October 27, 2007


A face a mother could love...
Gus the Theatre Cat
October 27, 2007

Ok, now what do I do...

I cried and begged the Lord for His help and He graciously gave it to me. I begged to be released from the restriction of our previous schooling method because I could see that it wasn't a good fit for my son. I cried out to Him and offered up myself, my desires for our schooling, and all my many plans for our year. I laid them all at His feet and He gave me His peace. I felt relieved, I felt so much better, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my head. That was yesterday and I do feel better today. I just don't know what to do now.

Have you ever been in this same kind of situation? Have you ever wondered why the Lord delivers us out of one mess and then leaves us squarely sitting in another? I have found the Lord to be incredibly faithful and understanding to me. He has rescued me so many times and given me such hope and peace. He just doesn't always clean up my messes. He often closes the door and then leaves me to sort through the details.

I have been thinking about this lately and trying to get my head wrapped around how the Lord deals with us. I used to believe that He was far off and never cared much for what was going on in my life. If I really, really, really cried out to Him, He might just glance a passing eye over my situation and maybe just feel a little bit of pity and do something about it. But not very often. Most of the time, I felt on my own and totally dependent on my own circumstances and feelings. Most of the time, I felt like He was there, way up there, and I was way down here with a great gulf in between us.

I don't feel this way anymore because I have seen the hand of God work miracles in my life, in the daily grind, the daily mundane, and the daily "oh not so very special" moments. He has showed me His character and I have been rescued, saved, loved, cared for, protected, provided for, and soothed by His tender mercies. Yes, the God of the Universe has become a very real friend to me. He is always there, always listening, always caring, and always ready to help me out. I have learned though that He just doesn't always do what I want Him to do or what I expect Him to do.

Take our schooling, for example. Last summer when my DH suffered a heart attack, I needed a fresh approach to schooling. It wasn't as if "A BEKA" suddenly popped into my head and I said "yes, Lord, I will use this method." No, I had been praying about using a textbook curriculum for three years. At least two times per year, I was on my face before Him crying about whether or not we should change from using a Charlotte Mason approach (classical good books) and follow a more traditional course and sequence. It didn't matter that when I first started home schooling and looking over the myriad of curriculum, I believed (and still do) that the Lord led me to this method and to using the Ambleside Online curriculum. I *knew* instantly that this curriculum was the right one for us -- I just knew it. I cannot really explain it other than to say that I do believe God's Spirit directed my searching and gave me some educational training so that I would know how to teach my gifted and "oh so very different" son at home.

I was overjoyed when I found AO and I was very content to use this curriculum. I spent two years immersing myself in the program, learning as much as I could about it and reading as much as I could about Charlotte Mason and her method (CM). I jumped into it with both feet and saw the blessings of using such a program. My son settled down and started to actually learn. He blossomed, to put it nicely.

Then I began to question what I was doing and started to wonder "was there something better?" I started to browse the catalogs and my eyes became fascinated with the many delights of educational intrigue. Yes, I am a voyeur of sorts. I love to look at catalogs and fantasize how they would work in my home. Yes, I know..."get a real life, will ya?" Yes, you are right. My life is pretty simple and this is one of my most glaring faults. Really, it is simply discontentment and it plays a huge part in my life. I love to think that I am content and have seriously prayed to be like the Apostle Paul and be content whether in poverty or riches. [Oh, that is another post -- what an incredible and amazing man!] I am the least content of anyone I know -- at least I can say that because I don't hide my discontent very well. Others may be discontent but they leave it simmering under the surface. I am discontent on the inside and the outside and I make no bones about it.

The good Lord has seen fit to not give me much to be discontented about so this issue becomes a doubly-troubling one for me. Why can I not be content? Why am I so dissatisfied that I constantly need change in my life? Is it that I am in such dire need to control everything that when I cannot, I literally go on the search for something, anything I can control?? Oh, yes! I do think this is a great part of the problem. I am not in control of my life at all. I have given Him control and I have rested in His care. I have experienced this over and over again -- I rest in Him and am at peace. Then I wrest with Him and I am in turmoil. It is the "wresting" part that causes me to stumble. One cannot wrest with the Lord and win. No, He will have His way and He will triumph, it is just a matter of time.

So, what does all this mean for me? Right now, it is clear that I have been wresting with Him -- literally wrestling with Him (as Jacob did, as Moses did, as so many other great Men of the Bible did) and He has won. I am left sitting in the dust, tired and worn out, unable to move. I do not know what to do, but I am alive and I am well. I am at peace and I know that my Savior loves me and that He does indeed have a good plan for my life. I just need to know how to walk in faith and how to stop questioning every single move I make ("is this right, Lord?")

