Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Game in Algebra

Dragon Box Algebra App

Just one of the recent equations Hunter solved, thanks to Dragon Box.

Dragon Box Algebra App

Somehow in a span of two days with just a few gaming sessions, Hunter went from dragging pictures of whimsical dragons around on a screen to solving some pretty serious algebra equations.

Now that he's beat the game we're just trying to figure out where to go next. I never knew algebra was so much fun, but as Jordan Shapiro said on his review of the game, "[the creator] didn’t gamify algebra. Instead, he found algebra’s intrinsic game and brought it to life." Precisely.

"Let all things be done decently and in order." 1 Corinthians 14:40
Hunter is 7 years, 9 months old

Dragon Box isn't a free app, but it's genius and practical magic is probably the best $6 I have spent on my kid in a long time.  You can find it at the app store for iPod, iPad, and mac.

Also available in the Google Play store.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brain Growth (via Head Circumference) at 18 Months

Head Circumference

While it might be somewhat of a myth that big heads equal big smarts (at least for adults), studies have shown that head growth (as measured by head circumference) in infancy is predictive of later intelligence.

My son Damien started out with a perfectly average head circumference at birth (50th percentile), but within one month his head circumference jumped to the 80th percentile, and gradually crept its way upward throughout his first year, reaching the 99th percentile by his first birthday.

Now, at 18 months, his head measured in at a whopping 20.5 inches, and the "99.9th percentile", and is officially "off the charts" (literally).

I guess it's nice to know that the enrichment things we have been doing have been paying off!

"In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up..." Psalm 90:6
Damien is 18 months old

Friday, November 2, 2012

Did You Let Your Baby Walk this Halloween? (Physical Excellence Friday)

Did You Let Your Baby Walk This Halloween?
Did you let your baby get out and walk while trick-or-treating this Halloween?

Physical mobility is extremely important to a child's overall health and well-being, and is intricately interconnected to brain development and cognitive function. Walking, in particular, is a fantastic brain- and health-developing activity, as it works and strengthens the connections between the two sides of the brain as both sides of the body work in coordination with each other. Walking increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain as well.

This Halloween Damien split his time between riding in the stroller, occasionally being carried, and walking. Once he finally got down to walk, though, that is all he wanted to do.

He very happily walked from house to house with the sweetest bit of determination, anxious to get his coveted "candy" and "chocolate". We even got a few adorable "thank you's" out of him once he was up walking with the big kids. What an adorable experience (and exercise opportunity) we would have missed if we would have kept him strapped in his stroller the whole time!

Glenn Doman's advice, in How to Teach Your Baby to Be Physically Superb, is that if your baby can walk a little (just learning how to walk), let him walk a little. Then go ahead and carry him for the parts that he can't. And if your baby can walk a lot, then let him walk, walk, walk!

Seems like good advice to me.

Damien can walk a lot! So I try to let him walk as often as I can. I do often bring the stroller along, it is a great backup. But most of the time, that little guy's energy will dictate him walking and walking for hours per day, especially when we are somewhere new and interesting!

Sometimes it is more "convenient" for him to be in the stroller. Either to keep him safe and out of the way so we don't really have to pay any attention to him, or to save time (since pushing a stroller is faster than walking with a toddler).

But it's a good reminder to tell ourselves that the most important thing in life isn't convenience. Our children's needs, development, health, and potential is worth more than a little time saved!

It's worth that little extra effort put out in having to actually pay attention to them, talk to them and give them directions (which will in turn build their language, vocabulary, memory, and comprehension skills), and walk alongside them, being present with them.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween, and I hope this post will be an encouragement to remember not to miss those many simple, built-in opportunities we have for helping our babies' development.

If your baby can walk a little, let him get out and walk a little.

And if your baby can walk a lot, let that baby walk!

"Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee." Genesis 13:17

Damien is 16 months (1 year and 4 months) old

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Recommended Resources: (Religious Learning)

Earlier this year I wrote about a new Bible reading technique that we were employing. Which was, simply, listening to the Bible on the computer during meal times.

In that post I wrote about how we used, which is a fantastic resource and, quite frankly, I use it every day (mostly to search for keywords when adding a verse to the end of a blog post).

However we have recently discovered a new audio Bible resource which I highly recommend:

What I love best about this site (or app - available for android, iPhone, and iPad) is the fantastic audio version they have available.

Specifically, the interesting and captivating "dramatized" Bible readings, filled with multiple voices from different people (for different characters), sound effects, background noises, background music, and more.

Best of all? It is free. Completely, 100%. You can even download any version of the Bible you want, to put on your mp3 player or computer.

Right now I have the site bookmarked on my computer and the app downloaded on my tablet. Listening to the Bible together just got all the more fascinating and exciting.

And that can be nothing short of a good thing.

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?... So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10: 14, 17

Hunter is 7 years, 7 months old Damien is 16 months old (1 year and 4 months old)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Information Junky: the Learning Requests of My 16 Month Old

Information Junky

My one-year-old is officially an information junky.

He wants information and he wants it now. And the more I give him, the more he wants.

We recently started getting back into a routine with our flash cards. I am a big believer in starting small, then adding more as you grow accustomed to your routine. And since we are somewhat out of practice, I figured a good place to jump back in would be 3 reading sets, 1 math set, and 2 encyclopedic knowledge sets (each set is roughly 7-10 cards, by the way).

