazon.com are good. I'm not exactly sure why they were disappointed. I'm wondering if some of them didn't read the instructions properly. Our pens are still going strong after 7 kids, all their friends, and nonstop coloring for a whole day.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The most important thing though today is continuing our preparations for Easter. Not just preparing our house, but our hearts. Blogging will be little to nil over the next four days as we get ready for the holiest of holy days.
May God you and yours abundantly and may your Easter be filled with grace.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
And so this week we have started to implement a more literature based curriculum. Thank you Maureen for your great work on your book For the Love of Literature. It is full of some great titles and information to make our spring and summer work for us through this challenging time in our lives.
The pantry went great yesterday. It's amazing how much more room you have when things are organized! One problem I have with my pantries is that they're deep so you forget about what's in back. (You wouldn't believe the stuff I found!) On one particularly deep and high shelf, I put a portable shelf so the items in the back are raised up higher than the items in front. It looks tidy and it's functional. In the smaller shelves, I put in little step-like shelves I bought at the kitchen store. Now I can see all the canned goods in that cabinet.
Krysten Snow (don't you absolutely love her name!) left a great tip in the comments:
I buy large canning jars, and fill them with nuts, seeds, beans, and dried fruits. They are a great size and you can see in them. Larger plastic containers are great for flour, lg. quantities of beans, popcorn, etc.
And I wouldn't even have to buy canning jars as I have dozens laying around in my laundry room (another hot spot). I did manage to put my brown sugar and powdered sugar into Tupperware bins. Though my motivation wasn't so much organization as I discovered that a certain child who lives here was putting his fingers into the bags for a little sugar treat several times a day! I hid the bins.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I admit it, I am not a neat and organized person. People often ask how I find time to write. Well, the answer is easy. I don't take time to clean house. Instead of taking a few extra minutes to put away groceries in a neat and orderly fashion, I just cram them in wherever they'll fit. But today that ends.
Hey, it could happen!
He also says that this deprives children of heroes, understanding, emotions, and empathy. If we are not allowed to feel for a character, how can we feel compassion?
Monday, March 17, 2008
But then evil is necessary if we are to see the good. Can we really appreciate the light if we've never experienced darkness. (This btw is one of the underlying themes of The Tale of Despereaux.)
This got me thinking about last year's Milwaukee Catholic homeschool conference where Nancy Brown gave a talk on Chesterton and the case for fairy tales. Chesterton often made a connection between Christianity and fairy tales.
So many people today want sterile stories, homogenized stories, stories filled only with positive, happy events. No conflict, no evil, no fallen characters. Is this a good thing? I don't think so.
First, I think we have to ask ourselves why fairy tales have been around for so many centuries. Did you know that there are 700 versions of Cinderella? It is a universal story that is found in every culture.
Fairy tales show us that, yes, it can be a cruel, cruel world. I mean, come on, little children being thrown into an oven by a horrible witch after being abandoned by their father is not a happy event. But, wait, there is a happy ending. Fairy tales also show there is hope with courage.
No need for courage when you live in a happy, care-free, sterile world.
Fairy tales teach us that virtue wins over evil. They teach us that we can conquer any foe when we meet him head on.
Yep, I think The Tale of Desperaux will get two thumbs ups when I write that review.
My plan for the moment is to hit one hot spot a day. Today it was all the Salvation Army items out in my garage. Over the winter I've been tossing unneeded items into the garage and it turned into a big cluttered mess. This morning Teen Daughters helped get it all bagged up and into my trunk. Four big trash bags, a large box, and several more small grocery bags full of clothes and household items. I even made the drive to Salvation Army and got it into their door!
I'm also committed to going through my bookshelves a little at a time. So, you'll be seeing me at CathSwap quite often over the next month.