Whenever I get to a point where I feel lost in my way, I find that it is helpful to recount the blessings and truths of God. Recounting them and reciting Scripture does help and does put the focus back where it belongs -- back on God (and off of me). God has promised that He will never leave me. He is with me and I feel His presence. He listens to me and cares deeply for me. He understands how hard it is for me to let go and to just be content. He knows that I need Him and without Him, I would truly be lost (or worse yet, truly be in dire need). He knows that it is best for Him to be in control and for me to be content. He knows that He cannot make me content -- that is an act of my will and I must learn how to do it myself. I have to choose contentment. I have to choose to be settled and to live with whatever choice I make. I have to say "it is enough" or "it is OK as is". I have to let go of my perfectionist ways and my desire to always be in control. I have to sit back and let Him drive this bus -- I am just a passenger, He is the Driver.

Oh, how hard it is to be a child of God some days...

Stiking a pose...

This is the life...just lazing about...and being waiting on hand and foot!
October 26, 2007

October 25, 2007


Whoever said home schooling was easy...

either never home schooled or never home schooled through high school! UGH! Home schooling has been the greatest challenge of my life and has been my highest joy and my worst nightmare. It is NOT EASY nor is it always a "bowl of cherries." Most days are just tough, especially when trying to teach a teenager (and a gifted one to boot.) I have agonized, struggled, stressed and waffled my way through the curriculum maze and home school fairs until I was literally bleary-eyed and blue in the face. I have tried my hand at unschooling, traditional textbooks, Charlotte Mason, classical education and just about everything in between (eclectic). This year, I decided that we needed more structure and routine and went the way of DVD education. I chose A Beka for our curriculum and enrolled my son in A Beka's Online Academy. My reasons were justified and were mostly prompted out of fear -- fear of my husband's illness and my having to return to full-time work, fear of having my son return to public schooling, and fear of being in over my head when it came to teaching high school. Even though I am a college graduate and well-qualified to teach my son at home, I still cringe whenever I have to make a decision on what books we will use and curriculum we will follow. I worry incessantly that I will make a mistake, choose poorly, do irrevocable damage to my son's self-esteem and do injustice to his awesome God-given giftedness. Yes, for me home schooling is a difficult and daunting task, one that I take very seriously and with fear and trepidation. I am gripped and consumed with fear and worry that I will fail. I worry I will fail him, fail myself and my family, and ultimately fail God, who has called me to this task.

Well, as things would go, our best laid plains have come to a painstakingly dead halt. We started with A Beka in July and began using the DVDs on August 27. My son was anxious and excited to have a video curriculum to use and liked the "idea" of having all those textbooks to read. He started strong and was focused, disciplined and on task for two weeks. Then....life intervened and we needed to take some time off. I was in the middle of caring for my mother who was in the hospital with knee replacement surgery. I had a brand new kitten at home (3 weeks old) and was feeding round the clock. I then had to spend 2 weeks living over at my parents house (kitten in tow) and relied solely on my son to "self-teach." After things settled down with my parents, we got into the swing of using the DVDs. The first thing I noticed was how rigid the curriculum was and how frequently my son was being tested (daily). I also noticed that his day was running anywhere from 5-6 hours non-stop. He didn't seem to mind the length and kept a pretty good attitude about it. But, as the days wore on, I slowly started to see my bright and cheerful boy turn sullen and disinterested. I asked and prodded -- tried to figure out what was wrong -- to no avail. I waited. I prayed. I asked again. The answer was always the same -- nothing. Thankfully, God has equipped Mom's with super-spy powered radar and after some more time I zeroed in on the problem. I noticed my son sitting idly by while the DVD teacher talked about some topic or asked the students on the tape questions. He played with the cat. He doodled in his book. He went to the fridge every 2 minutes. Eventually, I would find the DVD on pause and him lounging on the sofa upside down....just thinking.

Something was up and it was clear to me that the program was not working as it should. I read my home school support group emails and everyone seemed to be doing just fine. Their teens were studious and working from 7-2 each day without much prodding. They were busy at their studies and reporting good news -- kids were learning, they were happy, they were involved. My 14 year old didn't fit this picture and I wondered why. He is a good student, very smart, and seemed to like the DVD content. I knew he was bored -- that was clear to me. But every time I asked him, he just told me everything was fine. Then I finally pushed him and found out that he had been watching the DVDs but not doing any of the homework -- not even reading the textbooks. When asked why, he simply said "why should I? If I wait until tomorrow, the teacher will just go over the reading in class." Yep, my super smart kid figured out how to get out of doing the homework and reading, all the while maintaining an A average on the tests and quizzes.

