Sunday, September 25, 2011

My 15-Minute Experiment

Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.
~Pablo Picasso

I have been thinking that I would like to change the way I do things. Time often seems to get away from me. I end up doing the same things and getting in the same time wasting ruts. Not that spending time to just playing around is not a good thing and I plan to do that as well, it is just that I do not notice how much time I am spending to do something and then I have used more time than I planned. Frustration sets in which makes the job take even longer and I do not do have any time left for creativity, which is what I crave for this week.

I have this idea for today. I have been timing the Princess with some of her lessons to help her to concentrate and condense the time she spends on them, so why not do the same with my housework, because what happens, especially when I clean the Princess' room, which I am doing today, is that I get bogged down and time just gets away from me.

I get emotionally involved with everything I pick up and dust and just cannot throw away. The problem is that the girl keeps everything...EVERYTHING! Little snips of paper that have a bit of color on them that she used as fake nails; crafts from Sunday school; rocks and feathers; and books—we both have books that no longer fit on any of our shelves!

I end up taking all day to do what should just be a couple of hours at most, but I will end up telling myself that I do not even have to finish the room today, although I would like to and that is my goal. I will start out with all this resolve and energy, yet within a half hour I want to quit because I feel it is overwhelming. The girl has too much stuff and I need to begin teaching her to let go of some it, letting her choose to what she has outgrown on her own. However, today I am here alone so I will just make a few decisions about what will stay and what will go on my own.

Today I am going to set a timer for fifteen minutes and work in her room and then the next fifteen minutes I will do something else, like vacuum or read email or play with the kittens or garden or clean the bathroom or cross stitch or read, anything else that is outside of her room for the next fifteen minutes.

I can renew my resolve in these fifteen minute spurts and walk away taking a mental break doing something that takes less thought and has less emotional involvement. A similar concept seems to work with the FlyLady crowd, so here I go....

~ My Lord, if it pleases You, help me to get done what needs to be done. As I look around there are so many areas of my house that need attention, and yet, my Lord, I would like to also dabble in art also so help me to be to find a balance that satisfies with both goals. ~

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Left with Absence

Families with babies and families without babies are sorry for each other. ~Ed Howe

I kissed my child and husband good-bye today. In the hour drive home from the airport, I found myself left with their absence. Now I am home...alone. Most of their things are still here, but the ones who gave those things meaning and life have departed. Except for a pet occasionally stirring in sleep, the house is unnaturally still. So, it will be until Thursday when they return from Florida.

It is strange to desire time to oneself and then, in having it, unfamiliar feelings of both loss and freedom emerge. Like a first meeting of strangers, the first moments are inviting yet awkward, not unwelcome yet not as appealing as one hoped.

I miss them.

~ My Lord, I promised myself that I would do some work but also some enjoyable things. Please help me keep my word to myself. ~

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When You Pray for Just Little Things...

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

...God hears.

I have been hoping to move barn day to Tuesday mornings and this morning I will begin training another homeschool family new to our 4-H club to take over the Wednesday morning slot and within a few weeks we will be moving over to Tuesday morning as I hoped.

This will work so much better for us with homeschooling. We will have long days on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with lighter days on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

How does one thank her God enough for answering prayer about such a little thing that just would make life easier?

~ Thank you, my Lord, for this very special gift! Your Love is amazing! ~

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Homeschool vs. Public School vs. Unschool

A different approach to life yields a very different set of results. ~Sandra Dodd

A small study was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science about how homeschooling, structured homeschooling specifically, results in students outperforming their public school peers. As a homeschooling parent, I have read many studies proving this, but this particular one makes a distinction between structured and unstructured homeschooling. The following excerpts are from High Marks for Home Schooling, a Small Study Finds.

The researchers studied 74 children aged 5 to 10 living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick: 37 kids were schooled at home, and the other 37 attended local public schools. Each child was asked to complete standardized tests of reading, writing and math.

Researchers found that the public-school kids tested at or above their grade levels, but home-schooled children tested even higher than that — about a half-grade higher in math and 2.2 grades in reading, compared with the traditionally educated children.

Now for the downside:

The achievements associated with home schooling were seen only in those children who had structured academic curriculums, however. The 12 children in the home-schooled group whose education was unstructured — a method known as unschooling, which uses no teachers, textbooks or tests — did worse on all academic measures compared with the structured home school group, falling one to four grade levels behind.


The oldest students were only ten years old in this study. That is the same age as the Princess! The unschooled children were between one to FOUR years behind? That would be like my daughter testing at first grade level! If I was one of these unschooling parents, that might shake my resolve.

Now, I try not to be too concerned about "standards" because they are guidelines that I had nothing to do with making and I do not know about Canadian standards, but I do know that American national standards of this day and age are far lower than they were 40 years ago (the benefit of being an older mother with a really good memory). However, what concerns me is I know how this kind of study can be used against homeschoolers in general. It could prove the need for "regulation" and I am very much against ANY regulation on homeschooling.

I may ruffle some fellow homeschoolers' feathers, but I confess that unschooling never appealed to me at all. I am not against it, just not really for it either. The difference in approaches and goals is philosophical and my approach is, so far, yielding the results I desire. Still, I will defend unschooling as a parental right and valid method to educate any child, because I believe strongly in the parental right to choose.

