Daybook: Mid-June

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written a daybook.  I’ve missed the ritual of logging my thoughts here.

Outside my window: Heat. I’m back to opening the windows early to lower the temperature inside the house, and then closing them up at the nadir.  Yesterday (which hit 87 degrees) the A/C didn’t come on until 4 pm.  Not bad.  I didn’t get it as low today, though, so I think the air will be on longer.

In the kitchen: Our first CSA farm delivery will happen this week.  I’m looking forward to peas and garlic scapes.  Last night I made this chimichurri (minus the jalapenos). Delicious.

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In the garden: The flowers are really beautiful right now.  The vegetables are growing as fast as they can… probably trying to make up for lost time, since I planted them so late.  The chickens got out of their yard last night (someone left the gate open), but the hens were so overcome by the delectable glory of green grass that they didn’t even notice my vegetables. Phew.

What I’m hearing: Owen is playing the piano. It’s a little wonky, because Jonah broke the harpsichord pedal. The middle range is stuck on harpsichord, and the outer octaves are still piano.  Here’s hoping the tuner will know how to fix it.

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In the school room: We have started our summer reading program, as well as one from the Tattered Cover (a local bookstore we love).  Jonah is studying occasionally for the SAT subject tests.  (I wrote the date down wrong and didn’t realize I had the date wrong until after he’d missed it. Whoops. Now he’s rescheduled to take them in August.)  Everyone else is doing a little math every few days, though not as consistently as I’d like.

Summer rhythms:  We are sticking to our 7-things-before-getting-on-a-device plan, although I need to make some adjustments, namely: after they’re on the computer/phone, I need to have an ending time so it doesn’t magically morph into the rest of the day.

I had grand plans for my writing this month, but today was the first day I’ve been able to type after nearly amputating my fingertip last week.  The ER was able to throw a stitch in it to reattach it, though I suspect the fingernail is never going to be quite right again.

Jonah is babysitting and working at the library.  Owen completed a junior-lifeguard training last week and is assisting teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding for the next few weeks. The girls just wrapped up a ballet performance on Saturday and are looking forward to our neighborhood theater camp.

On my mind: How long will it be until a black life is recognized as the having the same God-given value as a white life?   The words of Job 19:7 are on my heart: “’Though I cry, “Violence!” I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.'”

Grateful: For a fantastic visit from my sister-in-law Mandy last week.  We had a blast playing Exploding Kittens and hanging out and doing crafts.

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Wow, this is some great posture my kids have!

I’m grateful for my dad, and Sam who is an amazing dad to our children.

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For the blast we had at the Dignity Festival this weekend.  My kids were willing (with a little prodding) to journey out of their comfort zones to learn about the challenges and strength of the refugee community here in Colorado.

For the persistence and courage of journalists and bloggers who are not willing to take easy answers to their questions and have the guts to write the truth, even when it’s hard.  I am grateful to those whose words and example open my eyes to my own prejudice and ignorance. (For good writing on the subject of racism and the Church in America, here is a place to start.)

Praying for: Judy. Mandy. Justine & family. Jen.  Lori. Christine.  Mary & family.  Laughter.  Refugees, both near and far. A first response of “yes!” to my kids, instead of, “I’m too busy.”  For justice to roll like a river.  Healing for my hand.  To be woke, and stay that way.

Head Game

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The view on a recent morning run.

Let’s talk endurance for a minute, shall we? As many of you know, I developed a running injury last August. I went from running 8 miles to struggling to walk to the mailbox.

I was blessed to have access to great PT and time to do my exercises and was cleared to start running again in January (that’s right, it was almost 5 months). I expected to complete a couch-to-5K program by mid-March and to be running a 10K at the end of May.

Instead, my head got in the way.

All the months I had been training physically last summer had also trained my head to think, “I can do this.” Completing 5- and 6- and 7- and 8-mile runs had gone right into my confidence bank, and it was full.  Until I couldn’t run at all, and my mental balance was zero.

