Monday, June 15, 2020

Disease v. Infection, and Why This Matters

Do you know the difference between "protection against disease" and "protection against infection"? This is a fine but important delineation that isn't discussed enough. PLEASE take a moment to understand.

If you are infected with SARS-CoV-2, you might develop the actual disease and get sick. Or you might not. Experts have been debating for months if you are contagious if you are infected, but don't have symptoms, and how that should determine policy.

Let's set aside that debate for a moment and talk about vaccine development, and how it relates to disease and infection. We have been waiting on a vaccine to nip this pandemic in the bud, make us feel safe about being with people, not infecting Grandma, etc. But, is that how vaccines work? The answer is muddy.

History is useful here. The whole-cell pertussis vaccine (whooping cough) aimed at limiting disease and infection, but was so controversial in adverse reactions, that it was removed from the U.S. market and replaced with the Acellular form of the vaccine. (The controversy with whole-cell pertussis vaccine is part of the reason we have the liability-free immunization schedule in the U.S. today.)

(Side note: Thankfully, we had developing countries we could continue to ship the whole-cellular form to, thus allowing us to still make a profit on this vaccine. Because it's okay to provide cheaper but dangerous products to poor brown foreign people, as long as Americans can have a safer product. Incidentally, the polio vaccine has a similar dark history.)

But back to the point. The Acellular pertussis vaccine is acknowledged to be safer, but had the inconvenient and mysterious effect of not seeming to lower overall disease rates nearly as effectively as anticipated. People were vaccinating for pertussis well past targeted rates by the CDC, but pertussis actually had resurgence after resurgence. Why?

Well, then the CDC did a little study on baboons. And realized that there was good evidence that the pertussis vaccine prevented disease in recipients, but not infection in others. In fact, "preventing disease" can even mean mitigation but not eradication of normal whooping cough symptoms, which would mean a person can walk around for days with what they think is a mild cold, and because they have no idea they actually have a mitigated form of whooping cough, they are MORE likely potentially to spread the disease, because they have no clue they have a serious infection and don't follow basic measures of containment.

And now we have this article by Scientific American, on development of a coronavirus vaccine. Some telling quotes from this article:


"Covid-19 is already thought to be spread by people without symptoms, and a symptom-preventing vaccine may create even greater numbers of them."
“That vaccine doesn’t look like it’s a knockout for protecting against infection, but it might be really very good at protecting against disease,” Fauci told the medical news website Stat.
"The vaccine will be a success whether it heads off infections or severe symptoms," AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in a BBC interview.
"Fauci’s NIAID is partnered with Moderna Inc. on a Covid vaccine test whose primary goal is to show their vaccine prevents people from developing symptoms, the company said June 11. Preventing infections is a secondary goal."


I encourage you to read the whole article and keep ALL the facts in mind, when mandates become the new hot topic, with the premise of "saving Grandma." You just might mitigate your own symptoms with the vaccine, visit Grandma, and pass the infection on to her. We need to be armed with MORE facts, not fewer, as this debate will take center ring very soon.

We are about to see a lot of complacent adults who were just fine and dandy with mandating child vaccines suddenly become VERY concerned about their own freedoms being infringed upon, at the thought of mandating adult vaccines. It's going to be an interesting drama to watch. I recommend keeping your legislators on speed dial. And vote in November, as if your freedom depends on it. Because it does.

"America, We Are Leaving"

"America, We Are Leaving." - A poignant reflection from a third-generation cop. This article left me with a heavy heart for the police profession.

There will always be the criminals in any ethnic group. We cannot judge the entire group by the bottom layer of that group. We call this racism or prejudice; it is ugly. We must fight it.

There will always be the corrupt in any profession. We must fight this. But we cannot allow this fact to make us malign or abolish an entire profession that is necessary for the proper ordering of society.

Medical professionals kill a quarter of a million people per year with mistakes. That doesn't mean we should outlaw medicine. It means we should always be seeking to reform it. Cull those who do not belong, and give power in the courts to prosecute the wrongdoers.

We need reform in law enforcement, in many areas. Let me say that again: WE NEED REFORM IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. But we don't abolish it. We call that anarchy. We don't judge every cop by what some cops do. We call that prejudice. We don't judge all white cops because some white cops are racist. Ironically.this is racism too.

Empathy means mourning with those who mourn. It means recognizing as a white that there are aspects of racism that I can never understand in the same way my Black friends can.

But empathy also means entering into the grief that the GOOD cops are now feeling, both as they mourn the injustice of George Floyd's death (which is the very injustice they fight against every day) AND as they are maligned, slandered and judged for something they have never done and never would do. This, too, is prejudice.

I grieve for the family of George Floyd.
I grieve for the Black community.
I grieve for the communities ravaged by rioting and looting.
I grieve for good cops who are hated by the very people they help. One of many, many thankless jobs in this fallen world.

I grieve for our confused, hurting world that is searching for healing and answers in so many places. We need real solutions and tangible answers. We need to seek the good of the land God has placed us in. But I'm so glad that this world is not my final home. Laws can show a man his own sin, but only the Spirit can change the heart.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Why I Love This Photo of My Son Being Goofy

This may look like the simple picture of an 11yo boy who can clearly walk, but is being goofy while rolling around on the floor and pretending he has to crawl. And while that's certainly true, it represents so much more to me.

This child is an overcomer. He has had more thrown at him in his life than most people will ever know. I only tell a fraction of his story to most people, and even that goes over their heads pretty quickly. "Mold toxicity" is at least self-explanatory. But PANDAS? Nope, not a cuddly bear. Chronic Lyme is just plain misunderstood, but once you have that long-term party in your body yourself, you will understand a bit better.

And those are just some of the easier-to-explain experiences. His recovery has involved many false starts, dead-ends, misdiagnoses, unhelpful assumptions by well-meaning folks, and literally flying coast-to-coast to get treatments and answers. It has involved doctors who have been overly-cautious in their diagnoses, underly-cautious in the same, and many layers of recovery to peel back. We're still walking that road, but we're a good bit of the way there.

So why this particular picture? Because this is something he hasn't been able to do since he was about 6 or 7 years old. The intense mold and dust he was exposed to in TX seems to have triggered a severe dust allergy that meant that for years, playing with stuffed animals left him itchy, and sitting or playing on the floor left him scratching and running to the shower for relief. Upholstery at other people's houses always left him wild with itchy feelings, until we could go home and he could shower. We've carried his bedding with us for overnights. But as an active child, he would ALWAYS forget, and do these sorts of activities anyway, but then come running upstairs to me telling me he was itchy (the signs of his irritated eyes were visible too!). A few questions about what he was doing would make it obvious that Mommy's silly rules about no pillow fights once again had been proven to be for a reason. 

But that all stopped this summer. Because of trying a new treatment that I'd not been willing to try for years. I love my excellent doctors, and have also dabbled a good deal in various forms of "natural" treatments over the years for various ailments. I've used essential oils, herbs in many forms, targeted supplements, detox baths, elimination diets. All have helped with some things, mostly acute illnesses.

But there's one form of "natural" treatment that I avoided because it just sounded a bit weird. Not dangerous. Not illegal. Not immoral. Not expensive. Not hard. Just weird, and I couldn't wrap my brain around the "why" of it. I like a "why" answer.

But when a trusted medical professional (our amazing Physician's Assistant in NC) finally turned me onto homeopathy, after gaining my trust in other areas for her expertise, I was finally willing. Not convinced, but willing. You do weird things when you're desperate.

Folks, I still can't explain the "why" of homeopathy. I know how the preparations are made, and I know that no reputable homeopath is actually claiming anything contrary to Avogadro's number (which is the chief argument against homeopathy, and shows a misunderstanding of the claims of homeopathy). But how it works? Nope.

But I know that the Lyme and Epstein-Barr symptoms I suffered from for years receded 98% by taking these strange substances. And 2 years later, results have mostly maintained. (And please don't tell me I imagined I was sick. That's just ridiculous, uncharitable, and I had multiple lab tests confirm my illnesses, including one that the lab tech declared "the most highly-positive Lyme test" she'd ever read.)

And I also know that I didn't tell my son either WHAT he was taking, or for what SYMPTOMS he was taking them, and yet, his recurring mouth sores stopped in their tracks, and we have not had one incidence of him needing a shower for relief for dust, since this summer when he was given his homeopathic remedy. He now plays on the floor with siblings, and it's just weird. And wonderful.

