Saturday, February 28, 2015

Update on our Garden

Two weeks ago I told yall that we bought an Aerogarden. We set it up that day with some herbs and cherry tomatoes and have been watching it grow for the last two weeks.  Today we had to add water and plant food to it, so we figured it would be a great time to document the changes.

The kids have been having so much fun seeing how big everything has gotten.  The plants are growing so fast that they are able to see the difference between the time they went to bed and the time they wake up.

Cherry Tomatoes on Feb 17th - 3 days after we set up our Aerogarden
Same Cherry tomatoes one week later

Cherry Tomatoes Today

Our Dill plant seems to have gone nuts..  Of all the herbs, dill is the one I was most looking forward to growing. I was a bit worried when the tomatoes and basil has both started growing and the dill had not. Then, I woke up and with no warning, I had a dill plant. It has grown like crazy in just a few days.

Dill Plant on Feb 22nd

Dill growth yesterday

The same dill plant today  along with basil next to it and chives in the front. Cilantro is covered with foil.

The only seed pod we have had any issues with has been the cilantro. There has been nothing to indicate that the seed germinated. However, I heard that if I placed a piece of foil over the pod, that it might have a better chance. I'm going to keep it covered for a few days and check it again, if it hasn't germinated by then, I will exchange it out with a coleus pod instead.

We've also had some growth in our garden outside as well.. Yesterday Ashleigh and I went outside to water our garden and were completely surprised to find that many seedlings were starting to pop up out of the ground.  

Tiny Lettuce seedings breaking ground

Walla Onion seedings breaking ground (with my garlic chives in front)

We finally got Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany this week.  Monday we will begin setting up a Light Hut to start more seedings and Charles and I will clear out another garden area for the kids to plant them once they are grown. Since we already have some herbs growing, we will probably pass on them growing herbs and will instead let them start some flower seeds that we want to put out around the garden to bring pollinators and hummingbirds to our yard.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Congratulations to Ssgt Charles :)

Today was a big day in our family.

Every month the base has a Promotion Ceremony for all those who are promoted in rank. Today was the promotion ceremony for the month of March (since the 1st falls on Sunday) and one of those who were being promoted was my husband, Charles.

Back in April of 2014, my husband tested for Staff Sergeant. It was a pretty stressful time for us as during that time, the Air Force was releasing personnel due to cuts in government spending.  Prior to the test, a list was released with the names of all those who were in danger of being cut; my husband's name was on the list. In my husband's particular field in the entire Air Force, 38 names were on the list and 35 were going to be released, meaning  only 3 people were going to be kept.  One of the ways the Air Force tried to reduce the numbers of those being cut was to offer the test for Staff Sergent (Ssgt) early in the hopes that some of the Senior Airmen who were on the list could possibly be taken off the list due to being on the list for promotion.

My husband took the test with little study time (since the test was given nearly 3 months early). Afterwards, following lots of praying, we found out that his job was safe due to the number of military members who took early retirement and early separation from the Air Force. We had little hopes, however, of Charles getting Ssgt. The promotion rate was at a all time low, lower than it had been in over a decade and he was at a disadvantage in that he had only been in for 4 years. However, in August, when the results came out, we were ecstatic to see his name on the list.

Today he pinned on stripes for Ssgt and is no longer considered an Airman.

I am so proud :)

First Congratulations and handshake

Putting his service coat with his new rank on for the first time

I was in the middle of a crowded theater and he still found me

I absolutely love that smile :)

Receiving Congratulations from well wishers

A Final Photo of my Handsome Ssgt

Koru Naturals (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

When it comes to homeschooling our kids and maintaining a household, there's usually one thing we as a busy mom completely forget about – OURSELVES. With all the hugs, kisses and endless love we supply our family, we need some pampering too. I had the opportunity to pamper myself over the last few weeks while reviewing products from KoruNaturals : their EmuOil and their ManukaOil  and Manuka Honey Shampoo and Conditioner.

