Homeschooling

The Problem with Cultivating Good Taste in our Students

The Problem with Cultivating Good Taste in our Students - Classical Education, Classical Christian Homeschooling, What is Beauty?Among certain thinkers in classical education, there exists the idea that one must strive to cultivate good taste in children, to the betterment of their eternal soul. Here’s the problem: good taste is often confused with parental preference. Poor taste is elevated to a place reserved for actual sin.

Lest you think I have imagined this — lest you think I have imagined the pedestal Christian classicists have given to taste — consider this from a prominent writer in classical education:

“One of the most important things we can offer students is good taste, by which I mean learning to love beautiful things that have lasted. Bad taste is not a personality quirk, but a significant moral problem. If our students don’t love beautiful things, we have failed them. If we are graduating students who love shallow things, they might as well go to public school.”

Bad taste is a significant moral problem? Sin is a significant moral problem. Taste is not. We cannot, and must not, equate taste with worth.

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Homeschooling

Non Fiction Matters: “100 Things to Know About the Human Body” Book Review

Non-Fiction Matters: 101 Things to Know About the Human Body Usborne Timberdoodle Book Review

“Do you want to hear a song?” my now-ten-year-old  asked a random stranger the summer before kindergarten. “I know a song. ‘Immune system, with your lymph system / will your enemies attack / With the white blood cells, the leukocyte cells / that will destroy and turn them back.'”

Oblivious to the expression on the startled shopper’s face, she continued much-too-loudly, “…a germ is like a cucaracha! That would love to live inside ya!” The stranger vanished into the clearance racks at Target, and my singing scientist, perched inside the red shopping cart, kept belting out a symphony of lymphatic facts.

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary copy of 100 Things to Know About the Human Body from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this review. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.] Continue reading “Non Fiction Matters: “100 Things to Know About the Human Body” Book Review”

Homeschooling

Teaching Vocabulary Through Art: 101 Doodle Definitions

What’s the best vocabulary curriculum?

What’s the best vocabulary curriculum — one with Greek and Latin, right? Although I’m a big proponent of teaching word roots, I’d argue that for elementary-aged kids, the most effective vocabulary curriculum might actually be the one that’s the most fun. (Fun is often profoundly effective.)

Words are thrilling. They’re flexible yet bold, evocative yet concise, and powerful yet ephemeral. They can be translated and transcribed, sung and spoken, spun into cantatas, carved and chanted, whispered and written. Twenty-six letters can be woven into sonnets and mysteries, songs and orders, death and life.

In spite of the absolute magic of words, we somehow often manage to turn vocabulary study into a chore, transforming words into tasks. When vocabulary study becomes drudgery, when words are wrenched from their context and vocabulary becomes copywork — and nothing more — even the most voracious of bookworms begin to resent vocabulary. This is a travesty! A vocabulary study in which kids don’t retain the material isn’t much of vocabulary study at all.

But what if vocabulary study was creative?

What if we let kids draw?

What if we even allowed doodling?

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary copy of 101 Doodle Definitions from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this review. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

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Homeschooling, Poetry & Words

Taking Back February

2021 sweeps in, steadily. Time marches and flies, ebbs and flows, for better and for worse. November, December, January float away, torn calendar pages of the past.

Inside our homes, the steam sinks ceiling-bound from the mugs of steaming coffee, and tired spoons clink on bowls of stirred porridge. Babies cry, faucets run, doors creak on hinges, cars roll by. The news scrolls. Numbers upward, spirits downward, hopelessness slung around. Talking heads spout carelessly. Some seethe, some hide, few stand up and whisper truth.

We do not listen.

The damage digs in to all of us.

Inside our homes, laundry tumbles, wet. Tired arms mop up footprints and wipe away crumbs. Babies cry, faucets run, doors creak on hinges, cars roll by. The pages open. Stories deepening, spirits upward, hope burst up and waters us, like a snow melting down the mountain in the spring. Listening ears tuck treasures thoughtfully. Some ponder, some wonder, many stand up and shout the truth.

We listen.

His redemption springs forth anew in all of us.

March pads softly in, rapping quietly at the door. Something stirs beneath the frozen soil. We stand up, square our shoulders back, and walk squarely into the sun.

Homeschooling

Review of Veritas Press Self-Paced History Courses

Veritas Press Self-Paced History Review

If some part of homeschooling isn’t working for you, change it!

Depending on when you started school, Thanksgiving break marks about twelve or fifteen weeks into the academic year. By now, you’ve been at this long enough to grasp a sense of what curriculum is working well for you — and what isn’t. Enough time has passed for you to take a healthy assessment of your real homeschool situation, as opposed to your ideal homeschool situation. If things aren’t running as smoothly as you had hoped, don’t despair! It’s early enough in the school year to make changes.

Homeschooling, like parenting, is a strange beast. It requires humility and flexibility — but it also requires confidence and assertiveness. Like Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em / Know when to walk away…” (Probably not a song that shows up in many homeschool morning times, I’m guessing.)

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Homeschooling

Best Usborne Baby Books from Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots Package

Best Usborne Board Books from Timberdoodle Tiny Tots

In addition to spending a small fortune on coffee beans and regularly bathing in coffee, I also maintain an exceptionally large collection of board books, distributed throughout the house.

I keep a few in each bedroom, set some aside to distract wee Lochlan while I host the livestream discussion for our virtual co-op, place a few of the more tattered books in the playpen, and store the rest in the living room.

Board books — like other books — enjoy a central place of prominence in our home. They’re kind of a big deal around here.

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Homeschooling

Games for Kids to Play Alone: Walls & Warriors Review

Games Kids Can Play Alone - Walls & Warriors Timberdoodle Review

It’s hard to know which one-player games are worth playing, isn’t it? Games kids can play alone are a great way to foster independence and critical thinking in your homeschool, but how do you sort through all the games designed for solo play and pick out the best ones?

I tend to navigate towards single-player logic puzzle games, as they’re a great exercise in thinking skills. Puzzle games require careful thought, planning, and thinking outside the box. And if you have a particularly rigid-thinking child like I do, logic puzzles are a good way to practice the flexibility and creativity needed to solve problems.

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Homeschooling

The Most Hilarious Way to Teach Homeschool Physics

The Most Hilarious Way to Teach Homeschool Physics with the Wile E Coyote Physical Science Genius Books from Timberdoodle

Here’s a little homeschooling secret — a confession, really. Science at our house doesn’t usually involve experiments. There, I said it. There are so many great hands-off ideas for studying science, though. I’m not anti-experiment — that would be a weird stance to take, ha! — but I just don’t have the bandwidth to carry out hands-on science all the time!

Fortunately, I am able to actively supplement elementary science and nurture scientific literacy in many different independent ways. One fun idea? Highly-illustrated science books. An even more fun idea? Hilarious science books.

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