Most Beautiful Opportunity

My Aunt Lois was absolutely the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was gullible, but good-natured. She enjoyed a good joke (and a good number of corny jokes). She was caring, giving, inspiring, courageous, joyful, and kind. I can remember her exact tone of voice when she came with me to try on new outfits. If there was one outfit in particular she liked, she would say, “Oh, Kim… I love it!” Her voice would be soft and deep on the “Oh, Kim…” and it would rise up on the “love” and fall deep and warm again at the end. She was a teacher and she always told her students that their best work was most beautiful. She affirmed them so frequently with that phrase that at her funeral there were many cards given, signs displayed, and speeches made to show their gratitude to the woman who had made them feel like they were most beautifulMost beautiful meant most inspiring, most meaningful; “I am so proud of who you are.”

*******

Today has been the most beautiful day we’ve experienced so far in Wisconsin. It is spring. The temperature is in the upper sixties, there is a slight breeze blowing every so often, the sun is out, the grass is green, the daffodils are blossoming, the trees and bushes are budding out, the birds are singing, and the insects are coming out and passing through.

We did school in the front yard and on the screened-in porch this morning. The kids were swinging in their tree swings and we were singing our folksong at the top of our lungs! While they were swinging, we watched a wild turkey meandering through the neighbors’ yards. Then we walked around our yard and inspected the bushes, flower beds, and fruit trees for new growth while Hula Girl and I took turns reciting a poem about spring. We saw a monarch butterfly, a small white butterfly, and a dragonfly. After our nature study, we went into the porch, where Monkey Man and Sugar Plum dug around in some potted plants and rearranged the chairs while Hula Girl and I worked on her writing. Last, we went back to the front yard to swing again while I read today’s literature selection to Hula Girl.

While Sugar Plum had her nap, the big kids ate lunch outside and then whiled away their early afternoon barefoot in the grass. It was with much chagrin that they retired to their rooms for their rest time; I would not have made them do it had I not needed a shower!

This afternoon we will be meeting up with a new family for a playdate at the park. I connected with the mom in an online group for people who use Ambleside Online as our curriculum for homeschooling our kiddos.  And, bonus, they actually live in the same town as us! This is exciting because we have met very few homeschool families in our area, and no other families who use the Charlotte Mason method at all.

********

Homeschooling has been going well overall. We took quite a break this past year after Sugar Plum joined our family. Hula Girl did a stint in public school while we were settling in here in Wisconsin, and I pulled her back out at Thanksgiving. We took the month or so between Thanksgiving and New Year off so we could focus on family and festivities, and started back up in January with a modified schedule to cover some of the material we had previously skipped or done poorly due to me being pregnant or us having a newborn in the home.

Lately I have been on a quest to really get a full picture of the Charlotte Mason method- her educational philosophy, her goals, and her means by which to achieve those goals. I have been reading blogs and articles and books and forums; I have been listening to podcasts; I have been consulting with the (two) moms I know in real life that also use Ambleside Online. It was a great time of learning for me, but I reached my threshold quickly. There are SO many ways that different families can focus their time and energy as homeschool allows for freedom and choice! I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that people have come up with to organize, streamline, and enhance their educational atmosphere in their homes. I couldn’t handle looking at yet another way to organize a nature notebook, or another binder for keeping lists of things, or another bookshelf filled with books for mothers to read (on top of all the curriculum to read to or pre-read for our children)! It all started to feel very “keeping up with the Joneses” in that I would never be able to organize our curriculum and materials in the most beautiful way, or create perfect nature notebooks filled with most beautiful sketches, or spend hours every day reading to cultivate my own heart and mind to embody the most beautiful thoughts, feelings, and motivations. To put it simply, there is no way I will ever have time to have the most beautiful everything, and that was downright discouraging.

I met with a seasoned homeschool mom, who told me that I am doing well. I explained the ways I was planning to implement a few things, and what I envisioned for our homeschool journey, and she assured me that we would do well! She gave me courage as she reaffirmed that this is my school, my family, my relationship with the Lord, and that my best is the best for my family. Even though I’m not creating showcase-worthy sketchbooks or filling our bookcases with hardback, leather-bound versions of all our textbooks, homeschooling is still the most inspiring and most meaningful thing I can provide for my family, and that makes this journey most beautiful for me. It might look different from other moms’ versions of school at home. It might look crazy to our neighbors (“Don’t your kids need socialization?”). It might look like an unnecessary burden (“That’s what public schools are for!”). But I get to watch my children mature, I get to feed their minds interesting things to ponder, I get to be witness to their incredible ideas, and I get to know their hearts more deeply and completely every single day. It is a most beautiful calling and opportunity, and I am so grateful that this is my life.

