Archive for the ‘homeschool’ Category

I go through spurts where I read blogs and spurts where I don’t.  I have been perusing a few blogs I enjoy lately and thought I’d share some particularly good posts with you.

I often find it very hard to humbly apologize to my husband and children.  The post, Half-Baked Apologies are Offensive at Marriage Works! was very helpful in outlining a great little formula for forming a meaningful apology.

Mary shares some Good Books for Boys on her blog, Owlhaven.

I have been meaning to make a Grocery Bag Holder for a very, very long time.  I’m hoping this tutorial at Craftiness is not Optional might spur me on.

Probably the best blog post on homeschooling I have ever read was written by Sherri at Large Family Mothering.  Entitled, Homeschooling Sanity, it was a refreshing dose of some real experience from a mom of many.  (Sherri has 15 children.)  She looked at several different styles of homeschooling and discussed what worked for her family and what didn’t.  Her post was very affirming to me as I have had many of the same experiences, though I have fewer than half the children she has!

Kimberly at Raising Olives makes a great case for why you might choose to take your younger family members along on errands, in spite of the inconvenience, in her post Choosing to Run Errands with Little Ones.

We’ve got a lovely weekend planned enjoying the third week of fresh strawberries from the Farmer’s Market, going on my regular date with my husband, sheep shearing at my parents’ farm and a having a bonfire with our Home Church on Sunday night.

Enjoy your weekends!

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Math by Martinlu
Math, a photo by Martinlu on Flickr.

12 years…

7 children…

6 math curriculums…

…and I am the official winner of The Amazing Homeschool!!

Why? Because after all of this, one of my children has actually finished, in one school year, an entire math curriculum! We don’t have to feel guilty for not working on it for the summer and we don’t have to feel behind. This is a great day and much better than winning a million dollars at that other thing.

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It occurred to me that with regards to having a large family, I have learned to think differently about a number of things.  I have learned to draw inspiration from industry in managing our home.  I know, for example, that a $40 blender will not perform the way I need it to around here.  I know we will wear out carpets four times faster than other families, that our door hinges take more abuse, and that toilet paper runs out at an alarming rate in our home.  When I face a home management issue, I often ask myself, “What would a business do?”  I know a commercial kitchen would not buy wooden spoons at the dollar store and expect them to last through heavy-duty cooking, so I don’t either.

I have been hobbling along in our homeschool for quite some time, now.  I just can’t seem to get everything done.  Long ago, I let go of unrealistic expectations of doing art, nature and music studies.  In our home though, sometimes even the basics are not finished by the end of the day.  As I have been praying about what to do differently, it occurred to me that I am missing a good potential source of inspiration.


What do schools do well?  Crowd-control.  What do I have?  A crowd.

Thus began my initial brainstorming about a week ago.  I pulled out my red cloth-covered home management notebook and started making a list.  What are some things that schools do to help manage large numbers of students that I could make work in my home?  Things such as ‘teacher does not breastfeed any one during teaching hours’ and ‘drug unruly students’ were not going to be practical, of course.  However, other things caught my attention:

  • start at an exact, set time each day, not simply ‘after breakfast’
  • teacher does not wait for students who are not ready
  • breaks are scheduled and taken at a set time regardless of what has or has not been accomplished

These are only a very few ideas that seemed to turn on a light-bulb in my head.  I am in the process of thinking and praying about what changes I will be making to the way our homeschool runs.  I am feeling very hopeful and excited…if only I had more uninterrupted time to think things through!

The best part is that within about two days of coming up with these ideas, I had a wonderful confirmation that I was on the right track.  Our family was invited to my friend LB’s home for a short, impromptu visit.  (I love LB.  Her home oozes cleanliness even though she has five children.  It is such a pleasure to visit her home.)  During our short visit, I started spouting forth my idea of looking to schools for inspiration for our homeschool, particularly for managing lots of people.  When I paused for a breath, LB said, “Let me tell you what I came up with this year.”  Then, she began to describe almost exactly some of the things I had been thinking.  Not only had she decided to try these things, they had actually been working for the entire school year so far.  It was one of those moments that I know God must have orchestrated.  I left so encouraged, as I always do after spending time with LB.

In my next post, I will describe in more detail how our morning has been changing in accordance with our school-y inspiration.

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Awhile ago, a lovely reader asked me a question, “How do we transition to self reading when the level of listening exceeds the level of reading?” Great question and one that I have struggled with myself in the past.

My first child learned to read at age 5 and was reading very well, independently at age 6.  “This is GREAT!” I thought to myself.  There was really very little transition.  Way back then, I had loads of time for read-alouds anyway, so there was no problem.

Things were similar with my next child.  He took longer to become an avid reader, though competency came quickly.

Our third also learned to read at about age 5, but she seemed to need more time to be able to tackle more challenging material. This was when my own struggle started.  With five children now (two younger than her), it was more difficult to read-aloud.  In fact, it was almost impossible.  What was I to do then if I couldn’t hand her the Ambleside books and await precise narrations?

I struggled over this for a long time. My husband, who works in the public-school system, said to me, “If she isn’t reading really well, yet, I think that should be your primary focus since all other skills really hinge on reading well.”  Huh.  Very true.

I decided then that I would do several things. Until a child was reading challenging material quite well, I would:

  • pare down her Ambleside year until it was manageable for all of us (without guilt, which was the hardest part)
  • read-aloud only one selection each day from her Ambleside year
  • have older children also help with additional read-alouds, if possible (but if this was not possible, I would stick with just one, guilt-free)
  • provide her with an opportunity to build her own reading skills with two things:  short selections of material that was somewhat challenging for her and material that was well within her grasp

Finding simple reading material that is not too dumbed-down can be tricky. For our youngest children, I like Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers.  While the difficulty level is nowhere near something like Madam How and Lady Why, they meet a need that is different from the needs met by challenging literature.  The need for mastery.

I find that my children take off with reading not by conquering especially difficult books, but by not struggling for every sentence, by feeling competent and being able to read through something fairly quickly.

When I teach our little ones to read sometimes it is so slow going that by the time they finish reading “Mac sat on Sam,” they have forgotten what they have read. Yesterday, my five year old wanted to know why I kept getting her to practice reading ‘the fast way’.  I demonstrated to her what happens if we have to dig for every single word by reading a sentence one word at at time very slowly.  Neither of us could follow what it said.  Then, I repeated the sentence ‘the fast way’ and it was easy to comprehend.  She understood exactly what I was getting at.

So, while beautiful, challenging literature is extremely important, the content will be lost on children who are still emerging readers if they have to do too much digging. For me, getting through those transitional years involves paring down my expectations, and combining challenging read-alouds (or having the child listen to good recordings) with easier material.

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Yesterday, I was having an awful day. It is not a regular kind of bad day, where I am just crabby or tired or frustrated.  This was one of those despairing days where I question my whole life, where I think I have ruined my husband’s life, my children’s lives and my own life.  Everything is hopeless and too hard and I just can’t carry on one more minute.  It was a day where I just want to run away.  Far away.

Instead of running away, I called a friend. This friend always understands me and never judges.  She also always says the most wonderful things.  I know she is in the trenches with me because I have had the honour (and I really mean honour) of similar phone calls from her once in a blue moon, though I suspect she has her act together more than I do.

After she talked me down from the ledge for 20 minutes and changed my desperate sobs into a few good laughs, I was able to take a deep breath, hang up the phone and face the rest of my day.

A short while later, I opened my e-mail to find she wrote me most wonderful prescription which I now share with you.

Hot ChocolatePhoto Courtesy of julesjulesjules

Prescription for a Day off Homeschooling

  1. Recognize that no matter what you try to accomplish today, it will turn sour!  LOL!
  2. Immediately turn on a movie for the littles and middles (maybe even two).
  3. Make tea, find chocolate (a must!!).
  4. Find knitting or what ever else makes you feel productive.
  5. Pray, pray, pray.
  6. Don’t feel guilty; tomorrow will be better.
  7. If it’s not, repeat first 6 instructions!

Isn’t she great?! What would I ever do without her?

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A few things I have enjoyed recently, which you might like, too.

Make Your Own Powdered Sugar with Sucanat over at Heavenly Homemakers.  I also think this would be a great kitchen skill to know for times when you are out of powdered sugar and want to avoid a trip to the store.

Finding Quiet Time at Owlhaven, written by a Mom of 10.  If she can find quiet time surely we can, too!

Why Memorize Scripture at A Holy Experience with a unique and wonderful idea for motivation.

A lovely post at Passionate Homemaking on Christian Literature for Children 0-8 years.

We love to use natural remedies in our home whenever possible, so I really enjoyed Using Homeopathic Solutions for the Family at Keeper of the Home.

