Best of Homeschooling with the Trivium Newsletter Year 2004-Part 1

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Preventing Rudeness in Homeschooled Children
by Barbara Frank  (used with permission)

My family has gotten to know a lot of great kids over the course of our 14 years of homeschooling. We’ve found homeschooled kids to be generally pleasant, smart, and independent.  But homeschooling does not create the perfect child. While I am opposed to formal schooling on many levels, I do think being exposed to a herd of kids on a daily basis does one thing for a child that cannot be replicated in the home, unless the child comes from a huge family. Before I define that solitary benefit of classroom life, let me take you back in time to the days of vaudeville. Back then, if the singer on the stage was not very talented, or if the magician made too many mistakes, the audience responded by booing, hollering, and sometimes even throwing vegetables. If the act was lame enough, the management brought out the Hook, an actual giant hook that stagehands used to reach out from the wings and pull the offending performers offstage. How does this relate to homeschooling? To put it simply, some homeschooling parents need to use the Hook. In our efforts to allow our children to be heard, to relate information they have learned, and to become conversant with others, we neglect to set limits on their talking. Sometimes, the result is a child who acts like a know-it-all (even to adults), disrupts activities because of the need to be the center of attention all the time, or monopolizes conversations until they become monologues. If such a child were in school, these behaviors would result in his classmates cutting him down to size verbally, the equivalent of the vaudevillian audience booing and throwing vegetables. If need be, the teacher would tell the child to sit down and be quiet (the Hook).  In a large family, something similar would happen. Such a child would be verbally castigated by his siblings, who also want a chance to talk. The parents, dealing with 8 or 12 children requiring attention, would have already taught their large brood to share the spotlight, if for no other reason than to keep their own sanity when dealing with so many children day and night. But most homeschooling families are not that large, and combined with the homeschooling parent’s natural desire to make sure each child gets individual attention, the result is that there are some homeschooled children out there who are running amuck, verbally. Thanks to some recent experiences, I can provide examples. Let’s start with the Know-It-All. A lifelong homeschooler, she is well-versed in many areas, especially science. She can talk about molecular theory, astronomy, and biological warfare in as much detail as other teenagers discuss their favorite movies.  But if she hears someone say something that may not be 100% accurate, she will quickly and loudly disagree, even if that person is an adult. Respect goes out the window as she corrects the offender in great detail. Should that person be her parent, she will not moderate her tone, and the parent, while looking annoyed, won’t do anything in response to her behavior. How will this habit affect her when she is an adult? If she loudly corrects a client who has said something inaccurate, she will probably lose that client. Nobody likes to be humiliated. Then there is the Star. He is so accustomed to being the center of attention at home that he expects it in public, too. I recently chaperoned a homeschool group field trip to a hands-on history museum, and had a Star in the group of children (age 11-14) I took through the museum. Though old enough to know better, he cut in front of people in line when things were handed out to be examined. He often joked with others while the docent was talking, causing her to repeat herself more than once. When some of the hands-on activities were being demonstrated, he distracted others with his antics, so that when it was their turn to do the activity, the docent had to repeat the demonstration. Since the Star’s mother was not with us, as chaperone I reprimanded him more than once (receiving several thank-yous from the frustrated docent). But the Star continued his behavior until the field trip was over, then told one of my children that I was mean. I don’t think he understood why his behavior was inappropriate. Imagine his behavior on the job once he’s old enough to work, just a few years from now. If he starts his clowning during a staff meeting while his boss is talking, he will jeopardize his job. (On the other hand, he will be perfectly suited for a career in Hollywood, where his rude, demanding behavior is a prerequisite for today’s stars). Finally, there is the Drone. I’ve found her type to be the most common among homeschooled kids. The drone will go on at length about anything and nothing. She will ignore others who are trying to get in a word edgewise. For her, there are no conversations, only soliloquies.  This behavior is common among most small children, homeschooled or not. But it must be nipped in the bud, before the nonstop chatter becomes a lifelong habit. Have you ever called someone who can’t bear to set limits on their tiny talker? Often, Mommy gives in to the little Drone’s demands to talk to the caller, but never comes back to rescue the person on the other end. In another scenario, the Drone interrupts Mommy on the phone, and Mommy then enters into a long, drawn-out conversation with the child, leaving the caller out completely.  This behavior will eventually be cured at school, where there is not enough time for the Drone to monopolize discussions. But homeschoolers don’t have that experience, and so often the homeschooled Drone will continue her conversation-monopolizing habits into adulthood. Her future career may be hampered by this behavior; it certainly won’t make her very popular in business meetings. How should we, as homeschooling parents, react to the discovery of a budding Know-It-All, Star or Drone in our own families? While sending the child to school might solve the problem, it would be like burning down the garage to kill the mice in it. There are simpler, less objectionable ways to deal with this issue. Start at the dinner table. Parents should be the moderators of meal-time conversation. They can make sure everyone gets a turn to talk, thus preventing monopolizers from taking over. They can correct improper behavior, and eject from the meal those who are disrespectful to their parents: in other words, they can bring out the Hook.  Beyond meal-time, parents should teach their children that interrupting is rude. If a parent is on the phone, the children should not interrupt without a very good reason. During school-time, whether sitting around a table, or under a tree in the backyard, children should be taught to respect each other’s viewpoints, and to take turns talking. If necessary, parents can give children time limits, so that they think about what they really want to say before they start. Knowing they have a time limit helps them get to the point faster. Most of all, parents need to keep in mind that while self-expression is necessary to a child’s development, it is not the only opportunity we need to provide to our children. They also need to learn self-control, which will serve them well throughout their lives. Just because they’re homeschooled does not give them the right to be rude.

Copyright 2003 Barbara Frank

Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth children ages 10-20, a freelance writer/editor, and the author of Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers. To visit her Web site The Imperfect Homeschooler go to
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2003
From: Ted Holt

Has anyone done the Sylvan Learning Center and if so how was it for extra help? Our 13YO son is dyslexic and about drove my wife nuts when she was trying to teach him phonics. We finally enrolled him in Sylvan and we are very pleased with it. When he started at Sylvan, about 15 months ago, he was reading at a 2nd grade level. Now he reads at a 12th grade level. Not long after they started working with him, he began to read novels. He reads mostly classics (e.g., Jules Verne) and adventure (e.g. Jim Kjelgaard) and probably averages a book a week. He still reads haltingly if we ask him to read something out loud, but if we ask him questions about something he has read, he can answer them. All I can say is that Sylvan has worked for us.
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2003
From: Matthew P Henry

The email about reading was so precious, thank you so much! We have a now 2 year old that loves to be read to aloud. When we get her up in the morning, the first thing she does is point to her bookshelf in the room and she’d cuddle up there for hours if we let her. We’ve been reading aloud to her since she was born. One of her favorite things is to pretend to read. She was in a museum recently and went up to one of the placards which was at her level and pointed to it and pretended to read it. One of the curators came in and caught her and said what is she doing? We said, she’s pretending to read the words on the museum exhibit. The curator said, you must read to her a lot, we smiled and said yes, everyday! Read, read, and read some more, out loud to your children, especially dads! The comment on Ray’s arithmetic. Yes, we use it and really like it. We have the Mott Media workbooks that go with it. Ray lived, from what we’ve read, about a mile from McGuffey and they lived at the same time. Ray’s goal was to have a way for everyone to learn arithmetic as McGuffey was teaching everyone reading. Rays uses everyday (1800 everyday stuff) to teach math. We’ve been very excited as to how our 9 year old can see math in daily life and he just recognizes the answer without even thinking. The concepts are taught first, then the abstract representation of those concepts are added, and then every day real life situations are used to apply those concepts to. We have only used the later portions of the primary books and on. The beginnings of the primary book do use objects to teach the concepts, and we’d balance that with all the great stuff about waiting to teach math listed at the Bluedorn’s site, and books
A new book from Books on the Path Publishers and available from Trivium Pursuit

From Dark to Dawn: A Tale of Martin Luther and the Reformation by Elizabeth Charles (edited and revised by James and Stacy McDonald of Homeschooling Today Magazine)

Originally published in 1863, this newly revised edition makes available once again to Christians, both young and old, the story of a most important event in history.  From Dark to Dawn is a book of historical fiction, and may be used also as a curriculum. It includes a foldout timeline of the Reformation, a glossary of all the difficult terms in the book, English translations of the Latin phrases used throughout the text, antique engravings depicting historical scenes from Luther’s life, and watercolor illustrations painted especially for this edition (by Johannah Bluedorn).  If I had young children, I’d use this text to study Martin Luther and the Reformation. The book is of good literary quality and should benefit children of all ages and keep the attention of any adult who reads it. You could read it aloud to the children, stop to look up the difficult words in the glossary, and periodically call on children to narrate short passages. Those studying Latin could also try to translate the Latin phrases, and then check with those provided in the book. Each child could have photocopies of the timeline and pencil in additional historical events or scientific discoveries of that time period. Even the antique engravings in the book could be used for copying to develop some skill in art. You’ll love this book. It’s beautiful, from the lovely cover all the way through to the elegant timeline in the back; it’s historically accurate and scholarly; and of course it’s enjoyable to read.
Taken from:

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (historical fiction centered on the life of Velazquez)

Chapter Seven — In Which I Visit Italy [In the early 1600’s the great Spanish painter Velazquez and his servant Juan de Pareja are traveling through Italy. Juan asks his master why he copies other artists.]

…. And will you make copies of paintings in Rome, as you did in Genoa and Florence? Oh, yes. I shall copy some Michelangelo and some Raffaelo and Tintoretto. Why do you do this, Master? This copying? Why, the King has ordered some copies. And besides, I learn from them. How better? It is like taking a lesson from a master of the past. I copy his colors, his shadows, his draperies. It is as if he were there, at my shoulder, guiding and teaching me.

From The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th Edition, 1936: Velazquez, Diego Rodriguez De Silva Y

…In Venice, Velazquez made copies of the Crucifixion and the Last Supper of Tintoretto, which he sent to the king, and in Rome he copied Michelangelo and Raphael …

Various quotations: Make copies, young man, many copies. You can only become a good artist by copying the masters. (Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres) Eugene Delacroix went so far as to say that …the greatest painters are the greatest copiers.
From: Jim Hardman
Subject: speech-delayed son
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004

(Response to Matt and Louella Brown)

Our son was in speech therapy for a year and a half (2yrs to 3 1/2yrs) before we figured out that he had a hearing loss (moderate-to-severe). I have since seen other children who have not had hearing losses picked up until they were 5 or 6. Our son was hardly talking at all. (single syllables, mostly unintelligible). All this to say, has your child had a hearing test? NOT just a screening (our son passed one of those; just watched the lady giving the test for when to drop the blocks in the bucket. She would lean forward!!) I mean a sound booth test administered by an audiologist. Easter Seals will administer tests for free. If there is any question about results, there are a couple of other tests that can pretty definitively confirm/rule out hearing loss. Oto-acoustic emissions test, if your child doesn’t have tubes in his ears, is quick and easy, and the ABR (I forget, something, brainstem response) is done under mild sedation. Unless you have had some kind of hearing test done, please take the time and do it, to make sure that a hearing loss is not the underlying cause of the speech problems. DON’T just stand behind the child and clap your hands or call his name. That is not effective. Our son responded to that. But he was not hearing certain speech sounds, so therefore he could not reproduce them. (you say what you hear). Even a mild hearing loss can result in speech problems. If you have any questions I’d be happy to respond privately. I just would hate to see you find out down the road that the whole thing was caused by a hearing loss. There is also hearing neuropathy, which does not show up on typical hearing tests as a loss, but essentially the child is not processing sound, so is functioning as a hearing-impaired child. That is harder to catch, but you could ask an audiologist about that, as well. Hopefully, none of this applies to you, but the digital hearing aids today are wonderful. Our son is almost caught up in language development, and his speech is much clearer.

Arlene Hardman
Date: Sat, 10 Jan 2004
From: Tracy Dushaj
Subject: Mom of 7


I wanted to thank you for this e-mail loop. I have learned much just from reading about others’ pursuits in this marathon we call homeschooling. I also wanted to thank Mr. and Mrs. Bluedorn for their insight into delayed formal mathematics. I have chosen to take that route this year with my children and I can definitely see the benefits. We do math informally; measuring things, playing store, playing board games, cooking, etc. My children are more relaxed in school, and I am not stressed out because my 8 year old son is not grasping the concept of borrowing. I am perfectly content with waiting until they are 11 or so to teach them formally. My 9 year old has taught herself the multiplication tables because she wanted to learn them. I compare this scenario to memories of my eldest daughter when she was 7 or 8, sitting at the kitchen table in tears because I was upset and she was upset because she couldn’t grasp some abstract math concept. She is just now getting to not abhor math. Why? She is 12 now and is able to understand, and not just follow a methodical list of procedures as to how to complete a problem. Thank you for giving me the encouragement and information I needed to take that not-too-ordinary step.

In Christ, Tracy Dushaj
How We Know What Isn’t So
by Thomas Gilovich
reviewed by Nathaniel Bluedorn

This book explains why we are all prone to wrong thinking, and describes ways we can correct this. Mr. Gilovich says, [T]here are inherent biases in the data upon which we base our beliefs, biases that must be recognized and overcome if we are to arrive at sound judgments and valid beliefs. The cost of these biases is real and severe.  Here are points that Mr. Gilovich made:

1. Seeing Order in Randomness – We all have a natural tendency to see order in data, even when the data is totally random and irregular. We do this even when we have no personal reason to see order. This happens especially when we remember facts from the past. Our memory plays tricks on us by emphasizing any possible patterns, and forgetting irregularities that might refute the patterns. For instance, basketball players often think that if they make one successful basket, then they are more likely to make the next basket – because they remember times when this has happened to them. When you’re hot, you’re hot. However, objective statistical studies done on when successful baskets are made show that, if anything, the opposite is true.  This natural tendency to misconstrue random events is called the clustering illusion. Chance events often seem to us to have some order to them, but when the law of averages is applied objectively, this order disappears. This error is compounded when our active imagination tries to create theories for why there should be order. Because of this, we need to be careful when we draw conclusions based on a sequence we think we see in some data.

2. Looking for Confirmation – We all have a natural tendency to look for yes instead of no. If we have an idea, we tend to look for evidence that will confirm our idea, not evidence that will disprove it. This is true even when we have no personal attachment to the idea.  Some researchers believe this tendency results from our need to take an extra neurological step when we try to understand negative or disconfirming evidence, in contrast to positive or confirming evidence. To understand a negative proposition, we may need to translate it into a positive one. Therefore, we subconsciously look for easy positives instead of more difficult negatives. This does not promote objectivity and good science. If we want to do good science, then we need to force ourselves to look for negative evidence that contradict our ideas.

3. Hidden Data – When we search for evidence, often there is data that we unintentionally overlook. For instance, if we receive a bad impression about a person from the beginning, we may avoid them, and by avoiding them, they may never have a chance to show us the better side of their personality. But if we receive a good impression, we may get to know that person better, and thereby gather more positive data, and falsely confirm in our mind that first impressions are reliable. The way we collect data may filter out important categories of data, and this may cause us to confirm our wrong ideas. We need to avoid search strategies that show us only a distorted side of an issue.

4. Mental Corner-Cutting – We all cut corners with our mind. We often use mental strategies – inductive generalizations, etc. – to understand the world around us more quickly and easily. These strategies are very useful. But they come at a cost. These corner-cutting strategies can cause systematic errors or blind spots in our thinking. We need to be aware when we have not been thorough; therefore, we need to look out for signals that we are drawing a wrong conclusion.

5. Objectivity is Not Always Useful – We shouldn’t expect everyone to reevaluate their beliefs every time a new piece of evidence comes along. Well- supported beliefs and theories have earned a bit of inertia. . . However, we should draw a distinction between a belief that is well supported by evidence over time, and a belief that only has traditional or popular support. Some scientists believe the complex mental processes that give us biases and preconceived notions are some of the same processes that make us intelligent beings – superior to computers or animals. Our biases are useful, but also dangerous. We need to be consciously aware of our biases.

