Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Day in the 19th Century

Farewell Friday

Pictures of Our Field Trip to Westville

October 28, 2008

BT, Bruster, CP, OP, and IP enjoy life in the 19th Century.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

German Apple Dapple Cake

Thrifty Thursday II

I also took this cake to our fellowship meal. I baked it in a bundt pan. It can also be baked in a 10x13 pan. I had to pour the topping on and allow it to set. Though I think it would be better to pour the warm sauce over cake slices before serving.

Cake ingredients
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups chopped apples

Topping ingredients
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour bundt pan. I use baker's Pam for this step. Stir flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside

2. In a large bowl, cream oil, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, walnuts, and apples.
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

4. In a sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar for the topping over medium heat. Stir in whipping cream and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour over cooled cake or cake slices as serving.

German Hot Noodles

Thrifty Thursday

I made German Hot Noodles for fellowship meal last Sunday. I prepared it on Saturday, stored it in the fridge overnight, and took it to church in a crockpot to warm during service. The boys and I had a sample on Saturday. It was delicious when fresh and hot. The Sunday reheat was still good, but it was definitely best straight from the stove top.

1 lb bacon, cook crisp and crumbled
12-14 oz bag of egg noodles, cooked until tender and drained well
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped celery
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp dried parsley flakes

1. After frying the bacon, reserve 1 tablespoon of drippings. In the same skillet as the bacon was cooked, cook the onion and celery in the reserved drippings until tender.

2. Stir in sugar, flour, salt and pepper. 3. Add water and vinegar. Cook until boils and thickens, stirring frequently.4. Add cooked, drained noodles and bacon.

5. Cook over med heat until thoroughly warmed.

6. For best results, serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Old-Fashioned Teaching

Wisdom Wednesday

Please, no one call DCS. This is a picture of BT enjoying an 1850's schoolhouse re-enactment. We visited Westville today with our homeschool association and watched as local school children and historians demonstrated how children were taught in the 19th Century.

I have to say that I was not impressed with 19th Century pedagogy. What did impress me, however, was that school began with the Lord's Prayer and a reading from Proverbs. The story for the day was a Christian one. It was written with the obvious intent of training little hearts, pointing them directly to the only true and living God, Jesus Christ.

During a spelling drill, one naughty little boy (all a part of the act, of course) drew a picture on his slate of the teacher with a cockroach. Her rebuke was immediate and to the point. She told the boy how wrong he had been and sent him to the corner to sit with the dunce cap on his head. I am not advocating calling a child a dunce; however, what happened next is worth considering.

After some time, she came to the boy and asked him if he had repented. She led him to confess his sin and ask for forgiveness from her and more importantly, from God. She sought reconciliation. He apologized, and she warmly forgave and allowed him back into her good graces.

I couldn't help but to feel pain for our nation as I watched today. There was a time in our history when children could go to school, start their day with prayer, and be instructed from the Bible. But more importantly, there was a time in our history when educating a child was more about training him to follow Christ than it was about filling his head with information. The heart, mind, and soul were all considered valuable, and the teacher saw it as her primary duty to train her students to love the Lord their God with all three. Sin was not taken lightly but was taken to the Throne of Grace. Discipline was not a means of the teacher maintaining her sanity but a means of imparting wisdom.

Today I was reminded to put first things first. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, " says Prov. 9:10. And so I pray that as I teach my children I will be faithful to do as the Lord instructs us in Eph. 6:4 and bring them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Preparing Hearts for Christmas

Teaching Tip Tuesday

I am posting my teaching tip a little early this week so that I can defer to my good friend, Counter-cultural Mom. She will present a live audio workshop on the topic "Preparing Hearts for Christmas" at the Talk-a-Latte Conference Room. Her talk begins at 1:00 p.m. CST tomorrow, Oct. 28, 2008.

Molly has shared some of her Advent resources and family worship ideas with me in previous years. I have implemented some of her ideas and experienced wonderful, God-honoring results. You don't have to be a homeschooler to participate, and anyone wanting to make Christmas a season of worship in your home will appreciate her advice.

Go to for instructions on how to join Molly at the Talk-a-Latte Conference Room.

Celebrating the Reformation

Milestone Monday

Welcome to another week. I hope you all had a great weekend, especially a great Lord's Day. I enjoyed the rest, fellowship, and spiritual nourishment of our Christian Sabbath yesterday. Today, however, our two-week break from school is over, and it is time to get back to the normal routine again.

As I promised last week, today I am launching a new daily theme, Milestone Monday. This is a time for sharing "firsts." Each week I will let you know about something new that is going on in our school, home, or family. But remember, this blog is a community. I want to hear from you guys, too. Post comments about the new things in your lives as well. Don't be shy! I want to learn from you guys and celebrate your or your kids' accomplishments with you.

