Monday, July 28, 2014

I'd Like to Be Friends

I felt so left out . . . so alone in that room full of good, kind women.  I was at a baby shower.  It was fun--filled with women whom I admire and enjoy.  In greeting me, one of them asked me how Friday night's homeschool dance went.  I answered enthusiastically.  Another woman asked me questions about the group that sponsored the dance, curious about what a homeschooling life is like.  Somehow as I answered, I felt the first woman withdraw from me, and before I finished my sentence, she redirected the conversation and closed the door to me.

I shook it off.  Perhaps I was wrong.  If my friends can ask me questions about homeschooling, then certainly I can ask questions about their public school experiences.  I can be just as interested in their lives as they are in mine.  That's what friends do.

I listened politely to their animated discussion of the best sports teams to join, which ones to avoid, how to find the best private lessons for music/tennis/etc., which schools are worth considering, which are not and why, how to take online summer school classes through the school district so that kids have time for electives that will look good on transcripts, the pros and cons of academic vs sports scholarships, balancing sports and activities with home life . . . but there was no room for me . . . not even to ask questions or express delight at their children's successes.

And the feeling that it was intentional kept coming back.

Eventually I realized that if I offered to take their plates for them I could escape politely, so I did.

Then I asked one woman how her oldest son is doing, and I asked another about her family reunion plans, and then another asked me about my pregnancy.

The ebb and flow came back.

But on my mind ever since are questions: Do I talk too much about homeschooling?  Do I offend people?  Do they feel criticized or judged by me?

I hope not.  I try to to show interest in others.  I only talk about homeschooling if I'm asked first.  I don't expect people to live the same way I do or to make the same choices I make; I'm happy with diversity.  I have positive opinions about public school (I have negative ones, too, but I mostly keep them to myself--especially when I'm around moms with kids in public school).  I try to express joy in others' joys and sorrow in others' sorrows. 

My experience on Saturday has left me wondering if there is something I need to change in how I communicate with others. . . then again, my last post was about my uncertainty over changes in how we homeschool, so it could just be me.

But it's worth pondering.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Changing . . . and Support

Homeschooling seems to be a lot about freedom--mostly the freedom to throw off the constraints of traditional education and find one's own way.  Everywhere I turn I can find voices encouraging me to think outside the box, get outside of 4 walls, work outside of a formal plan.  I've listened and been blessed by such encouragement.  Those voices kept me going through the early years of homeschooling when trying to do anything traditional or formal would have killed me and all of the kids.

But suddenly (or perhaps it has been slowly) we're all ready for a more traditional/formal approach.  My oldest asked me to put together "a high school plan like what my friends are doing in public school."  My next 3 have absolutely refused to do any more math with Life of Fred or Khan Academy or online games or Mathematicians are People, Too and are clutching traditional textbooks and workbooks to their chests with sighs of pleasure.  My next one has requested that I buy her a spelling book.  When it arrived, she did a little happy dance and pored over every page asking, "When does school start?  When can I start my new book?"

My little guys are still little.  Reading, games, and love are still enough.

I get the strong sense that all of us are tired of the adventure and are in need of a season of security.  We all crave 4 walls around us.  We are ready to crawl into the box and close the cover over our heads.   My middle 3 have each said in various ways, "I'm tired of having to figure out how to do it.  I just want to be told what to do and then do it."

I feel exactly the same way.

I realize that I have no support network around me for this new way of being--lesson plans, check off lists, formal beginning of school year dates, and assigning grades (my oldest is starting high school this year).  The voices with which I've surrounded myself pooh-pooh such things.

But this move is right for my family.  I can feel it in my heart and mind and spirit.  If homeschooling is about the freedom to choose, to do what is best when it is best, then I must ignore the voices that poke fun at this way of doing things and simply do what feels right.

And I don't know for sure that it will last forever. 

This could simply be a season of rest that we all need as we prepare for Baby #8 and the public-system adoptions we're still working on.

Or it could be a long-term commitment.

I don't know.

Most people follow a traditional path.  To homeschool is the exception to the rule.  And to create one's own curriculum is the exception to the exception to the rule.  We're used to bucking the system, going our own way, taking the road less traveled.  It has taken deliberate work to find like-minded people and surround my family and myself in a web of support.

