The Post Where Mom Stakes Summer through the Heart*

*if you ask my children

So, I was very tempted to post this list in a FB comment, but then I realized, WAIT!  I have a blog for that!  True, it has been awfully neglected, but let’s get into that another day.  Or, how about we don’t, and say we did?  For now, here’s the rundown on what our 2014/15 year will look like by subject.   I call this list, “The Amazing and Enriching List of Wonderfulness.”

My children call it, “MAKING SUMMER DIE” or more affectionately, “MOM, HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US?”

Oh, those little scamps.

Anyway, here it is:

 

Math:  Teaching Textbook & Life of Fred

Vocabulary/Spelling:  Wordly Wise

Writing/Grammar:  Wordsmith, Wordsmith Apprentice, Smart Alec Writing, & A Beka Language A

Handwriting:  Getty-Dubay

Bible:  Apologia’s Who Is God?  and Discover 4 Yourself Series

History:  Mystery of History, supplemented with Story of the World

Reading:  Books, books, books.  Some unit study approach to an assortment of classics.  Oh, and Christian Liberty Nature Readers, because they look pretty neat.

Science:  Apologia’s Zoology, Flying Creatures.  We are already halfway through this, so we’ll also be starting Apologia’s Zoology, Swimming Creatures, around Christmas. Also, my 9th grader will be finishing up Apologia General Science and then I’ll get her going on Physical Science.

Added to this list, My 7 year old will be doing some of these things along with his older siblings, but for the most part, he will be doing straight A Beka.  And when we can squeeze it in, Five In a Row, because it’s just amazing and fun.

So, there you have it!  That’s our plan.  I am excited!  I have ordered what needed ordering, and now I’m eagerly eyeing the school supply aisle.  Must. buy. pencils.

and notebooks.

and staples.

and all the things.

 

I have a list.

 

 

Nothing Meh

I can still hear my voice a few years ago as I said these very stupid words in a conversation with a fellow homeschool mom:  “Meh.  I just don’t love teaching history.  I mean, it’s okay, but it’s not my favorite.”  And honestly, that was putting it mildly.  I felt like history just got in the way of other, more important subjects like math and spelling and sentence structure.  I didn’t have time to make it interesting, either.  I had decided that “projects” and “enrichment activities” weren’t my thing.  I wasn’t “that kind” of teacher.  We were firm in the basics, and I was just fine with that.

So, it shouldn’t be any surprise when the kids began wilting right before my very eyes!  They had no trouble doing the work, but it had become a grind. But, y’all know that part.  You know I switched to notebooking and all that.  What you may not know is that everything began revolving around history.  When the light bulb went off (just a few scant weeks before our school year began!! yikes!) — I finally realized I was neglecting the one subject they REALLY love.  I knew that if I wanted to see the life back in them, I was needed to start out with history as our foundation, and build our learning around it.  And it had to be full sensory learning.  We needed to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear it.  I had to stop teaching so one dimensionally.

Time to be “that kind” of teacher.

One of the first things I noticed as we changed our approach was how naturally it happens all on its own, and how little I had to do to encourage it.  Language, science, geography, art, literature– they all spring eagerly from history.  When we begin a lesson (using Mystery of History), a dozen paths open up for us to follow.  At first, I looked down those paths with trepidation.   It took me a while to feel comfortable jaunting off on our own, all willy-nilly and free.  I felt like I was breaking all kinds of rules.  I worried that we were so far off the recommended schedule, we’d just fall off the edge completely.

But, now I understand.

There is more in this world than I can possibly teach them.  I can’t get through it all.  What I can do, is teach them to love the moments when they are learning, so they’ll never want to stop!  Maybe we were supposed to finish the lesson on the Byzantine Empire and move on in a day, but we don’t.  We stay there for a while.  We camp out, rebelling against the schedule…  feeding our curiosity.  We read more, poring over examples of art and architecture in extra books from the library.  We learn the story of a specific monastery and why it was important.  We take a morning to create our own mosaics.  We take the words, “Byzantium” and “Justinian” and “icons” and we stitch happy moments to them, with all our senses.  Hopefully, these ties will anchor them in our minds, and they will become more than just vocabulary words on a worksheet.  They become part of us.  Part of OUR history.

Ultimately, that’s what we are.  A people of history.  Of place.  We define ourselves by the relationships we have to others, to places, to events.  I am so-and-so’s mother.  wife.  daughter.  friend.  My family came  from Ireland and Wales and that means something.  I am a Christian, and I am tied to the history of the Church in a very real way.  I am an American, a woman– all these things MEAN something that we can only comprehend when we know the HISTORY of that thing.

It’s not just a subject.  It’s the axis we’re spinning on.

Allowing it to be the center point of our school day has taught them so much more than I imagined.  They are learning the history of who they ARE.  I didn’t recognize this void before– this question I had left unanswered for them.  But, I see it now.  The satisfaction and relief they feel are evident, as pieces of the puzzle come together.  They are relating it all together, connecting the dots, understanding themselves through the lens of what has gone before.  History makes the picture clearer, and not only for them.  For me, too.  I am gobbling up history right along with them, and it just makes me hungry for more.  How lucky am I, that I get the chance to do this when my own student days are long gone?  I feel like it’s a second chance to learn something really, truly important.  I get to see where I fit in this picture, too.

It’s just amazing, this homeschooling thing.  I am daily blessed that this is MY slice of history.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.

There’s nothing meh about it.

Merry Moments

We’re supposed to be at the library.

That was the plan, anyway.  We did school this morning, which consisted of writing letters (grammar!!),  a quick foray into Life of Fred, and listening to stories of King Arthur and Excalibur while they practiced illustrating.  We like gentle Mondays! 🙂  After a bite to eat, I sent them off for some free time while I jotted out my library list.

And a strange thing happened.

Rather than diverging into their own past-times, they all stuck together.  This has become a rarity, as their ages, interests, and genders often send them in separate directions.  So, to hear them all (voluntarily!) playing the same thing, is a lovely sound.  They are all busy, creating a lego market.  They are sorting, chatting, planning, and giggling.  I cannot bring myself to interrupt the moment.  Who knows how many of these remain?  There will be endless hours in our life for the library.  But only a handful are left for these sweet ties to be knotted. Merry moments of playing, spontaneous and organic– these I must heed.  These are the ones I will long for, in the silver light of my life.  These are the moments that will bind them together when I am no longer here to do it.

It is an education of who they ARE.  It’s THEIR history.  It’s the classroom of Love and Life, and you can’t find that in a library book.

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  I Cor. 13:2

 

Sometimes, being a good teacher means knowing when not to teach at all.

 

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Evolution

We are wrapping up our sixth week of school.  We are following a Sabbath schooling schedule, which means we will do six weeks of school, then take a one week break.  So, next week, no formal studies, but lots of fun projects and family time.   (erupting volcano, and building a City of the Future.  Coolest week ever.)  I’m looking forward to it, and yet, I know I’ll miss our lessons and notebooking!  I’m sure the kids will, too.

At this point in the cycle, it’s a great time to evaluate how things are going.  What’s working, what’s not, and how everybody is doing.

Six weeks in, and it’s still A.MA.ZING.

I love it, honestly, I do.  I have seen more exciting and unexpected things happen in my kids than I could have imagined.  It’s like a switch has been flipped in them.  They are channeling their imaginations and creativity not only during school hours, but in their own time.  When they are playing, or in the bathtub, or their independent time!  It’s such a thrill to me!  They are reading, drawing, making things, all the time, all self-led.  I have emerging artists,  and interested readers where there were not before.  My boys haven’t asked to play the XBOX or computer in WEEKS!!!!  This is so huge.  If you knew what a battle this was over the summer, you would share my disbelief!  It’s a sweet and welcome change.  I can see how they are growing, well beyond just academics.  They’re evolving right before my very eyes, and it’s something to behold!  I honestly had no idea this would happen, but now it makes sense to me.  They don’t exist in a singular way during school hours, and a completely different one in the other hours.  If they are learning to be creative and think independently at the school table, it’s going to crossover into the rest of their world.  I know that is ultimately the point, but to see it actually happening is shocking and thrilling!  It took me aback today, as I saw it in action.  I can’t wait to see more.  I’m hungry for it.

I’m still tweaking the system, still trying to find better ways to approach the whole thing, but it’s beginning to smooth out.  I want to think a few things out over the break and I’m sure I’ll be writing it out in more detail later.   For now, we’ve gotten into a rhythm, which I think is the first step.  I can honestly say, we’ve never enjoyed schooling so much.  I have NEVER, six weeks in, still felt the high of the new year, the anticipation of a school day.  It is not a chore– oh no.  It is such a privilege.  I feel it acutely now.  The positive effect on our family has me thanking God daily for leading us in this direction.   It’s changing us ALL.  Me included.  I always thought I wasn’t “that” mom.  The one who really wanted to do science projects and art stuff and make togas and have a Roman feast and bake cookies in the shape of states.  But ya know what?  Turns out,  I am.  “That” mom has loads of fun.  She is lighter and happier and fuller.  Why did I ever not want to be her?   Well, I am most definitely, “that” mom now, and there’s no going back.  Evah.

Well, I’ll end here for now.  “That” mom is tuckered out.  I have more to say on all this (of course!  ha), but I’ll be more specific in a later post.   Just wanted to do a quick update tonight, while it was on my mind.  Sweet dreams, everybody!

Perceptions

The troops scatter after lunch.  They all run to play war, build forts, read a chapter of a good book, whatever.  I finish up my sandwich (and episode of Battlestar Galactica– that’s right.)  Then, it’s time to resume.

“School time!” I yell.  (Maybe I should get a bell.  Much more Little  House on the Prairie.)

Heads pop up from hidden corners.  Light sabers are abandoned in the living room floor.  And last, but not least, the Girl wanders in from her room.

