Weekly Wrap-up: Joy in Service and Curriculum Choices

Sparkles picture of me as teacher...so humbling

Sparkles picture of me as teacher…so humbling

My last wrap-up was two weeks ago. This time last week I was working at the Beautiful Feet Books’ booth at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati. First of all, a huge thanks to Kris of Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for her advise on how I should approach this amazing opportunity. I was so nervous and she reminded me to pray first and remember that I am in the booth to share how I used the curriculum in my own home. Yes, it is kinda sad that I had to be reminded to pray but I am grateful (and humbled) for her comforting wisdom. I must share that I loved every moment of working at the booth and speaking with so many homeschooling families. The Lord laid such a burden on my heart for these parents that I wept and prayed over them every morning and evening. The burden and joy was so great that on the last day of the convention I never took a break or even went to the bathroom without notice to my personal comfort. I’m

Middle Boy and Monty

Middle Boy and Monty

not sharing that to brag about my stamina but to share how deeply I believe in the value of Beautiful Feet Books and that Jesus called me to serve his people in that time. I have felt exhausted and empty all week…but in a good and joyful way.

I did bring home with me the remaining inventory from the Beautiful Feet Books’ booth. It is currently sitting in my lower kitchen (yes, my house has two full kitchens!). There was no reason to ship all of these books to California just to ship them to Florida for the next convention. So I agreed to bring them home and send them on to Florida when needed. My oldest is just tortured by those boxes of books. He knows there are some awesome titles in those boxes and it is driving him crazy that he cannot dive in and read!!! He considers those unopened boxes a form of cruel torture. I understand but we do have some fun box days coming up next week hopefully!

my beautiful crew

my beautiful crew

Next week we kinda begin our new school year. The crew still has a month of their core subjects to complete. In math they began the year a full two years behind since we switched curriculums. They are currently only four months behind in math now. they have worked hard to get caught up to their proper grade level in math and I couldn’t be more proud for all of their hard work. Of course, they have no idea how proud I am…but maybe they should be. Next week we will begin new science and Bible studies and Oldest will begin his new history study. Since we are beginning new studies and finishing up old courses naturally, no one knows what grade they are in anymore. Does it really matter?

Our new Bible study is Danika Cooleys’s Bible Road Trip . We are tired of fluffy Bible curriculums. Earlier this year Middle Boy asked if we could just read the Bible for ourselves instead of reading kiddy versions. I thought he had a good (but kinds scary) point. We are going to read the Bible together over three years with this curriculum. It also contains a geography study, scripture memorization, and notebooking pages for every book of the Bible.

egg hunt

egg hunt

Our new science is Sonlight’s core F…human anatomy. I actually intended to come up with my own science curriculum this year and had already purchased seven books toward that purpose. My kids were asking questions about where babies come from so I thought it would be good to build a science curriculum around human anatomy.  I was totally shocked to see that Sonlight had a curriculum already written using all of the books I had chosen (plus several others)!!! I saw no reason to reinvent the wheel so I purchased their Instructor guide and the remaining books for their course on human anatomy. I’m teaching sex education this year…please pray for me. Of course, I know that children come from a Nora Jones CD and a good bottle of wine…but I’m not going to explain that to my children…they’ll figure that out on their own one day. I might be in over my head with this one…did I mention I need prayers?!?

Oldest with Polly

Oldest with Polly

Oldest will be using Cover Story for writing this year. He is so excited!!! He has begged for this curriculum for two years. This year he is finally old enough to use it. I wanted to wait until the middle two could use it too but decided to let his enthusiasm lead the way. He has just five more weeks on Writing With Skill left before he can dive into Cover Story. He is such a creative boy and I am excited to see what he will do with Cover Story.

Oldest has already begun Visual Latin. My middle two will begin soon. I had intended for everyone to start together but Oldest just begged and begged to begin. So I relented. He loves it. His enthusiasm is so great that the middle two are looking forward to beginning Latin as well.  I really thought I would have to fight with my crew to learn Latin but they are excited about the opportunity…I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone sometimes…

The previous week was Easter and Holy Week. Since we go to the traditional service we are the only family in attendance at church with children. All of the other families with children go to the

with my crew on Easter Sunday

with my crew on Easter Sunday

contemporary service. So on Palm Sunday our children got to run around the church with Palm branches. My crew thought this was great fun! Maybe a tad too much fun…On Easter we stayed home and enjoyed a quiet day. My husband hid eggs in the yard and the kids had a great time finding them. He always hides special eggs with extra screen time, money, cuddle time, and giving someone else your chores eggs. They had a great time hunting eggs. Littlest found all of the money eggs and Oldest got both of the punish someone else with your chores eggs! Still, one extra screen time egg wasn’t found. So much fun!!!! We did enjoy a nice quiet Easter at home this year.

On my nightstand this week:

History of the Catholic Church by James Hitchcock. This was a gift from my Passionist family. I would like to add a course on church history in the future…

How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture  by Francis A Schaeffer. My edition is older. I find this book fascinating. Mr. Schaeffer has completely transformed my understanding of the effects of humanism on the early church and the how the Reformation countered the influences of humanism.

