Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wishing for a Whiteboard

I have wanted a whiteboard almost as long as we have been homeschooling.  I could never justify getting one because we used other items instead.  The girls have small whiteboards that we would use for lessons and we have a magnetic calendar that we hang on the wall.  Nevertheless, I wanted a whiteboard.  That great expanse of white, begging for words to fill its blank space, called out to me as I passed it in the school supply aisle.  Recently, I decided that I would get a white board to fill the drab beige space on our school wall.  It would go under the alphabet cards and above the magnetic calendar.  To my utter disappointment, the space at the store where my white board once waited patiently for me to claim it was vacant.  Hoping a store employee could locate it, I waited patiently as she scanned the shelf tag.  Her news was beyond disappointing: they were out of stock and would not be in for 2 weeks.  I drug myself to the next aisle, hoping it wsa just a bad dream.  As I looked up, I quickly forgot about the whiteboard because what I saw was breath-taking.  Before me was a Crayola Dry Erase Poster.  It had colorful lines (also begging to be filled with words), was 17 x 24" big and cost half the price of my white board.  I quickly checked out and brought home my newest friend.  We have kept the poster busy with discussions around the poster, all of us taking turns writing on it.  The girls enjoy copying things from it, adding to it, and participating in group activities again.  My wish came true!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Attentiveness and April Fool's Day

When choosing the character quality to cover this week, I settled on attentiveness.  It didn't take more than a few minutes for me to realize the irony of teaching attentiveness during the week that ends with April Fool's Day. Today we copied Deuteronomy 12:28 and discussed what it means to observe and hear.  These go hand in hand with obedience.  If you are truly observing and hearing, you will naturally make right choices and be obedient.  We have a white board where we normally write the date and character quality.  The rest of the space is usually blank for discussions and notes throughout the day.  Last night I erased everything and wrote a letter to the girls. It said:
Dear family,
Today is Monday, March 28, 2011.  Our character quality this week is attentiveness.  I am excited about the audition today at the theater.  If we get our work finished early, we will go to the museum on the way to the theater.
It didn't take the girls long to realize that the homeschool board was different.  They were excited about the prospect of a special trip.  I warned them to be attentive this week because other surprises will be showing up.  I'm not sure what the surprises will be, but April Fool's Day will definitely be fun this year.

As usual, I referred to The Character Journal for Bible verses, songs, and more.  I also went to Character First! for more activities and ideas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Change

As with most parents, there are certain things we would prefer that our children learn sooner than later.  One of the skills we want our kids to learn young is being responsible with their money.  From the day our kids began getting an allowance (which we now call commission), they were taught how to spend it.  The first portion is for giving (or tithes), the second portion is save and the third portion is spend.  Our middle daughter always puts additional money into her save jar and spends the remainder sparingly.  Our youngest doesn't earn enough to be concerned with yet.  Our oldest always has a plan for spending her money.  Enter Dave Ramsey.  My husband and I recently attended Total Money Makeover Live to revive our passion for living like no one else.  While at the conference, we found a program for young people called Generation Change.  We brought it home to our daughter, not realizing the fire we would light.  After a week of watching the videos and completing the workbook, we had some amazing conversations with our daughter.  She decided that she wanted to invest her money rather than just spend it frivolously, even asking me to check several banks for the best interest rate.  She also signed up for a babysitting class at the community center so she can earn some money this summer.  Our house isn't just making a small change, our girls will be living like no one else.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Relay for Life Family Competition

Last April my grandmother found out she had cancer.  My girls and I packed up and headed to California at the end of May, intending to help my grandpa take care of my grandma and household tasks until she recovered.  Eight days after we arrived, she quietly passed away in the hospital.  This was not our first encounter with cancer, my husband's mother died of breast cancer when we were teens.  In honor of both of these wonderful ladies, our family is walking in the Relay for Life in June.  To make it fun, our family is having a contest amongst ourselves to see who can raise the most money.  The winner gets to choose dinners for a whole week AND not have to do chores for a whole week!  Please help us out by donating here.  This is our team page and the competition is among the Nourse sisters (and mom).  Better yet, join our team and walk with us!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Science, Bargains, and Flowers

My girls love science.  I love bargains.  We all love flowers.  How could these three be related?  Post-Valentine's Day science experiment!  We happened to be shopping the day after Valentine's Day and popped into a store that had their bouquets marked down 50%.  Having always wanted to try to color flowers with food coloring, we purchased a mostly-white arrangement.  Each of the girls chose two colors and two flowers for each color.  We placed the flowers in cups of water and food coloring.  The results were varied, but overall, we found that the blue was best-absorbed and the carnations absorbed better than the other flowers.  Several of our flowers showed color on one side but not the other.  We plan to try this again with fresher flowers and split the stems so one flower absorbs two colors.  For more tips and the chemistry behind this activity, take a look here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Lesson in Humility

Our family recently began formally studying character qualitiesas part of our homeschool day.  When looking for lessons, I had two main criteria:1. I wanted something that all of my children would benefit from
2. I wanted something that went beyond the basics and incorporated scripture.

I started with comprehensive lists of character qualities found at Character First and the Duggar Family's website.  I used these lists to create a list for our family. Here is the entry on our list for humility:
Humility vs. Pride
Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in
my life
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6
Generally, we begin a new quality on Wednesday.  Each child receives a worksheet and writes the quality at the top of the page.  On Wednesday, we talk about the word, the dictionary definition, its synonyms and antonyms, and the operational definition.  We go through the operational definition word by word, taking it down to simple terms.  Then each child tells me what it means to her.  Lastly, we discuss other character qualities that work with this quality.  On Thursday, we review the meaning of the word and relate it to the Bible.  We discuss several verses relating to the quality.  We then talk about a few key Bible figures who do and do not live this quality.  We also talk about how Jesus shows this quality in his life.  Over the weekend, I look for ways to remind the kids about the quality in every day life.  On Monday, we review what we learned the prior week and move on to the application.  We talk about how we can live out this quality as individuals and as a family.  This is the best part, because the kids make connections to their life choices.  On Tuesday, we again review what we learned over the past few days and the kids draw pictures of themselves displaying this quality.  We wrap up the quality by putting the worksheets in a book the kids are each creating. 
A few tips: I found it works well to begin the quality on Wednesdays for two reasons.  Wednesday is the day that we are most consistently home so I can expect to have a good chunk of time to allocate for this.  Also, it works well to be in the middle of a lesson on the weekend. The kids are still focused on what we are learning rather than in between lessons.  Rather than being a gap, the weekends have become an extension of our learning time.  Secondly, I naturally expect our older children to do more writing and thinking in these lessons that what I expect from our younger children.  As with anything, don't allow your children to burn out.  When I see that my younger ones have had enough, I help with the writing or change gears.  Thirdly,  with all of the language lessons built into these activities, you must count this time for language arts hours or you will be cheating yourself!
To study the character qualities, I pieced several things together for our family.  In addition to the lists I mentioned above, I found a good start at Home Life Ministries.  In their Character Journals, you will find a wealth of information including stories, Bible verses, and my favorite, a list of five "I Wills" for each quality.  We work those into each week. 
Do you have another great resource for character studies?  Please comment and share them here.