Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week… I am realizing that God is teaching me a thing or two about the futility of my plans. We *should be* three weeks into our school year. Instead, I'm just trying desperately to cling to the realization that yes, we *will* finish. On time.
In our homeschool this week… two of my three students (and their teacher) are sick, and the two littles' noses are running as fast as they are. It is not a pleasant sight. I decided to go ahead and quit dreaming about the way I'd like for things to be organized if I can ever get us 'caught up' on the schedule I set for us to attempt to follow this year (haha ... year round, huh?) and just DO what my brain has been contemplating. Our schoolroom is no longer in the back of the house, secluded in the dark cave I painted yellow in an attempt to re-energize the gloomy space. I am slowly and painstakingly getting things arranged in the bonus room, adjacent to Pete's "office" space and taking FULL advantage of the wide-open space, bright natural light, and proximity to the copier! Bookshelves are in place, table is in place, crayons are in place. The rest ... is a work in process. I revamped our school schedule to do what I have done since I started this journey 14 years ago--we are beginning (again) with a grand re-start ON Labor Day. I don't know why I ever changed it. 
Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… BE FLEXIBLE!!! Do what works for YOUR family, not what everyone else's "successful" family does. No one else lives in your world. No one else knows your family's eccentricities. Don't fight it; embrace it!
I am inspired by… beautiful learning spaces I have come across on the internet both on Pinterest and via the Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop. I want my girls to be proud of their schoolroom, and I want it to be a space we can all be comfortable in!
Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… The only trip outside the house we've made this week was to the eye doctor today. We came home with a prescription for glasses for 7yo Morgan. I'm not loving the idea that her vision isn't perfect, but glad nevertheless that she doesn't have the eye issues I had growing up. A little astigmatism and a cool fashion accessory are simple to deal with!
My favorite thing this week was… hanging a new "children's" map up in the schoolroom and beginning to see how the new setup will come together to work for all of us.
What’s working/not working for us… keeping manipulatives with in reach of the tiny tornado who loves to dump everything on the floor and RUN. Must. Utilize. Overhead. Storage!
Questions/thoughts I have… I'm wondering how getting her new glasses next weekend will affect Morgan's schoolwork. Time will tell how much of an impact it had on her handwriting and reading in the past, but it looks to be far worse than we originally thought!
Things I’m working on… mainly getting the schoolroom in order, but I am also in the beginning stages of tackling my Christmas sewing projects. Neither is simple, but hopefully both will be beautiful and well-received! They will certainly be made with love, that's for sure!
I’m reading… Welcome Home by Emilie Barnes, gaining inspiration for making my "nest" more homey and comfortable for all of us and our guests.
I’m cooking… roasted chicken, roasted potatoes, and roasted asparagus for dinner. Letting the oven do the hard work!
I’m grateful for… the luxury of having fresh starts!
I’m praying for… a friend who lost her job, and a friend's friend who lost his wife and the mother of his seven children today. My problems are puny.
A photo, video, link, or quote to share… our new, even-more-extended family (minus our son-in-law, who will be "home" for two weeks next month!).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook 8/8/2011

