A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Monday, February 15, 2010


Did anyone enjoy watching the Olympic coverage last night? We sure did! Almost everyone I know likes to watch the figure skaters every 4 years - and our family is no exception. But there's something so amazing about watching what they are doing and understanding it because my kids do the same stuff (on a much smaller level, of course).

We like all the events - snow boarding, skiing, the luge (heartbreaking as it is this Olympics). But we don't really understand those sports inside and out like we do figure skating.

For example, figure skating used to be a lot more fun to watch (and to perform!) before the "rules" had to be changed thanks to conspirator's cheating on the Olympic level (2002 Olympics). Now the "rules" limit the artistic creativity that goes into the short and long programs. Elements are the rule of the day, with the express purpose of ensuring no one else can have their Olympic gold stolen from them by conspiring judges (Russia & France). Some of the fun seems to have gone out of the sport, sadly.

But last night, the fun was there again! What a blast we had watching Zhao Hongbo and She Xue skate, and what an inspiring story they have! And the Germans costumes were adorable! Plus, Robin Szolkowy landed her triple flip - something she hadn't been landing all week during practice. She didn't dip too much, just landed it solidly. So great to see!

So, here is my quick info guide to figure skating (I won't touch on ice dance - although I could since my kid's are coached by an ice dancer, so they get a lot of dance thrown into their figure lessons!) There are 2 basic types of jumps - toe jumps and edge jumps. The "toe" refers to the toe pick on the figure skate - the more advanced the skater, the larger the toe pick. The "edge" is talking about the edge of the skate - and the edge is made better or worse depending on how it is sharpened. There is also a "rocker" on the blade of figure skates, and when they spin they are sitting on their rocker. Hockey skates have no toe pick, but my son prefers his hockey skates when he monitors (he works at the ice rink). When he's just skating in circles for a couple of hours, making sure no one gets hurt on the public ice time, his toe pick gets in the way, so hockey skates work better.

Okay, back to jumps. Toe jumps - you have a toe loop, a flip, and the Lutz. The easiest way to tell these jumps apart is before take-off. The toe loop takes off from the back outside edge of the right foot and are launched by the left toe pick (so watch for the left leg to be raised and then "dug in" at the start of the jump). A flip begins on the back inside edge of the left foot and is launched by the right toe pick (my daughter's favorite jump when she was jumping singles). Then you have the Lutz, where the skater takes off from the back outside edge of the left foot and is launched by the right toe pick. Got all that? Good, 'cause there is a LOT more to talk about :)

Let's move on to the edge jumps - yup, I know the previous jumps all begin on an inside or outside edge, but remember, those are toe jumps because they require the toe pick to be dug in to launch the jump. The Salchow (pronounced sow-cow) take off from a back left inside edge. The other leg helps launch the jump into the air. (The double Salchow is now my daughter's favorite jump - she lands it solidly and consistently!) The loop takes off from a right back outside edge and lands on the same edge. And then there is the axel, the easiest jump to identify as a spectator because it's the only jump that takes off from a forward edge. Because of this, an extra half rotation is a part of this jump. So, if someone lands a triple axel, they have actually rotated 3 1/2 times before landing. A single axel is 1 1/2 rotations. You get the idea :)

The rotations in the air determines the type of jump - single, double, triple and the rare but amazing quad. Jumps are often performed in succession during Olympic type competition - when you hear the commentator saying "Triple toe, triple loop" etc. This gets tricky, since it's not an official double combo if there is any extra footwork between jumps - they have to start the second jump on the edge they landed on from the previous jump, so the loop is the only jump that comes later on in the combination. Again, I'm sure you've got all this down pat so we can keep moving along, right?

Let's talk spins. There aren't as many spins as there are jumps, so it's much easier to follow. You have the sit spin - and trust me, it's pretty tough to get your bottom on your boot and then raise yourself back up - on one foot, without falling! But that's the requirement to pass your sit spin at a higher level. There is also a camel spin - leg out behind the skater. And the basic upright spin, standing straight up. There are variations of these spins, but these 3 are really all you'll see during the Olympic games.

I can't say much about lifts, since my kids don't really do any of that - so phew! You are off the hook and don't have to listen to me blab about lifts...

