Judge Not, Less…

 

“So, where do your children go to school?”

If you’ve homeschooled a minute, you’re well aware of the whirlwind of emotions that swirl within you when you respond, “We homeschool.”     The moment in time almost freezes while you wait for that follow-up question, comment, or unsolicited advice.   I read an interesting article not too long ago about the responses of others when you make a decision to homeschool.     Though I like to think that I am past caring what others think–at least in that area, I can remember the days when approval mattered as much as any other homeschooling-related decision we made.   Coming from families of public school educators on both sides, our choice to educate our children at home was not taken lightly–by anyone.

I have often stated that one of the nuances about choosing to homeschool is that you must speak from a place of confidence long before you have it.   Moreover, once you do become confident, or have even feigned confidence long enough, it’s not a far jump to arrogance and/or judgment of others because they don’t homeschool.    I can remember that phase of my own homeschooling journey when I thought people who chose not to homeschool were just missing out.   I became particularly condescending when other parents would state very plainly that they lived in the la-te-da school district, and so they had no reason to homeschool.   Of course, my response was often prompted by a comment like, “Well, if I lived in your district I’d homeschool, too.”    This was the one time that I defended our local public school and its Texas-exemplary status.

To be sure, homeschooling is not for everyone, and we shouldn’t be too upset with those who will say, “Ooo, child, I just don’t have the patience for that,” or something similar.   Our decision to homeschool, for whatever reason, is our decision; it works for our household and family structure.   Returning rudeness with rudeness does not allow us to minister grace.   How do we steer clear of judgment?   How do we acknowledge our choice without belittling someone else’s?

1. Understand our own emotions.    We need to dig into that whirlwind and understand what those emotions are and why they are there.   Years ago, I heard a pastor make a statement that was very powerful for me at a time in my life when I was truly struggling with feeling cast out and rejected.   His comment was that people don’t actually hurt your feelings; they just brush against sensitive areas that you’ve not surrendered to Christ yet.   Wow.   I’d never thought about it that way!   Could it be that the hurt I was feeling was because another person stated aloud some subconscious pain I’d been dealing with all along?   Could it be that someone else’s comment of “How are you going to homeschool your children?” really stings because it’s occurred to you that you might not be able to homeschool?  Acknowledge their concern, regardless of how obnoxious it may be, with something like, “Yeah, that has occurred to me, but…” and then begin to minister in wisdom.

2. Learn the facts.   For you to minister in wisdom, you must grow in wisdom.   There are an overwhelming number of articles that point to the tangible and intangible facts about homeschooled children.   Reading some of this information not only helps you with the sister(s) or MIL who is put out that you think you can do what they were formally educated to do (that’d be me and my house), but knowing some facts will also give you the encouragement you need, especially in those days when the fruits of homeschooling are still germinating.

3. Understand the nature of people.    As sad as it is to say, human nature is to respond negatively to things with which we are unfamiliar.  Every now and then, you might receive genuine curiosity about homeschooling.   Caught on the wrong day, this can be aggravating for me because I don’t always feel like answering the typical questions about reporting, socialization, testing, etc.   But then again, when I’m aware of my own emotions, I recognize my mental fatigue and fight through it–you never know when you might be an angel unaware to another homeschooler-to-be!   Yet, I’m convinced that people sometimes respond negatively because they have little or no experience with homeschooling, and because it is not the status quo–always a source of mild anxiety for some.   When I consequently hear about their friend/ relative/ someone they knew who had a horror story of a homeschool journey, my simple response is, “Oh, well, that’s not been our experience.”

Also realize that we all want the best for our children; some of us just form different opinions about how to get there.   The parents that move to a certain area in order to place their child in a certain public school are doing this for the same reason that you have taken your child out of the public school system altogether.   Allow them the same freedom of choice that you would want for yourself.   

4. Give others–and yourself–time.    You will not slay every dragon that comes in the form of an unsolicited, unwelcomed response all at once.    If we are honest, some of the concerns might be legitimate, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to think about the question and do the homework required to be sure there is not a budding issue.   As a personal example, several years ago, one of my sisters, an English teacher by formal training, questioned our choices for literature, especially poetry.   As one whose love for poetry is still germinating (lol), I could have responded defensively.   But she was right; regardless of my own personal feelings, I owed it to the children to at least expose them to rhythm and rhyme and rhyme scheme and…ugh.     Just last week I was telling her and another sister that our oldest was accepted into the Honors program at our local community college.   And though I’ve homeschooled long enough now until the children’s development is pat on the back enough for me, it felt good to hear the two of them say, “You are doing a great job.”   People may question your methods all day long; what they cannot knock is your fruit.

