Substantive Education

August 25, 2011


Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 10:13 pm
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Wednesdays are now officially our Preschool and early elementary days.  If you have students who fall into this category see below for a description of the activities for our youngest members.

Marine Biology at Kelly’s Wednesday mornings from 9:00-10:00

This is an elementary school science class exploring the oceans and it’s creatures.  We will be working from the Apologia book Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day.    (There is an accompanying notebook put out by the publisher.  We will not be using the notebook in class, but if you wish to add it to your at home studies that is totally up to you.)  In our time together we will be using the book as a jumping off place to do more explorations on the sea.  There will be storybooks, experiments, art projects and field trips to ‘flesh out’ the lessons.  This book is written for an older elementary school reading level, however it can be used by students from 4 on up if their parents are willing to read the book to them.   With this in mind, younger students are welcome in the class, but parents will probably want to stay to help them with some of the work.  Also, children will get a lot out of the class, even if they do not have the book…this may be an option for some parents with younger children who just want the additional activity/exposure.  (The book is worth the investment though.)

Group Time at Kelly’s Wednesdays 10:00-11:30.

This time will focus on group interactions,  story time, finger plays, singing, art experience, science exploration, and mastering basics preschool/kindergarten skills. Parents are encouraged to stay and participate. The last 15-20 minutes of our time we will have a snack and some free play for the kids, while the Mom’s focus on the skills (homework if you will) to work on for the coming week.

Park Days – Wednesdays from Noon to 1:30ish.

It’s the park, ending times will be dictated by the kids moods more than likely. Picnic lunches are encouraged. This is an unstructured play time at the park, allowing the kids more time to interact and for the Mom’s to talk. Parents of elementary (or older) kids from Grace are also encouraged to come to Park Days. Some of our Park Days will have a theme…a water day, chalk day, jump rope etc. Note: In the event of rain, Park Day is canceled. If the weather is unusually cold (or worse, very windy) we will also cancel. I send texts, emails, and will post on Facebook a final decision.

Field Trips

There will be at least one monthly field trip, frequently more. In order to simplify scheduling, if the field trips are specifically for our youngest students I will try to schedule them on Wednesdays. For regular school field trips, we try to stick to Tuesdays. Obviously, some venues only have certain days available so we must work within those guidelines.

Some of the trips we are planning for this year include: SeaWorld, the Post Office, the Fire Station, Tide Pools, the Pumpkin Patch, Petco, Snow Day, LaHabra Children’s Museum, and Whale Watching. There will be many others, but that gives you an idea.

Parent Training

We have a mandatory monthly parent meeting. The first half of the meeting deals with details like signing up for field trips, scheduling school photos etc.

The second half of the meeting is dedicated to training about a specific area of homeschooling to assist parents in staying on track and implementing new ideas.

School Photos

These are generally taken the beginning of October. Students and parents are issued student body cards. The cards for students are free, parents are $2. The parents card qualifies them for Teacher Discounts at some stores…such as Joanne’s.


Each year Grace puts together a yearbook and our preschoolers will have a section featuring them.


During the course of the year we will have a World’s Fair where students make posters about a country of their choice, then we all get together and listen to them share. We are more than happy to have our youngest students participate, it’s great for them to get up front and speak, even if it is only a sentence or two about what they have learned.

Students are also encouraged to participate in Science Fair (and yes, homeschool students can move on with their public school counterparts to compete at the County and State levels.) While the preschoolers are too young to officially enter, I’d encourage parents to do a scaled back, fun version to get their kids thinking about finding out about the world in a new way. More on this later.


March 9, 2011

Homeschooling Jr. High

Vintage Levi (11, or 12 here) Playing Bass for Tried and True

When Steve and I were first married he was working as a youth pastor in Santa Barbara. At that time we came to the conclusion that working with Jr. High kids is a controlled riot. I love this age, the energy, the silliness, and the endless questioning. It’s a transitional period of life, that gap between childhood and teen. Some children breeze through adolescence, and for others it’s a difficult period of self doubt. Academically Jr. High presents a unique opportunity for you and your student.

In elementary school we are giving our children the basic building blocks of education; reading, writing, and arithmetic. We also expose them to basic science concepts and vocabulary, and begin to build an understanding of the flow of history. If we make this framework strong and solid our children have a good base upon which to build advanced knowledge and wisdom.