But I will talk a little about footwork, an important element to any skating routine and key for all skaters. These may seem easy, but they really build up the skater's endurance and strength. There is the mohawk, twizzle, rocker, bracket, three-turns and choctaws. These are the turns and the footwork that make up the bulk of the performance - and when you're watching pairs, remember they have spent countless hours getting themselves in sync. They can't always watch one another, and they are not the same size - which makes is even more difficult to spin or step or jump in sync. It's hard to explain, but I bet someone with a great math brain could explain it much better! Trust me when I say they don't move together perfectly without a whole lot of behind the scenes work.

There are also spirals and spread eagles, which look so pretty...

Then there is the equipment - the skates, the blades, skate bags, hard guards, soft guards, in the boot tights, over the boot tights, the correct pants (my daughter just got a new pair for a mere $70 - she babysat a LONG time to earn that $70!) Zuca's and Zuca bags (if you choose to own more than one!) And, of course, gloves...very important and always getting lost! Good quality wash clothes for drying the blades when you come off the ice, unless you are going right back on the ice then you can safely put your hard guards on - but be careful, you don't want those blades to rust! Of course, there are also right now, my kids need new blades so that they can land their doubles more solidly. And new boots, since they really do get "chunked up" as the wear and tear takes it's toll.

Oh, and don't forget the off ice time. This might be conditioning time, ballet or dance classes, or practicing with your partner or group off ice. When you see the skaters practicing their jumps off ice during the Olympics, you'll notice that they bend their knee and "hop hop hop" when they land...of course they can't "hop hop hop" when they land on ice, but off ice it's very hard on the knees to land without cushioning the knee and hopping through the landing to expel the energy out of the knee. Yes, it's also hard on the knees to land on the ice - lots of skaters have worn out hips and knees in their 20's. But they do try and spare their knees the jolts and jars of repeated off ice landings.

So, as you watch the Olympics, you can feel like you've mastered figure skating and understand what's going on, even if the jumps all look the same to you. Don't tell, but sometimes they look the same to me, too, even after all these years :)

Happy Olympic viewing!

Day 19 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, February 12, 2010

Going Out

I love going out with my husband. It's just the best time ever! We sit and talk, enjoy a nice dinner, check out a bookstore or maybe run some errands, maybe rent a video (we love Jay and Jordan at the rental store - 2 great guys!). It is something we were not able to do early on in our marriage and we do not take one single date night for granted now that we have children old enough to "watch over" the younger ones and the house while we are out.

I remember those long days with babies and toddlers - making it through dinner and bath time was a big deal! I think I was too exhausted to even last through a date night back then. Homeschooling was a juggling act in between diaper changes, naps and feedings - and the toddler years are a constant tornado of activity! Those were wonderful years, and I told myself to enjoy them because they would soon be gone (which turned out to be true). I would not trade those days for anything and I loved being a mom of 5 young children. But date nights? Nope, it wasn't happening!

Now we can enjoy our date nights and spend time together that we didn't have available to us early on. We consider it "our time" since we spend most nights of the week doing things with/for our kids. One example: my husband and our 17 year old son have been spending a lot of time working on a car lately. Our son owns a 1979 Chevy Camaro Berlinetta...great car, but needed some work this week. After our son was locked out of his car late at night after work due to his old locks being frozen shut, and then having his starter fail him again and again, we decided it was time to fix a few things. We also spend time with our girls - going to CYT, the library, or just going with them when they shop. We have a family evening on Tuesdays that is pretty much set in stone. And now the Olympics are about to begin - now, we've always been an Olympic watching family but our two oldest are Pre-Juv figure skaters, so we are going to enjoy these Winter Games to the fullest! Our oldest daughter can land her double salchow very consistently, but watching these skaters land triple axles (that's a 3 1/2 rotation jump, BTW)! Wow, that's gonna be good family time!

I say all that to get to this point: my husband and I don't feel guilty about having our time together each week. We have something to look forward to week in and week out. And our kids are learning that they will need to invest time in their spouse on a continual basis - not just during the "romance" stage prior to marriage. I really hope each one of my kids "dates" their spouse all through their marriages. It's the best thing going, folks! Investing in your marriage partner week after week is the only way to go! Now, if you aren't able to have a date night wherein you actually leave the house, that's okay. Watch a movie together. Read a book together. Carve out time to talk, just the two of you. And let your spouse know he is your priority, right after the Lord. I promise, you won't regret it. And if you are exhausted from those long days with little ones, don't fret. You'll still be very busy and very exhausted when your children are teens, but it's a different kind of exhaustion and if you do your job well now, you'll be able to leave them in charge while you "date your mate".

