Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almost Too Easy

My oldest said to me, "I'm glad we started school this way.  It's been less . . . I don't know . . . hard."

:)

I agree.

We've started with the bare minimum.  If nothing else, we can do this with our hands tied behind our backs--or on really bad days.

After less than a week we're used to getting up, getting chores done, getting school done.

And we have enough time on our hands to start doing some good stuff.

Now we just have to figure out what that good stuff is going to be.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Much Voice?

This morning we gathered for Morning Meeting to prepare for our school day.  J9 is still angry about her reading book--she's cooperating, but barely.  As she voiced her frustration, the other girls all had suggestions for how to make the experience better.

So did I.

The other girls all talked at once in a jumbled, hurly-burly, impossible to understand mess.

I raised my voice firmly above theirs and demanded silence.

Order was restored; I spoke my piece; we moved on.

It was only minutes later that a little voice spoke in my head, "Why did you have to be the boss?  Why were your words more important?  Why didn't you let the other girls speak?  What if (E13) had just the right motivating words and you shut them off?"

I think that voice has a point. 

My personal goal in treating my children with greater charity is that I will listen more.  I believe that parents need to be the voice of authority at home, but not a dominating, bossy, selfish voice.  I will listen and learn--just like the kids.

We'll all be happier for it.

Technology Has a Place in Our Homeschool

I think that the opponents of technology during school hours have a good case; I also think proponents of  technology during school hours have a good case.  I waffle back and forth philosophically over the issue, but in practical life, we use it.

My little guys play on starfall.com--some of them have even learned their letters and sounds there.

My middle kids are currently working on memorizing their math facts with apps that drill them.

I use the computer to document our days.

Today we found ourselves with some time on our hands, too hot outside temperatures, and a cool DVD about caves.  All 7 kids and I settled onto the couch to watch.  We learned about caving, biospheres, microscopic life, and a bit about what scientists do.  The scenes were breathtaking; the scientists were inspiring.  We talked and talked about our reactions.

I can't think that watching that DVD together was a bad idea.

I'd just been wishing this very morning that school with my older kids created the same warm fuzzies that school with my little children does.  H3 and I made zucchini bread with home-grown zucchinis for lunch.  A6 and I played her favorite BINGO game.  I1 went outside with a big sister to water the garden--he got to control the hose while she picked blackberries.  He came in sopping wet and happier than happy as he tried to tell me all about his adventures.

The same experiences aren't happening so much with my older kids.  But watching and discussing that DVD gave me some warm fuzzies.  My usually recalcitrant teen was bug-eyed with wonder.  My uber-cool pre-teens shed some of their uber-cool in favor of asking genuine questions.

It was fun.

And educational.

I'm sold. 

Technology--we're using it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

6 Can be Hard

I don't know what happened.  I never got to the bottom of the problem . . . but that wasn't for lack of trying.

Little Miss A6 fell apart about 30 seconds into her "school."

She loves to read.  She loves her books.  She loves her spelling, copywork, games, and assignments.  She smiles her little gap-toothed grin, grips her pencil in her pudgy fingers, and works her little heart out.

Usually.

Today she cried, screamed, yelled, pouted, folded her arms, stamped her feet, and generally was a mess.

I tried sympathy and understanding first.  When that didn't work, I simply closed her book and said, "School is for people who want to work.  We don't do school when we're tantruming."

She ran down the hall to her room and let it all out . . . dramatically.

I kneaded bread dough and pondered.

In retrospect, I wish I'd prayed.  I didn't do any damage, but perhaps I could have been a greater force for good had I prayed.

She came back with red-eyes and swollen face, "I'm ready for school now."

We did her assignments.

We played her favorite game:  Sight-Word BINGO.

I won.

Then she won.

We both won.

She's been happy ever since.

Good Reads--Beatrix Potter

Hands down, the best part of the second day was pulling out our Beatrix Potter collection, curling up on the couch alone and starting to read aloud.

First H3 climbed into my lap as I read A Fierce Bad Rabbit.

Somewhere near the end of The Story of Miss Moppet, A6 showed up.

We started into The Tale of Tom Kitten, and J9 curled up on the arm of the couch to listen in.

S11 was off trying to get some socializing in.

M11 was practicing the violin.

I1 was sleeping.

But E13 surprised me by peeking over my shoulder as I read The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck and saying, "I love these books!"  She stuck around for only a few minutes, but as she usually considers herself above such things, I was tickled.

A good book is a good book . . . period.

And Beatrix Potter wrote good books.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Only Noon?

I cannot say how thankful I am that my only real goal was to practice our new school year schedule rather than diving right in to everything!

I am exhausted.

Our main goal is to sell our house, therefore we have lots of cleaning times scheduled throughout the day--daily chores, breakfast clean up, lunch clean up, afternoon tidy up, dinner clean up, and extras.

H3 gets her preschool back.  We went through her past projects and put them into a binder.  We discovered that we never made our mini letter "D" book and that "J" and "K" are missing from the box.  Tonight's assignment is for me to reprint those files.

A6 is doing her copywork from Sonlight grade 1 Language Arts.  That's her only formal school.  Everything else is icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned.  She's a good reader, and the spelling and writing practice are just fun for her.

J9 completely melted down this morning.  It's been 2 hours, and she has finally come out of her room.  She's even spoken politely.  She is such an easygoing, delightful kid 99% of the time; when she puts her foot down, it is simply shocking!  She was assigned to choose a book for her "school" reading.  She wanted some fluffy books that I said made fun free time reading but were not acceptable for stretching her mind and trying something new.  I pulled 20 possibilities from the shelf, but she said she wouldn't read even one of them.  I told her to put one book in an "Unacceptable" pile and one in a "Not Too Horrible" pile and then repeat.

