Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things Learned from the Garden

It's always amazing to me how much havoc the winter brings on my lovely garden beds. OK, so maybe it's not completely Old Man Winter's fault, so much as the fact that I just don't want to get out in my garden when it's cold and wet and dreary. So generally, my garden gets completely neglected during the few cold months we have here in the South. But, with the first signs of spring making their way to my house, I have made my way out of doors to begin piecing together what is left of my garden after all the leaves and ice and weeds have had their fun.

It certainly helps having raised beds for gardening, because I am not nearly as limited in my time. I don't have to wait for the ground to dry out before tilling. And I don't have to wait for the first free weekend my husband has to pull out said tiller and actually do the work for me. But even with raised beds, weeds have a way of finding themselves smack dab in the middle of my garden, putting down deep roots and making themselves at home.

So before taking the shovel to my dirt to turn it under and loosen it up, I set to work pulling out all those weeds that were multiplying in my garden. I got down on my hands and knees and yanked out each one. I have learned that, if you leave even a little of the root, it will find whatever strength it has left and will come back even stronger. The only way to get rid of a weed is to pull it out by the roots.

Weeds start out small, sometimes even inconspicuous. They put down their small roots and begin to grow. If you leave them for any length of time, their roots become strong and run deep. Some of these weeds produce some of the most beautiful flowers, making you think they might just belong right where they are. After all, they aren't hurting anything, and they are even pleasing to look at. But before you know it, that one small, inconspicuous weed will turn to many, and they can and will take over your entire garden, sucking all the good, vital nutrients from the soil that your healthy plants so desperately need.

Weeds are just like sin. Most start out very small, sometimes even inconspicuous. But if we allow it to put down roots in our lives, it will begin to grow and multiply. Often, our sins look very lovely. Otherwise, why would we do them? And every time we allow it control in our lives, the roots of those sins grow stronger and deeper. They begin to take over every part of us, sucking out all the good, and leaving us with little else to offer The Master.

Just like all those weeds have got to be pulled out of my garden, the sin in our lives has to be yanked out to make room for all the good that He has for us. We need the Master Gardener to go through our hearts and get rid of anything not producing good fruit of Him. And He doesn't just pull from the top. He reaches WAY DOWN and yanks out those sins by the roots!

Do you have some "weeds" that need to be pulled? Are they so small you hardly notice them, or have they multiplied so that there is no more room for any other good things? Are you ready to produce something good for Almighty God? Then get ready to be yanked on, because, in order to serve Him, there can be nothing else in the soil of your life standing in His way. You cannot be effective for Christ when you still have "little weeds" in your life. Are you ready to be yanked?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Schoolhouse EXPO Coming Soon!!

Things are gearing up getting ready for the upcoming Schoolhouse Expo, and I just wanted to take a moment to remind you of all the excitement in store for you!

About 2 weeks ago, the Schoolhouse Expo hosted its first pre-show. I had a previous commitment, so I was unable to attend the pre-show, but I have heard there were some pretty amazing speakers there. And to think, that was only the pre-show!!

Well, you and I are in luck, because there will be another pre-show coming up on Tuesday, April 12! YAY! Since the Expo is still a few months away, this is just a little teaser to wet your appetite.

The Expo, including the pre-shows, are packed full of great information on homeschooling, learning styles of different kids, handling stress as a mom and homeschool teacher, working a home business, balancing school and family life, and so much more! You will be encouraged and inspired as a homeschool mom to keep going in your journey, and you will glean new ideas from seasoned homeschool families to help you along the way.

You can purchase a ticket to the Schoolhouse Expo for just $39, and it comes with a TON of FREE GIFTS! And who doesn't like FREE?? And if you hurry and get your ticket to the Expo, you'll be able to check out the next pre-show on April 12! You are really going to enjoy these shows, and the best part is, you can enjoy them in your PAJAMAS!! Since it is an online conference, nobody will care if you look good or if you bring your cup of coffee in with you. Listen to as much or as little as you are able. And don't worry if you miss your favorite speaker, because your purchased ticket includes the free MP3 version that you can download to listen to again and again. The MP3 version will be available a few weeks after the Expo. So you really have nothing to lose here!

I for one will have my calendar marked for the 12th of April, because I don't want to miss the next Expo pre-show! I hope you will all be able to join me!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Road Not Taken - by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;       
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,       
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.       
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Simple Act of Kindness

This year in our homeschool co-op, I have been teaching an American Girls class to 3rd and 4th graders, and another AG class for 5th and 6th graders. Right now, we are reading about the American Girl, Rebecca. She is a young Jewish girl growing up in New York City in the early 1900's. Today, we read about how she and her two sisters were making doilies and other linens for their trousseau, a wedding chest.

So I decided that, for today's class, we would try our hands at crochet, just like Rebecca did. My first class went very well. I had only five girls. One of those girls was Britches, and she already knows how to crochet and was actually helping me teach the other girls. Also, I had a sweet adult visitor, Ann, in my class who, years ago, had done quite a bit of crochet. So, between the three of us who knew how to crochet, we were quite able to help the other four girls learn how to make a few basic stitches and even make a crochet daisy.

BUT, my second hour class was a different story. In that class, I have two helpers, but one is tied up most of the time with her little baby. So I only had one helper who was able to assist in teaching crochet, and she didn't even know how to make a single stitch!! Plus, I had NINE girls, all 3rd and 4th graders, in that class, and they usually take a little more time learning how to do something simply because of their age and ability.

I warned the girls ahead of time that I had a project that would be a little challenging, but I knew they could do it. After passing out crochet needles and letting the girls pick their favorite color of yarn, I did my best to teach the two basic stitches - a slip knot and a chain stitch. Sounds easy, right? Not even close!

Out of those nine girls, I had two that had been shown how to crochet by their grandmothers, so they had at least a basic understanding of what I was trying to teach. But the other seven girls had problems from the get-go. I spent the entire class time making my way around the table giving each girl some individual attention and trying to help them understand how to make those two basic stitches. Most of the girls finally understood, and they had a nice, long chain going by the time class was over. But one sweet little girl was having so much trouble and she was completely frustrated.

By the end of the class time, this little girl still could not understand how to even get started, and she was so upset, she was in tears - literally! I do NOT do tears, and I felt terrible that this sweet girl was so upset. She is one of the youngest girls in that class, a 3rd grader, and she often needs a little extra help, but she has never started crying!

There was, however, another sweet girl in that class. Her name is Jennifer. Jennifer is one of the girls who had already been shown how to crochet from her grandmother. Once I showed her how to do the stitches, she quickly remembered and picked it up very easily. She had a long chain going. When Jennifer saw this girl crying, and when she realized it was because she just couldn't understand how to get her chain started, Jennifer told her, "Don't worry about it. I'll show you how at lunch." I hugged the teary-eyed girl and told her, "See, Jennifer is going to help you again at lunch. With a little practice, you'll get the hang of it." That made her feel MUCH better, and she left the class in a little bit better mood.

I told Jennifer before she left that I thought that was a very sweet thing she had told the girl, offering to help her at lunch. Jennifer told me, "Yeah, it's not really that hard. You just have to understand how to get it started. I'll show her."

Well, to be perfectly honest, Jennifer is a young girl, and I really figured that she would forget all about it by lunchtime. But as I sat on my picnic blanket fixing lunches for all my kiddos, Jennifer came up to me and said, "Hey Ms. Nicole, don't worry about her anymore. I showed her how to crochet and she's got it now." WOW! I was so proud of Jennifer for going out of her way to help someone else. She didn't have to do that, but she took part of her lunch to go and help someone else, someone younger than her, someone who was upset.

I thought about Jennifer and her kindness toward this sweet girl all day today. She really did make my day by watching her care for someone else! And I just wanted to brag on her a bit, so that everyone else would know about what she did.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kite Capers

Lately in the great state of Louisiana, we have had some very blustery days. It's that time of year. So what better way to spend some great blustery days than to learn about kites and go fly them?! So, for the last few weeks, the kids and I have been using the Download N Go unit, Kite Capers, and having just all kinds of fun!

When I told the kids we were going to do this unit, they were really excited! But, we decided, for a change of pace, instead of doing the lapbook along with the unit, we would simply do the unit study alone. So I didn't print out any of the lapbooking templates this time. But if you wanted to do the lapbook with the study, you would have some great options for your lapbook making. 

There are pages for all ages included in this unit study, and everything was really engaging! For starters, we watched the really great video links that were included in each days lesson. I had no idea how many different kinds of kites there were, nor did I realize there were so many kite festivals! Britches and Little Man really enjoyed watching all of those!

The days of this unit were laid out great. They were:
Day 1: What Is a Kite?
Day 2: The History of Kites
Day 3: Kite People and Places
Day 4: Science Secrets of Kites
Day 5: Goodies and Gadgets of Kites

I went to our library and checked out a HUGE stack of kite books and books that taught how to build a kite. The librarian looked at me pretty funny as she was check out my books. Thankfully, they know we homeschool, so she at least understood why I had them! 

Each day, Britches and Little Man looked at the links provided in the unit, read books, and watched videos about how kites are built, and each day they spent time designing and building their own personal kites. Check out some of their designs.

The first kite Britches made was a box kite. Since we had read a book from the library that was set in China, and since kites originated in China, she decided to make some Chinese symbols on the sides of her box kite. Granted, we don't know any Chinese symbols, so I'm fairly certain these don't stand for anything. But she had already put them on her kite when I realized what she was doing, so we weren't able to go look online for anything that really meant something. Of course, since you probably don't know Chinese, either, you probably never would have noticed if I hadn't told you. So there you go.

Little Man decided to take a different approach for his first kite. He loved watching the video of the man flying about 10 kites all connected, so he designed his after those kites. He got his ruler and pencil, and he drew out and painted several diamond kites. After they had dried, he cut them out and put a string through all of them so they would be connected. And he even took small dowel rods and glued them on the backs for the frame.

Little Sister wanted in on the fun, of course, because the two older ones were painting! So she painted a picture of a kite.

And Baby Girl just wanted to have her picture made. She saw everyone else getting camera attention, and she needed some, too.

We learned in the DNG unit that Alexander Graham Bell was known, not only for his telephone invention, but also for his KITE! So we tried our hands at making a model of Bell's kite. I thought I took a picture of the finished product, but apparently I neglected to do so. And when Britches took hers outside the other day to try it out, the wind destroyed it. So obviously, it was not the strongest kite ever. Of course, we did make them with straws, which is what the instructions said to do, but, since I couldn't find regular straight straws at the store, we had to settle for bendy straws. Let me tell you, when the wind hits those, they just bend right away. Bottom line: if you want to build a kite, don't use bendy straws, and be sure to take a picture of it BEFORE you head outside!

On one of the days, we studies the weather. You really need to know about the wind if you plan to fly a kite. I had no idea that there was actually a scale that people used to judge the wind speed. So, after we checked out the link and learned all about this wind scale, I had the kids design their own version of the same scale to keep in their notebooks. Each of their scales has the classifying number, the miles per hour for that number, and a picture of what the wind would look like at that speed. I told them I expected at least those three things. But Little Man went a little beyond what I asked and drew a few extra pictures.

There were so many more things that we did that I just don't have time to tell you. BUT, you should go check out this great Download N Go unit for yourself. Go grab yourself a copy and have some fun with your own kids making some great kites and learning all about them. Be sure to check out the fun that other homeschoolers had with this unit, too!

~I was given a copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Albert Einstein!!

Albert Einstein, a German born physicist and one of the greatest men to ever live on this planet, was born on this day back in the year 1879. Personally, I can't see why in the world this man's birthday is not on our calendar as a day to be celebrated, because he is, after all, one of the leading scientists of our time, and he discovered the theory of relativity - E=mc2. So in light of the fact that the "powers that be" have neglected to recognize this most amazing man, I shall hold my own celebration of one of the greatest minds to ever live!

To honor the occasion, here are a few quotes from Albert, himself.

~A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.

~A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. (So very true, and something I always try to remember!)

 ~A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? (I have OFTEN asked myself that question!)

  ~An empty stomach is not a good political adviser. 

~Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. 

~Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. (I think my husband needs to keep this in mind!)

~Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. 

 ~As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. 

~Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
~Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. (I am getting more of an education now by homeschooling my children than I EVER received during my formal schooling!)

~Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions. 

~God does not play dice.

~Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. 

~I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.

~It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. (This is so true in a society where formal education requires a child to conform to the ideals of a teacher and a government who would like to dictate a child's thoughts and actions.)

When asked once of his belief in God, he quickly said, 

" You may call me an agnostic... I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."

There are so many things that this amazing man accomplished in his lifetime, there is no way to write about all of them. So go grab yourself a piece of birthday cake, put on some violin music, and go read all about Albert Einstein with your kids! This is a birthday worth celebrating!!

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess