Summer Reading

Do you “school” all year around?    We do.   We never cover all of the classes, but the kids are required to complete math on 3 days/ week, and to read for 1 hour each day.   In the summer, that reading time looks totally different than during our regular school year.   I had taken shots of the kids during and after the hour’s reading period, and thought these were worth sharing.

Even the dog thought this one was different.

Six weeks left until we get off to a more formal start.   I wonder if they like this way better?!   🙂

Gifts Differing: Two Kids, Organized for the School Day


Romans 12:4-8

4For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

 5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

 6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

 7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

 8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

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).

What We’re Reading–March 2011


Why would I sit and read individually with kids who already read?

There are numerous reasons, from helping with interpretation and larger vocabulary, to increasing comprehension through the right emphasis and inflection of voice, to monitoring pace and making sure the books are read, not skimmed through.   However, the real reason that, after 7 years of homeschooling, I still spend time reading with each child in addition to reading to them as a group is simple: it is the one academic time period spent one-on-one with each child doing something very non-academic—curling up with a good book and giving each one undivided attention.   


After lunch, everyone gathers together for Bible study and a group read-aloud.   My preference would be that this happened first thing in the morning, but the afternoon accommodates for everyone’s internal clock and associated time it takes to get to the table awake and alert.    We’ve wrapped up the book of Proverbs, and the kids are developing their own books of wisdom, based upon an idea in our youngest daughter’s Bible.    I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with by next week.

Our group read-aloud is The Fellowship of the Rings, the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.   We are almost finished with this series, and I am very glad we read the books rather than relying solely on the movies to educate us.   In fact, our kids stated very plainly that they much preferred the books over the movie.    Our son has taken a real interest in author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians fame), even reading the books that Riordan listed as his boyhood favorites.     So it’s been a real treat to introduce him to the origins of many of the modern fantastical writers that he enjoys.    I have to say, though, that unless there’s going to be an unexpected surprise at the end of this tale, Tolkien could have stopped at the destruction of the ring for me (although the marriages were romantic).   I can’t figure out what purpose will be served by all of the restoration to be done to the Shire, but with 20 pages left, I guess we’ll know by next week’s end.   “Learning through History” magazine has a nice tie-in to Tolkien’s work and medieval history that I look forward to sharing with the oldest once we’ve finished.    From here, we’ll make a somewhat stark transition to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.


The oldest finished Emma recently (a bit out of time sync with medieval history, I know), and we had fun watching “Clueless” and drawing the connection from a 15th century classic to the quirky Alicia Silverstone version we enjoyed.     Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story, and a quick read for both of us.   As it was my first time reading this one, I stayed curious regarding the end all the way through, but I’m thinking I’ll go with The Once and Future King (or maybe use both titles) when our son covers this same period of history.    My plan was to spend our next time together reading novels about Japan and China, but our daughter lost two books!!    Once I could breathe again, we had to make adjustments, and since she and our son had a project associated with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they’ll head there instead.

Again, our son is doing a lot of reading on his own, following the path of one of his favorite authors.   The Flames of Rome moved past the heathenish nature of ancient Rome and into the persecution of Christians—still graphic, but a different eye-gate.     We’re using a “No Fear Shakespeare” version of   Twelfth Night, and will wrap up with a project similar to the oldest’s classic vs. modern themes.     Amanda Bynes’ “She’s the Man” is based upon Twelfth Night, including the names of the main stars and the setting.   The advantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast; the disadvantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast.   He tried to argue his way out of writing his own one-act play—the harder, more creative side of the assignment.   What is this noise about shying away from hard work?   Does he not know that dog won’t hunt in this house?