And quite frankly, while I love statistics, used to teach it, think everyone should take it as a high school course, etc. . I don't need a double-blind study with 10,000 participants over a 10-year time frame to know that for my son, I want this remedy available for his use, when he needs a "tune-up." Health is way too individual to only ever seek treatments on what has been "statistically proven" to be effective. Seek moral options, legal options, safe options, by all means. But years of mystery diagnoses and symptoms lead people to try weird things. And today, I'm thankful for weird things.

And I'll close with this: we need these options left for people to try, when conventional treatment fails. But the FDA is currently trying to reclassify homeopathy and make it much harder, if not illegal, to obtain. For a Christmas present for me and Hans, will you take 1 minute to sign a pre-scripted request for the FDA to extend the deadline for this guideline 180 days, so the homeopathy community has adequate time to appeal this decision? You don't have to "believe" in homeopathy. You just have to believe in a mother and her son, and in the insanity of outlawing safe substances with a time-honored tradition.

All I want for Christmas is the FDA out of my hair. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Aborted Fetal Cells that the Pro-life Movement Would Rather Ignore

I find that every time I post (a few times a year - usually on FB, not here) on the use of aborted fetal cells in some of the common vaccines, this is completely new news for at least a few of my friends. This is why I keep posting about it. It breaks my heart that we use the body parts of murdered babies to create prophylactic treatments, and in the same breath, claim horror over Planned Parenthood selling body parts for profit.

This was a helpful, academic breakdown of which vaccines use aborted fetal cells, which cell line is used, and how endemic the disease is in the U.S. Definitely a starting point for discussion. For continued info, I recommend googling "Stanley Plotkin deposition" for a thoroughly godless and disgusting and lengthy admission of just how many babies were killed to produce these vaccines. Hint: many botched results produced a final product.

Aborted fetal cell research is also not just a thing of the past. This is the most recent article I can find about very recent fetal cell development for vaccines. What is not currently in your vaccines, may be in the next new development, the next new offering. 

And here is Ben Carson defending his research with aborted babies in recent years. 

The point is, this happens. It still happens. In vaccines, and probably in other drugs. Can we, as consistent pro-lifers, stand by, while we value our health or potential health (prophylactically) over standing up against an industry that has a monopoly on some of these vaccines, and has ignored the pro-life voice for so long over this issue? What better way to send a message that NO MORE will this happen on our watch, than to vote with our feet? Let them gain back our trust for these particular vaccines, by re-releasing them without human strains. Hold them accountable. They will continue to do research on human remains as long as we "wait" for non-fetal options to be available.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Of history, war, heroes, peace, and politics

History for this year's homeschool studies is the 20th and 21st centuries, definitely a colorful and favorite time in history for me, and I'm eager to share my favorites with my kids. There's a lot of good, bad, and ugly in those years, but that's really what history is about. It's not about only the pretty, but about the ugly too, and about God's sovereignty through the mess of this world.
Wars. Lots of wars in the 20th and 21st century. I would probably place World War II as the most interesting war for me, personally, to study, though some of my favorite books and stories (Rilla of Ingleside, anyone? Sergeant York?) hail from WWI as well.
But it doesn't mean I relish war. I'm not a pacifist, but war doesn't thrill me. A large part of the reason I savored and pondered The Hunger Games books was precisely because I appreciated the author's honesty about the messiness of war. A recognition that doing nothing is wrong in some cases, but doing "anything" isn't justifiable either. War tactics matter. The personal stories in the latter two books of the Hunger Games illustrated this poignantly and are potent to ponder.
There are plenty of Bible verses to pull out of context, to support either a belligerent war-mongering philosophy or a pacifist belief system. (My FB feed is littered with them!) We're not called to cherry pick Bible verses, taking them out of the time and context they were meant to be applied. But we are called to protect the weak and to promote peace, as far as is able. The best path to this isn't always as easy as laying down all arms or attacking all enemies.
We are called to love. We are called to defend. But we are called above all to fight the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of the spiritual realm. It doesn't mean we don't have true enemies here on earth, but it puts perspective on the struggles of this fallen earth, and reminds us of a higher calling and a sure victory at the end of time. Our greatest enemies are not even human beings!
My recognition that human life is sacred and that war and fighting should not be taken lightly (but that it is a right and just action at times!) is why I treasure the story of Sergeant York in WWI - his Christian conversion, and his wrestling through his own beliefs about war, as a former drunken rabble-rouser, turned pacifist, turned reluctant war hero. My kids have greatly enjoyed an audio rendition of his story via Adventures in Odyssey, and I'm in the process of securing access to the Sergeant York movie with Gary Cooper, which I remember fondly from my childhood.
We will also be reading my favorite biography, The Hiding Place. Not a story of fighting, but of courage in a war-torn country, in the face of oppression, genocide, and unspeakable horrors. The other side of war - the political prisoners - but in this case, a story of hope, not defeat.
We will be memorizing "In Flanders Field," a haunting reminder of the sacrifices of the fallen, and our debt to them. I salute those who have kept us safe from tyrants, past and present. I teach my children to do the same.
One of the war heroes in my life is my own grandfather, William Alfred Huber, who was drafted to serve in WWII. Watching the inspirational documentary series "Band of Brothers" last summer gave me a bit more of a glimpse into my own grandfather's experience, as he served in the Battle of the Bulge, like the men in the documentary.
My grandfather was no war-monger and spent much of his adult years as citizen and pastor promoting peace. But he also had one notable conversation in 1980 with one of his young pacifist parishioners (his future-son-in-law! - shared with permission), in which he explained his own justification for his participation in the Allied war effort.
He barely spoke of his war years through most of my mother's childhood, and only opened up slowly in his later years, as he reconnected with old army buddies and swapped stories. Like Alvin York, my grandfather struggled with that balance between Christian promotion of peace and defense of the helpless. And like Sergeant York, my grandfather had no aspirations to be known as a war hero. He was a faithful husband, dedicated pastor, and loving father to 6 children. But before he was any of those, he also served his country in defeating one of the greatest tyrants in human history.
The last time my grandfather spoke publicly, he reflected on mankind's "need" to attach labels to other human beings, and he opened up about some of his own wartime experiences.
I tried for some 60 years to forget them. But sometimes we shouldn't forget. And I'm convinced, finally, that God didn't mean for me to forget this one lesson, because there's a message in it for me, for you, and for all the world.
I've copied (with permission) my mom's summary of the rest of his message. ("Dad" in the passage is my grandfather):
When he left for the war, he didn't hate the Germans. After all, his dad was German and they still spoke German in his Grossmutter's home in Indiana. But his officers, especially, wanted the soldiers to learn to hate them. It didn't take Dad long to realize the Germans were the enemy because of some of the atrocities he saw and heard about.   
One night Dad was standing guard in the basement of a German house while the rest of his group got some sleep. Soon, a whole squad of German soldiers came storming towards the house. After a few bursts from Dad's machine gun, a few of them lay dead. His buddies came to see what had happened and thanked him for saving their lives. But then Dad realized the guy in front had looked like one of their own who had been recently captured. So someone went to check and brought back a photo he had found in the dead soldier's pocket. Dad was so relieved it wasn't his buddy.  
 Dad told us, "Well, all [choking with emotion] the guilt in the world fell from my shoulders. And I was myself again. I hadn't killed another human being. I had just killed another blankety-blank German."  
But, then, he looked at the photo. He said, "Sure enough, that wasn't Dempsey. It was a handsome, young German soldier [pause] and his beautiful wife [long pause, weeping] and two little kids. He was a family man, a husband, a father, who'd been trying to protect his little family and country from someone who had come 4,000 miles just to put an end to his dream of life."  
So what was that lesson my dad mentioned? It's so easy to label people. Those blankety-blank-blank Germans! Dad said, "Oh the power of labels! No wonder the infantry leaders wanted us to learn bad labels, because labels dehumanize a person in your mind, and they become just a statistic, a thing."
Yes, one can easily come back with quite a good explanation for WHY the American army did come 4,000 miles to put an end to this German soldier's dream of life, and on the one hand, I agree. My grandfather did too. And I will be explaining to my own children this year in history all of the reasons I truly believe that the Allies justly fought and defeated the tyranny of Hitler and his allies.
But along with my grandfather, I don't want my children to come away from our study of WWII or any other war thinking that human beings are labels, that the loss of human life is to be mocked or relished. I want them to realize there were human beings on the "other side" of the battle line. Not every German soldier even knew what their leader planned and executed - what he stood for. The fact that many Germans died giving their lives for a horrible, violent, racist madman is a tragedy. It's not something to smile or delight in. These weren't just blankety-blank Germans; they were people who had lives, hopes, dreams, family. I don't honor them as heroes, but I mourn them as fellow human beings.
And come to think of it, the same principle of labels applies well as we enter another nasty political season. By all means, have principles. Vote for those principles. Have discussions and debates. Know what you believe and why. I hold the unpopular modern belief that there is absolute truth, and I seek it in both my life and faith, and try to apply it in the voting booth. I am NOT advocating for equalizing all beliefs and political parties.
But don't reduce the opposite point of view to a strawman, mocking your opponents or those who support your opponents. Use respectful language, and remember that you can disagree with every fiber of a person's belief system, but still honor them as a human being created in the image of God. For our struggle is not ultimately against flesh and blood. And as God's people, we know the end of the story. Our guy wins! (And no, he's not a Republican or a Democrat, for His kingdom is not of this world.)
While we are citizens of this earth, we should care for it and care about it. We should strive and fight for what is true and right, with justice, love, mercy, and truth. And we can rest in the knowledge that we serve a sovereign God who is over history, time, and political squabbles. Amen?