Instead of thinking “I’ve got this!” every time I run, I’m now thinking, “What if I get injured again? Maybe I should only run 2 miles today.” My mental game is shot.

I completely underestimated the power of my brain to make me run.

The first 2 miles of every run are okay, but by mile three, my head starts telling me I can’t do it. What if I get injured again? What if I’m increasing my mileage too quickly? Was that a twinge in my foot? What if it’s starting again? Maybe running today is too soon, and I should wait another day or two…

So mile 3 is when my mental training has to start. I’m back to running past two lampposts, then walking to the next one. Writing down every workout, so that at the end of the month I can look back and remind myself what I could do, instead of what I’m afraid will happen.

I wonder where else in my life I am afraid of injury.  So afraid I can’t start.  Where else do I need to record my success in order to remind myself I can instead of believing I can’t?

It’s time to get my head out of the way.

7QT: Pre-College Curriculum

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This is the t-shirt my college sent my son as a “thank you” for forwarding his test scores. Their admissions department is very clever.

As our oldest begins the college search, my head is full of all the things I have still to teach him.  So many things, so little time.  I can hardly believe it’s just a year till he graduates!  Here is a list of skills I would like him to master in order to be ready for college:

  1. Survival food: how to make a grocery list, navigate the grocery store, make a week’s worth of dinners and clean up the kitchen. So far he has mastered the grocery store, kitchen clean up, and making three of our favorite family meals.  There’s not a lot of motivation to conquer the making of a shopping list.
  2. Survival car maintenance: how to change a tire and how to pump gas.  He’s got the gas-pumping down.  For extra credit, he also learned how to get rid of the creepy gas-station-guy hitting on him while he pumped gas. (Of course, I just changed a tire but didn’t think to call him to come & learn how.)
  3. Survival finances: how to use the ATM, how to do mobile banking (can anybody remember using passbooks, or is it just me?), and how to make a budget and live within it.  Our bank offers kid accounts (both debit and savings) so he’s been managing his banking for a while.  I think he’ll be fine with the budgeting since he’s my frugal kid, but some of my future graduates may have a harder time.
  4. How to call for help.  4a. He called the bank to have an unauthorized charge removed from his debit card.  4b. He spent an hour on the phone with the IT department at the college where he’s taking classes next year to resolve the problem with his registration. 4c. He regularly navigates the online help lines for his computer and purchase-related problems. 4d. He knows how to call us.  What else should we be practicing here?
  5. Using Google maps.  A year ago, he was completely overwhelmed by driving at all. Now, he and his brother are comfortable setting off in rush hour with an address and an app to find a friend’s party in another town.  It’s amazing to me that we have come so far.
  6. How to play ultimate Frisbee. I didn’t say he has to enjoy it. He just has to know how.
  7. How to do his laundry. Cause there’s no way this mama is going to do it for him.

Okay, friends, what am I missing? Please let me know in the comments! (And better yet, if you’re interested in a good game of Ultimate, come on over!)

I’m linking up with Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes, so go check her out!

7QT: Summer Screen Time

Although our weather doesn’t quite feel like summer yet (we had 6 inches of snow a week ago), the kids are in full summer mode, which means eating popsicles, staying up late, and trying to have non-stop computer time.

Last summer, we implemented a checklist in order to make sure our days had some redeeming qualities, amidst the hours of screen time.  It worked so well, I’m implementing it again.  This year I’m trying to hold them to the American Association of Pediatrics’ recommendation for no more than 2 hours* of screens per day, although some of us can do an hour just in the bathroom!)

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So here, without ado, I present the 7 most common complaints in response to our summer screen time plan.

  1. Our friends can have as much computer time as they want! (I doubt this is true. In fact, I know it’s not true. It just feels true.)
  2. Owen’s been practicing for hours and won’t let any of the rest of us practice! (This one is actually true, and it’s why we now have two pianos.)

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3. I’m doing __________ (swim team/ballet/gymnastics) later, so can that count as my exercise?