I know we're not alone as we step back toward the main road--the enormous educational companies from whom we are buying our supplies testify to how many people are doing what we're doing . . . along with the computerized transcript companies, and the online schools, the co-ops, and the all-in-one curriculum plans whose catalogs flood my mailboxes every day--but I feel oddly alone.

Even as I type these words, I know that the loneliness is false.  I can think of many times my most outside-of-of-the-box creative friends have used traditional methods and plans for their kids.  This makes me smile and feel relieved.

We're doing what we need to do.

This is going to be a good year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Plan--2014/15--M12

M12 is a 7th grader this year--at least as much as any of my kids fit into the classic grade system.  I'm finding that the materials I want to use for her will last for about 2 years, so for the most part this is what her 7th and 8th grade years will look like . . . unless something dramatic happens.

State Required Basics:

Reading:  read and journal daily from her choice of a list of "great books."

Language Arts:
Intermediate Language Lessons
This is one of the 2 year books because it has approximately 200 lessons in it, and I think we'll only have 100-120 "regular" school days this year.  (Our remaining 60-80 days will be field trips, nature outings, science club meetings, etc)
Rod and Staff spelling 4 and 5 
Remedial work here.  She's improved a lot in the past year with Spelling Wisdom, but I can see that she needs a formal review of some of the rules that will help her make generalizations she hasn't made on her own.
Rod and Staff penmanship 3 and 4
For cursive review and concentrating on general neatness.

American History--We'll continue our family reading of Landmark History of the American People
Read and journal 1 biography per month--including Stories from the Life of Joseph Smith and I Walked to Zion.

World History--She'll read and journal daily from the Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World
She'll also pick and choose to read and journal from the following:
Our Island Story (over 2 years)
Tales and Customs of the Ancient Hebrews by Eva Herbst
Gods and Heroes by Robert Edward Francillon
A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Story of the Greeks--Helen Guerber

Saxon Math 8/7

Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science--another 2 year plan

Family Required Basics

Family devotional
Memorize Romans 12
Personal Progress
Continue to read and journal The Book of Mormon.

The Extras:

Choose 1 country/region/state per month. 
Read a library book about it. 
Draw a map.
Create a project or report illustrating what was learned.

Teach beginning violin lessons to A7

Practice violin—work through intermediate lessons

Continue to learn songs in simplified hymn book.

Learn at least 1 hymn in regular book
Learn 3 new songs on recorder


Sewing—baby blankets, dress for A7, another project?

Knitting—produce at least 1 pair of socks with sock loom

Embroidery--Finish tea towel started in co-op 2 years ago!

And on top of all this she'll continue to attend church on Sundays, participate in weekly church activities, go on whatever field trips we can afford with our homeschool association, dance and sing with American Rhythm, and play competitive soccer in the spring.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Plan--2014/15--E14

This is a terrifying and huge plan for my girl.  Her work will run the gamut from building up remedial elementary skills to challenging college-level thinking.  She and I have spent a hundred or more hours working on it.

If she does not do it all this year, that's okay.  I know she's capable of the thinking and learning part, but the study skills and writing could do her in.  If so, we will slow down on the electives and allow her two years to complete them.

She has a couple of elective subjects that do not seem necessary, but I am assigning them to her because they will allow her to explore some strengths that I see in her but she does not see in herself.  I'm hoping she'll get an honest chance to develop a passion or two that could bring her a lifetime of joy.  If not . . . at least seeds will have been planted . . . to develop or die as her life plays out.

State Required Basics:

Reading:  read and journal daily from her choice of a list of "great books."

Language Arts:
Rod and Staff 7
This is recommended for 9th grade in The Well Trained Mind for kids with little to no prior formal grammar training.
Prose and Poetry for Appreciation
She'll choose 1 selection per week to read and answer the study questions offered as preliminary training for formal essay writing.  This is one book that we can drop should her work load prove too heavy.
Rod and Staff Spelling Grades 4 and 5
She'll work her way through 2 lessons per week so that she can complete both books in a single year.
Rod and Staff Handwriting Grade 4
She'll do one lesson per day which should get her through the book in a single semester. 
Once she's done with the handwriting practice book she'll pick up with daily copywork from a favorite book of poetry (her choice--we have lots around the house)

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer
The History of the Ancient World Study Guide
We wanted to do Beautiful Feet Ancient History but decided that E14 will be doing enough reading and study of good books that what she really needed was a no-frills spine.  This will do nicely.