As you can see in the video I posted on Monday, Damien is very adamant about getting his cards and getting them now. He will bring me our little file folder with the cards, shouting, "Number! Number! Number!" until I appease his demands.

In the video he sort of wavered off towards the end, ready to be done. But five seconds later when I put them away, he started crying, got them out, and said "Again! Again!"

Today even after going through all six sets of cards (some sixty or so word and picture cards) he still was not content. So I added two new sets of encyclopedic knowledge cards and a set of math dots. 

He has been "on" me all morning, constantly requesting that I either teach him some new cards, read him a book, or sing him the alphabet song with his wooden alphabet flip blocks. He did take the occasional break to color in his notebook but, for the most part it was, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"

It is both wonderful and exhausting at the same time.

Of course, how can you be frustrated when your baby is begging you to teach him how to read and do math and phonics and identify all sorts of interesting animals and musical instruments and colors and so forth?

But on the other hand, phew. This mom was thankful for nap time to come around today.

And in the meantime, so much for starting small. I suppose I am going to have to get it together and start churning out quite a few more cards per day than I expected, cause this little guy is moving a lot faster than I originally imagined.

"Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips..." Psalm 21:2

Damien is 16 months old

Monday, October 29, 2012

Asking for Flash Cards at 16 Months (Video)

Asking for Flash Cards 16 Months

Damien really loves his flash cards. And is very adamant about letting me know when he wants to see them.

This video shows a random flash card session after he requested them. We normally show the cards quite a bit quicker but, with a camcorder in one hand and only one hand free, it was kind of tricky to go any faster.

I recently got a new little video camera (to replace my 2006 one that still ran on tapes) so hopefully I will be blogging lots more videos of the kids and myself showing little bits of what life is like and sharing some useful information, too.

"Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me..." Job 31:35
Damien is 16 months old

Friday, October 26, 2012

Outsourcing Teaching: Swim Lessons for My 7-Year-Old

Outsourcing Teaching: Swim Lessons for My 7-Year-Old
I have always been a very "do it yourself" kind of parent. I really do believe that parents are the best teachers and are the experts on their own children.

 This is especially true during the early years. A parent can often accomplish infinitely more in teaching their child than the most skilled expert can.

Why? Because not only do they know their child better than anyone else, but because their child trusts them and is completely comfortable around them, making the child receptive to instruction and learning.

Additionally, teaching that happens in the home can always revolve around the child - it is not an arbitrary, paid-for class at 3 pm on Tuesdays, but something that can happen whenever the parent senses the child is at his best and is completely interested and ready.

So a big part of Doman parenting is this sense that parents are the very best teachers for their children. All of the Doman books are about how you can teach your child. They instill that parents do not have to be number geniuses to raise children who love math, or be expert runners to raise children who can jog a 5K.

You can even teach your child things that you previously knew nothing about, like a foreign language. It is about learning with your child, and that is a big part about what I love about the Doman philosophy.

 However, there comes a time, particularly when a child is older, when outsourcing your teaching can be an effective and beneficial alternative or supplement. I am still a big do-it-yourselfer in these middle years, hence the homeschooling. But we have come to a point in our swimming lessons where I feel like an instructor can offer Hunter (7) more than I can. Why?

1. I think he will benefit from the "second opinion" of an instructor Hunter has for a while remained at a point where he is comfortable with his own skill level when it comes to swimming. He can perform an effective crawl stroke, back stroke, and a few others, float on his back, maneuver in the water in many ways, and feels that he has learned all that he wants to know about swimming.

I of course can see that he has room for improvement, to move from a decidedly "intermediate" level to a truly "advanced" level. But at this point his only goal is, well, playing in the water. And he can do that just fine, so he doesn't much see the point in my critiquing his areas for improvement.  Having a second voice (swim instructor) telling him to turn his arm just a little more this way or straighten his toes more firmly will hopefully help him to see that I am not crazy, that he does have room for improvement, and, well, that he doesn't know everything about swimming just yet.

2. Observing other swimmers Usually when we go swimming, it is just with a bunch of other people goofing around in the water. He doesn't ever really get to see anyone doing an excellent crawl stroke or a proper dive. He just does what I tell him and watches my example, but doesn't get to observe anyone else. (And to be honest I'm not completely sure I am doing it exactly right all the time, which was fine when he was learning the rudimentary techniques, but as he works for perfection I think he needs to see, well, perfection.) I am hoping that the group lessons will help that, and he will be able to see the techniques he is working on and attempt to copy them and know what he is aiming for.

3. Peer influence Being around a group of friends who are all focusing on the same goal (learning how to swim better) will ideally be a motivator for him and discourage his "I know everything I want to know about swimming" attitude. 4. I have come close to my limit in things I can teach him I would like Hunter to go above and beyond my skill level. In both swimming and in life. So there comes a time in both where I have to either hand him off to someone else, or let him take off on his own, to go further than I did. And right now we are somewhat at that point. I could definitely learn more about swim instruction and techniques, and teach him myself, but due to the above three mentioned points, as well as my own time constraints, I feel that outsourcing is a good idea at this point in his development. The additional benefit of outsourced lessons is that they have more equipment and capabilities than I have access to, such as diving instruction, life saving devices, and so on.  

