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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Things to be thankful for…deer legs and eggs

My son came home with a deer leg the other day. This momma about had a heart attack. He was so proud as he handed over this body part with exposed joint bone and clotted blood.

“Can we keep it, mom?” eyes big as saucers he wanted to know as the others crowded around in awe. And it was awe-inspiring in the grotesque sort of way. Here we are studying the human body and here before us is a live, first hand speciman. Okay, maybe not human but body part none the less!

And my other son before that had come home with eggs he found at the place where our yard ends and the forest begins. “Can we have a baby chick, mom?” Turkey? Too small, I think. Yet abandoned by mother so no son, no chickies.

“Can we eat it, mom?” Having no idea how fresh, or not, these eggs were I wasn’t going to risk it. But oh how beautiful they were and even this morning, Turkey Day, as I literally see turkeys in our front lawn, I think how lucky we are to be here amidst all this.

What memories will sink deep down from this season of life? I long to capture all on film…deer hooves, mystery eggs, kids chasing turkey amid bikes and toys.

Thank you, God, for your many blessings pouring out to our family this year. You are a God of splendor, majesty, intricacy, and details. You amaze me daily. All I have to do is look around me and I am instantly immersed in Your miracles!

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:15

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!!!

Fall Break ~ Spookables and Other Such Halloweeny Things!

Maybe it is because it is my husband’s favorite holiday. Maybe it is because fall birthday anticipation is ramping up. Maybe it is the irresistible draw of beautiful autumn leaves. But fall and Halloween is almost as big as Christmas around here…almost! The kids have been caterpillar hunting, jumping in leaves, making scarecrows, dressing spoooooooky just for the fun of it, watching scary movies, reading Halloweeny books, and eating favorite fun fall foods. Here is a smorgasboard of pics to feast on.

What happens when you let a little girl spend her allowance on anything she wants? She buys vampire blood. Add to that a little of mommy’s eyeliner pencil and you’ve got fresh new Frankensteins. This book has been Lily’s favorite read over fall break. Who knew my little girl would like such a classic, yet dark story? Hmmm…she must take after her dad!

We’ve been having some fun with food around here. PB & J is standard fare. How to make it interesting? Pumpkin cookie cutters and a little carving work. The kids loved it! Feel free to steal this one!

Schoolish things? Always! But on their own time and in their own way.

Picture Books being read:

Chapter Books being read:

Movies being watched:


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Sew Simple Owl Softies and Mommy Time

Lily's owl softie.

This week I made the kids a promise. A week of undevoted mommy time. Each kid picked a number and that was their special day with mom. After breakfast and chores they would have my undivided time until lunch to play with them how they chose. They spent the past couple of weeks pouring over ideas of what to choose and constantly reminding me of when their day was. No backing out of this promise! The Lord has been working this onto my heart for some time now. I had to cancel social dates, put my own work aside, and just be with the kids.

Day 1 ~ Luc (5) took me caterpillar hunting (in the rain) and we played with grandma’s special toys that are normally put up in the closet. We read lots of Mercer Mayer stories and drank hot cocoa with marshmellows.

Day 2 ~ Lilah (4) had a tea party with me. She dressed up in her fanciest princess outfit, picked out my outfit for me, picked out ribbons for our hair and makeup for our face. We looked fabulous in blue sparkly eye shadow! She picked out a pretty lace floral tablecloth and the good china tea cups and tea pot and some princess books, soothing music, and nail polish. We had chai tea with pumpkin bread. We painted nails and read princess stories while they were drying.

Day 3 ~ Lily (8) decided to have craft time with me. She poured over my pinterest boards and found just the craft she wanted to do…this adorable owl softie. She used her imagination and picked out materials she found in the house. She used her budding sewing skills to cut out the pattern, stuff the owl body, and sew the wings. Mommy sewed the body and the other parts to the body. I must say, it turned out quite adorable and she so loves it!

Day 4 ~ Gabe (almost 10) will be choosing to have me mend a hole in one of his favorite stuffed animals (something I’ve been promising but haven’t had the time to get to) and play Monopoly with me. He is very excited for his day tomorrow!

Day 5 ~ Ivy (2) will have the last day with me and said she wants to play Dora and read books. She will be pretty easy. For her, just sitting next to mommy is enough!

This has been a huge success for the week. I had to pray daily that the Lord would help me lay aside my other work and allow me to emotionally deal with my house being a wreck for a week for the sake of my children. The children have enjoyed it so much, as have I, that I think we will continue the tradition and use the first week of every school break as this special mommy time before I start any other projects, cleaning, or planning for the next school quarter.

Today we read Owl Babies to go along with Lily’s new owl friend. I forgot how much I love this book. I fell in love with it on a trip to Vail years ago and immediately bought it and set it aside for the this same daughter who was then in my stomach growing. I read this book the same way every time. It is not Owl Mother but rather Owl Momma. And we do not say baby owls we say owl babies. And when we are wishing we do not simply make a single wish but rather we wish and wish and wish and wish. There is comfort in the way mom reads a story. I hope they remember that as they are reading it to their little ones someday and realizing that it isn’t quite how mom read it.

 

Linking with ~

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Fall Break ~ Caterpillars and Remembering 9/11

We’ve been on fall break around here. For me that entails LOTS of extra cleaning and organizing around the house. (Have you noticed it’s been kind of quiet around here?) For the kids it has entailed caterpillars. You may remember our post about our monarch caterpillars? Well, after several died due to Tachinid fly parasites, only one survived and turned into that beautiful Monarch butterfly.

It was a poignant moment. The morning of 9/11 we had read several stories dealing with the tragedy. The kids decided to make their own drawings based on the illustrations of Andrea Patel in On That Day While processing tragedy through art, our caterpillar died and broke free as a creature new, transformed, and utterly beautiful and full of hope. It was a glorious analogy for the hope that came out of that day for the still living. I’d show you a picture (I took beautiful ones of the butterfly with the kids while they were drawing) but, somehow, those pictures got accidentally deleted before I had a chance to post.

Since then, fall has dried the meadow grasses and we have had a caterpillar bonanza as woolly bears are flocking to the warmth of the concrete street. Everyday my kids are caterpillar hunting and coming home with hundreds of soft little fuzzies. And if you think I am exaggerating, proof is in the pictures. EVER DAY they hunt, EVERY DAY buckets and cups and bowls (even shoes) fill our porch with soft little pets to play with. I never knew there could be so many in one area! I think it is beginning to drive my husband crazy. Every night he dumps them out to escape to the wild or be eaten by birds and every night he finds more bucketfuls to empty. I love it. My kids are outside enjoying fresh air, playing, using imagination, and NOT playing video games. (I literally had to ban them the first week of fall break to even get them out the door.)

For more 9/11 inspiration (never too early to plan for next year…or pin it to visually remember), visit Elizabeth Foss at In The Heart of the Home.

~ 9/11 Stories for Kids ~

On That Day: A Book of Hope For Children

Fireboat

The Day America Cried

America Is Under Attack: The Day the Towers Fell

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

New York’s Bravest

I Was Born on 9/11

September 11 2001: A Simple Account for Children

The Little Chapel That Stood

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Roommates

Meet our new roommates….

Squirmy and Fred, our monarch caterpillars

and Dooky (don’t ask!), our salt marsh caterpillar.

I was so excited to finally find some Monarch caterpillars. So looking forward to the exquisite jade green and gold chrysalis they make. By far my favorite caterpillar to keep and feed! Thank you, God, for the abundant amount of milkweed in our backyard fields! Monarch’s food of choice.

Gabe informed me that he thinks the cute furry gray guy is a salt marsh caterpillar (cousin to the woolly bear but non-banded). Good to know.  Can’t wait to find out!

This is our third year keeping caterpillars and it has turned into a tradition that I quite look forward to in August ~ September!

Think we shall be reading this during the school week ~

Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way

 

 

Less Screen Time

So I have in my head this great weekly wrap up on the rocks and minerals unit study we are doing right now. (Sorry, you’ll have to check back next week! 😉 But instead I spent much more time doing this…

and this…

and much less time on my computer.

Life is good!

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