Monday, November 4, 2013

November = NaNoWriMo

The calendar says November and in the Wagner house that has meant NaNoWriMo for the past few years.

What is NaNoWriMo? NAtional NOvel WRiting MOnth, of course, when you attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days!

This is my 7th year writing a novel in November and my kids have participated for the past five years. My 11th grader, Emily, wrote the full 50K last year and plans to do so again this year. My younger two (ages 11 and 13) are participating in the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program (YWP) which allows you to set your own goals. My oldest wrote novels in November for six years, but this year is his first in college and he cannot make time for it.

Why do we write? That's a fair question and I will attempt to answer it over the next four weeks as we explore new worlds through writing. 

It's not too late for your family to participate! Give it a try. I think you'll like it!

 (Click my signature to visit my NaNoWriMo participant page.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

12 Things Homeschool Parents Need to Know About College

Dr. Kuni Beasley wrote a valuable article called, "12 Things Homeschool Parents Need to Know About College" which was published in Practical Homeschooling #108 (April/May/June 2013). Dr. Beasley's website is I am not able to find this article online to share with you, so I will summarize the 12 points here.

1 - Start now! He recommends starting college prep in the 6th grade.

2 - Get professional advice. (such as from Dr. Beasley himself)

3 - Take the PSAT, SAT, and ACT early and often. He recommends in grades 6-8 to take the PSAT, ACT, and SAT once per year. In grades 9 and 10, take the PSAT in October and the SAT and ACT once per semester. Study a formal test prep program in the spring of 10th grade or before beginning 11th grade. Take the PSAT in October of 11th grade to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Take as many as six SAT/ACT tests in the junior year, with the goal of achieving the best score by June of that year. Also, you can take the SAT unlimited times and the ACT up to 12 times.

4 - High School Curriculum vs. College-Prep programs - These are not the same. An AP course is not college prep. Real college prep curriculum includes the following: College essentials, such as counseling, test prep, applications, and scholarship search; Learning strategies that explain how to read, study, test, and write at the college level; Academic strategies; Self-management skills; and setting up a support team.

5 - 88% of college is online. Learn to use Microsoft Office. Learn internet discipline in high school.

6 - Hazards of CLEP/Dual Credit. Not all colleges accept CLEP. Too many CLEP or dual-enrolled courses can disqualify you from freshman scholarships, since you could earn enough to be a sophomore.

7 - Don't Worry About Majors. More than 80% of students change their major after entering college.

8 - What Colleges Look for in Homeschoolers. Colleges consider five things for admissions: Grades, Rank, Experiences, Activities, Test Scores. Colleges will accept homeschool transcripts, but these are often partly discounted. However, that isn't really important anyway. Rank in class doesn't matter for homeschoolers, who will nearly always be 1 of 1. Experiences such as jobs, community service, and travel are considered, as are activities, which could include athletics, clubs, etc. But TEST SCORES are what will determine a student's "viability for admissions and scholarships." According to Dr. Beasley, many colleges award scholarships based only on test scores.

9 - Types of Colleges include Competitive (Harvard, Stanford, etc... which consider Experiences, Activities, and test scores), Conventional (state schools, some private colleges which mainly consider test scores), Community/Junior Colleges (which take anyone with a diploma or GED, using test scores to waive developmental courses), and Creative Colleges (Thomas Edison, Excelsior, etc.... which probably only require a transcript).

10 - Start Early - Use 9th and 10th grade to build skills and content knowledge, as well as to practice test taking skills. Use the junior year to choose 20-30 colleges and narrow it down to 12 by summer (4 that will be a challenge, 4 you will probably get into, and 4 you are sure to get into). Finish your application material before senior year begins - recommendations, essays, scholarship search.

11 - Attract Scholarships - These are available to "any motivated, well-prepared, and properly managed homeschooler."

12 - Avoid "vanity colleges." No college education is worth $100,000 or more of debt.

Note from Lisa: Before you panic, please remember that this advice is just that - advice. Take what you can use and leave the rest. I did very little of this with my oldest (though maybe I should have) and he is safely ensconced at the college of his choice studying mechanical engineering on scholarship. He was accepted at all the colleges he applied at. If we had worked harder earlier, he may have been able to attend a more prestigious school, but he is happy where he is at. So, if some of this advice helps you, please follow it. But if you are thinking, "Well, it's already too late for me and my senior," be assured that it's NOT too late! Just do what you can!