Monday, March 04, 2019

This is about parental rights, not vaccines

This is a fight for parental choice and a recognition of who ultimately has a say in your child's care. This is NOT a debate on the benefits or drawbacks of vaccination. This is a war on religious freedom and parental rights, make no mistake. Kudos to Arizona.

Perhaps you have researched vaccines and found the argument against using aborted fetal cell line vaccines to be weak. That's your choice and I respect it. Truly. But please hear me out.

What if your friend's conscience decides differently? Can we honestly support a law that does not give a parent the right to object to vaccines that are derived this way? Do we honestly think that forcing a parent to inject a substance into their child's body that truly violates their religious beliefs is medical progress? Who has authority over a child's body? How is this religious freedom to not offer a religious exemption?

Who decides a "legitimate" moral conscientious objection when it comes to vaccines? What if your friend objects to vaccinating their child for an STD? Some Christians are comfortable with this and others are not. Can we recognize that our consciences vary in this, and that it is for the parent to seek out treatment, not for the State to mandate? Can we honor their choice and not mock it as a "lame excuse"?

Can we recognize that when we lose the choice to make that decision as parents, we have lost a right, even if we would choose the CDC-suggested path?

Perhaps as a society we have general comfort with mandatory vaccination for children. Why does mandatory vaccination for adults make us more squeamish? This is an honest question. If you are in favor of the former but not the latter, I would genuinely love your explanation to help understand.

Yes, children are more likely to harbor disease. But adults can carry and have these diseases too. If we honestly think our commitment to society is greater than our personal convictions and if we honestly say "the science is settled" and "vaccines are safe," then why do we pause at the idea of adult vaccination mandates, but not mandates for children? Adults have the right to privacy and autonomy in medical decisions. Yes. But who has the right to decide medical decisions for a child? The State? Not on my watch! We need a proper sphere of authority here.

When legislation comes up that restricts a parent's right to decide medical procedures and treatment for their child, every parent in America should see that as THEIR rights being threatened. This is not about vaccines. This is about parental rights and in some cases, about religious conviction. I support your right to vaccinate. But can you support my right to not inject substances derived from aborted fetal cells into my children, even if you land differently on that debate? Do you believe in my religious freedom? I believe in yours. 

Article quote: "Rep. Nancy Barto explains it perfectly when she states, “We are here to acknowledge vaccines have a place, but it’s every parent’s individual right to decide the vaccine’s place in the child’s life,” Barto told committee members."" 

I can get behind that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

2018-2019 School Year

This year we tried out a few new curriculum options, and rather than give fantastic fawning reviews based on a few-hours perusal of the material and 5 days of implementation, I thought I'd wait and see if I *really* liked our new curriculum before laying out exactly what we're doing this school year.

(Alternate story: I started and stopped my school year summary several times last summer and fall, and never completed it until now. You pick.)

So what are we up to? Well, I have a 5th grader, 3rd grader, Kindergartener, and trouble maker this year. Heidi, our 3yo, is basically all the strong will of Hans combined with all the mischief of Martin. It's a powerful combination. She is a delightful mess. We love her to pieces, and she makes homeschool a frenetic dance instead of a gentle flow. LOL. Since we usually school July through May-ish, we have three-fourths of our school year under our belt, as we near the end of February. This is really really nice, as we prepare to move from NC to MN sometime in March.

So what are we studying and how are we studying it? We have a lot of sameness in curriculum this year, and actually several new additions.


We still love Singapore books, and have ever since Hans and I started the kindergarten level back in 2013. That same set of kindergarten books was just completed by Martin. Pretty fun to see the years and levels fly by and still beloved. I. love. Singapore. It does a fabulous job developing number sense, comfort with word problems, and pre-algebraic skills. Gretchen is working on level 4B and Martin just VERY casually started level 1A. And I mean VERY casual. My kindergarten approach is very chill.

My original plan was to have Hans complete level 6 A and B both this year, before moving on to either Pre-Algebra or Algebra (sequencing advice on this is mixed), but after completing level 6A this fall, I really felt the whole time like the fabulous challenging word problems that we sifted through could have been done SO much easier if we'd just get started on Algebra concepts and equation solving, and finally I realized we could just move on.

Since he's young and since we chose to only complete level 6A, we're starting Pre-Algebra first, using the same book I used over 20 years ago! (An Addison-Wesley text) I perused several different options, and while *I* liked Art of Problem Solving best and practically drooled over the text I got to thumb through, I realized that was MY dream, and looking through Addison-Wesley, the text just looked like a *great* fit for Hans' learning style, and a great intro to Algebra topics, and it was obvious he had all the prerequisites to dive in, which we did directly after Christmas break.


Hans and Gretchen are doing levels 5 and 3 in Shurley, respectively. We have been with Shurley since level 1, and I still love it (though interestingly, my tentative plan next year is to take a one-year detour from Shurley, but that's a whole other topic, perhaps to write on later). I think their way of teaching sentence parts and classifying sentences is just fun. My kids love it, I love it, and I think the concepts will "stick." Jingles make everything more fun!

Roundabout Shurley level 3 with Hans, though, I continued loving the grammar portion and started hating the writing portion (or, finally admitted I hated the writing portion). We have steadfastly ignored the writing portion for the last 2 years as I tried to decide what I did want to do for writing.

While we decided what TO do, we turned Shurley into something that works for us (grammar-only), which is the beauty of homeschooling. I don't consider writing composition to be super-important in the elementary years, so with minor writing assignments like composing letters to relatives, occasional fun poetry forms, etc., I was willing to wait it out as Hans matured and I decided what path I wanted to take.

This year, now in fifth grade, I felt like Hans was ready for some gentle intro to writing that was NOT Shurley, so we started Institute for Excellence in Writing. Honestly, I never ever considered before last spring that I'd end up doing IEW. I had never looked into it in detail, but had vaguely heard of it various times as a "really rigorous and difficult and structured" writing curriculum, and I really didn't want anything super-involved with writing at this age and stage, especially for Hans. But then I sat down with a lovely new friend, also a homeschool mom, whose oldest shares many personality similarities with Hans, and she started chatting with me and sharing what has worked for her, and she started explaining all the reasons IEW has worked well for her and it just all shouted "Hans."

What had NOT worked for Hans in Shurley was this strange fascination Shurley has with giving higher order topics to elementary students, that require levels of knowledge and understanding and thought process beyond their years. Like asking a 4th grader to explain "the ways computers have changed our lives." Now *I* could write a 3 or 5 paragraph essay on the topic in a heartbeat, but I lived through the 90's and remember life before a computer and life after a computer. My 4th grader had not. Computers always had been for him, and until he studies higher level science and modern history, this is not a meaningful topic for him.

Institute for Excellence in Writing is *very* aware of the stupidity of this sort of writing assignment. They DO teach great composition skills, how to take notes and summarize another person's essay in your own words, "dress-up" your own writing with more interesting words and phrasings, and the basics of story writing, etc. Hans now loves writing (and has made leaps and bounds in his abilities this year), and Gretchen, never wanting to be "left behind" by her older brother, has joined us for the IEW intro video series, and has really done well at it.

I further took to heart Andrew Pudewa's suggestion to parents to consider allowing a child to type compositions. This took some swallowing of pride and theory, as I'm really not a fan of children over-using the computer at an early age, but let. me. tell. you. This has been a wonderful way for my kids to focus on COMPOSING, not handwriting and cramping. I gave Hans and Gretchen the option last summer of learning to type, and told them if they did learn to type, they could type their compositions this school year, and what a motivation! Handwriting is super-important to me, so they do copywork several times a week in cursive, as well as do most of their spelling in cursive. But separating handwriting from composition has allowed both skills to blossom, especially for my oldest.

