So much has happened in the last 1-1/2 weeks and I’m having trouble sorting it into a coherent blog post, but I’ll give it a shot.   Maybe chronological order will help.

We ordered our steps to have a very uneventful Independence Day, turning down a couple of invitations to get together for grilling, formal fireworks displays, etc.   I use the word ‘formal’ because our neighbors put on an informal display that would rival most public facilities.   Seriously.   Though this picture is borrowed from Photobucket, our neighborhood sky looked just like this on both Saturday and Sunday night—for hours. 

The one item we did have on the agenda was to visit my in-laws.   Though my husband is often within minutes of their home while at work, we’d somehow missed several opportunities to exchange Father’s Day greetings, summer birthday presents, recital  well wishes, and just a simple hug and “hello.”   Additionally, our niece had been sick with asthma-related complications during the week, forcing them to share hospital duty with my SIL.   So our planned visit kept getting postponed until we found ourselves at their home for July 4th.     

As a necessary bit of stage setting, getting our families together can be, well, interesting, for lack of a better word.  For the last 10 or more years, the generational torch has been passed from my MIL to my SIL and to us, having purchased larger homes and wanting her to be able to rest and enjoy.   (My MIL, however, still provides the meal at my SIL’s home as the latter does not cook  🙂 ).     My MIL and SIL “roll” very differently than my husband and I, so coordinating can be a bit taxing.  As you know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m a planner; my in-laws are very last minute.   I should also mention that my MIL always has even more irons in the fire than I do.   The result of this is that, whatever time we set, her dishes (as well as her presence) are always later than what we’ve planned.    By the time we sit down to eat, we are probably both rattled over the food temp and taste, and the fellowship (the next source of stress is the time as she and my FIL don’t drive as well at night, so she’s rushing to enjoy all the festivities before the sun sets).    This day was different.    Ours was a very impromptu “we’re coming over for a little bit, don’t cook anything special” type of visit at their home—no need to worry about trying to return home safely after hours.   She did cook something special—a delicious fish soup inspired by the Islands.   I enjoyed it enough to later try my own modified recipe.    We had a great time, and it was lovely to enjoy each other’s company without a lot of fuss and finery.

Dance season is now over.    Our son competed, as a soloist and with his team, and I don’t think we could have asked for better results given the circumstances.     Our son placed 3rd out of 12 soloists, which is amazing for a number of reasons.   First, I think this particular sponsor caters more to girls (and specifically, young girls who can move like adult women).    Secondly, our son has danced as a junior (ages 9-11) for the last school year as he just turned 12 a few weeks ago.    Because of a rule change, he was placed in the teens category (ages 12-14), which meant he was dancing against dancers with far more experience and talent.    I kept waiting to hear his name as they announced 12th place, 11th place, and so on—not to say that we were shooting for last place, but for the reasons I listed above, we all knew what he was up against.   Also, in the defense of the sponsors, at Nationals, each competitor is the one of the best dancers at his or her respective school.    The team also put in an amazing performance, and landed 5th out of 9th with a platinum level (excellence) recognition.    For a team that has secured last place for the last two years, this was tremendous.   Now we await the tryout results for next dance season, but between you and me, I found out that we have two kids competing next year—our son and the oldest.   (Shhh!  She doesn’t yet know!)     I’m just working on my beans and rice recipes—we’ll need that grocery money for more ’pique, pas de bourrée!’

A few shots of our oldest while away at fashion camp:






So where are we now?    Books are coming in, which is always exciting.    I read the Sonlight catalogs where parents talk about “box day”—the day that those books, etc. arrive, and I think there’s something to what they say; there is a sense of exhilaration as that plan begins to take shape and unfold.    I’ve already begun reading through these two before I get into them with our son.   I’m excited, probably more excited than he is, to learn more about the movement of the Gospel.

There are many books on my list, but I am also learning to buy in stages.   I have a couple of purchases to make this week in order to get started, and then we’ll add as money becomes available and need arises.   As one example, I would normally buy Sonlight’s instructor guides and then buy the books used as we go.   However, the truth is that I’ve never used the instructor’s guides as they are meant to be used.   So, cutting where I can, I’ve just bought books and I’ll wing it from there.  That’s right, kids—be afraid.  Be very afraid.

