Monday, March 6, 2017

Mary's Homeschool Day in the Life (11, 9, 7, 5, 3, and due in August)

I only have two speeds:
Navy SEAL Intense
Flower Child Relaxed

Since I had three Intense days to start the week, today and yesterday have been more relaxed.  It is the last day before our Spring Break, after all.  And all the kids have the sniffles.  And the flowers are blooming everywhere!  My inner Flower Child is begging to be unleashed.

So, on a relaxed day, I get up around 7.  No matter the day, coffee and devotions come first.  Even a Flower Child needs marching orders.

I snuggle with sniffley kids.

I dispense "nedicine".

The older boys fix breakfast for themselves and the younger kids.  Dee, (9) is making instant oatmeal.  Cy (11) is allergic to oatmeal, so he gets out a frying pan for eggs.

"Hey, can you fix me an egg too?"  I call over my shoulder as I escort our resident toddler to the potty.

A few minutes later a plate of golden eggs-in-a-basket appears on my computer desk.  Bless his servant's heart!

As I brush the younger girls' hair, I quiz Dee on what he has accomplished this morning.  He is having a difficult time concentrating on me, the screensaver behind me of a brilliant blue bird is just too attractive.  He has inherited a goodly dose of my Flower Child genes.

"Dee!  I am going to give you three tasks.  Hold up your fingers as I list them."

His eyes snap back to my face as he holds one finger aloft.

"Make your bed.  Tidy your room.  Practice your violin.  Repeat them to me, please."

He counts off the tasks.  I suspect he has a good case of ADD.  We are practicing the Habit of Attention this year.  Having a regular routine is so important for him.  Relaxed Days can really throw him off.

I set the timer for violin practice for Dee and Alvin (7) while Cy gets down with a Jillian Michaels workout video.  If this was an intense day, there would be no time for that.  We would be cleaning the kitchen, tidying the house, finishing up music and ready to sit at the table for our Morning Meeting by 9:30.  As it is, even with being all relaxed and going with the flow, things are going well.

 It is 9:23, workout is finished, three different violin practice sessions are going on in various corners of the house.  I will step in and clean up the kitchen and start a load of laundry before we all sit down for the day's lessons.

By 10:00 we are all in our seats around our dining room table, ready for our Morning Meeting.  After opening with prayer, we dive right in to math flash cards.  On an Intense Day, we also use our skip counting poster, and Times Tales .  Everyone is happy to pull out pencils and handwriting workbooks while I read from our science Read Aloud.  We just finished the Introduction to Chemistry text, so today I pull out one of my favorite Astronomy books, The Stars for Children.  I read this engaging tale countless times as a child and have been waiting for just the right time to introduce it to my own children.  I wasn't disappointed.  They were instantly intrigued and are already begging for a second chapter this afternoon.

At 10:30 we take a Karate Break.  This might just be the most important break of the whole day.  It gets the kids up and moving after a typical 45 minutes spent at the table during our Morning Meeting.  It also gives us a chance to practice karate more consistently.  It's not long, I set the timer for 10-15 minutes and the boys run through their katas, self defense techniques and various stances.  At least, that's the theory.  The reality is that it sounds like the Three Stooges are filming in the living room.  But that's okay.  The real goal, getting the wiggles and giggles out, is being accomplished.

  Now it is Book Time.  Cy settles himself at his "office desk" in his bedroom.  He has it all set up with a rolodex and other official accoutrements essential to the private eye business.  In the interim between international intrigue, it serves well as a quiet spot to work on math.  We began this year using the Khan Academy for math as part of the Easy Peasy System.  By December it was clear to me that this method of video instruction was not working for my avid reader.  He needs written words, lots of them!  We switched to Saxon Math at the beginning of the year.  He loves how logical and sequential it is.  I love that he has plenty of review and practice drills.  He understands the concepts and is enjoying the feeling of success at the end of the lesson.  It wasn't long before I had also switched to Saxon Grammar and Writing.  Again, plenty of instruction that Cy can read on his own.  I am just required to grade and discuss any missed problems.  The one drawback is that each subject requires about an hour to complete.  Cy gets fatigued at times.  The discipline required is good for him, though and I believe he is mature enough to handle it.  I'm glad I waited for 5th grade before starting serious textbooks.

The front porch is the best place to read!

Dee, Alvin and Elle take turns spending one on one time with me as they do their math and handwriting worksheets, read from their respective readers and complete their computer assignments.  Dee is practicing calculating elapsed time.  Alvin is learning about graphs.  I am exclusively utilizing the Easy Peasy website for my Elementary scholars.  One big improvement over last year is that each grade has a pdf for printing off the math worksheets (and handwriting for the Learning to Read levels)  You can also purchase all the reading assignments for each year bound in a paperback book.  Totally worth the $14 dollars!  We can take our reading anywhere. (today it was the porch swing)  Not only do my children learn better from a book, it frees the computer for our other lessons; math games, instructional videos, vocabulary quizzes and typing lessons.

Alvin's illustrated copywork

We finish up with the Elementary kids around 12:30.  When I come back in from reading on the swing, classical music is playing from the radio in Cy's room.  He has finished his math and is likely lounging as he devours The Three Musketeers.  He has read over 500 pages during the last ten days.  He spent nearly 20 minutes last night regaling a captive audience (captive because I wouldn't let them leave) with the intricacies of the plot.  I was impressed that he could recall at least a dozen different characters, refer to them by their French names and detail the various intrigues they were involved in.  This was completely spontaneous, no prior preparation for an official book report.  He is just that excited about it  And that makes me excited!

I call all hands on deck to clear away the table for lunch as I warm up leftover Taco Soup and Bean Burritos.

After lunch we head out to the swing again.  Can you tell it's my favorite place?  I read to the girls a couple of library picture books; Fancy Nancy and Mouseterpiece (a mouse who lives in a museum and loves all styles of art).  We are nearly finished with Through the Looking Glass, sequel to Alice in Wonderland, and boy am I glad!  It's a little too nonsensical for me, but the kids have thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, Cy offers to read the next chapter aloud while I put Ana in bed.  We finish Story Time with a short excursion into the Life of Fred.  Although I'm not sure that LOF provides enough drill and review to count as an exclusive math curriculum, (the author's protestations notwithstanding) it is an excellent source for fun and relatable math knowledge.  The elementary series is just perfect for Alvin (in first grade) but with enough new concepts to keep my third and fifth graders engaged.

Books are the heart and soul of our day.

After Story Time, everyone scatters.  Elle reluctantly lays down for a short nap, Alvin sets to work repairing the chain on Elle's bike.  He has to get out a wrench, (be still my heart!) but with perseverance, he tightens the chain and has the bike operational again.  He sprints for the front door... 

"I'm going to tell Elle I fixed her bike!"

"No! Wait until she gets up from her nap!"

Too late, he's already in her room, sharing the good news.  So much for the nap.

Elle brings me a delicate purple weed flower, and we note the indigo stripes and gauzy yellow patch in the center.  We count the petals and discover that there are four small petals with one large petal at the top.

I go inside for some reading time of my own.  When I come out of my room, I find Alvin "teaching" Elle how to play Chess.  Be still my heart again!  When they come to a dispute about a move, Dee looks up the rules online.

I don't play Chess, so they're on their own...

At 5:00 I call everyone to come straighten the house while I start supper.  Speaking of supper, I also take votes for what we want to eat during Spring Break.  I'm running out of ideas.  They come up with:
Steak. I modify it to Salisbury Steak.  Good, I have hamburger patties in the freezer.
Seafood.  Tilapia with a salad, baked sweet potatoes and Red Lobster Biscuits it is . . .
Quesadillas.  Add in the boneless chicken thighs with fajita vegetables and that will be a good karate night dinner.
Chicken and Dumplings. Always a hit!  If I make extra, I'll have something to take to someone who just got out of the hospital.

 So far no one has even thought to ask to watch a movie, although I have several available from the library.  We can save those for Spring Break.  Secrets of Ancient Egypt, B-17 Flying Legends and McGyver.  Good stuff!  Speaking of the library, I order both the Disney cartoon, Alice in Wonderland and the Gene Wilder version to celebrate reaching the end of the book.  I believe in providing my children a "well rounded" education.  ;-)  Make mental note to buy popcorn.

On an Intense Day, I shoo everyone out of the kitchen.  I need my space.  But since I'm chill today, I take up everyone's offer to help fix dinner.  Cy commandeers the cast iron skillet to make his world famous sauteed green beans.  (You drain the green beans, season with garlic salt, fry in butter until slightly scorched caramelized.  Done when the smoke alarms go off.)  Dee takes charge of the mashed potatoes.  He's a little slow on the chopping, so Cy helps out, while Ana practices her knife skilz with a butter knife on a stray piece of onion.

Just about the time the meatballs come out of the oven, I note a slight tickle in the back of my throat.  By the end of dinner, I'm down for the count.  I finally caught the cold that's been going around.  I drift off to lala land on the couch as the rest of the family cheers on McGyver.  I whisper a prayer of thanks that next week is Spring Break.  I can be just as sick as I want with no pressure and no schedule.  Just lots of books, and games, and outdoors.

