January 27, 2007

New Homeschool Coop Classes

Our homeschool cooperative is about to start up again for the spring semester. We are excited for our classes both the ones the kids are taking and the ones I am teaching. Ciaran and Sirah will be in their age group for Five in a Row type classes. First hour they study a book and do activities and lessons based on the book. Second hour they do crafts and music and snack time. Third hour is organized games and free playtime.

Rhiannon is taking a science experiments class, a physical education class and the On the Banks of Plum Creek Little House class I will be teaching.

I am co-teaching her Plum Creek class. We will learn about the time period and lessons from the book. I am using the Prairie Primer as a basis for lessons and supplementing with other resources I have and got from the library. We will have food and music each class as well as craft time. For the main craft we will have the kids work on sewing their own 9 patch quilt. At the end of the session they should have that finished and we may do some other small prairie crafts.

My other class is a research class for 7th-10th graders. I will cover a brief introduction to research. Some of the things we will cover are proper citations and bibliographies, finding resources in the library and online, primary and secondary sources, credibility and bias in sources, organizing your research, narrowing and widening your topic as needed, drawing conclusions from research, putting it into a paper or position, the importance of context in research and critically evaluating research and resources. I am excited for the class.

Keep an eye out for future lesson plans on these topics.

January 26, 2007

Sledding Day

Taking advantage of the fabulous weather yesterday we spent nearly the whole day sledding - knowing that the cold was coming. It was great fun. In the morning we went to a small playgroup for homeschool families with younger kids. Rhiannon and Ciaran went outside and spent the morning sledding, snowboarding and enjoying the snow for a solid two hours. Then we headed back to the house for lunch and to dry out clothes.

We then joined many families from our support group on a nearby big sledding hill. I would estimate we had well over 50 kids there in varying ages. Sirah was among the youngest actually sledding (though there were babies being held) and I think we had quite a few teenagers in the mix as well. It was a great time, no terrible injuries though a few scraps and bumps and heart stopping moments.

Sirah was as happy as could be as she had an entourage of girls in the 9-14 year old range who were all too happy to take turns sledding her down the hill and walking back up with her. Ciaran started sledding the moment we arrived and stopped begrudgingly when I said he needed to leave two hours later. Rhiannon also enjoyed herself with a group of friends until she literally flipped off and over her sled landing on her back - she is ok but was ready to stop for some hot cocoa at that point and some warming up in the nearby building.

It was fun to see all these kids enjoying the sledding hill on an otherwise quiet afternoon with no one around. It was perfect weather as we are back indoors today with single digits and negative wind chills. The kids slept well and had a great day. So did I. I got to spend the whole day chatting with my friends!

January 24, 2007

Q and A: Homeschool Methods

Hi Tenniel,

Thanks for opening up your blog for questions. I was home-schooled from 1st to 8th grade and loved it, and I plan to homeschool my daughter (and other future children) who is now 18 months. I enjoy reading about your blend of CM and classical education approaches; those are the two that appeal to me the most. My question is: how do those two philosophies impact your curriculum and daily activities with your children. How do you establish good CM and Classical patterns with young children? What books to you recommend on these philosophies?

Ok, I guess it was more than one question! Thanks for your input.


Hi Lindsay thanks for your question and glad to hear you liked homeschooling and want to do it yourself. Good luck in your journey.

It is true that the two philosophies that most closely match our schooling style are Classical Education and Charlotte Mason's approach. I would not say we are identical to either style but rather have found meaningful and useful approaches to education from both. We have taken what we liked and left the rest behind. A family who follows closely one method may not consider our approach to be the same because it is not.

Your question is straightforward and should be easy to answer but I am not quite sure how to approach it so be patient with me and hopefully in the end it will all make sense.

Both Serona and I believe in the end goals of both approaches and wanted to blend the best of both parts. There were downsides to both approaches as well and I was not sure how well they would blend or if we were taking on too much to try to do both. In the end so far we feel like we have done a nice job blending them.