The youngest and I are falling in love with Old Yeller.    Yeah, I know that for a kid who barely survived parts of Bambi, this probably wasn’t a good move.   Yet, I wanted her– and the others—to hear this moving tale, and as I often say to them, there are so many references to this classic in the stories they watch every day until they needed to be acquainted with the original sources.   In fact, when our son began to argue that he couldn’t possibly come up with an alternate setting for Illyria, we talked about how many renditions of The Prince and the Pauper, or A Christmas Carol, or Cinderella he’s seen on all of those silly sitcoms he likes to watch.  It was a nice try, though.   Because she didn’t get to read through the Chronicles of Narnia with the older two, I had a great idea to begin reading through them with her.   I have not done justice to these great books, skipping days between reading.   I sometimes wonder if she has been able to follow along with the plot of The Horse and His Boy at all.   I’d almost abandon this project until she’s older, but I keep recommitting to daily reading, thinking that she’ll pick it up if I just stay consistent.    Of course, I say that, and I missed reading it today as we quickly approached the time to head to dance practices.    Ugh.

Our time with books isn’t all fun and games.   I’m constantly after the older two to express themselves more fully through the characters.   I’ll stop them in the middle of their reading with an obnoxiously loud yawn and say, “I’m sooooooo boooooorrrrrrred!   Read it again, and this time, entertain me.”    They’re no actors—this I know for sure.    The youngest, a very expressive reader who is a joy to listen to, jumps up from the table quickly.   She knows that once she completes math and reads with me, then there’s a break.    I worry that she’s way too young to have such a negative attitude about school.   But, as I was reading some old notes from a homeschool conference, I came across some notes I took from a Sally Clarkson conference.   She talked about family ways, and how, as mothers, we can show our kids how to respond to life by our own responses.   I later reflected on an older post by Linda Fay, when she talked about why her children read Plutarch, and giving their minds something noble and courageous to feast upon.    This is what I hope the kids will realize in time, and while I wait, I enjoy a smile, a laugh, and even an occasional cry while we uncover increasingly more stories.

Spring Break, with an Eye Looking Forward

We took our spring break with the area public schools this week.   As usual, I had far more planned to do than I could possibly get done—will I ever learn?    Not only was my list aggressive, but it became obvious to me by Wednesday that what I needed most was rest.   With that thought in mind, the highlights of much of my week went something like this:


Sunday—church, grades

Monday—cleaning, hair (youngest daughter)

Tuesday—sewing, cleaning, hair (oldest daughter)

Wednesday—school planning, grades for college kids

Thursday—weeding, grades

Somewhere in there I had a birthday on Wednesday

Friday was a flurry of activities.    We took advantage of a field trip that was postponed during our winter storm, so we packed up and met a local homeschool group for a tour through a water treatment facility.   Afterward, because we were losing our weekend time with a brief out-of-town trip planned, I ran around town like a chicken with its head cut off, replacing car tires and replenishing dance supplies.

By Saturday, I needed a break from my break, and it came in the form of a trip to the beach.   Plan A was to stay two nights, but we’d forgotten what happens to hotel rates in the midst of spring break.    When we had our rude awakening, we chose to make a turnaround trip.   The beach was, nevertheless, very relaxing for me, and great fun for the kids once they got acclimated to the difference of terrain.   Our older two are so funny; it took them a long time to adjust to stepping through LOTS of seaweed to reach the water, then another long while before they actually allowed themselves to adjust to the water temperature.  (“It’s soooooo cold!” they complained.)   By the time they settled down to make sand castles and take walks, it was almost time to head home!

Sunday was a somewhat relaxing trip back home.   I say ‘somewhat’ because we planned to stop off at a mission in Goliad, TX, and the tour wound up being so much more than we expected.   The Alamo gets all the attention in these parts, but I’ve found that the “off -the-beaten-path” types of tours are the ones that pleasantly surprise you, and this mission, Presidio La Bahia, did not disappoint.   Our short stop-over took us almost two hours, and we still did not see the second mission, Espiritu Santu.  Next year, both our girls will cycle back around to early American history studies, and so this was a perfect opportunity to talk about the influence of Spain in the Southwestern United States.