UGH! What is a mother to do? I prayed over this situation and asked the Lord for help. What can I do now? I have invested mightily in this program and my son was willing to use it this year (his words, not mine). I just didn't think I could sit by and watch him be bored at home for an entire year. I mean...this was why we pulled him from the public school system. He was bored in class and did the exact same things (well, minus playing with the cat).

Today, we sat down and discussed our options. I am all for changing midstream, just so long as we don't make it a habit and change, change, and change again. I mentioned Charlotte Mason to him and suggested we fall back on our old standby. Read good books. Read the textbooks (science) and do the chapter review questions only. Write essays about our reading. Explore areas of interest. Yes, this perked him up. He admitted that he was bored and that while he did like some of the content on the DVDs, he really didn't like the review or the 45-50 minutes of class time sitting there watching the teacher.

So, we took the day off and went to the library. He checked out a book on programming and writing hacks for Windows. I pulled some science books (physics and chemistry) as well as a world history text for him to read. He wants to read Great Expectations and wants to study world history from 1750 to the modern period. He wants to know about current events and why the world is the way it is and why politics is such a hot-button topic. He wants to study Calculus and know how to make things work (physics). In short, he wants to know so much...just not the stuff being taught in A Beka's 9th grade curriculum.

I told my husband that it really is our fault. We raised an independent, self-motivated, self-starter of a child. He is not independent to the extent that he can sit and learn from a DVD program. No, he is independent in the sense that he has interests and desires and prefers to learn based on his own motivation. What can we do? We have decided that we will just let him teach himself the things that interest him most and leave it at that. Neither of us care much if he learns Biology or knows all the bones in the human body. We are glad that he loves God and deeply desires to study His word. We are glad that he is genuinely concerned about world events and the future end-times. He is a smart boy. He thinks deeply and often. I guess this is what happens when you home school a child and give them freedom to learn at their own pace and according to their own pursuits.


October 21, 2007

Lee Strobel

The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ by Lee Strobel

Has modern scholarship debunked the traditional Christ? Has the church suppressed the truth about Jesus to advance its own agenda? What if the real Jesus is far different from the atoning Savior worshipped through the centuries? In The Case for the Real Jesus, former award-winning legal editor Lee Strobel explores such hot-button questions as: Did the church suppress ancient non-biblical documents that paint a more accurate picture of Jesus than the four Gospels? Did the church distort the truth about Jesus by tampering with early New Testament texts? Do new insights and explanations finally disprove the resurrection? Have fresh arguments disqualified Jesus from being the Messiah? Did Christianity steal its core ideas from earlier mythology?

Today we were blessed to have the opportunity to listen to author Lee Strobel (best known for his book, The Case for Christ). I haven't had the chance to read his book yet (any of them), but have wanted to do so for a long while. I was so excited when I heard it mentioned that he would be speaking to our church, Scottsdale Bible, on 10/21/07. WOW! What a great speaker! I really enjoyed listening to him and found him to be a powerful and persuasive speaker. God has really gifted him in his presentation style and ability. He spoke on two points: Did Jesus really claim to be the Son of God and did the resurrection really occur. This message was excellent, and even though short (I could have listen to his entire treatise because it was so GOOD!), I came away with a new appreciation of why it is so important to really "know" the Hebrew and Greek languages. So much is contained in every word and without a thorough understanding of the historical context, it is very easy to disregard and downplay the significance of the early Hebrew writers.

Mr. Strobel's newest book, The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ, is available now and I would recommend it for anyone who is seriously considering the validity of Jesus as Christ.

October 20, 2007

Why I Love the Piano...

by D.J. Hepburn

I love the piano for many reasons. One of these reasons is its sound, which is very soothing and relaxing. The piano has its own moods which when a performer plays, can be quiet and calming or loud and exciting. Its tonal qualities are immense, giving each individual piano its own distinctive sound. Another reason is the flexibility of the piano, in that there are 88 keys, which give you plenty of room to play and write songs. I also love the piano because of the abundance of compositions written for solo performance. Even though many are hard to play, I love the fact that I can attempt to learn them and enjoy playing them.

Piano Recital Today

My son is performing Joseph Haydn's Sonata from Hoboken 16:7 for his piano teacher's (Karen Macklin) piano/chamber recital today. He will present an oral recitation on: the history of the sonata, a brief biographical sketch on Franz J. Haydn as well as an original poem he wrote entitled, "Musique." He will be playing piano accompaniment to her Chamber group (violins) and will be performing three pieces: "Colors of the Wind," "The Circle of Life," and "Hogwarth's Hymn."

I will be recording his performance (with video - hooray) and hopefully can post it for other's to see/hear. We are so very proud of our son, who hopes someday to become either a classical pianist or a computer programmer! LOL!

October 19, 2007

From my son...

I'm wishing you
another year of
laughter, joy, and fun,
surprises, love and
happiness, and when
your birthday's done...

I hope you feel deep
in your heart, as your
birthday's come and go,
How very much you
mean to me, more than
you can known.

Love, DJ

October 18, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

I am not a big "birthday" person. In fact, I am not really into any kind of celebration at all. I do love Christmas and enjoy decorating, but I have never been big on parties and other kinds of celebrations. My parents are pretty low-key about celebrations too, so I am sure this is why I am like them. Mom always could throw a good party and often did when I was growing up. I just remember playing and hanging out...our parties were mostly BBQ or "bring your own dish" types...and were again, very low-key. My husband's family is a BIG party type group. They are the kind to throw well-planned, themed parties and invite lots and lots of people. Any kind of celebration gets the royal treatment with favors, decorations, and games with gift bags. It has been difficult for me to fit in because I really, really do not like all the hoopla. I am very happy to go to a nice restaurant or have a simple family dinner with quiet conversation and a good cup of coffee. I guess it is just the way I am.

I plan on celebrating this year's birthday with my Dad, Roger, like I have for the past 40+ years. Dad and I share the month of October and our birthdays are one day apart (his on the 17th and mine today). We have always celebrated together and usually have our favorite desert -- Pumpkin Pie. This year we are going to Black Angus Steakhouse for dinner so we will skip the pie and have their birthday brownie/ice cream desert instead. Partly this is due to my Mom's ongoing recovery from knee replacement surgery and also because it will be easier on us all. David's parents will be coming along as well and then we will go to our house for "cake". According to my MIL, "you cannot have a birthday without birthday cake!" See what I mean? My MIL has always made sure I had a proper birthday celebration and I appreciate her POV. She is so different from me and I am thankful for her love of partying!

October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Birthday crown courtesy of my husband's aunt
who has a knack with plastic crocheting!

Today is my Dad's birthday (number to remain hidden!) Dad and I have celebrated our birthday's together for as long as I can remember. His birthday is today and mine is tomorrow. When I was little, Mom gave me my own party of course, but we always had a family birthday dinner. Once I got to the teenage years, often would go out someplace special. We are celebrating our birthday dinner this Friday (10/19/07) at Black Angus Steakhouse. Both Dad and I signed up for their birthday club so we received coupons on email for a by-one-get-one steak dinner. Yum!

October 16, 2007

PVCC Youth Retreat

DJ at Woods Canyon Lake, AZ
October 12-14, 2007

At the rim (200 foot vertical)
Good thing his mother wasn't watching at this moment!

Nice Rainbow Trout

October 10, 2007

Bear of Little Brain

"I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he,
"and I am a Bear of No Brain at All."
"You're the Best Bear in All the World,"
said Christopher Robin soothingly.
-from Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Today, I feel like a "bear with little brain" and my "fluff" seems to be rather bedraggled and out of sorts. I am not sure why I feel the way I do, but if you KWIM, well, then you just KWIM! Maybe it is because I am facing down another birthday (next week) and somehow the number "45" seems "oh so very old to me." Maybe it is just because it is a "Wed-nes-day" and a "little black rain cloud" seems to be following me around. I don't know...guess I will just have to wait and see how Thursday looks!

October 8, 2007

Learning Styles

Last week, a home school Mom wrote to me and asked if I thought it was necessary to know about learning styles when teaching your children at home. This was my response to her email.

Dear Homeschool Mom,

This is our 4th year home schooling and the second year I have tried to tailor my son's curriculum to his particular learning style (visual spatial). Do I think it is necessary to teach to a particular learning style? Hmmm....good question! I think many parents do a fine job teaching and never know a thing about their children's preferred learning style. Understanding how our children learn can help us customize curriculum and make sure that we address any weaknesses they may have. It can also boost their enjoyment of learning when we give them tools that align with their style (for example, using media-rich content to enhance a visual learner's experience). I think, however, it can have a reverse affect when we teach only to one learning mode. This is something that many parents do, usually out of exasperation and desperation. They have tried every type of curriculum and Johnny still cannot read. They find something that works and instead of using it to solve a particular weakness, they use it exclusively. Or, Johnny decides he cannot read so Mom decides that since he is a visual learner and prefers watching Videos, she will only make him watch video content. I know it sounds odd, but I have read many emails from parents who have done this very thing. A Ha, Johnny is auditory so every thing is 'read aloud' to him. Johnny never learns the patience or diligence needed to be able to read silently to himself.

