Lea Ann Garfias recently sent me her new e-book Homeschool Made Easy. I wish this book had been available when I first started thinking about homeschooling. Her book in precisely simple terms describes the different approaches to home education, learning styles, and teaching styles without overwhelming the reader. Her writing style in humorous, graceful, encouraging, and witty. The book reads like you are immersed in a conversation with the author.
She goes on to cover what your child should accomplish in each learning stage: elementary, middle and high school. I appreciated that she points out that our children should move into the various stages based on their maturity and not age. Children grow and mature at different rates but it is so easy to get caught up in comparing our children to those in the local school system and wondering if we are measuring up. We need to be careful not to push our children past their maturity and learning stage. We need to enjoy their current stage because all too soon they will move on. Cherish your little ones while they are still little…or whatever stage your children are in. I appreciate this message in her book. We do not hear this message enough in homeschooling circles. Just today I saw a mom on Periscope lamenting that her four-year old could not write their name! A perfect example of the pressure homeschooling parents experience.
The book clearly points out the importance of each learning stage, what should be taught, and how to recognize when your child is moving into the next stage. A basic overview of what you need to know from elementary to high school is shared from the author’s experience.
This is the book I would tell a friend to read first if they expressed an interest in homeschooling.
Thank you Lea Ann Garfias for sharing a copy of your book with me! She did not ask for a positive review but I am pleased as punch to provide one. I also highly recommend her blog!
“There is also a deeper loss that’s harder to put a price on. If children are born with anything, it’s a sense of the invisible beauty and elegance of the world. They love seeing patterns, making connections, and solving problems. But the majority of children will lose this sense of wonder and curiosity before they grow up simply because, as a society, we expect so little of ourselves.”
“Some small event in early childhood or at school might start an avalanche of learning in one child but not another. The fact that an avalanche occurs on one mountain and not another does not imply anything interesting about mountains. It does not prove that one mountain is more prone to avalanches or that an avalanche could never be started.”
These quotes come from John Mighton’s book The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child. He has another book called The End of Ignorance: Multiplying Our Human Potential. In this second book Mighton explores why children lose their innate sense of wonder and curiosity. In school systems (and by societal beliefs on human ability) children are sorted into who is good at math and who is better with letters and so on. Since we as a society believe individuals are born with a certain innate talent then why bother trying to develop something we do not have? Mighton argues we should not sort our children into categories so early in their education. By telling my daughter that she’s just not a mathy person I am throwing her potential away. I haven’t actually said as such to her but I have thought it. To me the thought is the same as committing the crime toward her.
Instead of sorting our children shouldn’t we be trying to awaken that avalanche of learning, discovery, and ability? And since I now believe Mighton’s insights (the two quotes above) to be true then I need to model this belief in how I teach my children and (here’s the hard part!) in my beliefs about my own abilities or lack thereof. So how is this to be done? What kind of teacher do I need to be for my children to really “get” math…or music, art, writing, science…whatever.
I’m not sure this process can be facilitated so much as nurtured. That “avalanche of learning” happens because someone invested themselves into another being. I saw this happen with Middle Boy. He has a passion for music because he felt loved in his preschool. The high school girl’s who designed the curriculum all loved music. They all played instruments or danced. They passed their love and enthusiasm for music to him. They invested themselves into their curriculum and into the children they taught. My son can play a song by ear…not perfectly or immediately. But he can sit at the piano and figure out a melody. Is his talent for music innate or inspired? A bit of both?
I’ve also noticed that when my husband spends time helping our children with their music their ability increases. Not just a small increment. I hear a leap in improvement in all of them. My husband doesn’t play piano nor does he read music quickly. He will even admit their ability to play the piano far surpasses his own. Yet, when he invests his own time (something he has a limited supply of at home) they improve.
As the mother, nurturer, educator at home I need to bring about the conditions that will support and encourage Mr. Mighton’s avalanche. I’ve been reading these books and articles on education, philosophy, mathematical ability, motivation, human development…seeking how to create such an environment. All this time my husband has been modeling the answer for me during his music practice coaching. I am married to the most fascinating man.
“My heart is singing for joy this morning. A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed.” — Anne Sullivan
This week was rough. I have an awful chest cold. I felt it coming on last week but hoped I’d be able to shake it off. No luck. For a couple of days I ran a high fever. There were days this week my voice sounded deeper than any may you know! Other days my breathing sounded akin to a growling dog. The violently colorful stage of phlegmatic coughing is now past and I have arrived at the dry unrelenting cough.
their own private teatime
I only called off school during the feverish days. One of those days fell on Tuesday which is our poetry tea breakfast day. Oldest decided to make a nice breakfast and set the table. Sparkles and Middle Boy browsed the bookshelves for poetry books and helped Oldest with getting the table ready. They held their own poetry tea and breakfast without me. That was an awesome moment for this homeschool mom!!! Oldest made sausage hash brown casserole and I taught him how to make the warm maple milk from the couch. Later in the week I taught Oldest how to make pancakes. After chatting with my crew we all decided that they would join me in the kitchen on Tuesday mornings to learn to make breakfast recipes. It will take longer but I think it will make for fun mornings with good memories for them to look back on someday. If everyone is well enough we’ll make biscuits and gravy this week.
Batman helped up pick out a new Christmas tree
If everyone is well. Sparkles and Middle Boy both went to bed with fevers tonight. Thanksgiving is this week. Our plans are suddenly in flux. Who knows?
We put up our Christmas tree this weekend. I enjoy remembering the children I used to teach through the ornaments they gave to me. Ornaments our children made and others we chose together as a family. I think our tree turned out lovely. So naturally, someone had to get offended and shame me on my Facebook page because our tree is up before Thanksgiving. Nice!
piano practice time
My husband spent time helping the kids with their piano lessons this week. They are at the point where they need to use a metronome. I am completely useless at keeping a beat. I tried to pay attention to their playing and timing but just could not…I’m not sure how to explain. When I hear the metronome the sound is on one side of my head and the song on the piano is on the other side of my head. The two sounds remain separate from one another and no matter how hard I concentrate I cannot bring the them together. The wiring in
I promised Littlest I would dance with him when I could breathe again
my head is a little messed up. Littlest likes to listen to his siblings practice with the metronome. He can keep time by nodding his head or shuffling from foot to foot while humming the tune being practiced. I’m glad to see he does not suffer my handicap.
My personal news this week is that I got accepted to the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m very glad to be on a team again and looking forward to all the fun that will bring. It is a nice feeling to be on a team and work with a group of people with a similar goal.
The download is only fifteen pages. That number seemed disappointing at first but as I flipped through the pages I could see this was going to be a rich and full study. There is enough material and ideas in here for to cover more than a year of school. The kids and I sat down together and picked out a few projects to complete. We then headed to the library to check out several of the recommended titles mentioned in the study. We came home with a stack of wonderful books and several “coffee table” books full of pictures and maps of the Appalachian Trail.
Two books that we enjoyed were That Book Woman by Heather Henson and The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills. Both books reminded me of stories from my grandmother who lived in Appalachia all her life, stories that I then passed on to my kids. We also picked out a couple of books by Kentucky author Jesse Stuart. Right now we are still reading aloud his The Beatinest Boy and I recommend it if you are looking for a book with a Christmas theme and character development.
Oldest’s project was to draw a map of the Appalachian Trail and the surrounding states and mark the state capitals. He is also using the guide and some of the suggested websites to plan a vacation to the Cherokee National Forest along the Trail. Sparkles chose to write and illustrate a trail guide of common plant life along the trail. Middle Boy also wanted to put a trail guide together so he chose to write on common animals along the trail. He also added a section on endangered animals.
The unit study contains several ideas for reports, creative writing opportunities, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. The second section covers math studies along the trail. I likes the ideas about creating word problems and teaching my crew to how to take raw date and make a graph. We enjoyed many of the science and nature study options listed in the guide. We listened on given websites to the different sounds the creatures make along the trail. The kids even enjoyed trying to guess what sort of animal belonged to the sound we listened too.
