Monday, December 21, 2009

Shipwrecked at the Stable

Many years ago dh and I started observing Advent as a season of preparing for Christmas, much as Lent is a season of preparing for Easter. Every day during Advent and the twelve days of Christmas (spanning the period from Christmas to Epiphany), I read from Watch for the Light, a book of readings by various authors. Yesterday’s reading from Brennan Manning was really long, but one passage particularly struck me:

The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. They have found the treasure in the field of Bethlehem. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Everything else is cheap, fake, painted fragments of glass.

The question for all of us is what we will really aim at next Christmas. If all we are going for is a placid decency, routine prayer, well-behaved worship and comfortable compassion, then we have effectively parted company with the shipwrecked and have no fellowship with the pearl-finder.

I wonder, if we were to stop people at random in the street on December 24 and ask them what they want most for Christmas, how many would say, "I want to see Jesus"?

I believe that the single most important consideration during the sacred season of Advent is intensity of desire. Paraphrasing the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel, "Jesus Christ is of no importance unless he is of supreme importance." An intense inner desire is already the sign of his presence in our hearts. The rest is the work of the Holy Spirit.

May we all begin to see the world in which we live as artifice and show and to seek wholeheartedly after the true reality.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Does Homeschooling Mean Living in the Christian Ghetto?

Over the last 40 or 50 years, the evangelical Christian community in America has gradually but steadily formed a separate sub-culture with its own institutions, events, services, and entertainment. I call this the Christian ghetto, a world-within-the-world where you can live your life without ever having a meaningful encounter with people outside your self-selected group. For those of us who homeschool or use a private Christian school, this isn’t just possible, it’s quite likely–about the only way to become more isolated among Christians would be to join a commune.

What affect has this had on the vibrancy of the church in America and its impact on the larger culture? In his book Grace-Based Parenting, Tim Kimmel writes, "What’s ironic is that the ‘secularization’ of the non-Christian community has risen proportionately with our withdrawal from it. The more options the Christian community created for itself, the more our general cuture moved toward secular thinking, the corollary being that the less we need to engage the lost world around us, the more it will be left to its own devices."

Homeschooling does not have to mean living in the Christian ghetto. Nor should it. Tim Kimmel’s book provides strong support for the position that isolating children from non-Christian influences does not keep them safe; on the contrary, it sets them up for failure when they reach adulthood and necessarily must encounter those other influences OR it makes them completely unable, as adults, to impact the world around them because they don’t know how to interact with it.

Christian homeschoolers often set up their own homeschooling support groups. The majority of homeschoolers are still Christian, and so it’s natural that Christian homeschoolers make up the bulk of the people forming and joining support groups. Because of that, it’s also natural that the small number of people constituting the rest of the homeschoolers find it impossible, outside of very populous areas, to form their own homeschool support groups because there just aren’t enough of them. The result? In some areas, where the only large and active group is restricted to only Christian members, other homeschoolers have NO options for standardized testing, field trips, clubs, social events, graduation ceremonies, athletics, and the other functions provided by a support group.

It is not hard to see that not only does this remove the Christian influence from the larger homeschooling culture, it breeds resentment of Christians (and by extension Christ) among the very people we are intended to love and serve!

You may not be able to change the policies of your local support group. But you can plan events and activities outside of that support group umbrella and make them open to all homeschoolers. If an inclusive group is available in your area, you can join it in addition to or instead of joining the exclusively Christian group. Not only will you be fulfilling your mandate to "be in the world", you’ll be moving your kids beyond the boundaries of the Christian ghetto and giving them a safe, supervised introduction to life in this larger world that they must someday inhabit without your guidance or else become irrelevant.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pimsleur Spanish

This year I wanted to move forward with Spanish more aggressively, and I wanted a program with a strong audio component.  In fact, since I already had a couple of books with which I was very happy, I really wanted a strictly audio program.  The first one we tried was Pimsleur; after listening to the free sample lesson I bought the eight-lesson mini-package so we could try it out.  My third grader has been using this set for about five weeks now, on her own.  She does ten minutes of a lesson three nights a week, listening to the CD and speaking when prompted.  The lessons move slowly with lots of repetition and using few verb forms.  The speakers pronounce the words clearly and new words are pronounced one syllable at a time, starting from the final syllable and moving backwards through the word.  I would very much like to have access to a transcript of the lessons so that I could know what words and phrases have been covered without listening to each lesson, but that does not seem to be an option.

