Friday, July 31, 2015

My Summer Vacation

We've all had to write those silly papers at the beginning of the school year: What I did on my summer vacation. Well, this is my paper, though I'm far removed from school and no one is going to be grading this . . . unless I've got a typo or grammatical error, I suppose. Don't judge too harshly; it is 12:30 a.m. after all.

When we moved to Florida three years ago, I promised my kids that as long as they wanted to return to King's Camp in PA every year I'd be sure to get them back. Despite an attempt to bribe them to find a camp in Florida the first year we were down here, they wanted to keep going. I am grateful they did because I, now, am a part of King's Camp—I am Princess Tammie. Those on staff are princes and princesses if they are 17 and older, dukes and duchesses if they are younger than 17. I've always wanted to be a princess! This is my crown:

I was looking forward to camp this year because I had such a great time last year. A group of us stayed up late almost every night playing games. Ever heard of The Great Dalmuti? If you're not a night person, you probably think I'm crazy, especially since we had to be up for staff devotions at 7:00. I, however, am very much a night person. I am also someone who loves to be around people. I enjoy getting to know people, and I love to laugh.

This year was different. The first two nights we were there no one stayed up late. I was profoundly disappointed, but I got some sleep. I think it was the third night when someone asked if I was going to play cards. I was thrilled. The next few nights I stayed up late talking with our missionaries (Matt and Elizabeth), who were amazing! When the two of them got together, I could not stop laughing. I kept telling everyone who hadn't yet spent any time with them that they needed to because they were very cool. Did you hear that Elizabeth?

One night a few of us stayed up until 1:15 looking at pictures of Uganda, which is where Matt and Elizabeth and their four children will be heading sometime this fall. Not only was it fun looking at the pictures and hearing about Uganda, but it was great to be able to talk and laugh with other staff who sat nearby.

During the week, while the kids were awake, staff had the opportunity to help them memorize Bible verses. Staff can memorize them, too, but our purpose is really to help the kids. Last year I memorized 26 passages (some of them long). I was surprised that I was able to memorize so many. I took the first letter of every word, made "to" the number "2," and "for" the number "4," and worked on visualizing the passage as I recited it. This year, I only memorized 17, but I spent a lot more time helping the kids. That was definitely a highlight of the week! Being able to see a kid's face light up when he said his daily verse and receive a new pin for his crown was a blessing.

Each day we had two times of Bible learning—one with Princess Julia and one with Matt (the missionary). It was during these times that staff and campers alike could reflect on God and what He wanted to teach them. I don't feel like I did much reflecting during the week. It wasn't until Saturday morning, after camp was over, that I started to process everything that had happened during the week.

So, what did I learn from my week at camp—my summer vacation?

1. I have a great passion for being around people and getting to know people.
2. I love to have fun.
3. I love to laugh . . . A LOT!
4. I love to serve.
5. I enjoy memorizing Scripture, and I'm not half bad at it. It was easier the second year, even though I memorized less.
6. A week without any contact from the "outside" world (Facebook, internet, phone calls, work, news, emails, etc.) was absolutely glorious! I did not want to get on my phone for hours after camp was over.
7. The counselors who are on staff at King's Camp are amazing role models. They serve with their whole heart. They love the kids. They are sensitive to God's leading. I'm glad my kids could serve as well and be part of that.
8. I don't feel my age when I'm at camp. This is pure vanity, I know, but when 22-year-olds and 17-year-olds carry on conversations with me like I am just one of the gang, it's hard to not feel like I'm 22 again myself. For that I am grateful.
9. I am a sinner in need of God's grace. The spiritual high from camp is amazing, but when I come back down, I realize that I am in a spiritual battle. There are days when my attempts are pitiful, and others that are better. But I can rest assured in the knowledge that Christ died for me. I have put my trust in Him. I will fall, but He will help me up. He will never leave me. In the end, Christ has the victory, and I am His child. For that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you John and Gayle for allowing me to serve at King's Camp!!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

