Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mulling Over Choices

As our school year settles in I find myself mulling over my choices for the school year.  Is our Language Arts curriculum fulfilling its purpose so far?  Does math make sense to all of us?  Do we have enough reading time?  Am I squeezing in enough history/science/geography?  Naturally, all this leads to; is my system for lesson plans working?   

I wrote about this some in my Methods To Madness post in August.  Because this is a new way of doing things (for me) I am probably overly critical about its functionality.  As a busy mom of 4 coupling typical life with Missions work, I don't like anything that wastes time and makes life more complicated! 

So here I sit, early this week, contemplating.  Does it really work?

Then I realized.... sick days, un-expected errands come up, some projects take longer than expected, and a whole plethora of interjections into our schedule will re-set our course.  The list method I am using is perfect for this and we have already been reaping the benefits! 

A teacher's planner would be nice but, for us, it is unrealistic to keep up with.  My list method allows us to pick up where we left off if something comes up.  It is especially handy when life's curve balls aren't all day, but half day.  Teacher planners set up the schedule based on a full day.  If we get the morning's activities done with the afternoon toasted up by something unexpected, I don't have to look spit-spot through a planner to find what is missing.

There are pros and cons to my system.  As a form of problem solving and tweaking it, I would like to build my next blog around that! 

As for today... I am excited to reveal my yahoo groups feature!  In my Methods to Madness article I offer to share my planner pages but I had trouble finding a (free) platform that could support unlimited file sharing.  I am part of a few Yahoo Groups and actually enjoy them!  It is FREE to get a yahoo address (if you don't already have one for collecting junk mail in!) and you can link the group to your main email address THROUGH yahoo... so you still don't need to log into more than one email account.  To sign up for my group just send a message to  Once you are registered, you will have access to all of the files that I upload for file sharing.  My first two were uploaded today:  My list form of Lesson Planning :-)

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Break-Through to Self Starting

I am so excited... on October 11th I blogged about trying to get my children to be better self-starters.  After all, that is a trait most college professors like about homeschoolers (or so I hear!)  We had break through this week!

It started with my 10 year old son suggesting that they do their homework in my bedroom on Tuesday so I could work on their costumes (my sewing area is in my bedroom and I was making costumes for 'dress as your favorite Bible character' night at AWANAS).  He was so proud of himself for this suggestion I couldn't resist.  After all, not going with his idea would have meant a late night sewing!

As soon as we were ready to head to my room, kids quickly rounded up their to-do folders, packed their backpacks, and ran to call 'dibs' on their favorite spots on and around my bed!  (They even helped make it!!)

They all worked hard with little help from me because they were determined to NOT interrupt... they really  wanted to try on those costumes fresh off the machine!

Today, we were heading into town (a serious trip in rural Montana!).  First, to visit their grandma and go to AWANAS but then because my husband became very ill and we had a doctor's appointment in the afternoon.  I told the kids they could not play on grandma's computer or watch her t.v. (a luxury they don't have at home!) unless ALL the work AND their chores were done first!

I was blown away by their diligence.  My 12 year old even did her language arts HERSELF, reading the directions and using the examples to deduct how to complete the work!  I didn't tell her she had to do it that way... she CHOOSE to do it that way!

I am so proud of them, which is why I share it here, next week we may be back to the usual nagging, but this week... this week is good!

I also share here because I realized something today.  When I sit next to my kids in every part of their homework, they lean on me.  I am a crutch for a good leg.  They often don't need me to hold them up but they rely on me to do so because I always have.  It almost seems prudent to strategically plan to leave the room now and then... they actually accomplish more and ask less about things they already know. 

I would like to reiterate, Yes, I like being the school marm and I welcome the moments huddled close to my sweet darlings, working out a math problem or breaking down a hard word.  But I want them to learn how to learn.  I want them to have a desire that comes from within to do better, be better, and know more... no matter where I am in proximity!

With that... here is the finished product of Tuesday's bedroom/sewing school day!

A Goliath Era David and a young Mary!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wasco-y Wabbit!

I grew up watching good ole Bugs Bunny and gang.  The first (and only) time my parents tried to feed me rabbit they tried to tell me it was chicken and, as I sat tasting it, I commented that it didn't taste like chicken.  So they replied (thinking they were clever) "It's Hassenpfeffer"! 

Like I said, I watched a lot of Bugs... I knew what Hassenpfeffer was... and it wasn't chicken.  My poor mother, during my melt down, tried so hard to calm me down. 

