Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Learning Personal Safety

You may be wondering what a Greek statue of a discus thrower has to do with personal safety and little kids. [Hint: it has nothing to do with sports]

It is actually something that Hunter and I came across today while we were reading a book on ancient civilizations. Of course, I thought nothing of it but Hunter immediately covered his eyes - and then repeated to do so for a great many of the pictures in the book.

Why? Because something that I have been teaching him for quite some time is that, if you see somebody naked, hide your eyes.

This kind of started out of a necessity (from us sharing a room and having to get dressed together a great deal of the time) but I immediately began to appreciate the far-reaching ramifications of this little lesson in modesty.

While a great many parents want to protect their kids from the, er, far-spread undressing of our culture, they usually make attempts to do so by simply modifying the environment - screening television and internet use, avoiding such printed media, etc., etc. And while all that is just great, more than that is needed, I believe. Not just because it is virtually inevitable to come across it in public (even if you're Amish) but because it is increasingly inevitable, sadly enough, even in private.

I remember first reading about how Michael Pearl, an author, taught his children what to do should they ever come across pornographic material. And while cultural and moral differences may highly vary in their valuing and definition of modesty, I am pretty sure that it is a universal value that children shouldn't be looking at that kind of stuff.

I recently read that an overwhelming percentage of children had been exposed to pornography before their tenth birthday. And even though that really is not something that I want to be talking to my little child about, small, preventive measures are a necessity if we want to protect them, and I think that the whole don't look and people who are naked, along with other small, value-based conversations, are a solid place to start at this young age.

Touchy subject yes, and even though it is really something I honestly and truly wish I never had to even think about (much less worry about teaching my child important safety measures or writing about it publicly) I believe that it is something that, though uneasy, parents need to be thinking about and preparing and training their children accordingly.

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life... Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee... Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil."
Proverbs 4:23-27
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vintage Toys and Encyclopedic Knowledge

Hunter has been quite interested in this old toy of mine lately.

It was produced by Vtech and is called World Wizard Traveler, something you might be able to find on ebay but the technology is not all that good so I'm not going to say I exactly highly recommend it.

Hunter on the other hand could care less and this is his toy of choice lately. It's basically just a little box with forty-some cartridges and eight option buttons. The little black and white LED screen flashes you a letter (which corresponds to a picture on the slide you just put in) and you're supposed to select the correct answer of the name of that picture with a little button on the right hand side. If you're right it plays a happy, ascending tune and, if you're wrong, the opposite. But, the nice thing is that, when you are wrong, it immediately tells you what the right answer was. So a little trial and error can make anyone a pro at this game, even if you're previously clueless about the content.

The slides he can toy with include:
  • Countries of the world 
  • Countries of Europe
  • Provinces of Canada 
  • Territories of Australia
  • States of the USA
  • Architecture styles
  • Famous inventions
  • Parts of the brain
  • The human respiratory system
  • Dinosaurs
  • People of ancient times
  • Chemical elements
  • Types of triangles
  • Parts of a flower
  • Leaves
  • Ocean fish
  • The anatomy of a shark
  • Desert wildlife
  • Flightless birds
  • Constellations
  • Space vehicles
  • Space pioneers
  • Flags of the world
  • Authors of famous classic literature
  • Parts of an animal cell
  • Monkeys and apes
  • World musical instruments
  • World coins
  • Ancient artifacts
  • Endangered species
  • Types of clouds
  • The planets

It is a toy Mommy likes having around even though the tune is somewhat on the annoying side. After all, learning is play, right? 

"I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker."
Job 36:3
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spiderman Trains with a Soldier

From now on, our garage is no longer going to be a port for cars. It is slowly evolving into a gym.

We got a fun new piece of equipment today - a punching bag. So I got some fun pictures today of Hunter Spiderman learning some martial arts with Brandon a solider.

Mom took martial arts for two years, too, so maybe I'll be able to hone up on some of my skills and get Hunter back into martial arts again. Maybe.

