Sunday Journal: Adventures in Travel

Cincinnati in the morning

Cincinnati in the morning

The last couple of weeks were busy. We traveled to western Kentucky last weekend for the kid’s Hymn Fest piano recital. We visited with friends and some family members during our stay. Visiting our former church was a highlight for me. The Easter service was beautiful but left me feeling lonely for a church family where we felt safe.

On the way to western Kentucky we met The Joseph Sisters in Leitchfield at Subway. We were all there for dinner and extended our stay a bit to let a nasty storm pass through before hitting the road again. They were returning home to West Virginia after a

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

“long radio tour”. The young ladies were really sweet and chatted with the kids about music, math and Angry Birds. I really should have taken a picture because it turns out they are a sweet all sisters country music band. You never know who is at the next table…

This past week is a bit of a blur. I attempted to prep and clean the house for our next trip and squeeze in a bit of schooling. Our co-op voted on classes they would like to have the next semester and so I had to admit we would not be returning…blah.

Russ and Josh setting up the booth

Russ and Josh setting up the booth

Thursday afternoon Oldest and I left for Cincinnati to work with Russ and Josh Berg of Beautiful Feet Books at the homeschooling convention. Oldest road shotgun (for the first time ever with me!) and read the directions off to me. We stopped at the monastery where we were staying and visited with the nuns a bit before heading to Cincinnati. The sky stormed most of the day! Fortunately, the rain let up during the times I was on the road…someone was praying for me.

Oldest and customer

Oldest and customer

I enjoyed working at the booth this year and chatting with a few of you who stopped to say “hello!” I also met a few fellow Brave Writer fans, sweet friends from our Lexington days, my neighbor (I was so shocked to see her that I couldn’t place her for a moment!), and my roommate for the retreat in July. Oldest did his best to help at the booth and talked with parents. Some people were not sure what to think of a twelve-year old boy working the convention and other’s took advantage and asked him for book recommendations for their

with Mr. Demme from MathUSee

with Mr. Demme from MathUSee

own children. I was both surprised and pleased by his performance. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out and I know he was very nervous too.

Oldest looked up to Josh like a hero and missed him terribly during his lunch breaks. He felt very accepted even with his twelve-year old antics which the Berg’s graciously found amusing and I found sooo exasperating…boys. I did nick-name Russ “Houdini” since he possessed the amazing skill to completely vanish from view in the time it would take to just greet someone. I would turn to finish a comment and he was simply gone! He’s like

Josh, Oldest and Russ with Middle Boy and Littlest in background

Josh, Oldest and Russ with Middle Boy and Littlest in background

a genie, cross his arms, nod his head and poof–vanished. There are moments I could benefit from such a talent.

On Saturday my husband and the rest of the crew came up to see the convention. They wondered the vendor hall a bit and then invaded the booth. Littlest and Middle Boy took turns playing the iPad, making a nuisance of themselves and using Russ as a prop for their Lego dinosaurs. I should have taken a picture of the moment. My children do not have a grandfather. In those rare instances when an older gentleman interacts so naturally with my children I find the moment wistful.

Littlest is glad I am home

Littlest is glad I am home

Anyway, a few people have asked what I brought home from the convention. Not much, since most of it had to be ordered. I purchased The Dangerous Journey and study guides from Memoria Press, Fix It from IEW, some movies study guides from Zeezok, Foundations from Logic of English and Early American history for both intermediate and junior high grades from Beautiful Feet Books. Now, I just have to wait for all of my goodies to arrive…

Today, I took Littlest out for ice cream. He missed me so much while I was away. I asked him what he did and he said, “Wore Daddy out. But now I can go back to wearing you out.” Sounds about right…

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Sunday Journal: Interrupted with Laughter, Agony and Gifts

first day pictures

first day pictures

Last week I was all excited over our first official week of the school year…God laughed at my well thought out plans. Just a couple of years ago I would have stressed out to the point of tears and rage over the spoiling of my perfect plans.