 

Advertisements

Settling in: Rhythms and Resolutions

So we’re here. We’re home. We bought our house in October and moved from our temporary house in November. We still have boxes upon boxes to unpack and organize, but we will get there. No rush now. That’s a nice, but really strange, feeling. I tend to rush.

We pulled Hula Girl from public school at Thanksgiving break. School was a good experience for us overall. Hula Girl had a wonderful teacher who made her students’ lives at school fun. Even when the academics were way too easy for Hula Girl, she still wanted to go because she loved her teacher and she enjoyed her friends. My main comfort when deciding to put her in school to begin with was that I knew she wanted to socialize. She needed some practice speaking up for herself and being assertive. It took a couple months, but she got there. It was fun to see her develop confidence in situations where she needed to speak to other children and unfamiliar adults.

It was never our intention to use public schools for long. So when we moved to our permanent home, we gave it a few weeks and then kept Hula Girl home. We took the time between Thanksgiving and New Year to really focus on Christmas and all that season brings- TONS of activites, songs, crafts, reading together, and family time. We went light on the baking this year, mainly because our dishwasher broke in the beginning of December and doing all the regular dishes PLUS the baking dishes seemed like just a bit too much for me. Gotta know my limits.

For those of you who are wondering, Hula Girl is happy to be home. She really needed more challenging academics and she enjoys having ample time to read. She can knock out 50+ books in two weeks. She loves going to the library and impressing the librarians with her stacks of books. (I know some people who limit the number of books their children are allowed to check out. I limit my kids, too, to the number of books they can carry. Hula Girl has three library bags and she carries them all. Well, at least until we get to the door. Then I take pity on her and grab one and take it to the car for her. I’m a book softie.)

The socialization issue is really a non-issue for us. I feel like I need to address it, though, since many people somewhat close to me have questioned it. I think I’ve probably written about it before, and our views have not changed. As many homeschool families have already said, we would rather have our kids interacting with people of all ages in real-life situations than be stuck in rooms with twenty other people their age. Who will teach my kids better manners: the elderly neighbor who teaches Monkey Man how to paint and do papier mache; or a bunch of four-year-olds? Who will demonstrate careful attention to detail better: Hula Girl’s dance instructor; or her peers, who think that it’s an achievement to color mostly in the lines? And who will teach them to love Jesus best: her family, made up of two parents who put Jesus first and demonstrate the power of God’s grace and two siblings who give them ample opportunity to put that grace into practice; or the public school system, where Common Core determines all learning and all character education falls upon the shoulders of the school’s one guidance counselor, who presents boxed vague information about “getting along” and “bullying”?

Don’t worry. We’re not just keeping ourselves hidden away in our little hermitage here in the woods of Wisconsin. Hula Girl has many opportunities to interact with kids her own age. She has dance and Sunday School. We have neighbors right across the street with a little girl who is six also. The two of them get together and play and it’s like they’ve grown up together. They just have so much fun. Every afternoon, Hula Girl waits for C’s bus to drop her off, and then they go for walks or jump on the trampoline or go to C’s house and guzzle hot chocolate (C’s mom is much more liberal with the sweets than me!). We also have several other kiddos of roughly the same age in the neighborhood who will likely form a gang together this summer, with Hula Girl as their leader. And there are even kiddos Monkey Man’s age who will be junior members of the Summer Club. Winning!

So, for now, we have been working this week to establish our new homeschool/life routine. It looks like this most days, but some days the order of things gets thrown out of whack and we just adjust and go with it:

  • Sugar Plum gets up and nurses (yep, still going strong!)
  • Big Kids get up and we all have breakfast- Scripture memory, poetry, hymns, and folksongs happen during breakfast
  • Chore time- big kids do morning chores, I clean the kitchen, and Sugar Plum crawls around causing mischief (watch the cat food or she will eat half of it… ask me how I know)
  • Sugar Plum starts her nap and big kids start school
  • Monkey Man gets individual time with me while Hula Girl does independent school work
  • Switch
  • Free Play when independent work is completed
  • Sugar Plum wakes from nap, I nurse her, and all the kids have independent play time in their rooms or in the basement playroom while I make lunch
  • Lunch- I read chapter books to the kids while they eat (Chronicles of Narnia is our current series)
  • Free Play- the part of the day during which the three kids go nuts and look so darn cute while they do; the big kids engage with Sugar Plum and make her the Princess of the castle, take her on rocking horse rides through the “meadow,” and defend her from imagined dragons
  • Nap/Rest time- each kid goes to his/her room to sleep or rest; I only have one napper these days, but the other two are very good about resting quietly while they read or play with their toys
  • Snack- I usually have fresh-baked bread or cookies ready for this time of day, and we eat them with tea; snack time is wonderful
  • Varies- sometimes we have dance class, sometimes the kids play with neighbors, sometimes they do a table activity like play-dough, and so on
  • The Finish Line- Daddy walks in the door and is greeted with buoyant smiles and enthusiastically leaping monkeys

And my New Year’s Resolutions (which, by the way, I have actually kept this far! I think it’s a record for me.)

