Friday, March 26, 2010


I wanted to say a quick word about blocks. I think blocks are one of the best--if not THE BEST--childhood tools available. And I have to say, that I think Dr. Drew's blocks are among the best.

You can see Scotty many years ago with one of his Dr. Drew block creations. He used to make structures like this all the time when he was little. You can see this one is a sky-scraper type with little men in each cubical and a farm fence around the base with various animals corralled.

This takes a lot of imagination, small motor coordination, planning and time! It develops so many parts of a child's growth and is really a pretty cheap tool.

Disclaimer-I am not affiliated with Dr. Drew in any way. Now, let's look at the actual cost of this phenomenal tool. 72 blocks in a nice cloth storage bag--and these are high quality, nicely finished beechwood [hardwood] for around $60. This is a nice starter set and that is what Scotty has in the picture. We ended up adding planks for around $30. So, for about $100 we had a set of tools that can be used for years and years, by many, many children spanning more than one generation.

When I bought them they were cheaper, but even at $100. Let's say you have 3 children. That is $33 each, and figure they will play with them [conservatively] for 3 years each, that is $11 per year. If they play with them one day out of three, that is about 3 cents per day. And after all that playing, they will be just as good for your grandchildren!

What? Grandchildren?

Our blocks have been played with my our children [turning into catapults and domino runs in later years], our nieces and nephews, little friends that visit and now [still good as new, even the drawstring bag is in good shape] we have two grandchildren expected this year. In a couple of years this second generation will get hours and hours of creative play time.

So, whether you choose Dr. Drew blocks, or Melissa and Doug, or some other type of wooden block, know that you are providing tools that will give you a high return for the $$. I think this is a childhood tool that is worth the investment.

Take care,

High School Help...

I had another high school question today, so I wanted to gather my high school posts in one location.

I will add to these as I have time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Sonlight Catalogs

Yesterday while I was busy making waffles for my 2 year old niece and 5 year old nephew Scrappy started barking her "There's-a-guy- in-a-uniform-and-big-truck" bark. When I looked out I saw a UPS guy looking like he was going to cry.

I yelled out, "Do you have boxes for me?"

"34." [This said in a defeated voice.]

He was looking up at our house and the many steps it would take to lug all those boxes up the steps to my porch. There are twelve steps up to my house, and 34 boxes at 29# each, meant he needed to tote nearly 1/2 ton of Sonlight up the steps.

Now you know why he wanted to cry!

I yelled down to the truck, "You can put them on your hand cart and wheel them up my neighbors driveway and into our side door. There is only one or two small steps that way and the cart can come right up them."

Ahh--I saw him smile. I locked Scrappy in my office, rescued the waffles out of the waffle baker, put some syrup on them and gave them to the kids. I said they could eat in their hands if they needed to since I couldn't help them cut them up. I propped the door, opened the gate, got Bob to give the UPS guy a hand...and in rolled the catalogs.
Once they were done, Isaac and I counted the boxes, estimated how many there were, 1700--oh I and I got a LARGE warm cloth and wiped maple syrup covered hands, faces and the table. [You can imagine!]

Isaac said, "It takes math to figure out how many catalogs, doesn't it Aunt Jill?" And ever the homeschooler we counted, talked weight, shapes, found my name on the back and I had Isaac read the cover and my contact information printed on the back.

Ahh, a good day. I love catalog day. I just need to wipe down the chairs--still a bit sticky.

Take care,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Transitioning to College...

Over on the Sonlighter Club Forums I see over and over again that folks want to be reassured that using a literature based curriculum will prepare their kids for college and for life.

It will.

Do you remember when you were pregnant or maybe when you first thought you might homeschool? I doubt that you checked out a text book about pregnancy or homeschooling and then answered the questions at the end of the chapter or took a final test. But, I am guessing, you learned? I am guessing, by reading real books and possibly discussing what you read and your thoughts about what you read with a friend or spouse, you learned, made decisions and had a fairly good idea of the thing you researched?

It is the same with our kids. When they use real books to learn and discuss what they have learned with you or write a response paper, they are learning--and what is more--they are learning to critically think about what they read. This is THE BEST way to learn, THE BEST way to assimilate information, THE BEST way to figure out where they stand and what they believe.