For those of you with children in grades 6-10, though, I think it's prudent to consider this information carefully and choose your path rather than letting the years slip by with no thought to college plans.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Homeschool Open House: Interviews with 55 families

Do you ever wonder what other homeschoolers are doing? How your own lesson plans and schedules compare to those of other home educating families? Do you need some fresh ideas?

If so, you may want to look into one of Nancy Lande's books. She wrote Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days (published in 1996) as a glimpse into the lives of 30 homeschooling families. I just finished reading the follow-up to that book, entitled Homeschool Open House: Interviews with 55 families.

Homeschool Open House visits the Patchwork families 5 years later and updates us on their lives - how have things changed for them? Are they still homeschooling? What curriculum are they using now? Have their family activities and schedules changed? Lande also interviews about 25 new families in Homeschool Open House.

I bought this book years ago but never read it and even put it in my sale pile. Rethinking my need to purge, I snatched it out of the pile and decided to read it slowly during my lesson prep month this summer. Well, since I just finished it today, you can see it took me longer than I thought. Most weeks I read one story a day, getting to know these families. As I read, I usually wondered what the families look like now - 13 years later. A kindergartener in any of these families would now be graduating from high school!

One thing that surprised me was how angry and frustrated I became while reading some of the stories. As a mom of four children with 13 years of actual homeschooling under my belt, I found myself annoyed with the moms of one young child who made their curriculum choices sound like life-or-death choices. Some of the unschooling attitudes saddened me. I was actually surprised by my strong reactions to some of the stories but  I am only human, after all. Many of the stories encouraged me, however, and some even brought me to tears. In a few cases, I was actually curious enough to Google and see if I could find any information on the families - blogs, companies, awards, etc. (No luck, however.)

I have one copy of this book - well-used now - and would be glad to pass it along to anyone who wants to read it. First one who speaks up - I will give it to you (in person).

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Most Expensive Curriculum I Didn't Buy

Coming up for air. Wow, September is busy!!!

Lessons, soccer, writing classes. Helping the boy buy a car. Watching him apply for a second job, get the job, and then work 2 jobs after giving notice at job #1. Getting him ready to head off to college.

Did you ever wonder what $594 worth of college textbooks looks like?

Well, now you know.

Thank the Lord for financial aid!

He moves in on September 25th.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lesson Plans Complete for September

That's more like it!

September lesson plans were completed on time. I have not had time to document that until today since we have been busy DOING lessons.

I will have some posts coming up detailing what each of my students will be working on this year.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Read a Zillion Books with Jerry Pallotta

Some drafts of old posts turned up in my drafts folder. This one is from the summer of 2006! So, since I went to the trouble of writing them for my old blog, I thought I'd share it now.  

Oh wow! My kids and I were BLOWN AWAY by the presentation by author Jerry Pallotta today at the local library. 4th graders from the local elementary school and a preschool class attended, as well as at least 4 homeschool families.

My kids react:
"I thought he was funny. Everything he told us was funny! I like his books because they give you facts - a bunch of facts about the thing in the picture. I bought the Jet Alphabet book because I really like drawing jets and stuff like that. The thing that made me buy the book was a picture of a jet engine that is cut in half so you can see how it works." David, age 11

"I liked the part when he showed us all his books, especially Dory Story. I like that book because it's funny. The little boy was standing on a rock and he had his mouth open." Emily, age 9

"He put those fang things on that kid. That was funny! He put a kid in front of the screen and then the shark was going to eat him. That was
the funniest. I learned that he made all of those books!" James, age 6

Mr. Pallotta is an author of fact-filled, fun to read children's books such as Icky Bug Alphabet Book, The Dinosaur Alphabet Book and The Hershey's Kiss Addition Book. Visit his website at

If you have the opportunity to hear him speak, TAKE IT!  He is doing a "Read a Zillion Books" tour right now. (Remember that was in 2006. lol) 

In which no lesson plans have been created....

Here are my lesson plans 45 hours before we start lessons for 2013-14.
 (Yes, in case you are wondering if something is wrong with your screen, that page is blank.)

This may be the least prepared I have ever been at this point.

Check back later and see how this pans out....