  • Whole foods, plant-based diet (except honey)
  • Drink 60+ oz of water per day- I hate water
  • Read the Bible every day
  • Pray specifically for each child and Jonathan every day
  • Exercise (That one is a bit vague on purpose. I don’t do anything specific to exercise while pregnant or breastfeeding. Never have. Probably should. Meh.)

And that’s the haps. I’ve completely disconnected from Facebook. I don’t miss it. I do miss some of you, though. Email me or text me and let me know how you’re doing.

A Surprising Choice

I have a lot of friends who don’t know this about our family yet. That’s because I’ve surrounded myself with people who have very strong opinions on this topic, and I didn’t want to have people telling me their very strong opinions unless it directly affected them or they are family members. We sought out wise counsel and have made the best decision for our family… for now.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we had no intention of changing the way our family does things. We still eat organic, we still put Jesus first, and we still spend as much quality family time together as we can. However, one major thing has changed– we decided to put the big kiddos in public school.

Homeschooling is our first choice for schooling our children. I even researched and joined several Wisconsin homeschooling groups on Facebook before we moved. We were set on continuing along with our plan, and I have been gathering books and resources for the past year in order to prepare for Hula Girl and Monkey Man to learn some really neat stuff this year.

But the move has been hard on the kids. Like, really, really hard. I believe I mentioned that the kids and I lived with my parents for about a month and a half while Jonathan stayed at our former house, packing and cleaning and getting it ready to sell, before we moved to Wisconsin. Now we are staying in a temporary (wonderful, but temporary) house, and we have been house hunting and dragging the kids all around the area to find a house. We have one that will be ours in October, but in the meantime, we’re not exactly settled.

At first, it was a fun adventure for the kids– staying at Grammy and Grampy’s house! Camping! Staying in a new house! Sharing a room for the first time ever! Eventually, it turned into a real drag. The kids got sick of each other and were bickering nonstop all day. I had to make millions of phone calls and try to learn all about the new area (where to grocery shop? What kinds of insane winter gear do we need to stock up on? How do I get to the nearest Starbucks– it’s PSL season, after all–?). And Sugar Plum is still a baby who needs tons of naps.

We were all getting sick of each other, really. So. I took the opportunity to put the kids in a wonderful public school. I went and toured it before I made the official decision. If I were still teaching, it’s a school I’d be proud to be part of. The teachers are so engaged, the principal is extremely supportive, and the parents are very involved. The school is a 4K-4th grade elementary school, and it offers a wide variety of research-based programs and interventions that are actually really cool. (I kind of geeked out a bit on the tour and I even got jealous of the teachers who get to work there!)

The first week of school was just the two days prior to Labor Day weekend. Both kids were so excited. We got all their supplies and attended the open house the week prior to school opening. We met teachers and saw the classrooms, and the kids were happy and ready for the change. The first two days were wonderful; both kids raved about their teachers and their days.

The following week was not so smooth. Monkey Man made it clear he did NOT want to go to school. He just barely turned four in August. I was having a hard time with him being in school, anyway, due to multiple drop-off and pick-up times and Sugar Plum’s napping schedule. We made the choice to pull him back out of school and just keep him home with me. That has been a wonderful choice for him, and I plan to write a lot more about that soon enough.

Hula Girl, however, is thriving. I feel like we must have won the teacher jackpot! Her teacher is very structured and organized, and she is extremely communicative with parents. She researches and implements new approaches as fitting, and she is super engaging for the children, to boot. Hula Girl is a child who appreciates wit, routine, and structure. She loves knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and why. Her teacher meets provides all these things while challenging her to better herself.

Hula Girl is above average academically; this was a huge concern for me. My personal experience of skipping a grade because I tested high is one I wouldn’t trade for the world (I had a few wonderful friends and there was a lot of very healthy academic competition in my graduating class), but I wouldn’t want to put the social struggles I encountered at the younger ages onto Hula  Girl. She is already a bit socially awkward as she is still working her way out of her extreme timidity around strangers. I couldn’t imagine sticking her in a public school classroom with second graders!

