Homeschooling while in the Winter Rut

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We’ve all felt it.

Is he ever going to learn to read? Will she ever be able to grasp this grammar concept?Are these narrations ever going to lead to productive writing? Will my child ever learn how place value works so we can finally move on to double digit addition? Will my child ever do this chore right? Will my child ever go in the potty by himself?

Even I, a homeschooling mom of 7 years, still face these questions daily. I get frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes even panic especially as high school draws ever closer for my oldest son.

Will a dark winter season of homeschooling ever bear the hopeful sight of spring shoots?

This question weighs heavy as I wait out winter for the first signs of spring. Even as I sit here and type in the darkness of the last of winter mornings, I hear a bird chirping and my heart unexpectedly swells with joy. SPRING! The days may still be cold, the mornings may still be dark but hearing that first chirp is a very tangible reminder for me that darkness will quickly wane into the light of the sun kissing me awake and the feel of fresh breezes caressing my sleepy cheeks through open windows left open at night.

It is the same in homeschooling. It is in small, unexpected moments that I see growth, new shoots of understanding, and full blossoming of ideas that make my heart swell with joy as the tiny buds of learning unfurl.

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I found this poem. Just randomly penned in the middle of a notebook as I was looking for paper to write down some notes of my own.

Winter

Winter

With its cold, black claws

It freezes your face into nothing

And on your face

It feels like a saw

I sat there and read and then reread these words written by my, then, 9 year old daughter. I didn’t teach this. We didn’t have “poetry day” that ended up with this sweet little poem in her language arts notebook. I didn’t plan a day on reading winter poetry (although that does sound nice, come to think of it) and then have a creative writing session.

This poem sprung up on it’s own out of the fertile soil of her own mind.

I’ve watched this play out with other children too. This week I’ve watched my eight year old son finally make a leap with reading that I thought might never come. I heard about my twelve year old son talking logical fallacies with the elders from his pop’s church and have them flabbergasted that he could carry on an adult conversation on a topic they did not learn until college. My three year old boy is finally getting this whole potty thing. To me this is not bragging, it is celebrating. It is recognizing those moments when we see our kids blossoming into the fruit of our labor.

It is good for each of us homeschool mothers to search this out in our kids…to look for those tender shoots to emerge from the minds of our children.  Simply Charlotte Mason reminds us that,

“Children learn in order to grow, not just to know. And just as a winter woodland scene can appear to be bleak, so we go through some seasons with our children when we don’t see evidence of growth.”

But how do we remember this in the midst of our own seasons of winter?

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Consistency. We hear this word all the time right? With parenting, potty training, schooling, disciplining. But it’s true. A little bit consistently over the year will do more then the most planned out, well put together pinterest board on anything. This is true because we are there for them over and over and over again. It feels rough because being there everyday means we see all the mistakes, all the failures. Sometimes I like to beat myself up about not finishing that perfectly planned out pinterest – onenote- evernote board. We didn’t get to all the books. We didn’t finish all the assignments. We didn’t watch all the movies or youtube clips. But I sometimes (okay, a lot of times) forget that we did DO. Everyday. And all this doing adds up to a lot of fertile, nutrient-dense soil for learning to grow in.

Strewing. Strewing allows us to continually put a feast of ideas in front of our children. This is a natural carry-over of being consistent. It is not bad to plan. Planning allows us to allow for strewing. We may not have read every book I wanted to read by week’s end but one of my children will have, unprompted, picked up some book from some basket and read just because. Sometimes we don’t get to all my video clips I’d like to watch but one of my children will have picked up something just from me previewing during my planning stage. One day your daughter will walk downstairs and request the next Life of Fred book because she just finished the first and is dying to know where the story went and you didn’t even know she was interested in the Life of Fred books, let alone reading them. But here they were sitting around our house waiting for a child to discover their wonderfulness. While we must continue to set goals and design the track we want our school days to run on, I find that strewing sometimes blossoms into the most beautiful moments of unplanned learning.

Look at Past Growth Patterns. Simply Charlotte Mason reminds us that we don’t panic when the trees drop their leaves and appear to die in the winter. The reason we don’t is because we know from past experience that spring will come again.