So there is my big post about my decision to sign my kid up for swimming lessons. It may not even be worth that much thought and effort for most, but for me it is kind of a big deal. This is actually my first time sending my kid to a class for them to actually teach him something. And it feels weird to me. Sure, he has done classes and activities and such. Soccer. Baseball. Basketball. Vacation Bible School. And the like. But he was never really learning all that much in those things, it was mostly all for socialization and fun. But alas, here we are.

This is not just about fun - I am handing my baby over to someone else for them to teach him something and give him something I "can't". So, here's to a new "chapter" of our life, the point at which slowly, gradually, and eventually, I begin handing my teaching over. Just a little bitty piece today, but eventually, more. As he starts learning more and more things on his own, and learning from more and more different people, things that I can't give him.

 Here's to growing up.

 See follow-up post here: Outsourcing Swim Lessons: Our Less Than Stellar Experience (7 Years Old) Our Swim Lesson Experience  

"A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:" Proverbs 1:5
Hunter is 7 years, 7 months old

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Damien Loving His Color Flash Cards

Learning Colors
Damien and I colored some color flash cards today. The front has a color and the back has the word. Such simple fun. For a few seconds a couple of times a day.

He loves them. I really don't know why some people equate flash cards for one-year-olds with child abuse. Babies really do love flash cards when presented in the right way.

"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Matthew 11:25

Damien is 16 months old

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Day Off to Visit Mummies: Exploring Interests

Mummies at the Museum
A few days ago I wrote about Hunter's sparked interest in Ancient Egypt.
We read something about Ancient Egyptian tombs one night, and afterwards he decided to start endlessly Googling all things Ancient Egypt. When he discovered that most mummies are no longer in pyramids but rather in museums, he enthusiastically asked if we could go to a museum and see some real mummies.
Mummies at the Museum
So a few days later, we did.
Mummies at the Museum
We saw lots of real mummies. Adult mummies, child mummies, cat and bird mummies. Mummies in coffins, mummies out of coffins, mummies unwrapped.
Mummies at the Museum
We saw a lot of cool stuff about the mummification process.
Mummies at the Museum
We also saw lots of other cool stuff, like real Egyptian scrolls.
Mummies at the Museum
And statues of the Egyptian gods.
Mummies at the Museum
And real hieroglyphs.
Mummies at the Museum
And lots of other really neat artifacts.
The exhibit was huge, and Hunter was running around like a kid in a candy store.
We have been to lots of museums in his short life but I have never seen him this excited about any of them.
I love being able to fuel my kid's interests. I love being able to take the day off of school and really make learning come alive. I love that I can customize his education to what he's interested in. I love the quality time together learning and exploring as a family. I love imparting the value of the love of knowledge and inquisition to my child.
It is days like this I remember, why I love homeschooling so much.
"And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south." Genesis 13:1
Hunter is 7 years, 7 months old

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sorting through Flash Cards

Dollar Store Bits Last night I sorted through some of my dollar store bits (flash cards) that I am planning on using with Damien soon. I absolutely love the various dollar store flash cards that are available. In this particular collection I have animals of the world, animals of North America, insects, animals of the air, sea creatures, dinosaurs, musical instruments, kings and queens of Europe, US Presidents, landscapes, biomes, famous landmarks, US street signs, lower and uppercase alphabet letters, and an astronomy pack with various cards (constellations, planets, celestial objects, space technology, galaxies, etc.). Dollar Store Bits All in all there are probably somewhere around 600 pieces of information he'll be learning that I paid less than $20 for and didn't require any work other than we sorting them into sets (made up of around 10 cards each). They're not perfect but sometimes easy trumps everything else in a world where time is limited and precious. Do you use dollar store flash cards to teach your kids? Most of mine have come from Target.
"Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." Isaiah 33:17
Damien is 16 months old

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Researching Ancient Egyptians in Free Time

Researching for Fun

A little peek at our evening.

Just for fun, we were reading a history storybook before bed. I googled some pictures as we read. Sphinx. The Great Pyramid. Mummification. It is fun to see lots of real life pictures to illustrate what we're talking about.

Researching for Fun

And when we were done Hunter kept googling things.

He clicked on pictures and went from site to site. He searched one thing after another. Google's feature of guessing what you are typing (or suggesting similar searches) was a huge help that lead to lot's more searches.

Researching for Fun

He read about the country of Egypt, Egyptian kings, Egyptian names, mummification. He watched videos about Tutankhamen, Cleopatra, pyramid building.

When he found out that most mummies are no longer in pyramids but in museums, he asked if we could go to a museum and to plan the trip soon. So we talked to Dad and agreed to go to the history museum near us this week or next.

Researching for Fun

All in about 30 minutes before bed.

Then he kissed me goodnight and said, "Can I please look up more about ancient Egypt tomorrow?"

Did I mention that I love technology?

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel." Isaiah 27:12

Hunter is 7 years, 6 months old

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fear of Moving Forward – Grade Skipping and What Comes Next

Fear of Moving Forward

"He's only seven and doing fourth grade work? So what are you going to do when he's done with middle school by age 10 or something?"

The question is half serious and half in jest; a pat on the back for our "achievement". But it's an honest question that I sometimes think about, yet just as often ignore.

My child is a bit ahead, yes. He started reading and doing arithmetic earlier than most and has stayed ahead of the curve ever since. On top of staying ahead of the curve, he is moving somewhat faster than the curve too. It doesn't take him a whole year to master a grade level's worth of work at this point, and I'm totally ok with that. I roll with the punches and tailor my kid's curriculum to his needs.