I have been very pleased to see the proactive ways her teacher and the school are working to support her and engage her academically. My ultimate goal is not to have her earn Valedictorian of First Grade status; rather, I want her to be somewhere she feels is safe, enjoyable and engaging while we sort out our living situation. I want her to make friends and practice treating others like Christ. I want her to walk away with self-confidence AND humility.

Public school is the current means to these ends, and I am so thankful for all the prayers and advice we were given when debating this idea for our kiddos. We plan to re-evaluate our decision at Christmastime, and see if we feel settled enough by then to bring Hula Girl back home so we can start fresh with our Charlotte Mason homeschooling experience. This is truly where we feel God is leading us as a family; we just want to make sure to go at the right time and in the right way. We’ve seen God’s hand in a very vivid way over the past six months, and we are eager to see how and where he will direct us next.

“Chickening”

If you visit my house while my children are around, you will almost certainly be introduced to our chickens. We have ten laying hens, three pullets (baby hens), and one cockerel (baby rooster). Chickens are awesome animals to keep in the backyard. So many people are jumping on the backyard chicken bandwagon these days; I’m glad we have done it, too!

The first thing Hula Girl does when she gets up for the day is run outside and check on the chicks. We had a gold-laced Wyandotte hatch out four babies this spring. Two are black copper Marans (one pullet, one cockerel), one is another gold-laced Wyandotte, and the last one is an Old English game bird mix of some sort. All the babies are bantams, and are even smaller than our Silkie hens. When Hula Girl checks on them, she goes out and catches them and snuggles with them. She often tries to smuggle a chicken into the house inside her shirt, but the loud chirping gives her away every time.

After she has checked the chicks, she looks for eggs. The ladies all lay; we find anywhere from 8-10 eggs every day. We don’t use all of them. Jonathan sells dozens of eggs at work, and we bring them to our friends, family, and neighbors frequently. The eggs we get are beautiful. We can tell which hen laid which egg, thanks to Hula Girl’s patient observation of which hen is in which nesting box singing her egg song before each new egg appears.

 

Eggs

Clockwise from top egg, center listed last: eggs from Babette, Arwen, Laura, Prim, Scout, Mary, Molly, and Snowy. There won’t be a pop quiz, so don’t worry if you can’t tell them apart!

 

After the chores have been completed, we generally leave the chickens alone to graze through the backyard all day. I love looking out the kitchen window and watching the baby chicks catching grasshoppers– it is so funny! They will hop all around and try to fly and it just makes me giggle. I also giggle when I see Bella, our curly-feathered Sizzle, waddling all around the yard. She looks just like a mop from Harry Potter.

Hula Girl, of course, spends a lot of her spare time with the chickens. She knows each one’s personality and egg song. She knows which hens are friendly and easy to pick up (here’s looking at you, Scout, Bella, and Snowy!). She can tell Helena and Prim apart, and can distinguish between the buff Orpingtons (quite the feat; I can’t tell them apart save for Babette’s extra-large comb and wattles). The hens all come running when Hula Girl opens the door; they know her presence usually means a treat is coming soon.

We call our interactions with the chickens “chickening” as if it’s a verb. It kind of is. And Hula Girl is great at chickening.

The Chicken Dance

Wednesdays are always hectic in the mornings. The kids get up at 7:30, and we have to leave by 8:20 in order to get to Hula Girl’s dance class on time. This 50-minute chunk of time seems adequate time for most people to eat, dress, brush teeth, and leave, but TODDLER TIME is sooooo sloooooow. Somehow I put breakfast on the table at 7:35 and the kids still aren’t even halfway done by 7:55. 20 minutes into breakfast, and they’ve eaten like half a bowl of oatmeal and a few strawberries. I find it’s best if I just give them a quick breakfast and then plan for a larger morning snack than usual on Wednesdays.

Regardless of the hectic nature of the morning, yesterday I made sure to review our memory verse, read our poem for the day (“At the Sea-Side”), and pray for our sponsor kids. The kids so enjoy these activities at breakfast time. Monkey Man enjoys the poetry, and Hula Girl likes talking about what kinds of things our sponsor kids are doing, how the weather is where our sponsor kids live, and how we can pray for them. And of course both kids love the chance to show off their memory skills.

A couple days ago, I posted that Monkey Man doesn’t really join in memory verse recitation with the rest of us. Well, two hours after I published that post, kid was spouting off the entire verse. I knew he was able to do it, but he just wasn’t yet. He has decided to jump on board with family memory verses. It’s so much fun to see the kids gobbling up God’s word and taking it to heart. I even got the chance to correct their behavior using scripture yesterday when they were bickering. l asked them to say Ephesians 4:32 with me (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you,”) and then I asked Hula Girl what she needed to do in order to obey. She stopped arguing, said, “I forgive you, Monkey Man,” and they hugged it out.

Another awesome part of doing family memory verses is being able to address deeper spiritual issues. The other day, Jonathan got the chance to explain God’s forgiveness through Christ. Hula Girl was asking, “What does it mean that God in Christ forgave us?” Jonathan explained that Christ died once for all, and that our sins are forgiven because of HIS sacrifice, not because of any good thing we’ve done. She liked that a lot.

Anyway. Dance was great. The recital is coming up in two weekends, so the girls are really just working on fine-tuning their performance right now. Their sweet teachers are great at what they do, but this time of year is just crazy with so much going on. We will all be glad when the recital comes and we take the summer off.

After dance, we went to Starbucks to get hot chocolate and then we went and picked up the dance teachers’ gifts and cards. Our final errand was to get Monkey Man’s hair cut. To say the hairdresser loved him would be a major understatement. She was amazed at his speech and how sure he was with himself. He wanted his hair to be short on the top so he could “put gel in it like Daddy.” He also asked her to blow dry his hair (SO funny to see a hair dresser blow-drying a tiny little boy’s inch-long hair strands!), and he asked her to put gel in it when she was done. She got a kick out of all his requests and so she indulged him. He was definitely spoiled.

When we got home from our errands, Hula Girl disappeared to her room to work on her projects (she loves to write notes to people and glue them to pictures she’s created) and Monkey Man laid down on the couch to listen to an audio book from the library. We had a hot lunch of soup and popcorn! Then it was rest time.

When the kids got up, we spent about 10 minutes on Hula Girl’s reading lesson, and then we read 20-something books from the library. It is so cozy to be snuggled on the couch with those two little people. Monkey Man leans his head on my shoulder while I read; Hula Girl holds the cat on her lap and drapes her legs over mine. We put a blanket over all of us (the cat included, we wouldn’t want to forget Riley), and we read until we’re out of books. It took an hour and a half yesterday.

Our final activity before Jonathan came home yesterday was letting our youngest baby chicks out of their brooder for a while. I tried to keep them contained to just a blanket on the floor, but they were WILD. We have five little chicks who are 5 weeks old; our “big girls” are 9 weeks old and out in the coop already. The “little girls” are not as tame as the “big girls” because they were older when we got them and hadn’t been handled as much as young chicks. They were literally flying all around the playroom, and three of them even climbed up on Hula Girl’s head. Monkey Man enjoyed fishing them out from under the train table and the futon, and I just walked around cleaning up any messes. Oy. After 20 minutes of that, we rounded them up and returned them to their brooder so we could all get some rest! Thankfully, Jonathan is in the process of moving them to their bigger brooder in the garage as I type this, so I won’t have any more chickens living in our guest room. Ever.

Wednesday was not very school-heavy, but it was certainly educational. Every day is educational, in one way or another. And who says academic lessons are the most important lessons?

Rainy School Day #2

Hula Girl has really fallen into the rhythm of Kindergarten quickly and easily.

On Tuesday, we worked on our memory verse as a family, and then when Jonathan left, I sat down at the breakfast table with the kids and we read our poem for the day (“A Thought” by Robert Louis Stevenson). After poem reading and prayers for our sponsor brothers and sisters, we turned on our hymn (“All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”) and tried to sing along.

After breakfast, we worked on laundry and getting ready for the day for about a half an hour. Hula Girl was so funny, asking, “Mommy! What should I wear?” I told her she could wear anything she wanted to wear but that it needed to be warm enough to go outside. She replied, “Mommy, I can change to go outside, but I want to look fancy for SCHOOL!” Haha, she is really taking her job as a student seriously!

Once we finished our chores and got cleaned up and dressed, we completed the following work:

  • Literature- “Wolf and Kid” from Aesop’s Fables
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12D (dealing with place value)
  • Literature-Whale” from Just So Stories
  • Copywork- “tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” from Ephesians 4:32
  • Reading- Lesson 4

This really only took us until about 10, and so we were left with the rest of the day stretching ahead of us, full of opportunity. Since we’ve had such rainy weather lately, and it’s been so cold to boot, we spent the day inside. We made a blanket fort, we read a mountain of books, and then the kids had an hour or so of roomtime while I vacuumed and cleaned in preparation for my women’s book group on Tuesday evening.

After rest time that afternoon, we bundled up and headed out into the rain to go meet Hula Girl and Monkey Man’s new swim teacher at the Y. Hula Girl is a hesitant little girl still, and we’re starting lessons this week. I thought it best to go meet her teacher a couple days in advance so she knows who to expect. Her teacher won her over just by standing there; after all, what four-year-old isn’t going to be charmed by a young blonde teacher who wears an ELSA BRAID in her hair? Bonus points for Miss J, who happened to be wearing glasses, as well. Hula Girl loves glasses. She can’t wait to wear them someday.

After the Y we stopped at Walmart because somehow our coffeemaker broke last week. I’m still thinking it’s coincidence that it broke when we tried to use it after I had made coffee for the first time ever. When I made coffee, it worked. Coffee came out. Nothing weird. But the following night, it was broken. I didn’t touch it the night it broke. Let’s just be clear. 🙂

Sorry, I got sidetracked. I was going to explain how cute my Monkey Man is. When we went to buy the coffee maker, he was dressed as a firefighter, with the jacket, hat, and boots. He was also wearing a stethoscope around his neck, because fun. This older man at Walmart stopped and said, “Oh, hi, Doctor!” Monkey Man turned with his hands on his hips and said, “I am not a doctor. I am a firefighter.” The man didn’t really hear him, so he chuckled and went on his way. But Monkey Man kept calling after him, “Man! I am a firefighter! Man! Do you hear me? I am a firefighter, Man!” Bahaha. After that, anytime anyone stopped to admire his get-up, which was a LOT of times (cute kids FTW!), he pre-empted the entire conversation by saying, “Hi, I am a firefighter. Not a doctor.” They’d all laugh and he had a grand old time. He loves to talk to strangers and tell them all about his life.

Preschool and Homeschool Plans

We’ve been able to just jump right in to school this year. Hula Girl is such an eager student; memorization and absorption of new material comes so naturally to her. I’m always a bit wary of doing too much too soon with her; after all, she is only four years old and I know that at this point in her life, free play should be her #1 daily activity. However, she just adores preschool time and asks for it even on weekends. Little Man even gets to participate, and he so enjoys it! Soon he will have his own curriculum to work through. I’m so excited to teach both of them every day.

Here’s a general rundown of what our preschool time looks like each day:

  • 15 minutes- Reading and dancing or doing finger plays or clapping along to children’s songs and nursery rhymes from What your Preschooler Needs to Know (Little Man joins us for this part, because it’s fun and he’s going to start the activity book in August!)
  • 5 minutes- Copywork- Hula Girl copies down short passages from our morning’s devotion or the week’s nonfiction reading in her copywork notebook
  • 15 minutes- Math- We are using the Math-U-See Primer Level to introduce math concepts. We do about 5 minutes of direct instruction on the day’s topic, and then she takes 10 or so minutes to complete the accompanying worksheet.
  • 5 minutes- Core Knowledge Activity Book 2– This book is full of short, fun activities to reinforce literacy, writing, math, and other subject areas appropriate for preschoolers. Hula Girl already completed the first book last year.
  • 10 minutes- Reading- Hula Girl is currently teaching herself to read the Dick and Jane books. We sit down for a few minutes at the end of preschool and she attempts to read one chapter. I help her sound out words she’s unfamiliar with and then she reads through the story two or three more times, until she feels confident that she can read it well. She takes several breaks to practice reading that story throughout the day, and when Jonathan comes home, she reads the new chapter to him- always flawlessly.
  • *10 minutes- Nature Study- Hula Girl observes her science projects or something out in nature (like a bird sitting on top of our truck) and sketches her observations in her sketchbook. I help her with labeling and write the date, her title, and what observations she wishes to include. Little Man sketches in his notebook as well; however, his sketches tend to resemble Morse code. 😉
  • *10 minutes- History, Science, Music, or Art- We read a short excerpt, listen to a song, or view a piece of art and discuss. Oftentimes we will then take the next thirty minutes or so to create something inspired by the historical event, scientific information, composition, or artwork. These things might include hats like Abraham Lincoln wore, diagrams of our vascular system, choreography to complement the music, or simple art projects which resemble the inspiration.

*Nature study, history, science, music, and art do not happen daily. When we drop “reading” as a subject (when she’s fluently reading without much assistance), she will be using reading to access all her history, science, music, and art information on a daily basis.

