Some Dry Reading While Studying Famines Vol 1 ch.6

Have you ever tried to read a book that is really popular amongst the home school “living books” crowd, given up, and felt bad since everyone loves that author? You may have even wondered what was wrong with you. Did you then valiantly try again only to have your children ask you to not read that book anymore? This is what happened when we undertook to read a few of Holling Clancy Holling’s books. Of the three titles that I have, Seabird, Paddle-to-the-Sea, and Minn of the Mississippi, none captured our interests. Which is odd since my children are all avid nature enthusiasts. The other time this happened was when we read The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley. The Holling’s books had all the earmarks of a perfect fit with this unit since the contents of the books coincided with many topics to be studied. But alas it was not to be.

But on the other hand I had a similar experience with another author; but this time what once seemed void of meaning now penetrated my mind and gripped me. Reading the tragic tale of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in my high school English class failed to engage me but when I dipped into it again while my children sat around it was a different experience altogether. Words that once seemed remote and enigmatic now seemed within my grasp. The rhyme was spell binding.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean

And then these well known lines:

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

I have learned that sometimes several tries is good enough to put something away forever, but on the other hand you just never know when that one elusive book or work will suddenly come alive.

Alongside these books my children read Mutiny on the Bounty and Robinson Crusoe(condensed).

More Than Hot Air – Volume 1 ch. 5

There are so many enjoyable living books one can read while doing a study on transportation. I really wanted to re-read Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days, but the two week time frame of unit 5 prohibited it. I found such pleasure in reading this with my children years ago. The ending of Around the World is one of my favorites. If you have only seen the movies than you are in for a wonderful surprise. I hardly recognize the book in what passes as the movie renditions.

I have had the book The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois on my shelf for sometime and since hot air balloons are covered in this unit I decided to give it a go. Although it was not what I expected it provided some light-hearted reading and inspiration during our study. My older two children were not as entertained by it as my 9 year old but that is okay since I usually read on their level and expect my youngest one to appreciate it. I had hoped that it would have been more factual about Krakatoa so I was disappointed. I am glad that I did not save it for a study on volcanoes and read it now. But what it did do was allow my daughter and me to enter into our hot air balloon making with a sense of adventure. My daughter even added a “bamboo” house, complete with provisions, for our balloon “The Forea-Un.” But just like the ill-fated Globe we had to also cut our shelter loose for it to gain any height.

My son read The Wright Brothers by Charles Ludwig and had no problem finishing it so it must have been pretty good.

Next time I will float some other books your way…when we study famines, water and the ocean.

The Importance of History – Volume 1 ch. 4

One of my favorite phrases I love to hear during school time is, “Please read us more!”  When this comes from a teenager it feels more consequential. Sharing enthralling literature is a goal of mine and when I get my children hooked I feel I have scored a significant victory. This happened in this particular unit on history.

This unit was so enjoyable that I wished it would have spanned longer than just 2 weeks.  Because the unit was so short I was hard pressed to find a read aloud that could be done in this time frame.  I finally chose to read one of Shakespeare’s tragedies in story form, Anthony and Cleopatra.  Yes, it is one of his tragedies but we read it for it’s historical import as well.   I have a varied collection of books that have transformed Shakespeare’s plays into stories. They are Shakespeare’s Stories by Leon Garfield,  Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, and The Best of Shakespeare
by E. Nesbit. Garfield was the only one who attempted Anthony and Cleopatra. The writing was done in a way that retained Shakespeare’s flavor and some of his pithy quips. We pondered Anthony’s words that revealed his hopeless predicament when he muttered, “Ten thousand harms my idleness doth hatch”. And we mused over Cleopatra’s description of her prior relationship with Julius Caesar as, “My salad days when I was green in judgement.” With this subject matter I did use caution. There were a couple words that were for more mature readers that I skipped over.

Other books my children read were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln
by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, for my 3rd grader, and various selections from Great Lives, Great Deeds published by Reader’s Digest, for both my 8th grader and high schooler.  My high schooler worked her way through Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser. I discovered this title about George Washington recommended at so decided to try it. My daughter found it a challenge to read. Although it was not quick reading she reflected on the author’s thoughts long after she had closed the book. I hope to read it soon in order to give a better review.

