Keeping Kids in Church: How

Dear Reader,

The issue of kids in church has come up again for me from a couple of places (one real life, one online) so I thought I’d do a couple of posts on it. I am going to start with the back-end — what should probably be the second half — and talk about the practical side: How do you train your little children to behave appropriately in service and even to learn to worship? In the next post, I’ll back up and ask why one would even want to do so.

Here then are my practical tips for training kids to sit through worship and to worship:

– Bring entertainment. Quiet entertainment. This depends upon the age of course and also to some extent what is acceptable in your congregation. In our church, having a snack is not out of bounds. I knew one family that brought pistachios in the shell because their daughter was so slow in eating them and it would keep her occupied all service. I would caution about this particular snack though as I have known a couple of situations in which one family would feed nut products though others had severe allergies. This is pretty insensitive and not a very good witness. Still, Cheerios for babies are good entertainment in my book. Books are also good, especially soft ones for babies and toddlers. Finger puppets work well too. Whatever you bring imagine it spilling all at once over the floor — how much noise will it make?

– As kids get older I like to think of activities which transition naturally into appropriate worship activities. For example, drawing is a precursor to taking sermon notes. (My 10yo loves to draw the preacher; she is especially excited when we have guest preachers. I am sure she looks as if she is soaking up every word because she stares at them so hard.) Looking at a book is in line with reading one’s Bible. As kids get older still, you can give them challenges which require them to listen such as “Write down three ideas you hear in the sermon” or even easier “Count how often the Pastor says _____. ” You fill in the blank. I knew one family who had a long drive home and so would always discuss the sermon on the way home. This is a good way to reinforce what bigger kids hear and to encourage them to pay attention.

– Make sure your kids are in a good place before worship begins. Make sure they have had a drink (but not too much) and a snack. Make sure they have been to the bathroom. Many kids will figure out that bathroom trips are hard to say no to and that they can get a break by saying they need to go. Be firm. Unless you are really bang splat in the middle of potty training, there is no reason they should need to go more than once a service. Make sure they are not overly tired. This can require planning ahead — don’t stay up late the night before; adjust nap times if need be.

– Make leaving service a bad ting. If they realize that acting up means that they get to go play in the nursery (and they will realize this at an astonishingly young age), what do you think they will do? Instead, if your child needs to be taken out either discipline them if they are old enough and it is necessary or just take them and sit with them somewhere else. Hold them on your lap; insist that they be quiet and still just as they should be in service.

– Worship at home. This is great preparation. The standards are lower at home and it is a good time to discuss what we do and why. Plus they will just be more used to worship and to the routine of it. Maybe they will get to know the songs etc. as well so it will make more sense to them when they are in worship services.

– Ask for help. The pastor’s wife is usually alone in the pew. Others may be as well. Or maybe both parents are there but you just have  a lot of littles to deal with. It’s okay to ask for help. Get someone else to sit with you or behind you to help keep an eye on kids, particularly if you have to take one out. Teens are great for this too.

– Sit up front. This is helpful for slightly older children especially (say 5+). There is less distraction with fewer people in front of you.

– Use the nursery if necessary. I always though ages 10 months through 2.5 years were the toughest. If you need the nursery, that is okay. But always remember that your goal is to teach your kids how to worship. Start them off in service at least and see how long they can make it.

– Let them know that you make worship a priority. It is okay to tell kids “Shh! You need to be quiet, Mommy is worshipping now.”

– Know that this is a temporary stage and that the quickest way through it is to be consistent and to get through it. My own observation (and this gets into the “why” which I will come back to next time) is that delaying by putting them in children’s church type ministries does not make them any more ready to be in worship.

Those are my tips. What would you add?


Unschooling and Charlotte Mason

Dear Reader,

I am not an unschooler and, in fact, I have some fundamental theological objections to the philosophy behind unschooling (see here), but I have often thought that if I couldn’t take a Charlotte Mason approach to schooling and had to pick another, that unschooling might not be a bad choice. I ran across an article entitled How to be a Good Unschooler recently which made me think again that there is a lot to like in this philosophy.