 

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(The answer: not if you want to have computer time before you go.)

4. But there’s nothing to read!

 

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5. But the house is already clean! (Ummm….. no.)

6. There’s nothing to make! (How about breakfast? Or lunch? Or dinner?)

7. But I’m so booooooooooored! (Actually no one uses this one, because when you’re bored at our house, it means you get to clean the bathroom.)

What does summer screen time look like for you?  Are you texting your kids in the bathroom to tell them to slide the iPad out under the door?

Go check out Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

*update: I had originally write 1 hour (the AAP recommendation for 2-5 years olds.)  My children were so mad about this that actually went and looked up the recommendation for themselves.  It’s two hours per day of any kind of screen, for children older than 5. And no screens in the bedrooms, because they’ve been shown to interfere with sleep.

 

Good Mother’s Day Reading

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In case you don’t know what to do between your breakfast in bed and your pedicure (or caulking the bath tub and putting away the twenty-two loads of laundry that are waiting to be folded) I have two excellent posts for you to read!

The first is by my amazing friend Renee, who writes about the day she stopped judging her son’s birth mom.

The second is by Simcha Fischer who writes a suggestion for the priest who is wondering who to navigate the minefield of the Mother’s Day sermon. (Good reading, even if you’re not a priest.)

And not a post, but… if you have an extra half-hour in your day, you might enjoy this Mother’s Day episode from The Middle.

Summary of our 2016-7 curriculum

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This year, our kids were in 3rd, 7th, 8th and 11th grades. Our curriculum isn’t determined by those grade levels, but I list them here so you have a rough idea of who the audience is. We have 4 days/week at home, and one day in class at a homeschool school sponsored by a local charter school. My kids take mostly enrichment classes there (think Art, Music, Drama) with a few academic exceptions, but I don’t rely on it for our core subjects (reading, writing, math, history, science).

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History:

Spines:

  • Genevieve Foster: The World of Columbus and Sons
  • Genevieve Foster: The World of Captain John Smith

This is the first year we’ve made it through two entire Foster books in one school year. I chalk that up to age (the children’s, not mine) and consistency. It’s amazing how much more we can get through at 16, 14, 12 and 9 than we could at 8, 6, 4 and 2. That said, I wish I had emphasized regular narrations (written) for retention.

Additional history read-alouds:

  • Castle (Macauley)
  • Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? (Kramer)
  • Mansa Musa (Burns)
  • Longitude (Sobel)- (this one was a hit with 8th and 11th grades and NOT a hit with 3rd and 7th grades)
  • The Queen’s Promise: An Elizabethan Alphabet (Davidson Mannis)
  • The Pirate Meets the Queen: an Illustrated Tale (Faulkner)
  • Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press (Koscielniak)
  • Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama (Bass)

3rd, 7th and 8th also did two biographies on historical persons of their choice. (3rd: Aaron Burr and Hillary Clinton, 7th: Isabella of Castille and Mozart, 8th: Einstein and Abraham Lincoln). 11th grade participated in National History Day through his school.

The election

2016 was a fascinating year to learn about our electoral system. We used CNN10 (formerly CNN Student News) and Syd Sobel’s Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts, and we mapped the electoral college on election night.

Geography

We study and color maps and talk about historical changes between political boundaries in the history we study vs. how countries are now.

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Areas we studied: England, UK, Europe, North Africa, Central America and the Caribbean

We also kept a globe in the living room and hung a world map in the kitchen. We referred to them all the time, which was a vast improvement over our geography study in previous years.

Literature:

Read-Alouds:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)- we assigned parts and read this aloud together
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
  • Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)
  • Greenglass House (Kate Mitford)
  • Raymie Nightengale (diCamillo)
  • daVinci and Michaelangelo (Mike Venezia)
  • Flush (Hiaasen)
  • Kira-Kira (Kadohata)
  • Echo (Munoz Ryan)
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Robinson)
  • Unfinished Angel (Creech)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)- we read this in parts, and each of us memorized a speech made by a character we read.
  • lots of older picture books (think Bill Peet, Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Mary Ann Hoberman, Cynthia Rylant and others) and new picture books we enjoyed, including the Zorro series by Goodrich

Everyone read other books independently every day. I’ll post on some of their favorites in a separate post.

