Thursday, November 26, 2009


So many things to be thankful for!

I have begun again to list the things I am grateful for in a journal, numbering them. I stopped for so number is embarrassingly low.

Here's an article on Grateful-ology:

Right now (at 2:15 a.m.) I am grateful for a comfortable bed! Heading to it now...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday -- my first one!

I have so desperately needed to do this! So, today I did it. It took me forever!

Monday: Salmon, tortellini (for the ones who don't like fish), green beans.

Tuesday: Garden Vegetable Pasta Bake, whole wheat roll or bread of some sort, kale.

Wednesday: Black Bean Torte, rice, salad, spinach.

Thursday: Left-overs or something easy, like spaghetti or burritos.

Friday: Brisket, potatoes, brocolli, salad.

Saturday: Garlic Lime Chicken, steamed baby carrots, salad.

Sunday (slow cooker noon meal for after church): Cheryl's Mac and Cheese from the Fix-It and Forget It cookbook.

Here's the inspiration for Menu Plan Monday: I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Supervised Driving Hours

Some states require a certain amount of supervised driving hours for new drivers. Here is an article from AAA about the Texas law. If you live in a different state, go to the AAA home page and enter your zip. My search was for "texas law regarding supervised driving time." (I'm not that good at searches; there may be a better way).

They have tips and a log here.

Years ago, I read on a local homeschooling yahoo group about one mom's experience with this in Europe. She said that in some European countries, teens can get their learner's permit at 16, but they cannot get their driver's license until they turn 18 and have 150 documented hours of supervised driving time. They adapted this when they returned to the states and only required 100 hours. They kept a small notebook in the car and logged all driving time, including the types of roads (highway, suburban, city, rural), day or night and weather conditions. I decided that we would do this, too.

Then my sister-in-law sent me a copy of this press release:

News Alert

May 12, 2009

Parents can help keep teens safe with training tool for young drivers

"Novice Driver's Road Map: A Guide for Parents" offered by the non-profit Network of Employers for Traffic Safety

McLean, Va -- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety last week issued results of a study that confirmed the value of graduated drivers' licensing laws (GDL) in improving young driver safety. Although each state establishes their own criteria, an important component to GDL laws is documented driving practice. To help parents cope with their newly emphasized role as teen driving coach during the extended licensing period, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) offers the "Novice Driver’s Road Map: A Guide for Parents."

The Road Map is designed to provide the missing link in a teen driver's education—practice. "The biggest risk to the health of teens is the possibility that they will be in a motor vehicle crash," said Jack Hanley, Executive Director of NETS. "Fortunately, there are steps that parents can take to teach their kids good habits that can lead to a lifetime of safer driving."

Built around a series of eight practice drives, the Novice Driver's Road Map provides a list of skills for each drive and instructions on how to perform those skills. Each drive exposes the teen to progressively more difficult driving conditions and environments. The guided practice drives provide parents with an organized practical approach to coaching their teen’s drive time.

A "Coach's Game Book" is included that is packed full of tips to help the parent or other trusted adult be a successful driving coach. Designed to fit right in the glove box, The Novice Driver’s Road Map can easily accompany parents and teens on every trip.

The Novice Driver's Road Map was created with support from the UPS Foundation. It is available at

Founded in 1989, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) is an employer-led public-private partnership dedicated to improving the safety and health of employees, their families, and members of the communities in which they live and work, by preventing traffic crashes that occur both on and off the job. NETS, the only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to traffic safety in the workplace, provides organizations of all sizes and industry-types with guidance in developing or improving their driver safety programs. NETS also promotes education and outreach programs for employees and their families to support and encourage safe driving practices. Learn more about NETS from the organization’s web site at Information on teen driving laws by state is posted at

I ordered The Novice Driver's Road Map from this page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you'll see it in the center. It is a bit expensive, but since I have a current driver and two coming up, I thought it would be worth it. I did get some sort of discount (without asking for it), but I don't remember exactly what I paid. It comes with The Coach's Game Book.

The Novice Driver's Road Map is great because it gives you a graduated series of drives to do with your novice driver and even points out the typical mistakes that novice drivers make.

Two facts that stood out to me from The Coach's Game Book: A Guide for Parents:

  1. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds.
  2. The risk of being involved in a traffic crash is highest at age 16. The crash rate per mile driven is almost three times as high among 16 year olds as among 18 to 19 year olds.
And something else from The Coach's Game Book:

Many teen drivers receive formal driver education and training through a high school driver education program or through a private driving school. But all the textbooks and classroom time in the world do not replace actual time on the road. Unfortunately, the average road time in public and private driver education is about six hours and seldom includes nighttime driving, or driving in bad weather, work zones or in heavy traffic. ... Novice drivers need at least 150 to 200 hours of supervised practice time before driving solo. They also need monitoring after they begin driving unsupervised.

I remember reading somewhere of one family that offered their kids some large sum of money (I think it was $1,000) if they wouldn't drive until they reached a certain age (I think it was 18). This makes a lot of sense to me.

We're keeping a log of my son's driving time. I think parents may overestimate how much supervised driving time their kids are getting. I added up the time after a couple of weeks when we first began and was surprised that it was only four hours! Of course, that was the very beginning and the drives were short, but I would have overestimated the time had we not written it down.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bible Overview Chart

I read about this chart years ago in Mary Pride's Big Book of Home Learning. I bought one right away and have used it off and on for years. There is a ton of information packed into this thing!

The Bible Overview Chart by Kenneth E. Malberg is available from Heritage Products.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1000 Gifts and Healing a Heart

I stopped recording my gifts lists here because I wasn't sure I wanted to reveal so much about myself, as I explained here.

Eleven days later, Ann had a post at Holy Experience that really caused me to question my stance. You must read it, here. Good stuff.

So now I will be recording gifts here again from time to time. I have renewed my practice of writing them down, too. I had slipped away from that habit. But I know I need to make some heart changes and gratitude is one of them.

I had a heart attack. So I am contemplating what all that means, because I know it means more than physical muscle, veins, arteries, valves and blood.

Physically, I am not the typical heart patient (if there is such a thing). Not that old. Not overweight. No high blood pressure. Only borderline high cholesterol. No relatives with heart disease (at least not until they were well into their sixties or seventies or eighties...). I was exercising. Eating relatively healthfully. (We vegetarians until just this past year -- that's about 16 years for me, more for hubby because he was a vegetarian long before that.)

But stress, oh my, yes. And more negative emotions that I hate to admit: Irritable. Angry. Ungrateful. Seeing the negative. Worried. Afraid. Insecure. Controlling. And knowing that as a Christian, I should be experiencing the opposite. But not knowing how.

I'm asking God to show me the way and, as much as He wills, the why. And I think He has asked me to start with gratefulness.

Two Great Books

Ann had an interesting post today at Holy Experience.

She mentioned Carol Dweck. I read her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success several years ago. Her theory? There are two mindsets that someone can adopt. Not global mindsets, but about subjects.

The fixed mindset would say "I am good at math" or "I am bad at math." Both are fixed and can lead to trouble. This belief limits because when someone with a fixed mindset runs into problems, he or she perceives it as something about them that cannot be changed.

The growth mindset believes in effort and practice rather than innate talent. So when someone with a growth mindset runs into trouble, he or she will come up with some sort of plan to solve the problem, such as more study time, extra help, more practice and so on.

The great news is that it is not hard to switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Education about the two mindsets can go a long way.

I strongly recommend this book!

The other book I am reading now that was similar in subject to Ann's post is the book Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers by Geoff Colvin. What is it that separates those world-class performers from the rest of us. Practice. Lots of it. But not just any kind of practice. It has to be deliberate practice of what comes hard. And that kind of practice is not easy or immediately rewarding. Which explains why so many fail to engage in it.

I'm still reading, but I would also strongly recommend this book.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Odyssey: Audio Books has copies of readings of unabridged versions of The Odyssey. I may purchase one from them, but I wondered about the translations. That information wasn't always available. I asked Audible and they referred me to the publishers. I thought I would summarize what I found here (because I don't think Audible is interested in including this in their descriptions).

Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, by Homer, translated by W.H.D. Rose, narrated by Anthony Heald

The Odyssey, by Homer, translated by W.H.D. Rose, narrated by Nadia May

Odyssey, by Homer, translated by Stanley Lombardo, narrated by Stanley Lombardo

The Odyssey, by Homer, translated by William Cowper, narrated by Anton Lesser

The Odyssey, by Homer, translated by Samuel Butler, narrated by John Lee

The Odyssey, by Homer, translated by Stanley Lombardo, narrated by John Lescault

The Odyssey, by Homer, translated by George Herbert Palmer, narrated by Norman Deitz

And here is an easy explanation of the differences in some of the translations, from the website, The Greatest Literature of All Time.

Beginning a running program? Another plan

Power in Motion is a beginning program for runners in the Houston area. It is part of HARRA, Houston Area Road Runners Association. They have posted their training program. Just change the dates and it could be used by anyone.

To find the plan for beginners (they call them Aerobic and Batons), click on Training on the left sidebar, then Aerobic and Batons. The Intermediate plan is called Carbo and Dawns. Advanced plan is called Enduro, Fitness, Gu and Hydration.

On some of the plans, there is something like this: 6x(3R/1W). That means: run for three minutes, walk for one minute. Repeat for a total of six times.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Computer-free Sundays

I have made a commitment to myself to stay off the computer on Sundays. I kept this commitment for two Sundays and then broke it last Sunday. It started innocently enough, because my husband, who didn't have internet access, asked me to look up something. I did that and then rationalized that I had already blown it, so.... Sounds just like a dieter, doesn't it?

I did keep off the computer more than usual on Monday, to "sort of" make up for it.

Edited to add: Commitment kept on 4/5, 4/12, 4/26, 5/3!

In addition to that, I have made a commitment to keep off the computer until 12 noon Monday through Friday.

Edited to add: Commitment kept probably four days out of five each week. Need to do better!

These two commitments should help me reign in my excessive computer/internet time.

Bible Reading Plans, Part 2

I wrote about my Bible reading plan here.

Then I wrote about some group Bible study plans in this post.

I just never got around to writing that "Part 2."

Here is one entry for individual Bible reading plans: The Five-Lane Reading Plan. I have not used this, but it does sound interesting. Plan to take some time to read about it and figure it out, but it seems to be a good plan.

Another plan that has been around a while is the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. Read this first: a bit of history and explanation and even a "tune-up." Here is the plan, in a simple form.

An easy and interesting way to read the Bible in one year is to buy a chronological one year Bible. I own The Daily Bible: New International Version: With Devotional Insights to Guide You Through God's Word. I started it, but I never did finish it. I have trouble keeping the discipline up during the summer. I really liked it, however, and will do it again sometime.

And some other time, I would like to read the King James Version in a one-year format.

Beginning a running program?

Here is a cool training program to get you from the couch to a 5K in a couple of months. It is called Couch to 5K training program and it is at Cool Running.

And here are some podcasts to go with it:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recording Gifts (or Gratitude) and other things

I've decided that I don't enjoy posting the things I am grateful for here. I don't know why, except that I am, in some ways, a pretty private person. Someone could learn a lot about me by noticing what I am grateful for.

I am keeping an interesting list, though. At night, in a simple composition book, I write down these lists on a single page: "What I Did," "What I Didn't Do," "To Do," "Gifts" and "Prayers."

I write the "What I Did" list to help me not waste time. If I discovered that I goofed off too much of the day, it helps me focus the next day.

"What I Didn't Do" can be either things I procrastinated on, or things that waste time that I avoided.

"To Do" is, of course, a list of things I need to do.

"Gifts" is a list of the good things in my life.

"Prayers" is a list of things to pray about or people to pray for. It isn't the only list I have, but I kept noticing that I was thinking of things to pray about while writing these other lists, so I include it.

Our Hymn Study

I realized a month or so ago that we had somehow dropped hymn study! We got back to it a couple of weeks ago and while the girls complained, I loved it.

I don't take the complaining very seriously. They have discovered popular music (they are almost 13 and almost 11), so the hymns don't excite them. But I do think they help keep things in perspective, which is even more important now that they have discovered popular music!

I love this resource: The Center for Church Music.

We use KISS Grammar: A Review

I wrote a review of KISS Grammar for The Homeschool Library, a forum for homeschoolers.

You do not have to register to see the review. Click on the link to get to the forum, then notice the four tabs to the right of the page: Home, Forums, Reviews, Shopping. Click on Reviews, then on the thread 550.00 Language Arts Curricula Reviews. You'll find the KISS review there, plus some other comments.

I've decided to post it here, too. So here goes (it is a long review):

Review: KISS Grammar

Name of curriculum: KISS Grammar

Common Abbreviation: KISS

Which aspect of LA: Grammar, including punctuation, style, syntax and logic.

Age range of students: From second grade up to high school students.