"How do you know we aren't eating Bugs Bunny?"
"We're not, I am sure."
"How do you know?"  I shot back as I ran from the room.
She followed me out, "I just know.  It's ok"
Then it hit me, and I whipped back around with tears streaking my face now, "WHAT IF IT WAS THE EASTER BUNNY?!?!"

I could not begin to explain this sensitivity to the cute furry creatures.  But whatever it was, I think my kids inherited it.  The product of 2 bunnies we previously owned still resides in our home.  His name is Peter, after the mischievous character in Beatrix Potter's stories.  He, in truth, belongs to my youngest daughter and he has enough personality to fill a room.

Who knew rabbits could have such spunk?  This one, we learned this week, also likes to be a foot rest!

Our 9-year-old friend, Finny, from India was sitting at our dining room table and giggling.  I couldn't figure out why until he said, "I think he likes my feet because they are warm."  Who knows.  Peter is the most cuddly rabbit I have ever known.  He hops in our laps for some petting time!  He just lay curled up at Finny's feet for 10 minutes, ran off, then came right back and curled up again waiting to be his foot rest! 

What a "Wasco-y Wabbit"!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Resting in the Lord

Ahhhh... it is a laxadazy Wednesday this week!  Actually, until about 1pm it is anyway!  Zachary, being the only public schooled member of the house, has Thursday/Friday off.  It is hard to homeschool the others when big brother is home chillin'! 

So this week entailed NO spelling (yes, there were cheers from two out of three of my students!), math review, and a jump start to our poetry unit.  The kids picked a favorite on Monday and had it memorized by yesterday so they gave their poetry reading last night and not much was left to do this week!

Dad heads to town with studded tires in 'trunk', anticipating next week's freeze.  B & Bk (as we lovingly refer to our youngest two) were anxious to go with and visit Baka (aka: Grandma!).  So math was done, reading was completed, and my two darlings loaded in with tires, charted a course for 'town' with dear Dad!

Me and Ashley remain and I hardly know what to do with two hours of dead time!  This NEVER happens!!!  So here I sit, sharing my ramblings with the blog sphere and basking in the temporary, peaceful pace of current before chaos re-ensues! 

I like opportunities in the week for guilt-free divergence from the typical schedule.  A moment to re-gather thoughts.  A moment to BREATHE.  A moment to ponder.  I feel blessed when God surprises me with moments as such.  I know they are treasures to delight in.  Nourishment from a lazy stream.  God knows paths lie ahead that may be uphill or bumpy.  He wants me to have rest to be ready for each journey ahead.

Yesterday I had a conversation in which Mathew 11:28-29 was discussed...

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  (NLT)

I have always thought of this "rest" as simply... well.... REST!  But yesterday I realized it is more than just that.  It is much like1 Peter 5:7...

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  (NIV)

When we come to the Lord for rest, we should be laying our burdens down.  When you reach a stream and you kneel, cup your hands, and bend over to dip and sip of the cool wetness... do you do so with a large pack on your back?  Well, you can, but is typically more burdensome.  

To truly rest, and take a break from your journey, you would remove your pack, sip your drink and rest a while.  This is what our Heavenly Father asks of us.  Our pack is our burdens, our worries, our anxieties.  But what is better about removing this figurative pack in our metaphorical journey is that, once we are done resting, we don't have to put it back on!!!  God carries it for us for the rest of the journey!!!  He WANTS to.

The next time you sit to ponder, rest, and contemplate the quiet (or contemplate the lack of!) remember to give your burdens to the Lord, let him carry them the rest of the way, and don't ask for them back.  It is HIS joy to carry that pack for you! 

May you find rest in the small moments today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Beauty in Black Beauty

I love books.  I didn't love books as a child unless they were short and full of pictures.  I don't know why.  The cruel joke is that now I absolutely LOVE books.  I would read just about any (appropriate) book you put in front of me.  But now I don't have the luxury of time I had as a child!

I do, however, have the joy of homeschooling and the need to know what my kids are reading so I can ask pertinent questions.  As I have mentioned before, we are using Learning Language Arts Through Literature for our reading and language arts program this year.  I am really enjoying it (and so are the kids... if that counts!)

My 7th grader is rounding completion of a 3 (turned 4) week book project on Black Beauty by Anna Sewell that our curriculum book recommends and uses for writing structure lessons.

This is one of many books I have only dreamed of reading (I have seen the movie) before... and now my mind has been filled with the wonderful sensations Anna Sewell's writing sparks.

As we completed section three of the book, I became thoroughly excited by the moral and biblical implications discussed in the story.  I couldn't help but share some of the questions I posed to my daughter to answer in her writing assessments for her final report: 

In chapter 36, "The Sunday Cab", What moral and biblical dilemma does Jerry face?  What reasons does he give for working vs. not working on Sunday?  What does he finally decide?  What impact does that decision have and how does he handle it?