The biggest plus I see in this approach is that it, like Charlotte Mason’s, treats the child as a person. Both also acknowledge that education is not something the teacher does to the student; the burden for it rests largely upon the student himself. Both of these ideas are, I think, exemplified in this quote:

” . . . [the children] will build strengths upon strengths and excel in their own ways whether that is academic, artistic, athletic, interpersonal, or whichever direction that particular child develops.”

One more point of contact: both unschooling and Charlotte Mason seek to bring the child into contact with real world things, not materials that are dumbed down or reduced for them:

Bring the world to your children and your children to the world.”

I could go on with the quotes I like from this article, but really you should read it for yourself.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not acknowledge that there are some important differences. Unschooling does not consider the child’s sinful nature and the need for discipline. Nor does it acknowledge, as Charlotte Mason does, that the ultimate source of wisdom and therefore of all education is God the Holy Spirit. These are, of course, not minor considerations and they are the main reasons I could never be a true unschooler. Nonetheless, I think there is a lot of common ground in the two approaches and much that we can learn from this article and from unschoolers in general.


Book Review: What is the Christian Worldview?

Dear Reader,

In looking for things in the general category of theology to give my two high schoolers to read, I stumbled across this little gem by Philip Graham Ryken. The full title of this thin work is What is the Christian Worldview?: Basics of the Reformed Faith. This is going on my “highly recommended” list. In fact, I ordered two more copies so my kids could each have their own and I could keep mine (and they’re only $4 on Amazon).

Usually as I read books, I underline a lot and write lots of notes in the margins. In this book I did none of that. There was nothing here to disagree with (and I’m very hard to please; just read my other book reviews), and if I had underlined what I liked, I would have done pretty much the whole book.

I do have one criticism which is that I think the book is somewhat misnamed. It would be better titled if the subtitle — Basics of the Reformed Faith — were the main title. That is really what this book is — a concise summary of Reformed Christian doctrine. As such, it is thorough, and I would even call it dense in the sense that it is packed with good things; there are not many wasted words here. But it is not a hard read. I think for my high schoolers, when I give it to them, I would encourage them to read it slowly and to take time to digest. But they are unfamiliar with reading such things.

I understand Ryken’s idea that the specifics of Reformed theology shape our worldview and even are our worldview, but this is not really what I was expecting from the main title. I have said many time on this blog that what we believe theologically is terribly important and informs so much of what we do and believe in other areas so I do not think that what Ryken says is irrelevant to the point of what a Christina worldview is. But I do think that if his real object were to show a Christian worldview that he could have done more to show how these things we believe work themselves out. For instance, how does my view of man (made in the image of God yet fallen) affect what I believe or how I act? Or how does a specifically reformed worldview make my life any different than that of my Christian neighbor who believes anyone can be saved if they only choose to believe?

So while I heartily recommend this little book, if you are looking specifically for discussions of worldview you may be dispaoointed in it. But you should read it anyway.



When Good Books Pay Off or What to Read at Lunchtime

Dear Reader,

I did a post recently on how you know if your CM education is working. Well, I have one more way to you can tell (and I needed ideas for another post so why not give it its own?). As I said in that earlier post, a Charlotte Mason approach to education is a long term investment, not of money, but of our time and resources. We don’t do a lot of testing and reading comprehension questions and the like. There are no grades and no multiple choice exams in our homeschool so it can be hard to see and measure progress in the ways our society usually does so. But I am finding as my kids get older that there are little hints coming through that our efforts have been worthwhile.

