Friday, December 28, 2012

Let the Assessments Begin!

The calendar year is coming to a close.  Our school year is not quite half over, but as always happens after 3 or 4 months, it is time for change.  I've learned to not be distressed by the fact that schedules and plans never work for longer than a few months; we are all growing and changing so quickly that the need to make adjustments as we go is necessary.

In general we had a good first few months.  We accomplished a lot and our schedule was not too hard.

But it was hard.

It felt as if we didn't ever have quite enough time for playing outside or saying yes to play dates or offering service to others.  Friends have begun to say things like, "We'd love to play if you can squeeze us in to your schedule."  That simply breaks my heart.  There should always be room for friends!

Our schedule had room to allow for brief interruptions, but I always felt trapped and in a hurry to get back to where we should have been.

I went to bed pleased with what we did each day, but so tired that I had nothing left in me.  That can be a good thing--I believe in hard work--but I'm not quite sure that I had enough energy left for my husband, and that is a problem.  I definitely cared for him and left time in the days to interact with him, but I was out of practice from such a long haul of intentionally leaving him alone so he could study.  For him, school is out, and it is time to reconnect with each other.

So my first assessment is that people are more important than programs.  Something's gotta give! 

A)  I still need to protect our school hours so that we do have time for school.
B)  Those school hours need to be a little bit shorter.
C)  We need to protect our outdoor play hours.
D)  I need to set aside time for visiting teaching.
E)  We need 1 or 2 non-church-friend social events each month.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Self-Directed Learning in December

We're memorizing " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" together.  Actually A5 is memorizing it for the first time; the rest of us know it and are just reviewing.

We also borrowed a book of Christmas poetry from the library.  In it is a copy of " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas."  A5 found it and has spent literally days poring over it.  Occasionally she's asked, "Mom what does h-u-r-r-i-c-a-n-e spell?" or another related question.  I've answered and gone about my busy-ness without too much thought other than to be happy that my girl seems to like poetry.

Yesterday H3 asked me to read the "Cwismas poem" to her.  I sat down to oblige, and A5 saw what we were doing.  She sighed a big sigh and said, "Good luck!  That poem takes days to read.  I just finished."

"Did you read the whole poem?"  I asked incredulously.

"Yes," she answered matter-of-factly.

"Wow!  What an accomplishment!" I gushed.

She smiled, sniffled, and turned back to playing with her farm set.

How happy I am that my girl is inspired to read on her own!

S10 and J8 are planning to run a 20 acre farm together when they grow up.  Their husbands will work together too--doing the grunt work.  They're planning to buy beachfront acreage in Hawaii so they can go surfing when they're not doing chores.  It's going to be quite the farm.

They're making livestock lists, drawing architectural layouts of the outbuildings, and designing the general layout of the farm.

Yesterday J8 came to me to ask, "May I go to the library website to reserve some books on farming?"


After a while I heard, "Mom, what is organic farming?"

"It's what you want to do--go ahead and reserve books on organic farming, " I called back.

"Okay.  Thanks!"

After another while I realized she was missing her opportunity for sunshine and fresh air because she'd been on the computer for so long, so I called to her, "Time's up.   You need to get outside right away or the afternoon will be gone."

"Aww, Mom!  I was reserving books about horses.  Arabian horses are gentle and they're good with children, but I can't find books about work horses."

Suddenly a lightbulb flashed on in my mind, "Hey!  I have a farming book for you!  Right behind you on at the bottom of the tallest bookshelf is a book called The Encyclopedia of Country Living.  You'll love that book."

And love it she does.  It was a bit overwhelming, so she asked me to look at it with her.  After 5 minutes of shared browsing time, she was ready to take off and get lost in a world of future farming.

She took the book to bed with her last night.

While I made chicken noodle soup and homemade bread for dinner last night I began to think of ways to harness this enthusiasm into schoolwork.  Why not do a unit study on farms?  Why not work out math problems about expenses and profit?  Why not talk to farmers at the Friday Night farmer's market?  Why not . . .


I realized that they're totally doing research and work on their own.  There's no need for me to step in as leader.  All they need me to be is a facilitator--showing them resources and then letting them fly.  Which is what I did when I remembered the book on the shelf and what I will do when I pick up their library books for them this afternoon.

I will not create lesson plans.  I will ask questions and listen to the answers.  I will try to say yes when I am asked for supplies to create self-directed projects.  I will stay out of the way until I am needed and then I will offer only the help that allows them to work independently again.

I will get no nice neat notebook, no orderly report to file away in the homeschool record box.  That is frustrating to me.  But what they are doing is real learning . . . and there's no box that can hold it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Now is Good (Just Write)

The days roll peacefully, busily by.

We're schooling gently.

That's how I like it.

We were pushing too hard in September and October.  November showed us how to find joy in the journey, and we are obeying that direction in December.  I've begun to wonder what January will look like.

But that is not necessary.

Now is where we live.