“Just as we have grown accustomed to the cycle of the seasons in nature—spring turns to summer and fall and then winter,— so we must grow accustomed to growth seasons in educating.” 

Growth will reappear and always when we are least expecting it. Ever watch your children walk outside on a cold, bleak winter’s day and go completely ecstatic over finding the first sign of spring grass poking through the bleak, barren, brown landscape? Then walk outside the next day and almost, as if overnight, the whole yard is dotted with the first signs of green. The growth appears almost instantaneously.

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Rest is Required. We must also remind ourselves that winter is a season of rest. We may not see growth but that is because resting provides the perfect environment for absorbing. We only have to look at nature for this.  Consider what the Colorado State University Extension has to say about roots in the winter:

The root system of a tree performs many vital functions. In winter, it is a store-house for essential food reserves needed by the tree to produce spring foliage. Roots absorb and transport water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree. Roots also anchor the portion of the tree above ground. It is important to keep the portion above ground healthy to ensure an adequate food supply for the roots to continue their important functions.”

Did you catch that? Winter is a time to store up. When we are consistent, we daily feed our child with the academic nutrients that they need. But they need time to be absorbed and sometimes that is best done during seasons of rest. For us as homeschool moms that means we need to ensure two things. First, that we don’t get discouraged during what seems like a season of not getting it. We need to be confident that they are still absorbing and all that information will be used in a season of spring growth when everything will just click. Second, we need to remember to give intentional times of rest. This may be a much needed school break for the holidays, the summer, or just because. It can also come in the form of taking a break from a subject that has been causing stress. I’ve had to do this with two different children who were struggling with reading. Even just a couple of weeks break provides a jump in their ability that forcing twice as much studying never would’ve done. REST. It’s okay!

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Enjoy the current season. One of my favorite things about homeschooling in the winter is the ability to enjoy its beauty. If I’m not having to get my children up in the dark of the morning, rush to get something warm in our bellies, bundle kids up and scrape icy windows or shovel driveway snow then I can look around me and appreciate the softly falling snow or the perfectly formed ice crystals on the window pane.

Not only can we very tangibly enjoy the actual season of winter (can anyone say pajamas and hot cocoa while doing phonics?), we can choose to see the beauty in our own seasons of winter for a particular child’s learning difficulties. Instead of sweating over the fact that this child is working on the same phonics sound for literally the 100th time, focus on the fact that he is home with you snuggled on the couch feeling safe and secure in his mother’s arms. Instead of getting frustrated over your child’s blank stare at the same math concept you’ve been studying for weeks upon weeks, focus on the fact that you get to be the one to build her up with words of encouragement. Or focus on you, the mother, who knows your child SO well that you get to slow down, speed up, or stay put as needed because you have the freedom to decide as teacher. Enjoy library days, field trips, arts and crafts and the fact that you can kiss, hug, snuggle, or high-five your child without a school administration sending you the memo on inappropriate teacher-student contact!

The homeschooling season, in and of itself, will be a short season of your life’s journey. So let’s get out of our winter rut and start enjoying the process again. It will be spring soon enough. You WILL see growth…new life…out your cold window pane and inside your child’s warm heart.

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♥ Considering Love

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♥ Updated and reposted February 2014. ♥

As Valentine’s Day approaches we immediately set out to “do” something for our significant others. And, within reason, there is nothing wrong with this quaint tradition. We all long to give to those we love. Some say it with flowers, some with chocolate, some with jewelry.

At this house, we’ve never been much of a giver of traditional Valentine’s gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers and chocolate…especially chocolate…but it has never seemed prudent to spend our money on temporary things that don’t last.  Some years we dine out, other years – when tight on money – we don’t. Some years we buy cards, some years we make, some years we go without due to a season of busyness. We do try to make it special for the kids with activities and a small gift and much love through food and feast, sugar and sweets.

This will mark the 18th year our marriage has celebrated this special season. Our marriage is better than it ever has been and keeps getting sweeter every year. As I was reading in bed I came across this marvelous passage that struck me as utter truth and reminded me of why our marriage has sustained its sweetness.

I think that as the years go by, the same love would enrich any marriage as the love which builds and enriches a community of celibate monks; and that is the love which is pledged to lay down its own wants and preferences for the sake of the other. The marriage that was built on natural affection, and had nothing of such love would, in the end, sour, however promising its beginning, I think…if their love has not that Christ-like quality of humble service, then neither is it built to last for ever.      ~Peregrine’s conversation with Clare in The Dove and Hawk Trilogy (Boldface my emphasis)

We have learned on our walk together that serving the other is when love truly grows. As I aim to meet my husband’s needs (an ironed chef coat without asking, making the bed, picking up the house before he gets home, making sure I always have something I can make him to eat after he gets in late at night) without worrying what I will get in return, it is that precise moment through the humbling of those acts of servitude that my needs are fulfilled. I give out so that love may increase. And as he seeks to serve me (doing a load of dishes without being asked, making us breakfast whenever he is home, working three jobs to support our family’s vision) without seeking a need in return, he is blessed with his needs fulfilled. It is this beautiful ebb and flow created through our perfect Father and perfected through Jesus Christ.

Some days the yoke of Christ does NOT feel easy and light. But it is precisely those days when I need to stop and ask myself if my heart is truly serving the needs of my family. It is easy in this world of technology and information to become self absorbed. The moment I step away into myself, even an inch, love slips away and is replaced with selfishness and wanting to gratify my needs. It is only when I turn back to serving others and laying down my life (my wants, desires, needs) to lift up their’s, it is only then that love returns and the peaceful yoke settles around my neck like a breath of fresh air.

So on this day of love, may we remember an oft heard verse but read it with fresh eyes…the eyes of a willing servant.

Love is patient (even when you’re right), love is kind (even if you’ve been wronged). It does not envy (even if there is righteous cause to be jealous), it does not boast (for it understands that there will be low days too), it is not proud (for that is the perfect foothold for the enemy). It is not rude (even if they deserve the comment), it is not self-seeking (no matter how many needs you have that are not being fulfilled), it is not easily angered (even when you have every right to be angry), it keeps no record of wrongs (even if those wrongs are grounds for divorce). Love does not delight with evil (even though your friends want you to join in with the complaining of your spouse) but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (even when the relationship seems dead and lifeless for love is a choice, not a feeling).”  ~I Corinthians 13:4-7 (amplified interpretation all mine)

So, if any of you out there are saying to yourself that is impossible, you don’t understand, shouldn’t marriage be about give and take, fifty-fifty split? May I just offer you this small token of advice. Put down the Love Dare book. Look at your significant other and forget EVERY SINGLE one of your needs. Look at his (or her) needs only and find how to serve. I promise you the impossible will happen. God’s grace will grow love where you never thought possible, will spark desire where you never knew it was missing. Miracles will happen…jealousies will subside…hearts will soften…forgotten prayers will be answered!

Happy Valentine’s Day, my precious kids whom constantly teach me how to love!

Happy Valentine’s Day, my best friend, soul mate, and most cherished companion!

♥ Happy Valentine’s Day, World! ♥

♥ XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO ♥

Christmas Perspective

I wanted to share a beautiful poem this Christmas Day that was shared with me via our MOPS winter newsletter. In this particular season of motherhood this poem touched a chord that I think will also resonate with many other mothers I know. Read it. Print it. Frame it. Display it where you can reread daily and let’s start practicing love to our families this Christmas!

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style

©By Sharon Jaynes

 If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another decorator.

 If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family – it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.  Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust.  But giving the gift of love will endure.

Christmas 2013

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Merry Christmas friends and family!

May your day be merry and bright!

xoxo

The Silent Advent

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Advent and Christmas time is notorious for being filled with busyness. We are all subject to it and it is hard to escape even if we wanted to.

The malls are decorated and ready and waiting for shoppers not even a day after Halloween. We skip right over Thanksgiving and learning to be content and rush right into a season of the gimmies.

Pinterest abounds with ideas, ideas and more ideas. Delectable ideas, to be sure, but so many that we are either paralyzed into doing nothing or we try to be super moms and take extra lengths to crowd into every day an activity that will spark creativity, grow the minds of our child, inspire character growth, bring home the “reason for the season”. We advent our kids to death in the hope that this year our child will get it and not be duped by this Santa fella.

