More Little House on the Prairie!

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Can you believe it’s been five years since I wrote my first Little House on the Prairie post? I read it and am taken back to the simpler days of only having my first two kids to homeschool where we practiced a more relaxed homeschool approach. Now my oldest will be entering high school next year and the next is fully immersed in the world of junior high. How time flies. I’ve added four more kids to the mix of homeschooling with one more still to fit in the next couple of years. Gone are the relaxed, take-your-time days of yore. Now we are fully immersed in a heavy classical school load for the older two and, while the younger ones still have fun and are covering a lot of the same material as the first two, my schedule is much more structured with this next group of younger kids as I have to make sure there is enough mommy teacher time to go around to meet all the needs. Hence the sound of crickets on this here blog!

We are on round two of our history cycle wrapping up modern history this year. We began the year just post Civil War and started right in on Pioneers and the Homestead Act with my younger children. This, of course, is a perfect time to introduce another generation to my love of all things Little House of the Prairie! Oh how I wish I had more time to spend and camp out here. Even though I only had a week to fill, I made the best of it with my very kinetic learners with two great hands-on projects I wanted to share with you all.

Sometimes with homeschooling I get caught up in the wants that cost money. I would’ve loved to have had a big set of Lincoln Logs for my preschooler through fourth grader to play with. This would’ve been great to keep little hands busy while mommy was reading our literature Little House on the Prairie or our living history book selections. This was not in our budget this year. Instead, I decided to concentrate on using what I already had that also keeps little hands busy. Play dough. I decided the best way to help my hands-on learners remember what the Homestead Act meant was to immerse them in the world of sod house making. They absolutely loved this and all decided, at least the first week of school, that history was definitely their favorite subject. Score for mom! We used this play dough recipe that I had used before for a Valentine’s Day party because it smells like heavenly chocolate.

And don’t let the blog pictures deceive you. My first batch turned out horrible. I thought I could get buy without the cream of tartar and it was a disaster. So while my kids were busily, and happily, playing in the sticky muddy mess on the table, it wasn’t the right consistency to make our sod bricks out of and mommy had to do a quick run to the store in order to redo the recipe the right way. But it turned out all right in the end and they were very happy with their sod houses. Note to moms: try to gently encourage your students to stack the bricks in the staggered pattern that real builders use. Otherwise, when this project dries it will fall apart! My kids had to learn this the hard way. As their houses dried they looked great but immediately collapsed in a heap of dried sod bricks when they did not heed my warning.

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We also played this fun game online that shows if you have what it takes to make it on the prairie and build a sod house properly. Both my third and fourth grader failed their first two attempts but finally got it right on attempt number three!

Our next project this week was to build this cute little pioneer peg family to live in their built sod houses. My children love to play what they learn. When we studied cowboys they played cowboys. When we studied Indians they played Indians. When we studied women’s suffrage they played making signs and voting. I love watching them play what they learn. It makes my house always chaotic and a bit on the messier side – an uphill battle I struggle with already just having seven kids living here with me all day long – but the extra effort at cleaning is worth it when I hear them ask if we can study something again because they want to play it again.

Now the crafty, OCD mommy part of me had to forcibly take a back seat on the peg project people. I modeled the project for them. I made wonderful suggestions to them. I used scrap material and yarn I already had on hand and only had to buy the peg clothespins – $2 for a bag at Michaels. But my children are nothing if not consistent and hard-headed. They had there own way of doing their dolls and mommy had to let that be okay. They had a lot of fun with this project. And, if they had listened to me with their sod houses, the houses would’ve been built high enough to use and play with the peg people. We will probably revisit making these dolls again this winter while reading “The Long Winter” for literature. Maybe I’ll teach them how to make some snow candy like Laura and Mary did if we get a dumping of good sticky snow. While this experiment didn’t quite turn out how I wanted it to with my oldest kids, it was still very yummy!

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For more fun activities to pair with your Little House on the Prairie study or any history study pertaining to the early pioneers, check out my previous Little House on the Prairie Unit Study.  Also, if you wanted to expand on the activities that I listed here today, you could also try your hand at these. I wanted to get to all of them but a week is such a short time and flies by too fast.

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We also read a great new book that I’m adding to our list of Pioneer book must-haves. Dandelions by Eve Bunting is a picture story about two girls who move with their parents out to the prairie. I choose this particular book for several reasons. First, it was set in Nebraska – where we live. I love making history personal. It seems to stick more. Second, they build a sod house and talk about the Homestead Act, which went well with our project and notebooking for the week. Third, dandelions are my favorite under-appreciated flower! So many uses and benefits – I have a whole Pinterest Board dedicated to them – and such a bright yellow sign of hope in the spring when the winter blues have seem to permanently set in. In fact, this is kind of the point of the story. Many pioneer wives of that time, while hard and persevering women, experienced depression. While they did set out to try their hand at a new life, they also left everything behind. Being in this harsh new world without shade and trees and the beauty of flowers, without the comfort of their extended family or even neighbors and community, without their furniture (not much could fit on the wagon ride out) and heirlooms, even without wood to build a comfortable house, living in this world of dirt and nothingness must have been so hard for so many women. This story touches on that very hardship and the young girl ends up saving and planting some dandelions on her sod roof for her mother. It is a beautiful story that touches on that hope that so many prairie wives needed. I just loved it.

     

Books I would add to my first list for this time period:

Another thing I’m excited to do this winter with the kids is work through watching the first season of Little House on the Prairie. They really don’t make shows like this anymore and I mourn the loss of wholesome family values that this show teaches. This will make a perfect wintertime activity to binge on in evenings of our cozy house with the outside world shut out to us. But we will kick it off with this documentary The Legacy of Laura Ingalls WilderI may be a bit of a nerd but I’m so excited about watching this. You must visit the blog Little House of the Prairie and watch the trailer. It looks just divine! While your at their site stay and look around a while. It is chock full of wonderful activities to pair with a Little House study!

They are also offering a one time savings to you homeschool moms in order to add it to your living history library as well. Just click on their Amazon link to buy the documentary and put in the coupon code (LHSCHOOL) to receive an additional 20% off!

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Back to School {The First Week}

In my Back to School – Planning post I talked a little about what we were doing for the year and how we were fitting it all in. In this post I’d like to just recap our week. I’m not always good about doing this weekly but the first week is always important to me, even if I’m finally finished writing about it 3 weeks later! It is my way of scrapbooking digitally our year and there is just something indescribably special about the first week. The kids are excited for what’s to come. I’m excited for what’s to come. Everything is ripe with possibility even as we stumble through getting the daily rhythm down.

So how was our first week?

Math and Art were our biggest hits for the week.

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For math we’ve switched to Khan Academy this year for our oldest son. His dad started using it to sharpen his own Algebra skills over the summer and Gabe started sitting down beside him and helping him work out problems. He absolutely loves it. Khan is self-paced, independent, and FREE! We had already been using Khan for history, science, art, and math supplementation (they have great videos and now they’ve teamed up with the guys who do Crash Course whom my kids LOVE and we use for history and science) so this was a natural carryover for him. Since Gabe is already a year ahead in math, using Khan will give him the independence to move ahead at his own pace. He may end up doing two years in one this year and be into Algebra by year’s end. We also allowed the other kids to try it since Khan does have math all the way down to an early elementary level, but we found after a few days of trying that they still preferred their Teaching Textbooks for math.

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Although Teaching Textbooks is very pricey, I LOVE their program. It is set up tutorial-style so each kid is completely 100% taught on the computer without me. It is great for auditory and visual learners or for those that need someone to sit with them step by step through each problem. It does automatic grading and my kids love it. That is enough for me to spend the hefty price tag. Plus, we discovered that the book is actually just a repeat of what they are already doing during the lessons and a needless piece so we’ve eliminated that this year and gave each kid their own spiral notebook to use for working out math problems. That saves us $30 for each program. And you can use them with more than one child so we are only buying one year at a time and by next year won’t have to buy any. While the 2nd and 3rd grader are doing their math independently on the computer, it frees me up to work with Ivy and Eli with their Pre-K math and phonics.

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Art was also well received this week. Mainly, because we actually did it! Every year I have these great intentions for art and music and every year life gets in the way and then they get bumped for the more “important” subjects that are required. So this year I decided no more. Creativity is a must for me to flourish and it is extremely important for my ten year old girl as well. This year we bought everyone their own sketch pad and we labeled them all pretty and are keeping them organized in an inexpensive tote from Michael’s. For the two littles, I used a primary composition notebook and  covered it in pretty scrapbook paper and then laminated the covers to keep them sturdy for the whole year. This allowed them to be cheaper (twenty five cents back to school sale!) and keeps them accessible for their age range.

Our first week of art we read the Drawing Rules in Drawing in Color and talked about how their is no wrong way to draw. We read ish and Dot, which the littles especially loved and imitated immediately in their notebooks. Our first assignment was to draw whatever we liked. Each child shared their picture and everyone said one thing they really liked about each picture as well as one thing they would like to improve upon for the year. The kids did not want the afternoon to end and it has inspired Lily to check out several drawing books at the library and she has been practicing every night. This year we will be focused on learning to draw animals in pencil using a combination of youtube tutorials and Drawing Animals in Nature with Lee Hammond . This will mesh very well with our zoology science course.

Zoology, unfortunately, started off a little rocky. I was so excited to start the lesson with a great hands-on, visible way for them to understand the concept of classification through classifying legos. This ended up with mostly fighting over said legos and Norah ended up teething and crying for a huge chunk of our time. It was a bit of a letdown for me because I have such huge expectations for this year’s zoology lineup. Our second week fared way better after a trip to Fontenelle Forest to pick up our Vertebrate/Invertebrate Educator’s Trunk and the kids got to handle and feel all kinds of bones and animal skins. My favorite was the owl skull and bobcat skull. After examining everything, the older two got to dip into their first experiment and the littles played an online classification game, all was right again in our science world.

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We kicked off our first week of history by diving into Columbus and the Age of Exploration. The younger ones listened to me read from A Child’s History of the World, which I just adore, while they happily constructed ships out of our magformers. They colored and notebooked and then finished off their time playing an online game about Christopher Columbus.

The older two are doing history with daddy again this year. He is a huge history buff and has a wonderful conversational Socratic method style of teaching that our kids just love. They are watching the Crash Course World History and US History videos in conjunction with their reading and then join me on another day of the week for fun history where we get to watch the Horrible History videos, watch fun songs and do map work. Favorite song of the week: Fifty Nifty United States. I learned this song in fifth grade and it has stayed with me to this day. I am giddy passing it on to my children. They are song nerds in the same way I am. Okay, maybe I’m a bit more of a song nerd but they really do love this song. This has been our constant car-schooling anthem for the past couple of weeks to go with our geography study for the year.

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I’ve been most impressed with Ivy this week. Being 5 and “officially” starting kindergarten, I wasn’t sure how involved she’d be for the multi-age taught subjects like history, science, and geography. We always have stuff planned for the littles but beyond their basic 3 R’s in the morning, we don’t require them to do school. They are free to play or watch an educational video. But she’s stuck with us through much more then I thought she would. She played the Columbus history game like her older siblings, she’s colored history sheets while listening to the stories and she’s even picked up on the Latin we’ve been studying. And her coloring has taken a dramatic turn for the better since school has started. I perceive that she will show the most overall growth this year.

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Latin was by far the most unexpected successful subject of the week. We discovered Classical Academic Press by accident last year through their sister site HeadAdventureland.com which is full of fun, free latin videos!!! (Check out our fave…The Three Little Pigs!) The older two have totally resonated with the DVD chants in the Latin for Children, Primer A. They love doing the activities and discussing everything with their dad over coffee. And the younger 2-4, depending on if the two littles join us, are throughougly enjoying SongSchool Latin. It is SO kid-friendly and fun that the kids can’t wait to do Latin and have told all their friends they should too. Even I have awoken in the middle of the night with a catchy Latin song stuck in my head. Makes me want to check out their SongSchool Latin Spanish.

I also enjoyed doing Bible with the littles this week. We read out of Vos’s Child’s Story Bible starting again at the beginning. And I was once again captivated by the way she conversationally draws the little ones into the story while simultaneously weaving Christ’s redemption story in from the very beginning pages of Genesis. This is by far the BEST story Bible I’ve ever read. The children sat and listened spellbound and asked for more when I was done. Can’t ask for more than that!

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Some other fun highlights of our first week…

The girls temporarily dying their hair purple and pink.

Enjoying playing golf during recess time.

Building nanoblocks during free time.

Watching caterpillars emerge as butterflies!

Taking care of pet toads.

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I’m so excited to see how the rest of our year unfolds.

How was your first week of school?

Back to School – The Plan {2014-2015}

It’s time again. Everybody is posting first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook. Although I missed that deadline by 3 weeks (as I usually do with getting pictures up on Facebook…still have a whole summer’s worth of albums to put up), I did manage to take a first-day-of-school picture. Maybe sometime soon it will get to Facebook. Maybe…

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I’m ready and not ready to start all at the same time. I’ve spent the last month cramming to get everything done (we’ve switched doing all our lesson planning to OneNote but that is a post for another time) and still am a bit behind.

All in all though, I’m pretty happy with our schedule and our curriculum scope and sequence for the year. After running it for a few weeks it needs some minor adjustments, but overall we did good. The major goal I am setting for myself this year is to get up earlier and more consistently. Last year with having a newborn and being up most nights, I didn’t do very well at all with getting up at a consistent time. We still had a great year and accomplished a lot but I always felt like we were running behind all the time. Mainly, because we were running behind all the time. With Norah past the one year mark this school year, my nights are a bit more regular.

This year is a big adjustment for us schedule-wise in that it is MUCH more structured. I’ve always been a very relaxed homeschooler. I loved that we could start school at 10ish, be done whenever-ish and follow lots of rabbit trails, especially in history and science. But this year I have an official junior-higher going into seventh grade, a fifth grader, a third grader, a second grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, and a toddler. To say my life is full is an understatement. Somehow I need to move my seventh grader into more challenging work to prepare for high school, which is really just around the corner, while also making the time to spend with my kindergartner who is just ripe for learning to read. But I also need to give extra time to my two middles, third and second graders, who still need more teacher-to-student time as they are transitioning into independent readers. I need to keep my preschooler busy and out of trouble and my one year old just learned this week (yeah me!) to climb chairs. I see impending disaster in my future with that one.

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So this year hubby and I sat down and brainstormed like crazy pasting and copying subject time slots until everything that we wanted to do meshed with everything that we needed to do. This was no small task. This is the most packed, structured schedule we’ve ever been on. I’m not going to lie, the day before school started I was trying not to have a mini panic attack at the thought of sticking to a schedule. Just ask my husband. I am NOT good at following schedules. I just love to make them. I adore planning for them. And they always seem so ripe with promise every year. And then I immediately deviate and forget I even made one. I like my rabbit trails and interest-led learning that takes place and I’m not sure if there is any room for that this year.

But I also know that more important than my need to have fun and go off on learning tangents, is the need my kids have for structure. The need I have for structure. There are too many of them and only one of me. They all need my time and each of them is equally important. So a structured schedule it is. And even though there is a small part of me that cringes at using a clock and a timer, the bigger part of me loved that we got to all our stuff and started on time every day.

Here is what we are learning this year.

MathTeaching Textooks (2nd, 3rd, 5th) and Khan Academy (7th)

Phonics – Bob Books, Starfall, YouTube (Pre-K)

Literature – list varies for each child (All)

GrammarFirst Language Lessons (2nd, 3rd) and Rod & Staff English (5th)

SpellingRod & Staff Spelling (2nd), Abeka Spelling 2 (3rd Grade)

WritingBasher’s Creative Writing and Writing with Skill (5th and 7th)

CursiveKumon Cursive: Letters and Kumon Cursive: Words (2nd, 3rd)

LatinSongschool Latin (2nd, 3rd) and Latin for Children, Primer A (5th, 7th)

SpanishRosetta Stone 1 & 2 (5th and 7th)

History – Age of Exploration and Early American History (All)

Geography – United States & Capitals (All)

Science – Zoology (All) and History of Science (5th & 7th)

ArtTechnique: Drawing in Color and Drawing Animals in Nature (All)

Art – Appreciation: Baroque, Romantic, NeoClassical, Pre-Raphaelite

Music – Theory: Basher’s Music: Hit the Right Note (All)

Music – Appreciation: SQUILT Technique with Baroque, Romantic, and Classical styles; Composer Studies

BibleChronological Study Bible (5th, 7th), Child’s Story Bible (K, 2nd, 3rd), Awana (All)

PhilosophyLittle History of Philosophy (5th, 7th)

LogicArgument Builder (7th)

Physical Education – Aerobics & Weights (Girls), Boxing & Weights (Boys)

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I am hoping to write a separate post for an in-depth look at each subject. That may or may not happen. I can’t promise anything. I always have way more blog posts floating around in my head than I ever get the time to sit down and write. But I can give you a glimpse into our year and our week. I’ve uploaded my Relational Subject Comparison 2014-2015 for the year to give you a small taste of what we are going to be studying for each of the 36 weeks.