So far, this system is really working well for us. Hula Girl’s favorites are math and nature study, and she really enjoys reading (I’m not sure how she couldn’t like reading as we’ve spent approximately 25% of her life snuggled up together reading books). Next week, I plan to move Little Man’s roomtime to the mornings right after breakfast, so Hula Girl and I can work on preschool uninterrupted. It’s difficult and a bit silly to try to plan extra activities to keep him occupied during this time as he only wants to be doing exactly what his big sister is doing. She, being the perfectionist she is, can’t handle his stray pencil marks on the corners of her papers and it’s really hard to explain place value when every other word out of my mouth is “Stop!”

We have an opportunity coming up for next year to place Hula Girl in a homeschool program at a charter school in Colorado Springs. She would attend school once a week and they would focus more on the art/music/PE stuff while also emphasizing basic literacy skills. Honestly, I feel like her greatest benefit would be improving her social skills. She has been really outgoing lately and has wanted to talk to and play with every single child she meets. I am still trying to work through whether or not it’s justified to commit to driving an hour one way every single week just so she can “do school” when our intention all along has been to homeschool. I feel like we can probably find her some groups of friends around here with less of a commute.

Another issue is that she will be a new five at the start of the school year and although she is quite mature for her age intellectually, she is just developing some social skills other children developed a while ago. Her very shy nature kept her quite isolated from other children for several years. Her recent outgoing behavior has been wonderful but also illuminating in some areas. We discuss many interactions I observe and I am working to teach her to act graciously and sensitively to other children. She catches on quickly, which is a relief!

And so we will see how things go over the next few months. Regardless of whether we do the charter school program, we will definitely be starting the Core Knowledge Kindergarten Sequence with Hula Girl and the Core Knowledge Preschool Activity Book 1 with Little Man this summer. I love Core Knowledge as a teacher because it allows me to draw from many outside sources to create lessons uniquely meaningful to my children while giving me a general understanding of what material to cover in each year. I plan to marry the Core Knowledge curriculum and the Charlotte Mason method. With this in mind, I plan to read all the books from the Ambleside Online Curriculum each year just because we have plenty of time and my kids love to read!

I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

Minor Homeschooling Freakout

I’m starting to second-guess our decision to homeschool.

This morning I took Hula Girl to the library for storytime (Gelato stayed home with our amazing friend Joy who babysits the kids and they LOVE her, who was homeschooled by the way). We’ve been going to the same storytime at the same library for two years now. There are several families whose kids are around Hula Girl’s age and now they have littler ones who are around Gelato’s age.

We went to storytime in August just before our vacation, but we hadn’t been back for three weeks. And a lot changes in three weeks. First of all, there is a new storytime teacher. Miss Kirsten is no longer there, which makes us sad. But hopefully we’ll get used to someone new (with her newfangled ways of singing the ABC song and all!). Aside from that, the demographics today were just way different than ever before.

All the kids Hula Girl’s age were absent- gone to preschool. Their moms were chilling calmly with their younger kids and really enjoying the 1-on-1 time with their younger offspring. I asked several of the moms how the eldest kids were liking it, and how the family was adjusting, etc. One hundred percent of the moms said it was going really well and that their child loved it. One hundred percent of them also said it was hard getting used to having their child away, even if only a couple times each week.

This started two divergent lines of thinking in my head:

1. I am a terrible mother for not giving Hula Girl the opportunity to go away to school. I am depriving her of meaningful and fun experiences and she will miss out on all the “normal” things that her peers will reminisce about in college.

2. I feel bad for those kids who have to be sent away from their families to go to school, especially the ones whose moms aren’t working and just staying at home hangin’ out with their sibs.

The predominant thought was the first idea- that Hula Girl and Gelato are going to be deprived of something great by having to stay home with me all the time. And so now I’ve got myself worked up into a tizzy.

Because, let’s face it, it would be GLORIOUS to send my little chickadee off to 3 hours of supervised-but-not-by-me activities twice weekly.  She would have fun and learn, I’d get a break; win, win. And then as she gets older and goes into real school and Gelato gets into preschool, I’d get even more breaks. Win, win, win! And when they both get into school school, I’d get to go back and teach again! Win, win, win, win!

But is that really worth it to me? I want to be the #1 influence in their lives. I want to be the one making decisions about what they will learn and how. I want to be the one who knows their work styles and play styles best. I want to know what they’ve done all day. I want to know which friends they have been hanging out with. I want to know if anything has happened to make them feel uncomfortable or sad (or EXCITED or GLEEFUL, for that matter).