Next time, I will share about what books we traveled through in our unit on transportation.

What We Saw and Heard – Reflections on Volume 1 ch.3

Unit planning tops my list of favorite activities. Poring over the objectives in the volume and the supplement, pulling resources off my shelves, and searching out Internet helps, always stirs up my imagination and creativity. But that is nothing compared to the actual learning, the reading together, the “aha” moments, and the meaningful conversations that always take place as we study together. This unit on “Speech, Sound and Language” opened up some areas of discovery for us. Let me share some of them with you.

One surprise was how fascinated we all were by the book The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller. The only thing that prevented us from non-stop reading was my sore throat, from bronchitis, and lunch time hunger pangs. I have to admit that I am a bit ambivalent towards Helen Keller. Knowing that she became part of a cult, Swedenborganism, has always tempered my interest in her life. But in reading about her accomplishments there is no escaping the tremendous determination and genius she displayed in overcoming substantial obstacles. Learning Greek is difficult for most people but she added to that Latin, French and German. She developed such a proficiency that she read works in those languages for pure enjoyment.

I was deeply impressed by how her teacher, Anne Sullivan, showed a self-sacrifice that would challenge any of us who calls herself Christian. Would I be willing to dedicate my life, even to the detriment of my own eyesight, so that another could succeed?

One of the great benefits in using living books is all the extra “goodies” we get from our reading experience. For example, through Helen Keller’s relationship with Alexander Graham Bell a whole different side of his character was revealed. Even though we studied him as the inventor of the telephone we became aware of his deep love for children and his ongoing work with the deaf.  Helen also had special friendships with several famous writers of her era such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier and Mark Twain. These men showed real kindness to her. She read from Mark Twain’s own lips one or two of his tales. She said, “I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake.”

A great challenge I have in using read-alouds is completing the book within the time frame of the unit. Many times the classic I want to use is much too long to accommodate a 2 week study. This book would have been manageable but then bronchitis set in. In the end we were finishing up as we began our next unit. But no one really minded.

Some other living books that I added for individual reading were, All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor for my 3rd grader, It’s a Jungle Out There! by Ron Snell  for my 8th grader, and Fanny Crosby: The Hymn Writer by Bernard Ruffin for my 10th grader. Each touched on some of the objectives that were covered during the unit.

Several in my family were hit by a virus during this unit where talking became difficult and our hearing became muffled for weeks because of congestion. I can say with conviction that we came to value those abilities with new appreciation because of all we experienced in this unit.


Speech, Sound and Language – Living book ideas

In a strange way my method of searching for living books for the topics in volume 1 chapter 3 reflected one of the themes itself. For example one of the people introduced in this chapter is Helen Keller who lived in a world of silence and darkness. As I groped through bookshelves, book lists and websites searching for living resources I felt lost and unable to find the source or two that would energize our academic studies. I indeed felt shut-out. Oddly enough when I was browsing among my personal library for the third or fourth time I finally saw The Story of Helen Keller in the Reader’s Digest Best Loved Books for Young Readers. It was an, “I-didn’t-know-I-had-that-book” moment. The veil began to lift.

I returned to my internet hunt with more hope. A favorite online resource,  offers a lovely collection of classic e-books written for children on a whole array of subjects. But the general topics of this unit were not readily apparent in the “subjects to browse” lists. But at  I found two works that will enrich this Weaver unit. First, the book, Great Inventors and Their Inventions, by Frank P. Bachman has several valuable chapters for this study, especially for those who use the Supplement. (Also available through Amazon.) Gutenberg, Morse, Bell, Edison and Marconi are all covered in Bachman’s easy to read style. Then I discovered, Granny’s Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne. (Also available through Amazon.) She, a blind Irish poet and author, wrote some fanciful children’s stories that the younger crowd will enjoy, especially “The Greedy Shepherd”. Since one of the objectives for grade 3 is an introduction to poetry, I looked for one of her poems in my Illustrated Library of World Poetry
and found, “O The Pleasant Days of Old!”

Fanny Crosby is one of my favorite heroines. Although her physical eyes were scarred and blinded she was gifted with a spiritual insight that still illuminates many hearts with her songs. Hymns may not be thought of as poetry but many of them begin that way. I like hymns because the melody makes it easier to memorize sacred poetry. Biographical information about Fanny Crosby and a long list of her hymns can be found here. I would like to sing a few of her melodies as we open our school day especially since one of the Bible lessons emphasizes that language should be used in praising God.

Another interesting part of this unit shows the wide variety of accents and languages that exist in the U.S. It was fun to uncover some poems and tales that highlighted differences in speech that exist across America. If you have some Brer Rabbit stories on your shelf pull those down. If you don’t, you can find nine tales here. One poem I uncovered in Favorite Poems Old and Newselected by Helen Ferris, is sure to add some giggles. It is called, “Leetla Giorgio Washeenton”, by Thomas Augustine Daly.

The objectives for the 3rd grade look to be a lot of fun. Although the Supplement work is a bit more demanding, these resources will make it a bit gentler.

I’m In The Mood For Love….

     Isn’t that how the old song goes…”I’m in the mood for love, simply because you’re near me.” Well, I’m in the mood for love simply because it is February and that is usually when the winter blues are really taking their toll on homeschooling moms. The children get frustrated more easy, the last break was in December, outside looks like ….yuck! And face it, as a mom we face burnout time just about now as we see the end of the school year approaching and testing or portfolios start to nag at us.

Well, the good news is God is always in the mood for love and He can melt away all our winter blues. I went to bed the other night determined to wake up and have a great day. Of course I awoke with a migraine, slept later than I wanted, and the children were grouchy. But I was not going to let it get the best of me. I simply started praising the Lord. I praised Him with my headache, and I praised Him through breakfast with 8 grumpy children, and I praised Him while trying to frantically catch up from sleeping in. By the afternoon I stopped in awe as I realized my headache was now bearable, my children were getting along and all our schoolwork was completed early AND the laundry was done. God loved this homeschooling mom of many enough to give me a peace that passed ALL understanding and I never asked for anything….I just loved Him.

Next time you are at your wit’s end and the frustrations of the winter blahs are getting you down simply sing out to God “I’m in the mood for YOUR love” .

Living Weaver

I must admit I have the malady from which most home educators suffer, an inordinate passion for books. One of the attractions that drew me to Weaver, years ago, was that it chose real books over textbooks and encouraged me to bring in to our lessons exceptional books of all kinds. Those were often “living books,” written by an author who is an expert in the field or by someone simply devoted to the subject. Such books never failed to breathe life and interest into our learning. We have experienced excellent writing throughout the years and I desire to encounter even more. I remember the time my three children and I were intently involved in a continent study. We picked up Around the World in Eighty Days and traveled across the world by balloon, ship, elephant, train and wind mobile. Now that I think of it, it would be a great read for a unit on transportation as well. Or the time we studied mountains and later read Heidi where we accompanied Peter, Heidi, and the goats up the steep crags and “felt” the topic in a fresh way.

There are still unfound books that I long to match up with fitting themes. So that is my quest, to uncover these and to share what we are discovering by our reading together. I know that I will uncover new treasures but since this is our second time through the volumes we will re-read some old gems that captivated us and made time disappear.

In the next couple of weeks I will be planning unit 3, Volume 1 and will be on the lookout for some living literature as well as a good dose of poetry for our added enjoyment.

Life Skills

One of the “classes” I teach my children is Life Skills. I used to not count it as a class… it was just ‘life.’ But lately I find that I’m doing more and talking less. So, I’ve tried to change that by including them in what I’m doing. My daughter is still a bit young to keep proper tension for crocheting, but she enjoys sitting next to me while I crochet. My two younger sons enjoy making pillows with my sewing machine.

My latest project is the task of using up extra yarn. To teach that, I made a turtle pillow from scrap yarn. The main body of the turtle was made from yarn I had leftover after making an afghan for my daughter.

I enjoy crocheting. I can sit near my husband while he watches football or a NASCAR race, have a child cuddling next to me, or sit alone and listen to music. Many years ago, while pregnant with my first son, I began making an afghan. It would be a ‘playmat’ for my new baby to lay on. Because of its size, I soon set it aside and promptly forgot about it. It remained unfinished for years. Then one year I found a pattern for a Bible afghan. It was composed of blocks, which made it easy to work on, and each block represented a Bible passage. I completed that within a few months.

