Responding to what you read

This past summer I was so blessed to attend Heart of the Matter’s online homeschool conference.   I don’t get a dime for saying this, but at a time when we are all looking even harder for the best for less, their conferences are a great deal.    They are very inexpensive (generally under $25), and, given that the whole conference is online, you can attend in your pajamas and all the comforts of home—literally.     There are about four conferences each year, but the homeschool conference generally occurs in early August, right before many of us are beginning a new academic year.   It is well worth the effort.   Also, if you miss a speech that you really wanted to hear, or if you simply want a repeat performance, MP3’s are available soon afterward such that you can relive the moments.    Regardless of where you are in your homeschooling journey, this is a time of gaining knowledge, hearing some practical wisdom, and being encouraged, or renewed, if that’s more appropriate.

I posted earlier about my thoughts on The Well Trained Mind, and stated at the time that I planned to read The Well Educated Mind.   Since then, I have read the book, but I also had the privilege of hearing Susan Wise Bauer at the August conference.    She details all that she covered in The Well Educated Mind, but I was especially intrigued by her thoughts on educating your children to respond to reading.    Of course, this is a transition as children grow, and for our older two, it’s been an interesting shift to watch them make.

For years, we’ve enjoyed notebooking.   As recently as two years ago, the kids created these beautiful written narrations of their history studies.   We’ve used Notebookingpages.com, and their stories and pictures rose to the occasion on decorated cardstock.  

 

I actually bought Hold That Thought’s advanced history pages for their high school studies, but because of how we’re moving through history at this point, that CD will go largely unused.    Given a choice, they decided upon notebook paper rather than the pre-printed notebook pages; according to them, the regular notebook paper gave them more freedom to create in their own way.   They are creating commonplace books to capture their thoughts.  Their work now looks more like this:

 

 The words their thoughts are a mouthful—not a summary, not an answer to a pre-scripted question, not even something that I said, but their thoughts.   It begins with a simple question:

 

How did you feel about what you read?

 

I’ll be the first to admit that this question might be waaaaaaaayy over the heads of most pre-teens and teens.   My oldest struggled most of her freshman year with why she had to write something other than a summary.   “If I like writing summaries, what’s wrong with that?”   Because I couldn’t readily articulate why she needed to make the transition, I’d back off, then I’d come back for a second press.    I just knew instinctively that she needed to do something more than regurgitate what she read.    So, with more reading, more research, and a willingness to be a bit more hands-on, I now have an answer, and we press on.   Besides, I’m learning that she’s more tactile in nature than to ask her how words make her feel.    She’ll stand flat-footed and tell you she didn’t “feel” anything, with a look that says, “So, do I still have to do the assignment?”  (smile)    With all of that in mind, I will post in her planner the following thought starters:

If I wrote this book, ____________________ (a character in the book) would…

I wish the author would ____________________…

Other thoughts for generating responses to  reading are here.   In fact, each child has a copy of it, though usage varies.    After a few weeks of giving the oldest the lead-in, she began to come downstairs in the morning and say, “Here’s what I’m going to write about today.”    Here were her thoughts, mistakes and all, regarding how the ancient Greeks viewed hell as opposed to our post-modern view of what happens when we die:

In our world, we believe that hell is a place where non-believers go after they die.   To us, living in hell is complete torture, because you’d be burning eternally in fiery pits with no relief.   But in the Aeneid, they believed that everyone goes to the “underworld,” no matter how young they are.   In their heads, some people there live broken, in sadness and despair, while others live well with games, feasts, dances and fun.   Some underworld-dwellers were even supposed to be going back to earth as heroes.   This just goes to show that people thought very differently back then.

 

Our son, like his mother, spends quite a bit of time with his thoughts.   Consequently, this concept of writing what he feels has seemingly come to him more easily.   He noted this response to his study of God in Know What You Believe:

The Trinity is a very hard concept to discuss.  The Bible never actually mentions the Trinity.  But it does mention the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Many people refer to the Trinity as individual people.   They are three different parts of God.   The Father is the head, but everyone has a job and purpose.

The Father, the fount of Deity, originates.

The Son, eternally begotten of the Father, reveals.

The Spirit, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son, executes.

 

Of course, the icing on a great cake, given the written responses, is the possibility of discussion following, and I get to learn and re-learn in the course of completing it all.   The place of women in ancient history, the misuse of power in the early church, the correct way to handle conflicts, how did people stay awake to listen to Homer–we’ve covered it all.    I’m truly blessed that the kids can engage in an intellectual discussion, but can still have fun and be quite silly when our day is done.    Thank God that I have some environmental control such that the silliness, and moreso the desire for it in what they watch and read (as Miss Mason calls it, “twaddle”) , doesn’t squelch their pursuit of wisdom.   May the Lord bless your efforts as well.

