Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

Get Your Mess Together Day

We had just completed our third kid birthday weekend in one month.  Balloons were scattered about the floor.  Dishes piled all over the counter-tops.  An embarrassingly humongous pile of clean laundry was eating our loveseat.  Days had been packed full of soccer games, music and dance lessons, and the normal grind of school work.  Then there was also a smattering of doctor appointments, planned and not-so-much.  And Momma was sick again and again.  Needless to say, our house was in a chaotic disorder.

I totally understand the phrase that sometimes a house with kids living there can show “the proof of life”.  And perfectionist though I used to be (come on- there are SIX kids.  Perfection got thrown out a long time ago.), I can usually ignore a little bit of mess here and there and still feel pretty okay about myself.  But not this.  This was a hostile takeover of my sanity.  I could not, would not be able to think or function in this environment one.  more.  day.

We needed a break.  Badly.  Just a day to stop the constant overload of Too Much To Do. So we took it- because we could.  Because we homeschool.  We called it our “Get Your Mess Together Day”, and it was heavenly.  I wrote up a list of everything that was wrong with our house the night before, and read it aloud to the children.  I promised them zero school work if only we would all pitch in together and tackle it.  They wrote their little names beside each chore they chose to handle.  In the afternoon, I promised that there would be game time with Mommy to celebrate (also much needed).

No, not everything on my list was accomplished.  Nor was anything done quite the way I would have done it myself.  But it was oh, so much better than it was before.  And just seeing my little kiddos, big to small, helping with all their might, did my overworked Mommy heart a lot of good.  Spending time together that was not school or a planned event of some sort was also good.  We laughed, we hugged.  We ate popcorn & sipped coke floats.  We passed around the baby.

Get Your Mess Together Day.  I think it’s going to be a new family tradition.  Right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving.  Only, maybe a little better even.

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Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

When Momma’s Sick

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Our school year, so far, has been not the hottest thing going.  I just went through a month and a half of a doozy of an illness.  I watched weepy-eyed as all of my carefully laid plans shattered one by one.  Play dates, field trips, and even our family vacation got the shaft.  The kids stopped asking “how many days till…” because the answer was repeatedly, “Sorry.  Mommy just can’t,”.  Thankfully, it’s done now, and life can (hopefully) go on.  It’s rough when your little people need you to take care of them, and you can’t even take care of yourself!  And when you’re also their teacher, life can get really crunchy.

So- what did school look like for us while I was in and out of fevers, popping antibiotics like they were going out of style, and laying on the couch in severe pain?  We did the best we could.  Every sane moment, I would assign work for the older children, read to the little ones, and grade papers.  I taught what I could from the couch.  We listened to audio books together, the children read the science lesson aloud, and the older ones helped the younger.  It wasn’t stellar, it wasn’t our best, but we kept going.

And you know what?  I found that in the midst of those imperfect school days, a lot of real life learning happened.  Not just book stuff, which is, of course, important.  But how to put others first, how to lovingly take care of the ones you love.  How to have a bit more patience.   My older children learned to make lunch for us all.  They had set aside their own desire to have some free time to go get their mom a piece of dry crusty toast or a glass of water, rock the baby, or help a little sibling with their writing.  I would never have chosen to start out this school year with this kind of a bang, but I think we’ve been made the better for it.

*****I feel for you mommas out there with chronic illnesses.  I know of many homeschool moms in that situation that are taking one step at a time, doing their very best for their children.  With every struggle, with every day, they are pushing on and accomplishing all that they can, despite pain and hardship.  I have heard one woman say that she did not know exactly how long she could keep going before she would be confined to a wheelchair, but she was fitting in as many field trips as she could until that day came.  What love and sacrifice.  I am in awe of you.  Your little ones are watching you.  And they are learning a lot.

Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

A Weighty Kind of Wonderful

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We had our first day of school today, and I asked my children to write about or draw pictures showing what they would like to be when they grow up.  My ten-year-old drew this.  She wants to be a mommy like me.  Like ME.  It’s so sweet and super scary at the same time.  Just what kind of mommy am I?  Am I talking/behaving/acting like I want her to towards my grandchildren some day?  What a gentle reminder to me to be in prayer daily for right attitudes and behaviors.  May I be the kind of mommy that would bring glory and honor to my Lord and set a good example for my child.  And may I be quick to apologize when I am not!!  I am totally not perfect.  Admitting it and reminding her that I am not is also good for her.  I do not want her beating herself up someday for not meeting that unattainable standard this side of Heaven.

On a side note, two of the children are (accurately) yelling at each other and the baby is screaming his head off.  Yes, I asked.  And yet, the mommy and daddy are still smiling!  That’s not so accurate.  Ha!  Also cute, her husband looks like her daddy.

Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

Welcoming A Second Author!

I’m excited to announce that this blog site will now have two authors!  My sweet friend, Valerie, has graciously agreed to contribute her thoughts and advice.  She has been a wonderful, godly influence in my life and has been my go-to for homeschooling advice.  While my experience lies in teaching eighth grade and below, Valerie has also navigated high school and beyond.  I look forward to reading her posts!

Homeschooling Stuff

Attitude, Smatitude- Homeschooling in Real Life: Day 1

I have homeschooled for eight years now.  Every single one of them, without fail, has begun the same way.  We have yet to actually crack the books this year.  But though my children are getting older, I’m seriously not expecting things to be any different this go round.

The day begins with the zombie shuffling and moaning towards the table.  There will be stupid arguments.  Yes, those exist.  You can’t tell me that arguing over who gets to look at the back of the cereal box or fussing that someone is looking out the same window as you are valid reasons to complain.  Next comes absolute disgruntlement over whatever food is placed before them or the drinks in their cups.  You get the picture.  Children that were ALL SUMMER LONG up before dawn, screaming throughout the house with giddy excitement can now suddenly not remember how to hold a spoon properly.

They know it’s coming.  They’ve seen Mom (or Dad) carefully preparing for this day.  Books have been bought.  Supplies ready.  Pencils all sharpy-like.  Maybe a little blackboard even, with a smiley-face, welcoming them back to school.  Whatever your little attempts to get your crew all eager and ready to learn.  Be prepared, oh homeschool parent.  If they are older than five, they aren’t buying into your happy juice.  They are actually, for really, screaming on the inside.  Clutching at their fleeting summer as if by sheer attitude alone, they can turn this around and gain a bit more of the easy life.

So what should you do on day 1?

  1.  Just let this day be easy.  Step up to the plate, armed with the knowledge that it isn’t you.  Don’t take it personal.  Don’t be angry with your spawn.  Don’t have any high expectations for either yourself or them.  I repeat- do NOT expect much.  If you are a comparing parent, just know:  public school doesn’t either.  I know- I attended many of them.
  2. Celebrate in some way.  Pancakes for breakfast or a trip to Krispy Kreme.  Ice cream for supper.  A trip to a park, museum, or the library.  Get crafty and make something.  Whatever you and your bunch find exciting.
  3. Take pictures!  This one is a fun tradition for many homeschoolers.  They can hold up little signs, stating what grade they’re in.  If you’re like many of us and your child is all over the board, just write down their ages instead.  Or they can just stand there with no sign at all.  Whatever.  Make it your own.  Every year, you can take a new pic and compare.  Nothing professional, just fun.
  4. Look at their stuff with them.  Let them thumb through their new books, write their names on their notebooks, play around with the new markers.  Let them feel the ownership of it all.
  5. Go over your expectations for the year with them.  Tell them your hopes/goals.  You can talk about field trip opportunities, books to read together or on their own, projects you hope to accomplish.  Make it something to look forward to- hopeful things.  Ask them what they hope to do/learn this year or what they want to be when they grow up.  You can have them write down their dreams if you want or draw a picture.
  6. And finally, take charge.  Gently.  With love.  Tell them how much you love them, how you believe in them, and how excited you are to be their teacher.  Also include expectations for behavior, consequences for refusing to do work or for poor work done in haste.  Sometimes writing reminders on a chart on the wall or in notebooks can help if you need to reinforce this later.  Don’t forget to talk about why school is important.  If you are a believing family, pray for and with your children for the coming year.

You can choose to accomplish a few small tasks if you’d like, but remember, don’t expect to completely jump into the school year and have them knock out a bunch of assignments.  You’ll just be banging your head against a wall.  I promise you will all be miserable.  Adults need time to adjust to major life changes.  So do kids.  Take time to enjoy this first day.  Tomorrow will thank you for it.

Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

The Problem of Loneliness

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“But are your children being socialized?” It’s the absolute #1 question I am asked when strangers find out we homeschool.  Of course, of course.  They’ve got neighborhood friends, church friends, friends from co-op/ music lessons.  They’re so socialized, they can’t get over themselves.  But what about their mommy?  What about that adult that is running around ragged, trying to cram them full of knowledge and fun and lots of love?  Is SHE being socialized?

If someone were to ask me what the hardest part of homeschooling is for me, it would definitely be this.  Loneliness.  It’s something that can be experienced by any person in any walk of life from anywhere in the world.  And if you think that being a stay-at-home mommy, surrounded by tiny persons can’t possibly feel it, think again.  There is a huge difference between being with like-minded mommy friends and being with my babies.  I love them to pieces & wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but they cannot possibly meet every need for human interaction I could possibly have.  And they shouldn’t!  What a burden to have to bear for them.  They need me to have friends about as much as I do.

Our personal situation is compacted even more when you throw in that we have moved a TON.  New neighborhoods, churches, co-ops, etc.  Starting over and over again can be so hard.  Children somehow bond immediately with other children, but it’s not always so with adults.  So what’s a mommy to do?

Here are some great ideas.

  1.  Pray.  Pray that your relationship to God meets the deepest desire of your heart.  No human relationship will ever fill the void in you like God can.  He created you to love him, and He will bring the joy you long for.  Pray also that He will send people into your life to be friends.
  2. Go out there and meet people!  Attend the “Mommy’s Night Out” programs, talk to people at church, co-op, the park, wherever!  Exchange names and numbers with your kids’ new bestest friend ever that she JUST met five minutes ago and plan (and follow through!) with meeting up again.  Sign your kids up for an activity where you know you can also hang out- baseball, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer
  3. Invite people to do things with you!  Have them over at your home, meet at a park, catch a movie together, whatever- all with or without kiddos.
  4. Call up an old friend.  Don’t just text.  That’s too impersonal when you’re feeling blue and want actual human contact.
  5. Do stuff- attend a MOPS group (mothers of preschoolers), join a book club, volunteer at your child’s coop, take an art or cooking class.
  6. Get a part-time job.

These are just a few ideas.  Whatever you do, make sure you don’t stay home and wallow in the loneliness.  We mommies tend to sacrifice a lot for our little ones in order to meet their needs.  This shouldn’t be one of those things we neglect.  Life is hard.  We need each other.

What are some ways that you combat loneliness?

Homeschooling Stuff

The Many Methods of Homeschooling- Part 1 of 2

The way we think about things is super important.  Our thoughts dictate our decisions and actions.  If you believed that cats were super evil little monsters sent from Hades, for example, (I don’t- no.  Just sometimes.) you won’t leave one alone with your teeny baby.  If you think that sneezing into your elbow will keep everyone around you from catching your cold, you’re more apt to actually do that. Unlike your husband that thinks you’re bonkers and should just use your hands like normal people.

That being said, there are many different methods out there for homeschooling, along with the thinking that lies behind them.  It’s good to know where you feel most comfortable.  Then, you can explore teaching resources and curriculum that most closely align with what you like.  I’m going to give a very brief, as unbiased as I can make it overview of the major methods, along with links to further study-up on any you find interesting.

Eclectic/Relaxed–  Most homeschooling families fall into this category.  These are the parents that like a variety of materials and workbooks, choosing whatever they feel best meets the needs of their child rather than a one-size-fits-all, ready-made curriculum.  They may follow a routine, but it probably won’t have times written beside each subject to be covered.  This family will concentrate on meeting educational goals rather than being super-strict on exactly what gets studied when. To make sure they are staying on target, parents may study-up on what their local school system or respected book on homeschooling suggests should be accomplished per grade level.  They will probably also periodically have the children tested to make sure they are covering all that they need to learn.  Some use mornings for basic school subjects needing to be covered, leaving afternoons for things like library or field trips, art classes, music lessons, etc.

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rockyourhomeschool.net

Classical- This approach stresses teaching children how to learn.  The Trivium is an understanding of the different stages that children go through throughout their education, based on their stages of development.  Subjects are taught in such a way that compliments these different stages.  The Grammar Stage (k-5th) concentrates on giving little ones a lot of information to soak in.  Memorization of facts is stressed.  The next stage is called the Logic or Dialectic Stage (6th-8th).  Here, critical thinking and reasoning are encouraged.  There are serious discussions and in-depth studies, using the information gathered during the Grammar Stage.  Finally, the Rhetoric Stage (9th-12th) deals with communicating the child’s thoughts.  Arguing of theories, writing papers, and research are important in this age group.  Many classical parents keep a well-established routine.  Some join classical groups that meet to encourage oral reports, memorization, and the study of Latin.  There is also a branch off of this called Classical Christian Education, which is just what it sounds like:  classical with everything taught from a Christian worldview.

Classical Conversations

The Well-Trained Mind website

The Well-Trained Mind- book at Amazon