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August 29, 2016
Reading: A Superior Education

 This is not a pro- or con- Common Core article. But I do want to start with a statement that is on a “what parents should know” page on a website about Common Core: “The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.” While I am not impressed with how Common Core goes about this--this is definitely a goal I can get behind.

 

However, from what I hear about the changes in literature, Common Core seems to be going about this all wrong. We as homeschoolers, however, can pursue this goal the right way—a way that I have seen the fruit of in my children’s lives. God is the foundation of all we do, and we begin every morning reading and discussing the Bible together. He is the one who has guided us throughout homeschooling, and in every area of our lives.

 

Do you want to develop your child’s ability to think critically, solve problems and be skilled at analyzing? First and foremost, read. Read unabridged. Read deeply, read widely and talk about it all.

 

From the earliest ages, our family read. A lot. Our living room shelves are filled with books. Our shelves in our bedrooms are filled with books. Our basement is filled with books. Our cars are filled with books.

 

While we read the typical Dr. Seuss, Peter Rabbit books, the Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie the Pooh, Arthur, Clifford the Big Red Dog…I could go on and on, we also read chapter books from the earliest ages. We were always reading books that were well above our sons’ reading abilities, but not their comprehension levels. They would look on our bookshelves and make choices that were pretty surprising at first. They choose Beowulf for a bedtime story, as well as The Canon of Scripture, Pilgrim’s Progress, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Wrinkle in Time, and Josephus. We listened to quality audiobooks in the car: Shakespeare, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, Focus on the Family adaptations. On one vacation, as we drove 1,000 miles, I read fiction about “the butterfly effect” from a short story collection.

 

We were always prepared to stop if it got over their heads or just didn’t interest them anymore. I don’t recall that happening, but I’m sure it did.

 

In sixth grade, one son read The Red Badge of Courage. In 7th grade, Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, and Plato’s Republic. His brother, who is three grades younger, was always along for the ride. And we talked. And talked. And talked. Talked about worldviews expressed through actions and presuppositions. Talked about literary devices and plot structures. Talked about ways the plot or characters were the same or different from other books, the Bible, everyday life. And, of course, talked about what we found funny, sad, confusing (hello, Plato’s cave?).

 

Later, in high school, there were The Canterbury Tales, Augustine’s City of God, Dante’s Inferno, Paine’s Common Sense, parts of The Federalist Papers, and so much more.

 

Both of my sons had vision and handwriting issues when they were young, so I didn’t require a lot of writing—although they would spend hours dictating stories to me as I typed. So talking was my main way of gauging comprehension. Later, without a huge effort on his part, one son wrote well enough to earn an A in a college writing class when he was in 11th grade.

 

And that’s really the point of this post. My sons used math curriculums, and used history and science spines to organize their studies. But our homeschooling was, to the largest extent, just reading and talking. Going to the library and taking out all the books they had on that week’s interest: astronomy, Romans, fishing, race cars, some fiction.

 

But it really wasn’t just reading. It was the natural introducing of tougher concepts and the freedom to just stop and talk for a while, that helped their analytical skills, and their critical reading and problem-solving abilities. They have a wide range of interests and are able to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics. Undergirding everything is their love of God and His Word, and their knowledge and wisdom from that. And I know it is not the be all and end all, but both sons have done very well on standardized testing. My oldest was accepted into every college to which he applied, and received substantial scholarship offers. He took college classes in high school and one AP exam—doing well in all. His younger brother, in high school, is following in his footsteps in taking on academic challenges. Following the path God showed us, our sons have reaped tremendous rewards.

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July 18, 2016
Why It's Great to be a Lawyer


People often hear negative things about being a lawyer.  The number of people going to law school has increased, and that makes it difficult to find employment  after they graduate. And often, the jobs are not the high-paid positions students desire. But among these depressing thoughts, there are some really good reasons to be a lawyer.

