9 Ways to Rest and Restore

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would have the courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents…” Charlotte Mason, The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason

 

Restoration is not just about us; we may be quite comfortable with ourselves and our methods of educating our children. Yet, we sometimes need restoration so that we can restore life and energy to what is around us. Think about it: attitude is a reflection of leadership. Are those “younger mirrors“ in your home reflecting what you want to see?   Your homeschool might be anything but restful right now, but read on and maybe store this one for later!  Blessings!!

What’s New? From Our Point of View…

It is a beautifully sunny, 74-degree day here in coastal Texas, and with the oldest at college and our son at the dentist, the youngest decided to school outside.   Funny, this was my vision when we first began homeschooling—days outside on a picnic blanket, completing schoolwork and viewing exotic animals.   (You can stop laughing now).   The vision sounded wonderful, and the outdoor school day sounded delightful until it met with my own plans and realities.   I had a fairly simple morning plan to complete a few chores and write a blog entry while the youngest worked beside me at the table.   So, it shames me to say that when she initially approached me about going outside, I sent her out and continued with my plans.   I felt bad, so when she came back inside the first time, I said, “Let me just do ____ and I’ll come out with you.”     I got that pot of vegetarian chili to a point where it could just simmer, started that load of clothes, and then pulled up a chair alongside her in the backyard.   That’s when I realized that even 74 degrees—in full sun—is still just plain hot.    After reading for a spell, we both gave in to what became our heart’s deepest longing–air conditioning.

One of our struggles this year has been sustaining her with a deliberate diet of rich literature versus twaddle, in Charlotte Mason vernacular.   Our youngest, with all the extroversion that missed our older two, wanted to start a book club this past year.   She had almost completed all the planning, complete with convincing Mom that this was a good thing, when our local library announced its plans to have a book club.    I thought this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, and we hurriedly signed up to be a part of their event.   Now I wish that I had stuck with the original plan to have our own club.   The selection of books that the librarians offer—yuck!!!      I would love to simply pull her from the club, but I’m torn by the fact that she likes being a part of the group, she enjoys the time and activities, and—here’s the kicker—she likes the books.  They are much easier reading, for sure, but based upon what I consider to be a “good” book, i.e., a story that engages the mind and pricks the heart, the book club’s selections are way past poor.   The longer I allow this, of course, the more difficult it is to interest the youngest in books that demand more of her.   Consequently, I’ve not pulled her yet from the club, but have been instead picking my teachable moments.   As an example, we are now reading The Whipping Boy, which is actually very easy to read—a short book with short chapters.   Upon reading chapter 1, she immediately stopped to whine empathetically when she realized what was the whipping boy’s  responsibility (to receive the punishment that should have been given to a spoiled brat excuse for a prince).    While she was sharing how badly she felt for the boy, I talked about the power of a good read and recalled that she’d never stopped to empathize with Vordak the Incomprehensible.   She still maintains that Vordak is the best book ever (heavy sigh).

While I ponder what to do about the book club, I am excited about the cursive handwriting curriculum from LightHome Publications I found on Currclick.  Can you say $6??!!   This looks awesome!!  A chance to share the Word of God, to practice cursive handwriting, and to create a lasting keepsake of the Word in Psalms!!  Can’t beat it with a stick!!

After years of, ahem, uncertainty, shall we say, about homeschooling my MIL blessed us with an entire high school biology curriculum—teacher’s guides, transparencies, DVDs, videos,… everything!   I have been thrilled with all the extra project ideas that have come with the text that really cater to how we like to learn.   The publisher of this not-so-dry text has actually partnered with Dinah Zike (foldables guru, author of The Big Book of Books) to include manipulatives to enhance the content!!  Given Dinah Zike’s popularity within the homeschool community, I couldn’t help but think this was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.

Our school this year is a gentle foreshadowing of the next 2-3 years to come as the oldest spends a significant amount of time away from us.   Her classes keep her away on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the extracurricular activities associated with the Honors Program, plus the time to complete her coursework actually occupy her throughout a good portion of her week.   My dh and I were just discussing today that even though she wasn’t the noisiest of our children, her presence, or lack thereof, is definitely felt if not heard.    Her high school courses this year include Algebra II, Physics, and World Geography.    Other than that, I’m the taxi cab driver!