Great Reading, Good Times

Several years ago, I read a post from one of the most inspirational bloggers I know, Linda Fay, who writes so practically about how to “do” a homeschool with a Charlotte Mason approach.    In this particular pearl of wisdom, she used a food metaphor to illustrate the difference between a Charlotte Mason homeschool full of living books versus an environment with workbooks aplenty.    The living books approach, in her analogy, was like serving a bowl of rich stew with fresh baked bread; the workbooks, then, were the equivalent of starvation-like rations and water.     I remember confessing that, at the time, I was somewhere in the middle—fish and a salad was my position on this culinary continuum.       

I’m curious: how much time do you spend reading to your children?   I’ve seen so many guidelines as to how much time is ideal, but I also know that many homeschooling parents have to operate within what is practical.    Earlier in our homeschooling years, I can remember hearing an “expert” state, with a confidence that was intimidating for us mere mortals, what she felt was appropriate in terms of reading to children.   “I want you reading to your children for at least one hour,” she says.    I thought this was totally unrealistic for a mom with my responsibilities.    In fact, as an aside, I’ll confess that when our oldest was entering school (pre-homeschooling), I was so fascinated by her mastery of the computer until I all but forgot the value of a good book!      Fast-forwarding a few years, this same question surfaced in a homeschool group to which I belong that focuses in on high school-aged children who are college-bound.    The responses were similarly intimidating.    One mom stated that she gives her child a list of 100 books going into freshman year with the expectation that they will be finished by the time of graduation.  

Experience has taught me that there are sometimes very valid reasons for workbooks, so I certainly don’t knock anyone’s choice to use them.   In truth, the oldest would probably love the opportunity to fill in blanks and insert whatever is appropriate to create a page that is flawless in appearance; she’s my “perfect Paula,” in Cathy Duffy terms.    And yes, I’m still in fish and salad position, or maybe a fish (soup) stew, but largely by choice, not by ignorance.     I’ve found that, as the years go on, there is no better opportunity to learn than with the seeds planted by rich, living books.   So each day, I make a point to sit down with each of the kids one-on-one and read a few pages together.   TwaddleMeNot, with her beautiful little girls (and brand-new son) speaks of having snuggle time with her preschoolers.    I’ve found that bigger ones need time, too, even if it looks a bit different.    (It’s hard to snuggle with people that are even bigger than you).   We also have one or two books that we read as a group; this becomes the fodder for narration Over the last couple of months, in the midst of all the peaks and valleys that make homeschool what it is, we’ve had some experiences worth capturing, and I thought I’d post them here.

I talked a while ago about my perspective on The Wheel on the School, a book that the youngest and I shared.     Without totally spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that it took approximately 250 pages of a slightly-over-300-page book to actually get the wheel on the school.    I won’t even talk about the task of getting the storks on the wheel.    BUT, in the end, it truly was a delightful tale of the power of a community coming together to reach a common goal.   The moral?   Everyone adds value, and a body of wisdom—even the smallest children—and the task cannot be completed without each person’s willingness to connect or to hold back, and to be sensitive as to when to do either.

Now we’re on to The Secret Garden, a classic that moves quite a bit faster.    I couldn’t get my oldest to get interested in this one, although she and her brother enjoyed the movie.    The youngest, however, wants to punch the main character for her impertinence, and almost waits to see how contrary Mary will be on a given day.    I, on the other hand, recognize as a parent that noooooobody took the time to raise Mary, much less love and nurture her ; she is the product of what those around her have failed to do.   I have to wonder, though, are mistreatment and neglect of children the theme of every English classic deemed worthy of a place on a child’s reading list?   Classic or not, I would no more expose my child to a wealth of these books than I would expose them to a wealth of what’s currently considered appropriate children’s television—broken homes, immature dads, exhausted moms, obnoxious kids.    And that’s only the sitcoms that promote “traditional family values.”      From The Water Babies, to The Secret Garden, The Tale of Despereaux, Oliver TwistUnderstood Betsy—geesh!