In chapter 37, "Golden Rule", Jerry has to go against the decision he made in the previous chapter, why?  How does his day turn out?  Do you feel he made the right decision?  Why or why not.  

I also had all of my children copy a little 'poem' or song that the character Jerry would sing.  Ironically, it fit right in with the discussions we had last week about getting started first thing in the morning and working diligently... but I don't want to type it here in case I ruin the story!!  You have to read it and find out :-)

Happy homeschooling!  May all your stories truly be adventures.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A prayer for peace

What a week! 

I began it in prayer.  Of course every week begins in prayer!  But this was a different kind of prayer. 

I felt like I was headed for "overwhelmed".  I don't know why exactly, but it just seemed as though too much too quick and where do I turn.  So I prayed.  "Lord, please give me peace, please guide me, please go with me."

Saturday is here now and I look back and go, "What was I so worried about?!"  God is so good to hear our prayers.  To reach out to us.  To hold us and to guide us.  To give us PEACE in the midst of much to do and much to consider.

I don't have any grand posts this week for the blogsphere. It seems as though I should but through my prayer, my week became subdued and all I wish to convey is peace. 

May you be wrapped in His peace today!

A picture taken last week... to inspire peaceful thoughts :-)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Caught Up!

Every now and then we need to review the importance of LEARNING in our household.  Lately it has been heavy on my heart not only that they should be seeking their knowledge but that they should be doing it more independently.

I know that probably sounds like I want to relinquish responsibility as the school marm... but I don't.  What I keep thinking of is our work and the eventual training and outreaches we will be doing and how my children really do need to become self-starters in their school work.

I AM here to teach and to help.

But if we are called on short notice to serve, or do, or be somewhere else, I want my kids to VALUE their education enough to at least pick up their math or spelling flash cards and quiz themselves because THEY want to be better.  I want them to pick up a book and begin on that next chapter without my urging.  This has been my approach to meet those ends:

Step 1:  Make learning desirable.  With different learning styles this can be a challenge but also a blessing.  Nothing in mundane in our homeschool!  I try to entice them into math facts with games.  I encourage them to use their spelling words in sentences on topics of their choosing.  I also, usually, give them a lot of leniency in the books that they read.  I attempt to place titles before them that cater to their interests but also teach a particular concept... in a way that will grab their attention.

Step 2:  Have a system that promotes self starting.  We do folders and bins.  (I should type a separate article on how I do it!)  They have a folder for each day of the week with their work in it.  I usually have these packed and ready first thing Monday morning for the entire week.  They also have 15" x 12" bins to keep their misc. stuff in... including their folders if they wish.

Part of my self starting system also involves a centralized area for all items directly involved with their studies.  Dictionaries, calculators, rulers, markers, etc...

Step 3:  Have a simple list for each child that contains all the must-dos for the day.  I prefer to keep this relatively the same every day and, as I said, simple.  It becomes a routine and more likely to be completed without nagging from me or complaining from them!  These lists contain things that will kick our day off to a smooth start and provide ease of transition to other activities throughout the day (mostly ease for me, I will admit it!)  Such as:
  • Pick up and put your dirty clothes in the laundry room
  • Put the clean dishes away [from the dishwasher that ran overnight]
  • Pick up your breakfast mess
  • Put away any toys [that they got out in the few minutes between waking up, eating, and needing to do these chores!!]
  • Brush your hair, brush your teeth, get dressed!

Voila!  They help clean up at the end of the school day as well so our home doesn't just get trashed and left to headaches.  The morning is for the stray stuff that got out of place during the in-between and also so that I can keep up on the laundry and dishes with ease.

Step 4:  Have a back up plan!!!

This is actually what brought me to type today!  Initiating my back up plan.

Kids are.... well, kids!  We, as parents, guide and steer.  But they want to play, avoid, and take the easy way out (which doesn't involve chores without asking or school work of any kind!)  And, as stated in my opening paragraphs, I am trying to encourage more self-dependence, self-starting attitudes.  I have a quote by Edith Hamilton on my bulletin board that inspires this idea:

To be able to be caught up into the world of thought- that is to be educated.

I want my kids to be caught up! 

So, today we had a Bible study.  We talked about "When I don't want to go to school"!  We discussed the luxuries of homeschool and how we shouldn't take that for granted through our laxed behavior.  I gave them kudos for achievements but I also discussed the less than desirable behavior of not being ready to learn and trying to get out of work as a result.

"What does the Bible say?"  I proposed.  Proverbs 25: 3-4 for consideration:

A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. 