FOR TODAY - August 8, 2011 
Outside My Window... it is overcast and hot again. I put out the hummingbird feeder yesterday after seeing our second hummer flitting around searching for it. I am yet again reminded as I look out there that I really, REALLY need to just get out there and yank all of that grass and the weeds out of the flower bed. It has been sorely neglected during my recovery, and it's just ugly!
I am thinking... about everything that has to be done this week. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't think about it! Maybe I should just write it down and start whittling away at the list?
In the learning room... this will be a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants week. The septic disaster we had last week really kept me distracted from schoolwork on Thursday and Friday and, while we did finish Thursday, Friday was a total bust--a mental health day--and we have to get caught up. 
I am thankful for... the reason for the stress. By the end of this week, we will have gained another daughter! We will be blessed with a visit from both sides of the family, and our son will get to begin another chapter of his life. Definitely something to be thankful for!
From the kitchen... I am really looking forward to having some Caribbean chicken salad tonight; it has been far too long since I made it, and I'm already hungry thinking about it! I think the brown bananas in the fridge are calling out to be used in some yummy banana bread too. Hopefully there will be some time this afternoon to do just that!
I am wearing... still my jammies. One more cup of coffee should wake me up enough to get in gear. I am just not there today yet.
I am creating... ideas in my head for Christmas crafts. It's about as creative as I can be with the to-do list I have! 
I am going... to sit at home and wait for the plumber to come AGAIN and hopefully fix for good what he was supposed to have done last week. Other than that, I have no plans to leave the house today.
I am reading... Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Be the People by Carol M. Swain; both wonderfully challenging reads.
I am hoping... to make it to Thursday (payday!) without going bankrupt! Septic problems are expensive!
I am hearing... Shelby singing a made-up song. Adorable!
Around the house... there are mini-disasters everywhere in need of my attention. I haven't even touched the big bathroom since the septic tank was pumped, because the toilet still has to be reinstalled and the tub is still backing up ... so what's the point? There's also laundry to fold, a bonus room to clean, oh boy. My head hurts just thinking about it.
One of my favorite things... hot coffee and a warm, slightly toasty bagel with cream cheese and sliced olives. My sweet hubby made me a bagel yesterday before church, and now I'm wanting one today too!
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: (A FEW??)  
  • finish cleaning the house
  • grocery shopping
  • at least three days of schoolwork
  • call to order the BBQ for the rehearsal dinner, shop for the rest of the 'fixins'
  • go to Party City for at least a few birthday decorations
  • go to Barnes & Noble alone (haha) to pick up Pinkalicious for Shelby's birthday
  • get the girls' birthday presents wrapped
  • make cupcakes
  • weed the flower bed
  • shop for the girls' dresses for the wedding (wow, am I behind, or what?)
  • find myself some wedding-worthy shoes!!
  • stop adding things to my to-do list ... this is exhausting.
Here is picture thought I am sharing... Shelby chasing the pigeons at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta last weekend. A reminder to me that I need to enjoy the little moments among all the craziness and hustle and bustle of life.
If you'd like to celebrate the simple things in your daily grind, then by all means, blog about it and then share with others who are participating in The Simple Woman's Daybook!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reality set in today.

I had one of those "lightning bulb" moments today. No brilliant ideas, no major epiphanies warranting major life-altering risks, but I was involved in a series of conversations today that made me realize that Pete and I are at that really odd point in our life together where we are reaping the consequences of our decision to reverse his vasectomy. In two hours' time, I helped my daughter-in-law to be finalize some frazzling and stressful plans for her wedding to my son this coming Saturday, and then learned that my oldest daughter has less than a month left here with us in Alabama before she "officially" leaves to join her husband following his graduation from Army advanced training.

By our 22nd wedding anniversary, Pete and I will have two married children, living in two different states, with our home somewhere in between. Our original little-family will cease to exist. No longer will we be able to expect to spend holidays with our son and oldest daughter. We now have to share. Don't get me wrong; I'm not sad about this in the slightest; this is exactly what we wanted for both of our children. We knew that we only get to hold on to them until they reach adulthood. We knew that all the mistakes we made as *really* young parents would be mistakes they would likely struggle with during their adolescence ... and they did. They rebelled; they tested limits; they looked to the world for things that the world ultimately could never give them. But now, today as we had real, adult conversations with our real-adult children, we realized we have reached the end of an era.

And it hit me like a brick ...

If we hadn't had that vasectomy reversal done, if we hadn't chosen to put our family size into God's hands, our hands-on parenting job would be over. Our nest would be empty! We would be "free" to do whatever we wanted to do. In all honesty, THAT was what made me sad. Not that I am tied down to these young girls for sixteen more years, but that our lives would be so much less interesting had we never been blessed with them! It may be odd to consider, but I couldn't help thinking that living "for me" would be so boring that I would drive myself batty! Sure, things would be calmer now; I could sleep in, garden to my heart's content, spend HOURS on the internet, keep a clean house ...

No thanks. I like where we are now. I like knowing that while Pete is away for his three-week business trips, I have five little someones keeping my mind and body busy all day, every day. I like the noise; I like the activity.

I am only 38 years old; I'm too young to live the life of a "retired" stay-at-home mom. Maybe after Kasey has graduated and all of the little girls have moved on to whatever God has planned for each of them, maybe THEN I'll be ready to sit back and quilt, follow Pete around the globe and sit in a hotel room for days on end while he works. Not now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two years ago ...