 



1.
Mental Challenge

I consider this to be, by far, the best reason to become an attorney! You are always facing new challenges.  Even if you’ve had a similar case before, you’ve never had the exact same case. Even if you’ve written many contracts before, there’s still differences in everyone’s circumstances, which need to be considered when drafting a new contract. Either you tend to be a general practitioner, and therefore must know at least a little about a lot of areas of the law, or you specialize and must keep up with developments and develop expertise.



2.
The Jokes

Need I say more?



3.
Your Reason for Becoming an Attorney

Now, with a lot of law students, that may mean money. Becoming a lawyer doesn't guarantee high income. It depends a great deal on what kind of law you're practicing. It also doesn't take into account student loan debt. It also doesn't take into account that even with a high salary, the looonnnngggg hours might mean that your hourly rate works out to less than minimum wage! But, usually, lawyers make a decent income.

On the other hand, a student's reason for going to law school might be a dream of using the law to help someone, whether that's a pro-life organization or animal rights activists. Completing that degree and passing a bar exam puts those students on a path to fulfilling that dream. It may not happen right away and it may not make them the most highly-paid attorneys around, but using your knowledge to help those you support is a fabulous reason to become an attorney!

 

 

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September 3, 2013
What Makes Your Family Unique?

This is kind of a very informal blog post to get me going again.

I've been thinking lately about what makes different families distinctive.

One friend's family is hilarious--yes, each member with a quirky sense of humor.  Another family is really into sports.  The parents are running constantly to get to practices and games on time.  Another family is superb about making time for camping, hiking, biking, and just playing together.  I also know families that are really into music, or hunting, or technology.

I started thinking about my family: what is our thing?

I'd say the thing that makes us most distinctive from the larger culture is our faith.  Praying at the drop of a hat as a need presents itself, studying and discussing the Bible together, attending church every chance we get, worshiping and serving as a family and as individuals.  But those things don't make us very distinctive from other Christian homeschool families.

There are a couple of things I see that are somewhat unique about our family.

One is the importance we put on family.  While family reunions wither because of strife, we do everything we can to be at family get-togethers.  It's complicated by the fact that our families of origin live 1,100 miles apart, but we do what we can to keep in touch.  Not that there's not a lot of improvement that could be made!  But we made sure our children, who were very young at the time, visited my grandmother in the assisted nursing facility (bringing great joy to the other residents, too), even when older family members didn't.  Our young children sat next to their grandfather as he lay dying in the hospital.  They saw more of their grandfather who lived 1,100 miles away than other relatives who lived twenty minutes away!  My husband and I were very close to our grandparents and cherished our families (when I was growing up I was part of a huge family that got together twice a year with at least 100 people there, and was close to my great uncles), and we want our sons to do the same.

The other way I think we're somewhat unique is our interest in politics and current events.  Our teenager spends hours on the internet researching politics and government.  Recently, he researched the campaign slogans of presidential elections back to the early 1800s, and viewed presidential debates on YouTube.  We watch NBC news and listen to conservative talk radio to examine both perspectives.  If we had cable, we would probably watch Fox News constantly!  We attend debates and local political events as a family, and when we find a candidate we support, we do what we can.  My husband has quite a history of political activism and involvement, and our sons and I are able to learn a lot from him and now share his enthusiasm.

We also love to research and read.  My younger son reads every library book he can get his hand on about whatever is his topic of choice.  Last year, it was fishing.  He read well over 50 adult books about fishing--techniques, anatomy of fish, etc.  This year it's cars, atomic weapons, and related topics.  He recreates some of what he's learning about through building detailed Lego creations.  Our older son read over 600 comics last year and has a huge collection.  His knowledge is encyclopedic.  He also writes comics and keeps a journal.  Most interestingly to me, he frequently compares and contrasts something in the comics with something in the current news.  My husband doesn't have much time to read for pleasure, but when he does it'll be about the Bible, history or politics.  As for me, in addition to keeping up with legal happenings, I love to read anything about homeschooling.  :)

So...that's a little about our family.  What about yours?

What makes your family unique?

 

 

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March 30, 2013
Why Have a Mock Trial Class for Grades 3-8?

