Thursday, October 11, 2012

Owl Hat!

Monday, July 25, 2011

If I were starting over -- how to do preschool at home, homeschooling a preschooler, starting home school, beginning home education

Our four daughters are now all adults. Even though we did not start formal "school" with any of them until age 7, they all subsequently skipped a year somewhere along the way and ended up graduating right "on time". Oh, and yes, they all went to college, too.

I wish I had let them all learn more independently and less "formally". I wish I'd let them homeschool more than the between 3-7 years each that they had (even though almost all of their institutional time was served in small christian schools). I wish that, back in 1981 when we first started homeschooling, there'd been the kind of support for homeschooling that is so widely available now.

Anyway, for those of you with 4 or 5 or 6 year olds who are thinking and wondering about homeschooling, this is what I recommend for those early years before that "cognitive leap" that comes around 8-10 kicks in:

If I were starting over

For "curriculum", I would use Five in a Row

and the wonderful Ruth Beechik Three R's booklets--check out the reviews--impressive!

In addition (and perhaps more importantly), I would:

Talk (and listen!) with them throughout the activities of the day--answer their questions, explain how the world works, show them how to be responsible and thoughtful of others and gently guide them to develop the good characters that will benefit them their entire lives.

Make sure that they have regular chores that they are responsible for completing. When my now-adult daughters were pre-readers, I made some picture cards to illustrate the chores the non-reader was to do so that they could gradually become more independent about meeting their responsibilities.

Do as much outdoor stuff as possible.

Play lots and lots of audio tapes of Bible and other character-building stories--particularly nice while driving around, doing art stuff, playing with blocks or legos, cleaning up, falling asleep.

Do lots and lots of reading aloud.

Provide plenty of time for play with blocks, legos, baby dolls, toy cars, dress-up clothes, etc.

Allow (and encourage) lots of those imaginative games that seem to require complicated props to be arranged--all over the house, of course, it seems.

Give them opportunity for counting things while setting and clearing the table, etc.

Help them learn measurement and fractions while helping cook.

Do letter sound games. Perhaps also make or buy sandpaper letters for them to trace around with fingertips and find pictures of things for them to match with the initial letter.

We'd do science experiments with water, light, levers, etc. (often using ideas from library books or illustrating principles that come up in everyday life). Help them learn how the world works--and children, particularly young children, learn best by doing, not hearing or seeing. A study was done comparing children who studied science but not reading in the early school years with children who studied reading but not science in their primary school years. When they compared the two groups in 5th grade, the early science/late reading kids were better and more avid readers than were the early reading/late science kids--who tended to avoid both reading and science.

Let the child tell stories or about experiences or outings (for you to transcribe) and then draw pictures to illustrate. (Put together into a book they make a wonderful keepsake of the child's life).

Don't forget creative art stuff--just supply a box with regular paper, construction paper, markers, crayons, scissors, glue, glitter, etc. and the opportunity to use it all (and clean up afterwards) and the children will provide the creativity!

Mazes (pencil practice) and puzzles provide opportunity for practice in logical thinking and small motor development.

Thank you cards can get very interesting when dictated by the child, transcribed by mom or older sib and then illustrated by the child.

Let's Talk About Television

In order for the approach to learning/education/life that I am outlining here to be successful, it is absolutely vital to drastically limit the child's exposure to/time spent with television and video games.

The biochemical/physiological explanation is very complicated but the bottom line is that because of the way the brain processes the kind of stimuli received from television, watching television actually deadens the language and analysis (thinking) parts of the brain! In the developing brains of children, television's damage to language and thinking skills (as well as to the ability to concentrate and even to learn to read) is particularly pronounced.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has responded to this discovery by recommending that children under the age of 2 be protected from exposure to television. No TV under two! Because of the great cognitive growth that takes place between ages 3-5, I'd expand that no-TV recommendation to age 5. At the very most, expose those precious little preschoolers' brains to no more than 30 minutes a day of carefully selected non-commercial television (Mister Rogers, for example).

For parents of older children, AAP makes these recommendations:

* Remove TV from childrens' bedrooms
* Limit children's TV viewing to 1-2 hours per day
* Avoid using TV as a baby sitter.

Again, your children will be much better off (mind, body and soul) if you limit their time with TV/videos to no more than 1/2-1 hour a day of thoughtfully selected programming. We used a token system to help keep our TV watching under control. Each person received 5-7 half-hour tokens at the beginning of each week and it really made us think about what we wanted to "spend" our time watching.