God blessed us with our seventh child, Kasey Lee, on August 5th, 2009. It was a pregnancy fraught with complications but we can't imagine not having this spirited little girl in our lives! She has certainly been a *unique* addition to our family!

Even from birth, Kasey made sure we knew she was not going to fade into the background. Her high-pitched scream caught the attention of the maternity ward staff and let everyone know that Kasey meant business! Like her big brother, she couldn't stand to be left out of the excitement if there was ever anything going on; sleep was just not in her vocabulary and she has fought it with everything she has since the day she was born! Of course, she's also been entertaining us with her grins and her antics ever since she realized she could capture an audience!

In just two years, Kasey has earned the reputation of being somewhat of a tiny tornado. We have had many "Kasey-tastrophes" as a result of her active imagination and intense curiosity. She has an almost insatiable need to take things apart, dump things out, knock things down, and generally act as an instrument of destruction and mayhem. Watching dry dog food swell up in the water dish, separating grains of oatmeal or rice on the floor after emptying the entire package, spreading baby powder on the dark-maroon carpet (Mom didn't even know you could take the top OFF of that baby powder container!!), painting her face with her sisters' paint-by-number acrylic paints ... she certainly keeps us busy!!!

Knowing that this mischief-maker is just following her God-given bent to explore her surroundings, we are well aware that this is not 'rebel' behavior. One of these years, we'll be able to tame this wild creature God has entrusted to our care, and be able to channel her curiosity and all of that energy. Right now ... well, right now we just have to repeat to ourselves at least five times a day that God is building patience in us with this little ball of fire!

Happy Birthday Kasey!!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's that time of year again!

Yep! Back to school! On Monday, we began our fourteenth year of homeschooling. That is almost unreal when I think about it. Fourteen years is a LONG time! All those years ago, I only intended to have Jon and Kelsey at home for the duration of our tour in Germany. We enrolled them in public school when we returned to the US, but that ended up being more of a disaster than the disaster we removed them from in the first place. It lasted three months. Their only other time in public school was that horrific semester in the public high school in Germany the second time we were stationed there. It was that nightmare that cemented my convictions and I have absolutely no intention of ever considering public schooling again. It was during that ridiculously long semester that God really opened my eyes to what that limited and unnatural socialization can do, and now ... well, now I pretty much laugh at anybody who brings up THAT argument against homeschooling. Quite honestly, socialization is at the very top of our list for why we DO homeschool. I believe it is a parent's responsibility to mold a child, and I am choosing to mold my younger children's social education by exposing them to real-world situations instead of the secluded microcosmic environment found only inside the walls of school classrooms.

Sorry, that turned into a mini-rant, didn't it? I mean no disrespect to anyone who chooses public schools for their child's education; I simply cannot 'go there' with my children anymore.

This year, I have two second graders and a kindergartener. Technically, Danica shouldn't start kindergarten until next year, since she doesn't turn five until almost the end of October; but she is just far too ready for me to put it off another year just to fit her in to the 'mold'. She isn't ready for much focused math yet, but considering the curriculum I used for Morgan and Jamie doesn't really have a kindergarten level, I'm not all that worried about it. It's kindergarten. And she's four. There will be plenty of time for calculus later.

Morgan will be my challenge this year, as I suspect she will for most of her schooling career. She is not detail-oriented, so she struggles with paying close attention to words she is trying to sound out phonetically. She also has trouble forming letters with a pencil; her fine motor skills are just not up to par. Both of these issues are starting to make her very self-conscious, so we are going to have to do a LOT of work on them this year. She's very much like her older sister Kelsey, who did a lot of guessing at words and letters, and didn't really care how messy her penmanship was. It affected Kelsey's comprehension skills as she advanced in learning levels, and I really don't want to see that happen with Morgan.

Jamie is an easy learner; she LOVES to soak up information, and the more detailed, the better. While Morgan wants to know WHY, Jamie wants to know HOW and WHAT. Morgan likes stories; Jamie loves maps, charts, and lists. You'd think this would be an easy child to teach but all of her details carry with it one glaringly obvious challenge--perfectionism. Just like her brother, Jamie gets incredibly frustrated if she can't get something perfect the first time. Correcting something is akin to dental drilling without anesthesia!