To me, that's what homeschooling is about.

But the question does come up sometimes. Sometimes from others and sometimes from myself.  What will happen as he creeps further and further away from the "normal" scale? What will happen if he keeps at this pace and ends up finishing junior or senior high years before he's "supposed to"?

I suppose what is really being asked is whether or not I should be slowing him down or holding him back, for the purpose of keeping him "normal".

But really? I have no desire to hold my kid back. I don't care if he's not "average". It's about what my kid needs and it doesn't matter if other kids his age are at whatever level.

To be honest, I already have a hard enough time keeping him challenged and engaged at the pace we are going now. He always wants what's next. Once he understands something, he wants to move on and not to practice it in a dozen different ways day after day.

So we keep moving. And he's going fast. And if going fast means "finishing" pretty early, then so be it. Because when it comes down to it and I have the choice between putting a cap on my kid's educational achievement and keeping him "normal", or giving him the tools he needs to move forward at the pace he desires, I am going to go with what is going to keep him interested, engaged, and motivated.

Might that cause a "problem" later? I guess it could. But it's really a "problem" I'll be happy to have, especially considering the alternative (read: bored, tuned out, disinterested, disengaged).

If he "reaches the end" early, I am sure we will be fine. We can just keep moving forward. He can take online or community college courses or, just delve into whatever interests him. After all, as Mr. Stevenson said,

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

"And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory."
Exodus 33:18
Hunter is 7 years, 6 months old and in "2nd grade"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"School Photos" for 2nd Grade and K1

School Photos

Our "school year" actually started in June, but for some reason we never get around to taking "beginning of the year" photos until early fall.

Here are this year's. I am a little in awe at how big they've gotten, yet thinking about how next year these very pictures will seem "little". It's cliche, but time really does fly.

School Photos

And just for fun:

School Grades

School Grades

Enjoy your autumn, everybody!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

"Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many." Proverbs 4:10

Hunter is 7 years, 5 months old and in "2nd" grade
Damien is 1 year, 2 months, 3 weeks old [14 months] and in grade "K1"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dealing With Self-Doubt as a Mom: The Big Yellow Bus

Struggling with Self Doubt
I can't explain why this picture can in the same moment make me both envy the classroom for my child and be thankful that he doesn't have to go through it
"With great power comes great responsibility."
You want to know a secret?

I struggle with self doubt as a mom. A lot. Often multiple times a day, every day of my life.

I wonder if I am doing enough, if I am being enough, or doing too much, or doing something when I should be doing something else.

I don't know why. Because deep down, I know I'm doing ok. I know my kids are ok. Maybe not perfect. But I know that at least most of the time I am a "good" mom.

Even still, I just can't ever seem to shake it. I can't ever seem to stop questioning myself.
This time of year for one reason or another always brings some intense internal struggles. I get on my computer and am bombarded with pictures of all my friends' kids on their first day of school. The backpacks. The bus. The desks. The new teachers.

And I can't figure out why it bothers me so much.
Maybe it's because I feel some sort of isolation. Alone. Different. Out of place.

No one in my circle of friends home schools.

And certainly no one I know home schools the way I do. Teaching a few grade levels above age.

Teaching young. A lifestyle of learning many useful and interesting things.


So some silly thought process repeats over and over again in my head.

Feeling that maybe if all of these people that I respect and care about are choosing a certain thing for their kids, then, well, I don't know. Maybe they're onto something? Maybe I really am crazy? Maybe I am going to mess up my kids, somehow, someway?

The thoughts aren't so much on an intellectual level as they are on an emotional level.

Because I know in my head that what I am doing is, in the very least, the best thing for my kids. For my family. For this time in our lives.

Intellectually I can clearly and concisely tell you a thousand reasons why I am doing what I'm doing. Why I choose to do things differently. Why it benefits our lives, and makes us a better family, and individually better people.

But on an emotional level, that picture of your kid in his third grade classroom makes me question myself in a way that just doesn't make any sense.


Do you ever struggle with self-doubt as a parent, whether you home school or not, even if it doesn't always make sense?

“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.”Romans 14:8
My boys are currently 7 years, 4 months old and 1 year, 2 months old

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Our House and Where We Do School

School Rooms
Damien - 14 months - in his bedroom, with his bookshelf and desk (where he colors and we do journaling)

We are a homeschooling and home-learning family and, in the last three years, I have tried setting up many different versions of a "school space". But in the end we always end up doing our learning all over the house and the school space just ends up being a clutter-collecting mess.

I have two sons: Hunter, who is in "2nd" grade (age 7, but doing above age level work) and Damien, who is in "baby school" (age 14 months, we call this grade level "K1").

Where We Do School

School Rooms

Hunter (7) playing with a tray of baking soda and colored vinegar at the kitchen table

We honestly do school all over our house. Often on the couch. Sometimes in bed. A lot of times on the floor. Frequently at the dining room table, in the kitchen, on the patio, at the park, or in the car.

I have many, many times tried setting up specific "school centers" but in the end I guess we are a restless bunch and end up moving all over every corner of the house, anyway, so I've really given up on the idea.

But I'll spare you with posting pictures of all of that because, I assure you, it's not all that interesting.

