Frederick, by Leo Lionni — by Jen W.


Leo Lionni’s book Frederick is a great book for grammar stage kids. It contains pictures of adorable mice and a lesson about valuing different types of work in society.

There are a few things I like about the books of Leo Lionni in general. He uses many different techniques to create his artwork. You can find paper cutting, stamping, collage, and other techniques that are easy for a child to try out and emulate. I also appreciate the fact that he doesn’t dumb down his vocabulary to fit small children. His use of poetic language and descriptive words provides wonderful examples for kids.

First, we are introduced to a lovely meadow with a stone wall. We then meet the chatty mouse family that lives within the wall. Finally, we meet Frederick, introduced as the lone mouse who isn’t working hard gathering grain and nuts for the winter. This method helps us feel we are zooming in on the scene. It feels intimate, and we are slowly drawn into the mouse community.

How do we figure out the theme of the book? We look at the problems that the mice are having. There are three basic problems that the mice deal with: 1) they need to gather food for the winter, 2) Frederick doesn’t want to work, and 3) how to deal with the glum boredom of winter. As we progress through the book, it becomes obvious that the three themes combine. Yes, it is necessary to gather food for the winter, but gathering food isn’t the *only* necessary thing for the mice to survive the harsh winter. But, let’s leave Frederick and the mice for just a moment.

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.“  — Kurt Vonnegut

I recently read an article on how many art programs are being cut from schools due to deep cuts in federal funding. In the same week, I read If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young, a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s speeches and letters. One of Vonnegut’s recurrent themes was the importance of creation. In Vonnegut’s view, it doesn’t matter what you create; it doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees it. It only matters that you create.

Most homeschooling parents have read articles on the importance of art to a child’s development. But, most have also felt the strong temptation of letting the arts slip as we squeeze every minute of the day to have time for chores, sports, time with peers, and just fitting in the three Rs.

At this point, you are probably wondering what creation and art have to do with literary analysis, much less to do with the little mouse named Frederick. First, I strongly believe that it is easier to analyze literature when you’ve practiced writing a little. You learn the tricks and shortcuts that authors use to get their point across more easily. But, mainly, the quote speaks to what I believe is the real point of Frederick.

During the food gathering season, Frederick seems to daydream and laze about. But soon enough, the winter comes. The food supply becomes short. The mice are sad and forlorn. Frederick infuses some happiness back into their lives by telling stories — by creating. His creation helps all of those around him, not just himself. It soon becomes clear that although Frederick used his time differently than the other mice, it was equally worthy and productive, albeit not in a tangible sense.


Clearly, Lionni is making several points. First, art is worthy. It’s worthy of our time and attention. Art is worth giving compensation to an artist. Art can be a vocation that takes time away from “producing” in a more traditional sense. It’s a message that too many parents do not agree with.

Many parents are willing to pay for sports or a math tutor, but not for music or drawing lessons. Many parents are willing to help their child pursue a business degree, but not a degree in the arts. I think this book can provide food for thought for parents of all children. Do we truly value the arts? How can our actions reflect that?

Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

Kel's Roach Ranch Part 2: The Babies Are Here!

by Kel

About a month ago, I wrote Part One of this three-part series explaining just how I ended up owning what has become known as Kel’s Roach Ranch.  The roaches have been doing great, puttering around in their bin, not making noise, enjoying their lives.

Just before Christmas I opened the bin to find the best thing the owner of a breeding roach colony can see: a female carrying an egg sac!  I had done it.  I had managed to keep them alive and happy long enough for them to breed.  A few days later the weather turned cold, the house got dry, and my poor roaches got stressed.  In fact one of the males got so stressed he took his chance when I was cleaning the bin and escaped. I didn’t realize this until one morning I happened to notice that the star on top of the Christmas tree had a big dark spot on it.  I thought it had broken or that a bulb had blown, but as I got closer I realized that it wasn’t a star malfunction at all, but a full grown Male Dubia roach happily warming himself on the star.  I picked him up and transported him  back to the bin.

This change in temperature and humidity also resulted in a dropped egg sac, and no babies. It was a setback, but I didn’t let it deter me.  I cleaned the bin, regrouped and was extra vigilant to make sure the water crystals stayed well moistened, and that the roaches were happy.  A couple weeks later I found another female with another egg sac and we were on the way to success.  I just had to make sure that I kept that bin a nice stable little biome of roachy happiness.