The Products

Koru Naturals is a company located in North Carolina that specializes in skincare and hair products made from natural ingredients such as manuka honey, manuka oil, emu oil and lanolin from New Zealand and they do not test their products on animals.

When the package arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find recycled packaging peanuts. It was nice to have a company who uses the name “Natural” using a packaging material that is Earth friendly. That made a great first impression. In the package I found a brown bottle of Emu oil and bottles of both the shampoo and conditioner.

Koru Naturals Review
1.Emu Oil Premium Golden  - 2 oz bottle of  100% Grade A traditional Australian Aboriginal Emu Oil (unclarified).  Koru Natural's website states this oil is non-comedogenic (meaning it does not clog your pores),  hypoallergenic and contains no preservatives or additives.

2. Manuka Oil and Active Hanuka Honey Shampoo - 8 oz bottle. 
with made with natural ingredients such as Aloe, Rosehip, Peppermint, Jojoba, Manuka oil and Manuka Honey (a full list of ingredients can be found on Koru Natural's website in case allergies are an issue

3. Manuka Oil and Active Manuka Honey Conditioner - 8 oz bottle made with many of the same ingredients found in the shampoo. Again, a full list of ingredients can be found on Koru's website. 

First Impressions

My husband hijacking the goods.
The shampoo and conditioner smelled amazing!! My husband, upon smelling them, declared that he was going to be the first to use them as soon as he got home from physical training (he's in the military). Sure enough, as soon as he came home he hopped in the shower and proceeded to use them before I had a chance. However, he did admit that he just did a "wash and go" job and did not take the time to leave them in his hair for the recommended 3-5 minutes. However, he said he enjoyed the smell a lot and enjoyed how shiny his hair was after using it and I enjoyed running my hands through his freshly washed and extremely soft hair.

The Emu oil itself does not have a smell. It is a very viscous oil with a white cloudy sheen to it. A little goes a long way and it made my hands feel nice and soft after testing a few drops on them.

That night I personally used the emu oil as a carrier oil for a muscle rub made from essential oils for my sore lower back. I found the oil spread nicely over my skin, soaked into my skin very quickly and did not leave a greasy residue. I mixed 6 drops into a small container and put in three drops of my muscle rub essential oil (EO) blend and this was enough for 2 applications to my back. 

I also began using the emu oil also on my face that night after reading that emu oil is great for younger looking skin. (Hey, what can I say, I'm no Spring Chicken and will do what I can to fight the age clock.) Also,  I have been fighting with severe acne on my chin area after quitting smoking 3 months ago and heard oil therapy was good for clearing it up.  I mixed three drops of emu oil in my hand along with 1 drop of Frankincense EO . The oil soaked into face very quickly but was still enough to cover entire face. My face did not feel greasy afterward and after the oil soaked in I did not feel anything indicating that the oil had been there. My face did not feel wet or tacky.

The difference was almost immediate. After the first initial use, my face felt a lot softer.

 I ended up using the Emu oil every night before bed for the entire review period.

The next day I used the shampoo/conditioner for first time. I quickly noticed the shampoo does not lather up like what I am use to but this is not the fault of the shampoo (but more the fillers in the other store bought shampoos).. Did I mention this stuff smells amazing??  The peppermint oil produces such a invigorating experience and I would not recommend using this product right before bed.   After using the products for the first time and my hair had air dried, my husband commented my hair was the softest he had ever felt it, even though I had used harsh bleach on it less than 2 weeks prior. 

Initially I used the shampoo/conditioner every other day but by the end of the review period I had cut down to washing my hair twice a week due to my hair was not producing as much oils.

Final Impressions after Using For A Month

They say a picture is worth a thousands words, so I guess I should let the pictures speak for themselves:

The above picture was taken two days before I started using the Koru Naturals Emu Oil on my face. While most of them are hidden by the gobs of heavy makeup, you can see several eruptions on my chin and near my mouth..  