Poetry

Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Maggie Dietz’s Pluto, Lewis Carrol’s Jaberwocky, GK Chesterton’s The Donkey, Rachel Field’s Something Told the Wild Geese, Carl Sandberg’s Fog

I feel like we started strong with poetry and then fell off the wagon in the second semester (with a slight boost during April, National Poetry Month.)

Bible:

1 Timothy, James, 1 Peter, Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree (now available as Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas), The Gospel of Mark.

Picture Study:

Picture Study is a Charlotte Mason subject. In the past we’ve been more thorough in our study, but this year we looked at the paintings 1-2 days a week, we played I Spy with them, and we reproduced a few of them. I saw it mostly as a way to familiarize the children with styles of art, and to enjoy the individual painting themselves. We didn’t put a lot of effort on this subject, but we got a big bang for our buck. I bought our post-cards from Memoria Press. We have their Kindergarten, First and Second Grade sets of postcards. I pulled these paintings from all three sets.

Titus as a Monk (Rembrandt), Five o’clock Tea (Mary Cassatt), The Stone Breakers (Courbet), Paris Street: Rainy Day (Caillebotte), Still Life with Apples and Oranges (Cezanne), Three Musicians (Picasso), The Goldfish (Matisse), A Girl with a Watering Can (Renoir), The Fighting Temeraire (Turner), Rain, Steel and Speed: The Great Western Railway (Turner), Golden Eagle (Audubon), Starry Night over Rhone (Van Gogh), God Creates Adam from the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel (Michelangelo), The Last Supper (da Vinci), View of Paris from Montmartre (Dufy), The Thinker (Rodin), The Peaceable Kingdom (Hicks), Tree of Life (Tiffany), Umbrellas in the Rain (Prendergast), The Little Owl and (Durer).

A special day of Picture Study was when we visited the Masterworks Exhibit at the medical school- a collection of amazing paintings and sculptures collected by some physicians on the faculty. It was a great exhibit in a very intimate setting.

Field Trips:

Reykjavik, Iceland

London: The British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, The Tower of London, Greenwich including the Cutty Sark museum, Harry Potter’s World.

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Concerts and Plays- In the Heights, Wicked, The Proms (Mozart and Bruckner).

Other field trips: skiing, the DAM (The Art of Venice, and Star Wars Costumes), Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Kindness

Videos

  • Nature’s The World Without Amphibians
  • CNN10 (10 minutes of non-partisan middle-school appropriate news)
  • This Day in History
  • Crash Course History with John Green

Math:

  • 3rd grade: Singapore Primary 3A/3B
  • 7th Grade: Singapore NEM 1
  • 8th Grade: Singapore NEM 2
  • 11th grade: AP Calculus BC through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

Foreign Language:

  • 7th grade French:
  • 7th/8th grades: Spanish through our once a week school
  • 11th grade: Latin: translating Julius Caesar through Memoria Press’s Online Academy, and the National Latin Exam
  • 11th Grade: Biblical Greek 1 through Memoria Press’s Online Academy

Science:

  • 7th and 11th grades: Environmental Science through our once a week school
  • 7th and 8th grades: Focus on Middle School Physics (Keller)
  • 3rd Grade: Real Science-4-Kids Physics (Keller)

Additional classes for our 11th grader:

US Government (fall semester): de Toqueville: Democracy in America; Hamilton, Madison and Jay: The Federalist Papers. Various: The U.S. Constitution, readings drawn from The Washington Post and The Economist, satire from Stephen Colbert, SNL, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers.

This class focused on the set-up of the US government and the checks and balances put in place. Additionally, we spent a lot of time talking about the tensions between states’ rights and a strong federal government.