Most educational psychologists would agree that a liberal approach, one that teaches using all three learning modalities (visual, auditory and kinesthetic or tactile) is best. By taking a more moderate approach, the student will strengthen their weak areas and better develop their already well-developed areas. Additionally, they will be better suited for success in a traditional learning situation, say college classroom, for example. Moreover, most educational psychologists' would agree that children are kinesthetic when they are young and that auditory and visual processing develops as the child ages. By the time they are ready for school, children (those without any learning disabilities) should be able to use each learning mode equally well. It is true that most children prefer one mode over the others initially and that they will naturally gravitate towards that particular style, especially when struggling with a difficult concept or subject. It is not true, however, that a child cannot learn using all three modes. One mode will always be stronger, but all three are necessary for integrated learning success. In my opinion, the best course of action is to teach right down the middle and to give the child every opportunity to use their hands, their ears, and their eyes when learning new material.

There are a couple reasons why I think it is helpful to know a little about learning styles. First, if your child happens to have a learning disability, knowledge of learning styles can be very helpful when diagnosing their strengths and weaknesses. If a disorder is suspected, often a parent can teach material with more ease when aligning the method to the child's strength. The entire learning process will be easier for both teacher and student. It will also allow the parent to focus on their child's weakness and give them time to work specifically to address each concern. Nothing is more frustrating then to try and teach the child using a method that clearly works against their natural style. By doing so, stress and frustration become a regular visitor during the school day.

Another reason I think it is helpful to understand learning styles is to understand that the majority of traditional classroom curriculum is designed towards one learning modality, namely, auditory-sequential learners (shall we say the public school teacher's best student?) The majority of public and private school teachers rely on teaching to auditory learners. For years, teachers are taught to stand in front of the class and to speak directly to a classroom. While many teachers do employ visual aids and often encourage hands-on exploration, the typical classroom is 70% auditory, 15% visual and 15% kinesthetic. Curriculum publishers also understand that their materials need to be 'presented' and as such create their programs around this modern method. So unless the teacher is coming up through Montessori or another non-traditional teaching system, students are going to be expected to learn primarily through their ears (audition). If your student is a visual spatial learner and struggles with audition, then listening to a teacher lecture or present to the class will be difficult to process. Thankfully, home school parents have myriads of options when it comes to teaching their children. There is no reason for a home schooled child to be forced to listen to a parent lecture like a public or private school teacher. The parent is free to use any number of methods to help their child learn the material. And, if their goal is content mastery versus subject mastery, they can use other methods of evaluation to see how well their child is grasping the material (quizzes and tests are useful, but they only give one small part of the overall learning picture.)

Thirdly, if your child happens to be LD or Gifted or a combo (twice-exceptional), then you will find that the more you know about learning styles, the more options you have when it comes to choosing curriculum for your child. In short, it is like taking a short cut through the buffet and starting with dessert. It is just "easier" to zero in on what will work best and it will save you a lot of time, a lot of frustration, and a lot of expense.

The whole field of learning styles has been around for 50-60 years. There have been many new discoveries in that time and the public school system has tried to implement change in the classroom and across the nation. However, walk into any high school classroom in the nation and I bet you will still find a large number of teachers standing in front of the blackboard lecturing. Audition is the primary teaching method for college professors and since Universities determine how to teach each generation of teachers, change is slow coming.

If you are really interested in learning style theory, then check out your library holdings on learning styles (even consider inter-library loan). There are a number fairly new books out (I will try and get a list together), but you can just browse through the education stacks and are sure to find one or two that will give you a good overview. Keep in mind that there are as many different views on how children learn as there are stars in the sky. Since the early 1950's and 60's, psychologists have been fascinated with how children learn and have developed theories in order to create better instructional materials, discover new ways to address learning disabilities and find solutions to help children succeed.

The one theory that most lay people are familiar with is states that there are three primary modes of learning (VAK or Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic). This theory suggests that we use these three modes for processing new information and for learning, in general. Some people do prefer learning through their their eyes (V), while others prefer using their hands (K) or their ears (A), but it is generally believed that all people are V plus A or A plus K, etc. Rarely is someone all V or all A.

Additionally, studies suggest that children prefer to learn via their kinesthetic mode until they reach the age of 5 or 6. As children begin school, they will be given more and more opportunities to learn using their ears or through audition. Audition is not new and for centuries, children have learned using their ears (in the 7th century B.C., Homer wrote his epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, to be recited orally). Modern teachers need children to listen well, to pay attention in class, to observe the study, and to discover new information. Audition, therefore, still plays a key role in the teaching of a group of children. The problem is, however, that some children will continue to rely on one mode of learning, almost to the exclusion of the others. Often these children are either gifted or they have a combination of learning or processing disorders. In a classroom setting for example, where the normal teaching method is audition, the visual or kinesthetic learner will find it difficult to follow along or to process the information because it is being presented in a way contrary to their preferred learning mode. Some children learn how to get by and figure out how to pay attention and listen, enough to pass their classes. But, some children cannot seem to do this at all and usually end up falling behind or dropping out of school all together. They never seem to be able to achieve using standard teaching methods and will continue to struggle just to keep up with their peers.

