Monday, December 7, 2009


I always have big plans for contributing on this blog with pictures and explanations, but I never get to it. So, today I am going to just give a couple memorable quotes from homeschool so far this year.

Last week as we did scripture journal and read in 2 Nephi 2, I was explaining to my son about the Law of Opposition, how there can be no joy if there is no sadness, etc. I guess he needed more concrete examples to work with because he stopped me and asked, "What's the opposite of a fish?"

Today, I had a strict schedule for school planned. We even sat down and discussed it together yesterday so he'd be ready for it. I am tired of "going with the flow." It feels like that's all we ever do, so I was committed to getting my son through his school routine in a timely manner despite the addition of two preschool age children I was watching for my friend. It was not a great success. As my son ran through the house screaming joyfully with his young friends, I called for him to come to the table yet again.
He said, "But Mom, I want to have fun!"
My response? "I don't want you to have fun! I want you to do school!"

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 1-2009

Sacks to be Rome!

We kicked off our school year as Celts sacking Rome in Grandma's backyard. Let the Middle Ages begin!

We did have a poignant moment at Walmart buying the facepaint. The cashier asked why the children weren't in school and Angelfish piped up, "We homeschool. We're going to paint our faces blue and spike our hair." Vain woman that I am, I couldn't leave without explaining the educational motive.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creativity and Connectivity

If you have never visited prepare to have your mind blown. Current innovators in every field share their ideas in 15-20 minute presentations. I can only handle about three or four in a day or my brain will get stretch marks. Here's an easy one for starters and it relates to the last post about creativity and relevance: Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. Like Ken, I believe that every child is a genius. One commentator says of Ken's idea,

"This thesis feels so authentic. The premise is not that we all need to be artists. Rather for me it says that releasing the idea that there is one right answer, or one right way to educate, opens up a world of possibility. [...] All means of retaining our inherent human creativity should be pursued passionately."

If you're interested in more about creative genius try Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity. This was my first TED talk.

If you've taken sides in the debate of left brain vs. right brain or academics vs. arts join Robert Lang as he illustrates how origami is improving art, space research and medicine.

Despite being reared in a culture of specialization, my personal philosophy is that all truth is circumbscribed in one eternal whole. Every truth enlightens, improves and applies to every other truth. My ultimate goal is total integration. Let's connect. What are you discovering?

Monday, August 31, 2009


I picked this painting instead of the many other images of mothers reading to children because the mother has a book and the child has a book. The mother and child are having a conversation and the mother is pointing outside of what I presume to be the home indicating the relevance of what they are reading/discussing to the outside world.

We're moving in a good direction, but I am continually tempted by the school model to just dump a bunch of information on my children. I like this life-coach approach. It behooves me to consider myself their life-coach on a discovery driven process. This is a great reminder to move towards the ideal of curiosity, relevance and enthusiasm in learning in whatever circumstance we deem best for our children. I also just finished a lecture by John Gatto on Extended Childhood. He always reveals the socialist and corporate (socializing) underpinnings of our current education model, but it seems corporate now needs people who are self-motivated, flexible and innovative.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Painting on the Ceiling

Do not try this at church!(unless you're Michelangelo) DO try this at home. I wasn't sure if the kids would be interested because it was our third week in a row painting. I printed off some Sistine Chapel ceiling coloring pages just in case. I only had one taker.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guest Mentor-Samuel Evensen

Today, our guest mentor, Samuel Evensen shared his love for color, painting and meaningful ideas. He clearly sparked something.

Science serendipity

We happened to catch a flyer for a geological tour of our neighborhood which just so happens to be one of our subjects of study this year along with New York history, so...

Our guide, Sidney Horenstein

It was really a mixture of geological history, botany and New York history as Mr. H. detailed the life of Inwood from mastodon bones unearthed on Payson and glacial rolling stones from the palisades, to the development of the ferries, trains and subways in Manhattan. He also taught us the names of several local trees including this Mimosa. Mr. H. told us that the Palisades are flat because they used to be below sea level and were pounded flat by the waves. It might have been cool to do a math problem about the median age of the group before and after we joined the tour. ;) Each child is writing a narration, or in one case a short story, based on our adventures with Mr. H. We'll save those in our New York history file for future years. We also came home with several heavy samples of milky quartz.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Art-Giotto di Bondone

Pulverizing chalk into powder and pouring in egg yolk is not something I generally condone especially when it requires rocks in the house. But today we were trying our hand at making our own egg tempra paints like Giotto di Bondone. Learn more about this 13th/14th century painter and enjoy a slideshow of his extensive works at:

We used:
plastic bowls (disposable)
1 egg yolk only
2 teaspoons of water
rocks we found outside (round are best)
pastel chalks/berries

Each child picked a color and ground a small bit of pastel chalk into their respective bowls. I mixed the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of water (until frothy). This liquid mixture was spooned into each child's bowl. They each mixed with a paintbrush until the consistency was thin and smooth. We painted.

