Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Series: The 50 States - Alabama

Today begins a summer series on the 50 U.S. States.  I will go in alphabetical order and cover such things as motto, capital, state bird, etc.  I will also find some famous individuals from each state and provide other resources for further learning.  Let's begin with...


On December 12, 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state.  As of March 28, 2012, there were over 4.8 million people living here.  It is located in the southeastern United States between Georgia and Mississippi and lying directly north of the panhandle of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.  By area, Alabama ranks 30th in size. (There are 29 states that are larger.)

The state abbreviation is AL, and the capital is Montgomery.  This city became the capital in 1846 when the Alabama Legislature voted to change the capital city from Tuscaloosa.  It was named after General Richard Montgomery, who died in the Revolutionary War.

Alabama's flag is a white background with a crimson cross of St. Andrew.  The state bird is the Yellowhammer, also called the Northern Flicker.  The Monarch Butterfly is the state insect, and the Black Bear is the state mammal.

The Camellia is the Alabama state flower, and the Southern Long Leaf Pine is the tree.

Alabama's state motto is "We Dare Maintain Our Rights."  The words were taken from a 1781 poem and used to replace the first motto, "Here We Rest."  Alabamans felt this new motto reflected their spirit more appropriately.

Alabama also has a state reptile, the Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle, and a state amphibian, the Red Hills Salamander.  There is no official state nickname, but it is often referred to as "The Heart of Dixie."  "Dixie" is said to have originated with an 1859 song which was popular with Confederate soldiers.

There are a few famous Alabamans I will mention here.  The first is Booker T. Washington.  He was an African-American man who founded the Tuskegee Institute.  He educated fellow African-Americans and taught them the benefits of labor and that it is necessary for one to learn a trade.  He focused on agricultural sciences.  Peanuts , cotton, and corn are major agricultural products in Alabama.

John Allan Wyeth is another famous Alabaman.  He founded the first postgraduate school of medicine in the United States.  Up until this point, doctors had no practical experience; everything they knew came from books.  Wyeth believed doctors needed to have more experience in the field, so he opened the New York Polyclinic Medical School and Hospital.

The third man I will mention was not born in Alabama, and he only spent a few years in the state; but he left a lasting impression.  This man has a college football trophy named after him - the Heisman Trophy.  John Heisman coached at the Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1895 to 1899.  This school is now Auburn University.  Heisman is credited with the hand off, the double lateral, and the "flea flicker."  He invented the center-to-quarterback snap so that the ball wouldn't simply roll across the field from the center to the quarterback. He also is credited with using the word "hike" in football.

The state song of Alabama is, of course, "Alabama."  There is another song called "Stars Fell on Alabama" based on a meteor shower in November 12, 1833.  The shower was so incredible that it became a part of the state's folklore.  A book was also written with the same title by Carl Carmen in 1934.

Click here for a crossword puzzle about Alabama that can be printed out.

I hope you have enjoyed a brief tour of Alabama in fact and history.  Here are some other resources in case you are interested in learning more:

40268X: Alabama Biography Bingo Alabama Biography Bingo
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

Must know state facts for kids to learn while having fun! Includes: Statehood Date, State Name Origin, Capital City, State Flag, State Motto, State Bird, State Population, Economy, Media, Governor, Explorers, Native Peoples, Current Events and more! Each game includes 36 different playing cards.

405220: Alabama Survivor, Grades 3-8
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

Do your students complain they're hounded by history, jumped on by geography, or suffocated by social studies? Divide your class into two "Team Smart" groups and pit them against one another in a rip-roarin' laughter fest of tornado-fast true and false, hair,raising history timelines, mad-dog matching, chilling charts, cranium-crushing crosswords, quicksand quagmires of question and answer fun-ALL TIMED! Grades 3,8; ages 8-14.

498762: Alabama My First Book, Grades K-5
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

An "early bird" intro to basic state facts. Covers state basics such as state nickname, seal, song, bird, motto, flag, regions, industries, neighbors, and weather, plus an intro to state history, people and more. Includes: drawing, mazes, matching, coloring, and more! Reproducible. Available for all 50 states. Grades K-5; ages 5-10.