And I want them to learn from me and my mistakes. I guarantee Hula Girl will be a better cook than me- she has already started learning. And Gelato will definitely have a better ear for music than I do because I insist on his hearing it during a lot of his day.

Anyway, I am just feeling all wrinkly and prickly and disheveled and not-sorted-out right now about our schooling situation here. I think I’m also feeling a lot of hubris and trepidation and not-good-enough and can’t-even-handle-her-at-three-how-am-I-gonna-teach-her-until-she-graduates?!?!?!

And one more thing. This has NOTHING to do with this post, but I just have to say it. What’s worse than completing your entire P90X workout? Lifting your son out of his crib later. P90X Chest and Back=OW.

 

Advice, Thoughts, and Ideas Needed- Montessori Homeschooling?

I really like the Montessori method. I have been reading and researching, as I tend to do, and I am absolutely sold on Dr. Montessori’s system. I love the product- a whole, compassionate, self-confident, deep-thinking individual. I love the process- hands-on, self-motivated, rich experiences. I am fascinated by the way the children can use the materials to self-correct and the intrinsic learning of higher concepts happening with even the most “simple” of the materials is mind-blowing. Come on, a tower of pink blocks?!?!?! Genius. I could spout sonnets about Montessori education, and I don’t even know that much about it yet.

So. I decided I want to use it for homeschooling. However, I am running into several difficulties and I want to know if ANYONE has any ideas about how to get around these issues.

  1. I am not trained as a Montessori instructor. And training takes time, people. Like, it would take about 2 years of courses for me to be able to teach Hula Girl at her current age bracket. Montessori education includes an infant/toddler age group, 0-3 years; a preschool age group, 3-6 years; a child age group, 6-9 years; and an older child age group, 9-12 years. Hula Girl would be five by the time I am ready to teach the preschool age group.
  2. Montessori education is mainly about the social and emotional development of a child. Classrooms, or communities, are divided by age as listed above. Hula Girl and Gelato are not in the same age bracket, and will rarely cross over. Also, we would need more children to really have a community. Two kids and a mom is not the same as 25ish children, a teacher, and an aide. 2+1 ≠ 25+1+1
  3. Because of the aforementioned issues, Jonathan and I talked about how we could possibly squeeze our budget in order to find the means to send our children to a Montessori school, even just a few days a week, while we maintain a Montessori style in our home: making the playroom natural, organized, and filled with high-quality materials;  landscaping the backyard in a natural way (more on this in a future post); creating child-friendly routines and spaces throughout the home to include small tables in the kitchen for food prep, stepladders in the bathrooms for easy sink access, lower shelves and rods in the closets for hanging up and putting away clothes, etc.
  4. But. #3 is probably not feasible because our town doesn’t have a Montessori school. At all. The closest one is about 45 minutes from our house. We don’t even have a Montessori homeschooling co-op (and let me tell ya, a LOT of people homeschool here. All our middle schools are rated 6 or worse on the “Great Schools Rating Scale” so you can probably guess why people homeschool).
  5. Although, I don’t really mind the drive… Driving to another town is possibly doable once Gelato drops to one nap- I might be able to drive up a few days a week for the kids to go to school while I… shop? Read a book? See friends? Visit Gramma? Take online classes? Volunteer?

I actually kind of like option five. But it’s kind of not affordable unless we’re making some extra dollaz somewhere. I am considering doing something that would bring in some cash each month. (NOT anything like Mary Kay, 31 Gifts, or anything like that. For those of you who know me, home parties are my worst nightmare. Forced fun is NOT fun. Forced fun plus the expectation of actually spending money you don’t have?! You’re killing me, Smalls. I only attend these when I really really really need a break from the house.)

A suggestion I have received is that I should just do a Montessori-esque style in our homeschooling, rather than focusing so much on the REAL Montessori stuff. But you guys. I can’t do it. I can’t know that there is better out there and NOT achieve it for my children. I am struggling with this so much because I feel, for the first time in my life, that my lack of education is holding me and my family back from the best we can have. If only I had trained for Montessori in college or when I just got out! If only my college hadn’t looked down on Montessori and made it abundantly clear that Montessori schools are just higher-cost daycares!!! I wish I had known sooner that real education happens in these schools.

The thing is, I don’t really want to send my kids away at all. I want to be the #1 influence in their lives, especially in their formative years. That’s my most important reason for choosing to homeschool in the first place! Now I feel like in order to give them the best education, I might need to step aside. And that kills me.

So what are your thoughts? Any experiences? Any ideas on how to make this work? Anyone know of some other option I’m unaware of (especially those of you who live near me)? ANY input is welcome.

%d bloggers like this: