Monday, September 23, 2013

Product Review: NERF Rebelle Bow

The tween years for a girl is a time when she loses interested in toys, but my daughter took to the NERF Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow as if it was the most wanted gift on her Christmas list, even though she had even thought of it! She has been out with her friends practicing for accuracy or just chasing and shooting at each other for fun ever since she received it. I have had to buy replacement darts because they do get damaged or lost eventually.

Now NERF Rebelle products are now something that every girl in the neighborhood wants. My daughter rarely has the opportunity to be first to start a trend, but this really is a fun toy. I know because I have shot my daughter with her own Nerf darts several times! I did have to remind her that it is because I am a Bzzagent that I could give it to her for free; this I tell her so I can get some play it with it.

My daughter tells me that it shoots darts really far and our cats like to capture falling darts...and take off with them, which ends up with giggly girls chasing after cats to retrieve darts. My daughter thought the funniest thing was when a neighbor boy shot it at her with her own bow and he could not hit her with a dart. She said it was like she had an invisible force-field. I just told I was not surprised since it was not made for boys.

Shhh! I predict refill darts in her stocking at Christmas time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where was I? Oh, yes.

Sunrise, sunset.
Sunrise, sunset.
Swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
~Fiddler on the Roof

You may have been wondering where I have been. I am still in the crackdown-on-homeschool mode; the crackdown is mostly on myself, by the way. I finished planning the year as to how to fit all the curriculum in Language Arts, but I still have much work to do planning Social Studies. Currently, I am lost under piles of paper and trying to acclimate to our new schedule, so I am not yet using my time and resources as efficiently as I hope to do. If you ever tried educating your child at home you know that tasks of getting the child from one lesson or assignment to the other and of organizing paper in various forms, such as new ruled paper, art papers, worksheets, workbooks, books, index cards, flash cards, printed papers, etc., are the two main things a parent does over and over...and o-v-e-r.

Since I changed everything in my daughter's curriculum—yes, everything, but I just have to write, is working out so much better for both of us!—I now have old papers from our old curricula with which I am not quite sure what I will do and I need to place the new stuff into binders. Schools have the advantage of not having to save at least a sampling of the students' work to prove what and how they are teaching, as much as I do, as much as homeschooling families should do. So, temporarily everything is in piles on a table in the middle of my office/homeschool room, where there really is not enough room for a table, but better there than spread out on the floor so my cat and dog can make additional arrangements to the mess.

This year, although it is not required, I also decided that I will practice keeping records for high school transcripts, a skill I will need to have for the upcoming years anyway. Besides, she has been earning partial credits in some subjects like Greek and Latin. Also, the Princess wants to be graded, has been wanting that for the last few years, and even though I appeased her at times on this, I did not keep records of her grades. For those who do not homeschool, I was teaching to mastery without concerns about grading previously, however some children thrive on completing for that "A." My husband and I both were like that, but we thought it was due to the make-the-grade school influence in which we were raised; since this has not been the case with our daughter, I guess it is just in her genes to want a measuring stick of her abilities.

The science class is adding the measure of independent learning—independent of me, I mean. I think it was a very good investment into her education: The very first day of her school, they dissected an eye! The Princess did most of it as her lab partner thought it was very gross. The Princess is thriving in the classroom and laboratory environment, but then she has a teacher who truly loves teaching science. (I am thinking that it is easier to really love it when it is just one class a week, although I know she has other classes.) I give the Princess an hour on two separate days each week in our schedule so she can do her science homework as she must type out her summary of each class in addition to any lab reports and other things like take home tests. She has eagerly begun researching her chosen 5th day animal for the autumn presentation: the Crown of Thorns Starfish. She does not seem to mind that the science assignments take more time than I have set aside. She works on her science project in the evenings and on weekends also. Since she has observed good and bad 4H presentations, I am curious how she will put her project together for a seven to ten minute presentation.

Oh, my little Princess, a half-grown woman-child! Was it not just last summer when she was four years old protesting with a defiant look of determination after I had called her my child: "I am not a child. I am a woman!" From that point on, when people asked how she was, I would reply, "She is a formidable woman!" which would catch them off-guard until their giggles set in. Back then the Princess was only four, nearly always in pink, learning to play piano with only one hand at a time, and reading at a second grade level.