It was excruciating, but she finally chose The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

S11 chose In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson.

M 11 chose The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis.

I chose for E13--Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

We decided that we'd continue with Spelling Wisdom from the Simply Charlotte Mason series.  J9, S11, and M11 will continue where they left off with the Life of Fred elementary series.  E13 simply needs to memorize her math facts so that she can jump to the mathematics that she's cognitively ready for.  She says she wants to work her way through the Math-U-See Delta and Gamma books, but those cost money, and I'd rather see her make flash cards and do computer drills until the facts are memorized.

Her personal drive to do the Math-U-See books will probably win out over my frugal desires.

We're really and truly going to finish our study of the Old Testament this year, too!

And we're reading aloud together at night again--first book of the school year?  Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield.

That's where we're starting.

It's not much, but it is everything at the same time.

Chocolate bread is in the oven . . . we're ready to feed our bodies after working our minds this morning.

  This afternoon will be pretty open . . . put the little fellow down for a nap, help M11 mail a baby blanket to her new cousin, read some stories to the little girls, tidy up . . . hmm, not so open after all.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And the First Day is Here

Today is Sunday--not a school day--but we started our school year anyway.

We wrote letters after church this afternoon.  I required 2 from each of the older 4 girls and 1 from the 2 little girls.  I sat and wrote right alongside them all.  The littlest fellow napped.

It was a whopping success.  H3 drew a picture of her Grandpa and herself and printed "I love you Grandpa Chad" across the top.  A6 told me what she wanted to say; I wrote it out for her; and she copied it then drew a picture.  I was charmed to see that she included a note to her Grandpa's dog.

E13 didn't want me to read her letters, but I told her I needed to read them and help her edit them.  She conceded and was relieved to only have 1 or 2 spelling and punctuation corrections in each letter.  She expected a disaster, but it actually built up her confidence.

All of the letters made me smile.  What fun it will be if we get letters in return!!

I'm a lot more tired than I would be had I let everyone disappear downstairs to watch a video while I read a book, but I'm a lot happier, too.  I can tell that keeping this up will be work, but I'm counting on this first successful day to inspire me to do it again next week.

And I'm glad that I paused to write this, because in writing I am reminded that I should photocopy their letters and save them in their binders!

The other start to our year will take place in Family Home Evening tonight.  S11 and J9 are happily making chocolate chip cookies together upstairs (and have been for nearly an hour!).  While they've worked, I've printed out pretty copies of Moroni 7:45-48 to use as our theme for the year (I was inspired by this post.).  Tonight we'll read it together, briefly discuss the meaning, and play a little game in which we sit in a circle and toss a ball to one another while saying something nice about each person.  It may be a slightly forced/false activity, but I think it will at least get us thinking.

We're going to read/recite these verses mostly daily for our entire semester (or even school year) as part of our morning devotional.  I'm also going to assign the older 4 girls to participate in morning devotionals by presenting a scripture one day a week.  If they each have a day, that leaves me with a day, and we'll have some really nice sharing--I hope. :)

I still have to re-organize chores, and I'm not sure exactly what tomorrow is going to look like, but I have a general idea . . . for now, that will have to be enough.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Bit of Inspiration

I've been thinking more about homeschooling this year.  We just spent 24 hours in the car driving home from our trip out west.

There was a lot of time to think.

To ponder.

Here are ideas that are important to me:

*Letter writing.  We just renewed friend and family relationships.  What a perfect time to work on letter writing!  I think Sunday afternoons will be letter writing times.  I'll invest in a bunch of stamps and envelopes so that we won't have any excuses.  And the kids can email, too.

*I need "available" time each day.  I tend to overfill my day with tasks.  I'm going to be sure to block out 30-60 minutes each afternoon to simply be available to answer questions, run errands, listen, and otherwise help my family with what is important to them.

*E13 needs karate lessons.

*I still think that small unit studies might be the way to go . . . especially as we're hoping our home will sell and we'll get to move soon.  We're facing a great deal of upheaval, and small, discrete study units may be the way to go until we're facing a stretch of steadiness again.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Going Home

Today is the day we head home from our 3 week super-vacation in the west.  We've celebrated a wedding, a baby blessing, and a birthday; we've attended family reunions; we've driven across country completely new to us; we've renewed friendships; we've gone surfing!

It is time to face school again.

I have such mixed feelings. Partly because our house hasn't sold yet, partly because I'm newly pregnant with baby #8, partly because we've been so out of the schooling loop I don't even know where to begin.

I know these things:
*I miss preschool with H3 and she misses it too.  We'll pick up where we left off of the plans I made for her last year.
*I miss school with A6 and she misses it too.  She's a full-fledged reader now.  She doesn't need much more than encouragement from me, but we can do some school as an excuse to be together--a little reading, writing, and spelling with some math games thrown in for fun.
*I want to start the little girls' breakfast devotionals again--but how to do that around our current too-small table?
*I want to just finish the last 20 sessions of reading/journaling the OT with my older girls and then move on!
*E13 is showing marked talent for design--I must find a way to encourage that.
*E13 wants to go to BYU but she has so very much to do to get there in 5 years.
*I want more self-directed work for my older 4 ages 9, 11, 11, and 13
*I really, really, really miss reading aloud at night even though Daddy works nights and I do all of the tucking in myself.  We must get back in the habit somehow . . . I'm seeking inspiration on this one!
*Unit studies feel so interesting right now . . .

That's all for the moment.

More to come.