My milestone this week is that I am planning the children's activities for my church's Reformation Night celebration to be held this Friday. Those of you who know me personally are wondering how this is a milestone. You know I have always worked with kids and have done my fair share of children's activities. However, this is the first time I have done this for my current church and it is the first time I have planned activities specifically for Reformation Night.

I am planning to set up five learning centers, one for each of the five Solas. The five Solas are five Latin phrases which summarize the Reformers' theological beliefs in contradicting the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of their day. As children enter the church Friday, I will give them an empty sack with one of the five Solas written on it. This will assign them a starting station. They will complete a task (I will list these below) and explain to the teacher the meaning of the Sola for their current station. Then the teacher will place candy in their bags. After 7 minutes, they will move to the next station. This rotation will continue until everyone has traveled to each station.

Each night this week at home, Michael is going to introduce one Sola in preparation for Friday. Tonight we will learn about "Sola Fide" by faith alone. He will teach the boys the phrase, the English translation, and then share a verse pertaining to faith. We will have a short discussion. I will list the scripture we will read below with the station descriptions.

I pray your week will be a great celebration of God's faithfulness to His people. I praise the Lord for the mighty work he did through the men of the Reformation.

Here are the station ideas:

1. Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone): 2 Tim 3:16
At this station I will hang a pocket chart and have a set of letter cards prepared. The teacher will, one word at a time, arrange the letters in the chart to spell a book of the Bible. The cards will be placed in the chart with the backs showing and the letters hidden. The children will take turns guessing a letter. When correct, the teacher will reveal the letter. If incorrect, the teacher will reveal one of three strikes. After three strikes, the group must guess what book title is being spelled. They may guess before getting three strikes if they want.

2. Sola Fide (by faith alone): 2 Cor 5:7
I will have five boxes prepared ahead of time. Inside each shoebox with a hole cut in the lid (just large enough for a child to reach in and feel the contents without seeing them), I will place one item that can be easily identified by touch. Children will take turns feeling and guessing. After all guesses are in, the teacher will reveal the items and explain that just as they were able to know what items they felt without seeing them, we are able, by the work of the Spirit, to love Christ even though we have not seen him.

3. Sola Gratia (by grace alone): Eph 2:8
At this station, the kids will play a BINGO game. The row heading will be G-R-A-C-E instead of bingo. I will make the cards myself by drawing the bingo grid on pieces of card stock. Where the free space should be, I will write in Eph 2:8. Instead of numbers in the other squares, I will write in names and terms related to the Reformation (Luther, Calvin, Knox, 95 Theses, Wittenberg, etc.).

4. Solus Christus (Christ alone): Rom 6:23
For this sola, the kids will decorate a cross-shaped cut-out with tissue paper squares in a variety of colors. They will glue the squares to the cut-out like a mosaic.

5. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone): 1 Cor 10:31
At this station, the kids will play a game of musical chairs. We will play Holly Dutton's The Westminster Shorter Catechism Songs, specifically the questions that relate to God's glory. I will also play a recording of A Mighty Fortress. If you do not have these cd's, any God-honoring music would do.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Word Problem Relay

Farewell Friday
The highlight of this week was the first Mathletes meeting. The kids completed a word problem "relay race" which was so much fun.

I divided them into 3 groups and gave them one word problem printed on a strip of card stock. When each team thought they had the correct answer, they wrote it on the paper and showed it to me. If they were correct, I gave them the next word problem. If they were not correct they kept trying until they found the answer. There were five word problems in all.

On each word problem card, I also wrote one letter of a clue word. I made sure to hand the cards out in an order that the word would be scrambled. Once all of the problems were solved and all cards obtained, they had to arrange the letters to spell the clue word. It was "piano" the place where I had hidden bags of candy for them.

Everyone worked furiously to solve their problems and felt well-rewarded when they found their goody bags under the piano bench. Who knew word problems could be so much fun and so rewarding?!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let's Go Krogering!

Thrifty Thursday

One of the biggest money savers for our family is the Kroger 1-2-3 Rewards Master Card. I earn 1 point per $1 spent anywhere Master Card is accepted. I earn 2 points per $1 spent at any Kroger store. I earn 3 points per $1 spent on Kroger brand items. For every 1000 points, I get a $10 rebate check that I may use toward future Kroger store purchases.

I used to be very hesitant about using credit cards. I always perceived them as a temptation to bite off more than I could chew. For the first few years we were married, Michael and I had one credit card that we kept in a safe so that we would only use it for true emergencies. We have learned, however, that as long as we spend carefully and pay in full each month, we can make our credit cards work for us.

At the end of each quarter, we receive rebate checks from Kroger. We always get at least $80 but have gotten as much as $120. Since we get these checks four times per year, our average rebate is $400 per year which is about 3 weeks worth of free groceries for us. This has worked better for us than other credit card rewards because I am Kroger-loyal and buy as much Kroger brand as possible, so the points really add up. Individual results would of course vary depending on the amount you charge per month and how often you go Krogering!