Umm…I simply chose to laugh along this year…and just accept the unexpected path. For the record, our first week back went just fine and we accomplished more than I initially realized. Everyday this week my well laid plans were obliterated by our lovely four-year old, visitors, schedule changes, a door-to-door salesman who couldn’t take a nicely stated hint, some personal stress, trip to the post office, nearly avoiding a vehicle accident, a math fiasco and a

Sparkles and friend

Sparkles and friend

one-thousand word plus paper on Eleanor of Aquitaine (I only requested a five paragraph paper!).  Oldest hit a mathematical wall with fractions and I decided to set our normal curriculum aside for a few weeks and explore fractions. Middle Boy is struggling in math as well. I love our math curriculum but we need to slow it down for a little while…some curriculums just go to fast.  For the next few weeks the crew will work on solidifying math facts. My shoulders are actually sore from all the tension this week.

Math did not go as planned this week…my crew’s needs are far more important than that beautiful color-coded schedule I already had planned out for the first school term. I spent

Littlest went to church as Batman today

Littlest went to church as Batman today

Saturday evening erasing all of my lovely color-coded math plans. Then I got a little crazy and erased all of my Bible lesson plans too. I loved the idea of studying the Old Testament with my children but as we’ve read I’ve had to explain dark and horrible aspects of history. Two of my children cried over some of the stories. They are just not ready for much of the Old Testament. I wanted to cry myself. We did not study the Bible at all this week. I needed guidance and simply chose to wait for enlightenment. On Saturday we chose to go for a drive and while looking at cypress trees in a creek I knew what we should do. We will spend the week preparing for Sunday. The Methodist church has a three-year cycle lectionary . During the week we will read and study the Old Testament reading, the Psalm, New Testament and Gospel reading on Monday through Thursday. Not only will the kids be prepared for Sunday but so will I! I’m keeping the plans simple for now. I haven’t been able to find a Bible curriculum that we love. So we’ll just read the Sunday passages and I’ll try not to stress over not having a teacher’s guide with all the answers…

I knew as I was writing my curriculum plans into place over the past few weeks that these were only temporary. This year is turning out to be a time of transition so I feel a bit adrift at the

Minecraft fun

Minecraft fun

moment as I continue to study the techniques behind the Charlotte Mason method. I’ve noticed that all of my children no matter their individual learning styles all respond positively and with better retention with Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum or teaching techniques. This year I will gradually remodel our homeschool to better fit their needs and my own vision. Our school room needs a physical change too…so tired of this color. I’m not sure if these walls are green or brown…sort of a diaper surprise greenish-brown. I need a color I love in here…something lively and bright. I need to find an inspiration piece to base the room on…

Lovely books!!

Lovely books!!

Anyway, I started to doubt myself over this changing approach to schooling. I expressed my doubts and anxiety to Jesus. The very day I began to doubt I received a note from Deborah Taylor-Hough who writes at The Original Simple Mom and Simple Pleasures Press blogs. She wanted to send me her book A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas. I’m still just blown over by her kindness! (Thank you!!!!!!) One moment I am doubting my inspiration and with the next breath I am given a book to guide me along! All I could do was thank Jesus for his incredibly clear directions…I’m still a bit dazed really. She also gave me another book called Min-n-Match Recipes. I haven’t had a chance to look through it yet but Oldest has already read it and picked out some recipes he wants to try. I’ll share more about these books in a week or two.

Praying for a calmer week. Please?

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

What I’m reading:

I’ve never read Jane Austen from Beautiful Feet Books. I’ll have to remedy that very soon!

So glad I abandoned Attila-the-Mum  during my first year of homeschooling…I held out a bit too long but glad to be laughing about it now!

Take a walk away from the busy roads…Charlotte Mason lifestyle keeps calling to me.

Lessons from the “ghost of public school past” I should be careful not to pass on.

This year I will be learning and translating the Charlotte Mason learning-lifestyle into our home and learning spaces…starting here.

I love reading about church history…any denomination.

I love this and a big “Amen!” to the wine part…sadly…I’m all out.