When Boxed Curriculum Just Doesn't Cut It

When I first started homeschooling, I used an all-inclusive curriculum. Everything I needed came in one box from one company. That was definitely a blessing. However, as I grew more comfortable homeschooling my children, I figured out that I could develop my own curriculum. This often includes using bits and pieces of resources that already exist . . . why re-create the wheel? I make sure, though, that I am not a slave to that resource and try to use it loosely enough that I can feel free to move on to something else. As I put together courses for my children, they end up being quite interactive and hands on. I find a multitude of resources to include in the lessons—videos, food, music, crafts—whatever it takes to make the lessons more exciting.

My first experience with creating my own curriculum was at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. My oldest's spelling lessons did not come from a spelling book full of worksheets. I read through the dictionary and found words I felt he would be able to spell, based on words he might encounter in the types of books he was reading. I knew his ability, and I never felt it was wrong to challenge my children beyond what they thought they could do. If we don't challenge them, how will they know how far they can go?

For his spelling lessons, I would create a spelling list of 10-20 words, have him define them, find the part of speech, etc. He would then either have to write a story using all of the words correctly or write a sentence for each and draw a picture or find a picture to go with it. Here is an example from second grade:

Some of the other classes I created as my kids got older and I began teaching at our co-op include introduction to architecture, early 20th century American music, food science, modern art (not the usual artists one learns about), geography, World Wars I and II (with a friend), Civil War, and anatomy. 

Geography is always fun. There are so many different things you can do with this course. Most recently, I used a book called Eat Your Way Around the World. This would be a case when I used an outside resource, but I added much more to the class to make it fun and educational. This book has recipes from a number of countries and some cultural facts. Each week at our co-op, we would learn about a different country found in the book. The first thing we did was look at the official name of the country, type of government, population, land area, official language, official religion, etc. We then briefly discussed the history of each country (how it came into being and gained independence). The next thing—and favorite thing—was the food. The students tried foods I'm sure they wouldn't have tried in any other situation, like Groundnut Stew. Stew made with peanut butter. Who knew it could be so good? The kids colored a flag of each country as they learned about the meaning behind the flags. Each week was a little bit different. Sometimes we listened to music. Sometimes we watched tourism videos about the countries. When we discussed Jamaica, we learned about the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the Olympics.

My Introduction to Architecture course (that is currently on came about because I have always been fascinated by architecture and the ability of architects and engineers to create beautiful yet functional structures we live in, work in, drive on, etc. I figured out how many weeks I had to teach, made a long list of possible structures to study, and pared down that list based on the weeks I had. I decided which bridges, skyscrapers, homes, places of worship I wanted to learn more about and began to research each of them.

Food Science was a lot of fun! There was no text available for this. A great deal of research went into this course, though. We talked about the role of sugars, fats, proteins, etc., in foods. We did a lot of cooking as we learned about the science behind the foods we make and eat.

I had a friend who began homeschooling last year. She wasn't sure what to do. We looked at science first. She said she had purchased a pass to the zoo and that she was planning on going with her kids in the next week or two. I suggested she make a list while at the zoo of the 10 or 12 animals her children liked best. She could then make a monthly unit study of each animal. Let's say she picked an elephant. She could study the science of elephants, the different types of elephants, what makes them different, where they are found, what they eat, and so on. She could go the library and find children's books about elephants—Babar, Horton Hears a Who, Dumbo, just to name a few. Famous elephants in history could be studied—Surus, Hanno, Jumbo. How elephants have been used throughout history could be researched. For writing, her kids could write fun stories about elephants or write a short essay about real elephants. We are only limited by our imagination (I don't know who said that first, but it's spot on.)

When parents make the decision to homeschool, the next step usually seems to be the overwhelming feeling of too many choices. There really is no reason for this. Decide first what you want to teach or ask your kids what they want to learn. Figure out if you can or want to spend the time putting together your own curriculum. If you feel like it's too hard, find smaller resources you can combine to have a full year's worth of learning. Don't ever feel like you have to buy a textbook for every subject. The best learning typically comes when students' heads aren't stuck in a book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Introduction to Architecture on and a SALE!