Speaking of movies, I was thrilled that the older two watched LOTR: The Fellowship of the Rings for the first time, and actually confessed that they liked the book much better.   They refuse to watch The Two Towers (and won’t let me watch it, either!) until we finish the book we’re reading now.   We’re getting there, but I’m in no hurry; I suspect the movie might be a little bit scary for me with the increased presence of Gollum.    My own “Gollum voice” is creepy enough—I cannot imagine staring at that face for more than two hours.   Of course, just when I was so pleased and proud of my ability to make my voice slither like a creature sliding down the wall, Gollum becomes Smeagol, more mousy and high-pitched.     With my deeper tones (I’ve been told often that I sound like a female DJ), I’m struggling with making my voice squeaky.

Our son is loving Treasure Island, and my treasure is that I get to watch him enjoy a true “boy’s book,” (at least in my mind).    At the Heart of the Matter Online’s recent conference, Susan Wise Bauer suggested to never give a child an assignment based upon a book that the child truly enjoyed, and her thoughts are making more sense to me as I listen to him; a project at this point would squelch his enthusiasm.     Incidentally, she also spoke of book reports having little value for a child’s long-term educational process.   So, was my whole elementary school experience a wash?   I’m just saying.

My oldest is quirky.   As much as she gets on my nerves, I’m sure I’ll miss her terribly when she moves on.   Today she was away from us taking the PSAT—for practice this time.  She spent the morning at a public school for the first time ever.    I prayed much of the morning in order to combat my anxiety; what will I do when she leaves?   The time with her grows more precious to me as the days go by.     Just tonight—at 9 p.m., mind you, while we’re finishing the day’s reading, she was telling me what books her other high school/ homeschool friends are reading.     We talked about different classics, or the lack thereof, after we finished the Aeneid.    Thank God that Virgil writes in a much more straightforward manner than Homer, with far fewer extended metaphors that detract from the main story.   What I’m most pleased about, however, after a dubious beginning of the higher grade studies, is that she is finally buying into her education, and getting excited about what she is learning.   You know something else?   She might not read 100 books in four years, but when I actually backed up like David and took a census, her four-year count will be between 70-80.    Quality counts for so much more than quality, but you could do a lot worse on a high school reading list than 80 classics.

Is every day a walk through literature heaven?   Certainly not.   In fact, this post is a composite of the year this far—it’s been too long since I’ve participated in the weekly homeschool meme.   We may not have rich stew and warm, fresh-baked bread, but there’s thick fish soup here.     Great things are happening over good books, and I’m so thankful.  May God continue to bless you with good times, too.

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up, August 22, 2010

   

  

 It’s weekly wrap-up time!   If you want to join in, we’d love to see what is going on with you, so please visit Mary.    The post that has been in me for close to three weeks has finally decided to come out.    Ready for some serious rambling? 

 

 From where I sat this past week, 

As an individual, I… 

am ever mindful of how life gives you the opportunity to revisit your thinking and really solidify where you are in some areas.   I shared months ago after my brief in-home survey that our homeschool is as elementary school-unfriendly as it is high school-friendly.     I spent some time over the summer planning field trips, etc., to make sure that our youngest gets to have fun and enjoy all that school can be rather than look upon it as a drudgery.    Then I reconsidered an opportunity that we took great advantage of in our earlier homeschooling years, but have since all but abandoned: homeschooling groups. 

I think it was the opening line of the intro of a group that I was invited to join that struck me.  The words were that ‘it is imperative that we socialize…’    Hearkening to the feel of hairs on the back of my neck standing up, I meditated on that one for a while.   Imperative…is it really?    In reading it, I immediately thought of the general group make-up: parents who are relatively new to homeschooling with young children.     But there is a not-so-subtle arrogance in thinking that way, as if I have mastered the science and art of homeschooling and know how to do it the “right way.”    The Lord knows how many times I’ve bumped my head against a wall on all things homeschooling, so I took a more humble approach to thinking about this. 

I think that groups can and do have a place within the homeschooling community, and the ladies I met when we began homeschooling are probably a significant reason as to why we continued to homeschool when life might have dictated otherwise.    I am also a huge fan of an extended support system.    In truth, it’s one of the reasons I remain at HSB rather than switch over to a more popular blogging platform—here, there is community, which is exactly what groups attempt to do.     Coming from a family (on both sides) of public school educators, we needed to see success stories such that we could defend our position long before we had success stories of our own.   Having said that, what I’ve come to appreciate much more in the years we’ve journeyed this road is what homeschooling has done for our family.    I’ve said before that anyone who sticks with homeschooling long enough finds that it is the home that is the operative part of that compound word; schooling is simply one arm of many as what is happening in the home manifests itself.     

