Claude Moore Colonial Farm

There are *so* many things to see and do the Northern Virginia area – for traveling and homeschooling. Whether you’re into nature, history, culture, current affairs, sports, you name it. The DMV area has it.

As a historical homeschool trip, we visited Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean. It recreates what a small farm would have been like during colonial times. Walking the walk and talking the talk.

Two girls stand in front of a log barn on Claude Moore Colonial Farm. Not So SAHM

Claude Moore Colonial Farm – ProjectEdit365 – 29 Oct

Yesterday, I made the comment that I didn’t know how to recreate the preset from Coffeeshop Blog that I like so much. So, I spent some time on her blog last night, and lo and behold, she has tutorials. And one of them is how to get the “matte effect”. SCORE. I love the look that it gives to many photos. So, to edit, I went straight to the tone curve slider and it worked its magic. It does darken the picture so I lightened the shadows. The man standing in the doorway of the barn was distracting, so I used an adjustment brush on him and completely lowered the exposure. Thankfully that area was already dark. I moved the tint slider a little towards magenta and the temp slider a little towards blue. I used a graduated filter to bring in some warmer light from the upper left corner. Then I used an adjustment brush to sharpen their eyes. Here’s the original:


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Learning by experience

- the wise OFamilyBlog

– the ofamilyblog

I was reading through the ofamilyblog earlier today (this post) and what she said, what I quoted above, screamed out to me.

I think we all realize this, and I even know this about myself and how I learn best, but I need the fresh awareness of wise thoughts like the above. I taught myself how to sew. Not by reading books about it, but by buying a sewing machine and turning on the thing. I taught myself how to knit by grabbing a pair of needles and yarn. I did have to read instructions and (re)watch YouTube videos about casting on, but it was by actually experiencing the act of knitting that helped me really understand how to do it. I’m still currently teaching myself about photography, and although I need to read a lot about the technical aspects, it’s not until I start pressing the shutter button that I’m actually going to really understand photography. And how do any of us learn to cook? Julia Child can walk us through the steps, but the roast won’t cook itself.

The same goes with schooling, and it is not just the life skills that should be learned through experience. There is definitely a place for rote memorization and workbook practice, but (as I keep needing to be reminded) this should be just the beginning of the complete learning experience. Learning about fractions on a math worksheet is the first step. The next, and most important step, is applying the fractions to real life–in the kitchen when doubling a recipe, at the store when figuring out the cost of a sale item, etc. And memorizing the important names and dates of the Jamestown Colony is important, but being able to go to Jamestown (or doing something similar) and seeing, smelling, feeling, experiencing the life of the early colonists and Native Americans will make those facts “stick” as ofamilyblog so wisely put it. The same goes for any of the subjects we teach our children.

Experiential learning helps things become more real for the student, which is so important if we want to instill a love for learning in our kids. I struggle with doing this in my girls’ schooling. I know there are parents out there who are naturals at finding and creating ways to help their children experience learning. I need help remembering, and I need help figuring out, how to incorporate experiencing into our learning schedule. So, thank you ofamilyblog, for giving me a little jolt today. Now, I’m off to Pinterest to collect ideas. . .

We *do* experiential learning sometimes!

We *do* experiential learning sometimes!

And here’s proof that we do learn by experience sometimes in this household! I took the girls to Jamestown the last time we studied about the colonial period, and Reagan got to learn about many aspects of Colonial life. Here she’s learning how to build a fence.

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When your schedule messes up your schedule

I like things neat and tidy. I live inside that box. As a homeschool mom I should have learned to let this go a long time ago. For a rule follower, list follower, in-the-box follower I can be flexible. . . sometimes.  I can’t yet consistently roll with the flow, though. When things aren’t fitting inside my box I feel anxious, get short-tempered, and contend with feelings of failure. Can anyone else relate?

I am getting better though, and it seems as if what kills me is actually what ends up making me stronger. If I can just. adapt. to. change.