For more details, visit the customer service desk at your local Kroger store or go to

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harvest Time

Wisdom Wednesday

When we married, I thought that Michael and I would be expecting our first child by our first anniversary. Though we wanted a little time to enjoy being newlyweds, I could not wait to be a mom, especially a homeschool mom. After praying and hoping but only facing disappointment month after month, Michael and I accepted that the Lord had ordained a childless season for us and decided that I should take a teaching job for one year.

I was offered a job at a private Christian school. It would have been a great opportunity. I knew several of the families associated with the school. The facility was beautiful, and the faculty was a group of God-honoring people. It would have been a great place to teach. However, I just did not have a peace about accepting the position. I had that inexplicable feeling that there was somewhere else I belonged.

All through college, I had worked in the inner-city either completing practice teaching hours or in short-term mission work. That was where my heart was, and I knew that was where the Lord was calling me to teach. So, I signed an open contract with Memphis City Schools. A couple weeks later, I received a call from my principal (we’ll call him Mr. Smith) informing me that he wanted to interview me for a third grade teaching position at his school (we’ll call it Dilapidated Elementary School- DES for short).

DES was located only a mile from the Mississippi River, and my classroom was on the third floor of the school. The view from my room was incredible. I could see the Mighty Mississippi and the Hernando Desoto Bridge (Memphis’s iconic M-shaped bridge). The neighborhood surrounding the school, however, was not so lovely. DES serviced one of Memphis’s largest housing projects. Driving through the neighborhood to the school made my knees tremble. Seeing the school itself made me want to cry. It was almost 100 years old and was falling apart. Worst of all, there was no air conditioning. I don’t just mean no central air. There were no window units either, and if you have never experienced Memphis in August, let’s just say it gets hot!

I made it through the interview only to learn that it was merely a technicality. I had already been placed at DES and had no choice in the matter. I wanted to scream, cry, run… something, just not teach at this school. I called other principals in the system. Maybe one of them could convince Mr. Smith to drop me, and then I could teach at another school, an air-conditioned one. I come from a family of teachers and had contacts within other school systems call MCS and try to get me out of the contract. I discussed the matter with a friend who was a lawyer, but all to no avail. There was nothing I could do. I had signed the contract, and there was no getting out of it.

My faith wavered. Could I do it? Could I teach in sub-standard conditions? What about crime, gangs, drugs? Why didn’t I take the job at the nice, clean, AIR-CONDITIONED, CHRISTIAN school? But, I held to the promise of Php 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” and went to work at DES.

During the first week of school, my fears subsided, and my heart warmed toward the community. Then, I met a boy whom we will call Joe. We had club time every Friday, and he joined my science club. He was a good kid and a hard worker. One Sunday, I volunteered to serve at a local mission. I did not know where it was located when I originally volunteered and was shocked to learn it was around the corner from DES. I was even more surprised when I saw Joe there the morning I served. He was eight-years-old at the time and was responsible for walking his younger sister and cousin there each Sunday for what was their only hot meal on the weekend.

My friends, who had volunteered with me, and I sat down and talked with Joe. He ate his pancakes and scrambled eggs, thankful for a good meal. He assured us that Jesus is his Lord and that he was thankful for how God had provided for him and his family through the mission. Then he nearly broke my heart when he told me how thankful he was to have a teacher who cared enough to come and cook breakfast and how much he enjoyed being in my science club. That was the beginning of a very special friendship between us. He visited my classroom often, always wanting to talk about the Bible or how he could witness to his friends or better serve God.

I shudder when I think of how selfish I was. If you had asked me at that time to define "missions," I would have said reaching out to those around us, whomever we encounter, with the Gospel of Christ. But, when the rubber met the road, I was more concerned about air conditioning than I was the Gospel. Matt 9:37 says, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” How sorry I am that I almost missed taking part in that harvest because I was too concerned about creature comforts. How grateful I am for my infinitely wise God who sent me to DES to teach and in the process taught me a lesson I will never forget.

Homeschool Blog Awards

I want to give a special thank you to my friend, Christy, for nominating me for the Best New Homeschooling blog award.

I have nominated two super homeschool bloggers who have inspired me both as a homeschooler and as a blogger:

Counter-cultural School
for Best Super Homeschooler
Mercy Every Morning
for Best Cyber-Buddy Blogger

You have until the 24th to nominate your favorite blogs. There are links to both of my nominated blogs and to the Homeschool Blog Awards in my sidebar.

Have Fun!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Keeping Students Engaged

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Ben Franklin once said, "Tell me... I forget. Show me... I remember. Involve me... I learn." His life was a model of authentic learning. He wrote, performed, experimented, and invented, influencing the scientific thinking, writing, and politics of his day. Though he had many accomplishments in his lifetime, he is most widely remembered for his incurable curiosity and his hunger for learning. Although I won't be taking my boys outside during a thunderstorm, there is a nugget of wisdom in his educational philosophy that I try to exercise.