Speaking of next year, it is about that time to consider what about our current plan will be continued/ revisited/ scrapped, etc.   I’m thankful that we’ve hit a groove where we are both comfortable and bearing fruit, so not too much has to be scrapped altogether, but there is always room for improvement.   With only nine weeks left until we begin summer, this is about the time of year that I begin to realize how much was left on the table (or in this case, in my planner), and how we can adjust for the following year to make their experience—and mine–more memorable.

I cannot believe that my baby will be a 3rd grader in the fall!   I worked hard this year to put more elementary school fun into her day, with some hits and misses.   The biggest “miss” is that I fell off the wagon, so to speak, with the plan of doing something special each month with her in mind as the year progressed.   Though we’ve definitely gotten out more, and have even taken a few days off, I still feel as if I could tighten up, or rather, loosen up some more in this area.   She was looking through old photos of the older two in the earliest days of homeschooling and wondering why she doesn’t get to cook as a part of her day.   I tell you, managing the seasons of homeschool has perhaps been my biggest challenge yet.   Anyhow, as I ponder those thoughts, here is what her academic year will probably look like in the fall.   You’ll see with all three children that I’m still contemplating reading lists.

3rd Grade:

English: Rod and Staff Christian English series

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting

History: Early American History with A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources

Math: Horizons Math 2/3

Science: Apologia Zoology 1/ 2

Latin: Prima Latina by Memoria Press

Read-Aloud/ Reading List (Sonlight 3 readers as a possibility)

Our son is the epitome of a homeschooler—chronologically, a public school system would place him in 8th grade in the fall.    Yet, because he’s studied with his sister as much as was possible, he has a couple of courses that he’ll actually take on as a high school freshman.   Of course, he is at 8th grade level in several courses, and because of the extensive Rod and Staff text, he is completing 7th grade English.    He’s our middle/ high schooler (smile).   I haven’t worried too much about it yet, but in the back of my mind, I know that if he keeps on track, he will probably graduate high school earlier than I personally would like him to leave home.   So much to think about and so little time, you know?   Anyway, this is his potential year beginning in the summer/ fall:

8th/9th Grade 

Apologetics: Know What You Believe by Paul Little/ The Deadliest Monster by J.F. Baldwin

Character: Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (second year)

Current Events: Student News Daily and/or World on the Web

Grammar: Rod and Staff Christian English series

History: The Great Books ( (Year 1)

Latin: Henle by Memoria Press

Logic: How to Read a Book (second year)

Pre-Algebra/ Algebra: Teaching Textbooks

Physical Science: Apologia Science

Read-Aloud/ Reading List:

The  biggest question mark with him is how to take advantage of some of the elective opportunities that are available to him in our area, yet work with the girls as appropriate.   We have an area debate team that I’d love to get him more involved in based upon his interests, but I’ve heard that it is a tremendous workload, and I just don’t know where we’d fit in another item.

Of course, college preparation has been the focus of our oldest daughter’s curriculum.   With the Lord’s help, she will actually get a taste of that season via the dual degree program at our local community church.    She’s actually going through several significant changes in the coming year.   She and I have different opinions about well she is juggling school and her many extracurricular activities.   Let me tell it, her grades are decent, but she’s losing sleep and having to study almost all of the time.   That is not the intention, but since it is the reality, she will cut back drastically on some of her current activities in order to focus on her academics, and on her overall health and well-being.   My prayer is that she’ll be able to complete her English courses at college, but this is what I envision for her during her time at home:

 11th grade

Chemistry: Apologia Science/ Meteorology with Connect the Thoughts (2nd semester)

Current Events: Student News Daily and/or World on the Web

Algebra 2: Teaching Textbooks

History: American Government and Civics

Latin: Henle by Memoria Press

Economics: Sonlight/ Thinkwell (?)

Read-Aloud/ Reading List:

I have in mind what I want to do, but I’m at a quandary as to how to do it with her.   We’ve been using The Great Books curriculum (see link above) to cover the past two years of history, but I thought to focus in more on American Government and Ethics.   Sonlight is normally my go-to curriculum when I don’t quite know how I might craft something myself, but Sonlight’s American Government course is a part of a core program that costs $600!    That is more than I spend on curriculum for all three of our children, and even if the Lord blessed me with a windfall, I wouldn’t spend it that way.    So I’m looking at options—is there a way to buy the IG for Sonlight without buying the whole packaged curriculum, could I modify the Great Books curriculum, and if so , what to use, what else is out there,…

How about you?   What plans/ changes/ anxieties are you facing regarding next year?