In high school our children’s studies become more focused and intense. If they have that solid foundation they will be able to move, rather painlessly, into these more focused studies. Students at this age are expected to be able to work independently through material, to read, absorb, and analyze new information. By high school we should be past the ‘hand-feeding’ stage where a teacher is needed at every step. New concepts may well need explanations, but students have come to ‘own’ their education.

So, what about Jr. High? Jr. High is a great opportunity to evaluate our child’s progress up to this point and to take 7th and 8th grade to fill in any gaps and to drill those skills that are going to be necessary in High School. Probably most of you know your child’s weak areas, but here are some thoughts on where you child should be.

Trudenwilk, the early years.

1. Reading. By Jr. High your child should be reading fluently and comprehending most of what they read. In elementary school it’s important to give your child adequate practice at ‘easy’ reading so that they develop fluency, but in Jr. High it’s time to challenge them. Think of the reading they will be doing in high school…Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Fitzgerald…you don’t want them to have to jump from easy reading straight into these authors. In Jr. High they should be easing their way into the classics, reading challenging works that cause them to think critically and learn new vocabulary. I don’t mean you should overwhelm them, but a little struggle now will pay off later. If your child is still having trouble with the basics of reading, it’s time to have them assessed and maybe do an intensive phonics review.

2. Spelling. By Jr. High your child should be spelling most words correctly, if they are not it is time for some review. Many times I find that students this age, who are consistently making spelling errors, are just being lazy. You will have to determine if this is the case with your child. If they are just being lazy you need to crack down. My suggestion would be if a paper or paragraph they have written for you has multiple spelling errors (and you know (more…)

March 5, 2011

We should be less concerned with the answers they know, and more concerned about the questions they ask.

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling,Parenting,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 10:25 pm
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Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Phillipians 4:8

My greatest fear when we began this homeschooling journey was not that the boys wouldn’t get into college, or even that I would miss some crucial bit of information, (that was inevitable); it was that when they finished high school, they would breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m done.”

Over the years I’d met many frustrated and discontented 20 somethings who felt that completing high school meant they knew all they needed to know. Post high school, many of these kids never read another book, and what passed as intellectual stimulation came in the form of reality TV and video games. In talking with these young adults, it became evident that their world was very small and self centered. Frequently they were struggling with issues of identity and worth, but didn’t know why.  The lessons they had internalized were that school is a waste, reading is a chore,  teachers are uncaring, and history is irrelevant…the school system had failed them and it was not just their education that suffered.

When our minds and spirits are starved of good healthy ‘food’ we don’t function as we were meant to, our growth is stunted and every area of our life suffers. This is not what any of us want, we want our children to live the full life that God created them for. We want them to enjoy life, to excel in what they do, to find satisfaction in relationships, and to contribute to their communities. When we make homeschooling and parenting decisions we need to keep these goals in mind. Proficiency at math and reading are a start, but we also want children who are prepared to take on all the challenges of the next stage of life.

What do you want for your children? How can you help them get there? Philippians 4:8 gives us a beginning point. This verse points out that whatever is true, right, beautiful is about God, and it would benefit us to dwell on these things. As I consider this verse I am struck by how inclusive it is…all that is beautiful is worth studying, not just that which makes a profit. All that is just, true and right should be our focus…not only that which is expedient or has an immediate application.  By providing a ‘diet’ for their minds and spirits of the beautiful, the just, the excellent, we give our children a strong foundation, a good beginning…and instill the desire to continue learning and experiencing all that God has for them.

Caleb during his semester abroad studying literature in the UK

For me, I wanted my children to love art, and to play music. I wanted them to be in awe of the beauty in nature. I wanted them to be curious about past civilizations and engaged with current events. I wanted them to experience other cultures and to appreciate that diversity. I wanted them to have an education that was rich and full, an education that encouraged curiosity and critical thinking. I was less concerned about the answers they knew and more concerned about the questions they asked.

Approaching education this way is both exciting and uncomfortable. It’s exciting because it’s alive; changing us and challenging us. It’s uncomfortable because very little of it is going to come through on some standardized test. It’s hard to measure the ‘educational’ benefits of art, or where enjoyment of a nature walk fits into a science scope and sequence. How does reading a great work of fiction that brings us to both tears and laughter, translate into a grade?