I love the fact that our kids are each other’s best friends.  Yes, they fight, and yes, they are sometimes self-absorbed, but at the end of the day, our teen can hang out with the youngest; our pre-teen can enjoy playing with his sisters—one who is three years older, one who is five years younger.    As they enjoyed the premiere of  “Camp Rock 2: the Final Jam” the other night, I couldn’t help but smile as the kids laughed and talked together, then got on each other’s nerves, then laughed some more over store-bought pizza and a movie.    When I hear other families talk about the issues that exist among siblings, I know that God is doing something special here, and I believe that homeschooling has a lot to do with that. 

More than liking (on most days) to be with each other, our kids also still like to be around us.    At an age when most teens and pre-teens find their parents embarrassing, or at minimum, uncool, our kids actually enjoy having us as an active part of their lives.   As just one example, the dance center hosts two Parent Watch Weeks during the year.   This is the one time that parents can come into the class room and watch their children rather than take in the class from the limited view of a wall window.    In the older kids’ classes, we are often the only parents who attend.    The students consider it humiliating to have their moms and dads come to watch them dance.   Our children get upset if for any reason one of us cannot be there! 

Several years ago, a more seasoned homeschooling mom shared with me that if there was one thing she’d focus more on during her homeschooling years, it would be to keep her children’s hearts at home.   I don’t think that she meant it such that your kids would literally never want to leave home; I took it to mean that my best work might be to teach our children to cherish family, and to hold dear what is within these four walls.    I know that is counter-culture to what is popular, but I have come to see true wisdom in it over the years. 

As a related digression, not too long ago I was wearing an old t-shirt from our church’s women’s retreat.    Our youngest asked me what is a retreat, and after hearing my explanation, she concluded that retreats were bad.   “Family comes first, and most important is the Lord,” she said.   Sure, her logic could use some work, but I think she hit upon the essence of what we’re trying to create here, with the Lord’s help.   

Could a group do any of that for us?   Not at all.   But it took really thinking through this aspect of what we do and why for me to understand why that intro statement, and the accompanying statements describing the group, for me to decide how we might fit, if at all, into this group.   So the long and short of it is that we joined the group for the sole purpose of seeing the calendar, and if a field trip or two coincides with something we’re doing, we’ll join in.    Otherwise, we will continue to move in the 5-person unit that has worked so well for us in the past years. 

As a wife and homemaker, I… 

am enjoying this season of being able to focus on home and setting of an environment.   Charlotte Mason speaks of education as being an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.    This has been my year to focus in on the atmosphere, it seems.    We’ve always made excellent use of the produce market in town, but starting a new garden has really heightened my awareness of ministry through just basic care of those around you.    It doesn’t help that our not-so-little son is growing peach fuzz over his top lip, or that the oldest has a chronic cough that seems to be aggravated by milk.   I keep remembering all the new data surrounding homogenized milk, early development, and mucous production—oh, my!    I still have a lot to learn and to do in this area, but life is affording me the opportunity to step back and look at how I manage the household in its totality, and then make the necessary adjustments to make it even more of a home. 

This isn’t solely about cooking; it is also about teaching our oldest the value of modesty as her sewing proficiencies take off and she wants to purchase her own patterns.   It is about talking to our children about our values, and about ministering to them regarding what the Lord expects of them. 

One of the challenges I have is that there are at least three distinctly different diets in our home, and without careful planning, meal preparation can soak up a huge part of my day.     So I’m trying to look at having a common food that we all can enjoy, and then build around it.   In most cases, this is a starchy food because no one complains.    Labor Day’s staple was homemade oven fries.   This picture is from allrecipes.com, since my cell phone shot didn’t do justice to my hard work. 

   

  

   

Our vegetarian son added vegetables to the fries and enjoyed them thoroughly; for the oldest, chicken nuggets complimented the fries.    The youngest, my hubby and I had burgers with the fries, and vegetables (different veggies than our son).    More importantly, Mom didn’t have to stay in the kitchen and make three distinct meals.    I felt so good about that until I tried it again tonight.   When everyone returned from the first night of dance, I started with bread—for sandwiches, that is.   The two older kids enjoyed pita pockets stuffed with pepperoni and cheese (vegetarian pepperoni for our son—HA HA!)    The youngest, the hubby and I enjoyed burgers left over from yesterday, and the most work I had to do was to chop fruit.    I could get used to this.   I’ve already thought through tomorrow’s staple—either corn or pasta.

 

As a mom and homeschooling parent, I…

am loving the year we’re having thus far.   As I’ve mentioned before, the oldest has her routine in semi-order (smile), so I am focusing on our son and the youngest.   I’ve made a point of having one field trip per month with her in mind.   We’re revisiting all of those standard homeschooling trips that every Texan takes, but our last stop through was when the youngest was in a carrier.   It’s hilarious to me that everyone in the house is excited about these “kiddy” trips, regardless of age; I guess the idea of getting out is appealing to all three kids, no matter where we go.    In the meantime, the youngest is getting more in touch with her imagination, and thankfully, her curriculum comes in with a fun project or two on occasion.    Here’s the result of a phonics lesson on how to follow directions.

 

  

 

Our son and I are having the discussions that I dreamed of when I put together their curriculum.   He began reading Treasure Island today, and launched into a conversation regarding the unique rhyme scheme of the poem.    He then discovered that the movie Treasure Planet is a takeoff of this classic, and he was curious regarding the comparison of the two.   Later, as our daughter read the Aeneid, he stuck close by to help us with the Roman equivalent of the various Greek gods (Juno is Hera, Neptune is Poseidon, etc.).   Wow.   I’m already thinking about how to modify the high school curriculum to adjust for books that he’s already heard because of his interests.

As I mentioned, the oldest and I are reading the Aeneid after enjoying “Julius Caesar” together.   The Aeneid’s language is much more simplistic than Homer’s works, and I am always thrilled when we are able to come at a period of history in more than one way.   So this evening, the oldest read from Antony and Cleopatra, and the youngest did her best to educate her sister on Egyptian mummification processes, which she notebooked and completed a science project on a month or so ago.   Earlier during the day, our son covered a brief history on Augustine, a North African bishop, and the oldest used this moment to talk about the city of Carthage, a city that was critical to the telling of both Augustine and Aeneus’ tale.     It’s one of those neat places in learning where everything you cover just seems to meld into everything else, and it’s the handiwork of the master curriculum planner—our God almighty.

As a business owner, I…

have unintentionally extended the summer sale by not doing maintenance on the site—YIKES!   Seriously, though, I was blessed to be a blessing, and it feels good to offer this sale price to a few customers who may have just found me.

I started on the high school curriculum and am at a bit of a quandary as to how to marry the ideas in my head into something that looks doable and meaningful on paper.  It will come.   In the meantime, I continue to work on a couple or three other writing projects that are not business-related, but I like to believe that when I am faithful to the work of the Lord and the inspiration of my husband, the Lord will honor me for it.

My Word count is now at 5 pages, with 2000+ words.  Geesh!!!!! This is probably 2-3 posts worth of rambling, but it’s out, and I can move forward.    May the Lord bless your week as well.

A Day in our Lives

 

I’ve been trying to pen a “Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up” for a couple of weeks now, but my mind hasn’t been able to compartmentalize enough to make the various sections sound  like something other than garble.    I think some part of the problem is that everyone except me had some variation of a cold on last week.    Being the only well person in the house is a challenge unto itself; although the kids fought mightily to complete their work each day, I felt as if I was teaching three children through a dense fog cover.    I was a hot-tea-making, supervising-the-hot-bath-taking machine, and so time with my thoughts was a rarity.    Time with my thoughts and a pen was all but out of the question.

Given that my wrap-ups went MIA, I thought to pen my heart during this season where many moms are beginning to homeschool for the first time, needing hugs, encouragement, and votes of confidence.    Nada.    So, what to write about?  The bit of progress that I’m most excited about is the ability to school with a now 13-week-old puppy and boast of a reasonably smooth day.   So until those other thoughts formulate into something that wouldn’t be too embarrassing to share, I’ll go with a straightforward day-in-the-life post.    They never get old.

I’ve been getting up about an hour before the kids, allowing me to catch up on mail, do any remaining pre-school (as in before school since I no longer have preschoolers anymore) activities, and primarily, getting breakfast together.   By this time, my husband has served the puppy her morning meal, she and our older dog have barked at all the kids on the way to the bus stop, and she is back in her cage until I come downstairs.   Hubby’s left for work by this time.

Once the kids are downstairs, I work with our youngest.   Right now, at least, I can count on the puppy for an extended morning nap.   If it happens before we begin school, I follow the “normal” order: I read to her, then she reads to me, then math and phonics before her first break.   If the nap is yet to come, we postpone my reading to her until the puppy is napping.    Reordering my day around the puppy allows me to be most flexible when she is most active—kind of like a toddler, you know?   Anyway, with the latter order, I’m standing and moving around, if necessary, while the puppy is active.   There are days when the youngest will actually want to read with the puppies in the backyard.    She is my one “outdoorsy” child who likes to get out when the weather allows.

As an aside, we’re 233 pages into The Wheel on the School.    The wheel finally made it onto the school.

 The youngest is on a break at this point, and I get some quick chores completed—folding of clothes, cleaning breakfast dishes,  preparing fruit for mid-morning snack, etc.    Then it’s one-on-one time with our son, reading to one another.    He wrapping up William Carey, a “Christian Heroes: Then and Now” biography from last year’s studies, and I’m covering The Story of Christianity.   We also share our notes from logic (How to Read a Book), apologetics (Know What You Believe), and/or character (Ourselves), dependent upon the day (see our homeschool schedule).

Our youngest comes back to the table.   Most of the time, the puppy is still asleep!    We read some more (These Happy Golden Years) while she works on handwriting.   Then she completes grammar, history, and/or science, again, according to the schedule.

By now it’s lunch time.   I piddle between chores and work, and oh, yeah—I eat.  

After lunch, we all join around the table for Bible.   We continue the journey through the Psalms.   Today we covered Psalms 125-126, and talked about the Israelites returning to their home after being exiled for 70 years.    In the midst of all that they must have been feeling, there was one thing that remained: God was still their protection and the restorer of all that was taken from them.    Wow.  I wish I could have brought the energy and sense of awesomeness to the lesson that the passage deserved.   We are also memorizing the 34th Psalm.

Following our Bible study, the youngest runs off to play while the older two and I enjoy the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.    By the way, the puppy’s awake by now, and I usually put her outside so that I can read in peace.    After we’ve completed LOTR, I let her back in and have the youngest and/or our son watch her while the oldest and I work together.   The oldest is wrapping up Antony and Cleopatra from last year (that abbreviated summer break is wreaking a small amount of havoc on our schedule!), and we’ve just begun Virgil’s Aeneid together.   She’s not looking forward to what she’s read is a continuation of Homer’s Iliad. “Why can’t they just play ‘paper, scissors, rock’ instead of all this fighting?” she says, laughing.

Minus any leftover work from the morning to complete, or preparation for the days ahead, the school day is over.    For me, it’s a solid 8-9 hours of work between kids, lunch, and chores.   Then there’s work, and whatever projects are happening.    The puppy is also very “puppy-ish” by now until about 9 p.m. when she settles for the night.

Well, those are our days.   At least until next week when dance season begins.    Oi, vei!

Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop, Week 3: Class pictures

 

As I mentioned previously, our son has been a “beast” with science experiments, so every class picture would look  like this.   He’s loving it, thankfully.

The oldest doesn’t like to be photographed, thinking that someone might see her in her robe, or note that her hair has a string out of place.   I, however, realize that these days are becoming shorter and shorter, so I force a picture now and then.    I think I have a jump on my “homeschooling her through the years post.”

 

All the kids are a joy, but I love the unabashedness of a little one, who has no qualms about looking a bit silly.    Here she is, our school’s fairy:

 

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up–August 8, 2010

 

 

 

It’s weekly wrap-up time!   If you want to join in, we’d love to see what is going on with you, so please visit Mary.    I was so excited about re-joining this meme again, and I’ve run out of time to tell the story I’d want to as I’ve ‘miles to go before I sleep…’

From where I sat this past week,

As an individual, I…

waited until the end of our summer to begin the reading I had planned to begin in May.   Right before the summer ended, I had an “ah-ha” moment when it occurred to me that, rather than talk about The Well Educated Mind, why not see if the local library had it?   As the kids say, duh!    I’ll post my reflections later; there are simply too many to include here.    Much of the content is an extension of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, focusing on the process of reading more than what to read.    Unlike Adler, whose book serves a different purpose, it is broken down into how to read various genres of literature (poems, history, plays, etc.) in the logic, grammar, and rhetoric stages.    As I said, I’m still allowing all the lessons to meld and marinate.   Stay tuned for some serious rambling…

As a wife and homemaker, I…

am pleased and surprised at how the household has been fairly straight amidst of all that has transpired in the week since we’ve brought the puppy.   Perspective has helped me tremendously.   In preparing to work with the oldest on life skills training, as I’d describe it (an extended home economics course), I’ve continued to skim through Cheryl Mendolson’s Home Comforts.   I’ve blogged about this author before here and here, but it’s worth reiterating that I do love the concept of cleaning a home for more than just bragging over a museum-like appearance.    Focusing less on every single thing being in its place, and instead striving for warmth, homey-ness, and livability (is that a word?) has actually caused the neatness to come in as a by-product.    Of course, I write that as I stare at three loads of clothes that need folding, but as I find my rhythm, there will be a window for that, too.    So far, I’m learning that if I get past the initial reading with the youngest and get her started on math and phonics (in a dawdle-free zone, that is—see below), I can fold clothes as she completes her work.    That also gives me freedom to clean up breakfast dishes, or, as of late, to also watch the puppy.