I usually read to my children while they eat their lunches (captive audience and all that, you know). I don’t generally choose school books for lunchtime, though occasionally a book will be set in the time period we are studying (they often pick up on this and squawk about this as being an underhanded and unfair move on my part), but prefer to choose books that are fictional, fun and possibly even literary. We have been through E. Nesbit’s books. We have found some recent gems like Mary Rose Wood’s Incorrigibles series. We have read easier books like The All-of-a-Kind Family and Rabbit Hill. We have read harder books like Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. It has gotten hard to find new books which interest us. I recently got a couple of free books on my Kindle so when we finished David Copperfield which was quite a long journey I started in on one of the free Kindle books. The first one I tried sounded good. The blurb compared it to the Penderwicks series which we love. But it was clear fairly early on that this was not on the Penderwicks’ level. It was just so very obvious. One girl is vain and into her clothes; her cousin is a more free spirited country girl. It is hard to describe here but I really just did not even enjoy reading it (which is a great test for living books, btw). So I was not displeased nor surprised when my kids asked after one sitting to drop the book. I was mildly surprised (and also pleased) when they informed me that it was poorly written.

Well, not to be discouraged, we began on another free Kindle book. This one was a little better. The kids even commented on this fact early on, as in “this book is better than that last one.” But after a week the story was just not moving along though it is a mystery and the plot itself could have promise. As one child observed, way too much time was spent describing how the characters in the story would go ice skating or tobogganing. It felt like one of those craft classes where you have to do every step along with the teacher and can’t get ahead or be creative at all. So we decided to abandon that book as well.

But that left me with the issue of what to read to my kids. I have a little time to decide as two are in camp this week and I am not reading aloud anyway. Today as we went into the library and I mentioned needing to find something new, my daughter asked me, “Does Dickens have any other books?” Of course I said yes, quite a few. Upon further inquiry it turned out this was her recommendation for the next read aloud. I had not considered it because I thought after 6 months or so on David Copperfield that they would not want more Dickens for  a while. And really if the book we had most recently rejected was too slow and spent too much time describing characters, well, Dickens might also be out. He is a wordy fellow, you know. But I am pleased that they can apparently recognize that one sort of book, while so very long, is good reading and that these others are not. This is not something we ever discussed — what makes good writing? But on some level they have picked up on this simply by being exposed to good books.

And this is really a key cornerstone of a CM education — that we spread a feast of good materials and leave the children to consume what they may. And (who knew?) it turns out it works!

Now — any good book suggestions??


Book Review: Sugar Surfing

Dear Reader,

This is a bit of a departure because I don’t blog very often about my daughter’s diabetes, but I wanted to give a book review of a book I read recently, Sugar Surfing by Dr. Stephen W. Ponder.

A little background info so you know where I am coming from: My now 13yo daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D; aka juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes) almost 12 years ago at age 19 months. I think we are fairly diligent D-parents though I don’t claim to be an expert by any means (and nothing I say here should be taken as medical advice). My dd was on multiple daily injections (MDI) of NPH, humalog, and ultralente for the first nine months after diagnosis, then pumped using the Cozmo (RIP Cozmo) insulin pump for 5 years and then when back to MDI (Levemir and Novolog currently) by her own choice for the last 6 years or so. She has been using the Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) for about 18 months now.

Dr. Ponder is an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes care and has had T1D himself for quite a number of years. The main thrust of his book is to discuss how one can best manage blood glucose (bg) levels of a person with T1D using the relatively new technology of CGMs. As such it fills a much needed gap in the literature out there on dealing with T1D.

My overall recommendation is that anyone with T1D or helping to care for someone with T1D should get this book and read it. I would particularly recommend it to those new to T1D and those who may have more experience but who are using CGMs. I do, however, have some hesitations about the book which I will get to.

Sugar Surfing is written in a conversational style and begins by discussing the author’s own experiences with T1D, having been diagnosed in the days before fast acting insulins, pumps, and even home bg testing. I love these sorts of stories so I found these bits rather interesting. One intriguing tidbit arising from this part of the book is that Dr. Ponder, while clearly knowing well that diabetes care has advanced leagues beyond how it was in his youth, seems nostalgic for those earlier days. In particular, he mentions how much less stress was involved in caring for diabetes way back when because one couldn’t know or even attempt to control all the many numbers involved. I kind of get this and I think it’s an interesting observation. It could be good to think more about how the pressure on those with T1D and those caring for them (particularly parents) may have increased with the advances in care without perhaps the same degree of increase in the support and understanding these people need.

