Sunday Journal: First Full Week Back

20160815_104602 (640x480)Our first week of the academic year is now history. Even though I would not call it catastrophic in any sense of the word…the days certainly had their moments. I also just didn’t get my walks in this week and I guess that did not help my mood at all. I’m fairly certain that the less alone time I get the worse it reflects on my humanity. Really, I’m rather terrible.

Being introverted can be hard sometimes…like having a monster in my

first day of school fun cereal

first day of school fun cereal

Well, I’m not sure what should follow after that…I kinda lost my flow since the kiddos came and gave me “goodnight kisses”.

Guess my introverted monster isn’t as bad as I imagine since my peeps still love me enough for kisses and hugs.

Littlest in the school room full-time was fun this week. He loves his Logic of English reading lessons so long as I leave the games

Littlest working on his lettering

Littlest working on his lettering

out. He tells me he only wants “serious school not baby school”. He got really mad this week when we hit a review lesson and he didn’t “learn anything useful”. He insisted we do the next lesson right away. I also have some Kindergarten workbooks just to keep him busy (I know…busy work is bad). The workbooks have the directions and answers for parents on the same page. Littlest realized that he was capable of reading the answers and could self check his work. He thought that was hilarious! Clearly, he’s outgrown Kindergarten after one week of school.

Boots and Bach

Boots and Bach

Two little words came to my mind at that moment and one of them isn’t very nice…

One of our favorite moments of school this week was listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto. Our kitty Boots was sound asleep during the entire hour or so of read-aloud time. As soon as I turned on the music she sat up and listened and was a still as the Sphinx of Egypt. Once the music was over she curled back up into a little kitty ball and snoozed for hours. Even though we went through the series of questions and talked about the instruments we heard and the emotions stirred…we’re all curious to know if Boots will react the same way during our next Bach appreciation moments. Serious science right there…

Oldest took his first science exam since we started homeschooling. I was happy with his results and I know he will improve now that he knows what to expect. He is using Dr. Wile’s General Science this year and in one of the essay questions he had an entirely different opinion than his book on the reasons for scientific advancement during the Renaissance. The author argued for Christian worldview and Oldest argued for the printing press. He’s twelve and already arguing with his textbook/authority…it is going to be a fun year.

The Road Ahead: Curriculum for 2016-17 Year

20160815_080425 (640x480)Choosing curriculum is time-consuming, sometimes fun and always hard. I usually end up doubting myself and wondering if something would work better. This year was a little different . I didn’t have the big “What have I done?” moment this time around and feel happy with the choices the kids and I made together. I guess that is the difference this year…the kids helped pick their books. Grade level gets harder to pinpoint each year too. The longer we homeschool the wonkier our grade levels turn out and I’m not sure the distinction is necessary in home education. But for those who need to know– Oldest is in seventh and Sparkles is in fifth. The younger two are straddling grade levels with Middle Boy a fourth-ish fifth grader and Littlest a Kinder-first grader.

BFB guides

BFB guides

Naturally, we chose to stick with Beautiful Feet Books for our history, literature selections and writing projects. We love BFB and the family behind the company. The guides and the books always lead to “big juicy conversations” (a Brave Writer term). We may be discussing history but we also talk about choices, morals, character, religion, politics and the struggles within human nature. The guides and the chosen books always inspire me to come up with projects. I build plenty of margin space for these history inspired

lots of BFB books

lots of BFB books

projects into the yearly calendar. Littlest will use Primary Early American History and the middle two will work through Intermediate Early American History. Oldest is using Early American and World History and next summer the older three will study through the Western Expansion guide. Littlest will take a couple of years to complete the primary guides for American History and Character.

some of our history projects for this year

some of our history projects for this year

Language Arts was absolute drudgery last year. This year they will all begin IEW’s Fix It for grammar. The kids all approved of this curriculum and since we started at the beginning we could fly through the first few books…if we wanted to. But we do not and there really isn’t a need to do so. On occasion we’ll pick up an Arrow or Boomerang from Brave Writer during the year for fun and a little

first day of school

first day of school

change of pace. We’ll continue with Poetry Tea Time and freewriting from Brave Writer as well and I plan to enroll them in another online class in January. This year Littlest joined in with the freewriting topics by dictating his thoughts to me. He loves to see his own words on paper. The older three are continuing the poetry and composition courses from Blackbird and Company. Littlest is using Foundations from Logic of English to learn to read. I could not be happier with this curriculum for reading instruction. The crew is also working through MENSA’s Year of Living Poetically. This was started last month and they are already memorizing their second poem.

first day candy bars

first day candy bars

Everyone has their own math. Littlest is still working through MUS’s Primer. He also has geo boards, tangrams and other geometric manipulatives to keep his hands busy during read aloud time. Middle Boy is using Christian Light Education and supplementing with Beast Academy. Sparkles is using Math Mammoth and Oldest is finishing up Christian Light Education sixth grade math. He is ready for pre-algebra and is trying to decide between MUS or Math Mammoth. I’m considering Math Without Boarders for the high school years. Everyone will need a new level of math by December.

20160815_183139 (640x480)I had a hard time finding science curriculum. I just wasn’t happy with most of the available selections. I do like Dr. Wile and ended up sticking with his books. The younger crew love his elementary science books and Oldest started with General Science. We’ll also watch a ton of science documentaries and I plan to get Curiosity Stream on ROKU too.

For Christian studies we are working through Pilgrim’s Progress but I haven’t decided what we should do after we finish toward the end of September…

20160815_183000 (640x480)We added art and music appreciation studies from Simply Charlotte Mason. We’re listening to Bach and studying the art work of Botticelli, Giotto and Van Gogh. We’re still working through Barry Stebbing’s Nature Drawing and Journaling course but will finish it up soon and move onto ArtAchieve.

projects

projects

At certain points during the year we will set all academics aside and work through projects together. Oldest is going to make a stop motion movie and possibly move on to robotics afterward. Middle Boy found a Minecraft STEM and art project book that he plans to use and Sparkles is going to learn to sew. Our group project is knitting and we will all be making hats, scarves and socks this year. I’ve

art

art

been on YouTube learning all of the various knitting stitches by making coffee cozies. That way I’ll already have a clue when the kids pick up knitting needles for the first time.

Everyone will work on their keyboarding skills and Littlest will be introduced to the computer. The older three are still taking piano lessons and Littlest is showing a bit of interest in learning piano too. He’s working on a little song right now and trying to remember the location of middle C. Once he does that he’ll be way ahead of me…

That’s our year in a nutshell. I’ve left white space in our schedule for bunny trails and whispered moments of inspiration from the homeschooling muses.

Sunday Journal: Break Week

Littlest on his day out with Daddy

Littlest on his day out with Daddy

We took a break from school this week while my mother was visiting for Sparkles’ procedure. Tomorrow is our first official full day of school for the new year. All of the books and baskets are organized and ready for tomorrow…and hopefully the rest of the year. Over the last few weeks we worked on establishing our morning routine so tomorrow should roll along smoothly. Go ahead and laugh if you want. I know tomorrow will not go as planned. But for the moment I would like to pretend the children will be delighted to learn math and write compositions with happy smiles.

I like to indulge my delusions sometimes.

Grandma and Littlest

Grandma and Littlest

My mother’s visit went fairly well this time around. She spent more time with Sparkles than she ever had before. I was busy the first part of the week tending to Sparkles and spent the latter half of the week prepping the school room. My husband finished the shelving and I was able to get all of our books out of the hallway and organized for the year. At some point this year the cabinets will be painted to match the shelves later this year. I’ve ordered a storage bench to fit along the window and I plan to get some nice curtains to add some color and softness. We have a couple of hummingbird feeders

school room ready for tomorrow

school room ready for tomorrow

outside our window and I spent a bit of time watching them this week. The little birds are fun to watch and the females are quite content to share the feeder but the males chase each other constantly. The lovely little hummers will prove to be a nice distraction during our time in the school room. I feel so very blessed that we can have a school room.

I knitted a coffee cozy

I knitted a coffee cozy

I am also glad that I had the room to work on during my mother’s visit…the work kept me from feeling pinned down by her. In a way, I feel badly that I left her to her own devices during her visit but I also know that the experience was less stressful for me (and everyone that has to live with me). She did say a few things that irked me but I let them go…well, my husband knows.

Anyway, Sparkles seems to be responding well to her medicine since her diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis. She wasn’t happy to

Sparkles and Boots

Sparkles and Boots

be taking so many medications at first but has already adjusted. I can’t blame her. I avoided my doctor for two years when he mentioned that I might need cholesterol medication. My daughter may take too much after me…One of the ladies I met at the retreat last month was also diagnosed with UC at the same age as Sparkles and she has generously answered so many of my questions and given awesome guidance. We are so blessed that Sparkles was diagnosed so quickly and that we have recently met some really amazing people who can guide us. For many people a diagnosis takes years…yet we managed to encounter the right people at the

Poetry tea time

Poetry tea time

right time to get our daughter treated relatively quickly. She is a blessed little girl.