Hello, Flower Child!

Photo Credit to the incomparable Rebekah Byrd

Thanks for joining us for the day!  Be sure and check out the other Homeschool Day in the Life posts at Simple Homeschool!  It is so encouraging and inspiring to see what other families do.  I'm always amazed to see how different every family is, and yet so similar in spirit.

Homeschooling is a grand adventure, and like the best adventures, no two are ever the same.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Journey Heavenward is all Uphill - Chapter V

"Oh, I am so glad I was born into this beautiful world, where there will always be dear little children to love!"

 Katy is taking her first baby steps on this strange and delightful journey heavenward.  She knows she has a Father who loves her, no matter how foolish she may be.  And now she is beginning to taste the joys of serving others.  What was at first a frightening prospect, teaching children when she knew herself to be deficient, has become a bracing challenge.

"Now that I have these twelve little ones to instruct, I am more than ever in earnest about setting them a good example through the week.  It is true they do not, most of them, know how I spend my time nor how I act.  But I know; and whenever I am conscious of not practicing what I preach, I am bitterly ashamed and grieved."

I can certainly relate, here.  There is nothing more sobering than to realize that one is teaching by example, 24/7.  Actions most certainly speak louder than words.  I can sanctimoniously lecture about being kind and gentle and not yelling at one's siblings one moment, and the next be screaming myself at an unlucky offender.  These things ought not to be, but praise God for putting us in these situations where our natural weakness is brought to the surface and we realize just how much we need our Savior!

Katy laments that she had not begun to earnestly serve God as a young child, or else she would not be entangled in so many detrimental habits.  I understand the sentiment here, but I think she is misguided.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  There is a sense that if only she tried harder and earlier, she would be more perfect.  But in God's sovereign will, this was not the case.  His plan cannot be improved upon.  He works on each of us in His time and in His way.  We all have much to lament in our B.C era (Before Christ) but the way forward is not by continuously looking back.

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Katy still has niggling doubts and fears that she is not completely accepted.  She is laboring to please God under her own power and soon burns out.  Anyone would and eventually everyone does.

She soon gets caught up in a whirl of gaiety with exciting and fashionable friends.  She is caught betwixt and between what could be innocent amusements and what are distracting hindrances to her walk with Christ.

"All my pleasures are innocent ones; there is surely no harm in going to concerts, driving out, singing, and making little visits!  But these things distract me; they absorb me; they make religious duties irksome.  I almost wish I could shut myself up in a cell and so get out of the reach of temptation.
The truth is, the journey heavenward is all uphill.  I have to force myself to keep on.  The wonder is that anybody gets there with so much to oppose - so little to help anybody!"  

Poor Katy is weary and heavy laden with this work of changing herself.  She reminds me of myself.  Impetuous, fervent, earnest, but inconstant, easily distracted and - well, let's face it, - a show off.

What?  The girl that writes all her innermost thoughts and publishes them for the world to read, a show off?  Inconceivable!

Yes, alas and alack.  I was the one dancing in front of the camera in all of our home videos.  I was the first to speak, the first to volunteer, the first in line.  Singing, believe it or not has been a secret source of struggle to me.  Every now and then (and I mean ever so little) someone will compliment me on my singing.  For the next six weeks, my worship is ruined.  I'm torn between wondering if I'm on key and if everyone can hear and tormented because I am quite sure this is not what Jesus would have me thinking of when I'm supposed to be singing about Him!

Oh wretched man that I am!

C.S. Lewis provided me with a simple concept that has revolutionized the way I think about pride and accomplishment.

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

Wise.  Profound.  Absolutely true.
Katy is ready to give up singing altogether if it will help her overcome her love of display.  Dr. Cabot wisely redirects her.  God has given her a talent that can bless many people.  There is no need to hide it under a basket of false modesty.  True humility is so focused on others, that performance value never enters one's head.

What talent has God given you?  Have you ever struggled with secret pride?  What about shyness?  Does fear of what others might be thinking of you keep you from being all that God has called you to be?  Shyness can be pride in another form.  Both bashfulness and brazen boldness are self centered sides to the same coin.  Both are forms of focusing on one's self.  The cure?  Look to bless others.  Seek to enjoy God.  If you have a voice, sing with all your might!  If have a story, take up your pen and write.  Go say hello to the new girl.  Take a Sunday School class.  Visit someone in the hospital.  As you focus on others, your own concerns will fade into the background.

Katy kicks off her twenties by going visiting with her mother.  Her eyes are suddenly opened to the sheltered existence she has been living in.  She is surprised by the joy that overtakes her in the midst of such privation and suffering.  

She is well on her way heavenward.  There is no going back, now.