Right now my oldest is getting ready for work, one of my girl's has a job babysitting this evening, and the other 3 girls are watching "Lion King" as a CYT homework assignment. And me? I'm getting ready for a date with my husband of (almost) 19 years!

Have a great weekend!

Day 18 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Grade Pile...

Here I am, hoping to come up with something amazinlgy insightful in this post...or perhaps I'm sitting here with the laptop because I am avoiding the dreaded pile of work to be graded?! Uh, yes, I'm hiding from "The Grade Pile".

It seems as if it used to be much easier to grade my children's daily homeschool assignments. What on earth could possibly have happened? Was it ever really "easier" or is this simply a "grandma's cookies" kind of memory lapse on my part? Am I just being a whiner about doing what I ought to do - and if so, does that make me a terrible hypocrite in that I don't want my own offspring to whine about taking care of their responsibilites?

Why does this one little (or not so little) thing make such an impact on my days? Would it really be so tough to just grade for one hour in the late afternoon and get it over with?! What about grading as we go through the day, leaving only the "harder" subjects for later, like math and science...why wouldn't that be a workable soulution to my "problem"?

As usual, and in accordance with God's Word, the problem is me. Not the size of the pile of books, not how busy my day is, not even if I'm feeling under the weather and in need of a nap. I am the problem, and I know it full well. I truly hope I'm the only homeschool mom who has this particular issue. I hope no one else in the whole wide world runs away from her daily grading like I try to do. Because it's just plain yucky of me to behave as if grading my own children's work is a burden. It should be a blessing, and my attitude should "represent", if you get my meaning.

Sigh. What's a mom to do? I know what this mom is NOT to do, and that's to attempt to find a trick to make my dreaded task less dreaded. I do not need a trick or a gimmick; I do not need a pep-talk or a more organized grading system; I do not need an improved routine or a coffee break to Starbucks or some down time all for myself. Nope, that's not what I need. I need a really big, really serious attitude adjustment straight from the Word of God. What His Word says, I need to do, becuase Jesus said that if I love Him, I will obey Him. Obeying Him as I homeschool means being joyful and God-honoring as I purchase the curriculum, plan the weekly lessons, work on each subject with each child (as needed - my 11th grader needs very little from me anymore!), make them lunch (cafeteria style, for those of you who remember that joke!), clean up science experiments, and yes, grade it all and put it away at the end of the day. Good attitude, joyful heart = obedient to Jesus. Period. The End. No excuses, no baloney - just getting it done in the right time with the right attitude. All because I love Jesus. That's all the motivation a girl needs!

So, I'm off to knock out today's "Grade Pile" and then I'll hang out with my youngest daughter and enjoy the fruits of my labor and the blessing of obeying my Lord.

Happy Grading, Homeschool Moms!!

Day 17 - done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New Reading Material Winner

Well, it's been a whole week and I've received some really great ideas for my next big read. Ashley(& spouse) gave me 2 great options - thanks guys:)

Rebecca (& spouse) gave me 7 great options - thanks to you guys, too:)

And Janette is the big winner with 12 great options. So I have a special surprise chosen just for her - and since this is all about books, her prize is, of course, a book. It was pretty hard to find one she hasn't already read!

Thanks so much for all your help - reading has always been my favorite pasttime, and it's never a good thing to run out of books!

Happy reading!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Curriculum We Love

Well, it's February. A notoriously L-O-N-G month for homeschool families. It's also the month we celebrate Valentine's Day. So why not blog about curriculum our family loves during the month when homeschoolers typically need some new ideas and encouragement?

This year one of my girls has been using the book "Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space" for science. (The rest of the girls are using different levels of Apologia - another fantastic science program; and my son is working primarily on college coursework via dual enrollment - no science for him this semester). This book is published by Bright Idea Press, the company that publishes The Mistory of History and All-American History. A link to their online catalog is BTW, the Christian perspective toward science in these books is the real deal - no watered down stuff here! I really, really LOVE that!!

I love the simplicity of this science program. None of the experiments is time consuming, none require hard to obtain materials, the lessons are clear and right from the get go you are aware of the primary concepts of each unit, and the tests are thorough but fun at the same time! My daughter is not really "science minded" and she truly enjoys this book. I would recommend this particular book for a child working at the 3rd grade level through the 6th grade. You could use it a little earlier or a little later as it adapts easily for your needs. Highly recommended by mom and student alike!!