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Senior Year Worldview Study

Thinking of sending my oldest child out into the world caused me to do some power-thinking about his state of preparedness. I wanted David to think about his beliefs and the reasons he holds them. I wanted (and still want) him to "own" his beliefs and not just parrot them, so that when they are questioned (and I know they will be), he can defend them stalwartly. I also wanted him to be prepared in social skills and some other areas of his life.

Toward these goals, I chose the following books for him to read during his senior year, in addition to his academic reading.

1 - Mere Christianity by C.S. Lew
I read this book for the first time in my senior year of college and it really resonated with me. I've always been a fan of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, but reading this made me realize how practical and sincere his faith in God was. I wondered if the book would be appropriate for a 17-year-old, since I had been several years older when I read it. However, David had no trouble with the book and found it insightful and relevant. I had him write a response paper to the book and he said the book is "nearly impossible to put down" and recommended it highly to everyone. I am really glad I had David read this in his senior year and I will plan to have the other kids read it as well.

Reading Guide HERE

2 - Slumber of Christianity by Ted Dekker

David enjoyed the Black, Red, White series of fiction books written by Ted Dekker and I thought that this non-fiction book by the same author might motivate him to a more passionate faith in God. This is a short book and I did find it personally inspiring. The main point is that most Christians have fallen into a boring slumber and we need to reawaken our passion and joy in Christ. David described this book as a "wake-up call" but said the next book he read (#3 on this list) was one he enjoyed more.

3 - Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna
History always interests me and this book gives the historical reasons for many of the practices in the current church. Why do priests and some pastors wear special clerical garb? Why do we sit in pews? Why do churches have steeples? Why is the order of service so unvaried? These questions and many more like them are discussed historically and objectively to make us understand that church practices are not necessarily based in Biblical instruction. What's more, some of these widespread traditions harm the church rather than help it. 

I wanted David to understand the reasons behind some of the things we see in church and to look past them to the heart of God. What I didn't consider is that our family's lack of a firm foundation in a local church also affected him as he read this book. (We had left a church in rather a slow unorganized way - just slowly stopping our attendance and not really replacing it with another where we felt at home. Long story, but the main idea here is that David did not feel a connection to a local church body.)

So, even though he devoured this important information and really enjoyed the book, I am not sure it had the effect I was hoping for. He ended up feeling more disillusioned than motivated, I think. Since understanding the roots of church traditions is really important in my mind, I am still glad he read it and I hope that he can use what he learned to strengthen his faith and still maintain connections to local believers.

4 - A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul Miller 
This is by far the best book on prayer I have ever read. I wanted David to read it to understand the insights about prayer that I learned from reading it. I could write tons about this book, but you would be better served to go buy it right now and start reading it. I am currently re-reading it again - my 3rd time through. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

I had David also do the study guide which you can find HERE

5 - How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicolas Boothman
This is not a Christian book and I didn't assign it for worldview purposes. However, David is interested in psychology and I thought he would find it interesting from that perspective. Also, he will be meeting many new people and I wanted to give him some strategies for conversation and social situations.

I think this information is important, but I only chose this particular book because I found it used somewhere.  I did read the book beforehand and found it easy-to-read and practical. I will do some research before assigning a book of this type to Emily, but all-in-all, I did find it met our purposes.

6 - Every Young Man's Struggle by Stephen Arterburn
This book is actually going to be a summer study for my husband and my two sons. David has read it before when he was about 13, the age my younger son is now. This book is a frank look at the sexual struggles that young men will face in today's culture. I wanted my husband to do this study with the boys because he obviously has more experience in this area than I do.

 7 - The Bible
I required David to read through the entire Bible during his senior year. I will ask all my children to do the same.  I know we've read the entire Bible during our Bible study time in school throughout his K-12 years, but I wanted him to have the experience of reading it independently and in a fairly short time span. He used both a print version and an audio version of the Bible, both in NIV (New International Version).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Was this everything I wanted my son to read before he graduated? Well, certainly not! However, he'd probably have been reading from sunrise to sunset if I had assigned everything I thought was important. Just typing out this information on these 7 books I thought of many more things I wish I had been able to stuff into his head in the last year of lessons.