We also discussed other passages that refer to wisdom as being more precious than rubies... and how precious rubies were in those days.  But with this passage we explored the fundamentals of a home both in structure and content.  Do we build a house on muddy ground?  No, we put down a strong foundation first.  Do we put garbage in our homes?  No, we fill it with nice things.  So what does the house represent?  The kids were great in replying.... US!

We had a nice discussion and study.  I don't know if it will stick but I do feel we may be ever closer to being "Caught Up".  I pray you and yours get caught up in learning and filling your "houses" with truly valuable riches as well!

P.S.  This study can be done for public schooled kids as well... not just homeschooled!

This is the book we use when we encounter.... things... that need work!

Don't be fooled by the title.  As I discussed in my "Bible Studies With Children" post, it is useful for a large age group... even into middle school.

Friday, October 8, 2010

play vs. schoolwork

What do you do when your kids won't do schoolwork?  Everyone handles this their own way.  I respect that... completely!  What do you do when they don't want to homeschool because (there perception) you are interrupting their play?!

A child's play at a young age is so important.  But as they grow older and enter elementary schoolwork, it really is time to lay aside the cars and dolls for a few hours each day to pursue some training in phonics or work in math facts.  This can be devastating for some children.

I know parents whose children fight them on the play vs. schoolwork issue.  I, personally, have a few children who don't 'fight' me on the issue but they are very distracted by thinking about play instead of their schoolwork.  They sometimes result to complaining, "We aren't done yet?" because they want to get back to their "game" (a.k.a playing pretend!).

"Blueberry" isn't really a distraction... unless she is feeling mischievous!

Our love-hate relationship with Legos!!

Last year, I decided to approach this from a few different angles:
1)  What does the Bible say?  The Bible tells us "Wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding" Proverbs 10:23.  A simple search reveals a plethora of verses and stories in Scripture that leave no question to the value of education and wisdom.  Sharing God's desires for our lives with our children can never start too early. The last two school years have started with this instruction!
2)  While play is necessary for children, it can quickly become a privilege and not a given when it overtakes their schoolwork.  If the kids don't want to set aside their play things for learning time they jeopardize loosing a given toy (even if only temporarily).
3)  Dad is principle.  I had a hard time with this at first.  Before we went into missions work, my husband would be gone all day at work.  The last thing I wanted to do was "tattle" on my kids and cause my husband further stress.  But God revealed to me the importance of the parent team.  I didn't run to my husband with EVERYTHING... that would have been overwhelming!  But issues that were not able to be resolved with my management and/or required reinforcement were brought to him.  And just like a public school.... you don't want to be in the principles office!  He is always quicker to withhold privileges than teacher mom!  But this works both ways.  Principle Dad also likes to hear about (and reward) achievements... and kids always want to strive for those achievements in lieu of the reprimands.

Every day of homeschool may not (and will not) be "perfect".  But every day is an opportunity to grow both as students and parents.  I pray you grow through your homeschool today!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sometimes Less is More

I wanted to blog the title, "When Mom is Sick" but I already did that... over a year ago!  I hate it when I get sick and schooling still needs to be done :-(  I only lost one day though... the others were managed well with God given strength!

As I recovered, I contemplated our schedule and the feasibility of each element.  We have been in the new school year for a month now and I always try to regularly assess not only our progress but also our successes in how it is getting done. 

For the most part, our schedule is marvelous.  I do wish we started earlier, but I am thankful that we are plucking away at each to-do.  But then a school teacher friend donated some newer reading primers to our 'classroom' and, excited at the materials, I began to look through and contemplate coorelating lesson plans and crossing studies and ... and.... my head started to spin. 

I had to stop and remind myself that what we have now works wonderfully.  We have been called to simplify the process of our curriculum (for those who don't know, I use to compile ALL of it myslef and develop every lesson plan from scratch or from compiling multiple sources.)  Preparing for missions field training and doing the work that we do, I can't spend the bulk of my weekend on this process anymore.  God has blessed us with wonderful material that truly doesn't need any aditives!  So why am I complicating it?

I can't answer that... because I don't know!  I can tell you that I realized:  I don't have to use EVERY textbook I own!!!!  I can pick and choose and, as long as I am covering the subjects, it doesn't matter how many, or how few, books I use to cover it!  As long as the job gets done well.  To that effect... sometimes less truly is more!

I share all of this, in case you are like me in anyway, staring at a book case or boxes full of material you think you have to use all of before the year ends... you don't!  Just relax, take a deep breath, and turn to God to guide you through what He thinks is most important for helping your child develop into a wonderful and intelligible human being!