Monday, February 28, 2011

Family Bible Time

Recently I had the opportunity to make a brief "milk run" all by myself. Since I was without a vehicle full of little people, I was delighted to realize I could listen to "grown-up" material on the radio. When a quick run through the stations yielded nothing better than some incomprehensible screaming, obscene hip-hop, and "I Love Rock-n-Roll" on the '80's station, I settled for a talk program on the Christian station.

I'm not sure what the program was, because I live relatively close to the grocery store, but what they were discussing was family devotions. The moderator was saying that many dads want to have family devotions, but are put off because they believe they lack Bible knowledge. Also, they may be under the false assumption that devotions require a "curriculum" and lesson plans (home school syndrome--everything requires a curriculum now).

I want to share how Bible time came about in my home. We were like the example on the radio. Our own lack of Bible knowledge kept us from having any family devotions for years. I, like many home school moms, thought you had to have a book to follow. My husband...well, I don't know what he thought. Perhaps I should ask.

(He says he never really thought of it until he heard a sermon by Brother Denny Kenaston from Charity Gospel Ministries.)

Anyway, when my husband returned from Korea, and after he began studying for his master's degree in ministry, he decided it was time to have family devotions. So he sat all the children (and me!) down one evening and explained how we know the Bible is true (scribes and the Dead Sea Scrolls and such) and then opened it to Matthew chapter 1 and started reading. He and I took turns reading every night after that until we finished the New Testament. Then we celebrated with a dinner out when we finished Revelation. We started the Old Testament next. When we finished that, we celebrated again, because we had read the WHOLE Bible. The next time through the New Testament, the children took turns reading. The next time through the Old Testament, we listened to someone else reading it on MP3 and followed along in our own Bibles. It is never a complicated affair. Just reading for a set amount of time or Scripture, answering questions as they arise (and looking up the answers if we have to), and just talking about what we read. Very casual.

A few of our guidelines for Bible Time:

  • Have a set time for Bible Time and stick to it. Ours is 8:oo every night. This is so set that our good friends will not call or interrupt it.

  • Everyone needs to be present and "church behavior" is required.

  • Look up answers to questions we don't know, and be honest about it.

  • All questions need an answer (In our house, a harlot is an immodest women who takes money to act like a man's wife for a little while. They know there is hugging and kissing involved as well and this is not right).

  • Everyone who can read has a Bible of their own and may follow along.

  • Bible is not a school subject. It is what we do whether we have school or not. Bible study is a lifelong affair. It does not end when we graduate.

  • After getting comfortable with the readings, we added memory verses, family prayer time, and sword drills (call out a verse and see who can find it first).

Some resources for Bible Time:

  • If you want a free MP3 of someone else reading so you don't have to, one can be ordered through Charity Gospel Tape Ministry. I highly recommend their other messages as well, especially the Godly Home series.

  • Firefighters for Christ also has one available, as well as many other good Bible resources.

  • Free Bible study software is at e-sword. You can download many Bible versions, commentaries, classic Christian books, and other tools all for free!

  • If you want worksheets and/or coloring pages to go along with your readings, try Calvary Chapel Children's Ministry. Old and New Testament are both available.
Our family Bible Time has been a tremendous blessing to us and our children. My husband and I have both commented that our children have more Bible knowledge at their young ages than we did at 20 or even 30. I admit I never read the Bible all the way through until we did it as a family. We have been through it several times now and I always learn something new.
Warm regards,


Saturday, February 26, 2011

How I Homeschool: Literature, History, Science, Free time

I forgot that one hour of our school day before lunch is devoted to the independent reading of great literature. This is the fourth of my "Big Four." I keep lists of books I think should be read at each reading level and have the children work through their list. Currently, 12yodd is reading "The Hobbit," 10yodd is reading through the "Little House" series, and 8yods is reading "Treasure Island." I am reading "Winnie the Pooh" aloud to the little people and "The Wind in the Willows" to everyone.

On Fridays, we do not have this silent reading time. Provided the children have "worked hard" (their wording) all week, on Friday, we spend the literature hour reading Shakespeare. We are currently reading "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I divided out all the characters among myself, my husband, and the 3 readers. We read about one scene each week. We sometimes use this time to watch a biography of Shakespeare or a video of a play or even a movie (our family LOVES "Henry V"). We usually edit the movies for content and we NEVER show anything we haven't screened carefully first.

After lunch, one hour is devoted to history and science readings. I LOVE history. I even minored in it. However, after several years of trying and failing at various gimmicky history-based curricula, I realized that, although history is an important subject, it is not as important to my grammar aged students as it will be as they mature and are able to study history in the proper perspective. I am excited to do all the neat history projects and in-depth discussions with my students, but I know this is not the time for it. During the grammar years, we have gone to just reading for acquaintance. This term, the children are reading through the divided kingdom section in Egermeirer's Bible Story book, then will move on the "Story of the Romans." We have done much the same with science. The children read "Christian Liberty Nature Readers," as well as other nature and science books for acquaintance with science topics. I also encourage science projects during afternoon free time.

After an hour of history and science readings, we have "productive free time" during which the children select one or two educational activities such as computer work: Mavis Beacon typing, Rosetta Stone French, or writing their stories for "Learning to Write the Novel Way;" science projects; extra reading of their literature book; writing letters; sewing or needle work; et cetera.

After about an hour of that, they have earned leisure time until chores begin. I do not interfere with leisure time. That is their time to play, read "junky" books (10yodd is in love with "Pixie Hollow" right now), or play a game.

I wish everyday went as smoothly as what I have laid out for you. Most days go along fairly well, sometimes we have a big bump, but we try to recover as quickly as we can.

Well, that's how I home school. I hope the information was a benefit to you.

Warm regards,


Thursday, February 24, 2011

How I Homeschool: Math and Latin

(from 2008)
Math and Latin are half of what I call "The Big Four" that make up the core of our studies, at least in the grammar years. The other two subjects are writing skills and reading. I believe that having a firm grasp on these subjects early will make the study of history, science, or whatever subject they choose, much easier later on. These are not the only subjects we study, just the ones we focus on. In the afternoons, the children also do some history and science readings and Rosetta Stone French on the computer, among other things. What we do not "study" as part of "school" is Bible, which we teach and learn as a family during evening Bible Time, and practical arts such as cooking and crafts which we just teach as we live.

So, the second hour of our school day is dedicated to Math. I have chosen Rod and Staff for grades 1 through 3. It lays a good foundation in the basic functions, as well as things like measurement and telling time. In 4th grade, or when the 3rd grade R&S book is finished, the student begins Saxon 5/4. I am not very interested in the grade levels of textbooks. An older child can learn from a lower graded book if it is supplemented correctly. Likewise, a younger student can listen to a much higher level book read aloud and glean a lot of information. One of my students, for whom Math does not come easily, has been in the 5/4 book for 1 1/2 years, taking it slowly. Another of my students is a Math whiz and is zooming through it with no problem. I love home schooling for that; neither student feels "special" or "different," "gifted" or "slow." They just do their work in their own time. Self-esteem is not linked to reading groups or advanced placement.

But I digress. Math lasts one hour. If more time is needed to complete an assignment, the child will use their leisure time to finish it. This rule came about because we had a tremendous amount of dawdling. One hour seems to be sufficient--usually less is required.

After math, and a few minutes to have a snack, we do Latin. I am using Latina Christiana I with the DVDs. We really like this set. I have heard that many people are annoyed by the teacher on the DVDs, but we think she is funny. She blinks A LOT, and constantly touches her hair, but she has a nice voice. On Mondays, we watch the lesson and do the worksheet. Tuesday, we listen to the lesson on the CD and make flashcards. Wednesday and Thursday, we listen to the lesson on the CD and try to write it out by dictation, correcting as we go. Friday's quiz is the dictation, without looking in the book. I also read a little Roman history or Famous Men of Rome aloud on Fridays. I encourage the children to watch the DVD during their free time during the week as well.

Where are the little ones during Math and Latin? During the first half of Math time (roughly), I do preschool activities with them: puzzles, flash cards, sign language, French song tapes, looking at picture books, and playing in the floor. I also do Montessori style activities like walking on a line. I love Montessori style activities and have a lot of them for table activities during other parts of our school day.

When she completes her Math pages, my 5 year old joins us in preschool for calendar time and readings from a history storybook or a Burgess nature book. We also do a lesson from Leading Little Ones to God, and practice something like the Lord's Prayer, Psalm 23 or the Apostle's Creed. For the rest of Math time and all of Latin, the littles may play with whatever toys are out for the day. Sometimes, the 2 year old might do a table activity, like pouring/scooping beans, sewing cards, puzzles, or just coloring. The 5 year old likes to listen to Latin and knows a lot of it, so I allow her to join in as long as she behaves.

To finish our morning, we have a grammar lesson from "Easy Grammar" or we work on "Learn to Write the Novel Way." This takes about a half hour, which brings us to lunch time! We take an hour for lunch, because we earned it!

Tomorrow, I'll share our afternoon with you.

Warm regards,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How I Homeschool: Family school, Penmanship, Spelling

(from 2008)

The first hour of our home school day is divided into 3 20-minute sections, give or take a few minutes here or there. My aim is for school to start at 8:00. That doesn't always happen, but if we can get close to 8, our day runs much more smoothly.

The first segment is something we have always called Family School, although I have heard other families call it circle time or group time, among other things. Family School is a really terrific way to add in all the little things that don't seem to fit in anywhere else, and probably would get skipped otherwise. As soon as breakfast kitchen chores are finished, everyone comes to the table, even (or especially!) the preschoolers. The baby sits in his high chair either eating breakfast or with a couple of small toys. We have done different things during this time, but right now this is what we are covering:

Pledge of Allegiance
Patriotic song practice
Prayers (for school, children, Daddy, America, other countries)
Lord's Prayer
Hymn singing practice (using our church hymnal)
Memory verses (excellent resource
Catechism (
Spurgeon's Puritan Catechism)
Character reading (
Book of Virtues)
Apologetics reading (By Divine Design)
Poetry reading (this term, Tennyson)

After Family School, the children do their penmanship practice. The oldest children read the chapter of Proverbs that matches the date (for example, chapter 12 if it's the 12th), pick one verse they particularly like, and write it their composition books. My older son has been working on George Washington's Rules of Civility for a while, so he does that. My 5 year old copies some poetry I have already written in her book (I write a line and leave a blank line for her). My 2 year old draws a picture in her book and tells me something about it, which I write on the lines and read back to her (the two little girls use primary composition books which have lines and a space for a picture). The one year old is playing in the living room adjacent to the dining area where I can see him during this time. I have different toy "sets" assigned to each day. For example, Monday is Fisher-Price Little People, Tuesday is cars, Wednesday is doll house and castle, and so forth.

After 20 minutes or so of penmanship, we have our spelling lesson. I use
Spelling Power (although a much older edition than that one!). Last year, we did it the way the program is described in the book, which worked really well for everyone except one child who, honestly, is an atrocious speller. This year, since I have a beginning reader, and for the sake of said atrocious speller, I have adjusted it a little and it seems to be working. So, on Monday we go over the spelling rule (we do this everyday) and have a pretest, correcting as needed. The program is set up so I can have everyone on the same spelling rule, even though their levels and words are different. The 12 year old has much harder words than the 8 year old. On Tuesday, we rewrite the list in alphabetical order, breaking each word into syllables. Wednesday, we write or look up a sentence for each word we had a problem with on Monday. Thursday, we play a word game or do an activity from the Spelling Power cards (homemade from the book). Friday, we retest. This is working well for everyone, as my better spellers get a review of the spelling rules, and my beginner and not-so-terrific speller are learning them.

During this time, the 1 year old is back in his high chair with some toys or an activity from the table time box (another post). The 2 year old is working with the "glue box," an ingenious idea I originally got on the MOMYS Digest. It is a box of old magazines, interesting junk mail, stickers, bits of wrapping paper, etc. It also has a pair of preschool scissors and a glue stick. She has a binder full of various kinds of paper: colored, lined, white, some old worksheets, whatever I have laying around. She is free to cut, glue, color, draw, write. That's it. At the end of spelling time, I just brush all her mess back into the box for tomorrow. It's several activities rolled into one. We love it!

That concludes the first hour of our home school day. Tomorrow, I hope to tell you about our Math and Latin.

Warm regards,


      Sunday, February 20, 2011

      How I Homeschool: Our schedule

      (from 2008)
      This is a year of streaming and simplifying in every aspect of my life. My constant challenge is to live intentionally and with purpose. I have begun ruthlessly decluttering my possessions, including an incredible amount of unused or gimmicky home school books and curriculum I have amassed over the course of 10 to 12 years. I will share about my decluttering journey in another post. Today is about home school.

      I am sharing our everyday home school schedule. Some of my readers, whose opinions I respect as fellow home school mothers, may say, "Your schedule doesn't reflect on your Charlotte Mason ideals very much." However, I view CM as both methods and philosophy. My educational philosophy relies heavily on CM, but, from experience, I have discovered certain shortcomings in myself that require a more "rigid" scheduling, else school isn't everything it needs to be to meet our goals. I should add, too, that this schdule doesn't include incidental teaching, homemaking skills, reading aloud, Bible teaching, and the like, as they are part of our lives, not just for "school."

      That being said, here is our regular school day:

      8 AM Family school, penmanship, spelling
      9 AM Mathematics
      10 AM Latin, grammar
      11 AM Literature
      12 PM Lunch
      1 PM Elective readings (history, science, character, biographies)
      2 PM Productive free time
      3 PM tea, leisure time

      Our school year runs January through December, in 6 week increments with breaks of varying lengths depending on the season. I home educate a 12 year old (6th/7th grade), 10 year old (4th/5th grade), 9 year old (3rd/4th grade), and a 5 year old (1st grade). I also have a 1 and 2 year old cruising around. I hope to share our day subject by subject all this week, including what I do with the little people during school. Today, however, time is ticking away and we are behind, so I will begin tomorrow with Family School, penmanship and spelling.

      Warm regards,