Weekly Wrap-up: Exhausted Homeschool

swinging in snow

swinging in snow

We are tired homeschoolers, an exhausted family this week. The past five evenings Oldest (and sometimes the rest of us) has had to be somewhere other than home. Throw in the time change and a weekend of playing hard outside before the snow melted and we are just one tired bunch of homebodies. Some people thrive on a busy lifestyle. We do not. The kids are bickering a bit more than usual with each other, bursting into tears for seemingly no reason and acting out. My younger two (who must have a set schedule) are unruly. All this hurried moving about is…spiritually depleting. Once I get in a rushed mindset it seems I can’t turn it off. The past two mornings I’ve woke up from rushed and busy dreams and hours earlier than necessary. So I am tired too. I’ve also been reading curriculum reviews and trying to make decisions about the direction our little

building snowmen

building snowmen

homeschool will be taking in the fall. Oldest is transitioning to middle school and the decisions I make now will affect the options available to him for high school. Yikes!!!

No wonder I’ve had a headache for nearly two days now…

Yesterday, while Littlest was at preschool the rest of us had a morning meeting. I told them to put their school books away and get out their art supplies. I spoke with each one quietly about feelings, their art pieces, what we are learning and what they each wanted to learn. I finished reading our book about Albert Einstein and with that book we finished our science curriculum for the year. They have a little write up to

yours truly sledding with Littlest

yours truly sledding with Littlest

do about him but we are done. The science guide has a few more lessons about weather but we did all those experiments last summer. Our homemade barometer is still working. The experiment kit still has a few undone projects so we may do those today. I have a book about the periodic table for us to read together and then I guess we’ll start our next science curriculum. At this rate we are completing one and a half science curriculums per academic year…and I still have not found a science curriculum we just love. I’m going to look at a few science curriculums at the convention next month. At the very least I now know what we do not like in a science curriculum…

yellow discussion

yellow discussion

Littlest only attended preschool twice this week. He missed his extended day because of another bomb threat and I just didn’t want to drive him back a second time once the high school was reopened. I learned yesterday he has been learning about safety procedures at school. When I picked him up yesterday he let me know that he did not behave very well. He was supposed to  do the “stop, drop, and roll” routine with his classmates but refused to do so. Instead of getting frustrated with him (because it isn’t very productive with him) I asked him why he wouldn’t do as asked. His answer “…because I wasn’t on fire.”  Well, he does have a point. I do understand now why he has been asking me about fire and tornadoes this week. We even had to have a discussion

a sign of spring

a sign of spring

about what fire actually is! When I told him it was something hot that would burn him he was not satisfied. He wanted to know what is fire, why is it hot and etcetera. After doing my best to answer his twenty billion questions about the nature and chemistry of fire, I am only beginning to realize the amazing (and mentally exhausting) journey it will be to homeschool him. He even asked me this week why the letter A is shaped like it is?!?!

After discussing the nature of fire over lunch with Littlest I decided we needed some outside time. The day was just too beautiful to spend indoors with books. Oldest was so tired he took a pillow and just napped in the sun. He first chose the driveway for his sunny nap and I made him move to the sidewalk. He eventually lost his pillow to our grumpy cat Zee or the Contemptuous Empress of All She Surveys as I like to name her. We also found a snake living near the butterfly bush. While the others rode their bikes or napped in the sunshine Littlest and I took a walk to look for signs of spring. We found some flowers and learned that he does not like the colors yellow or red because they are too “noisy” (no, I’m not sure what he means). However, he did decide that yellow was nice on flowers but only on flowers. He then asked me to throw away all of his yellow crayons.

Linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

What I’m reading this week:

I’m so guilty this week…The Stupidest Sin of Them All

So amazing…And the Brain Itself Testifies

Piano practice tips…The Creativity Post

I found this moving and beautiful but it broke my heart too…from just{extra}ordinary

Loved this read about the early days of our favorite curriculum…from Beautiful Feet Books

No words for this…

One of the things I’ve worried over this week…

A part of my childhood died this week

Homeschool Convention Survival Tips and Favorites

convention hall

convention hall

I’ve been promising this post about my first trip to the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention for a long while. Sometimes life just gets a little too crazy…Anyway, here are my survival tips for a homeschool convention, sessions I enjoyed and my favorite booths.