After a few lessons of Pimsleur had been completed, I felt it was time to look into buying the complete Year 1 package.  In the course of researching what, exactly, to buy, I learned from reviews that Pimsleur’s vocabulary was a bit formal and not necessarily a good fit for casual use in Latin America, so I thought we’d try a more informal program before committing.  I purchased the eight-lesson set for Learning Spanish Like Crazy, which focuses on Latin American Spanish and informal usage.  My third grader despised these lessons–they moved fast, repetition was light, many different verb forms were introduced in a single lesson.  They did offer written transcripts of the lessons, which was a positive, but she wasn’t able to follow the pace of the lessons at all.

I have not yet purchased the big Pimsleur package, but we are back working through those lessons and that purchase is probably not far off.  I can remedy the deficiency in vocabulary pretty easily, but I can’t make up for a complete lack of comprehension.

Our School Verse

I have never come up with a name for our homeschool because nothing has ever seemed suitable and the need hasn’t really been pressing.  I have never made an effort toward creating a motto or vision statement or anything like that either.  And I’ve never been good at coming up with a "theme scripture".  Last night, though, as I was deciding on verses for my oldest to work on memorizing, I was out at the SimplyCharlotteMason website and saw Ephesians 2:8-10 listed as a verse to go along with the "I am" portion of Charlotte Mason’s school motto:  "I am, I can, I ought, I will."  Part of that passage, verse 10, is a verse that forms the basis for my training of my children and has for a long time.   (I think I actually originally began using that verse with the kids after finding a reference to it in a book called Parenting with Scripture.)

"For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

I sometimes quote that verse when talking with my kids, reminding them that they have work to do in this life, work that was chosen specifically for them before they were ever born.  When I pray with them at night, I often pray that God would help them prepare for this work and recognize it at the right time.  When we talk about why we school, we talk in terms of how our learning helps to prepare us for life and the work that we will do when it’s time.  So as it happens, I think we’ve had our "theme verse" for awhile without even knowing it!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why I Homeschool

When my dh and I decided to homeschool, back when our oldest was 2-1/2 or 3 years old, our primary motivation was academics.  We decided we could cover more material better at home than the school could.  This conclusion was prompted by my reading the Little House series of books again and noticing how much more Laura knew than I did, even though I had been a top student through 13 years of public school and four years of college plus a couple more years getting a masters degree, and Laura didn’t even go to school regularly.

Now that we’ve been formally homeschooling for three years, I have different reasons for homeschooling.  Primarily it’s about ideas.  As Charlotte Mason says, ideas are the mind’s food.  Ideas, not information, are the critical component of any education.  Each book or other resource we select must contain no ideas that are not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  Each year, as I read the materials my children are reading or hearing, I am reminded of the importance of the ideas in each work–they are forming my children’s worldview in subtle ways constantly.
I’m also homeschooling so that we can have more time together as a family.  As my kids get older and begin to have more activities outside our home, I am grateful that we have so much time together each day, learning together and playing together.  Soon enough they will be leaving our family, and until then I hope to build strong relationships and influence their development so that our family will be a resource they rely on when they need it even after they have left home.

I’m homeschooling so that I can meet each child’s educational needs individually.  I have one child who will be a late reader, and in another school environment I would probably have to hold her back a year at least and put her in special programs which for this particular child would not have positive longterm effects no matter how I tried to soften the blow.  Since we are homeschooling, I can work on her reading while we move ahead in other areas where she is more than capable.

