Wow. A year has passed.

I started this blog last year with the best intentions, really I did.  
But last year kinda bullied me into submission.  I barely finished school with the boys, 
Gracie is now officially 'done', having taken her SAT and soon the GED.  
Jason is in private school now, having come here thru March.

As I contemplated a new year, I decided I needed to SIMPLIFY both my day and the boys' day.  In the spring I looked into Time 4 Learning, an online curriculum, and decided that was the way to go.  

Then the siren song of Sonlight, Michael Clay Thompson, and other big-promising, guilt-inducing, teacher-intensive programs snagged the attention of my squirrel brain.  
We began in earnest this week, and yesterday hit a wall.  


Some things that became crystal clear by 10 am:
1) My boys don't like me teaching them.
2)  My boys don't like school
3)  I'm pretty lazy and unorganized
4)  I'm kinda over homeschooling
5)  They love the computer  (ding ding ding!)

With that last realization, I took a nap.  
When I awoke, I grabbed my credit card then signed up for Time 4 Learning.

Cheesy Ed Mouse made me happy.  
I like happy.

I suppose I could choose to feel like a 'less-than' homeschool mom, 
but I actually don't really give a crap at this point.  
It's either let them do school online, or send them back to school 
(which has a plethora of other issues I don't have energy to cope with in this season of life.) 
 I won't bore you with the stress I've been under this last year, but suffice it to say, I need to streamline and de-stress as much as possible.  

I'm hoping this new online learning stuff will free up my time and energy enough 
that I won't burn out as quickly, 
and I might even get to do stuff I've always wanted to do with the kids but never got around to doing (reading great books together, joining some clubs and co-ops, etc.)

Of course I'll be writing up a review of how Time 4 Learning is working for us as we get into using it more. 

And so, with that, I'll sign off and oversee the chores my boys are currently avoiding.


Recess. A homeschool mom's sanity-saver.

Our pool is taken down now, but I wanted to share what we do for recess when the weather is warm :)  We take an hour and a half break...from 11:30-1:00 for lunch, some kind of physical activity, and free time (which means rounds of Little Big Planet).  I can't tell you what a difference this has made in our day.  The kids work from 8:30-ish straight thru 11:30, so they're ready for a nice break.  When we get back at it, they work hard for another couple hours.  It makes the day go fast, but there's a lot less cranky whining. :)  Here's what I do while they swam....

It really helps to have an extended period of time with no schooling responsibilities.  I can check email, blog, take a quick rest, finish projects, or shower (yes, I school the kids in jammies or stinky sweats most days).....it's great motivation to finish morning work knowing we have a decent chunk of time to chill out.

In other news, my daughter who was beginning her junior year at the local public school has decided to come back home.  So we're scrambling to get curriculum together for her.  She's basically focusing on SAT prep using Grueber's, but I'm also having her do English Comp and Lit, American History, and Algebra 2.  It's been quite a change to go from just one last year to four....but it keeps my life exciting.

I've also tweaked our curriculum a bit more, and our daily schedule is now a comfortable routine.  And since we've added another kiddo to the homeschool mix, we've retrofitted (neato word, eh) our dining room into another school room/office.  It looks more like a computer lab, but we're still finishing it up.  When the makeover is finished, I'll share more about it.  I'll leave you with a bit of footage....


Well, I kinda left you hangin' with that last one, eh?

We've completed our first week since Jason joined us, and believe it not, I lived to tell the tale.  I ended up using The Alpha Omega Lifepacs for Spanish and Science.  The L.Arts and History Geography are currently for sale :)  So here's what he's doing, for those interested in a 10th grade curriculum:
~Life of Fred Geometry
~Key to Algebra (for review)
~Fallacy Detective
~SAT Words in Pictures
~AO Science (Physical Science)
~AO Spanish 1
~History of the Medieval World (also used for outlining and summary writing)
~National Geographic Family Atlas, Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World, and the DK History of the World
~Well-Trained Mind Literature selections and discussion/writing (currently Beowulf, listening to the audio and following along in the translation by Seamus Heaney)
~Voyage Level language arts from Michael Clay Thompson: includes grammar, poetics, writing, and vocabulary study
~PE once a week
~60 minutes of free reading in a book of his choice daily

We're still finding a routine that works, but I'm pretty confident will get our groove on by the end of the week.  Basically, I check with Jason first thing on what he did the day before, get him set with morning independent work, then head to the school room with the boys.  We take an 90 minute lunch, free time, exercise break at 11:30.  Then I do a bit of history with the boys, while Jason does history independently.  Lastly I do Lit and Language Arts with Jason before he leaves for the day.

None of our work is taking longer than I expected, so time-wise we're good.  I'll get links and some pictures up later in the week, but now I gotta get back to school!


The Panic sets in.

My high school student, Jason, will arrive next Monday for his first day of school.  You'll remember that I've been doing bits of school with my own 2 this summer, but next week I'll be juggling all three.

I received my Rainbow order last week, but due to the crazy stuff happening around here (moving 2nd dd into her new apartment), I'd not had time to really dig into it.  Well, last night I did.  It was bad.  Very bad....

I had decided most of Jason's curriculum should be self-teaching since he'll only be with me 3 days a week.  I'd looked into several programs, but decided on Alpha Omega Lifepacs for LA, History/Geography, Spanish, and Science.  I poked my nose into them last night, all ready with sharpened pencil and planbook in hand, and had a panic attack.  These will. not. work.  Not for him, not for me.  FAIL.  I just am not mean enough to make him sit and do these worktexts.  Back to Rainbow they go, leaving me scrambling for ideas on what to use with him.

