Inclusive History Takes More than a Month

What do your history studies actually produce in your children?   Knowledge?   Memorized facts?   If that’s it, you are missing out on the total power of history to enlighten, enliven, and elevate your child in mind and spirit.   This is both possible and necessary, especially if your history studies encompass stories that include the history of people who might not look like you.   Read more of my thoughts in my recent Heart of the Matter Online article here


A Bird’s Eye View of School Year 2011-2012

I cannot believe how fast this summer has gone.   It feels as if we only recently stopped meeting around the table during the afternoons!    Days go by and I look at the practically empty planners that I was so excited about when they arrived on last week; I can’t help but wonder if my hesitation to write anything is more than fatigue after a crazy, busy day.   It’s an odd place to be for me because I love planning for the school year.   Execution is still sometimes hit-and-miss, but thankfully far more hits than misses.

Dawn wrote a very thought-provoking post about her thoughts on her family’s upcoming school year.   As I begin the planning stages–much later than I normally would–her post made me think about where I would want the school year to go directionally.

The oldest’s year looks deceptively simple–college on two days in the mornings, one class in the afternoon afterwards, with no more than 3 major classes per day.   Of course, we will continue our staples of Bible study and reading in the afternoons.   Yet, like most of us when there are few time constraints, her task will be to not stretch a day without many requirements into a 10-hour school day, which she is fully capable of doing.   She wants to continue to be very active in dance while adding another college course to the one she has.    It’s a battle we are having because I want her to adjust to the pace of college courses without adding to her workload with having to attend dance classes each day; she believes she can handle it all.     I want fewer days of going to bed after midnight and waking up tired; she doesn’t see it as a problem.   Ugh.    I am missing the days when, as a smaller child, she would go to bed without discussion about why she needed to be awake a while longer.

This year, she’ll study economics.   I knew I wanted to have a living books approach to this study rather than a textbook, and I settled on Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, based upon suggestions on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum.   Sowell has an integrated approach to economic theory, incorporating historical events and explaining why they occurred in terms of the financial aspect.  This is exactly what I wanted for the concepts behind economics, but I am also having to complete a bit more research for fundamental formulas and activities to seal in the learning.   What I found quickly was that there are a number of resources that teach personal finance and related economic principles, but not too many that teach why economics matter.    Here are a few links that I’m excited about and thought I’d share:

Teaching Economics as If People Mattered

John Stossel’s online videos

PBS Economics Resources

There are several more, and I think that once I put all of this together, I’m going to list it as a Squidoo lens so that I’ll have it where I can refer back, and others can use it if needed.    In the meantime, I am excited about learning about money and other resources in a way that will build upon the values that we have established in our home–loving others as you love self, giving because God gave, and being a good steward of the resources that God gave you to manage.

I have an opportunity to develop, or tweak, a number of my lesson plans in the coming year.   Our son will begin mostly 9th grade courses in the fall, and will begin the same Great Books studies that I’ve worked on with the oldest.   We have used a commonplace book for notebooking our studies for the last year.   This has worked well, but the oldest loves to write.   As the year went on, she got away from other ways of capturing her learning (maps, pictures, etc.) and stuck almost exclusively to response papers.   This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that one missing aspect of her understanding history is putting together an event with what was happening elsewhere around the world during the time.   In reading a post from Barb over at Harmony Art Mom, I saw how I might help our son arrange his work a little differently to get a better picture of history and how various events fit together and affect one another.   Of course, highlighting maps and developing timelines won’t be a problem for him; he truly believes that a picture is worth a thousand words, and unless urged to do more, would gladly copy and post a few scenes from a book to tell his story.   Ever wonder how two children from the same womb can be so different?

