Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Home Work

If you read my title, you probably think I am about to dole out an opinion on the amount of work children should bring home from school. Or maybe some advice about how to get your children to work independently. However, this post is about something far more interesting... the TOS publication, Home Work: Juggling Home, Work, and School without Losing Your Balance.

This e-book, available for download at the TOS Magazine Schoolhouse Store for $12.45, is a compilation of stories chronicling the adventures of homeschooling families who manage home businesses. A variety of business ideas are highlighted, everything from sewing to printing to computer-based businesses... and more. Each family has a different purpose for their business and a different style of management. Each family is also very honest about the obstacles they have faced and the challenges they must meet daily. They also offer wisdom and practical advise on starting a business, including the children in the process, scheduling work and school, and keeping your eyes on the Lord in the midst of it all.

My only criticism is that I found some chapters much more interesting than others. I believe this is because some of the businesses did not appeal to me as much as others. However, that is what gives this e-book so much potential. What did not interest me, may interest you. What works for some families featured in the e-book, does not work for others. There are a variety of ideas and organizational systems to glean from. You can treat the book like a buffet and pick and choose ideas that will meet the needs of your family.

In my opinion, the final two chapters are the most helpful. Carol Topp, the Homeschool CPA, explains how to keep the finances of a home business organized. She offers advice on record keeping, even providing a sample bookkeeping system. Katy Dawn suggests ways to keep everything organized. She leads the reader through a system of prioritizing, scheduling, planning, and setting the stage for success. I found her chapter helpful even though I have no plans of starting a home-based business and will use some of her suggestions for my home classroom.

This is a little longer e-book with 95 pages. If you like to print a hard copy of your e-books, be sure to take that into consideration. The book was easy to buy and download. I did not experience any technical problems, and there was no shipping to pay.

If you are looking for seasoned home-business advice or organization ideas for your homeschool, click here and get busy with Home Work.

We love WeE-books!

John Donne wrote that "no man is an island". However, in the midst of a busy homeschool day, I sometimes feel like the opposite is true. When I taught at an elementary school, if I had a difficult day, I could visit the seasoned, veteran teacher across the hall and glean wisdom from her years of experience. However, at home, there is no one across the hall to listen and offer advice. We homeschoolers have conventions and support group meetings, but they are few and far between. Where is a homeschool mom to turn when she needs help... now?!

TOS Magazine's Schoolhouse Store has the solution, the WeE-book series. This "mini-digital package" offers a selection of thirty different "bite-sized" e-books, each covering a different topic of interest to the homeschool mom. Each e-book is authored by a recognized homeschool expert and lets you "cross the hall" and receive encouragement and advice from Dr. Ruth Beechick, Carol Topp, and Jeannie Fulbright, just to name a few.

Each e-book is written to encourage excellence in homeschooling but is not dry or filled with jargon. The advice is edifying, Bible-based, and applicable. Plus, they are called "WeE-books" for a reason. Each book contains about 20 pages, a quick, easy read... perfect for the busy homeschooling mom.

I have read three books in the collection to date.

Missing in Action or Mentoring in Action, written by Jeannie Fulbright, encourages us to be sensitive to the Lord's leading in the matter of mentoring other moms. She explains that mentoring does not have to be a taxing commitment. Instead, she exhorts us to mentor in "snippets", sprinkling a little salt here and there as the Lord brings others into our lives.

Reading Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking by Dr. Ruth Beechick encouraged me to take a "Home Style" approach to developing mathematical reasoning and problem solving skills in my children. She explains how to make abstract concepts more accessible to concrete thinkers and offers great, easy-to-implement ideas.

Writers Workshop: Getting Children Excited about Writing by Maggie Hogan is my favorite of the three. In our homeschool, we dedicate a few hours per week to a writers workshop time and have experienced great results. For those unfamiliar with the program, this WeE-book explains how the workshop is organized and how to implement it. The information is very well organized and offers several ideas for getting started, involving the entire family, and ensuring success.

Each WeE-book costs $1.95, very affordable. Other topics covered include Classical Education, Beating the Summertime Blues, and The "Me Time" Myth... just to name a few. They are easy to download and will not be expensive to print if you want to organize them in a binder. In fact, to help you organize your collection, you can also download WeE-book Binder Covers for free. Plus, you will never pay shipping. Each book also includes suggested resources if you want to read more on the topic and a page with advice on getting started in homeschool.

The WeE-book collection offers a lot of bang for the buck (plus 95 cents). If you are ready to leave your island, click here and sail over to the TOS Magazine Schoolhouse Store to begin your WeE-book collection today.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

My sons participated in the Youth Birding Competition last weekend. We had an eventful twenty-four hours and drove to several prime "birding spots" in our state. One of our stops was a wildlife refuge where red-cockaded woodpeckers have nested. Three years ago, before my sons began bird watching, I barely knew what a woodpecker was. In fact, what little knowledge I had came from Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Thanks to my sons, however, I now know that these particular birds are very rare in our state and can only be found in a few select spots.

