Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Worst Day of My Life

It has been a long time since I've written about Leukemia. This is probably because I like to think about it as little as possible. Before I begin, for those of you who don't know, my youngest child was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was five years old in 2012. Now, four years later, it is interesting to hear some thoughts about Leukemia through the eyes of children.

The other night we had a very interesting dinner conversation. My husband attended a conference and one of the lectures talked about the worst day of his life......

A self-described overweight computer engineer, excited about his weekend camping trip, was dressed in clothes too tight at a coffee shop. While in line he received a text message calling him back to work to fix an urgent problem. As he was about to call the office, he dropped the phone so that it could no longer be used. Discouraged, he was still staring at the phone while walking out of the shop. Not paying attention to his surroundings, he walked directly into a lady who spilled her drink all over the front of his shirt. As if that wasn't enough, the sole of his shoe broke completely off while walking out the door. Finally, as he was looking at his shoe, a well-meaning gentleman wearing a community service shirt asked him if he had a place to sleep that night.
That definitely sounds like a bad day, but after hearing the story I couldn't help but think either he is very young, or has had a pretty good life if that was his worst day. Therefore, I decided to ask the kids about the best and worst days of their lives.

Surprisingly, they had quite a difficult time identifying both their best and worst days, but after some thought my son decided his worst day was not a day, but the entire week  he spent learning long division. My oldest daughter decided her worst day was when she smashed her face falling off her bike, resulting in an ER visit, the loss of a tooth, several abrasions and many stitches inside her mouth. Jemma, my daughter who had Leukemia couldn't identify the worst day of her life. Both my husband and I were shocked. There was no question which day was the worst of our life.

Leukemia didn't only affect Jemma, it changed our entire family. Even knowing how it changed their lives, I couldn't believe none of the three kids identified that day as being terrible. To them it wasn't a great day, but just another day that didn't really stand out as especially bad. After all, my son identified long division as much worse.

Then we moved onto best days and I was again blown away by their thoughts. Neither of my two oldest kids could identify a best day, but Jemma had a thought. She said her best day was when she was done with Leukemia. Confused, as to which day she was referring we continued to listen. Her next comment was, well maybe not that day because it hurt a little. She was referring to the day her catheter was surgically removed from her chest. To her this day marked the end of Leukemia despite the fact that after that day she continued to take oral chemo for over a year. Today she still visits the hospital to have her blood checked.

When she had the catheter she couldn't go swimming. For a nautical family, a year not in a pool is a very long time. I clearly remember the first day she went swimming after her catheter was removed. It was only about 10 days after as we went as soon as the wound was closed. I was extremely nervous, and she was glowing with excitement. I was happy and scared at the same time.

Today, at nine years old, Jemma is like a normal child. Since we moved from where she received her treatment, not many people in our new town know about what she went through. They are always shocked when they find out.

Leukemia is always in the back of my mind. When she was first diagnosed, I received a message from a lady on the internet that I have thought about many times. She said her daughter who was in her 20's had leukemia around 5 years old. She said she is not thriving and thinks about Leukemia some days, but with every day that passes, she thinks about it a little less. Her message meant a lot to me as it gave me a sense that there would be better days ahead.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

American Rebels - Sam Adams and Paul Revere

My daughter brewed a batch of root beer in honor of Samuel Adams. Although he was trained as a brewer of beer, he was more interested in politics.

Samuel Adams and Paul Revere were two great American heroes that helped to lead the rebellion. The Sons of Liberty was a secret club of businessmen opposed to the King of England. The Mechanics was a secret club of craftsmen opposed to the King of England. Samuel Adams was a leader of the Sons of Liberty and Paul Revere was a leader of the Mechanics. The Boston Tea party was organized by the Sons of Liberty and Paul Revere is famous for his midnight ride to warn the colonists of the coming of the British to Lexington and Concord. Both of these events mark the beginnings of the American Revolution and America's fight for independence.

Living in Boston, Samuel Adams was greatly opposed to taxes imposed on the Americans by the British. He spoke out widely against The Stamp Act and The Townsend Acts which included the tea tax. Public support for independence during the time of the Boston Massacre was created with the help of his mastery of propaganda. Later he attended the continental congress and became a founding father of the new nation.

