First Things First

“Are there so many fascinating, exciting things to do or so many challenges pressing down on you that it is hard to keep focused on what is essential? When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life. Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It Is distraction. He would have good people fill their lives with ‘good things’ so there is no room for the essential ones. Have you unconsciously been caught in that trap?”

~ Elder Richard G. Scott, First Things First, pg. 7 (italics mine)

Ride the Laughing Wind

Ride the Laughing Wind

Photo via Amazon

“Cast aside your ways of evil, and the greenness will return to our mesas. Hold this evil close to your breasts, O People, and you will be driven and smitten as dry leaves before the winter wind.” This was the prediction of the ancient woman, she who possessed the third eye of seeing. And with foreboding finality she concluded, “Thus I have spoken, and thus it will be.” With the fulfillment of her prophetic words a deadly battle of hide and seek unfolds.

Tala is Outcast among her People for daring to be different, by standing up for what she believes. When the prophecy comes true, Tala must become mother to 4 surviving orphans and teach them in the true ways of the People. An exciting chase carries the readers into a world of evil and death, survival and hope, goodness and love, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

I read this as a teenager and loved it. Having recently re-read it, I have decided that it will become a must read book for my girls. ;)

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and I receive nothing in return for my opinion. 

Diamonds of Truth

“There are ‘diamonds of truth’ in the pages of the Old Testament. We refer to some of these diamonds as gospel doctrines and principles.”

~ Elder Richard G. Scott, in Four Fundamentals for Those Who Teach and Inspire Youth

“Doctrines and principles are fundamental, unchanging truths of the gospel and can guide us in making decisions. Understanding and applying doctrines and principles of the gospel bring blessings, deepen our conversion, and help us become more like the Savior.”

~ Old Testament Home Study Seminary manual, Unit 1, Day 4, pg. 2

A Philosophy of Education

As Charlotte Mason was sharing her philosophy of education in Home Education, she knew that she would be called on to defend her positions, so she wrote out 18 points in which she explained the basis of her methods. They are foundational to being able to understand those methods.

1. Children are born persons.

2. They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for either good or evil.

3. The principles of authority on the one hand and obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental; but 

4. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon, whether by fear or love, suggestion or influence, or undue play upon any one natural desire.

5. Therefore we are limited to three educational instruments––the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.

6. By the saying, Education is an atmosphere, it is not meant that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment,’ especially adapted and prepared; but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to a ‘child’s’ level.

7. By Education is a discipline, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structure to habitual lines of thought––i.e. to our habits.

8. In the saying that Education is a life, the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.

9. But the mind is not a receptacle into which ideas must be dropped, each idea adding to an ‘apperception mass’ of its like, the theory upon which the Herbartian doctrine of interest rests.

10. On the contrary, a child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal, and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.

11. This difference is not a verbal quibble. The Herbartian doctrine lays the stress of education––the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels, presented in due order––upon the teacher. Children taught upon this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher’s axiom is, ‘What a child learns matters less than how he learns it.’

12. But, believing that the normal child has powers of mind that fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, we must give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care, only, that the knowledge offered to him is vital––that is, the facts are not presented without their informing ideas. Out of this conception comes the principle that,

13. Education is the Science of Relations; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books; for we know that our business is, not to teach him all about anything, but to help him make valid, as many as may be of

     ‘Those first born affinities,
     ‘That fit our new existence to existing things.’

14. There are also two secrets of moral and intellectual self management which should be offered to children; these we may call the Way of the Will and the Way of the Reason.

15. The Way of the Will.––Children should be taught
     (a) To distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will.’
     (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will.
     (c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting.
     (d) That, after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour.
(This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may ‘will’ again with added power. The use of suggestion––even self suggestion––as an aid to the will, is to be deprecated, as tending to stultify and stereotype character. It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.)

16.  The Way of the Reason.––We should teach children, too, not to ‘lean’ (too confidently) ‘unto their own understanding,’ because of the function of reason is, to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth; and (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case reason is, perhaps, an infallible guide, but in the second it is not always a safe one, for whether that initial idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.

17. Therefore children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of initial ideas. To help them in this choice we should give them principles of conduct and a wide range of the knowledge fitted for them. These three principles (15, 16 and 17) should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need.

18. We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

By the time Charlotte Mason wrote her final book, Towards a Philosophy of Education, she had clarified and added a couple more points. For further reading and understanding, I recommend you use Brandy Vencel’s Start Here guide.

“One part of being a man…”

“…one part of being a man is realizing that no one escapes doing an evil deed without suffering for it. Any advantage gained by selfish means, any convenience taken, any private putting off of a thing, any insincerity, no matter how small or quick in passing, is paid for.

Rarely is this a dramatic thing, my son. Often it is hardly noticeable. Yet always payment is made, and it is made through pain within, it is made through unhappiness. O Hawk, a true man learns very early in his life that such two-hearted ways are not worth the price he pays for them. A true man can never be happy when doing evil.”

~ Tala

in Ride the Laughing Wind by Blaine & Brenton Yorgason

The Right Side of Normal – A Book Review

I’m supposed to be writing a book review and find myself thinking of it in terms of something I recently re-read in Charlotte Mason’s Home Education (Vol. 1 of the Original Homeschooling Series). On pages 8 -10 she discusses the differences between a method which she advocates as feeding “the vital growth and movement of a LIVING being”  and a system which she cautions against as being detrimental to a living being with thoughts, feelings and ideas of their own because “

In our society, education is set up on a one way track from Pre-K through 12 grade with specific stops that are required for all, whether or not a person needs or is ready for them. There is not room for deviation from this prescribed ride and if one doesn’t conform, then one is given a label – a label which tends to alienate and destroy one’s self-identity and confidence. This is especially true in today’s society where conforming and being the same as everyone else is acclaimed as normal and desirable above all else.