The Bible afghan inspired me to dig out my baby afghan and finish it. Last year I completed the baby afghan. I presented it to my oldest since I had originally made it for him. Being 17, he politely declined. I gave it to his youngest brother. You may notice that the water has a section that is a different color–I ran out of blue yarn. Since I had bought all my yarn 17 years ago, I was unable to get an exact match. I told my son, “that’s the deep end of the pond.”

One of my other sons took such an interest in the baby afghan that I agreed to make him an afghan, too. He found a really neat pattern, and I proceeded to make him a flag afghan.

I’ve picked out a few more afghans that I really want to make, but I’m not sure who will get them. As my husband said, “make it — we’ll find a home for it.” I think I may make a few more turtle pillows, too. 😉

A Time Out & A Time To Share

Several months ago Kelly asked for volunteers to help blog and I quickly responded as this was something I really thought I could easily add to my schedule. Well… last post was sometime at the fist part of the year. I had 6 students this year with a 7th one that is from another family and I supervise her schooling for legal reasons. Most days you would have a difficult time convincing me I am the mother of 10 children, 9 of which are still at home. The past few months have made up for all those days as I helped graduate another child. Yes, I feel a great accomplishment that God has worked through me to see this daughter through. She was always a good student but never really liked school. But there is a special feeling with this graduation as she is the first child I have taught the whole way through. From kindergarten through 12th my daughter has been taught at home. My oldest daughter did not have that privilege as she was in public school until the 5th grade.

As I sit here typing my hubby told me that by the time I am finished teaching all the children God has blessed us with I will have taught for exactly 30 years. My response was that I should be able to collect some type of pension!!

The senior year for our daughter was jam packed full. Her gifts lay not in academics but in music. Playing in two orchestras and continuing to take lessons in piano and violin keep our whole family on the move. I was never so thankful that she could drive herself to most of her commitments. The last 3 months before graduation were the most busy. Final concerts were plentiful as well as completion of academics, final lessons, portfolio assessments and preparing for the graduation ceremony itself.

After much ado the graduation day finally arrived. I had most of the food ready to go and several sisters in Christ waiting to help with the last minute items. 40 people responded, I planned for 100 and 85 showed up. Her father (and principal) gave a short talk/devotion about the privilege of teaching our children at home, how much her devotion to God has meant to our family and how God will lead her in this next season of life. We presented her with her diploma and she surprised us by giving a speech telling everyone how thankful she was to be able to be taught at home and how grateful she was that she was brought up in a home with discipline. She then thanked us for being such great parents albeit not perfect. My husband then took over again, thanked all the people that came for their support, their prayers and their love for our family. I really feel so blessed that God had such a hand in all of this and am humbled again even as I type.

So, why is Holly typing all of this? To show and share with all the moms in the trenches with me that weaver not only works for the present but it works for the long haul. Many times these past few months we had to “alter” our weaving days because of scheduling, but because weaver is set on God’s word first we never really put it aside we just worked it in differently. God continually put before us subjects that pertained to our busy life. Authority in the home fit so well with our recent graduation as we witnessed our daughter submit to her fathers authority many times and seek his counsel. The result of disobedience by the Israelites hit home often as we spent more time away from our home and our children had to adjust to many different surroundings or just being in the van for long periods of time. They were reminded many times of the grumblings and complaints of God’s children and what they received from it.

Let us praise God together for the time out we need to take and remember to take time to share His workings in our lives as often as He allows.

Mother’s Day

A few years ago I made myself a new dress just in time for Mother’s Day. I also made my daughter a matching dress, and we attended a Mother/Daughter luncheon at church in our new outfits. I’d never made myself a floor-length dress before, and it was a challenge finding somewhere to hang it for pinning the hem. I decided I needed an adjustable dress form. I’ve made three more dresses from the same pattern since then, and I simply love the way they fit!

It’s been fun teaching my daughter about using the dressform, and showing her how it helps to make dresses that fit properly. I think, as Mother’s Day approaches again, that it’s time I bring my dressform out once again and make myself another dress!