Math U See Epsilon
Math U See Zeta
Math U See Pre-Algebra
We worked on the skills in the Epsilon and Zeta books via Khan Academy and Developmental Mathematics, and it looks to me as if she's got them down.  She, however, has begged to be allowed to work her way through the Math U See books because she feels uncertain, and Math U See is her math comfort place.  After much discussion and budget re-working (thank goodness for used books), she's getting what she wants.  She feels good about it.  I feel good about it.  I'm confident she'll race through Epsilon and Zeta in a single semester and be ready for Pre-Algebra in January.  Her goal is to complete Pre-Algebra in a single semester and start Algebra next summer.  If not, she can take the summer to finish Pre-Algebra, and we'll re-work her graduation plan.

Alpha Omega LifePac High School Health--1 semester health class
Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology
We bought a used first edition of the biology book and teacher's guide for under $20, but the necessary supplies are too much for us right now, so she'll start her year with Alpha Omega's inexpensive and easy to implement health program.  We'll save over the semester and (hopefully) find a good used microscope and perhaps a sale on the lab supplies so she can start biology in January and complete it over the summer and/or following semester. 

Family Required Basics

Seminary--This year's subject is Doctrine and Covenants and Church History
Personal Progress--she has a few spiritual goals left to complete, but mostly she has lots of homemaking/education skills to develop, including all 7 of her 10 hour projects. 

For Such a Time as This by Lisa Ryan
The Book of Virtues
She'll start with the sweet study guide about Queen Esther from the Bible.  It has about 16 chapters that include projects and written responses for to help a young woman develop the virtues exhibited by Queen Esther.  Once she completes that she'll read and journal a personal response to her choice of selections from The Book of Virtues.

The Extras:

Western Civilization
The Mainspring of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver
The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk
The Republic by Plato
She'll read and journal from these books.  This is one of the subjects that can be dropped and picked up later or take two years, if needed.

Nature Studies
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Claire Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
She'll read a little and explore a little each week.  She'll keep her own nature notebook, too (which will double as art lessons because that will be as much art as she can stand in a year).

Foreign Language
Visual Latin lessons 1-30
She made it through lesson 17 about two years ago.  It was very hard back then, and now she's forgotten all of it.  She needs a foreign language; we own the DVDs; I've reprinted the written lessons; she's ready to go for very little expense or trouble.  Once she completes this program she'll be free to choose another language to study. 

Piano--a weekly lesson from me, daily exploring/practicing on her part.
See Nature Studies

And on top of all this she'll continue to attend church on Sundays, participate in weekly church activities, go on whatever field trips we can afford with our homeschool association, dance and sing with American Rhythm, and play competitive soccer in the spring.  


This is a huge plan.  

I stand firm in my willingness to drop whatever we must to keep my girl curious, thriving, and joyful.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Just Moving Last Year's Books off the Sidebar

Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilber Riemer
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H.M. Bouwman
The Complete Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley
Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes
Caroline and Her Kettle Named Maud by Miriam E Mason
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Cappyboppy by Bill Peet
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannon Stiles
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Usborne Stories from Around the World retold by Heather Amery
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
Daniel Boone by James Daugherty
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Socks by Beverly Cleary
All About Sam by Lois Lowry
Zooman Sam by Lois Lowry
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Monday, July 14, 2014

What Can Be Done

Slowly but surely I am setting up our school year to come.  It is harder than it has ever been before--because there are more kids?  because I'm pregnant and tired?  because the kids' needs are diversifying?  I'm not sure . . . I only know that inspiration has come slowly.

But it has come.

I've been puzzling over how to handle history and science for my older/middle 2.  I have plans in place for E14 and M12, but S12 and J10 have been tricky.  These are usually subjects that we work on in a group with me as leader, but I will be out of commission for the whole middle of the school year, so the kids need to be able to work independently.  I've spent hours thinking, researching, wondering, praying over what to do for my girls.  There are dozens of wonderful options, but that magical balance between affordable and doable remained elusive for many weeks.

