Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I think it's working....

Planting corn with Papa to discover whether corn planted with little fish grows faster than corn planted without them. The verdict is in, and Squanto had something going for him...

I am guilty of writing when I'm processing stress but not coming back to Ye Olde Blog when pulling out of the nosedive. :)

The first week of school was rough for all. BUT, we are getting into a good routine. I was too quick to throw my hands up in despair. (Ain't that the way it always goes when you're a recovering perfectionist?)

I'm often most in awe of the growth in my oldest child. After all, he's the first one to walk this far on this journey with me. 

I reminded him today that I want a good part of his rest time to be reading time, and he told me excitedly that it definitely would be. "I have this AWESOME book called, "Two Bad Pilgrims," Mommy. I read it all yesterday, but it was so good that I want to read it again. They nearly blew up the Mayflower!" 

I have been putting new books in his library book basket in his room... and he's READING THEM! :) No coaxing, no begging, no half-hearted mumbling about how he "looked at" them during rest time. He told me the whole story of a Graphic Library telling of Marco Polo the other day because he couldn't contain himself. He was leaning on my bed as I was sitting there with a sleepy Ben and talking fast because he couldn't wait to get it all out. 

He's asking to re-do Spanish exercises from our Spanish book that he wants to understand better. He wants to build molecules from atoms. He's learning to take more ownership of his own work. "Can I come back and finish my school work? I've been on break for awhile now." I can even sit at the table and answer a question here or there from him and work with my kindergartener at the same time! 

And my 6-year-old son? The one that I was setting a 10 minute timer on our reading work so that I wouldn't explode in frustration from his unwillingness to attempt to sound out the word "mad"? (Yes, I did see the irony at the time.) He's sounding out three letter words like a champ and giving me high fives. Today he discovered that he could use his math blocks to get the answer in more than one way. "Look, Mommy, it's not just 3 and 3 that make 6! I can make 6 with 5 and 1, too!" 

I couldn't have imagined being where I am today when I had a kindergartener and 2 wild preschoolers. 

I went to a workshop at the homeschool conference the spring we were wrapping up kindergarten, and the speaker said that if you had no students that could work independently, you were likely to suffer from burnout. A light bulb went off in my exhausted brain. "Hey, that's me. That is very much me." I felt guilty that I was suffering from burn out only one year in. How was I going to make it if I was suffering from burn out only one year in? 

Well, now I know how. The secret is students who get older and more independent/responsible and actually excited about learning! Very few things are more wonderful to me than seeing their enthusiasm. (Good French chocolate and coffee with lots of half and half and vacation in the mountains, yes, but also their enthusiasm.)

Without a vision, the homeschooling mothers perish. My own vision on the hard days is sustained because of the beauty of my own homeschooled childhood. I keep it by reading encouraging blogs, and finding things to include in our morning basket that inspire me, and by asking those who are ahead of me on the trail to give me a sip from their water bottle of increased perspective. I find it again by running across books that I read as a child that I loved and want to read again with my children. I expand it in the library stacks when I see what new treasures there are to be explored.

I have learned to have affection for things that I didn't love because I knew they were things worth trying to love. I have learned to love lesson planning (at times) and gross science and even some things about teaching math because God has helped me learn to love them. I'm thankful that He has helped me not to give up and set my heart to appreciate beautiful and hard things that are serving us all well. 

I wanted to share that. I am not who I was when I started homeschooling, and I'm not now who I hope to become. I was shaped by my homeschooled childhood, and I see that I will be changed again by the process of becoming a homeschooling mother. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A homeschooling morning...

Today was pretty representative of what a lot of mornings look like when Ben is off having adventures with Mimi and Pop Pop. It ended up being mostly what I'd like Morning Time to look like, so I thought I'd write about it.

I read some from Understood Betsy from the Ambleside reading list at breakfast. I made sure to stop at an exciting point so they'd beg me to keep going. (Insert evil cackle. ;) 

We started Morning Time after he walked out the door, and we spent about an hour on it. We started with saying together one of the poems from my Memory Work binder, "Little Drops of Water, Little Grains of Sand." (I haven't added much new memory work yet, so each day I move the sticky tab to the next thing under the "Review" section in the binder.) We also sang through our new 50 states song, but I slowed it down and had Seth read along instead of using the video. (Evan complained. It's a fun video.)

Then we read the story of the Rich Young Ruler in a new kid favorite around here, Favorite Parables from the Bible by Butterworth and Inkpen. I wouldn't have known a thing about this book if we hadn't gotten one of the stories from a yard sale. We discussed what it meant briefly, and then everyone gave prayer requests. ("Hot soup" has made someone's prayer request list a lot lately. We're deep here. ;)

On to singing two verses of "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." I explained the meaning of the complicated vocabulary when we first started learning it a week or two ago, and I ask if they remember what a word means as a refresher from time to time.