Bulfinch’s Mythology. Next to the Bible it is the oldest book I own. Originally published in the 1850’s to early 1860’s in three parts. I learned from Rea Berg that we should read the old books along with newer books so we can understand the past and not be blinded by our current generation’s beliefs. She was quoting C. S. Lewis from his introduction to “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius. I’ve always felt too stupid to read the old classic books but if C.S. Lewis and Rea say it is good practice then I am going to give it a go…maybe it is time to learn on my own…

Posts I enjoyed this week:

all the wonderful reasons to enjoy music and keep up with piano lessons from CBC Music

reading aloud isn’t just for the wee ones from Just Extraordinary

wondering how my own little homeschool will change in the years to come from Joyful Hearts and Faces

a fun little quiz to find out your homeschooling style from Eclectic Homeschooling

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

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Cincinnati Convention 2015

view of vendor hall

view of vendor hall

I’m still recovering from this year’s convention. Wow! I enjoyed my time working at Beautiful Feet Books’ booth and all of the lectures I managed to attend. I only made it to five sessions this year and three of those were from Rea Berg the founder of Beautiful Feet Books. I absolutely loved every lecture and learned more than I have been able to contemplate yet. My favorite conference from her was…well I do not remember the title exactly but it was something like “Charlotte Mason meats Plato”. I left her talks feeling encouraged and emboldened for the year ahead. Last year I attended a few classical based sessions and just felt like I was some sort of homeschooling slacker-mom and my kids would barely qualify to enter adulthood. I felt defeated and beaten in soul last year. Today, after soaking in the wisdom of the sessions I attended I am at peace with the direction our little homeschool is headed.

Rea Berg sharing her passion

Rea Berg sharing her passion

The other two lectures I attended were joint discussions from Dr. Jay Wile and Diana Waring. The first was a delightful sharing of wisdom on what they wished they had known about homeschooling. Their second topic was about dealing with homeschooling pressures and just slowing down. I definitely got all caught up in trying to do too much in our homeschool this past year. Fortunately, I did realize my mistake and loosened the reigns a bit. We even abandoned some curriculum! The biggest change for me was letting go of my dependence on an “expert’s book” and choosing the path myself (with many hours spent in prayer) our homeschool will walk. I’m excited to begin out new schooling year! Sadly, I missed hearing Dr. Kathy Koch this year…always next time.

In all five lectures I encountered one unifying theme. Humility. Rea, Dr. Wile, and Mrs. Waring (who retired from conventions this year!!!) all emphasized the importance of humility in the teaching parent with her students/children. I’ve always been quick to apologize to my kids when I sin…especially when I lose my temper. Learning is impossible when we are all frustrated and angry. I want our learning environment to be organic…living. A humble mother is serving and nurturing and I hope to deeply live out the concept of “mother culture” this year. I have piles of good books we are going to study this year…a collection of both old and new books. We are going to keep the breeze of the centuries flowing…God’s communion with humanity is ongoing and I am going to bring (and join with) my children into that great conversation.

my meager purchases...the rest had to be ordered

my meager purchases…the rest had to be ordered

During the few hours I had available for shopping I met three of my lovely readers! I just want you to know how exciting it was for me to meet you and your families! I hope you had a fabulous time at the convention and that your upcoming school year is fantastic! I also felt just a wee bit shy…Knowing that I would be working this year at the convention I researched every vendor on the list this year so that I would know exactly what I needed to purchase. I ordered our core subjects from Christian Light Education and Cover Story for Oldest. I spent the rest of my shopping time looking for gifts for my crew. I found a bunny for Littlest, a hand crocheted owl purse for Sparkles and Lego pieces for Oldest and Middle Boy. Oldest also got a new program for making stop-motion movies and everyone got a book to read about the science behind Batman’s technology.

working at the Beautiful Feet Books booth

working at the Beautiful Feet Books booth

My absolute favorite part of the convention this year was meeting Rea Berg, her son Josh and the rest of the team at Beautiful Feet Books. I had the great privilege of meeting Rea and personally telling her how deeply grateful I am for her influence not just in our homeschool but also within our family. I will forever be grateful for her mentorship. Working for her company was a gift to me. Every morning I prayed to be a blessing and source of comfort to every family who stopped at the Beautiful Feet Books’ booth. I’ve had many jobs over the years and this was the first time I ever loved what I was doing. I’m still exhausted from the weekend but I loved every moment that I worked with the team.

Just as last year I traveled with Mrs. Cuddle-me and stayed at the Passionist Nuns Monastery in Erlanger. Traveling with my friend is always an adventure to remember. Staying at the monastery and visiting with my deeply loved and Passionist family is always so very cherished.

I’m also very excited to tell you that Oldest and I will be sharing our work with Beautiful Feet Books’ Medieval History Advanced Intermediate and Junior High Guide. I’ll be sharing with you how we approach the guide and books and any activities we may add. Oldest already wants to add a Medieval feast and make an illuminated manuscript page. After looking over the guide together this weekend we are ready to get this study started! This week we will finish the Ancient History guide and dive right into Medieval history next 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!