To hold myself accountable, I plan on posting about the whole declutter / purging / organizing experience on a regular basis. So, if I don't post on it in a while -- call me on it. Help me keep on track! And, hey, feel free to join me. Big jobs are always easier when you have friends doing it with you! Spring, and hence spring cleaning, is around the corner.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Last year when my mom went on the D.C. trip, I wanted to go so bad. But she told me I had to wait. Now I know why. When my friends and I were walking, I saw signs all over. Many were harmless, but got the point across. Many times my mom told me not to look someplace because they had pictures of partial birth aborted babies. I dared not look, but at one point I looked up and saw a picture. It took a moment for me to figure out what it was, because it was bloody and twisted. Then my mom's words rang in my ears, "Some people have pictures of those babies." At that moment my stomach churned and my heart broke. To think that a person would ever do that to a harmless baby is unthinkable. That picture is still in my mind, and I don't think it will ever go away. But we need to remember God has everything in his hands, and we need to keep on praying and making a difference. Every baby is precious, and they can't defend themselves so we need to. Rock for Life!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Actual Size, Steve Jenkins
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
A Bad Case of Stripes, David Shannon
Bedtime for Frances, Russell Hoban, illus. Garth Williams
Believe, Paintings, N. A. Noel & John Wm. Sisson
Brown Paper Teddy, Neil Reed
Callie Cat Ice Skater, Eileen Spinelli
Children of the Earth Remember, Schim Schimmel
Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton, illus. Judith Sutton
Comet’s Nine Lives, Jan Brett
Corduroy, Don Freeman
Dear Children of the Earth, A Letter from Home
The Empty Pot, Demi
Fancy Nancy, Jane O’Connor
Gingerbread Baby, Jan Brett
Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
Honey Paw and Lightfoot, Jonathan London, illus. Jon Van Zyle
How I Became a Pirate, Melinda Long, illus. David Shannon
I Love You the Purplest, Barbara Jousse
I’m Sorry, Sam, McBratney, illus. Jennifer Eachus
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
If You Give a Pig a Pancake
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, Laura Joffe Numeroff, illus. Felicia Bond
Imagine a Day
Imagine a Night, Sarah L. Thomson, illus. Rob Gonsalves
The Land of Colors, Margaret Lundell
The Legend of Mackinac Island
The Legend of Sleeping Bear
The Legend of the Loon, Kathy Jo Wargin
M is for Mitten, a Michigan Alphabet, Annie Apple Ford and Kathy Jo Wargin, illus. Michael G. Monroe
Mama Do You Love Me, Barbara M. Joose, illus. Barbara Lavalle
McDuff Comes Home
McDuff Moves In, Rosemary Wells, illus. Susan Jeffers
The Midnight Unicorn, Neil Reed
Miss Spider’s Tea Party, David Kirk
Nighty-Night, Wendy Lewison, illus. Giulia Orecchia
Not Just Tutus, Rachel Isadora
Olivia, Ian Falconer
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss
One Grain of Rice, Demi
The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
Priscilla McDoodlenut Doodle McMay, Jane Sinke
Sophie Skates, Rachel Isadora (author of Lili at Ballet)
Stellaluna, Janell Cannon
Swimmy, Leo Lionni
The Trellis and the Seed, Jan Karon
Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, Jamie Lee Curtis, illus. Laura Cornell
Up North at the Cabin, Marsha Wilson Chall, illus. Steve Johnson
The Valentine Box, Maud Hart Lovelace, illus. Ingrid Fetz
What’s Heaven?, Maria Shriver, illus. Sandra Speidel
The Willow Umbrella, Christine Widman, illus. Catherine Stock
Wings, Jane Yolen and Dennis Yolen
I wonder if Ann realizes the extra work she's created for herself. I'm now off to the library's website to read reviews and place lots of holds for Ann to pull for me.
Thank you Ann!!!!
Monday, March 10, 2008
Thanks so much for passing this on. Laura offers some very helpful information here, but I would strongly disagree with her recommendation to join HSLDA posthaste, especially her statement that this is imperative for CA hs'ers. I would advise anyone to do a great deal of digging and research about the things HSLDA lobbies for before making a decision whether to give them money and support. This organization's push for writing homeschooling into federal legislation could, many people believe, wind up having negative ramifications for all homeschoolers down the road.