P.S.   I am thinking about a Civics program from Connecting the Thoughts, available through Currclick.    Has anyone else used this?

Reviews and Reflections on Math

I am always intrigued by studies that point to the one subject where many American children, homeschooled or not, struggle: mathematics.   I have read that, especially in the case of homeschoolers, the struggle is often not with math concepts, but  computation—in other words, speed.    

 Enter my children.   Funny, given my love for math, I assumed that I’d have at least one child who shared my excitement over solving for x, but as of now, all three seem to be in loathing rather than in love.   (Well, loathing might be strong, but they definitely don’t run for their math studies).

Take my youngest, as one example.   She’s just begun this week learning how to borrow, as in take-one-from-the-tens’-column-and-add-the-ten-to-whatever-is-in-the-ones’-column.

When she saw the page, she immediately noticed that she was being asked to do something that was different.   She is also currently preoccupied with multiplication, or “times,” as she calls it.   Thus, everything in math that is different to her, she thinks it’s “times.”    “They want me to do times,” she wails, then goes into a whine about it would be soooo hard, and woe is my life, etc.    We went through the concept a few times (the curriculum, Horizons, had introduced the concept in pieces for several days), and by the third problem, she had it.   That’s that quick grasp of a concept.   Now comes the part that disturbs me far more than slow understanding: she gets bored, or maybe just tired, and the distractions come.   I’m glad we’re using Horizons, where several concepts are introduced at once.    With most curriculums, children learn one concept to the point of mastery, then the next, then the next…

We once used Making Math Meaningful with the older two children.   It was word problem heavy, which I loved because, well, that makes math meaningful.    It wasn’t drill intensive; I had the revelation with my oldest that drills had taught her the mechanics of how to complete a math problem, but she had no clue of what she was doing or why.    Our first year of homeschool I spent re-teaching much of what she’d been “taught” in school.

Making  Math Meaningful didn’t prepare our kids well for higher level mathematics, however, and I hated the way that particular curriculum taught multiplication.   I learned all of my facts by memorization, up to 12×12; MMM suggested learning the facts of 0-5 and then using those to expand upon all the other facts.    Thus, 7×8 becomes 5×8 + 2×8—not a bad method, but different (read uncomfortable) for me, and seemingly more time-consuming.   Our son still doesn’t have the command of his higher facts that I would like; he adds extremely fast at the higher levels.    We drill on these occasionally, but it occurs to me that he might not ever “get” them as I’d like.   As a bit of an aside, one of the homeschooling groups we participated in would often joke about the “math police,” as we called them—an imaginary phantom that would come to the door and punish us for being poor math teachers.

When we switched the older two to Teaching Textbooks, we had much better success in terms of understanding, and especially in the area of independent learning.   I think, though, that part of the dilemma with building speed is that homeschooling, by its very nature, doesn’t rush a child to complete anything in a given time.    We must create those artificial deadlines.    In our home, we’ve used Calcu-ladder to allow the kids an opportunity to build speed in computation.    But recently, Calcu-ladder went to a CD format, meaning that I have to think ahead of time of when I want the kids to complete drills, determine which drill (a somewhat time-consuming search through the CD), then print the materials so that they’re ready in time.    Another digression, but bear with me: does anyone else think we lost something significant as home educators in all of the e-text information that is now available?   The other day, I needed to print out lapbook materials for my oldest, but I needed a color cartridge.   By the time I bought the cartridge, she’d moved to a new chapter.   So now, do I make her go back so that the lapbook is complete, or do I live with the gap and move forward?    I’ll contemplate that one over our break. 