Which brings me to what I think is the biggest contribution of this book — Dr. Ponder does a wonderful job of laying out all the factors that can influence bg and of showing how very uncontrollable it can be. My own experience was that when my very small daughter was sent home from the hospital we were told “do this and this and then her bgs will be this and that.” And then we got home and she was in the 300s for the first few weeks and we thought we were complete failures. I understand why the staff wanted to make it sound simple for us, that they didn’t want us to be overwhelmed at the start. But we were also misled in many ways and the result was confusion and a sense of failure. I think this is not an uncommon experience. I really wish I had had Ponder’s book much sooner. Though over the years, I have learned how very uncontrollable T1D can be on my own, I would definitely recommend reading the earlier chapters on all the influences on bg one has to try to cope with to anyone new to the world of T1D. It may be daunting, but it is realistic and that, I think, is a very good thing.

One of the quibble I have with Dr. Ponder, however, is in how he talks about our ability to control all those numbers. I find he is a bit inconsistent of this point. On one hand, he outlines all the influences on bg, many of which we clearly cannot control (eg. growth hormones, stress); on the other, he makes statements like this:

“In fact, almost any of the ever present forces that influence one’s blood sugar level can be managed with Sugar Surfing principles.” (p. 44)

“Control” is a big word in the diabetes world. We speak of “controlling bgs” after all and doctors (and nosy family members)  ask us things like “how is your control?” The comforting part for me in the first part of this book is how Ponder makes me feel like there is so much I can’t control. But then he turns it around and really makes it about controlling again after all.

(Warning: if you don’t like religious talk, skip this bit.) One of the things I say on this blog is that our worldviews (though I hate that term) are important; they affect everything we do and even in a book on something as seemingly practical as bg control, they seep through.  A big part of what I have learned from my dd’s T1D is that I cannot control everything — not even these things that are very essential to keeping my child alive. It is not that I say “Oh, I can’t control it therefore I am not going to try.” I do not use the fact that these things are so hard (or even impossible) to control as an excuse for bad bgs.  Instead, I do everything I can and leave the rest to God. Because He can and does control everything. My take on this book would be that Dr. Ponder has looked at these same factors which make bg so hard to control and he comes away still trying to control them. How does he do this? Well, on one hand he has certain principles and tricks he uses (which he gets to in the latter half of the book). But he also relies on himself:

“Ultimately, you must believe in yourself and your equipment. Tapping into your “Power Within” is a driving motivational force behind Sugar Surfing.” (p. 114)

If there is any statement in this book I disagree with, it is this one. It all comes down to who is ultimately in charge. In my view, it is God who ultimately causes my best efforts to either succeed or fail. In Ponder’s, despite how long he spends telling us how very much in T1D is uncontrollable, he is still in control. One more little quote before I move on — Dr. Ponder says at one point that “I no longer fear [diabetes] like I did in my younger days” (p. 47). I think this is a very telling statement. One gets the impression that it is this (quite understandable) fear that has driven him to be where he is today. All of which is to say that while there ia a lot to recommend in this book, I have some fundamental problems with the worldview that underlies it.

Now, to stop psychoanalyzing strangers and return to the main point — in the latter part of the book Dr. Ponder gets to specifics of how he manages his T1D. In general, I wish the tips and tricks he uses were laid out a little more clearly. I do like his use of his own CGM readouts; the visuals are very helpful. Personally, there were only  a few specific things in this book that I found new. Others I had either encountered on the internet previously (eg. the idea of waiting for the bend to begin eating) or somehow managed to stumble upon myself (Ponder’s i-chain method of bolusing for high fat meals is much like what I was doing anyway). More than specific methods, however, I was inspired to be more diligent in addressing bg numbers when they begin to stray from our target zone rather than waiting till they actually cross those lines.