499637: Let"s Discover Alabama CD-ROM, Grades 2-8
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

Interactive CD-ROM with lots of fun facts for kids to learn about their state. Includes: government, state symbols, a timeline, geography, civics, nickname, landmarks, parks, schools, historical places, and more. Each of four sections is completed with a quizzing game and rewards. Also includes a FREE printed reproducible quiz. Grades 2-8

22289DF: Alabama State History Lapbook - PDF Download [Download]
By Cyndi Kinney & Judy Trout / Knowledge Box Central

Get to know your home state! Comprehensive state history lapbook resources from Knowledge Box Central are designed so that children of all ages can study together. Explore state symbols, songs and landmarks, famous people, geographical regions, timelines of historical events, and more. The included state-specific study guide provides background information, history, and other factual information; this study guide is the same for both lapbook (Grades K-8) and lapbook journal (Grades 6-12) students, so that the parent only needs to go over the information once.
This lapbook includes a list of all the supplies needed if following the included base guide. Blackline masters are provided for students to cut out and paste into their lapbook, while a photo of a finished lapbook provides a visual example. This Lapbook is structured for use with K-8th Grade Students.
Get started on your lapbook immediately with this PDF Download.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Classics on Kindle - For Free!

There are many classic books available for free on Kindle.  Allow me to highlight a few:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

The Iliad by Homer

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The War or the Worlds by H. G. Wells

White Fang by Jack London

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Hopefully this will get you started with some summer reading or getting your child's reading list together for next year.  There are many more.  Look under Free Kindle Books: Fiction Classics to find others.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

May I make a shameless plug?

Three weeks ago I started writing for  I have wanted to be a writer for 20 years, and I am now living the dream.  I am very grateful to Bonnie and Julie for giving me this amazing opportunity.  My job is to write pieces for "Everyday Easels" and "This Day in History," which are both under the "Dailies" tab.  Everyday Easels takes a piece of art and, for two weeks, breaks it down between all of the subjects: History, Bible, Math, Science, Language Arts, etc.  This Day in History takes an event that happened on the same day at some point in history and provides a few paragraphs of information about the event, a short fiction piece relating to it, a living book list, hands-on activities, and discussion questions.

Since I have taught co-op classes for years and often create my own curriculum, this position is perfect for me.  I enjoy doing the research and sharing the information that I have learned.  Some things I've been able to research in the past few weeks are Philippines Independence Day, the inventor of the salad bar idea, Igor Stravinsky, New Zealand Annexing the Cook Islands, and more. has many activities and online classes for all ages and grades.  Pre-K and elementary grades have literature kits, Figures in History, guitar, geography, lapbooking, Spanish, writing, and so on.  Some middle/high school classes are economics, film making, French, chemistry, logic, sewing, social justice, etc.  This is an incredible list!  There are so many interesting lessons put together by well-known names in the homeschooling community.

Under the "Family" tab, there are reading lists, college choice guidance, guitar, voice, special needs, and nature choices.  There are many "Dailies" topics such as grammar, math, and writing; spelling, continent exploration, astronomy, games, and Shakespeare.  There is a site tour which you can view and hear testimonials.

There are benefits to members, besides all of the wonderful lessons.  The Schoolhouse Library is free with a one-year membership.  There are almost 200 audio and e-book resources.  There are member-only discounts from participating companies.  Digital back issues of The Old Schoolhouse magazine are free, as well as homeschool planners.  Schoolhouse EXPO recordings are free.  Another amazing value is an complete online math course (Algebra, Pre-Algebra, or "Pre-Pre-Algebra") for free; this is a $99.99 value.  This video course teaches students "WHY math works, not just HOW to do problems."  There is a limit of one per family.

Try for the first month for just $3.  After the first month, it is $12.95 per month, or yearly memberships are available for $139.  Only one membership is needed per family to access all lessons and activities.  HSLDA members can receive a coupon code for a discount on a membership.

Consider signing up today at  You can even see some of my work!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Preschool Bible Ideas

A friend who is thinking about homeschooling has three preschoolers.  She has asked me what I think would be good resources for Bible learning, besides the obvious of reading Scripture to them daily.

As a new affiliate with Christian Book, I searched their site for some good ideas I'd thought I could pass along.


01101X: George Müller: Does Money Grow on Trees? A Little  Lights Book George Müller: Does Money Grow on Trees? A Little Lights Book
By Catherine MacKenzie / Christian Focus Publications

Here is the true story of George Müller and the hidden coins! What would you do if you needed some money? Would you pick some off a tree in the garden? Of course you wouldn't--money doesn't grow on trees! You have to work for it. Sometimes you have to work hard.