How do you respond to people’s comments after saying “We’ homeschool”?    Hopefully with all the knowledge that you can muster in the moment, all the wisdom of someone who is ever hoping to improve, and all the grace and mercy of a child of God.   Blessings, dear friends.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19 NJKV)

Current Events:1st Crack

In my last post, I shared my youngest’s desire to add current events to her course work, and, to a larger extent, to emulate her brother and sister.   She’s completed her current events for 2 weeks now, and her results are well worth capturing.    Here is a sample of her summary.

“Stitches of Hope”

 

 

‘There is a 30-foot flag that represents the country of America.   When our American flag got badly torn with holes almost everywhere, but our flag survived.  Seven years later our flag was sent to Greenburg, Kansas.  After a terrible tornado, member[s] of Kansas used flags from around the world to repair a flag from 9/11.   Then, the flag took a vacation and had more Americans help the poor little flag.   Even the local navy sewed the flag.’  

 

Definitely some work to do, but I love a child’s way of figuring life out.   My personal favorite is the flag’s decision to take a vacation–too funny!!

What We’re Reading–March 2011

 

Why would I sit and read individually with kids who already read?

There are numerous reasons, from helping with interpretation and larger vocabulary, to increasing comprehension through the right emphasis and inflection of voice, to monitoring pace and making sure the books are read, not skimmed through.   However, the real reason that, after 7 years of homeschooling, I still spend time reading with each child in addition to reading to them as a group is simple: it is the one academic time period spent one-on-one with each child doing something very non-academic—curling up with a good book and giving each one undivided attention.   

 

After lunch, everyone gathers together for Bible study and a group read-aloud.   My preference would be that this happened first thing in the morning, but the afternoon accommodates for everyone’s internal clock and associated time it takes to get to the table awake and alert.    We’ve wrapped up the book of Proverbs, and the kids are developing their own books of wisdom, based upon an idea in our youngest daughter’s Bible.    I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with by next week.

Our group read-aloud is The Fellowship of the Rings, the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.   We are almost finished with this series, and I am very glad we read the books rather than relying solely on the movies to educate us.   In fact, our kids stated very plainly that they much preferred the books over the movie.    Our son has taken a real interest in author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians fame), even reading the books that Riordan listed as his boyhood favorites.     So it’s been a real treat to introduce him to the origins of many of the modern fantastical writers that he enjoys.    I have to say, though, that unless there’s going to be an unexpected surprise at the end of this tale, Tolkien could have stopped at the destruction of the ring for me (although the marriages were romantic).   I can’t figure out what purpose will be served by all of the restoration to be done to the Shire, but with 20 pages left, I guess we’ll know by next week’s end.   “Learning through History” magazine has a nice tie-in to Tolkien’s work and medieval history that I look forward to sharing with the oldest once we’ve finished.    From here, we’ll make a somewhat stark transition to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

 

The oldest finished Emma recently (a bit out of time sync with medieval history, I know), and we had fun watching “Clueless” and drawing the connection from a 15th century classic to the quirky Alicia Silverstone version we enjoyed.     Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story, and a quick read for both of us.   As it was my first time reading this one, I stayed curious regarding the end all the way through, but I’m thinking I’ll go with The Once and Future King (or maybe use both titles) when our son covers this same period of history.    My plan was to spend our next time together reading novels about Japan and China, but our daughter lost two books!!    Once I could breathe again, we had to make adjustments, and since she and our son had a project associated with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they’ll head there instead.

Again, our son is doing a lot of reading on his own, following the path of one of his favorite authors.   The Flames of Rome moved past the heathenish nature of ancient Rome and into the persecution of Christians—still graphic, but a different eye-gate.     We’re using a “No Fear Shakespeare” version of   Twelfth Night, and will wrap up with a project similar to the oldest’s classic vs. modern themes.     Amanda Bynes’ “She’s the Man” is based upon Twelfth Night, including the names of the main stars and the setting.   The advantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast; the disadvantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast.   He tried to argue his way out of writing his own one-act play—the harder, more creative side of the assignment.   What is this noise about shying away from hard work?   Does he not know that dog won’t hunt in this house?

