A Day in the Life: October 2014

5:45       I overslept this morning.  I crawl out of bed, creep to the kitchen to make tea, read 1 Corinthians and write. I hear Sam in the shower.  I put oatmeal on the stove.

5:56       Sam is out, making his lunch and breakfast. He doesn’t have time to wait for the oatmeal.

6:30       He kisses me and is off to work. I make a second cup of tea and continue writing.

6:30       Aimee, our guest, is awake and wants to run, despite the darkness.  I coax her into eating a banana and waiting until the sun comes up. I try to keep writing, but conversation beckons.

6:47       I finish my word goal (500 words), close my laptop and change into running clothes.  Yesterday Aimee and I ran a hill loop.  She called it an “easy three mile trail run.”  I called it “Speed Work with a 17 year-old.”  My butt still hurts from it.  I let her mom, who is awake in the guest room, know we’re leaving.

7:02       Aimee and I sync our watches. She’s going to run hill repeats, while I loop around the park slowly for 30 minutes.

7:21       I really have to pee, but the bathroom is in the wrong direction. I head for the bathroom anyway.

7:24       I don’t have time to make it to the bathroom. Kegels to the rescue.  I turn around again and head back toward the car.

7:38       I’m late.  I see Aimee sprinting up the hill again.
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Aimee, the 17 year-old rocket

7:40       We drive home.  In the bathroom, I realize I forgot to turn off my running app.  It logs my run with a 7:16 pace.

7:55       My running partner calls me and asks if Shalane Flanagan stole my phone. I’m pretty sure Shalane would have thrown her phone in horror if she ran a 7:16 pace.  The children are all awake, rattling around in the kitchen.

7:57       Now I’m really glad I made oatmeal.

8:33       Sue and Aimee head out to look at yet another college nearby.  We begin school.  Phoebe starts with copywork and Explode the Code.  Moriah begins with Duolingo (Spanish). The boys had already started: Rosetta Stone for Owen, Pre-Calc for Jonah.  While they’re all occupied, I shower.

8:46       Phoebe asks for help with math.  Singapore 1B is introducing multiplication in its casual way.  I love this curriculum.

9:02       Moriah practices “half” her piano.  I throw the laundry in.  Phoebe and I read library books: John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith; Lauren Child’s I Want a Pet and Maude, the Not-so-Noticeable Simpleton.

9:24       Owen comes out with a math question: how to do negative fractions. I tell him to skip that one for now.  Jonah starts Spanish, Moriah starts her math, Phoebe does her piano.  No one needs me, so I hang out in the kitchen, available.  Doing dishes.

9:47       The girls ask to paint.  No.  Instead, I pull out the clay.  I tell them we’ll be starting our family reading in the living room at 10.

9:58       I make another cup of tea and move the laundry to the drier and start load #2.

10:04    Close enough.  We are reading in Acts this fall, and then I read them To Fly: the Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie Old.  Some conversation about aerodynamics.  Phoebe has made a “shot” and a band-aid out of Sculpey for her doctor.  She plans to give these to him later this week when she gets her physical (and flu shot).  The shot looks like a pink dagger.  Tell me how you really feel.

10:31    I excuse Jonah to do his science.  I pull out the science I’m doing with the younger three.  We’re on the periodic table.  I love the periodic table.  After ten minutes, I realize that Owen has not caught the joy of the periodic table.  Phoebe isn’t even sure why I keep using the word “table” to describe it.  Moriah is starting to get it.

10:48    It is clear I cannot explain the period table, which is frustrating to me.  It’s like when I tried to teach Jonah piano in the early days: when the topic is something I really love, I am not a good teacher. But I eventually figured out how to teach piano and reading… so maybe we just need to put it away for now.

11:03    The girls again ask to paint.  No.

11:04    I read the news.  It’s all bad. More tea.

11:21    Moriah sets the table, and I pull out the leftovers.  Owen asks why we’re always having leftovers for lunch.  I say that we don’t like to waste food, so while we have leftovers, that’s what we’re going to eat.  Moriah grumbles that I never make anything she likes to eat, and that’s why we have leftovers in the first place.

11:32    Lunch.  I have already eaten two pieces of meatloaf standing at the counter before the kids even started.

11:53    Sue and Aimee are back.  We pack their luggage into the car, and I take them to the airport.  The kids are supposed to clean up the kitchen while I’m gone and begin their rest time.

12:41    I’m back.  The kitchen is fairly clean.  Not bad.  Put load #2 of laundry in the drier and put load #1 on my bed to fold.