I am becoming quite excited about our evolving gym in the garage. For Hunter, we've got some five-pound dumbbells we have used a little bit, a variety of balls, a hanging bar, a jump rope, and his nun chucks.

And mom? She has a lot of ideas brewing.

"He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze."
2 Samuel 22:35
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No Comment

"Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else."
Isaiah 34:16
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How We Organize the School Year

I am currently working on lesson planning for the 2010/2011 "school year".

I made a new Scribd document of the form I'm using to make my outline for each subject. Here it is:

Title - It's pretty simple: At the top there is a blank box where you fill in the subject (i.e., "History", "Math", "Art", etc.). The box also has a place to fill in your child's grade, if you use one. I always did Hunter's "grades" K4, K3, K2, etc. when he was younger. I think I first talked about this in this post. I am now planning for K5, aka, kindergarten.

Semesters - Next is the outline. The first thing you'll notice is that the year is divided into the four seasons, or "semesters". This is because we do year-round "schooling". I like it that way because we are learning all the time anyway, and I can't imagine not having some science topic to explore or talking about a time period in history or whatever. This also allows me a great deal more flexibility. I don't feel like I have to cram everything into the traditional one hundred and eighty or so days. I also don't have to "freak out" if we miss a week (or even a month) of regularly-scheduled activities, you know, like when life happens (moving, sickness, vacation, etc.)

Units - The next thing you notice is that in this outline there is one simple line for each two-week period, which comes out to six lines per semester. The dates of the two week period are written beneath it.

This is where the "outline" part comes in. On the line I'm going to write what topic / topics we'll be exploring during that two weeks (i.e. "Jacob and Esau" or "black holes" or "fractions"). This is just an outline and doesn't go into detail about the activities to accompany those topics. Below the line I'm going to write the encyclopedic knowledge / bits category we'll be doing (i.e. "books of the Old Testament" or "types of stars" or "types of triangles").

I call these two-week periods "units". They are the core upon which all other plans are built. Why two-week units? Well, I used to make lesson plans weekly. I would write out the bits we would be learning, the math topics we would be covering, the books I'd like to read, the activities I'd like to do. And then never come anywhere close to accomplishing it all.

Now I give myself two weeks to cover a particular topic. It takes a lot of stress off of me and allows more flexibility. Missing a day when you only have five days to cover something can be detrimental. Missing a day when you have fourteen is a little less dramatic.

Gaps - The last thing I wanted to point out is that you will notice that there is a date gap between semesters (for example, the summer semester ends on August 21 but the fall semester doesn't begin until August 29). This is because I put a one-week gap between each semester. This is to make up for the days we missed during the rest of the semester, or simply as a week off, making a total of four vacation weeks per year. Again, something to save my perfectionistic self a lot of pain: built in flexibility.

I've probably over-complicated my explanation [a lot]. Which is kind of ironic, because the whole reason I chose this type of organizational style was because of its simplicity: Planning around the already-established four seasons. Then simply dividing the weeks of each season (which happens to be thirteen) into more easily-manageable sections (units). Turning that odd-week on the end into a catch-up/vacation week. Not too difficult, eh?

Hopefully this will be useful to some of you!
"All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern."
1 Chronicles 28:19
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Get a Five-Year-Old to Sit Intently Still for Five Minutes

I got a rare comment from Hunter today while we were going on our run.

We had just stopped to watch an American Robin pull a worm out of the ground and a swarm of mosquitoes that were mating. A neat adventure that incurred about thirty seconds each of our observation and conversation before moving on.

Then we walked up to this small tree and I pointed out another bird hopping around in the branches, and we noticed that he had a small twig in his mouth.

"Look at that twig in his mouth, Hunter. I'll bet he's making a nest for his babies."

I tried to continue on in my usual discussion of the phenomena that lay before us but got quickly cut off.

"Shh, you gotta be real quiet Mom" he cautiously whispered.

"Ok" I said carefully, then proceeded to whisper on about the bird.

"Don't talk Mom," he said in the most polite way he could muster.

I could tell this was serious.