In Boston, Paul Revere became a silversmith opposed to taxes set forth by the British government. Like Samuel Adams, he was a participant in the Boston Tea Party and a leader of the Sons of Liberty. He was also a leader of the Mechanics; a group of craftsmen opposed to the King.

Jean Fritz has written several books on American History and we have really enjoyed her biographies of American heroes. The Boston Tea Party is another fun book to read with kids to introduce kids to this famous event.

The poem Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shouldn't be missed when studying the American Revolution. There are lots of illustrated versions of the story.

After reading about Sam Adams and Paul Revere, my daughter brewed a batch of root beer in honor of Samuel Adams since he was trained as a brewer. The activity came from the book The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities of which we referenced several activities.

Please join us again for future posts of American History Lessons for Kids.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Studying for the Western Civilizations CLEP Exam

My 15 year old daughter just took her second CLEP exam - Western Civilizations I: Ancient Near East to 1648.

Returning to the United States in 2015 after living in Germany for six years she took her first CLEP exam German. Although she was homeschooled in Germany she attended dance classes with German kids and spent lots of time immersed in German culture. Therefore, this exam was relatively easy for her. The Western Civilizations exam was very different.

The exam covers western civilization from the Greeks and Persians, through the middle ages and Renaissance. Coincidentally, this lines up very well with the history topics we studied while she was in elementary school.

As part of our homeschool curriculum, we studied one topic in history for between 6-15 weeks with a weekly project. Details of the lessons and projects can be found on our History Page.

Therefore, in studying for the Western Civilization CLEP exam step one was to review the spine books we read in the past.

Mesopotamia Books
Ancient Greece Books
Ancient Rome Books

Viking Books

Middle Ages Books

Renaissance Books

Next, she took a practice exam to find weak areas. Because we felt church history and the Middle Ages were the weakest areas, she spent approximately six weeks studying primarily those topics. We found the following resources helpful.

Ryan Reeves Church History Videos on Youtube
Librivox/Baldwin Project –
Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages
Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages


Now she just needs to decide what to take next.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Early American History Books for Kids

Books, Books, Books...... There are so many books on American History. Our favorites are the type that teach through story. LIVING BOOKS! Here's a list of books and videos we used  to study Early American History.

Native Americans

Native American Books


Grade 1st - 4th
Encounter (Voyager Books)

Grade 5th - 8th


Grade 1st - 4th
Roanoke: The Lost Colony
Who's that Stepping on Plymouth Rock?
USKids American Colonies
Story of William Penn by Aliki 

Grade 5th - 8th
Pocahontas and the Strangers (Scholastic Biography)
Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims (Scholastic Biography)
Native America before Colonization (Video)

Early Settlers

Grade 1st - 4th
A Lion to Guard Us
The Courage of Sarah Noble
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain

High School
Whatever Happened to Justice? (An Uncle Eric Book)

Salem Witch Trials (1692-3)

Grade 5th - 8th
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

French Indian War (1754-1763)

Grade 1st - 4th
The Matchlock Gun

Grade 5th - 8th
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison
Calico Captive

High School
French Indian War Documentary Parts 1-3 (Video)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Preparing to Take CLEP Exams

My 10th grade daughter is concentrating on The Three C’s: Calculus, Chemistry and CLEP tests.

One huge advantage of homeschooling is the ability to challenge students at their level. Because my 15 year old daughter has progressed at her own speed since 1st grade, she is far ahead of public school students of the same age. 

Throughout her elementary school years we studied various topics in history and science and made sure to read, write and do math every day. Fortunately, new math concepts were relatively easy for her to master. This gift enabled her to move through math at a rapid pace. Like wise, reading was a hobby for her. She voraciously read every child’s chapter book within her grasp. Coupled with our history and science unit studies, this approach gave her a vast knowledge of many topics.

Therefore, when lesson planning this year we began talking about her future goals. At this stage she thinks she wants to be an orthodontist. Perhaps this goal will change in the future, but it is a great place to start our future planning. With the goal of dentistry and college in mind we began researching what to study this year and in the near future.

