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Monday, May 27, 2013

Teen Guide to Homemaking

A number of years ago I picked up a stack of books at a thrift store for about $.25 a piece. Among them, and much to my amazement, was a textbook which was entitled, Teen Guide to Homemaking, a book originally published in 1961 (more than 52 years ago) and written for home economics classes in schools. Without giving it any further thought, I placed it on the bookshelf along with numerous other titles.

Before long, it began popping up all over the house; I found it under beds, on the coffee table, under the pillows on the couch. Even today, this is one of the most popular books in our home library.

The titles of the chapters and the information covered are simply fascinating to my children; making friends, choosing clothing and hair styles, personal grooming and general health (such as bathing and nutrition), cooking, decorating, sewing, entertaining and family relationships. Basically, it is about growing up, and, just like most children who are not being brain-washed into thinking that life exists in a cubicle, they are engrossed with the subject!

Of course, this book was not written from a Christian perspective, and I am now very conscious of the "social engineering" that was going on between the lines. Still, there was enough Christian influence still in existence so that there was even a photo included of a young lady holding a Bible.

As a homeschooling mother, I have so often felt apologetic about taking as much time to teach our children about practical living as we do about the essential school subjects. Transcripts don't have slots to record all of the best learning that really goes on in a young person's life.

But there is so much more required of us than just gaining a degree or forming a career path. The total of our lives is much richer than what we do; it is who we are and what we offer to others that counts the most. 

Homemaking is the best place to put all that we learn into beneficial practice. By thinking of our homes as a microcosm or miniature community in the scheme of a much larger design, we can use every discipline to create a wholesome atmosphere in which human beings can thrive, and, more importantly, where seeds can be planted and nurtured until there is fruit for God's Kingdom and glory!

That wonderful little book gave me quite a lot to think about indeed.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Old-fashioned Spelling

I have read that other countries, whose languages are "phonemic" never need spelling lessons.

But good, old English is just too hard to nail down; there are almost as many exceptions as there are rules!

I have tried to teach my children to spell more ways than I can count. I have used a textbook, corrected the words in their own spelling (natural), used a group of words in a list which were related, etc.

I have also read about how Charlotte Mason taught children to spell (I believe she and Professor McGuffey would have gotten along--although his students were from a much different background than hers--doing lessons on the backs of shovels, etc., although she would have really appreciated that they all lived in the out of doors...but I digress) by having them look at a word, and then close their eyes and "visualize" it, then open their eyes and write it. In this way they are reinforcing their visual memory of each word.

Funny, but most of us do this very thing--we rely on how a word looks to us. This can become very difficult after correcting some of my children's writing--I get mixed up myself after seeing things spelled so very "interestingly" so often.

We sometimes play a little game with our McGuffey spellers--the ones I printed from Google books a while back and had spiral-bound. I hand out small slips of paper and split my children into two teams. Then I put the two teams on either side of my huge dining room table, each across from a child at his/her approximate spelling level. I then assign each group of two's an appropriate spelling list to draw from in the Speller, such as lesson 27 for one, 77 for another, and so on. Then one person selects ten words from that list to proctor to the other person across the table, and so on down the line (we have enough readers for three on each side). At the end all of the lists are corrected and the team with the most correct wins!

This only takes a few minutes to do, and I don't have to be directly involved, yet it gives them all extra practice and a little fun besides.

I don't know if it actually has helped them spell any better, however! It just makes me feel better (I love these old books and relish any way I can use them).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Creating answer key booklets for the Ray's Arithmetic series

I am very thankful for this "electronic age," which I believe God is using as a great blessing around the world. But I still tend to be very much the "analogue" in many ways!

It is still hard for me to do any serious reading and studying from a screen, so I prefer 3-D books that I can hold. This is why I spend the time to print out and bind books from the past. 

As our children have been using the Ray's Arithmetic Series for their math, we have found it quite inconvenient to have the text printed, but the answers still in their digital form.
This is why I chose to print the answers out separately, create covers, and then staple them into booklets. The Dollar Homeschool discs have made this all so simple because the answers are separated into separate files. 

