Monday, October 20, 2014

Busy Bee Skip Counting Worksheet



My daughter and I are learning skip counting in kindergarten and I wanted a cute-- and free-- visual aid to help us review. I used some adorable digital scrapbook paper from Kim Hill at A Cherry On Top. This page is from the free sample pack Buggy Afternoon.


To get buzzy counting with your little bee, you can download your own copy here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why We Left Liberty Online Academy




Though you wouldn't know it from the dead silence on the blog, we've started a new adventure this fall-- schooling our girls at home. My husband and I made the decision this summer to enroll them in Liberty University Online Academy, an online private Christian school.

We chose this school for several reasons:
  • Full-service support: In the LUOA model, the school is responsible for lesson plans, grading, transcripts, record keeping, standardized testing, and accountability. Each child has their own teacher as well as an academic advisor. That kind of professional oversight and support was important to us.
  • A true online-model:  The learning experience designed by LUOA was intended to be a true online model. They use an online interface-- CANVAS-- and use multiple methods of interacting with the material, including external websites and learning games. This was important to us because other "online" academies-- such as ABEKA-- are little more than streaming video of a teacher talking for six hours a day. We wanted a format that made good use of the many possibilities of an online model. LUOA seemed to present that.
  •  Accreditation and statistical success: LUOA is accredited by several reputable accrediting bodies, including AdvanceEd and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School improvement. They have scored better than the national average on their standardized tests, and their graduates have been accepted by a number of state, private, and Christian universities. 
  • An affordable alternative to private Christian school: My husband and I have had a great experience with the private Christian school our daughter had previously attended.  However, a brick and mortar Christian school becomes more cost prohibitive as the number of children enrolled increases. As we have three daughters, we have decided to experiment with online school to see if it provides a cost-friendly alternative. We felt LUOA's tuition-- while more expensive than some online options-- was a reasonable middle ground.
  • Flexibility: We liked the idea of being able to send our girls to a Christian school that was not tied to particular geographical location. An online Christian school offers the girls educational consistency no matter where we may live over the course of their education.
So far, so good.

My biggest concern, as we enrolled the girls, was that I had not been able to see the curriculum. We were not allowed to see any significant amount of the material prior to their first day of class. We chose to enroll them despite those concerns due to the statistical success of the program and due to Liberty University's reputation as a quality online college. We had no reason to think that their Academy would be of inferior quality.

Unfortunately, the curriculum was a disappointment, most specifically in the case of my third grader.
  • The formatting was unprofessional. The material was prone to typos and other easily-fixed errors. 
  • The material for each subject was poorly written, vague, and even inaccurate at times. 
  • The test material was also frequently vague and error-prone, sometimes asking my daughter for information that was nowhere in the lesson material. 
  • The lessons-- especially in math-- lacked a solid structure. During our first two weeks of school, my daughter did surprisingly few math problems and there was no systematic review of second-grade concepts. This is problematic in a subject like math, where retention and review are important.
  •  The lessons-- again, particularly in math--  relied heavily on free materials, such as YouTube videos or website games,  for the main teaching component. Some of those materials were very poor quality. 
    • This was particularly disappointing, as we did not expect a tuition-based curriculum to use free materials for a significant portion  of the lesson. I would consider it appropriate to use free materials as supplementary or enrichment items. If LUOA was intended to be an open-source school, then I would also have no problem if they used free resources as core material. But it is different when parents are paying tuition.
Both my daughter and I felt that we were fighting the material rather than learning from it. Most of the time I would teach her, in my own words, the concept that the lesson was trying to teach. After two weeks of this frustration, I decided to do some research.

What our research revealed is that LUOA had discard their previous curriculum and created their own. Until late spring/early summer, they had used Alpha Omega's online curriculum. This fall was the launch of their new curriculum. That meant that all of the data-- the standardized test scores and college entry results-- were based on a totally different curriculum than the one we had been given. It also meant that LUOA's accreditation was based on a different curriculum. 

We chose to withdraw our daughters and enroll them in Alpha Omega's online academy. This is a statistically proven, accredited curriculum. Alpha Omega's online school offers many of the same benefits as Liberty Academy. My third grader will use an exclusively online curriculum and my K5 daughter will use a print-based curriculum that is still under the umbrella of the Academy. This includes teacher-led classes, parent accountability and support, grading, and record keeping.

As parents, we know there is no perfect school-- be it brick and mortar or digits and databytes. There isn't a one-size-fits-everyone education. However, we have chosen to share our experience with Liberty so that parents who are considering this option may be fully informed. The time and money parents invest into their child's education is valuable.

Note: This review speaks only to Liberty University Online Academy. I have no experience with Liberty University itself or Liberty University Online. I have several friends who have gone through the university-- both on campus and online-- with a very good experience. Quality concerns with the Academy do not indicate that the University's programs are inferior.




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

If You're Looking For Me (Five Things I'd Say If I Were Single)





Maybe it's post-Valentine buzz but I hear my unmarried friends talking a lot about their singleness right now. Whether male or female, they all agree that it's hard. Often lonely. They can feel overlooked or over-advised by church couples. They feel judged. It's left me wondering what, if anything, do I have to say? What does a married mama of three have to say about singleness? 
 
