March 27, 2008

Old Ways...

This past weekend as I was working, once more, on my son's schedule and program for next fall, I decided to pull out my Teacher Resources binder and look through it. It was fun to look back over the past four years and review the different ways we organized and tracked our progress.

When we first started to home school, one of the things I was most paranoid about was figuring out how to schedule our week. Our curriculum, Ambleside Online, is a free online program and each year has a booklist and 36-week schedule of readings. Pretty much everything you need is available on the website and many families just use the booklist and schedule and work off it each week. The schedule is linear and has weekly assignments in a list format. They make a mark or highlight the assignment once it is completed and are very comfortable with a flexible routine (if they skip math on Tuesday, they just pick it back up on Wednesday).

I tried this method, but found that I needed something more visual, something that showed me in a picture format what we needed to do each week of our year. One of the parents on the Ambleside Online support group took the 36 week schedule and put it into MS Word and laid the assignments out in a 12-week table format. This format works well for parents who want to see 12 weeks of assignments listed by Subject, versus listed grouped into weeks.

I used this schedule and found it a great start towards helping me see "the bigger picture." However, I still needed to see our week at a glance and I wanted to see everything we needed to do on one page only. So I took the 12-week format and then created a weekly schedule using MS Excel. Excel works great and gives me a format that appeals to my visual side.

I have used Excel spreadsheets for our weekly scheduling since 2004. Occassionally, I switch out and use Word or will use Home School Tracker Plus, an automated software program. I have found though that of all the methods I have used to schedule our weekly assignments, Excel seems to fit my style best.

My binder, on the other hand, is a standard 3" with multi-colored tabs for subjects. I keep all the subjects in the front of the binder and then have one section in the back for records such as calendar, combined reading lists, report cards, transcripts and attendance (even though we are not required to turn these items into our county education supervisor, I like to keep them on hand). Behind each tab, I keep articles on how to teach that particular subject. Since we use the Charlotte Mason method, I often print PR Articles explaining how her teachers taught each subject in her PNEU schools.

I keep a bin for all our papers and reports. I have used the bin system since 2004 and it is an easy way to keep track of everything we do. I file away all papers as well as any printed e-books or partial texts once we are finished using them. At the end of the year, I condense these papers down into one file folder and keep them as a reminder of our program.

Now that my son is in high school, he doesn't seem to generate as much paper as he did before. He still turns in some papers to me, but most of his work is completed on the computer and he emails it to me for review. This process actually works really well and enables me to mark up his papers and then send them back to him for corrections. It also saves on paper printing and storage.

It was fun to go back over our method for the last couple years and see that we have indeed made good progress. We are not always the most organized nor are we consistent with our approach. But, when you look at our years as a whole you do so great improvement and forward momentum. I think if anything it gave me that pat on the back to know that we are doing home school well and that we are succeeding in meeting our yearly goals. I am pleased with our progress and know that the next couple years will prove even more enriching and blessed.

March 19, 2008

Passover and Good Friday

Maundy Thursday, also known as “Holy Thursday” is the Thursday of Passion Week, one day before Good Friday (the Thursday before Easter). Maundy Thursday is the name given to the day on which Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, known as the Last Supper. Many churches offer Maundy Thursday services the night before Good Friday. In the Lutheran church I attended as a teen, this was always a special service to begin the commemoration of the cruxcificion, death and suffering of Jesus Christ. It was always a very sacred and solemn service.

In my large Bible church (non-denominational), most years there hasn't been a special service on the Thursday before Easter. This year, however, they are offering one and I think I would like to attend. The service will include the prayer stations and communion. The pastoral staff are taking a non-structured approach to the evening, which is probably good. It should offer plenty of time for prayer and reflection on the coming events of the weekend.
They are also hosting Good Friday services, a more formal gathering with worship music, prayer, and a message from our new Pastor. I find these extra services (most people choose to just go to church on Easter Sunday) important to prepare the mind and heart to meditate and remember the great sacrifice of Jesus, our Passover Lamb.