School Rooms
Hunter's Desk

Earlier this spring I bought Hunter a very small computer desk from wal-mart. It is small enough that we do not store anything on it (pencil cans, books, etc) and therefore it does not collect (that much) clutter. Or at least when it does collect some clutter, we have to put the clutter away before he can use his desk, so it stays pretty tidy.

I know I just got done explaining how we do school all over the house, but now I am telling you that we have a school desk. Let me explain.

The thing is, he doesn't use it for everything, or even every day. Really it is just a tool to help him focus during certain times, mostly when I need him to be working on something by himself. He does a lot of his school on the computer (see his curriculum here) and so it also serves as a charging station for the computer that does not move. I cannot tell you how many times I have told him to go do some school on his computer, and he recoils with "But the computer's dead and I don't know where the charger is!"

Some other reasons this little desk works great for us:
  • It's very small so no distracting clutter (or toys) get stored on it. This really helps him focus.
  • We've been keeping it in the dining room where his little brother generally doesn't play. This really helps him pay attention to his work.
  • I usually have him do his independent work on there, and I can watch him from the kitchen.
  • He has a coaster on it where he keeps his water bottle, avoiding the constant water breaks (the coaster is attached with poster putty to prevent it from slipping and getting lost).
  • The pull-out keyboard tray is a great extra workspace if he needs some more room.
  • His stool fits perfectly underneath for storage and the whole set-up takes up very little room.
  • He keeps his "workbox" next to it, which holds his pencil/supply box, reading books, binder full of weekly assignments, timer, scratch paper for math, journal, and so on. This box does move all around the house with us, but being able to "put it away" here prevents the "I don't know where it is" issue.
So that is what is working for us right now, at this stage of our life and his development.
Now onto the living room, where Damien (14 months) spends most of his time...

School Rooms

Living room, with some shelves for Damien (14 months) and the keyboard

In the living room is where we all actually spend most of our time. We have a big old couch, TV, and piano keyboard in there, but the rest of the furniture is centered around Damien.

The baby-centric nature of the room evolved out of the fact that this used to be my daycare room so it in turn was the toy room. Right now the only toys I have out are ones that Damien is currently developmentally interested in. In theory I rotate these weekly but in practice they stay out for longer than that, but the toy selection does nonetheless change on a semi-regular basis.

The above picture shows some of the shelves with lots of small motor development toys, some fine art prints on the top shelf, as well as Damien's bit bag (the blue monkey bag) where I keep all of his flash cards, poetry and music copies, checklists, and journal. To the left is our piano keyboard with a basket of alphabet letters resting on top of it.

School Rooms

Across the room is another toy shelf for Damien. Next to it is a big open space where another shelf used to be. That shelf is now in Damien's room harboring books (see first picture in this post). The open space makes a great place to keep his ball popper and slide.

School Rooms

Next to our little TV stand is Damien's potty. We keep some books down here and to be honest he spends more time looking at those books than he does all the other toys in the room. That little patterned box you see next to him is something I made for him when he was learning how to pull to standing and push things around the room. It's just a cardboard box that has some extra cardboard pieces inside (for strength), a few jingle bells tossed in, then sealed up and covered with patterned contact paper.

He is way past that stage now, but it is now serving as a perfectly-sized "table" to him to set his books on while he goes potty.

School Rooms

See tutorial and pictures of uses here

The last little thing in the living room is Damien's jungle gym. We built this out of PVC pipes (cut with a saw and secured with a hot glue gun) when he was still very tiny. Back then we used it as a mobile bar and hung things from it for him to look at and hit or kick at. Later he used the sides to pull up on or crawl through. Now he uses it to hang from the "monkey bars" and still climbs through it and around it.

The big kids throw a blanket over the top and use it as a fort, or get a ball out and use it as a soccer goal (the front side is open). We covered it in colored duct tape because all the plastic paints we could find were toxic. (See tutorial and pictures of all its uses here)

Other parts of the house...

School Rooms
Stair landing bookshelves

We have a lot of books in our home. Since I am a firm believer in the idea that books belong in shelves, not stored up in boxes, that equates to a lot of book shelves in our home, too.

The above picture shows the bookshelves that are conveniently located on the landing area of our stairs. They contain all sorts of books but they're mostly educational. We also currently keep a lot of kid games on the top of the shelf, as well as that little plastic colored shelf full of other kid games, such as card games, puzzles, and so on.

Some other book storage areas from around the house:
  • Tall bookshelf in my room
  • Medium bookshelf in Damien's room (see top picture in this post)
  • Book area next to potty station (see above photo in living room)
  • Small book station next to Hunter's bed
  • Two long shelves in laundry room above my desk
  • Shelf of school books in a downstairs closet
We also store other kinds of school supplies in other places:
  • Art and office/school supplies fill part of a closet downstairs
  • Toys and learning materials we're not currently using go in a section of an upstairs closet
  • Flash cards and paper learning materials we're not currently using go in a two-drawer filing cabinet in my room
  • Flashcards, worksheets, and other paper learning materials that are scheduled to be used in the future go in two drawers of a filing cabinet in the laundry room
Our storage areas aren't currently all that pretty or organized so I will spare you of posting pictures.

But this is basically what is working for us right now. Rather than having everything all in one room it is just spread throughout little convenient areas of the house where it fits and makes sense. Some of it is up and out of the way since we don't use it that much. Some of it is accessible and open because we do use it on a fairly regular basis, but not daily, so it's nice to have it out of the "daily" living areas (living room and kitchen/dining room).