I mentioned in a previous post that I slowed down our math studies a bit to give our youngest more time to understand borrowing.   Although our summer lessons have been more sporadic than I would have hoped, she has performed well, and I look forward to getting back on track with her basic studies.   I cannot believe my “baby” is now entering 3rd grade.    I blew the dust off of the first grammar book in the Rod and Staff English series and began thumbing through the pages.   She’s big enough for a textbook(?!), I thought.   She’s also at that stage where I have traditionally begun Latin studies.   I also get to revamp my own elementary history curriculum as I lead her through early American history.   What I want most for her, though, is to give her more exposure to art, poetry, and music–especially the former two areas–than the older two had.    LindaFay does an excellent job of describing how to introduce children to these areas before giving them “hard core” studies at an older age.   If you care to read, those posts are here, here, and here.   By the way, Pandora is an excellent online radio station that you can customize to introduce your children to the works of various composers.

So that’s where we are as a schoolroom right now: helping one transition to the demands of college, helping one step up to the increased expectations of high school, and recognizing that one is a not-so-little girl who loves her creative side.   Lord, help.



1. The condition of being uncertain; doubt.

2. Something uncertain: the uncertainties of modern life.

Synonyms: uncertainty, doubt, dubiety, skepticism, suspicion, mistrust

These nouns refer to the condition of being unsure about someone or something. Uncertainty, the least forceful, merely denotes a lack of assurance or conviction: I regarded my decision with growing uncertainty.
I don’t think that I’ve ever prepared for a year with this much uncertainty–not even during our first year.   Maybe it was naivete, but I prayed  ALOT, did my homework and began to execute, even in the midst of my sister and niece being here to help with a newborn baby.   So, this year, as I began to envision what the kids would do, my task was to quit agonizing about what might happen and instead function within what I know right now.   With that in mind, I developed our plans.     Here are the highlights.
Plans for the youngest were perhaps the easiest to make.   I’m much more comfortable with a plan for the fundamentals, even though admittedly, they are not my favorite to teach–too much redundancy.   What is most exciting to me is that we will use my curriculum to teach her American History next year.   A customer asked me about blog posts that feature the kids using A Blessed Heritage’s products, and it was then that I realized that the last time I taught the children using the elementary product, I had yet to start blogging.   Life pre-blogging seems like a long time ago!
The most work I needed to complete for her was to develop a reading list.   Though we’ve read some great books over the years, I also wanted to incorporate some fresh reads for the sake of the older two, who often listen in from the adjacent room as they complete their work.   Several of her reading selections are Sonlight staples that we have enjoyed, partly because that’s what’s on our shelves.   Some of  Tanglewood Education‘s selections round out our list nicely with selections that don’t always appear on many homeschooling reading lists, especially in the genres of mystery and science fiction.
If there is one word that defines the time I spend with the older kids,that word would be ‘classics.’    I often talk to the kids about cultural literacy and understanding the context of language past just the words.   This is one of the many benefits of being a life-long reader.   When their Disney shows start with ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’  they should have some sense of where those words come from, and what is their significance to the rest of the episode.   Our son wrote a brief biography on William Shakespeare in his commonplace book and found out that even seemingly silly comedies like “She’s the Man” (Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum) and  “Deliver Us from Eva” (Gabrielle Union, LL Cool J) are based upon Shakespearean works.   By the way, did you know that Shakespeare struggled to consistently spell his own name?   How ironically hilarious is that?!!
Our son will begin high school next year, although there are still a couple of areas where he’s at a middle school level.   Like the oldest, he will start a year of ancient history using a Great Books curriculum.   With our daughter, I definitely learned alongside of her as Homer helped us define the word drudgery together.  (Scroll down on this post to see my daughter’s take on Homer and ancient pasttime activities).   I am much more prepared for what these classics look like in terms of work schedule and actual “feel,” if that makes sense.
Of course the oldest and her part-time college career present the lion’s share of our uncertainty.    Her current summer schedule is such that she’s in school four days per week.   My plan would hinge upon her going to school twice per week and then completing work at home in the afternoons.    Our first fight regarding my plan was that she wants to be more involved with dance than what I had listed will allow.   I am hoping that she’ll recognize the accelerated pace of college and realize for herself that she cannot take on everything that she’s done in the past.    Of course, if not, I am prepared to play the spoiler in order to see her succeed in all things (rather than succeeding at dance to the detriment of her academic education).   She began class Monday, where she found out that her first paper was due on Wednesday; that was a rude awakening, to say the least.
I hate scratching pieces of  the plan that I had for her.   It is as much a lesson in pride for me as it is a lesson in letting go, as I discussed in my “Losing Control” post.    Before I looked into the Government class at the college, I was busily investigating early American history living books and thinking about reading schedules.     Now I am constantly reminded that she will have to learn some things from others with a very different perspective, i.e., worldview, than we have.     A friend suggested going over certain aspects at home, and I planned the reading list to do just that, but the reality is that our time will be limited.    Between the pace of college, letting her go to dance sometimes so that she has some physical outlet and place to express creativity in that way, and her pace (let’s just say she won’t be accused of not stopping to smell the roses), one-on-one reading is subject to happen more sporadically than I like.   I had too many of those experiences this year where we’d pick up a book, then put it down for days, and everyone, including me, would have to get reenergized about it.
Speaking of needing energy, right now we’re moving–slowly–through Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha.    I’ve tried not to “force” school and make the summer boringly academic.   But this book is 600+ pages, and not at all the hilarious epic adventure that I remember as a kid.   Maybe because my husband once sold pharmaceuticals to psychiatrists, neurologists, etc., the kids have keyed in on poor Quixote’s mental state, and it almost reads like a tragedy to them.    I’m going to abridge this one myself so that we can move on.
Anyway, I look at this definition, and though uncertainty doesn’t, in and of itself, sound so bad, there are other words here: doubt and mistrust.    Yes, when I list my plans, there is much room for doubt, and I have good reason not to trust in my own abilities.    My will gets us limited reward, but I’m looking for more than mediocrity.   So I must choose to substitute different words for doubt and mistrust:   
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3: 5-8 