What I learned:
"Smooth" here is actually a euphemism for lumpy. ;) Also, our rocks were a bit dirty and some of them had an element of sparkle that mixed with the paint and gave those colors a glittery quality. The dried paint was shiny and very sturdy. I did try mixing blackberries into paint. I did not grind them well and the color came out a sort of swamp-water-latte with clumps. Giotto's paintings are full of vibrant color and smooth consistency. He must've had a pestle and an assistant!

Thanks to "Discovering Great Artists" by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga for the great idea.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Two Links

We're always interested in useful links here at educationvalidation. Sumgreater recommends I second that. It includes information about composers categorized by period, country, alphabetically, etc. It also includes, puzzles, games, tips for parents/teachers and recordings of many classical pieces. We started at the beginning with Hildegard von Bingen (a very good place to start). We also found lots of her music on youtube and learned that a friend of ours is writing a play about her controversial life as a nun who prophesied, performed miracles, wrote books on religion and medicine and was a prolific composer.
Tonight, I found a fantastic interactive website that gives anybody access to the Library of Congress. Star would like to spend a few months in that Library, but she's never gotten more than a peek through the windows in the closed doors. She made a very depressed face after that. Here's your open access pass:

Happy summer school!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Baby is the lesson

Having little babies around all the time always feels like such an obstacle in doing homeschool. I read this article just now, though, and it's exactly what I needed. Maybe it will make you feel better, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Gleaners-Jean-Francois Millet

This painting is our screensaver this week. It is Millet's most famous work.
What do you think?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Pi Day 3/14

I love that pi is both constant and irrational.  In honor of Pi Day our family will be eating circular foods like pizza, apple pie and possibly quiche or donuts.    I may also take some time to consider other things that are constant and irrational in my life.  3.14 cheers for Euclidian geometry!

"Pi is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius.  It is approximately equal to 3.14159 in the usual decimal notation.  Pi is one of the most important mathematical and physical constants:  many formulae from mathematics, science, and engineering involve pi."  -Wikipedia

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beauty All Around-ART

I know there are dozens of museums near our home, but I have a three year old boy.  We did have an amazing private tour of Sotheby's Auction house this year sans the boy and photos pending.  I highly recommend it for New Yorkers as one of the only places you can really see great art for free (private tour not required, anyone can go) and the galleries are always changing.  

That said, at our house, art is usually playing with clay, glue, magazines, paint, cardboard, watching art related BrainPop movies and checking out art books.    Star (11) sometimes uses Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain exercises.  All of that is good and will continue, but this link has energized me.  We can study artistic masterpieces in a meaningful but easy way.  I think it will increase our awareness of beauty and our ability to observe.
I can just pick pieces from one artist as my screensaver for a week at a time, so we get familiar with the style and body of work.  A no-peeking verbal narration will also hold the image together in our brains as will making our own attempts to copy the works.  There are also a couple of websites that provide coloring book pages of famous paintings and sculpture like this one:
Head to this site to print out a list of questions to consider when looking at a work of art:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Library visits

We're learning our way around the local library.  As recommended in The Well-Trained Mind, each child checks out the following books (and then some!) on each library visit:  
a science book
an history book
an art or music appreciation book
a practical book (a craft, hobby, or "how-to")
a biography or autobiography
a classic novel (or an adaptation suited to age)
an imaginative storybook
a book of poetry

Mummified hot dog

From Exploratopia  
This experiment takes 17 days to complete.  If presenting, you may want to have one hot dog completely mummified, one that has only been prepping for 1 week to observe the process and one that is "fresh" if you can use that word to describe a hot dog. ;)

What you Need:
*A plastic container that's several inches longer, wider, and deeper than your hot dog
*A very large box (or two smaller boxes) of baking soda (sodium bircarbonate)*A small scale, like a postage scale (optional)
*An ordinary hot dog (could be beef, turkey, vegetarian- doesn't really matter because you're not going to eat it)
*Paper and pencil
*A ruler
*A piece of string at least 3 inches long