However, I will lay all those thoughts at the feet of Christ and let Him take charge of David's worldview. My prayers will be fervent and frequent and I will take any available opportunity for discussion. But my 13 years of planning lessons for David are over.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Learning Styles, Re-visited

Browsing a bit through my past blog posts, I found this post on learning style:
(The rest of this post will make a lot more sense if you read the old one too, especially if you don't know a lot about learning styles or the specific children I am writing about.) A couple of the links on the old page were broken, so I have updated those.

I wrote that post
about five years ago. Now my younger two are the ages my older two were when I wrote it. So, I thought it would be interesting to re-evaluate learning style and see if any of my thoughts have changed on the matter.

When David was 13, I categorized him as an auditory learner with high levels of logical/mathematical intelligence and spatial intelligence. I provided him with lots of auditory input and he has also sought this out himself. I would change nothing about that assessment now that he is 18. I would now add that I believe he is dyslexic which explains quite a bit of his preference for audiobooks over the printed page. He still loves to build things and plans now to study mechanical engineering in college. 

Sixteen-year-old Emily's learning style is still visual (linguistic intelligence). She still loves to read and is a very fast reader. I don't see as high a degree of interpersonal intelligence as when she was younger nor do I notice her musical intelligence has continued to develop. She continues to struggles with math, and I believe this is due to dyscalculia, so it's possible that those struggles have eclipsed her development in other areas. I plan to work hard during the next two years to capitalize on her strengths to build her confidence. She has never had a strong kinesthetic ability, but two years of studying karate has increased her coordination and confidence about her physical abilities.  

Going back to what I wrote about James at age 8 really shocked me. I could write the EXACT SAME thing about him today at age 13. "... he moves and moves and moves. And moves. [....] the constant movement drives my ADD self nuts!" Wow! I hadn't realized I had assessed this so long ago. He still tends to move about constantly. If he stands next to me to talk, he shifts his weight from foot to foot or taps something or wiggles in some other fashion. I have been calling him on it so he can learn to manage it. It's a lot more to deal with when he's as big as an adult than it was when he was an eight-year-old. So, CLEARLY, the kinesthetic intelligence is still high for James. He is still focused on the intrapersonal as well as the existential, often asking me insightful questions that I don't expect. The naturalistic intelligence has seemed to dissipate, but maybe we just need to offer more opportunities to see if that is still an interest for him.

And on to my youngest, Suzanne, who is now 11. At age 6, I had very little idea of what her intelligences were. Today, we completed a multiple intelligence inventory. Her strengths lie in kinesthetic, inter-personal, and visual/spatial skills. Her linguistic skills are lower, mainly because I think she, like her older brother, is dyslexic. She has finally learned to read well and says she "loves reading" now, but it took many years and much prayer and hard work to achieve that. She finds her strengths in being a leader, especially in physical areas (like soccer) and in handicrafts like sewing. She also loves to make things pretty, such as setting a beautiful table with touches like placemats and flowers (things I usually don't bother with). So, really what I thought about her at age 6 was fairly accurate. 

So, how does this affect our homeschooling? I think I'll save that for another day.  

While you wait, try evaluating your own children. Here is a nice printable Multiple Intelligence Survey for Kids.  You can also try some of the online surveys from my previous post, or just google!

By the way, the graphic in this post illustrates my own results on the multiple intelligence survey.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sitting Still Training Redux

My kids are now ages 18, 16, 13, and 11. During our last few weeks of lessons, we became  rather retrospective, at least my oldest son and I were. He graduated two weeks ago, so he is now done homeschooling!

Pause with me while I catch my breath. (I know some of you can't imagine being done with homeschooling. But it seems like it went by so fast!)

Anyway, my younger two were having a hard time sitting still. These two always have a hard time sitting still. They never really have liked sitting and listening, especially my 13yo son.

My older two blame this on the lack of Sitting Still Training for the younger two. We focused on this quite thoroughly about seven years ago (when my oldest was the age of my youngest). This made me think that perhaps we should work on it again.

What is "Sitting Still Training?" you may wonder. Well, just what it sounds like. They practice sitting still.

For some ideas and thoughts on how it works out, check out my blog post from 2006 (linked above). We will be working on it just the same during the summer. And maybe by fall, my two younger kids will be proficient sitters!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Attending the Con

Have you ever been to a homeschool convention? Since this is a homeschool blog, chances are good that you have! I've been to quite a few.

