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We’re Back! The 2010 School Year Begins August 3, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Homeschooling.

Working in the recliner just like his old man.

Yesterday marked the passing of yet another era for the kids. The short-lived summer break that they enjoyed came to an abrupt end and school started. Since we homeschool, it’s really our choice when the school year begins. We’ve found that starting the first week in August works well for us.

As I mentioned in a prior post, we’ve made some changes to this school year. More of their daily activities will be driven by a homeschooling software called Switched-On Schoolhouse.

Although the kids weren’t excited about the end of summer, they were eager to try out their new software. The demonstration lessons that they asked to go through on Sunday night were entertaining and engaging. So it wasn’t a chore getting them started on Monday morning.

Their enthusiasm soon wained as the reality of the start of a new school year set in. Although the software is interactive and even fun for them at times, they soon became a frustrated with the way it asks certain questions. They were unclear how to respond to the prompts, how to answer the questions, and how to manipulate the software. It became stumbling block for them.

In a way, their experience parallels what many users, regardless of age, go through. Initially, there’s new excitement and the promise of something new. There is optimism about how it will make the normal routine better. The optimism soon subsides and is replaced by questions and uncertainty. “How does this software work? It’s not doing what I thought it’d do.” Soon that gives way to annoyance and frustration. At that point the software is actually inhibiting them from actually doing work.  That’s where my kids left off yesterday.

Fortunately the life cycle of adopting new software doesn’t end there. Eventually, the software will become another tool to get the job done. In this case, the job is imparting knowledge to the sponge-like grey matter of my kids.

Today has been a better experience for them. They are beginning to understand how to respond to the types of questions. Hopefully this will continue for them and by the end of the week, they’ll be able to navigate through it without problems.

Then they’ll be back to just be disliking The Three R’s rather than the software that presents it to them.


It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year July 30, 2010

Posted by Joe in Homeschooling.
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A couple of years ago, Staples had a commercial for it’s “Back to School” push called It’s “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”. It’s considered a classic in our household. The dad is joyfully dancing around the store stocking up on school supplies as his kids trail along mournfully in his wake.

As funny as it is, the commercial is not really applicable to us. Sure the kids are forlorn over the passing of summer. But since we homeschool, the start of a new school year means extra work for Laura and me.

Laura does most of the schooling here at Blessed Acres Farms School. I help when I can.

This week I’ve been preparing the kids’ laptops. One needed to be completely repaved, starting with a fresh install of Windows. The other is still ok from last year’s use. In fact it still has the Rosetta Stone
software installed on it. That, along with the Weekly Reader program, was the extent of their use of a computer for school lessons last year.

This school year, we’re going to have the kids do a little more of their work on the computer. I’m installing some homeschool programs for science, history and language arts. They’ll also spend some time learn to touch type.

Hopefully this year will be less time intensive for Laura and I can post a video of her dancing around singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Public Performances November 16, 2009

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.

In the past few weeks, Benjamin and Rachel have both performed for their peers.  The Amazing Benjamin has put on a couple magic acts and Rachel has showcased her piano pieces.  Here are a few photos from the homeschool Presentation Day at the local bookstore/music venue and from our enrichment group’s Talent Show.


“And for my next trick…”


A few “volunteers from the studio audience” look on skeptically when Benjamin declares that he can make the rope pass through him.


Rachel played a nice version of Skip to My Lou after only a few months of lessons.


Rachel was the youngest and very first participant in the Talent Show this year.  It’s hard to go first!

We are very proud of them both!

School Year Wrap-Up May 19, 2009

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.

As the days get longer and warmer, children (and teachers) all over start getting antsy for the end of school.  Homeschoolers are no exception.  Each May we look forward to those events that signal that summer is rapidly approaching and mark the accomplishments of the term.  Last Tuesday was the last class day in our enrichment program, last night we had our art show, and today was Field Day.

From the Art Show


Rachel’s lovely watercolor frog.  She is a frog lover like her cousin Sarah Elizabeth.


Benjamin took Oil Painting this year.  This is one of our favorites.


A colorful still life Rachel cut out in her mixed media class.


This includes an interesting reflection and could be displayed this way or upside down.

From Field Day


I love the classic drag-your-partner, win-at-all-costs going on to the left of Benjamin.



Rachel was quite happy with this ribbon because 3 is her favorite number.


The “Pillowcase Race.”  I distracted him so Benjamin was slow getting out of the gate.


I only saw one child cheat and hold the ball on the spoon with his finger while running.


Lydia may have been too young to compete, but she didn’t miss out on the best part- Snow Cones!