The youngest and I are falling in love with Old Yeller.    Yeah, I know that for a kid who barely survived parts of Bambi, this probably wasn’t a good move.   Yet, I wanted her– and the others—to hear this moving tale, and as I often say to them, there are so many references to this classic in the stories they watch every day until they needed to be acquainted with the original sources.   In fact, when our son began to argue that he couldn’t possibly come up with an alternate setting for Illyria, we talked about how many renditions of The Prince and the Pauper, or A Christmas Carol, or Cinderella he’s seen on all of those silly sitcoms he likes to watch.  It was a nice try, though.   Because she didn’t get to read through the Chronicles of Narnia with the older two, I had a great idea to begin reading through them with her.   I have not done justice to these great books, skipping days between reading.   I sometimes wonder if she has been able to follow along with the plot of The Horse and His Boy at all.   I’d almost abandon this project until she’s older, but I keep recommitting to daily reading, thinking that she’ll pick it up if I just stay consistent.    Of course, I say that, and I missed reading it today as we quickly approached the time to head to dance practices.    Ugh.

Our time with books isn’t all fun and games.   I’m constantly after the older two to express themselves more fully through the characters.   I’ll stop them in the middle of their reading with an obnoxiously loud yawn and say, “I’m sooooooo boooooorrrrrrred!   Read it again, and this time, entertain me.”    They’re no actors—this I know for sure.    The youngest, a very expressive reader who is a joy to listen to, jumps up from the table quickly.   She knows that once she completes math and reads with me, then there’s a break.    I worry that she’s way too young to have such a negative attitude about school.   But, as I was reading some old notes from a homeschool conference, I came across some notes I took from a Sally Clarkson conference.   She talked about family ways, and how, as mothers, we can show our kids how to respond to life by our own responses.   I later reflected on an older post by Linda Fay, when she talked about why her children read Plutarch, and giving their minds something noble and courageous to feast upon.    This is what I hope the kids will realize in time, and while I wait, I enjoy a smile, a laugh, and even an occasional cry while we uncover increasingly more stories.

Spring Break, with an Eye Looking Forward

We took our spring break with the area public schools this week.   As usual, I had far more planned to do than I could possibly get done—will I ever learn?    Not only was my list aggressive, but it became obvious to me by Wednesday that what I needed most was rest.   With that thought in mind, the highlights of much of my week went something like this:

Saturday—weeding

Sunday—church, grades

Monday—cleaning, hair (youngest daughter)

Tuesday—sewing, cleaning, hair (oldest daughter)

Wednesday—school planning, grades for college kids

Thursday—weeding, grades

Somewhere in there I had a birthday on Wednesday

Friday was a flurry of activities.    We took advantage of a field trip that was postponed during our winter storm, so we packed up and met a local homeschool group for a tour through a water treatment facility.   Afterward, because we were losing our weekend time with a brief out-of-town trip planned, I ran around town like a chicken with its head cut off, replacing car tires and replenishing dance supplies.

By Saturday, I needed a break from my break, and it came in the form of a trip to the beach.   Plan A was to stay two nights, but we’d forgotten what happens to hotel rates in the midst of spring break.    When we had our rude awakening, we chose to make a turnaround trip.   The beach was, nevertheless, very relaxing for me, and great fun for the kids once they got acclimated to the difference of terrain.   Our older two are so funny; it took them a long time to adjust to stepping through LOTS of seaweed to reach the water, then another long while before they actually allowed themselves to adjust to the water temperature.  (“It’s soooooo cold!” they complained.)   By the time they settled down to make sand castles and take walks, it was almost time to head home!

Sunday was a somewhat relaxing trip back home.   I say ‘somewhat’ because we planned to stop off at a mission in Goliad, TX, and the tour wound up being so much more than we expected.   The Alamo gets all the attention in these parts, but I’ve found that the “off -the-beaten-path” types of tours are the ones that pleasantly surprise you, and this mission, Presidio La Bahia, did not disappoint.   Our short stop-over took us almost two hours, and we still did not see the second mission, Espiritu Santu.  Next year, both our girls will cycle back around to early American history studies, and so this was a perfect opportunity to talk about the influence of Spain in the Southwestern United States.