He then proceeded to watch the bird hopping around in the tree, picking at various twigs (in an attempt to find the perfect one I'm sure), tilting its head, and doing whatever else birds tend to do in trees, perfectly still for nearly five minutes. He even got a bit flustered when I took a picture, apparently thinking I would disturb the bird.

When he was done, he walked back to the sidewalk, shouted "Let's go! I'll bet I can beat you to the sign!" and started sprinting down the path, back to his normal self. It's funny to see the things that can turn this rambunctious, active little boy into the most concentrated, serious bird-watcher.

For five minutes at least.

"Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."
Psalm 107:30
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Friday, March 19, 2010


1. the branch of botany dealing with trees and shrubs.
2. the scientific study of trees and other woody plants.

A couple of weeks ago we were thrilled to notice beautiful trees all over the base flowering in the spring sun. This has led us to talking about how the flowers on trees will turn into some kind of fruit, whether it be berries, oranges, or whatever. Now whenever Hunter sees a tree with flowers on it he excitedly yells, "Mom, those are going to turn into fruit!"

I used to think that the clean-cut, carefully-manicured, overly-pesticided environment of the base was going to be void of many nature experiences. But things continue to pop up from mushroom discoveries to insects to leaves to birds. It's not exactly a nature preserve but there is still much to be learned and explored.

Dendrology, aka studying trees, is one thing I am very excited about. There are so many interesting trees around here and such a great variety, I can't wait to put them in our tree book and start learning the names of some of them. Even just on the base, there is this peculiar and interesting mix of palms, pines, and deciduous trees in all these crazy shapes and sizes. Today we found a palm tree that looked like a ten-foot pineapple and one with cactus-like spikes on the leaves.

I want to make tree-study a year-long biology adventure (i.e. pictures of the tree in spring, summer, fall, and winter) but with my eminent disorganization and sidetrackedness at times, this goal never seems to be realized (this has been something I have wanted to do since Hunter was two and a half).

But maybe with our upcoming focus on biology this year for kindergarten, my motivation will be a little higher and my persistence more consistent. Maybe.

But anyway, even if I don't manage to get a perfect picture with every desired tree at every season, we are still going to be setting out and exploring trees, doing bark-rubbings, collecting leaves, flowers, and twigs for our nearly-empty book, and maybe learning a thing or two about each. I love free resources and I love the internet, so for those of you who feel the same, here are some of the super dendrology resources we will be using:
  • has a wonderful online field guide of over 900 trees. You can browse by category (like Palms or Needle-leaf Conifers) and then narrow your search by biological families or by location (choose from fourteen different North American regions). It is very cool.
  • has a great Tree Identification Glossary. I really like this one and need to make up some Doman-style word cards with these.

For a physical copy you can carry around with you (you know, like when you're actually out there looking at the trees), we use the DK Smithsonian Trees Handbook. It's really nice and has tons of pictures, not only for learning about the species of trees themselves but for many dendrology topics in general, like identifying leaves and types of bark. It's very cool in my opinion.

Happy learning!

"As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth."
Psalm 103:15
Hunter is 5 years, 0 months old

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chess Wars

"Then I'm gonna get you in jail!" Hunter says with a devious smile and a curved eyebrow. Sound effects follow with pows, blasts, cheers, and shouts. "Your turn!" He yells.

We're playing a game of chess for the first time in several months and he is anxiously excited about getting my king. To him, it is an epic battle of, [eh hem], knights, kings and castles. Ironic, isn't it?

I cannot help but laugh as I advance my pawn. He first learned how to play chess shortly after his third birthday but, with me being the not-so-chess-savvy player that I am, we have only played it a handful of games since then. I do, however, intend to change that. And this particular game was part of the reason.

He is still a bit hesitant about some of the rules. He didn't quite remember how some of them moved and, frankly, neither did I. But as we played together, advancing and capturing pieces in our not-so-strategic pattern (but nonetheless with a lot of noise and fun!), I began to see what a neat and beneficial game this would be, in terms of academics (where my mind always seems to wander). I began noticing that chess, unlike my much-played childhood game of checkers, is in many ways an art, a science, a battle of wit and skill.

