Sunday, October 27, 2013

These are a Few of my Favorite Things ...

Sometimes I get discouraged, I feel like nothing is going right. What is frustrating is I may not have a specific issue I can ask my friends (local or online) about. What I need is a new outlook. I might also need to eat a satisfying meal, have a nap, or just give myself some grace. But before I can do those things, I have to address my attitude & outlook.

The first place to go is the Psalms. I memorized Psalm 1 last summer, and it has been a blessing to me. Reading the Psalms is a great way to get my head and heart back on the straight path.

But sometimes I crave more specific advise for my life as a homeschooling mom. I'm not worried about enemies bashing down my gates, I'm tired of trying to get kids to complete work in a timely manner, frustrated because my 5th grader suddenly forgot what 8-3 is, and pulled by the magical lure of program X which will cure all your ills and wash the dishes. Again, nothing I need help with - I know the answers. Don't over schedule, work beside the kids, be patient, and beware of hype. I just need to find internal peace, and focus on the important things. These are my favorite blog posts for that, and I hope they will help you as well.

  • Cindy Rollins on Homeschooling the Freeborn. Do I want my children to have the education of a slave (focused on conformity and practicality) or of a free person (focused on truth and ideas for contemplation).
  • Andrew Kern on Playing with the Puppies. Play with math, play with words, play with science - don't force definitions down the child's throat when they aren't ready and don't even care.
  • Linda Fay on Ten Habits of a Happy Homeschool. Our habits lay the tracks for our lives. How many things are done without thought? Are those automatic actions helping us? Going into the holidays this particular area is my current focus.
  • Colette Longo on Ten Ways to Simplify Homeschooling. This is one of the first posts that inspired me as a homeschooler. I was getting my feet wet and oh my, all the options. And I'm a book lover - I like shiny new words. Thankfully this post, my belief that small children should play a lot, and my small budget helped me to stay balanced.
  • Andrew Kern on Teaching from a Place of Rest (post from Sarah which includes a video interview). Another post from Cindy. Andrew has also talked about this at the Well Trained Mind forum in the infamous Circe thread, called "The Thread". It's very long. You've been warned. But this is the thread that answered my unasked questions. And it covers much more than a state of rest.
  • Sarah on Over-thinking Homeschool Methods. While I'm moving pretty solidly into the Charlotte Mason camp, I am so guilty of over-thinking. Oh, we need to learn math - which method, which program, spiral or mastery, hands-on or mental, etc. Look, it's time to start Latin - immersion or grammar based, whole lessons or half pace, should we supplement with A, B or both, etc. I would (and sometimes still do though I try not to) research things to death. I started with the world and sifting through everything, rather than starting from my principles, limitations and our personalities then ONLY looking at what fit into those constraints.
  • Brandy Vencel on Troubleshooting with Charlotte Mason. She simplifies this so beautifully, and so respectfully. And you can just pick it up, insert the current issue - even if it's very vague, and come up with some steps to take.
  • Auntie Leila on Order and Wonder (or what curriculum to use). I wish she would adopt me. Scroll down on the side bar for posts on where to start on your home, if that's part of the problem. (Raising my hand here!)
While I love the advice in the trenches from other homeschool moms, I especially prize the advice of those who have led the way and graduated children while remaining sane. :) So I read widely from Cindy Rollins and Auntie Leila. I always come away revived and ready to face my challenges with a smile.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Adjustments

We are currently working on week #6, nearly half a term down! There are always adjustments, plans have to change to fit reality. Other than formatting the boys' schedules (which will have to be another post), the adjustments so far have been fairly minor.

All the changes this year stem from one thing: independence. I need the boys to be as independent as possible. School cannot depend 100% on me. After much prodding from family, I've started to publish my books written during NaNoWriMo. So I'm moving to being a WAHM, and we've had to shift our schooling style a bit.

Without further ado, here are the losers (and replacement contenders) so far:
  • (Week 5) MEP math has been replaced by the review books from Math Mammoth (eldest two), and if MM continues to work I'll purchase the yellow/green series for them. My youngest will be returning to Miquon, I really think he needs the hands-on, manipulative approach. I feel so guilty about MEP, I'm always saying how great it is (which is still true). But the week we didn't do MEP dramatically shortened our school days, everyone was more relaxed, no one was waiting for me, and I was less stressed as a result. MEP, I love you, and you are a great program. I've learned a lot. But with three school-aged kids I just can't do it. I'm also planning to use these simple daily review sheets, since Math Mammoth is mastery based. Oh, for the teaching aspect I have the Kitchen Table Math books.
  • (Week 5) Van Loon's "Story of Mankind" for my eldest. There's just too much and I don't have time to help with background. My own education in world history is sorely lacking. He'll finish up "This Country of Ours" this term covering American history to the 1900s (he is doing a combo year 5/6).  I'd already planned to do modern biographies for terms 2 and 3: Beatrix Potter and Winston Churchill  I think that he and I will read "Story of the World Volume 4" by Susan Wise Bauer during those terms. So he won't miss any world history, it will just be delayed a bit.
  • (Week 3) Serl's Intermediate Language Lessons has been replaced by KISS Grammar. I will probably add in some more writing: Nano's Young Writer Program, letters to grandparents (and other ideas inspired by the Brave Writer Lifestyle), perhaps some progymnasmata modelled after descriptions by Brandy at Afterthoughts. And more written narrations. KISS Grammar is free, printable and fairly independent. With Serl I either needed to be there, or to spend more money to buy the workbook style PDF (which would have forced the boys to write a lot more).
  • (Week 2/3) Spell to Write and Read has been dropped [again]. It's good, and it has helped me as a teacher. But I don't have time, even combining the oldest two boys. Which really just makes them goofier and doesn't save much time. I think all the other homeschool moms who combine kids must be better disciplinarians than I am. Or they have a few kids that are calm. Youngest son will be following the Charlotte Mason reading lessons outlined by a wonderful blogger and the elder two will be doing studied dictation starting with Simply Spelling* (elder) and Delightful Dictation (younger). 
Other changes: I am adding a little bit of Greek with Bluedorn's Hupogrammon  starting next week. The older boys will alternate Greek with Spanish (The Fun Spanish). We do some Spanish as a group, and their Spanish curriculum lends itself to an every-other-day format, so I think this schedule will work out well. I am also using "Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children" with my 7yo. I abandoned it before because there was too much writing - more than I think Charlotte used (she kept a brisk pace of 1-2 letters a lesson). But I've decided not to worry about doing every line. I've planned to go through the basic alphabet covering about 4 letters a week, focusing on quality work.

And we can't forget the winners! In alphabetical order:
  • Ambleside Online - boys are in years 2, 4 and a 5/6 combo. So many lovely books!
  • BRIEM Italic Handwriting - my elder two boys are doing the remedial copywork sheets featuring Alice in Wonderland, and they seem to be making progress. Next term they will use the book CM recommended: A New Handwriting and (hopefully) a Commonplace Book.
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. While we haven't been as consistent as I'd like, due to me assigning lessons to certain weeks we've done better than usual. How's that for a positive spin!! I need a system to note which lessons were missed so we can do them on break weeks. And I've had to let go of perfection on this book, and just do our best. It's all about wonder and exploration.
  • Countryside Rambles - We've read the first two sections of "autumn" and I'm enjoying it. It's helped me see the beauty of fall that I would otherwise miss in my dread of winter.
  • SALSA Spanish - love the videos, but need to work on the activities more. We are trying to push Spanish hard before we go South again this winter to camp -- we hope to use a bit of Spanish down there.
  • Visual Latin. LOVE!!! 
  • Wee Folk Art Preschool reading list. My daughter loves the books, and I love that they are generally found at my library. The books are so good I am trying to think of an excuse to start buying them. Is it too soon to purchase them for possible future grandchildren?
Going forward, I want to work on our group time. This is very important to me, but it seems to be forgotten or pushed aside. I love it when we sing together, I love reading the Bible with all the kids together. I'm hoping to habitualize our mornings and do Morning Time more consistently. I'd also like to start having an afternoon Tea Time, and I'm considering putting my 9 year old in charge of that. (He loves having hot cocoa or lemonade, snacks and poetry, and he actually pays attention to little details like what time it is!)

There are always adjustments. They've taught me to over-plan less, and I actually look forward to the changes.

* Simply Spelling is difficult to find online, but can be had by emailing the author. You can email her shoelacebooks AT for information.