A Bird’s Eye View of School Year 2011-2012

I cannot believe how fast this summer has gone.   It feels as if we only recently stopped meeting around the table during the afternoons!    Days go by and I look at the practically empty planners that I was so excited about when they arrived on last week; I can’t help but wonder if my hesitation to write anything is more than fatigue after a crazy, busy day.   It’s an odd place to be for me because I love planning for the school year.   Execution is still sometimes hit-and-miss, but thankfully far more hits than misses.

Dawn wrote a very thought-provoking post about her thoughts on her family’s upcoming school year.   As I begin the planning stages–much later than I normally would–her post made me think about where I would want the school year to go directionally.

The oldest’s year looks deceptively simple–college on two days in the mornings, one class in the afternoon afterwards, with no more than 3 major classes per day.   Of course, we will continue our staples of Bible study and reading in the afternoons.   Yet, like most of us when there are few time constraints, her task will be to not stretch a day without many requirements into a 10-hour school day, which she is fully capable of doing.   She wants to continue to be very active in dance while adding another college course to the one she has.    It’s a battle we are having because I want her to adjust to the pace of college courses without adding to her workload with having to attend dance classes each day; she believes she can handle it all.     I want fewer days of going to bed after midnight and waking up tired; she doesn’t see it as a problem.   Ugh.    I am missing the days when, as a smaller child, she would go to bed without discussion about why she needed to be awake a while longer.

This year, she’ll study economics.   I knew I wanted to have a living books approach to this study rather than a textbook, and I settled on Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, based upon suggestions on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum.   Sowell has an integrated approach to economic theory, incorporating historical events and explaining why they occurred in terms of the financial aspect.  This is exactly what I wanted for the concepts behind economics, but I am also having to complete a bit more research for fundamental formulas and activities to seal in the learning.   What I found quickly was that there are a number of resources that teach personal finance and related economic principles, but not too many that teach why economics matter.    Here are a few links that I’m excited about and thought I’d share:

Teaching Economics as If People Mattered


John Stossel’s online videos

PBS Economics Resources

There are several more, and I think that once I put all of this together, I’m going to list it as a Squidoo lens so that I’ll have it where I can refer back, and others can use it if needed.    In the meantime, I am excited about learning about money and other resources in a way that will build upon the values that we have established in our home–loving others as you love self, giving because God gave, and being a good steward of the resources that God gave you to manage.

I have an opportunity to develop, or tweak, a number of my lesson plans in the coming year.   Our son will begin mostly 9th grade courses in the fall, and will begin the same Great Books studies that I’ve worked on with the oldest.   We have used a commonplace book for notebooking our studies for the last year.   This has worked well, but the oldest loves to write.   As the year went on, she got away from other ways of capturing her learning (maps, pictures, etc.) and stuck almost exclusively to response papers.   This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that one missing aspect of her understanding history is putting together an event with what was happening elsewhere around the world during the time.   In reading a post from Barb over at Harmony Art Mom, I saw how I might help our son arrange his work a little differently to get a better picture of history and how various events fit together and affect one another.   Of course, highlighting maps and developing timelines won’t be a problem for him; he truly believes that a picture is worth a thousand words, and unless urged to do more, would gladly copy and post a few scenes from a book to tell his story.   Ever wonder how two children from the same womb can be so different?

I mentioned in a previous post that I slowed down our math studies a bit to give our youngest more time to understand borrowing.   Although our summer lessons have been more sporadic than I would have hoped, she has performed well, and I look forward to getting back on track with her basic studies.   I cannot believe my “baby” is now entering 3rd grade.    I blew the dust off of the first grammar book in the Rod and Staff English series and began thumbing through the pages.   She’s big enough for a textbook(?!), I thought.   She’s also at that stage where I have traditionally begun Latin studies.   I also get to revamp my own elementary history curriculum as I lead her through early American history.   What I want most for her, though, is to give her more exposure to art, poetry, and music–especially the former two areas–than the older two had.    LindaFay does an excellent job of describing how to introduce children to these areas before giving them “hard core” studies at an older age.   If you care to read, those posts are here, here, and here.   By the way, Pandora is an excellent online radio station that you can customize to introduce your children to the works of various composers.

So that’s where we are as a schoolroom right now: helping one transition to the demands of college, helping one step up to the increased expectations of high school, and recognizing that one is a not-so-little girl who loves her creative side.   Lord, help.

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.