Why have a mock trial curriculum for grades 3-8?

Not that I don’t love high school students (in fact, now I have a fascinating high schooler myself, and have taught some high school mock trial classes).  But there are several reasons I enjoy teaching younger students about our judicial system, and why you might, too.

It’s how I started.

When my oldest son was in 3rd grade, he began to ask a lot of questions about what Mommy did before she became a homeschooling mommy.  He was very intrigued as I told him about being a lawyer and I began to teach him about our legal system.  I thought it would be fun to end the lessons with a mock trial, and sought out other kids around the same age—and found some that were interested.  I didn’t know how it would go, but it was a blast!  So I would occasionally teach another class, perhaps changing the trial, or changing the ages of those taking the class.

There’s not a lot of materials.

I didn’t set out to create my own curriculum.  When I decided to teach a mock trial class for my 3rd grade son and some friends, I searched high and low for an appropriate curriculum and wasn't having much luck.  While I did find a book or two about government, it was difficult finding one from a Biblical perspective, which was important to me.  In my first class, I did use material that I found on-line, but found I had to do a lot of work to supplement it…which led me to just create my own.

Their enthusiasm!

What can I say but “Wow!”  It is always thrilling to me to see the excitement that comes out of the young students once the class gets going.  Often they start out pretty quiet and not sure what the class holds, but they usually get actively engaged pretty quickly.  To the younger set, it’s fun to figure out in which court a particular case should be heard and to craft witness questions.  And it’s such fun to be there when they do!  They love playing the role of a lawyer, a judge, a witness or a member of the jury.  It is always amazing to see what they are capable of understanding—trust me, it’s more than you think.

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March 25, 2013
Glenn Beck Supports German Homeschool Family

So glad that Glenn Beck has both picked up the mantle to inform the public of this travesty and donated $50,000 to the defense of this German homeschooling family!

The Romeike family faced fines of more than $9,000--but more importantly, they faced the possible loss of custody of their children in Germany.  What wrong did they commit?  Homeschooling, which is essentially illegal in Germany.

This family came to the U.S. in 2008 and sought political asylum.  And they were granted asylum in 2010, in this, the land of the free and of religious liberty.  Such a happy ending!

Except...the Obama adminstration chose to appeal.

In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the administrative immigration judge's ruling.  The family has appealed and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on April 23rd.

If they ultimately lose, they will be deported back to Germany.  Where they could lose custody of their children.

What is the argument on the side of deportation?  Mainly that the family is not being religiously persecuted, because some people homeschool for secular reasons.  Not the Romeikes, mind you, but because there is no monolithic religious rationale behind every family’s decision to homeschooling, there’s no religious persecution if the Germany government forbids everyone to homeschool, not just those with religious motivations. 

This case is frightening, and not just to homeschoolers.  That's why Glenn Beck is involved.  This case strikes at the heart of what it means to have religious liberty, for parents to have the right to raise their children as they see fit, and for the government to have no more involvement and control than it absolutely needs to govern.  Look at what our government is arguing.  Could that same argument be used at some point to limit homeschool freedoms in the U.S.?

Please join the petition drive to show support for this family!  Find it here:

http://www.hslda.org/legal/cases/romeike.asp

There's also a link there to hear listen to the Glenn Beck interview, as well as to other articles about the case and its history.

What would you do if you were in this situation?

 

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Show/Hide Comments (1)

Deborah

Mar-25 1:42pm

My 15 y.o. made the comment: "We can allow 11 million people who came here illegally and were not being persecuted in their country, to stay in the U.S., but not this family?"


March 16, 2013
Top 3 Tips For a Great Mock Trial

Top 3 Tips For a Great Mock Trial

Many variables go into organizing a mock trial, but from my experience, I have found that three have the greatest impact on whether students leave the mock trial saying, “That was great—when can we do it again?!”

Tip #1:   Find a great case.  There are many mock trial materials on the internet, but they are not all equal.  You want a case that was a close call--not a case where everyone can see who prevailed after reading the first witness statement!  As you do your research, look for Supreme Court cases that were decided 5-4 or trial cases that were appealed.