Today, she prefers teals, mauves, and greens with blues and browns, has a purse faddish, will be starting algebra in a month, talks about going to college, and wears nearly the same size shoes as I do. She is particularly good playing Bach on the piano, but she is good with a wide variety of musical styles. She writes as much as she reads, which is considerable. She is rather good with comics and used to draw several pictures a day, but she never really like the fine finishing work (as I do). Now she often cannot wait to start writing a story she has in her head and this is why I placed so much emphasis on language arts for this year. She may think she wants to be an actress only, but I see the girl is also a writer, artist, and musician at heart.

Which brings me back to why my homeschool area is a mess. I wanted to change things so that we could encourage and support her talents and areas of interest more so than before. Those years of laying foundations have prepared her for this change of fine tuning her education.

Did you know that the Amish only formally school their children to 8th grade? Why? Because by that age, a child has learned everything that is absolutely necessary to learn in a school setting to get along in life. The rest they will learn as well, better actually, by living experience or by apprenticing. When I was eleven, my mother was in and out of the hospital for illnesses, surgery after falling for which she was in traction at home for about 4 months, and giving birth because she had apparently conceived just before the fall. I did the housework and made sure my siblings were fed as was expected of me being the oldest. I have this philosophy that education from age of twelve on is to specialize their education toward their talents, gifts, and potential as well as practicing those practical skills. I feel that the potential of the teenage years is not fully utilized when students are taking classes and trying to get good grades just to prepare for college. Why not start learning college courses while in their teens?

On that note, some things had to shift in our priorities for this year and my homeschool materials with it. The Princess no longer needs the math manipulatives that helped her understand 5-3=2 in her four-year-old hands. She is twelve and those years have passed. It is difficult to let go, selling or packing away materials that helped shaped her knowledge for today, but changes must be made to accommodate and encourage growth and exploration in preparation for the woman she will be.

I may not be ready for it, but I have to be sure that she is.

~ My Lord, guide us as You desire us to be. ~

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No Do-Overs

If I had it all to do over again, I would do most all things differently. However, how would I know that if, I had not had the opportunity to do them the first time.
 ~Janice Markowitz

Googling for information about a certain homeschool product, I came across this intriguing blog post entitled "If I Were Starting Homeschooling Over From Scratch." As I scanned through it, I began thinking about how much the homeschool market has changed since I began and how much my daughter and I have changed as well. So many materials were not available at the time when we started that I might have liked to use or at least had considered before making a final choice. I am sure that there are some newer products that I might have preferred over what I decided on at the time, but the ones I picked were tried and true, still available today and I rarely ever find myself thinking "I wish this was available years ago."

I have this philosophy to purposely not look back at my life with regret, which is not to say that I do not have regrets or I never wished I had done some things differently or not at all, but I have always been one to believe that in the same circumstances with the same information and same emotions in play I had at the time, I would have done exactly what I did. It is very rare that I say or even think if I had it to do over again...

I simply do not believe in do-overs. They are the illusions for when we cannot face up to the worst we have done, but they are not reality. I don't believe in examining my past and thinking about how things would have turned out if I had done this or that differently. Those are empty wishes on which I simply do not spend time and effort. It is better to spend that time and effort in making good decisions right here and now. I believe in going on from where I am. I believe in the possibly of tomorrows. I even believe that all my history—the good, the bad, and the ugly—made me into the person I am today and what I do today will make me into the person I will be tomorrow. 

Some would argue with me that when we accepted Jesus, we became new persons in Christ. Yes, but this did not erase my history, it became part of it. Jesus did not give me a new past, but a new future. I do not believe in do-overs, just in new days, each being a beginning of the rest of my life as the cliché goes. This very moment is the first of the rest of my life, even though there have been 50-some years of moments before this one.

Homeschooling has tested these philosophical convictions of mine. There have been more than a few things I have questioned. There have been more than a few things I planned to do that we have not done, at least not the way I planned. I have, am, and will be holding myself responsible for the failures within my daughter's education. What I do, actually all that I have ever done because it makes me who I am today, has a direct influence on who she has been, is, and will be. All of it is her education.