I am thankful that we have the opportunity to do this, and that the curriculum we are using (AmblesideOnline) has such high quality books and materials so that we don’t have to go out and invent our own schedules and booklists.  Thank you to all the Advisory members who worked so hard to put this package together!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hints on Child Training

I just finshed reading Hints on Child Training by Clay Trumbull, the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Elliot.  I wanted to evaluate how closely his recommendations meshed with those of Charlotte Mason.  In many respects, the two authors come from the same perspective.  Both encourage us to respect the personhood of the child, to train rather than break the will, and to value the role of imagination in the child’s life, just to mention a few places where the two are in agreement. 

However, there are significant areas of disagreement as well.  Trumbull mentions habit formation but never focuses on this key Mason element.  Trumbull also assumes a level of parental control that differs from Mason–he suggests that playmates need to be carefully screened for suitability, where Mason recommends gently training the child to choose suitable playmates for himself so as not to push him toward unsuitable ones merely by forbidding them.  Similarly, Trumbull’s suggestions for choosing reading material do not reflect a love of literature in the way Mason’s do and completely fail to acknowledge the importance of feeding the child a mental diet of great ideas.

If you are already familiar with Mason’s recommendations for child training, Trumbull’s book can be useful to flesh out some of her advice and to highlight some areas she omits or glosses over.  If you are not already familiar enough with Mason’s recommendations to recognize areas where the two differ, I suggest you start by reading Mason, specifically Volume 2 and then Volume 1 if your children are young or Volume 6 if they are older.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Baby Tam 'o Shanter

Here are directions to make a tam o’shanter style hat for a baby.  I adapted these from a doll pattern in the Mary Francis Knitting and Crocheting book.  I haven’t proofed this particular form of the instructions, so if you use them and find an error please let me know.

Use an F hook and worsted weight yarn.
  • Chain 4.
  • Make a slipstitch into the first chain to form a ring.
  • Make 10 sc in ring.
  • Stitching in the back loop only, make 2 sc in each sc around the ring. (20 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in the first sc and 2 sc in the next sc*.  Repeat from * to * around.  (30 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first two sc and 2 sc in the third sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (40 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first three sc and 2 sc in the fourth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (50 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first four sc and 2 sc in the fifth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (60 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first five sc and 2 sc in the sixth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (70 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (70 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first six sc and 2 sc in the seventh sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (80 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (80 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first seven sc and 2 sc in the eighth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (90 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (90 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first eight sc and 2 sc in the ninth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (100 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (100 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first nine sc and 2 sc in the tenth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (110 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first four sc and decrease on the fifth and sixth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.
  • Repeat this for five or six more rounds, decreasing on every fifth stitch.
  • Make four rounds of sc in each sc, stitching in both loops (not just the back loop).
To make the hat bigger, make more increasing rounds in the section where you are increasing every other round.  To make the band bigger, don’t decrease as far before switching over to sc in each sc, in both loops.

You can stitch the loose starting thread into the hole from the initial ring, and cover up that opening.  If you want to make a tassel, make a chain of whatever length you like, add a tassel to the end, and use a yarn needle to thread the tail of the chain into the hat at the ring on top.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kindergarten and a Half

DD#2 and I have been planning her school year for this coming year, which will begin for her no later than August (just after she turns 6).  Although she would be old enough to officially begin formal school this year, so that we could start AO Year 1, I think she will benefit from a more gentle and relaxed year of working on skills before starting in on the more difficult work of Year 1.

To that end, we’ve planned out a year’s schedule with books that are not on the AO list.  I expect this schedule to be adjusted as we go along and see what works and what doesn’t.  We may end up beginning Year 1 in January, or we may wait until our new school year begins next summer.  Officially she is going to be in first grade this year, but the material we’re using I’m calling Year 0.5.

