Biography Dress Up

Today was the Biography Dress Up, hosted by our homeschool group in the library conference room. Paige and Daniel participated, each dressing up and reading a report about an ancestor. Paige presented Fanny Fry, her pioneer ancestor who crossed the plains in a handcart company as a teenager to join the Mormons in Utah. Daniel presented Daniel Spencer, another pioneer ancestor, and descendant of Pilgrims from the Mayflower.

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There was a King Tut, an Annie Oakley, a Genghis Khan, Daniel Boone, Ronald Reagan, Christopher Columbus & more. Teddy Roosevelt came, but had to leave early because he threw up. Poor guy.

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My hobby and my hero

I was busy this weekend publishing our homeschool newsletter. What’s inside? 78 poems, one comic strip, one watercolor painting, a historical essay, a literature essay, three drawings, 25 photos, and more! Everything is written by homeschoolers ages 6-17. It’s so rewarding to compile this each month.

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We left Paige with the kids on Saturday night for Stake Conference and also Sunday night for my fireside. After 12 years it’s nice to be able to attend church meetings at night with Richard. She read bedtime stories to the boys until Mark fell asleep. Thank you, Paige!

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You’re invited!

We’re doing an “encore” performance of the Ten Virgins musical program tomorrow, May 3 at 7:00-8:00 at my church. Look at these fun ladies. They sing like angels and they’re beautiful and the parable is so relevant for today. Come! I’ll be nervous, but it helps to look out and see friends smiling at me. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I play one of the foolish virgins.

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Top 5 Day 5: Teach the Children

I’m a philosophical person. I like grappling with ideas, challenging preconceptions and discovering truth by looking hard at things. Even in high school I picked a fight (with a written essay) challenging my AP English teacher over his (poor moral) choice of literature to study. In Junior High, I stood up for the less privileged west side of Provo in a scathing essay (which my teacher asked me to read aloud), telling the kids from the wealthier east side that they should have been more friendly to me when I ventured over to sit at their cool table. But that’s a little off topic now, isn’t it? I’m still rebellious against the norm, willing to be a little different because of what I believe.

In my senior year at BYU, just before student teaching, I took Religion 491 for education majors. This was the most misunderstood, frustrating course for most people. This book, now one of my favorites, was the textbook. It was a chore to read because most of us came into the class expecting a free ride. Hey, we were seniors; it was a religion class…how hard could it be?  Neil J. Flinders (the author) was the teacher.  This book must have been for him the culmination of a lifelong study of education, religion, history, psychology and management.

This book outlines the decline of moral and religious teaching over time; discusses age appropriate teaching methods; gives concrete examples from the Bible and Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants showing how teaching ought to be accomplished; it identifies 4 different approaches to education (Individual, Societal, Theological, and Agency); it challenges a lot of what I learned in my teaching methods classes because so much educational theory is based on a godless worldview. There is so much in this book that it’s hard to describe it in a neat and tidy synopsis.

How have I applied what I learned in this book?

  • Well, for one thing, the book reminds us that parents need to step up and teach their children. No, this is not a homeschool book! Remember, it was written as a textbook for people going out to teach in public schools. This means that we can all be Agency educators, no matter what school our children attend.
  • Next, when I decided I wanted to homeschool, I looked around for curriculum. Using this book as a guide, I researched many methods. I realized that this author was right. All curriculum choices fall into one of 4 categories (ok, sometimes it’s a mixture). Many homeschoolers choose Theological method. They believe school, taught from a religious worldview is the tops. That’s good… to an extent, but if such curriculum ignores the needs of an individual and an individual’s right to choose, it’s still not ideal. Classical education is a Societal method. Its goal is to prepare students for the marketplace; to defend their positions through logic and rhetoric learned through drill and intensive study. This is good, in its own way, but it lacks something when the individual’s agency, talents and character education are ignored. The Unschooling movement follows the Individualist model, where the focus is on the individual’s needs above the interests of the group. To me, unschooling stems from an unhealthy worship of the child above God. The individualist model places the ideas and whims of the child above what is moral; what is true; and what God expects parents to teach. The Individualist movement is an extension of the hippie culture into the mainstream. There is an element of truth in the Individualist model, because a good education should be individualized, but not at the expense of truth or some kind of order. We’ve seen the devastating effects of ignoring individuals in schools today. I haven’t met a parent yet who has good things to say about TAKS testing or AIMS testing. Practices that ensure group success so often fail individuals (think of the No Child Left Behind Act).
  • I try to use the Agency model of education. I have expectations; I have lists for my kids; I use Theological textbooks, Societal textbooks, and even some days look a lot like Unschooling around here. However, in agency education, all of the subjects we study are not ends unto themselves. They are the means by which we teach our children to develop different capacities. Math teaches logical and deductive reasoning; Arts develop the aesthetic sense and appreciation for God’s creations; History teaches us how to analyze and find patterns… AGENCY implies CHOICE, so truth is taught, but then the individual chooses to act. Most curricula have a goal to see that we learn the subject matter. There are learning and behavioral objectives. Character and capacity objectives are overlooked as educators look to raise test scores and have a measurable outcome. My ultimate goal doesn’t revolve around a GPA. The goal of Agency education is to see that the individual has guided, structured courses aimed to help the individual fulfill the mission God has for him. You can’t measure Agency education by comparing students. The true measure of agency education is the quality of individual it produces.