Well, this past weekend, our family visited our first Comic Con - Motor City Comic Con near Detroit. "Con" stands for 'convention' and this event is a comic book/pop culture mecca. Attending a comic book convention has been David's dream for a while and he asked if we could go together as a family. So, we made it his "senior trip".

Imagine a huge vendor hall (a la the homeschool convention) filled with booths selling comic books (instead of workbooks), action figures (instead of manipulatives), art prints (instead of maps), and t-shirts (instead of.... oh wait....). Instead of the homeschool "celebrities" like Steve Demme, Andrew Pudewa, and Susan Wise Bauer, you can meet actors and comic book artists.

Unlike the homeschool convention, many attendees choose to dress up as a favorite character. My son worked for months on a suit of Halo 4 armor (Master Chief) and my daughter dressed up as Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter). The rest of us just wore our geeky tee-shirts. (Mine were Iron Man, Loki, and Firefly.) We saw all kinds of cool costumes - Doctor Who, Darth Vader, Transformers, Star Trek, Batnan, Ghostbusters, Chewbacca, Black Widow, Jack Sparrow, Thor, Loki, and Iron Man. We asked quite a few of them for pictures. (Click the link for an album of the best photos.) David met several other Halo warriors like himself, but I liked David's costume the most.

Speaking of the Master Chief costume, this was a huge hit at the con. We had barely walked in the door when people started requesting photos. "Master Chief! Master Chief!" was a common refrain. Once someone stopped him for photos, then others would continue to ask and sometimes we'd be stopped for as long as 10-15 minutes in one spot waiting until everyone got their photos. He was especially sweet with the kids, encouraging any who were shy or scared, high-fiving the excited ones and posing for as many pictures as they wanted. Everyone was very polite and deferential when asking for pictures.

My favorite moment watching David pose happened when we were near one of the vendors who was selling Halo 4 toys. A blond boy of about six was looking at the action figures with his dad. Dad looked up and saw David dressed as Master Chief and nudged his son. The boy looked over and when he saw Master Chief standing there, his eyes grew round with excitement and his mouth dropped open. David beckoned him over and they took a picture together.

 Most of the costumes were in good taste, but there were a few rather risque outfits, including a very large bearded man dressed as a sexy Alice in Wonderland. As long as we are discussing the inappropriate, I will take a moment to mention that there were several booths featuring former nude models. The banners at their booths had suggestive sexy photos, though there was no nudity. Elsewhere in the convention, many artists featured art either sexy or violent or both, but convention organizers consider this a family convention and require all exhibitors and attendees to keep things at a PG-13 level.

Our tickets were for all three days, and we did attend all three, though only for a few hours each day. Friday was comparatively empty and we walked the entire vendor hall in under an hour, just seeing what there was to see. I wished later that I had taken THAT opportunity to meet more people - actors, cosplayers (those dressed in costume), and artists - because Saturday and Sunday were MUCH MUCH busier. David didn't wear his costume on Friday; he used that opportunity to look around. He did dress up on both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, in particular, was so busy that traffic was backed up for miles and the line to get in was a couple hours long. Thankfully a friend texted me and warned me about this situation just as we were about to leave. So we chilled out at the hotel for a couple more hours and waited until it calmed down a bit. Once we got there, we were blessed to find a parking spot that was close (someone was leaving as we were coming in) and were able to use our advance tickets to walk right in. Earlier in the day, advance ticket-holders waited in line. It's unclear whether they were told to do so or whether they just didn't know they could go right in. The volunteer workers must have had their signals crossed about that because I have heard that some didn't give the correct information.

30,000+ people visited the con over the 3 days; 18,000 of those attended on Saturday (which is evidently as many as attend the ENTIRE event in a normal year. So, even when we got there, it was VERY crowded. David was in costume and attracted attention right away as I described above. We followed him around and snapped a lot of photos.

Some other highlights:
I met Alex Winter and shook his hand. He starred along with Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and he has a documentary coming out about Napster. No pic of him because all the celebrities charge for autographs and photos. The only other actor I really wanted to meet was Cary Elwes, but I didn't have the opportunity. (Norman Reedus was there, but I wasn't interested in meeting him. Stan Lee was also there, but I knew that was impossible.)

Met Captain Jonny Sparrow, quite a good Jack Sparrow impersonator.