And when we are not using Pinterest for this, we use it to wow those around us. Surely our neighbors will be envious over our lights, our tree, our decor, our china, our food, our community gift-giving efforts. We do this all in the name of family and Christ. We are sure that this year we did Advent right. This is the year we will wake up December 26th full of soul satisfaction at a job well done.

But I know us. I know me. And we won’t. Ever.

Not unless we slow down. Not unless we stop doing. Not unless we allow God to pull us into forced silent retreat.

This was my Advent this year. My lights still aren’t all the way up. Parts of my home do look beautiful but among that is the mess of moving rooms around, school not put up for vacation, and boxes of Christmas decor still sitting in my living room that I walk past daily completely in denial and convinced that the last few things will get put up even if tomorrow is already Christmas Eve. My advent calendar never got put up. I did not get to do the Christmas Story Advent countdown. We didn’t do the Jesse Tree. We barely made it most nights to carols and quiet advent time as a family. There was no special activity for each day. No marathon of special Christmas cookie baking to hand out to neighbors or take to family gatherings. We missed the hometown Christmas-y stuff. We missed sitting on Santa’s lap or making Christmas lists or writing letters to the North Pole. Our Netflix box sits full of Christmas movies that we haven’t watched.

But it’s okay. At least that is what He is whispering to me. God chose to equip me with something more beautiful this year. A forced silent retreat. {I sense a reoccurring theme here.} And I panicked at first. I wanted to be a part of all those special Christmas events. I wanted my children to carry those memories. Instead I was graced with being forced to socially retreat. And during it I was blessed to have found this Advent book to read during this time of silent night, holy night. The only Advent devotional book available for me to check out at the library. God’s Advent gift to me.

Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent.

And daily (mostly) I read and wept and prayed. The focus was not on Mary or Joseph or baby Jesus but instead on Elizabeth and Zachariah and their forced silent retreat. God needed them both to stop, listen, prepare and to do this they were taken out of the busyness of life. Okara’s take on how God used them is beautifully, breathtakingly simple. Every day I took something very powerful away to ponder. And while I encourage you to pin this book to your Advent board to remember for next year, I’d like to leave you absorbing a few of it’s treasured nuggets for yourself this Christmas week.

Part One – Surprised and Silenced By God

Traditionally when we think of Advent we immediately call to mind Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel. But in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the first two people we meet in the Advent narrative. Much as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ, his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth seem to be the forerunners for the holy family. The angel Gabriel comes to them first to astound them with good news. Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth teach us that receiving divine good news can be fraught with all kinds of tensions and questions. It is an understatement to say that Zechariah and Elizabeth are caught by surprise. Their shock dumbs them into silence and seclusion, affording them time to dwell with the news.”

Lamentations 3:26

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Lamentations 3:28

Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.”

Day 2 – Lament

In America, we live in a pain-avoidance culture that rarely sees any meaningful significance in sitting with discomfort. When something feels bad, society and corporations have conditioned us to self-medicate with media, food, or shopping. It may take discipline and practice to learn to appreciate the importance of lament for our soul’s and our community’s health”

Day 10 – Silence

What if the silence God bestowed on Zechariah was not fully punishment but also an odd blessing. What if God was offering Zechariah nine months to sit with the news, to ponder God’s words, and to process the stupefied awe in which he surely found himself. What if the time of formal silence was God granting Zechariah the gift of some necessary internal solitude in preparation to receive the miracle and to dwell in God’s faithfulness…”

Day 12 – Divine Preparation

Most of us would consider a silent retreat an unreasonable way to spend our time when our to-do lists seem unending. But carving out space for contemplation and solitude can invite God to speak into our lives and offer us an opportunity for us to sleep in the depth of what God is already doing and saying. Elizabeth has five uninterrupted months of quiet solitude to take in the reality of her growing miracle. Not even her husband’s voice can intrude on this time of reflection. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah are forced into holy retreat to dwell on what God is doing in their lives.”

Day 13 – Holy Retreat

The more we inhabit silence, the better our hearing becomes. When we step back into the noise of our world, our hearing is a bit more fine-tuned and more likely to hear God’s whispers.”

Psalm 37:7

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…”

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As you sit with these words of encouragement and wisdom, I urge you to revisit Luke 1:5 – 2:40 and sit with the Christmas Story for a while. Allow it to penetrate your hearts this Christmas.

If you are, like me, in that season of forced retreat (health, kids, stress, depression, life!), consider also reading some more encouraging Christmas Advent posts from myself and other mothers who have been there.

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A Heart of Thankfulness {A Blessings Photo Essay}

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This year season of my life has been hard…really hard. Since last August I’ve been struggling with various teeth and body issues that no doctor or dentist can figure out. I’m desperately trying to stave off new symptoms while trying to maintain life by masking current symptoms. Life has been hard. I’ve had to give things up that I didn’t want to in order to hang on to the most important stuff. (Do you hear the crickets chirping in this here blogosphere?) But despite that, I’m sitting here this Thanksgiving day looking around and knowing I’m blessed. I see His hand all around me and if I don’t look to the little things and count them then those blessings that fall like living rain can roll right off my back soaking into the ground, wasted.

So today I need to count because gratitude needs to be my lifeline during this time of not understanding.

Can I start with the beauty of the season? Just look at the simplicity of the pumpkin above. The shape and color, the contrast against my weathered porch, the complimentary fallish leaves strewn just so. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Perfect.

Then there’s the dying back of the garden that holds it’s own in beauty compared to it’s spring and summer counterparts. Sunlight bouncing off of maroons and mauves in the morning light. Tawny browns of seed heads contrasting against bronzed, dying leaves.

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And the mornings. Oh how I wish I could enjoy more of them but whatever is attacking my body seems worst then. The mornings that I do make it to my front porch are like an oasis to the chaos of my day.

Hot coffee.

Living words.

Feeding souls.

And this town…

I’m thankful for this small, midwest town. The community is strong here. The houses are mish-mashed and beautiful, ornate and simple. The business is small, local and cozy. The churches are reaching hearts and building family.

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I love that my children can walk to the library or to the drugstore. I love that they can bike to a friends house or walk up to the park. I love the memories they are making. I love the security that a small town affords us for our growing family.

And my heart swells with thankfulness for my children. They are growing faster than the weeds in my yard. I watch them stretching their minds. I listen in on their sibling conversations. I inwardly smile at the first awkward stirrings of teenage years quickly approaching. I treasure the conversations in my heart. I laugh at little hands and little feet stirring up trouble. And I breathe deep baby fat and double chins. These are my legacy…my stories…my beautiful mess.

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And as Advent draws near, I am thankful for the Lord that provides. Our dollars are tight. They already have to stretch beyond our means to cover our chosen life-path. This month He provided a new couch set…well, new to us. Perfect in condition, color, and style to nestle into the space of our Victorian living room. A chance stop-in at the Goodwill. Under $100 for the whole trio. As Advent approaches and winter settles in, it means dark mornings, candlelight and the thankfulness of my heater as I curl up with His word and wait for the Christ-child.

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For to even open up the door these days invites in the too chilly air. Frost sparkles the world and for very brief moments I soak in the beauty of upcoming winter. My imagination runs wild with thoughts of silver fairies and legends of jack frost. And when I return to the warmth of the house, to the smells of fall cooking and fill my belly with the comfort of potatoes and pumpkin and squash, I am again reminded of how blessed I am compared to most. My house is old and I don’t know if I will ever find the money to make it whole and not broken, but even amidst it’s brokenness it brings me daily joy.

As does my husband whose very heart and commitment to our family sings of his sacrificial love of us. His talented hands feed us, sing to us, embrace us. He is father and still soul mate. I am lucky indeed.

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Let them give THANKS to the LORD

For His UNFAILING LOVE

And His wonderful deeds for men,

For He SATISFIES the thirsty

And fills the hungry with GOOD things.”

Psalm 107:8-9

happy thanksgiving

Narrations as Memories

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Lily’s Narration – January 9, 2009 

Age: 5

St. George and the Dragron (from The Children’s Hour)

I imagined that a dragon was fighting a knight and then he went under a cave and he got killed and Sabra saved him too cuz Sabra killed the giant pickle who was really a bad guy. And then a big fire-breathing dragon killed the giant pickle and the giant pickle was dead and Sabra, who was his wife, walked along with him. And then they got up on the horse and hoppity, hop, hoppity, hop, hop, hop and they rided through the castle and hided from the dragon. And the dragon went to the castle and then his wife and St. George went out and the dragon went out and they went in and they fighted the dragon and he was killed. And then they were safe and the pigeon and St. George and Sabra were all safe. The end.

This is the note I tagged onto her narration.

At the beginning of this telling I had told the children to close their eyes and imagine the story in their head. I guess Lily took this to mean free license to make up her own story. for anyone reading this narration, there was no giant pickle, Sabra and St. George were not married, Sabra did not save St. George, and they never fought in a castle or hid in a cave.


Lily - 5      lily - 9

Today as Lily was putting away her history narration of St. George and the Dragon into her book of centuries, she came across a narration she had done when she was five of this same story. She stood there amazed that she had even done this as a five year-old. Then she started cracking up while rereading it to herself prompting her older brother asking for it to be read out loud. I started reading it aloud and, I swear, I couldn’t even finish it as tears were streaming down my eyes. Not in the, “awwwhhhhh, wasn’t that so sweet” way but in that “laugh-out-loud-pee-your-pants” way. I think it took three tries to get it read between all the laughter.

I was reminded that looking back on our Book of Centuries not only helps us review what we learned from history but is a wonderful synopsis of where a child was at a particular age…a scrapbook of sorts. Rereading this particular narration brought me instantly back in time to that day of teaching. It made me realize that my children’s saved work is more than a portfolio for a school board but a treasure box of memories for me and the kids! I see myself as an old lady sitting around in a pile of binders, lovingly turning the pages and sighing over days of old.

Back to School {Weekly Wrap Up}

Back to school already?

Yes, we are doing school already. And, I admit, I wasn’t quite ready to get started this year. Norah Belle just showed up in our lives two months ago. I’m just starting to get my house back in order. But starting early does make sense for us. This will allow us the flexibility to take 2 weeks off in the fall, 3 weeks off at Christmas, and two weeks off in the spring while still getting in a full summer break next year as well as taking everyone’s birthday off and getting a few partial field trip weeks in the mix.

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Our Week

Getting back into routine is always hard. This year will be my biggest year teaching. I’m officially teaching four: sixth grade, fourth grade, second grade, and first grade. That said, technically I’m teaching six. Ivy, preschool, is already asking to read and is the most excited about doing school. She wants to be involved and she wants my undivided attention. This will prove tricky since I’m more apt to multi-task between students needing instruction and those needing help or clarification. And Eli is in full-on potty training mode. Then there’s the normal challenges of life like nursing Norah and dealing with Eli’s toddler energy and other learning challenges like attention spans and reading delays.

I knew the only way I could accomplish my homeschooling goals this year was to make a few changes.

One, get up early.

Two, meet with the Lord daily.

I can’t even begin to tell you how hard this has been. I am a night owl. I LOVE staying up late and talking with the hubby over coffee or getting lost in a new Netflix series together. But it was very clear to me that this year I needed to get up by 6:30 and have some quiet time before my other early birds arose. It has been very hard but very worth it. Just meeting with God first thing on the quiet of my front porch swing has allowed me to face each day’s chaotic challenges in much healthier ways. The bonus is savoring a cup of coffee and some first of the morning conversation with my oldest boy. He is just entering junior high and I am enjoying getting to know him as a friend, not just a son. He’s funny, quirky and we’ve had some good heart to hearts just swinging together or enjoying the flowers in the morning sun.

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Our week officially started with ART. Every year our schedule is so full and when unexpected life happens it always seems like the fun stuff gets pushed aside for the essentials. Well, this year I am determined to change that. I decided to make the fun stuff a priority for us. We are living life at home and while we do need to cover the essentials, I want the love of learning to stay passionately ignited in all of us. I want our home to ebb and flow with productivity and rest, creativity and logic.

We are starting with the basics of pencil drawing technique. This week we focused on seeing basic shapes in the world around us and translating that onto paper. We emphasized 3D shapes and practiced drawing cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. This wonderful youtube tutuorial helped us. I was amazed at my 7 year old’s drawings. He was the only one to listen about how to hold the pencil and how to do the short, light sketching strokes. Maybe we have an artist in our midst! We used our geometric blocks as models which Eli thought was great fun to play with while the others worked.