30 Days Later - I need to learn to smile ;)

30 Days later and severely in need of a dye job ;)   But no makeup. As you can see, the problem area where my chin was a minefield is no longer an issue. My skin looks clear and bright and although you can't tell from a picture, it is very soft.  I don't normally post pictures of myself without makeup, but this one I actually wouldn't mind people seeing because I don't see problem areas in need of covering up.   I do believe that I will be using Koru Natural's Emu oil as part of my nightly skin regiment for a very long time.

As for the shampoo and conditioner, my entire family loves them and has said I will have to continue to buy it as we come close to running out. However,  I should also mention that once you realize that it does not lather up the same way that chemical laden shampoos normally do, you'll use much less of the product. I also noticed that I did not have to wash my hair as much as normal as my hair stayed grease free for longer periods of time. (My daughter also noticed this with her hair. My husband washes his hair after PT regardless).   With three people using both hair products for the past month, we still have well over half a bottle remaining .

My only complaint in regards to the hair care products is that the wonderful smell does not seem to last very long.  The smell seemed to dissipate within a few hours and could no longer be smelled.  However, I'm sure this is probably due to the fact that Koru Naturals uses natural essential oils to scent both the shampoo and conditioner as opposed to stronger chemical fragrance that other companies use. I guess it's a trade off: natural ingredients that are healthy for your hair or longer scent caused by harsh ingredients. After how soft our hair has become after using the shampoo/conditioner, I think I can handle it ;) 

Koru Naturals has an entire line of products available on their website in addition to the Emu Oil and the Shampoo/Conditioner set.   They can also be found on Facebook and Pinterest.

Koru Naturals Review

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In Freedom's Cause (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

When most people hear the name William Wallace, their minds instantly flash to a blue faced Mel Gibson wearing a kilt and yelling “Freedom” in Braveheart. While Braveheart was a great movie and brought the story of Wallace to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have known who he was, it altered facts regarding his life as well as how his life intertwined with Robert The Bruce. Heirloom Audio Productions helps to correct this mistake by creating an audible journey into the lives of Wallace and Bruce in their latest production, In Freedom's Cause. I was recently asked to review the In Freedom'sCause Single CD Package after listening to it with my family as well as review the bonus materials available as digital downloads.

In Freedom's Cause is based on the book of the same name by English novelist G.A. Henty (1832-1902). Set in the 13th century while Scotland's people suffered under the cruelty of King Edward the 1st (Edward Longshanks), In Freedom's Cause weaves a story of Scotland's struggles for freedom with the leadership of William Wallace and Robert Bruce. The story is told from the view of a fictional Ned Forbes who at a young age finds himself aligned with Wallace and fighting side by side with him. The tale continues through the death of Wallace's wife, the Battles of Biggar, Stirling Bridge, and Falkirk , the betrayal of Wallace by John Menteith leading to his execution and the resulting actions of Robert the Bruce.

What Is Included with the In Freedom's Cause Single Package:

Full Color Trifold Case with Wallace Prayer Printed Inside
 One Set of 2 CDs in a visually stunning full color trifold case.

Digital Bonuses with online access:
- Instant access MP3 copy of In Freedom's Cause for download.
 - The complete In Freedom's Cause eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter.
 - A printable copy of The Prayer Of William Wallace (Psalm 23 in the Latin Vulgate). 
 - The In Freedom's Cause Soundtrack MP3 download.

My Review:

I ended up listening to the full 2.5 hour recording twice within the first 24 hours of receiving In Freedom's Cause. The first time with my three kids (ages 15, 8 and 6) and the second time with my husband. That should be an indicator as to how excited my family was to listen to it.