I gave A5 and H3 little handwriting practice papers about cows to go along with our unit study of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.   H3 obviously doesn't need to do handwriting practice, but if someone bigger is doing it, she must do it, too.

I sat across the table from her, watching.

Watching her pudgy little fingers grip her pencil.
Watching her sweet, soft cheeks.
Watching her eyes deep in concentration.
Watching her elbows propped on the table, supporting her body because she was sitting in a chair too low for her body.
Watching a wisp of hair fall across her forehead.
Watching perfect letters march out from underneath her fingers.
Watching her smile triumphantly as she finished, "C is for cow."

I could live in now forever.

(Just Write)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Days of Service . . . So Far

I threw us right into the deep with our first service project on Monday; we prepared Christmas cards for soldiers for the American Red Cross.  The deadline for having the cards in Maryland is this Friday, so we just barely made the cut off, and we were only able to do one box of 18 cards, but that's 18 soldiers who will be getting cards who wouldn't if we hadn't tried.

 Next year we can start earlier and do more.  Perhaps I'll pick up some cards at 70% off after Christmas this year . . . but then I'll have to find them next year!

S10 said as we worked, "I'm not sure doing this is making me happier.  I think I feel kind of sad because these soldiers are away from their families."

I just smiled sympathetically, "That's good.  It means you're feeling sympathy.  I do hope you feel happy because you're doing something nice, though."

She smiled happily back at me.

I think she's fine.

Tuesday A5 said the prayer at lunch.  Among other sweet expressions I heard, " . . . and please bless the soldiers who are far away so they can have a happy Christmas . . ."

My mother-heart is full.

Tuesday's project was picking up trash in the woods.  We filled 3 bags in about 5 minutes.  It created fewer warm fuzzies than the cards did, but it was a service nonetheless.

Today we're making a batch of treats for our neighbors.  This one will appear strategically throughout the month so that we I don't have to go crazy doing all of the treats in one go.  A little here, a little there, and we can have fun with a sane mommy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Now What?

So, we're done with International Day. 

We missed it.

The original plan was to have fun with this break from our regular studies and then return, refreshed, to the grindstone.

But every part of me is rebelling against that! 

I don't want to go back to what we were doing!

It was good.  Our days flew by busy and productive.  But the very idea of it is horrifying right now.

I want to do another project that brings us all to life the way Antarctica and How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World did.

Christmas could do it!

What about a Christmas unit study?

As I sat at the table after my personal scripture study I came up with this list:

Scripture to memorize:  Luke 2
(And it would work for copywork, spelling, and dictation, too!)

Poem to memorize:  'Twas the Night Before Christmas

History:  Roman Empire, Jewish history/culture/religion

Literature: Max Lucado storybooks, Who Am I? by Katherine Paterson, The Not So Wise Man by Alan MacDonald, Elijah's Angel by Michael J Rosen,

Science:  biology--human gestation and birth, animal husbandry, astronomy (The Amazing Beginning of You by Mark and Lisa Jacobson, God Made You Nose to Toes by Leslie Parrott)

Service:  an act of kindness each day

PE:  we could finally use that 1 week free at the YMCA I've been promising to redeem for so long

Math:  Start back up with Life of Fred again

Electives:  The kids could pick up their individual studies again (E12--Latin, M10--ASL, S10--The Great Composers, J8--Horses)

I feel charged and alive as I imagine following these pursuits.

I feel burdened and tired as I imagined returning to our autumn schedule.

I'm going with charged and alive.

We Were Sick!

Antarctica and How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World fizzled to a sad end because we got very sick!  10 out of 10 members of our household have had fevers, coughs, sore throats, runny noses, and aches and pains; it began with little H3 and has taken 1 or 2 more down ever since Thanksgiving Day. 

We did have our Antarctic movie day though--Blue Planet "Frozen Seas,"  Planet Earth "The Poles," Eight Below, and March of the Penguins.  It was a good educational day while we were just starting to feel crummy.  Once we were really, really sick we kept right on watching movies, but I also read for at least an hour a day from Troubling a Star by Madeline L'Engle--our literature connection to Antarctica.  We haven't quite finished Emperors of the Ice, and I'm not sure we will, but I'd like to.  Those explorers were intrepid!

My little girls do want to finish exploring the world and then make apple pie together, and I quite think we should!

We missed International Day. 

It was a dreadful disappointment. 

We're thinking of saving everything we've done and displaying it at the Spring Learning Expo, but we certainly can't save our hydroponic plants until then because the beans are already 2 feet tall, and there's no room to keep them.  Besides, they're just living off liquid fertilizer, and that's gross.  If we ever do this again, I'm making compost tea and fish emulsion for them to grow in; I like for plants to grow with real nutrients!

I guess we can snap pictures now or just start the hydroponics project over again in the spring.

Today we're going to wrap up what we've learned with journal entries and discussion time.

I hate to go out with a fizzle.