(Additionally, Michael Farris, who heads HSLDA, is also the founder and president of Patrick Henry College, an institution which requires faculty members to sign a statement of faith whose wording makes it impossible for a Catholic to sign. Faithful Catholics are not welcome on the staff there. But that is a secondary issue, offered only as background regarding the point of view held by this person who has gained a great deal of political influence in his role as head of HSLDA and who purports to represent the best interests of all homeschoolers. I do not believe he represents *my* best interests.)
The CA statewide homeschooling associations are recommending against signing the depublish petition, but that again is a decision we should all read up on (both sides) before making.
I heartily agree with Laura that prayer is important right now! But I would urge everyone not to be overly alarmed about this situation. There has been a LOT of sensationalism in the media. It is important to know that NO LAW HAS BEEN CHANGED or overturned here; this court's ruling (a bad ruling, no doubt about it) interprets the law differently than has been the case in CA for decades. According to this court's ruling, I and thousands of parents like me are homeschooling illegally right now--but this ruling is unlikely to be enforced at a local level, and it will almost certainly be overturned if the case goes to the state Supreme Court; or it will be depublished, as Laura describes.
I haven't done all the research yet myself as to the wisdom of signing the depublish petition, so I can't speak to that recommendation. But I do strongly disagree with the notion that joining HSLDA is "imperative."
I very much appreciate the concern and prayers of all of you as this bizarre situation unfolds!
Thank you Lissa.
Addendum: Click on the Comments to read Melissa's additional thoughts on signing the depublishing petition.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Recently, as most of you probably know, a California Appellate Court handed down a very bad decision regarding homeschooling (and distance learning) in CA. We don’t yet know the impact of this decision, but it is a seriously wrong decision, and one we should all react to, in order to maintain our right to teach our children at home. The opinion of the court is that no one in California is legally able to teach their own children unless they qualify as a private tutor by having a state recognized teaching credential.
Home School Legal Defense Association is monitoring the situation and their website is a good source of information about it. They report that the family involved is appealing the decision to the State Supreme Court, and they will be filing an amicus brief in that appeal. I am including some links to their information here. The first gives you the original court opinion, and the second is HSLDA’s own opinion of what constitutes legal home schooling in CA. You can see that they do not agree.
Pacific Justice Institute is the organization that is actually filing the appeal to the CA Supreme Court.
There are three things that we can do now to help this situation. First, we can pray, and we need to. I have confidence in God, and I have a really strong sense that God is going to bring good out of this evil. I know He always does, but I think the position of parents teaching their children in CA and the rest of the nation will be strengthened as a result of this decision. I think that right now we are being called to trust and to pray together. Below I have included a novena that I would like to have you all join me in saying.
Second, HSLDA has asked us all to sign a petition to have the court’s decision depublished. They say that we can help stop this threat to home teaching by signing an online petition to depublish the Court of Appeal opinion. Please sign this petition, and get everyone else you know to sign it, too. Send this information to any homeschooling e trees you belong to, and be sure your local and state homeschool leaders are aware of it.
Third, I urge anyone who does not belong to HSLDA to join. If you live in California this is imperative, and if you live in another state, I think that it would be both prudent and kind to join. You will be protected should this decision have a negative impact where you live, and you will be helping others like yourselves across the nation. HSLDA has experience defending families who are teaching their children at home. Mother of Divine Grace families receive a discount for membership in Home School Legal Defense Association. To receive the discount on your membership include the Mother of Divine Grace membership number (299598) when you renew or join. HSLDA has payment plan options available. For more information on HSLDA and on joining HSLDA, please contact them on their web-site or by phone at: 540-338-5600.
The time for the Divine Mercy Novena is coming up (starting on March 22 and ending on Divine Mercy Sunday, March 30th). This is the novena that I would like us to all say together. Let us petition God for a quick decision in favor of the right of parents to choose how to educate their children, free from fear of reprisal from state authorities.St. Faustina, pray for us.God bless you all. Thank you for your prayers.
We have a faithful God, One who is with us through all our afflictions.