As homeschoolers we have been freed. We are not enslaved to the almighty ‘standardized test’ we do not have to view education in a dry, compartmentalized way. We can focus on the whole child: mind, body, and spirit…and feed them all. What a wonderful opportunity, be sure you don’t waste it.

November 2, 2010

Life is Hard and then….

“Life is hard, and then you die.”

Many of you will recognize the above quote as one I use frequently.  It’s really not that I’m a pessimist, it’s more that I’ve come to the conclusion that the sooner you embrace that thought, really take it to heart, the easier life is.  Life is hard…( wonderful, exciting, challenging)…but hard.  If you live for any length of time… people you know will die, jobs will be lost, illnesses will occur, hearts will be broken and dreams damaged. People are messy (both emotionally and in the kitchen).

Denying this reality, to ourselves or to our children, doesn’t create happiness and contentment.  In fact, it frequently creates the opposite.  When we teach our children to expect life to be easy they can feel extremely disappointed and put upon when it is not.  If we lead them to expect that they should always be entertained, happy, and healthy we are setting them up to become demanding little monsters (lovable monsters but…) I certainly don’t mean to imply that we should teach our children negativity, but that we should teach them that life is full of hard parts…and while we can’t control that, we can control our attitudes.

It would benefit each of us to remember that life is not meant to be a smooth road.  It is the detours and bumps that stretch and grow us up.  It is the persevering and doing what is difficult, day in and day out, that builds character.  It is modeling all of this with a cheerful heart that gives our children an example to follow.

We have all seen our children struggle with a subject and start down their own self-defeating path.  “It’s too hard.”  “Other kids don’t struggle with this.”  “I’ll do it tomorrow.”  “I’ll never understand it.”   They can get themselves so worked up that they waste an hour doing nothing but feeling sorry for themselves. In that time they could have finished the assignment four times over.  The fact that the lesson was hard, made them feel they should be allowed to just give up.  It’s at these times I would look over at  my sons and say.”Life is hard, then you die.”  They would laugh, they knew I didn’t mean all of life is hard, but that hard is part of life, and the more challenges we take on, the more we accomplish, the more we are going to bump up against hard parts. (more…)

September 4, 2010

Charter Schools versus Homeschooling

This has actually been a difficult article for me to write and one I have put off repeatedly. I was asked again today about Charter Schools and I decided it was time I address the issue.

First,and most importantly, I fervently believe parents should be able to determine how best to educate their children. We, (not the government) will answer to God for the choices that we make regarding our kids, and therefore we should be free to make the one that best fits our family, convictions, and beliefs. That choice can legitimately be public, private, charter or homeschool. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options, and it’s up to you to decide where your family fits. In this article I am not looking to argue for one over the other, or to make anyone uncomfortable, but to address my concerns regarding the confusion between homeschooling and Charter Schools.

The survival of the homeschooling movement, from a legal perspective, may come from making a clear distinction between homeschooling and Charter Schools. Choosing to use a Charter is a viable alternative, it is not homeschooling. This line is becoming very blurred, and I believe this is intentional. It is one way to reclaim lost revenue and undermine the homeschooling system that has developed over the past 20 years, and to regulate and control what is taught in our homes. If we do not recognize the dangers, our children may not be free to homeschool with the same freedoms that we now enjoy. (more…)

April 6, 2010

March 15, 2010

Red Cabbage as Litmus Paper

Red cabbage is a wonderful vegetable, and not just for coleslaw.  It can also be used as an indicator in science experiments.  Currently I’m teaching a high school Chemistry class and the module we looked at today dealt with with acids and bases.  We discussed the intricacies of hydrogen gaining or losing an ion and why that produces a base, along with …well, that doesn’t matter here.

Back to the wonders of the cabbage.Most experiments involving acids and bases require you to purchase litmus paper.  Litmus paper is an ‘indicator’ and changes color when it is exposed to an acid or base.  Anyone with a pool is probably familiar with the concept.  I didn’t have any litmus paper, and seeing as how we live in the country and a trip to a school supply store is a bit of a drive, I frequently use my good friend, the red cabbage.  Here is how to use your cabbage as an indicator in your science experiment.

Chop up a section and put it into a saucepan on the stove.  Allow the cabbage to come to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes.  You now have an indicator.  Using a ladle, scoop some of the liquid (avoiding the actual cabbage) into clear glasses or jars.  You only need a little.  You are ready to test away.