So I did what I always do and got on Google. I, of course, wanted to know what the [perceived or studied] benefits of chess were. This is because otherwise the subject would be in my head for days as I over-analyzed every possible aspect of the academic benefits of this little game. So I just let Google make my life a little easier.

I didn't sit there are read every research insert for hours but, what I found (upon googling the benefits of chess) intrigued me.

Apparently, there have been a lot of studies on the effects of chess on school children and it seems to help them in pretty much all areas academic, among other things (social, personal self-esteem, etc.) I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of numbers and details (you can look it up yourself if your interested) but lets just say that chess has been shown to excell kids enormously in critical thinking and intelligence tests (more than any other activity, including critical thinking-oriented video games or special extracurriculars), boost their math scores and analyzing abilities and even improve their reading (improving it even more than the control group who actually got specific reading instruction during the time while the other kids were playing chess!)

Chess is also used widely in other countries as a required part of the curriculum (as it was hundreds of years ago for anyone wanting to be a knight) and even takes a special seat in many U.S. classrooms, though mostly as a part of their gifted and talented programs, like this legislation for New Jersey public schools in 1992:

BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The legislature finds and declares that:

   a. chess increases strategic thinking skills, stimulates intellectual creativity, and improves problem-solving ability while raising self-esteem;

   b. when youngsters play chess they must call upon higher-order thinking skills, analyze actions and consequences, and visualize future possibilities;

   c. in countries where chess is offered widely in the schools, students exhibit excellence in the ability to recognize complex patterns and consequently excel in math and science: and

   d. instruction in chess during the second grade will enable pupils to learn skills which will serve them throughout their lives.

2. Each board of education may offer instruction in chess during the second grade for pupils in gifted and talented and special education programs. The Department of Education may establish guidelines to be used by boards of the education which offer chess instruction in those programs.

3. This act shall take effect immediately.

After reading this stuff, it reminded me of why Doman always said that if parents do something with their children but don't completely understand why they are doing it, they will not do it well. I began teaching Hunter chess almost two years ago but with only a vague understanding of why it was a good idea. As such, I never really went through with consistency.

But let's just say that now that I understand a little more of the why of it all, I am extremely motivated to continue with this and make it a regular part of our school time experience. And, if you can't tell from my description of our game together, so is Hunter.

"As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom..."
Daniel 1:17
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

Doman Video of the Month

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kids Love it Here

"They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters... they rolled themselves upon me."
Job 30:14
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

Friday, March 5, 2010

Experimenting with Force, Pressure, and the Volume of Air

"One is so near to another, that no air can come between them."
Job 41:16
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lasers and Garages

Hunter discovered the secrets of the garage door today.

It came about in quite a humorous way, actually. Jokingly, while Hunter was about to walk into the garage, Brandon decided to close the door on him. Which of course startled Hunter and made it so that he didn't finish his quest to get inside. I showed him that, the door was not going to shut on him anyway though, because of the laser beam that would set it off if it was disrupted.

"Try it" I said.

This lead to repeated bouts of Hunter running in and out of the garage, setting off the safety switch and preventing the door from closing. And him laughing mightily in excitment and triumph. And him carefully examining the little boxes where the invisible light beams come out. And a little bit of talk about different kinds of light waves and how they behave.

Now onto solving his persistent questioning of how it is that the door opens with the push of a button half a block down the road.

The neighbors must think we're crazy.

"Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither..."
Genesis 19:22
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Snacking between Lessons

This is how Hunter decided to dress himself today.

Imaginitive little guy, isn't he?

"Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings"
Psalm 17:8
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mommy, Why is the Moon Orange?

"Why is the moon orange, Mommy?"

This question came up the other day while we were driving (at night) and we saw the coolest, hugest, bright orange moon at the end of the road. It was so amazing!

We found out later that the moon gets orange for the same reason that the sun (and sky) gets orange when it's setting - because of refraction. When the moon (or sun) is so close to the horizon, the light has to travel through a lot more of the atmosphere before it gets to us, and in the process a lot of the light rays get bounced around, or refracted. Hence, mostly only the longest rays make it to our eyes (reds, oranges, etc.).

It helped a lot that he has a general understanding of the concepts of light and color from reading The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow (many, many times). This was his favorite book for a while, which [confession] frustrated me at the time because it was kind of long (and he would ask to read it multiple times a day), but I suppose the time investment was a good thing!

And about the huge-looking thing? Well, I had no idea why the moon (and sun) looked so much bigger at some times than at others, and this particular incident inclined me to find out. My best guess was some sort of magnification effect, but I guess that it's all just an optical illusion! I was totally shocked to find this out but I guess our brain can play some pretty amazing tricks on us. I read this article at HowStuffWorks, which had some ideas for experimenting more with the phenomena of optical illusions (called size constancy in reference to the "moon illusion").

I didn't really explain this part to Hunter yet. But I suppose that, next time it comes up, I'll have some sort of feasible explanation for him.

"If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness..."
Job 31:26

Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

Monday, March 1, 2010

Klutzy Wrap-Ups

Today Hunter surprised me by wanting to play with the Klutz Wraps: Multiplication toy that we have. It reminds me of the wrap-ups toys we had when I was a kid, except that this Klutz version is a lot sillier.

I'm pretty sure it's the novelty of the funny pictures they throw in with each card is what entralls him, but nonetheless he played with this a few times tonight and actually got all the answers right except one. This really surprised me because we haven't done anything with multiplication in months. And multiplication is one of those things where he kind of tends to only answer when given a set of choices, not verbally.

But I guess this toy met that criteria.

Beside the pictures that throw in some interest (like, is 5x5 25, 30, 35, or bunny?), on the back side, where you check your answers, there are some more funny-bone ticklers for him. Like, What do you get when you cross a calculator and a pal? A friend you can count on! or fun facts like Triskaidekaphobia: the fear of the number 13.

Hey, whatever floats his boat...
"And ye shall seek me, and find me..."
Jeremiah 29:13
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old

March's Words of the Day

More fun words of the day for March! You know your kid is liking the routine when, after you forgot one day, he askes you, "So mom, what's the word today?"

So here is the list we're using is from's archive. I also recently became all technologically savvy with Scribd and am able to start sharing with you all the materials I spend hours pouring over. Yay! Go here to print your own copy of March's Word of the Day flashcards.

1. lampoon: composition that imitates or misrepresents someone's style

2. sanguine: optimistic, cheerful
3. acute: serious; pervasive
4. temerity: unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger.
5. parry: deflect a blow
6. martial: pertaining to war
7. bilk: defraud, cheat, or swindle.
8. equine: of horses and hoofed animals.
9. incisive: penetrating, sharp, cutting.
10. pedestrian: walker; also, unimaginative.
11. ululate: to howl; to wail.
12. tetchy: peevish; testy; irritable.
13. inanition: exhaustion from lack of nourishment; also, emptiness.
14. esoteric: intended or understood by chosen few.
15. scintilla: a tiny amount; a spark.
16. cormorant: a gluttonous or greedy person.
17. libation: the act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice; also, a beverage.
18. elucidate: to make clear or manifest.
19. florid: flushed with red; also, excessively ornate.
20. diatribe: a bitter verbal attack.
21. veracity: truth, truthfulness.
22. pithy: concise and forceful in description.
23. spoonerism: the transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words.
24. thaumaturgy: the performing of miracles or magic.
25. tumult: the commotion or agitation of a crowd.
26. propinquity: nearness.
27. feckless: ineffective; weak; worthless.
28. velleity: a slight wish or inclination.
29. osculation: the act of kissing; a kiss.
30. ludic: playful.
31. contretemps: something inopportune or embarrassing.

"Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words."
Genesis 49:21
Hunter is 4 years, 11 months old