We’ve picked out several activities from the physical education section but haven’t had a chance to try them out due to the weather and my current illness. I also love all of the art ideas listed in the guide and many of these ideas can be adapted to any curriculum or subject of study. The history section includes several websites to learn about the history of the Trail. Like many people I had also believed it was based on an old Native American trail. It is not! We learned about the National Trail Systems and why they were created as well as the fascinating people involved in their development.
We also listened to traditional mountain music and learned about the dulcimer. The geography section listed tons of ideas for studies. We looked at an online interactive map and learned about several bench marks along the trail. The home economics section covered camping food, clothing choices, first-aid preparedness and so much more.
The rest of the study guide discusses camping and hiking tips with websites for additional information. The author even lists a few idea for “delight-directed” study to expand on the unit study.
We are having a blast with this unit study learning about the Appalachian Trail!
Currently my chest has that awful tight congested feeling. My ears feel stuffed with warm cotton. The back of my throat burns. Tomorrow the coughing will start. Most likely this week’s schooling will only be bare bones but maybe with several cups of hot soothing tea and honey I’ll be able to get through the read-alouds…or not. I supposed I could declare us “unschoolers” for the week, see what happens.
Sparkles found her skooter this week
Actually, we could never be unschoolers…not purely anyway. I’ve tried following classical and Charlotte Mason methods over the past few years. I’ve found that anytime I try to enforce the rules of some method or philosophy over another we are all miserable. I have this vision in my heart of how home education should look and feel. But I lost the confidence to implement it as I read books by “experts”. I’m glad that I read those books, knowledge is good.
fried chicken feast
But I should not have accepted them as gospel. I intend to clarify and return our school to my original vision. For us this return will bring more hands-on and group projects, less workbooks and text books. More mess, more freedom, and more work.
I’m hoping to have a game-plan in place after Christmas break.
Littlest being himself at church
School was a little different this week since we started working on a little unit study on the Appalachian Trail. We picked out several books from the library and then everyone chose a project. We’ve read some wonderful books and learned about the book women of Appalachia. So far our favorite books have been from Jesse Stuart. I’ll have a separate post about it later this week and share all of our book titles and projects.
Middle Boy enjoying poetry tea time
Math and Latin were our tricky subjects this week. Middle Boy hates his math because it is so boring. He generally likes math and rarely makes mistakes but is bored to tears-quite literally! I took his math workbook from him on Friday and gave him the placement test for Beast Academy. The exam was tough and even I had to think through a few of the questions! This math will be a good fit for him and I bet the rest of the crew will be curious enough to read the text and try their hand at some of the problems.
wrestling math on the new area rug
Latin has become grammar intensive! I’m not sure we even need our grammar workbooks anymore. The Latin course does a much better job of teaching language arts anyway. This is definitely the last year we will use grammar workbooks.
Littlest hates getting his hair cut
We will also finish our science course this week. We’re gonna take a break from science until our restart after the holiday break. We were all really disappointed in the Sonlight science course. After quite a bit of research we are going to use Dr. J Wile’s elementary science series. Middle Boy looked over several science programs with me and helped with all the research (hopefully he appreciates all the work I put into researching their education!!). He is super excited about all of the experiments involved with the course and he loved-loved-loved!!! reading the sample chapters available. Oldest decided to
shopping with Sparkles
put off middle school science for a few months because he wants to be in the same science program with Littlest for a while. After Christmas break Littlest will join us in the school room full-time and Oldest wants to be his “helper”.
Yep, I’ll be rocking Kindergarten through middle school in January!!!
On Friday night Sparkles and I went shopping. She had no winter clothing in her closet. After my husband got home from work we abandoned him with the boys and enjoyed a nice girl’s night out. I
my Sparkles…looking so grown-up
really should do that more often with her. We had so much fun! Her clothing choices made me a little sad…no bows or princesses. My baby girl is growing up!!! We found some jeans and a few plain tops. She even picked out a hoodie because The Doctor (Who) wears hoodies these days. She cracked me up at Cracker Barrel because she couldn’t figure out how to get past “just plain dumb” on the table game. I told her she could order anything she wanted for dinner so she chose the Coca-Cola cake! I thought that was great! Our waiter thought she was adorable and decided to adopt me as his mom. I’m pretty sure it was because I let her have chocolate cake for dinner.
We arrived home to a neighborhood with no power. While we were out a meth-lab was busted and one of the “chemists” escaped arrest, crashed into an electric pole, and fled into a nearby field. Helicopters searched the skies and police officers searched through our neighborhood! I don’t know, but maybe we picked the wrong neighborhood?!?! Anyway, once the power returned later in the evening we learned more about tragedy. Paris reminded me deeply of 911. I was horrified but not surprised. I was saddened to learn that many churches remained closed for worship on Sunday morning. When our pastor announced this I couldn’t help but feel that Apocalyptic Islam had won. I do not know where this world of ours is going. I am frightened for my children and for yours. Despite my own fears I trust my Savior.
In the pictures below you will find links to the Brave Writer Periscope group on Facebook for the Holiday Season. A support group for those who follow Julie Bogart on Periscope. The second picture is to the free gift for a gratitude journal she made. The last pictures in the gallery are from our church’s display of 225 years of history in the Frankfort area. The display will be taken down this week so my husband and I skipped Sunday School (again!!) to look over the history. Sadly, the lovely couch will be moved from the foyer area and returned to one of the building on sire. Oldest loves the couch and it has served as our designated meeting spot the past few weeks.
I have had a slew of questions over Poetry Tea Time the past couple of weeks! One friend even declared me to be “an inspiration.” Well, that might be stretching the truth quite a bit too far. I’m no inspiration but I am passionate about how I spend life with my kids. I have cried (and so have my children) over some of our home education experiences. Bitter, bitter tears. My days with my children are short and far too precious to spend slaving over public school style workbooks. No more!
Brave Writer Lifestyle 101
Over the past few months I have been slowly adding elements of the Brave Writer Lifestyle into our home (not just our school). Poetry Teatime is just one of those many elements. Brave Writer is a writing curriculum (but so much more than a curriculum) created by Julie Bogart (this link will take you to her Katch page). The company website is huge and overwhelming. I ran away screaming the first couple of times I landed there! My advice is to approach the program as you would fine wine or divine chocolate-sips and nibbles (with the kids tucked in bed!). Listening to a few of her scopes on Katch will be
Tea Time with Julie Bogart
enlightening and help you to navigate the website. I recommend Time for Tea and Poetry, In Defense of the Disillusioned, Brain Based Learning parts 1&2, Enchanted Homeschooling, and…everything on the page!
Anyway, on to my approach to Poetry Teatime…
My kids love our Poetry Teatime. Even Littlest will choose a book and poems for reading and listen to everyone else read poems. My oldest has even shared his own limerick and haikus with us! He has gone from hating poetry (thanks to workbooks) to creating his own poetry! This week he even set the table for tea time. Okay, to be honest he did use a curtain for the table-cloth but I am thrilled with his newfound enthusiasm.
poetry tea time
Our teatime used to be around 2:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday. I would usually make a home-made treat of some sort and the kids would have something special to drink in the teapot (except for tea). We always use the teapot (except for during the move) and teacups. I do let Littlest choose between using a sippy cup or a tea cup…he’s been known to choose both at once!
So what’s in the teapot? Warm Maple Cinnamon Milk. My grandmother would make this treat on Christmas morning. Just warm some milk (but do not let it boil!). Add cinnamon and maple syrup to suit your own taste. Super easy! My grandmother never measured ingredients and I usually do not either. My teapot holds about eight cups. I estimate that I use about half a teaspoon of cinnamon and about three tablespoons of maple syrup.
Sparkles kept reading long after tea time was over
This past Tuesday I moved our tea time to breakfast. I loved seeing their faces as they came into the kitchen! They were delighted! Sparkles helped me serve breakfast, Middle Boy tackled the dishes, Oldest set the table and Littlest bounced around underfoot. The morning was glorious! We piled our plates with pumpkin waffles, brown butter syrup, and sausage. Once everyone settled into place Oldest lit the candle and we ate together. This time Middle Boy started reading poetry aloud since he finished eating first. I used to have to call on them to share poetry but it just happens organically now. We share poems we like, that leave us puzzled or sad, make us laugh, and occasionally even dislike. Sometimes we discuss the poem and sometimes not. I even cry sometimes and then one of the kids will take over for me.
our poetry breakfast
We use a variety of poetry books. The kids love Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. We’ve read poetry from the Bible and the Tao Te Ching. Mother Goose and nursery rhymes. Jesse Stuart and Robert Frost. Song lyrics from the radio. I’ve even found poetry inspired by Doctor Who and Legos.
Once the kids started enjoying poetry I introduced Shakespeare into our poetry time. They were not sure they would like Shakespeare at first but since it was just once a week during tea time they were open to the idea. First, I read a short biography and then we started with Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb. Later, we re-watched the Doctor Who episode with Shakespeare. Now that they are hooked I moved Shakespeare to our daily read aloud time…and no one complained!
At the end of our freewrite cycle (which is every ten weeks) I’ll have the kids select a poem for copywork and art. They’ll spend about fifteen minutes a day writing out their chosen poem in their best handwriting. Once the writing is complete they spend the rest of the week illustrating the page. I usually play some calm classical music in the background. It helps them to focus quietly…and I can call it music appreciation too.
For now, this is what poetry tea time looks like in our home. I’m sure it will grow and change over seasons in this homeschooling journey.
The first week of November flew by in a whirlwind of activity. We spent a couple of afternoons in downtown Frankfort enjoying the local Candlelight Tradition, the town’s kickoff of the Holiday Season. I must admit I had a hard time feeling the Christmas spirit since the weather was a bit warm and…well it is the first week of November. Just too early for all things Christmas…especially the music. For me, anyway.
with Sparkles at Candlelight Tradition
Thursday evening we walked around downtown visiting many of the local shops. The area is filled with artisan shops and I came away with plenty of ideas for field trips. Free suppers, snacks and sweets were everywhere. Local musicians and choirs played on street corners and at the Old Capital building. We also stopped to visit with some visiting exiled Tibetan Monks. We watched them
Tibetan Monk and world peace mandala
work on a mandala for world peace. Sparkles also found a little coin purse in their shop she wanted. The bookshop I’ve been longing to visit was open so Sparkles and I nosed around for a while. I can’t go to a book store and leave empty-handed! I bought a book on the literary history of Kentucky. I’m hoping it will inspire me to cobble together a Kentucky history for the crew. I had a text-book given to me on the subject but it was so awful I sent it to the recycling center. It should have been burned it was so awful!
Lady C and her mom
On Saturday my husband’s lovely friend (Lady C) and her mother spent the day with us. We hadn’t seen them in ages and enjoyed their company. The kids have already started asking when they are coming back. Littlest is just smitten! My husband grilled and Lady C brought her famous peanut butter kiss cookies. Yum!
Today we went downtown again to the Grand Theatre to watch The Polar Express. This was also Littlest’s first time in a movie theatre and Middle Boy’s second visit to one. I think the last time I was in a theatre was to see the first Iron Man movie. Most people wore their pajamas for the event but since we were going over after church and lunch we thought it best to wear normal clothing. Besides, since we homeschool it can be a novelty not to wear pajamas! Once the movie finished Santa Clause arrived. Littlest was so excited and just couldn’t
they no longer believe
believe his eyes! He told me, “That’s something you don’t see everyday!” All of the children were given a bell. Oldest and Sparkles waited on a bench while Middle Boy and Littlest visited with Santa. Littlest was so bashful when his moment came. I couldn’t choose which picture to share so the rest are in the gallery below. I’m not sure if Middle Boy still believes in Santa or not. I generally do not ask and wait for the children to initiate discussion. Once the discussion takes place they are sworn to protect the mystery of Santa and seek ways to bring the secret joy to their siblings.
During our explorations around town today we learned Frankfort and Franklin County were named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. I didn’t know that little fact.
School went well this week. We started art appreciation and will be studying American artists. We’ll spend a couple of weeks studying a print and will do a monthly freewrite on the art piece. This month we are studying Indian Farmer by Oscar Berninghaus. I plan to alternate monthly having them engage in freewriting and poetry with a piece of art. This coming week we are looking forward to a little unit study on the Appalachian Trail.