One afternoon last week I was reading with H4.  She was in need of some mommy-time, and I was just coming out of my nauseous/exhausted haze, so it was a good opportunity to love her up a bit.  As we finished the book and she climbed off my lap I got a sudden light in my mind--the answer to how to handle both history and science this year.  I hurried to the computer to pull up their files and record the plans before I forgot. 

Then I paused to offer thanks to my Heavenly Father for knowing our individual needs, for caring, for loving, and for answering my prayers. 

It never ceases to amaze me that my small concerns matter to Him.

On Saturday afternoon I worked with S12 on her reading list and her musical development goals.  Solutions came as we researched and talked. 

Sunday evening provided answers for meeting M12's home economic, musical, and spiritual goals.

I have questions about how to schedule my youngest 3.
I have concerns about E14's plans.
I've worried as I've compared myself to all of the families I've read about who already have their year planned and ready to go.

But I'm not really worried any more. 
I trust than the answers will come.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Mom, I'm Bored"

I've probably written this theme into the ground this week, but this is a place for me to process my thoughts along our educational journey, and boredom is what we're learning about.

I'm learning to be comfortable with letting my kids get bored.

Way back before I had kids, my good friend had a couple, and she earned a little pocked money by babysitting a couple more.  She said that the kids she watched were exhausting to be around all day not because they were bad kids--they weren't--but because they were used to having their every moment planned and they had no idea how to entertain themselves.  My friend told me that she cultivated boredom in her kids so that they would learn how to make good choices and know how to use the time God gives us all.

I've always remembered that bit of good advice.

But it hasn't always been easy to follow.  When the kids say, "Mom, I'm bored!" I always answer that I have a chore that needs to be done, and the kids scatter like the wind and find something to do, but I wonder if I'm doing a disservice because we aren't signed up for the library reading program, swimming lessons, summer craft camp, VBS, or enrichment classes.  I kind of wonder if I'm a bad mom when my kids are bored.  Shouldn't I be giving them more of my time?

Last night I was talking to a fellow mom at a church social.  This mom LOVES her kids.  This mom cares about motherhood.  This mom is a good mom.  Her kids are kids I'm glad mine have as friends.  We seek their company and are better for it.  I admire her in many, many ways. 

Last night she said, "I feel as if this summer is the busiest season of my life.  It's my own fault.  I'm running here, running there, taking the kids out and about, trying to keep them from getting bored."

Something in me suddenly felt so thankful for our own boring summer, and I answered gently, "I intentionally let the kids get bored so that they know how to solve the problem of their own boredom."

"But my kids fight when they're bored . . . " she said, trailing off as she answered the call of her 2 year old and I answered mine.

We let the conversation drop, but I turned away grateful that  my kids are their own best friends.  Yes, E14 took M12's favorite jeans without permission on Monday, and S12 said some spiteful things to H4 yesterday.  Yes, A7 and H4 sometimes hide from I2 so that they can play a game in peace, and he comes to me in tears after being abandoned by his favorite people in the world.  Yes J10 sometimes sighs and says, "I don't want to play with my sisters anymore!"  Yes, sometimes I send the kids to their rooms because the bickering is making my head spin off, but that is truly only a small percentage of the time.  For the most part they are absolutely best friends.

A7 and H4 play for hours with I2--games of make believe adventure.  J10 has been I2's best friend this week; she's been playing some made up version of Clue.  It is hilarious to hear him call out, "Colonel Mustard, yibrary, bobby pin!"  (we lost the lead pipe, so we use a bobby pin.)  M12 does S12's and J10's hair.  S12 and J10 play Barbies.  E14 does makeovers on all of her sisters.  They take turns painting each other's nails. 

When they need time apart from one another they develop talents and skills. 

E14 is clearing brush along our little creek so that they can follow the creek from the street in front of our house all the way down to the street behind our house.  It's not far, but it feels like an adventure because the woods and brush are so thick.  Apparently there's also a small clearing along the way in which she's hoping to build a tree house.  Daddy bought her some lumber and has given her permission to use his tools. 

M12 sits at the piano for hours at a time.  She's really learning to play--so much so that she's accompanying the hymn singing for the other girls in the church youth group.  She also sewed a dress for H4.  She's working on a dress for A7.