12:55    I sit down with the book I’m reading, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  I have very little left, but I know it’s not going to end well.  I read it for hours at the swim meet and could hardly put it down, but now I can hardly pick it up.  McBride is an amazing writer.

1:20       The boys appear.  “Can I program?” Owen asks.  I say I want to go over what he’s done so far.  He explodes, telling me how much he hates the book I assigned him for reading.  I knew this last week, but I was going with the “once we start, it’s good to finish” theory.  When he tells me this book is like Peter Pan—which in his world means full of arcane language and inaccessible to him—I tell him we’ll switch.  Good thing I have a basket full of biographies from the library.

1:49       Knowing that prolonged silence is often a danger sign, I go upstairs to check on the girls.  Moriah is reading, and Phoebe has just cleaned her room. All by herself.  (Normally, she finds this task overwhelming. Her room has gotten so bad lately that I am overwhelmed, too.)  She tells me how she did it: “First I put my dirty clothes away, then the clean clothes, then the books, then the ponies…” And she really did.  I am truly amazed.  High fives all around.

2:01       I send Owen, Moriah and Phoebe to clean the bathrooms. Jonah’s assignment is the chicken coop.  I get the paints out.

2:15       Inspired by Phoebe’s diligence, I fold our laundry.  This sound like something easy, but somehow it is the task I never get to.  At the end of the day, I may have done five loads of laundry, but it’s all still sitting in wrinkled mass on our bed.

2:42       The girls are still painting.  Jonah and Owen have an argument over who should get to practice piano.  They both come to me with their superior claim to practice now.  I reflect back to both of them how it’s not about superior claims.  They work it out.  Owen practices now, while Jonah studies for his physics test.

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3:00       I realize the dinner hour is approaching.  I can’t find my journal (where I’d written my meal plan for the week) anywhere. Decide on Quiche for tonight, and I’ll pick up salad when I go to the store.

3:20       The quiches are in the oven (a plain cheddar one for the kids; leek and artichoke for us.)  I remind the younger three to come eat a snack before we go to swimming.  The girls finish painting.  I can’t face cleaning up the mess of paints and brushes.  Ugh.

3:29       I check my email.  This turns into a computer-based rabbit trail of looking for the summer swim times.  Owen’s times have really improved. I call him over to show him how much time he’s dropped, and he says, “Am I in trouble?”

3:38       Still can’t find my journal.  Remembering that I had planned beef stew for one day, I pull the meat out of the freezer and make a grocery list, blind.

4:14       We head to swimming.  The girls are picking at each other in the car.  I yell at them to stop. Not a highly effective strategy.

4:27       Owen & Moriah sprint into the pool.  Phoebe wants me to go with her.  She changes in the locker room and needs help with her swim cap and goggles, but then she kisses me good-bye and goes into the pool without me.  Across the locker room is a harried mom with her two toddlers.  “She’s very independent,” the young mother says wistfully.  We share a smile. Just yesterday, it seems, mine we all littles, too, who couldn’t do anything for themselves.

4:33       I go through my coupons before heading to the store.  Most of them have expired. I cross my fingers and hope that Jonah remembered to take the quiches out.

4:41       It’s a novel thing to go to the grocery store by myself.  I am able to compare prices and nutrition labels without children bickering at my side.  No one has to go to the bathroom.  I know it’s supposed to be a “great learning experience” for them, and “you can teach them so much math!” at the grocery store, but frankly I find taking children to the store exhausting (and not just because someone invariably says, “Are they all yours?” and “You have your hands full!”)

5:43       Check out, drive back to pick up the children.  They are all in good post-swimming moods. And are very hungry.

6:02       I unload the groceries from the car.  Jonah helps.  The girls are fighting over my shower.  (They have their own, but for some reason, mine is the favored one.)  Sam has started making a salad.

6:20       Owen, starving, refuses to eat the Quiche, but he is silent at his place, refraining from complaint.  When I offer him hardboiled eggs and an apple, he jumps at them.  The artichoke Quiche is a bust, but the spinach salad is good.

6:44       I send the girls to clean up the basement, where they find my journal. Hooray!  Jonah puts the chickens away for the night, while Sam and Owen clean up the kitchen.  I do fifteen minutes of yoga.  My body is very grateful.

7:03       The girls are still putting toys away, but happily.  Owen and I play double solitaire; Jonah and Sam play Scrabble.  There is an intense discussion of whether or not Jonah can use the word “EW”.  The Oxford New American Dictionary and Merriam-Webster both say no.  In the end, he found an N to connect it to.