My plan for IEW is to use it for a few years to work on specific skills of composition, but not use all the books, all the grades. I want to expose my kids to different ways and styles of writing, and I think IEW is a great start. We will likely move onto other programs at some point, that are more humanities-specific, when we reach rhetoric level.


Hans is in Grade 5 level with Matt Whitling's Grammar of Spelling (Logos Press). After much time spent perusing reviews of various spelling curricula, I chose this for him in second grade, and we've been with it ever since. No frills, no drama, and it's worked well for Hans. What works, we stick with.

But honestly? I don't love it. I wouldn't repeat it. I don't "get" why it still is published. It's so vanilla, nothing worth writing home about. And so many of the lists are obviously specific to what Matt Whitling's classes are studying in science and history. Okay. Not horrible, but not great. But my son's spelling abilities have NOT suffered, and it's easily a no-drama subject for him.

But for Gretchen we've always used All About Spelling (just started level 5). I really do love this program. We just use the teacher manuals, not the magnet board, not the flash cards of various kinds, not the extra booklet supplements and charts, etc. Extra pieces are FAR too likely to be kidnapped by a curious toddler. Gretchen is a naturally good speller. If I have a child someday who needs more help with spelling, I might find the flashcards to be more helpful. And I really am hoping to own a tablet sometime soon, so I can purchase the tile app to use when Martin starts AAS in a year or so.

I do truly believe that not all children need a formal spelling curriculum, especially not for all of elementary, but I have seen with my own eyes my oldest children benefit greatly from using one. Hans went from a 1st grader insisting he couldn't spell ANY word and wanting help on spelling everything, to becoming a confident, blossoming speller in 2nd grade, when we started an actual curriculum. (And once his confidence picked up, his standardized annual scores on spelling have been off-the-charts.) Gretchen, also, really has wrapped around basic rules of spelling (AAS does such a great job at this!) and benefited from it. *I* have benefitted from AAS's clear explanations.

Foreign Language 

I cannot recommend SignItASL enough, if you're looking for a good program for American Sign Language. We have been so pleased with it, and also thankful to receive the first three units free, since we had a deaf/hh child under age 3. With Heidi now age 3, I can assure you that when new units are released, we will happily pay for them!

This is our first year having a few subjects for the kids that regularly utilize the computer (IEW DVD's, online ASL videos, and Latin DVD's), so Adrian set up a separate username on my computer with a whitelist of a few select websites the kids can access specifically for school. This has been such a huge help, and a great safe option. While I watch IEW and Latin with them, they do SignItASL themselves and also have a few regular websites (like that they periodically access for history, that I wanted them to use without me.

We also started Latin this school year, after delaying for 2 years while we got a bit of a handle on ASL first. We are using Classical Academic Press' Latin for Children series, and I'm enjoying it as much as I could enjoy Latin. Haha. Meaning, learning Latin is not my thing, but this is a very workable curriculum with plenty of options to help, and the kids have taken to it well. Hans and Gretchen are working together on Level A, and Martin listens in whenever he wants (he won't start Level A formally for another 3 years, ish).


I explained this year's science plans pretty clearly in this post, from a few months ago. It has been a fun year in science!


And now for probably the biggest curriculum change for us this year.

This has been a transition year for history. We used Veritas for 4 years and while I did love certain aspects of it, like the timeline cards, I found that sometimes I loved their book recommendations, and sometimes they really fell flat. Being a planner, while I intended to finish out the 5-year cycle for Veritas, starting a year ago I started seriously looking into middle school+ humanities option, to see what we wanted to do after the last year of Veritas, 18 months in the future at the time.

Veritas elementary is workable, but honestly, their middle-high school Omnibus option left no warm fuzzies in my heart, after perusal. THE DENSITY. Their questionable choices for some Greek myths. Nope, gonna search elsewhere. I also disagree so strongly with one of the main Omnibus authors on so many topics of a various nature, that I felt I was going to be doing some SERIOUS proof-reading for that curriculum, before handing it off to my young middle schooler.

Plus, while I think knowing his own culture first can help a person move out into later studying other people's cultures (and therefore, I don't think it's necessarily bad to start elementary history with learning a American-European-based history first, as long as it's not a racist one), I do think it's ridiculous to make an entire 2nd-12th grade curriculum pretty much entirely centered on the progression of European and American culture. Start there? Sure, I can see that option. But finish there? Graduate high school without ever really studying Latin America, Africa (outside of Ancient Egypt), Asia, or Australia? Nope.

So I started looking.

Back when Hans was four years old and I was thinking ahead to elementary history options, one of the many history curriculums I looked at for a LONG time (but didn't purchase) was Tapestry of Grace. I loved the philosophy of the curriculum, the multi-age set-up (designed with many kids in mind), the progression through time periods, and cycling back at a higher level each time. I loved the extra options for the older grades, like philosophy and government based on primary resources.

But it just looked like potential overkill for early elementary and I also was really not a fan of many of their rhetoric level books at the time. (I was thinking long-term, as Tapestry is definitely a multi-year, investment kind of purchase.) If I knew we'd use it for long-term, yes. But not knowing how long it would "fit" us. I wasn't sure if it was a good choice for our first time through elementary history.

But. Since then my kids have grown. And Tapestry has also redesigned many of their rhetoric book choices, and all the reviews have agreed it's for the better. More primary sources, etc. I'm now really excited about rhetoric options, should we continue with Tapestry. And I absolutely love love all the wonderful book options they suggest for the upper and lower grammar stages (which we are currently using). So many gorgeous books, so many options. Primary and secondary history options, poetry options that match the period, literature options, church history options.

For the record, Tapestry is for K-12 and can be used from the start! Don't get me wrong. Many people do. In fact, their recently-released Tapestry Primer is a gentle K-1st (ish) intro to the Tapestry philosophy and cycle of history, and were I have to have youngers-only again, it would probably be what I'd pick. As it is, all my kids can naturally cycle onto Tapestry with what I have. So I'm NOT trying to say Tapestry isn't for younger kids, just that my initial thoughts, when my oldest would be entering elementary was whether it was right for us, THEN. Especially with the availability of Primer as an option, I'd say yes, it's a great option.

I feel like Tapestry fills a balance in the Christian curriculum world. It is a gentle, story-based curriculum in the younger years, that rises to a crescendo of deeper thinking and discussions and rhetoric in the later grades. But also? A lot of Christian curriculum is just. . . trite. It gives the "city on a hill" America view. Or to over-compensate for that, many secular or "modern woke" Christian curricula are more pagan in perspective than Christian. I really like Tapestry's focus on God's sovereignty in history, but willingness to talk about the good, bad, and ugly of God's people.

The biggest criticism I see against Tapestry, from reviews, is that people feel overwhelmed and feel like they can't "do it all." But Tapestry makes it clear that NO ONE should do it all. They offer many options to fit different levels, different emphases, different learning styles, different family goals.

While I have a toddler in the house, we will not be doing many hands-on projects. Sorry. No can-do. Those will be an occasional. I'm also just not a worksheet-y person. About once a month I give one of the kids a Tapestry worksheet option for either history or literature, or we do it together. I use one if I particularly find it helpful to pull out some ideas, but am not tied to the idea that worksheets somehow make learning "more measurable."

Tapestry allows us to read, and read a lot. And read from many options. I purchased most of the primary history suggestions for the upper and lower grammar this year, along with the poetry options, geography options, and the art appreciation book. I purchased most of the church history books, as our library had none. Most of the secondary history options and the literature options, I was able to get from the library or we already owned (Hans actually has read many of the dialectic literature options too), and a few I have purchased. If I see a book at the library that is on a similar topic or seems a good replacement to a recommendation, I often sub.

Some of the books are a great level to assign to Hans (especially) and Gretchen to read independently, some we read aloud together, and others Adrian reads to the kids or we listen to an audio version on car rides. So many different options, and it has worked well. Each week and unit I assess what we can realistically cover. I do not believe doing all the choices benefits anyone. But we have done many, because they really are fantastic choices.

I have been impressed with the beauty and quality of the vast majority of Tapestry of Grace's books. Lovely literature, showcasing so many different cultures and value systems in a respectful way, but all drawing it back to a solid Christian worldview. They have taken tough topics like slavery and the Trail of Tears, and dealt with them respectfully, but at a child's level. As we hit each topic, I'm also excited to look ahead and see the choices for the dialectic and rhetoric levels, though we aren't in those stages yet.