I also really enjoy having everything out of the way so that I can focus on what we are working on.

School Rooms

Right outside our back door to our "very own" gym

Besides the inside of our house, "school" happens other places, too. We do a lot of school outside on our patio and a lot of physical education at the basketball court and park behind our house. It's nice to have our "own", free gym!

School Rooms
Some physical education equipment in our garage

We also do quite a bit of physical education in our garage. We have a treadmill, a punching bag, a pull up / dip bar, some weights, a foam mat, and a basketball hoop.

School Rooms
Picking fresh grapes at a vineyard

And last but not least, school frequently happens out and about. We go on a lot of impromptu field trips and listen to educational songs or have discussions in the car.

I hope you've enjoyed this little description of our homeschool space. I'm looking forward to seeing how much things will have changed by next year!

Previous "School Room" Posts:
I am linking this post to iHomeschool Network's "Not Back to School Blog Hop"

Not Back to School Blog Hop
"Yet he filled their houses with good things..."
Job 22:18
Hunter is 7 years, 4 months old and in "2nd" grade
Damien is 14 months, 2 weeks old (1 year & 2 months) and in grade "K1"

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Early Potty Training: My 14 Month Old has Better Sphincter Control than Me

14 Months

Today before nap time I sat Damien on the potty to give him an opportunity to go if he needed to. He loves sitting on the potty and looking at books, but sometimes he is too busy and hops right back up in his typical toddler fashion and starts running around the room again. This time it happened to be the later - after about 15 seconds he hopped up, walked a few feet away - and then started peeing on the floor. In sort of an urgent voice, but trying to be calm voice, I said "No!" And the instant that word left my voice, the stream of urine stopped. I was surprised but thought that maybe it was just coincidental and he was done going. But then he walked back with me to the potty, sat down, and nearly halfway filled the potty with the rest of his bladder contents. My 14-month-old stopped his stream of urine dead in its tracks, held it for 10 seconds, and finished somewhere else.

He officially has better sphincter control than me. You better believe that after two kids, there is no way I could do that.

"Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?" Jeremiah 18:14

Damien is 14 months, 1 week old

Friday, August 10, 2012

Archery (Physical Excellence Friday)


Hunter has started learning how to use his compound bow.

So far he really enjoys it.

Archery is a fantastic, new-to-us sport that is suitable for toddlers through the elderly, with lots of great qualities:

Physical (and Mental) Benefits of Archery:
  • Develops arm and whole upper body strength
  • Builds balance, steadiness, and stability
  • Develops hand-eye coordination
  • Improves hand and finger flexibility and strength
  • Keeping still while shooting develops core muscles and coordination
  • Builds mental focusing and concentration skills
  • Can be relaxing and mind-clearing
Isn't it great?

Happy Friday! What physical things have you been doing with your family this week?

"They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow, even of Saul's brethren of Benjamin."
1 Chronicles 12:2
Hunter is 7 years, 4 months old and in "2nd" grade

Monday, August 6, 2012

2012-2013 Curriculum (Grade "K1" - Damien, age 1)


"They knew the real secret. They knew that the magic is in the child, not in the materials..." - Glenn Doman
"Tiny kids can learn anything that you can present to them in an honest, factual way. If you give them the facts they'll deduce the laws that govern them. That is exactly the same method that scientists use to discover laws. So don't give them theories and abstractions, give them facts, give them reality. From the facts little children are brilliantly able to intuit the laws." -Glenn Doman
Damien is my one year old. In this post I am going to share about my "curriculum" for him, or the learning activities we do in our homeschool.

Right now Damien is so much fun to observe, be around, play with, and teach. He just turned 14 months is saying multiple new words on a daily basis, both one- and two-syllable (like "dino" and "apple" and "baloo[n]"). He can repeat almost any word we say to him, when he wants to.

He pages through our substantial collection of books nearly nonstop every day. When given the chance to go outside, he is nonstop on the move, walking, walking, exploring, and sometimes (almost) running.

He loves being read to, talked with, tickled, played goofy games with, and doing bit cards (flash cards) together.

Damien making a mess getting out his bit cards

Yes, I use flash cards with my baby. No, it does not mean that I strap him to a chair and drill and test him for three hours a day.

We use flash cards in the very same way that other people use board books - it is just showing a baby words, pictures, and talking about them together. They are just another fun learning toy we play with. They take but a few moments several times a day (sometimes not so often) and he loves them and, in fact, begs for them and demands them. I present them in fun, game, and merriment, and it is a great few-minute addition to our little routine.
"Babies are learning every minute of every day and we're teaching them - whether we know it or not. The problem is that it may be bad to be teaching them if we don't know we are. We may be teaching them things we don't actually intend to teach them. Most often we are unintentionally teaching them things that aren't worth learning - or at least aren't as worth learning as the things they could be learning and learning much more quickly and easily." -Glenn Doman
However most of our day is spent like this:

Climbing on Mommy's back 6-10-12 16_new

Or this:


Or this:


Or this:

Zoo & park Fresno 6-3-12 120_new
Damien has a very normal toddlerhood. He spends 90% of his day freely playing with toys, books, his brother, exploring the house, eating, nursing, napping, being snuggled and adored and talked to. The other 10% (on a good day) involves other wonderful but not so common (and often misunderstood) activities like playing with flash cards for a few moments together, listening to classical music or notes being played on the piano, coloring with crayons, fun little planned games and toys for developing small motor skills, going for walks, doing little games to promote balance, and so on.