8:01       I go upstairs, where the girls are ready for bed.  We read LaRue Across America (Mark Teague), The Little Red Hen Makes Pizza (Philemon Sturges and Amy Walrod), and Say Cheese (Lauren Child).  Kisses all round.

8:34       A hot bath for me. I never got to Owen’s negative fractions or to the dirty brushes and paints in the kitchen.  I read another few pages of The Good Lord Bird, but I don’t want it to end and switch to Runner’s World instead.

9:17       Sam comes in to brush his teeth and finds me dozing.  “Go to bed,” he says.  Very grateful that the bed isn’t covered with clean laundry, I do.

School Plans, 2014-5

Several of you have reminded me that I never posted this year’s lesson plans.  Sorry to be tardy.

But hey– this is no pinterest page. Don’t start thinking we’re actually going to get all this done.  At the end of the year, I will share where we ended up isn’t what I planned.

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” –J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister

Here goes:

Daily Subjects

Math 

  • Jonah (9th grade) Teaching Textbooks Pre-Calculus
  • Owen (6th grade) Singapore New Elementary Math, Book 1
  • Moriah (5th grade) Singapore Primary Mathematics 5B, 6A
  • Phoebe (1st grade) Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B, 2A

Writing

  • Owen/Moriah: Writing Prompts 1x/week, Simply Grammar 1x/week, Copywork 1x, Dictation x1 (this will flow more than this list suggests)
  • Phoebe: Copywork x3, and beginning later in the year Dictation x 1
  • Jonah’s writing will include journaling, essays for his English class (see below), and poetry

Foreign Language     

  • Jonah, Owen & Moriah will do Rosetta Stone Spanish 3-4 days/week and Grammar x 1/week (though I still haven’t found what I want for a grammar supplement)
  • Jonah will continue in Henle Latin and will take the National Latin Exam (year 2) this winter
  • Phoebe will read books in Spanish with me and continue to learn random vocabulary I throw at her
  • I keep saying we’re going to have a weekly Spanish immersion meal, but [because I’m lazy] it never happens. Maybe this year…

Programming

  • Owen Game programming 1x/week, scratch 1x/week

Typing

  • Moriah Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 1-2x/ week

Learning to Read

  • Phoebe Study Dog (level 2) 1-2x/week, Explode the Code levels 1 1/2 and 2, and daily reading (a page at a time of easy readers)

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Reading

  • Jonah, Owen & Moriah all will be reading from our history list (late 19th and 20th centuries) and from a selection of other good books I’ve chosen.  I’m shooting for 30 to 90 min/day, depending on the child
  • The older three each read independently in the Bible as well, and Phoebe and I read as many picture books as we can fit in the day (which is fewer than I’d like but more than zero)
  • Read alouds planned include selections from our history list as well as The Mysterious Benedict Society (2 & 3), The Penderwicks (2-4), How to Train Your Dragon (we have a few road trips planned, and the books on CD are so good!), Flora and Ulysses (di Camillo), Number the Stars (Lowry), The Trumpet of the Swan (White), By the Shores of Silver Lake and Little Town on the Prairie (Wilder),

Weekly Subjects

Science

  • Jonah chose Apologia Chemistry (at home) and Physics (at his enrichment school)
  • Owen, Moriah and Phoebe are doing Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics (Young Explorer Series)

History

  • I have both a selection of high school books and elementary school books (both picture books and chapter books) spanning the 20th century
  • We’ll begin with a review of the 19th century (making timeline figures) and then add to the timeline as we read.  We haven’t done a timeline before, and I’m hoping it helps with retention
  • We will do regular narration to help us with pulling together the threads of history and how they interlock.

High School English

  • Fall: What Makes a Hero?  Jonah will read at his own pace through a selection of books (I don’t in any way expect him to read them all) including The Odyssey (Homer), Jane Eyre (C. Bronte), Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Lansing), Code Name Verity (Wein), The Doomsday Book (Willis), Antigone (Sophocles), Beowulf, To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), Unbroken (Hillenbrand), Blackout and All Clear (Willis), Amazing Grace (Metaxas).
  • Spring: Revenge v. Mercy Our book list for Spring will include The Tempest (Shakespeare), Les Miserables (Hugo), The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas), Wuthering Heights (E. Bronte), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (A. Bronte), The Iliad (Homer), The Hunger Games (Collins), Cry, the Beloved Country (Paton), Baking Cakes in Kigali (Parkin), and A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens).
  • Most of our “class time” will be in the form of one-on-one discussions (hopefully involving tea) with Sam or me to discuss questions such as [in the fall]  Is a hero born or made?, What about “fatal flaws”?, and How do a hero’s circumstances affect his or her legacy? or What made someone choose Mercy (or revenge)? What were the consequences?  How do we become people who choose mercy? How do we form a society where mercy plays a great role than revenge?  What about justice? 
  • My hope is that we can pull his other readings from history into our discussions.

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Picture Study

  • I have all the prints I made last year and didn’t get to because of time, and because other exhibits at the Denver Art Museum guided the limited study we did.
  • Hopefully we’ll get to some of these, as well as jumping in with the DAM’s exhibits.

Nature Study

  • My goals here are few: to get outside every day and to pay attention.
  • If we put anything in our nature journals, it’s a plus.

Music

  • Everyone takes piano lessons.
  • We listen to music.

Cooking

  • The kids want to do Chopped at home, but they have very few cooking skills
  • So I’ve designed a cooking “class” based on our favorites, in which I teach them knife and stove safety, basic kitchen skills, and two of our favorite breakfasts and dinners.  Once they’ve mastered those, we can talk about Chopped.

Exercise

  • The younger three joined swim team.  The girls take weekly dance classes. Jonah is riding his bike and beginning to run a little.
  • I’m teaching them Frisbee.  We play soccer and volleyball.  Please say that’s enough.

It’s a lot.  Right now I’m having trouble keeping up with my end of the reading, but Sam’s engagement totally helps.

If you’re looking for more on school planning, here are my thoughts on high school at home and keeping track of lesson plans, how to get school done with toddlers around, and what your preschooler can be doing while your older child is having math tantrums.  Also, our lessons plans year-by-year are always available in the the pages at the top (by year), and these plans will be logged there eventually, too.

First week of school

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So there are both advantages and disadvantages of schooling at home for years and years.  I’m not talking about the obvious (you can wear your pajamas, you don’t have to pack a lunch, you can wear your pajamas…)

No, I mean the habit of schooling at home is both a boon and a challenge.

Jonah is in ninth grade, and his last full-time, out-of-home schooling was in Chicago ten years ago.  Since that, we’ve been learning at home.  The advantages:

  • my kids know the drill.  They get up in the morning, grab their assignment sheets and go to work, often even before breakfast.
  • we can take up in the fall (almost) right where we left off.  Thursday we jumped right back into the middle of By the Shores of Silver Lake. I asked the kids to recap where the Ingalls family was, and they summed it up in a few sentences before we started reading.  Phoebe was in the middle of a math book, and she just hopped right to it and did an exercise before I got out of the shower.
  • you can keep using the same supplies.  We have a bin of hundreds of colored pencils, all somewhere between almost-new and too-short-to-sharpen.  I didn’t feel compelled to spend  $20 on four sets of eight new pencils, a different set for each child’s classroom.
  • no one brings teacher-notes home.  Each of my kids has at least one annoying school habit: one likes to hang upside down while I read aloud, one interrupts a lot, one starts side conversations, and one is sometimes too busy drawing to listen.  But we know this already, and I’m not waiting each afternoon for the backpack containing the note from the teacher who just discovered how annoying a talking, disruptive, artistic opossum can be during class.

The disadvantages:

  • my kids know the drill.  We may change up a few things, but there’s aren’t any new faces in our class this year.  No one is quietly sitting in their seats on their best behavior lest this year’s teacher is secretly an ogre.
  • we can take up right where we left off.  There’s something fun about new books that do things differently.  There’s always a chance they’ll go over something you already know, and then you’ll get a bye for two weeks while everyone studies the pilgrims or the water cycle yet again.
  • no (or few) new school supplies.  Who doesn’t love new markers?
  • no notes home.  Wait… um, that’s not a disadvantage.

The kids did start a new one-day-a-week homeschool school this week. (Enrichment school? I never know what to call it.)  My parents called the night before to talk to the kids before they “started their new school.”  The children had the butterflies of “Will I make new friends?” and “What if I can’t find my classes?” and “What if my teacher doesn’t like me?”  We had to buy new dividers and pencils and markers and water bottles. The kids thought carefully about what to wear (well, most of them did).  It’s fun.  New things are fun.  They made new friends and re-discovered old ones.  They are going to have some interesting classes and some new teachers.  It’s good.  But it’s not where the majority of our learning happens.

I’m grateful for new opportunities.  I’m grateful for new faces and different teaching styles and that my kids have the chance to learn from other teachers.  But their first day of school was Monday.  No one had to pack a lunch, but they all chose to stay in their pajamas till noon.

Thirst

We had a day in the mountains Monday.  A dear friend from medical school brings her family to the mountains every summer, and drive up to meet them not-quite halfway at a park along Gore Creek.  My kids think of it as “our friends’ creek”; they think it’s ours.  Either way, I’m grateful for the tradition.

