Thursday, December 4, 2014

Positives, Grace, and Advice

I would hate to focus on the negative happenings since my last post, such as chronic temper control problems, horrendous housekeeping, scanty suppers, fend-for-yourself breakfasts and lunches, lousy Latin, and tears because I can't do it all.

It's healthier to focus on the positive, such as:

  •  62 days of school completed (it seems silly to count days of homeschool where we learn every day, but we do our best to abide by the law).
  • One kid who knows the better part of 12 weeks of CC memory work (Latin is lousy) and another who is close behind.
  • Ever-so-slowly improving attitudes.
  • An increasing number of friendships here in Oklahoma.
  • Two days in a row of reading from our Story of the World book.
  • The ability to sit at this computer at 2:58 p.m. and stay awake (!!) along with a few other results of teeny, tiny baby steps toward better health.

The biggest positive of all is a little epiphany I had recently. I realized that, like a good Primitive Baptist, I am fully confident in God's grace as it applies to my eternal salvation. I realize my weakness, and I rest in His strength. However, when it comes to raising my children, my actions (frustration, anger, hopelessness, perfectionism, imagining the worst possible outcome for every situation) show that I do not believe God's mercy and grace is sufficient for me in the area of motherhood. I conclude that my kids don't have a chance because of me when I should be thanking the Lord that my kids do have a chance in spite of me. I worry that they will "turn out bad" because of my lack of diligence when I should realize that I have never been chastised to the point that I actually deserved. God has been merciful, so I have to believe that he will continue to be. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Ps. 23:6.

Paul, after asking God to get rid of his thorn in the flesh, wrote that God's reply was, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." II Cor. 12:9. Oh, man, has my weakness been made clear to me in the last year! It has been ugly, but it has been necessary. I believe it has been providential. Never, until now, have I been able to understand why in the world Paul would glory in his infirmities! Only when I acknowledge my infirmity in a humble way can I recognize God's strength that carries me through one more attitude problem, his mercy in, I trust, allowing my children to "turn out okay," and his grace to cover my motherhood sins every day.

Advice to myself: Thank God for his grace. Repent and accept forgiveness. Be thankful for the positives and stop dwelling on the negatives. Realize that God didn't make a mistake when he gave you your particular children (Thanks for that, Mom's Night Out).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Summer Book Reports

I am happy to report that our summer book list project was a success! By success, I mean three things.

1. Thing1, who would have been reading all summer anyway, read some higher quality material than Boxcar Children and Super Hero books.

2. The boys had some hard but not-too-time-consuming academic work to add to their summer chore lists.

3. They both practiced writing at their own levels.

I got 12 reports out of Thing1. He read considerably more than that, but reading and writing are on opposite ends of his difficulty spectrum. I am pleased with 12.
Three Swords for Granada. I helped with the adjective, "clandestine." He liked it. :)
Thing2 produced eight reports. Reading the books was still a challenge in self discipline for him.
The Berenstain Bears and the Case of the Missing Dinosaur Bone
I used my Pinterest board and Sonlight's reading lists for most of my selections, roughly keeping the historical books in the times we have already studied. Again, the book report template was from Busy Teacher's Cafe.

Thing1 used his points to get a couple new Kindle books and a Lego Brickmaster book. Thing2 saved all his points and redeemed them on a Squishy Human Anatomy book he had been eyeing at Hobby Lobby for months.

It's a must-do for next summer!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Plans for 3rd and 1st

Rebekah brought it to my attention that Thing1 is no longer a beginner. At the end of third grade, he will be halfway to junior high! And Thing2 is a 1st grader. It's gonna get real for him this year.