So we move forward.    I love to think that slow and steady wins the race, but as the oldest takes more of the pre-college exams, I know better.   At least, I should say, slow and steady won’t win that particular race.   I’m curious, though: how are your kids doing with math concepts?   How about speed?

Finally, this is a recent shot of my youngest learning to tie her shoes. 


 I love two things about this picture.   The first is the way she looks over her glasses, like a much older woman.  In truth, she’s not learned to keep her fingers off the lens, so her glasses are often smudged such that she sees better not looking through them.    The second thing I love about this picture is her intensity.   She is determined to master tying shoes.   One day I may see that same look with math, or if not, I’ll be okay with the reason why.

Saying "yes" to something new

The youngest, a 2nd grader, is embracing what is, in her mind, her biggest challenge yet—cursive handwriting (name covered below to protect the innocent).


I remember my own experience with cursive writing in elementary school; in fact, Handwriting was my first “B.”    Fast-forwarding many, many years, I can remember that the oldest began writing in cursive in 1st grade at the school she attended at the time.    And though I’m also aware of curriculum that teaches cursive from the onset, I deliberately delayed this transition to give the two younger children more time to perfect their printing.   I said all of that to say that you’d think this would be no big deal—just another new thing to learn, right?   I would think there’d be more drama regarding preschool—phonics, writing, adding.   For a small child, these are tough concepts!    Yet, for some reason, my youngest has agonized about writing in cursive.     “Noooooooooo!!!,” she says.    “Why do I have to do this?   Why can’t I just stay with what I already know??!!!”

You’d have to appreciate the dynamics of our relationship to visualize what’s taken place over the last few months.   The youngest is dramatic with a capital “D.”    If a situation deserves an ounce of emotion, she’ll give it a pound.    This is a kid who recently watched a television show about a teen who had to had wisdom teeth removed, and she whined and fretted all night about the horrors of dental surgery; did I mention that she’s only 7?   And her mom?    Well, as one whose presentation was once described as “stoic,” my level-headedness grows quickly annoyed with theatrics.   Of course, I must say that there are advantages to being dramatic; she is my most expressive reader.  

Meanwhile, as we wrapped up the last pages of manuscript practice, it took everything I had to balance being an encouraging, compassionate teacher with being a will-you-give-it-a-rest-already mom.   Each day as we opened the new workbook, I found myself saying, “C’mon, it’s not so bad,”  and the occasional “Look at you!” after some specific guidance.   With a few weeks under our belts, she’s embraced cursive after some initial success with the first couple of vowels and now thinks she’s the best “o” writer on planet Earth.   🙂 



I watched her today, and, like a bolt of lightening, I had this epiphany about myself and my own response to change.    My challenges are different, but her cycle of emotions is not unlike those of my own when presented with something new and unfamiliar.    I think about the challenges that have come our way just this year.   The Lord says to us:

I’m going to strip away some things that make you comfortable—old jobs,  old friends, and your other idols comforts.

 I’m going to place you in situations that are unfamiliar, that cause you to trust not in things or people, but in Me—new jobs, new relationships, new heights in your faith.

 I’m going to expose some heart issues in people you admire.


“Noooooooooo!!!” I say.    “Why do I have to do this?   Why can’t I just stay with what I already know??!!!”


I am glad that He does not struggle with being an encouraging, compassionate teacher versus being a will-you-give-it-a-rest-already parent.    His love for me shows me a higher standard of patience, kindness, of being not easily provoked.    His mercy endures forever.   So as I sit with the youngest, I have a new perspective on how to respond to a new challenge.

‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding; acknowledge Him in all thy ways, and He will direct thy paths.’

Proverbs 3:3-6


‘All things work for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.’

Romans 8:28


‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’

James 1:2


I usually get an in-the-moment test of how well I’ve really learned these lessons right after I “preach” to others.   Truly, I’d be okay if the Lord just marked this lesson with a pass and let me move forward (smile).   I’ll keep you posted.   In the meantime, may the Lord find me faithful when He says,  “C’mon, t’s not so bad,”  and the occasional “Look at you!” after some specific guidance.     God bless.