I must admit, also, that I have used an unschooling approach in short breaks particularly when we had a number of aging family members with illnesses from 2008 through 2010; I had a very difficult time keeping a structured lesson schedule for those years. More often than I wanted, my planning was pushed aside out of necessity and sometimes because I needed a mental health break. While I was concerned about what we were not covering, I did see my daughter still learning, much on her own, and I began to see how unschooling might work. Still, knowing my daughter, she would not learn enough math by her own choice to get by in the world beyond counting money.

There are many variations of "unschooling" but generally it is about allowing the child to choose what he wishes to learn and discover in his own way and his own time. I am inclined to think unschooling can be good for young children or highly motivated/gifted children at any age or as breaks between structured learning periods, but as a full time approach it does not satisfy my goals with homeschooling my daughter and I just never have felt my Lord's leading in that direction. In fact, whenever I think of allowing children to fully control their own education, I see a picture of the Israelites dancing in front of a golden calf before Moses came down the mountain. I believe it is human nature, when given the choice, to take the path of least resistance and self-pleasure.

Here is that philosophical difference for me: I have always felt most children need structure especially in education, but not so much as would be in a classroom so they have little ability to pursue any interest on their own or use their special talents and gifts.

I like homeschooling because I can tailor the approach around my daughter's interests, talents, and gifts while encouraging independence with support and under guidance. Since I have been printing out a schedule, my daughter likes it much better and I do too. Some days we get off schedule, but there is this sense of accomplishment for both of us when we finish the day's lessons and I now see her striving towards that goal.

My closing thoughts are that it would be nice to see a follow-up study in a few years to examine how the unschoolers in this study tested later on, as I would be most interested in that, but then I would wonder if any improvement was of the child's own doing or if the parents made some alterations in their approach.

~ My Lord, I ask that You continue to protect homeschooling from more government regulation and that You guide each child's education according to Your will. ~

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Math Dilemma

Something simple just does not seem worth doing unless there is an added degree of difficulty. ~Me

We have come to the end of Singapore Primary Mathematics 3B. Although my daughter is 5th grade age, comparing the standards it seems that Singapore averages about a year in advance at this point so she is doing well, but as I looked over books 4A and 4B, I am less impressed with the idea of using it as my spine as I did in the previous levels when I mixed it with Miquon. It is not that I have to keep up with state or national standards, but I do have my own standards to keep my daughter challenged and retaining the knowledge.

I am disappointed that Singapore does not have more practice in particular areas, which has always been one of its weaknesses. For instance, in Textbook 4A on page 28 is the chapter on Multiplication and Division of Whole Numbers. It begins with multiplying a large number with a single digit number: 1135 x 4. Dividing is similar on the next page: 4540 ÷ 5. This is in preparation to begin multiplication with a 2-digit number which begins on page 36, staring with tens, which the Princess can do already, but a nice review and by page 39 she is supposed to be able to do 383 x 58. She would have two workbook exercises with a total of 28 two-digit multiplication equations that are not "10", a practice page with six such equations along with simpler ones and a two reviews with a two or three in each of them. The next chapter is fractions which is covered quite well by comparison.

This touch-lightly-and-then-go-into-depth-later approach has worked with the Princess in the past and works well over the years, but 2-digit multiplication and division are not covered again until book 5A, a year later. I am thinking this is just not acceptable with me. I do like how much attention Singapore gives to fractions, decimals, money, geometry, graphs, and word problems though.

I bought the "All Inclusive Package" of Math Mammoth through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op last year. It is an excellent program on its own and I have always said that if I had seen it before I was in the middle of Singapore along with Miquon, I would probably have preferred it. I planned to use it as a supplement, as it can be done by grade level or subject making it very customizable.

Now that I am ready to create a lesson plan for our next "level" in math, I am thinking that I will be rearranging Signapore's 4A through 5B a bit and supplementing heavily with Math Mammoth, maybe even to the point that Math Mammoth will be more of the spine at times. I already decided to use Math Mammoth in that way for the next few weeks because it is mostly review in the first lessons by grade level. I am thinking of using it along with Miquon to introduce the first and finish the latter.

Then I will just try to close my eyes to what grade level everything is "supposed" to be—quite a challenge for a sequential!—and just customize my math plan to make it work best for the Princess. If all goes well, she will still be on grade level (hopefully, even better) this time next year with at bit of algebra thrown in, because even though she still says she does not like math, she is getting it very well and surprises me with her ability to apply it.

I suppose that is the best rationalization I have as to why I just had to complicate this...other than the more obvious one (see my quote).

~ My Lord, help me to continually discover and bend to what works best for my daughter and not let my sequential tendencies take priority over my goal, which is to devise the best way for her to understand and retain knowledge. ~

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Not Today...Facebook

Oddly enough, Facebook has little to do with faces and nothing to do with books. ~Unknown

Long ago I used to subscribe to forums. I do not now. I visit one of a handful of forums about once every three to four months...out of boredom, I guess. After reading just a five of the most recent post titles, I remember why I do not do forums anymore. Yes, I may miss out on some great deals on homeschooling materials for sale or the latest news on the local forum, but honestly the forums are pretty much the same year after year. The names may change but the questions and answers, opinions and arguments, rants and praises are the same.

I admit that I have met most of my very best friends through message boards, so I should probably be more appreciative of them, but like all things, forums had their season in my life and now that season is over. I am not one to look back in longing once I have let something go.

I do like blogging very much and I have met interesting people through it, as well as deepened some "post-forum" relationships. I know that one day its season will end also...but not today.

I am reminded quite often of how much I am behind the times with social networking. Nearly every day Facebook and Twitter are referenced, but I have resisted. Perhaps I have a very low tolerance for social network overload, because while the format may differ, what people do with them is basically the same.

Yesterday I found out (in an old fashion way called "conversation") about a large Facebook group for homeschooling families in my area. No doubt it is full of information about local events and materials for sale (I have some things I could sell!), the kind of things I used to see on a local forum. I even know the woman who started it and some of the people in this group...and there may be a new potential friend or two in that group!

I am so tempted, so very tempted, to become a Facebook member just because of this, but then I am reminded of how hurt some of my friends have been by things placed on their walls by "friends" and family members. Yet, there have been a few good stories about Facebook too, like a mother finding her son who left home years ago with no word.

I am not sure I want to find anyone or to be found...perhaps it is the residual of a painful past. I prefer to stay lightly veiled online, not using my real name. I have some hurtful people in my life and I do not wish to give them easy access to temptation, which will harm their souls.

There may be a season when I change my mind, but...not today.

On the lighter side of it all...

~ My Lord, please bless the people on Facebook who think carefully before the type and thank you for reminding me that I do not need it in my life at this time. ~

Friday, September 16, 2011

Copywork and Handwriting

Take write a neat round, plain hand, and you will find it a great convenience through life to write a small and compact hand as well as a fair and legible one.
~Thomas Jefferson

As you can see on my Goodreads list, I am currently reading Has God Spoken? I was fascinated in reading how copyists or scribes would painstakingly copy every character of a written book and that the Bible was the most copied book of all times. I knew that but I think we tend to forget that before printers when men would copy entire books by hand and the handwriting was quite artistic. When I think about the classical approach to homeschooling, I realize that copywork was not just a tradition, but a necessary skill!

Princess' handwriting was quite neat when she was younger, so people remarked all the time, but has been quite sloppy for some time now and she has not been holding her writing instruments in the best position. My husband suggested that I just make her rewrite everything that was sloppy and I had been doing that all summer, but there was not much improvement. Besides that, there is just so much time in the day and it made both the Princess and me miserable. I think my Lord lead me to this book, because while I read it, I began to think about the scribes. I began to think about a better, more encouraging way to get her to want to improve her handwriting.

To appeal to her artistic side, to help her see that handwriting itself is an art form, we went to a craft store with a 40% off coupon and bought a felt tip calligraphy pen set of four. I also ordered books F and G of Getty and Dubay's Italic Handwriting, which we already had received; I had kept the teacher's manual from when we used books A and B.

I had her try to write a small "a" with the calligraphy pen so she could see that how she held the pen would make a big difference. I explained a bit about how scribes would use fancy lettering because each book was hand copied and each book, each page, each letter was beautiful artwork. After she realized the difficulty with making a nice "a" with the thinnest calligraphy pen, I explained I had her try the "a" because it is one of the most difficult so that she could appreciate starting with "i" to learn to slant the letters uniformly and to learn to hold the pen correctly. She enjoyed this exercise very much so I am hoping it works its magic eventually with her regular writing also.

If nothing else, my husband was impressed with my resourcefulness in appealing to her interests and talents.

~ My Lord, please inspire my daughter to make her handwriting an art form of beauty. ~

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fasting, Horses, Errands, and Homeschooling

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
~Philippians 4:13

What do fasting, horses, errands, and homeschooling all have in common? My Wednesdays!

This picture could be me on any given Wednesday--minus the red pumps.

Wednesday is my weekly fasting day. I began this habitual fast in January of 2008. Yes, that means I have been doing it for nearly four years. Only on rare occasions have I switched my fasting day because of some very special event. I picked Wednesday because Thursdays are my errand day and I would be so tired on the hour (or more, depending on traffic) drive home after the Princess' piano lesson that I was fighting to stay awake the closer I got to home.

You are probably wondering what one has to do with the other. When I begin eating after a fast, I have quite a bit more energy and so I chose to fast on Wednesday so I would have more energy on Thursday.

Yes, it works!

However,...Wednesday is no longer a quiet hump day with homeschooling and preparation for tomorrow's errands. It is working at the horse barn in the morning and homeschooling in the afternoon.

Working at the horse barn starts with
      bringing the large horses into the barn;
      feeding them in their stalls;
      feeding the miniature horses in their paddocks;
      taking hay out to the back pasture;
      filling the water basins as needed
      or draining them to scrub and refill;
      spraying the horses to guard them against flies;
      letting them out of the barn;
      cleaning the stalls as needed;
      spraying the stalls for flies:
      and feeding Tucker, the dog.

The food bins have needed to be filled nearly every Wednesday, which means that I haul, using a wheelbarrow over uneven ground, 100 to 150 pounds of feed nearly every week and then lift each 50 pound bag to fill the bins, but thankfully today I did not have to do that as they were full for the first time in weeks.

With one sick mini we also have to administer medicine by mouth and wet his hay so the dust from it does not irritate his lungs and place him in one stall when it is hot with fans on.

Then we clean up the paddock of the deposits, which usually takes about three to four wheelbarrows filled, to be dump on the manure pile. This last part is not something that we have to do but it is a good thing to do and the place looks nicer. Only a few other barn helpers do it, but it would be easier if everyone did.

After this I sometimes make a run to get raw milk at the farm just a bit further out, as I did today. Sometimes I fill up our empty water jugs at the local Koger, as I also did today. Sometimes I fill the gas tank so I will not have that to do tomorrow and I did that today too.

Sometimes I do too much.

Sometimes I think that I should not fast on Wednesday with the horse barn thing and I would move the horse barn time to Tuesday morning in a heartbeat if there was someone to take Wednesday morning. However, if I do not fast on Wednesday, I fall asleep driving home on Thursday afternoon.

Perhaps I am just a bit overtired today. I suppose it would have been a better day if I had not awaken at 3:00 AM to stay awake for nearly two hours.

Because my drive drove away without me today, I cut homeschool lessons to the barest minimum: piano, math lesson, and classical writing/grammar. I could have/should have/would have blown off the entire afternoon, but my daughter was eager to get through her lessons today and I will use that anytime I can get it, even when I much rather have a nap.

Now it is nearly 6:30 PM and I am at an entire loss about dinner, which I will not be even eating. My husband is working in a place where his cell phone does not work, so I have not a clue when he will be home, but most likely not for dinner, so I now have to begin the feeding of dog, inside cat, outside kittens, rabbits, and the Princess.

I really am going to get up out of this chair,
   turn off my computer,
      stop whining,
         and just do it.

Really I am.

~ My Lord, there are times I just want to give up and today was one of those times, but I thank you for them because they remind me that You are my strength. ~

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: The Book of Beginnings

Truth is usually one step beyond one's vision and two steps beyond one's comfort. ~The Book of Beginnings: The Story of Genesis and Job

At breakfast time I have been reading aloud The Book of Beginnings: The Story of Genesis and Job to the Princess and we both have been savoring each chapter (and we are not quite done). It was just one of those special finds at a Goodwill store, not only because it looked brand new but also is absolutely delightful literature. I have enjoyed these embellished versions of Biblical stories very much because the style gives so much depth to the characters, even God. The feel of retold, almost fantasy-like stories of the ancients edging on a mysterious realm, but grounded in Biblical truths has been quite appealing for both my daughter and me.

This book presents the stories as ones handed down orally from one generation of storyteller to another. The names are all changed so it is not evident at the beginning of each chapter which tale is being told but they are easily recognizable and each speaks of the personal struggles within the heart of each man and woman even in this least, ones that I still have.

This is one of the excerpts I enjoyed just this morning:

    "I have not learned trust," Schemer admitted.
    "Then walk with him as your father and as his father."
    "I will walk with him when he has brought me home safely."
    "Will you truly, when you do not trust him?"
    "Trust is not always easy," said Schemer, "when the world is full of danger and darkness and deceit."
    "Do you believe Promise-Keeper lives beyond the sky and holds the stars in his hands? Do you believe Promise-Keeper is infinite and eternal and all-powerful?"
    "Then the time has come to trust him."
    "I'm not ready yet."
    "We will see about that," said the angel as he stepped toward Schemer. Through the night the two wrestled. The angel would pin the man and ask, "Will you trust Promise-Keeper?" Each time Schemer escaped and responded, "I'm not ready."
    Finally the angel said, "When a lamb keeps wandering off the shepherd sometimes breaks the leg to make it dependent. Little lamb, if you truly wish to walk alone for now, that is your choice, but each step will be painful." And the angel reached down and twisted Schemer's hip from its joint. Pain shot through Schemer.
    As the first rays of morning touched the eastern sky, Schemer threw himself forward with his good leg and locked his arms around the angel's middle. "I cannot beat you, but I can hold on to you until you give me what I want."
    "Our battle is over."
    "I refuse to let go until you bless me."
    The angel tried to shake the man free, but Schemer held on with all his might.
    "Your determination is mighty," laughed the angel. "Today you have a new name. You shall no longer be Schemer, for your days of scheming are coming to an end. Now you shall be known as Wrestler. You have spent your life wrestling against Promise-Keeper. Every morning he called your name and every morning you turned your back. But your trust is growing and from this time forward you will wrestle to pull closer, not away. You will find your peace. Then you will walk freely each morning, not just because of your vow but because you've learned to let go."
    Schemer loosened his grip and thanked the angel. Then he let go and something deep inside felt good--very good.
    The angel smiled as he picked up his shield and sword....

Have you wrestled with Promise-Keeper this morning?