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It made me realize how little unstructured time we had outside last year.  I had grand plans for walks at the state park and time to play in the St Vrain River near my parents’ house.  But the flood last fall caused the river to change course, and both of our places were closed.

Jonah was accountable for attending his community college class, and that meant we were tied to his schedule. We still managed outside time– riding bikes, sledding and skiing– but it lacked the pull of water-play.  We were going somewhere, even if it was just up and down the hill, and I missed the unstructured nature of creek play.

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The little girls made a pine cone pond.  The bigger girls sat in the middle of the ice-cold creek and watched the birds.  The boys built a dam and a swimming hole and forded the creek.  I lifeguarded and sat still as the past weeks’ tension in me unwound.

I am wondering how to fit more unstructured outside time into our lives.  The chickens have helped with that, but part of me is a mountain girl, and I need the hikes and the frigid waters tumbling down from the Continental Divide.
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School 2013-2014

This post is an update on our school year.  I took the “Learning Plans 2013-2014” and have updated what actually happened (in bold) next to what I’d planned (in italics).

Every year, I struggle with what we didn’t accomplish.  But I think we’re learning to make the most if the year we do have. (That’s a life skill, right?)  This year’s ups and down had so much to do with our move.  Living with my parents affected our physical fitness and the quantity of “work” we did, but we learned much about respect and communication and patience.  We deepened relationships.  We went to Guatemala and there, too, had to learn to be flexible with our expectations and to make the most of our opportunities.  This spring, we have had the gift of guests again, and we’ve been making the most of short bike rides and long-distance relationships.  So without further ado, here’s our year.

Jonah: 8th grade, Owen: 5th grade, Moriah: 4th grade, SweetP: Kindergarten (as she would say, at last!)
Bible: Last year we added more independent reading of the Bible (each child) as well as family reading and verse memorization. We’ll continue that this year. I would like each child to read a full gospel and an epistle. We read John and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
Math: J: Intro to Statistics, O: Singapore Primary Math 6B/New Elementary Mathematics 1, M: Singapore Primary Math 4B/5A, P: Singapore Primary Math 1A (and maybe B, depending on how it goes). Jonah completed Intro to Statistics (fall) and College Algebra (spring). Owen completed 6B, Moriah completed 4B and 5A, and Phoebe is almost done with 1A.

Latin: Henle Year 2 (for J). He does this very independently. I am hoping to find him an online class or club to support him in it. He worked with a tutor in the fall, scored summa cum laude on the National Latin Exam Year 1 and continued working in the spring.
Spanish: Rosetta Stone Level 2 (O & M), and phrases for all of us. I’m planning to add in more written Spanish, starting with the worksheets from Rosetta Stone. Hard-to-quantify progress was achieved by all. We got a big boost from our tutors at Celas Maya Language School when we were in Guatemala.
On our tour of Takalik Abaj
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Arabic: Rosetta Stone Level 1 (O&M) and special tutoring with Papa. Both Moriah and Owen have decided not to continue with Arabic for now. They were ready to quit in the winter, but I made them finish the year.

Writing: ETC 1 and copywork (1 word at a time) for P. Classical Composition for M & O (moving into Fable Stage) and Cheria/Maxim for J. I totally forgot that we were going to do copywork for Phoebe. She finished ETC 1 and Set 1 of the Bob books. We stopped the Classical Composition after the first semester., because it just wasn’t working for us. We did a lot of journaling and a weekly writing assignment about the books we read.  We used a CD game, Editor in Chief, to practice proofreading.

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I would like to have them write 3-4 reports this year, though I haven’t decided which subject we will choose. Jonah did some formal reports, and all four kids wrote up their science projects.

Geography: US geography as it fits into the Civil War and nascent statehood; A Child’s Geography, Vol. 1 (Voskamp). We made it through about 5/6 of the way done with A Child’s Geography. I’m not sure how much they learned from it.

Programming: I’m not sure why I forgot to write this on the original plans, but I did. Owen has been working his way through Kidcoder: Game Programming and practicing what he’s learned on scratch. I think it’s working.

Music: We’ll continue with piano using Faber, and Composer Study: Haydn, Tchaikovsky, O’Connor, and Stravinsky. We continued playing piano but did no composer study.