Here's the plan for both of them:
Classical Conversations Memory Work from the Foundations Guide along with printables from CC Connected.
Foundations Guide 4th Ed
If we don't do anything else in a day, we do this. My favorite way to keep track of practicing the memory work is to use a Charlotte Mason memory box. Here's a link to an instructional video.
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Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern Times
The Story of the World, Vol. 3 (Early Modern Times) - Hardback
Of course, this book contains wonderfully told stories. But the activity book provides enough corresponding literature suggestions to keep us busy for the next three years. The maps and coloring pages are great, too, but not as useful to us this year. Unless it an epic battle scene, the boys really don't care to color, and we get enough geography from CC that we can usually picture the general location we are reading about. Our routine is to read a chapter while coloring from the activity book then type up a narration page with a picture cut and pasted from the Internet. The narration pages go into their history notebooks. We try to have library books from the activity book's corresponding literature list on hand always.
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Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
Apologia's Exploring Creation books are just plain fun. The pre-made Notebooking Journals are an unbelievably simple way to compile a super cute science notebook. Thing2 is excited that he has his own notebooking journal this year.
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Song School Latin
Song School Latin Book 1 w/ CD
I add one new thing each year. This year it's Latin. Hopefully it will be profitable.
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Here's what we've got planned for the third grader:
Slow and steady is the name of the game for Thing1 and mathematics, and Math-U-See fits the bill. Plus, Mr. Demme's short lessons on the DVD are much more effective than my blundering.
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Growing With Grammar, Level 3

Levels 1 and 2 served us well. Considering that this is our last year before Essentials of the English Language through Classical Conversations, why quit now? Level 3 introduces diagramming sentences. (I am excited! Nerd.) I considered buying Digging into Diagramming for extra practice, but then I realized that it doesn't take a $15 book to practice diagramming.
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Writing With Ease, Year 3
The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease Instructor Text
Agenda for our third and final year of WWE: Reading, narration, copywork, dictation; repeat.

I have decided not to buy the workbook this year. Instead, I am going to use McGuffey's Eclectic Readers (John Wiley and Sons, 1879) for the exercises. If it doesn't work (i.e. we skip it because it takes too much time to prep), I will just download the workbook. I'm also toying with the idea of using the McGuffey's for spelling as well. More on this endeavor later.
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Prescripts Cursive Words and Drawing: Math Terms
PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing: Math Terms
Normally handwriting books are the first thing to be dropped when we are short on time, but these books have them writing things they should be memorizing anyway, so it seems more productive.
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The plan for our first grader:
Alpha Math-U-See

I already had everything but the student workbook from when Thing1 did it two years ago. After buying the workbook, I decided to make copies of the consumable pages this year. These books get expensive!

Thing2 did well in the Primer math book last year, and I don't regret my decision to do the kindergarten math program. I think he will be well prepared for Alpha this year, but I am still bracing myself for the task of making him memorize all the addition facts.
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Growing with Grammar, Level 1

I discussed here my decision to use GWG and Writing with Ease in first grade for Thing1. I was satisfied, so we are doing it again. My worries about it not being enough for a well rounded language arts are obsolete. With Classical Conversations memory work, GWG, WWE, Prescripts, and all the reading we do in Story of the World, I believe we cover language arts sufficiently.
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Writing With Ease, Level 1
The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease Workbook 1
This was easy because I already own the Level 1 workbook in PDF format. I like being able to print of the pages as I need them.

With the workbook, there is virtually no preparation for these lessons, and the book excerpts are always interesting: Little House, Peter Rabbit, Caddie Woodlawn, and The Railway Children to name a few. Both Level 1 and 2 workbooks stretched Thing1's reading repertoire because he almost always wanted to read the whole book after he heard an excerpt from it.
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Prescripts Cursive Letters and Coloring: World History
Prescripts Cursive Letters and Coloring: World History
Why not start cursive in the first grade like they did in the olden days? After this year, I will know. Each opening has a page of cursive letter practice and a picture from the Timeline Cards that he can color.
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Finally, to pull it all together, I bought a Well Planned Day planner.
2014-2015 Family Homeschool Planner
I decided to go with a premade paper planner this year for the first time. I am not convinced I really need it, but I want to try it out.

Again, a good school day does not have to include everything I have listed here. CC memory work, math, and language arts are the core. The rest is extra. These plans, like all plans, are a guide and always a work in progress. They are as flexible as we are. We use them to be productive, but we will not let them run our lives.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why We are Still Homeschooling

I can't wait to write a "planning for next school year" post (my favorite kind). And I would also like to write an update on how the summer reading challenge is panning out. But first I need to write a "why" post for this year. I missed last year...I was sort of floundering in changes back then. Thankfully things are much more stable this year.