I have a collection of poetry books from when I was a child, and right now we're reading a couple of poems a day from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. They liked the ways that different poems describe the wind.

My goal is to read a chapter from Tree in the Trail once a week, and I also bought the expensive maps for it from Beautiful Feet. We have ours up on the wall, and I'm using colored pencils to add the details. Today we added the Santa Fe Trail (and it ain't easy to do based on the map at the back of the book, y'all.) There are bloggers that I've found that help with this, and I've got their sites bookmarked.

I pulled out Patterns of Nature and we read about wild flowers and weeds and answered the questions. I had Seth color in the illustrations while I was working with Evan on his kindergarten table work. Maybe he'll have half a shot of identifying goldenrod and queen anne's lace now. 

We did a capillary action experiment last week, and I called my brother to ask him to explain it to me in detail. (When your brother has a doctorate in horticulture, you call him, and he tells you because you're his sister. ;) I explained what he'd told me and had Seth tell it back to me. I had them both repeat key phrases a few times, and then I wrote the definition of capillary action on the white board. I also cut and pasted it into a word document, printed it out, and then handwrote Seth's definition underneath it. He drew a picture of our experiment underneath that.

We read a few more pages in Leif the Lucky, and they narrated those back to me. I'd written down their narration on that a few days ago, and I had Seth illustrate that page (also while I worked with Evan.) We talked about when he lived and explored and how it was long before the Age of Exploration.

Seth read me a few pages of a short chapter book on Ferdinand Magellan from our library. I narrated it back to him. Evan sat nearby and listened. We checked the location of Magellan's ship on our world map on the wall, just like we do for a lot of our readings when locations come up. Reading about explorers has meant a lot of referring to the map lately. 

This is Morning Time, a work in progress, a rich buffet on some days and skimpy fare on others. I feel like I'm getting an education from Morning Time, and I have hope that they are, too. :)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

School Year 2015-16...

And we're off! First official day of 3rd, Kindergarten, and Pre-K coming right at ya! I gave them their "first day of school" presents, took pictures, and we got most of the regular school work done.

I decided to take a picture of my handwritten guidelines in case someone might be interested in that. The top picture is what I wrote out for this year. The second picture is more detail about some of the things I include in our morning time. Just click on the picture to see it larger.

The bottom picture highlights my eclectic approach to social studies. :) Here we have the $10 manual for My Father's World that I picked up at the homeschool store. I liked the activities in it, so I went through and tabbed them and made a note of which ones I wanted to use. (I may or may not attempt to to follow some of the days as written just to mix things up and see if I learn a few things to add to my teaching repertoire.)

I wanted to get more study of the natural world in, but I have found it hard to get regular about that in addition to whatever science topic we're doing. (Last year it was astronomy.) This year I picked up a Rod and Staff book called Patterns of Nature, and I've been surprised already how much they like the short, simple stories and review. They're retaining a lot more using this approach than they did reading books from the library on the same topics, so this is staying. We are also reading and narrating right now from books on simple machines, and I plan to cover that and some chemistry this year.

Paddle to the Sea was a huge hit for geography last year for all of us, so I'm continuing on with "Tree in the Trail." Holling Clancy Holling has grown on me big time.

"Our American Heritage" was one of my favorite history books as a child, so my mom kept it. It introduces history using famous figures in history, so I plan to use the chapters as jumping off points. The simple book list in tan beside that gives me book titles with suggested grade levels and in chronological order.

I gave up on French because it's not nearly as practical as Spanish, so we're using Song School Spanish this year. Not sure how many days a week that we'll listen to the CD's and do the workbook, but so far they really like it, so I'm thinking maybe more than one day a week. This is just supposed to be a gentle introduction, so I'm OK with not pushing this.

I am taking selections from Ambleside's book list, including a children's Pilgrim's Progress for devotions and "Understood Betsy" as a read aloud. I've also got "The Courage of Sarah Noble," "Me and Ben," and "Caddie Woodlawn" on CD from the library, and I'll start playing those while we eat lunch. I have found that they listen better sometimes at meals when it's a CD instead of my voice, and I get less frustrated at interruptions when I can turn up the volume. ;)

Our local once-a-month book sale has art print books for $1 a copy, and I snatched up ones of Michelangelo, Vermeer, and Durer. I'm on the hunt for Rembrandt. I cut up these books and use the pictures for picture study. I'm trying to go in chronological order for great masters.

I added Vivaldi to my Spotify list today. Seth and Evan both asked to listen longer. I think he's replacing Handel as the current favorite composer. :)