Friday, July 24, 2009

Chicken Mummy

A picture of Pharaoh Gamehen I. I just realized I never posted a picture of her. Here she is in all of her mummified glory:

Just prior to wrapping-


By the way, her resting place, for now, is atop a bookshelf in our school room.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Travel - Snacks

We are going on a road trip soon. I'm excited about it! As an only child, I never got to play games with, watch movies with, or constantly harass and irritate another small person sitting next to me. My children, however, have that opportunity - and I love it!

I've decided to be a bit more organized about our travel time. I'm always quite prepared for our eventual arrival wherever we are vacationing, but this time I've taken planning to the next level: the road trip portion. And since I'm doing so much prep, I thought I would share!

I have prepacked snacks this time. Instead of constantly reaching behind me and groping in a snack bag for water, chips, dried fruit, milk every time one of the kids whimpers for something, I made snack boxes for them. Two separate snacks, three of each - a drink, something big, and something small. I picked up the boxes on clearance at the local WM and decorated them with stickers. I also wrote on the outside what is contained within, just for my own sanity.

By the way, my dear husband walked in the kitchen as I was taking pictures of the snacks. He wanted to laugh at me - instead, he took a couple of pictures of his own and posted them on Facebook. I had to remind him that "Love is patient, love is kind..." Love doesn't ridicule its wife publicly on Facebook!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great week!

I was on the lite side of homeschooling this weekend, so Richard filled in.

At first, Casey wasn't happy about her "substitute" teacher and made it known. I reminded her that Daddy is just as much her teacher as I am. She and Will both enjoyed what Richard taught them: computers - input and output, how calculators work, and (best of all) he taught them how to add and subtract using an abacus! [Casey mentioned that now she doesn't have to know her addition and subtraction facts as she can just use an abacus. I quickly squelched that notion!]

Richard also invited us outside to play a game of croquet! (Not to gloat, but I won!)

Casey and I worked on math flashcards, studied St. Augustine of Canterbury, and worked on memorizing At the Sea Side by Robert Louis Stevenson. Will and I are still working our way through 100 Easy Lessons. Tricky is... well, Tricky.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Standardized Tests

I recently began researching standardized tests as Casey will be taking one during the 2010-2011 school year. Georgia requires homeschoolers to take a standardized test every three years beginning at the end of third grade, although the State does not require that those results be submitted to public school authorities. “Students in home study programs shall be subject to an appropriate nationally standardized testing program administered in consultation with a person trained in the administration and interpretation of norm reference tests to evaluate their educational progress at least every three years beginning at the end of the third grade and records of such tests and scores shall be retained but shall not be required to be submitted to public educational authorities.” O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690 (c)(7).

Georgia third graders in public school take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). Knowing what I’ve heard and read about the CRCT, I know that I do not want my children to take that particular standardized test, nor do they have to. I just don’t feel as though my third-grader needs to be tested on, and thus forcing me to teach outside of my planned course of study, Frederick Douglass-civil rights, Susan B. Anthony-women's rights, Mary McLeod Bethune-education, Franklin D. Roosevelt- New Deal and World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt-United Nations and human rights, Thurgood Marshall-civil rights, Lyndon B. Johnson-Great Society and voting rights, and Cesar Chavez-workers' rights. [Topics on the Social Studies portion of a recent CRCT.] Fortunately, Georgia does not dictate which standardized test a homeschooler must take, just that it must be a national standardized test.

I was, however, a bit stunned at the volume of standardized tests available to a homeschooling parent of a third grader. So, to do my part to possibly help another parent make an informed decision about which test to give, I have compiled the following information, listed alphabetically, from various online resources. A list of testing suppliers can be found here. NOTE: This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely a list of the tests I’ve considered.