While we walked down the "Red-cockaded Trail" in search of this unique bird, we kept coming across large amounts of what appeared to be dung. Gross, I know, but stay with me.

At first, my boys were curious....

"What are those?"

"How did they get there?"

Then they acted like boys....



Finally, they began to speculate....

"Did bears do that?"

I assured them there were no bears, and we continued the trek. Eventually, they did hear and identify a red-cockaded... very cool and worth the effort. However, as we left the foot trail and stepped onto the paved road that led to our parking place, we heard a very loud, very deep, very disconcerting animal sound. This call was definitely not a bird's. My "there-are-no-bears-in-these-woods" conviction began to waver.

We cautiously walked farther up the hill until the parking lot came into sight. The car was completely surrounded by cows! My immediate response was relief that there were indeed no bears. Then I wondered why there were cows in the middle of the forest and how we were going to maneuver around the herd and get in the car. Orville, on the other hand, had a different thought....

Orville, Wilbur and Teammates "Mooing" at the Cows

He looked at me with a huge smile on his face and said in all seriousness and with great joy, "Oh! That's what those were... cow patties! That is what the pioneers burned for their campfires while on the Oregon Trail! Mom, can we burn one so we can better understand what life was like on the Trail?"

Although I admit that would be true experiential learning, even I, the OLIVE-with-an-E-for-Experiential mom, had to say "NO WAY!" to that request.

The cows eventually moved away from the car.

Goodbye Cows! When I said "experiential", you were not exactly what I had in mind!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Audubon Plush Toys and Tree Display

When I posted pictures of the remodeled classroom, I received comments/questions about the bird tree pictured. For all of you who wondered, here is the story.

Three years ago, we completed Apologia's elementary science unit, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day by Jeannie Fulbright. This excellent study piqued my boys' interest in nature in general but particularly in birds. Around the same time we began the study, our good friends, Molly at Counter-cultural Mom/School and her sons K and C, wanted to participate in a 24-hour bird-watching event. They needed two partners, and my boys fit the bill. We joined forces and have been birding buddies ever since.

To prepare for this event, I needed as many age-appropriate resources as possible to engage my boys in the process of bird identification. Paying close attention to the many details that distinguish one bird from another was a challenge for boys who were only five and six at the time. Molly found Audubon plush toy birds and passed the idea on to me. They are accurately designed and contain a sound chip that plays a recording of the bird's song or call when the plushie is squeezed. Michael and I bought a few of the birds for our boys as birthday and Christmas presents. They loved them and soon their collection began to grow as did their knowledge of birds.

Over time, the bird collection became an extension of our family. Orville and Wilbur have named each bird and assigned it a birth date. Many of the birds have married and are the parents of other birds. Last year, I integrated the birds into our study of government. The boys created four states for the nation of "Birdieland" and wrote a Constitution for their nation of birds. The birds held "elections" and have a president, vice president, members of Congress and a Supreme Court. You can read more about our government project here.

To get our money's worth, Michael and I now have the boys work for their birds. They still get new plushies as presents from time-to-time but also complete special chores and earn "mommy money" for school assignments and grades to use toward purchasing them. To ensure that they work extra hard and that Michael and I don't go broke, items in the "mommy store" cost twice what we actually pay for them. So the plush toy birds that we bought for $8 each cost $16 each in the "mommy store".

At the beginning of the last school year, they had collected about 60 birds, and we needed a good place to store them. They wanted a display tree. It sells for $160 plus shipping (about $180 total), a big stretch for our budget. We decided to take advantage of their motivation and teach the boys how to set a larger financial goal and save for it. We continued to "pay" them for chores and school assignments with "mommy dollars" (I know. I know. Some say never pay for chores. But I say they have to earn the money somehow.) Meanwhile, Michael and I put 20 real dollars into our real savings account each month. They had to save $360 "mommy dollars" to pay for the tree. It took them the entire school year to accomplish this which gave Michael and me nine months to save $180.

The boys were thrilled when they were allowed to reap the reward of nine months of hard work. They really learned the value of a dollar, at least a "mommy dollar". We have a lovely way to organize the family, er... collection, and the tree really adds a nice touch to our classroom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
1 Pet 1:3
Blessings from our family
to yours
as we celebrate our Risen Savior!
Happy Resurrection Day

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Cubby Hole

The next remodeled room I would like to reveal is the one we affectionately refer to as the "cubby hole". It is the smallest room in our house... perhaps in the USA. Surprisingly, we have been able to cram a lot into it.

Before the remodel it served as our classroom. You can see in the picture below how I used every spare millimeter of this room.

While planning for the remodel, we decided that since everything had to be moved anyway, we would switch the boys' bedroom and the classroom. We needed the bigger space for school, and all the boys do in their bedroom is sleep. Why give such a large portion of our square footage to that?

After two new windows, a new ceiling fan, refinished floors, and a new coat of paint (Color Place "Country White"), the cubby hole is a nice cozy place for two sleepy boys to get some shut eye.