"Involve me." Sometimes that is such a daunting task. How do we involve our children in the learning process? Must we craft? Must we do every hands-on activity in the teacher's manual? Imho, no, we do not need a flurry of activity for our children to be productive learners. Instead, I try to follow four guidelines to teaching "authentically," which played out nicely in one of our favorite family projects, a Birdieland Government.

First, I try to develop units around the boys' interests. When introducing the government unit, I was careful not to say, "You are going to learn about the United States government." That was my goal for the unit. I wanted them to understand the founding of our nation and the basic workings of the government. However, I told them, "This six weeks you will create a new nation, one for your plush toy birds." Immediately, they were challenged, excited and ready to start!

Linking learning to students' interests does not mean teaching only the subjects they like. Bruster is Social Studies intolerant. As soon as I start to open up a history reader, his face glazes over; he has no intrinsic interest. I could, however, read from a science book all day, and he would be elated. While he completed this government project, though, he said that history was his favorite subject.

Secondly, I try to keep my students productive, doing and making instead of just receiving. There is a time to listen; it is a skill that must be developed. However, I much prefer for them to be active. Sometimes that means doing jumping jacks while stating math facts. Sometimes it means building a model. Other times it means responding to a listening cue. But mostly, it means working toward a challenge... researching, writing, planning, debating, experimenting, proposing, and enacting.

After I gave the boys the challenge of creating a new bird nation, they started researching. They had to read from many sources and answer questions like the following:

"What is a nation?"

"What form of government does the United States have?"

"What are the duties of the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court?"

Then, they had to make decisions and model their birdie government after ours. They were given the tasks of writing a Constitution, holding elections, and proposing bills that would be debated and voted upon. They gathered the birds and held sessions of Congress, keeping a record in the form of a journal. They made campaign posters and organized an election in which their homeschool friends participated. As they worked, they learned what I wanted them to learn, but accomplished what they wanted to accomplish.

I imagine what some of you are thinking right now. What about emerging or non-readers? How do I do this with kids too young to tackle this level of thinking? What about the multi-age dynamic of a homeschool? This leads to the third principle I try to follow... scaffolding. When my boys were younger, I did most of the work. I demonstrated how to read for knowledge, how to take notes, how to develop a good project. As they mature and gain more skills, I pass more and more of the responsibilities to them.

I also help them divide the work. One of the boys had more writing responsibilities because he is a more independent writer and better speller. The other had more design responsibilities because of his artistic talent. Allow each child to contribute according to his particular talents and abilities.

Also, as I hand over responsibilities, I try to keep my expectations reasonable. We do not want to have low expectations, but the driving force of authentic work is that it is the real product of the children and not the highly-polished work of an adult. Teachers often feel frustrated or give up on this approach because they fear that their students' work is inferior when, in reality, it is grade-appropriate.

Finally, I try to link learning to real-world problems. The Birdieland project is on-going. The boys continue to write bills to bring before their Bird House of Representatives to propose solutions to house-hold problems. They have created laws concerning cleaning schedules and taking turns choosing bedtime stories. They have also continued to add to the project as they progress through their history studies. Just recently, a new state, Ken-turkey, entered their union. There was much controversy over whether it should be admitted as a squirrel-labor state or a free-squirrel state. They had to devise a compromise, similar to the Missouri Compromise. Currently, the birds are on the brink of war concerning this issue. It is believed that the state, Cardinalville, is considering seceding. If this happens, newly elected President Cal Condor will have no choice but to send the toy soldiers there in an effort to save the union.

Following these principles has made our school a much more productive place. I encourage you to try incorporating them and see what happens. Start small. Think about what your children love the most and try to weave it into some aspect of your curriculum. Then think of a challenge you can give your children. Remember that it is okay if you have to take them by the hand and walk them through the first few projects. That is what you are there for. Over time, give them more and more responsibility and help them to make real-world connections. Your kids will enjoy the productivity, and you will love the results.

Need more ideas? Read my post for more authentic learning ideas.

Mathletes Are on the Move

Mathletes Mondays

I decided that my mathletes need a blog of their own, a little corner of cyberspace where they can meet and do their thing. Therefore, I have started a new blog where I will post the weekly problems and hints on Mondays and solutions on Fridays.

Everyone is welcome to visit and try the weekly challenge, if you dare, but I ask that no one post any solutions other than me. Please be mindful of this when commenting. Come on over and check it out:

I have also posted a link in my sidebar.

To replace Mathletes Mondays, I have chosen a new theme for this blog:

Milestone Mondays

Is your interest piqued? If so, come back and visit next Monday when I will reveal more about this new topic.

Have a great week and stop by tomorrow for Teaching Tip Tuesday!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Farewell Friday

My Week of Planning
Ah... another week comes to an end.