A few more notes on the practical details in this book:

  • Ponder says that his methods work for both pumpers and those on MDI. As someone who uses MDI I really appreciated this. It feels like there is a lot for pumpers out there. On the flip side, there were times when he presents techniques that work for pumpers but left me still frustrated looking for a way to do the same things with MDI (of course if I could get my dd to pump again, that wouldn’t be a problem).
  • As the parent of a teenage girl, I was left wanting more info on dealing with the effects of hormones on bg. Of course, Ponder is giving us info based on his own experience and he has never been a teenage girl so the oversight is understandable. Still one must not expect to find answers to every question in this book.
  • Ponder spends a chapter on dealing with kids with T1D the main point of which is to say that his techniques can’t all be applied to children. I could easily see how this book might provide more frustration than help for parents whose kids due to their age or compliance are not going to be able to make use of most of the techniques herein.
  • Discussing the issue of kids and compliance, Ponder says that “for some reason which I don’t understand” teens who don’t comply “are still allowed to wear an insulin pump” (p. 116). I completely disagree with the idea that insulin pumps are somehow a reward for good diabetes behavior or that bg control and/or compliance will somehow be improved by taking away a kid’s pump.
  • Ponders’ advice on calibrating your CGM, specifically saying to only calibrate in the middle of one’s bg range, is contrary to other advice I have heard.

To draw things to a conclusion, while I would definitely recommend Sugar Surfing and think it fills a great need in the diabetes community, both with its portrayal of the realistic challenges of managing T1D and with the specific methods it presents, one should not expect that this book will answer all questions or solve all the problems associated with T1D nor can I agree with Dr. Ponder’s fundamental assumptions about how much control we are able to have.



Homeschool Plans 2015-2016

Dear Reader,

The “homeschool plans for the upcoming year” post is almost mandatory, isn’t it? To make my own life easier, I am going to copy and paste below what I send into our town for each child and then add in notes in bold to give you  a little more detail. My kids will be in 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th grades in the fall.

Keep reading . . .


The 5th Grader:

Math: Decimals using Life of Fred Decimals and supplementing with Math-U-See Decimals

What I have been doing is having my kids work through LOF and then do the tests from the MUS test booklet to make sure there are no gaps in their knowledge. Occasionally there are concepts I want to stop and reinforce but for the most part they seem to be learning what they need to from LOF.

Science: The Storybook of Science, Signs and Seasons, I am Joe’s Body, regular nature journaling We really slacked off on nature study this year but I am hoping I can get at least one kid back into it next year! The others all have their own science for next year so I am planning to just do some random things with my youngest. My general science advice is don’t rush into formal science too quickly; enjoy those years when you can just do nature walks and read living books together.

Foreign Language: Swedish using Duolingo (tentative) Very, very tentative. I really don’t know what to do with foreign language with either of my younger ones. They both want to do weird languages when I ask them. This one’s first choice is Eskimo (she has a thing about walruses) but there is no way that is happening. We had been using La Clase Divertida Spanish curriculum but have finished the 3 year video program of that. How do you teach languages if you don’t know them?? My second one tried French with 3 different curricula including Rosetta Stone but none worked for long and I wasn’t able to help her much. Spanish at least I can muddle by through but do I insist they do it because I can manage it?

English: Spelling with Spelling Power, grammar with Easy Grammar Plus and KISS Grammar, weekly copywork and independent reading, narration of other school books; study one Shakespeare play with family We had been given a copy of Easy Grammar Plus and were working through it this past year. We just have the last bit on punctuation left so I think we will do that and then switch back to KISS Grammar. I really like KISS’s approach. I also pledge to be more diligent in preparing for their copywork/dictation so that we are getting specific things from each assignment. Our Shakespeare play for the year will be Macbeth.

History: American history from Polk through 1900 using a variety of living books We read a spine book together and then they each read books on the same period at their own level. Find our past booklists here.

Geography: online map drills, weekly geography lessons combined with current events based on Why Greenland is an Island, Australia is not, and Japan is up for Grabs

This book gives a series of steps one uses to read a news story and study the geography related to it. I am hoping to implement this one a month or so and use it to study different areas of the world that are big in the news. I’ll probably post on how that goes when we try it.

Fine Arts: weekly fiddle lessons and daily practice, art and music studies with family I havent completely decided how to do fine arts this year but I think we will concentrate on folk music for the music bit.

Technology: Computer Programming in Python using Hello World

Bible: daily reading of the Bible I think I will give my youngest two specific assignments using the series The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study which we had been using as a family previously.

The 6th Grader:

Combined Math and Science: Pre-Algebra using Life of Fred Pre-Algebra with Physics and Life of Fred Pre-Algebra with Biology, supplemented with Math-U-See Pre-Algebra and various living books I just discovered LOF now had Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics. That makes 3 years of pre-algebra. How am I supposed to fit that all in? Sure, I could skip some but we love LOF around here. My solution is to let it be both his math and science for the year so he can spend double the time on it. I am hoping he will get through the Physics volume and at least half the biology volume. See above for how we supplement LOF with MUS. The “various living books” would be science books, not math books.

Foreign Language: German with DuoLingo (tentative) Also very tentative. In addition to the problems mentioned above, this child is pretty bad at hearing things well. He did get speech therapy till he was 5 or 6 and even his English is not always intelligible to his family. How is he to learn another langauge? (Not a rhetorical question; I am open to suggestions.) I am trying to convince him to do a dead one since the speaking part is less important.

English: Spelling with Spelling Power, grammar with Easy Grammar Plus and KISS Grammar, weekly copywork and independent reading, narration of other school books; study one Shakespeare play with family

History: American history from Polk through 1900 using a variety of living books

Geography: online map drills, weekly geography lessons combined with current events based on Why Greenland is an Island, Australia is not, and Japan is up for Grabs

Fine Arts: weekly trumpet lessons and daily practice, art and music studies with family

Bible: daily reading of the Bible

The 9th Grader:

Math: Geometry using Discovering Geometry from Key Curriculum Press I am using something different for this child. LOF doesn’t seem to work well for her. I got this textbook from a friend whose daughter used it in private school. It combines a lot of art with the math so I am hoping it works well for my little  (well, not so little) artist.

Science: Biology using ACE Biology, lab component through Landry Labs Two-Day Intensives, and various supplemental living books She will be doing science with a friend. The friend’s mom picked the curriculum and is planning most of it. I am going to supplement with most of the books my oldest used for biology last year and send her to the Landry Lab two-day intensive he did which he absolutely loved.

Foreign Language: Spanish with Homeschool Spanish Academy online This child wants to continue Spanish — because she perceives it as the easiest language she could do, which it probably is. Because she has  a smattering of it I am planning to check out Homeschool Spanish Academy which pairs the student one-on-one with a teacher in Guatemala for individual online lessons.

English: grammar with Life of Fred Grammar, weekly dictation and writing assignments, introduction to American literature: poets, essayists and short story writers including reading original works from 8 authors (Irving, Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot) and answering discussion questions; study one Shakespeare play with family LOF Grammar is four slim books that are meant to be done all four years of high school. We will probably just do them in 9th and 10th grades. I forgot to mention that we use Simply Charlotte Mason’s products for copywork and dictation. The lit component for this child will be a slightly modified version of what her brother did last year (see here).

History: American history from Polk through 1900 using a variety of living books

Geography: online map drills, weekly geography lessons combined with current events based on Why Greenland is an Island, Australia is not, and Japan is up for Grabs

Fine Arts: weekly guitar lessons and daily practice, art history Since this is my artist in the making I am planning to have her do more art history using some books we already own.

Bible: daily reading of the Bible or theological books, Sketches from Church History

In the past I have let them pick their own Bible readings and just encouraged them to do it every day. I am still going to let them pick their own Bible passages to read but 2 days a week I am going to have them pick theological books to read from a basket of them and one day a week the oldest two will read and do the workbook pages from Sketches from Chuch History. In case you’re wondering the theological books will be things like Mere Christianity and Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves.

Business: Maris continues to operate her own business, Creations by Maris, selling handmade items online through Etsy and her blog and at local craft fairs. In the process, she is learning about marketing, taxes, and much more.