Next school year (2014-15) I will have a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, and my reasons for homeschooling have only multiplied over the last three years. My fears from the early days of deciding to homeschool have proven unwarranted. We have been unbelievably and providentially blessed in this endeavor. I am moved to tears when I think of the answers and opportunities God has presented at just the right times over the last three years.

Of course, the old reasons still apply. We like the freedom, flexibility, and ability to experience life outside a campus. We love the uncommon, individualized, customized academics. And most importantly, we appreciate the opportunity to concentrate on the ever important, perpetual character training. Those reasons are basic, and this year my reasons build on that foundation, but they are harder to verbalize.

This year was hard. Not hard in a hopeless way, but hard in a refining-through-the-fire way. My kids and I worked through some issues, and we are far from finished. (Caveat: Not finished. That phrase reminds me of our decision to keep Thing1 home from kindergarten. I kept him home mainly because I was not finished with him. I am still not finished. I fear I will never feel like I am finished until he becomes an adult, at which time I must be finished whether I feel like it or not.) I made some big investments this year, and I have seen some small joyful returns. Take our leap into Classical Conversations, for example. I don't care to remember how often I sounded like a drill sergeant for the first half of the year. Sergeant Carter would seem sweet. Yet, at the end of the year, Thing1 pushed himself to Memory Master. He took 8-year-old responsibility, worked hard, and earned the reward. That was a a very, very joyful return. To choose to do something that is hard and then follow through is a big deal, no matter your age. Now take Thing2's kindergarten accomplishments. He is not reading Ralph S. Mouse like Thing1 was at the end of kindergarten, but he is reading very well, and he has listened to (and can practically recite) more audio books than Thing1 ever thought about at his age. He also has a wonderful understanding of basic mathematics and memorized a large chunk of our CC material. I pray I do not recite these accomplishments in a prideful spirit but in a humble, grateful, "thus far the Lord has led me on" spirit. I want to dwell on the goodness of the year more than the hardness of it.

I feel more confident than ever that homeschooling is the way for us in 2014-15. Classical Conversations was a success, and I can't wait to do it again. Our new house with nine acres is perfect for a homeschool family. We are attached to several people in our support group here. We have found a pretty good balance between home-based and extracurricular activities (it's still hard to keep the extracurricular light enough for my taste, though). For what it's worth, our first standardized test affirmed our efforts and showed room for improvement. I trust I am learning more about how to keep calm and keep expectations realistic (my thorn). I trust the boys are learning more about diligence, respectfulness, and positive attitudes. But most of all, I want to keep investing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Next Year

Here's what we have accumulated for next year so far. Now to organize, store, and make plans. I probably should clean up this year's mess first, though.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Summer Break

I am looking forward to summer break. Really. It's hard to keep from dancing when I think about it. The only time I have been more excited about summer break was the year I got married. Our wedding was the week after finals.

My kids are not doing math lessons this summer.  They will probably forget everything they know. I don't care. We will learn it again next year.

I want to paint walls and furniture, build shelves, organize bedrooms, clean out flower beds, have a yard sale, finish building the tree house, and do the obligatory summertime traveling.

I want the kids to explore every inch of our nine acres, break in the tree house, fish in the pond, ride bikes, help me clean out flower beds, build gigantic Lego projects, and read lots of books.

Since I can't ever seem to give up academics completely, I do plan to have the boys practice keyboarding (some sites I pinned ) and write some book reports. Thing2's reports will only be a sentence or two, but I want Thing1 to practice summarizing stories this summer. To keep it nice and simple, I think we will use some forms I found on Busy Teacher's Cafe. I created a spreadsheet (I know, I'm a nerd) of books I want them to read and assigned points to each book. For simplicity, I just used AR points and added a bonus if the book is considered more than one year above their levels. If they read the book and write a report on it, they get the points. They can use the points they accumulate to buy books of their own.

A snip from Thing2's list

23 out of 62 suggestions for Thing1. They range from half a point for Hill of Fire to 32 points for The Hobbit.
I am curious to see which books he chooses to tackle.
I showed the list to them tonight, and they begged to start it now. I told them to wait until May 16, then I downloaded a new Audible book to tide them over. Did I mention I am excited about May 16? Now the boys are, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

C.S. Lewis

In the less than eloquent, albeit sincere, words of Thing1,

"C.S. Lewis sure did write some good books."