I have enjoyed a break from my normal routine but have been hard at work lesson planning. This week I finished my plans for Social Studies. We will focus on the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion when school resumes in one week. It looks like it will be a fun unit, and hopefully over the next seven weeks, I will be able to share some of the best activities on Teaching Tip Tuesdays. For now, I want to share two teaching kits that were extremely helpful in my planning this week.

I ordered Living Long Ago from (type in keywords "social studies resource boxes). Lakeshore offers a number of fabulous manipulatives, hands-ons supplies, and resources that will allow you to take your existing curriculum and make it pop. They have products for all core subjects. On the downside, they are a little pricey, but I find it worth the cost and splurge each year on a couple of new resources. Also, their products are not specifically designed to promote a Christian world view. However, I have never encountered anything contradictory either. Though I exercise caution when considering readers, their hands-ons materials are, imho, exemplary.

The LLA kit contains activity cards and a guide book, picture cards, writing prompts, time-period doll clothes, and a model Conestoga wagon. My boys have already dressed their "Piggy" as the frontiersman. We are still searching for a wife who will fit into the dress! LOL!

Pioneer Piggy and the Living Long Ago Resources

I also purchased Exploring Primary Sources: The Western Frontier in the 1800's from This kit contains thirty-six picture cards depicting events and issues of the westward movement. The back of each card contains a thought-provoking narrative. It also provides questions and prompts for thinking and discussion. For example, "Sodbusters" (pictured below), asks, "How do you think the people in this drawing feel about their lives on the prairie?" It also challenges them to describe this family's daily life: What type of work did they accomplish each day? Where did they get supplies?

I hope you have all enjoyed your week. I have mine. I look forward to another week together. Now I'm off to lesson plan some more.

Your Bloggy Friend,

Homeschool Dawn

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yearly Photographs

Thrifty Thursday
Today, I took the boys to a local nature center/botanical gardens/butterfly garden and took several shots. Using natural settings makes for a great background. My Thrifty Thursday tip: Find a spot you love and take a variety of photographs.

I will use a service like to edit and enhance these pictures and will only have to order the ones I want, avoiding sitting fees, expensive packages, and the frustrations that accompany going to the photographer.

Here are some of the photos I took today:

I got a nice shot of a butterfly, too!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day of Remembrance

In Memory of My Babies
My First Little One: Miscarried at 12 weeks, June 1997
My Second Little One: Miscarried at 8 weeks, February 1998
Though I never had the chance to hold these babies,
I rejoice that they are securely in the Lord's arms.
I look forward to the day I will meet them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why Homeschool Dawn?

Wisdom Wednesday

My pastor preached from 1 Cor 12:1-3 last week. It says, "Now, brothers, I want you to understand about spiritual gifts. You remember the lives you lived before you were believers. You were influenced and led away to worship idols- things that have no life. So I tell you that no one who is speaking with the help of God's Spirit says, 'Jesus be cursed.' And no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' without the help of the Spirit." This sermon took me back in time and caused me to reflect on my first year of college when I first studied this chapter of scripture and the spiritual gifts.

I had entered college with a head full of dreams, all fueled by feminist ideals. I was sure that I was smart, strong, and capable… able to do whatever I set my mind to do.

I was close to giving up on the church. I had tired of what I perceived to be hypocrisy among my fellow church-goers. Truthfully, I was a good kid, even a good teen. While others were partying, I was studying. My life was built upon my merit, and I was doing a pretty good job. Or, so I thought.

After only a few days on campus, I attended a party at the Baptist Student Union. I made some good, life-long friends that night (one of them is my husband!) and soon found myself doing things I was on the verge of disavowing. I attended everything the BSU offered, especially Bible studies.

Soon, I decided I should have a daily quiet time. I wasn't sure where to start but I had always heard "Romans this and that" in church and so I decided to begin my personal study there. I opened to chapter one and read, "People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God, so He left them…. They are filled with every kind of sin…." As I read those words, I thought, "That's right! People are so wrong. How dare they!"

Then I began chapter two. "If you think that you can judge others, then you are wrong. You too are guilty of sin. You judge people, but you do the same bad things they do. So when you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty." At that moment, it was as if a "spiritual mirror" were held up to my face. I had to take a long, hard look at the real me and I did not like what I saw. I was covered in sin. I was guilty. I had a hard, prideful, judgmental heart and thought of myself as the master of my destiny. I was guilty of self-serving idolatry.

I continued reading. I could not stop. Through teary eyes, I read chapter after chapter, realizing that I was wretched and yet Christ died for me. The weight of conviction brought me to my knees and I could do nothing else but call out to God, knowing that Jesus had paid the price for my sins on the cross. By the work of the Spirit and the Word, that was the first time I was able to confess that I am a sinner and that Jesus is Lord and truly mean it. It was that night that I felt the relief of true forgiveness. I knew I was redeemed and I knew that I was forever changed.
I truly was changed. The more I studied the Bible, the more I fell in love my Savior. My feminist heart began to melt. I longed to please the Lord with every aspect of my life, including my studies. It was through the study on the spiritual gifts that I mentioned earlier in this post that I recognized I had been gifted as a teacher and changed my major to education. The girl who had wanted a career now wanted to work in inner-city missions and schools and hoped one day to homeschool her children.

I couldn't help but reflect on these events as my pastor preached Sunday. He asked the question (this is my paraphrase), "Why did Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit begin the chapter on spiritual gifts with talk of former lives and being idolaters?" As he asked that question, the testimony I have just shared played in my mind. The answer was obvious to me. It is because that is who we are. In and of ourselves, we are idolaters and are incapable of saying, "Jesus is Lord." Similarly, as the name implies, spiritual gifts are just that… gifts. We did not make, merit, or choose them. They are freely given to Christians by the Spirit to accomplish God's work and not our own.

So, as you read my blog and see my particular gifts in action, join with me in giving glory to God. If He had chosen to leave me to my vices, there would be no Home School Dawn. I would be off chasing after the wind, completely unaware of how doomed I would be. Instead, by His grace and for His glory, I am His "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for (me) to do." Eph 2:10
To God be the glory.

Little Pilgrim's Progress

Teaching-Tip Tuesday
This book is an adaptation of John Bunyan's classic. It is written with children in mind but does not water down the rich lessons contained in the original.

Similar to Bunyan's original allegory, in Little Pilgrim's Progress the main character, Little Christian, learns the truth of his present condition, must pass through the Wicket Gate and lose his burden at the cross. He receives clothes of righteousness and shiny armor. He then embarks on a journey toward the Celestial City, encountering the enemy, temptations, and trials.

As we have read and journeyed with him, we have been encouraged and challenged. I highly recommend this read for every family. Even if you do not homeschool, I would encourage you to read this book as a family. The chapters are very short but jam-packed with truth. You could easily read one chapter at dinner or a couple chapters each Saturday.

We begin each day with a vocabulary lesson (see my post "Teaching Vocabulary" for details). The first week I included the word "burden." For the first ten chapters, Little Christian carries a terrible burden. To bring this to life, I packed two book bags with encyclopedias and placed them in the dinning room. After our vocab lesson, I instructed them to get the bags and carry them to the classroom (opposite end of the house). When our reading was over, they had to carry the bags back to the spot in the dinning room. We then discussed the weight of our sin and relief that true repentance brings. They had to repeat this activity everyday until Little Christian reaches the cross and loses his burden in Chapter Eleven.

Carrying Their Burdens
Each day we only read one chapter. We then read a related scripture passage. For example, after reading the chapter "Little Christian Comes to the Cross," we read the account of the crucifixion. Other topics we have covered include, laziness, idle talk, temptation, trust, trials, and humility.

Each Friday, we do not read a new chapter but instead map Little Christian's journey. The boys color a picture that represents one story event on a 2"x 2" square of white card stock. I paste their drawings to a large sheet of construction paper, and we draw in a path and add captions.

Our Little Pilgrim's Progress Map

I have carefully selected about 5 vocabulary words per chapter. Comprehension is increased considerably when vocabulary is discussed before reading. I have completed 35 chapters and am willing to share these lists as well as the scripture references for each chapter with any one who is interested. I have also placed this book on my Shelfari for those of you interested in buying a copy. God bless.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Format

I started this blog thinking that I would only journal our school work. However, as more and more of you visit and comment (or send me e-mails), I am developing a heart for building a community. I long for my blog to be a place where you will be inspired to work as unto the Lord, find encouragement, and most importantly develop edifying online friendships. I pray that as I write and you comment, we will have an "iron sharpening iron" effect on each other.

So, to bring more order and to develop that community, I am going to try a new format. Each day, I will write on these designated topics:

Mathletes Mondays- This is for my team. Visit each week to receive feedback and hints.

Teaching Tip Tuesdays- I come from a long line of teachers and have been in the business myself for over 15 years. I will pull one of my best tricks out of my hat and share it with you. I hope to hear back from you. Do you have a related idea to share? Have you tried my tip? If so, how did it work?

Wisdom Wednesdays- This is a time for encouragement. I will share my reflections and life-lessons as they relate to my growth in Christ.

Thrifty Thursdays- All of us stay-at-home moms have to be resourceful and frugal. Making a one-salary income stretch in our two-income society is a challenge. As the wife of a dedicated teacher, I know first-hand the challenges of living simply and frugally. I will share my best strategies and want to hear yours. May we encourage one another to keep our hearts turned toward home and our eyes turned from the things of the world.

Farewell Fridays- This will be a time for me to reflect on the week. I may post some school work. I may share what not to do... sometimes my ideas blow up in my face! Whatever I choose to share, it will be light-hearted and fun.

For the next two weeks, I am dedicated to posting each day and seeing how this format goes. After that, school will be back in session for us and I may not be able to post every day. But as I perform this blogging "experiment" feel free to question, comment, and share. God bless.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mathletes Week 4

Everyone did a terrific job last week. Team members BH, DS, AS, CS, and JW found the correct answer and completed the bonus work. Team members AC and MC found an alternate solution to the problem. WOOT!! Way to go team!

Last week's challenge was a multi-step word problem. You will encounter many of these in the Olympiad. Since everyone found the correct answer and since I intend to devote a good portion of our first meeting to these types of problems, I won't post any details here. I will just give the hint to this week's problem and let you guys get to work.

Think about last week's bonus work.

Keep up the good work!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Trail of Tears

BT chose to paint a landscape depicting the Trail of Tears for his art project. First, we discussed the mood of the picture. He decided to use greys, blues, and browns to project the sadness of the event. He used roller brushes to blend the colors of his background.

He allowed his background to dry thoroughly, and we discussed the foreground. He decided that people are too difficult to paint and he might ruin his work if he attempted that. So, he decide to paint a wagon train instead. We discussed perspective, and he attempted to paint the wagons in different sizes to give the painting depth. He decided as a final touch to dot the ground with blue paint... a symbol of the tears shed along the way.

Remember the Alamo

The boys studied the 1830's and 1840's this six weeks. Bruster chose to create a model of the Alamo for his art project. We started with a tri-fold project board with ghost lines. I bought ours at WalMart. We looked at pictures of the Alamo online to decide how to trace the outline of the model onto the board.

Then, I used a razor knife to cut out the model.

Bruster applied a base coat of paint. He used a roller brush to apply a thin coat of light beige. Then, he used larger brushes to wisp in brown, light grey, and white. He then used the roller to smooth in the layers of color. As he painted, we discussed the people and events of the Alamo, a review of his studies.

After the paint dried, he used an ultra-thin brush to paint in details with black paint. Here he is peaking through the door. He was excited to be the Boy in the Alamo, his favorite read this six weeks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Teaching Vocabulary

I have employed a teaching strategy for vocabulary enhancement this year from which I am getting really good results. This is not a part of any particular curriculum but is a hodge-podge of ideas I have picked up over the years and meshed together.
First, I select a set of vocabulary words for each week. I choose around 20 words in all from our current literature study, science, and social studies.
On Monday, I introduce the words through pictures. This could be done in a variety of ways, but I find public domain pictures online, save them to a file, and create a power point slide show.
The following are pictures used to define comfort, shabby, vexed, and pliable:

The boys and I discuss each picture. I ask a lot of probing questions.
For example, "Why is the woman holding the person in the first picture?"
"Would you want to live in the house in the second picture? Why not?"
"What do you think just happened to Mickey Mouse?"
"Would you enjoy touching the material in the fourth picture? Why or why not?"
Then we state a simple definition in kid language.
We defined comfort as "helping someone feel better."
Shabby was defined as "in need of repairs... many, many repairs."
The boys said that if someone is vexed, he is "so upset he can't stand it!"
Pliable was "easily molded or shaped."
After stating a definition, I play the power point through once more, having the boys read the words as it plays.
On Tuesday, I show the power point pictures one at a time. I create these so that I can reveal the word after the picture is shown. If you have the 2007 version, you do this by custom animating it. If you do not have power point, you can use picture cards, or save the pictures as a file on your computer, like you would family pix. They can be deleted at the end of a unit. As I show each picture I have the boys state the word and define it verbally.
On Wednesday, I have the boys write a meaningful sentence for 5 words. To do this, I first have them create an idea chart for each word. Here is the table I use:
After the chart is complete, each boy composes his own "meaningful sentence" for each word. A meaningful sentence is one in which the vocabulary word could not be replaced by anything other than a synonym and still make sense.
For instance, The house is shabby. is not a meaningful sentence. I could replace shabby with old, beautiful, green, any number of adjectives. However, the sentence The potter added water to the clay on his wheel so it would be soft and pliable for making a beautiful vase. is rich with defining context.
The first year I attempted this, I did most of the writing. As the boys became more and more competent, I handed over more and more of the writing responsibilities.
Also, at first, children tend to write run-ons with this method. The key to success is constant evaluation and feedback. I have an editing session with my boys as soon as they finish writing and discuss improvements that could be made each week.
On Thursday, the boys share their meaningful sentences with each other and offer feedback. We also review all the words using the power point one last time.
On Friday, I give them a quiz. I write the words for the week on the board. For each word, I give a synonym, a definition, or a meaningful sentence, saying "blank" in place of the vocab word. I do this verbally, and they write their answers on notebook paper.
At the end of six weeks, I give a cumulative test. For this, I test them individually. I give them the word, and they give me a synonym for 1 point, a definition for 2, or a meaningful sentence for 3 points. 50 points equals $0.25 in extra allowance.
This system has worked so well, that my boys notice their vocab being used everywhere. They even listen for times that our Pastor uses a word they have learned in his sermons! It does take some effort on Mom's part but is worth the effort if you stick with it.

I've Been Tagged!

A friend of mine "tagged" me to tell 7 random things about myself then ask 7 others to do the same thing, so here it goes:

1. My first job was at Burger King. I have also worked as a camp counselor, a radio DJ, an assistant librarian, a children's director at a church and as a music, a preschool, and a public school teacher. However, my favorite job of all is being a homeschool mom.

2. I am a birdwatcher. I used to think this was an odd hobby, kind of like I used to think homeschooling is a little odd. I started watching birds with my boys as a part of their science study last year and fell in love with it.

3. My dream vacation is a trip to France. However, that is changing as BT is studying Japanese and developing a heart for that nation. We have an opportunity to visit, if we can save the money for the flight, but...

4. I am terrified of flying. This is a pre-existing condition and did not develop on 9-11. My dad traveled weekly with his job when I was in middle school, raking up tons of frequent flyer miles. Consequently, we took many trips by plane, and I always left indentations on the arm rests of my seat from nervously grabbing hold of them.

5. My favorite flowers are sunflowers. They remind me of my Mamaw's garden.

6. My least favorite duty as a mom is cleaning. It is the only duty that I truly do not like. However, I like for my house to be spotless. I'm contemplating a post on this topic.

7. I love to swim. I would stay in the pool all day if I could.

That's seven things about me. Thanks, Christy, I enjoyed this. I will now go tag seven of my friends.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happy Birthday BT!

Posted by Picasa
Watching you grow has been one of life's greatest joys.
May the Lord bless you,
keep you,
and make you a man after His own heart.
I count it an honor to be called your mother.
I love you dearly.
Happy Birthday!

Mathletes Week 3

Hi Team. Last week's problem was a real challenge. Here is the explanation of one good way to solve it.
1. The problem states that there are 15 houses on Mr. Sullivan's street, so I drew a picture of them2. Pick a starting point. I always like to start at the beginning so I don't get confused, so I'll pick house no. 1. If Mr. Sullivan lives in house 1, then the total I get by adding the house numbers before his = 0. There are no house in front. I cannot add together any house numbers after his and get the answer of 0; therefore, Mr. Sullivan cannot live in house 1.

3. Try house no. 2. I put the rooftop on no. 2 to help me remember that's where I think Mr. Sullivan might live. If I add the house numbers before his, the total = 1. Once again, there is no way to get a total of 1 by adding the houses after no. 2, so Mr. Sullivan cannot live in house no. 2.

4. Now I try house no. 3. The total by adding the house numbers before his is 3. 1+2=3. I cannot get a sum of 3 by adding the houses after his, so he cannot live in house no. 3.

5. I try house no. 4. The total of the house numbers before his is now 6. The sum of the next 2 houses after his is 11 (5+6=11). He does not live in house number 4.

6. I try house no. 5. Once again the sum of the houses before his does not equal the sum of the houses after his.

7. Now I try house no. 6. The sum of the houses before his is 15 (1+2+3+4+5=15). The sum of the next 2 houses after his is 15 (7+8=15). EGAD! I have found the answer. Mr. Sullivan lives in house number six. But wait! The question does not ask for his house number, but for the number of houses on the street. Since I added house numbers 7 and 8 together, I know that the last house on the street is number 8. There are 8 houses on Mr. Sullivan's street.

Now to this week's hint:

1. Find the amount that Ryan paid.

2. If the magazine costs twice as much as the book, it counts as 2 portions of the cost. There are 3 books which make up 3 portions of the cost. Together they make up 5 portions of the cost.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fall Is Here!

My favorite time of the year has arrived. Fall means so many things to me.

It's a time to celebrate. Both of my children were born in the fall, so it's a time to open presents, to eat cake, and to think back on two of the most special days of my life.

It's a time of beauty. The trees begin to change colors, painting the earth in beautiful tones of red, gold, and orange. God's glory is once again demonstrated through the beauty of his creation.

It's a time of harvest. Pumpkins, squash, apples, corn... It's a time for soups, pies, breads, and preserves. It's a time of abundance and preparation, knowing that it is the Lord who gives us our daily bread.

It's a time to remember. We remember God's goodness to his church on Reformation Day and Thanksgiving Day. What a privilege to celebrate the blessings of serving our mighty God who lovingly cares for us, his people. What a privilege to follow the traditions of our God-honoring forefathers in reflecting on His sovereignty, providence, and provision.

It's a time to cool down. We get to enjoy a break from the heat and humidity, especially here in the deep south. We get to spend more time outdoors, playing, picnicking, and watching the birds migrate. I get to wear my favorite clothes and favorite colors.

It's a time for fun. Soccer season for the boys, the World Series for Michael, festivals, hayrides, bobbing for apples... all make fall a special time for us.

Is fall a special time for you? If so, take a moment to share with us. Leave a comment about why you enjoy the fall and answer the poll in my side bar.