Survival Tips:

I think you’ll find these same tips on anyone’s blog…

Wear comfortable shoes. I wore flip-flops which may not sound comfortable to some of you but I live in them as long as the weather is warm enough. I’d rather just go barefoot most of the time… Also wear comfortable clothing picked out for the task at hand. I saw one lady with a skirt that was a wee bit too short and showed a little too much when she bent over. I took a sweater with me and was glad because some of the conference rooms were a bit cool.

area to purchase recorded sessions at convention

area to purchase recorded sessions at convention

Set a budget! I knew about what I would spend for the items I needed. I also knew there would be other finds I might decide to purchase. I set aside some money ($150) in my budget for “splurge items”. I used that money to buy little gifts for the kids, books by Chuck Black, and FitDeck cards.

My husband rigged up a milk crate to a dolly with bungee cords for me. You really do not want to carry anything. I couldn’t imagine how sore my shoulders and arms would have been if I’d carried all those books. I kept a water bottle, snacks (Kind bars), medicine (Aleve and Tylenol), notebook and pen in the crate. I kept my phone, ID, room key,money and credit card in a crossbody purse that I never took off. I knew that if I carried my regular purse I might set it down to look at something and forget it.

Mrs. Cuddle-me and yours truely

Mrs. Cuddle-me and yours truely

Go with a friend and leave the kids at home. I had a wonderful time with my sweet friend and we had a blast together. We also survived a few misadventures and kept our sense of humor (mostly…I did have a moment). She had been to the Cincinnati convention before so she was an absolute great guide for this newbie! Definitely go with someone who has been there before!

If you are going to be there for all three days then get away from the convention for one of the afternoons. I was a bit overwhelmed by everything and needed time to process and think about something other than homeschooling and curriculum. We did go out for a really wonderful dinner on Saturday evening and that was really nice. I remember thinking at the restaurant we should have done the same the previous afternoon.

Favorite Sessions:

I started researching speakers and vendors in December. I read the speaker biographies and made a list of anyone that sounded interesting. I then checked YouTube and listened to some of them to see if I might like one of their sessions. In the end I had a list of about ten speakers.

my convention purchases...note the pile of receipts in the corner!!!

my convention purchases…note the pile of receipts in the corner!!!

The speaker at the top of my list was Susan Wise Bauer. I ended up missing the session from her that I wanted to hear but thankfully was able to purchase a recording of her talk. The CD’s were six bucks a pop so I only ended up purchasing three sessions. If you get a chance I recommend listening to Bauer’s talk on homeschool burnout.

My second favorite speaker was Martin Cothran. His session on logic was very informative and enjoyable. I also listened to him again during a panel discussion on Classical education. The panel discussion was very good with lots of good-natured ribbing between the speakers. I found it rather interesting when they compared homeschoolers’ homes to ancient monasteries where knowledge was preserved for future generations. Since I once lived in a monastery this statement really struck me. The nuns we were staying with were also impressed by the comparison. (My former community let us stay in the guest room!)

I had planned to listen to Karen Holinga’s session on spelling but lucked into talking to her on the vendor floor. She answered all of my questions about her curriculum SpellingYouSee and even helped me place my crew and gave me personal advise for helping my Oldest. One of the neatest perks in attending the convention was getting to talk to several of the curriculum writers. I ended up skipping a few sessions because I got to talk to the individual at their booths and didn’t feel the need to attend.

Favorite Booths:

The number of booths at the convention was…astounding, overwhelming, crazy…I never did see everything! I had researched the vendor list before hand so I already knew what I wanted to look at. On the first day I purchased the curriculum I knew I needed. On the second day I looked at items I was comparing. Oldest needed a timeline for his history studies. I went to several booths looking at their timelines and comparing the prices and features. I ended up with the timeline book from Homeschool in the Woods.

Cincinnati homeschool convention

Cincinnati homeschool convention

I spent the last day browsing curriculum that I might like to use in the future. I took cards and brochures and spoke briefly with the folks in the booths about their curriculum. I let them know that I was future browsing and they were usually very willing to let me know the age/grade level of their product. When I got home I place the cards/brochures into the appropriate grade level of my Well Trained Mind book. Later, when I start researching curriculum for future grades I’ll find those in my book.

