Monday, August 31, 2015

{Year one reflections} - 8 weeks in

Izzy is about to finish week 8 of Ambleside Online's year one.  It's taken us about 11 weeks to get through the first 8 weeks, because of summertime activities/trips and my being pregnant which has required some rest here and there.

Once we finish the work for this week (which won't take us all week - I decided to spread out week 8 over last week and this week), we will be taking a break.  Baby girl #3 is due next week (!!) and we'll take some time to *hopefully* rest and finish any preparations before her arrival.

Anyway, here are some of my reflections from the year so far.  This is more for me, but maybe something will be helpful for someone.


We read our first Shakespeare tale from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I think it took us five separate readings to get through it, at 10 or 15 minutes apiece.

The first two readings were pretty painful.  The stories are lovely, but the language is pretty difficult, and Izzy was lost during most of the readings.  As a result, I searched around on the AO forum and followed the advice of some other moms who use puppets when reading Shakespeare.  We have some puppets, but not enough, so instead we used some little toy figures that the girls have accumulated over the past few years.

We assigned a character to each figure, and as I read, I would kind of act it out with the figures.  Then Izzy would narrate using the figures to act out the story.  It worked really well, and I could tell she enjoyed the story much more!  So we'll be doing the same thing for the next tale, The Tempest.  And the next one.  And probably the next :)

There's Titania, the fairy queen, with her "love" the clown with the donkey's head.  And King Oberon is on the sidelines playing football :)

Just So Stories

Just So Stories is just a little difficult to read aloud, in my opinion.  So, again, I browsed the AO forums, and some had suggested using an audio book for this one.  Thankfully our library has it on audio, read by Jim Weiss, who is a fabulous storyteller.  I've just been checking it out when Just So is on the schedule, and Izzy's narrations have been much better using this rather than listening to me.

Reading Lessons

We originally began Izzy's reading lessons using the McGuffey Primer and it was going alright, but honestly, it was kind of boring.  So I decided instead to do the lessons using Charlotte Mason's methods, and now Izzy has declared that her reading lessons are her favorite!  She looks forward to them each day.

It's been a little slow-going, but that's one of the (many) reasons why homeschooling is awesome.  There's time.  Time to allow the child to learn at her own pace.  Time to allow her to really understand what she's learning, and not be left behind in the process.

The Joyful Shepherdess blog has a good outline of CM reading lessons, and an AO mom has also written a guide for teaching reading this way.  You can find the guide on AO's website.

I read and made notes from both of the above, and also read what CM herself wrote, and then put together a plan and materials for doing the lessons.  I have it in my mind to blog about what exactly we're doing, and would love to, but we'll see if I'm able to get to it.  (You know, like I said, new baby and all coming soon!)


Twice in the past week Izzy has, out of nowhere, picked up one of her school books and asked to read it!  We were about to do school one day and she ran over to the shelf and grabbed The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess and got all excited about reading it.  Unfortunately, it wasn't on the schedule.  I guess technically there's nothing wrong with reading it on an unassigned week, but I told her we'd have to wait :(  I don't want her to get in the habit of thinking she can choose whichever book she wants.  Maybe when she's older.

By the way, this book was not a favorite of hers the first few weeks.  We were reading it off the kindle, but I decided to just go ahead and purchase a hard copy because it's such a wonderful book and since we won't be reading every chapter this year, I wanted it available for her to read later on, or for us to read together as a free read.  I guess having the hard copy made the difference, because she loves this book now.

I also went ahead and bought a hard copy of The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang as well for the same reasons.  So now, the only books we're reading off the kindle are Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin and Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty.  I'm okay with reading Fifty Stories off the kindle, because the stories are so short, but I'd kind of like to have a hard copy of Parables.  I just haven't been able to find a copy at a decent price!

The other book Izzy picked up and wanted to read was D'Aulaire's Benjamin Franklin.  Man, what a great book!  It is beautifully illustrated and written so well, as are all of D'Aulaire's books.  Unfortunately, we don't own any of them because they are pretty pricey and it's very difficult to find them used at a decent price.  So for now, we are checking them out from our library.

We've always read aloud to our kids and both of the girls love to read (well, be read to), but it seemed that at first Izzy was not too excited about the "school" books.  But the AO advisory has done such a wonderful job choosing great living books and I'm just excited that Izzy is beginning to really enjoy them!

Although, with almost every book we pick up to read, whether it's a school book or not, she asks, "Do I have to tell it back?"  Ha!

The four-year old

So in my last post about year one, I mentioned that I needed to have a better idea of how to give Addy (4) more attention now since I'm spending so much one-on-one time with Izzy.  A few things have worked really well so far.