There have been times I simply had to surrender and rely on God's guidance, even unschooling because of circumstances and being unable to control the Princess' education—as if such a thing can be controlled! (I think "control" is another illusion with which we delude ourselves.) There have been times I was more organize and strict with her lessons as reminded myself that there are no do-overs. Still, I learned this most wondrous secret: either way she learned. Yet, most of the time, I fluctuate between the two extremes at points in our lives and even differing between subjects, but it has had little bearing on how fast she learned whatever she learned with a few exceptions like Greek and Latin.

I was thinking about all these things this week after I reviewed the Elementary Greek curriculum that arrived a few days ago. It is very different from Greek 'n' Stuff - Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! which is for what I hoped, but it is not quite what I was expecting either. It is good, probably just what we need at this point, but does not have as much practice as I would like to see. The lessons are short, but meant to be done daily. Hey, Andrew! lessons could be done daily, but they were very uneven in their time demands, and since it was the same with the Greek 'n' Stuff Latin, I chose to do two pages of Greek on one day alternating with two pages of Latin on the next day, which even out the time somewhat better. Some lessons were taking about an hour, but the organization of these programs was adding to our difficulty of really learning the material. From what I am seeing with the Elementary Greek, there is the possibility that I may need to supplement its lessons with some exercises from Hey, Andrew!

Elementary Greek was available when I was choosing our Greek curriculum, but I was right in my assessment at that time. Had we started with Elementary Greek when she was younger, it would move too fast for us to really process and grasp the information well. I think it would have been a hard cold start even for her at this age considering she is learning other languages also. My plan to "train her brain" to accept the concepts of other languages very early, while she was still learning our own language, did fulfill its purpose and she is rather good with this. I do not know why I feel this is so important at this time, nor even why it was to me then, although I had my reasoning, but I believe my plan must be working within God's plan.

With Elementary Greek, much of the first year will be review and because it lacks some of the things we have covered with Hey, Andrew!, I am assuming that those things will be covered in Year 2 or even 3. The benefit of Elementary Greek not aligning with Hey, Andrew!, is that we will have enough review to cover our weak areas and ease us into the new routine. In addition, there are some vocabulary words that will be new to us and some concepts also so it will not be boring. I also was a bit astonished to find that from Hey, Andrew! we learned a few wrong pronunciations in simple things like the alphabet letter names. Omicron is not /OM-i-cron/ but /om-EE-cron/ and pi is not /PIE/ but /PEE/How well would that have gone over in my geometry class, I wonder?

Do I regret using Hey, Andrew! for all these years? Not at all. I used to think we could have moved along faster as we took more than a year for each level, which is why we are only in Level 4, but in reality what it was was as good as it could be with the lesson loads the Princess has had and our crazy schedules. I initially had hoped to switch to Elementary Greek after Level 3 or 4 of Hey, Andrew!, but as we used it, I changed my mind concerned about how the two would not align. Now, here I am implementing the original plan and seeing the change as beneficial. Actually, I am quite pleased with my choice: The timing is good as to her age and quickness to understanding. Hey, Andrew! did well for introducing us both to Greek, so that we could do well with the faster start pace of Elementary Greek and I will be keeping Hey, Andrew! on hand as it still may be a good supplement. 

This change in our Greek curriculum works so well it is almost as if it was planned for this particular time, and I do not mean by me. I have always asked my Lord to be the one in control of my daughter's education and that I would be guided by Him. If it is His plan then it cannot be wrong.

So, if I had it to do over again...I would do it exactly as I have. If I were starting homeschooling now, I probably would have used the same plan, at least for Greek, as I did because there are no other overly impressive Greek curricula for young children that I have seen so far.

Today we will work with what we have and move on with our sights set on the future. Whatever the Princess lacks in her education at this point, God will provide along the way. I have seen that happen many times, so I have faith that He will continue within or despite my plans and failures.

~ My Lord, keep us looking forward, learning from mistakes but not wishing we had done things differently, and making better choices today for our tomorrow. May all our chosen paths be the ones You have chosen for us. ~