S12 made me a cake on Wednesday when she was bored.  She'd never made a cake by herself before.  It's delicious, and she's so proud of herself.  She's also learned to make quesadillas for a crowd and has made piles of sandwiches for us all.  She's service-minded, so when she's bored she looks for ways to help; yesterday I found her voluntarily cleaning up dog-poop in the yard.  She's my hero right now.

J10 came to me with a recipe for muffins she found in a magazine.  Once she helped me tidy up the kitchen she had free reign there for over an hour.  The muffins are fabulous!  Cinnamon-nut.  Even the non-nut-eaters in the family are eating them eagerly.  And last night J10 learned how to make popcorn on the stove--she popped 3 batches for us to take to the social. 

A7 picks up her scriptures when she's bored.  She's reads intensely--so much so that I2 picked up a set of scriptures he found lying on a table, marched into the kitchen and announced, "I read dese myself!"  Then he marched out to the couch, plunked himself down next to A7, opened the scriptures at random, and proceeded to stare intently at the pages.  A7 is influencing our family for good.

The little guys play, draw, color, wheedle big people into reading stories to them, and soak up everything they can.  H4 has learned to hula hoop.  I2 has learned how to wash his own hands--he even turns off the water when he's done! 

I've struggled this summer with being so "out of it" with this pregnancy.  I've felt that I've done my family a disservice by lying on the couch and failing to give them a summer full of care free memories of spending long hours in the sun.  I've wept more than once with fear that my pregnancy and a new baby are not blessings but curses I've brought on my kids' heads.  I've feared that I'm just not competent enough.

I keep writing and writing about my fears and sense of failure.  I keep writing and writing about how great I think my kids are . . . not to boast, but to increase my own awareness.  I write to help me see more clearly.  I can see better that I am not failing them; if anything my fatigue and illness have been a gift to them.  They are free to be bored.  They are free to solve their own problems.  They are free to grow in ways that they might not if I were on top of my game and managing our every moment. 

I am so thankful for that brief conversation I had with my friend last night.  She's a great mom, and her kids are great kids.  I'm glad we're friends.  Though I'd already been working hard to process the idea, she helped open my eyes to the blessings of boredom.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Oh, Nothing

I came home from my first appointment with a midwife (there IS a happy, healthy baby growing within!) to find my kids outside . . . just kind of pottering about.

And I feel so very thankful.

It's what I've been waiting for since May.

I've had to make the computer completely off limits and give them almost no direction for how to spend their days for a month for them to remember the joys of doing Nothing out-of-doors.

“What I like doing best is Nothing."

"How do you do Nothing," asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, 'What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?' and you say, 'Oh, Nothing,' and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."

"Oh!" said Pooh.”
―A.A Milne, Winnie the Pooh
 July has just begun.  Originally I had intensive remedial spelling activities and math work planned.  But we are not going to do that at all.

We are going to do Nothing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

To Everything There is a Season

I have officially given up my summer plans.

That stack of 50+ library books all about plants--project books, history books, herbals, recipe books, etc.--all returned.

Well, except one.  I still have 2 weeks to hold on to Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany, and I can't quite bring myself to return it early just in case the opportunity to do a lesson or two presents itself.  (It is hard to give up!)

We haven't done one day of sketching.
We've only managed two nature outings.
It turns out that our local lake only allows swimming at a certain beach and only during certain hours of the day, and there's an entry fee--per person!

We're not even going on our blueberry picking outing with Daddy this morning because we had a new church family over for dinner last night, and the evening was so fun that we all stayed up until hours past all of our bedtimes, and we're all exhausted and sleeping in, and it's raining this morning anyway.

We spend our days as if it were 32 degrees and cloudy out instead of 85 degrees and sunny--in the house, reading, playing games, cooking.  The kids don't go out unless I do.  And I'm doing very well just to take care of meals (unless the kids do!), keep up with the laundry, and be available to read stories to small people.

I have to fight the urge to complain.

We are housebound for the very best of reasons.

And I must remember to count my blessings . . . 1, 2,  3 . . . 1,000,004 . . .

This quiet, indoor summer is not what I dreamed of, not what I planned for, not what I wanted.  But it is what we have.  We're growing a baby (we're so hoping to hear a heartbeat tomorrow), we're completing adoption paperwork, we're doing fix-it projects, we're living very quietly after completing one full school year with another one coming up.

And a new month started today. 

Perhaps there are adventures . . . fun ones! . . . right around the corner.