California Achievement Test, 5th edition (CAT/5)
Grades: K-12
Administration: Parents administer the test at home and send it back to be scored. You have two weeks after receiving the test to administer and return it for scoring. Scoring takes 3 to 8 weeks.
Subjects tested: Reading, spelling, language mechanics and expression, mathematics, study skills, science and social studies.
Format: A timed test with five test formats available, descriptions of which can be found here.
Results: Results are printed to include national percentiles, scale scores, grade equivalents, stanine results, and other data. You must request percentile scoring and /or stanine results or you will only receive raw scores and grade equivalents.
Other: One comment I read while researching the CAT is that it is popular among Christian schools and home schools because it contains more traditional values than other standardized tests. Also available are the CAT (original) and the CAT/6 (the 6th edition) - I have not researched the differences between these and the CAT/5.

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS)
Grades: 1-12
Subjects tested: reading, language arts, spelling, math, science, social studies and reference skills.
Results: You receive a professional critique with the scores.

Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
Grades: K-12 (grades 2 and below are tested orally)
Administration: 4-year baccalaureate degree in any field required for administrator. From the ITBS official website: “Test materials for use with home-schooled students can be obtained through the public school district where the student resides or through the AEA that encompasses the student's residence. Arrangements might be made for such students to test at the local school when students of that district take their tests. If the district has a home-school assistance center, arrangements for testing might be made with that center.”
Subjects tested: K-2: Vocabulary, Word Analysis, Reading Comprehension, Listening, Language, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, Sources of Information. Grades 3-8: Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension, Spelling, Capitalization, Punctuation, Usage and Expression, Math Concepts and Estimation, Math Problem Solving and Data Interpretation, Math Computation, Social Studies, Maps and Diagrams, Reference Materials, Word Analysis, Listening.
Results: Raw Scores, Percent Correct, Grade Equivalent, Developmental Standard Score, and Percentile Rank.
Other: For more information about the ITBS, go to the official website here.

Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS)
Grades: 3-8
Administration: Parents administer the test at home and return the test for scoring and analysis. Test should be given twice per year, with at least 6 months between testing recommended. You have four weeks after receiving the test to administer and return it for scoring.
Subjects tested: Reading, language, and mathematics.
Format: Untimed test.
Other: This test was developed specifically for homeschoolers. Additional information can be found here.

Stanford Achievement Test (SAT)
[Not to be confused with the Scholastic Aptitude Test - SAT - for college]
Grades: K-12
Administration: Administrator must have a baccalaureate degree in any field plus other requirements, and the test publisher has strict guidelines which must be followed when testing a relative.
Subjects tested: Reading, math, language, spelling, listening, science and social studies. The exact subjects covered in a test will depend on the child’s grade level.
Format: A timed test with multiple choice, short answer, and extended answer questions.
Results: Scores given are in relation to other students. There is also an explain of how your child did in each area and suggestions for improvement.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It's time I set some boundaries for myself. Life is taking over, but I've been ignoring parts of it. Unfortunately, I haven't been as diligent with my housekeeping as I would like. I've also been spending far too much time online. I have goals that I set for myself months ago, that I haven't met yet. I feel as though everything is whirling by and I'm standing on the edge watching it happen.

I think if I write about it here, it will force me to be more diligent. I'm very sentimental and read my old blog posts on occasion. Not to mention, this entry will be visible for a few days, at least. So here is what I hope to accomplish:

Our basement is in desperate need of attention. I'm going to spend 5 minutes per day cleaning up and reorganizing. By the end of August, I want to take donations to the local thrift stores. By the end of September, I would like Richard to take all the junk that I can't donate to the dump. (I refuse to have a yard sale - too much work for too little return.)

I just got a new vacuum. I had been using a shop vac or hand held vacuums throughout the house. I need to use my vacuum weekly - or at least in accordance with my Motivated Moms calendar.

Ah, the next logical step... I need to abide by the chores on my MMC. When I do, our house looks fantastic, but I've been slacking quite a bit lately.

I am almost a year behind in getting pictures printed. For the past several days I've been uploading them to a site to get prints, but it's very slow going. Nonetheless, it's getting done. I hope to be finished with that portion of my pictures project by tomorrow. But that's not the only pictures project I have. I also need to assemble and order a photo book online - to be used for Casey's first grade yearbook. Finally, I need to make a photo collage (in a multi-picture frame) of Tricky. She's almost 3 and there is but one photo of her in the hallway - and that will not do! I hope to have the last two picture projects finished by the first week in August.