The boys did shop for comic books and got some great deals they were pleased with. I bought Suzy some My Little Pony earrings for her birthday. I saw TONS of things I would have loved to buy for myself, but that will have to wait for another year. David bought an Iron Man print that he is thrilled with and he plans to have it framed.

Suzy's birthday fell during the convention, which she was less than thrilled about. However, I think she had fun - the hotel stay, the pool, eating out, dressing up, etc...

Someone asked for David's email address and is interested in having him create a commission for him. We are also now exploring the possibility of Master Chief doing birthday parties. I had NO idea how many little kids would know the character. Actually, people of all races, genders, and ages were interested in high-fiving Master Chief and having their photo taken with him. Rather amazing actually.

EDITED TO ADD another pic of Suzy as Hermione. One day she wore her Gryffindor sweater (pic above in this post) and the next day she wore the cloak (this pic). She didn't want to wear them together - too hot, she said. Her brothers helped her make the wand. I crimped her hair. I was really pleased with her costume overall (although someone did call her Ginny Weasley, I think because she has a red streak in her hair).

Thursday, May 16, 2013


My oldest child graduated from our home school today! David has always been educated at home. He has worked hard through the years, especially on his math and writing.

David was awarded an academic scholarship to attend college where he plans to study Mechanical Engineering. He would like to work in the robotics field. David also will continue studying Tang Soo Do karate and plans to earn his black belt in in 2015.

David wrote this to be read aloud at the commencement ceremony. (They required it to be written in the 3rd person.)

David thanks his father and mother for devoting their time and energy to teaching him and for standing beside him and guiding him even when it was difficult. David thanks his Karate instructors for working with him and building his confidence, patience, and strength, both mental and physical. David also thanks his family and friends for supporting him throughout his life and and giving him their most valuable resource of all; their time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Teenage Son Likes Opera

Last fall, I received an email about some dress rehearsal performances coming up at the Detroit Opera House. We were offered the opportunity to get tickets for these performances for $10 each. I asked my kids about them and my then-17-year-old son said he was interested in attending some of the operas.

"Really?" I questioned. "You want to go to the opera?"

He reiterated his interest and so I ordered tickets for just him and me to the first opera, which happened to be The Barber of Seville (Rossini). (You're probably imagining THIS scene from Bugs Bunny now, aren't you?)

We LOVED The Barber of Seville. Since it is a comic opera, we found much humor and laughed a great deal. The music was wonderful and we were much impressed by the sets. If you are wondering about our comprehension, yes, the music is sung in Italian, but there are English subtitles above the stage so we could understand the storyline. We had great seats on the main floor that I later realized would cost over $100 each in a regular performance.

I asked David if he wanted me to order tickets for any of the remaining shows, which had to be ordered in the fall for the rest of the year. We chose Fidelio (Beethoven) and Aida (Verdi) and then settled into the rest of his senior year.

Now, lest you imagine David as a musician or a classical music snob, I do need to tell you that he loves many kinds of music. (Just about everything except country or hipster music, he will tell you.) He likes my 80's rock, his dad's hard rock, dub-step (which I cannot define, so please google), and so many other kinds of music (even some that I don't really approve of). So, opera is just one more genre he appreciates, but not the ONLY thing he likes.

In April, the tickets arrived for Fidelio and we once again headed to Detroit. (I even let him drive!) The music of Fidelio is amazing; we both enjoy Beethoven. Since these are dress rehearsal performances, the audience is warned that the performance may stop if necessary. During the Fidelio performance, the conductor did stop the orchestra in several places to rehearse. The plotline was not as interesting to me; I found it rather predictable, but we enjoyed the staging of the play as well as the amazing performances.

So, when our tickets arrived for Aida, we were excited. Even though this performance is just days before David's graduation and we have MUCH to accomplish, we took the time to drive once more to Detroit and spend the day enjoying opera. SO glad we did. What a wonderful time we spent together. The sets were just  WONDERFUL. David, as a potential mechanical engineer, can appreciate the set design more than many observers. Since the opera is set in Ancient Egypt, one of my favorite eras, I enjoyed that very much. The portions of the show with all the cast onstage were spectacular and breathtaking.