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Reading, reading, and more reading. Reading has been both rewarding and frustrating this year. My oldest two are reading every chance they get including sneaking books to the lunch table. (Brings back memories for me!) And my oldest daughter, nine, has finally discovered Harry Potter.  She has read 3 of the books in the past two weeks and watched the first two movies.

Luc is seven. He is my struggling reader. I pray daily for how to work with Luc. He is completely apathetic about reading and bucks against learning. My gut is to keep pushing but there is a fine line between challenging your child and killing their joy of learning. Luc does love to play. He plays everything he learns. And he would much rather be playing then in “school”. So this year we’ve decided to go with Batman phonics books. He still struggles. He still resists. But after he wades through a page and then practices rereading it a few times, his whole demeanor changes. A smile lights up his face. He can read about one of his favorite super heros and is so proud of himself. I wish I could say that changes his attitude and inspires him to keep practicing. It doesn’t. The next day it is right back to the start of this push and pull reading relationship.

But I’m confident that with enough perseverance we will make some major breakthroughs this year. Just look at that smiling boy reading with his mamma on the porch swing. Beats sitting at a desk, right?

reading

Math for the older two is simple and easy. Teaching Textbooks have been our best friend. The kids LOVE doing their math on the computer. I love not having to teach it. I love that they love doing it and beg to do extra lessons in their free time. I love that it tutors them and grades them and tracks everything for me. The only drawback? It doesn’t start until third grade. That means Pre-K through second grade is still on me.

This year I will be doing all three. Ivy in Pre-K, Lilah in first grade, Luc in 2nd grade. We will be using a multi-level teaching style. I will focus on introducing a concept through a living book. All three will practice the concept through manipulatives at their own level. Each has a dry erase binder with practice sheets of concepts they need to practice. We will also be doing some fun picture mystery math pages. Emphasis will be on playing math to truly understand concepts and LOTS of living books that bring math to life without a textbook.

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math

I’m super excited about science this year and so are the kids. We are using the Max Axiom graphic novel science series as our jumping off point. This is no ordinary science book. Don’t let the comic book style fool you. Each book covers a specific science concept…electricity, magnestism, states of matter, etc…in an in-depth way.  We will follow that up with watching a Bill Nye the Science Guy video and supplement with a hands-on experiment and Magic School Bus books and videos. My kids fell in love with Bill Nye last year and most all of them can be found free on you tube. 

science reading

This week we started off learning about the scientific method. We practiced using it with these wonderful printables from Crafty Classroom and used the same experiment they did in the Max Axiom book. In Bill Nye’s Do It Yourself Science we learned that science is repeatable and can be tested again even if you know the outcome. So we retested the experiment in the book of finding out what type of levee keeps more water from flooding a town: rocks, soil, or clay. We recorded our hypothesis and data. This upcoming week the older two will be learning how to share their findings through a science board display.

science 5

This year for history we are covering the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Reformation. Adam, who has a passion for history, will be teaching the older two as well as covering philosophy, logic, and the Bible with them. I will be supplementing through a healthy diet of living books, notebooking/lapbooking, and map work. 

This week we started off the year recapping the Roman period and overviewing how the Roman Empire fell and how Christianity spread through Europe. We focused on Constantine and we rounded it out with the story of St. George and the Dragon. Even I learned something new this week. I had heard stories of St. George but, fantastical as they are, they don’t beat the real story of him being a follower of Christ and refusing to bow down to the Roman Gods. He was tortured and martyred by decapitation under Emperor Diocletian for standing up in his faith.

history

And the best highlight of our week? 

This wonderful pencil sharpener that I bought used for $5 at a homeschool curriculum sale this summer. No more blisters. No more wasting time searching for a sharpened pencil when we should be working. No more pushing off art because the task of resharpening all those colored pencils just seems too daunting. I’m in love with this machine. It is not just an electrical pencil sharpener (had one of those…worked not at all) but an industrial pencil sharpener. My son laughed at me when I took a picture of this. But, to me, it is one of the most beautiful pictures of our week.

pencils

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