This is the color of the plain cabbage juice, our indicator

We added lemon juice to the glass on the left, the glass to right has nothing added.

The glass on the left after lemon juice was added.

Collect a variety of household items and chemicals and add a few drop to your glass.  If the indicator turns red  you have added an acid, if your indicator turns green you have a base.  We tested lemon juice, ammonia, lime away, windex, coke, and saliva.  Obviously no change in color indicates a neutral substance.   Once kids get the concept they start wanting to test everything…hence the saliva…which turned out to be neuteral.

The center glass has just had amonia added.

The center glass has just had ammonia added.

Coincidently, I just covered similar material, at an easier level,  with my elementary school science class and they loved the mixing and dramatic color changes…enough that several students went home and asked their moms to buy some cabbage so they could continue to explore.  What more could a teacher ask for?

March 12, 2010

Time to Regroup

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 6:59 am

Like a lovely wedding homeschooling benefits from a good dose of planning (Especially true if you have several children.) and a good dose of flexibility.  Taking some time to plot your course will provide focus and avert many crisis as the year goes along.  Realizing just that come August and September we get busy…often planning an overly optimistic course of action.

Then…that’s it.  That is our planning.  The problem is, it’s not enough.  By midyear, we’ve lost our focus and may be beset by guilt about all we haven’t accomplished.  We have a vague sense of not being where we should be.

In a book I recently read, the author took 1/2 day per week to evaluate and plan her homeschooling schedule.  Now that is a bit much for me, but the basic idea is a good one.  When I had all the boys at home I would spend the time they were at their piano lessons to chart out the next week and make sure we are working toward our goals.  It gave me a chance to adjust our goals if they were overly or under ambitious.  That little investment of time payed big dividends in terms of my peace of mind and ended up saving me time during the week.

The point is not how much time you spend planning, or whether you plan weekly or monthly, but that you take some time out occasionally to regroup.  Sometimes we get so busy ‘doing’ that we feel that taking the time to refocus is wasting valuable time, especially when there is so much to get done.  The truth is, a little time off now and then you will save you time in the long run.

Our state (public) schools have regular ‘in service’ days where teachers come to school on days the students are not there in order to catch up, organize, and regroup.  It is a great idea for homeschool teachers as well.  Plan 5 or 6 ‘in-service’ days throughout your school year.  Perhaps you and another mom could trade children for a day so that you can really focus.  I’d suggest you get out of the house as well.  I found that when I was at home without the kids all of the little chores I hadn’t been able to get to kept calling my name.  Working at the library or a Starbucks made it easier to really concentrate. I could catch up on correcting all their school work, getting my calendar in order and evaluating how our curriculum choices were working out.

Other times, the most productive use of an ‘in-service’ day was to stay home and clean out the school cupboard, reorganize the bookshelves, and straighten up my desk.  My kids kept all of their school stuff in a ‘school box’ and just like any other area that gets regular use…it’s needs a de-cluttering on a regular basis.  On these days I’d inventory my stock of paper, markers, science and art supplies etc., so that I could purchase what we would be needing while I was out.

With all the roles we juggle as moms, we need the occasional catch-up day.  Even if it means the kids miss a few days of school, it will pay of in renewed energy and focus in the weeks that follow.  As a last point, realize that all the planning in the world can’t bring total order to your life.  There will always be unexpected emergencies or bad days.  Be flexible and adjust, confident that tomorrow or next week, you can get back on track.

March 10, 2010

The importance of becoming part of a community.

Filed under: Homeschooling,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 8:06 pm
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I thought I’d post this as it’s a good reminder to all of us why it is important to be a part of a community.  I wrote this for our school group at the beginning of the school year, but the concepts apply to so many areas of life.  If you are a homeschooler with several young children it is easy to become isolated, or to feel your challenges are unique.  Having significant supportive friends is key, to your success and your children’s happiness.  This is also true for parenting in general.  What a blessing to be walking the road of parenting with others who share our concerns and joys.  Our life within the church is another area where community is key.  So, with that said, here is last Sept. article.

September 2009 Newsletter…

When Grace Prep school was started we hoped to provide a supportive network of homeschooling parents, a group of friends for our kids to interact with, and expanded learning opportunities through field trips and group classes.