It’s a Parade! November 26, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.

Unlike children, adults actually enjoy quiet “boring” moments when no one is talking.  I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose husband travels a lot so I get my fill of “quality time” with the children.  I was having one of those “I need a sanity break” moments today and I thought I had figured out a way to get one.

After a quick salad, I put the toddler down for a nap, strapped the 15 pound infant into his “frontpack,” and left the older children finishing their lunch.  I thought I would get a little exercise and have a few moments of solitude walking in our driveway without anyone making demands of me.  I put on some Chris Rice music and headed out the door to be alone (okay, at least with only the infant, but that’s something).  It was not to be.

Our driveway is a hair under 1/4 mile long from end to end with the house being at the crest of a slight hill.  The driveway is paved which makes it great for walking, bike riding, etc.  I headed out on foot to try and work off some baby weight.  I had hardly made it to the toolshed before two dogs joined me.  They jostled me and each other trying to get their heads up under my hands to be petted.  After acknowledging them both with pats and compliments I continued on.  Another 100 feet and two cats came barreling past me, quickly throwing themselves onto the pavement immediately in front of me and rolling onto their backs to have their bellies scratched.  I obliged and continued on.  At about that point, I picked up a small herd of goats who paced me from their side of the fence giving me the rough side of their tongues for not bringing treats.  I spoke to them by name and made my apologies for the oversight.

I managed to make it to the mailbox without tripping over any cats who continued to do their speedbump impressions right in front of me (never have I met felines who accompany humans on walks, but this is frequent with them).  I herded the dogs away from the street and started back up the hill.  When I got to the barn, I picked up a flock of about 25 chickens.  They assumed that my general heading toward the henhouse meant they would get fed again and they swirled about my ankles as I walked.  As I neared the house, the bovine bellowing began and the cows picked up the pacing where the goats ran out of fence.  Just to make the picture complete, both Benjamin and Rachel were on the porch waving me down when I reached the house.

So goes the life of a homeschooling, farming woman.  It’s certainly never lonely.

4-H Speeches November 13, 2008

Posted by Laura in 4-H, Family, Homeschooling.

Public speaking is listed as one the greatest fears people have.  Though Joe is an old pro at it with all the conferences he does and courses he teaches, public speaking is also one of the hardest skills to master.  It is no simple feat to give a well-organized, informative presentation in a confident and effective manner.  It can take years to become comfortable speaking before your peers, or worse yet, your superiors.  For that reason, we feel that it will be more easily accomplished if our children get an early start.  That’s not to say that we are pushing them into careers that will require it.  It’s just that we would like them to be well-rounded and prepared for whatever God calls them to do.  Here they are giving speeches to their peers and the parents.


Fourth graders all have to speak on the topic My Family.  Benjamin had practiced and practiced until he hardly even needed to glance at his notecards.  He made a point of making eye contact with his audience.  (I apologize for the picture quality-  I was zoomed in pretty far from the back of the room.  The leader also promises to have his name spelled right by the next meeting).


Rachel spoke on a topic near and dear to her heart- cats.  She read several books and looked up information online so she could develop a speech that told about their needs and development, personalities, and appearance.  She felt very nervous but it didn’t show when she spoke.

Both children did a great job and we are proud of them.

High Wire Adventure October 30, 2008

Posted by Laura in 4-H, Family, Homeschooling.
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For the city folk out there, “4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills” (quote from the website).   All the groups I’ve known of have been in rural areas, but they may exist in urban areas too.  We joined last year as Clover Buds, but Benjamin has now moved up to the higher level.  It has been a great experience for us.

Our homeschool 4-H group had a super field trip on Thursday.  We all met out at a rock climbing wall/ high ropes course/ zip line built and maintained on a university experimental agriculture farm.  Joe was able to go with us and I think he had as much fun as the children.

Rachel preparing to climb the rock wall.

Off to a good start.

“Let me rest just a second…”

Benjamin scales the rock wall while another kid tackles the high ropes.

Joe nears the top.

Don’t worry grandparents, that sad look is because we didn’t let Lydia harness up.

Benjamin has made it to the top of the pole.

Now for the really scary part.

And there goes Joe…

All the way across and down the zipline.

What a great adventure!

HomesCOOL Day October 29, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.

Several times a year, the Adventure Science Center in Nashville (formerly the Cumberland Science Museum, but I am dating myself) offers special science learning programs for homeschoolers.  Wednesday we went for the first time.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Benjamin spied the new zero-gravity and Space area through the huge windows.  That had to be our first stop.

Waiting for weightlessness.



There were also some workstations that gave you a taste of what working in space would be like.  You had to keep your feet on the wheeled chair and try to operate the controls.  You quickly found out that without gravity’s pull (and the resistance your feet gave against the floor) you were the one moved, not the levers and things.

And of course, if big brother and sister could do it, Lydia had to also.

The first scheduled activity of the day was a visit to the new planetarium.  We took our reclined seats, but not for long.  The loud music and foreboding voice alarmed Lydia and Benjamin and I both became motion sick, so we tried (unsuccessfully) to exit quietly and go back out to the exhibits.

Lydia got in a little exercise climbing stairs

… and she put some miles on this ambulance racing to rescue scenes.

Benjamin had courses in Dinosaur Detectives and Pond Creatures.  Rachel got to assist in a Senses course, holding and displaying a snake skin and then she also had a Pond Creatures class.  In that one, the students learned to use microscopes and make their own wet-mount and well slides to observe tiny organisms in lake water.  They both had a good time.  I wish I could have gotten pictures of them doing those but we weren’t always in the same place and I was alternately chasing a napless toddler and nursing a newborn, occasionally both at the same time.

Before we left, we had to revisit an old favorite.  In this area, the children can use real wheelchairs on ramps, a small basketball court, concession stand, etc to see how challenging it could be to get around if you are handicapped.  It helps drive home the need for wheelchair-friendly public places and compassion for the disabled.

Just prior to a pick-up game of B-ball.

Tennessee History Festival October 17, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.
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Being about 45 minutes from a large city, the state capitol no less, offers us many opportunities for educational field trips.  Last weekend at the Bicentennial Mall in downtown Nashville, there was a Tennessee History Festival.  We got there right after it started and took a walk through history.

Along one side of the mall area, there are markers that tell what was happening in the state during each era.  Here are some of our favorites.

This fellow was truly half Cherokee from the mountains of East Tennessee.  He told us many interesting things that we hadn’t learned in our other studies of Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears.

The blacksmiths gave the children lessons in shaping metal, how to know if the fire is hot enough, and how a bellows works.

We don’t have the faintest idea what this was about since the actors had gone to lunch (that’s a mannequin on a stuffed horse), but it sure looked cool.

Lydia kept running off and grinning over her shoulder while we were trying to listen to this man.  As a result, I didn’t catch much.  He was talking about the British and why the taxation wasn’t sitting well with the colonists, but I’m not sure exactly who he was supposed to be or how involved Tennessee was.  We all thought is was pretty neat that he had a cup made of a horn that he kept around his neck on a string.

This scene fascinated Benjamin.  Periodically, these British soldiers would fire those huge guns and boy, did they get attention!  They were loud!

The Confederate Army was resting beneath a tree just prior to their battle with the Union soldiers.

The Union Army met them on the battlefield.

There was plentiful gunfire as soldiers fell.  The middle-schoolers who were there on a field trip cheered every time one went down.  Joe asked us later who won this time.

I doubt there were any strollers on the sidelines in the original battles.

Of all the great things we saw that day, this one was still Benjamin’s favorite-  the park rangers were using these to patrol the area.  I guess the Segway falls into “Tennessee Present.”  🙂

Homeschool Presentation Day September 26, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.
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We are part of a marvelous homeschool group that gets together for plays, quiz show days, field trips, and so on.  Today was Presentation Day.  We met up at a local bookstore that graciously provides use of the stage, microphones, and lights it has for music events.  Students got the opportunity to present a project of their choice (or parent-teacher’s) before an audience of their peers.  There was a very vast array of topics today, from a demonstration of how to make a pin-hole camera to recitation of an entire long psalm to musical performances on various instruments.  All ages from Kindergarten through 12th grade participated.  Here are pictures of our children on stage.

Benjamin decided to play Amazing Grace in front of the assembled crowd of homeschooling mothers and students.  It’s really hard to volunteer to perform but he did well.

Rachel prepared a presentation on the life cycle of the butterfly.  A volunteer from the audience rushed the stage to hold her poster.

Lydia was pretty good and patient through most of the program, but Rachel went last and Lydia could wait for her chance no longer.

Homeschooling is working so well for our family, but it has a few downsides.  Not being in a large group setting, we have to intentionally plan times to practice being in front of peers.  We try to take every opportunity we have to work on public speaking skills, planning and organizing a project for presentation, firm deadlines set by other authority figures, and objective feedback from others.  We are fortunate to be able to participate in 4-H, scouts, our enrichment group, and this local Christian homeschool group to meet these needs.