Here is how I create the covers for these booklets:

I first select the title page of the book and copy it. Then I paste it onto a Microsoft Publisher (there are similar programs that are open-source and therefore free, such as scribus) page, with a landscape orientation, making sure that the cover material will fit neatly on the right half of the page. I like to put a text box with the words "Key to" somewhere above the title page. 

I also like to use a border from Clipart Etc. (you can find these under the "design" section). Here are some links to ones I have used:

I arrange the two pages so that the title page fits neatly inside the border, then I print my composition out onto card stock. 

I print the answers out two-pages-per-sheet, and two-sided, then I stack these pages on top of the cover I created and staple them all in the middle with my long-arm stapler (this tool was worth every penny I paid!).

I keep the booklets in my special "teacher's drawer" for easy access for both the children and myself. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Homeschool-lite: no-fuss learning

My little girl makes a basket!
It's summertime--the weather is warm, and the birds and bugs are all around us. There is so much to do--we play basketball together almost every-other day now, and there are all sorts of other things we want to experience. 

So what is a good homeschooling mother to do? 

Instead of fighting with nature, I capitulate and help them along! Here are some of the ideas I have come up with for taking advantage of these months. I have decided to concentrate on thinking and math skills in anticipation for our next round of "formal" academics.

1. Wake up time is instruction time.  We are using that half-hour that it takes to completely recover one's consciousness for good. Besides reading through a creation science devotion, I also continue to read through the Good Morals and Gentle Manners book which was created for the Eclectic Education Series. Then I also read a testimony about praising and thanking God continually in Merlin Carother's Power in Praise. Within this time, we will be learning the Hebrew Aleph Bet, and then pursuing that language more as time goes on.

2. Brain-training. I was recently handed a book from Learning Rx entitled Releasing the Einstein Inside. A lot of what I read made sense to me, so I have begun to use a few of their suggestions with my children, getting them to exercise their higher mental functions, etc. There are all sorts of free resources on this site. 

3. Math games. These are so fun for my gang, but so very simple and cheap! Here are a few favorites:

Buzz. The idea of this one was taken from a vintage book of diversions for young ladies. Everyone sits in a circle, and one person begins by saying the number "1", then next person says the next number, and so on around the circle. When any multiple of 5 or the number 5 is reached, the person must remember to say "Buzz" or pay a forfeit (when the number "55" is reached, then the person must say "Buzz, buzz" and so on). The forfeit is paid by having the offender turn his back to the room, while the gestures of a kiss, a pinch, and a hit are made, in any order (switching up the order each time makes it more fun) by the appointed leader. The offender then says either 1, 2 or 3, and then receives whichever gesture corresponds with the number he has chosen (for instance, if he chose the letter "1", and the first gesture made was a kiss, then he would receive a kiss, and so on). 

The multiples can be changed, such as multiples of 6, 7, 8, etc. My children love this so much that they play it whenever they are needing to pass the time, such as in the car during errands, etc. 

Toss. This one requires only a small stuffed toy or ball. A number of children sit in a circle and pass the object back and forth while saying their addition, subtraction, multiplication or division tables. If the object or ball is dropped, they have to start all over again. 

Measuring scavenger hunt. My children really get into this one. You will need a kitchen scale and measuring stick, if you have a number of children, you may need multiples!  

You simply make a list of things that need to be found--something that weighs exactly 8 oz., or  you could say 1/2 or .5 lb., something that weighs 13 oz., etc. Also, have them find things that measure exactly 3 and 1/4 inches, or 18 cm., etc. The fun of discovering just how to estimate the weight or length of something really grabs their attention. 

Find the distance. Give them an atlas and a measuring stick and have them calculate the distances "as-the-crow-flies" from one international city to another. 

Candy fun. Take a huge bag of either M & M's candies or Skittles and have the children estimate the total candies in the bag, separate and count the various colors, tell the average number of each color, use division to evenly distribute the candy among family members, etc. 