Bible and Catechism 

We read through the Bible as a family slowly, day by day in family devotions, and when we finish, we start again. Our church does the same in worship. These are the backbone of our Bible exposure, along with weekly worship and sermons on Sundays.

We have also been enjoying slowly making our way through the Read Scripture series on YouTube, which is a really well-done overview of each of the books of the Bible. And the kids and I are sporadically making our way through Leading Little Ones to God. We kind of oscillate in homeschooling between using devotionals like this, and focusing more on memorization.

For catechism, we currently use First Catechism, in review for Hans and Gretchen (who have completed) and incremental memory for Martin.  We are using CMI Bible memory cards that correspond well with the catechism questions. Hans and Gretchen have mainly focused on their Sunday school memory verses and longer passages in scripture in recent years (Isaiah 53 was their most recent project), but one of my goals in the next year or so is for them to finish out the CMI cycle of memory verse cards that correspond with the catechism. I memorized the exact same set as a child, and they are really a lovely base for Christian life and doctrine. We will continue to mix them in with occasional longer passages.


And that about wraps up our school curriculum summary! Just in time for people considering curriculum choices for next school year (February 'tis the season). How thoughtful of me to keep forgetting to finish this post for over 6 months. Ha! But just think what a better perspective you get, after I've used my curriculum for longer. :-)

What were your favorite curriculum choices this year? What will you be changing next year? What will you be adapting? A friend recently published a fantastic blog post with cautions and inspiration for these sorts of choices. Highly recommend!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Measles Quiz, and a Plea for Sane Discussion

I am merely copying this here for reference, not for discussion. I no longer regularly inhabit this blog, so don't want to field discussion here. This originally was posted to my private FB page (on which I only accept friend requests from known people), for discussion there. Hopefully even without discussion, it can still generate some thoughts. Thanks. <3 nbsp="" p="">

"Between 1900 and 1963, death from measles declined by 98% in the U.S., due to advancements in living conditions, nutrition, and health care. This significant decline happened before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963." 

Taking this quiz on measles, prepared by a group of physicians who merely want transparency and full information to the public, will cost nothing but 3 minutes of your time, and the chance to assess what you know about measles. What's to lose? 

Once again, I'm happy to engage in conversation, but only civil discussion that is on topic . I am greatly saddened by our culture's lack of ability to have civil discussions on vaccines, without name calling, red herring, straw man, and so many other basic logical fallacies. Laughing at the other side, making sweeping claims and assumptions - none of this adds to the discussion. 

There are doctors on both sides of this debate; there are parents on both sides of this debate. My family doctor (M.D.) does not administer the MMR vaccine, though he fully supports parents who choose to vaccinate, and helps them to find a place to do that. Where there is a risk, there should be a choice, which is why I fully support parents who do vaccinate and those who don't. I'm here to inform and challenge ideas, not judge parenting decisions.
To say that you choose to vaccinate is something I can respect, and I will not mock that. But saying that "the science is settled" does nothing to add to the discussion except confirm that you are not open to discussion or defense of your views, and possibly that you haven't actually done much reading on the CDC website, websites that house peer-reviewed medical journal articles, or sites like the Physicians for Informed Consent site that houses the measles quiz - nor have you listened to the millions of parents crying out that something is not right with this generation's children. 
For that matter, I question how widely-read and studied by the general populace the vaccine inserts are, that come with the vaccines themselves. Not the "cheat sheet" short version the doctor hands the parent, but the lengthy one that lists so much more info, like the human diploid cells (aka aborted fetal cells) that are in some vaccines, the cautions concerning pregnant women, miscarriage and the flu vaccine, the cautions about shedding of live virus vaccines and precautions necessary after vaccination, and all the other delightful tidbits that are written in extremely small font on ~30 pages of info, that most parents are never actually handed, but can be found for free on the FDA website.
I am not implying in any way, shape, or form that 
IF you spend hours on the CDC website and 
IF you read beaucoup articles on vaccines on medical journal sites and 
IF you listen to your "crazy anti-vax friends" and their sob stories about their chronically ill children and 
IF you read the vaccine inserts in full, 
That you will then become an "anti-vaxxer." I really don't even like that term, nor do I subscribe to it. Science requires interpretation of data, and different people react and interpret it differently, including scientists in white lab coats.
I do think it more likely that you will realize that scientists are fallible just like the rest of human beings, that there are arguments for and against vaccines that are held by intelligent people, including physicians, and that possibly, the science is not quite so settled in all areas, for all vaccines, as you originally thought. Possibly you will find the science convincing enough to continue to vaccinate yourself, or maybe you will rethink your own choices. But my prayer is that you will realize the diversity of info out there enough to respect those who disagree, and to work towards a continued conversation, instead of a shut-down of communication.
Peace in the name of the search for truth, folks. May we all find it. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Homeschool Kindergarten Goals

Kindergarten is optional.
Please repeat many times before proceeding.

Kindergarten can be a fun and useful foundation to future education. Please repeat many times before proceeding.

Okay, now that we've prefaced with that. . . 

I am not the world's expert on kindergarten. I'm kindergarten-ing my third child right now, but I'm not nearly the most experienced or wise person I know on the issue. And I know my children; I don't know yours.

But my goals are much broader than what my children have done and who they are as children and students, and I think many of these ideas don't just apply to my children, but could work for most children.

My children have finished phonics at different ages. They have adapted to the pencil grasp and basics like coloring in the lines at vastly different ages. They moved from kindergarten to 1st grade math at different times. But the principles below still apply to all three, and I think they will easily apply to my fourth child, because these goals are more about principles. The specifics are suggestion, to be tweaked as needed.

Another caveat: not all moms need to love all the same things. We are individuals with gifts, inclinations, and different passions. I happen to be a mom who REALLY loves the kindergarten age.

Since I am nothing if not verbose, I try to break up paragraphs and label sections clearly, to ease the eyes and allow you to read as desired, instead of get lost in a 10,000-word forest of my ramblings :-D.Sorry that I do nothing by halves :-P.

And for your benefit, here's the

Table of Contents
All the Prefaces
Table of Contents
Reading Philosophy
The Language Foundation
Specifics of Phonics
Handwriting Philosophy
Specifics of Handwriting
Math Philosophy
Specifics of Math
Science Philosophy
Specifics of Science
Spiritual Training, Habits, and Chores
Extras in the Kindergarten Years
Why Kindergarten Looks Different for a First Child (and why that's okay)
About Changing Your Plans
The Trickle-Down Effect
If You Have a Gifted Child
A Weird Way to End a Post on Kindergarten Goals

Reading Philosophy for Kindergarten

My number one academic goal for a child of kindergarten age is to light a fire of loving books. I did NOT say to love independently reading by mastering phonics, or even necessarily starting phonics in the kindergarten age. I said to love books. Those are different things. A child loving books and loving to read with others will take him far in life. Learning to read super-early has been proven over and over in many studies to take him absolutely nowhere extra, on average.

If a child is ready to read in kindergarten or before, go for it! Just make sure HE's ready to read, not that you're ready for him to read. ;-) Don't do it for bragging rights! One of the very best things for my relationship with my first child at age 4 was to teach him to read! But it doesn't mean every child will benefit from it, nor is that a general goal for all of my children.

So my reading philosophy for kindergarten and before is to love books together. Foster a love of books by reading together a LOT. This doesn't mean that you should feel guilty if your newborn is colicky and you can't sit for long periods and read, and read, and read with your kindergartener. But treasure it, protect that time, make room for it over worksheets or formal phonics. It will take a child far.

For my third child, Martin, he has been eager to be "big" and learn to read himself, so we do a bit of phonics 2-5 times a week, but I read to him a good deal more. I try to keep a constant influx of fun books in the house, to "light his fire" of reading love. These books include any that trusted friends recommend, random suggestions I see online, beloved family favorites, seasonal-specific options, options specific to his interests (ocean-anything is his major obsession!), and suggestions from a few blogs I follow.

I am a dedicated user of our online library catalog, for library reserves. I read education posts in one tab with my library catalog up in another tab, and I will reserve any and all suggestions that look remotely interesting. I will NOT browse through our library willy-nilly in person, especially with my dear children in tow, as it usually yields a pile of library books that are mostly drivel. :-P

Find blogs and forums you love and trust, to give you awesome ideas for read-alouds. I love Read-Aloud Revival for a great start on book ideas, but there are so many great additional options. I like to suggest people start at Read-Aloud Revival, because Sarah MacKenzie is so much more than booklists; she is all about the relationship that comes with reading with her kids. I also freely drown people in book recommendations, when asked. :-D Just make sure to put on a raincoat!