I kept up the daily feeding of greens, carrots, ground high quality dog food, and the rehydration of the water crystals. Then on Monday, January 13th, I opened the bin and what did my eyes spy in the food dish but a tiny 1/8″ long BABY ROACH!  I had done it! Well, actually the roaches had done it, but I gave them what they needed to successfully breed!

It will take about 4-5 more months before we’ll know if they are reproducing enough for us to feed Spock off this bin, or if we’ll need to let more of the roaches grow into adults first.

tiny-pictureKel is a military spouse of almost 2 decades to her husband Matt, mom to her 3 children, ranging from elementary to highschool age.  that she’s been homeschooling for almost a decade. She is keeper of the 2 dogs and a cat, and grandma to 1 bearded dragon. She has a needle art business, and also blogs at Fawkes Academy.

Biomes of the World by Cheryl


We spent a great deal of time outside this summer. We hiked in the Rockies, we swam in Lake Erie, and we explored the desert. My kids asked lots of great questions: What is that animal? What is that plant? Why does that plant grow here? I answered what I could and then I decided to change directions on our science plans for the year.

I purchased a beautiful Chemistry book with lots of experiments, but that is on hold while we study the biomes of the world as well as the plants and animals that live in each one. The whole idea of building my own course was overwhelming, but I think I have a good grasp on how I want the year to proceed and how I can find all the materials I need.


First – I needed to know how many biomes there are in the world so I could decide how long we could study each one. This proved more difficult than you might think. There does not seem to be a consensus on how many biomes there are. Each book or website I studied had a slightly different list. The basic list I am going with is Deciduous Forest, Rain Forest, Grassland, Taiga, Desert, Tundra, Marine, Freshwater, and Ice. This works well for two reasons:

1) There are nine and I have nine months of school, and

2) They are the biomes as listed on the World Biomes Bulletin Board Set I purchased from Amazon.


I also picked up Many Biomes, One Earth It has a nice overview of the biomes (it breaks them down differently than the map, but has a concise description of each biome). The rest of our books will come from the library. Our local library has a great selection of books on habitats and animals that live in them. So far we have picked up poetry books, activity books, story books, and general information books.

We live in Oklahoma, so it made sense to start with where we live. Our first unit will be on the grasslands of the world – the prairies of America to the Savannas of Africa!

Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Education as a Commodity, by Jen W.


“Enlighten people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” -Thomas Jefferson

The United States of America is a country in which we purport to hold education of the young as a most treasured value. We work to hard to educate our own population. During the 2009-2010 school year, federal, state and local governments in the US spent over $638 billion dollars on elementary and secondary schools [1]. We have risked the lives of our soldiers to build schools in Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of the Taliban, only 32 percent of Afghanistan’s school aged children were enrolled in school–only three percent of girls. The US worked to build and refurbish hundreds of schools, resulting in millions of children (including a large percentage of girls and young women) being allowed to enroll in school [2].

Another important principle dearly held is the lack of government censorship in the US. In fact, we sanction other governments when they impose censorship upon their people. Recently, the US imposed sanctions upon Iran for engaging in satellite jamming and limiting access to the internet by their populace. Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in her press release dated 8 November, “Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights. With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people in their quest to protect their dignity and freedoms and prevent the Iranian Government from creating an “electronic curtain” to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world.” [3]

Americans generally hold the view that education is always a positive. Therefore, one would think that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) would be viewed as a boon to our civilization and a great benefit of technology to the modern age. Coursera is one such provider of MOOCs to students around the globe. It came as a surprise to many when the US sanctions intended to punish the government of Iran included the blocking of Coursera [4] and other MOOCs to Iran. We are going to punish the government of Iran for blocking access to internet information from its people by blocking internet educational information from its people? On what planet does this make sense?

If you are an American, please urge your government officials to exempt MOOCs from government sanctions upon Syria, Iran, Cuba and other countries in which a free, expansive alternative educational system is advantageous to a populace that otherwise hears only government ideology in the vacuum that exists when the free exchange of ideas is taken away. Education in this case should not be considered a commodity to be blocked from the people of Iran or any other sanctioned government, but be considered valued knowledge and information which will benefit the global community.

Contact the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control here:

Contact your US Senator here:

Contact your US Congressman here:





Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school. Jen has two more children who are equally smart, but learned to read on a more average schedule.