Thursday, September 26, 2013

Asking the Hard Questions

Today's Social Studies Focus

On this fine Thursday, we are covering Current Events. For us it goes deeper than the local news though.

Necessary Evils

I don't want my children to know of certain evils in the world until it is absolutely necessary.  Despite our best efforts though, sometimes atrocities rear their ugly heads directly in front of them.  Then we are left to answer hard questions that may not even have an explanation.

Those tough questions are how change happens and solutions are born.  

The 5 W's

Asking questions about the events happening around us, from neighborhood to international, is a civic duty.  It keeps us concerned about more than ourselves and our little world.

Directing kids to ask questions and seek answers develops leaders.  

Media Miseducation

The field of journalism is one that is in desperate need of leaders-those who will diligently ask and seek answers, not drones who's assignment to report on the season's fashions replaces actual news and investigating. 

Making the Connection

Recently the issue of child slavery and human trafficking has weaseled its way into our discussions.  As disturbing as the topic is, it is on the table now and must be addressed.  I have decided to let them ask, and help them search for answers.  

Class Discussion

What are some uncomfortable issues you have had to discuss with your children before you wanted to?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Connecting Talents With Traditions

Today's Art & Music Focus

On this lovely autumn Wednesday we are discussing and planning our first projects of the year. 

Traditions and Being Traditional

Several years ago we began making some of our gifts and cards for holidays, and every year since we have continued while increasing the amount of homemade versus store bought presents.

We do this for sentimental purposes because homemade gifts are much more personal.  We also do it because we sensed commercialism creeping into our lives and our children's hearts. 

Creating Atmosphere

We are putting more effort into the celebration aspect of holidays, emphasizing the history and purpose of each one.  More planning has helped us create memories of special meals and activities.

Making the Connection

Our first projects in both Art and Music are geared towards the upcoming holidays.  While some may fret, we will joyfully create gifts and practice holiday music. 

We don't separate the holidays from our education. The lessons to be learned during this time of year help shape us and are some of the most valuable there are to learn.

Class Discussion

What lessons do you try to instill in your children over the holidays?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Art & Music Links:

Choosing Our Words Wisely

Today's Language Arts Focus

This beautiful Tuesday's topic is Spelling and Vocabulary.  Read on to find out the one tool we can't write without!

The Master Objective

We want our children to have the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately their ideas and beliefs through any venue be it spoken, written,  or visual.

This comes from our education philosophy-one of the end results we desire from our education experience.  

It's a big one.  It involves writing and grammar, foreign languages, oral presentation, and visual arts. 

Breaking it Down

The basic unit of our objective is words.  This is where Spelling and Vocabulary comes in.

Dictionary Doldrums

We as adults and educators know the importance of using a dictionary.  Forming the habit of referring to the dictionary often and realizing it's useful attributes can be hard to instill in kids.

Making the dictionary come alive and using it in creative activities is imperative to ensuring it becomes a necessary tool for young writers. 

Making the Connection

Here's how the dictionary is part of our daily life:
  • We own different levels from a picture dictionary up to a collegiate version.  
  • We make our dictionaries readily available and in multiple locations throughout our home.
  • We have a periodic Dictionary Day, and practice using it through games.
  • We found old dictionaries and we use them.  We see how the meanings and usage of words change, and bring unused words back to life.
  • The children get vocab lists to study that I have designed around the topics that interest them.
  • I read aloud and encourage the kids to read books that are challenging and that they will need to refer to the dictionary for while reading.
  • We use new and challenging vocabulary in conversations as much as possible.  We refer them to the dictionary when they ask for the meaning.
  • The kids keep lists of words that appeal to them and new words they learn outside of their vocab lists.

Class Discussion

How do you use the dictionary in your home?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Language Arts Links:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Measuring Up

Today's Math Focus: Measurements

On this beautiful Monday, we are covering measurements-not only the metric system, but also how we can and should measure ourselves.

Reaching Great Heights

I have a set of skills I want to pursue and perfect, along with a sketch of the kind of wife, mother, and woman I want to be. 

This is an ongoing process.  I encourage my daughters to join me, and always strive for self-improvement towards their own picture of who they want to be.  

The goal is to set and meet our own personal standards according to our beliefs and values, and not allow the world or society to dictate who we are.

Eyeballing It

In an episode of Petticoat Junction, Kate tries to recreate her famous Bachelor Butter for a company that wants to buy her recipe.  