After helping the children eat count their candy, then it's out to play some more basketball, I certainly don't want to find my hips on that list of things to measure...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

McGuffey and the Christian age of America

There are reasons that we find the McGuffey readers so refreshingly moral. They were written in an age of incredible spiritual awakening in America. Here is an excerpt from the site Religion and the Founding of the American Republic:

The religion of the new American republic was evangelicalism, which, between 1800 and the Civil War, was the "grand absorbing theme" of American religious life. During some years in the first half of the nineteenth century, revivals (through which evangelicalism found expression) occurred so often that religious publications that specialized in tracking them lost count. In 1827, for example, one journal exulted that "revivals, we rejoice to say, are becoming too numerous in our country to admit of being generally mentioned in our Record." During the years between the inaugurations of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, historians see "evangelicalism emerging as a kind of national church or national religion." The leaders and ordinary members of the "evangelical empire" of the nineteenth century were American patriots who subscribed to the views of the Founders that religion was a "necessary spring" for republican government; they believed, as a preacher in 1826 asserted, that there was "an association between Religion and Patriotism." Converting their fellow citizens to Christianity was, for them, an act that simultaneously saved souls and saved the republic. The American Home Missionary Society assured its supporters in 1826 that "we are doing the work of patriotism no less than Christianity." With the disappearance of efforts by government to create morality in the body politic (symbolized by the termination in 1833 of Massachusetts' tax support for churches) evangelical, benevolent societies assumed that role, bringing about what today might be called the privatization of the responsibility for forming a virtuous citizenry.

When researching the McGuffey's on line, I came across a lot of negative opinions, accusing them of being "bigoted" and misogynistic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the morality of all of the different versions points towards kindness and fairness, without exception for gender, race, or creed. All of these virtues were being sought after in the climate of revivals during the 19th century. These books were not written to impress university elitists and educational demagogues; they were meant to appeal to pastors and parents who wanted to pass their faith on to the next generation. Unlike education today, curriculum decisions were left at the local, even the home, level. I wonder how curricula would be chosen today if the same were true!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

One-Room School

We have a lot of trouble with the library--I have called checking out books my one acceptable "vice" for many years.

When the children were younger we would check out maybe sixty books at a shot, then something would happen and I would let those books be a few days overdue and...well you can imagine the fines!

One day my dear husband went to the library to check something out, only to be shocked that he owed $43 in fines--I'm not kidding! Of course, he didn't rack up those bucks, I did!

Now I am on a strict diet--no more of this biblio-gluttony. The last time we checked out 20 or so books, one went missing, for three weeks. It was finally discovered underneath the bathroom sink--not sure how to look at that one.

Since we did find the book, we went to the library once again, this time allowing ourselves only one book per person. This made us all very particular, and very careful as to our choices.

For my book, I chose One Room School, by Raymond Bial. I loved all of the photos in this one--especially the vintage ones of a class of students standing in front of the schoolhouse.

These children were often dressed in a rugged, pioneer way, holes in the knees of their britches, etc. Some were only sod houses, one was just a bunch of tree branches bunched together in the form of a makeshift canopy.

Children sat on puncheon benches where there was an abundance of wood, back when Professor McGuffey would have been formulating his readers.

We like to think that we are so advanced these days--but we have lost the will to persevere and overcome. Lincoln, the man who wrote one of the most famous speeches in our history on the back of an envelope, started in a log hut--and we haven't seen the likes of him in quite a while.

Consider this from McGuffey's Fourth Reader (original) with the notation Beecher:

We must educate! We must educate or we must perish by our own prosperity. If we do not, short will be our race from the cradle to the grave. If in our haste to be rich and mighty, we outrun our literary and religious institutions, they will never overtake us, or only come up after the battle of liberty is fought and lost, as spoil to grace the victory, and as resources of inexorable despotism for the perpetuity of our bondage. 

But what will become of the West, if her prosperity rushes up to such a majesty of power, while those great institutions linger which are necessary to form the mind, and the conscience, and the heart of that vast world? It must not be permitted.

Awfully prophetic, wasn't it?