I got a Wii Fit for my birthday last week. It's so fun! Now, I actually need to use it. Goal: 20 minutes per day.

Richard and I discussed this about two weeks ago - we need to get off of our computers some! We've decided that every evening from 6:00 to 9:00 and every Saturday are blackout times: no going online. The exceptions being if either of us has some work-related emergency we must tend to, if we are looking for a family activity/outing, or if the online activity is directly related to something we are doing for home school - otherwise, nothing. This one is going to be difficult, but necessary.

So, those are some of the many goals I need to accomplish. I have others, but I'm not to the point where I want to share every facet of my life online. Some are things I need to work on daily, others are merely tasks I need to just do and get over with. Sometimes it's hard not to procrastinate, but it's time to stop!

Monday, July 13, 2009

I want to call this a Weekly Report...

I want to call this a Weekly Report, but since it's early July, I may wait until August to start doing official Weekly Reports. (The other idea I'm debating is whether or not to post my Weekly Reports on Fridays like everyone else, or do them at the true end of our school week - Monday.)

We had a great weekend! We're still a bit light on the curriculum as I haven't started Math (other than some review work), Catholicism, or Art as of yet. Those will pop in in August. Even with those subjects absent, we had a busy school week. I think the highlight of this weekend, besides a brief hike we took on Saturday, including a brief jaunt on the AT (Appalachian Trail), was our study of King Arthur (both the legend and the myth) and our read-aloud companion The Story of King Arthur and His Knights.

For science, we discussed stars - types and life cycles. It was cloudy every night this weekend so we weren't able to break out our telescope.

Will is doing well with 100 Easy Lessons. I'd been somewhat sporadic up to this point, but he's with it and excited! I gave him four Bob Books to take to bed tonight. I'm so happy! I have yet another child who is embracing reading! Will is also learning some basics about the piano because he'll be starting lessons next month - another exciting development for my little guy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our First Field Trip of the New School Year

We went to Fernbank Natural History Museum last weekend.

We saw the usual displays of sea shells, dinosaurs, and the interactive science exhibit.

There was a temporary exhibit showing dinosaur movement. It think it was meant to prove how everything you see in a Hollywood depiction of dinosaurs is completely inaccurate (i.e., there is no way a Tyrannosaurus could run as fast as shown in the Jurassic Park movies).

Fernbank has also recently started small nature trail walks on the Natural History grounds. While there have always been public trails open at the Fernbank Science Museum, the Natural History Museum has only been conducting guided walks for two weeks. After coating ourselves with Off, my family and another family of four set off with two guides as we explored the woods behind the NHM. We learned about poison ivy (I had no idea that every part of poison ivy contains the oils that can cause the familiar itchy rash - the leaves, the stems, and even the roots) and tulip poplars, where Fernbank got its name, and how the museum staff are working to make the trails accessible to the public at large. Despite a couple of mosquito bites, the mini-hike was my favorite part of our excursion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Why are you doing THAT?"

Throughout my few years of parenting, I've been asked a question several times about a variety of different things regarding my parenting/pregnancy/mothering decisions. "Why are you doing THAT?" So, here are some of my answers...

I have nursed all of my children and plan on doing so with the next. I breastfed because of the many benefits: bonding, best for baby, immunity transfer, cuts down on likelihood of ear infections (3 kids, 1 short ear infection - not bad), facial and oral structure development, intelligence, some weight loss after having baby... But, in all honesty, my biggest reason is that I'm lazy (don't laugh). I value my sleep and what little time I have after homeschooling, child-rearing, housekeeping, and working. I don't want to spend what precious time I have left sterilizing bottles, boiling water for formula, etc. So I breastfeed - easier for me, good for baby. I'll keep doing it.

For the same BIG reason I breastfeed, I cosleep - I don't have to wake up during the night to prep a bottle, thus I get sleep. We start from the time a baby is born until about 12 months old. When there is a baby in my bed, I instantly wake up at the slightest noise from the baby - I instinctively, subconsciously know when my baby is hungry, sick, or just needs me. And, please, don't lecture me about my decision. I've heard about the studies, the reports, the criticism - but it has worked for three of my children (all three of whom I can proudly exclaim now sleep in their own beds every night, all night - can you say the same thing?).

Three children and one more on the way (and who knows what the future holds)
Yes, I have three children. Yes, I'm expecting a fourth. No, by God's grace, this won't be the last. Yes, I'm Catholic. Yes, I know what causes "it." No, it's none of your business so stop asking me. And don't look so shocked!

Finding out
We're waiting until the baby is born. When I've said I want to be surprised, I've been told that it's a surprise when you find out at 20 weeks, too. Well, sort of - but not the same kind of surprise; you still have 20 weeks to get ready, to think of names, to decorate rooms, to alter your idea of what your future would have been with a baby of the opposite gender. A father of 12 children once told me that he and his wife never "peeked at their presents." I like that idea - this baby is my Christmas present, a baby I've prayed and waited patiently for. I can wait until late-December when my baby arrives for Richard to tell me if it's a boy or girl while holding our sweet newborn in his arms. Besides, since we cosleep, there will be no room to decorate - only the time it takes to go down to the basement and bring up all the tubs of newborn girl or boy clothes.

We have decided to have this baby at home. It wasn't a difficult decision to come to. After three childbirth experiences, I decided the time was right to abandon the hospital and opt for the comfort of my own home. With all three of my hospital birth experiences, I felt as though I had to fight with either my doctor or the hospital staff about something. I don't want that again. I want the calm, comfort, and peace that my home can afford me. I want to be able to play my piano, sing along with my music, go to my refrigerator for some juice, and roam in my own hallway until the time comes for me to slip into my birthing tub (hopefully) set up in my living room. I am not planning on having my children present - I want grandchildren one day - but they will be welcome to meet their new sibling as soon as my husband, my midwife, and I feel as though the baby is ready.
People I know have expressed concerns such as, "What if something goes wrong?" Well, for one, I'm not freebirthing (i.e., having an unassisted childbirth). My midwife with years of experience will be on hand with an assistant. She is armed with an arsenal of weapons to counteract anything that could go wrong and if something goes beyond her control, I'll be rushed to a hospital. That was my initial response when I heard that question. Now, my response is... I'm pregnant. I'm not sick. Hospitals are for sick people. However, should something happen that is outside the realm of the usual things that can happen to one while having a baby, the hospital is close. I'm not worried - as a matter of fact, I'm more worried about what the baby and/or I could pick up at a hospital than anything potentially going wrong at home.

That said, I still vaccinate, I don't buy much that is organic [a lot of organic foods just don't appeal to me to the extent I feel as though I have to pay double for them - besides, I like a little bovine growth hormone now and then] and my children do consume refined sugars, but that's me. By posting the above, I don't mean to belittle anyone or their parenting choices (with the possible exception of any comment to me about the size of my family - so don't go there), but just to state this is what we do and why we do it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

REVIEW: Fascinating Creatures by Frances England

Casey and I walked over to her art teacher's home last week to pick up her spring artwork portfolio. During our visit, Ms. Jan gave Casey a CD. The CD is a compilation of children's songs written and performed by Frances England. It seems as though Ms. England is a former student of Ms. Jan's. Ms. Jan enjoyed the CD, but since she doesn't have children, she thought she would give the CD to a child who would listen to it often.

In my usual fashion, Casey had to remind me we had the CD a few days later. I popped it in the CD player and was amazed at what I heard. Catchy, child-friendly music, that I was genuinely enjoying as well. Even better, Richard listened to it tonight - I turned it on for "cleaning music" for the kids - and he liked the music as well!

Fun and upbeat, refreshing without being too perky, England's lovely voice and acoustic guitar combine to perform original children's songs that kid will love and parents won't mind (and will probably wind up singing along to like I did) playing in the car or the house.

Check out Frances England's website here.
For a great video sample of one of the songs, Tricycle, from the Fascinating Creatures album, go here.

I'm excited to hear Family Tree by Frances England, released two years after Fascinating Creatures.

By the way, I hope Ms. Jan is proud of Frances England - the album art on Fascinating Creatures was created by her former student!