~ My Lord, help me to not wrestle against You but always wrestle towards You. ~

Monday, September 12, 2011

Product Review: Hill's® Science Diet® Senior 11+ Age Defying™ Cat Food

Everything I know I learned from my cat: When you're hungry, eat. When you're tired, nap in a sunbeam. When you go to the vet's, pee on your owner. ~Gary Smith

As a rule, I really do not like changing my pets' food because it often causes problems, even when I do it very gradually. You see, my pets have eaten organic pet food for years; I have also done a raw food and bones diet and even made soft food, when I had a particularly elderly dog that lived far beyond her time so the conventional veterinarian told us: What I Learned from an Aging Dog.

Because I have a 15-year old cat, I accepted an offer for a free bag of Hill's® Science Diet® Senior 11+ Age Defying™ Cat Food as a Bzzagent Campaign, along with some $3.00 off coupons to give away to my cat-loving friends. I am a somewhat familiar with Science Diet because it was recommended to us when one of our dogs was suspected to have developed food sensitivities or allergies to his usual food and just a short-term switch of foods seem to do well for him, but we always went back to an organic and natural diet with all our pets as those seem to do the best for them.

It was with mixed feelings of apprehension and hope that I slowly began mixing in this new Science Diet Cat Food to my cat's regular organic food, without changing anything else in his routine. It was obvious that he liked the taste of it, but he is not that discerning between what tastes good and what is good for him. He began to have some diarrhea, which he has been known to have upon occasion, but this symptom worsened as the amount of the new food increased and instead of fewer "accidents" outside of the cat box, which were rare, he has had more. I have decided to place him back on the previous food and watch him to be sure he does not get dehydrated. His energy level also seemed to lower a bit, but I think he will return to his typical give-me-attention-NOW-or-I-will-annoy-you-to-death self in a day or two after his system has cleared out the new food.

I would like to say that just because my cat had an undesirable reaction does not mean that every cat will. I am a strong believer that there is no one diet that fits all and it just could be that my cat is either healthier than most older cats (as he seems to be) and that one of the supplements such as the magnesium oxide, which has a laxative effect, was too strong for him because it was not in his previous food, or it could be that he has an allergy to one or more of the ingredients. It seems I end up with sensitive animals in that respect.

Even though this new food is not working out well for my cat, I have had better results with Science Diet with other pets in the past and I encourage you to visit to the Science Diet website. There you can sign up for a chance to win the Spa Resort Vacation, take the "Is Your Cat as Old as You Think?" quiz, and get a $3.00 off coupon for this product!

~ My Lord, thank you for the giving me the opportunity to try new things so that I am aware of them, even when they do not work out for me, because it might be exactly what someone else needs and I can pass on the information. ~

Sunday, September 11, 2011

GodSpeaks Billboards

Mankind is notoriously too dense to read the signs that God sends them from time to time. ~Mahatma Gandhi

I began seeing them in Florida and Georgia about twelve years ago and I think what caught me the most was that there was absolutely no reference to a religion, church, or sponsor. There were only these simple messages, some funny, some serious, and all thought provoking, as if they were direct quotes from God.

As the story goes, an donor, still anonymous to this day, contacted an advertising agency with an idea for a local billboard campaign that would create a spiritual climate and get people to think about a daily relationship with a loving and relevant God. The campaign was scheduled to run for three months with just nine billboards.

As the three-month campaign ended, Eller Media, one of the largest billboard companies in the world, offered to run the campaign nationwide if the client would donate the sayings. GodSpeaks sayings have appeared on some 10,000 billboards in 200 cities across America—and all free-of-charge!

This is a sampling of the "old" campaign:

Click here to learn more and see the new campaign too!

They are all great sayings, but I think my favorite is the best one when dealing with traffic:
That “Love Thy Neighbor” thing…I meant that.

What is your favorite?

~ My Lord, please bless our attempts at getting people to think about You. May the people who see these signs feel as if You are speaking to their heart. ~

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pass Me the Homeschool Yardstick, Please

You can get all A's and still flunk life.  ~Walker Percy

Hi, I am seekingmyLord and I am a homeschooling mother. I have abstained from homeschool addictions, doubts, and hysterics for about...oh, maybe 24 hours...almost.

I started out with dreams of teaching my child when she was very young and I am thankful that she actually did wish to learn a few things when she was at a very young age. She began piano just a week after she turned four years old and her first informal recital was at a coffee shop just months later. Of course, she only played with her right hand, but she played flawlessly with style. Even though she did not start out with Mozart, she was so tiny that her skill and poise still amazed the crowd. She began reading at second grade level that same year. I was sure that my secret plan for her to be in college at the age of sixteen was well under way. 

It was easy in the beginning, I found resources and used few, but then I became a curriculum junkie, especially with math but there were other subjects too. I just found something rather unique in each that I just had to have on hand, just in case. I did use a bit of all of them, but I realized recently that some things have sat on my shelves forgotten also. However, I shunned textbooks and workbooks as much as I could as her writing skills strengthened.

As I was talking with a friend yesterday, I grabbed a couple of books she mentioned and realized that I would not longer need them at all. You see, we covered nearly everything in the two volumes of English for the Thoughtful Child when we used the two year program in First Language Lessons, so I now have the former listed for sale. It appears that the Princess was at nearly fourth grade level when she was second grade age. I have continued, rather haphazardly I must confess, with the approach I learned in First Language Lessons, with the addition of The First Whole Book of Diagrams to help the Princess identify the parts of speech as a supplement.

Also, at one of the recent consignment sales, I was looking at books requiring correction of improper grammar, things like: "aprul is my faverutest month of the year," and I found two. One for grades 3 through 5, which was obvious to me that she could do easily but was a nice exercise in applying of her knowledge and another for grade 6 that also had some exercises in comprehension, vocabulary, and reference skills. As I thumbed through the latter book, I realized a bit of it would be challenging, but the grammar part would also only be practice.

I was so shocked that I actually gasped out loud! I thought we had been weak in that area for the past couple of years and yet her skills are grades ahead. In addition, I don't know many junior high or even high school children who memorize poems these days, but just this week the Princess has memorized most of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If."

Still, it is not about what her grade level is or is not, but about teaching to her ability and challenging her to go beyond it. I have to remind myself of that, and yet...I still look for something to measure her against. I know, I know. I should not do it, but I do.

Homeschool parents are not limited in the way they can educate, but there are times when we just fall off the wagon. We worry if our children are really as well educated as we think they are. We do not want regulation, but we still seem to want a yardstick. It happens to nearly every homeschool mother I know with the exception, perhaps, of those who have had one or two graduate. Maybe when the Princess graduates, it will be easier to realize that the standardized yardstick I hoped use to measure her was too short from the beginning.

~ My Lord, thank you for continuing to encourage me and reminding me that the only yardstick I need to measure how well we are homeschooling is You. ~

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Current Homeschool Schedule

The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. ~Stephen R. Covey

You have probably noticed that homeschooling has been heavily on my mind of late. I confess that I do get revved up shopping the back-to-school sales and more so the markdowns afterward, but it is not just the time of year thing. We homeschool year around and I do not really confine our curriculum to terms, semesters, or even the September 1 to August 31 start and end dates on my Letter of Intent to satisfy our state requirement. My daughter's subjects have staggered beginning and ending times, which is to say we go at our own pace and not timetables.

I do, however, change the method by which we do our daily routines and how much I expect from my daughter as she matures. In the past year, I often heard my daughter say that I would add more to do on the days she would get her math done quickly and was not convinced when I explained that we were actually getting the other things in that I planned to do but rarely fits on days that she takes two hours to do math.

I began to see that we were in a Catch 22 situation. She was in no hurry to get math done because she thought I would add more, which was working in the wrong direction for both of us. She actually likes the other subjects that were being dropped in the day and I was not consistently getting all the other subjects as I would try to rotate them. So, for the summer, we worked on adhering to a schedule, particularly in the mornings with chores and a lighter homeschool load. The flash cards and drill work have helped her to focus her mind on math much better. We also use a timer for her math lesson which I usually set for around 25 minutes. She is doing math in a more timely way lately.

Weekly Scheduling

I also decided that she needs to see a schedule of each day with her assignments so that she knows what she is expected to do and also knows I am not adding anything. This coupled with the fact that she is able to do more independent work, I have changed things around. I bought a Trapper Keeper, a fancy, roomy three ring notebook with pockets, at one those back-to-school markdowns a year or so ago. I also purchased 3-ring dividers on sale. A couple of weeks ago I divided her Trapper Keeper by days of the week and then subdivided those days by subjects. What I like most about this is that I load up the Trapper Keeper for the entire week and I can adjust her lessons to even things out time-wise each day. For instance, if she has a quite a bit of translating in Greek for one day, which takes her longer, I might lighten her math load for that day. This week, is a short one day because my husband actually did have Labor Day off, so instead of doing the Classical Writing curriculum, which needs four days, I will use other resources for the week.

You are probably thinking I still have four days to do the Classical Writing, but the problem is that our regular week more like a four-day week and we have this big hole in it. Since the Princess was four, Thursdays have been busy with errands and her piano lesson, but this year I have given her assignments of independent work to do while riding in the van. In the last several weeks we have been working at the 4-H horse barn on Wednesday mornings, which takes up most of our morning and may take more when the tack room is done so I can match up the tack with the horse and there is picking up milk when needed at another farm a bit farther out too. All this means Wednesday we have a homeschool short day with lessons in the afternoon. Wednesday is truly a hump day for me with fasting and a Bible study on every first and third evening of the month too, that is, when we can get there.

At this time our homeschool week is heavy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and light on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It feels very lopsided to me. I often have to push myself to get through a full day on Friday. I would much rather take half of the day to do housekeeping in preparation for the weekend or even just have a restful afternoon. This is because our weekends rarely restful; my husband and I almost always have a project of sorts to do, but lately we have been making time to just relax.

Day by Day

The Princess sets her alarm for 6:30 A.M. and usually emerges from her room around 7:00 A.M. to do morning chores. If all goes well, we begin our devotions and breakfast time at 8:00 A.M., except on Wednesdays when the Princess grabs a protein bar or an apple and we pick up another girl in the neighborhood as we head for the horse farm. We do devotions for lunch on Wednesday.

After breakfast and brushing teeth, the Princess practices piano from 8:30 AM to 9:15 AM. This is every day but Wednesday when we push our schedule down into the afternoon so she would do this at 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M. instead.