First, I gave Addy her own "school" binder with some things for her to work on if she wants.  She was so excited to have her own binder :)  She and Izzy both love mazes, so I bought a Kumon maze workbook, tore a couple mazes out, and put them in sheet protectors so that she can use a dry-erase marker on them.  The workbook is full of mazes, so I'll switch them out every so often.  I also put some dot-to-dot and cutting practice worksheets in her binder, but she mostly does the mazes.

I also put some different activities in storage bins for her to pick from each day - dry-erase letter/number practice, puzzles, coloring books, etc.  When I sit down with Izzy each day, I tell Addy that she can join us with her school stuff, or she can play.  I never require her to do "school" stuff, but she usually hangs out with us for a little while.  She loves to do the mazes and the dry-erase letter tracing.

The other thing that has worked really well lately is we've been starting school with some read-alouds.  I have Addy pick out a book or two that she would like me to read, and I read to her first.  Izzy will usually do her copywork while I read to Addy, then I'll read Izzy one of her school books, and Addy can continue to sit with us and listen if she wants - sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't.  This way, she gets some attention from me before I sit down and do other subjects with Izzy.  It's definitely helped her feel more included.

Well, that's probably good for now!  How is your year going??

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ray's Arithmetic materials, manipulatives, and flashcard activities

I have chosen at this time to use Ray's Arithmetic as our main math curriculum.  I like it because:
1.  It is completely oral in the beginning (no worksheeets or writing).
2.  It uses a very classical, simple method of teaching arithmetic.
3.  It focuses on developing a child's mental math ability (which is so, so important in these early years). 
4.  It allows the child to think for himself about, and discover the truth of, mathematics.
5.  It's very cost-effective, which is a BIG plus!

I thought I would share how we're using Ray's Arithmetic so far (8 weeks into year one).

First, the Ray's Arithmetic yahoo group is a wonderful resource.  It contains a schedule and an overview of the first year of lessons.  I printed off both and put them in my "teacher" binder as a reference.

Second, I wrote a post outlining the first year.  You can read that here.

Third, there are a few simple manipulatives/materials that will be needed - but definitely nothing fancy!  Here's a peek into my math tub (it's a shoe box from Dollar General - cost me a buck).  We use counters, which could be anything - I have blocks, marbles, bears, dominoes, and craft sticks in here.  The other thing we use are flashcards, which I made (you can see them clipped with a binder clip).  More about those below.  I also have dice and Domino playing cards (which we haven't used yet - I got them in case we play games with them, which I'm sure we will do in the future).

For the first nine weeks, the focus is on recognizing groups of objects from 1 to 10.  The key is to teach the child to recognize how many objects are in a group without counting.  The way a child is able to do this is by recognizing the combinations that make up a certain number.  For example, when given 8 blocks, the child should be able to notice and pick out 4 blocks and another 4 blocks in the group and, knowing that 4 and 4 makes 8, be able to tell that there are 8 blocks.  Or she may see 5 blocks here and 3 blocks there and, again, since she knows that 5 and 3 makes 8, there are 8 blocks.  Etc.

This method is great at training a child's mental math ability, which is so, so important (did I already say that?).  I talked about this in a previous post.

The two main manipulatives I use to teach recognizing groups without counting are the counters, shown above, and homemade flashcards, shown below.  In this post, I'm going to share the activities we do with the flashcards, and in another post I'll share how we use the counters.

I took index cards, cut them in half, then used markers to make five sets of groups of objects from 0 to 10, using a different shape for each set.  Notice also how I tried to represent different combinations for each number.  For example, in the number six row, you can see the combination of 3 and 3 on the first card, 2 and 4 on the second, 1 and 5 on the third, and so on.  Of course, children may see a different combination, and that's perfectly fine.

Here are some of the activities that we do with these flashcards:

1.  Finding combinations activity

Let's say we're working on the number 7.  I'll lay out all of the flashcards randomly (you could always lay out fewer if it seems too daunting for your child).  I'll tell Izzy to, as quickly as possible, find two cards at a time that make 7, and to find all the combinations that she can.  So, she'll have to pair up 2 and 5, 3 and 4, for example.  I'll usually put the timer on, record her time, and then if we do it again another day, she'll see if she can beat it.  Some kids may not like to be timed, but Izzy is pretty competitive and likes the challenge.

This activity is done after we've used the counters to learn all the combinations of a particular number.

2.  Find the number activity

I'll lay out the flashcards randomly again, and tell Izzy to find all of the cards with a certain number of objects, as quickly as she can.  I'll either have her find the cards with the number that we're currently working on, or this can be used to review previous numbers.  I may tell her to find three cards with 6 objects, then once she finds those, have her find three cards with 8 objects, etc.