Her measuring cup was a mayonnaise jar, and the fill line on her pot was the dent in the side.  While this may have made a perfect batch of Bachelor Butter, Kate's units of measure don't work well outside her own kitchen.

I'm more likely to use a mayonnaise jar than a measuring cup myself, but I've had to change my ways in order to teach.  

Making the Connection

Mastering measurements is as easy as boiling water or sewing on a button.  Here are some activities that have measured up to the kids' liking:

  • Making Koolaid, cookies, pancakes, and other simple recipes.
  • Keeping track of everyone's height.
  • Arming the kids with measuring tools and sending them outside to find random measurements.
  • Taking measurements for sewing projects.
  • Building with blocks and scrap materials.

Class Discussion

Share some projects you have done to practice measuring.

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Math Links:


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Which Came First: The Q or the A?

A Matter of Perspective

The answer came first.  There had to be something to ask a question about, right? Or maybe you think the question came first because you have to wonder about something for there to even be an answer.

Either way, what came before the question and the answer? 

What must exist for a question and answer to be born?

Curiosity Killed the Cat...

...only because it didn't follow safety procedures!

Curiosity, a desire to know, is the prerequisite.

The "Why" Stage

This is one phase you don't want your kids to grow out of.  Encourage questions, and teach them to search for answers.  

Make the Connection

No matter the subject, the desire to learn must be present.  

Here are some ways we have encouraged questions:
  • Keep a list of questions. 
    • Get books for independent reading on the topics
    • Use for future lesson plans
    • Use to create rainy day or boredom buster activities
  • Have conversations.
    • Use new words.
    • Include children in discussions about current events and appropriate topics even if it seems above their heads. 
    • Ask them open-ended questions that require thought.
    • Have them write questions for and interview family members or others they can learn from.
  • Make above-level books available
    • Read them aloud (Suggestion: Watership Down by Richard Adams)
    • Encourage independent reading 
  • Use personal interests.
    • Investigate related careers.
    • Design activities that encourage further research.

Class Discussion

What are some crazy questions your kids have asked you?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Science Links:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Always Before Our Eyes, Forever in Our Minds

Constant Reminders

We want our children to be rooted deeply in the knowledge of our heritage.  We are proud of who we are, where we come from, and what we stand for.  This is reflected in our home.

The objects and displays placed throughout our home have a purpose.  Some have sentimental value and personal history attached to them, and some represent our beliefs.

When we see these things as we go about our days, they become part of us-we cannot forget them or their meaning.

Tense Travelling


Our love of antiques reflects an interest in bygone eras, specifically in American and family histories.  From an early 20th century (still functioning!) sewing machine, to the 48 star flag and the nearly 200 year old house itself, we are reminded daily of things that have shaped us as individuals, a family, and a nation.  


Our eclectic blend of artifacts includes modern items as well.  Technology connects us and brings the world to our home.  Modern day conveniences paired with things of the past reminds us how far we have come and that anything is possible.


As a parent I am reminded constantly that we are responsible for the future.  The three little minds we are responsible for shaping will someday enter the role they were born to play in this world.  I am honored and humbled at the same time at this thought.  Home education is a reference to our concern for the future.  Recent losses and our role as caregivers reminds us that we are mortals and should live accordingly as we create our personal timelines.

Making the Connection

Social Studies is an integral part of our life.  We live through current events, study past ones, and use lessons learned before us to guide our paths to the future.  Here are some ways we connect past, present and future to grow our roots and spread our branches:
  • Photography:  Collecting, sorting and creating projects from old and recent family photos.
  • Family History: We pair genealogy done by others in the family with our own research projects, photos and memories.
  • Local History/Geography:  We explore and learn about our community through local events and resources.
  • Civics: Seeing and using important symbols of our American heritage on a daily basis keeps the American principles fresh in our minds.  

Class Discussion

How does the design of your home reflect your belief system? Feel free to post photos!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Social Studies Links


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fostering Talent: Raising Artists and Musicians

Free Form

Art at our house is very informal, at least for the time being.  We start from the ability to hold a crayon and supply the materials and encouragement to progress from scribbles to masterpiece.

The same is true for music.  We love music, across the genres, and our children are familiar with a variety of forms.  It is impossible for us to provide every instrument, but we do have guitars and pianos available.  We let them pound the keys and strum the strings, sing, dance and listen to music of all types during the day.

Negative Space

When I was assigned an art project in school, I balked. I was supposed to create someone else's idea in a closed environment.  The result was stifled creativity and lack of interest.

When I could bring the images in my mind to life through my own methods, I was an artist.    

I was also in band and took piano lessons for several years. Until I tired of playing someone else's music that held no meaning to me and being pressured to perform instead of create and enjoy music.

There has to be a connection.

Making the Connection

Art and music are creative and emotional outlets that are closely connected to personal interests.  Here's how I've handled these subjects so far:

  • We provide the supplies and make them readily available.
  • We connect art to our lives through photography, as well as cards and gift making.
  • I give them options and make suggestions rather than assign specific subjects for their art. 
  • We respect the amount of time each child wants to spend developing their talents.
  • I let them come to me with their questions and we proceed accordingly
  • We tried music lessons, but found they were not a good fit.

The Results

Our children...
  • Love to create, and continue to develop their talents almost independently.  
  • Prefer to learn to play instruments by ear, and this has been successful.  
  • Are familiar with a variety of genres and artists, both past and present.
  • Have learned to play music they enjoy and songs that have meaning to them.
  • Spend a suitable amount of time and effort on the development of their artistic and musical talents.

Class Discussion

What do art and music look like in your home?

Happy Homeschooling!

Mrs. Redd

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bears in Our Backyard


...not literally.  The bears that roamed our section of the earth have long since relocated.  But the books Bears of Blue River and Uncle Tom Andy Bill by Charles Major help keep their presence alive.

A New Tradition

I discovered these books in 2011, and we immediately read them.  We loved them! They have been the spine of our spring and summer learning ever since.  

Making Connections

Since Charles Major is a native of our hometown, and the setting of the books is along the Blue River, we began exploring our setting through camping and fishing, nature studies, water pollution, local landmarks, events, and resources (Grover Museum, Shelby County Public Library, Bears of Blue River Festival, Shelby County Arts Fest, The Gallery, local businesses, etc.)

Double Connection

There are two connections I want the kids to make through my design of this ongoing "book report":

  1. A connection to the subskills associated with all the academic subjects that will lead to mastery and support additional knowledge as we progress through our education.
  2. A connection to nature and community that will establish roots in their native home and instill a sense of civic duty required for fulfillment of our role as citizens.

Class Discussion

Do you have books that your family reads over and over? Why do you love them?

Happy Homeschooling!

Mrs. Redd

More Language Arts Links:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Accidental Math on Purpose

Plans Change

Our first day back from summer break veered, no, U-turned, away from my schedule.  Shock of all shocks.  By the time things settled down enough to even consider pulling out the daily plan, I was closer to making a paper airplane out of it than looking at it.  

Keep Calm...

The one thing I did manage to accomplish was to explain our schedule to the kids.   So by the afternoon when we were supposed to have math, my little darlings chirped they were ready and asked eagerly what we were going to do.


The clock said there wasn't time before dinner, the clingy, whiny toddler in my arms said it was nap time, their dependent grandmother calling for me meant it was time to play nurse again, and the ringing phone meant someone else needed something.  

Math lesson? How about, How many ways can Mommy be pulled at any given moment of the day? 

Keep calm... and pretend it's on the lesson plan.

Fortunately, I can think under pressure.  Enter Impromptu Lesson #1 of the 2013-14 school year:

"I want you to grab your Nature Study Bag, and go find math in the backyard: Look for examples of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, patterns, shapes, etc."

Silence.  Crap.  They're on to me.

"Al-RIGHT! Thanks Mom!" And they bolted.  

The After-Math

  • The rest of the afternoon was spent in joyful discovery for the kids.
  • I was able to put the baby down for a nap, get dinner going, see to my mom, and get a few moments peace to collect myself and, ahem, plan for Tuesday.

Making the Connection

In the moment, I was only thinking about solutions to each of the immediate problems I was juggling right then.  But that backyard math activity was a better lesson than what I had planned anyway.

Here's Why:

  • It was a lesson that prepared them to learn math by showing them the purpose of learning math: that math surrounds us and we not only use it but that nature is not random. Down to the very first cell of life there is order, logic, patterns and cycles.
  • Using the immediate and familiar surroundings to demonstrate purpose and teach concepts is logical because they see these concepts as relevant to their lives.
  • Discovery breeds enthusiasm. All the while, information is turned into knowledge that is never forgotten because one discovery leads to the next and it all comes together.  It all makes sense, therefore it is mastered.

Class Discussion

Tell me about some of your best impromptu lessons.  How do you handle it when things go awry in your home?

Happy Homeschooling!

Mrs. Redd

More Math Links:

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