Enter in “The Right Side of Normal – Understanding and Honoring the Natural Learning Path for Right-Brained Children” by Cindy Gaddis.

The Right Side of Normal

Photo via Amazon


This book is a breath of fresh air for parents who have struggling learners. Mrs. Gaddis has spent many years researching and documenting how right-brained children learn and has presented the fruits of her labors in this book.

“Common labels for right-brained children are ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, phonological awareness disorder, vision disorders, sensory processing disorders, and other general learning disabilities.”  ~ The Right Side of Normal (pg. 14)

“It’s a huge eye-opener when it’s also understood that so many of the symptoms of these disabilities have a direct correlation to how a right-brained learner comes to information based on the way the right side of the brain processes information. Is this even a disability?” ~ The Right Side of Normal, pg. 354.

I learned a lot about my right-brained children and one of the most needed reassurances is that my children WILL learn it as they are ready. In the meantime, I need to keep spreading the broad feast of ideas because the ideas inspire the child to want to do something out of their skill level and are often the motivation for the child to acquire new skills. 

There are different levels of ability within the right-brained sphere. Some are less able to cross over to left-brained thinking at younger ages, but some do okay. I was completely surprised to discover that one of my children who does quite well with left-brained activities on the schedule presented by Mrs. Gaddis is actually a strong right-brained learner. That made me smile and say “I get that now” as I pondered about some of what I thought were this child’s individual quirks – they are very common in right-brained children. Knowing that has improved our relationship because I see her motivation more clearly.

I would recommend this book to anyone with questions about their children’s learning processes, whether they are homeschooled or in public school of some sort. Learning about this goes a long to helping you be an effective advocate for your child’s quality of education and, ultimately, his life.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and I receive nothing in return for my opinion. 

Woo-hoo! A Simple Weekly Planner!

I have posted before about the planners that we have made, used, and tweaked (see here and here).  I still felt that they weren’t exactly what I needed since I still had to figure out how much time each person spent on their core subject hours (required by the Missouri Home School Laws) each day, and I was still responsible to make sure that each week’s schedule was written in.  After pondering a few weeks last summer, I decided to keep the elements that had worked for us from the other two and just see if I could get it down to one page per week.

I always sit down each planning period and make a list of the books each child will be using for her school year. I print that out for the portfolios and for my personal use through out the year. I also sit down and plan the amount of time needed in each subject and We tend to be start-at-the-front-of-the-book-and-work-our-way through-the-book people as it is easier for me to know where we are at any given time. Once I recognized that, my planner issue was mostly resolved.

The lists are as comprehensive as I could make them, listing all school subjects and includes such things as Life Skills (aka Chores), a place to record the amount of time spent doing their Personal Progress (a program teenage girls do at Church to help them develop spiritually) as well as including the time spent learning new skills and having social time at church on Wednesday evenings. This eliminated the need for more than one schedule a week per person.

So my last years page ended up like this:

Improved Weekly Schedule 1

  1. I made my header with our school name on the top line, so it says “Heritage Haven Academy’. 
  2. In the second line, I personalized each one with the student’s name (“JitterBug’s Assignment List”), tabbed over a space and put in “Term # ______” and “Week # ______ so I can use it for all three 12 week terms.
  3. Then I made a table with 5 columns in Microsoft Word.
  4. Each column is labeled Day 1, Day 2, etc.
  5. I color-coded for ease of finding the daily list, using light colors. This made it much easier for my APD children to find daily lists, but it is SO much easier for me too!
  6. Family subjects (aka Morning Basket or Morning Time) are listed first, divided among the 5 days for the spreading of the feast. This usually takes 1 1/2 hours a day.
  7. Individual subjects are listed next. I tried to list them in the order that I wanted/needed in order to switch subjects up as well as give me time to work individually with someone.  
  8. Language Arts has at least five components to it that I need to track for our Core Hours, so I marked them with an asterisk. History and science can also have different components, so for ease of computing my hours, I marked those with a different sign. 
  9. I put a number at the end of every single subject every single day. That is the actual number of minutes I expect to spend per subject – and we use a timer to keep us moving along. Occasionally I have to change the time for something and it is simple to pencil in the change.
  10. As we finish each subject, a single line is drawn diagonally through that subject. Doing that shows that it is completed, while allowing me to still read what they were assigned. 
  11. At the bottom I put in a line for the dates of that week. “Dates _________________”
  12. I made a space for notes with 6 lines to record things like illnesses, field trips, etc.
  13. I also made a space titled “Core Time Totals” and created lines that allowed me to total up the minutes spent each week in Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Reading, and Electives.”
  14. I can change these as needed during the year and update and switch around each year without having to create a whole new system. We are starting our second year with them and I am still pleased with them!

JuneBug and BittyBug are not as old as JitterBug and HorseyBug, so their schedules look a bit different. Their lessons are not as long, but the law requires that they spend as much time as the older kids in learning. To that I end, I have scheduled them learning activity blocks of time. That is when they are allowed to choose educational activities to do at the table or in the school room with me present while I am spending one-on-one time with the older girls. This has worked very well since I have tried to include learning activities that they can do together or separately. At the bottom of their page, I listed a large variety of things that they can choose from and track that on my sheet as much as possible.

Here is a sample of last years form:

Weekly Schedule 2