What you do:
1.  The ancient Egyptians mummified very important people-royalty like King Tut.  Out of respect to your very important hot dog, we have named him King Oscar.
2.  Fill the plastic container about two inches deep with baking soda.
3.  If you have a scale, weigh King Oscar now.  Record his weight.
4.  Use your ruler to measure how long King Oscar is now.
5.  Use your piece of string to measure the distance around King Oscar's middle.  This is his circumference.
6.  Make notes on what King Oscar looks like now so you can compare that with what he will look like later.
7.  Place King Oscar on top of the baking soda in the container and cover him with more baking soda.  Make sure the baking soda is a couple of inches thick on the top and sides of dear departed king Oscar.
8.  Place King Oscar in a special place (not back in the refrigerator).  Leave him there for a week.
9.  A week later, remove King Oscar from the baking soda.  does he look different?  what does he smell like?  how long is he now?  What is his circumference?  Write down your observations.
10.  If you have a scale, weigh him again.  Did he lose or gain weight?
11.  Throw away the old baking soda and surround King Oscar with fresh, new baking soda and put him back in his special place for ten more days.
12.  Ten days later, take King Oscar out of the baking soda again.  what's he like now?  he's been transformed into a stiff, leathery mummy!  Now he will last a very long time.  (Egyptian mummies are thousands of years old!)  Put King Oscar in a place of honor.

What's going on?
The dramatic changes seen in King Oscar are direct results of dehydration, which means that water is removed from something.  If you'd left Kin Oscar out in the open without baking soda, he would get moldy and smelly.  food that's not refrigerated goes bad because bacteria and mold need water--and you've used baking soda to take the water out of King Oscar.  Not water... no rot!  King Oscar is preserved for posterity.  That means for future generations, infinity and beyond.)  One fine day, some future archeologist will dig up your mummified hot dog... or maybe not! 

Grades 1-4 Notebook Summary

(From The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise pg. 222-223)

1.  Spelling.  Use for rules that the child is having difficulty with, and for a list of "Trouble Words" that he consistently misspells (Bauer recommends Spelling Workout workbooks)
2.  Grammar.  Use to file any grammar exercises that the child completes on his own paper. (Bauer recommends Rod and Staff grammar program).
3.  Reading.
a.  My Reading.  Use for summaries or illustrations of books from the reading lists.  (The reading lists included myths, epics, classics or age appropriate versions and primary sources.)
b.  Memory Work.  All pieces learned by heart and recited in front of family or friends.  (For us, that includes the Articles of Faith, some scriptures, Shel Silverstien poetry and many radio Disney songs, but will also include the parts of a cell, the respective criteria for mammals, reptiles and amphibians, maybe the emperors of Rome, etc.)
4.  Writing.  use for copywork assignments, dictation, composition assignments, letters and other writings.  Our kids tend to have poetic spurts and one writes song lyrics.

History (use the same notebook for grades 1-4)
This notebook contains four divisions; each has pictures, compositions, and historical narrations, arranged in chronological order.  We read a section of our history book, in this case, Story of the World:  vol. 1 Ancient Times.  Then the children take ownership of the knowledge through narration.  For the younger one's they tell me everything they remember about the section and I write it down for them to put in their notebook.  The older ones just write down what they remember and usually want to show it to me once they've finished.  Then, they illustrate something that stood out to them about that section.  For one, it may be the first library and for another, the bedroom of the ancient leader (even if it was never described).  We look up the area on a modern day map and the children may fill out a black line map of the area (we haven't really implemented this part yet) to stick in their notebook as well.  These all go in chronological order.  Narration and illustration of any outside study materials or additional library books on a topic would also go here.

1.  Ancients
2.  Medieval-early Renaissance
3.  Late Renaissance-early modern
4.  Modern

Science (use a new notebook each year)
(Bauer divides these among the grades starting with first grade, so if you're doing life-science with a 3rd or 4th grader, you may want to add definitions and experiments to their notebook.

 The life science notebook has three divisions:

1.  Animals  (narrations of science books, illustrations, sketches, etc. organized by category)
2.  the Human Body
3.  Plants

The earth-science notebook  has two divisions:

1.  The Earth
2.  Sky and Space

The chemistry notebook has two divisions:

1.  Definitions
2.  Experiments

The physics notebook has two divisions:

1.  Definitions
2.  Experiments

What we're doing:
We use Horizon math.  The kids skip from test to test until they hit a patch they don't understand and stop to do the lessons moving forward.  Any work done outside of the consumable workbook goes into a folder.  We have begun having success memorizing times tables by having our daughter copy out the the four times tables twice every school day before beginning in Horizon.  The following week she will copy the fives and so on.  This copywork goes into the math folder.  