Alyssa looks over the CD Case while listening to In Freedom's Cause

Playstation Visuals while Listening to In Freedom's Cause
The morning we opened the package, my kids instantly wanted to listen to it. My two youngest brought out their pillows and their blanket and made a comfy pallet on the floor and we popped the first CD into our Playstation 3 (Note: the CDs will not play on an Playstation 4 because of Sony programming). My oldest was home that morning so she joined us as well and together we listened to the recording completely through. In Freedom's Cause was a hit with the kids, especially with my 15 year old and 8 year old. My daughter immediately asked if I could upload the digital MP3 onto her Kindle so she could listen to it again on her own. 

I was originally very hesitant about listening to this recording with my husband. This household is all about Scotland: my husband is a proud member of Clan Campbell and wears a kilt, my son is learning to play the bagpipes and my youngest daughter wants to learn Highland Dancing. More then that, however, is that my husband and children are descendents of Robert the Bruce (he's my husbands 20th great grandfather). While we enjoyed the movie Braveheart, the “betrayal” of Wallace by Robert the Bruce is a bit of a sore spot for us. It makes for great Hollywood but it isn't factual. This recording (and the book that its based on) follows the theory that it was John Menteith who betrayed Wallace. Either way we cannot escape the fact that someone in my husband's ancestry betrayed one of the great heroes of Scotland (Menteith is also my husbands 20 great grandfather lol) but since nobody ever brags about being related to Menteith, this isn't a big deal for us. My husband thoroughly enjoyed this audio recording and had absolutely no complaints about the way his ancestors were presented. He liked it so much he told me that I need to buy Under Drake's Flag (Heirloom Audio's first production) and keep up to date with when the next recording comes out (more about that towards the end). 

The only negative I can come up with for our listening experience was that my kids have now begun to calling each other “dunderhead" (and I say that with a lighthearted chuckle) and making sounds of the "goat woo".   

The voice actors for this production are great. Most notably, Brian Blessed is absolutely amazing as the narrator of this story. The tone of his voice and the intonation as he speaks lures you into the story almost instantly. He has a very distinctive sonorous voice and after hearing him narrating, I can't imagine anyone else doing it. There is a reason why people like James Earl Jones reads the Bible and not Steve Buchemi – Brian Blessed is indeed up there with James Earl Jones. The other actors are equally as wonderful in their parts. A number of them are familiar names such as Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abby), Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings), James Cosmo (Game of Thrones) and Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia). I will say that a few of them do sound like Englishmen trying to sound Scottish but it's not too bad and unless someone is pretty familiar with an authentic Scottish brogue you're not going to know any different. If you're the type who picked apart dialect in either Braveheart or the Outlander series, you'll possibly find it annoying. Classical Baritone singer Stuart Pendred makes for a really great William Wallace and pulls off a great performance. 

The audio recording itself is very crisp and clear. Put your headphones on and close your eyes and you'll start to think you're really in 13th century Scotland. The production team really went well above and beyond just sitting in a recording studio in order to make this an experience that the listener is truly immersed into. When a door at Dunfermline Abbey creaks, you're not hearing a random door sound effect generated on a computer soundboard, you're hearing the actual door at Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland that sound engineers painstakingly recorded for this audio production.

There are many themes woven throughout the telling of this story such as revenge, freedom, family and forgiveness.  Most prominent is the theme of Faith. Wallace is portrayed as very spiritual and his faith is represented throughout the production  both in symbolism as well as items such as Wallace's psalter. Probably my favorite is the way trinity of the Celtic knot was tied into the story and how it tied Faith in God, Faith in Mankind and Faith in Country all together. 
Wallace's Celtic Knot and what it Represents

The 23rd Psalm is also a very important part of the story line and is used to tie young Ned (and his father) to Wallace.  It is an element that ties the entire story together and brings it full circle (the story starts with the 23rd Psalm and ends with it as well).  The presentation of the 23rd Psalm is worded in the Latin Vulgate and is unlike any other version I had heard before.  I do believe that people are so familiar with the 23rd Psalm that we don't really listen to it anymore but many times just recite it out of habit. However, this particular version pulls you out of your familiarity and forces your attention. An added bonus with the purchase of In Freedom's Cause (regardless of the package) is a downloadable PDF file of this version of the Psalm which is suitable for framing.

The PDF format e-study guide is provided as a digital download. It is a 49 page full color companion file which provides historical information in regards to G.A. Henty, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. It provides vocabulary words, maps, listening questions and images that correspond with each track on the CDs. There are also questions that make students think beyond just what is being heard as well as suggestions for further research. The last few pages of the guide contains a short Bible Study with scripture suggestions that reiterate topics of faith and spirituality found throughout the recording.

Finally, the soundtrack for this production is amazing. One of the bonuses that comes with the
Single Package was the digital download of the entire soundtrack in MP3 format and I do believe that has been my son's favorite part of this experience. The soundtrack is produced by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell (yeah, Clan Campbell!!!) and is very well done. The scores are on par with anything found on today's big screen and add to the story rather than distract from it. The titles "The Betrayal" and "The Scottish Avengers" are two of our favorites but the entire soundtrack is worth listening to.

Final Verdict:

Heirloom audio did an incredible job with this production and it would make a great addition to any homeschooling curriculum either as a literature unit or as a history unit. If the worst thing my kids come away with from listening to this is the word "dunderhead" and making sounds of a "Goat Woo"  (You'll have to listen to In Freedom's Cause to understand that one ) then I am pretty confident in saying this is a very kid friendly 2.5 hours of entertainment. The fact my husband didn't baulk at the presentation of his bloodline speaks volumes of the presentation of these historical figures.  The study guide is extremely well done with vocabulary words and questions that really draw students into critically thinking about what they are hearing. The study guide was a bit too old for my young kids to use this time around but it just means that I have a reason to go back and use these CDs again as a study unit. The CDs have a high repeatable entertainment value to them and are something that I would have no problem listening to multiple times much like I would read one of my favorite books. The soundtrack is AMAZING and by itself is worth the investment. The MP3
versions of the CDs played very well both streaming on the internet and when downloaded to both my computer and kindle and was just as crisp and clear as the CDs.

I would highly recommend these to anyone without hesitation and cannot wait til the next installment of the G.A. Henty series when Heirloom audio visits the American Civil War in With Lee in Virginia which is due out around Memorial Day

.In Freedom's Cause Single Package can be purchased on Heirloom Audio's website $29.97 plus S&H for the physical product with the digital bonuses.

Heirloom Audio can be found on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter and Pinterest.

In Freedom's Cause Review

Monday, February 23, 2015

IndoctriNation (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

When the decision to homeschool is made, it's usually a decision not made lightly and much research is put into making the right decision for our family. Many times, the current situation of public schools weighs very heavy in the decision. As a parent we watch in horror the news stories of tragedies like Sandy Hook and Columbine, cringe at the latest sex abuse scandal between a trusted teacher and their underage student or about a bullied child who commits suicide because they felt so alone in a war zone of education. I was recently asked to watch and review the IndoctriNation DVD released by Great Commission Films that addresses many of these issues and explores the argument of should we as Christians leave our children in Public Schools in order to be the "salt and light" or homeschool them instead.

IndoctriNation is a documentary produced by Gunn Brother Productions in collaboration with Joaquin Fernandez. Colin Gunn, a Scottish filmmaker
Colin Gunn
who attended public schools in Scotland and later moved to America, is a homeschooling father of eight (7 at the time of this movie) who buys a used school bus and with his wife and kids travels the US to explore the demise of government run public schools. It also goes on to discuss how public schools have lead to the decline of Christianity in America. In the process, he stops to interview various individuals such as schoolteachers, historians and a father of the Columbine tragedy in regards to their opinions on the fall of public schools.

I watched this 102 minute documentary twice: once on my own and then again with my husband and my 15 year old daughter. All three of us enjoyed the movie greatly and found it to be a very eye opening journey through the history of public schools. The video quality is very crisp and clear and the audio is very clear and subtitles are available. Audio language options include both English and Spanish.  There is not a Bluray option available and the movie can only be purchased in DVD format.

My Thoughts:

Right off the bat this movie had my attention because of the video clip of Voddie Baucham speaking of the two schools - Port Arthur and Port Neches. This struck VERY close to home for me because I went to Port Arthur schools from 2nd through 9th grade at which point my father moved us to Port Neches-Groves Independent School District because it was a “better” school with a higher median
Yup, that's me with the video camera - PNG C/0 95
income and less minorities. I did not know of the Principal Mr Baucham spoke of but I can attest that at the time I went to PNG, it was the best school in the area and is still considered to be one of the best in the State of Texas. It also had a very high percentage of students who used drugs and drank on a regular basis but everyone felt that it was okay because everyone did “wealthy drugs” as opposed to cheaper alternatives the lesser school districts around us did.

While watching IndoctriNation, I found myself agreeing with much of what was being presented  by the various interviewees and what they had to say echoed many of the same arguments I had in regards to why I wanted to homeschool my kids. From “teaching the test” to the mixed learning groups discussed by RC Murray, I've seen all of it in either my own public school education or from having a daughter who has been in public schools her entire schooling.

Most importantly, the whole discussion about sex education and access to birth control in schools really hit home. My daughter has had sex education in school every year now since her 5th grade year (she's in 10th grade). The sad thing is my daughter can tell me all of the female and male anatomy but cannot show me where more than half of the states are located on a map.  At one time,  I had to sign a piece of paper stating I was allowing her to take the class – now I have to sign if I do NOT want her to take the class. This takes my choice as the parent out of the equation because if she want to take the class without my knowing she just does not have to bring the paper home. Luckily, our school district does not pass out birth control but it's scary to know that some schools are making condoms accessible to students as young as 6 (whom hopefully at that point would only use them as nasty tasting balloons).

IndoctriNation DVD Review

Another key point that really struck home for me was in regards to the response public schools seem to have with ADHD. Mr Gunn mentions the fact that many times drugs are pushed onto students (especially boys) in order to get them to sit still in their desks. He points out the fact that we do not know the long term effect these drugs will have on our children and that the school is basically using our children as uncontrolled drug experiments. I always joke about the fact I was "ADD before it was cool" - we didn't have a name for it, we were just kids who needed to focus. We survived without drugs because our teachers took the time to engage us (most of the time I was bored with the lessons and my teachers knew how to provide extra to challenge me). I know of a family right now that have two children who are very bright children but both have been given drugs due to the fact they either talk in class or can't sit still. Both are malnourished because they come home from school and go straight to sleep and cannot stay awake to eat properly. I fear that had I not homeschooled my son, he would have been one of these drugged children in this drugged society. This is EXTREMELY frightening to me as a parent.

A few other points I took away from this movie (but don't want to delve into too much because you really should watch the movie):

1. The Department of Education does not have competition. Without competition, who keeps them in check?

2. Public schools create an environment in which Christian students are pressured to give up their Christian values.

3. Public schools create attitudes of resentment to authority.

4. Homosexual history being taught in California. I had to look that up to make sure it was true - it was.. Since when does sexual preference have ANYTHING to do with what someone accomplished?

5. I think I want to go to the Creation Museum as a field trip :)

Garrett watching the credits for IndoctriNation
Finally, the closing credits to this movie were very engaging for my kids (Hey, sometimes it's about the little things, right?). My two youngest kids did not watch the movie but they were in the room while we were watching it and at the end, the credits show the chronological order of the states visited by the IndoctriNation bus. They had fun shouting out each state as it appeared - hey, a quick geography review :)  Garrett has actually had me play just the credits a few times because he enjoys them.

What My Husband Thought:

I won't say that my husband is an atheist – he's more “on the fence” at this point so I was a bit curious what his opinion of this movie would be knowing it had a Christian bias to it. My husband enjoyed the movie a lot and thought it was very well done. He stated that “even if you are not religious, the bible should be in schools as it is great source material for teaching good morals and values”.

He said he felt sick after watching it and seeing how much things had changed since he was in school  ten years ago. He feels the additions to the curriculum such as in regards to homosexuality and Islam studies is ridiculous and fears for what will be added in the future.

He found the history of the public school system to be very interesting and believes that Mr Gunn should consider making a movie focused solely on that subject as it would be a great documentary on its own as well.

Finally, he said one of the most important lesson learned - “Don't Buy Used Buses”.. I had to pause the movie at one point while we debated whether or not the bus had a bad alternator, starter and even if it ran on gasoline or diesel. I doubt Mr Gunn would have expected that discussion from his movie.

The Final Verdict:

Colin Gunn and Joaquin Fernandez did a great job on this movie. It has a way of sneaking you into the subject material rather than just presenting you with a dry and boring documentary and I found the video to be very engaging. The interview subjects were also engaging and each added something to the discussion that if edited out would leave a gap in the presentation (a good way to judge if an interview is necessary or just fluff). Brian Rohrbough's story will tug at your heartstrings in a way that no parent ever wants to understand and will leave you in tears. I would highly recommend this movie for anyone considering homeschooling, who has small children who will be starting school soon, or to a parent who seems to think public schools are doing a great job educating their kids.  I second my husband's suggestion that Mr Gunn consider making a documentary more in depth on just the history of the public school system as I found it very interesting material and a more in depth presentation would be very interesting. 

Ride on the Magic Schoolbus.. No Thanks!!  I Think I Will Walk...

From the IndoctriNation website:  IndoctriNation won the Jubilee Award as the Best Documentary at the 2012 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival. Additionally, IndoctriNation was the runner up to Best of Festival, which went to the Kendrick Brothers film, Courageous.

IndoctriNation can be purchased at the movie's website for $19.95 USD for the DVD.  There is also a 372 page paperback companion book to the documentary available and can be purchased together with the DVD for $24.95 on the website. You can find IndoctriNation on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Vimeo.

IndoctriNation DVD Review

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stop Comparing

I think there's a point for every homeschool parent, especially one who is within the first year or two of homeschooling their kids, when you begin to compare your kid's academic performance to where their public school peers are currently at.

It almost always happens along these lines: maybe you meet up for a playdate (or maybe just a well deserved mommy date) with a friend who has a child around the same age as your own in public schools; or maybe you're surfing around facebook and your friend posts a picture of what their kid did at school that day. Either way, it is brought to your attention that their kid practically wrote the entire Gettysburg Address unassisted while you're still trying to get your kid to stop putting crayons up their nose and not eat the playdough. 

 What usually results is that we as homeschooling parents suddenly become achievement driven when it comes to what our children accomplish because we now feel we have to meet some specific timeline or else we are not providing an adequate education for our kids.

Moms, let me tell you. At these early stages of teaching your children, DO NOT allow yourself to fall into this trap.

It's so easy to sit there and look at the benchmarks that are set out by each state that indicates what a child should learn in each grade. Those benchmark lists are long and detailed and any homeschool parent who looks at them is going to feel inadequate. You mean you haven't taught your kids all that stuff?? Guess what? Neither has your local public school. Oh, they will maybe mention it in passing in a text book or pass out a quick handout but just because it's on the list of things the school says they're teaching children doesn't necessarily mean the kids actually receive enough instruction to actually learn about it. Benchmark lists are highly misleading.

One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that as their teacher, we're able to delve into subjects as deep as we want to with our kids. We're able to take as much time as we feel is necessary to concentrate on the material since we're not dictated by a guideline published by the state as to how much time it should take to teach your child (a child that the government officials who together decide what should be taught and how has never met). Instead we're able to change our approach on subjects when one particular approach doesn't work with our child. This means that while a public school might quickly throw information at a classroom full of children in the hopes that they might retain a small percent of it, we are able to gauge how much our child actually learns about the topic and adjust our teaching method as necessary. It also means we can take that knowledge a lot deeper than just the basic facts. When it comes to homeschooling, it really is “No Child Left Behind”. 