George Müller didn't like to work and tried to get his money in other ways. He would cheat and steal and was eventually thrown in prison. Find out how God changed George from a thief to someone even children could trust. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.

This book tells the story of an amazing man of God who exercised great faith.  God did an awesome work in his life, and his story is able to be shared with very young children.  They will marvel at his faith, as will you, the parent.

There are many other books in this series about people of faith.  Each book sells for $6.29.  Simply enter "Catherine MacKenzie" in the Christian Book search bar on the right side of this blog.


425349: Playful Songs & Bible Stories for Preschoolers--Book and CDs Playful Songs & Bible Stories for Preschoolers--Book and CDs
By Group Publishing

Teach your little ones 75 classic Bible stories through playful, interactive songs. Playful Songs and Bible Stories for Preschoolers uses music to instill biblical stories and concepts into the hearts of little believers. From the Creation to the teachings of Jesus, children will gain a fundamental knowledge of God's Word. Excellent for use at home, Sunday School, and more! Includes 2 sing-a-long CDs.

Every preschooler should learn Bible songs.  Putting information to music is one of the best ways to remember things.  This book and CD set sells for $21.99 and is great for kids who are ages 3-5.


5733X: The Big Book of Bible Crafts--Ages 3 to 12 The Big Book of Bible Crafts--Ages 3 to 12
By Gospel Light

Peter's boat bookmark, Noah's flood mud mat, "Jesus is Born" stained-glass picture, and New Life butterfly - these are just some of the timeless crafts in this best-selling Children's Ministry craft book. Packed with hands-on activities, this easy-to-use resource is perfect for homeschool, Sunday school, or VBS. You'll find 100 projects related to Bible stories, characters, or principles---divided according to age and in biblical order---with supply lists, instructions, enrichment ideas, and teacher tips. Ages 3 to 12. 160 perforated reproducible pages, softcover from Gospel Light.

Selling for $13.99, this book is loaded with great crafts that span a wide range of ages, so this book can last for years.  Enhance your child's Bible learning with crafts to go with their Bible stories.


60985X: Even the Sound Waves Obey Him: Bible Stories Brought to Life with Science Even the Sound Waves Obey Him: Bible Stories Brought to Life with Science
By Nancy B. Kennedy / Concordia Publishing House

Looking for a way to teach your kids about Scripture that doesn't involve crayons and glue? Here are 44 Bible stories paired with simple science---not art!---activities for youngsters and parents to do together. Each includes easy-to-find materials, step-by-step directions, and an explanation of both biblical and scientific concepts. Ages 3 to 7. 62 pages, softcover from Concordia.

I think this is my favorite book of the whole bunch.  I must just be a science geek at heart.  Each lesson covers a portion of Scripture written so it is easy for young children to understand.  Some application of the Scripture is provided so that kids can see how the Bible applies to their lives, and there is an activity for each lesson.  The science behind the activity is then explained.  This book sells for $8.49.

Additional views of each of these books can be seen.  Click on the links above.  When you are brought to the page, click "additional views" underneath the image of the book.

I hope you find something that will work for your family.  There are so many wonderful options.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Learn About Composers through Free Kindle Books

Upon reading a free Kindle book I came across while researching Igor Stravinsky's life, an idea came to mind.  Why not find as many free Kindle books as possible about famous composers and use that as part of a music curriculum?  So, that is what I did, well half of it anyway.  I researched Amazon and found as many free e-books as I could about famous composers.  I wanted to provide you with the links to each of the books in case you wanted to work through some of this over the summer.  I do plan on making a curriculum based on these.  Hopefully, I'll finish it over the summer, just in time for school.  I have not read these books, except for half of Stravinsky's autobiography, so I cannot attest to their cleanliness.  As I read each one, I will try to remember to review them so that you have the information you need.


















Christianity Cove: A Review of 25 Bible Science Experiments

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Christianity Cove is the #1 resource for Sunday School lesson ideas, crafts, games, etc., on the internet.  It is a company committed to teaching children the Bible in a variety of ways.  One way is through Bible Science Experiments.  In this resource, there are 25 simple experiments which teach children some aspect of science, as well as some aspect about God.  As can be seen by the picture below, Christianity Cove believes these science experiments will get boys excited about God.  They also believe they will get girls excited about science.