There is much more on my mind, but this week of VBS means that the hubby and I get to spend time alone while the kids enjoy the evenings at church.   One of those nights, though, will be spent at mid-week Bible study, and another will be a hand-in-hand trip to Toys R’ Us to shop for our youngest daughter’s 7th birthday on Saturday.    Being a wife, mother, and wearer of numerous hats in balancing all the many wants and needs of a household requires a special grace from the Lord.   BUT, that sounds like another post.   God bless you.

Planners and planning

Trying to type a new blog post while cleaning up my “blog debris” post-upgrade is like deciding to dust and rearrange the family room furniture while setting out the gallons of new paint.   (Yes, I’ve been there, too).   I’ve spent much of the morning re-categorizing posts that got lumped into my miscellaneous file, “the Candy Jar,” while trying to pen my more recent thoughts.   All of the cleanout, re-arranging, and posting, led to a new page documenting our tentative schedule for the coming year.   I also have a page coming regarding curriculum soon.

It was these planners that I’ve used for the last couple of years that got me started in this vein.   Don’t they just beg you to write something down :-)?

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(I must figure out what is this hairline on my MP-4 player’s camera lens that won’t go away!)

The other catalyst to begin laying out next school year was a re-read of one of my homeschooling bibles, Wise and Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind.    Outside of the Bible, I have several books that I consider my own God-sends in terms of how we approach home education.   Of course, TWTM is listed above.   Here are others:

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer McCauley

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by the Clarksons

 No matter where I am on this journey, the words never get old, and without fail, something leaps off the page with every read.

Interestingly enough this time, while reading Bauer’s work, I had an epiphany about seasons of a homeschooling parent and why different information leaps on the page.    I was intrigued as I opened this book and saw my original highlighting, turned down pages, and underlining.   Why did I write this?    What was so important about that passage?    And then I remembered where I was the first time I read it, and I began to laugh—almost out loud.    You see, the first time I read this, I was intrigued by the classical method after feeling as if Charlotte Mason’s approach was not enough (can you imagine?) to prepare the kids for further studies.    I had not even homeschooled one year.   I felt as if I’d set the kids off on the wrong path, and I was in a rush to correct my error.    I needed more structure than I felt I had, and if there’s one thing that TWTM is full of, it’s structure—3 hrs./ week to do this, 5 hrs./ week to do that, and on and on.    So I highlighted times, hours, schedules, what books to buy, and tons of other details.   Thank God I didn’t actually get to inflict all of this onto the kids (with all due apologies to TWTM purists)—I think this would have been the point of mutiny aboard our ship!   I found myself overwhelmed to the point of paralysis; apparently others experienced the same, prompting the writing of The Well Educated Mind.  (Though I’ve not read it, my understanding is that the latter is written after the realization that the original work is quite intimidating).   But again, because of where I was when I read it, I did what was appropriate for me at the time.

With seven years under my belt, I’m still learning, but I’m also much more confident about what works for our home and our school.    I’m also a Charlotte Mason enthusiast, though not a purist.   Hmmm…that’s worth a minute of my time.   I had yet another epiphany during our long journey home from the not-so-wild west on this past weekend.    It takes time for us to grow into our own homeschooling skin.   After years of angst and frustration, commitment and recommitment, I am finally at peace with the facts that…

I consider ours a Charlotte Mason-styled homeschool, but (gasp!) I use a textbook or two.

I follow a classical schedule, but I am also free of the guilt that the kids don’t memorize anywhere near close to what a classical purist would suggest.

I have yet to teach art or poetry with any sense of assurance or confidence.

(I’d list more, but with several starts and stops, I’ve been writing this post for a number of hours, and it’s time to move on to other things).

So this time when I read The Well-Trained Mind, I reminisced over where I was on the first reading.    I wasn’t focused on the schedules, the exact books, or the nth level of detail.   I found myself focusing instead on the highlights of Ms. Wise’s approach—the way that she educated before she had heard of the term ‘trivium.’   In looking at the cornerstones of how she approached learning—without the technical terms, without the research, but just teaching as she was taught by her “Meme and Uncle Luther,” I saw places where I “got it”:

We teach phonics.   And Latin grammar.    And critical thinking skills.

We memorize—some (scriptures, multiplication tables, American presidents).

We read.   And we read.  And we read.

We write.   (And we write.    And…)

We talk.   (And…)

There are more specifics that make me feel very good about the kid’s progress.    But, ultimately, I’m at peace with who we are, who we’re not, and that no homeschooling policeman will come and declare them uneducated.    Silly of me to ever have thought otherwise.