March 18, 2008

Grand Canyon Adventure

My husband's sister and family are in town visiting this week and this evening we all went to see the new IMAX movie, Grand Canyon Adventure. It was a free movie premiere with limited seating so we went early and waited in line with about 400 other people. The presentation was in 3D, something I hadn't experienced in quite a while, and was very well done. The movie, with a environmentally-left agenda, was beautifully filmed and interesting to watch. I don't know if I would pay the $8 ticket price to get in to listen to Robert Redford narrate and tell movie goers that our wasteful water consumption in the Southwest is actually hurting people in Africa (yes, this was the message) and that we need to "keep river water in the river." There were many places in the movie where we all (everyone in the theater) quirked our heads and shared the same sort of "huh?" look on our faces. Maybe it is just that folks here in Arizona are not that globally aware or maybe it is that WE ARE water conscious because we happen to live in a dry and arid climate! The movie was fun to watch, especially the river rafting scenes, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone unless they went in and were ready for the heavy-handed message of the film producers.

Here is the blurb from the website:

Set against the immense backdrop of the majestic Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Adventure will take IMAX Theatre audiences on an exhilarating river-rafting adventure down the Colorado River in the company of a team of explorers who are committed to bringing awareness to global water issues. One of the world’s mightiest rivers, the Colorado no longer reaches the sea. Every drop of river water is allocated to agriculture and populations along the way, many of whom don’t even realize their connection to the river. No water remains for the river’s end -- the Colorado Delta -- once a thriving estuary that supported the most diverse biosphere in North America. How do we balance our needs with nature’s? How do we provide enough freshwater for everyone who needs it, not only along the Colorado River, but everywhere on our planet?

Ps. We didn't know this is what the film was about when we got the notice to go and see it. We thought it was about the Grand Canyon, not about the demands for water, the damming up of the river (the evil Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams) nor the misuse of farmers who steal water to grow food to feed our nation. The movie was blatantly secular humanistic, overly preachy on being one with the Great Spirit, one with the river, blaming the demise of the Anazazi (who died out over a 1000 years ago) on global warming, and not depriving poor Mexican farmers of river water. Oh well...

Ps2. Just in case someone reads this and wonders if all Arizona's are globally ignorant and abusive with water rights...I do use a low-flow shower head and a water conserving toilet. We also do not wash our cars, our sidewalks or our driveways, like many people do in other parts of the country. We already have desert eco-friendly landscape (why? because it is so darn hard to grow grass here!) We live with the threat of drought all the time and naturally conserve water simply because it is practical and necessary to do so.

March 7, 2008

Have faith in God

Mark 11:22
Have faith in God.

Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments. Love can make the feet move more swiftly; but faith is the foot which carries the soul. Faith is the oil enabling the wheels of holy devotion and of earnest piety to move well; and without faith the wheels are taken from the chariot, and we drag heavily. With faith I can do all things; without faith I shall neither have the inclination nor the power to do anything in the service of God. If you would find the men who serve God the best, you must look for the men of the most faith. Little faith will save a man, but little faith cannot do great things for God. Poor Little-faith could not have fought "Apollyon;" it needed "Christian" to do that. Poor Little-faith could not have slain "Giant Despair;" it required "Great-heart's" arm to knock that monster down. Little faith will go to heaven most certainly, but it often has to hide itself in a nut-shell, and it frequently loses all but its jewels. Little-faith says, "It is a rough road, beset with sharp thorns, and full of dangers; I am afraid to go;" but Great-faith remembers the promise, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; as thy days, so shall thy strength be:" and so she boldly ventures. Little-faith stands desponding, mingling her tears with the flood; but Great-faith sings, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:" and she fords the stream at once. Would you be comfortable and happy? Would you enjoy religion? Would you have the religion of cheerfulness and not that of gloom? Then "have faith in God." If you love darkness, and are satisfied to dwell in gloom and misery, then be content with little faith; but if you love the sunshine, and would sing songs of rejoicing, covet earnestly this best gift, "great faith." ~Charles Spurgeon