Be warned that this book is not as organized as I would have it. Like I said before, it is so full that it’s hard to nail everything down. Also, don’t expect this book to tell you everything you need to know to achieve Agency Education. It reminds us of principles and it shares examples of Agency educators and parents to inspire us, but it would go against its own thesis to give an outline of everything an agency educator does.  To me, an Agency educator is above all things led by the Spirit. So if anything, agency education centers on character. All subjects, activities, methods, etc. are just appendages to character education.

I could go on about this for a long time. But let me leave you with a summary of what the author thinks an Agency Educator’s home looks like and feels like:

  • family learns together
  • family prays together
  • scripture study is important
  • there is a schedule in the home for bedtime, chores, etc.
  • the home is orderly
  • the family gathers for dinner and good conversation around the table
  • family members avoid contention
  • the family is happy
  • children are taught to take responsibility for themselves
  • there is a feeling of safety in the home
  • books are read more than television & computer games are used
  • there is a feeling of cooperation and understanding
  • talents are nurtured and encouraged through family activities, individual practice times, etc.
  • character is taught through work, study, service, prayer, and outside activities

So, this book is out of print, but we live in the day of e-bay and, so if you really are interested, you’ll be able to find it. I’ve recommended this book for years. Not everyone agrees with me that the book is great. Nor does everyone have the time to read it. That’s why I spent some time writing this post. And now you know just how long-winded I can be. To tell you the truth, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface and given you a teaser. Most of you are probably asleep or have moved on to facebook or youtube by now. If so, this book is probably not for your personality anyway. It’s philosophy. It’s challenging. It’s what I love to read.

Top 5 Day 4:The Well Trained Mind

This Educational Resource is on my top 5 list because it outlines very clearly how to educate a children at different ages. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but here is a list of books I use because they were recommended by the authors:

  • Saxon Math
  • Writing Strands
  • Abeka Grammar
  • English for the Thoughtful Child
  • The Story of the World (History)
  • Spelling Workout Series
  • Mudpies to Magnets Science books
  • Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia
Here are educational methods and subjects that I teach because I like this book:
  • copy work
  • dictation
  • narration
  • outlining
  • timelines
  • memory work
  • compositions
  • language study in the elementary school years (They recommend Latin. We’re going for German and Spanish)
  • history notebooks full of drawings, writing, timelines, and maps
  • language notebooks full of rules, spelling lists, exercises, memory work and compositions
  • classic literature
  • logic (I’ll start this in the 2009-2010 school year… I promise!)

This book gives me a framework and specific texts to work with. From there, I adapt the curriculum to meet our needs, beliefs, and schedules. This is my How-To Guide. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the book that really shapes my educational philosophy.

