Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Notgrass Company

The Notgrass Company is the home school ministry and curriculum offered by Ray and Charlene Notgrass and family.  I have been reading their articles for years and have appreciated their strong Christian worldview and heart of ministry to the home school community. Their specialty is history and government for middle school and high school, but these courses include Bible and literature as well. 
  They also offer an economics course and more. Check out their website and materials at the link above and you can request a catalog. 

Exploring World History is a one-year high school course that teaches students to understand history from the perspective of faith in God and respect for His Word. In addition to reading the history narrative about events, issues, and people from around the world and across the centuries, students read the words of people who made history in original documents, speeches, poems, and stories. They also read classic literature that helps bring to life the time periods they are studying. A variety of writing assignments and hands-on project ideas help students engage in what they are learning. The updated 2014 edition features hundreds of color illustrations and photographs. In addition to a thorough survey of Western Civilization, it offers expanded coverage of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

One thing that sets this curriculum apart for the high school option is that world history is covered in one year. Many popular curriculum options spend several years/volumes getting through world history. And while I love some of those materials, sometimes there just isn’t enough time left to spend doing that. Since my dd is doing “10th grade” this year, I am very interested in this one year World History course. I started doing the math and realized that if I take another 3 years to finish world history, we won’t get to the other subjects that are important to me.

Another element that caught my attention is that this course is actually 3 courses in 1. It contains a complete book list (which happens to contain many books I already have listed on my must read list) along with literary analysis and writing assignments. I struggle to find worthy writing assignments, and after looking through this book, I appreciated the assignments in this curriculum. A lot. And by having the reading list incorporated into the curriculum, I believe we will have more accountability for completing the reading. I like that too.  (Note: They include one title in particular (The Giver) that I would skip and supplement something different.)  If you keep track of things like “credits”, this course is worth 3 credits… history, literature and Bible. That’s because the third component to the course is a Bible study.

I also like the fact that I can follow up this world history course with their American history course (also covered in one year… and also has an excellent book list and literary analysis and Bible component), followed finally by government and economics which are one semester courses.

Finally, something that I really appreciate about this course, is that it was just updated in 2014, so it addresses world and American history up through our current administration. So much has happened in the last 6 years, both at home and abroad, that I like the fact that current events will be addressed in our curriculum from a Christian worldview.    

The one pause is that it’s a bit pricey at first glance - $99.00. But when you see that it is two beautiful volumes, as well as a few other supplemental books of original writings, student book and answer keys, includes built in literature guides, and the content is so full that it is really 3 subjects in 1, the cost is quite justifiable.
So to summarize, I have been very pleased with our decision to use this course this year because it covers world history in one year, it is actually more than one course, it incorporates a book list that I like, it has writing assignments and literature guides that I think are worthy, it contains a lot of Bible and Christian worldview, and it is up to date politically and historically.  Cathy Duffy offers her review here .

 Quick mention... they also offer resources for middle school that look great as well.

Children are Dogs, Teenagers are Cats

   I won't say much about this post.  If you have or have had a teen, you will "get it".  If you don't get it yet, you will. : )

   So, for all those moms who are grieving the loss of their "dog", start enjoying your "cat".

Children are Dogs, Teenagers are Cats
  By Unknown

“I just realized that while children are dogs—loyal and affectionate—teenagers are cats.
It’s so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around.  It puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.
Then, around age 13, your adoring puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.
Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears. You won’t see it again until it gets hungry…then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn up its nose at whatever you’re serving, swishing its tail and giving you an aggrieved look until you break out the tuna again.
When you reach out to ruffle its head in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare as if it is trying to remember where it has seen you before.
You, not realizing your dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. It won’t go on family outings. Since you’re the one who raised it, taught it to fetch, stay and sit on command, you assume you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.
Only now you’re dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now has the opposite result. Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.
Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you must learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door and let it come to you. But remember that a cat needs your help and affection too. Sit still and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.
One day your grown up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say,
“You’ve been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you.” Then, you’ll realize your cat is a dog again.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Bronze Bow - a book review


   Have you read The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare, with your children?  If not, I would highly suggest you add it to your Must Read list.  Personally, I think it is great done as a "read aloud" because of the deep spiritual content that can be discussed. But it is also a great title for their independent reading list. With all the garbage in reading material being marketed to our kids, I appreciate a book that is worthy of our time and is edifying for my children.      
   My kids were 12 and 15 when we read it and it is up there with my top 5 titles.  As a book lover, I have a hard time narrowing down my favorites, but this one qualifies for several reasons.  First, it takes the reader on a challenging and beautiful spiritual journey.   Also, it is very well written (same author as Witch of  Blackbird Pond), engaging the early teen with both adventure and drama, while drawing them into the lives of the main characters, which often gives opportunity to explore their own personal relationship with Jesus.
     This story explores our struggles with forgiveness, self-worth, kindness and much more, through the eyes of a young Jewish man who has been hurt, especially by the Roman government, and is looking for a hero to lead him in a revolt and is chomping at the bit to join The Cause.   It is set at the time of Christ, and the main characters actually encounter Jesus as He teaches in the region.  The main characters are older teens, so our teen readers can identify with some of their struggles. Through disappointments in others that he has put his faith in, and surprising friendships that come his way, the main character Daniel begins to see his own need for a Savior and experiences a life and heart transformed through a  relationship with Jesus.  Just a little FYI... I needed my tissues nearby, especially towards the end.  Very powerful story.  NOTE: Our local library carries this title.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Country Founded by Geniuses but run by Idiots