If I were to compare my son to my friends son who is of the same age, I would probably be pretty intimidated by the fact that their son is reading at a higher level then my son is. At least, that is how it would look on the surface. The difference is one child (the public school child) was forced to memorize “sight words” in both kindergarten and first grade. When those words are used in their reading, they read very well. However, when they come to words a bit more difficult that were not on their sight word list, they draw a blank. My son, however, is learning phonics and blends rather than sight words route. He might not read the sight words as well as my friend's child but when he comes to a harder word he is able to sound out the word and eventually figure the word out. As he continues to do this, his reading skill improves and he'll eventually surpass his public school peers (and actually, he's close to doing so). If I were to fall into the trap of comparing their performance, I would probably quickly get discouraged and think that my method was the wrong one and either switch to sight word recognition to get him “caught up” or think my homeschooling was a complete failure and put him in public schools. 

The truth is that every child is different. Even in a home with multiple children who are being homeschooled, each child has their own individual learning style and tempo. My son is a very visual and hands on type of learner who excels at science and math. However, he is hates reading and tries to cut corners by guessing a word (usually wrongly) in order to skip actually reading. My daughter, however, loves reading and is reading on a much higher level then her peers. However, she dislikes math and tends to cut corners with it. Both children are the same grade and are taught the same things in the same manner but because they are individuals who think and act differently, they excel at different things. Using the same example of my son and my friends son, if I were to compare my son to his sister, his sister would be well ahead of him in reading, even though they were taught the same way. The difference between my educating my kids and the public school system educating my children, however, is that I know my son is struggling with reading and can work with him until he gets it where as many times, children are indeed left behind and are graduating high school practically illiterate. 

California High School Exit Exam

My teenage daughter took the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) test this month. She attends public schools because that's what her father demanded so I wasn't able to homeschool her. Currently, she is in 10th grade. Before a student graduates from high school, they are given 8 opportunities to pass the CAHSEE test so they can earn a diploma. I was curious as to why a high school exit exam would be given in 10th grade, when 2.5 more years of school instruction are needed before graduation. Here's what I found about the CAHSEE test on their website:

"The primary purpose of the CAHSEE is to make sure that students who graduate from high school can show that they are performing at grade level on California’s content standards. The content standards on the CAHSEE include reading, writing, and mathematics. Standards describe what students should know and be able to do at each grade level from kindergarten through grade twelve."

The next thing that caught my eye was this:

"The exam consists of two parts. The first part includes English–language arts (reading and writing) content standards through grade ten. The other part of the CAHSEE addresses California’s mathematics content standards in grades six and seven."
This means that the requirements to graduate high school is 7th grade math. As a homeschool parent, I plan on teaching my kids math concepts well beyond those taught in 6th and 7th grade. This also means that basically everything your child needs to know about math in order to graduate from high school (at least in the State of California) is learned by 7th grade making high school instruction in mathematics unnecessary. However, in February 2013 when the test was administered to to grades 10-12th only 73% passed the math portion. Even more disappointing was that only 69% of those students passed the English/Reading Portion.   Don't forget, they have 8 tries to pass the test before they graduate and many end up taking it 8 times and still do not pass.
In truth, this is what you're comparing yourself to.. 
Don't you agree you can do so much better than that in the longrun?
Just Stop 
Slow it down and take your time, even if it takes much longer than what the benchmark guidelines per grade dictate. Your kids will eventually get it if you are diligent and work with them; it doesn't matter if it takes 2 months or 2 years as long as they get it.

And if you need any more convincing, keep these statistics in mind (taken from the National Home EducationResearch Institute's website):

  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.)

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.

  • Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.

  • Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.

  • Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.

  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges


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