Art: Picture Study of Copley and Manet. We didn’t do any formal picture study, either. We went to the art museum three times and really enjoyed all three exhibits, and we just went to see the Chiluly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens.
Dale Chihuly’s Blue Boat:
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Science: Apologia Astronomy (for O, M and P) and Apologia Biology for Jonah. Jonah’s favorite course this year was Apologia Biology. We finished the elementary astronomy book and made it to the planetarium once, but no one loved it. The younger three designed, executed and wrote up science experiments. We supplemented our reading by watching NOVA specials and Ted talks. Our favorites Ted talks: Multitasking and Dragonflies that Cross Oceans.  Our favorite NOVAs: Making Things (a series with David Pogue).

Finding out about acid and bones:

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Nature Study: We plan on continuing our Nature Study walks and charting. I would like us to do Trees again in the fall and winter, and birds in the spring… as well as whatever else catches anyone’s eye. Our Nature Study was fairly limited this year. Highlights included the specimen trees planted in the parks by my parents’ house and a fuzzy black caterpillar we lost in their basement (and found 2 days later).  I guess having chicks counts in as studying birds, right?
Literature: Shakespeare, As You Like It. We found a good audio book version and enjoyed it. Poetry (hopefully every Friday)- I would like to read some Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandberg, and Walt Whitman. We read some poetry every Friday. Our favorite poets this year were Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandberg, and Edward Lear.

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We managed a lot of reading, both as a group and independently. Starting in December, the three older kids had to read 3 non-fiction books a week (2 biographies and 1 other) and a novel. They did a good job with this. With Phoebe, my goal was to read her at least two illustrated books, apart from the longer books she listened to with us. Everyone else wants to listen to these, too, so we usually begin our read-aloud time with a picture book or three. We discovered a few favorites (marked by a *).
Our read-alouds included:

  • Strawberry Girl (Lenski)
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Willems)*
  • James Herriot’s Treasury for Children (Herriot)
  • The Library Lion (Knudson)*
  • Anne of the Island (Montgomery)
  • Just So Stories (Kipling)*
  • The Penderwicks (Birdsall)
  • Knuffle bunny: a cautionary tale (Willems)
  • Artemis Fowl: the Arctic Incident and The Time Paradox (both by Colfer)
  • The Princess and the Pea (Childs)*
  • Henry Higgins and the Clubhouse (Cleary)
  • The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag and A Wild Herring without Mustard (Bradley)
  • Dead End in Norvelt (Gantos)
  • Cinderelephant (Dodd)*
  • Little Women (Alcott)
  • The Queen of France (Wadham)*
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake (Wilder)
  • St Francis of Assisi (Kennedy)*

Individually, each of the kids read a mix of novels of their choice and mine.

History: As our History “spine,” we are back to Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster. Once I have our literature/history selections roughed out more fully, I will post them here. Our goal was to cover from the end of the Revolutionary War through the end of the Civil War. Here is the list of our history read-alouds:

  •  The Great Little Madison (Fritz)
  •  Hispanic Heritage: Wars of Independence (Sanchez)
  •  Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph de Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George (Ransome)
  •  The Wonder Child (Stanley)
  •  The Battle of the Alamo (Jeffrey)
  •  Lewis & Clark (Bertozzi)

All of these came before reading Foster’s Abraham Lincoln’s World, which took us most of the winter and spring (and was completely worth it).

At the Denver Art Museum

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PE: I didn’t have this as a subject on our page of learning plans, but I think I should have. I will have it on next year’s plan! We didn’t do winter swim team and thus lost much of our fitness. We did take a lot of walks, and the boys really thrived on riding their bikes. My grand skiing plans were a bust… although we did ski in the end, and we did enjoy it. Owen did cross-country in the fall, but half his season was canceled because of the flood. In the spring, Owen played volleyball, and the girls played soccer.

Service and Job Training: This is another section I wish I had planned more intentionally, and I will in the future. Despite the catch-as-catch-can nature of our service this year, we learned a fair amount. The boys worked for Meals on Wheels with my dad. The children continued to donate money to buy rice for the refugees near us. Owen & Moriah participated in the 30 Hour Famine through World Vision. And we learned about Guatemala and served some there.

On our tour of the Catedral de Santiago in Antigua, Guatemala

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I’m not sure where else to put this, but Jonah took the Red Cross Babysitter’s Training Course (hooray for an in-house babysitter!!). Owen and Moriah both volunteer with the nursery at our church. It seems like it should come naturally, but actually we have to learn to pay attention to other people’s needs. Who knew?

Next week I hope to post our plans for 2014-15, and it will appear as a page on the sidebar.  (At some point, I’ll post a book list of the history books the kids read independently, but right now those lists are in my bedroom in a pile of paper so big it makes me want to cry.)

