Monthly Archives: August 2011

TOS Crew: How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids

Here it is (drum roll), the first review of the year for the TOS Homeschool Crew!

(If you say, “Last but not least,” is there a corresponding “First, but not — ?”) I’m glad to say that this first review is appropriately first. Since I seem to be beset with cliches, I should say next, “First things first,” which could be a paraphrase of Matthew 6:33, come to think of it. (“Seek ye first…” — can you finish the quote?)

I’m glad to have read How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids before starting off this school year. Reading the book is having a heart-to-heart talk with the author, Rachael Carman, owner (with her husband) of Apologia Ministries and Apologia Press. She starts out by giving her background story, which helps you to get to know where she’s coming from, and why she wrote this book. The remaining chapters spell out the acronym found in the title: Each letter stands for a concept, a part in a whole, where the aim is not only getting to know your children better, but to love them as the Lord would have you. To be precise:

H – Have a Heart for the Things of God
E – Enrich Your Marriage
A – Accept Your Kids
R – Release Them to God
T – Teach Them the Truth

Through a series of anecdotes and exhortations, she gently leads you through each topic. Appropriately, she starts with your own relationship with God, then moves the focus to your relationship with your husband, before talking about you and your children. It’s important to have that foundation in place! If you’re not “right with God” then nothing is going to be right in your life, for starters.

I often found myself nodding as I read along, encouraged and challenged by turns. I have to warn you, there were places where I was reduced to tears, where I was brought to a place where I could see my shortcomings, where I’d stumbled, or been lazy or careless and needed to gird up my loins, in a manner of speaking, and get to work. In some ways, this little book (it really is little, only 5″ x 7″ in dimension, and 205 pages) is easy to read, and in others it’s not. It is well worth the effort, however, and I encourage you to make the investment. I’m sure you’ll find it to be time well spent.

How well do you really know your kids? You just might be surprised.

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids is available in hardcover format from Apologia Press for $13. Click on the link to read a summary of the book, see the Table of Contents and a sample chapter, or order the book.

Click here to read other TOS Homeschool Crew reviews of this book.

Disclaimer: Apologia Press provided our family with a free copy of this book for review purposes. No other compensation was provided.


…did you start school this week?

Or are you still savoring the waning days of summer?

We got our oil changed yesterday. The tech happened to mention that his dad had told him we hadn’t had a summer like this since ’54. (Cold, late spring, cool summer, only two days above 90 degrees.)

I asked him what kind of winter had followed that summer. He got this thoughtful look on his face, and then answered. Cold. Lots of snow.

I got this feeling, like in The Long Winter (one of the Little House books), the chapter where the old Indian (that’s the term used in the book, I know the PC term) walks into the store to warn the little pioneer community of the severity of the winter to come. Hmmm. Heap big snow, eh?

Perhaps it’s time to lay in the supplies for the winter.

What essentials do you plan to (or maybe already have started to ) stock up on?

Lego Creativity Contest

This one’s for home educators as well as public and private schools.

Here’s the link to the homeschool registration page. The contest sign-ups started August 1, and I’m not sure what kind of response there’s been so far, but LEGO was promising a free Smart Kit to the first 2,000 registrants.

From the LEGO webpage:

Welcome to the 2011 LEGO® Smart Creativity Contest!

The LEGO® Smart Creativity Contest is all about creativity, innovation, and hands-on learning! We want you to think beyond the books and focus on the power of the brick!

In 150 seconds or less, we challenge you to:
Show us how you use
LEGO Education solutions
to spark student innovation!

Whether you capture student innovation in the form of a LEGO-inspired animation, student-produced skit, or by performing an original song that plays tribute to the creativity of the LEGO brick, we challenge you to be creative and let that innovative spirit shine!

Back from camping!

We had a wonderful time, camping next to the ocean, lulled to sleep by the roaring waves each night (and yes, they certainly did seem to shout without end). It’ll be hard to fall asleep tonight in the relative silence!

I’m glad to be back in a bed, however, and not fighting for space on an air mattress. (It’s easy to keep the dog off the bed, but not so easy with an air mattress that’s less than a foot off the ground. Yes, we took the dog camping with us this time. Next time? Well, that’s a subject for debate.)

It’s late, and I need to go to bed. I stayed up way too late last night, scanning the sky for meteors. I had seen three the night before, plus a satellite or two, but nothing last night, although someone else saw two.

No meteors in store for me tonight, unless perhaps I dream them.

Good night!

A non-homeschooler weighs in on socialization

Interesting opinion piece here:

Village Idiot: Home sweet homeschooling

(at least, I don’t think he’s a homeschooler, just an adult giving an outside perspective, from the tone)

I admit, the title is what first caught my eye. 🙂

He expresses some reservations about unschooling, but before you go off in a huff, read the comments section on the post, left by unschoolers whose results tempt me to chuck the curriculum and follow their lead… (I’m not confident enough to do that, so we do an eclectic mix of co-op classes and individual delight-directed learning.)

Perhaps someone ought to recommend some thought-provoking reading to him, such as Homeschooling for Excellence by the Colfaxes. It was in reading that book, very early on in our homeschooling journey, that I found encouragement, even though we’re not unschoolers building a homestead on a mountain. (Sometimes I’ve wished we were.)

I know some amazing unschoolers, and I hope the author meets some as well, and is encouraged to write an update to his opinion piece.

Raising daughters: quotable quote

I’ve been reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. In some ways it’s an easy read; her style is engaging, filled with anecdotes, information and statistics she’s gathered in her research, and just enough wry humor.

In other ways it’s uncomfortable reading for me — not the topic, which is the way our daughters are being shaped by the culture, or the sexual references that sprinkle the book (not surprisingly, as it is a book about our culture, and our culture is not just sprinkled with such references, more like heavily frosted with sprinkles on top) — but because we are somewhat different in our approach to life. Just one example: our approach to healthy sexuality. She expresses hopes that her daughter will experience premarital sex. Seek it out, even. Explore it, before settling down to a committed relationship. (I think she even used the term marriage, though I’ve lost the page marker.)

We agree on at least one point: We’re mothers, trying to guide our daughters on their journey to adulthood, wanting what’s best for them, what will make them strong, individual (able to think for themselves), fulfilled women doing what they love, making wise choices, and dare I say, making their corner of the world a better place. (We agree on a lot more points; we find many of the same things appalling, and we’ve made a number of the same choices in raising our daughters, even though we come from opposite worldview corners. However, the touchstone for this post is that we are both concerned moms.)

It’s been a sometimes dizzying tour of the Princess culture, pinkishness (I didn’t know that “pink” and “blue” as baby colors came about in the early 1900, and that “pink” started out as a masculine color), advertising and marketing, bewildering choices, femininity and feminism, and, where I’m currently reading, social media.

In the latest chapter (I still have a few pages to go) I stumbled across a real gem, succinct enough to share, and nicely summing up the previous 181 pages:

We have only so much control over the images and products to which they are exposed, and even that will diminish over time. It is strategic, then — absolutely vital — to think through our own values and limits early, to consider what we approve or disapprove of and why.

I alternate between wanting to read this with our daughters, to drawing back when I stumble over an explicit term. What I may end up doing is reading parts aloud to them. I’m not comfortable just handing this book over to our teens, though the message in the book is definitely worth pondering. How to raise our daughters in this culture that would trivialize them, tying their identity to shallow surface things: how they look, what they buy? That is the question.

Nitpicking in general and Les Mis in particular

I am a nitpicker. There, I’ve admitted it. It’s funny, because I’m not good at details. I mean, my memory consists of general impressions, emotional responses, and odd, random facts floating for the most part aimlessly.

I am good, however, at noticing details that I find annoying. (Maybe that’s not such a unique trait.)

We were privileged to see Les Misérables over the weekend, with the 25th anniversary touring company. It was a thrill, because while we’d been planning for years to see it with the girls, since seeing it nearly 20 years ago without them, the ticket prices were numbing. Even the cheapest seats were out of reach.

And then… a miracle occurred. Okay, not really a miracle. But it seemed like a miracle. I checked my spam folder and saw an announcement that Fred Meyer was sponsoring discounted tickets. We paid half-price for our “cheap” seats. It was still a strain on the budget (we won’t be going out to eat for birthday meals for the next year) but it was doable.

Last time dh and I saw the show, we were in cheap seats in the second-to-the-last row in the farthest balcony behind a pillar. Seriously. I sat back, folded my arms, and sulked. What a waste of money! …and then the music started, and within five minutes we were leaning to our respective sides of the pillar and as far forward as possible, riveted. The stage was impossibly small and far away, the figures practically microscopic, but we were pulled in by the power of the story, the music, the voices, the staging.

The cheap seats for this visit were five rows back from the stage, way over on the right side, which meant we could see the left side of the stage, all the way to the center and a little beyond. The show was staged in a way that we didn’t feel as if we were missing a whole lot. We know we missed some things, but didn’t feel bereft.

Actually, I was glad of some of the things we missed. Youngest was at the far end of the row, so more of the stage was cut off from her sight, which meant that she missed some of the more lascivious action during “Master of the House” and “Lovely Ladies.”

(While we’re on the topic of grumbles, I was mortified that someone leaned over to shush the girls, who were apparently talking to each other, maybe whispering, maybe not, during the show. We had seats in two different rows, so dh and I weren’t with the girls. They’re not little, so I’d expect them to know how to behave.)

(Don’t misunderstand me; I wasn’t mortified at the shusher, I was upset at the girls for not having the sense to keep quiet. I was very glad that the lady in their row leaned over and asked them to be quiet. They learned a lesson (seeing a public event is a lot different from watching it in your living room), and I think they were quiet for the rest of the show because I didn’t see her lean towards them again.)

We could see a little of backstage, dark-clad people moving about adjusting things. It wasn’t too bothersome until the last fifteen (?) minutes or so — the climax of the show. Someone apparently didn’t pull the back/side curtain all the way, which left us staring over Valjean’s shoulder at a monitor with a bright image of the conductor, waving his arms at the orchestra. Come to think of it, we could see the conductor through the whole wedding scene that preceded Valjean’s death scene. It was a distraction.

So don’t let me give you the impression that I thought we wasted our money. Les Misérables is amazing. The composer is a genius. The translator did a masterful job. The performance earned a prolonged standing ovation from the audience. (Girls grumbled a little that not all the voices were as good as on our original cast CDs.)

It was worth every penny, and more (I want to move up a seat category, next time the show comes to town, if it does. Maybe if we start saving now…).

I just wish I could get that white waving figure out of my head!

But seriously, great show. And now I’m enjoying the music all over again, as the girls have hauled out the book of Les Misérables sheet music and are getting piano time in sight-reading and learning the pieces.

Contented sigh.

Odd effect — so how’s your Monday starting out?

Renewing Your Mind is playing very slowly on our computer… the music is too low, the voices are low and stretched out. I don’t know if it’s my computer or a problem on their end.

But with the theme “What Time is It” — talking about “Right Now Counts Forever” and how we are using our time… well, it just seems ironic somehow.

Anyhow, am going to sit back and listen. Slowly.

Recap: Do Hard Things

We went to the Do Hard Things conference over the weekend. Quick takes:

– inspiring and motivational
– disappointed that we had to leave early (previous commitment in conflict with the conference schedule)
– good books and resources available: We took some for “homework” and so our conference experience will continue as we read.

First impressions:

We arrived a bit late, but the conference organizers had things under control in the front lobby. Since we were preregistered, check-in went quickly. We were directed to create nametags and head in to the auditorium where we could hear praise music already blasting. On the way in, each of the youthful participants received an audience-participation gadget.

The main floor was full, and those who seemed to be ushers (I think they were ushers. They looked like ushers) didn’t seem to know what to do about it. They hovered in the back, by the doors, paying little heed to the conference attendees who were also hovering in the back, by the doors, trying to figure out the seating situation. (A large bank of seats near the back sort of fooled the casual observer, appearing empty as you entered, but proving to be “reserved” with personal possessions.)

I finally asked an usher if we could find seats upstairs, and she (seeming surprised) gave it a moment of thought and then said, “Sure!”

Since we weren’t familiar with the church, it took us a minute or two more to find the stairs, but intrepid, intelligent home educators that we are, we managed to solve the problem despite the fact that we were still on an adrenalin high from rushing there (belated), we were tired from a late night the night before, and the music was blasting our senses.

Why is it that teen music, even teen praise music, is so LOUD? Is the stereotype that all teens are deaf? Are teens deaf because they listen to music that’s so loud? Is the volume turned up to ear-tingling levels because teens are used to tuning things out? Do teens enjoy painfully loud music? (Mine don’t.) Is the volume kept high so that deaf participants can enjoy the music vibrating from the floor?

Wish we’d brought earplugs, at least for the musical portion. The lyrics were good, the tunes singable, but we sang along with our fingers in our ears to protect our hearing. Did you know that if a sound is loud enough to be uncomfortable, even painful, that you need ear protection, to keep the delicate mechanism inside your ears from damage?

(We had the same problem at the homeschool co-op, the last couple of years. We got in the habit of arriving late and skipping the praise-and-worship portion, because the music was painfully loud. When I say “painfully” I mean exactly that. Pity. The organizers try to set the tone for the co-0p day, but the praise portion is so loud that it’s damaging the hearing of those who come to hear, whether they realize it or not.)

Since I don’t want to leave this on a negative note, let me reiterate that the messages were good, encouraging teens to rise above modern society’s low expectations. I wish we’d been able to stay the whole day.

A friend loaned us the conference on video, so we can watch the session we missed.

Last word:

If you have a chance to get to one of the remaining conferences, GO. There are conferences coming up in Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Baton Rouge. If you live some distance away, be encouraged by the group that traveled from Dubai to get to the Portland conference. Besides that group, there were others who came from hundreds of miles away, including Arizona, southern California, and Alaska.

If you do plan to attend an upcoming conference, expect to be challenged and encouraged.

Oh, and bring ear protection.

(As the Lord allows, come back tomorrow for a more in-depth look at the message of the conference.)