It is all fun and games to him and no one has ever told him that watching Teletubbies is more fun than math or exercise, and it turns out babies aren't born with that bias.


I keep track of our activities in a little binder and all of our bits cards (flash cards) go in our "bit bag". I will write later on how we organize and keep track of our activities as well as the printables I created.

Damien's Curriculum, K1
(Ages 12 through 23 months)


“Very young children can and do learn to read words, sentences, and paragraphs in exactly the same way they learn to understand spoken words, sentences, and paragraphs." - Glenn Doman

We use ideas from Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby to Read.

I know some people cannot comprehend a baby being able to easily (and joyfully) learn a task that most adults struggle painfully for many months or years to teach to 5, 6, and 7 year olds. But I have found baby reading to be very enjoyable and simple. Learning to recognize written words is actually a lot less complex than learning to successfully recognize spoken words (with its varying tone, inflection, accent, speed, and so on that we bombard babies with) yet virtually all children become fluent in the spoken English language before their second or third birthday and understand much of English before the age of six months. Yet we never blink an eye at adults bombarding infants with spoken languages.

Written English is much more straight-forward, consistent, and clear, and it turns out that if we present written English to babies in a clear, large, factual way (just as we speak to them in clear, loud, straight-forward speech) they can successfully learn to read (fluently, by sight and phonics) before their second or third birthday and recognize/understand many written words long before then.

But I am getting ahead of myself, and the topic certainly deserves a post of its own! Baby reading involves showing babies whole words (just as we speak to them in whole words, obviously) and initially the baby will simply "memorize the shape" but not long after he will begin to observe patterns, deduce the laws that govern them, (just as all babies do with English speech and grammar) and begin to read phonetically.

Content: The goal is to go through about 50 words per week (he loves them!) although we won't always be that consistent. Right now he is just doing single words, such as family member names, animals, objects, colors, and so on, usually accompanied with pictures on the flip side of card. Soon I am going to introduce some (homemade) simple sentence books for him.

Alphabet: I also explicitly teach him phonics and he currently knows the sounds of about half of the letters of the alphabet (uppercase). We are going to finish with the sounds of the uppercase letters and then introduce the corresponding lowercase letters, and at some point introduce the names of the letters. Also later introducing letter combination sounds (ch, sh, igh, and so on). He really loves his letters and gets very excited when we play with them in the kitchen, bath, or during diaper changes.

Literature: Damien is usually right along with there with his older brother when we read classic literature, poetry, and the Bible together as a family.



Using activities from Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby to Write. In the booklet, the author states that writing is not just the physical act of putting a pen to paper. If Shakespeare would have had a secretary record his words as he composed them, would his works have been any less great, or any less his? Certainly not.

Writing, they say, is a creative process that can begin long before your baby can form letters with a pencil. You can start with your baby at any age. Once a day, have a journalling session where you ask them questions and wait for their answer. Babies of just a few days or weeks old will respond and "talk" to you. We usually ask simple questions, such as "How was your day? What was your favorite part of today? What was your least favorite part?" Then record the questions and their responses.

The better their speech the more detailed their responses will be. This little activity is a great way to "give baby a voice", a great memory maker, and great language development game, and a great way to teach them what writing is (putting ideas to words / paper) and give them a desire to want to do it themselves. Later on the physical act of writing is introduced, but tracing words before tracing letters.

I also during our nightly writing sessions (they don't happen every night but when we can) let him draw and color on his journal page. I give him a choice of two different colored markers and he makes the most beautiful "pictures"! He is also learning fine motor skills and pencil control in doing this.


Language Development
"With few exceptions, the more parents talked to their children, the faster the children's vocabularies grew and the higher the children's IQ test scores were at ages three and up."
-Drs. Betty Hart and Todd R Risley in Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children

Conversation is such an important part of overall development and the ideal goal according to this study is 17,000 words a day for the first three years of life. So we try to do a lot of talking around here, both talking to my baby as well as talking with him (waiting for and listening to his responses, having back and for conversations, and so on).

We also do American Sign Language, but not nearly as much as I thought we would, as he verbalizes well and I am more focused on teaching him spoken words and pronunciations.


"Always remember that math is a game. It is fun! It is playing with your baby." - Glenn Doman

We use the activities from Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby Math and the Math for Mothers (I-III) booklets by Glenn Doman from the Gentle Revolution Press.

Baby math involves using cards with randomly placed dots to teach quantities first before teaching counting. The baby does not count the dots but subitizes them. That is, can tell that a card with 55 dots has more than a card with 54 dots, instantly, an ability they will loose before their second or third birthday. So the names of the numbers are taught to the baby and then arithmetic can be taught. It in no way resembles the way you teach your first grader math and is a great deal of fun and only takes a few seconds a day.

I have no scientific studies to demonstrate that babies have this ability but witnessed it with my first born son when he was two and three (he kept the ability a little longer than "average") and it is phenomenal to say the least.