The next curriculum choice I want to brag on is called "AVKO Sequential Spelling" by Don McCabe (Research Director for AVKO Educational Research Foundation). This series of books can be used from the first day of spelling at a very early age, or you can begin using the level that fits your child's need at any time, even mid-year. The books follow a pattern of spelling that seems a lot like "rhyming". The words learned fit together with other words, and each lesson builds upon the last lesson. One thing that I found very hard to adjust to (but now LOVE) is that the parent can spell the word for the child if they need some help. One of my children did not "take" to phonics very well - the rules made no sense to her and she was continually frustrated because her effort did not yield the same results as her siblings. She's also an avid reader, and typically avid readers are pretty good spellers. Having a program that allows her mom to help her without feeling like she was somehow cheating changed her perspective about spelling. And she quickly was spelling really long words without help from mom - which boosted her shaken confidence and was just the encouragement she needed. Another thing my daughter and I both love about this spelling program is the student workbook - the days are numbered from 1 to 180 (there are also some tests interspersed throughout). But the workbook pages are set up so that the student is not able to see yesterday's work - which makes each day's spelling an accomplishment they can really be pleased with. Here's an example of the way the words build upon previously learned words:


There are 7 levels in the series, and the student workbook works for any of the levels. Their website ( has a pre-test for the series so that parents know which level to purchase. They also have several other items they market, but Sequential Spelling is the only one we use. The have a page for homeschoolers on their website that contains info about the program and some freebies (what homeschool mom doesn't love an eductional freebie or two?!). You can also subscribe to their free email newsletter at the website.

I have purchased from their website and from Timberdoodle ( The prices are pretty similar, but Timberdoodle has some good sales now and then and sometimes they have a free book available with any purchase (again, gotta love the freebies!). These books are worth every penny.

And finally, I'd LOVE to tell you about "Lightning Lit & Comp" from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources ( When you get to the Hewitt Homeschooling Resources homepage, use the search engine to find "Lightning Lit". This will take you to a page with a long list of Lightning Lit resources - don't be overwhelmed! (The direct link to that page is
Each Lit & Comp student guide has a required series of books - you can buy the books in a set with the student guide and workbook, or you can buy them on your own ( and have loads of used books at great prices). You can also find the books you need at the library. And if you are like me, you will probably own some of the books you need.

Take your time, look over a few of the different choices and kind of get a feel for the program. The student guide and workbook set come in a binder; the pages are 3-hole punched, making for easy photocopying if you choose not to write directly on the pages. I keep our workbook pages in the second half of the binder (they come this way) so that I don't have workbook pages in between the assignments in the student guidebook. Each level covers a variety of great literature - there's no twaddle here, moms!! Of course, not every selection is entirely Christian, so be choosey if you must. Each child and each family is unique and no one knows what is "right" or "wrong" for your child better than you, no matter how good the curriculum is. The reading assignments are very homeschool friendly (not too long, in other words!). The writing assignments are challenging but not overwhelming. The guide books is simple for mom and child to use, and I have found them much less confusing and labor intensive than some other writing curriculum we have used over the years. You may or may not want to purchase the teacher's guide in addition to the student guide and workbook - I found that I did just fine without the added expense of the teacher guide for the 7th grade course, but for some of the more advanced high school levels, the teacher's guide is pretty helpful. Again, it's all about what works for you and your family.

Here is a breakdown of the 7th grade level, which has an end goal of preparing the student for high school composition skills using great literature. (I can attest that it does what it sets out to do - my daughter using this level this year has gone from strongly disliking writing to writing more and more in her other subjects of her own free will, and she is enjoying reading more than ever before, too).

Chap. 1 - "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Kipling
Chap. 2 - "Tom Sawyer" by Twain
Chap. 3 - Poetry
Chap. 4 - "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Carrol
Chap. 5 - "The Bride Comes to the Yellow Sky" by Crane
Chap. 6 - "The Story of My Life" by Keller
Chap. 7 - Further Study of Poetry
Chap. 8 - "All Creatures Great and Small" by Herriot

Well, that's all the curriculum I'm going to share about today. You can leave a post if you have questions or comments about any of these books, or if you have something you just love to use and would love to share it with me!

Keep your chin up this month, enjoy your children even when the days seem really LONG and the weather pretty BLAH, and take some time to encourage another homeschooling mom this month - she probably needs it as much as you do :)

Day 16 done :)

Jan L. Burt