I’m hoping that is why you joined the group…for more than just record keeping services.  If you also want these things, want to be a part of a supportive, encouraging group, then just joining is not enough.  To be encouraged and supported people have to get to know you.  To be a support and an encourager of other, you need to get to know them.  For our children to form bonds, they need fairly regular contact.

I’ve watched some famlies come and go through our ranks who handed in their paperwork, sat in the back of the meetings, didn’t talk to anyone and didn’t attend any activities and then quit because they didn’t feel a part of the group.  Signing a registration slip doesn’t start relationships.

To get the most of what the school has to offer you have to jump in with both feet.  Don’t wait for someone to talk to you on a field trip or at a parent meeting…start a conversation.  It’s not hard.  We all have kids, we are all homeschooling, we are all looking for books and curriculum.  Ask about their kids, ask what books the are using, ask if the kids were potty trained at two or if their thirteen year old does his chores without complaining.  I’d wager most of us are more than willing to talk.  The problem may be getting us to stop talking.  🙂

If you have younger children you probably won’t have trouble getting friendships started.  Young kids tend to incorporate whoever is nearby.  It may be helpful to invite a child or two over to play so that some connections get a boost.  I’d encourage you to take some proactive steps to get your child comfortable and involved with the group.

We all know that Jr. High and High School kids can be more of a challenge.  Kids are more insecure and self-conscious at these ages.  They tend to gravitate toward kids they already know because they are more comfortable.  They often don’t intend to exclude anyone, it just happens.  (And lest we become too critical, lets remember that as adults we tend to do the same thing.  We only have a brief time at teachers meetings so we catch up with all our friends without taking time to introduce ourselves to an unfamiliar face.)

There is no way to get around the fact that it takes a little more time to ease teens into a new group.  Again, I encourage you to be proactive.  Talk to other parents with teens and see if you can find one or two that have interests in common with your child.  See if you can establish some connections.  Participating in co-op classes, coming to park day, or starting a chess or bunko group can provide non-threatening times for kids to get to know each other.  Take advantage of every opportunity that you can.

Grace Prep. is made up of a great group of people with a lot to offer.  The only way to experience the benefits all our members have to offer is to make the effort to get to know people, and to let them get to know you.  I want each of you to have a great homeschooling year.  Having support and encouragement along the way is critical.  GET INVOLVED!!!

March 6, 2010

Field Trips

I can’t really emphasize enough what a critical role field trips have played in my sons education. I know sometimes it can seem that the effort outweighs the benefits. Field trips take time away from your regular schoolwork, they add an additional cost, and they often feel inconvenient as we struggle to fit all we need to do into our week. Believe me, I get all of that. However, I believe the benefits far outweigh the ‘costs’.

You are all familiar with the ‘law of the farm’. It’s a concept that is very important in education. Basically, the idea is that, as a farmer you can’t wait until it’s time to harvest to plant your crop. You need to consistently be doing the daily chores if you hope to have a bountiful harvest at the end.

Field trips are like that. Each individual one is not going to be a life changing experience, however, 12 years of getting out of the house and into museums, nature centers, parks, symphonies, plays and all the rest add up to an enrichment of your child’s life that cannot be gained in any other way.

As my kids are coming to the end of their homeschooling days I can more clearly see the benefit of all the time, energy and money we spent going on various day trips. One of my sons, in his college entrance exam, used examples of all the places he had been on field trips to demonstrate how, as a homeschooler, he had received a rich education. It was interesting to me, the trips that he highlighted. I’d had no idea they had made an impact.

Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.

A natural outgrowth of their homeschool days has been the choices they have made since leaving home. Decisions to study abroad, try new things, meet new people…it’s all part of the whole. Education is so much more than books and paper. Our children, to become life long learners, must be interested in what is beyond them, they must know that they don’t know, be intrigued by new ideas, new places, new people.

Field trips, even the simple trip to the library, plays an integral part in expanding our children’s horizons, their enjoyment of life and their ability to take delight in the familiar, as well as the exotic. I’m personally thrilled to see that my boys, now men, still enjoy a walk through the hills, a trip to pick apples, or listening to a book being read aloud. As a mom, there is comfort in knowing that as they finished high school they didn’t just have a solid academic foundation, but also the skills to enjoy living.

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