When Scotty first went to Eastern Kentucky University he was a bit hesitant. He had been homeschooled his whole life and had never taken a community college class or been in a co-op. He did have the opportunity to take a chemistry lab at our local Christian College with other high school homeschoolers, but that was the extent of his out-of-home education.

After a couple of weeks I asked him what he thought and how he was doing. He said, "Well, at first I just sat and didn't answer many questions. But, in my English class we were supposed to read some selections from Plato and discuss them the next day. When that day came, the teacher asked for us to tell what we thought and the significance of the writing. A few kids raised their hands and basically regurgitated something from the selection. But, the teacher said, 'No, what I want is what it means--what is the significance. What do you think about it?'

So, I raised my hand and told what I thought it meant, what the significance of it was."

"Kids looked at me with amazement and said, 'Did you study this last year?' and I had to answer no, that I had never seen it before. Then they said, 'How did you know that, then?' and I said, 'I just read it, thought about it and figured it out.' The teacher was pleased and I knew right then that college wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. The kids are just regular kids, the same kids who work at McDonalds. I don't know what I worried about."

And there you have it.

If you use literature to teach your children they well learn to think for themselves, learn to analyze what they read, be able to form opinions and then to communicate those opinions back orally or in writing. It will be second nature to them--they have been doing it for years. Reading textbooks and filling in blanks does not adequately prepare them for this higher level of thinking like literature based learning does.

It just doesn't.

[Note: I think textbooks can be used as a tool toward this end, if literature and discussion are used along with it. I don't think all textbooks are in and of themselves bad, but they need to be used as a tool, not to be memorized and accepted as fact.]

Take care,

[Photo: Scotty's graduation from our homeschool in 2007]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Socializaton...should I be worried?

Years and years ago when we decided to pull Cris out of school because of a variety of problems, nobody talked about the "S" word. What they said back then, 20 years ago, was "He'll never be able to go to college."
"You realize you are destroying his chance of having a profession, getting higher education, etc."
"If you pull him out now, he will never be allowed back into public school later if you change your mind."

You get the idea.

We even got a letter from the superintendent saying this very thing. I wish I had saved it. It would be laughable.

But, evidence showed just the opposite. Homeschool kids flourished and have gone on to college, military and excel in a variety of professions, jobs and trades. Many are raising the next generation of homeschoolers.

Studies have shown that homeschoolers outperform traditional schoolers on every achievement test given.

So, about ten years ago, the nay-sayers changed their tune. Since they couldn't argue about the educational deficiencies of homeschoolers, they started throwing "socialization" at us.

"Your children won't be socialized."

I guess they think they will be like Mogli, raised by wolves and a big bear? They won't know how to....What? I mean what really won't our kids be able to do? What do they mean by socialization?
When I went to school if kids talked in class the teacher would look stern and say, "We are not here to socialize." That's right, we were there to learn.

But, somehow, it doesn't matter if we provide a quality education-our kids need to be socialized. I looked up socialization in a few places, and this definition seems to fit what folks think our kids are missing:

The adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture; "the socialization of children to the norms of their culture"

But is this what we want? Do we want our children to adopt the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture of 35 other age mates? I don't think so.

What most of us want for our kids is to be socialized to be independent adults, good family members, participating members of society--but we also want them to stand apart. Not to adopt the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture, but to be leaders and ambassadors for Christ.

And, according to the latest study done by Brian Ray, 98% of homeschoolers are involved in at least 2 activities outside of the home. They are getting lots of social experiences with people of all ages and ideas. They are not isolated and kept apart, but they are trained by working along side of their moms and dad, sisters and brothers--trained to be functioning members of society while getting a great education.

So, if someone asks you about socialization, feel free to ask them what they mean. Do they mean your child won't have social opportunities? If that is the case then I am sure you can let them know that you won't be keeping your child in a closed room all day without any human contact.

If they mean you will be depriving your children because you won't be keeping them locked up with their age-mates all day so they can become more like them, then you can let them know what you think about that! You may want to ask the parents of the public schooled children, "Aren't you worried about socialization?"

Take care,

Note: The picture at the top of the blog is of a T-shirt available from

Monday, March 1, 2010

My daughter and the Press...

This is a nice homeschooling article about homeschoolers who went off to college. My daughter Kari is quoted quite a few times. The author was homeschooled in Berea Kentucky then graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY.

The Jessamine Journal: Nicholasville, Kentucky