Counting: We also do count things around the house frequently, talk about numbers and shapes and positions and so on, and twice a day since he was seven months old (when I lay him down for nap and bed) I "sing" from 1 to 100 in the tune of twinkle twinkle little star. It has gotten to the point where I can't lay him down without singing that first. Looking forward to the day he sings back.


Encyclopedic Knowledge

"Babies can learn absolutely anything that you can present to them in an honest and factual way and they don't give a fig whether it's encyclopedic knowledge, reading words, math, or nonsense for that matter. They'd prefer great things - reading, math, all the presidents of the United States, the nations of Europe, the great art of the world, the song birds of the eastern states, the snakes of the world, the kings and queens of England, the great music of the world, the international traffic signs, the dinosaurs, the state flowers, or any of the millions of fascinating things there are to know about on this old earth. But they'll even take nonsense if that's all they can get." - Glenn Doman

We will be learning the names of lots of beautiful and interesting things this year by way of reading books together and also playing with "bit cards" (flash cards) via the ideas in Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge.

For simplicity's sake, everything there is to know is organized into 11 categories (Art, Biology, General Science, Geography, History, Human Anatomy, Languages, Literature, Mathematics, Music, and Scripture) and we'll pick maybe 5-10 facts from 5-6 categories per week (or every other week) to learn about.



Using ideas and simple exercises from Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby to Be Physically Superb. The physical program involves things like going for daily walks together, walking on different terrains (bumpy, hilly, sandy, etc.), stair climbing, and crawling (on hands and knees as well as "army crawling").

The balance activities are things like holding your baby in your arms and gently spinning, lifting baby up and down and side to side, and lots of other things that parents naturally do when they play with their baby. Their are also fun little things like rolling on the floor, doing somersaults, walking on a balance beam, and so on.

The manual program involves hanging from a bar, doing brachiation [monkey bars], and small motor activities like pouring and transferring.

Swimming: Swimming activities using Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby to Swim. Right now this involves swimming underwater (by himself), back floating, jumping in the pool, climbing out of the pool, splashing, and being cute. Will hopefully be able to keep up our fantastic summer progress over the winter and during our travels. You can read about our activities here.

Water table 6-15-12 04_new


Also part of the physical program is sensory activities.
Tactile: Just fun one-year-old stuff like water play, play dough, art activities like painting, helping out in the kitchen, playing with dry rice/beans/pasta, texture material samples, and so on. I don't do these things as often as I would like to but I am hoping to be more consistent over the fall. Also, he tends to make up his own sensory experiences

Auditory: Conversation, talking about sounds we hear and where they're coming from, naming piano notes, and so on.

Olfactory, Gustatory (smell, taste): Mostly unplanned, impromptu experiences while helping out in the kitchen: smelling spices, ingredients, tasting things, and so on.

Visual: Visual stimulation is now in the form of the reading, math, and encyclopedic knowledge games as well as talking about sights that we see.


Small Motor

Lots of home made and store-bought toys that encourage small motor skills, thinking, and problem solving. Fitting various objects into various spaces and holes, puzzles and manipulation toys, object stacking, sorting, pouring and transferring, and so on.

Sweeping Damien 6-10-12 02_new

Life Skills

Little Damien loves to "help out" around the house and do what we're doing. Of course at this point it is anything but "helpful". But I have learned the value of allowing babies to participate in real life instead of being shooed away to play with their toys or watch TV all day. Some benefits I've observed:
  1. It brings about many opportunities for vocabulary building and conversation
  2. It provides lots of great impromptu sensory experiences
  3. It provides lots of problem solving and learning opportunities as babies can observe how things work (such as how a screw driver turns a screw, the hot water changes the texture of the pasta, etc)
  4. It provides lots of small motor opportunities, such as sorting, pouring, carrying, turning, and so on
  5. It helps build good behavior as babies get a chance to practice self control and follow directions
  6. It builds your relationship with your child in a powerful way
  7. It builds confidence and self esteem as the child knows that he is needed, wanted, valuable, and useful (rather than just being "told", he gets to experience and live it)
  8. It builds children with a great many skills and a strong work ethic - they may not be much "help" in the very early years, but you will be reaping the benefits of teaching your children to work while they are young for years on end. As experienced with my first child, by the time he was two and three he was a genuine help in many areas. By four he was a noticeable help around the house. At seven he is a substantial and significant help in all household tasks - more capable and helpful than many ten year olds and even some teens I have known in our post-modern America.
So what does Damien do? Everything he can! I like to bring him along with me while I do laundry, cook, fold clothes, organize, work at my desk, clean, and whatever we are doing. With help, he picks up his own toys, takes his diapers to the trash, and takes his clothes to the hamper. He "helps" in fun cute ways and loves to be with his parents and big brother!


Out and About

We like to get out of the house - go to the farmer's market, the grocery store, the fair, the zoo, the park. Most weekends at least we are out as a family going somewhere interesting.

So that is our little homeschool program for Damien. Maybe it sounds like a lot (or maybe it doesn't) but it's really just become a part of our life, a part of our routine, as normal as wiping messy faces and making lunch and giving kisses. Most of our little flash card sessions happen right before and after daily routine tasks - mealtimes, diaper changes / potty times, naps, bathes, and so on. I hope you've found this post interesting and informative.

To see what big brother's curriculum plans for the year are, you can go here.

Farmer's market 6-28-12 22_new

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:7-9
Not Back to School Blog Hop
Damien is currently 14 months, 0 weeks old (grade "K1")