[Just an aside: You can Google on the Internet for VAK learning profile tests -- there are hundreds of them. You can take the test yourself or put in answers that reflect your child's learning style. These are not true assessments, but they do give a glimpse into the generalities of VAK learning modes.]

Since the 1980's there has been significant developments in the field of educational psychology. Many psychologists now believe that the VAK learning identifiers are not specific enough and that they generalize the learning modality of the "normal" population only. About 20 years ago, some psychologists started to notice that gifted and twice-exceptional students (gifted and LD) tended to learn on the fringe of these accepted VAK modes. Dr. Linda Silverman was one of the few psychologists to study and theorize that there were subtle variations of the VAK style and that VAK didn't fit every child. Her work centered on the belief that within the visual spectrum there are multiple levels of learning. In her research she discovered that students who are visual AND spatial tend to struggle with abstract concepts and with traditional classroom instruction. Subjects such as math, grammar, spelling, for example, were consistently difficult for the visual-spatial learner. Furthermore, she discovered that VSLs tend to do very poorly in an auditory learning environment (the typical classroom). As she began working with gifted students she put together a system for identifying visual-spatial learning and then formulated ways to help students succeed in the public or private school classroom.

[Side note: You can read more about her work on her website: http://www.visual-spatial.org. Her book "Upside Down Brillance" is excellent, though very heady to read. I read it because I am one of the special kinds of visual-spatial learners she describes in her book -- the ones who tend to do things backwards or upside down (ex. I start at the end of a problem or project and work backwards to find the quickest and best route for success or solving.) If you happen to have a VSL and are struggling to understand how they learn, consider reading this book. It is eye-opening and well worth the price and time needed to wade through it.]

So how does all of this play out in a home school setting? I think most children who are home schooled are automatically given a much better chance to learn using all three modes of VAK. This is because in a home setting, the parent has already considered individualized instruction (usually the first suggestion made for students in a classroom). The caring parent at home has tried a variety of curriculum and has already narrowed down her choices to those that seem to work best for her children. If something doesn't work, she stops using it and tries something new. The student also gets a break because Mom is there to help as soon as she needs it. If she doesn't understand something, then Mom is there to explain it differently. Moreover, Mom often gives her children a wide variety of learning experiences. She allows them to learn through play, cooperative studies, unit studies, multi-age lessons, and hands on activities. The student is able to use all three modes of learning in the home setting whereas a student in a classroom might get more computer time or might get some pullout instruction, but generally will be expected to sit and listen to a lecture (audition) or be forced to sit and read silently (difficult for some visual-spatial students).

In answer to your question, I would say that having a general knowledge of learning styles can enhance your teaching ability. If you are using Charlotte Mason's educational method, then you really do not need to worry much about this unless your child happens to have reading problems. In a CM-education, children are taught through all three modes even though the primary emphasis is on visual learning (reading). CM was the first to suggest using VAK, though this is not what she called it. In her method, children are encouraged to read good books (V), to listen to good books being read aloud (A), and to explore and observe the world around them (K). A CM-educated student will be given wide exposure to learning through all three modalities.

If the student is well-rounded and learns well through all three modes, then this method will work well. If, however, your student happens to be visual-spatial and cannot not process information through audition, then they will find it difficult to learn using this method. Some VSL's are avid and excellent readers (some will teach themselves to read at a very young age) while some struggle with learning how to read and with reading comprehension. Some VSLs are sight readers and will not really learn to read well until age 9, 10 or 11. The gifted spatial learner will find a classical or literature-based curriculum dry and boring, simply because the emphasis is on reading visually plain books (your typical classical book is 5 1/2 x 8 with white or off-white pages and very small black print.)

This is really why I got interested in VSL's and why I have worked to customize my son's curriculum. If he were simply a gifted student and able to learn using VAK, then nearly all the home school curriculum would work for him. He is not, and as such, I have had to find the best curriculum that will fit his preferred learning style. For us, this means that I need to give him a mix of curriculum and use several different teaching methods. I do place the emphasis on visual presentation and use this as my guide when choosing books, DVDs or other teaching programs.

This year, he is using A Beka DVDs. The visual learning aspect has been right on target and he finds that he is learning and retaining an amazing amount of information in all subject areas (the proof is in his test scores -- consistently in the 97-100% range on reading comprehension and on comprehensive tests). Compared to last year with our literature-based curriculum, his tests scores were in the 50-60% range. Overall, the change from visual (reading) to visual-spatial (computer-based) has greatly improved his retention. This improvement has been seen across the board in all subject areas. In his weakest areas, math and English grammar/composition, his retention of facts has nearly tripled. This improvement it is so dynamic and impressive that I believe it will have long-term impact. The downside of using these specific DVDs is the boredom factor. Since these DVDs mimic classroom situations (teacher in front, students in desks), he finds the overall pacing to be too slow and the repetition, unneccessary. So the perfect solution is to find a visual teaching aid that offers high-quality visual instruction, but doesn't simply substitute record a high school classroom.

A Beka textbooks work well for him too. These are highly visual books and are very sequential in their presentation. Since my son struggles to follow details or to be able to order events having a textbook that already does this for him is very helpful. He likes to read these texts because they have lots of colorful pictures, charts and diagrams to look at. All of these things appeal to his visual-spatial learning mode and help him process details and put the information in it's proper context. The downside of using a textbook curriculum is that they don't really challenge the mind to think 'outside the box,' which is something that VSL's naturally do and enjoy.

Therefore, after nearly four years of trying to figure this "curriculum thing" out, I think I have finally discovered that the best approach is to not rely on one single teaching method (Classical or Charlotte Mason or traditional) and instead use a variety of methods for each subject area. Next year, my plan is to alter my son's curriculum so that he has equal thirds: one-third literature-based; one-third computer-aided; and one-third hands-on/observation study. In general, my plan is to teach using VAK, but to tailor it more towards his visual-spatial preference, all the while giving him plenty of opportunity to learn through his weaker auditory and kinesthetic modes. My goal is to enable him to learn and retain the new material using all three learning modalities.

In closing, I definitely believe that there is value in learning more about your child's learning style. In doing so, it will help you become a better teacher and it will help you better understand how to best to teach your child. Home schooling is a wonderful way to get to know your child and watching them learn is half the fun of it. By taking the time to understand their individual needs, you will be providing a higher quality learning experience for them.

October 3, 2007

Pumpkin Decorating

We love to decorate pumpkins at our house and make a big deal out of it each year. We are not into Halloween and all the pagan trappings but we do like to do the pumpkin deal and usually we make a couple to sit by our front door. I found these pictures online a while ago while looking for non-carving ideas and thought they were so cute.

I made this one for our church's harvest festival. It was a raffle item. I used a fake pumpkin and just cut the top off. It turned out really nice and the person who won it really loved it.

October 2, 2007

What's Your Mothering Style?

I found this link over at the Brew Crew's blog. I was intrigued so I decided to test out my mothering style. Here is my type:

Your type is: intp —The “Love of Learning” Mother

“I keep the encyclopedia in the kitchen so we can look up things together while we eat.”

  • Intellectually curious and patient, the INTP mother relishes those times with a child when they are learning something interesting together. Whether they’re at the zoo or computer terminal, she sparks to answering his or her “whys” with in-depth responses or new knowledge.
  • The INTP mother is also objective and introspective. She listens to and discusses children’s ideas and questions as she would those of a peer, fostering self-esteem and confidence. Open and non-directive, she allows children the freedom to do for themselves and quietly encourages them to believe they can do it.
  • Independence, autonomy, intellectual development, and self-reliance are probably the INTP’s highest priorities for her children. An avid reader, she naturally imparts an appreciation and love of reading as well.
  • Drawn to all types of learning, the INTP may also value her mothering experience for all the new insights about life it provides her.
Take the quiz yourself here: http://www.motherstyles.com/quiz.asp.

Any other INTP's out there?

Arete Classical Study Group Update

I have updated my Arete Classical Study group for our Fall 2007 reading series. You can see our new look here: http://www.areteclassical.com (we've moved from website to blog!)

Fall Schedule

We will begin reading through Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews in October. Proposed reading schedule is about 4 chapters per week for 5 weeks (no more than 15 pages per week). Then November, we will tackle some Plutarch and will read through a selection of the Parallel Lives. I need to remember to ask my friend Anne W. if we can use her excellent study notes (posted on Ambleside Online) for our class.

Lastly, we will take a long slow look at Tertullian's writings through the month of December (possibly on into January). Tertullian is considered the "Father of the Latin Church". His writings were influential in the later works of St. Anselm, St. Aquinas and St. Augustine.

If you are interested in reading some early church history, consider joining our group for the next couple months. It should be an excellent study on these important church writings.

Kitties, Kitties Everywhere!

(17 years old and disturbed and perturbed to be photographed)

Sir Winston Churchill
(age 4 months)

Lounging - His favorite past time!

Always in the sun

His favorite position - No Shame!

The Newest Addition to the Family
(born in May 2007)

Asparagus or "Gus"
(4 weeks of age)

Gus with a dirty face!
(He sticks his entire face and front paws into the food bowl!)
Almost 7 weeks and climbing on everything!