“Mom,” she says laughingly, “you don’t have to say school.”

“No?  Why not?”

“Well, this isn’t school.”  She screws her face up with distaste at the word.

Yes, daughter.

This is something entirely different.

A Full Tank

In some ways, I can’t believe we’ve wrapped up our third week of school.  We’ll be closing in on a month very quickly!  I have a feeling the whole year will pass much the same.

This week, we focused on spelling.  Every day, I tried to come up with some interesting and fun way to tackle our spelling words.  Scrabble pieces are absolutely indispensable.  We play Go Fish with the letters, each player trying to spell one of their words first.  We also do crosswords, and I sneak in a little math, because we tally the points on each word.  We spent some time writing our words in graffiti style fonts, and pasting them onto a piece of paper with a brickwall background.(Which, of course, was privately owned.  Don’t want to get the man after us for defacing public property!!)

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W wasn’t too into that one (I knew it would be more of the boys’ thing) so she created different products using her spelling words, and we pasted them onto a sheet of paper printed with empty store shelves.

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It was super cute.  I would buy a loaf of Continuously Bread or a tube of Hygiene any day.  Blasphemy Barbie is one of the new sets coming out in the Fall, I think.  Ha.

Oh, and I also put their lists into Spelling City and let them play a few games.

I will admit, I was a little worried that all this FUN was replacing the LEARNING– and I was scared to quiz them to see if they could really spell the words after all this.  But lo and behold– they got them all!  Happy me!  One thing we didn’t get to, but I will keep on tap for the next time:  a school newspaper.  Everybody will have to contribute something to our paper- articles, comics, ads, whatever– using their spelling words.  I predict that will be a fun project!

But that’s for another week.  Besides spelling,  our studies took us into Pompeii, endangered and extinct animals, Life of Fred maths, and the story of Lentil.  We made homemade ice cream for Lentil, since they eat that at the end of the book.  (oops, spoiler alert!! ha!)   I introduced L to the computer game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and he is in hog heaven.  I’m not sure he even realizes how much geography he is getting!  Mwahahahah!!!  Let’s see, what else?  We played a life sized game with phonics blends flashcards, where we were the pieces.  I laid the cards out in a curving line through the living room and dining room, and we had to spin a wheel and hop from card to card.

We talked about personal goals– everybody is thinking on something they want to pursue and we’ll start that next week.  We did self portraits (kind of!) that will display those goals.  That was pretty funny.  Also coming up soon– we’re going to have an Opposite Day, where THEY are the teachers!  I’m really looking forward to this one.  Each child is preparing a topic that they are interested in, and all the activities that they can do along with it.  I’ll be helping them get this organized in the next week.   From what I am hearing- we’re going to be learning about the Greek/Roman gods, and the Mayans.

Well, there ya have it!  Those were some of the highlights from the week.  It was a lot of fun for them and for me!  Yay!  We’re starting to get into a good rhythm, and I am beginning to see there are limitless ways for them to learn and grow.  The truth is, they are ALWAYS learning and growing.  Our old homeschool ways are shrinking in the  rear view mirror, and the road ahead looks wide open.  All I have to do is keep gas in the car, and the goldfish and juice boxes coming.

Happy weekend, everybody.

Changes

We’re getting ready to start Week 3 on Monday.  It’s obvious to me that the kids are loving our new approach.  A few thrilling moments have clued me in, and I don’t want to forget them, so I’ll jot them down here.  

On the way to spend the weekend with a friend (and miss school on Friday), E said, “Ya know, I kinda don’t want to go.”  I figured it was because he didn’t want to miss his usual buddies being free to play on Saturday– but when I asked him why, I was shocked at his answer.  “I just hate to miss a day of school!”  I nearly fell out.  This is a boy whose single purpose in life is to get outside and have fun with somebody, somewhere, somehow! Never, EVER, has he minded missing school.  That was a sweet moment for me.  I nearly turned the car around, but I didn’t want to push it too far.  Ha.

And then today, my husband mentioned at lunch that he saw a horned owl out in the swamp behind our house.  L hops up from his seat and I almost fuss because we don’t leave the table without permission, but I’m so glad I waited to see what was going on. He walked over to the school bookshelf and grabs a Bird Field Guide and flips pages till he gets to the section on owls.  “Whatcha doin’, Buddy?” I asked.  “Just finding out about owls,” he replied.  He read a minute, then came right back and finished his lunch.  I was tickled pink.  He did, all on his own, what we’ve been doing together for two weeks now. 

But it’s not just the kids.  I know it’s working in me, too.  This Saturday morning I woke up… well rested, but a little disappointed that it wasn’t a school day.  Pretty big turnaround for me.  It’s not that I dreaded school in the past, but I was ALWAYS glad it was Saturday.  For the first time, a little part of me is more eager to get to Monday than to enjoy a day off.

I do believe we’re catching the joy of learning over here, and it’s some kinda wonderful.