History is the peg we hang our year on. It is the rudder that is driving everything else. We follow a chronological 4-year history cycle and literature, geography, art, music, and sometimes science are all, somehow, related to what we are studying for history. So this year I created the above 36 Week comparison sheet and wrote the key historical peg we’d be studying then, during my planning, I used that to determine which week we read or mapped or did what activity that correlated in a different subject. It makes the year flow better and allows me to pre-plan some rabbit trails without overburdening our schedule down. I can use this as a quick-glance guide for each week’s planning to remind me during the nitty gritty weekly planning, especially for pre-requesting library books. This style of planning also helps us to cement information in our head when it is presented in different ways throughout the week. This year we are on year three of the cycle which covers from Columbus up to the Civil War (1492-1860’s).

Here is a blank Relational Subject Comparison for anyone else who is interested in planning this way.

Some people look at the above list of subjects and can’t imagine how we get it all done in a week. Here is a small taste of what our Sample Week looks like so you can see how we make this a doable reality. Remember, we don’t do every subject every day and this is fitting in essentially 5 different grades into one week. Not every grade is doing every subject on the above list. And it is especially important for new homeschoolers of younger children to remember that our schedule was not always this full. We started out with years of 2-3 hour school days and lots of extra time for library and field trips, lots of nature walks and outside play and, most importantly, LOTS of interest-led learning. Enjoy your little ones. Enjoy the slower pace. There is a time and season for a busier, more challenged schedule but the early elementary years is not that season!

So, how did our first week go you ask?

Find out here.

PAYSON ACADEMY

2014 – 2015

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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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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.

back to school

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.

morning

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.

art

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.

math3

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

Joining up with…

The First Snow

Don’t you just LOVE the first snow? It’s always so exciting especially with little ones in the house! This is Eli’s first year comprehending what snow is and Ivy (3) is extra excited this year about this white sparkly stuff.

“Mom, mom, mom…..come quick! There’s white puffy sparkles coming down from the sky!”

Can’t beat that!

Even better, since we homeschool this sort of thing weaves perfectly into our day. I quickly grabbed a few well-chosen books and my camera as they gazed out the window and had an impromptu science lesson for the littles while the older two worked on math and history.

 

 

We read “Why Does It Snow?”  (a Just Ask series) and talked about snow crystals all having six points but each being unique unto itself. We discussed and narrated how snow forms in the clouds and comes to fall here. Next we read “In the Snow: Who’s Been Here?” by Lindsay Barrett George which is a fun little book that takes kids through an exploratory adventure through the snowy woods. Each page has a clue of an animal visiting and then asks the reader to guess which animal it was. I let each child take turns guessing then turning the page to see if they were right.

After that we suited up and headed outside with some dark felt to catch snow crystals. I’m pretty sure more snow was eaten than captured but the thought was there. The snowflakes were too small this time to really see the distinction of crystal patterns and my kids lost all our good magnifying glasses. Still, they had a fun 15 minutes running all their energy off.

Now, lest you think this day was shrouded in warm fuzziness because of these beautiful pictures, (And aren’t they beautiful? Just look at that magnolia bud frosted in snow!) just know that we still had our share of school battles today. I spent over an hour arguing and standing my ground on making a six year old little boy finish a phonics lesson that he could’ve finished in five minutes. It was as if his memory was suddenly erased on everything he’d learned phonics-wise so far this year. And his poor five year old sister was every-so patiently sitting next to us waiting her turn while helping me clean flash cards and did finish her’s in less than five minutes when we finally got to her. So never let the pretty pics fool you into thinking our day was something other than what it was…just a day. Beautiful moments captured between ordinary, trying times! In other words, life!

Other books we’re planning on reading today ~