Speaking of next year, it is about that time to consider what about our current plan will be continued/ revisited/ scrapped, etc.   I’m thankful that we’ve hit a groove where we are both comfortable and bearing fruit, so not too much has to be scrapped altogether, but there is always room for improvement.   With only nine weeks left until we begin summer, this is about the time of year that I begin to realize how much was left on the table (or in this case, in my planner), and how we can adjust for the following year to make their experience—and mine–more memorable.

I cannot believe that my baby will be a 3rd grader in the fall!   I worked hard this year to put more elementary school fun into her day, with some hits and misses.   The biggest “miss” is that I fell off the wagon, so to speak, with the plan of doing something special each month with her in mind as the year progressed.   Though we’ve definitely gotten out more, and have even taken a few days off, I still feel as if I could tighten up, or rather, loosen up some more in this area.   She was looking through old photos of the older two in the earliest days of homeschooling and wondering why she doesn’t get to cook as a part of her day.   I tell you, managing the seasons of homeschool has perhaps been my biggest challenge yet.   Anyhow, as I ponder those thoughts, here is what her academic year will probably look like in the fall.   You’ll see with all three children that I’m still contemplating reading lists.

3rd Grade:

English: Rod and Staff Christian English series

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting

History: Early American History with A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources

Math: Horizons Math 2/3

Science: Apologia Zoology 1/ 2

Latin: Prima Latina by Memoria Press

Read-Aloud/ Reading List (Sonlight 3 readers as a possibility)

Our son is the epitome of a homeschooler—chronologically, a public school system would place him in 8th grade in the fall.    Yet, because he’s studied with his sister as much as was possible, he has a couple of courses that he’ll actually take on as a high school freshman.   Of course, he is at 8th grade level in several courses, and because of the extensive Rod and Staff text, he is completing 7th grade English.    He’s our middle/ high schooler (smile).   I haven’t worried too much about it yet, but in the back of my mind, I know that if he keeps on track, he will probably graduate high school earlier than I personally would like him to leave home.   So much to think about and so little time, you know?   Anyway, this is his potential year beginning in the summer/ fall:

8th/9th Grade 

Apologetics: Know What You Believe by Paul Little/ The Deadliest Monster by J.F. Baldwin

Character: Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (second year)

Current Events: Student News Daily and/or World on the Web

Grammar: Rod and Staff Christian English series

History: The Great Books (http://www.thegreatbooks.com) (Year 1)

Latin: Henle by Memoria Press

Logic: How to Read a Book (second year)

Pre-Algebra/ Algebra: Teaching Textbooks

Physical Science: Apologia Science

Read-Aloud/ Reading List:

The  biggest question mark with him is how to take advantage of some of the elective opportunities that are available to him in our area, yet work with the girls as appropriate.   We have an area debate team that I’d love to get him more involved in based upon his interests, but I’ve heard that it is a tremendous workload, and I just don’t know where we’d fit in another item.

Of course, college preparation has been the focus of our oldest daughter’s curriculum.   With the Lord’s help, she will actually get a taste of that season via the dual degree program at our local community church.    She’s actually going through several significant changes in the coming year.   She and I have different opinions about well she is juggling school and her many extracurricular activities.   Let me tell it, her grades are decent, but she’s losing sleep and having to study almost all of the time.   That is not the intention, but since it is the reality, she will cut back drastically on some of her current activities in order to focus on her academics, and on her overall health and well-being.   My prayer is that she’ll be able to complete her English courses at college, but this is what I envision for her during her time at home:

 11th grade

Chemistry: Apologia Science/ Meteorology with Connect the Thoughts (2nd semester)

Current Events: Student News Daily and/or World on the Web

Algebra 2: Teaching Textbooks

History: American Government and Civics

Latin: Henle by Memoria Press

Economics: Sonlight/ Thinkwell (?)