I look forward to discovering more great operas next year and I will likely drag my other three children along. Hopefully, David will be able to continue to enjoy opera as he moves into his adult life.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homeschool Connections Seminars on Writing

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to a couple groups of people about writing. I love speaking to groups (which amazes me since I hated it in school).

The first group of about ten homeschooling moms showed up for my morning talk on Evaluating Your Child's Writing. Most of the moms had elementary and junior high students. We settled in for a cozy chat on how to instruct their children in writing and assess the progress.

Later I spoke to a larger group of about 25-30 people, including some dads and teens, about writing a high scoring ACT essay. This information was distilled from my six-hour essay writing workshop, so I talked fast in order to include everything I wanted to say. I finished with one minute for questions. :-)

I felt really encouraged after speaking to these eager and diligent homeschool parents. I am confident that they left with more tools in their writing toolbox.

If you came here looking for the handouts to these seminars, here's a dropbox link.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Buy me a map!"

We've been studying U.S. and World Geography all year using Mapping the World by Heart. This curriculum has some drawbacks and is not exactly what I thought it would be. HOWEVER, we have stuck to our study and are nearly done studying the geography of the world.

One benefit of doing this intensive study is that we've learned that James, age 13, loves maps! When I went to the homeschool convention a couple weeks ago, he had a request. "Bring me back a blank map!" He wanted a large map he could label.

So, I found a lovely large two-sided laminated map for him - world on one side, US on the other. Armed with a colorful set of permanent markers and a fine-tipped black Sharpie, he has (completely on his own) worked on labeling and coloring these maps. FOR FUN!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Went to Seminar - Wow!

I want to blog about convention, because it was WONDERFUL. But life has just become soooo busy that it will probably have to wait until after Memorial Day. Soccer and Graduation have taken over my life.

Here are the seminars I went to. If any of them pique your interest, I will start with those.

A Crash Course from Creation to Christ - Linda Lacour Hobar (Mystery of History author)
Increasing Your Child's Nonfiction Reading Level - Joanne Kaminski
Start Doing College Level Research Now - Regan Barr (Lukeion Project)

Throwing Light on the Dark Side: Good vs. Evil in Contemporary Youth Literature - Jim Weiss (Greathall Productions)
How in the World do I Grade Written Compositions? - Matthew Stephens (Essentials in Writing)
When Fractions, Algebra or Division Don’t Come Easily - Kathy Kuhl
Reality Homeschooling for this Generation - Amanda Bennett
A Saint, A Criminal and A Country Priest (G.K. Chesterton) - Jim Weiss (Greathall Productions)
Being a Disciple and Training Disciples in the Home - Steve Demme (Math-U-See)

Nine seminars =  tons of motivation and new techniques to try!

Monday, March 25, 2013

End-of-the-Year Co-op Program

At the end of our co-op year, our group hosts a much-anticipated program to show off what we have been learning all year. Many classes perform (drama, improv, sign language, etc.) and other classes create displays. Here is a sampling of what my kids were involved in this past year during co-op. Not all their classes are represented here.

  • David, now age 18, took Build It Break It Shoot It (a "backyard ballistics" type class), Computer Careers, American Literature, and Improv Theatre. 
  • Emily, now age 15, enrolled in digital photography, a relationship-building class, American Literature, and Cooking Techniques.
  • James, now age 12, had the following classes: Backyard Ballistics, Hang Loose relationship building, Duct Tape, and Sports.
  • Suzy, who is 10, signed up for PE - Gym class, digital photography, Upcycling, and It's Not Magic It's Science.

Emily with her digital photography display

James with his duct tape pizza project
Suzy with her digital photography display

Suzy with her Talking Pictures project

Suzy being "artistic"  LOL

Emily with her Talking Pictures project

James in front of the duct tape display table. His huge gun is behind him.

The Talking Pictures project asked students to interview someone older and photograph them, then display a written interview along with their photographs and old photographs of the subject.

Suzy with her Upcycling class performing music with found objects.

David's computer careers class created a video entitled "Peeling Out" as an end-of-the-year project. David was the cameraman and video editor. They filmed it in one day and then David needed a couple of days to edit the clips, add the title and credits and the music. Hopefully you can see the embedded video here in this post. Take a look; it's under 4 minutes long and I think you'll find it amusing.

Suzy's science class (It's Not Magic, It's Science) also created a video for the program in which pairs of students demonstrated magic tricks.