Again, the key is to not rely on counting.  She's looking for the combinations that make up a certain number.  (Unless she can recognize a group just by looking at it - usually 6 or 7 and under are easy to recognize this way.)

I usually time her with this one, too.

3.  Make the number activity

This time, I'll sort the flashcards by number and lay each set in a pile, as shown below.  So, all of the cards with one object are in a pile, all of the cards with two objects are in another pile, etc.

Izzy decided to be Tinkerbell this day, and I have no idea what Addy is doing.

I'll choose a card from one of the piles, say one with 5 objects.  I'll show the card to Izzy and say, "Make 9" (for example).  She'll have to 1) figure out how many objects are on my card, 2) figure out how many more objects are needed to make 9 - in this case 4, and 3) find a card with that many objects (again, in this case 4).

I'll continue this, randomly choosing cards and randomly asking her to make different numbers until we can't make anymore.

This is a good review activity.

4.  Flashcards

I sometimes use these as plain ole' flashcards, showing her each one, and having her tell me how many objects are on the card.  Again, it's important to avoid any guessing, so, especially with the larger numbers, I'll have her explain how she knows there are eight objects, for example.

5.  War

Another good review activity is the classic game of War.  Instead of using a deck of cards, we'll use these flashcards.  It's usually pretty easy to tell who wins each hand, but to reinforce the math, I'll have her tell me how many are on her card and how she knows.

That's about it!  In another post I'll share how we use the counters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A reminder to myself

Yesterday, I lost my temper.  I know we all lose our tempers at times, but this was not pretty.

I want to blame it on one (or three) of three things:

First, I'm a mom.

Second, I'm almost 38 weeks pregnant.  (I could probably stop here, ha!)

Third, I'm a human living in a broken state, in a broken world.

While all three of these are true, it doesn't justify my actions, or my words.

For me in particular, it all boils down to perfectionism and control.  I have a tendency to believe this twisted notion that:
"If I'm doing my job as a parent, my children will be perfect."

I don't think I'm the only mom that struggles with this.  I think a lot of us moms place the complete burden of raising our children on ourselves.  Deep down, when things don't go the way we expect and when our children don't behave the way we expect, we blame no one but ourselves.  We forget that not only are we not perfect, but our children aren't either.

Yes, we have the job of teaching and guiding and disciplining and cultivating virtue in our children.  But grace must go hand-in-hand with that job.  And not just grace for our children, which is so easy to give, but grace for ourselves (not so easy to give).

I can't base my worth off of the way my children turn out.  They are persons, too.  They have been born with the privilege of choosing their own way.  Even now, when they are little, they have choices to make.  And if they make the wrong choices, it's not because I'm a crappy parent.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't try, that I don't do the best I can to teach them.  I do believe that, as a parent, I must educate myself and grow myself in order to effectively guide and teach and discipline.  And I must be consistent in doing those things.  But after that, I must let go.

I must have faith.

It always comes down to faith, doesn't it?  Believing that God is faithful.  Believing that He is the one who works in our, and our children's, hearts.  Believing that He is the one who changes us, if we are willing, to become like Christ, and He will do the same with our children.

God has given us a gift when He gave us our children.  They bring so much joy and laughter and love into our lives.  But our children are not the only gift.  God has given us the gift of growing in Him, through the task of raising our children.  Being a mother has been the ultimate test for me.  I can think of no other time in my life when my patience, my will, my faith, and everything else, have been tested and tried as these last 6 1/2 years.  And it will be an on-going process throughout my entire life.

So I must relax.  I must cast this burden that I'm choosing to carry onto Christ.  I must believe that He is working, not only in my children, but also in me.

And I must seek joy and love in the process, and focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflections on education

This week is the first week of school for kids in our area.  On facebook, I see "first day of school" pictures flood my news feed.  It's an exciting time of the year - full of new possibilities.

My kids, however, are not doing school this week (ha!).  We've actually been schooling for about 7 weeks already, but this week the girls are gone visiting grandparents.

This is the longest they've been away from me (and Jared).  They've been gone since Friday and won't be back until tomorrow (Thursday).  I miss them terribly.  The house feels empty.  I kind of feel like I don't know what I should be doing with myself.

I've gotten some things done:  rest, which is what has been prescribed by my mom and my mother-in-law, before the baby comes; preparation of freezer meals before the baby comes; a little bit of cleaning (I haven't really been motivated to "nest" yet...I wonder if I will be with only a few weeks left).

But mostly I'm resting and taking advantage of the quiet, which is allowing me time to do plenty of reading and thinking and reflecting.

Anyway, back to school.  What I've been reading about and thinking about the most right now has to do with all these precious kiddos starting the new school year, as well as my own endeavor at educating my children.

In addition to reading, I've watched some wonderful, insightful videos over at the Circe Institute website.  If you're not familiar, it's a site dedicated to educating parents and teachers about classical education - what it is and how to implement it.  By the way, Charlotte Mason's methods are very much in line with classical education (from what I've gathered, but I am no expert).

Right now I'm working my way through the video series "Teaching from a State of Rest" - a lecture given by the Circe Institute president, Andrew Kern.  You can find the videos here - you'll have to scroll down.

Even if you're not a homeschooler, I highly, highly recommend any of his videos or podcasts, especially if you're a Christian.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my notes and reflections about this particular video series because it has really convicted me about my children's education, and just raising them in general.

Kern says,
"We are created to be priests, to offer up the creation to God, and thereby bless it.  We live in a broken and fallen world which is under a curse, and the only hope it has of being delivered from that curse is the goodness and grace of God.  And He has chosen, in His humility, to use us...those who believe in and claim the name of Christ, to bring His blessing...that water of life, to the world."
This is the purpose of education, he says - to take possession of the world and bless it, instead of letting the world possess us.  That's what happened to Adam way back in Genesis.  God gave him dominion over the world, but by partaking of the one tree God forbid, Adam let the world possess him.

When we think of education in this light, it makes us rethink how we teach, what we teach, why we teach, and how we assess what we teach.  It also makes us rethink who our boss is - the world and its standards?  Or God?

Kern references 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (but invites those who are concerned with the education of their children to study chapters 1-3):
"Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness', and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'"
Maybe some of us think that this has nothing to do with modern education because our spiritual life is a totally separate thing.  Here's a quote that struck me, taken from the book When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper:
"'...we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.'" (p.101)
This is actually a quotation from Charlotte Mason, but I didn't write down from which of her volumes it came.

If we are Christians, then we do not believe or claim that there is such a thing as a "Christian" or "religious" education.  Because, Miss Mason points out, that would be implying the possibility of a secular education, apart from a "religious" education.  But, if we believe that all education comes from God, then there is just education - no secular, no religious, just education.

So there is a true education - true knowledge - that comes from above.
"...that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  (Colossians 2:2,3) 
And God
"desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) 
Education is, at its essence, a spiritual thing.  It is about the pursuit of the truth - the cultivation of wisdom and virtue in our children.  Because we are, and our children are, created in the image of God and "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." (Romans 8:29)

Kern points out that modern education is only concerned with the practical, however.  Our culture does not believe in children because we do not believe in humans.  We don't believe in humans because we don't believe in Christ, who is the model human.  He came to the earth to show us what it really means to be human; what true human nature really is.  True human nature is embodied in the person of Christ.  But, because society does not believe in Christ, we do not believe in true human nature, therefore we do not cultivate it in our children.

We are too concerned with the practical outcomes of education, not the pursuit of truth.  We are too concerned with memorizing the facts and information that we are taught, so that we can get good test scores, so that we can compete with the rest of the world.  We are too concerned with success measured by the world's standards - a good job, money, an ability to live comfortably, respect from those around us.

We are not just too concerned, we are too worried about it all.
"'But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  Do not fear, little flock, for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.'" (Luke 12:31-32)
Continuing in 1 Corinthians 3:
"Therefore let no one boast in men.  For all things are yours:  whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come - all are yours.  And you are Christ's and Christ is God's." (v.21-23)
In Christ, everything is ours.  So there's no need to worry about the world's standards of success.

But, as parents, we need to be educated ourselves.  If we really believe that education should be the pursuit of truth and the cultivation of true human nature in our children, then we must be aware of how to do that.

Summarizing Charlotte Mason's words in Home Education, page 42, we cannot rely on prayer alone to ensure that our children will grow up to be honest, good, virtuous human beings.  We must be intelligent and find out ways of actively bringing those characteristics about in our children.  We must be aware of the best ways to present that which is good, true, and beautiful to our children.

We cannot just trust the system.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A slower week (part 2) - handicrafts

Yesterday I shared some nature study from this week, which has been a slower-paced week for us.  But, like I said in that post, this slower week has been a blessing because we've had time to focus on some of the things that we - okay, I - have not been very consistent about - nature journaling and handicrafts mostly.

So today I thought I'd share about what we're doing for our current handicraft.

What I've been considering as our "handicraft" so far has just been the girls helping me with cooking or baking every now and then.  But I just didn't feel that I was doing this subject any justice.  It would be different if they were actually learning to make some recipes on their own, but I don't foresee that happening for a few years.