Tip #2:   Add or delete information to the case.  The number of participants in your group or the make-up of the group may necessitate changes.

If you’re trying to allow for more participation, you may have to modify the case to allow for more witnesses.  Simply move some of a witness' statement to a newly-created witness.  If you have more witnesses than participants, combine some of the information to create a new witness. 

If there’s a legal issue involved in the case that’s over the heads of your group, delete that portion.  If there are two major legal issues in a case, decide if your students would enjoy the challenge of learning about and arguing both, or if it would be less confusing if you concentrated on one issue.

Make the case work for you, not against you.

Tip #3:   Relax and have fun!  If there was only one tip, this would be it.

The more relaxed you are, the more fun your group will have.  And the more fun they have, the more information and knowledge they will retain long after the mock trial is over.  Previous students come up to me quite often recounting what they remember from their mock trial. 

Some minor things may not go according to plan.  But if your students learn something about our court system, about our laws, and about their ability to rise to the occasion, isn't that what matters?

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March 12, 2013
Sequestration and One Family

The President touts the apolcalyptic effects of the sequestration cuts; some conservatives say the cuts don't go far enough.

Our family is smack dab in the middle.

There is a great need for spending cuts.  The Heritage Foundation's "no room for sequestration cuts" series highlighted many possibilities, and there are more.

But deliberately targeting our nation's defense for the most drastic cuts?  That's short-sighted and foolish.

Some commentators are needling the President about how the dreaded March 1st deadline came and went without any horrific effects.

That's true.

However, that doesn't mean negative consequences aren't coming.

One dear friend, a SAHM with a husband who works for the Department of Defense (DOD), shared that he will be "furloughed" beginning in April--the 4-day workweek.  They will need to live on 80% of his salary.  Families with SAHMs--really, most families--generally do not have a lot of wiggle room to accommodate 20% decreases in income.

Our homeschooling family will be in the same situation, along with other friends and family.

While not apocalyptic, there will be an impact on middle class families.

Not to mention our nation's security.

I like Texas Representative Louis Gohmert's amendment to a budget bill.  According to the Huffington Post on March 5th, the Amendment reads: "None of the funds made available by a division of this act may be used to transport the president to or from a golf couse until public tours of the White House resume."  (For more information, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/louie-gohmert-obama-golf_n_2814332.html?utm_hp_ref=barack-obama.)

Kind of gimmicky?  Sure.  Would it make much of a financial difference?  Probably not.

But it makes a point.  It would demonstrate that the President is concerned about those who will be going without due to the sequestration.

You can see why news items like the one about the President's lavish dinner with certain Senate Republicans might grate on the nerves.

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February 28, 2013
The Blog Begins

With much trepidation, I've taken the plunge.

My vision is that this blog will be the "go-to" place for those interested in teaching and learning about our judicial system.  Mock trials are emphasized, of course.  That's the main thing Homeschool Court is about.  But I see it branching out to include logic, persuasive writing, debate, critical thinking skills, classical education, and more.

I may write about current legal issues that are pertinent to the homeschool mom seeking to provide an excellent education, or just those of interest to me--hoping that others may find them of interest, too.

Like my curriculum that targets students in grades 4-8 but can be adjusted for higher and lower grades, I want my blog to do the same.

Dialogue and communication back and forth is important.  If you notice I'm missing a fantastic resource you've used, feel free to let me know.  If one of the resources I've listed is one you've found particularly helpful, or not-so-much, let me know that, too.

Of course, I'm always interested in feedback about my own curriculum.  :)

My commitment is that I will write a weekly blog that will usually come out on Friday.  If there are website issues or a family emergency, it might not happen.  If there's an interesting legal issue in the news, I may post the blog entry earlier or write two posts that week.  I'll let people know on FB and Twitter when a new entry is posted.  If you're not on those, write to dburton@homeschoolcourt.com to be included on a notification list.

With that...the blog begins.

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