If you are looking for something different for your students in middle school and high school, I am currently teaching Introduction to Architecture through This is the curriculum website of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. One low monthly cost makes more than 125 courses for preschool through high school available to your entire family. There are also member resources and encouragement and helps for parents. From July 3 through July 5, the monthly cost is only $5.95, but your first month is only $1.

Introduction to Architecture is a fun way to learn about the history and science of some of the world's most iconic structures. The following is an outline of what is discussed in this 37-week course:

Great Wall of China

(Bonus: Gingerbread Houses and Christmas Architecture)

Tower Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Panama Canal
Hoover Dam
Channel Tunnel
Mount Vernon
Eiffel Tower
Statue of Liberty
Washington Monument
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Spaceship Earth
Sydney Opera House
Empire State Building
Willis Tower
World Trade Center
Petronas Tower
Taipei 101
Burj Khalifa
St. Basil's Cathedral
Cathedral of Notre Dame
St. Peter's Basilica
Capitol Building
Architectural Fails
The Architect

If you are interested in taking this class or are looking for math, language arts, science, or other elective courses, check out

DISCLAIMER: I am an affiliate with If you sign up for a membership using my link, I will receive compensation.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Brother is Born for Adversity

I used to think this meant that we were given siblings to test us and cause us grief. 

My brother and I are only a year apart, and we fought like cats and dogs as we were growing up. Not until his senior year of high school and my junior year did we start to get along. In college, we actually lived right beside each other for a year. That was pretty cool.

My two youngest are just 21 months apart. They fight like cats and dogs. Now I know how my mom felt. Sorry, Mom! I guess now that I'm a parent, I just don't get it. Why does everything have to turn into an argument? Why does even the breath the other takes drive one so insane? 

A friend yesterday shared her struggles with her kids and their fighting and provided this insight: our family has already accepted us and loves us no matter what. It is the approval of everyone else outside of our family we are trying to obtain, which is why our kids can be so kind and generous toward others.

It's good that we love and accept our family, but how do we move beyond the arguing and the general disdain on a daily basis? Is it a heart issue? Are they simply exercising their selfishness and need to be right?

Due to their clouded judgment, they are unable to see the beautiful characteristics which God has put within their sibling. My son is generous to a fault. He is extremely intelligent and loves to share what he has learned. He wants a relationship with his sister. He might not admit it, but why else would her attitude toward him bother him so much. My daughter is a leader. She has strong opinions. She is a very gifted dancer. She also has a very soft spot in her heart for others, especially those who face challenges and disabilities.

Maybe if they removed the proverbial planks they'd be able to see how amazing the other is. If they laid aside their own "rights," they'd be able to appreciate the people God has placed in their lives to provide acceptance and unconditional love.

It's funny how my oldest rarely gets into a battle of wits with either of his siblings. It is really only the two younger ones. Is that because they are slightly closer in age or is it because my daughter looks up to her older brother in some way? Maybe it's because he's unwilling to give in to the arguing.

Because my brother and I turned out to be such great friends, I can only hope the same will hold true for my daughter and son. They won't believe it now. They'll think their mom is insane, if they read this. They'll wonder how it could ever be possible considering how much they dislike each other. I think it's just a facade.

A brother is born for adversity. It took some time before I ever heard somebody explain this verse found in Proverbs 17. A brother isn't born to cause us grief. A brother is born to help us through the difficult times of life. There is rarely anyone closer than a sibling. He/she is the person who knows us best and loves us anyhow.

If you have any tips on defeating sibling rivalry, please share in the comments.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hello Again! A Review of This Past Year

I've been working recently on a project to find homeschooling blogs, and it has sparked a renewed desire to begin writing again. I quit blogging in November after my last homeschool product review because I had become so busy editing that I didn't have time to write on a weekly basis, which is what was required to continue receiving the review products. I had burned out, so to speak.