I need to find a writing program, with a bit of grammar review.  I need to find a history program, though I'm leaning towards using SWB's history stuff with him.  I need to plan literature study.  I have no clue what to use for science.  Not a freaking clue.

So, we're in panic mode.  Here's what I'm considering:
Meaningful Composition: straightforward, hand-holding writing instruction.  Cheap.  Downside for us, it's extremely Christian. 
MCT Essay Voyage and Grammar/Practice Voyage.  Not sure he can do much of this alone....
The Lost Tools of Writing: would love to get my hands on this, but the cost is prohibitive. 

History....just having him plug away in SWB's The History of the Medieval World, using 8th grade logic recs for studying history in TWTM until he's comfy with outlining, summary writing, and timelining. 

Literature...same as above, using period literature and the questions from TWTM. 

Science....I give.  No direction whatsoever.  After having fits with Apologia Biology last year, I dread handing him another Wile book.  Oh help.

I've been stalking the forums, trying to devise a new plan, but I'm just overwhelmed at this point. 

At least the other stuff seems to be ok: Fallacy Detective, Life of Fred Geometry and Keys to Algebra, and Picture This SAT Word.  All seem doable.  I suppose I can start him with those at least.



A bit o' my philosophy. Such a big word.

I get emails quite a bit from readers or friends who want to pick my brain about how I homeschool.  I recently had a couple gals just starting out (one with little ones and one with kids coming back from public school) and I thought I'd make my replies a post here for others. Expanded even.  Oh joy.
Basically, my approach to curriculum and teaching is  

Less is more.

I enjoy doing school stuff with the boys, but I don't want to spend the entire day with our nose in school books.  I start with the minimum I think it will take, and see how the kids respond to it.  If I can't clarify or extend what a book is trying to teach (if it needs it), I look for a quick supplement.  This doesn't happen very often. Most of the time it's simply a case of the student's brain not ready to grasp the concept.  In other words, try again later.  Months later. 

There are so many great materials out there, but none of them will work if you don't have the time to teach them, kids who don't want to learn them, or are READY to learn them.  It's sooooo hard not to want to buy everything out there that gets raves, but my mantra thru the years has been:

Don't let the good crowd out the best.

....and my best is the book that gets used. Even if it's a Walmart summer math workbook. (BTW, this mantra applies to all areas of my life). Some kids really dig workbooks or science encyclopedias or brain puzzlers....make sure they have time to explore what they're into.  Our family uses the Classical model as a framework, but I'm telling you right now, we won't be spending an hour on grammar in 5th grade.  And no Latin declensions.  Now, if one of my sons got it into their head they wanted to learn said declensions, then boy howdy I'm all over it.  I'm just not counting on it. 

And I'm sure we all know this, but it bears repeating because we homeschool moms are thickheaded:

There is no such thing as 'the' perfect curriculum.

The best we can do is plan our goals for the kids (in pencil), watch for where they struggle, teach to their learning style, and be patient. Don't push....encourage. Try stuff and be willing to put it aside for awhile.  Don't go buy something else.  I know we all know these things, but it's hard to just trust our kids' brain development.  I mean, I have an 11 year old doing WWE 2!  He's JUST learning not to holler at me when I encourage him to copy 4 sentences.  But he's creative and verbally articulate.  I trust the tortoise will win in the end. :)  So he plays LEGOs for hours a day while listening thru the Harry Potter audios for the 3rd time.  Big fat hairy deal.  We get in our 90 minutes of 'school', then the day is his within some set boundaries (30 minutes only on video games, for example). 

Enjoy this journey.  Let your kids show you how they learn, and find materials that fit that.  For instance, WWE and MCT have been great, but with my olders, Rod and Staff, LLATL and Easy Grammar also worked.  They all work.....you just find the ones that make sense to you and your kids and go for it.  No one needs 4 writing or math or science curricula unless they WANT them.  BTW, this isn't a popular view on some forums.  I just know what has worked and what didn't work with my own.

There is certainly something to be said for structure, crossing t's and dotting i's.....just don't let someone else's timeline (be they an 'expert' or just a mouthy poster on a homeschool forum) supercede your mothering intuition.  In classical circles, it's easy to feel like your kid will forever be scarred in life because they can't seem to tell the difference between a noun and verb before 3rd grade.....or that they haven't read Shakespeare by 6th grade.  Pshaw.  One of my complaints about our culture is that we assume kids need to experience everything before they're 18....and yes, it's fine to expose our kids to stuff like classical music or fine art or karate or soccer or Little Debbie Oatmeal Cakes....but to become proficients in all that stuff before 18 is well, dumb.  Give them a taste, encourage maybe a second try, then let it lie.

Know thyself and thy limits.  

And quick kicking yourself.  You already win just for choosing to homeschool. 

I must pause here to tell you I've been reading quite a bit on unschooling forums due to my Ben's right-brained learning style.  I find there is much to be gleaned from such a learning environment.  I'll be incorporating some ideas into our homeschool lifestyle...still within the framework of a classical model.  Should be interesting....might need to stock up on some transfat.

Well, that was rambly.  Let me know if I need to clarify something....after 12 years at this, I'm still finding my footing as each kid presents new challenges to my status quo.