Daybook: mid-June

Out my window: my poppies are blooming.  (Poppies!!!) But the flowers in our front yards are completely asymmetric– lots on one side, very few on the other. I guess I’ll have to plant some more!
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In the kitchen: a quiche for the children’s lunch.  With swim team taking up much of our morning, I’m having trouble with lunch.  We had a delicious beef and broccoli stir-fry last night, but there wasn’t a drop left over.  I’m going to have to make double if I want leftovers…
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In the school room: we are beginning our summer routine now: alternating days of math and foreign language, with piano every day.  It’s half an hour of work for the kids, but I find it makes our re-entry in the fall so much easier.

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I have lots of plans for how I want to tweak our rooms to make them better for school: another desk in the study, a sewing space (I’ve been saying that one since we moved in!), but I don’t think any of that will happen this week.

Wondering: how not to have my face show up hugely on facebook when my posts link there.  Is it just that my post needs to have its own photo?  If anyone knows, please let me know.  I popped in there yesterday and almost fell off my chair with embarrassment. Anyway, if you wonder next week why  all my posts have flower photos in them, you’ll know why.

On my reading pile: Bonhoeffer (Metaxes), The Light Heart (Thane), Wild Goose Chase (Batterson).  I’m also reading lots of manuscripts for a writing contest.

I’m hoping to dig into Facing History’s resources on the Armenian Genocide as a preview for part of next year’s high school history with Jonah.  I’ll let you know what I think.

On my mind: “Supernatural sadness and righteous indignation often reveal our God-ordained passions.”  (Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase)

Grateful for:  rock painting on our front steps, finally placing our order of neonatal resuscitators to send to the folks training the lay birth attendants in Thailand, tea in Chicago with Jen and Tonya, a day with Christine.
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Praying for: those who put their lives at risk to bring justice and peace, Clare’s surgery, Mandy, Judy, the Neals’ packing and travel, Dawn.

Learning to Listen

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Cousins, and s’mores.

Between my friend’s funeral in April and our trip to my friend Cat’s wedding in May, I’ve seen quite a few long-time friends recently.  What a blessing.

At a pre-funeral brunch, I introduced myself to a friend from twenty years ago. I hadn’t recognized him, probably because of his new-to-me beard. (And because I hadn’t thought to see him there. And because it’s his voice, more than his face, that I think of when I think of him.)

There he was in our small circle, and I held out my hand and said, “I’m Annie,” feeling bad that he was left out of the conversation.  The moment he started to laugh at me, I knew who he was, and I laughed, too.  We all spent much of that weekend laughing at ourselves, which was a perfect reflection of and memorial to our friend Jerry’s humor.

Anyway, at brunch Dave and I dove almost immediately into the hard times of the past ten years: my malpractice trial, his parents’ illness and death. What makes those kinds of conversations possible?  Is it inherent in the nature of a particular person—someone who never bothers with small talk, but always gets to the heart-matter?  Was it a result of the funerary setting?

Or is that kind of conversation a skill?  A habit?  I saw another long-time friend recently, and as soon as the children were tucked away together playing, we submerged ourselves in the deep stuff. I am grateful for her, and for her challenge to be real.

My niece (17) and nephew (16), whom we saw on our trip, spent several hours with us just talking.  It was delightful.  They asked us good questions, and listened intently to our answers.  We had a chance to ask them real questions, too, and to listen intently to them.  I can see a day ahead where we will interact as adults, with real give-and-take.  I hope my children learn this skill. We’re not there yet, though I see glimpses of the possibilities ahead.

I feel convicted that I’m not listening to my kids as well as I could.  My listening is half-hearted, as I save back part of my attention for whatever is in front of me, whether it’s dinner on the stove or the novel clanking around in my mind.  I doubt that that kind of listening is going to promote a habit of deep conversation.  Would you pray for me, that I can choose to listen to my children like I listen to my friends?

High School at Home and Meatloaf

As the school year ends, my mind always turns to planning next year. I used to plan for next year in February, but when I finally figured out that I wanted to chuck the baby out with the bath water every February, I decided that might not be the best time to make decisions for our family. Now I plan during the summer.

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We are past the point of reinventing the wheel every year. I’ve done that, and it never made much difference for us. I get more out of small changes I make along the way. To use a swimming example, it serves me better to work on improving their breaststroke kick than to stop swimming altogether and take up shot put instead.

You can find our “curriculum” choices in the pages at the top, labeled by school year. Most of what is there are our book lists. You’ll see we use Singapore for math and Rosetta Stone (plus a grammar supplement I haven’t found yet—any ideas?) for Spanish. We have done many different things for science. My littles do Explode the Code, copywork, and dictation. Other than that, we read.