Educational Philosophy: (choose from the master list ) (Master list was not available.) This program was written to meet a need for grammar instruction rather than from a philosophical perspective. After instruction about a concept, KISS uses classic literature for sentence analysis, which will especially please those who follow a Charlotte Mason and Classical philosophy. I somehow think that those who like what Ruth Beechick advocates would like KISS Grammar, too.

KISS Grammar was written by a college professor who teaches five freshmen English classes each semester. Every semester he works with students who have major problems writing essays because they have major problems with grammar. The author founded Syntax in the Schools, the only national publication dedicated to the teaching of grammar. He edited the journal for fifteen years. His desire is to change the way grammar is taught in this country because the approach now used in schools is not working.

Worldview: Secular. Uses classic, public domain literature.



KISS Grammar is not a traditional grammar program. A traditional approach will focus on grammar constructions such as nouns and verbs, subjects and verbs, verb tense, phrases and so on. Students will learn definitions, rules and see examples and then do exercises written specifically for the topic just studied.

So what is KISS, if not a traditional grammar program? KISS Grammar teaches students how to use a limited number of grammatical constructions (which are learned in a specific sequence) to analyze real texts and their own writing.

The program is divided into five levels:

Level One - The Basics
Level Two - Expanding the Basics
Level Three - Clauses
Level Four - Verbals (Gerunds, Gerundives, and Infinitives)
Level Five - Noun Absolutes and Seven Other Constructions

All students using KISS will progress through these five levels. Students who have previously studied grammar may move rapidly through the lower levels, but all should start at Level One, just to be sure they understand how KISS works.

The five levels are not directly correlated to a year's worth of study. KISS Grammar does require more than one year's study to master (although the author uses the material in one year for college freshmen). Ideally, students should study KISS Grammar spread over five or six years. This allows the student to have plenty of practice with every construction and to work on a wide variety of literature.

As stated above, KISS Grammar will teach students how to analyze sentences. In fact, the main objective of KISS is to enable students to explain how any word in any sentence is connected to the words in a main-clause Subject/Verb/Complement pattern. In other words, students will be able to explain every word in a sentence, which means they will understand why errors are errors.

KISS is also different because it is all available for free from the KISS website. There is hope that the materials may be published some day, but the author promises to use an inexpensive publisher (such as Dover), forgo royalties to keep prices low and keep the material available on the KISS website for free.

KISS Grammar is a work in progress. There is enough material on the website to take a student through all the KISS Levels, but the author is continuing to refine his material.

There are two ways to use KISS Grammar. The first method is "Working Independently" ( This material is available online or printable booklets.
Think of the Working Independently section as teacher resource: it include instructions for the teacher (including the instructions she would give to students) and some exercises, but most students will require more than is provided. The teacher will pull additional sentences from whatever sources they choose.

This is for teachers who wish to have the basics of KISS instruction through the five levels, and who are willing to determine the pace through the levels and create additional exercises as needed.

This can be an ideal way to use KISS for teachers who have the time. They can make sure the progression is the best pace for their students and they can pull sentences from what their students are reading and from their students' own writing for the analysis. The KISS List is available for all users, but can be especially helpful for those using the Working Independently through the KISS Levels booklets for any questions that come up when analyzing texts (including students' own writing).

The second way to use KISS Grammar is through workbooks (also available online and in printable versions).

This is for those teachers who want to be able to open the workbook and go. The workbooks are designed to be about one year's worth of grammar instruction. Currently available are the Second Grade Workbook and the Third Grade Workbook. The Fourth Grade Workbook will be finished soon. This is the most convenient way to use KISS.

The Second and Third Grade Workbooks have been used with success with older students, even middle school students. I recommend that the teacher do the exercises (at least some of them) along with students. When I use KISS Grammar, I print a copy of the student workbook for myself.

How to use KISS Grammar if you have elementary-aged students? The easiest way to use KISS would be to print the Second Grade Workbook and start there. If you have time and want to make exercises from literature the student is reading and his own writing, then use the Working Independently booklets, beginning at Level One.

How to use if you have middle-school students? This is trickier! If your students would not mind stories such as Bunny Rabbit's Diary, then start with the Second Grade Workbook. My girls, ages nine and 11, did not mind these stories for exercises. I did almost all the exercises with them and I didn't mind the stories, either. If I were reading them aloud or we were reading for comprehension, I would not have enjoyed it, but we were analyzing sentences (solving puzzles!) and so Bunny Rabbit's Diary was fine.

If your student wouldn't go for this, then use the Working Independently Booklets.