I had come across hand-stitched cards awhile ago, and it's been in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to do for one of our handicrafts.  This was the perfect week to tackle it.  We spent a couple of hours Monday afternoon gathering supplies from around town (Hobby Lobby and some thrift stores), prepping materials, and working on the first "project."  It was so nice to just focus on this one thing, taking the time to teach it to the girls, without worrying about all the other school stuff.  

So I'm thinking that, in the future, it might work better to introduce a new handicraft either on an off week, or maybe on a Friday, which is an off day, or enrichment day, for us.  Then, the new skill can be practiced throughout the week.

Of course, this is probably what most families do, but for me this was an epiphany!

The girls really enjoyed making these cards (they only made one each, but have been begging to do some more).  Of course, since it was the first time doing them, I had to be right there helping them the whole time.  After a while, though, Izzy just took off with it.  She surprised me because she caught on very quickly, and figured out pretty much on her own how to stitch in order to make the design come out right.


The link above takes you to a website with basic instructions for hand-stitching, including a list of materials.  We did not use a punching awl to punch the holes in the cardstock.  Instead, we used some thumb tacks that we had lying around.  We also did not use a cork board.  As you can see from the pictures, I just put a large coloring book on the table, facedown, and placed a folded piece of felt on top of it.  That was enough to prevent the thumb tacks from causing any damage.

I bought some blank, white greeting cards and envelopes at Hobby Lobby which were 50% off, so I ended up paying $5.00 for 50 cards.  10 cents a card?  Not too shabby :)  (By the way, another reason I like this craft so much is because I really HATE to buy greeting cards, and usually don't.  They are so overpriced!!!)

We went to a thrift store and got about $4.00 worth of embroidery floss at 30 cents per strand.  I let the girls pick out the colors.  I already had a bunch of card stock that I had bought at a thrift store awhile ago for a much cheaper price than buying at Walmart or something.

So, all-in-all, it's a pretty inexpensive handicraft, especially since we can make many, many cards with our supplies.

As far as designs, I just made my own.  I followed the measurement suggestions at the above link and just drew my own pictures, adding dots where we would need to poke holes.  Pretty simple :)

We may (or may not) be working on things for family members, so at this time I'm not going to post any of the finished results, sorry!

Izzy is 6, and this was a great handicraft for her.  All I had to do was cut the paper and card stock to the right measurements, draw the designs, thread the needle, and poke the needle in the first hole to get her started.  She was able to poke the holes in the card stock and stitch the design.  Then I tied it off.

Addy is 4, and she required more hand-holding, of course :)  She was able to poke the needle through the holes and pull the string through, but I had to show her which hole each time.

All I need to do now is make some more designs, cut some more card stock, and Izzy should be good to go!

I'm always eager to know what handicrafts others have chosen so feel free to share!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A slower week - nature journaling

We're technically on week 7 of Izzy's year one, term one, but it's going to end up being spread out over two weeks because:

1)  I really like the idea of a 6 week on, 1 week off school schedule.  Since we've finished 6 weeks, I kind of had it in my mind that we would take this week off.  BUT, I don't want it to be a completely wasted week since baby girl #3 is due in about 4 (four!!!) weeks.  I'm wanting to get at least 8 weeks of school in before she graces our presence and we take some time off.

2)  Because of said baby, I'm tired.  These last weeks of pregnancy have taken their toll.  It seems that every week I get more and more tired - physically and mentally.  So, I'm giving myself some grace and extra time these last few weeks to complete Izzy's schoolwork.  We're taking it slow to prevent stress, and so that I can enjoy my time with these two beauties.

So, it's Wednesday and today is the first day this week that we've completed our daily school subjects:  math, reading, penmanship, and AO readings.  I imagine we'll do another day tomorrow.  Friday is Jared's last weekday off of work (school starts up Monday), so we'll probably do something together as a family.  Next week will probably look a lot like this week - two days of school and some extra time spent on the "riches" (nature study/journaling, handicrafts, etc.).

This slow week has been a blessing.  Monday we took advantage of the cooler weather by packing a lunch and heading to one of our favorite parks.  We ate, the girls played on the playground, and we strolled around the adjacent pond.

We saw the "regulars:"  ducks, turtles, birds, fish.

We know this is a red-eared slider - it has a red mark on each side of its head.

And we saw some new creatures that we had never seen at this pond before.

I'm guessing this is some kind of goose on the left.  I haven't figured out what it is.