We check out music appreciation books from the library on a regular basis.  We are also listening to a smattering of great works.  We just pick one, learn the name of the composer and the piece, then we listen to it once a day for three days, sometimes at breakfast, sometimes during copywork.  I am just keeping a list of the pieces we listen to.  It would be lovely for the children to learn more about the lives of the composers and make a brief biography of each containing a list of their masterworks and a few details about their lives, but we're not there yet.

We check out art appreciation books from the library on a regular basis.  Again, a biographical page listing an artists works, influences and some life details would be lovely, but for now we're just getting exposure and we keep any artwork the kids make either on the walls or in a folder.

We try to begin our days by singing a patriotic song (    has lyrics and midi-tracks to lots of patriotic songs usually with a brief history of the piece).  Then we say the pledge (we can see a flag on top of the hill outside our window or the patriotic song page usually has a picture of a U.S. flag on it.)  Then we have a family prayer.  Then everyone eats, gets dressed, makes their beds, reads in their scriptures and writes in their journal (I have to read mine early so I can help the non-readers).  This gets done at varying times.  Then we start with math and we're off and running.  We usually alternate days with history and science so we're not doing them on the same day.

Two more websites we love:
an online kids typing program-FREE

phonics games and practice from pre-K through to independent beginning reader:

I'm also finding all kinds of great stuff on youtube to help my girl sing to 100 while seeing each number she sings on the screen.  So much more fun for both of us than flashcards.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ashurbanipal by Angelfish

Ashurbanipal was nasty and mean
The wars he fought were not pretty scenes

He threw salt on their fields
so nothing could grow
While he sat
on his bloody throne

He killed all who didn't obey
He kept slaves or sent them away

The rest I don't want to tell
'Cause he'll hear and I'll be in a cell

Sunday, February 1, 2009

SumGreater and Urbantangerine

 Thanks for being my sister, internet neighbor and home school support.  I love you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


In a random shuffle of life, our second daughter had an only-in-New York opportunity last month and we finally got the link.

That's my girl!

She learned a lot about working, making friends with adults, film making, camera care, fan relations with all the elderly hanging out at the beach diner, and just getting it done. She kept perky from 4 a.m. until we finally got home at 5:00 p.m. When the shoot was finally over and I walked her to the car to drive her home, she started to whimper, couldn't buckle her own seatbelt and promptly fell asleep. She was peppy in time for Activity Days. She happy to have been part of such a worthy cause.

Been there

The super-wonderful new middle school in our neighborhood has an after school program where one of the electives is a Twilight reading group. After reading the book, the group will watch the movie. Hey! Are we ten steps ahead of the program, or what?! ;)

We read and discuss lots of other books, too. In fact, that's the bulk of what we do. We are a little language arts heavy at our house.

Some favorite books are:

Bloomability by Sharon Creech
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Good feelings

It has been a great week of home schooling. The main highlight has been the peaceful tenor in our home and a general love- love of each other and love of learning. I believe this is because I recently refocused my lens on my family. I have prioritized getting enough sleep to meet their needs as a thoughtful mother and facilitator. Some highlights from this week have been:

*deciding to let Torpedo (my two year old son) let go of our hug first. I held him for 20 minutes and he fell asleep in my arms.

*letting the kids spend half the day exploring with our new set of 50+ gel pens They created imaginative and beautiful pieces

*sledding at noon when nobody else was on the slopes. My Hero sat in his beach chair bundled in winter-wear and a blanket and wrote in his journal. What is not abundant about this life?

*discovering that my 6 year old is happy to do "lessons" with me if we set up a "desk" and let her call me "teacher"

*playing Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader with the whole family on a Tuesday afternoon. we made up our own rules and would run to the maps to check our answers or look up works of art and geographic wonders on-line

*reading aloud The Swiss Family Robinson and The Old Testament with loads of commentary and conversation. I never knew Leviticus was so pertinent!

*My tween writing a business letter on her own. Granted it was to the Twilighters Anonymous podcast, but she wanted to clarify some minor character descriptions she felt they had overlooked and included quotes from the saga to support her claim.

*getting together with friends

*trusting and encouraging their initiative as learners