Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category

More than any other year so far – even the first – this year of homeschooling has been difficult for me.  I don’t know if it is the backlog of things that didn’t get done since my husband was deployed the first part of 2011 or adding another child to the lesson planning/attention paying/intentional time spent learning mix or simply that I am getting old or something I can’t completely comprehend, but it has been exhausting for me.  I just feel tired, and I am longing for simplicity and time to relax.  I am struggling with the very-too-long list of things to do, and I am also finding it stressful when everyone seemingly needs my attention all.at.once!  I’m tired of my house always being a heap of projects and “art” and messes.  Eek!

So when a friend asked me recently, “So how is your year going?”

I smiled carefully and said, “Terribly.”

A funny thing happened though:  As that word slipped out of my mouth, I thought, “But I don’t really want my children to learn any other way right now.”  I shared that for the first time there have been very real conversations (between Handsome and me) about whether it is time to send some of the kids or all of the kids back to school.  I was very real with what I said, but as I spoke I started to think of all the things I do love about where we are at.  So I am counting my blessings for the things that are going well this year:

551.  the spelling program that I had been putting off buying because of the price but then finally bought in hopes that it would help one of my children not only spell but read – it is helping on both counts, and it has been good for the others too!

552.  the projects that are taking over our living space are all kid-inspired, “Can we please do this, Mom?” type projects – so fun, and learning too!

553.  my co-op class has combined with another class, and I am finding it pure joy to team teach with the other teacher!

554.  We have strengths in exact opposite areas – a beautiful thing!

555.  the freedom that I am learning (in that white-knuckled, I really don’t do this well sort of way) in not trying to do it ALL (not that trying to do it all was working for me either)

556.  the learning that is taking place, because we are learning not to try to do it all – it looks different, sometimes like play or leisure, but is oh, so amazingly profound!

557.  the literature books are getting thicker around here . . . and more interesting for me

558.  One child is just finished his last phonics lesson.  He is reading many years ahead of his grade level, and it is a delight to see the joy with which he embraces books!

559. oldest child is finding her loves in life.  She’s knitting and taking an “applique and hand stitching class” where she couldn’t wait to learn to dye fabrics.  She’s riding horses and learning to care for them too.  It’s fun to see this girl grow and develop into  someone with “loves.”

560.  Speaking of loves, I just finished teaching a unit on color theory to my co-op class.  It was so much fun!  I loved it!  I think the kids had fun too.

561.  I also just finished knitting a shawl that I LOVE . . . the color is “winter wheat,” the yarn divine, the pattern amazing and fun!

562.  Thankful that that shawl is headed to a cooler climate to keep a loved-one warm; I hope she enjoys using it as much as I enjoyed making it.  It is fun to be able to pass on handmade gifts.

563.  Today a friend reminded me of James 1 – long ago memorized – God is our source of wisdom.  We need not dig it up on our own; it is generously given to us!

564.  the computer slowly but surely being taken over by the ten-year-old as she uses her typing skills to learn Latin and so many other things

565.  the amazing opportunities that we have as homeschoolers – classes like knitting and “learning biology through art” and learning about gears with K’nex and learning about design with Legos and watching a woman spin and make soap like a real colonist would have – amazing opportunity!

566.  seeing diligence pay off – I have been just amazed at all the things that the kids learn by recitation; it seems they can memorize anything.  This practice which has so fallen out of favor in public schools is a treasure to our homeschool, as we learn poetry and verses and definitions and so many other things simply by repeating them each morning!

567.  K, who comes on Mondays to do hands-on activities with the kindergartener!  What a great way to start the week!

568.  for my science-loving, over-educated husband who doesn’t sweat the small stuff and teaches science to our kids!

569.  so, so thankful for our homeschooling friends – moms on this same journey who help prop me up and really amazing, creative, fun kids with whom my own children have so. much. fun!

but my favorite one of late:

570.  I got to hear him read his first word!  A note from a friend read, “First steps, first words…. READING FIRST WORD TRUMPS them all!!!”  And you know, she was right – I did miss his first steps and his first words, but I feel so, so honored to get to teach him to read his first words and to hear him say, “Mom!  I’m learning to read!”


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Each week, I use our curriculum’s list of vocabulary words to quiz the kids.  The list contains words that are relevant to what we will be studying each week and usually contains between ten and twenty words.  If a child can give me a decent definition of the word or display decent knowledge of the word, I don’t make them look it up.  We all usually enjoy this time, as we end up talking about all sorts of things.

I especially enjoy quizzing my fifth grader.  Sometimes when she doesn’t know a word, she’ll make up a silly definition . . . hoping I’ll let her off the hook for that word . . . or maybe hoping I won’t notice that she has no clue what she’s talking about.  Other times she just uses great words to describe things.  And so here is a small compilation of words that we have studied the last couple of years:

aqueducts – ducks that are a shade of blue

loincloth – undies for ancient people

One week we had the word mountaineer (someone who climbs or explores mountains) and highlander (someone who lives in the highlands), so it made sense that when I said tumor, she responded, “Someone who builds tombs?”

And then recently, I asked her what tyranny is.  “When people cry a lot.”  Makes sense, since we’ve been studying the Inquisition and all.

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A Day Off?

Written February 22:

So yesterday I said that we were going to take the day off, but before I knew it we had done our Bible lesson for Community Bible Study, practiced piano, done chores, had a history lesson (read several books about Abe Lincoln and George Washing with cheers for more each time one was finished), completed a project about the presidents (Dimples made a tri-corner hat, the middles made mini-books about Abraham Lincoln, and Bubba made a double sided poster with facts about those two presidents.), completed a sort of math lesson about money, painted a cherry tree with our hands and fingers, and finished a marble painting that we have been working on for weeks.

I think I’ll go ahead and call that a school day, though I won’t tell the kids . . . and they’ll still think that they had the day off!

I feel so blessed to be able to do “school” this way.  Learning has just become an organic part of our life; it’s what we do as we go through the day.  I do plan tons and tons, and I work hard to make sure that I am teaching everything that they are supposed to learn at these ages.  But so often the kids are so excited about what we are doing that it doesn’t seem like “school” at all.

Currently I’m planning a four week unit on the Greeks – we’re going to have a blast!

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It’s that time of year again, when the co-op leader sends out an e-mail that tells us all that we’d better get busy writing our class descriptions, if we want the privilege of teaching at co-op again this coming semester.  I already know what I’m teaching (a bunch of four to seven year olds a whole lot of messy stuff – with clay and paint, but not at the same time – this semester), but here is a short list of classes that I wouldn’t mind teaching.

Chocolate Conversations
Ages targeted:over 18
Prerequisites:  a love of chocolate
Summary:  Each class will combine the sensory examination and evaluation of multiple kinds of chocolate and the fine art of discussion.
Estimated outside of class preparation:  None, unless you want to scour the world for delicacies to share with the class.
Housecleaning 101
Ages targeted:  any old enough to be an actual help
Cost:  I should probably pay you . . .
Prerequisites: none, absolutely none, as my children will tell you
Summary:  Each week we will meet at instructor’s home.  We will divide up, and each person may practice cleaning skills on one area of her house.  She used to be a maid (a Merry one) and will be willing to share any and all of her cleaning expertise with you.
Supplies Needed:  rubber gloves, if you prefer them.  Instructor will supply cleaners and tools – she’s generous like that.
Estimated outside of class preparation:  You may practice on your own home, if you feel that you need extra practice.

What class would you like to teach at co-op?

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the holy family

It was about noon on Monday, and one of the kids looked at me and said, “So are we going to do school today?”  I just laughed as I realized that I’m not sure that I ever told them that we weren’t doing school, and I thought momentarily about saying something like, “Yeah, you’ve got a lot to get done, and it’s late . . . you better get busy, so you can get it done before bedtime!”

That day I did about a million of those little things that I’ve been wanting to do for weeks and weeks but just haven’t gotten to.  My desk is wood; I had forgotten.  There is a floor in my master closet; it’s been a long time since I had seen it.  I also mopped the floor – all of it.  I have visions of cleaning my pantry dancing in my head, and I wonder what have I come to that cleaning my pantry is the stuff of my dreams.