Read-Aloud/ Reading List:

I have in mind what I want to do, but I’m at a quandary as to how to do it with her.   We’ve been using The Great Books curriculum (see link above) to cover the past two years of history, but I thought to focus in more on American Government and Ethics.   Sonlight is normally my go-to curriculum when I don’t quite know how I might craft something myself, but Sonlight’s American Government course is a part of a core program that costs $600!    That is more than I spend on curriculum for all three of our children, and even if the Lord blessed me with a windfall, I wouldn’t spend it that way.    So I’m looking at options—is there a way to buy the IG for Sonlight without buying the whole packaged curriculum, could I modify the Great Books curriculum, and if so , what to use, what else is out there,…

How about you?   What plans/ changes/ anxieties are you facing regarding next year?

P.S.   I am thinking about a Civics program from Connecting the Thoughts, available through Currclick.    Has anyone else used this?

1st Semester Progress Report (pt. 2)

Picking up where I left off, I think the gap filler between where I am with the youngest and where I want to be is a planner.   Lisa(?) Hobar of Mystery of History once described the inverse relationship between time spent with your child and the amount of planning needed.   If you imagine an X with ending arrows pointing in opposite directions, planning would be on one axis, and one-on-one time with your child is on the other.    In other words, the more time you spend with your child, the less you need to plan.   I am almost constantly with our youngest, so I keep my “schedule” in my head.   I’m sure you’re there already, but yes, it makes it real easy to fall off track.    I always justify it by thinking, well, she’s not headed to college on tomorrow, which is true, but it doesn’t help my frustration when we get off track.   So, during the holidays, I’m going to work to get myself more on a real schedule, with everything in my head written down.   I have to admit that it’s funny to be so relaxed with her education; when my older two were her age, I would plan out the entire school year (before I learned better–smile).

Our son continues to perform well, but I pray continuously over heart issues.   Being wildly successful can be as problematic as being a constant failure.   So, we’ve had to work on not procrastinating just because you know that you can finish quickly, not gloating when you finish early, and not complaining or shying away when work becomes challenging.   Truth be told, those are lessons many adults have yet to learn.

He is at the season where we can begin to focus in more on his interests, and, at least for right now, one of his interests seems to be in the area of history and law.   I had the bright idea of enrolling him on a junior debate team at a local homeschool partnership.   Then I recalled another parent’s recollection about debate and the research that is required to do it well—the work for debate took up enough time and energy until she allowed it to replace her daughter’s history and English studies.   Then I thought about the weekly travel for class.   Is this a necessary part of our journey, or a disruption to an otherwise effective curriculum plan?

The oldest, for a variety of reasons, is almost always the last one finished with school.   At this point, I think she accepts it as ‘just the way it is.’   When her brother finishes before her, she stops to double-check that he really is through.   In the motherly tone that only an oldest daughter can deliver, she completes a mental checklist:

“Okay.   You’re done with Pre-Algebra?” Check.

 

“You finished your science?” Check.

 

“You finished your grammar?” Check.

 

“You read to Mom?   Did she read to you?” Check.

Her year is going well, and I believe the days off—whether with field trips or the recent addition of our “reading days”—are paying huge benefits in terms of giving her a space to relax and regroup in the midst of a difficult school year.    She has always had to work harder in math, and I didn’t realize until I watched her persevere how much math is a part of chemistry.    Chemistry was my favorite subject in high school—it’s why I majored in chemical engineering.   Our daughter had a slow start with chemistry, but thankfully she has picked up.  I know that we will not finish the text in one school year, so my thoughts right now are to take 1-1/2 years to complete it, then fill the last semester with one of her favorite sciences, meteorology.  

I have to think much more strategically rather than tactically with her, and I’m also making a point of documenting my work as our son is not far behind her.    She will begin a new season in her education on next school year—college.    Many Texas homeschoolers take advantage of the dual degree programs available through our community college system, and I aim to be no exception.   With college costs rising higher than the rate of inflation, getting an inexpensive head start will benefit us all.   Yet, the questions of what to take, how to position her to succeed and not fail, is she really ready, am I really ready, and so on, weigh heavily on my mind.   It all requires so much prayer, and then quite of bit of shoe leather and patience—patience with administrators, patience with processes, and patience with yourself.   Getting back to the sciences, physics is out there waiting as well, but I’m not sure if we want to do that here, or let her take the physics for non-math majors as a college options.   Decisions, decisions.   I’m so glad the holidays, with the associated break, are approaching; there’ll be more time to fast, to pray, and to get organized.

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.