"If you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to Him in that trial and do not leave Him so that you may be honored at the end of your days. Whatever happens to you, accept it and in the uncertainty of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire and chosen men in the furnace of humiliations. Trust the Lord and He will help you; make straight your ways and hope in Him."
Lord, we trust in you. Please answer our petition through the powerful intercession of St. Faustina.
Laura M Berquist
Director, Mother of Divine Grace School
Laura followed up with this letter:
Dear MODG Families,
We just wanted to pass on a piece of encouraging news regarding the homeschooling situation in California:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement regarding the recent Second District Court of Appeals ruling on home schooling:
"Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will."
Please continue to pray.
God bless you all,
Laura M Berquist
Director, Mother of Divine Grace School
Addendum: Another POV
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
It is a wonderful resource and just what I was hoping to find for my family. This will help me with my older son who is a voracious reader. I can't keep up with him, so it is good to have a guide to help me make appropriate selections for him.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
It's very much like the Pope St. Nicholas V and Homeschool Library Connection groups. Nancy sends out the occasional email giving all the information you need to put in a purchasing request at your library.
It's a very cool idea and so easy to do. Most libraries allow you to put in purchasing requests at their websites. Librarians put a lot of importance on customer suggestions. You can have a big impact on what books go on the shelves of your own library, especially if you can get friends and family to also put in requests. Don't pass up this easy, yet effective, tool to evangelize the world!
Just click on any of the links above to learn more.
If you have a favorite literature-related quote, send it to me. If I like it, I'll post it on the blog. Hey, it may even make it's way into the new book.
The truth is, in other words, that there never was a scheme nearer to the deepest reality of life than that of the old romance of chivalry. If we must have a merely elementary statement of essential religion, that is the right outline of the story: that Man is sent forth by an authority that is good, like King Arthur or a fairy godmother, into a world that is wonderful, but contains dangers and temptations, like dragons and wizards; that he is sent upon a quest or trial; that is, that he is judged by the same authority that sent him forth. That is the story at the heart of all healthy life and literature; and it is quite true that people who are healthy can sometimes act on it without arguing it out. But if they
argue it out, they will find it implies certain dogmas; as that there is a design, that it is a benevolent design, but that it does allow of free will, and makes the good a matter of choice. Those who thought they could hold that healthy romance for ever, merely by being healthy and without holding any of the dogmas that justify it, are more and more finding out their mistake. Hence, when they are asked to state what they really do believe about life, they become "desperately vague." And they have now reached the point where it is not only more and more difficult to state a creed, but even more and more difficult to tell a story.
--G. K. Chesterton
Monday, March 03, 2008
For the Love Of Literature
Maureen Wittmann is a name known to many Catholic homeschooling parents. Maureen has written and edited several practical works on Catholic homeschooling. (Full disclosure: I authored the canon law chapter of The Catholic Homeschool Companion, a compilation of homeschooling essays she edited with Rachel Mackson for Sophia Institute Press.) Maureen’s most recent offering is For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects With Literature (ISBN 978-0-9797609-09). This 253-page book helps home-schooling parents build a reading curriculum for their children in a diversity of subjects — including art and music appreciation, math, history, science, and building a reading library.
The first few chapters offer numerous tips on where to find good home-schooling resources. From the local library to the Internet to small publishers catering to the home-school market, Maureen has amassed a number of resources in her 12 years as a home-schooling mother. She is also experienced at adapting these resources to her own children, turning books into learning plans. These experiences are the basis for several practical suggestions Maureen shares with the reader.
Yet the bulk of the book is bibliography. There are hundreds of titles listed that parents may find useful in building a home- schooling curriculum. Each entry provides the book’s name, approximate age category, and two or three sentences describing its content. Also noted is whether the book is Catholic or contains objectionable content.
For the Love of Literature retails for $ 12.95 and is published by Ecce Homo Press, a small publisher of Catholic home-schooling materials based out of La Grange, Ky. (http://www.eccehomopress.com/).
Thank you Pete and Wanderer editors.