Well, writers like what-if questions. And if things were different, if I was a single woman in today's church, what would I want my future husband to know as he looked for me?

  • Don't look for me if you aren't ready for me.
    • Marriage is for men, not boys. Don't try to win my heart if you aren't able to provide a secure life for me and our future children. I don't need a high-end lifestyle to be happy but I do need to know that you'll provide for our household needs (not wants, our needs) no matter what. Even if it means a stable but unglamorous job. If you've spent most of your twenties at home with your parents spending money on expensive tech-toys then you may not be ready for the slow, daily sacrifice that marriage requires of a husband. Don't look for me until you can shoulder that weight.
  • Look for me with honor
    • Remember that if I am not your future wife then I may be someone else's. Even if I were never to marry anyone, I would still be your sister in the Lord. Treat my body and my heart with respect and don't defraud me by making promises-- romantically or physically-- that are not yours to make outside of marriage. Don't treat me as if I am yours until I truly am, and don't make me be the one to draw the boundaries. The burden of restraint before marriage falls most heavily on you but it comes with a great reward of freedom after marriage....not just physical freedom but freedom from the guilt, shame, and mistrust that playing at marriage brings couples.
  • Look for me with courage
    • Okay, so I can only imagine how hard it is to talk to me, especially if I seem different from you. I may not look like what you imagined. I may not dress like what you expected. I can only imagine how hard it is to make yourself vulnerable and reveal who you are when you know that I could reject you. But remember, Christ blazed that trail for you. He made himself weak and revealed Himself knowing that there would be those who rejected him. It was hard and it cost him everything but He won His bride. Remember, I'm scared too. I am vulnerable in my waiting just as you are in your searching. So be brave. Step outside your comfort zone and step outside your perfect-wife checklist and ask me for coffee.
  • I won't complete you because you are already complete in Christ.
    • That's true for both of us. If you are looking for me-- or if I am looking for you-- because I think that a relationship is what I need to be happy and complete, then we are setting ourselves up for bitter failure. We both need Christ to be happy and complete, and if we are both secure in that identity, then we can pursue a relationship as a way to reflect His love not as another way to feed our idolatry.
  • I want you to run into me as you are chasing God.
    • While the pursuit of a wife is a good thing, I don't want you to find me because you've devoted your entire life to the search. I want you to be consumed by God's passion first. I want you to be running hard after His calling on your life, consumed by His glory and His joy. Chase Him first. Then when you run into me, you'll know where to lead us.

I didn't think about all of those things when I was single or even when I was courting my husband. Yes, we were intentional and we sought the Lord but I also thought marriage would do things for me that it has not. That it could not. Maybe that's what a semi-old married lady can say to my single brothers and sisters-- that even after you find the one whom your heart desires, realize that what you need most as Christian isn't a mate. It is Christ. Start your desire in Him-- in the only place that any of us can find fulfillment-- and you will find always-increasing, ever-growing satisfaction. Whether or not it comes with a ring.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Midwinter Graces




Midwinter does things to my sense of hope.

The grass in my yard is dead, the earth by the sidewalk turned to cold sludge-- something the ground spits at my boots out of sheer malice. The oak tree across the road is nothing but branch-bones. Even the noon sunlight is tentative and half-hearted.

Of course I fight back-- I put soup in the crockpot and wear fuzzy socks. I dig out extra blankets and light nutmeg candles. I play music that puts dancing in my feet while I wash the dishes, but at the corner of the kitchen window, bruise-black winter night creeps up pane by pane. Something in my soul rolls over to hibernate, to burrow deep and forget things like wonder and joy and beauty that seem more fitted to spring.

Maybe I'm not the only one. Maybe you're tired too.
What I want to say to both of us is don't go numb. Don't sleep it off. Watch the sky darken and wait. Winter, with its slush and mud and cold fingers and dampened hearts, is really a promise. You, and I, and creation itself are living out this dead time, knowing that beneath the ugly ground are green and growing things. When He calls the earth to awaken, the sun on our windows will shine strong. Rain will soften and warm even the dirt in my yard. The azaleas by the bedroom window will bloom.

It works the same way when it's midwinter in your soul.
Sometimes you look at your heart and see a dirty field, icy and hard from whatever freeze has entered your life. Or you see a hateful muck of sin that clings thick and soils everything. Even His light seems to fall slant on your soul, thin against swift-falling darkness. You chase grace by whatever means you can. You gather to worship Him. You warm yourself over His Word like hands over fire. You pray for thaw. You may even sing, sending up praise like a tiny sparrow headlong into winter wind, but the cold spell stretches on and the ache won't quit. Like wind howling around house corners, a bleak and insistent voice tells you to just stop seeking Him. Curl up and forget. Make do.

Don't.
You are His. He won't leave you frozen and mired.
Yes, in sovereign love He sends His own into winter, but He plants His fruit even in the seeming dead times. Some seeds need the cold before they can germinate. Some works of grace come alive only after barrenness has driven us to yet another end of ourselves. To an even fuller understanding that He is our new beginning. He is our spring. When he calls our souls to be green and growing again, we will be amazed at what He has planted, what He was working in us all the time.

Our hearts will soften. Our souls will warm. We will lift up our heads in joy and bloom.