For high school student, you will probably want to use the Working Independently through KISS Levels booklets.

Note: the author's plan includes printable workbooks for all grades from 2 through 11, with an entry point at each grade. That means that when they are complete, a teacher could start a seventh grader in the seventh grade book at Level One. They would progress as far as possible, and then pick up the next year wherever they are in the Eight Grade workbook.

A quote from the website: The best place to start to learn about KISS Grammar is to take the time to read this: An Introduction to the KISS Levels. Here is the opening paragraph from that document:
The primary objective of KISS is to enable students to identify grammatical constructions such that they can explain the function of every word in every sentence. This will enable them to understand how sentences work, and that will enable them to understand and intelligently discuss the rules of punctuation as well as sophisticated questions of style and logic. To my knowledge, no other instructional materials on grammar even try to reach this objective.

Have you used this curriculum? What levels? Yes, I have used the Second and Third Grade Workbooks.

Strengths: It works. My and I kids enjoy it. Simple to use.
Lessons are short. Constant review. Exercises are interesting. Materials are available online or as printable documents. The printable material is very well laid out, which large margins and pleasant, old fashioned graphics from public domain sources. Author maintains a very low volume list so you can ask him questions directly. The cost is hard to beat! (Materials are free; your cost is your printing expense and the usual items needed, such as a binder to put the workbook in and so on.)

Weaknesses: Expect to take some time to understand the KISS Grammar and the website. Some may perceive the amount of information on the website as a weakness (or perhaps the organization of the material), but there is lots of good information there. Sometimes things are moved around or renamed on the site, but this has never been a problem for me.
If you want an "open and teach" program, this probably won't work for you (although starting with the Second Grade Workbook is very close to "open and teach").


I have been very pleased with KISS.

Our background for comparison: our previous grammar instruction was with Sonlight's Language Arts Program, Rod and Staff and The Hedge School Diagramming Program (, plus the odd resources such as Grammar Songs, Schoolhouse Rock and grammar picture books. I have seriously looked at Shurley English, but we did not use it. I like this better than all those.

I have created an additional yahoo group for those interested in KISS:


P.S. I will update the review if things change on the KISS Grammar website.

Three disaster books

I recently re-read Isaac's Storm by Eric Larson, then checked out A Weekend in September by John Edward Weems and for some reason, that led me to The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger.

The first time I read Isaac's Storm, I enjoyed it, but I felt like I missed a lot because I read it quickly (there are lots of details in the book). So when I re-read it, I read more slowly and carefully. I found that I didn't like it this time around. I just don't think it is well-written. It goes too fast in some places and in other places goes on too much. It has some interesting facts in it, but I didn't enjoy reading it.

Somewhere I heard that A Weekend in September was the definitive book on the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900. It looks like it was written in 1980 (I returned the book to the library, so I checked for the date). Reading this right after Isaac's Storm was a mistake. This one is written in a more formal style and moves more slowly. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it first? It seemed a little dry, but I already knew a lot of the story he told.

Then I decided to read The Perfect Storm. I felt so sad for those people! Especially as I read the opening, I kept hoping that they would turn their lives around. It was a hard book to read, knowing that the men died, perhaps a terrible death, and I don't think they had the comfort of salvation.

I was a little sorry at the time I had spent reading these books (and I didn't finish A Weekend and I skimmed the end of Isaac's Storm and The Perfect Storm).

I've decided that my reading habits are very different from most of the reading population!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

"Supercharge Your Mental Circuits to Beat Stress, Sharpen Your Thinking, Lift Your Mood, Boost Your Memory, and Much More"

by John J. Ratey, M.D., with Eric Hagerman

Interesting book. Certainly motivating for someone who is trying to exercise more.

The recommended regime at the end of the book:

walk or jog every day (low to moderate intensity; 55 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate for low intensity, 65 to 75 percent for moderate intensity)

run (or some other comparable activity) a couple of times a week (high intensity; 75 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate)

sprint (or comparable) every now and then (the high end of high intensity)

or, in other words,

some form of aerobic activity six days a week for forty-five minutes to an hour

four of those days toward the longer amount of time at moderate intensity

two of those days on the shorter side at high intensity

include some form of strength or resistence training on the shorter, high intensity days (not back-to-back days)

if you are new to activity, begin with walking

The book opens with a very interesting report on what schools in Napierville, Illinois, are doing for P.E. and the effect on grades.

Published in 2008.