6. Reinterpreting Evidence – When people are presented with ambiguous information, they often interpret it to support their established beliefs. When people are presented with unambiguous information that contradicts their beliefs, they tend to pay close attention to it, scrutinize it, and either invent a way of discounting it as unreliable, or redefine it to be less damaging than it really is.  For instance, gamblers tend to remember their losses very well – remember them better than their winnings – but they remember their losses as near wins that provide clues about how to win next time. But gamblers aren’t the only ones who do this. We all do this from time to time in our own way.

7. Remembering Selective Evidence – Charles Darwin once said that he . . . followed a golden rule, namely that whenever a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favorable ones.  Darwin’s golden rule is not a normal tendency among people. People do not necessarily only remember evidence that supports their beliefs. Rather, they tend to remember events that cause them pain or difficulty, events that they predicted would happen, or events that otherwise drew their attention. They tend to forget events that follow the normal course of things.  For example, some people think that they always end up needing things that they threw away. But this is only because they remember all the things that they threw away, but later needed; while they forget about the many more times when they threw something away and never needed it again.  Another example is how people often say they wake up and their digital clock reads something like 1:23 or 12:12. This seems to be more than a coincidence – how come they wake up at these special times? However, they are simply forgetting the many more times when they woke up and the clock read 3:54 or 10:17. Certain types of events stick in our memory. We need to be careful that our selective memories do not bias our thinking.

8. The Wish to Believe and the Lake Wobegon Effect – The vast majority of people think of themselves as above average in qualities that they think are important. This is called the Lake Wobegon Effect after the fictitious community where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.  For instance, a survey of high- school seniors found that 70% of them thought that they were above average in leadership ability, and 60% thought they were in the top 10% of amiable people. 94% of college professors think they were better than their colleagues are.  One way that people try to confirm their beliefs is to search for evidence until they find something that supports them. They may do a very detailed, in-depth study of something, but they do not stop and evaluate what they have when they uncover evidence against their beliefs. Instead, they continue on and stop only when they’ve found enough evidence to support their side to relieve their conscience.  Often when we look evidence that supports what we believe, we only ask that it leave the door open for our beliefs. But when we find evidence that contradicts what we believe, we hold it to a higher standard. We ask that it prove its findings beyond a reasonable doubt. We hold others to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. This may be the most important point in this book.  For example, people who believe in a particular stringent health diet may look around for evidence that their diet is working, while people who eat more permissively find solace in studies that say that it doesn’t matter what we eat. Conservatives tend to read conservative periodicals and not liberal ones, and therefore they are only exposed to evidence that encourages their convictions. Liberals do the same. What we need here is to search in an even-handed way for supporting evidence and contradicting evidence, and weigh each side objectively.

9. Telling Stories – Much of what we know about our world we heard from others. But second-hand information is often simplified and cleaned up as it is told. As we relate stories, we often exaggerate them, or make them happen to a friend instead of to an unknown person, or try to make the story more understandable. We do this subconsciously because we want our audience to be entertained or impressed.  Instead, we need to temper what we hear by: (1) considering the source of the message, (2) putting more credence in actual statements of fact and not predictions, (3) scale estimates down by accepting the less drastic if two numbers offered to us, (4) not allow our personal feelings towards someone deceive us into thinking that they are an example of a widespread phenomenon.

10. Correction from Others – Our friends and acquaintances can bring an objective perspective to our habits and beliefs. For instance, young children are good at correcting silly behaviors in each other, such as a funny way of walking, or eating with your mouth open. But, as we get older, we tend to associate with people who agree with us or share our habits, and therefore we have fewer opportunities to meet corrections. If we have adopted a defective belief, then we may never encounter the correction we need.

11. Strategies – If we all have innate tendencies to reason wrongly, what can we co to combat this? We can train our minds to compensate for our shortcomings: (1) We should be aware of how our minds try to see order even when there is no order. (2) We should be aware of how our minds remember things in a very biased way. (3) We should actively search for data that we may have missed, and especially search for data that contradicts our theories or beliefs. (4) We should ask ourselves how someone who disagrees with us would look at this data? (5) We should remember that stories that we hear may come from an unreliable source, or they may be exaggerated by the storyteller to make a point.  The more we understand and compensate for these errors, the more confidence we can put out beliefs that we have more carefully validated.

Conclusion:  I believe these observations apply to the conservative Christian community as much as the rest of the world. Christians have a duty to look at their own beliefs with the same critical eye that they turn on the liberal media. I wish I could find books like this one by Mr. Gilovich written in the Christian community. We need Christian leaders who will take a stand for self-criticism.  Let’s not use bad reasoning or bad science to promote good ideas. An example would be if creationists like me were more open about the evidence that seems to contradict creationism. We like to think that all evidence is in our favor, but I believe that if we were more public about the problems with creationist theories, more people would be impressed with our objectivity and reliability.  The challenge I have for myself is to become more aware of how I am reasoning, and be honest enough to acknowledge the errors I may discover there.
From: OrtegaPerez
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004

In response to Bilingual Classical Curriculum:  We are a bilingual family, my husband is from Mexico. Our son is 6 and our daughter is 7 mos. We have not found a bilingual or Spanish language curriculum that fits our standards, as of yet. I have searched the internet up and down.  We did however, purchase a few school books (grade K and 1st) from Mexico and we are using them to teach reading and writing in Spanish. We also purchased short historical biographies of Mexican heroes, to read out loud and that they will be able to read themselves when they get older. The large word books are great for increasing vocabulary. The ones with the real-life pictures are the best. We also converse in Spanish throughout the day and basically live a bilingual life.   At the same time I was teaching my son beginning phonics in English he was also learning the phonics in Spanish. It has not been too much for him. He also studies Latin and will begin Greek in a couple months.  It sounds like a lot, but he has yet to confuse any of the alphabets or become confused during his lessons. One thing I did was to create an alphabet sheet for every language he is learning. Each sheet is a different color with a grid. In each square is the upper and lower case letter. I also highlighted the vowels on each sheet. Most importantly there are no pictures of cute animals or objects to confuse the mind. When we study a language we pin the corresponding alphabet sheet on the wall and recite it first and then proceed with a short lesson or exercise. Spanish and Latin are somewhat similar and compliment each other creating a smooth transition from one language to the next.  The best Spanish education books I have seen from Mexico come from Trillas. You can check them out at We have a phonics reading and workbook from them. I have not sought out education material from Spain, as their pronunciation is quite different and not used in the majority of Latin countries. I hope this helps some.

Amber Ortega-Perez Perez, Classical Homeschool, San Antonio, Tx
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004
From: Rena Seguin
Subject: Math and Latin Questions

Thank you so much for the e-loop! It is a wonderful source of ideas and encouragement. I have a couple of things I would like to ask.  1. I have a 12 yo boy and a 15 yo boy, both relatively new to homeschooling and I am wondering how to deal with some math issues. As they work along in their Saxon texts I know they understand the concepts but they make many simple mistakes. They are both in Algebra 1. The 12 yo for the first time and the 15 yo for the second (he took it in school and did not do well due to not asking questions on things he did not understand.) How would you recommend handling this?   I have read Teaching the Trivium and loved it! I have two younger children with whom I will be using the relaxed approach until age 10. Could the early formal math have something to do with this problem in the older boys?  2. In the recent past (I think this month) someone posted a website for use with Latin. Included in the post was some information on memorizing large portions of Scripture (if my memory serves me correctly.) I have two questions: Could you repost that web address? I deleted it before I copied it and did not find it on the archives. And, do you have any tips or suggestions for memorizing whole books of the Bible?  Thank you so much in advance.

God bless. Rena Seguin
I remember having that problem with a couple of my children. I somewhat resolved the problem by offering rewards for doing a lesson with few errors. I can’t remember the exact rules I made, but it was something such as if they had 2 or less errors on a lesson then they could skip the next lesson. They had to read that next lesson and do the practice problems orally, but they could skip the written problems and go on to the following lesson. That somewhat motivates children to work more carefully — since it is usually carelessness that makes them miss the problems. They understand the problems perfectly well, but work the solution out in too much of a hurry and carelessly. But this method of skipping lessons only works if the child has a good understanding of the math. If they don’t understand, then skipping lessons is dangerous. Another trick I used was offering money rewards for lessons done with few errors. But that only works on days close to payday.  Sometime soon we will have the archives of Homeschooling with the Trivium up on the web site. We have someone working on it now.

From: ….com
Subject: Hello from Germany

Dear Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn,

My name is …… To introduce me first: I’m a student in …, Germany studying math and German. When I was 16 I spent one year as a foreign exchange student in Minnesota, where I got to know Jesus Christ and follow him ever since. My mentor and shepherd, …., lead me, taught me and was (and still is) an example for me. In his family I first experienced the concept of homeschooling. Getting to know his wife and children I was amazed how wonderful family life can be. I had never seen anything like that in Germany before. After I had come back god lead me to find a church family and gave me a wonderful woman to my side who I will marry very soon. For us it is very clear that we want to homeschool our children (as many as god gives 🙂 ) and your book Teaching the Trivium has been a wonderful resource for that.  Well, here in Germany homeschooling is illegal and to most of the people, Christian or not, a foreign term. A group (you might have heard of) formed about 3 years ago — Schule zu Hause (schooling at home). It was founded by the Guenther family, and comes from the American HSLDA. We serve together with them trying to make homeschooling legal in Germany, provide curricula, information, teachings and so on for families that decide to homeschool. This is all very difficult. There are not many at all going actively for that, and there are completely no! Information for families. But many many many questions, worries, fears and so on. What we try to do is writing a book on homeschooling with answers to questions Germans have, with biblical wisdom, with bare bones to get started and so on. Your book Teaching the Trivium has been a great help for us personally, and in many ways it can be for Germany. So my wife and I started translating chapters of it into German for Germans….

May grace and peace be with you and your family.
From: René Quenneville
Subject: The Light and the Glory
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2004

I recently started reading Peter Marshall’s American history book The Light and the Glory to my 10 year old daughter. It was given to us as a gift and I knew nothing at all about the author or his series. However, the more we read the more I started to wonder about his point of view and how historically accurate his books are. I have seen many discussions on this loop concerning world history programs, but don’t remember seeing many discussing American history. Is anyone familiar with Peter Marshall’s books who could tell me whether his research is trustworthy? Did he go back to primary source documents or is a lot of this his subjective interpretation of history? I realize that much of American history nowadays has been rewritten in a way which eliminates the Christian influences that were present and because of this I think it is wonderful to see history books written from a Christian perspective that recognize the role Christianity played in our history. However, there is another tendency which I find disturbing and that is to Christianize events and people in a way which distorts the truth and gives us an equally false impression of the past. The following are a few of my concerns:

1) In The Light and the Glory, Columbus is portrayed as a man of God whose main desire in searching for the new route to the Indies was to evangelize the natives. Yes, Columbus actually wrote of wanting to convert the natives in his diary, but I have a hard time believing this converting to be in the way evangelical Christians today use the word. Didn’t he just want to make converts to the Catholic Church, which being one with the political powers of the time period simply meant bringing more people under Spain’s dominion?

2) King Ferdinand is quoted as saying we are responsible to God for the welfare of our people and now these natives are our people. This terrible treatment cannot continue. You must govern the Indians as we would govern them. It is true that we want you to find gold because it would help our country. But we don’t want such riches at the expense of the Indians. Is this a realistic portrayal of King Ferdinand? From other things I have read about him, he was known as cruel and perfidious, as having started the Spanish Inquisition, as expelling the Spanish Jews and locking his daughter in a castle and stealing her right to the throne. Unless he had certain moments of compassion in his life, the quotes above do not seem to fit with his character.

3) There is also Mr. Marshall’s description in a very positive light of the Jesuits who came as missionaries to America, whereas other sources seems to indicate quite a lot of abuse on the part of the Jesuits in general toward the natives. What to believe? Were people like Marquette, Brébeuf and Jogues truly Christians or were they again trying to convert the natives to the Catholic Church, the head of state at the time?

4) The portrayal of the Puritans seemed also rather one-sided, not acknowledging any of their faults or errors. Roger Williams’ separation with the Puritans was also described very much from a Puritan point of view: God was planting his spiritual vineyard in the colonies with his faithful followers. But all of the branches needed to be strong. Before long he began to prune a few vines from the Bay Colony. The first such separation involved a man named Roger Williams. He did not believe God would use human beings to set up his kingdom on earth. Again, this does not seem to be an accurate description of Williams based on other sources. I have read that the origin of the conflict between the Puritans and Williams was instead the fact that the Puritans wanted to compel by force all people to go to their church and that although Williams had nothing against their church, he did not believe that the concept of salvation by faith was compatible with coercion (i.e. punishment can never make a person believe on Jesus in his heart.)

5) When denouncing the greed and disorderliness of the Jamestown settlers, Mr. Marshall says Was this truly a missionary outreach? Were these the people God had chosen to build his new Israel in America? What does that mean? Does Mr. Marshall believe that the United States has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people or have I misunderstood?   Statements like these as well as the constant refrain of things going well being an indication of God’s blessings on an event or group of people have left me feeling very uneasy about continuing on in the book or the series. These are simply the doubts that came up in my mind as I was reading the book. I don’t mean this as an attack on Mr. Marshall or his writings. If I am wrong about any of these conclusions or if anyone can straighten me out about all this I would appreciate it greatly.  What about other textbooks or programs for U.S. history – does anyone have any recommendations as to a balanced program with a Christian worldview? We use lots of living books to study history, but I like to have one main history book to serve as framework for the rest. Two that I have heard of are the Joy Hakim series (History of the U.S.) and Boorstin’s Landmark History of the American People. Any comments on these?

Thanks.  Alisa Walter Orford, Quebec, Canada
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2004
From: Jeffrey S. Elbe
Subject: Using Teaching the Trivium concepts with special needs children

Dear Friends, I am currently reading Teaching the Trivium and am going to put many of the ideas into practice with my oldest daughter (age 8). I also have a son, who has autism. We do home therapies with him. He is somewhat verbal, and I was wondering if anyone else here has used some of these ideas with a child with special needs. I know the first thing I need to work on with him is first time obedience, but I would appreciate other suggestions our counsel.

Thank you! Adrianne F. Elbe Waukegan, IL
Dennis Gunderson of has a book on autism that you might want to look at.

From: Paula Rolli
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2004

city: Bossier City
state: Louisiana
I think your web site is wonderful. Your book Teaching the Trivium is the best book I have read on homeschooling. It is very Christ centered and encouraging. Our son is eight and we have always educated him at home. Your book has blessed us and taught me so much that I need to learn. Thankfully, I had been using A Charlotte Mason Companion and we were reading and narrating daily. We also got rid of the TV several years ago. We have much to learn and I am thankful the Lord directed us to your book! I love learning with my son. I tell my dear husband I am receiving the best education by homeschooling. I never learned anything worthwhile in all my years of public school imprisonment! May our Lord Jesus bless you both, your family and your ministry.
From: Martin and Kimberly
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004

>>My Hannah wants to draw all the time (literally). She is asking that I find a book that will teach her how to draw animals and people. I am completely lost. Does anyone know of anything out there that can help me teach her how to draw? I have a difficult time drawing stick figures!!! So please it has to be easy.

I went to school for Art Education. One thing that has worked for art-challenged teachers is a book called Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks. This is not a Christian book, however, and there are a few things I do not like in it, such as relaxation exercises. I do think the drawing exercises and tips in it make the book well worth it. It costs around $15.00. There are also some other workbook-type books you can find at just about any bookstore in the children’s section, but from the perspective of someone who has studied art before, I find it just more effective to emphasize to your dd to draw what she sees. As part of our homeschooling, we all have nature notebooks (a good book on this is, Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth, available from CBD). I have children ages 10, 9, 7, 5, and 4. We each (me too!) have a nice sketchbook, and a box full of markers and pencils, and we go outside often and draw from nature. When the forsythia blooms, we draw it. When the grapes were ripe, we drew them. I simply re-emphasize to my children that there is no wrong way to draw anything, and they should focus on drawing what they see. I think, Teresa, if you got YOURSELF and HANNAH each sketchbooks for school time, and said, Today we are drawing these yummy pears I bought at the store; here is a green marker and YOU sat down with her and draw too–that would be such a blessing to her! Keep the sketchbooks just for school projects; don’t let her fill the whole thing in one afternoon. Make sure she sits for about 15 minutes working the same picture, rather than a drawing here, a drawing there, 100 drawings an hour– there goes a ream of paper (that is my 5 year old without supervision!).

Blessings, Kimberly Eddy
From: Kirsten Ekberg
Subject: reply to 5 yr old and art
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004

I have three series to recommend for that initial drawing phase:

1. The Draw Write Now series has a simple picture, with instructions on how to draw it, and then three lines of copywork to go with the picture. There are 7-8 books in the series and each is topical. They are around $10.00 each. These are available in many homeschooling catalogs.

2. Usborne books puts out a number of early art books for kids. My two favorites are: I Can Draw Animals and I Can Draw People. They are cute, simple, and have step-by-step instructions. There are more in this series and you can buy a bind up of most of the books in the series…I think it is called Playtime.

3. There is a Kids Can Draw series that I found at my library. These are topical with step by step instructions. My 6 yr old dd just drew three fabulous pictures of Ancient Egypt from their Ancient Egypt book. They also have: African Animals, Animals of the World, Dinosaurs, Favorite Pets, The Ocean, Pirates and more.

Hope some of these are what you are looking for!! Kirsten
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004
From: Andrew Chapman
Subject: re: 5 year old and art

Hi Teresa,

I Can Draw Animals and I Can Draw People published by Usborne books are great resources. Each book is simple enough for my 4 year old boy to have success with, and the finished animals/people look fantastic! Great fun for my 7 year old, too. We give them as gifts and they’re always a hit. You may be able to find them at your library, or if you have an Usborne consultant you know, you can order from her. If you can’t find the books anywhere, contact me, because I just became a consultant myself.   Another fun book is Ed Emberly’s Great Thumbprint Book, in which there are hundreds of ideas for dressing up your stamped thumbprint with a ball point pen into all sorts of critters, flowers, faces, etc. Another favorite with my boys, and gift for giving, too. This I found on Amazon and at a local teacher supply store.

Happy drawing, Stephenie Chapman
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004
From: Matthew P Henry


Although we haven’t used it yet, we’ve looked at it and it looks great. Check out the How Great Thou Art drawing books…
From: M. D. Harman
Subject: RE: art
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004

Teresa, Try Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  Your artwork will look better as well.  It teaches you how to view objects, and then draw them.

Date: Wed, 04 Feb 2004

I have been drifting among the waves of schooling options since before our daughter (3 1/2) was born. I started out wanting to homeschool, and then settled on public school — since, La…. County has one of the best school systems in the country. I didn’t think I could homeschool because I feel lost when I have both kids home (that’s right, only two) at one time. My daughter goes to preschool a couple of times a week because she’s bored. But, after a friend turned me onto your book Teaching the Trivium I’m feeling more than a little convicted. I sent my daughter to preschool because I’m bored and wanted to do what I wanted to do, not what was good for the kids.   I’ve only read three chapters of the book and listened to one tape, but the thought that if I want God at the center of my kids’ lives, why would I send them somewhere that doesn’t let God in the door? Now, for my question to you. How valid is the argument, you have to be called to homeschool? Or, each of us has to do what we feel God is calling us to do. I ran some of your ideas past my neighbor and she said she didn’t think that public school and having God at the center of your child’s life are mutually exclusive. It seems to me, that if you are sending your children somewhere to be instructed by someone with a different worldview, you are telling your children that the other worldview is valid, even if it isn’t a Biblical Christian Worldview.

In His Service,   B
I remember being somewhat bored when my children were very young, and it was then I decided to start reading aloud. At the time Nate was 5, Jo was 3, Hans was 1, and Ava was just born. I believe I started with Treasure Island, which is no simple book, by the way — pretty much over the heads of most of the children. But I had decided that I wanted to read it, and why not let it do double duty and have the children benefit also. It was no doubt one of the most important homeschooling decisions I have ever made. Treasure Island led to the complete works of Jules Verne, and I don’t remember what after that — they’re all listed in Hand That Rocks the Cradle. And, just so you will know, any signs of boredom will disappear when the oldest gets about 10 years old. That’s when you start studying the hard stuff and life gets really interesting.  Concerning your question, you have to be called to homeschool, perhaps some of our subscribers can respond.

From: Aileen Dunnaway
Date: Wed, 04 Feb 2004

I appreciate your answer recently in encouraging creativity in children, but had a question for you. I have 7 children, with another on the way. My children range from 1 to 13 years. Do you have the art and craft supplies somewhere that your little ones can’t get into them? I can’t imagine the mess if they were accessible to my 1 and 3 year olds. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!  Aileen
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004
From: Matthew P Henry


I too have questioned Peter Marshall’s historical accuracy. I would like very much to know of someone who has studied this from a strictly fact finding viewpoint. As to what we use and have enjoyed very much is Streams of Civilization by Christian Liberty Press. This idea is not original with us; we were given it graciously by Berean Bookshelf Ministries which is a literature based curriculum provider. But, what we do is read through Streams, just touching the first two sentences and the last of each paragraph. As this is a high school text book. We read one chapter like this and then spend several weeks reading living books about what we have just learned in Streams. I have come to really enjoy streams because it is very Christian based but combines all of history into one unit, ie, God’s story of what He is doing in the world, rather then separating it into all the areas that normal history textbooks do. For example, we just studied the Enlightenment period and it discusses very clearly what affect things that happened during this played on the lives of people from a Christian perspective. I admit I’m very prejudiced the more I spent time in Streams, but I would highly recommend it as a basis of studying all history. Combined with living books it has been very exciting for me to teach and watch my son fall in love with history and what God is doing and has been doing 🙂 By the way, my son was 8 when we started with Streams and is now 9.
From: Jen Lammi
Subject: Dandelion Cottage info
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that the publisher of Dandelion Cottage is the Marquette County Historical Society. We have the book currently in print. If anyone would like a copy, they are $10.95 + $4.00 shipping and handling, and we will send them all over the U.S. or Canada. This is a hardcover book, printed in 2002. Our information is:

Marquette County Historical Society
213 N. Front Street
Marquette, MI 49855

Thank you for your great review of the book and for suggesting others read it! Unfortunately the other books by C. Rankin are out of print and have to be found second-hand. If you have any questions, please email me, or call!  Jennifer Lammi, Museum Store Manager Marquette County Historical Society –
From: Don Potter
Subject: PhonicsMan: Special Op for phonics-first
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004

Dear Friends of phonics-first,

Below is a bit of humor that sent a friend in Florida who for years has remediated high school students who were victims of sight-word reading instruction. Lately he has taken Sam’s Alpha-Phonics into first-grade classrooms with stellar results. The Throne Room of the Dark Lord, SightWordMan, refers to the Leveled Reading Libraries which have been set up in my district which house 100% sight-word readers. A thorough search by PhonicsMan (that’s me) gave to the world the startling revelation that there is not one phonics book or decodable reader in the entire library of thousands of sight-word books. This is the nerve agent of which I speak. It is an accurate description of the effects of this sinister form of WMD (weapons of mass destruction): They are weapons against our youth and society; they are mass because millions have been subjected to them, the destruction has been massive, and they are destructive to the nervous system – leading to reading disabilities. The humor is of a black sort because, unfortunately, every word of it is true. I believe Gerry’s History of Reading could be made into a comic book staring PhonicsMan and Alpha-PhonicsMan. I have an artist who could do this. What do you all think? If I sound a bit vain please understand that I only represent phonics-first; and for that, I am unashamedly proud. Sincerely yours, PhonicsMan (Don Potter).  Dear Alpha-PhonicsMan,   I changed the description to sinister Throne Room of the Dark Lord, SightWordMan. PhonicsMan is a Special Op. involved in clandestine operations behind enemy lines gathering information, helping prisoners escape from their tormentors, and doing as much sabotage as possible. Our camouflaged hero stalks the halls of public schools searching for weapons of mass (reading) destruction. Unlike Bush in Iraq, PhonicsMan have uncovered enormous stashes of WMD and can document literally millions of cases where children have been used in experiments testing the effectiveness of these deadly agents. These agents are similar to nerve gas which leaves the victim unable to read and limits his ability to think, and therefore resist. Fortunately PhonicsMan, with the help of his Phonics-Allies, has been able to formulate a powerful antidote. The sooner the antidote is administered the better the results, but even older students who were injected with this man-made sight-word nerve agent have shown remarkable improvement. The antidote is cheap to produce, easy to administer, has no side effects and works every time. It is available under various labels, and there are even generic brands available for free at the web site. PhonicsMan is not alone! He has contacted Alpha-PhonicsMan in Florida. Together our phonics heroes, armed with years of Special Op. information gathering, are mounting a nationwide crusade to attack and destroy every cache of the sight-word nerve agent stockpiled in our government schools. As the verbal intelligent of a new generation of phonics-first trained soldiers start graduating from our academies, we will see more resistance fighters join our heroes in their fight to the death for the youth of America.   PhonicsMan
From: Kim Aliczi

Children’s Picture Books of poor literary quality and/or not suitable for children. This is a no-brainer! ANY of those awful Disney books!!!
From: The Brown Family

Hello Bluedorn’s!

Here are some suggestions from our reading experience.

Biographies/Autobiographies of good literary quality and suitable for children and adults.
The Spirit of St Louis, by Charles A. Lindbergh
Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Ian H. Murray
Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David

Historical Fiction of poor literary quality and/or not suitable for children and adults.
Books by Bodie Thoene, Prague Counterpoint, Munich Signature, etc. Quality is very poor. Tries to introduce you to the city and culture of the city named in the title, set in WWII. Is popular in Christian bookstores
An excellent autobiography suitable for adults and children is that of Helen Keller’s. The two biographies about her that I’ve read left me admiring her, but still feeling sorry for her. Her autobiography is so full of joy that it nearly made me feel sorry for the rest of us! I was simply awed at the life she lived, her attitude toward it, and the God Who was able to make something so beautiful out of what would seem to be nothing but an ash heap.
From: Sharon Williams

Historical Fiction of poor literary quality and/or not suitable for children and adults. A few titles in this genre that we’ve read recently left something to be desired in my opinion: Cat of Bubastes by GA Henty gives a lot of valuable and interesting insight into Egyptian life. However, Mr Henty portrays the Egyptians in a much more positive light than did the authors of other resources we had at our disposal. He describes them as extremely peaceful, gentle, honest and excelling in social equity. He also takes the position that the highest truth of Egyptian religion is that there is only one God and that all the various ‘gods’ are merely visual representations of the various characteristics or attributes of the one true God. I found this misleading and rather disturbing. Nevertheless worth reading aloud and discussing the discrepancies. Quintus by R Weerstand is a story of Christians during the time of Nero’s persecutions. Veritas recommends this book for Third Grade. It’s been some time since I read it but I remember being shocked at the graphic descriptions of torture and martyrdom. As a family we are sometimes criticized for being willing to expose our children to some hard facts like this – so we are generally not terribly squeamish. I really did think that this book is so graphic that it might not be suitable for a child under 15. I suspect that certain types of children might never be the same after reading it. The more gruesome elements are intrinsic to the story and so it would probably be difficult to read it and leave them out or even tone them down. Mara, Daughter of the Nile as another disappointment recommended by Veritas. I had bought it thinking it might be something my daughter would enjoy. While it certainly did contain plenty of vivid portrayals of Egyptian life, it was really no better than a cheap Harlequin novel. I think it’s a rather trashy romance albeit in a historical setting. (I’ve just had a look through the latest catalogue I have from Veritas and I can’t see it listed. Perhaps they’ve thought better of it now.) As of these titles were recommended by Veritas Press, it’s worth folk remembering when ordering that others have differing ideas about what’s suitable. I know now that Veritas is always willing to discuss particular titles and their suitability before you purchase.
From: Hillhillvan

Info. regarding questions of literature: regarding fantasy, I have been able to glean much from A Landscape with Dragons, by Michael D. O’Brien. The book has been updated, yet still it is dated, being published in 1998. The book has a book list, though it was not compiled by Mr. O’Brien. As my children get older, (19, 17 & 14) seems it is more difficult to choose books. There is such an abundance of written literature out there. We were always very thankful for your family’s book lists. The children will still read things considered by others as children’s books or young adult books, etc., for there are many good titles out there, yet as they move more into the adult arena, there is so much that is unacceptable.  We’ve enjoyed some Ellis Peters things, like, One Corpse too many. (mystery) The kids enjoyed Ironhead by Ellis – though some of the story line with the dad is a bit disturbing for younger and even older children. Our fantasy has been fairly limited, Tolkien and Lewis, some MacDonald. my younger daughter loved Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NMH, O’Brien. We’ve begin to look into Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, but are still unsure. Do you have any thoughts on Redwall?
From: Dbaucom4
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2004
Subject: history help

I am still working on our classical approach to history. My daughter is in the second grade and I’d like to teach history using Streams of Civilization but it’s just too much. I’m looking for a timeline that contains both world and Christian events and people. I’m not very good at history so I need help in this area. Does anyone have any ideas to share?  I forgot to mention that I was interested in the timeline you mention in your book but wondered where I could purchase it and if it contained world and Christian happenings.
We like The Wall Chart of World History by Hull. It is based on the chronology of Ussher and contains secular and Christian events. Does anyone know where this book can be purchased?

From: themunchkinhouse
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004
Kate Kessler Sacramento, CA

Regarding the Light and the Glory I was reading on (of all places) some of the reviews for the book. There are various ones that are quite negative, but some are positive and give more information. While I cannot endorse these books as God’s truth I like what one reviewer said:  After reading some of the reviews for this book I am wondering if the reviewers have thought through what they are saying. Every author is biased. Every author has a perspective. To say this book is a poor treatment of history because the authors start with a premise and sustain it throughout the book is ridiculous. Every author who has ever written a book does the same thing. You may disagree with Manuel and Marshall’s opinions and give the book a poor rating, but do not ostracize for having a perspective and admitting it from the start. I do not know if I agree or disagree with all of Manuel/Marshall’s ideas or thoughts or if I think that America is God’s chosen country as they state, but I think the books have merit. If you are uncomfortable with them, then I would not read them, but it makes for a good discussion with your child about differing points of view on history. It is good to have more than one source as well. I also have A Child’s Story of America by Christian Liberty Press. Also, Christine Miller has some very lovely books for the grammar age (and for us too!) called The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic.  I particularly like Miller’s work – she has reprinted histories originally done by H.A. Guerber with minor editing – and they are well-written, detailed, interesting and not expensive. I have learned much from my Story of the Middle Ages.

Blessings on your search for the truth! Kate Kessler
From: Suzan Newland
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004

city: Canyon Country
state: CA
Are there any articles on homeschooling children with tourette’s in the e-mail loop archives? Our seven year old has a tic disorder and was diagnosed about 18 months ago. He has excessive eye blinking and throat clearing. These come and go, sometimes we don’t see any signs for a couple of months. We have a great neurologist and we agree with him that no medication is necessary at this point. The neurologist is even supportive of our homeschooling! But I’m concerned about what to do on days that the tics are really bad. It has to be hard to concentrate on reading, writing, spelling, math, etc. when the eyes are continually blinking. Is it better to just not have school on those days or should we persevere through the tics?
I am looking for good twaddle free chapter books about World War 1 era/time period. Can anyone recommend a few that you moms have actually read? i need read alouds and chapter books for them to read on own (15-11 year olds). Thanks. (PS. I don’t like those diary series….)
John Buchan wrote several books that are set in WWI: The 39 Steps; Mr. Standfast; Greenmantle; and others. We love John Buchan!!!!

From: Kendra Fletcher
Subject: A Practical Schedule for Large Families Using the Trivium Approach
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004

Mrs. Phillips,

Our children are ages 11, 9, 6, 4, 2, and 2 months. I have always been prone to routine and scheduling and we have always employed the classical method in our homeschool. I speak on the subject of homeschooling with toddlers (or, How Your School-Aged Children and Preschoolers Can Peacefully Co-Exist in Your Homeschool) at homeschool conventions and groups here in California’s Central Valley. There are several keys to educating everyone at home, I think. One of those keys is flexibility, which seems ironic to mention while on the topic of scheduling. But by flexibility I mean that we as mothers need to be willing to adapt the schedule to the *current* needs of the family. Sometimes last month’s schedule will simply not work this month; I have crafted three different schedules this month alone before settling on a daily routine that allows everyone ample time to complete assignments, gives opportunity for lots of reading aloud, considers the nursing needs of a two-month-old, accomplishes chores and other jobs that must be done each day, and lets the children be children. I am tired by day’s end, but not weary and frustrated. So, here’s the plan right now: -Morning Stuff (which in our home means the children must brush their teeth, make their beds, tidy their rooms, get dressed, and spend time alone in the Word) -Breakfast -Circle Time- I am currently reading a book on sibling relationships to them during this time. This is also when we do memory work (poetry, catechism, lists, Scripture, etc.) and pray together. -Chores -I read aloud. Currently it’s Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons…they color, draw, do puzzles, play Lego -We go for a walk a mile down our country road. When the weather has not cooperated, we have been playing a board game or doing indoor exercises. -Free time -Lunch All three girls (ages 4, 2, and 2 months) then go down for naps. -Independent schoolwork, some of which needs my attention and help, but I find I can also fold laundry and do other household tasks during this time. The boys are doing math, handwriting, copywork, Latin (just the 11 year old), writing (just the 11 year old) and reading. -I teach history or science, depending on the day..M/T, history and W/Th science -Omnibus reading (each boy has 4 lists of required reading- history, science, biography, and fiction) -Tidy up, then free time I hope this is helpful. I do have copies of other schedules that have worked for us in the past and I would be happy to email them to you. Certainly, this is not the be-all, end-all of schedules and you will need to put down on paper what could work for you. Don’t be afraid to change things around and tweak your routine as you see what works and what doesn’t. In the past we have accomplished most of our serious schoolwork by lunchtime, but that just isn’t working for us right now. Perhaps as our children grow and needs change we’ll go back to doing it that way. Maybe not!

Blessings, Kendra Fletcher
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
From: Michelle Potter
Subject: Re: Do you have the art and craft supplies somewhere that your little ones can’t get into them?

I have four children from infant to 6 years, and I definitely have to keep some things too high for the smaller children. I would suggest a tall bookshelf. On the bottom level put blocks, wooden puzzles, board books and other things that are ok for your toddler. Higher up you can have art supplies and picture books for preschoolers. In the middle you can place supplies that are appropriate for your older children. On the top shelf of my bookcase I keep my homeschooling books, my good art supplies, reward stickers, and the rest of the construction paper that they aren’t currently using — my kids would use the whole ream in one day if I let them! In this way you keep messy and breakable things from tiny hands, but everything is still within the reach of those who can use it. Even the babies get to have some space that is theirs.
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
From: Denise

>>Now, for my question to you. How valid is the argument, you have to be called to homeschool? Or, each of us has to do what we feel God is calling us to do.

Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. Read Deut. 6:4-5 on the way there. Meditate on Deut. 6:6-7.  Then consider the question: How can you *do* Deut 6:7 with your children *gone* for 7 hours of the day and committed to additional homework on top of that? Btw, I agree with Laurie about reading aloud to the children. It’s our favorite time of the day, including the 3 who are fluent readers. They absolutely love listening to me. In the last month we’ve finished Blind Man’s Bluff, about US submarine espionage during the cold war, Cheaper by the Dozen, Belles on Their Toes, and we’re beginning Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. My eldest is 13.

Denise Mama to 6 in Utah

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
From: Jon Swerens

>>Now, for my question to you. How valid is the argument, you have to be called to homeschool? Or, each of us has to do what we feel God is calling us to do. I ran some of your ideas past my neighbor and she said she didn’t think that public school and having God at the center of your child’s life are mutually exclusive. It seems to me, that if you are sending your children somewhere to be instructed by someone with a different worldview, you are telling your children that the other worldview is valid, even if it isn’t a Biblical Christian Worldview.

If you *can* home school, why wouldn’t you, considering the condition of the secular/government schools? I guess what I am saying is that it seems like a natural thing to do for Christians, especially those who are home and can do it. We are already called to tell our children of the Lord when stand and when we sit, when we walk in the way, etc. It is hard to do that if they spend most of the day away from you. So no, I don’t see how a person needs to wait for what is called a special calling for that. I know that not all Christians will home school, but I think all should at least consider it.

Mary Swerens
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
From: Jon Swerens

>>I am looking for good twaddle free chapter books about World War 1 era/time period.

Have you seen the book called Sergeant York and the Great War? Excellent book, great movie, too!

Mary in Fort Wayne
From: Hillhillvan
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
Subject: World War I time period

Albert Marrin is excellent, The Yanks are coming. Boys might enjoy, for the book is filled with more details, not so much a story line, but my son loved it. We’ve read other Marrin books, usually very interesting and very informative. The Yanks are Coming is mostly about Gen. Pershing and the US. Another, for reference is Richard Maybury’s book, WWI. We loved the Buchan books, Greenmantle and the 39 steps, but as older kids. Sergeant York as a movie is excellent
From: Michelelockman
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
Dear Aileen,

My six children ages 2 to 13 are very artistic like their father. We keep most everything out of the 2 and 4 year olds’ reach in an old china hutch. The top door is well above them, and the bottom drawers are so heavy, they cannot open them! Our six year old keeps his things in there. But since the young ones like to color and draw, they have coloring books and crayons on shelves in the living room. I like Crayola Twistables for my 2 yo as he can do just about anything to them and not break them! I also like the Wonder paper and pens (I think, also from Crayola) as he can use that when he wants to use markers like the big kids. Magnadoodles are fun for real little kids. They can draw on those without the mess! The older kids like to help the younger ones with messier things once a week and it seems to get it out of their system for a little while! We never intended for our china hutch to be used this way, but it is perfect!

God Bless your family!  Michele
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004
From: Doug Atkinson
Subject: Re: The Light and the Glory

Kate Kessler wrote about The Light and the Glory. I think you make an excellent point about bias. A book I read recently (sorry I don’t remember which one) made the same point. Up front, it stated that it was biased toward the Christian Worldview. The author went on to point out that as a reader of the book, you at least now know the bias of the writer. With most books, on the other hand, the authors purport to be neutral, and you must dig deeper to discover their bias. We all have the same facts to sort through, it is which facts we choose to present and how we interpret them that differ. I, for one, really like the first book in the series, The Light and the Glory. Near the end of that one, and beginning with the 2nd in the series, the editorializing seemed to get a little heavier, or perhaps I simply noticed it more because there were viewpoints I didn’t fully agree with.  Anyway, History is a very complex issue, and one of the core benefits of looking at history from a Christian Worldview is that we realize that man is sinful. Thus, while Christopher Columbus may have had some Christian values and reasons for his venture, he was also caught up in issues of greed and prestige, among other vices. Christians should not pretend that any group of people or any cause was without error, but we also mustn’t ignore the role of God and religion in any endeavor.  I have recently been listening to Steven Wilkins American History tape series, and have enjoyed a slightly different approach to many of the same subjects.

Doug Atkinson
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004
From: Patricia Maxwell

2 homeschooling children with tourette’s?  My son is 8–he was diagnosed a year ago. We are not medicating him either, though we do a few natural things that I learned about from doing Google searches on tourette’s alternative treatments. We are mostly dealing with his OCD, however. My son’s tics will vary throughout the year. Right now his tics don’t interfere with schooling–he stopped blinking several months ago. We always do reading aloud, (mom reading, that is) and adjust the things that require him to write based on what’s going on with him that day. Some days we do as much oral work as possible; some days it is just Mom reading aloud. On good days we do everything. Last year he only did writing on a white board, because when we used lined paper, his OCD was making him erase every letter that was not absolutely perfect.  All this to say we simply adapt based on what’s happening with him at the time. For a short time I belonged to several Tourette’s e-mail groups. The things the parents went through trying to have their child in the school was heart-breaking. I could never understand why they just didn’t bring the child home.

From: Hazel Burke
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004

re: boredom and homeschooling; you have to be called to homeschool

It sounds to me as if the Lord is already gently tugging at your heart and calling you to homeschool. If you had no misgivings whatsoever about raising your children with God as their center, yet sending them to school which will teach an opposing view, you would not be asking the questions you’ve presented here.   I believe some of us are called in the sense of always knowing we’ve desired to homeschool. I also believe some of us find our calling when situations present themselves, such as your dilemma, and we are forced to rethink our original choices regarding school. That is where you need to pray for wisdom and step out in obedience. If you desire to do the Lord’s will for your children, He will bless your efforts, and you will become more and more sure that you are doing the right thing. This sounds like a packaged answer, but it is what I firmly believe. He gives us the desires of our hearts, and who loves our children more than we do? No one but God Himself. Trust Him to lead you in the right direction and be open to following it, even if it’s not your personal first preference.  As far as boredom…I can’t say our days are ever boring! 🙂 Sometimes I feel as if I could put more excitement into what I’m teaching, but overall, the task of raising my children is a responsibility that I’m honored to have — to know that the Lord trusts my husband and me to guide them along the right path in a way that no one else can. Trust me, once your children explore their natural curiosity without the confinement of classroom protocol, they will bloom and love the learning process.

I hope this encourages you, Lynda Dietz
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004
From: bartman747

>>I am looking for good twaddle free chapter books about World War 1

I haven’t read these books yet as we are not up to World War I in our history studies but these are some books I have in mind to share with my kids:

The Yanks are Coming and Stalin: Russia’s Man of Steel both by Dr. Albert Marrin (found in Beautiful Feet catalog
The Virtuous Warrior, Sergeant York and the Great War Edited by Tom Skeyhill and Little Bear Wheeler (found in Vision Forum catalog)

From: Clara
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004

Hi all,

I just received a lovely book that would be inspiring for Poetry Month in April:

The Lord Builds the House: The 127th Psalm by Johannah Bluedorn

It is a slim hard covered book that is beautiful, the illustrations are so rich, but the most impressive aspect of the artwork is the tenderness and beauty of family life. Johannah’s art conveys warmth and innocence. It is also wonderful example for our daughters of the value of nature study and provides an excellent springboard for poetry month.

Why not get a blank book and choose a couple of Psalms to meditate on and illustrate during poetry month.

Many blessings to all,
Clara in Miami
From: Denice Austell
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 2004

city: Warner Robins
state: GA
I recently read your book entitled Teaching the Trivium. It allowed me to understand that teaching in a classical style could bring glory to God. I was worried that I was in search of knowledge for its sake. I don’t want to raise snobby scholars!! I was wondering if there is a bible curriculum which follows the trivium method. I would like to study the bible with my three children using the stages in which we best learn: knowledge, understanding and wisdom. If not, what materials would you suggest? I will be starting homeschooling with my children soon and they are 6, 8, and 10 years old.

Thank you and God’s blessings on your efforts!
Denice Austell
In the appendix of our book Teaching the Trivium we have an article about how to study the Bible using the trivium. Do a search of the archives on our web site to find suggestions on actual Bible curriculum. Sometime in the next couple of weeks we should have all the archives posted.

From: Clint Stark
Subject: Math anxiety…..
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004

Dear Harvey & Laurie,

I, mother & homeschool teacher, am having math anxiety :-). This is the time of year I begin to evaluate where we are and what we are doing and also begin thinking about our next year’s studies. We are putting off formal math after reading the research you present in your book as well as other reading etc. Today, a dear friend & homeschooling mentor expressed concern to me that unless I was drilling our daughter (age 8) on basic math facts (addition, subtraction etc.) that it would be too overwhelming for her to memorize them later and would cause future problems in math. I do remember as a child knowing by heart basic things like 1+1=2, 9+9=18 etc. I remember writing over & over the multiplication facts from 1×1 to 12×12 until I had them memorized, in the 4th grade.

Should we be working on math facts memorization? I do teach math through money handling & activities, measuring, cooking, gardening, telling time, games etc. – but my intent was only to impart basic concepts, not memorize facts. My friend is stating that the facts must be memorized. For memorization thus far we have focused on scripture, poems, songs, months, seasons, Greek alphabet, counting, etc. We are the only family in our homeschooling circle choosing to wait on math so we have no support network here on this issue. I would very much appreciate some encouragement/guidance/feedback to get an idea if I’m on the right track or not. I’m going to go back and read the chapter in TTT regarding this issue but I won’t be able to get to it right away.

Thank you.
Rhonda Stark
Palmer, Alaska
Yes, it is very important that the student have the math facts thoroughly memorized. The question is, when does that need to be accomplished? I won’t go into all the reasons why we suggest to delay this since we cover it in our book and on our web site. In a situation such as yours where you have only one child and don’t have personal experience in the matter, you are getting pressure from others, and you are feeling some anxiety, perhaps you could do a bit of compromise. Perhaps you and your daughter could work on memorizing some of the easier math facts, learning them in the context of something concrete, such as a game (dominoes or cards) or using Cuisenaire rods.

Date: Tue, 09 Mar 2004
From: James Waldy
Subject: Science texts

I am looking for science books (not textbooks) that might be similar to the old Golden Books or the newer DK Eyewitness books. Are there any out there that address such topics as astronomy, birds, mammals, reptiles, earth, etc. and are devoid of evolutionary references?

James Waldy
Have you looked at the bookstores at and
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004
From: Jon Swerens

>>and reading out loud to them. The only problem is I did all my studies in French, and English is the second language. I get along fairly well and enjoy reading English books; but reading out loud is another story! Words don’t come out as fast and after a half hour my mouth is tired. Can someone tell me if it will become easier over time? …. How should I handle this? Should she be made to wait until the next day’s reading to find out what happens next? One more question: Can an English as a second language mother successfully teach writing and grammar to her children?

I would think that reading aloud would be one of the best ways to improve your English. It will take some time, but I encourage you to keep at it and keep reading aloud to your children, even if it is for a half hour every day. You will be able to increase your reading time as you improve. Practice makes perfect! I never allow my children to finish a read-aloud on their own if I am not done with it. They have to wait until I read it to them. They can read something else. What’s wrong with making them wait until the next reading to find out what happens next? As for your question about teaching your children English writing and grammar, I think that if you spend time everyday studying it yourself, you will be able to teach it to your children. But you need to get started studying it right away. I recommend that you accomplish this by working through a children’s grammar text book. You could start with Abeka 1st or 2nd grade, for example, and work your way through. I often use children’s books or curricula to learn something new because they are written for someone who knows nothing about the subject. The writing is simple and easily understood. Is there someone near you that can answer questions for you as you study? I’d be glad to help you anytime you need it. Feel free to email me anytime, if you’d like.

Mary Swerens
From: Summer Sears-Galbraith
Subject: Tyndale Psalms?
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2004

I was wondering if anyone knew where I might find a copy of Tyndale’s translation of the Psalms? I can find copies of the OT and NT, but neither one includes this book. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you
Tyndale was martyred before he could complete a translation of the Psalms. Coverdale incorporated Tyndale’s translations into his entire Bible. Coverdale’s Psalms may be found at this site.

Or the whole book of common prayer, containing Coverdale’s Psalter

Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2004
From: Cristy VanArtsdalen

I was looking for American history curriculum and found the k-3 guide by Beautiful Feet and they use books like American Providential History by McDowell and Beliles, D’Aulaire and others. Their philosophy comes from the Teaching and Learning American Christian History by Rosalie Slater. So, are their philosophy and approach biased too?

Cristy Van Artsdalen
I’ve included here information on a United States history course for high school students. I can highly recommend this curriculum — it is thorough, well written, it incorporates plenty of primary sources, is inexpensive, and is written from a Christian worldview. Laurie

Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith by Ray Notgrass

Exploring America is an American history high school curriculum combining American history, American literature, and Bible. It helps high school students gain a fuller understanding of our nation’s past as they read the history narrative, read classic American literature, complete writing assignments, and study what the Bible says about issues and ideas in American history.

Bible-based. This curriculum presents history from the perspective of faith in God and respect for his word. Each unit includes a Bible study highlighting spiritual issues related to American history, and each lesson includes a Bible verse.

Comprehensive. This curriculum helps students understand American history from the European exploration of the 15th and 16th centuries up to recent events, with extensive coverage of the 20th century. Lessons include the 2000 presidential election and the September 11th attacks on America. Features classic literature and original documents. While studying the history of America, students read classic American literature, poetry, and historical documents and speeches that teach history in the words of the people who made it. Except for the literature, the required readings are all found in the student text or in the reference books that come in the Curriculum Package, so you don’t have to hunt for hard-to-find books!

Exploring America Curriculum Package – $84.95

The curriculum package features the complete two-volume student text, which includes the history narrative, Bible lessons, and all reading and writing assignments needed to complete one high school credit each in Bible, American History, and English. In addition to the student text, the curriculum package also contains three reference books of original documents, speeches, and poetry that are required to complete the course.

Exploring America (714 pages in two volumes)
A Documentary History of the United States (515 pages)
World’s Great Speeches (944 pages)
101 Great American Poems (80 pages)
The Notgrass Company
370 S. Lowe Ave.
Suite A, PMB 211
Cookeville, TN 38501
Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004


You recommend reading aloud 2 hours a day to children under 10. Would this be all at once or broken up? I can’t imagine my active almost 6 year old wanting to sit for two hours. What would you recommend for this age level? At most she can do 20 minutes or so, then she wants to do something active…play dolls, house, put on a show, etc. Also, is it really necessary to read two hours a day, every day??? I don’t see how I can do that plus take care of the two year old and all the house chores, etc. Also, she’s doing phonics with me but no math for a while. And guess what? she’s back to asking things like, how many 10’s make 100? and singing some math facts like 2+2, 4+4, etc. that I never really taught her…except for a few math workbooks we did before I read your article about delaying formal math. Isn’t it funny? Without the math workbooks, her interest in math seems to be improving, naturally.

Thanks for your advice.
Marge Densley
I suggest reading in half hour segments, and don’t make the child sit still beside you as you read. Allow her to play quietly with toys or work with art materials. Perhaps you could start out with 2 half hour reading times and work up from there as your schedule allows.

From: Steve and Shelly Mertz
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004

Just a quick second of a book recommendation — I recently read Stone Fox with my children (9yo dd, 7yo ds, 2yo dd) and we all loved it. The older two have listed it as one of their favorites this year; they even put it on dad’s nightstand with a read-this-book post-it note attached!

Date: Sat, 20 Mar 2004
From: Kevin & Sara Shull

Hi! I’m looking for advice and opinions from the wise parents on this board. My daughter will be turning 10 over the summer so I’m looking at math options after taking several years off of formal math. Much to our shock, she scored in the 96-99 percentile on last years required standardized Iowa tests in the math sections. (Her scores actually improved during the years we took off from math, hmmmmm.) Anyway. Last time we did a Math text was Calvert School’s Math program in 2nd grade. We really liked it a lot. She especially loved it. Now though, I’m not sure I should just jump back into a 6th grade text book from that program. I’m also considering Saxon6/5 along with the DIVE cds which provide a teacher for the program. Have any of you used the DIVE cds? Has anyone used Calvert after delaying math? Any concerns about Calvert for the 5th, 6th, or 7th grade levels? I also have four younger children and am happily expecting a baby in Oct. 2004- so I am a bit concerned that even on our best days my time available for teaching math will be at a premium. And admittedly, math is not my best subject. My husband is good with math, but it would be very difficult for him to spend time every day teaching it to her. He would certainly be available for special questions as they arise.

Opinions welcome!
Sara Shull
From: MHarrin11
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004

Latin in the Christian Trivium is a comprehensive Latin course which contains all necessary grammar and history notes for a full high school level course, although it can be begun in elementary school. Features which are unique to this program are its grounding in Scripture, its emphasis on Biblical principles throughout, the historical/enrichment material built into each chapter, the continuous story line of the Roman centurion of the Bible and his family, an Activity Book which contains enriching activities, logic puzzles, crossword puzzles, word games, etc., all tied into the vocabulary of each Volume. Our course offers free online tutoring help when needed. If you are interested, please go to our website at for more product information.
From: Kirsten Bird
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004

Re: Picky Eater and Nutrition Education

I’ve just discovered Sue Gregg’s cookbooks and I’m learning SO much about whole foods. My kids love the breakfast recipes. She has courses and a book specifically for teaching children cooking and nutrition. The website is:
From: The Hamiltons
Subject: nutrition
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004

I had to chime in here. I was at our local Health Dept. (in GA) and while I was there I asked if they happen to have anything to teach children about good health and nutrition. Well, the lady I spoke with gave me a huge stack of coloring books, booklets, posters, tablets with check off boxes for each of the food groups to check as you eat during the day, and a cook book. She told me that the government sends them this stuff every year to give out and nobody ever asks for it.  I let my children pick through the pile and read, color, cut and paste what they were interested in. Both made posters with the food pyramid where you color the food and glue them on the right spot.
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004
From: Dianne Palmer-Quay
Subject: training on nutrition


You may want to look at Sue Gregg’s cookbooks ( She has one called Lunches and Snacks with Lessons for Children. I also think she has another set of children’s lessons (I know she has a program on baking for highschoolers). She advocates whole grains, natural sugars, low fat, etc. so if this is the way your family eats (or wants to eat), you may find her helpful. You may be able to find a homeschooling friend who already has these cookbooks. They seem to be well known among the homeschooling community. Another possible place for resources are 4-H materials although they seem to vary in quality from state to state. I would not recommend the national 4-H curriculum Six Easy Bites since I think it has more fluff than substance.

Dianne in SC
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004
Subject: Re: reading to children under 10
From: pamella9


When a person does the 2 hours a day of reading to children under 10, can some of this be adult reading, like the bible? I have a 2 year old. Or, should all of the reading be at the 2 year olds level?

Thank you,
Our 2 hour suggestion applies mostly for children 4 and up, but perhaps you could work up to that in the next couple of years. Yes, I would definitely include adult reading in the 2 hours. I usually read to my children the books which I liked — chapter books.

Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004
Subject: Delayed Formal Math
From: Sandra J Sorensen


I am really interested in the philosophy of delayed formal math. Unfortunately, I have not been able to read your book yet, but I have read many of the articles on your website and I love this list. I hope to get your book soon.

My question is, if you delay formal math does that mean you do not have any math instruction at all? Or would one just not do written math? I was amazed at hearing that someone’s child tested in the 99th % with no formal math training. I am interested in learning more because my daughter loves math, but does not like the written part of it. Until a few weeks ago we were using manipulatives and the Miquon math pages for 3 hours a week to solve problems. She was at the point of hating school so we switched our schedule around. Now we play math games, mess around with manipulatives, play store, have time games, etc. two days a week. The other two days she has math lab where she has access to lots of math tools and she chooses worksheets from a large selection to fill in. (More in line with the original intention of Miquon). She is much happier now, but of course there is a lot less written work to show. (I am only worried about NY state requirements in this area).

I am trying to figure out what to do next year. She is only in 1st grade this year and I do not want to push the written part and have her end up hating school. My biggest concern about not doing formal math is the standardized testing and the written work portfolio that we are to keep in case of audit. Here in NY we are required to do Math for 3 hours a week and in 3rd grade they get tested. If they fall below the 33rd percentile then our right to homeschool can be taken away. So, every quarter I have to log that we have done Math for 3 hours per week. What would that look like if we delayed formal math? Would we just play games and mess around with math ideas informally like we do two days a week now?

Thank you for your time.
We suggest informal math with children below age 10, just as you describe you are doing. I believe we have discussed on this list the NY requirements, but perhaps someone from NY could answer this question. We hope to soon have all the archives posted on our web site.

Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004
From: John P Simmons

To Sara Shull concerning Saxon Math DIVE CDs:

I cannot express how pleased we have been with our purchase of the DIVE CDs. Dr. Shormann is a Christian who gives his testimony and scriptures as encouragement in some of the lessons. My children are able to work more independently with a *teacher* who has the patience to repeat the lessons as many times as needed. This frees me to spend more time with my younger ones on their phonics, writing and fact drills. I wouldn’t say that the DIVE CDs are a necessity, but they have benefited our homeschool.

Mrs. John Paul Simmons
From: Michelle Potter

On the issue of chores, in your book you express the opinion that any child who can walk can do chores. My son Seamus is 23 months and eager to help. What would you recommend for him?
I would start with asking him to put his toys away. I used to say something like pick up 3 things and put them away and we would count 3 things and he would put them away. And then we would pick up 3 more things. That way it’s not too overwhelming to a young child — he does things in small increments. A little child can help scrub the kitchen floor. Give him a little bucket of water and rag and let him play at cleaning the floor.

From: SonKist49
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004

A reply to Sandra Sorensen RE: delayed formal math

NY state requires that you do not have to test until after 3rd grade and then every other year. That means really you wouldn’t have to actually have your child tested until 4th grade. Another important point is you can submit a written assessment. This can be done by finding someone in your church family, homeschool group, who is qualified to assess and have them do this, but again it officially does not need to be done until your child has completed 4th grade.

Keisha Kain

P.S. Last week, our 7yr. old, said she was not liking math so much, but then a few days later , announced that she sleeps 11 hours a night. I asked her how she knew that , and she said simple, I took my toy clock and figured out that I went to bed at 8 p.m. and get up at 7 a.m. The beauty of this discovery is she made her own math problem and then solved it as well…..
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004
From: Matthew P Henry


If it helps, we have a young two year old who loves the original Elsie Dinsmore books. Plus we’ve been reading the original unabridged Robinson Crusoe book to her as well. She enjoys both her 2 year old picture books as well as chapter books with no pictures. She just enjoys being read to 🙂
Patrick Thomas
Subject: Different Reader
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004

Laurie, I spoke with you a few weeks ago about integrating the TTT method into our homeschool. During the conversation we talked about our sons who like to skim lots of books rather that read one from front to back. Following your suggestion, I instructed my son (12 y/o) to choose one chapter book to read and have allowed him to read his other books as he pleases. The problem now is that he forgets to read his chapter book. Do you have any suggestions about the best way to handle that? My first reaction was to either (1)assign a period of time each day for him to spend reading through his assigned book or (2)not allow him to read his fun books (his words) until his chosen book is completed. I have the sense that this is more than just I forgot. It feels more like-to borrow a modern psych term-a passive-aggressive attempt to not have to read some other way. I always have problems with such I forgots. He doesn’t forget to read the fun books. Anyway, since you said you have a son who read this way I thought perhaps you have dealt with this before and might have some insight to share.
Because of Him, Tracy in NC
Sometimes young boys have selective memory — they will remember what they want to remember. They just can’t seem to remember to take out the compost bucket, but you’ll never see them miss the Cubs game on the radio. You need to help him learn to remember. Either of the two options you mention above would work. It is a training process — he needs to practice remembering what you have told him to do. After he reads his assigned reading (and perhaps narrated it back to you in summary form) then he can read what he likes (although you should always be aware of what he is reading and perhaps monitor that). So, in other words, you must keep him accountable, either to you or to his dad. Clearly write out what is expected of him and when he is expected to do it, and then he must come to you or Dad to show that it is done.

Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2004
From: Michelle Potter
Subject: Endangered Minds

The book Endangered Minds by Jane Healy was recommended to me as a discussion of why even educational tv can have negative effects on children. I was going to go out and buy it, but I noticed on the review that the book also endorses whole-language learning. Sounds like sight-reading to me. Has anyone read this book who could tell me if it’s worth the read? Or can anyone recommend another book on the subject of TV and its effect on kids?
I can recommend Endangered Minds, although I don’t know anything about her endorsing whole language — I can’t find my copy now to look it up. Another good book is The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004
Subject: Teaching Math
From: glutenfreefamily

Hello. I have a few questions regarding teaching math. My husband and I are getting ready for our first official year of homeschool. Official meaning we will be tracked by the state. I know that math for the early years should be informal in approach and we should limit traditional workbook math. Here is the issue….my husband (who 100% supports homeschooling) is an 8th grade math teacher. He knows and I know that math is my weakest area. When I read the suggestions to play Rummikub or chess to teach math, I couldn’t think how chess would teach math and I have no clue what the other game is about. I am very weak in math. My husband understands that I want to teach math more informally but he wants me to have a textbook/teacher guide to give me a path to walk on. He says that I don’t necessarily have to do the workbook assignments (although he does feel they have value.) I had him look at the Alabacus program that was listed on the site. He doesn’t like it for 2 reasons:

1.) It is very boring looking. He is very visual and feels that I must have a very good guide to help me teach better.
2.) The price tag is out of our reach right now.

What suggestions do you have for locating a curriculum that would be visually pleasing to my husband (very visual) yet I would be able to have an informal approach to teaching? I hope this all makes sense. I have heard of Rays Arithmetic but I am not sure if that is for older children or younger. My husband also dislikes Saxon (which made a bid for the district math curriculum.) My daughter is five right now, very bright, but is limited in her knowledge of math right now.

Thank you, Teresa Nguyen Riverview, FL
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004
Subject: Read Aloud Ideas
From: glutenfreefamily

Hello! I am looking for ideas. I am having difficulty finding books that my children like to hear read aloud. We have read The Jungle Book and the children loved it. I have tried a few others (The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, and Call of the Wild) they didn’t get past the first few pages. They told me that they don’t like the books. Other than books that are Curious George by Virginia Burton, or on animals the children have a limited literary diet right now. Does anyone have any ideas for good read alouds for children 4 and 5?

Thanks, Teresa Nguyen
The Matchlock Gun by Edmonds
books by Lois Lenski
books by M. Henry
From: Vanessa Strohmeyer
Subject: Math Success
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004

I wanted to give my testimony of no formal math. We have a 1st grader who just turned 7. Last year I began the curriculum from ___because it seemed the most logical to my husband and me. Half way through the year our son was not understanding the concepts so I quit the formal curriculum. We still talked about math in our daily life and occasionally I would have him get the abacus to solve the problem. This year I occasionally looked at the curriculum and applied what they want to teach in a real life way. Our son asked to do some worksheets so I printed some from and he used the abacus to do the problems. An example of real life application: he learned to count by 5’s watching an old School House Rock video that was given to us. He watched it less than 5 times and got it. So, I took this knowledge that he has and applied it to a clock and told him how to tell time. Now he’ll spout out the time whenever he looks at the clock and I’ll occasionally ask how many minutes until the next hour? and he’ll figure it out. We chose to have him tested this year (Iowa Test of Basic Skills since we live in Iowa), and he scored at a 2nd grade level. I was thrilled, and plan on the same strategy for next year.

Hope that’s encouraging! Vanessa
From: Jeff Pollard
Subject: Dictionaries?
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004

Do you know of any good dictionaries that don’t have any profanity in them? I know it’s probably a lost cause, but wondering. We can’t use Noah Webster’s 1828 because it’s too big and too costly to send to prisoners.

In Christ, Jeff
From: Clint Stark
Subject: reading progress
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004

Harvey, Laurie & friends on the email newsletter loop,

Our daughter, Katie, age 8, finally has taken off in her reading this year and has jumped a couple grade levels since last August (she was a late bloomer in reading).We used Alpha Phonics – just the teacher’s manual, main book. I now know that there are supplementary materials but we just used the book and did a lesson a day. I am not sure where to go from here. We used Sonlight 2 this year for a history and reading schedule, adding in books as desired along the way. Along with and since finishing Alpha Phonics, I have had her read aloud to me each day from one of the recommended Sonlight readers, which has been very easy for her, or from a Pathway or Nature reader. She can read at a more than acceptable pace and will read out loud for fairly long periods willingly, but the books we are using for reading aloud are pretty easy. She reads voraciously to herself and is reading through the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder right now. She has good comprehension. My concern is that she is still really struggling with many digraphs and complex vowel sounds and I am not sure where to go from here. I would appreciate any advice. I did come upon a website called Reading Key that has various reading exercises and lessons that you can use picking up where your child is at or focusing in on areas of weakness. There are many free materials and the downloadable lessons are really inexpensive .I’m wondering if anyone is familiar with this site. The address is

Thank you. Rhonda Stark Palmer, Alaska
From: Pealstrom
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2004

>>On the issue of chores, in your book you express the opinion that any child who can walk can do >>chores. My son Seamus is 23 months and eager to help. What would you recommend for him?

They also make smaller sized tools for kids, like a broom for instance, or we have brooms where the handle is broken off and it makes it easier for the child to sweep up. Little rakes for outside and shovels are available, too. I’m sure there are many others.
From: MHarrin11
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2004
Re: Rod & Staff Grammar.

As a Latin teacher who is quite involved in teaching grammar, may I encourage you to stick with the Rod & Staff English? It is truly superior to all others, even though more difficult.

We used it but we were a year or so behind the age range suggested. Honestly, the 8th grade one is appropriate for late high school or college English, so I would suggest you back up and do it more slowly spreading out the textbooks 1-8 over the grades 1-12.

My children are grown, and I know they benefited immensely from a good base in English. One son, when he was in fifth grade, told me that he had no idea that our language had changed from old English to middle English and now to the present form. He enjoyed learning the history so much!

Hope this is helpful!
Mary Harrington
From: Andrew & Jocelyn James
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004

Dear Michelle,

We have also found little jobs like helping to set the table at meal times can be manageable for a small child. They may not put the cutlery in the right place but it is a start!

Hope this helps,
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004
From: Polly Henry
Subject: teaching music to children

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bluedorn,

What do you all recommend for training children in music? My objectives are to give them an appreciation for classical music, to help them start to understand the mechanics of music (the staff, rhythm, beat, reading music), and to love singing. Do you or any of your subscribers have any suggestions regarding curriculum or books?

Thank you,
Polly Henry
Tucson, AZ
One curriculum we can suggest is Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter: A Self-Instruction Program by John Clough and Joyce Conley and its follow-up Basic Harmonic Progressions: A Self-Instruction Program. These books are for ages 14 and up. Two of our children used them. Laurie
Review in Church Libraries (Spring, 2004), the publication of The Evangelical Church Library Association:

The Lord Builds the House: The 127th Psalm
by Johannah Bluedorn

Psalm 127 comes to life in this beautiful, tender rendering by Johannah Bluedorn. Homeschooled by her parents and a self-taught artist, she wondrously depicts the story of the Lord building our homes and families. Each page is filled with peaceful, innocent paintings of families, animals, and nature. Glossy pages set off glowing colors, making each page a visual dessert. Love of home and family is evident throughout the book. At the end, the Psalm is set to music by Johannah’s father.

Highly recommended. JV
From: Eric Haas
Date: Fri, 07 May 2004

You have a very nice website. I love to see the interest that you have had in teaching your children. I am concerned however that by homeschooling, a child is taken out of the biggest mission field of their life. I was a high school student invited to church by a boy from my school soccer team. I came to Christ and married a wonderful Christian lady. We are both public school teachers and work with to build relationships with the lost youth of our community. If the boy from my soccer team was homeschooled, I may never have come to know Christ. My friend was not seeking to accomplish educational reform, but to lead other students to Christ. Prayer, the Bible, and the ten commandments were taken out of the school, and it has affected our youth. If you want to really mess up our community, then self-rapture our Christian youth from our schools and leave our lost students with virtually no one calling them to Christ. Parental involvement is a better predictor of educational success than even social class. I fully agree with your belief that God charges parents to teach their students the Word. I do however believe that homeschooling is like putting your lamp under a basket or burying the coin that the master gave you.

Your Brother in Christ,
Eric Haas


Date: Sun, 9 May 2004
Subject: About math; book recommendations
From: Janet E Sedy

A reply to Teresa Nguyen—

We have been using Math-U-See.(If you do a Google search with Math-U-See, you should be able to find their web site.)I have now been using it for over 6 years, and have used all levels to Algebra 1.I have used it for children who are strong in math, and for ones who struggle with it. It is visual in the sense that concepts are taught via a video presentation and uses manipulatives. The videos are designed to teach the teacher how to present the material, but I watch them with my kids–Steve Demme, the program’s author, does a great job of presenting the concepts. Concepts are taught concretely with manipulative blocks in a way that really makes sense. My son who does well in math is completely independent with this program: he watches the video, does the practice problems in the teacher’s manual, does the worksheets, and checks his work. My kids that need more help use the blocks more until they are able to apply what they see to the abstractness of doing it on paper. I’m not that strong in math, myself, and have finally been learning why numbers work the way they do! All my life I had memorized a series of steps and formulas with never understanding why they worked. Now I understand! Like Laurie says, Homeschooling is for parents–well, the kids can learn a few things, too! Or something to that effect! Anyway, my kids all like the program. Well, okay, the ones who don’t really like math, don’t complain too much! I gave my son an option to do something else for Algebra, and he wanted to stick with M-U-S. Anyway, it would be worth your while to check it out. Books: The Little House Books. Raggedy Ann and Andy Story Books (the originals written by Johnny Gruelle). I know you said other than animal stories, but your kids might enjoy Thorton Burgess’s Mother West Wind books. My kids have always enjoyed Roald Dahl’s books (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I also read the original versions of fairy tales to them, and one we especially liked was The Light Princess by George McDonald. One of our latest reads was The Once and Future King (book 1 only–the rest get a little dark for little ones) about King Arthur. Everyone from the 5 year old to the 15 year old enjoyed that one. The books you mentioned that you tried reading are more appealing to older children I think. In order to become engaged in the story, your kids need to be able to identify with the characters. I like to read stories that really stir my little one’s imaginations. They know that it’s just make-believe, but that is part of the fun of the story. You know, what if it could be true! In Burgess’s books, it’s animals who are good and who are naughty, and they endure the consequences of their choices. Kids see their own behavior mirrored by these animal folks. You want to find books where a) your kids can easily identify with the main characters, and b) the author uses beautiful and descriptive language. (I’m assuming the book has already passed your moral/godliness standards).

Janet Sedy
From: Kendra Fletcher
Subject: Read-Alouds for 4 and 5-year-olds
Date: Sun, 9 May 2004


Here is a small list of books I read aloud when my oldest were 4 and 5:

Charlotte’s Web
Adventures on Lilac Hill
The Boxcar Children (number 1)
Winnie the Pooh
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
One Wintry Night
Stories of the Pilgrims
Little House on the Prairie
Dangerous Journey
Homer Price
A Bear Called Paddington
On the Banks of Plum Creek
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Blue Ridge Billy (omitting much of the moonshine)
Owls in the Family

Now those older boys are 11 and 9 and reading aloud is just something our family does. A lot. I don’t usually give the little ones a say in what I read aloud, but I have started books and put them aside after a chapter or so if I knew I would dread reading the whole thing aloud. Right now we’re reading Swallowdale, the second book in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. Anyone else read these? We are devouring them.

Happy reading,
Kendra Fletcher
We loved the Swallows and Amazons series! Laurie
From: Fitzmom
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004
Subject: good read alouds for 4-5 yo

Mr Popper’s Penguins
Charlotte’s Web
Thomas the Tank Engine
any Beatrix Potter
poetry — my 6yo loves fun poems and limericks
Paul Galdone illustrated classic stories such as The Little Red Hen and The Gingerbread Man.
any of the Dr. Doolittle stories
any of The Boxcar Children

Look in the Sonlight catalog for suggestions and also at Ambleside Online for additional suggestions.

Sue in Colorado
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004
From: Patrick Murphy
Read-Alouds for 4/5 year- olds

1.Beatrix Potter books
2.Thornton Burgess books (Old Mother West Wind, etc.)
3.My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Gannett
4.Winnie-the-Pooh stories by A. A. Milne

Hope that is of some help,
Linda Murphy
From: Training Minds Ministry
Subject: Reaching Home-School Debaters
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004

The Blue Book is the top-selling debate manual for the national homeschool debate topic. Released every year in August, this collection of a dozen debate cases, negative briefs, discussion chapters, group activities, and lessons will give aspiring debaters everything they need to launch into the exciting world of academic debate. For more information, contact Training Minds Ministry at or visit their Web site at
From: Martin and Kimberly
Subject: teaching music to children
Date: Wed, 12 May 2004

What do you all recommend for training children in music? My objectives are to give them an appreciation for classical music, to help them start to understand the mechanics of music (the staff, rhythm, beat, reading music), and to love singing. Do you or any of your subscribers have any suggestions regarding curriculum or books? For younger children learning basics of reading music (such as for piano lessons), our children have all benefited from Piano Theory workbooks from Schaum’s, which I found in a music store. These workbooks give simple, basic instructions and help a child to learn how to read music, locate notes on a keyboard, and understand the mechanics of music such as intervals, scales, major and minor keys, etc. My littler children begged to have books of their own, and have learned a great deal from them (ages 11 down to almost 5). For music appreciation, we are a classical music loving family anyway. We have CD’s which we acquire rather inexpensively from BMG Classical Music club and our children have grown to love many pieces just from having heard them often since they were small. They can also tell the difference, without any instruction on this from me, on what pieces are by Vivaldi or Mozart or Beethoven, and know the names of many pieces just from listening to them so often (such as The Four Seasons by Vivaldi or Beethoven’s 9th Symphony). We also have a set of CDs which we ordered from CBD called Classical Kids. These CDs are dramatizations for children for introducing them to specific composers. Our children’s favorite is Mr. Bach Comes to Call, and so now all things Bach are also their favorite music. I would say the CD has given them a great love for J. S. Bach.

Kimberly Eddy
From: Don Potter
Subject: Sam’s Historic Article
Date: Tue, 11 May 2004

Dear Friends,

Today I published Sam Blumenfeld’s historic 1992, breakthrough article on Ed Miller’s research into whole-word dyslexia: Can Dyslexia Be Artificially Induced in School. The article reads like a mystery thriller as Sam leads us step by step through the brilliant discoveries that lead to a clear understanding of the root cause of whole-word dyslexia. Sam has very gracious allowing me to publish it on my web site, He wrote me, “Hopefully, it will be read by many more people and make a difference.” These are my exact sentiments.

Let us send this blockbuster article into every nook and cranny of the American education system.

Donald Potter
Odessa, TX
From: dondebi
Date: Fri, 14 May 2004

>>What do you all recommend for training children in music?

I was just discussing this with our piano teacher yesterday, who is an excellent musician, but had trouble in younger years with activities requiring ear training. She said that realizing that, plus noticing how difficult it is for adults who play by ear to learn to read notes, she has considered this: If you think of music as a language, and think of how children learn language, then you realize how important early musical training based on listening and singing is. Language is heard 1st, imitated, then read later. Perhaps music ability and appreciation ought to follow this same path. I’ve had 4 dds, all excellent musicians, go through the Yamaha system of music. That ideally starts at age 4. It is filled with ear training, singing, group playing (using electric organs, but pianos at home), etc. Their ability to pick out music and recognize particular notes is very good.(If you play one or more notes, they can solfege them back to you by name…Remember the Do-Re-Mi song in The Sound of Music? That’s solfege.) Students at Yamaha also play from music, but the ear training is the impt thing at this age. My dds also started classical piano lessons right away. I am not as familiar with Suzuki, but I do know there is ear training, but I don’t believe there is note reading to that extent. The reason I wanted to answer is for you to consider what I began with…how language is learned, and how understanding that could heavily influence the way you expose your children to music. Kindermusik is also listening, singing, moving. This starts at an early age. I’m definitely an early age advocate!! I’ve seen such wonderful results for musical ability and appreciation.

~debi in ms~
What do these sentences have in common? The third person to email me the correct answer wins a copy of the new edition of Encoder Decoder.

Do geese see God?
Some men interpret nine memos.
Never odd or even.
A man, a plan, a canal Panama!
Don’t nod
Dogma: I am God
Too bad I hid a boot
Rats live on no evil star
No trace; not one carton
Murder for a jar of red rum
May a moody baby doom a yam?
Go hang a salami; I’m a lasagna hog!
Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas!
A Toyota! Race fast… safe car: a Toyota.
Straw? No, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts.
Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
Doc Note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod
No, it never propagates if I set a gap or prevention
Anne, I vote more cars race Rome to Vienna
Sums are not set as a test on Erasmus
Some men interpret nine memos
Campus Motto: Bottoms up, Mac
Go deliver a dare, vile dog!
Madam, in Eden I’m Adam
Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo
Ah, Satan sees Natasha
Lisa Bonet ate no basil
God saw I was dog
Dennis sinned
Date: Sun, 16 May 2004
From: Todd Shaffer
Subject: desperate mom

Dear Laurie,

Can you start Classical teaching late? I’ve already homeschooled my 8 year old into 2nd grade and my 6 year old through a K-1 blend using eclectic Bob Jones and A Beka materials. How would I switch over? How would I catch up? I have a 3 year old and a 5m old also. I feel what I’ve been doing with the oldest two is wrong because it’s just using workbooks and they can’t wait until school is done. I am a little afraid to try the classical method, actually it would be a HUGE leap of faith for me, because I am so dependant on prepared, grade assigned materials to tell me what my child should be learning. This is homeschooling out of fear instead of really teaching them to learn. Is it too late to change? My 8 year old is also dyslexic and I’m wondering if your method would be better for her. We do have an obedient and biblically centered household, but that seems to be the only thing we are doing right.

Thank you for helping me, Melissa Shaffer
Date: Wed, 19 May 2004
From: Wesley and Marsha Taylor
Subject: Do comic books edify the mind, or make us into vegetables?

Dear Mr. Bluedorn(s),

Just today I’m starting the Fallacy Detective, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly, but I have a question. Do comic strips edify your mind, or are they another form of sterile, mind-dulling entertainment? In Garfield, I find little humor and no possible moral to any story. However, Calvin and Hobbes is hilarious, and often causes me to reflect on certain important subjects. One-panel cartoons such as the Far Side and Bizzaro are occasionally witty, but are mostly shallow. The Adventures of Asterix, a French comic book, educates children with stories of life in ancient Roman times, and utilizes clever puns for humor. However, there is no limit to the black eyes, bloody noses, and knockout punches found in these books as Romans are hit sky-high by the Celts. If a cheerful heart is good medicine then why do some people find comics useless, or even offensive?

Nathaniel Taylor

PS I noticed a certain similarity between P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and your Brinckley the Butler
Yes, there is a similarity. We have been immersed in Jeeves this year.
From: fivepointers
Subject: Sentence with all ABC’s
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004

The one we were taught in typing class years ago was “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.” I know there are four O’s and 2 T’s but I believe it has every letter and is easy to remember.

Sharon McCrina
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004
From: Sarah K. Yoder

Here are some pangrams I’ve collected from various places, mostly from PSU’s Italic Handwriting Program. I don’t know if any are exactly the right length. I’ll let you check. Thanks for all your good work: books, etc. I’m one of the lurkers who doesn’t have time to write in.

Quick wafting zephyrs vex bold Jim.
Picking just six quinces, new farmhand proves strong but lazy.
A large fawn jumped quickly over white zinc boxes.
Fred specialized in the job of making very quaint wax trays.
Six crazy kings vowed to abolish my quite pitiful jousts.
Jack amazed a few girls and boys by dropping the antique onyx vase.
Many big jackdaws quickly zipped over the fox pen.
Five or six big jet planes zoomed quickly by the new tower.
Waltz, nymph, for quick jigs vex Bud.
Frowzy things plumb vex’d Jack Q.
I quickly explained that many big jobs involve few hazards.
Quickly pack the box with five dozen modern jugs.
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004
From: Jodi Tyree

Glum Schwartzkopf vex’d by NJ IQ. (26 letters)
The five boxing wizards jump quickly. (6 words, 31 letters)
How quickly daft jumping zebras vex. (6 words, 30 letters)
Sympathizing would fix Quaker objectives. (5 words, 36 letters)
Thank you for your wonderful Greek Homeschool books.

What pronunciation system are you following (e.g., Erasmian, Historical Biblical, Modern)?

Thank you.

In Christ,
Douglas McCarthy
Durango, CO

Dear Douglas,

We use a Restored Classical Pronunciation, modified slightly for English ears, creating a self-consistent system approximating the original sounds represented by the letters. We all wish English spelling was pure phonics. Ancient Greek was originally formulated to be exactly that. During the Hellenistic (koine) period (the time of the writing of the New Testament), common pronunciation was not according to that original standard, neither was it uniform (compare the pronunciation of English by an Australian with someone from New Orleans with someone from Maine with someone from Liverpool). Modern Greek has departed further from the ancient/classical pronunciation, and not quite so far but nevertheless far enough from the Hellenistic/koine pronunciation. Because English is a living language, we can get away with the inconsistencies between our spelling and our pronunciation, but with a dead language such as ancient Greek, restoring the inconsistencies — say, of the Hellenistic period — becomes an unnecessary burden. Knowing the historical inconsistencies is useful only in the narrow field of linguistics, particularly as it relates to the history of spelling, which may touch on the textual criticism of Greek manuscripts.

I hope that doesn’t over-answer your question.

From: Steve & Lisa McCullough
Subject: Simply Music,
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004

I have several responses for the recent email newsletter:

Regarding early music training: I am very musical (sing, flute, oboe), so it is natural that we have all kinds of music playing in our house. We run the spectrum from early chant to Baroque to George Winston. We have the Messiah to Michael W. Smith. We have some country and some classic rock (the ones that didn’t get thrown in the trash when I finally actually LISTENED to the words:-). I encourage you to listen to music from all time periods and talk about the pieces you hear.

As for actual playing of an instrument, I love the piano as a starter for as soon as a child can handle it. It is all of music theory in concrete, visual form. You push a note and it plays (please TUNE your piano though, so you don’t train your child’s ear to accept “off” tones. It’s well worth the investment) I do not play :-(, but two of my children have been working through Neil Moore’s video course called Simply Music. It is completely self teaching, and starts by teaching how to play great sounding, simple songs and introducing theory as needed. While some may say it is best to start with a rigorous “read the notes while you learn to play” approach, this program lets the kids actually play music, get the feel for the piano, and fall in love with music and playing. Later, they can be trained in the skills that make them a well rounded pianist. I have my 9yo in traditional lessons now, and she’ll spend a few minutes warming up on scales and chords, practice her new lesson for a few minutes, then play for an hour through her WeeSing sunday school songs, or any other book with chords in it so she and her siblings can sing together. She became a useful, functional pianist first, and now she is working on becoming a trained pianist as well. Both are important.

Language Arts
I have experienced so much frustration over writing curriculums and trying to force my child to do the exercises. I recently found a great, flexible resource to help with writing. Check out Julie Bogart’s and read her philosophy and sample exercises. Her philosophy is that writing is not about following the correct format and formula, but about expressing your thoughts. Format and structure come with practice. She offers an online class to train the parent how to encourage writing in your child (which I haven’t taken) and I have her Writer’s Jungle manual that I am finding absolutely essential. It has taken all the drudgery and guesswork out of our writing. It is NOT a scripted, formulated curriculum, but a complete resource for developing your young writers. She gives great ideas for writing exercises and projects. She also publishes two subscription newsletters that provide copywork exercises, literary elements of the month, and a monthly writing project. This was a completely new approach for writing, and I am finding that writing is becoming a favorite subject, rather than the dreaded one.

Lisa McCullough
From: Don Potter
Subject: A Plea to Restore Reading as a Spoken Activity
Date: Fri, 28 May 2004

Dear Friends,

I have just published Raymond Laurita’s short but important article A PLEA TO RESTORE READING AS A SPOKEN ACTIVITY.

It is obvious to me that many teachers view oral language as relatively unimportant. In Texas, because of the mad rush to prepare students for the TAKS test, teachers have almost totally neglected oral reading in favor of drowning the children in tons of TAKS preparation silent reading worksheets.

I rejoice to inform you that Sam Blumenfeld’s article on Artificially Induced Dyslexia (Ed Miller’s Research) has had a healthy 634 hits so far this month. It should set some people to thinking. I notice that Ed’s MWIA I is being downloaded every day. I am quite sure that the impact of giving the test will open a lot of eyes, just as it did mine.

Donald Potter
From: Patrick Thomas
Subject: Science
Date: Sat, 29 May 2004

I have been reviewing your suggestions for children in the Understanding Level (in Teaching the Trivium) in preparation for next “school year”. You recommend starting the Apologia Science Series at age 14-15 and following an interested-directed route until then. Do you still make that recommendation? I have seen an Apologia General Science Course that the company recommends for “7th graders” but would like some input on it from others. I have a 12 year old who is (at best) moderately interested in science and a 13 year old who is very interested.

Tracy in NC
I’m sure the Apologia General Science course is a fine one. The problem I have with using a prepared science curriculum with children before age 15 or so is that it would take away time from pursuing interest-directed observing and collecting and from science fair participation. Preparing a good quality science fair project takes a good amount of time, and if the student, at the same time, must work through a prepared science curriculum, he might be discouraged from putting effort into his science fair project just so he can “get through the science textbook.” There’s only so much time in the day. Laurie
What is the most important aspect of homeschooling in your opinion?

That depends on our perspective.
From the educational perspective, homeschooling allows for the most effective one-on-one method for teaching.
From the parenting perspective, homeschooling allows for the fuller education of the parent.
From the childhood perspective, homeschooling gives the child the protection of bonding with his family.
From the husband/father and wife/mother perspective, homeschooling allows for their further growth in sanctification.
From the church perspective, homeschooling provides for well disciplined and orderly children growing up in the faith.
From the family and cultural perspective, homeschooling provides a counter-balance to the general deterioration of families and culture.
From the overall perspective, which encompasses all of the other perspectives, homeschooling provides the most and best opportunities to conform the raising of our children to a Biblical model. God designed the family for parents to raise their own children, which includes the primary task of educating them, and parents are to preside over that process and be personally and intimately involved in that process. If there is anything in our culture which runs contrary to that design, then the fault is in our culture, not in God’s design.

Harvey Bluedorn
From: Al and Carol Bianco
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 2004

Response to Eric Haas

Thanks to all who have responded to Mr. Haas. I wanted to suggest to Eric some further reading that might give him some additional insight into home schooling.

Consider the following books:
1) Teaching the Trivium, by the Bluedorns
2) Homeschooling: The Right Choice, by Christopher Klicka
3) The Underground History of American Education, by John Taylor Gatto
4) Excused Absence: Should Christian Kids Leave Public Schools?, by Douglas Wilson
5) Let My Children Go: Why Parents Must Remove Their Children from the Public Schools, by E. Ray Moore Jr.
6) Going Home to School, by Llewellyn B. Davis
History curriculum which can be added to our list of “History Curricula and Resources Which Can Be Used with This Book” (Appendix 6) in Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline:
History Alive! — a world history unit study curriculum by Diana Waring

This curriculum consists of:

1. Narrative history recorded on numerous cassette tapes covering ancient history through modern times. The narrative on these tapes is entertaining, factual, and on a level to be useful for all ages.
2. “Elementary Activity Book” (K-early elementary) and “Digging Deeper” (upper elementary through high school) which are texts that serve as the written part of the curriculum. These texts — which are your idea books — along with the additional books she suggests which you get from your library, cover Bible, literature, music, art, creative writing, drama, architecture, discussion questions, research projects, geography, science, vocabulary, and timelines for each time period.
3. Map and timeline packs.
4. Timeline figures to be cut out and placed on the timelines.

This curriculum is written from a thoroughly Christian perspective and is perfect for those who want to study the Bible in combination with world history. If you do a lot of traveling by car, this curriculum would be especially suited for your family since you could make good use of that traveling time by listening to the tapes.

Laurie Bluedorn
From: K K
Date: Tue, 08 Jun 2004

To: Rena of ReformedA, regarding teaching reading:

I would say that unless your 5yo and 4yo are showing signs of reading readiness that I would be very careful how to approach the subject. If you start when they are not ready there will be many tears and much frustration for all of you. I speak from will give you ample places to find reading readiness if you are unaware of the term. We use Phonics Pathways and are very pleased with its incremental approach. You will not go on unless they understand what you have previously covered. It is a very solid program that offers the why of reading (the rules) and not just the how.

Kate Kessler
New publication from Paidea Classics:

Story of the Last Days of Jerusalem, From Josephus — by Alfred Church

First published in the 19th century, and now reprinted by Paidea Classics, the publisher left the text in its original form with only minor updating of spelling and additions of annotations, illustrations and Scriptural quotes. Alfred Church states that when he compiled this volume he …followed the narrative of Josephus, making many omissions but no other change of importance… Taken from the back cover: The Story of the Last Days of Jerusalem is an adaption of Josephus’ dramatic first-hand account of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 in his famous historical work, The Jewish Wars. It captures in detail one of the greatest tragedies of all time, often overlooked in more contemporary histories. Some of the scenes are particularly graphic and are not suitable for younger of more sensitive readers. But this volume is an invaluable addition for the more mature student who is interested in studying the final history of Ancient Israel, yet does not have the time to read Josephus’ original but very lengthy work.
From: Martin and Kimberly
Subject: re: How to Teach Reading
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004

Hi Rena!

I have an almost 5 year old and 6 year old that I am teaching to read right now. I have already taught my 11 year old daughter, 9 year old son, and 7 year old daughter how to read, and my two little girls are progressing faster than the older three did, so this has been fun :-).

Each of my children have learned the consonant sounds and short vowel sounds very casually, around the age of 5 or 6 (one of them at age 4), usually one new letter a week. We play a lot of review games to reinforce what they have learned, mostly using letter tiles I made from craft foam cut in 1 squares (I store them in a screw/hardware holder with 30 little drawers).I made the vowels in pink and the consonants in blue, capitals on the one side, lower case on the other. We lay them out on the table and I will ask, Get me the tile that says /a/  or Get me the tile that says /f/.The children like to play with those tiles and spell simple words, their names, or practice learning the alphabet (I have had them put the alphabet tiles in alphabetical order on the table).This also works for the Greek Alphabet, by the way.

I have found that there is a bit of a space between the time a child learns the letter sounds and the time he or she understands how to blend those sounds together to form words. For this reason, I have not picked up a formal curriculum for reading for the last three children, until AFTER they have mastered basic letter sounds (consonants, with g as /g/ in gag and c as /k/ in cat, and short vowel sounds).Using a small dry erase board (or the letter tiles on the table) we have some time every day (sometimes a few times a day), where I write on the little board a vowel (for example, a), have them tell me it’s sound (/a/), then I follow it with a consonant (t).I ask them what sound the consonant makes (/t/).After they have said this correctly, we blend the two together, and say the word or syllable it makes (/at/).Then, I start with the consonant b, putting that before the vowel, and we sound out a new word or syllable (/bat/).We go through all the consonants, putting a different one in the initial position, and sounding out the rhyming words or syllables (be careful as there are a few three lettered, short vowel naughty words).We vary which vowel we use and which ending consonant we use.

Once blending together words becomes old hat we start them out using Alphaphonics by Samuel Blumenfeld, and the McGuffey Readers. Each day, after reading the page, I dictate a small portion of what we read to them, and if they are having trouble I sound it out slowly (/c/ /a/ /t/). When we introduce completely new concepts, such as digraphs such as /th/, combinations like /or/, and long vowel sounds, we usually drill on those using the letter tiles for a few days (or weeks if needed), so that the child does not feel frustrated about being on the same page day after day (that also saves mom some sanity).When applicable, we teach by rote memory the different phonics rules using the Bluedorn’s English Encoder/Decoder or using The ABCs and All Their Tricks by Margaret Bishop (published by Mott Media).We also found the BOB Books helpful for more supplemental reading.

Finally, as they get near the middle of Alphaphonics, we sit down together with the Bible, and starting in John 1:1, we read one or two verses at a time, to get them used to reading the Bibleand we try to read something together each day that is not part of the assigned reading, something they pick out.I try to have them move towards reading on their own and then telling back the story to me.

There are many good resources for teaching phonics on Don Potter’s website as well.

Kimberly Eddy
Only Dead Fish go with the Flow!
From: Martin and Kimberly
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004

>>My 14YO son wants to study German. We use BJU curriculum, which does not offer German. I would appreciate any recommendations from other people on the loop.

I found a reproducible German workbook for children (late elementary age) to introduce them to German language and vocabulary at a teacher’s resource store in our area. You may look around and find something similar. It is called Reproducible Pages in German. Berlitz Kids also has many German resources and workbooks. The German for Beginners series is also a good springboard, and there are workbooks to go with that program as well.

A friend has used a Spanish program from the Language for Children series, which also has a program in German, so you may wish to look into that (I’ve not used it).

Hammer’s German Grammar and its companion workbook Practicing German Grammar are both really good, and are often used in college. These are really in depth and for advanced study.

Make sure any program he uses is recent or denotes that it uses the new Rechtschreibung. German recently received a grammatical revision, so older texts would be out of date and incorrect as far as modern usage is concerned.

Kimberly Eddy
From: Clara Waagmeester
Subject: Teaching your child(ren) German
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004

Dear Mr. Holt,

We are a Dutch homeschooling family in South Africa. Our son is 17 and our daughter 15. Three years ago they indicated that they wished to learn German. The books we have used so far (we homeschool seven years now) are from A Beka as well as from local suppliers. Both children passed four Latin modules. Much of the Latin grammar relates to German grammar. I was in the fortunate position to learn German at high school and my parents made me stay with a German family, who did not speak any language but German, for a while at age 15.
That experience enables me now to teach our children German since we were unable to obtain books with a teacher guide and tests with a solution key. I approached the German School to advise me on good text books which I could buy locally. My sister in Holland, who teaches at a high school, sent me some material as well. We work one afternoon per week at a slow pace through the books and we do not put as much emphasis on best results as we expect from Dutch, English and Afrikaans.
But what works very well, to my great surprise, is the following. I started reading to them from a German book during our daily reading time. The first three days I had to translate every sentence, but now, only eight days later, their comments, laughter and reactions show understanding. Presently I occasionally need to translate single words or give a short summary of a paragraph. We read a translation of Gwen Bristow’s “Jubilee Trail” and plot on the map what we read. So we do not only master German but American history and geography at the same time. Both Coert and Petra now wish to read aloud small paragraphs themselves and take much fun in their pronunciation.
We obtained a good CD of Schubert with many German poems and songs, very clearly sung by a German tenor. The text came along with it. We asked our children to copy some songs and translated them subsequently. By listening to them once and again they now know them by heart and appreciate the stories behind them. (F.i. Der Erlkoenig of Goethe).
What might also help are books on tape. When we began home schooling we borrowed tapes from our library, mainly to help our children with the pronunciation. (You will understand that my English still reveals my origin J ). You often find the written version of the book too and can sit together and read-listen along.
Although we are not too fond of TV and videos at all, good book-to-film videos are a means to an end.
My daughter met a German lady in our vicinity and tries to speak German with her once a week. You may find such person in your area too.
I trust that your son, like ours, is interested in WW II. Such interest can be a good start to introduce him to the German language.
Oftentimes the Information Department of the Embassy is willing to send an amount of useful information free of charge.
Can be of use. Your son can ask for a pen friend. Such contact works twofold, he learns German and the German child is exposed to English. You can ask Herr Guenther to be of help at:

It was a privilege to try and be of help over such great distance. May the Lord bless your family and your home schooling efforts.

With kind regards,
Clara Waagmeester
From: Ken Barnett
Subject: messed up with math
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004

I just read the article, Research on the Teaching of Math. We have had nothing but problems with math with my oldest child. She started out counting fine. About second grade, with textbooks and videos, they were teaching times tables and she just couldn’t keep up and got extremely discouraged. She dreaded and hated math. She was getting high A’s for the grades on papers and tests. But each time she saw the same type of problem, she couldn’t tackle it without some direction and I told her the formula to use. It was clear she wasn’t understanding it at all. Understanding was the goal. So we switched math curriculums. She just finished 4th grade with Singapore Math. We took it at her pace, and she liked it MUCH better. However, I can still see the damage from the early math instruction clearly. She clearly seems to have mental blocks. If she can’t get something right away she starts crying.

So my question to you is…how do you undo the damage? Now she is about to be 10 and should start math instruction. She is very bright and gets upset that math is the only subject that hasn’t come very easy. This is the first year she hasn’t enjoyed grammar. It was a lot of diagramming. Is there anything I can do to help her once the mental blocks are already there? I also wanted to clarify, that she started and finished her 4th grade year with Singapore level 3B. SO I guess according to that curriculum she would be behind in math now by over a year. We still haven’t worked through the book 3B as we were going VERY slowly.

Brandy Barnett, AL
My suggestion is that you stop the formal math but continue with informal math for this school year. Start up again with the formal math sometime next year, perhaps even waiting till Sept of 2005.
Reflections on a Thistle

Each day when I go to work, I park my car in a lot next to a major freeway. These days it’s pretty overgrown with weeds. Last week as I pulled in, I noticed a large thistle plant. We have these thistles all over our yard and I hate them. They have prickers and I always manage to step on them in bare feet. And they grow like crazy in our flower beds. We just can’t get rid of them.

But this thistle in the parking lot was very interesting because it was a full grown plant, standing over six feet tall with numerous spikey branches. I’d never noticed a thistle that large before so I stopped to look it over. The plant was in flower and had several large purple blooms all over it. Since it wasn’t in my garden, I was able to notice that it was actually a very pretty plant. Looking closer, I could see many buds that had not yet bloomed. These were also very interesting, looking very much like the succulent plant sempervivium — hens and chicks — that we grow in our garden.

The purple flowers looked so delicate that I touched them. I was surprised to see that these thistle flowers were very soft, not at all like the thorny nightmare of the plant itself. I was in awe of the LORD, that He would form softness and beauty in even the nastiest garden weed.

I walked away pondering the thistles in my life. A lot of you Christian dads can relate. There is so much work for a man in this life. Going to the job everyday can wear you down. And when you get home at the end of the day, there’s another load of work waiting for you there. It can be such a difficult burden to slog through the days, just to make ends meet for the family. But this is the man’s share of the curse. As the LORD told Adam: …cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns and also thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. — Genesis 3:17b-18 But in the end, even the thistles produce a thing of wonder. As the LORD also said:
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time. — Ecclesiastes 3:11

This reassures us that all our thistles will someday flower. As Christian dads, all our hard effort and sacrifice is for our children. We fill our days cultivating the thistles, while these silly little kids run and play. But we can be reassured that we are raising this generation to walk in the fullness of Jesus. Our hope and trust is that they will stand for Him in an increasingly dark world. In the meantime, those thistles sure do hurt! But it’ll all be worth it when that bud blooms!

The Jay Ryan Family
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
From: Kari Vanhoozer
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004

city: Waco
state: TX
message: Thank you for sharing your family’s work with us. I read in your book TEACHING THE TRIVIUM that you prefer book reviews over book reports. Can you define the two, explaining the differences, and listing what should be included in a book review?

Thank You, Kari Vanhoozer
Here are a few web sites which detail the differences:
Handy English Encoder Decoder
Author: Harvey Bluedorn

If you’re working with words, whether in reading or spelling, it doesn’t take long to realize that the English language is full of rules – and rule breakers. Harvey Bluedorn has taken some of the mystery out of our language by compiling the Handy English Encoder Decoder – All the Spelling and Phonics Rules You Could Ever Want to Know.

Designed to enhance (not replace) your spelling and phonics program, the Handy English Encoder Decoder cracks the code of our language and arranges the rules in an easy to access, brief, and orderly format. The book is divided into two sections. The first, the Encoder, covers more than 60 spelling rules and their exceptions and also includes a list of commonly confused spellings and word pairs. The second section, the Decoder, lists over 200 phonics rules listed in alphabetical order for quick reference. Also included in this section are the rules for dividing words into syllables. The Handy English Encoder Decoder also includes an appendix listing some suggested spelling and phonics games, as well as an exhaustive list of homophones (words which are pronounced the same but spelled differently).
The Handy English Encoder Decoder is one of those books you will find yourself referring to again and again. Adults and children will both benefit from having this incredibly comprehensive and indeed, handy resource at their fingertips!

©2004, Homeschool Reviews For You
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004
Subject: Re: Singapore Math
From: innocentifamily

Keep in mind that Singapore math is a grade or two ahead. By looking at the whole Singapore curriculum, a student would finish higher level math by the end of level 10 (our 12).In other words, level 1 actually covers our grade 2 and 3 material. This is explained at their website. So, a 7th grader, especially one who hasn’t started Singapore math from the beginning, may likely start with level 5, or even earlier if no formal math has been used. It makes no difference. Each child learns at a different rate. There’s no need to frustrate your daughter by looking at the level or grade. Just look at what would naturally be learned next and allow her to learn it at her pace, no pressure. With the realization that early formal math has caused frustration and means that concepts are not understood, remember Ecclesiastes 7:8.The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. We’ve learned so much from this verse! It’s not about the grade, it’s about the learning. It’s not about comparison, it’s about individual giftedness. Also, keep in mind that your daughter is not behind. She is where she is at this point in time. There may be some point where things click and she flies through the material, even skipping multiple pages of problems that become easy and unnecessary as they are already understood.

If you erase the grade level idea from your thinking and concentrate on the learning, you’ll see that it’s just something to be learned and not a losing battle like being in last place in a race. Two of our children (boys) have had similar problems and I attribute it to having done formal math books too soon. When we ditched them and worked more naturally on math, they were able to lose that fear of getting the wrong answer and learned to see that they were solving a question that could be tried again if it didn’t work out. We, too, have begun Singapore math (our oldest 12yos is finishing out his Saxon book and then will switch to Singapore as he likes what his younger brother 11yos is getting to learn).The switch was made for the 11yos because of the amount of reading involved in Saxon. He is still struggling with reading. He wanted a math book and Singapore keeps him moving in math with a bit less written text on the page which is much less intimidating. We wanted him to be able to feel confident in math, as he enjoys it. With Saxon, he shut down because he saw all the words on the page. I initially read to him and he worked the problems. Sometimes, he even explained what to do while I wrote each step for him (pencil allergy…;0)).Once we found Singapore, he was able to do much more on his own. I don’t know that it was the actual math book or the timing was right for him to do more on his own, but it’s a nice fit. All of this to say that relaxing about math learning when a child is fearful of math seems to erase the fear. Our son would probably explain it to your daughter that she is not a grade, she’s a learner and that they number the books so that the teacher’s can find the book that has the information that the child needs to learn about at that time.

God is good!
From: Anne Calvert
Subject: fallacy detective
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004

We just began The Fallacy Detective a few weeks ago and we really like it. The kids enjoy Hans and Nathaniel’s zany sense of humor. It is really very simple to use, even with a new baby in the house (3 months old, our seventh).It is the best book on logic that I have seen for beginners. I have been playing logic games with my children for years (You climb trees and like to eat bananas, so you must be a monkey, right?) The book appeals to them as much as our silly games did. Also I personally enjoyed TTT, and feel that it comes as close as any book I have read to describing my philosophy on home education. Thanks for all the great resources you have developed! I am learning a lot and having a great time. I have enjoyed following the discussions on the loop, although with so many small children I haven’t had time to contribute anything for a while. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.

Anne Calvert
From: Don Potter
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004

Dear friends,
Here is a link to an article that analyzes the questions in McGuffey’s 2nd edition.

I have the 5th and 6th Readers that my ancestors used. I have read them with great care, and am greatly alarmed that nothing in the modern readers inculcates the basic values my ancestors were taught daily in their one-room school houses.

Don Potter
Subject: Questions About Informal vs. Formal Math
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004
From: Horton, Craig

Mr. & Mrs. Bluedorn,

First of all, thank you for speaking at the CHEACT Conference this past weekend in Austin. My wife and I both benefited from all of your talks. We especially enjoyed the Seven Undeniable Truths of Homeschooling and the Practical Trivium. After your talk on Ancient Languages we decided to add Greek to our list of languages to learn, along with Latin and Spanish — we’re still praying about Hebrew.

Anyway, I have a question regarding the study of math. We have read the Research on the Teaching of Math article and one of the Moore’s books. We also read your book. We, too, initially rejected the Moore’s findings but are reconsidering. We have used Saxon successfully for 1st and 2nd grade level work — apparent mastery with our 8 and 7 year old daughters with no tears. My initial concern is that we are somehow implanting math time bombs in their heads that will explode at some future time, causing them unnecessary trouble. However, when we review the Saxon materials we have covered so far, we find that most of the course work appears to be of the informal variety, e.g. filling out calendars, telling time, counting money, adding/subtracting every day objects, rudimentary graphing to learn proportions, reading thermometers, etc. Even though worksheets are involved, the problems all appear to be of the informal variety and are not too different from the list of examples in your book (p. 373).From my understanding, this type of math is not problematic. Is it possible that Saxon has changed to be more developmentally appropriate since you last reviewed it?

To further confound us, a recent review of shows that they are selling math products for K-3rd graders.

How do you differentiate between informal and formal math? In other words, what constitutes the formal math that we should avoid?

Thank you for your time.


Craig Horton
Austin, TX
If you feel that using this math curriculum:

1) is a good use of your time — or, are there more important things to fill that time;
2) allows the students to understand the concepts (as opposed to simply memorizing them — and I’m not talking about memorizing the math facts here — memorizing the math facts is important);
3) is an enjoyable experience for the students — or at least isn’t dreaded by them, then perhaps you should continue.

Here is a quote from an article on our web site:

A few years ago, we were invited by a loop moderator to answer some specific questions regarding early FORMAL workbook math — the idea of teaching math informally until about age ten seems most uncustomary to many. We gave some of the documented history and research on the question, and told them that if anyone knew of any contrary historical evidence or research, we very much wanted to learn of it. Everything which we encounter on the question continues to confirm our common sense view on the matter. We are satisfied that the time spent studying math — which the young child is not yet developmentally equipped for — could better be spent developing verbal skills — which the child is a sponge for at these early ages. The ideal would be to learn to speak and write several languages and become familiar with a wide scope of literature before age ten, which lays a wide and solid foundation for formal math and grammar beginning around age ten. Everything seems to point to this as the best course to take. But we have never said don’t ever teach math before age ten. The whole idea is as ridiculous as it sounds. You cannot avoid exposing your child to arithmetic concepts. They will discover it on their own at a very early age. Teach them what they are ready to learn. But teach them in a concrete way, not in an abstract way. That’s what informal math is. Also, we have never said, don’t ever teach formal math before age ten. We have always said that that was a judgment call to be made by the parent, and if you should have a precocious little tyke who loves math and wants to learn it, then you would probably be mistaken if you were to hold him back. But if you force him beyond his developmental capabilities, then you are more prone to cause developmental abnormalities.

In other words:
Ephesians 6:4 And O ye fathers, do not aggravate your children, rather, nurture them to full maturity in the correction and counsel of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 O ye fathers, do not over stimulate your children, in order that they should not be broken in spirit.

The Greek words for aggravate [parorizete] and stimulate [erethisete] convey the idea of pushing the child too far, too fast, beyond his capacity, to the point of justifiable anger and broken desperation. An exaggerated example of this in English literature would be the Charles Dickens’ character Paul Dombey. Fathers are to nurture their children to full maturity, not drive them there. The process is different with each and every child, requiring plenty of micro management. We cannot just run our children down an academic conveyor belt and expect them to emerge at the end like well manufactured machines. There is a lot more which can be said for this analogy.

The Apostle Paul gives this warning (in Ephesians and Colossians) precisely because it is necessary and ought to be heeded. We discourage the formal, abstract workbook type of rigor as an aggravation on the child developmental level. Just because something can be characterized as disciplined does not mean it is the most profitable in the end. We encourage other avenues and other time schedules which reach precisely the same goals with as much or more discipline, but with much less time commitment and more satisfactory results. In other words, don’t bring the classroom school home, but tutor your child instead. This frees up time for other good and important things, such as reading aloud. Nevertheless, as we have always said, the parents are the best judges of what is best for their own family, and what may be too much for one may not be enough for another. The socialist one-size-fits-all academics is incompatible with homeschooling!

Formal vs. Informal Math Example

Teaching fractions

Formal — using a workbook/textbook which uses symbols/numbers and pictures to teach the concept of 1/2 of something

Informal — using everyday objects to teach the concept of 1/2 of something

Do a search of our archive for more examples of teaching math informally.
Ronald Reagan said, “Status quo, you know, that is Latin for “the mess we’re in.”
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004
From: Craig and Susan Horton
Subject: Thank you

Dear Bluedorns,

I just wanted to say thank you for your time this weekend at the CHEACT conference in Austin. Most of the time when I leave a conference, I leave feeling a little discouraged at the immensity of the task of having an impact on our culture before it gets beyond help.(Granted, when I’m discouraged, I obviously have forgotten the mightiness of the God I serve.) However, I just wanted you to know that I left with hope on Saturday — and from an unexpected source — the classical language seminar. We had already made up our minds to begin the Greek alphabet this year with our kids, but hearing your vision of homeschool children learning the classical languages and marrying and being able to raise their children in a fluent environment, thus making the next generation of children a little closer to ease in the languages, etc. was not a thought I had ever had before. Of course, we had thought of our children growing up and homeschooling their children, but I guess I hadn’t considered just how different it would be. Thank you for your vision and for sharing it with us! Now I guess I’ll have to add fluency in Greek and Hebrew to the list of things prospective spouses will have to have on their resumes. :-)(We have 3 girls and 1 boy.) We are in a little bit of a conundrum over math and how to do it — I missed the practical trivium seminar, and my husband left ready to chuck math (no small revelation for a computer science major!). That too, is good though, since we are talking about things that we’ve never stopped to consider before and as supportive as my husband is, it is getting him even more involved with the nuts and bolts of school. God is good all the time.

May God richly bless your home and your continued work with homeschoolers.
Susan Horton
From: Susan Peisker
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004

city: Cedar Park
state: Texas
Re: CHEACT conference–thank you so much for coming to the conference in Austin. I especially appreciated the classical languages seminar (my youngest was very interested, too!), as I would like to offer Greek and Hebrew to my kids, in addition to the Latin and Spanish they have had. I purchased the Latin reader to help keep them up on their Latin, thanks to your suggestion. I plan to purchase the Greek curriculum in about a year, when we have completed our Spanish. I hope you will still offer it. Ava said you have not found a Hebrew curriculum yet, so I will pray for that.

Thanks also to Hans and Nathaniel for making logic seem so much easier for me, the teacher. My son caught on very well with logic, but I was left confused after awhile, and felt quite unable to teach logic until I started seeing the articles in Homeschooling Today. In addition, I appreciated Laurie’s very practical recommendations for teaching logic and I plan to use them for my daughters. I even purchased a copy of the Fallacy Detective from your booth. Again, thanks so much for your ministry. Both my husband and I believe you truly understand what children need and we will continue to look to you for more ideas. FYI, I have a 14-year-old, a nearly 13-year-old and a ten-year-old.

In His Service,
Susan Peisker
From: Ringger Family
Date: Sat, 3 Jul 2004

We were at the Cheact fair and heard your Languages presentation. We also bought the Latin program to begin with our four oldest soon. This sentence came to mind after hearing your workshop, and I thought you might enjoy it: A society is generally as lax as its language. It has been thought-provoking to me, and want to encourage you in your quest to help homeschoolers be diligent in homeschooling in general, and language in particular.

As an aside, I read your 10 things list years ago and have kept it and recommended it many times.

Amy (and Dale) Ringger
Found at

From Dark to Dawn: A Tale of Martin Luther and the Reformation
Publisher: Books on the Path
Author: Charles, Elizabeth
Editor: McDonald, James & Stacy
Illustrator: Bluedorn, Johannah
Reviewed by: Deborah Deggs Cariker

From the moment I laid eyes on this book, I was drawn into 16th century Germany – into Else’s world, and Fritz’s, and their family’s. Originally written in 1862, English authoress Elizabeth Charles’ book brings us into a time of darkness and ignorance, but also a time of great reform, of the light dawning, and of people whose enslaved spirits were being set free. Though edited and revised, something I usually shun, I knew this work was trustworthy when I saw the names of Homeschooling Today magazine’s James and Stacy McDonald.

Meet the Schonberg-Cotta Family and, through them, Martin Luther, the great reformer whose personal struggles against graft and corruption in the church seemed to foretell the overall struggle brewing within the church. He bore an unthinkable weight and endured unspeakable grief in his destiny as God’s own man, born for such a time as this. Though this book is a treasure of historical fiction, the historical events are real, including the relationship between Luther and Conrad and Ursula Cotta. Mrs. Charles also uses authentic quotes from Luther to enhance her work.

I found myself, with a spiritual heritage not dissimilar to Else’s, becoming angry at the prevailing religiosity of that day, the bondage heaped upon simple folk who so needed their Shepherd and Redeemer. It seemed my own heart would burst as the characters struggled through their lives in darkness, chained to a fabricated belief system shrouding the real Jesus. As I read, I physically wearied with their burdens until, tearfully, I saw them free in Christ. Their growth in grace was more than just a story. Mrs. Charles weaves into their lives plenty of truth to entice the reader to grow, too.

The hardback, dust-jacketed, 362-page book is beautifully produced, thoroughly enhanced by the lovely illustrations of homeschool graduate Johannah Bluedorn, plus historical plates. Deeply moving, From Dark to Dawn makes a great family read-aloud, or is a fine supplement to any junior-high (and up) study of the Reformation. The McDonalds complete the book with a handy glossary, plus a timeline of Luther’s life and the times surrounding him. Well done; I cannot wait to see what the McDonalds produce next!


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