Curriculum for this lot was a tough call. It simply will NOT do to have a different book for each child. Everything has to be the same, or I get a complete revolt. I've tried a lot of different things over the years, but I think this year we finally have a good fit. I have really come to love Sonlight, especially in the early years, when children can be "hooked" into loving reading. Sonlight's book choices are wonderful, and they offer enough to hook Morgan with an engaging story while providing the detail that Jamie needs to fill her brain. This year we are jumping into world history with Sonlight's Core B, from creation to the fall of Rome. This works well with my overall plan to at least roughly adhere to a four-year cycle of history as outlined in The Well-Trained Mind. Core B is Sonlight's typical first-grade program, but considering I'm using the Core for only history, science, and read-aloud literature, it's not really that big of a deal. The girls' math and language arts books are really all that indicates 'grade level'. Morgan and Jamie are using Rod & Staff's Working Arithmetic 2, and they're currently working through Explode the Code book 3. Danica is beginning her year in Explode the Code book 1, and we are also using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading as reinforcement of phonics instruction. For spelling, we are using Christian Liberty Press' first grade spelling book, mainly because Morgan needs the reinforcement as we repeat, repeat, repeat the phonetic rules. Jamie could probably handle the second grade book, but again ... they *have to* be equal. Funny, considering they are 11 months apart!

My rough plan (I'm a planner, can't stand going into something without a firm idea of where we're going) is to use Sonlight for all of the girls for history, science, and literature in the early years (grammar stage), the Mystery of History, Apologia 'elementary' science, and Learning Language Arts Through Literature for the middle years (dialectic stage), and Tapestry of Grace with Apologia high school science for the high school years (rhetoric stage). I want to transition to Saxon Math for pre-algebra, but for right now Rod and Staff is great for learning the basics.

If you'd like to share what tools you're using in your homeschool this year, or you'd like to see/read about what others are using, hop on over to The Heart of the Matter and join in the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop!
Not Back to School Blog Hop

Monday, August 1, 2011

Arachnophobes beware!

I have never been, to ANY degree, a "fan" of creepy crawlies. Studying insects is not my favorite part of homeschooling. I squish anything that moves, most of the time. And SPIDERS? I dare say I have been turned into an instant-Ninja on many, many occasions by either walking into a spider web or finding one of the little creepy critters walking waaaaaay too close to me.

But right now, I am going way out of character. I am going to freak out anybody who has ever struggled with arachnophobia at all by posting some pictures of what we have found on our front porch this last week. I walked out to get the mail early last week and found this enormous (at least for my spider-o-phobic sensitivities) eight-legged creature spinning a web from the eave of our front porch. Scared the stew out of me. Thankfully I had a friend here at the house watching the girls during one of my numerous physical therapy appointments, and she informed me that it's a totally harmless "garden" spider, a golden orb weaver. The more I looked (gawked, in complete disbelief, would be a better description), the more I realized that this creature is truly beautiful. Just look at the coloration!

She's even pretty from behind! Here she is a couple of days after she showed up, finally munching on a spider that had gotten trapped in her web (her prey's body was the size of a June bug but had the markings of a brown recluse)

This wasn't an incredibly detailed picture, but I kind of like how the camera focused on the web from that odd angle ... and the way her legs are all curled up, WOW, she's scary looking from this side!

The girls have become a bit enamored with "Charlotte" (yes, they named her!), and they stop to say hello and goodbye every time they pass her on the porch. We decided a while ago that she needed to stay, especially since orb weavers are good at catching some bigger flying pests ... like wasps! So we'll let her stick around and catch bugs and spin her web on our porch. Today, Charlotte has a visitor ... a MALE visitor!

Just look at the size difference between Charlotte and her new beau! Methinks he may become lunch after ... well, um, after a while. <>

We are certainly "enjoying" the nature display that is going on right in front of us, but I'm not sure how I'll feel once there are a hundred or so (yes, I know ... probably a LOT more) baby spiders floating around. Better brush up on my Ninja skills, huh?

Oh, the really hilarious bit of irony? We started our new homeschool year today. I actually set up most of the lesson plans before the surgery, two months ago, so I only had to "grab and go" today ... and whaddaya know? Our very first scheduled read-aloud of the year?

Charlotte's Web.
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