The experiments require objects that are usually found around the house, which is a part of their purpose - to keep things simple and economical.  There are a few items that need to be purchased such as a horseshoe magnet, but the cost is minimal.  The downloadable book itself sells regularly for $39.95, but it is currently on sale for just $25.  The experiments deal with light, color, motion, magnetism, and gravity.  

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Cover on downloadable file
At the beginning of each new section, there is a paragraph or two of introduction to the topic, and each experiment starts with an applicable Scripture.  I'm not sure what Bible translation they are using, but I found some verses a little bit difficult to read; so I pulled out my Bible.  I just kept it nearby when I did the experiments.

I would read the Scripture to Paige and have her gather all of the necessary supplies.  We did improvise on the supplies for a few experiments, e.g., we used colored pencils instead of crayons for the first experiment.  I would read through the procedure, and Paige would perform the experiment.  I'd ask her the questions.  Sometimes we got the right answer but, as usually happens in our house, the science experiment fails.  I'm not sure what that is.  I think there must be some weird gravitational pull right over our house or something.  Despite the fact that some of the experiments didn't work for us, we understood the message being conveyed, which I would read to Paige after we conducted the experiment.

All of the experiments are simple, some a little too simple for an 11 year old.  I did skip these.  Here we see Paige pouring water into a glass to learn about the relationship between light and water.  The water slowed down the speed of light which caused the pencils to look bent in the water.

We had a little difficulty with the third experiment.  Two pennies were placed beside each other on the floor with a glass of water on top of one of them.  We were to stand up and look at each of the pennies and see which looked closer.  Our dog, however, must have been thirsty and drank a good bit of the water before Paige could stand up.  So, when she was finished, we refilled our cup.


I love the experiments that require the student to make something which can be used as a toy.  If you go to places like Colonial Williamsburg, you will pay a good bit for a spinning button on a string, but Paige made one with string and a button we had lying around the house.  She did this to learn about motion and inertia which led to a discussion about staying on the straight and narrow path.  Once the button was on the string, she was to wind it up and then pull it taut so that the button would spin.  It was using the potential energy stored up from the wound string.  Nate (13) came into the room while we were doing this experiment and begged to play with it.  So, there are some experiments that can gain the attention of an older child.  That wasn't the only one either.  Experiment #15 had the student put a quarter on their elbow and try to catch the quarter in their hand as they dropped their arm quickly.  If I didn't make him leave the room so that we could finish the experiment, he'd probably still be there trying it.  ;-)

These two experiments below were to learn about color and light.  Again, they were very simple.  The experiment on the left was meant to produce the color purple while the blue and red paper was spinning, but we could not get it to spin like a top with our pencils; so I stood on a chair and tried to twirl it sort of like a Frisbee.  It didn't work very well.  We caught glimpses of purple, so we got the point.

The next picture shows an experiment that only required a flashlight and a wall.  Oh, and a finger.  Paige was to see how the shadow changed when the light moved farther away from the wall.  This was to help her understand "shadows" in life and that God is like the flashlight.

There were some fun experiments and some good explanations, both scientifically and Biblically.  There were, however, some biblical explanations that seemed slightly weak or the correlation between science and Scripture was a stretch.  I felt, also, that the quality of the script was a bit substandard.  It lacked consistency in form.  One example of this is when the steps of the experiment are stated.  Some say, "Have students..." and some simply list the steps as if speaking to the student.  Capitalization and punctuation are not consistent, and there is at least one paragraph that has a completely different font than the rest of the document.

Many of the experiments which are included in this downloadable are available for free on Christianity Cove.  That being said, I'm not sure I'd pay $25 to have it all saved on my computer.  FYI: One of the links I tried did not work, but another one did.


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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why in the World Would I Homeschool?

DISCLAIMER:  I am not writing this to tell you that if you don't homeschool you should.  I am not writing this to tell you that if your kids go to another form of school that there is something wrong with you.  I am simply writing this to encourage those who wonder if homeschooling is for them, to remind those who do why they do, and to answer some questions posed by those who might simply have questions about why we do.


I attended my first homeschool conference when my oldest (now 15) was three years old.  My husband, John, had said that he wanted us to homeschool.  My exact words to him were "I don't know.  I could sure use that 8-hour break a day."  At that point, I only had two very young children.  Now I have three who are 11, 13, and 15.  Knowing that there was going to be a conference, I told John I'd go but that I'd have to see the handwriting on the wall.  Before the last seminar of the day, I called him to tell him that we would be homeschooling.  He asked how long, and I declared we'd homeschool the whole way through high school.  "That must have been some seminar," he remarked.  It was, and I had seen the handwriting on the wall.  The stories I had heard about the kids and the relationships between child and parent were enough to persuade me.  Little did I know then what a HUGE blessing it would be for our family.

I have had an amazing opportunity over the years to help others along in their homeschooling journey.  Whenever someone has a question, I am willing to find an answer for them and to share some piece of our homeschooling journey, if it fits the situation.  I have had some folks ask me recently about homeschooling.  Since I have moved to a new state, I am a little less comfortable sharing what the law is.  You learn a lot more when you spend nine years homeschooling in a state than just one year.  I can, however, share the blessings and our reasons behind it and try to help them make a decision that is best for their family.

Let me just say, before I start listing reasons to homeschool, that it is a calling.  It is a major undertaking and not for the faint of heart.  God also calls some parents to have their kids in brick-and-mortar schools.  You shouldn't feel bad that you don't homeschool unless you know you're ignoring your calling because you are afraid.  I digress.

Reasons to Homeschool:


Trust me, it isn't lollipops and ice cream every day.  We don't sit around singing Kum Ba Yah.  We don't get up early, get all our school done by 10 a.m., and then sing praise songs all day.  We get up late, have our school done by 10 p.m., and the kids sing Minecraft songs all day.  In all seriousness, it isn't that bad, but we are together.  Now that my oldest is 15, I realize how fast time goes.  Our conversations about Jacob's schooling now center around the fact that he'll be out of the house in a few years.  It's normal, but it's sad.  I cherish this time I have with him, with all of my kids, right now. I'm glad it is me who gets to spend time with him and not 400 other kids and however many teachers he'd have.  Not many people appreciate my kids the way I do because they just don't know them.  One story I've shared a lot lately is the conversation I had with Jacob while we were out one day.  I asked him why he so often chose to go with me when I'd go to the store or run some errand.  He stated, "Because it is fun."  My 15 year old thinks spending time with his mom is fun!  Success!


Since I am the teacher, I get to choose what they learn.  I can tailor their learning to their learning style.  It isn't a one-size-fits-all curriculum.  There are thousands of choices in the homeschooling market nowadays.  I don't use one curriculum for all subjects, e.g. Abeka, because I don't want to miss something out there that is great and would work really well with my kids.  I had been using Apologia Science since I found it because I absolutely love it, but I knew Nate (who is going into 8th grade) would not do as well with that style of curriculum.  The Physical Science book is a very thick book with a LOT of words.  He is perfectly capable of understanding it, but the format alone would not hold his interest.  So, this next year, for him, we are trying something different, something that is much more hands on - Exploration Education.  I can also tailor their learning to things they are excited about. For instance, Paige loves horses.  I can work horses into every subject if I want.  She can learn about the anatomy of horses.  Math can consist of horses being so many hands high.  There have been famous horses throughout history.  She can write reports about horses.  The list goes on and on, and this can be done with any topic.


This is one of the things I love the most about homeschooling.  It really goes hand in hand with #1.  The kids and I, and sometimes Dad if he isn't working, go to museums, forts, old town tours, battle sites, etc.  We have thousands of pictures that include our family visiting all sorts of places throughout Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Florida; Virginia; South Carolina; California; Nevada; Arizona; and Kentucky.  We visited the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam.  It was amazing to be able to go there!  We are creating memories.  Not only will they remember the places they've been, but they will remember that they were there with their family.  Their best memories will include their parents.


Many opponents of homeschooling or people with a limited knowledge of it will ask, "What do you do about socialization?"  I always answer by telling them all of the activities they are involved in, but what I really want to say is "If socialization means my kids act like most kids in schools these days, then I don't want them to be socialized."  Now, I don't think I'd ever have the nerve to say that.  In reality, because my kids don't spend eight hours a day surrounded by kids their own age, they are able to have remarkable conversations with adults.  Yes, I know there are kids who go to brick-and-mortar schools who are just as capable.  I'm not suggesting only homeschooled kids can talk maturely with adults, but I am glad mine can, and I do attribute it to a great deal of their socialization being with adults.


A great reason to homeschool is so that you know what your kids are learning.  It is sad to think that there are teachers who stray from the accepted curriculum and interject their own beliefs into the classroom.  It's hard to know what they will come home with next.  I don't think it is bad that a science curriculum would have something like evolution in it, but it is unfortunate that it is taught as the  truth.  Who was there in the beginning who can attest to the big bang theory?  Students should be given all the views and be allowed to choose what they believe.  There should not be indoctrination.  At home, the family's belief system can be taught.  I encourage my kids, now that they are older, to understand differing views and weigh them with what they believe.  I love it when they ask questions so that they can further understand something.  We look for the answers together.


This was one of my reasons when we started (it is a little less so now).  I have seen bullies in action, and I didn't want my kids to have to go through that.  I didn't want them to be pressured with drugs, alcohol, or sex.  I didn't want them learning certain things before we, their parents, thought they were ready.  My kids stayed relatively innocent for a very long time.  They are still very modest.  They have made healthy choices and have vowed to not make the wrong choices.  Hopefully, they will stay true to their word.

7.  IT IS FUN!!!!

I hope you can tell from this post that I think homeschooling is a blast.  We have days when the kids fight or I have to tell them 100 times to get their math done.  My house is cluttered with papers and magazines.  I can't see the top of my dining room table more than one day a week, if that, but all of that doesn't matter.  We are together; we are learning (I love learning alongside the kids).  If you ask my kids if they want to stop homeschooling, they will tell you unreservedly, "NO!"  This I count as success.

There are more reasons (feel free to share yours in the comments), but I have named a few of ours.  I know some folks can't homeschool for various reasons.  There is no condemnation.  You must do what is right for your family.  God will let you know that.  If he wants you to homeschool, he will provide a way.

So many women say, "I'd love to homeschool, but I don't have the patience" or "I'd love to homeschool, but I'm no good at math (insert any subject into this sentence)."  Someone once said something to the effect, "If God calls you to it, he will carry you through it."  If it's God's will, there is a way.  I don't have a lot of patience either, so I say "sorry" when I need to.  Like I said, I learn right along with them.  If you feel you are lacking in some area, there is an endless supply of help.  There are homeschoolers in your area, all over Facebook, blogging, on Pinterest, on the internet, and in homeschooling magazines.  We are here; reach out, and we will help you as much as we can.

Don't let anything stop you if you feel God is calling you to homeschool your kids, even if it means pulling them out of school once the year has started.  You can do that.  God will provide.  Don't let anyone else's opinion deter you either.  You must obey God.  You owe it to your kids especially when it concerns them.  You will be blessed.  Your kids will be blessed.  Trust me, your extended family and your community will be blessed as well.

(Please feel free to add your reasons or examples of your homeschooling journey.  Please do not comment if you are going to bash me.  I hold nothing against people who don't homeschool.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Who is God?

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” - Richard Dawkins

“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.” - Albert Einstein


As I read through some of the things folks in the past and at present have said about God, I was deeply saddened.  Without knowledge of the Creator, they are hopeless.  The chief aim of their lives is to do anything they can to please themselves.  Even though some of them claim there is no God, they seem so full of hatred toward God that they contradict themselves in their belief in his existence.

I am not a Biblical scholar, but I know God.  I can see him at work.  Things happen that have no scientific or worldly explanation.  Lives are transformed, lives that, according to society, have no redeeming qualities?  Did they make the change with themselves?  Read the story of Johnny Lee Clary, former Imperial Wizard of the KKK.

He says, "God is love."  The only reason any of us have the capacity to love in any form is because we are created in the image of God.  God is love.  If it weren't for God, well, we wouldn't be here.  If, though, there were a way for us to be here without God, we would certainly not love each other.  We would all do whatever pleased us at the time, whatever felt good.  When we try to live without God, this is what we do.  We please ourselves, rather than our Creator.  How many stories have you heard of people who have all the success they ever wanted, ever could have dreamed about having, but still feel empty?  Why do you suppose that is?  They are missing that relationship with God.  They are not missing religion; they are missing relationship.

Religion is a set of rules; religion is tradition.  A relationship with Christ is neither of those things.  It is full of love and understanding.  We screw up, but God loves us still.  Think about your love for your kids.  When they do something bad, you still love them, right?  So it is with God.  We do not have to prove ourselves to him.  We do not have to live a perfect life.  We can't.  But, because we love Christ, we choose to please Him.  

Oh, you don't believe in Christ?  If the Bible isn't enough proof of his existence, there are historical, nonreligious documents that prove his existence.  Check out  This appears to be a good article with examples of historical sources proving Christ's existence.  Atheists and agnostics who have studied the Bible to disprove it become convinced of its veracity and become believers.  Why do you think this is?  It is because it is true; it is life changing truth.

The quote by Albert Einstein above is sadly flawed in its philosophy.  God's purposes are NOT modeled after our own.  God is not a reflection of human frailty.  If you imagine God a certain way in your mind, then I suppose his purposes would be modeled after our own and would be a reflection of human frailty, but the God I know, the One True God, is perfect.  He is constant.  His attributes NEVER change.  The person who truly knows God allows his life to be directed by the purposes of God.  He does not put God in a box, for God could never fit inside any box our finite minds could imagine.  

I feel sorry for Richard Dawkins.  He does not know God.  Supposing he actually read the Bible, the only thing he got from it is that God is petty and unjust, a megalomaniac and a malevolent bully.  Certainly, the Old Testament is hard to take at times.  God did allow groups of people to die.  He did allow the Israelites to wander in the desert for 40 years.  There are so many stories to read which could allow us to characterize God like Dawkins has, but I wonder if he has read Psalms or if he has read John 3:16.  "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever should believe in him will not perish but have eternal life."  Does this sound like a petty, unloving bully?  

Don't blindly deny God's existence.  Search the Scripture for yourself - the whole Scripture.  You will find a God of love and second chances.  Oh wait, more like infinite chances to turn back to him.  You run out of chances when you die.  God is full of mercy and grace.  He heals, protects, and trusts.  He keeps no record of our wrongs.  Contrast this with Satan who is always throwing our past sins back in our faces.  God does not envy; he has no need to.  He is kind and patient.  The list could go on and on.  One thing he is not, and that is anything evil.  If a word pops into your mind to describe God and it is not a way in which you would want to be described, it is certainly not a word that can be used to describe God.  If you want to describe God in this way, then you don't really know him.

Here are some quotes from folks who know God:

"“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” - C.S. Lewis

“Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Find out what God's doing. It's already blessed.” - Bono

“Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith.” - A. W. Tozer

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Math Mammoth: A Review

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With math products for first through eighth grade, Math Mammoth provides a mastery approach to learning.  A long time is spent on each of the topics, and not too many topics are taught per grade.  We had the privilege of using the Light Blue Series complete curriculum for grade 4.  

We received the downloadable version which included two separate worktexts, an answer key for each worktext, tests (and answers), cumulative review worksheets,  and printable fraction cutouts.  Text A covers addition, subtraction, patterns, graphs, place value, multi-digit multiplication, time, and measuring.  Text B has the student focusing on division, geometry, fractions, and decimals.

I had Paige do a few pages from each chapter, more if I noticed she was struggling.  She said one thing she liked was that the pages had some color on them.  Many math programs are simply black and white, but she appreciated the use of color.

We worked through everything but geometry, fractions, and decimals.  Division is a bit more difficult for Paige, but she was getting a handle on it as we worked through the problems.

Some of the word problems were a little bit confusing, but we were able to figure them out.  The section on multiplication described two methods of computation.  The first was extremely confusing to me until I figured it out.  The second was the "old-school" method that I learned when I was a kid.  Since I had already explained that method to Paige, I told her to just do it the second way.

I really like the way the curriculum teaches a concept and then provides real life word problems.  Some questions ask more than just the math concept, which allows the student to be somewhat creative.  For example, the section on temperature asked Paige to "describe a situation to fit these temperatures."  For -12 degrees F, she wrote, "'Freezing, stay indoors."  She wrote, "Hot, go swimming to keep cool," for 102 degrees F.  Her answers made me laugh.

There are two companies through which purchases can be made.  The full set for fourth grade is $34.00.  Each separate worktext can be purchased alone for $17.50 as well.  They each include the items listed above, as well as a worksheet maker and Soft-Pak (if purchasing from Kagi) which includes a language arts and two testing programs.

The other grades have a slight difference in price depending on grade.  Discounts are available when purchasing multiple grades.  The entire set of the light blue series can be purchased for $136 (downloadable) or $141 (CD).  Grades 1-3 and grades 4-6 are each available in a downloadable version for $68.  When you consider how much some math curricula cost, these are amazing prices, and the product is definitely worth it.

There are many other products available from Math Mammoth such as Books by Topic, Worksheets by Grade, Worksheets by Topic, and Real-Life Math.  Check them out.  


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