Here is our booklist for this year, keeping in mind that this list reflects where we are and the materials we have around, not necessarily the best list that could possibly be made in preparation for Year 1, and also that we read many other books that aren’t scheduled.  I did not intend to create a formal list that others should follow, but I hope our schedule will help you in creating your own if you find the need.
To all of this we will add planning and cooking a weekly supper, learning household cleaning tasks, regular nature study, and possibly drawing lessons if I can manage to get them together (using Mona Brookes’ Drawing with Children).

UPDATE:
Having now completed the school year (over a month ago, actually), I know I will make major revisions to our schedule the next time I do a Year 0.5 with one of my children.  Our reading load will go way down.  Burgess Flower Book will be an every-other week experience or less.  Little Lord Fauntleroy will be out.  Animal Stories will be every other week or less, and I’ll read ahead and select key stories.  We ended up using Handwriting Without Tears, which I think I’ll use again.  A couple of years of that may be a good intro to handwriting, after which we can move over to italic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ray's Arithmetic Teacher Guide

I have planned to use Ray’s Arithmetic for our math curriculum since I first thought about homeschooling, more than 5 years ago.  Since we started actually using it two years ago, though, I’ve been struggling to figure out how it was intended to be used.  The books don’t have instructions for the teacher, and the teacher guide that comes with the reprints, by Ruth Beechick, did not satisfy me.  I have several posts on this blog where I’ve analyzed Charlotte Mason’s arithmetic recommendations and explained how I’ve adjusted Rays to fit those, but I still didn’t think I was using the material as effectively as I’d like.  (Fortunately, my oldest has natural math ability so she hasn’t been bothered too much by all this.)

On the Ray’s Arithmetic Yahoo group I learned some time ago about the Eclectic Manual of Methods, which is a teacher guide for a variety of materials including the McGuffey Readers and Rays Arithmetic.  I found working from a pdf copy of the book to be off-putting so I never really approached it.  In fact, I didn’t even look closely enough to realize that the arithmetic section of that manual was quite short .  (It begins on page 105 of the pdf copy.)  I did try to find a hardcopy, but they are few and far between.  (The only one I can find right now is located in Germany and would cost me over $20 including shipping.)

I finally sat down with the text copy and the pdf copy of the manual and created a Word document with just the arithmetic section.  I’ve included all of it except one long table of exercises that I just couldn’t bring myself to type in–that part you’ll have to go to the pdf copy to see.

I haven’t yet read through this in detail and tried to compare it with CM’s recommendations, but from my cursory review while editing I would say that it generally does follow the same outline that CM recommended in Volume 1.  I’m sure I’ll post more about this as I dig into it further–I’ll be using at least years 1 and 3 of this guide very soon.

Ray's Arithmetic Teacher Guide

I have planned to use Ray’s Arithmetic for our math curriculum since I first thought about homeschooling, more than 5 years ago.  Since we started actually using it two years ago, though, I’ve been struggling to figure out how it was intended to be used.  The books don’t have instructions for the teacher, and the teacher guide that comes with the reprints, by Ruth Beechick, did not satisfy me.  I have several posts on this blog where I’ve analyzed Charlotte Mason’s arithmetic recommendations and explained how I’ve adjusted Rays to fit those, but I still didn’t think I was using the material as effectively as I’d like.  (Fortunately, my oldest has natural math ability so she hasn’t been bothered too much by all this.)

On the Ray’s Arithmetic Yahoo group I learned some time ago about the Eclectic Manual of Methods, which is a teacher guide for a variety of materials including the McGuffey Readers and Rays Arithmetic.  I found working from a pdf copy of the book to be off-putting so I never really approached it.  In fact, I didn’t even look closely enough to realize that the arithmetic section of that manual was quite short .  (It begins on page 105 of the pdf copy.)  I did try to find a hardcopy, but they are few and far between.  (The only one I can find right now is located in Germany and would cost me over $20 including shipping.)