Found this on my friend's blog, and thought it was worth sharing. And even though I see his point, I do love and appreciate this "dumb" country, although a return to common sense seems to be in order. : )
A few thoughts from Jeff Foxworthy...
If plastic water bottles are okay, but plastic bags are banned, — you might live in a nation (state) that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots WE DO LIVE IN SUCH A DUMB COUNTRY!!
If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If an 80-year-old woman who is confined to a wheelchair or a three-year-old girl can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is “cute” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government regulation and intrusion while not working is rewarded with Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big-screen TV, while your neighbor buys iPhones, time shares, a wall-sized do-it-all plasma screen TV and new cars, and the government forgives his debt when he defaults on his mortgage — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If being stripped of your Constitutional right to defend yourself makes you more “safe” according to the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

Jeff Foxworthy


Thanksgiving Songs

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

I love to talk homeschooling and I'm happy to share any information or opinion that others might find helpful.  Sometimes a friend will joke that I'm the one to ask because I am familiar with many names... curriculum, authors, book titles, etc.  But the truth is that I really don't personally know "so much" about homeschooling.  There are many other veteran homeschoolers out there that can also offer valuable advice and counsel regarding homeschooling.   I just read a lot about homeschooling and through that I glean a lot of general information (as well as specific info. that is helpful to my personal journey).  By reading several homeschool publications, including The Old Schoolhouse magazine, I read reviews on a variety of curriculum options, encouraging articles written by dedicated, veteran homeschoolers with much wisdom to share, even ads that acquaint me with resources I might want to try or recommend.  Some have said they don't have the time to read (isn't that what bathrooms are for?) or that they get overwhelmed with so much information.  But I have found that I can learn and retain a lot from reading in small snippets of time, and that is a good use of those small snippets.

One of the benefits of reading many homeschool resources is that you gain a sense of confidence.  You feel "in the know" and informed and that is the opposite of feeling lost and unsure.  Also, by reading the resources out there, God can use those tools to direct your family's home education and discipleship.  I'm always happy to share my thoughts, but it is impossible to pass on oodles of information in a conversation or two.  So I often recommend that homeschoolers read and read and read for themselves, not because I mind having the conversation... not at all!  But our time is limited and I want to see homeschoolers equipped for the journey.  Reading homeschool publications is a good way to do that.

   The Old Schoolhouse magazine is only available in digital format now and you can visit any day to read their digital magazine, which is loaded with useful and helpful information.  They also publish a large, annual print magazine, for those of us who still prefer to bend corners and flip through real pages.   One of the best ways to grow as a homeschooler is to read the resources God has provided for us. Here is the link to their Sept./Oct. digital issue… check it out HERE .

FREE APP - TOS (The Old Schoolhouse) magazine has a free app available. I don’t have a ton of down time, but when I do, it is quite handy to just click, browse and read many helpful articles. So go to your app store and type in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and get your free app today.   Gotta make that technology work for us! : )

Sunday, September 14, 2014


~ Below is an article I’ve written, as a response to inquiries I’ve received regarding the government’s support of home schooling. I hope it is informative and helpful as families make final decisions about their educational options for the fall. This article is not a judgment or criticism of families’ choices for their children’s education. It is intended to pass on information that parent’s may not be aware of, in order to help equip parents to make informed decisions.  : )

As a support group leader, I am often asked about education options and am asked to explain the difference between home schooling and the parent partnership programs. I appreciate parents who are seeking to understand their options and I respect parents’ ultimate decisions, and I do my best to help families make informed choices. On a similar topic, recently I was asked about the government schools attitude towards and support of home schooling, since that is how most of the parent partnership programs are advertised… as a support to homeschoolers. Now, I can’t speak for the public school programs, and I’m certain there are many wonderful, possibly supportive folks working at public school parent partnership programs. But this person wanted some “data” about what the government schools in general think of home schooling. Her children have been enrolled in a PPP for several years, but recently she was disappointed by a string of decisions that affected her family and the way her opinion and concerns were disregarded. This situation caused her to question the attitude behind the program she was “partnered” with.

In the past, I have read some rather disturbing quotes from leaders in the NEA (National Education Association), regarding home schooling and parents in general. But I hadn’t looked at those sources in quite awhile, so I began to hunt for current information. When I look up that sort of information, I don’t always look to a local source. I look to the NEA, which is basically the head of all public schools and public school programs. And when I look at that organization, I am saddened and a bit offended by their opinion of parent led, home based instruction.

Below, I have included a quote from their own NEA Resolutions that specifically addresses what they think of home schooling and I believe is
very revealing as to how “supportive” they are of the home school option. The reason I have decided to include it here, is not to scold or criticize any parents who have opted to participate in a public school program. My friends know that I respect parents’ educational choices for their families, be it public, private or home schooling. But rather, I thought it was important that families be aware of the underlying attitude of the organization they are partnering with. I hope this information helps families be a little guarded, knowing that at the root, the NEA does not respect or approve of a parent’s role in directing our children’s education, and desires to impose much regulation and restriction on what we can teach our children. I think that is an agenda worth being informed of. So since I had to find the information for the mom who asked, I decided to share it here as a resource for all parents, regardless of the educational option we choose for our children. Being informed is always a good thing. : )

NEA’s resolutions on home schooling - Does this sound like an organization that supports and respects homeschoolers or the home school option?
Below is article B-83, which is copied (bold emphasis, mine) directly from page 38 of the NEA Resolutions document found here: http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/nea-resolutions-2013-14.pdf 

B-83. Home Schooling
The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.

The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.

The Association further believes that local public school systems should have the authority to determine grade placement and/or credits earned toward graduation for students entering or re-entering the public school setting from a home school setting. (1988, 2006)