After learning about some near term options the plan for how to proceed this year became glaringly obviously. As an 11th and/or 12th grader she could gain experience, knowledge and college credit taking technical courses, which include dentistry through the local district. In the half-day, one year long program, kids get hands-on experience in a dentist office, and study anatomy and other topics relative to dentistry. This however, isn’t the only option. By taking 1 course at the high school she is eligible to take courses at a local community college. So we looked at the course list.

Based on the descriptions of many of the first and second year community college courses much of the material seems to have already been covered. The only way at this stage to begin taking credit for current knowledge is to take exams. CLEP is the best option.

Most colleges and universities award some amount of credit from CLEP exams, but very few award credit for all exams taken. Because we aren’t sure which institution(s) will be in her future path, we are  planning to take exams for which she has learned the majority of the material.

That being said, my 15 year old’s curriculum plan for the year is to complete chapters 21-24 of Life of Fred Calculus, complete her chemistry labs and book and take approximately 1 CLEP exam every six weeks. In addition, she will take ceramics and drawing at the local high school.

As a 13 year old she passed the German CLEP test with flying colors. The results of her testing this year will shape the path for next year and future lesson plans. Although her CLEP list has not been fully determined, she will likely take Western Civilization I and II, History of the United States Early Colonization to 1877, History of the United States 1865 to Present, Humanities, Calculus, Chemistry, and Natural Sciences.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Colonial Food - Johnny Cakes: American History for Kids

My daughter made johnny cakes and put together a cookbook.

America was made up of people from many different nations. When people immigrated to America they frequently brought along favorite family recipes. Often recipes would be altered depending on ingredients available in the New World. Perhaps that's how johnny cakes were invented. They are basically corn pancakes.

While studying American Colonial History, we read the book USKids American Colonies which contained many stories of early colonists as well as suggested activities.

Johnny Cakes

Most of the American Colonists ate simple, natural, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and corn. Johnny cakes were a staple food throughout early America. Although there are many variations, the main ingredient is corn. Made with cornflour, milk, egg, salt, oil, wheat flour and water mixed together, they are fried on the stove top or over an open fire on a griddle. Like bread, they could be stored for several days and made convenient traveling food.

My daughter made johnny cakes several times adding bananas and blueberries to later batches to sweeten them up a bit.

Since colonists brought along recipes and my daughter was doing a variety of activities which involved cooking, she put together her own cookbook. This is a great project in connection with a history study, but also works well on its own as it can incorporate many subjects. From the science of baking, to the cultural study of foods, to writing, and back to science through creation of personal recipes, creating a cookbook is perfect for kids. In addition, they can use their personal cookbook to prepare a future family meal giving them a sense of great achievement.

 To create her cookbook my daughter photo copied and cut out recipes she had prepared at least once.

Then she put them into a three ring binder and added some fancy paper. I was happy to see her refer back to her cookbook several times to prepare dishes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Can homeschoolers take public school classes?

My daughter took art and drama classes at our local high school.

After moving back to the United States I wanted to continue to homeschool my children, but taking a few classes at the local public school seemed like a good idea. In our district homeschoolers can take  any non-core classes. In other words, they can take classes not required for graduation including PE, art, music, computer and drama classes, but not math, history and science courses. Each district has its own policies on homeschoolers taking classes, but most do offer some options.

Last year my daughter signed up for drama, art and design, and painting. This year she will be taking ceramics and drawing. The art program in the district is phenomenal and she is taking full advantage of it.

Here is a small sample of her creations at the public school.

In addition to taking non-core classes, homeschoolers are eligible to participate in any clubs the school offers such as yearbook, debate, photography, etc... Since my daughter took the drama class, she began participating in the school plays and the drama club.

Unfortunately participation in sports is not nearly as easy. The district told us that homeschoolers are eligible to participate in sports. They only need to take five classes at the high school. (Full time students take six.) Our local school added a one course requirement above the requirement of the Michigan High School Athletic Association which requires four classes. Then they said another option would be for her to practice with the team and just not compete. Personally I think that would be a huge blow to a child. Although my daughter is athletic and would enjoy the comradery of public school sports, it seems the system is designed to discourage homeschoolers from participation.

Perhaps one day policies on the sports issue will change to be more in line with the policies on classes and clubs. In the mean time, my daughter is greatly enjoying her art classes and the school plays. They have excellent programs.
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