 

As a mom and homeschooling parent, I…

am enjoying reading with Julius Caesar with the oldest, and I find it intriguing that this story really isn’t about Caesar at all!    Honestly, does anyone else go back to school when their kids begin?  (smile)    Note to self: next time, student plays Brutus.   In the meantime, I can’t figure out if I’m more excited that the story is unfolding quickly or that I planned five weeks for this book, and it will only take us two to complete the reading.    I also ask the same question of my oldest, who commented at the end of last week, “All this happened in one day?” 

I compiled the obligatory high school transcript this year, and it’s really made me think about the whole grading/ evaluative process in a new way.    I started to think in this vein during the summer when we got back this year’s standardized test results.   It is difficult to not look at numbers for more than what they are, when the truth is that they tell so little about who a child really is.   What is a grade, anyway?    It says nothing  Moreover, I wonder how much of my own attitude has rubbed off on the children.    We got the results in the mail and then took off for a drive somewhere, so I was reading the highlights aloud, primarily for my husband’s benefit.   I worked hard to focus on the many areas where the children were well above their peers in scoring.   Yet, the children wanted to see their own results.   Immediately came the comparison of the overall grade equivalent scores, where our son proudly boasted that his score was slightly higher than his older sister’s, who is 3 years his senior and two years ahead academically.    The question I still don’t have an answer to is, do you celebrate with one or try not to de-motivate the other?  It’s as hard a line as any tightrope, but I attempted to walk it.    Something tells me I’ll walk it again as everyone progresses during the year.

Our son is my primary focal point this year.   For several valid reasons (at least at the time they were valid), he’s been able to slide under the radar for the last couple of years as I concentrated on the girls. This year, the oldest is well settled into her routine, and the youngest, my second focal point, is coming along nicely, based on our work during the summer.    He is now a 7th/8th grader—a year that is more critical than I originally recognized in terms of transitioning our gang to the year when things begin to “count,” so to speak, on a different level.

The youngest is faring well, but if experience is indeed the best teacher, then I’m on the verge of harvesting another dawdler.   There are some behaviors that I’m having to get ahead of, like all sorts of unrelated side conversations and “just let me run do this…” type of interruptions that slow our day way down.   I notice it happens most during math.   I thought that, given my love for the subject, I’d at least have one child that enjoyed math.    Well, there’s still time.

When she’s on point, however, she’s very desirous of the older kids’ studies.    Right now, she is Cassius and Calphurnia during our reading of Julius Caesar.    I loved it when she proudly told her dad, “Dad, I’m part of Character!”   (She didn’t know the subject, but she was happy to jump in and be of help).

As a business owner, I…

am winding down the summer sale with only about three weeks left.   I praise God for great writing ideas that I’m beginning to detail, and I am thankful for each of my customers.   I know these are tough times for many, and to see people that are 1) still committed to the cause of home education, in spite of the sacrifices, and 2) wanting my work to be a part of their educational process is a blessing, and I’m thankful.

I also opened a Facebook account with the hope of expanding my business and personal network.   Am I the last person on planet Earth to utilize Facebook, I’m wondering?   Anyway, I’m praying about how to use it strategically; I really don’t need one more thing to keep me on the computer, so any online venture I take on needs a clear purpose and a tangible end result rather than something else to distract me from God’s purpose and plan.

May the Lord bless your week as well.

The busiest summer–(until next year)

Unless the Lord says differently, this has been/ will be our summer:

Weeks 1 and 2: preparation for this year’s dance recital

Week 3:  oldest in class for PSAT review

Week 4 (this week): oldest away at camp

Week 5:  oldest in class for PSAT review, part II

 Week 6: son at National Dance competition

Week 7: VBS

Week 8:         (can you believe it?—nothing to do!!)

Week 9:  begin school(?)