Top 5 Educational Resources Day 3:The Scriptures

We celebrated completing the Book of Mormon as a family November 2008
I’m not listing our top 5 educational resources in any particular order, but if I were, the Scriptures would be the most important.
This post has been hard for me to pull together in my mind because I don’t want to come across as sounding preachy or self righteous. So, I will just share a few of my favorite quotes from our church leaders to give you “the vision” or the goal behind our scripture study and memorization and then I will tell you about our daily devotional.
“It is desirable that our children should learn to memorize important passages; such that will leave a strong impression upon their lives; scriptural passages that they will use as their guiding star; scriptural passages that will help to form convictions in their minds of right and wrong; scriptural passages that will bring conviction to their hearts.” (Elder Joseph M Tanner, April 1901 General Conference)
“In the future, infrequent family scripture study may be inadequate to arm our children with the virtue necessary to withstand the moral decay of the environment in which they will live. Where in the world will the children learn chastity, integrity, honesty, and basic human decency if not at home?
“These values will, of course, be reinforced at church, but parental teaching is more constant. In my opinion, the teaching, rearing, and training of children requires more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life. This is especially so when moral foundations of honor an decency are eroding around us. To have successful homes, values must be taught, and there must be rules, there must be standards, and there must be absolutes.” (James E. Faust, “The Greatest Challenge in the World- Good Parenting, Ensign, Nov 1990, p.33)
So, this is what we do. It’s not always perfect, but we try.
  • Scripture study at our house begins at 9:00 a.m.
  • It takes about 15 minutes. We read from the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Right now our family is reading the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • After we read, we pray.
  • Then we sing scripture songs (I make up tunes to scripture verses and we sing to learn the verses) This week we are learning Ephesians 4:11-14.
  • We sing a patriotic song
  • We say the Pledge of Allegiance
  • We each pick a name of a family member out of a box and we try to be a good Samaritan to that person all day.
  • The kids have personal scripture study during the day as part of their homework. I give them charts to fill in to show their progress. Here is a chart I made to color as we read the New Testament.New Testament Reading Chart.jpg

Pretty basic stuff, but scripture study  really works to glue our family together in faith.

Top 5 Educational Resources Day 2: Learning Through History Magazine

Learning Through History Magazine is another Favorite Educational Resource we use.

History is a really important part of our curriculum. We use The Story of the World series as a general text. The kids learn to outline, summarize, and make conclusions about history as they write, write, write about history. Anyone who has read our monthly Homeschool magazine, The Sahuarita Saga knows that our kids spend a lot of time writing about history.

Beyond the writing and map work and timelines that we create, I ask the kids to do history projects. This is where Learning Through History Magazine comes in. Each magazine focuses on a major historical movement. I buy the back issues that I want. I think they are around $6. They have activities for children in preschool through high school. There are articles about people, technology, politics, and fashion. There are art projects, primary source documents to study and essay questions and ideas for further study. The magazines are black and white and have no advertisements.

We take 2-3 weeks to work on each history project. We do a couple of big history projects each year. This year we are studying modern history (1850-1900s). For World War I, I used the Great War issue and assigned Paige and Daniel to come up with projects using this magazine. Daniel chose to write about planes and tanks. He studied the events leading up to the US deciding to join the war and summarized them in a paper. Paige found an article about Choctaw Indian code talkers and wrote a research paper about them. She also thought the War Propaganda article was interesting and spent a lot of time on the internet, looking over propaganda posters and then she wrote an essay contrasting opposing views about the use of war propaganda. To finish their WWI projects, the kids wrote a trivia game about about WWI and we watched Sergeant York.

Next year as we study ancient history, I will order the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine magazines to supplement what we learn in our history text. is where you can order these magazines and a lot of other fun history stuff.

History in textbooks is lame. A project approach to history just rocks.

Top 5 Educational Resources Day 1: SCBF Series

This week I will share five of my favorite educational resources.

My first pick is the Shakespeare Can Be Fun! Series. I mentioned this series in my last post. I am truly inspired by this author, Lois Burdett. After spending an hour reading her version of Hamlet, written in couplets and including the more famous lines from Shakespeare, I was hooked. I’m going to buy the whole series. My kids love the books that I have ordered so far.

Something charming about this series is the author integrates writings from 3rd-4th graders in the text and the book is fully illustrated by children. She is an amazing educator, helping the children with their writing and reading comprehension skills.

I wrote the author last week asking for permission to do a stage performance of Burdett’s play, Hamlet for Kids!.  Today I opened my e-mail to find her most warm, kind response. Not only did she take the time to personally write to me, she was personable and passionate about helping children to write well. She’s Canadian and now that’s my favorite country next to the good old USA. I would love to have her come down here and do a workshop. Please look into buying one of these wonderful books because you heard from me how FABULOUS they are.

You really ought to click on your link to and get ordering. She’s got a huge selection of titles!

Stay tuned for more of my Favorite Educational Resources from our 2008-2009 school year.