Tomorrow I plan to take first day of school pictures. I have some fun unhealthy kid cereal to set out on the breakfast table for in the morning and candy bars to put at their places in the school room. It isn’t much but hopefully it will help the day seem special for the kiddos.

The Anticipated Day

Glad to be home and watching Harry Potter movies.

Glad to be home and watching Harry Potter movies.

Today we finally learned the name of Sparkles’ nemesis: Ulcerative Colitis. We still need to wait for lab results to confirm. However, her doctor was certain enough to give us paperwork to read and prescribe medicines to begin her treatment.

She’ll never get over it. This is forever. No cure.

I have not even begun to work out my thoughts and feelings. I cannot even imagine how my little girl will process all this new information. Right now, she just wants to feel better. And I want to make this forever disease go away but all the wishing in the world cannot change her life story now.

 

Sunday Journal: The Rest of July

I love this picture of Littlest and Middle Boy!

I love this picture of Littlest and Middle Boy!

I have not been in the mood to write the past few weeks. On here anyway. The writing process happens in my head all the time. Sometimes I edit my own thoughts in order to articulate properly to myself…maybe you didn’t need to know that.

Nothing happened this month. So many changes happened this month. I’ve spent a fair amount of time observing my kids. Sometimes I stand at my daughter’s bedroom door and listen to her cry. And I die every time. I want to rush in and hold her and cry with her but she would come to me if

Sparkles out with Daddy

Sparkles out with Daddy

she wanted that sort of comfort. I try to let her know in little ways that I know. We checked out books at the library about IBS/IBD and are reading them together. We explore new-to-us and less harmful foods together. Together we’ve mourned the loss of strawberries, grapes and salsa from her diet. These little things are a big deal if you are only ten.

I am so very grateful that we chose to homeschool. I cannot imagine how difficult managing a chronic illness would be in the public school system.

brothers

brothers

The boys are getting bigger and they are very understanding toward their sister’s moods. We did start back to school this past week. Not all subjects are in full swing yet but I decided to wait until after Sparkle’s surgery to go full-time. I did drop a few subjects for our first couple of terms this year until things are more settled or until we have adjusted to the new normal. I’ll have a post about our courses for the year in a few weeks. My husband started building shelves in the school room and everything is just a little scattered…

The school room is almost complete and I could not be more excited!

20160718_191030 (640x480) (480x640)We have enjoyed a few trips to Lexington to watch the local baseball team. Most of the time Sparkles has felt well enough to go but on occasion I stay home with her and the boys enjoy an evening out. I do not know much about baseball but it is fun to go to the games and people watch. I like to watch the boys in their uniforms too. My favorite player is Amalani Fukofuka simply because of the way his name sounds. His name is fun to say. Seriously, how many of us have such a delicious mouthful of syllables as a name?!

IMG_1270 (480x640)My husband took the boys to get a haircut a week or so ago. We never know what Littlest will say to other people. Sometimes he is sweet and charming and other times…not so much. The barber shop is across from the old state capitol. It is a real old fashioned, full of history sort of place. Oldest insists this is the only place to get a decent haircut. He is “all of twelve” and how he knows the “holy truths” I haven’t a clue.

IMG_1268 (480x640)Littlest wasn’t exactly excited to get a hair cut. He gets up in the chair when it is his turn and tells the barber his name when prompted. For whatever reason she did not hear him and asked him to repeat it. He tells her she should have listened the first time. She scolds him and tells him that people will not like him very much if he talks like that. He tells her that he doesn’t care what people think. My husband says something about his mouthiness (yes, WordPress that is a word!) and the barber comments, “No, he’s just really smart.” Littlest demands to be treated as a complete

Boots says "hello!"

Boots says “hello!”

person not as a person-in-training. Lots of people talk down to children. I’ve never done that with my kids. I like to meet them as the people they are and treat them with dignity. I hated being spoken down to as a kid either because of my age or in later years my gender. Littlest is a bit like me in that regard except I kept my hurt feelings to myself and he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself. As someone well acquainted with fear I completely admire that trait in him.

There you have it…so much for July.

 

Reflective Moments on Compassion: The Brave Writer Retreat

 

the squares

the squares

Ruckkehrunruhe. n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.      —The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (John Koenig)

Julie greeting her people

Julie greeting her people

Eunoia is a noun and a word I very rarely use. The word means beautiful thinking or a well mind. Eunoia (yoo’-noy-ah) is the state I find myself in after the retreat with a slight fear of ruckkehrunruhe. Okay, I do know that The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is totally made up but I have experienced many of these feelings and I think they should be adopted into our everyday usage. Just sayin’.