I finally sat down with the text copy and the pdf copy of the manual and created a Word document with just the arithmetic section.  I’ve included all of it except one long table of exercises that I just couldn’t bring myself to type in–that part you’ll have to go to the pdf copy to see.

I haven’t yet read through this in detail and tried to compare it with CM’s recommendations, but from my cursory review while editing I would say that it generally does follow the same outline that CM recommended in Volume 1.  I’m sure I’ll post more about this as I dig into it further–I’ll be using at least years 1 and 3 of this guide very soon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Advice to New Moms (or Dads) With a Crying Baby

Babies are each unique creatures and we can never know all that is going on with them. I’m no baby expert, but I’ve had four and none of mine were the easy, happy, eat-for-ten-minutes-and-sleep-for-three-hours kind of baby. I had one preemie with nursing issues, one high-needs, and two colicky (and the colic lasted for months).

Lots of things can go on with a baby unbeknownst to Mom, and the baby cries and Mom doesn’t know why. It is never wrong to comfort a crying baby, but it is also ok to put a crying baby down in a safe place when you need a few minutes to yourself.  Slings are a great way to soothe babies and still permit yourself some freedom. (I particularly like the Maya Wrap, myself.)

There are lots of things you just cannot know with a baby. You cannot truly know what the baby is feeling physically or emotionally. If you are nursing, you cannot really know how much the baby is getting to eat with each feeding (unless you are weighing the baby with a good scale before and after each feeding – lol). You cannot know how much your particular baby needs to eat, and it can be difficult to determine *what* your baby needs to eat (or shouldn’t eat). (If you’re nursing, foods you eat can cause colic in your baby, and it isn’t always the foods you’d expect–dairy and soy are big culprits, and soy is in just about everything. If you’re bottle-feeding, it can be well nigh impossible to find a formula that doesn’t cause discomfort for your baby if yours has a sensitive stomach.)

Do your best to try to find out what is causing the distress, but understand that you may never figure it out. Your job then is to comfort as best you can.  Pray, pray, pray, and seek out wise advice but don’t be bound by conventional wisdom or the strong opinions of others.
With babies #2 and #3, I had to eliminate dairy from my diet. It was challenging but I did it because they needed it. With baby #3, I probably should have eliminated more than dairy but I was too tired at that point to think it through that far so we just toughed out the colic until he outgrew it.  With baby #4, a wise mom gave me some diet advice and I ended up giving up almost all my normal food and eating a severely restricted diet for many months–but it was absolutely worth it because I had a happy, healthy baby as long as I ate properly. If I didn’t eat properly, I had a baby who screamed for hours at a time.

Whatever you have to do, you *can* do because God provides the strength for the challenges he puts in front of us. That doesn’t make it easy, but at least we have that hope. When these challenges are behind us, we’ll have new ones in front of us, but God helping us we’ll make it past those too.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Is the Sky Falling?

Conservative Christians and homeschoolers who follow politics at all are becoming more and more agitated about various bills under consideration and various policies being implemented at all levels of government here in America, but especially at the federal level.  Scary emails are forwarded letting us know that this or that change marks the end of our freedoms.

I refuse to be alarmed by these bills and policies.  They are but symptoms of a larger problem, and that larger problem has been around and growing for a long time, but is still ignored by almost everyone.  Until that problem is addressed, we may alleviate a particular symptom for a time but the cancer still grows below the surface.

Somehow, over the last couple of decades, our political class has slowly but surely become completely corrupt.  Votes are for sale, openly and in almost every case.  This applies to both political parties, by the way.  This corruption is the root of the ills that assail us, and unless it is dealt with, all these other issues don’t matter.  The corruption is the result of greed, and most often takes the form of policies designed to repress or oppress those who can’t defend themselves.  In general, we don’t hear much about those policies unless they touch on a hot-button issue that’s useful to some large organization for fundraising purposes.  (How many people are aware of or active in redressing the abuses in our prison system?  How many know what eminent domain means or are working to prevent its abuse?)