Jonah is beginning high school this year. This has invited a new level of scrutiny I wasn’t expecting. Even the skeptics had reconciled themselves to my homeschooling my children in the younger grades. How badly, really, could I mess them up? High school has a different significance to people.

The funny thing is the specificity of the fears that have been expressed to me. No one has asked me about how I will provide a broad, varied curriculum with good adult role models. Instead, they have asked:

  •  What about Prom?
  •  How will he march in a graduation?
  •  What about his transcript?
  •  How will you teach science/calculus/writing (whatever subject is most fearsome to the person in questions)?

The answer: I don’t know yet.

My friend Christine used to say “Everyone’s mom makes the best meatloaf.” She didn’t mean that all meatloaves are the same, or even that all meatloaf is excellent. She meant that everyone prefers their own mom’s meatloaf because it was they grew up with. I suspect that it is the same with high school.

Clearly not everyone had a great high school experience. My own was a mixed bag. I took three choirs and jazz band during my senior year because I had run out of AP classes. On the up side, I learned a lot of great music. My brother had a close group of friends who played bridge together during their free time. On the down side, he was teased and tormented by the “in” crowd.

My oldest son’s high school experience isn’t going to meet all his grandparents’ expectations. It will have gaps. Maybe (gasp) there won’t be a Prom. It is likely that his transcript will have several book lists attached to it. I don’t know yet where he will march in “graduation.” I have some ideas about how to give him a varied experience with work opportunities, strong academics, good adult role models, and time to spend with his friends.

My hope is that in the mix of good and not-so-good, he will find his way. And that when he’s done, he can look back and own it like he owns my meatloaf: not perfect, but ours.

Daybook: Late May

Out my window: hail damage. Remember how pretty the flowers were last week? Not so much now.
On the up side, I still have windows and a roof.

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In the kitchen: my friend Tonya just made me an incredible omelet with mushrooms, onions, spinach, and sharp cheddar. I highly recommend inviting Friends Who Cook to stay with you so you, too, can be cooked for like a princess.

In other kitchen news, the vegetarians are morphing.  Owen decided he would be a person who eats only humanely-treated meat (PWEOHTM). (Lucky for him, we will be getting an entire hog in the fall that will have been raised by our farmers and butchered by someone we trust.)  Moriah decided she would be vegetarian except for kielbasa (VEFK).
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In the school room: When I knew our friends were coming, I tallied up our days and we had finished (with the exception of Jonah’s biology class, which has one more chapter to cover). So last week was a feast of hikes, art, and game times while we waited out tornado warnings in our basement. I have to say, sitting through two hours of tornado warnings in a finished basement isn’t as difficult as sitting through them in an unfinished basement.

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Grateful:  for Tonya’s visit, Jerusha’s PhD, Sam’s short commute that frees up time for bike rides and swimming and early dinners. For after-dinner walks and popsicles and swim team.
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Praying for:  Lisa in her upcoming transition, the community of Isla Vista, Judy, Mandy, the Neals.  I am pondering and praying for my children’s hearts.  Syria.  Nigeria.

Summer School

Do you school year-round?  Do you take summers off?

We do a sort-of hybrid model.  To meet Colorado’s requirements, we “school” 176-180 days per year with an average of 6 hours of instruction per day.  I count those days beginning in August and concluding in May (or June, depending on the year).  But once those days are done, we keep a trickle of school going for several reasons.

First, the discipline of daily work is good for all of us, all the time.  We need breaks, and we take mental health days when we need them, but most days we all need some responsibility.  In years past when we took the summer off completely, restarting in the fall was agony.  The daily work muscles were gone.  It took us several weeks to build up to be able to sustain even four hours of good work.

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Second, the kids lose skills when those skills aren’t practiced.  We noticed this most in math and foreign language.  These skill areas build on themselves, and taking two or three months off can really set us back.  (Here’s a link to a news story about how much kids actually lose in a traditional summer off: 22% of what they’ve learned.)  We don’t do a lot— just 20-30 minutes a day of piano practice and foreign language or math (we alternate).  Also, we keep reading scripture and good books aloud, but it’s usually one family book before bed each night instead of 1-2 hours a day during the morning.

Third, a little bit of work gives structure to our days.  If we believe that learning is an integral part of our life, then why should that stop for the summer?  We fit exploration into our summer in other ways, too– new hikes, camping, trying new projects or learning about new things.  Continuing daily education is a part of cultivating an atmosphere of education.

Charlotte Mason wrote, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”   That’s why we school in the summer.

Share how your family lives summer in the comments.