Classical education is based off the trivium. There are many articles and books written on the subject. Here is a brief summary that I found online:

On the first level, which we call the Grammar level, the child learns the basic facts and the fundamental rules. In English, this would include phonics, vocabulary, and spelling rules. In mathematics, the number system, math facts, and measurements. In history, this would include such things as the story part of history, including names, places, and dates.

On the second level, which we call the Logic level, the child learns to comprehend the way these facts fit together. In English, this would include the parts of speech and the construction of sentences. In mathematics, the proofs of algebra or geometry. In history, the reasons for wars, migrations, or inventions.

On the third level, which we call the Rhetoric level, the child learns to express and practice what he has learned. Essays, compositions, and public speaking are applications of English study. Surveying, accounting, and engineering are all applications of mathematical study. Developing views in politics, economics, religion, or science are applications of historical study.

I really believe that a child learns this way and understand the value of approaching an overall education for an individual this way. I like the end result and how this pedagogical approach has lasted throughout the years even before we knew that is what it was. Having studied philosophy, logic and rhetoric I have special appreciation for this style. Classical education has influenced our schooling in providing the overall goals and arc for our education style. We also typically choose classical styled texts and curriculums.

The absolute best reference IMHO for this is The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It can be overwhelming and intimidating but it is an excellent resource and thoroughly explains the approach, the reasons for it and year by year and overall stage by stage approaches. They give wonderful curriculum ideas as well. This is one of two books that most influenced our homeschooling approaches. They also have a useful website with fun message boards.

What nearly turned me from the WTM and Classical Education was the intensity of their schedule and expectations of a young child. While they encourage reading it was not a love of reading I felt. They also are so focused on the arts and math that I felt the arts get overlooked and ignored more. I was concerned we would not be developing "whole people". That is where Charlotte Mason comes in.

While the original CM series is wonderful the book that most influenced me and turned me to her was The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Even the pictures in this book express a sense of what I want for my family and my children's lives and education. Charlotte Mason developed whole people. Her concept of whole books is one I had already come to on my own from the time they were little so she was speaking to my heart.

The parts of Charlotte Mason that we have adopted are the use of whole books and living history, the appreciation for nature and use of nature journals, the love and appreciation for the finer arts music composer and picture study, poetry for young children, and short lessons with afternoons free.

Where Classical Education sets the overall arc and approach to our families education Charlotte Mason sets the tone, timing and flow of our education and whole person development. Charlotte Mason reminds me to slow down, breath and enjoy and Classical reminds me to be serious and challenging and assume the children can do what is set before them. Charlotte Mason reminds me of the beauty I want my children to appreciate and develop and Classical reminds me of the knowledge and wisdom I want them to obtain. Those are big generalizations and one does not lack the other but rather chose to emphasize different aspects more.

So how does it look in our home at the young grades? We are only in the grammar stage here so far. We focus on language arts, memorizing facts of grammar, spelling and phonics, we read a lot, we study the story arc of history and supplement with whole books on the topics, we memorize basic math facts and keep nature journals, we listen to classical composers and look at works of art from great artists. We do NOT do all of these things every day. We stick to short lessons and try to be done before lunch (other than reading and handiwork or craft projects).

I try to remember that we are developing whole people and what the end result is. Still we try not to sacrifice the knowledge we want to pour into them now. Right now I really believe Rhiannon and Ciaran are like sponges happy to soak it all up and seem to have an endless appetite for knowledge they want and at least a quick memorization of that which they are not as interested in.

I look at education now as hanging signposts with labels and just a bit of information so when they hear it again in a few years they can find that post in their brain and pile the new information on top of what they already know instead of starting from scratch again. But that is my interpretation of both philosophies and what we have chosen to take from each. Everyone will read them different and different aspects will resonate with them.