Homeschoolers have by and large failed to really try to understand and follow politics but instead have used the crutch of relying on "action alerts" from their favorite issue organizations.  As a result, we are not "wise as serpents" at all and are completely unprepared to tackle the huge issues facing us politically.  Continuing to focus on symptoms, which any single piece of legislation is, might delay the final reckoning but will not prevent it.

This applies to the evangelical Christian community in America also.  We aren’t salt and light.  We aren’t out there doing the hard work in the trenches that our forebears did when confronted with terrible societal decay.  We just wait for an issue and then agitate.  Alas, as a result we’ve maintained some appearance of morality externally but society has rotted within and now there’s no perfume sufficient to hide the smell of decay.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Can You Spare a Dime?

If you are wondering how to respond to panhandlers, check out this article at Dollar Stretcher with suggestions for making "Friendship Bags".  The bags are filled with practical items.  Keep some bags in the car and hand them out when someone asks you for a handout.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hope for Colic

This post should not be construed as providing medical advice or any advice whatsoever.  My only intention is to share my own experiences so that others might find some hope in their own situation.

I have had two colicky babies and two others with sensitive stomachs that caused severe spitting up.  Different people define colic differently, but more or less it’s a situation where a young baby cries incessantly for several hours a day, day after day after day.  Most babies outgrow colic within the first few months.  In fact, some definitions limit colic to situations where the crying stops after three months.

The best help for colic that I found came from another mom, but the best official help I found came from Dr. Sears.  He has lots of great resources on a page called "Coping with Colic."   He calls colic "the hurting baby" so that it is less easy to dismiss.

Just because colic generally goes away on its own does not mean it should be ignored.  Colic is a symptom, not a condition.  There are some high-need babies who cry unless they are held, and Dr. Sears distinguishes them from colicky infants, but I would argue that some babies who stop crying when held are still in pain; they just cope better when held.  I had one like that, and another who cried no matter what.

 I encourage you to read all of the information on the Dr. Sears colic page.  He has many suggestions for what may be causing the crying and what may help alleviate the discomfort.  I will tell you what worked for me, and perhaps it may shed some light on your own situation.

What I have found through my own experience, and sharing it with other moms, is that many, many babies do not tolerate dairy, soy, and sometimes a host of other foods.  If you are bottle feeding, this may mean that you will have to switch for awhile to Nutramigin, a special formula that contains neither dairy nor soy.  It’s expensive, but you owe it to your baby to try it to see if it resolves the problem.  If your baby’s stomach is extremely sensitive, even this may not resolve the problem completely, but ask your doctor to see if it’s worth trying.  If you’re nursing, the solution is easier and less expensive but much more inconvenient (but it’s also more possible to completely resolve the problem since you can customize what you’re feeding your baby).

Nursing moms who suspect dairy, soy or other foods might be causing colic must eliminate those foods (while still of course maintaining a healthy diet).  One of my spitters got almost completely better when I eliminated dairy from my own diet.  My first colicky child improved when I eliminated dairy, but I think I probably needed to go further than I did.  My second colicky child had terrible colic, along with sometimes copious spitting up and sometimes lots of gassiness.  Eliminating dairy did not help, and I didn’t know of anything else to eliminate.  I saw the food list at the Dr. Sears site, listing possible colic-causing foods, but the list seemed daunting so I passed it by.  (I did find one site that claimed that nothing I ate could possibly be passed to the baby in any form that would cause a problem.  Please don’t believe anything like that that you may read!  I am amazed at the nonsense about breastfeeding that is claimed by people who believe they are being scientific.)