The Language Foundation 

The REASON reading is so important is because reading is one of the best ways to gather language, learn new language (not just foreign languages, but your own, as your vocabulary and usage increases), and to gain new knowledge. Reading truly is the key to academic education.

But in order for reading to be deeply beneficial, your child has to have a good grasp of language in the first place! In the next section I'll talk about the signs I looked for that my young kids were "phonics-ready," but a pre-skill they had before that was fluent language. That had to precede "phonics skills" like letter sound awareness.

The English language is about 85% phonetical. The remaining 15% of words aren't as straight forward - mainly sight words or more complex words that are partly phonetical, exceptions to general rules, etc. Learning to read is often and well-described as "decoding," because what a child really is doing when they learn to read is taking the language that is already in their brain and learning what it looks like on paper. For each of my children, it's been interesting to see that they really are pulling from their knowledge of their primary language as they decode words, and their guesses and revisions of what they're trying to read are referencing the English they already know. (This is also why I think asking a child to decode nonsense, nonexistent words as a phonics exercise is not a great idea, as a general practice!)

So, for a child who is delayed in language because of a communication disorder, autism, hearing loss or deafness, emotional trauma, or language deprivation, or any other reason, focusing on LANGUAGE well before any kind of phonics (even decoding 3-letter words) is so much more important.

My youngest child is deaf, and we have used a combination of sign and speech with her. She is rapidly catching up to her hearing peers with speech and language (via cochlear implants), but I don't anticipate that her English will be as ridiculously-advanced or complex at age 4 or 5 as my other children. I don't anticipate her being an early reader, but I anticipate her being a good reader after she has a solid language foundation and she's ready for phonics. This might be at age 5 or 6, but it might be later. I'm quite willing to focus on language through daily life and conversation, progressing in sign language myself, and through me reading TO her, even if that means she doesn't read early or "on-time." I refuse to press a skill (reading independently) that needs a base of fluent language, until I feel that base is fully in place. You don't start building a house until the foundation is solid!

Specifics of Phonics in Kindergarten
(and preschool and 1st grade+, as needed)

What I've done for each of my kids is to start by playing with letters. Sometime in the preschool years. These can be letter magnets, shapes, cards, tiles, whatever. With my oldest, we lived in an apartment complex with a ton of cars parked right outside our townhouse, so we studied license plates and pointed out letters and numbers a lot that way. As my kids become interested in the names of the letters, I foster that interest.

After they have the letters down, start mentioning that the letters make sounds. If they enjoy parroting back the sounds to you (in speech or song, in much the same way they might parrot back animal sounds), gently encourage that, but if they're uninterested, try again several weeks or months later. Don't overwhelm with too many new sounds or letters in a single, short sitting with them (preferably on the floor).

At that point, with each of my 3 older children, I left it at that until they started noticing on their own that the letter sounds they'd been taught appear at the beginning of spoken words. A conversation with a 4yo might happen like this:

Martin: "M-Martin. My name starts with the 'M' sound!"
Me: "That's right! Your name starts with an 'M'." (I might also write out his name to show him.)
A few days after, or later that day. . .
Martin (randomly, while listening to me read a book about bears): "B-bear. B! The bear starts with the "B" sound!"

This has been a reliable indicator with my oldest three that their sound awareness has taken root a bit, and that they were interested in the relationship between sounds and words. It happened with their initiative each time, though you could certainly point it out yourself. This is the point that I have started an actual phonics program for each.

It has NOT meant the same thing for each child, nor has it happened at the same age for each child.

For my oldest, it meant that he sped through phonics in 5 months at the age of 4 years, and he hasn't slowed down reading since. For my second it meant starting phonics SLOWLY at age 4 (after she'd begged me for months), and taking a full year to complete. She was eager, but needed more time than her brother, and I purposely didn't rush. For my third, it meant starting phonics slowly at age 5, after much begging and obvious initial interest in reading. It meant going very slowly the first few months, as his interest was greater than true natural inclination. And in the last month or two (he is almost 5 1/2), it's meant that suddenly, he's really getting this reading concept and doing fabulous, even though at our rate, I still think it will be a full year at least of slowly doing phonics before he's "done."

For some children it might mean waiting until age 6 to start phonics, or beyond, or it might mean a different and more specialized approach to reading, if they have additional educational concerns. Reading does not come easily to all people, but for many children, it's just a matter of time.

Having an independent reader is never one of my goals for kindergarten. But if it happens naturally, that's okay. In fact, it's really handy! I just don't expect or stress over it.

We have used Hooked on Phonics, and loved it. There are other good options out there. All About Reading is kind of hard to beat, from everything I've heard from friends, read in reviews. . . plus I've loved their spelling curriculum (to start later! - not in Kindy!)

Handwriting Philosophy for Kindergarten

It is okay if your child doesn't form letters well as a five-year-old. Yes, really.

I have a child who figured out the pencil grasp at 18 months and was forming nice letters (that she taught herself) at around age 3-4.

I also have a child who didn't color in the lines of pictures until age 7, and until this point found any small amount of handwriting to be absolute torture.

Boys often do NOT have fabulous fine-motor skills. I'm very afraid that our expectations of handwriting (and other fine-motor skills) for kindergarten are based on the average girl, not the average 5yo. (That's just my private opinion, which I just posted on Blogger.) Don't get me wrong: some boys DO have great fine-motor skills at age 5, and some girls do NOT. I get that there is a wide variance.

Handwriting is honestly one of two areas that I would definitely do differently, could I have a "re-do" with my first child. (The other area would be to focus more on self-control; I did focus on self-control a LOT, but not in the same way I would now, given a healthy dose of perspective, re-training of myself first, and an understanding of 2e children.)

Specifics of Handwriting in Kindergarten 

There are many ways to "play" with letter formation besides pencil and paper. Since realizing this, I haven't had a child who DIDN'T like pencil and paper, but if I had another child like my first, I would do things like salt tray writing, wikki sticks, etc. first. I would buy big pencils, or other alternate writing instruments like big crayons or triangle-shaped pencils.

I would relax more.

Even with my first, we didn't do a lot. A few times a week, he traced a line of letters (all the same - so maybe five "big A's"), and then I required him to try to form one of the same letter on his own. Now, honestly, I wouldn't require the independent formation, if he wasn't inclined. I don't see this as necessary for a 5yo anymore, but I would encourage interest and skill that did exist, and have for my other two.

Other great tools that are pre-handwriting, that I used with some or all of my kids: Mazes! These are fabulous fun for pencil control! Dot-to-dot! Coloring!

Once a child has good pencil control and has practiced the basics of each letter formation, I would suggest doing one of the following (and a child might be ready for this in kindergarten, or might be ready later or earlier):

(1) If a child is still learning to read, copy out 1-3 sentences from his phonics lesson onto primary ruled paper, and let him copy them below your copy. My third child is loving this!

(2) If your child has mastered phonics BEFORE getting past basic letter formation, then move on to a basic copywork or penmanship book. I love Rod and Staff penmanship, which I used for my first two children. (I used option (1) above for my third child, so we have not used Rod and Staff yet.)

Math Philosophy for Kindergarten

You do not need a math textbook in kindergarten.

BUT, I use one. So there.

I really really love Singapore Essential Math K (books A and B), which is not to be confused with their more involved "Early Bird" program for K. I use the texts as a springboard and as a general guide for topics to cover. They have fun pictures that illustrate the concepts.They are super low-key.

But I do not consider our text to be the "main thing." We don't even write in the workbooks! That's how much we use them as guides, not as exhaustive worksheets. Remember what I said about my oldest child not being "comfortable" with handwriting until age 7? Well, one thing I don't regret is allowing him to do the vast majority of his math until age 7ish (far beyond his kindergarten book!) orally or with manipulatives.

We use a lot of manipulatives in the kindergarten age. We learn numbers in the same way we learn letters, and we learn to write numbers in the same way we learn handwriting.

And we talk math. We talk about math in every day life, we count objects, we "take away" objects (which is far more fun than adding them, though we do that too). We skip count, or count forwards, or backwards while playing hide-and-seek. We measure things. We ask "how many more" of something we need to make 5 total, or 10 total. If I have 8 cookies, and my four children are splitting them evenly, how many does each child get? Take 10 blocks (tell your child how many you start with), and hide some of them under a bowl, then ask your child how many are under the bowl, given how many are still showing on the table.

Specifics of Math in Kindergarten

 Buy a set of Unifix cubes. Do it. We use them all. the. time. For kindergarten and far beyond. I also really like a good base-ten set, as it's easier when we get up past 100.

Use dice (all kinds!) to roll two numbers to add together. (Or subtract!) Buy a clock with gears, that you can use for years to come, as you learn time. A child doesn't need to start time in kindergarten, but understanding the hours is a good base, and you will use it for the future.

Find a basic kindergarten curriculum that isn't too involved, isn't too worksheet-y. Or if you're braver than me, don't! Find a basic list of kindergarten math facts, and fly with it! (There are children who love to do endless worksheets, and I've had one of them, but most children will NOT bloom with a really involved curriculum that requires 36 weeks of lessons for kindergarten.)

Then whatever curriculum you choose, use it as YOUR guide more than your child's guide. Your child honestly doesn't ever need to see the book. It's okay if he does. It's okay if he writes in it! But it is your tool, not your master. You can use it as a reference, to see that "okay, we could now work together on comparing groups of things, and discussing 'more' and 'less' in sets." "Ah, now that we've done adding and subtracting in 10's, we can expand that to doing the same, within 40." "Oh, skip counting is a kindergarten topic! We can do that next!

As you do things like adding and subtracting, make up stories with your kids. All my kids have loved this, but for my oldest, it was THE hook that made him fly through math.

Scenario: I hand him 5 brown unifix cubes and tell him he has 5 kittens. Then I show him 3 red unifix cubes and tell him I have 3 kittens. "If I give you my 3 kittens, how many do you have now?"

We repeated this over and over and over and over, altering the numbers, doing addition and subtraction, doubling with small numbers, etc. We also used poker chips, as those are another nice manipulative for this age. You do not need ALL THE MANIPULATIVES, but it's nice to have a few kinds, for variation.

Science Philosophy for Kindergarten

Go outside. A lot. Teach your child the glory of God's creation by admiring His handiwork.

Specifics of Science in Kindergarten

(All optional! Science is totally optional!)

If you want some really fun science books that introduce nature and science topics in a gentle and fun way to children, I have never read anything by Dianna Hutts Aston or Gail Gibbons that I haven't loved :-). They have written so many wonderful titles each! I also love the many, many insect books that Eric Carle has. The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature is a fun and engaging volume of lots of science and nature topics. I don't particularly care for the way the father is portrayed, but when gently addressed, I feel it is still worth a read. :-) We wore out our first copy, and are now on our second now-tattered copy.

We actually read science books heavily in the kindergarten years, because we have very curious children when it comes to the natural world! We also do very few experiments because that's not Mommy's jam. (We do some, just not many!)

Spiritual Training, Habits, and Chore Goals

This is really the meat of the younger years! I probably should have put this first, for this very reason, but I am really trying to address academics in this post, more so than "everything else," and it seemed to fit better with all my "other topics" after the basic subjects that are actually academic. But I feel like these are so much more than "everything else."

If you work on discipling your small kindergartener, showing him grace and Christ, modeling worship for him day in and day out, and help him begin to hide God's Word in his heart, you have done more for him than if he has mastered phonics, loves to be read to (yes, even that!), and has started memorizing his multiplication tables.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 

We do family devotions after supper most nights of the week, which consists of part or all of a chapter of the Bible (We read consecutively through the Bible, and when we finish, we start again!), with appropriate explanations, followed by a prayer or song. Short and sweet, but nourishes the soul over many days and weeks and years. We also catechize starting around age 4.

With all my school age children (not just kindergarten), I do a variety of spiritual training. Sometimes in school we are more consistent than other times. Sometimes we focus on scripture memory, then we might focus on a devotional book to read at the beginning of our school day. I love the scripture series memory cards that correspond to CMI's Bible and catechism Sunday school curriculum. And we have enjoyed the audio of The Jesus Storybook Bible numerous times. Right now we are reading through Leading Little Ones to God, which is a lovely devotional that is Biblically-sound and a good level for preschool up through all of elementary.

Habits of courtesy, manners, and cleanliness set a child up for life. This is NOT my strong point! It is what I strive for, but remembering the importance of focusing on these is not my natural bent! I have grown a lot in this area as a parent, and I have so far to go! Having neuro-typical children currently in the "little years" has made this a much easier thing, but the "easier now" has also come with a change in my focus, expectations, and attitude.

And chores! No, I don't think a 5yo needs to have a long list of chores to complete every day. But a 5yo can be helpful and can do it cheerfully. What small regular jobs around your home can you train your 5yo to do and do well? You would be surprised at how well this skill of doing a job cheerfully and thoroughly can transfer later into the classroom, not to mention all of life.

My 5yo is in charge of unloading the dishwasher, in helping with daily and weekly pick-ups of the house, and can help with some very basic kitchen things like peeling carrots and stirring oatmeal. He can bring library books or smaller bags of groceries in from errand trips. He puts away his laundry with a bit of help. He is one of my most enthusiastic dusters (when we actually get around to it!). Just a few small things that are well within his abilities and are good both to train him to be useful and to make him feel useful.

(If you do find the magic pill for getting all children to do all chores at all times, without complaining, please let me know!)

Honestly, this section deserves more, but as this is something I feel that I am still growing and learning in at a much more rapid rate than the other areas, I'd rather let other writers speak on the topic :-).

What are "extras" for the kindergarten years? 

Crafts. Crafts are extra.

I am a semi-crafty lady, but I do not consider myself to be a crafty mom. If my 8yo was my only child, we would do crafts all day, every day. Every history unit would be one big craft fest. We would celebrate every holiday by making oodles of handmade decorations.

But with four children, not all of whom like CraftsMoreCrafts, and one of whom is a very precocious 2yo, I find the more I focus on the activities/worksheets/crafts accompanying school, the less reading we do. And we all really love reading! The more "enrichment" crafts we do, the less time we spend outside. And I'd rather them run around in the leaves and swing for an hour than put together a lapbook about autumn that required way more effort for me than for them. For the average child, they will learn more by getting dirty or by being read to. This does not mean crafts or lapbooks are bad, but that they are not essential and that for many children or families, too many can and will detract from the "better."

If you like crafts, have the time, have a child inclined to it, go for it! Crafts can be wonderful memory-builders and can help with fine-motor skills. But don't guilt yourself if you don't do "enough" of them, and don't be frustrated if your 5yo isn't as enthusiastic about that perfect craft project as you are. (I had one of those children!)

Classes outside the home. Definitely extra.

Do you know your child does not need to know how to "do school" in a classroom environment at the age of 5? Really! Yes, learning to sit still, being polite in turn taking, and respecting teacher authority can be enhanced in the classroom setting. But our forefathers did a much better job instilling these traits in their progeny with a lot less class time and a much more "delayed" approach to formal education. So please don't call classes a necessary or even the best way to foster these :-). Family devotions and daily family life can accomplish the same goals.

"Wrong" at this age? No! But not required, and often not even useful!

Apps, or other electronic means of "education." 

No, I'm not going to call you a bad parent if your child uses an iPad. Or watches TV shows. Each of my kids has enjoyed a limited use of the free version of Starfall for fun letter play, at age 4 or 5ish. We love Octonauts, and my kids have actually learned a lot from the show. They've also watched a fair bit of Wild Kratts and a few other "educational" options over the years. I also find, though, that the less screen time my kids get (even the educational kind), the better they attend to family life, participate in chores without complaint, play outside eagerly, and the more they don't ask for MORE screen time. (This is especially true of one of my children.) Screen time for a young kid isn't evil, but it's rarely the best option.

As parents, we cannot be all things to all people at all times. We have limited time, limited emotional energy, and limited hands to hold everyone. I get that! (I've been through chronic illness myself while homeschooling a chronically ill child. I REALLY get that.) You do not have to be Super Mom. Use tools, tricks, and toys well, and use them sparingly. They really are more effective that way :-).

Why Kindergarten Really Does Look Different for a First Child (And That's Okay) 

If you are homeschooling a first child through kindergarten (or preschool, or first grade, or anything!), you are experiencing a first. A first time YOU are responsible for teaching the material. A first time you are gauging your child's strengths, weaknesses. A first time you have to decide which of many people/blogs/pinterest boards are "right."

(Good luck! You can't win this battle, Mom! Your standard and your judge is your Lord, not the neighbor, the Super Blogger Mom, your mother-in-law, your mother, or the woman at church or the store or play group who wants to live vicariously through you.)

This is the first time as an educator that you have to decide if your child's disobedience is solely his own fault (We call this "sin nature."), or if you have encouraged his disobedience (We call this "exasperating your child.") by expecting too much, too soon. When you school your second child or any successive child, that child will be different from your first, and you will STILL have to make those calls (and you will still make mistakes!), but it won't be the same as figuring it out the first time. Trust me.