Excerpt from Caddie Woodlawn

 Caddie’s father’s words to her, reflecting upon her fear of growing up and becoming a young lady:

‘It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful.   What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way!  A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness.   It’s a big task, too, Caddie–harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers.   It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things.   They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness.  A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s.   But no man could ever do it so well.   I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady.   No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl.   I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.’

from Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Repost: The Bullard Family Constitution

I originally published this post two years ago when our kids were completing American History.  In the midst of a chaotic 2-3 weeks, I happened to glance upon the refrigerator and see a hard copy of the document they produced below.   So I thought to repost this entry, if only to remind myself of the potential of our home, maybe…perhaps…one day…

It’s all too rare, but precious, that we get to see how our homes would function if our children ruled it.   But I had this experience a few days back.   We’ve been discussing over the last week or more the writing of the Constitution–the debate and dissension, the decisions not to sign it, and the reality of what it took for these men to endure a grueling Philadelphia summer to pen our foundation as a country.   On one day, our son said, “History inspires me to do so many things.”   (the necessary lead-in to get Mom curious and excited about the upcoming idea).   He then began to talk about how he got involved in the stock market after our discussion on the Great Depression.   (True, true.   So what’s up?)   “I think I’m going to write a constitution for our family, because I don’t like some things that are happening around here.”    My first inclination was to stop this effort before it got started, thinking that these new family “rules” would be beyond silly.   For sure the kids would list that they could stay up as late as they wanted, allowances would be doubled, etc.   However, I went along out of curiosity, and admittedly, the ‘history being inspiring’ comment worked; I fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and only needed to be reeled in.   He got started and the oldest one jumped in, perhaps to be sure that no rules got past her.   At any rate, I was floored and thrilled at the same time.     Mom and Dad ratified their draft over the weekend (comments in italicized teal).   I tried to write it just as they penned it.

Bullard Family Constitution


Room Rules

  1. Everyone must knock on each other’s doors, especially bathroom doors.
  2. With parent permission you may move furniture.
  3. Ask before you take TV remote.
  4. Cut off lights when you leave.
  5. Leave room like you found it.
  6. Respect private time.


School Rules:

  1. Do not be annoying.
  2. If you finish early comment but don’t brag.
  3. Come ready to learn.
    1. Head is up and eyes are open
    2. Narrations occur accurately after 1 reading
    3. Questions are based on not understanding rather than not listening
    4. Work is completed in a timely fashion
    5. Bring a good attitude
  4. Respect other’s area.
  5. Ask for pencils.
  6. If 1 person is annoyed they may move.  If more, the annoyer may move.


Friends/Family Rules:

  1. Be nice to guests.
  2. Do what guests want as long as you are allowed to.
  3. Make sure their needs are met.
  4. Make sure restricted areas aren’t seen by guest unless permitted.
  5. Work out debates without parent help.
  6. Everyone takes part in cleaning.
  7. Love each other according to 1 Corinthians 13.
  8. Show each other much grace and mercy.


Car Rules:

  1. Take turns in front and 3rd rows.
  2. 2nd row may control air.
  3. Empty trash as you get out.


Kitchen Rules:

  1. If you make a mess, CLEAN IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Feet stay on the floor.


Amendments (added by Dad):

  1. Wear your shoes when the car is outside (the garage, that is).

From the simple to the crazy, and some thoughts in between

When I began writing this on Saturday, I had a very simple agenda.    I wanted to focus on getting out one set of grades and the Sunday School lesson.   With that done, on Sunday I could focus on the oldest’s prom dress.  BUT…the kids danced on Friday night—late, like midnight—at a local outdoor event.    (Sorry about the picture quality; the lights were so bright everywhere, and these were with my cell phone).


After enjoying their performances, I returned home and crashed into bed.   Me and my mesquite-smoke-scented hair.    So, this morning, I prepared to wash my hair.   But instead of the braid-out that I’ve grown so accustomed to, I decided to go with 2-stranded twists.   After all, I need to keep my hands away from my hair a bit.   Right now, my hands are always in it—touching my new growth, checking for moisture, etc.   Lord, please don’t let my hair become an idol. 

Anyway, once I decided to twist my hair, I realized I was missing my shea butter soufflé (to moisturize my hair and hold the twists).  Down to the kitchen I go.   Once I got my soufflé mixed, I came back to wash my hair.   The twists took hours, so I was happy that the kids slept away the morning.    Once they got up, there were breakfast pancakes to cook—at noon.

Now with breakfast and hair out of the way, I needed to start a pot of chili for the evening meal, but had run out of chili powder.   My husband was okay with going to get more, so I started to get my computer and begin the grading process.   But first, I’d get a quick picture of my hair in its newest style.   As I turned the corner to get the camera, I walked by the youngest’s room.    I didn’t take the time to give it the pick-up that it needed (she should do that, right?!), but she can’t make the bunk beds just yet, so I climbed the ladder and got it done.    Then it was picture time.    I tried in the bathroom mirror, I tried with different cameras, but I could not get the right picture.    Finally I had my son take it.    I’ll hold on to the end result so that I’ll have something to show regarding progress later on.

With the picture taken, I again prepared to sit at the computer.   But I couldn’t possibly sit down at a computer without folding the clothes that have been next to the sofa for a couple of days now.   So, I folded clothes and started the pot of chili that I should have begun hours ago.   

So, nine hours after I set out to do so, I’m finally beginning to evaluate assignments and assign grades.   Does anyone else have this type of day?

When I’m not trying to unravel my plans into something that I can actually execute (which is all too often), I’ve been thinking.  It’s almost time for summer, and I’m late on my own schedule for next year’s planning, so my mind has been on books. 