Enter another mom, who gave me a spreadsheet she made with her own kids identifying forbidden and allowed foods.  I was desperate, so I followed her list and then modified as seemed necessary.  In the end, I ate rice, meat, pasta, lettuce, black olives, all-natural lunch meat, cheerios, homemade tortillas, raw almonds, rice milk, and that was about it.  No seasonings but salt.  No sauces but olive oil.   I stuck to this diet for months, and it worked wonders.  When I ate something I shouldn’t have, the baby got sick and screamed.  When I was good, he was happy.  Figuring out what caused him problems took time and patience because there’s a delay between mom eating a food and the baby reacting to it, and there’s no way to be sure how long that delay is.  In a few cases, I eliminated foods I may not have needed to because it just wasn’t worth it to try them.  Each time I ate a problem food, days of screaming was the result.

Different foods were problems for different reasons with us.  Any citrus, vinegar, or other acidic food caused severe stomach pain.  Any food high in fat or sugar caused gas, and this included carrots or fruit.  Yeast or foods made with yeast caused problems because yeast is often treated with an acid to preserve it (at least I think that’s why it was a problem).  Dairy and soy made him throw up.

My second colicky baby did eventually outgrow his food sensitivities, mostly.  But it took a long time.  When he started baby food, we couldn’t use most jarred fruits because of the acid used to preserve them.  Even at 15 months he couldn’t tolerate hot dogs, citrus, and similar foods.  However, now he handles pretty much everything except maybe the hot dogs and similar foods with lots of chemicals in them.

So don’t despair if you are facing colic!  There is a reason for it, and you may be able to find it and resolve it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ray's Arithmetic Status Update

We are still using Ray’s Arithmetic as our math text, having just finished Term 2 of Ambleside‘s Year 2 with my newly 8 yodd.  We have completed addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and I am extremely pleased with dd’s understanding of the math processes involved.  She still needs drill to have fluency with the math facts, but we will continue to drill using Peggy Kaye’s Games for Math and our math wrap-ups as well as practicing with real-life situations whenever possible.

This year we have added a weekly lesson from Edward Zaccaro’s Primary Grade Challenge Math.  This excellent, living math book introduces concepts like fractions and decimals and percents that we otherwise wouldn’t reach for years, and it also adds an element of intellectual stimulation that arithmetic lacks.
One thing I would still like to do is to study the Manual of Methods that went with the original Ray’s Arithmetic (which differs substantially from the Parent-Teacher Guide by Ruth Beechick that comes with the Mott Media set).

I also regret not having been faithful in implementing the measurement exercises recommended by CM.  They are not hard to do, but I just didn’t make them a priority.  Picking those up again would be valuable, I believe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Charlotte Mason Kindergarten

If you are planning to do a kindergarten year with a five-year-old, I hope you’ll study up first on CM’s recommendations so you can plan a wonderful K year that meets your goals in a CM-friendly way.  I don’t say this because I think there’s some rule that says we all must follow CM’s recommendations but because I have always found her recommendations to be wise and useful, and I am sure that these (related to the years before formal school begins at age 6 or later) are also wise and useful and so are worth keeping in mind.
If you want to study up, I’d recommend starting with these two links:

A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six–For Five-Year-Olds or Six-Year-Olds?

This is my attempt to catalogue what CM says in Volume 1 about children under six.  The first part focuses on the List of Attainments, but read all the way through.  One important part:

"Charlotte Mason did not intend for children under the age of six to be free to play all day with no parental direction or instruction.  She gives us definite guidelines for the type of gentle instruction we should weave into our children’s days."

http://www.amblesideonline.org/CM/1_5a.html

Start with the second section at this link, which covers the kindergarten, and also read the third section (which also covers the kindergarten).  Read carefully and see what she praises about the kindergarten and what she mentions as concerns.  Notice also where she says that certain aspects of the kindergarten (as a formal institution) are good but can be handled better differently at home–those are aspects you’ll want to keep in mind as you make your own plan.

Think and pray about your goals for a K year.  What is its purpose?  What do you hope to accomplish?  What does your specific child need during this time (which may last for more than one year)?
It is absolutely possible to have a kindergarten year that follows Charlotte Mason’s advice.  May you find just the right arrangement for your child!