I like to have a schedule. One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is the organizing and planning part. You know, where you lay out all the curriculum, the calendar is printed out month by month, and you plan out everything you want to do and the days on which you want to do it. (I know! Silly to plan so far ahead, and yet it’s so fun to plan!)

And you have the days each week you’ve planned to stay home and just get school done, and then there are the not so frequent days that you’ve planned to schedule all the appointments (because we know that always works out the way we want it, right?).

But then, what to do when your whole week is an endless mix of meetings, doctors’ appointments, a field trip, a snow day, several trips to the grocery store, your husband has a day off of work, etc, etc?

What do you do when your schedule messes up your schedule?

Ripping hair out is not an option, I have determined.

This past week was yet another chance for me to practice growing, because this past week was one where my actual schedule royally messed up my intended schedule. I rarely have a week that can be considered “normal”, but this past week came close to my definition of chaos. So, instead of pulling out my hair, or even yelling at my kids, I told myself at the beginning of the week. . .

“It will be ok.”

And it was. I figured out what we could ditch for the week (spelling and science) and had the girls do as much of their workbook work as they could by themselves (I was in a bunch of meetings, and one day did the monthly freezer cooking). We practiced Spanish in the car. We reviewed what we had learned in history in the car as well. My older daughter’s writing assignments just had to be pushed back for a week. My girls did some math at the table by figuring out what Infinity characters they wanted to buy and how much they would cost, including tax.


And we survived. Is my paper schedule messed up since we didn’t get several things done? Yes. But I’m still breathing. And my girls are still learning. And thankfully I fill all that out in pencil.

It’s definitely not something I want to happen every week, but by allowing myself to let go a little and think realistically, I can survive and maybe even step one foot outside that box.

What about you? What are ways that you deal with schedule changes, especially if you are a schedule follower like me? I look forward to learning some things that I can add to my toolbox.
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An emotional response to the “Harm of Homeschooling”

Ms. West,
I am disappointed in your “Harms of Homeschooling” article (found here, scroll down to page 7). From your wording and sources it seems that your main concern is Christian fundamentalism and how these Christians are not walking in lockstep with the state to make sure their children fall in line with secular humanist state beliefs. I did not learn anything new or factual about homeschooling. The article was more of the typical unfounded and undocumented fear mongering against those who have decided to take on the responsibility of their child’s education (of which they take seriously). Did you mean the article to be an opinion piece? Or were you asked by someone to provide “evidence” against homeschooling? People who already have negative ideas about homeschooling will gain no new ammunition from your article, and those who actually know the facts about homeschooling will only be persuaded that there are those in society who fear the homeschooling movement and will do anything, including baseless lying, to attempt to convince others against home education.

As respectfully as possible,

Homeschooler of four years to a well-adjusted, academically advanced and socially capable seven year old who is learning to think for herself.

Others who have refuted this article much more succinctly and thoughtfully with less emotion than myself:
West on the Harms of Homeschooling by Milton Gaither
The Harms of Homeschooling? Where are the Premises? by National Home Education Research Institute
The Harms of Homeschooling: A Retort by Razzed (read the comments on here too)

Picking battles

Today I had to lose a battle even though I was fully capable of winning it. I know though that I’m prepared to win the war if need be.

Homeschool laws are different in each state. I guess I should be happy about this because it puts power in the state’s hands, not the federal government’s. The difficult part is that I don’t really get to choose the state in which we live. My husband’s job does that. The homeschooling laws in our state basically state that I have to notify the local school superintendent of my intent to homeschool. I also have to fall under one of several categories and then have to provide a description of the curriculum I plan on using.

Nowhere in the statute does it state that I have to provide my child’s date of birth, last school attended, neighborhood school, or if my child is eligible for special education resources. After complying with the law by submitting a Notice Of Intent letter, a copy of my college diploma, and a description of our planned curriculum (which was as simple as telling them what subjects I am going to teach), I then received an email from someone in the school system asking me to fill out the school system’s own NOI. It asked for all of that information that I am not legally required to provide.

This presented a big problem for me. I don’t want to rock the boat and be contentious because then they know my name and could potentially make my homeschooling experience a living Hell. They couldn’t do anything legally, but they sure could pester me. HOWEVER, I know that I am in the right and I don’t want to give an inch, especially when it comes to the subject of homeschooling. I am very defensive about homeschooling because of the negative press it receives and the weird ideas people have about it and homeschoolers in general.

So, I was torn about whether to comply with the extra required information, just ignore it and wait and see if they would come back for more, or immediately go on the defensive letting them know I was in compliance, talk to my legal council. After calling the Home School Legal Defense Association (which you should join if you’re a homeschooler, btw) I decided to just ignore the email. If they were really serious about getting information from me then they would contact me again.

This brings me to today. I received another email, this time from the person that got the short straw at school and is now stuck dealing with the weird homeschool families. Now, I don’t know if that’s exactly the way it went down, but I’m guessing she doesn’t fully enjoy being the homeschool liaison or else she would have chosen her words a little bit differently. She wrote,

We have received your application for your daughter and need her birth date to process the application.  Please email me this information at your earliest convenience.  Thank you,

and signed her name. Hold on, what!? There is no application for homeschooling and nothing has to be processed. I checked the law. I am fully capable of homeschooling my child. I am telling you that is what is going to happen. I’m not waiting for you to process any application, implying that something might be rejected. This is what makes me think she doesn’t care much about fully understanding the law. Or she doesn’t care enough about being the liaison to word things correctly. I guess I should cut her some slack.

So, around and around again I went today. Do I just email her the birth date? Do I ignore again? Do I slap a copy of the statute in an email and let her know I’m in full compliance already? The last option was what I was leaning towards all day. And I got the idea to ask her why they even needed my daughter’s birth date? Just out of curiosity, of course.* I had to decide if this was a battle I was going to pick to fight. If I emailed the birth date the whole “situation” might just blow over and maybe they wouldn’t remember my name and my address throughout the school year. If I ignored again there could be the possibility that they would see that as defiance and remember my name and address throughout the school year. And if I got all sassy on them just for a birth date they very well could remember my name and address.

I chose to lose this battle in hopes of getting them off my back. I had to swallow my pride. I had to give up the idea of putting them in their place about the homeschooling law, even if they are just gathering extra information to get more money for their school district, or some other seemingly innocent idea. But I am ready. If for some reason they feel the need to ask for anything else I will get aggressive and let them know I have legal council who has advised me not to provide any more information. Back off.

Still, I may give Miss Short Straw a call to let her know the school website’s page on homeschooling has information and requirements on there coming from an old statute, and that what they have on there currently doesn’t fall within the Virginia state law. In a totally nice and non-confrontational way of course. Because I still have that desire to win…

*The reason they want the birth date could be as simple as wanting to know if the child truly falls within the age limits of compulsory attendance. It could also be a way to determine if that child is on the track they have deemed appropriate for education. This is where battles are usually fought with school systems and homeschoolers. The school system thinks your child should be learning a, b and c in the second grade, but you, as the child’s caregiver who intimately knows the brain of this child and the one who ultimately has control over your child thinks he should be learning c, a little bit of b and x. Who is right? (And don’t even get started with me here. If you think the government should be in control of a child’s education please just lose this battle, like I had to above, and do not respond. Thankyouverymuch)

Curriculum, curricula

(I had a post all written up last night about the curricula we’re going to use and WordPress kindly enough did not auto save it for me. So when I went to save it it disappeared. I cried a little.)

I’m already learning Latin without having to crack open a book. Why can’t they just add an ‘s’ onto the end of a word to denote a plural? And why isn’t it curriculi like cacti? I’ll find out soon enough since Latin is one of the subjects we’ll be taking up this coming school year. I’m still in the planning stages but here is what I’m planning on teaching and the curricula we’re planning on using.

History, geography, language arts, literature, art: All of these will be covered with Tapestry of Grace. I can’t rave enough about this program. TOG is a classical Christian program that teaches from creation to the present day in four years. You can then repeat the material for four more years in the middle school ages and four more years in the high school ages. The cool thing is that with each cycle you get deeper and deeper into the material. Another cool thing is that there are so many options with TOG and you can choose to use as much or as little as you want. In the upper levels TOG also covers philosophy and government. All encompassing.

Latin: It’s always easier for people to learn languages when they’re younger. This coming year both Reagan and I will start Latin with Memoria Press’ Prima Latina. It is described as a gentle introduction to Latin. AND it also includes review of English grammar (the parts of speech) so Prima Latina will also cover grammar!

French: We’ve worked for two years on memorizing vocabulary and social phrases. I’m either going to create my own program that will focus on learning more vocabulary, social phrases and French culture. If I go with a curriculum it will be Memoria Press’ First Start French and work that over two years. I may take their scope and sequence and pick and choose the things I want to teach.

Bible: We’re getting back to the basics this coming year. I think I’m going to order Memoria Press’ Christian Studies. It basically helps your child learn the stories of the Bible more in depth. And while learning the stories we’ll be able to cover Christian character as well. I guess I could just do this myself without a curriculum, but I think their teacher manual has guiding questions and ideas to study further. Reagan also does AWANA where she memorizes verses each week. I’m going to have her write these out in cursive and this will be part of her handwriting work.

Science: My desire is to just buy a book of experiments and do a couple of those a week. Then if there’s something we need or want to cover more deeply we can take time to do that. Reagan loves science. Her first day of science ever we did an experiment with water and food coloring to learn about primary and secondary colors. The science that we’ve been doing lately has been more reading and book work and less experiments. I fully admit this is my fault, but that’s why I want to get away from workbook curriculum. HOWEVER, I was doing some research and came across Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Botany. Reagan loves flowers and plants and to be able to devote a year to learning more about them would be awesome for her. I just have to do more research to figure out if there are enough hands-on things to do with this curriculum.

Spelling, Phonics: We used All About Spelling this year and worked through Levels 1-4. It was a great review for phonics and spelling rules. Different curricula teach spelling in different ways. Some teach a graduated type of spelling (all, hall, install); some teach sight words. All About Spelling uses phonograms (letter and letter combo sounds) and actual spelling rules at the same time. Once you know the rules and know the most common rule breakers there aren’t many words that you can’t spell. It also uses methods that teach to all three main learning styles (visual, audio and kinesthetic). So this year we’re going to work through Levels 5 and 6. If we finish these before the year is over we’ll just do continuous review.

Math: Here is where I’m deviating far from the norm. I’m contemplating not teaching a formal curriculum at all. I’d like to focus on teaching Reagan cooking and sewing while incorporating math into the learning. I call it experiential learning. There will be plenty of time in a couple of years to pick up anything she might miss. We will continue to memorize and review her addition, subtraction and multiplication tables.

PE: We’re going to continue with dance classes, gym classes, swimming lessons, etc. Du would like to create some kind of PE work to do with her. I’m leaving that up to him.

Music: I’m going to wait several years before we start having Reagan learn an instrument, UNLESS she begins to show a strong interest in one earlier. I’d say with all we’ve got going on above we’re going to be busy enough.

Looking back at everything above it looks like a lot. But it’s not a bad schedule. We’re only adding Latin, but we’ll be taking away the stress of workbook material in math, science and Bible. This year a normal day can take anywhere from four to six hours, including lunch and break time. Since I’m going to be including cooking and sewing this coming year schooling will happen all throughout the day. And this is one of the great things about homeschooling: making the school fit your lifestyle.

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions about the curricula we’ve used in the past or are thinking about using. My next post will be about the dilemmas and questions most people face when thinking about homeschooling, so please send me your questions about that. I’d love to give my opinion, as limited as it may be.