I arrived a scared bundle of nerves. Could I really just be myself amongst these women? I’ve felt rejected by other groups before. I 20160713_205413 (640x456)usually just do not fit; like a misplaced puzzle piece longing to find the box of home I belong to. As a family we have completely given up on homeschool groups. Many are just so clickish and refuse to accept others (I’m always an other) or we just do not love Jesus in the same manner as the group. By that, I mean my hair isn’t long enough, my skirts are not long enough (God forbid, I actually wear jeans!!!), I value 20160713_190013 (640x480)individuality over obedience, and I just refuse to be “evangelical”. I had a long conversation one night with Adam about that very subject. He worked the night shift at the hotel I stayed at for the retreat and was homeschooled through tenth grade. He shared his story with me and had some interesting insights into the emotional and social needs of homeschooled kids who do not 20160715_080458 (480x640)fit the surrounding social group. Chatting with him for a couple of evenings (or early-early in the morning) was just as eye-opening as the retreat conferences. I’ll likely never meet Adam again but I am glad we momentarily connected in life.

However, I must confess the Brave Writer Moms welcomed me with open arms and I totally love them all. I found my peeps, my tribe…the box of puzzle pieces I “fit” with comfortably. These ladies totally understood why I was proud of my Littlest when he

an evening of laughter and connection

an evening of laughter and connection

was removed from his homeschool co-op class! Nobody made me feel judged…just accepted. We all felt that same sense of freedom and connection with each other…well…that is my impression anyway. Julie built this Brave community and infused us with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Julie claims she is not an artist but I must disagree. Her medium is composed of hearts and 20160715_075610 (480x640)souls and she wove a beautiful, brave community of mothers (and their families) together. There is only one other place on this earth I have ever felt safer and that is in the comforting arms of my husband.

We all cried together and we laughed together. I have not laughed so unself-consciously in years. I wept bitter but cleansing tears. I’ve messed up as a mother sometimes…but I left the retreat with the knowledge that I can embrace my faults, share my fears, hug my kids and move on to better days. I have the tools and knowledge I need to be an 20160714_140031 (480x640)intentional mother and educator. I left the retreat content, calm…maybe slightly emotionally high, and ready…ready to fall in love with my family all over again. To observe my sweet children and be the mother they really need and not the image of motherhood I think is required.

I was so privileged to meet my hero Stephanie (Homeschool Alliance coach). If I can be half the awesomeness she is then I will be so happy! I just want to sit at her feet and soak up her wisdom…a wisdom that at times seemed to 20160714_092522 (480x640)be hard-earned. She could have let bitterness overtake her but she chose to remain open and honest- cultivating a peacemaker’s heart. That is my impression of her. She also taught me that I can home educate my kids through highschool…the idea isn’t so scary anymore. Alex taught me that we can just appreciate nature. I do not have to know the name of every plant and creature to do nature studies with my crew. Nature study isn’t as complicated as I’ve made it out to be…we can go on scavenger hunts, watch clouds 20160714_153133 (480x640)and draw in our journals and it is enough. Melissa taught me that I do not have to prescribe to any particular educational philosophy. I can borrow unapologetically what my family requires from each method and adapt as our needs ebb and flow. What matters the most is our relationships to one another.

Julie taught with her tears, laughter and open vulnerable heart. She explained how to bring the Charlotte Mason philosophy into our century. “Charlotte is awesome”, she said “but not more awesome than YOU!” She shared with us the importance and sacredness of home…and compassion. I think she could write a 20160715_120434 (480x640)book on the importance of compassion in everyday relationships…with our spouse, kids and even ourselves. Our home atmosphere matters far more than the curriculum we use. If our homes are safe places to be creative, take risks, receive compassion, communicate openly and respond with consistent intention then, we’ve created an atmosphere where learning takes place continuously. Letting all of this knowledge flow from my mind to my heart is gonna take a little time…maybe more than a little.