Oh, and, if you have to be away and don't want the children watching TV in your absence, just slip a tiny padlock through one of the holes in the plug. ;-)

Television anesthetises the higher brain functions so that what is seen on television is stored in the deepest parts of the brain as reality. Our conscious minds think "It's only TV" but, deep inside, we really believe what we see. That is why TV advertising works--and we "consumers" keep buying more and more "stuff" that we really don't need.

Television, as we know it, exists primarily for the manipulation of the minds and behaviors of the masses. If we want to raise thoughtful children, it is up to us to protect them from television's brainwashing power.

After that 8-10yo Cognitive Leap

After that cognitive leap kicks in (usually when the child is somewhere between 8 and 10 years old), it's time to "fill the gaps". This is the time when a child is ready to gain the foundational skills for future self-education. It is time to work on what didn't come easily.

If low key learn-to-read opportunities haven't already produced avid readers, then now is the time to become very intentional about making sure that every child becomes a skilled reader. Reading is the key to higher level learning and to much of success in life so this needs to become a high priority. Like any skill, reading becomes easier with practice, and, the easier it is, the more enjoyable it will be and the more the individual will read. Interestingly, my two later readers, the ones for whom reading was the most difficult to master and who didn't become fluent readers until ages 8 & 9, remain the most avid readers as adults.

After the child is reading fluently, instruction in spelling becomes appropriate--ideally by using words the child has misspelled to help him/her internalize the 28 Rules for English Spelling

Again, aside from learning the actual mechanics of penmanship, the rules of capitalization and punctuation, and basics of grammar, (the process of getting thoughts from brain to paper), quality writing comes from quality thinking and from reading well-crafted works, so choose carefully what your child will put into his/her brain. Just "reading" in and of itself isn't the goal, but reading that which will educate and influence young minds for good.

Keep your long-term goals in mind when deciding what you want your children to do for "schoolwork". In fact, I strongly recommend actually committing your long term goals to paper and then reviewing your progress (and goals) every year or so. Do you want to raise thinkers instead of media-following lemmings? Do you want children who will be self-deciplined workers for God? Decide now what sort of adults you want them to become and then study, consider and, most importantly, pray for guidance to find the best route to your ultimate goals for your precious children.

Mathematical literacy is nearly as important a life skill as is reading. After that "cognitive leap", children are more ready to comprehend mathematical concepts and better equipped to memorize basic facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication). Math is learned by doing math and doing math and doing math so this is not an area in which to skimp. Try to find a math curriculum that will allow the child to move ahead at his/her own pace--rapidly in areas that are really just review and more deliberately in areas that s/he finds more challenging.

Algebra, in many cases, is better saved for after the next cognitive leap (often around age 15 or so). That said, a definite correlation has been shown between level of mathematical attainment and eventual income level. Again, once your child is the age to start to dive into academics, don't skimp on math!

People remember what they do. This is the age of experimentation. Now is the time for doing lots and lots of hands-on science experiments and nature study. Now is the time to develop a love for scientific discovery and a treasure trove of discovered details.

Mathematics is the language of science, so while that foundation needs to be strong before it really becomes possible to delve deeply into the higher sciences, there is still a wide abundance that can be learned about God's beautiful creation. Again, don't get boxed into "grade levels" but go directly to expert sources--learn to identify local birds, insects, trees, flowers, rocks, stars, and find ways to discover the principles of the physical and chemical sciences. Get a chemisty set and go through the experiments while learning the vocabulary. Do experiments with air, water, gravity, vacuums, propulsion, and heat exchange, etc. Guess what will happen if you do this or that. Try it and see if you were right. Figure out why things happened the way they did. Think of ways to try the experiment slightly differently. Predict how the outcome will change. Encourage your child to wonder, to observe, to experiment and, most of all, to think.

History is the story of how different peoples lived at different times. Read their stories. Whenever possible, travel to where they lived. Dress up like them and do the things they did. Imagine yourself living there and then. When learning about new people/peoples, find out how they connect to those you've already met. Put their pictures on a timeline to help you make that connection. There is plenty of time yet for memorizing dates--this isn't that time.

There is a wonderful window of academic opportunity tucked between the 8-10yo cognitive leap and the distractions of the onset of puberty. Take advantage of this opportunity to lay a strong foundation of the skills that will allow for a lifetime of learning.

One More Thing

Learning is also to a degree dependent on physical health. Do not let your children be sedentary. Model an active lifestyle that includes the children - suggestions include: daily family walks, frequent visits to recreational facilities, town sponsored swimming lessons, for those in northern climates, try the "mid-week ski specials", soccer and other active games.

It is very easy for children to develop a sedentary lifestyle that will result in a number of health problems that can interfere with learning and life in general.

Active children will be much more efficient and effective in their studies.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

I've been loving this delightful new season of grandbabies and was recently reminded of this lovely old poem so thought I'd share it. Other tasks definitely have to wait when I've been rocking my (grand)baby and babies don't keep.

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Doctor Larry's response to the statement "God hates divorce."

God loves those that He created and hates to see them hurt. We tend to frame 'church' issues about divorce today in our own social and cultural contexts. However, in the days of Moses God told His people (Deuteronomy 24:1-3) that a man could give his wife a divorce certificate if he found something 'unclean' (indecent - not adultery which carried the penalty of death) in her she would have to leave and he would be free to marry whoever else he desired.

This to us sounds very harsh, however, God was trying to improve the lot of women when He gave Moses this regulation to stop the process of simply sending a wife that was no longer desirable away with no explanation. In these days a woman who was no longer a virgin (yes, they kept the undergarment they wore the night of their marriage to prove they were a virgin on the night of their marriage) being sent away was effectively taking all support away from her because property - the source of wealth - followed the husband's family line. What did she have left to support herself? Not much - s*x trade or selling themselves as slaves were their only options if they were not received back into their father's house (which they might well not be due to the affront to the family honor).

What is God doing? He is trying to elevate the status of the women that He created to be the equal to the men that He created. Jesus commented on divorce (Matthew 5:31) and said that the only grounds for divorce was adultery by the woman. He is again elevating women and their position in society by restricting capricious marriage/divorce because someone more attractive or socially/financially better connected is now available to them. He is essentially saying to the men of His day that when you marry a woman, you are to love, honor and care for her forever. If she is always faithful to you, you are to never divorce her. In so doing He is providing for support for them and their children throughout their lives in a day when there was no welfare or Social Security.

In fact, if the man took a second wife, he was required to still give the birth right (a double portion of the father's possessions) to the oldest son of his FIRST wife, even if she was no longer his favorite wife. God had to spell this out because Jacob didn't get it right.

Yes, God hates divorce because of the way it hurts - REALLY hurts - the women (and the children they have borne) that He created, loves passionately and died to save.

Please do not ever take anything in Scripture as pushing you as a woman away from God. God loves women and is very hurt and upset with the way men treat the women that they marry and then do not love the way God loves the church (remember: He DIED for the church). Until we as husbands have loved our wives as God does, there is no option for divorce in God's eyes. I believe that we, as men, will be called to account in the judgement for the way we have treated our wives.

This is not to say that wives have free license to abuse and mistreat their husbands either. But historically the 'power' was with the husbands and too often was abused.

Christ and His apostles, including Paul, uplifted the rights of women to/toward their rightful status that they had at creation.

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Homemade baby wrap

Homemade baby wrap, originally uploaded by LarryandJean.

Cut five yards of cotton "homespun" fabric in half lengthwise, round the ends and hem all edges. Voila! You now have two inexpensive and easy-to-make summer weight wraps for baby-wearing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fabric shoulder bag

Fabric bag, originally uploaded by LarryandJean.

I thought it would be useful to have a key/phone pocket on the corduroy side of the reversible fabric bag I made for my "baby" sister.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Oral Rehydration Solution -- Homemade Pedialyte Substitute -- Electrolyte Replacement Solution -- for Vomiting or Diarrhea

A couple of weeks ago I caught a stomach bug that's been going the rounds in our town. I needed electrolyte replacement so mixed up a batch of the World Health Organization's Rehydration Solution. This doctor-approved recipe replaces all essential electrolytes with simple ingredients that, with one possible exception, are already in most kitchens.
Oral Electrolyte Replacement Solution Ingredients
I was very glad we already had the potassium chloride (salt substitute) right there in the cupboard. I was even more glad that very slowly sipping one glassful was enough to turn things around so that I could then switch to water and apple juice. Ah, but that one glassful tasted delicious...which tells you how much it was needed.

Here's the recipe for anyone else who might pick up a (not so) lovely stomach bug:

WHO Oral Rehydration Solution

Table Salt (NaCl) 1/2 tsp.*
Salt Substitute (KCl) 1/2 tsp.*
Baking Soda 1/2 tsp.
Table Sugar 2 tablespoons
Tap Water 1 Liter (= 1 Qt. 2 tablespoons)

Chill. Can be served with fresh lemon squeezed into it. One can also mix it with Crystal Light or "sugar-free Kool-Aid" - don't use Regular Kool-Aid as it takes extra sugar which can worsen diarrhea.

This tastes quite salty to someone who isn't dehydrated.


NOTE: *Morton's Salt makes that is half NaCl (table salt) and half Potassium salt (KCl) and is called "Lite Salt" - if that is what your grocery store has, simply use 1 teaspoon of the the Lite Salt in place of of the table salt and potassium salt.

I highly recommend
1) copying down this recipe and putting it where it'll be easy to find when you need it and
2) getting some potassium containing salt substitute--add it to your shopping list now so that it is there when you need it!


The doctor says

"Have small children start with 1 teaspoon every 5 - 10 minutes, which is usually quite well tolerated. The amount can be increased every 30 - 60 minutes (2 teaspoons, 3 teaspoons, 2 tablespoon, etc. every 5 - 10 minutes). "


See a physician if any of the following occur:

1. No urine output in 8 hours,

2. No tears with crying,

3. Excessive thirst,

4. Dry mucus membranes in the mouth,

5. Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea,

6. Abdominal pain, especially abdominal pain that settles in the right lower abdomen.


Keyword: Pedialyte Substitute, Abdominal Pain, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Dehydration, Rehydration, Electrolyte Replacement

Oral Rehydration Therapy Part Two...or...dealing with Diarrhea

(written by a Family Practice/Emergency physician)

The electrolyte solution (see recipe above) typically tastes REALLY good ... when you actually really need it and is the preferred oral rehydration fluid because the potassium (which gives it the 'flavor') and sodium in it cause 'active transport' of fluid across the small bowel wall and into the blood stream.

I mix the rehydration solution with Crystal Lite (or generic) beverage powder to help the palatability issues as well. Sugar-free KoolAid and other similar beverages also work -but don't use any powdered beverage that requires sugar or you will be very disappointed or will have to use way more sugar than you should. Why not just use more sugar you ask? After all it IS a natural product. Well, too much sugar in a beverage (as occurs with soda, Gatorade and all sports drinks that need to provide 'quick energy') causes an increase in the osmotic content of the beverage. A high osmotic level is the principle behind GoLytely, the colon prep for colonscopy procedures. Therefore, avoid sports drinks and other beverages with sugar in them while ill and convalescing from gastrointestinal viral illnesses causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Additionally, even when vomiting actively, about 1/2 of the fluid consumed IS absorbed even though it 'looks like nothing stayed down." So keep taking fluids frequently in small amounts. I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon of clear liquids (which do not include soda or sports beverages of any sort preferrably as they can worsen diarrhea - see above) every 5-10 minutes. Increase the amount of fluid by 1 teaspoon at at time every 1/2 to 1 hour. If you get nauseous or vomit, back off to the last volume that worked and keep going. Over a few hours one can get up to taking an ounce or more at a time, which will effectively provide 180-360 ml of fluid per hour - as much or more than a physician would prescribe by intravenous route.

Finally, remember "LACTASE". Why? It sounds so innocuous. Here is why. This digestive enzyme sits like the 'frosting on the cake' in one's small bowel ready to help break down dairy products that we eat. Yes, it is just resident on the surface of the bowel lining. So, imagine taking a hose, even at a low spray force to a birthday cake. Even if the cakes survives, the frosting is quickly swept away. So it is with the Lactase lining or coating of the surface of the bowel after repeated episodes of diarrhea--it's gone. You have just lost the ability to digest any dairy products effectively for a couple days AFTER the last diarrhea stool until more lactase is formed. So avoid ALL dairy products including cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt (I'm sure I missing some) during and for a couple days after your diarrhea spells.

OK. Say you didn't know or ignored my advice on dairy. What then? OK, here is what happens. The dairy that you eat gets curdled by the acids in the stomach and make their way to your small bowel where ... nothing happens. (Remember in usual state of health the lactase enzyme splits the lactose sugar molecule into smaller sugar molecules that your body can absorb - but lactase is 'missing in action'). So your dairy continues on its journey through your GI tract until it hits your ... large bowel. There it meets up with its friends - colon bacteria including E. coli and others. These bacteria LOVE dairy products that contain undigested lactose!!! They jump right in and start splitting up the lactose molecules into the basic building blocks of life: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, and sugars.

And what is wrong with that? Nature is providing the built-in back up system, the dairy gets digested, the bacteria are healthy, fat and happy. Where's the problem? Oops. The by products of the bacteria who have had a happy feast are ... GASES!!! They also created double doses of sugar in the large bowel where they cause ... osmotic diarrhea because there are at least two molecules of sugar for every molecule of dairy. They also cause bloating and cramping and ... gas (yes, THAT gas - flatus).

See, wouldn't have just been better if you avoided dairy products for a couple of days after your diarrhea stopped?