I LOVE herbal teas, so I was thrilled to see Celebrate the Harvest (herbal tea) with Georgiann’s own recipe at The Garden Gate for a tea she calls Cottage blend.  I think I’ll whip some up tomorrow!  (Hi Georgiann!)

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Photo courtesy of Onilad

If you are like me, you may have been reading the blogs of other mamas and see the beautifully planned Lent and Easter preparations others have been doing with their families. If you are also like me, you long to do something special, but haven’t gotten it together to carry through such a lovely plan.  It would be very easy to beat ourselves up and give up bothering to do anything at all for want of doing the best, but I think this would be a big mistake.  So, today with a simple plan and a very few simple tools, I jumped in to create a meaningful Easter Celebration for our family.  I will share my plan with you in case you’d like to join me.  If you are reading this on Saturday or Sunday and haven’t done anything, I urge you to just jump in where you are.

Materials Required:

  • Bible or Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos
  • Notebooks or just plain paper
  • Pens/Pencils and Pencil Crayons
  • Candle and matches or lighter

Let’s Begin.  Each day for today and the next three days following, we are going to follow 5 simple steps:

1.  Prepare
2.  Read
3.  Reflect
4.  Pray
5.  Record

1.  PREPARE: Have everyone picture this day two thousand years ago. What was happening?  Why do we celebrate this particular day?  Don’t feel you have to give a long lecture or anything overly wordy at this point.  Simply remind the children what was going on.  For example, today, Thursday, is the day we remember Jesus last full day on earth, the day He celebrated the final Passover Supper with His beloved friends, the evening He was betrayed and arrested.

Light a candle. We do this to remind us that each time we devote ourselves to reading God’s word, talking to Him in prayer or partnering with Him in our lives, Jesus, the Light of the World chases away a bit more of the darkness in our hearts and in the world.  Lighting a candle seems to help quiet and focus children and adults alike.

2.  READ:  We are reading from the Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. I find, especially for our little ones, that this well-written book helps God’s story come alive.  (We also read daily directly from the Bible.)  You may choose to read from this book or directly from Scripture.

Child’s Story Bible:  chapter 44 “In the Upper Room” through chapter 48 “Jesus Before the High Priest”
The Bible:  Matthew 26:17-end; Mark 14:12-end; Luke 22 (read one or all three for some different perspectives and details).  There is also quite a bit in the gospel of John, which you may want to read, but the passages that apply to today are much longer.

Child’s Story Bible:  chapter 49 “When Pilate Washed His Hands” through chapter 51 “The Sun Becomes Dark”
The Bible:  Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28 through all of chapter 19

The Bible:  Matthew 27:62-66
This was the Jewish Sabbath, so there is little recorded that anyone ‘did’ this day.  It is a perfect time to reflect on the devastation and horror those who loved Jesus would have been feeling.

Child’s Story Bible:  chapter 52 “The Stone is Rolled Away” through chapter 54 “The Risen Lord”
The Bible:  Matthew 28; John 20:1-23

3.  REFLECT:  After a reading, I have the children narrate (tell back in their own words) what has been read, giving them an opportunity to make the story their own and me an opportunity to hear what the Lord has impressed on their hearts from what has been read.  Not everyone gets to narrate on a given day, but everyone needs to be prepared to narrate if called on.

4.  PRAY:  When we finish our readings and narrations, we join hands and I ask if anyone has anything they want to say to Jesus. We spend some time praying together and then I close when everyone seems finished.  One child blows out the candle.

5.  RECORD:  Finally, everyone including me, takes out their journal and we simply record something that has left an impression on our hearts. Our journals are pretty dollar store books with lined pages, but please don’t feel you have to run out and buy anything.  Just use plain paper and put everyone’s papers together in a binder or a folder for now.  Sometimes, someone simply writes a word and decorates it with coloured pencils.  Sometimes, it will be a scripture copied out.  Sometimes, it is a prayer.  Little ones generally draw a picture.  Even our two-year-old has a little notebook, though it is really just to keep him busy and included while we record our own impressions.

That’s it.  Very doable and also meaningful. I would really enjoy something that lasts longer leading up to Easter, so today I am going to record on my calendar for next year, probably for February, to consider what I might plan.  However, if life doesn’t allow me to do anything more lengthy, I will not miss out on the chance to celebrate with my family in a simple way.

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