Another water bird.  There were two of these.  I haven't identified them yet.
We also saw what we thought was a duck egg, only it was broken :(

The next day (Tuesday) Izzy spent some time drawing in her nature journal.  She didn't draw any of the animals we saw.  Instead, she drew a piece of fruit (see the big, green balls on the table?) that had fallen off of a tree next to the pond.  We identified the fruit as coming from an osage-orange tree.  Addy wanted to draw a monarch butterfly.  

Izzy has really taken to nature journaling and is quite proud of her nature journal.  Today during our rest time, she got her journal out and decided to draw a female cardinal that we had watched on our bird feeder the day before.  She then made me take a picture of every page of her journal, with her holding it, but I figured one was enough to put on here :)

On the left is a lizard crawling on a tree (we saw it on a nature walk a couple of weeks ago), and on the right is the female cardinal.

Later, as she was looking through her journal, she said, "I could just look and look at this once I get it all filled up."  :)

Tomorrow I'll share our handicrafting for this week.  We've finally started one!!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

It will be alright

Well.  It’s been an interesting few weeks.

(At first, this may seem like all I’m doing is complaining in this post, but if you keep reading, you’ll see that I’m really not!)

Our fridge has messed up on two separate occasions.  We had to have a repairman come out and fix it (which cost money), and we’re going to need another one to come out soon to fix another problem (which also costs money).

Our car battery died and we had to get a new one (more money).

Our computer crashed (we haven’t even had it for two years!), and it contained lots and lots and lots of pictures and all of my homeschool files.  And, being the goober that I am, I hadn’t backed any of it up.  Ugh.  Computer repair is not that cheap, either.

Our air conditioning unit has always given us problems and we finally decided to look into doing something about it.  It turns out the unit is too small for the size of our house and the duct work was cheaply done, plus mice have chewed holes in the duct work.  And, if you’re not aware, fixing duct work and/or buying a brand new unit is not cheap.  We’re talking thousands of dollars.

And this was all timed right as I quit my babysitting job, which, of course, resulted in us going down to a family living on one income (and a teacher’s income at that!).  Of course, this was something Jared and I had decided awhile ago – with us about to have our third child, and with our decision to homeschool our children, it was just time for me to move on and put all of my focus on our family.

Our house will have been on the market for a year this month.  We’ve had maybe 10 showings all year and zero offers, although the market has been pretty good for houses in our neighborhood.  Three houses in our little neighborhood, similar to ours and in the same price range, have sold in the past few months.

The reason we put our house on the market to begin with is because of my husband’s job – it’s about an hour and 15 minutes from our house.  He drove that drive all of last school year.  I’m not a fan of that, of course.  It’s two and a half hours of driving everyday, which is two and a half hours away from us and more gas money than I would prefer to spend. 

Honestly, I just knew that once the school year was over in May, he wouldn’t have to drive it ever again.  We would either sell our house and move closer to his job, or he would find another teaching job closer to where we live.  Neither happened. 

Plus, I’ll be 35 weeks pregnant tomorrow and I may or may not be a little tired and hormonal.


I’ve been reading about David in my Bible.  I downloaded a chronological Bible reading plan and have been slowly going through it.  It’s actually a plan to read through the Bible in a year, but that ain’t happenin’.  First, there are several chapters to be read on most of the days, and I just don’t like to move that quickly.  I don’t think it’s a good thing to rush when we’re reading the Bible.  We need to move slowly and allow time to meditate and reflect.

Second, I actually don’t read my Bible everyday.  Like today.  Sometimes I need to stop and quit cramming in more and more and, like I said above, take time to meditate and reflect and pray about what I’ve been reading.  Or not necessarily what I’ve been reading, but what’s going on in my life, or just about God in general. 

Today I’m meditating and reflecting (and praying, of course) about all of the above.

I like the Bible reading plan because 1) it’s chronological, and 2) it weaves the Psalms in and out of the readings about the life of David.  And that’s where I’m currently at right now – 2 Samuel and Psalms. 

Now, what I’m about to say is nothing really deep or profound or new.  It’s been said before.  Really, most of what we read or talk about probably isn’t original.  Someone else somewhere at some time has most likely said it before us. 

Anyway, about David.  He was a man after God’s own heart.  He was God’s anointed one, chosen to be Israel’s king.  He was full of faith and trust in God, and love for Him.  Reading the Psalms that he wrote, his faith seemed to be unwavering.

But, David was flawed.  He made mistakes.  And, even though he was chosen to lead God’s people, his life was not perfect.  Things didn’t go the way he would have preferred, I’m sure. 

“Look on my right hand and see,
For there is no one who acknowledges me;
Refuge has failed me;
No one cares for my soul…

Attend to my cry,
For I am brought very low…
Bring my soul out of prison…”
(Psalm 142:4,6)

David was still human and felt human emotions; he had moments of feeling overwhelmed and low in spirit.  But he didn’t try to hide it and put on a happy face and pretend that everything was great and wonderful all the time.  He acknowledged his feelings before God. 

And that’s okay for us, too.  I know I have a tendency to feel like there’s something wrong with me when I feel low or like things just aren’t working out.  I feel like I don’t have enough faith or something.  But that’s just life.  We’re fallen and we live in a fallen world.  We’re not perfect and we won’t always feel perfect because we’re human.

David’s reign wasn’t easy, either.  He had enemies who pursued him and his life was in jeopardy on many occasions.  We probably don’t have enemies pursuing us, trying to kill us, but we do have our own struggles and difficulties.

“My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.”
(Psalm 62:5-8)

But, like David, full of imperfections and difficulties in our lives, we must turn to God.  We must trust in God and believe that He is our strength.  He is with us.  He will take care of us.

“Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me.”
(Psalm 142:7)

To me, this is enlightening.  David asks God to revive his soul and then what will he do?  He will praise God.  Do we do that last part?  (And when I say we, I’m really asking myself that question.)  Do I acknowledge what God has done for me? 

And then the last of the verse:  “The righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me.”  What faith David has.  He trusts in God’s eventual goodness toward him.  We must trust that it will be okay.  God is faithful.  He will not abandon us.

“Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
(Psalm 61:1-2)

In the Psalms, we see how in all circumstances, David comes to God in prayer.  He is constantly seeking God because he knows that God is his source of comfort and strength.  David writes over and over again about trusting in God.  About the goodness of God.  About remembering and meditating on what God has already done for us and for His people.  About being thankful and praising Him at all times, even in the midst of struggles.


Things don't seem to be going all that well at the moment.  But it will be okay.  We have much to be thankful for.  Family who is willing to help when needed.  Little blessings - aka happy, healthy children.  Enough food to eat.  A husband's job to support us.  Love.  Time spent together.  Savings accounts :)  And many other things.

We have much to praise God for.  We've had struggles in the past, but God has always taken care of us, in many different ways.

Although it's not always easy, I know that it will be okay.

Look at these blessings...aren't they precious!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

{Year one reflections} - five weeks in

Wow, we have already finished five weeks of Izzy's first grade (year one) year!  Time sure does fly.

I think I explained in a previous post, but we began early mainly because baby girl #3 is due in September and I wanted to get some school time IN before I take some time OFF to care for a newborn.  That way we won't be too terribly behind.

Anyway, here are some of my ramblings reflections of these first five weeks:

Circle/Morning Time

Circle time has been going pretty well.  We're doing this during/right after breakfast (I eat faster than my kids, so they're usually still eating or finishing up when I begin circle time stuff).  I like doing this at breakfast - it's like killing two birds with one stone, which gives us more time the rest of the day to play and whatnot.  Circle time has not been taking very long - it's short and sweet :)  Bible reading, memory work, poetry, and maybe a read-aloud is all we do, and it takes about 20-30 minutes.


We've been doing Spanish at lunch, which has been going well.  Again, mouths full!  Addy has been catching on just as much as Izzy (6).  It's been really easy to do it during lunch because two times per week we just learn some vocabulary and it's purely conversational, and the other two times per week we watch a video - either a Salsa video or a Spanish song video.

*As I wrote this, Addy just got in the shower and yelled, "Muy caliente!"  LOL, she cracks me up.

Memory Work

Something that wasn't going well at first was our memory work (during circle time).  I originally took the suggestions from Charlotte Mason Help (CMH) to have Izzy memorize one poem, one Psalm, one scripture passage, two hymns, and two folksongs, per term.  But then I just couldn't decide on a scripture passage.  So instead, I opted for Simply Charlotte Mason's scripture memory verse pack.

So based on reading about others' memory work routine, plus CMH's suggestions, we were doing something like this:
Monday - Scripture, Psalm
Tuesday - Scripture, Poem
Wednesday - Scripture, Psalm
Thursday - Scripture, Poem

Plus, we were listening to our hymn twice per week and our folksong twice per week (during lunch, which, paired with Spanish, made lunchtime feel a little chaotic, to be honest.)  So all-in-all that meant three (3!) memory-type things we were working on everyday.

No wonder I didn't feel that it was going well!  It was just too much and felt more like drudgery than anything else.

I looked around on the AO forums and came across this link, which contains the PNEU curriculum for each year.  When you click on the year you need, it gives an outline of what the children learned for each subject area.  For year one, the students memorized one Bible passage (a Psalm), one poem, and two hymns per term.  That's it!  (I remember reading somewhere on this blog about how folksongs were not part of the curriculum back then because they were probably sung quite often in everyday life.)