Gus: The Theatre Cat
from T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Cats"

Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door.
His name, as I ought to have told you before,
Is really Asparagus. That's such a fuss
To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake,
And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats--
But no longer a terror to mice and to rats.
For he isn't the Cat that he was in his prime;
Though his name was quite famous, he says, in its time.
And whenever he joins his friends at their club
(Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
For he once was a Star of the highest degree--
He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree.
And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.

"I have played," so he says, "every possible part,
And I used to know seventy speeches by heart.
I'd extemporize back-chat, I knew how to gag,
And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag.
I knew how to act with my back and my tail;
With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail.
I'd a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts,
Whether I took the lead, or in character parts.
I have sat by the bedside of poor Little Nell;
When the Curfew was rung, then I swung on the bell.
In the Pantomime season I never fell flat,
And I once understudied Dick Whittington's Cat.
But my grandest creation, as history will tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."

Then, if someone will give him a toothful of gin,
He will tell how he once played a part in East Lynne.
At a Shakespeare performance he once walked on pat,
When some actor suggested the need for a cat.
He once played a Tiger--could do it again--
Which an Indian Colonel purused down a drain.
And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
To rescue a child when a house was on fire.
And he says: "Now then kittens, they do not get trained
As we did in the days when Victoria reigned.
They never get drilled in a regular troupe,
And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop."
And he'll say, as he scratches himself with his claws,
"Well, the Theatre's certainly not what it was.
These modern productions are all very well,
But there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
That moment of mystery
When I made history
As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."

October 1, 2007

Nice Photo of Mom and Dad

Don't they make a cute couple?
They have been in-love with each other for over 60 years.

My husband's parents
David and Daisy Hepburn Sr.
(September 21, 2007)

Ps. My MIL is a great Christian speaker. You can see her blog
here: http://daisyhepburn.blogspot.com

Organizing and other thoughts

We are one month into our schooling and already I am feeling the need to change things -- AGAIN! I have just spent time on my knees praying about this very thing, namely why I always feel the need to "change." This is not something new, it is not a recent development, and it is not something that came about as a result of our current circumstances (with DH's health). No, I have been a 'change artist' for as long as I can remember. Whenever I would feel frustrated or sense that things were not under control, I would change something that I did have control over.

When I was young this usually meant my room or my "things." I would move my furniture, reorganize my closet, or change my dolls/toys all around. As I got older, I would often change my appearance (new haircut or clothes). As a married woman, my favorite change is our living room furniture. We are not blessed with both a living and family room, so our main living area is my primary location for change. When money is flowing, often I paint or decorate. When money is tight, I tend to just move things about. I especially like to move the sofa and take the pictures off the wall. Somehow, moving things around gives me a sense of "freshness" and helps me change my perspective. Maybe it is more about the physical aspect of change, moving things, dusting, exhausting energy. Usually I end up tired out, but satisfied with the result. Moving makes me content. Change makes me happy. Hmmmm....

I will admit that I have played the "change game" with our home schooling since the day we took our son out of public school. With so many curriculum options, it was impossible to choose the "best fit" for our highly gifted child. Oh, how I would love to purchase them all and "test drive" them to see which ones or which parts I liked best!! Unfortunately, that is not realistic and as such I have had to choose programs and books that I thought "looked" good on the outside. My hope always was that they would "work out for us." Most of the time, my gut instinct was right on. A few times I did choose poorly and found out rather quickly that the program or book was just not to our liking.

This year I chose to enroll our son in A Beka Academy. My decision was based on my concern over my dear DH's health. Not knowing his final outcome, there was a large measure of uncertainty, and the thought of having our son in an accredited program made sense. What if DS needed to go back to public school? I certainly didn't want him to repeat any courses and with an accredited transcript, that likelihood would be slim. I love A Beka curriculum, no doubt about it. I love the colors and the content. I love the conservative nature of the writing. However, what I don't love is how rigid the program is and how much extra work is involved in completing each course. Some parents like this aspect and feel that it gives "honors" credit to the courses (in CA, A Beka is considered to be "honors" level). I guess I see so much of what they ask as simply "busy work." Their focus is on 'crossing every t and dotting every i". They are also fairly test-happy and quiz and test every other day.

After a month of the pressure of conforming to Academy standards (DVD 1), we have decided to switch over to Program 2. Program 2 still uses the DVDs, but relies on the parent for grading and keeping transcripts. This program will give me more freedom to decide what parts of the program we can skip. It also means that I can decide how to evaluate my son's understanding and hopefully reduce some of the weekly quizzing. For now, we will continue to watch the DVDs, but instead of trying to keep to A Beka's schedule, we will make the teaching program work for us instead of against us. I am hoping that by making this change, we will still get the best of A Beka's teaching without all the stress of doing paperwork. My hope....