 

Weekly Wrap-up: Spring Dreams and Turkey Dinner

Littlest examining the daffodils

Littlest examining the daffodils

Warm spring-like weather arrived this week beckoning us to wander outside, ride bikes, and search for emerging blooms. Once again, due to nice weather and a few other interruptions our week did not go as planned. Not really a big deal…we’ve only got about four weeks left of school work to finish up for our academic year.

I pulled out my flip-flops on Sunday. It was fifty degrees and warm enough in my opinion. Several people at church questioned my choice of footwear. Snow was still on the ground but it was fifty degrees and that is warm enough for flip-flops. I simply refuse to acknowledge winter’s presence. I’m tired of wearing shoes and am looking forward to barefoot weather. I think a few of my Sunday School classmates question my sanity.

with my dear friend

with my dear friend

On Tuesday I got a call from my sweet friend (and homeschooling mentor). She and her youngest spend a good part of the day with us. Normally, we homeschooling moms try not to call or visit each other during “school” hours. So when she asked to come over I knew she needed a friend. We cancelled school for the day and spent our day with friends. Anytime someone needs to talk it usually isn’t good and this was no exception. She moved to the top of my prayer request list by the end of the afternoon. If you are the praying sort please pray for my friend…she needs prayers.

Wednesday the colder temperatures returned and I refused to abandon my flip-flops…confirming my tentative hold on reality. Thursday the weather was warm enough for the kids to ride their bikes and have their first crashes of the season. Sparkles skinned her arm up when she collided with Oldest. Middle Boy gave me visions of the ER room when he dumped his bike and completed a spectacular flip landing on his side. He quickly jumped up and declared the moment “Awesome!” I would not be surprised if he decided on some sort of life threatening career someday…

I’ve spent my little free time this week either planning for the upcoming school year or researching speakers for the homeschool convention in Cincinnati. I’ve never been to a convention before and most likely will not attend again for a few years. I’ve already got a good idea of the vendors to visit and have a price list made up. Now I am just working out which speakers to attend. I will definitely see Susan Wise Bauer but I am not sure who else to see yet. In order to help figure out who to listen to I decided to cross out all of the political speakers. My main purpose for going to the convention is to learn to be a better teacher and parent. I then marked out anyone talking about creation and evolution (I just can’t listen to these arguments anymore). Surprisingly, once I marked these two categories out there wasn’t an overwhelming number of session descriptions to read through.

enjoying the warm weather

enjoying the warm weather

Our education plans are coming together for the year. Working out a skeleton plan for the logic (5th-8th) and rhetoric (9th-12th) years helped to solidify the plans for the next academic year. (Tonia at The Sunny Patch here’s my plans for the logic stage…subject to change.) My current plans are:

Fifth grade: We will return to ancient history and use Beautiful Feet Books intermediate collection. When we return to ancient history in the rhetoric years I will use Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World as our spine book (that means main history textbook for my many non-homeschool readers). Oldest will also assemble his own timeline and keep a narrative notebook and draw out his own maps. My middle two will follow along with The Story of the World: Ancient Times (also by Susan Wise Bauer) and will keep a simple written narration. Our art projects will parallel our history studies and we will do a few projects from Art in History.

Our language arts, reading and Bible curriculum will continue with Christian Light Education. Math will continue with MathUSee and Math Mammoth. I really, really wish we had went with Christian Light Education for our math curriculum but the kids love MathUSee and since they are doing well I see no reason to change. We’ll also continue with our current writing curriculum also from Susan Wise Bauer (now you know why I plan to see her at the convention!). The middle two will continue with Writing with Ease and the oldest is moving up to Writing With Skill.

Our science will change for this year. I’ve never been able to find a science that I am happy with. We’ve used REAL Science Odyssey and found it too easy. Our past two books from Apologia have been really good. This year, for a change of pace, we are going to use Beautiful Feet Books: History of Science. I’ve added several scientists to the study and the Thames and Kosmos’ Milestones in Science experiment kit. I’ve started collecting the books for this study and several times have already caught the kids reading the books. We are all excited about this study.

I also plan to use Zeezok’s Music Appreciation set this year. I’ve read many good reviews and I think my crew will really enjoy the study and hopefully deepen their enjoyment of their current music studies.

Penmanship and spelling continue to be a struggle for some of my crew. I am considering several penmanship books and plan to make a final decision at the convention. Oldest is the only one struggling with spelling. We discovered through the IOWA tests he has gaps in his early phonics education (thanks to you government schools!) Oldest is begging for the new spelling curriculum from the MathUSee company. I really wanted to go with Sequential Spelling but since he is begging for this other program…how can I say no.

Since we will finish up our current studies in a few weeks we will study geography and weather science until our regular year starts up in July. I plan to switch to a four-day school week next year so we do not have this large three month gap between the academic years. My husband is going to help us build a weather station so we can study forecasting for the next year. I think that will be a fun and informative year long project.

Today, we are looking forward to a yummy turkey dinner at Mrs. Cuddle-me’s home. Her turkeys are rude and I am looking forward to feasting on one of them!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap-up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.