One of my favorite things that has happened during this break is my children have (of their own accord) taken on a project.  They are making an entire nativity scene out of those melty beads.  They’ve made people and animals and a manger and just about everything else you can think of that might have anything to do with a nativity scene.  They have worked literally for hours on it.  The only input I’ve had is using my mad ironing skilz.  They haven’t asked to watch television or play on the computer or Wii.  I should maybe worry about their mental health; instead I’m just going to keep gazing at my reflection in my shiny floor.

I believe this is a shepherd with a couple sheep and the star.  I think the gray animal is a donkey; I’ll have to check on that with the artists.

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Cool Kites

I made kites with the class that I teach on Friday afternoons, which includes my youngest child.  (We were studying ancient China and their inventions, so we made paper and kites!)  If found this great little set of instructions that makes cheap and simple kites. You might even have all the necessary supplies somewhere in your house.  We didn’t have any wooden skewers, so I bought a package of 100 for 99 cents.

I found out that my two middle children made the same kites in their class.  The oldest made one when we got home, and all four of my children have been running around the house non-stop this weekend flying their kites!

These kites are easy to fly, and if they get torn or crumpled (as might happen if a child catches it in a tree – we happen to know by experience), it’s no big loss!

Around here our fall days have been a bit breezy, perfect for kite-flying!

May you enjoy your kites as well!

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Three Weeks Later

Three weeks after I we visited the really cool park where I took the pictures in this post, we visited again.  It was amazing to see all of the changes that had taken place in such a short period of time.  I am amazed at how the days race by!

Where there used to be a cool frog pond, there was only this:

Where there used to be bright, bold color we found every shade of brown:

Except for the little spaces where the world had been set on fire:

or was glowing:

But the fungus was still there:

How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
-Psalm 104:24

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I just can’t resist saying that any time I see a mushroom or other kind of fungus out in nature!

Thankfully it doesn’t seem that my husband and children mind too much; it usually alerts them that there’s something fun afoot!

Let’s explore a little!

It’s okay; you can get close.  It won’t bite!

Look at all the texture . . . and the lacy edges!  Let’s get a little closer!

I just love a good view!

Ooooh!  Aaaaah!

(taken last Monday on our hike at the new-to-us park!)

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On School

Monday, Handsome was off of work, so I cleared our school calendar too.

We chose to spend our day at a nearby park, not the kind of park with pavilions and towering play equipment, rather a park with miles of paths and trees and grasses blowing in the breeze.  There are and we did enjoy picnic benches and a small play area.  Swings – we enjoyed the swings.  Mostly though we gathered our moments and spent them all on the walking paths where around every turn lie in wait a new surprise.

And when we all, warm and full, climbed back in the van, I was sure that we had learned more than if I had gotten out the books.  For that day, God’s world, it was the best school.

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Using Every Minute

I sometimes jokingly say that we should quit saying that we homeschool, because in fact we “carschool.”

Tis true, we spend a mighty lot of time in the car, but we don’t always do school in the car.

But some days we do.

And some days the kids don’t even know it.  A while ago I had the thought that I should be redeeming all these minutes that we are in the car, because minutes make hours and hours make days, and days make up lifetimes.  Also, sometimes I would rather teach the kids something than listen to bickering from the backseat.  But, shhh, don’t tell my precious angels I said they bicker.  Oh, and also, I got really tired of the slug-a-bug game.

I don’t get crazy about it, but we do have a few little things that we have been learning in the car.

Things we are learning in the car:

1.  The sign language alphabet

2.  Number partners – each single-digit number has a partner; those two numbers together equal ten, so it goes like this:

Me:  5

Them: 5

Me: 7

Them: 3

Me: 10

Them: 0

Sometimes it’s a competition; most of the time it’s just a way to be noisy.  And sometimes I vary the voice (by whispering or using a high pitch or low pitch); they usually repeat, unwittingly.

3.  How to have conversation.  While it seems like a no-brainer, sometimes turning off the radio and talking to my kids is the best thing for them!

4.  Memorizing Bible verses or the books of the Bible.

What do you do with your car time?

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