The 10th Grader:

Math: Calculus using Life of Fred Calculus and Personal Money Management using Life of Fred Financial Choices

Science: Chemistry using Life of Fred Chemistry, lab component through Landry Labs Two-Day Intensives, and various supplemental living books Did I mention that we love LOF? This child will be using 4 different LOF curricula. I couldn’t resist their chemistry text when I found it. I thin it can be done in one sitting a week so we are adding lots of living books (post on those to come, I am sure) and the Landry 2-day lab intensive.

Foreign Language: Latin 2 using Cambridge Latin Course 2

English: grammar with Life of Fred Grammar, weekly dictation and writing assignments, literature using the Great Courses’ Great American Bestsellers; books to be read: Common Sense, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Little Women, Huckleberry Finn, Maltese Falcon, Good Earth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye; study one Shakespeare play with family The plan for lit is for him to read a book a month, answer a discussion question or two I come up with on it , and then listen to the lecture from the Great Courses CD. The listening we can do in the car on the way to his weekly bagpipe lessons.

History: American history from Polk through 1900 using a variety of living books

Geography: online map drills, weekly geography lessons combined with current events based on Why Greenland is an Island, Australia is not, and Japan is up for Grabs

Fine Arts: weekly bagpipe lessons and daily practice, art and music studies with family Still not sure how we are going to cover art this year, if at all. He is a big country music fan so I am thinking he will do music on his own and read a book on the history of country.

Civics: week-long US Government Camp through iGovern East; US government with Everything American Government and economics with Lessons for the Young Economist

My husband, who is an economist, picked the economics curriculum. We had tried the Uncle Eric series which seems very popular and were very disappointed with it.  He is as I write this at the iGovern camp through Generation Joshua and seems to be having a good time and learning a lot. The US Government book is recommended by Ambleside Online. They even have a reading schedule for it online.

Technology: AP Computer Programming through PA Homeschoolers Online Course (

Bible: daily reading of the Bible or theological books, Sketches from Church History

How Do You Know if Your CM Education is Working?

Dear Reader,

Are there any homeschoolers out there who never wonder if they are doing the right thing and doing it in the best way? Parenting itself is an activity that keeps one wondering, “Am I doing this right?” Add on top of that making counter-cultural choices like homeschooling and one has a recipe for second-guessing and self-doubt. As Charlotte Mason educators we add a few more controversial choices to the list — for example, not using standard means of evaluation like tests and worksheets and putting off subjects like grammar.

I remember being questioned by a relative when my kids were little about our decision to homeschool. My response was to say, “Well, let’s wait 12 years and then reevaluate.” This is easy to say but hard to do, because we don’t want to just wait and see if our kids turn out okay. But the CM approach does demand a lot of patience of us. Immediate, tangible (and testable) results are not the goal. Because we shape character and don’t drill facts, it can be hard to see the end from the beginning (or even the middle or, let’s face it, near the end).

So how do you know if your CM education is working? There’s no definitive answer; I can’t promise you your kids will turn out okay. But here are some clues to look for that let you know you are on the right track:

  • Your young children act out what they have learned or read without being prompted. My youngest loved that there were ditches by the roadside in her grandmother’s neighborhood. She immediately jumped in them and began shooting Germans. (It was rather awkward because my German brother-in-law was there.)
  • They tell people about what they have learned. Bonus points if they weren’t asked and what they are saying is completely off topic.
  • They are interested in things, whether they are school subjects or other things. Seems simple but I find it amazing how many kids are not interested in anything. Things involving screens don’t count unless they are creating their own product(s) (movies, games, etc.)
  • They make connections on their own. They say things like “Oh, that is like what we read about so-and-so . . . ” Bonus points if it’s a connection you never would have made. Double bonus points if you thought they were crazy when they first said it but then they convince you there is a connection.

That’s my list. Can you think of others?



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Homeschooling Middle East

A Homeschooling/Unschooling Adventure from Bahrain to Dubai that's a story for anyone, anywhere who's interested in offering their kids an educational alternative. Please have fun visiting and have even more fun commenting! We have now moved to Granada, Spain and I will write again once we've settled down!!


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