During the summer, Knowledge Quest distributed what I assume was a preview of their Globalmania curriculum, but it was PERFECT (yes, I’m shouting) for what I wanted to do with World Geography.     There is enough of a guide-like feel to this .pdf file without it being too prescriptive.   I played the games that help with map memorization and, in completing them myself to get a feel on what the oldest would do, I determined that my geography needs serious work.  No wonder I almost failed this class in middle school ( LOL)!!  There is also a schedule that, again without being too prescriptive, suggests how to spend time learning a specific continental region.    What I have added (because without the additions the curriculum might be more elementary) is the idea of research of the continents to find out more about the history and culture, and the idea of understanding a major religion in that region and how you might evangelize with respect to what the people believe.    Finally, when I taught World Geography at our local homeschool store, that particular curriculum set a goal for a student to draw a world map from memory by the end of the course.   I so loved the students’ results that I incorporated this same goal for the oldest.   I’m enjoying watching her get started, and her illustrations of how much she is learning.

 

 

I am so glad, in spite of the fact that American Lit at the college level has her permanently attached to a Norton’s Anthology, that we made the decision to add in as many living books as we could to complement her studies.    She decided early on that audio books would best help her keep up with everything.    This was easily accomplished with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, but we’ve been reading aloud Homer Hickam’s October Sky together.   The latter book has been a welcomed accompaniment to her Physics studies, and I’m so glad that I didn’t place too much stock into the warning that this coming-of-age story had potentially inappropriate subject matter.  Yes, he’s a love-struck teenage boy who is learning, unsuccessfully, how to be suave with the ladies (picture Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies’ Man”), but what far overshadows those moments is this book’s ability to take you through Coalwood, WV with such imagery until you feel as if you stepped back 40 years and are standing alongside one of the “rocket boys.”    We even resisted the urge to watch the movie.  (Was it just a coincidence that it came on television while we were reading?   Hmmm….)   After Jules Verne, I’m on the hunt for what might our next great geography-related find: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.   If I could just find the audio book for something less than $27…

 

What’s new with your studies?   I’d love to “hear” about all those cool and creative homeschool  studies.

 

Senior Year: Rigorous or Relaxed?

There is an amusing wall photo traveling the Facebook circuit right now regarding homeschools.   

You’ve probably seen it, but the bottom line, so to speak, of the photo is that what actually happens in most homeschools is very different than the perception of outsiders–the neighbors, the government, public school friends, professional teachers, etc.    Indeed, I talked in an earlier post about that impending moment when your homeschool environment must somehow conform itself into what the outside world (read college admissions offices, in our case) wants to see.     If your child is college-bound, those final four years must somehow fit into the format that is friendly for those who’ll decide if your seemingly avant-garde methodologies measure up to their standards.   There is another side of this equation, however: what happens when the educational requirements in your home actually exceed what is  required by a college?

My husband and I were having this conversation on the way back from a recent family mini-vacation.   With hours in the car, I chose to catch up on some neglected reading materials, including the oldest’s college information packages from all of her recent tours.    As I began to read through the required courses at the high school level, that light bulb that you see in cartoons was suddenly waaaaaaaay bright: after this academic year, she’s finished with most of the requirements!

Before I could settle into that moment of elation mixed with relief, I began to seriously ponder what this revelation meant to us in the coming school year.   Should I continue in a more rigorous path, or should I just teach/ plan for someone else to teach those few remaining classes that must be taught, and then allow a whole lot of “masterly inactivity,” as Charlotte Mason calls it?

Our daughter has personal and professional interests that are almost polar opposites of the direction I chose at her age.   Yet, she also has “closet” interests that are more similar to mine, so I’ve stuck to a fairly rigorous academic plan for her: much focus on writing, reading Western classics and great literature from around the world, exploring various areas of science, and making sure she conceptually understood math as opposed to mastering drill sheets.    We’ve been very strategic about her college courses and why we chose this path, when to take what class, and making sure that her choices of class aligned well with her interests.   Our goal, in part, was for her to have a good introductory experience to the pace and the many possiblities of college.   But now, I sit in the midst of a dilemma.    Dependent upon where our daughter applies for college entrance, all she needs to take to complete her required courses is 1 year of English.   That’s it!  I also have planned a World Geography course.   Otherwise, she can spend her time completing some of the courses required for college, she can get more involved in volunteerism or dance assistance/ instruction, she could potentially work–the world is her oyster!

Not coincidentally (as least I think so) during that extended ride, I also thumbed through one of my favorite homeschool “how-tos” and found this jewel:

‘If you ask a secular educator about learning theory, he would likely describe learning as a mental process centered on the child’s material brain, and measured by the retention of discreet facts and information.    He would emphasize the role of the teacher and the acquisition of knowledge…As a Christian home educator with a biblical view of education, …you would describe learning as a personal process involving both your child’s heart…and mind, and measured by wisdom, understanding and knowledge of truth...You would be more concerned with your child’s understanting of important ideas and concepts, than with the accumulation of discreet knowledge.   Your child is not just a soulless brain that needs to be filled up with facts by a teacher, but a person in relationship with you and God, who has eternal value, dignity and purpose because he or she is made in the image and likeness of their Creator.’

Sally Clarkson, Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, pg. 43

As a brief digression, I think every homeschooling parent needs to periodically go back to the old landmark, so to speak, and remind himself/ herself why they began this journey in the first place.   The trip back didn’t disappoint.   I needed to remember that this journey wasn’t, and isn’t, about cramming every moment with books and notebooks.   It is about pouring into the children, and then sealing upon their hearts and minds a confidence in knowing as well as a thirst for growing.     On that same page, Ms. Clarkson continues:

‘A child is not educated just because he’s logged enough time in classrooms, or performed well on certain tests, or completed a formal curriculum.  In God’s economy, to be “educated” is not a matter of something you know or have achieved.   Rather, to be educated is something you become.   A truly educated child is one who has the desire and the ability to learn and to grow.   The desire to learn (will) is from the heart; the ability to learn (skill) is in the mind.’

It is possible to do both–rigor and relaxation.   The question is not rigorous or relaxed, but instead, how to combine the two to give her one final, memorable experience of being at home, learning and loving with those who will miss her dearly.   Blessings, dear friends.

5 Considerations when a Homeschool Schedule is Just Paper

Blessed are the flexible, for they’ll never be bent out of shape.  

At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

I pride myself on spending gargantuan amounts of time each summer planning our school days–selecting curriculum, thinking through a workable schedule, ordering my own workload in order to take advantage of peaks and valleys in each child’s day, etc.   Although we have a problem with consistent interruptions (hubby’s travel schedule, which sometimes means a midday trip to the car rental agency or the airport, forgetting that one household item needed for a science project, our days have flowed seamlessly for the last several years–until this year.

Though by a homeschooler’s definition, I don’t have a big family, I am at a point where the age split between siblings means that I have one who is slowly, in baby steps, leaving our home, and one who is just beginning to settle into a “big girl” routine.   Our son is somewhere in between, thankfully flourishing in his ability to work independently.   Add to that my single parent-like state while hubby’s often on the road, and you have what I consider to be a mess.

Here is our daily schedule as it has been for this semester:

~ 8-ish:  Wake up the oldest (the kids insist on using “their” bathroom, so oldest wakes up son once she leaves the bathroom at ~8:45-9–she really enjoys the bathroom)

~9-ish:   older kids are downstairs for breakfast while I finish tie-ing up loose ends (including computer time)

~9:30:    I wake up the youngest

~9:30-1 p.m., Tues., Thurs., and Fri.:   the kids are somewhere between breakfast and school work, with the youngest taking a break after a couple of subjects

~11:45-2 p.m., Mon. and Weds.:   taking the oldest to college, plus travel time.

~1 p.m. (or after returning home) – 4 p.m.: lunch and school

On paper, we look great.   The problem is, more often than I care to admit, we aren’t finished at four; we just have to quit in order for the kids to meet their evening commitments–mostly dance commitments.   This leaves us reading often at 9 p.m. or later, after the kids have returned home and debriefed about their class, who was in it, what they did, what everyone said, blah, blah, blah.   The funny part of this debrief is that, at least with my older two, they are in the same classes, with one exception!   To hear them, you’d think they went to two separate studios!

There is value in nighttime reading.   Sally Clarkson of I Take Joy and my homeschooling “bible,”  Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, lists as a part of her schedule having a family time to read both during the day and in the evenings.   When I began homeschooling with a 3rd grader and a kindergartner, we read in the evenings as an integral part of our day.   It kept, and still keeps, the kids from running toward the television.   However, now the reading feels more like a chore, or a bullet to check off on a to-do list.   Not the content of the reading, mind you, but the act of getting everyone to put aside their other activities, momentarily stop all the discussions that seem so critical at the time, and focus in on a book seems like a Herculean effort on all parts.   Of course, the fact that I’m generally winding down at this hour (mentally, if not physically) doesn’t help, and I’m sure my attitude passes down through the kids when it’s time to gather together at night.

What to do?   The part of me that is inflexible in terms of school and requirements (laid down primarily by moi, of course) has to step aside and let a less structured sister take over.   Ugh.   

Here are some thoughts that have crossed my mind as I navigate these waters:

1) Pray.   Always pray, in this case about priorities (who says I need to do all of this “stuff,” and if not this stuff, what stuff am I supposed to do right now?).   Philippians 4:6 is one passage that shows us the appropriate attitude to have as we seek answers from the Father.   If the worst of my home education issues is that I cannot juggle well a daughter who is between home and college, a husband who’s working (albeit far away), and the other assignments God has given me, I am blessed. 

2) Re-evaluate my pockets of free time.  Free time looks very different now than it looked even last semester, and that’s a part of the frustration.   Just as I developed a flow, the semester line-up changed, and now the oldest doesn’t have to be in class until 12 noon–too late to forego school altogether, but early enough that it disrupts the flow of the day, especially for the youngest.   But when I looked at it, Mondays and Thursdays are great days for grading, and I will perhaps change the schedule of the youngest as well so that I don’t return home with that 2:30 p.m. feeling and still have half the day left with her, plus reading to/ with the older two.

 3) Re-frame my thinking about reading at night.   As I said, this isn’t so bad, especially right now while I have little or no class load.   In keeping with #1 listed above, who is to say that these adjustments aren’t happening so that I can get back to where we started several years ago?   As I stated earlier, reading with them is a time of coziness and family intimacy for us, and for the youngest, time away from plugged-in recreation, and away from some of the mischief that increasingly finds her idle hands.

4)  Get the kids informed and involved.   After sharing my concern with the family during our prayer time, the kids came up with a couple of good ideas.  Listening to them helped me realize how much I needed their understanding and buy-in to make the necessary adjustments.   As one example of the shape of things to come, I will speak/ be a vendor at 3 conferences in April.  Add travel time to that, and we are basically here two days of any given week.   I loved hearing them say that we should take off in April and then school in June.  

5) Seek the wisdom of those who’ve been there, done that,and now own the t-shirt.   My blog buddy Dawn is a very special mom to some very special kids.   From her posts, I gather she spends as much time schooling at the doctors’ offices as she perhaps does at home.   I was able to draw from that, and now we pack books and school while waiting for the oldest, either in the car or at the nearby city library.   It was the wisdom of a couple of friends who’ve learned to go with the flow of life rather than attempt to swim upstream (as I do) that made me think about taking an extended spring break to meet travel demands and use the summer to educate, when it’s too hot to be outdoors anyway.   I really stopped to take in the moment when the kids suggested it.   It wasn’t too long ago when I suggested such a schedule and the kids balked vehemently at the thought that they’d be “trapped” inside when their public school peers were free to roam.   I guess we’re all growing up.