 The oldest and I have been reading through Dante’s Inferno.   This book is considered an almost exact portrayal of medieval beliefs on the Christian faith.   In reading it, though, it occurs to me that the themes are similar, even in modern beliefs about life after death.    I’ve read similar portrayals in Mary Kay Baxter’s Divine Revelation of Hell

Led by the great author Virgil, Dante is escorted through Hell after he has fallen off the path of righteousness.    It is the hope of a demi-goddess that by showing Dante the eternal fate of those who do not walk with God, he will then seek to be restored.    So the trip begins, and so does my pondering.

One of the first groups of people that he meets are the peers of Virgil, called the Virtuous Pagans, whose lifetime precedes the rise of the Christian faith.    These men, and more specifically, their words, were considered great contributors to society—Homer, Horace, Ovid–but they didn’t know the Father.   Thus, their penalty in hell is simply that they dwelt there, with no hope of ascending to Heaven.    I never thought, as we are reading through history, what happens to those who lived before Jesus walked the face of this earth?   Are they given a chance at salvation?

Dante’s travels continue.   He descends further and further into hell, and the reader sees how creatively the punishments are crafted to fit the crime.    It is all too reminiscent of how we lift up some sins as if to say, “If those people follow 2 Chronicles 7:14, the rest of us would be alright.”     Is punishment in hell based upon what specific sins we commit in life?   I’ve never my taught my children this, either here or my children in Sunday School class.    I’ve taught them that all sins need repentance; without repentance, we will not meet our heavenly Father.    I’ve taught them that we are not perfect beings, but our quest is to strive to be more like Christ with each day, and to never forget, regardless of where life takes them, of His grace and mercy.     Nazi POW camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom said it best: there is no place that man so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.

Is hell the multi-storied chasm where we are punished according to our deeds here on earth?   I pray to God that I never find out.    However, I embrace the book for what its message was intended to make me do—think.    And I’m thankful that whatever the vessel that the Lord chooses to use, we are reminded once again of the need of a resurrected Saviour.   Thank YOU sooooo much.

To Coastal Texas for Missions and Mayhem

 In an ideal homeschool world, I love to take in-the-moment field trips that correspond with whereever we are in our studies.   But, with medieval history coming to a close for us and that trip I want to take east (Philadelphia, New York, D.C.) becoming increasingly illusive right now, what I wanted immediately was simply a chance to get out of the house.   So, we took off for an off-the-beaten-path trip to visit missions down in coastal Texas.   When we cycled through American history previously, the kids read Junipero Serra, and we talked about the role of the Spanish in the attempt to convert Native Americans into Christians.   This time, we chose to not remember the Alamo, but to instead find a road less traveled by.   Here we are in Presidion La Bahia  in Goliad, Texas.

 This was an excellent field trip for not much money.    I wanted them to see all the components of the missions system–the presidio (home/ battle station for the soldiers), the village/ living quarters, and the church.

Amazingly enough, this church is still in operation, hosting a weekly congregation.

We were also able to learn much from the war memorial nearby, a commemoration of the fallen soldiers in the Texas- Mexican war.

I wish I could have actually gotten a shot of them kneeling in the flowers–they were gorgeous, but this is the closest I could get.

The history lesson was fun.   It was actually the end of the trip rather than the beginning.   Before we found Presidio La Bahia, we found the Corpus Christi National Shoreline, a well-kept beach area that begins the northern portion of the South Padre Island beach area.

It took the kids a while to adjust to the vast amounts of seaweed parked on the shoreline, but oh, once they did…

It was much cooler than we expected, especially as the sun went down.   So I took our younger two to the car (son had the sniffles), while Dad and the oldest fed seagulls.

It was a fast, fun trip that offered us the perfect combination of education and entertainment.   I came back excited about the headstart on next year, and happy that the family had a chance to get away.   More importantly, I had a deep sense of joy at seeing God’s crafting of a beautiful world, and I was happy to sit still for a moment and just enjoy it.