The One Man Who Could Have, Didn’t

Only one man has ever had the power to utterly destroy his torturers, body and soul. But not only did he allow them to live, he also stuck around and submitted himself to the torture, allowing them to finish their work, even as He finished His. The fear of torture freaks me out more than anything in this world, and I just can’t wrap my mind around anyone will the will-power to purposefully accept it.

Hobbies for the Blind?

Here’s an interesting question that my son and I are just now discussing: what hobbies would you pursue if you were blind? Last I checked, my vision was 20/400 in both eyes, so this is something I have thought about for quite a while now. My best answer is to become intimately familiar with an instrument and learn to play by ear. Ian thinks it would be nice to work with modeling clay and create sculptures by touch. I’m thinking the tactile sensations alone would be pleasant and beneficial. What would you do?Eye Chart

Apple Fasting

Has anyone ever tried an apple fast?Apples

I believe fasting is good for clearing the line of communication between myself and God, but even if you aren’t religious, it is widely known for being good for us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I say spiritually because, even if you don’t believe in a higher power, I assume everyone reading this believes they are more than just a mere cloud of atoms (an phrase borrowed from C.S. Lewis). The greatest benefit in my own life has been two-fold: clarity and self-discipline. I believe it is a powerful tool that Christians (or dieters, lol) can use to overcome fleshly temptations, and it is so powerful that I don’t understand why it is so often overlooked and rarely spoken about, even in Christian circles. I am assuming it’s because we aren’t supposed to brag about it? Or to make ourselves look hungry, etc? But is this any excuse not to teach our children and mentor others who have the same needs? I don’t think so.

I am asking about the apple fast because Ian is interested in fasting. (He is 10.) However, everything I have read says that children should not fast. The apple fast is a happy medium in which you can consume as many apples as you want for 1-3 days, but nothing else (except water and apple juice). It is supposed to have many of the same physical benefits as regular fasting. I don’t know if the discipline benefits will be all that much though, but I figure it’s a start.

Ideas or comments?

A new idea for teaching spelling

It’s important to me that Ian become a pretty decent speller someday. In this day and age, he especially needs to know his homonyms apart, because most spell-checkers can’t catch them.

Lately however, we have completely ditched spelling as a separate course. It just didn’t seem like it was clicking for us. I remember a conversation I had with my husband about the topic. The fact is, there are only a couple of words that I remember the spellings for because I learned them from a list. They are (drum-roll, please): calendar and separate.

I think that’s it.

Now, I am usually a pretty good speller (although this particular post will probably be full of errors, just to make a liar out of me, lol). The thing is, I don’t actually remember learning the spellings of words. I just know how they’re spelled. In an effort to figure out a better way to teach Ian, I had to ask myself, How? How did that happen?

And then it hit me: I was an avid reader as a child. I saw commonly used words spelled over and over and over again. I’m no expert on teaching spelling, but I am pretty convinced that reading lots of books has more impact on a person’s ability to spell than any spelling curriculum.Spelling

So, part A of my method, if you’d like to call it that, is lots and lots of reading.

Part B is spaced repetition, and here’s how it came about:

After a while, reading, with no other review, began to seem like the lazy way out. I was still afraid that maybe I wasn’t taking an active enough role in helping Ian become the speller I want him to be. The beauty of being a homeschool mom is the fact that I love my child more than any other teacher ever could. So when I find myself second-guessing his future, I am quick to analyze our habits and make changes if need be.

Then we started dictation exercises. I have written about this before, but here it is in a nutshell: To help him improve the actual physical skill of writing (which is the hardest part for him), I used to read three sentences to him every day from a book that is slightly below his reading level. He wrote the sentences down as I read them aloud. I thought: here’s my chance to help him with his spelling! When he came to a word he didn’t know, he would attempt to spell it, and I would help him. Then, if there were any spelling rules that would help him understand better, we would review them immediately (such as the difference between hoping and hopping).

This method worked for months, and he has accumulated pages and pages of a hand-written copy of “Little House in the Big Woods.” However, being the kind of mom that I am, the kind that wants to over-prepare for life, maybe, this method still seemed to be lacking. Even though his spelling was improving as time went on, I felt drawn to a more traditional approach to spelling.

But I hate the traditional approach! Why? Because, you learn a list of words, whether you know them already or not, you study them for a mere four days, and end by taking a quiz on day five. Study is usually accompanied by mind-numbing oral repetition and hand-cramping copying of 5 times each. Then, poof! The word disappears. And, magically, you never have to spell that word ever again. Sorry, but I just think it’s a waste of time. His and mine.

Three or four days ago, we sort of stumbled upon the solution. It was actually more Ian’s idea than mine. He had missed a fairly simple word that day during dictation. It was a word I was sure he would remember if only he had a little more exposure to it. So, as the day progressed, I asked him how to spell it. I interrupted his dinner, his video game playing, his exercising – I made myself very annoying, lol. But he didn’t mind too much because I was only asking for 5 seconds of his time, three or four times for the rest of the day. (That’s what we have been doing with any difficult math facts he encounters every day, and it really works.)

The next day, right before dictation, I asked him again – he still remembered the spelling. Ian said: “I really like spelling, but I like spelling out loud.” Then I felt guilty. I thought I had been saving him from unnecessary repetition, but he truly enjoys being able to spell. He enjoys the feeling it gives him when he does it well. So, we stopped short at only two sentences that day, and reviewed the words he had just missed. We have been adding to the “list” every day, reviewing spelling rules as we go along. Some words he only has to review once, and he spells them right after that no matter how many times I ask him. So I don’t ask him those every day. I mark the ones that are particularly difficult, and I have been asking after those throughout the day, just like on the first day. And here’s the beauty of it: we only ever review words that he misses. No wasting time with things he can figure out on any given day.

Now we have both been using flashcard programs lately, and the spaced-repetition system is really working for both of us. We are both learning Spanish, and Ian is firming up his times tables. So I have decided to work out a spaced-repetition system, where he reviews words that he misses every so often, spacing the words out farther and farther with each successful spelling. Who knows, I might even create my own Anki or Memrise deck for him.

Wish us luck!

 

A Creative Curriculum for 5th Grade

We are doing so many things this year in our homeschool! Many of the topics don’t take long to complete, usually less than a half-hour. This is good for Ian because he gets bored pretty easily. About the only thing taking us any longer than that is all of the reading we are doing together. And, since we’re doing that together, Ian actually enjoys it! Here are a few of the things we are doing:

Reading living history books. My favorite so far has been one about the life of Squanto – why isn’t there a good movie out there somewhere about his life? The dude has a phenomenal story.

Law & Government. We just started this one as a family. It basically consists of a textbook, two CDs and a DVD. The textbook has a two- or three- page introduction and an outline for each lesson, along with questions and suggestions for further reading. This is going to be an interesting course. Unfortunately, we can only do it on Wednesdays when Jesse is home with us.

Reading. This subject has been the biggest surprise this year. Ian has been a good reader for a long time, albeit a slow and reluctant one. This year alone, he has tripled his reading speed (thanks to watching movies in Spanish with English subtitles), and has gone from dreading the subject to loving it. I honestly didn’t think it was ever going to happen for him, but we finally found a book series that he enjoys, and now, he reads anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours every single day. He only has two books left in the series (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and I am starting to search for more books he may enjoy.

Math. Ian’s math skills have developed in leaps and bounds this year. We have been using the Memrise app for multiplication and Spanish. I no longer have to drill him anymore, yet I almost always remember to casually quiz him throughout the day on one or two math facts. I was amazed at how well this works! His math book is almost fun for us now that he is better at facts.

ControllerArt. Ian has been drawing lots of MineCraft-related pictures on graph paper. It’s perfect for someone who isn’t confident in their skills as an artist because you only have to draw one block at a time. Last night, he began working on a Mario-based art project. He drew a whole level, complete with secrets and switches and pipes – the whole nine yards! And the level was fresh from his own imagination. I was blown away because he created an engaging, challenging world that I would enjoy playing. I have been sending him to his room at 9:30, at which time he does something quiet, so he has been drawing. Then at 10:30, he can either read for an hour or go to bed. He’s been reading, and that makes me happy. :)

Python. We have been learning the Python programming language together using a book that I found at a computer store. The program allows you to make small changes to the MineCraft code and alter the game in fun ways. We are having a blast! I have been wanting to teach Python to Ian for a couple of years now, but the first time we tried it, it was above his head. (It was okay until we got into integers.) But now is the perfect time for teaching him, especially since we can use MineCraft as a starting point!

Well, those are a few of the things we are doing. We don’t do them all everyday. Our everyday subjects are reading, Bible, guitar, drums, dictation, typing, and Memrise (Spanish and multiplication). If you would like to read some ideas for language arts or science, you can find those in previous posts.

I hope you find some of these subjects and ideas helpful as you explore your own adventure in homeschooling!

Spanish-Learning Update

I have finally settled into a routine as far as my Spanish learning goes. If you are interested in acquiring a new language, check out these resources for your language:

Duo-Lingo – a really fun and FREE language-learning app and website that has taught me more in the last 6 weeks than everything else I have ever learned combined, including a high school class, 1 semester of college-level Spanish, and cramming for the CLEP. I cannot believe this program is free. I am making way better progress here than I did with Rosetta Stone, although the programs are similar. After soaring through the first 14 levels (out of pure excitement and addiction), I am now continuing to learn and reinforce at a much slower pace, but I am still satisfied with my continual progress. This program mostly teaches you new vocabulary and how to translate back and forth between English (or some other language) and Spanish (or some other language, lol). In addition, you have the option to use the microphone and/or the speakers to practice speaking and listening skills. There is also an immersion aspect, but I haven’t checked it out. I spend about 30-40 minutes with this program each morning before my son gets out of bed.

Memrise – this free program is open to so many possibilities! I have brainstormed several ways to use this spaced-repetition flashcard website and app for my own self improvement and homeschooling ideas. I have been using it for nearly 4 weeks now, and have not lost interest. The flashcard deck I have chosen has nearly every word recorded by several different native speakers, and the program randomly chooses one to play each time you encounter the word. It’s great for improving vocabulary, and it keeps track of the words you miss the most often and reviews them frequently. I spend about 10 or 15 minutes a day on this program, ideally right after finishing Duo-Lingo.

Anki – this is another spaced-repetition flashcard system that has tons of user-created flashcard decks available for download to your computer, phone, tablet, etc. I have been using this one for about 4 weeks as well. In contrast to the Memrise and Duo-Lingo programs, I have not figured out if you are able to share your progress across different platforms, so I have a core set of decks that I study seriously from my laptop, and a few fun ones that I study from my phone if I get bored when I’m out and about. The great thing about Anki is that you can download flashcards with pictures on them, so you get used to associating a Spanish word with what it actually represents, instead of merely translating in your head from English to Spanish or vice versa. I think some of the decks contain audio as well, but I don’t personally have any of those downloaded. I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour studying the flashcards with this program, later in the day while Ian is working independently. It’s fun and I always look forward to it!Headset

Tunein – this is a fun radio station and podcast listening website and app that has tons of programs in other languages, some of which are designed specifically for the language-learner. My husband introduced this program to me about a week ago. In addition to talk channels, you can also listen to music in your favorite language – complete with commercials, which are not so annoying when you are hanging on every word trying to understand what they’re selling, lol. For instance, I’ve been listening through the News In Slow Spanish channel. I’m covering one or two episodes a day, and although I try pretty hard to listen attentively, sometimes I find myself tuning out and getting distracted. That’s ok! I am acclimating myself to the sounds, even when I’m not actively listening. I usually turn on Tunein while I am exercising, which I have always had trouble making time to do anyway, so now I’m killing two birds with one stone. It’s also fun to listen to while cooking or engaging in any other quiet activity. If you are a homeschooler, you could listen while your children work on an art project, etc.

Learning New Things

Today, Ian and I embarked on a new journey. Well, old and new, of sorts. I scheduled our lives down to the minute for the first half of the day, until 2pm. I’ve done this before, and it always works, but it’s been a while. I left the end of the day open to avoid getting burned out too quickly. That allowed us to get most everything done that we had to do, school-wise, cooking-wise, etc. We knocked out all of the undesirable subjects right off the bat, and it felt really good to get everything done at a decent time. At 2 o’clock, we tore into one of Ian’s Christmas presents that has been sitting around patiently on a shelf. It took us 2 hours, but we were able to get his Arduino up and running, download all the software, drivers, and extras, run an example program and figure out how to do a couple of different things by making small changes to the existing code. It was really fun for me. Ian knows  more about electronics than I do, and I know more about code-writing than he does, so it was kind of neat to both be learning something that mixes the two skills together. I can’t wait to go deeper and learn new things!Circuitry