20160714_082145 (480x640)The place for the retreat was lovely. I tried to arrive early each morning to walk the Franciscan community’s grounds. The flowers and sculptures were beautiful. The place felt sacred even though it was in the middle of a large city. I spent part of one of my morning strolls chatting with Sister Karen. I met her returning from the outdoor Way of the Cross Stations and walked her to the chapel for prayers. She explained the history of their community, grounds and gardens. Later, I walked up to the sister’s cemetery and read 20160714_081959 (480x640)some of the names and dates on the stones. Every stone represented the life and dedicated service of a precious person. Women who consciously set out to make the world a better place. I thought about my own time in the monastery and what those years mean to me. I realized just how much strength I’ve drawn from my time in the cloister. I thought about my young and naïve thoughts on being a “bride of Christ” and realizing the truth is actually being a bride of humanity. A calling that I still feel sometimes and that manifests itself in compassion. My life made some sort of connecting loop in the sister’s cemetery (Oh, the tears!)). I am still called to a life of compassion…

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

Look what he learned while I was away

Look what he learned while I was away

2015-2016 Year End Evaluation

webinar with Julie Bogart from the Well Trained Mind Online Academy

webinar with Julie Bogart from the Well Trained Mind Online Academy

I’m not even sure how to evaluate this homeschooling year. Not a clue. At first all I could think of were the stresses of the past year and how so much of “life” interfered with my plans. My husband pointedly reminded me of the many good events of the year. He is right, of course, and I found our role reversal in that moment kinda odd in an amusing way. Usually, he is the unapologetic realist to my ungrounded optimist.

We did not have any last day of school pictures this year nor any interviews to make cute graphics like last year. I had to drop Latin

first day pictures

first day pictures

and our project weeks but that does not trouble me. We did drop the CLE workbooks this year and will not return to “schoolish” methods in the near future. I plan to gather up all of my CLE curriculum and gift the lot to a friend who loves and thrives with the “schoolish method”.

packing the school room

packing the school room

The week before we began our academic year last July my husband went on a couple of job interviews. By the end of the next month he was living in an apartment across the state. Sometimes we stayed with him at the apartment and sometimes we had to meet with realtors, inspectors and movers in our former home. We moved into our new home in October…we’re still getting moved in.

goodbye stuff

goodbye stuff

Then I went through that weird antihistamine addiction…I could not keep up with my brain! All these thoughts just raced around in my head. I was full of nervous energy and it seemed like my brain was always awake. And then the hell sent itching when I went off the medication. I itched in places that I’m sure don’t even exist in the human body. Not only did I try to educate my kids under those conditions but I also hunted for and purchased a house. That was crazy. I’m starting to get nervous about the impending ragweed season…

last meal at church with the lovely Mrs. C

last meal at church with the lovely Mrs. C

We then took turns suffering though pneumonia…that sucked.

Winter was hard on me personally. I completely lost any sense of religion. I haven’t come out of this shadow yet. I do understand why I am “in this place” now but not sure how to proceed from here. I’m not sure how to fill this sense of loss that I have toward church and my fellow Christians. I do not feel a sense of the sacred like I used

future school room

future school room

to…churches have lost their holiness. And I think that is the center of my issue. Protestant churches are about the symbolism of Jesus…the sacred “real presence” of God is whitewashed. I just cannot comprehend the “symbolic communion”…why bother with the ritual at all if it is not real? I just feel utterly lost…

my Sparkles...looking so grown-up

my Sparkles…looking so grown-up

In May our daughter became ill. This illness robs her of energy and joy. I hate it. Soon we will have answers and maybe I will be able to help her cope with her health. For now our homeschooling revolves somewhat around how she is feeling. That will have to change but the change can wait until we have a diagnosis. Then I can develop a strategy…once I know the enemy.

poetry table scape

poetry table scape

Despite all these “life events” we actually had a great school year. The kids learned about moving and adapting to changes. They lost friends and made new friends. They learned about growing up…how to let go and how to explore new places. We learned about hormones and “where babies come from” this year. (I think that was when I started transitioning from wine to bourbon). Sparkles quit crying every time she had to do math. Sparkles started writing fanfiction and she has an audience that wants to read her stories. How cool is that?!? Middle Boy discovered he loves art. Oldest actually 20151028_193802 (480x640)worked at a homeschool convention…he was my equal partner on a sales floor. We went on our first road trip together. That was awesome and a big deal for him! We all embraced the read-aloud/Brave Writer/modern Charlotte Mason/unschooling lifestyle together. And we are not looking back! My kids watched me struggle with my faith this year and health issues. They watched me lose friends and learn to set personal boundaries. We all agreed we hate co-ops together! Littlest got kicked out of his homeschool co-op class and I am proud of him for that! Littlest read a book!!!

Tibetan Monk and world peace mandala

Tibetan Monk and world peace mandala

Does anyone else have a kid kicked out of their homeschool co-op? I’d like to know…

We had a great year but most of the learning and growing that happened this year could not be evaluated by a standardized test…and I’m cool with that.

Tomorrow I leave for a retreat designed for the homeschooling mother. We’ll all be pulled out of our comfort zone a bit, enjoy some pampering and attend a few lectures. Next week I’ll share what we’ll be doing over the next school year.