Then, when you look at the PNEU schedules, memory work was only done for 10 minutes, three times per week in form I (years 1-3).  Oh, what a relief!

Now our memory work routine looks like this and lasts no more than 10 minutes each day:
Monday - Hymn
Tuesday - Poem
Wednesday - Folksong
Thursday - Psalm

As you can see, I have four days of memory work on our schedule instead of three, but that's because I added one for the folksong.

Much better.  And the girls (I say girls because Addy has learned the memory work, too, even though I don't require it of her, of course) are still learning everything just fine.

Burgess, Paddle, and CM's Elementary Geography

My original plan was to read all of the Burgess Bird Book, spread throughout the year; all of Paddle to the Sea in the first term; and then in Paddle's place, read all of CM's Elementary Geography (which would require two readings per week) in terms two and three.

Again, too much.

*Note to self:  trust the AO schedule!

It felt like I was just cramming in as much as possible and for what reason?  For example, I doubt my kids will be better off if I require them to read and narrate the whole Bird book rather than what's recommended.  So I went back to what AO suggests:  we read the first two chapters of Burgess Bird, then I've been choosing chapters about birds in our area.  It feels so freeing.

I'm also going back to the original Paddle to the Sea schedule, and only adding the recommended sections of CM's Geography and/or Long's Geography.  Again, freeing.

*One more time:  trust the AO schedule!

Weekly Schedule

I've also already changed the format of our weekly schedule (and our daily routine in general!  Actually the daily routine is still up in the air - summertime activities will do that :) ).  I figured out that I really need to have a specific plan for each day.  For example, I need to see on a schedule that our drawing lesson will be on Mondays.  That way I know that we had better make time for a drawing lesson on Monday.  Period.  Because so far, just saying that I'll fit it in some afternoon when we have time = it probably won't get done.  (And it didn't the first two weeks.  And it hasn't the last two weeks.  Drawing fail.)

Also, it's been helpful to assign certain readings to certain days.  Again, I know exactly what we should accomplish that day, plus I can pair a longer reading with a shorter reading so it doesn't seem like we're cramming in too much in one day.

AND, I've figured out that the lessons go much better if we do not try to do them all in one block.  Izzy and I both do better if we do two or three subjects, take a break, then resume lessons later.


Izzy has been doing pretty well with her narrations.  At least I think so - I am just as new at this as she is!  I don't recall her giving me an "I don't know" yet, and she usually gives me a few sentences.  Here are a few things that have helped:

  • The first week we took turns narrating for pretty much every single reading.  Now, we take turns on the longer or more difficult readings like Parables from Nature.
  • I've broken up all of the readings, except for the really short Aesop readings.  This means that I've been reading a couple of paragraphs, then I stop and let Izzy narrate, then I read a couple more paragraphs, then Izzy narrates, etc.  I usually stop after 15, maybe 20 minutes of total reading/narrating time (a timer has helped here).  Of course, this means that some of the readings are taking longer than anticipated, but that's okay.  I think it took us 5 or 6 separate readings (spread over two weeks) to get through Beauty and the Beast, for example. 
  • These two videos were really helpful for me in understanding how narration should look:  video 1 and video 2.
What I still need to figure out
  • A "normal" (is there such a thing?) daily routine.  But then once I (maybe) figure that out, it'll be blown to bits when baby #3 arrives, HA.
  • How to give Addy the attention she needs.  She's been acting out a little lately and I think it's because she knows I'm spending a lot of time with Izzy.  There are days when she wants to do "school stuff," too, which has resulted in my scrambling to find something for her to do.  We have plenty of puzzles, drawing supplies, pattern blocks, magnets, etc, but she knows that's not the same thing :)
  • When to begin Izzy's music lessons (and she's beginning with a recorder), and where to fit them in during the day.  Music fail :(
  • How to make myself sit the girls down for drawing lessons more than once every five weeks.  Another fail.
  • And we haven't been very consistent with nature journaling, either.  We've at least gone on plenty of walks and talked about nature things pretty regularly, so nature study in general hasn't been a complete failure.
  • I'm sure there's something I'm not thinking of at the moment.
  • Oh yeah!  Actually, Spanish has not been consistent the last two weeks because our computer crashed!  As a result, we're having to use Jared's super old, super slow, non-wireless computer, which means we haven't been able to watch the Salsa or Youtube videos at lunch because the computer is hooked up in the living room.  I guess we could just move lunch to the living room floor on those days.  Yes.  We should do that.  And then the girls can vacuum.


There's more I could write about, but for now I think I'll stop there!