Without that obligation looming over me, I will attempt to return to the world of blogging. Since I've missed nearly an entire school year, I will review what we used this year and what new things we experienced.

My oldest was a junior this year. That means he only has one year left. Excuse me while I wipe the tears off my keyboard. Seriously, I am not looking forward to graduation day. I'm excited for him, but I will miss him. He's probably sick of me saying that. Anyhow, J dual enrolled at the local state college. In Florida, students are able to take up to ten credits during the fall semester and ten during the spring semester during their junior year. So, J took Spanish 1, English Composition 101, and College Algebra. He received A's in all three classes. During the spring, he took Statistics, US History 1877 to the Present, and Spanish II. He received A's in all of those classes, too. Two of those spring semester classes started out pretty rocky, so we are extremely proud of his ability to bring those grades up.

Students who dual enroll can potentially earn an associate degree upon graduation if they take enough classes, including summer classes. J was not thrilled at the prospect of having to take classes throughout the summer, so he opted to not go for his AA. I had to swallow some pride and lower my expectations and let him make those decisions.

Besides the college classes, J took a history class and a speech class at our co-op. At home, he has been working through Apologia's Advanced Biology: Human Anatomy course. Since J has also been working part time, I have allowed him to take more time to finish this. Now, I just need him to finish it up. He has recently dissected a cow eyeball and a cow heart. His last dissection will be a fetal pig. Yep, right here on my dining room table. My youngest, P, has decided she never wants to dissect anything!

My middle child, N, has finished up his freshman year of high school. That was a big change for both of us. I learned I'll need to put my foot down a bit more when it comes to school vs. computer next year, though. For math, we used Mr. D Math. When we were at the FPEA Convention in Orlando last year, I was looking for a good math program for N. He didn't like Teaching Textbooks. As I searched the vendor hall, I saw Mr. D's booth. As I began talking to him, some of his former students ran up to him, shouting, "Mr. D!" At that point, I was sold. I think it speaks volumes when kids are that excited about one of their teachers. When N met him later, he was sold as well. He liked some of the features that weren't present with Teaching Textbooks. So, N worked through Algebra II this year. Mr. D Math is an online math curriculum. We chose to use the class that included a once-a-week, live, online seminar. 

He also studied Biology through Apologia, Writing through WriteShop, a Compare/Contrast writing course through, 3D Animation with Youth Digital, speech at co-op, and personal finance at co-op as well. He also studied geography and literature through what I put together on my own.

P finished seventh grade ahead of schedule. She was so anxious to get it done that she did two, sometimes three, days' worth of school each day during the last few weeks. I think her favorite class was drama at our co-op. She also took geography at our co-op, taught by yours truly using Eating Your Way Around the World. The students in my class ate things they would have never tried otherwise, like Groundnut Stew, and loved much of it. They also learned about the history, culture, traditions, government, and more of each of the countries we studied. P also studied general science using Apologia. She and N have both realized they don't like Apologia's high school books that much. They are too wordy for kinesthetic learners. I have loved Apologia, and it still works for J, but next year we'll have to do something else for P and N.

We used The Complete Writer: Writing with Skill for P's writing course and Mr. D Math's PreAlgebra course for math, and I let her choose which books she read for literature. She read 33 books throughout the year. P also dances two days a week, including teaching classes to 2- through 5-year-olds.

Our year was full. The kids learned more than what is written here. There were bits and pieces pulled in from a variety of resources to enhance learning. 

J took three SATs this year. J and N both took the PSAT, N for practice, J to try to place as a National Merit Scholar. J's SAT scores have qualified him for a scholarship. He'll take at least one more during his senior year to try to obtain more. That will be our focus next year for him—scholarships and getting accepted to colleges. 

I will do my best to keep up with this blog as this next year progresses. I will share what I learn, knowing that someone might come along and read this who can use the information next year or the year after. It always helps to learn from those who have gone before us.