I also spent my last day taking pictures of my five favorite booths to share with you.

037 (3)1. Meeting Kris Bales of Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. When I read on her blog that she would be working the Geography Matters booth I got a little excited and nervous. I started reading her blog several years ago when I first began thinking about homeschooling. Every time I had a question or struggle about homeschooling I could often find the answer somewhere on her blog. I even found a comment on her blog that led me to our favorite curriculum Beautiful Feet Books! I wanted to personally thank her for the work she put into her blog and let her know just how much I appreciated her ministry. Her blog (and Hodgepodge) helped me through that first very lonely and insecure year of homeschooling. I was so nervous but I am glad that I could tell her how much her mentorship through her blog means to me. I really wanted a picture with her but just couldn’t get up the nerve to ask. I was also given a copy of Homeschooling Today Magazine which is connected to Geography Matters. I ended up purchasing a subscription because I enjoyed every article. The magazine was my favorite freebie.

041 (3)2. Meeting Chuck Black and his wife Andrea. Mr. Black is the writer of The Kingdom Series and The Knight’s of Arrethtrea Series. He is also working on a new series of books. Even though his booth was tucked away in a corner across from Rainbow Resources he was always busy. Several times when I walked by I couldn’t even get near his books to look through for all of the people wanting to speak with him. Mr. Black answered everyone’s questions. His books are fictionally (setting is something like the Middle Ages with knights) based on Scripture including discussion questions (and answers) for each chapter. My friend wanted to know where he stood on the Rapture and their discussion included words like: eschatology, premillennialism, postmillennialism, dispensationalism, amillennialism, dispensational premillennialism and other words that I no long remember…even after listening to their conversation I couldn’t tell you where either one of them stands on the whole End-of-the-World-Scenario…too many big words for me to follow. I ended up reading the first several pages of the first book and knew that my kids would love these books…I didn’t want to put the book down! Since returning home I’ve been reading these books to the kids before bedtime and going through the discussion questions with them.

This booth was always really busy too...

This booth was always really busy too…

3. The Critical Thinking Company. I stopped at this booth because Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind recommends some of their books for pre-logic. The lady (I could just kick myself for not writing her name down!) working this booth was very informative and gave me several tips for using the workbook with my crew. She also stopped to comfort me when I was having my little breakdown while on her break. She could have just walked on by but she didn’t. I won’t forget her compassion or warm hug…but I did forget her name…

I spent the most money with Christian Light

I spent the most money with Christian Light

4. Christian Light Education. I love their curriculum and more importantly so do my kids! Their booth was like a calm oasis in the vendor hall even though it was really busy. They helped me to place my crew from MathUSee into their program. I brought my crew’s placement tests (on their website) with me and they used those to help me make my decision. Even though Oldest had passed the placement test by one point into his grade level they advised that it might be best to place him a grade lower to build his confidence in math and familiarity with the new teaching style. My crew was reluctant to change their math curriculum but they ended up liking it right after the first lesson. Sometimes Middle Boy even asks to do an extra lesson! Yeah!!!

A minute with this lady will leave a spring in your step!

A minute with this lady will leave a spring in your step!

5. Laurie Gombash of The ABC’s of Movement.  I learned a ton of information about the importance of movement during learning. Ms. Gombash is also very enthusiastic and I left her booth in high spirits. Her main product is for younger children but I really liked the idea of teaching the alphabet through movement. She also had some FitDecks at her booth and she helped me to pick out one (Pilates) that would be good to use with my crew. Sometimes we put on silly songs with movement from YouTube (brain breaks) but these can be more distracting than helpful. Now, we take turns picking five cards after a couple of subjects or whenever someone cannot concentrate and perform the exercise on the card. The exercises range from super easy to insanely hard but we are having a lot of fun with these cards. On days we use the cards my distractible boy is more focused on his work and I’ve noticed my back feels a little better too. Sometimes my crew still asks for the silly songs and dances but most of the time they ask for the FitDeck cards when we take a movement break.

I enjoyed my first convention trip and hope to return next year. The Sisters at the monastery have already stated they expect to host us again next year!