So give yourself grace. Grace to make mistakes. Grace to experiment, to try, to fail, to change your plans if you realize this was NOT the best option for your child.

But about changing plans. . .
It's good to change plans when we realize your plans are a bad idea.

But sometimes the plan isn't the problem; you just need to give it more time.

I met a homeschool mom a few years ago who was on her FOURTH reading curriculum with her five-year-old daughter. Nothing "worked" for her - the mom, not the child. Yes, there are bad reading curricula out there. But she freely admitted to me that the bigger problem was her lack of consistency. The curriculum wasn't providing a magic genie to teach her daughter to read, bottomline.

Don't be afraid to adjust your timetable expectations, not your curriculum. Don't be afraid to admit your attitude might be the larger problem, or that HOW you do the curriculum is more important than WHAT curriculum you use. Does your child need the consistency of doing a very small bit of schoolwork every single day, or he won't do it at all? (I had one of those!) Does your child need to only look at "schoolwork" 2 days a week? If your kindergarten curriculum is so intense that for an average child, you can't "get through it" in a year by only "schooling" for 2 short days a week, I would suggest your kindergarten curriculum is too much.

Do throw out your curriculum if it's not working for you! But give it time to prove itself, and don't cycle through curriculum willy-nilly. This can be just as damaging to a good education, if not more so, than a bad curriculum. A curriculum is a tool, but a good teacher can make up for a bad curriculum. Confusing a poor child by constantly changing direction, focus, philosophy, and books can be very unsettling.

A Word About the Trickle-Down Effect 

So back to why kindergarten looks different for a first child.

It's because you don't have the trickle-down effect! After I explain the trickle-down effect, I will explain why understanding what you DON'T have (the trickle-down effect) as a first-time kindergartener-schooler does change how you might school different from that sage wise mom of 6 who informs you that HER children never "need" special kindergarten crafts or math at age 5, and how she waits until they are age ____ (fill in the blank) to start phonics.

The trickle-down effect means that my 5yo Martin doesn't have a science curriculum for kindergarten this year. Many of the books his 8yo sister is reading (or having read to her) for botany this year are also read to him, and he loves it! The trickle-down effect means that his 8yo sister reads him many of her simpler history books. It means he wants to trace our geography maps because everyone else does!

The trickle-down effect means Martin learned to count to 100 simply by listening to siblings.  It means that when his sister told him (a bit condescendingly) a few weeks ago that "he'll get to fractions when he's older," he whipped out a pencil and paper and drew me a circle divided in two, and explained to me that he drew "two tooths." (Read it out loud.) Then he proceeded to write several more fractions in standard numerator/denominator form, and told me (correctly) what they were.

It means he decided this year that he is "learning Latin" because his older siblings are learning it. He enthusiastically participates in Latin chants and oral quizzes, which involve no-pressure for him, but will make the language somewhat familiar to him when he studies it formally in 3 years. The trickle-down effect also means that when he learns a new Bible memory verse or catechism question, he's already heard it many times from siblings, even if he hadn't memorized it himself yet!

Martin is my wonderful but decidedly "most average of my children" child. I don't give you all the trickle-down-effect anecdotes for him to make you think you're missing out or to brag on his imagined genius, but to help you see what a very average child picks up simply by having older siblings in the home!

The trickle-down effect means my second child taught herself her letters and most of the sounds by spying on my time with her older brother, and then she proceeded a few years later to teach her younger brother the letters. It means I never taught my third child "formally" how to identify shapes or colors. It just happened.

I believe strongly in not allowing a third child to be lost in the parent's effort to always "aim for the older kids" in read-alouds, to the point of leaving the youngest behind. This is why Martin and I read so many wonderful picture books together, and why there are certain chapter books that my husband hasn't read to the kids during his evening reads, as there are plenty of other wonderful chapter book options that the three olders can all enjoy.

BUT, my 5yo still gets exposure to a lot of really wonderful, complex chapter books that he wouldn't be exposed to, if he wasn't #3 child. He enthusiastically listens to our audio book rotation (currently reading through 100 Cupboards on audio, on car rides) and great history read-alouds (he was fascinated by Story of the World). He is constantly the victim (hehe) of his older siblings eagerly wanting to expose him to their new favorite books, by offering to read to him.

Basically, a lot of "extra" benefits, he gets simply by living in a house with a homeschooled 8yo and 10yo. You can't recreate this if your kindergartener is your only!

And that's okay.

You may choose to do more crafts or activities or games with your first child. If you love to do this, relish it! You may have time with future children, and you may not. Enjoy this time, with this little person. When your next child comes along, relish what his kindergarten years will look like, even if it doesn't look the same. If you find yourself "doing less" as far as the "extras," remind yourself of all the wonderful trickle-down effect and sibling camaraderie (and squabbles, ahem) he's getting instead :-).

Sometimes when an older mom who has done kindergarten teaching several times tells a new mom to take it easy, it's because she's right. Spot-on. Kindergarten does not have to be rocket science! It can be very low-key and should be, in fact. But sometimes, I'm convinced that her kindergarten children are learning far more and are way more ready for 1st grade than she realizes, simply because they are not first children.

If you have a gifted child.

Your friend who has decided to redshirt her kindergartener may have made the right choice for her child. But you don't have to give in to her pressure on you to do the same for your child, especially if you suspect your child is gifted. Putting a truly gifted child delayed a year might do more damage than help; it could make your child labeled ADHD, defiant, or just plain ornery. He might lose his love of learning, or never develop it. So do what you feel (after thought, prayer, and observation) is right for your child, not what your friend is telling you to do. (The same could be said for the opposite, of advancing a child rapidly, without reason.)

Not every child that a parent thinks is "gifted" really is. This is okay! Most kindergarteners are bright, love to learn letters, etc. You are their best cheerleader! Enjoy their milestones!

But if you think giftedness is a possibility, look for truly out-of-the-ordinary traits over multiple years, that indicate to you that your child might need education fostered in a more individual or accelerated way, allowing him to move at a different pace than his peers. Don't draw attention to him, either to himself or others (except a trusted few, who could mentor you on this path), and don't unnecessarily label him a grade ahead, simply because NOW he's tracking ahead. This can bite later, if he merely is a quick bloomer or blooms temporarily under pressure, but will level out to average over the years (and this is fine!). Remember that your child is still your child, not a trophy.

You can always graduate a child early if he gets through the coursework, but this can be decided YEARS from now! It's a lot emotionally harder to move a child "back" to his chronological grade later on, if you realize that you pushed too much, too early. If your child flies through phonics and kindergarten math at age 4, it does NOT mean he needs a complete 1st grade course load the following year!

Many gifted children have asynchronous development, which means they excel in certain areas, but are "average" or even behind in other areas. My super-early reader who had a high vocabulary and rapidly progressed through math BUT was "behind" in handwriting and emotional development is a perfect example of this! He's highly gifted, but his schooling has taken a lot of careful thought.

For example, he made it through phonics and kindergarten math prior to his 5th birthday. But I waited a year to start an English or history or science curriculum (until he was age 6), and I waited until he was fully 7 years old to start formal spelling. (I recognize that some educational philosophies don't even do English and spelling in elementary, but I'm speaking as someone who does do it, but didn't "push" into it just because he had finished kindergarten material.) He continued to progress in math and is to this day advanced in this area and is working well "above grade level," but we did most of it verbally for a few more years. We also did a lot of his math while jumping on a trampoline or racing around the house.

Just because he could read a 200-page book from a young age doesn't mean I required that, and certainly didn't mean I required book reports, detailed verbal analysis, or anything else that a middle or high school class that assigned the same book might require. He just read it, and sometimes we talked about it. A gifted child needs permission to act their age. Not act childishly, but act their age.

Now, this might seem like a weird way to end a post on kindergarten goals, but. . . 

I have an idea. 

Instead of focusing on having children "kindergarten-ready" in the preschool years, so they enter kindergarten "on track" (whatever that means?), what if the early years of 3-6 were spent towards the goal of having a child "second-grade-ready" by the time they were 7-8 years old?

This gives so much breathing room for a child being a child and spending a lot of time in the great outdoors, for a "second-grade-ready" list to be finished at quite a varying rate, depending on the development of the individual child. It gives flexibility for children who don't develop a pencil grasp early, for children who struggle with phonics, for children who need extra focus on discipline and self-control.

The purpose of this goal is not for a parent to slack and give no direction in education or self-discipline in the early years, but to focus on the child's rate of need and development, not rushing towards a goal that is too early for some. I think it could save a lot of headaches and a lot of worry, and allow children to thrive, if done well.