There are at least two aspects of this schedule that have become my latest musings.   The first is pondering how, every summer, I make a declaration that we are just going to rest, and every summer, we are busier than the summer before.   I wonder if I stated, “This summer, we’re going to be busier than ever!” would we actually have nothing to do?    I might try that next spring.   Right now, however, what this schedule means is that we will potentially have only one “do nothing” week, which also happens to contain my husband’s birthday, before school would start.   I intentionally wanted to start earlier this year because my goal is to finish school early enough to get outside in late April/ early May before it gets too hot.   The older two weren’t totally in agreement with this, but then again, they’re not the ones that do the lion’s share of weeding, mulching, and watering during the blazing heat.   Now I’m not sure if my plan will work.    Rest is important to academics, too, and we’ve not had much of it as far as I can tell.    

The other realization I’ve had, as we left the oldest waaaaaayyy out west yesterday, is that this is the first time we’ve been apart from any of the children for an extended period of time.    On the bittersweet ride back home yesterday, past endless windmills and mesquite trees, I thought about a family favorite of ours, Disney’s “College Road Trip” (Martin Lawrence, Raven Symone.)   

At the end of the movie, as Raven’s character waves goodbye from behind the opened door of her dormitory, her parents fight back tears, and memories of childhood past flash through their minds as they return a final wave—for a while.   Were we experiencing a glimpse of what we’ll go through in a couple more years?    I think so.     And though she politely ushered us out of the door so that she could begin her week as a semi-grown up, she missed us, too.    During our 10-hour drive back, she texted twice, then called twice, saying the latter time, “Would you like me to talk you until you get home?”   (We were 5 hours away from our driveway at the time).     I couldn’t help but laugh at how irritated she gets when little brother and sister make an unannounced visit into her room, and yet, what does she do with her first opportunity to be alone?   She calls home, and talks with little sister.   Priceless.

When I’m not playing taxi cab/ head cheerleader for all these efforts, I have had a little time to think about next school year, and to even make a decision or two (smile).    The oldest had asked about learning home management skills—how to cook, complete the laundry cycle, etc.     I began to try and formalize this into a Home Economics course on last year, but it never materialized.    It probably won’t happen this year, either, at least not in a formal sense.   We will pull in some Dave Ramsey and/or Larry Burkett materials on personal finances, but I think that, for the most part, we’ll learn to manage a home by managing our home.   The biggest dilemma I’m having in this area is how to teach cooking to someone who doesn’t eat.      So much of good cooking is about intuition and instinct regarding taste, flavor, and pleasurable textures on the tongue.  Based on my own childhood experiences, I’ve had to fight the demons that cause food to be so much more than food—it was comfort, it was companionship, and it was love.  For our oldest, food is what food should be—sustenance to allow her to get on with the priorities of her day.    For that and a couple of other reasons, her diet is fairly restrictive; how do I turn her into a cook?    What I’ve thought about doing so far is to work with the things she likes and make sure she can prepare those;  artistry will come with time.

Otherwise, I’ve been gathering books and book ideas, and pulling projects into the kids’ studies for next school year.   It’s shaping into another fun learning time (at least, I think so.)    I’m also in thought/ prayer about joining a homeschool group again—not for the sake of the group, but for the sake of our youngest daughter, who needs to get out, and to do something different than what she currently does.    Of course, this could happen in a myriad of ways, and that’s the part that I’m prayerful about;  a homeschool group is not a homeschool group is not a homeschool group, and I am definitely not decided that we need some of the more negative aspects of a group in the effort to have more play days and field trips.   Somewhere in the midst of all this busy-ness I will have to carve out some thinking/ praying/ meditating time.   So much needs to be more carefully thought through than I have time to do right now, but I plow along.

I suppose frustration would be an easy space to crawl into right now, but I make the conscious effort to be thankful.    So, in the midst of all of this, I’m thankful that…

1)      We had resources to do all the items listed above

2)      Where resources looked limited, God provided abundantly (I’m still speaking that)

3)      Dad has been able to travel with us, and has worked from home on several days this summer

4)      We spent a safe and fun Father’s Day on the road, and returned safely on yesterday (also speaking that trip #2 will be the same or better)

5)      Today I will sleep as much as I want to (Hallelujah!)

6)      I saw the one corner of Texas that I’d not seen before

7)      I was asked to take on some additional work that won’t require too much time

8)      Our okra is growing like crazy

9)      With dance season over (for the most part), we can attend mid-week service

10)   Next dance season, class times were adjusted such that we can continue to attend mid-week services

11)   Whatever happens over this summer, busy or not, we serve a great God.

That’s a very small, non-exhaustive list.   Hope you feel the same way when you jot yours down.