AP Comparative Governments and Politics (spring semester):

For this class, I combined several of the online class syllabi available at the College Board. His spine was Introduction to Comparative Politics: Political Challenges and Changing Agendas (Kesselman, Krieger and Joseph). (They’re changing the class for 2018, so make sure to check in before you design your curriculum.)

Other readings included:

  • Baer: The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower
  • Schell: Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century
  • Fukuyama: Women and the Evolution of World Politics
  • Friedman: The Lexus and the Olive Tree
  • Marx: The Communist Manifesto
  • Machiavelli: The Prince
  • Dahl: On Democracy
  • Economist special editions on Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, China, UK, Brexit, and Iran
  • Preston and Dillon: Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy
  • Breaking the Cycle of Electoral Violence in Nigeria (pdf)
  • Special Hearing on instability in Nigeria (pdf)
  • Zakaria: The Rise of Illiberal Democracy (from Foreign Affairs, pdf)
  • Lots of news online (esp. The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and the BBC)

I think this was his favorite class, despite (or because of?) the heavy reading load. The readings (I got all of them from the AP site and my amazing dad) were excellent, and with the unfortunate instability in many parts of the world, it made for a fascinating class.

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Coloring in the Electoral College Map on November 8, 2016.

Introduction to Grant Writing

He had an opportunity to be work on writing grants for a non-profit run by friends of ours. We used two books as introductory spines:

  • O’Neal-McElrath: Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals
  • Karsh: The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need

We also reviewed other grant applications from a variety of sources.

This class was a huge stretch for him and not an unqualified success. By no means did his drafts of the grant proposals go in without major editing, but it was a great opportunity for him to have to think about writing within very specific constraints.

His (and my) favorite part of the class with the non-profit he worked with, Foster Source, which provides support, practical help, and education for local foster families. He had an opportunity to provide child care, meet amazing foster families, and learn about the incredible (and often invisible) needs right in front of us. We will continue to be involved with this great organization even after his class is done.

Other writing for him this year included a major paper for National History Day, and completing NaNoWriMo in November.

All right, that’s all for this year. For previous years’ curricula, please see my pages (links by year, at the top of the blog.)

7QT: the April blur

One: I can hardly remember back to Lent, even though we’re not a full two weeks into Easter.  I know I totally stank at my Lenten disciplines (does that mean I picked the right ones, since they drove me right into an awareness of my need for grace?). Instead, I spent every spare minute studying for my board exam.

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Two: my friend Lori came to hang out with my kids during my exam.  (Excellent, but then I wanted to be with them the whole time!)  I should have the results just in time to register for the October exam again if I failed.

Three: One day while I was studying at Starbucks, a dog came in and got a puppiccino.  Apparently this is a thing.  And she liked it. A lot.

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Four: I had a list of things as long as my arm that I’d put off whilst studying (think showering, cleaning, cooking, exercising, answering emails, and all the other work sundries that I wouldn’t let spill into our homeschooling time).  When I finished, however, I spent a week just reading novels because I was so fried.  This week I managed to drag on some clothes, do yoga twice, and put up our Easter tree.

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Five: meanwhile, life marched on.  The girls had a dance performance at school.  Here’s Phoebe as Little Red [Riding Hood] and Moriah as a wolf (she’s the one in the furry legwarmers and scary make-up- second from the right):

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Six: This week I am finally finding my groove again, though Sam traveled to the middle-of-nowhere FEMA training site to learn how to protect us all from Ebola.

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Don’t you feel safer now?

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They seem to be having a little too much fun.

Seven: Tuesday I got to watch my friends’ 11-month old.  He loves Moriah, so she did a bunch of the baby-toting, and to be honest, he slept a lot.  But when he was awake, I spent most of time trying to figure out how to baby-proof my kitchen.  It involved a lot of rubber bands and kitchen tools to prop open drawers.

Baby-proofing:
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What’s going on in your neck of the woods?  Hopefully no Ebola.  Check out Kelly for more Quick Takes!