Then it is math flash cards and drill, which takes us to 9:30 AM. The math lesson is given an hour although she rarely needs an entire hour except when I am teaching a new concept. I may also fit in lessons in logic if she will have the time, depending on the load in other subjects.

We then shift to Language Arts beginning with a vocabulary word from Daily Buzzword and if she already knows the word she can pick another from the archives. I also add one word in sign language and we spend a few minutes in review of both before spelling. All this is takes about 45 minutes.

For the next hour I currently use Classical Writing with other supplements for grammar. This is followed by Classical Languages, either Latin or Greek, which I choose depending on how it fits with the work load.

Lunch break should be about an hour and fifteen minutes, but sometimes is shorter, if she had difficulty with the morning lessons. I still try to be sure she has at least fifteen minutes free time before or after lunch.

After lunch is another half hour of piano. At this time she does exercises in Hannon and any theory she was assigned by her piano teacher.

History/Social Studies for 45 minutes on Monday and Friday is world history and on Tuesday and Thursday is a study of the states or History of the Horse, whichever she chooses as they are independent studies.

This is followed by science on Monday, art on Tuesday, and science and/or art on Friday. Right now we are using Considering God's Creation in science which is a crafty type of curriculum.

If all goes well, we finish around 4:00 P.M. on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. On Wednesday, we do the math and language arts lessons only and finish around 5:00 P.M.

Thursdays are in the van all day so she is assigned one Classical Language lesson, Powerglide French on CDs, and whatever she has left to do on her state study or History of the Horse assignments for the week.


I like organization, but I often find it too confining. I wanted our lesson time to not be so scheduled and flow, but that approach has not proven to be a good one for either of us and, to my surprise, this scheduled approached has been working out pretty well for the past few weeks. Sometimes she takes longer to finish everything but we are accomplishing much more than before in less time and we both are enjoying it more. The main problem I have now is keeping ahead of her with making up the spelling, history, and grammar lessons as I mostly create them myself.

Tonight was the first 4-H Club meeting and she asked about participating in the 4-H Horse Quiz Bowl...? We tried that last year for a few weeks she just did not study for it enough then and I just don't see that one happening this year either.

~ My Lord, thank you for guiding me sometimes in directions I think do not want to go but are necessary to better serve the purpose of homeschooling and make it work better for both my daughter and myself. ~

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Homeschool Streaming TV...FREE!

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. ~Will Rogers

Do you ever feel like that? Homeschooling is the right choice but then it just gets to be this "duty" that you sometimes enjoy a bit but most days it is just something you must do just because.... And some days it is a toss up of whether cleaning the children's bathroom or teaching them math would be preferred.

Homeschooling is a lifestyle and as such it can have its oh-hum days, even those questioning days: Are my children learning what they should? Am I doing it well enough? Why am I even doing this? This usually does not really hit home until the later elementary years and grows from then on...if you let it.

Now in your heart you may feel that public school really is not a option and private...? Well, even if you would consider it, how would you afford it? So you will continue homeschooling, even on the days you just do not want to, taking unscheduled mental health days off as required. Schedules? You might like the idea for your children but you may not like the self-disciple needed in keeping them yourself. Then you mentally berate yourself about the example you are setting for your children reminding yourself that children thrive with consistency. So, what is the answer?

Well, I can tell you that you are not alone. Most of us have been there, done that, ...maybe still there and still doing it too.

Many of the homeschooling parents I know do not go to homeschool conventions, but would benefit from the seminars available there. (I am included in this list, by the way.) I stumbled across The Homeschool Channel today and what I see so far I think would be great for parents new to homeschooling and those of us who have been homeschooling for awhile, but are in that lack-luster to fear-of-ruining-the-child stage. You know what I mean if you homeschool because you have had them and if you are just starting out and haven't me, you will. There is nothing like bringing back that passion for homeschooling and adding simple, but exciting, things to your homeschooling approach and even brightening every one's attitude...whispering: yes, including your own!

Give this site a try and tell me what you think! It covers so many topics, scheduling, budgeting, priorities, just everything!

~ My Lord, thank you for placing the desire to homeschool in our hearts and for placing the desire to help us continue homeschooling in others even through the use of the Internet, so we do not feel alone in our concerns and have suggestions to try new things we had not thought of before.~

Friday, September 2, 2011

Many Thoughts, One Mind

Remember, a writer writes always.
~Billy Crystal as Larry in Throw Momma from the Train (1987)

Things—just all kinds of things—are crowding my mind right now and I am finding it difficult to take aim at just one subject to expound upon, so I am going to just write about anything that pops into my head and see what happens. (Scary, I know. More likely boring.) As I write this I am thinking it will probably be about me, not a particularly entertaining subject and one I find rather indulgent of my self-centered nature, but one I think with which all fellow Christians wrestle as we try to be more Christ-like.

Some months ago, I began this personal campaign to change myself into who I really want to be, a person I push into the background because I always think I should be doing something more worthwhile. At least, that is my mind talk. I never really think I am the person God wishes me to be and yet I am never really sure what that is either. I have rested at oases along my life journey where I was confident I was doing what He wanted, but so much of it was only for a season and then there was the necessity to move on in my journey, like a spiritually-driven nomad without a permanent home...well, I do have one I believe, just not in this world.

It has been a blessing that I am talented in many areas, but it has a price. I love being creative and I have enough intelligence to learn how to do just about anything I set my mind to do. The problem is I can get pulled in too many directions because of this and I end up using escapism into whatever seems to take the least amount of effort or is just fun for me.

Less Computer Time and/or More Productive Computer Time

My daughter made some comments quite a few times in the last year resulting from her observations of my computer and me, mostly about how glued I had become to my "I can take it anywhere" laptop. Honesty slapped my left cheek, sooooo I did what any good Christian should do...I turned it, but in honesty it probably was more to just obscure that view of myself. Then, the right cheek got slapped when I began to realize that the Princess was beginning to take on the same habits, spending unnecessary time on her computer in the same way and asking to start a blog also! All I could think is "when will she have the time?" if I really had the time myself?

It is so true that we teach our children more through our actions than our words and I realized I was not being a good role model for the child I wanted her to be. However, I have to say that the Princess is quite a writer, not disciplined yet but she has the heart for making up stories and has been writing since she could pick up a pencil. Maybe she picked up some of that desire because I write...? So, maybe not all she has learned from my habits are bad things.

Now, blogging is one of my time consuming endeavors serving two main purposes. It helps me have a more creative outlet for writing, thinking out loud, if you will, and I tell myself that my peculiarities may help someone to think from a differing perspective as that is something I feel is always worthwhile. (I am not ignorant to the possibility that this just be a rationalization, even though it just works for me.)

While I am spending less "fun time" on my computer, I am using more computer time for homeschool related things: lesson planning, my own spelling curriculum, and so on. Just this weekend, however, the church has again asked me to work on the church website, which means more time on the computer again and it is for a good cause, but I am trying so hard to be careful with how much time I spend on the computer overall. I need this area of my life to stay balanced and realistic. It is not about what I can do, it is about what I should do. My Lord always has to remind me of that.

Tearing Down Barriers One Brick at a Time

I have come to this realization that the things I keep, often thinking one day I will use them, can also be the things that weigh me down so I do not use them because they end up being clutter, even when organized. At least that is how it works in my mind so I have taken some steps in removing obstacles, both mental and physical ones. For instance, I want to be the artist I know I am. My biggest obstacle has been...well, me. I blame it on the clutter in the arts and craft room, but I am the one who has not cleaned up that mess. However, I am removing the obstacles there one box or bag at a time.

Instead of holding on to things we hoped to place in a yard sale, I began, a few weeks ago, sorting through and just giving some of those things away. There are two reasons for this: One is yard sales never do well here and worse since the economy has been down. Second is that we were planning to haul these things down to Florida to have a yard sale at my mother-in-law's but that has not happened in the past year and is unlikely to in the next. The things of worth, I will try to sell on Craigslist, but there is not much.

Then what will I do? I have one project I have wanted to do for years...maybe even a decade now, but it is a new technique and I have my doubts if I have the ability to do it. Perhaps I am just afraid. Creating art is a very emotional undertaking for me. At times it has been relaxing, but rarely. I think too much while I work. I become too much of a perfectionist. I get lost in my work and my thoughts. Then, again, that is how I used to be, I really do not know how I would be now. Maybe I would have a differing mindset. Maybe I just am different and that obstacle is completely out of proportion but I have others. Once I have done a few things, then there is what to do with them...? Do I try to sell them? Use them as examples to get consigned work? Get a canopy and enter into arts and crafts sales in the area taking up entire weekends which are so precious to our family because of my husband's crazy schedule?

What would my Lord have me do with my art? You know, I do not even think I have really asked Him this question. Maybe I secretly thought art was my own little thing of which I would keep my Lord shut out. I cannot think of a time I have ever asked His blessing on it. This realization that I just now have had leaves me dumbstruck with shame and unbelief that I have not surrendered this critical part of me to my Lord! Something to be remedied this very day!

The Journey of the Blind

Once a woman blinded in her later years by diabetes asked me to guide her down the stairs into the sanctuary of a church, because her friend did not show up to do it. She did not really know me nor I, her. I was nearly overwhelmed with the responsibility of it. It is not a simple task. It is not like playing blind and leading someone around who could open her eyes. I would be the one making sure that her feet were planted solidly on each step so she would not fall. There was all this trust in me to do this.

Do I trust God to lead me blindly? At times I know without any hesitation that I times. Those times when I felt I was resting in an oasis, which is not really resting but really trusting my Lord. That is the real oasis. It is not a place but a state of the spiritual heart. I wish I could learn to stay there forever, but somehow I end up wandering off lured by distractions. Does it take blindness to make me appreciate and completely trust is His leading? Perhaps it takes a change of perspective. Perhaps the problem is that the distractions are only there because of my attraction to them, because my heart is not pure so that I am blinded to them.

And so my journey continues....

Where are you in yours?

~ My Lord, I had no idea about what I was going to write. I had no plan and yet spiritual thoughts spilled out from the cracks in my life. You are my Oasis. Help me to trust blindly in You always. ~