In the end remember you need to find the approach that works best for your family. For ours a blending of these two styles we really like works wonderful so far. But we blend it in a way that others may not. We have really just found what works for us and done it. It was hard for me to write this because we did not really think about how we were going to do this, we just researched and started and found out what worked for us. Then one day I realized it really is a blend of these two styles. The two books I reread each summer are the Well Trained Mind and the Charlotte Mason Companion to refresh me and give me vision again for the new year.

The patterns development just came for us. The only real pattern we started with was reading. We go to the library weekly if not more. I leave with more books than I think I can carry in my big bag each time. But even when they were little 3 and 4 those books included almost as many easy non-fiction as storybooks. This started a habit of reading "whole books" for us as easy non-fiction readers are typically about one subject. Each time we read the kids could pick out of a selected group of books which usually meant atleast one non-fiction book was being read each time. Soon they saw them the same and would pick them for themselves. This also established a love of reading and a natural value of books.

The classical patterns I guess just come the same any school ones do - just by doing them regularly and with consistency. We kept the lessons short - 5 minutes in the beginning to up to 30 minutes now for certain things like math. Picture studies I just bought a big calendar and left it open to a picture and let them look when they wanted then we started talking about it (which reminds me I have not done this for awhile and should again) classical music we listened to at meal time or craft time or quiet time with consistency. Not sure how else to answer the patterns question.

Hope that helps in some way.

January 23, 2007

Q and A: Planning Lessons and Blogging

We are a homeschool family working through our second year of homeschooling (previously, oldest was in private and public school). I was amazed by how many interesting activities and lessons you have done with your children and wondered how you find time to plan for these activities and then write about them afterwards? We have similarly aged children (9 y.o. son, 5 y.o. son and 3 y.o. daughter).

Thanks for any insight you can share. I'm still learning to balance our day and find time to plan. We are using Konos, which has lots of hands on activities and takes quite a bit of planning and prep work compared to other canned curriculums.

I will start this whole post with a reminder that what you read here is not what EVERY day is like. You are reading our best moments and the things we treasure and want to share. I bet if anyone reading this kept a log like I do you would find that you do as many interesting activities and lessons (if not more) you just might have never put them all in one place to look at like I do.

I will also be honest most of our best lessons are impromptu and not planned fully through. They just seem to happen spontaneously and the one thing I do is allow them to happen and just go with the flow when they occur. I am a quick researcher so it is easy enough for me to pull something together when they show interest. The internet makes this very easy to do. Doing an activity based on the child's interest and desire is what makes it fun and work.

Sometimes I plan enough ahead to simply have the resources around the house I will need so they are here when I want them. For example if we are coming up on the Middle Ages in the history text about a week or so ahead of time I try to get to the library and check out a bunch of interesting books including some craft and activity books so if they are interested we have things to pull from right away. Sometimes I just use google to pull up other people's lessons and then modify them the way they need to be for my kids and our lesson.

There are of course exceptions such as my major lesson plans. I typically do these for classes I am teaching at the cooperative so it is not just for my few kids and I know they are receiving that much effort and time from other parents in the other classes they are taking. Most of my very involved book lesson plans are a result of a cooperative class (such as the American girl and preschool picture books) and I do put time into those. Often though I am not alone in the planning and execution of these classes and that makes a difference.

Field trips and outings are a passion of mine for my children and for other children so I do not mind doing them - they are fun for me to organize and I find them worth my time. I typically try to extend on a field trip at home with related activities. But again this is usually checking something out of the library or the result of about 5 minutes on google.

Also I do pull quite a bit from our curriculum itself. I love the Story of the World series for history and it gives me a lot of great ideas, more typically then I will do. Our science curriculum offers a lot of interesting activities and ideas as well. The rest of our curriculum is rather straightforward and easy to execute with little to no prep work for me. This means that I have a lot of time to spend on areas that I feel need more work to bring to life (namely history and science).

Children remember those subjects through experience and activity so I try to do a lot of that and our language arts, math, handwriting, spelling, grammar are all pretty boring and dry. But they are also straightforward.

You also need to know yourself and your kids and see if your style and curriculum choices fit well. I know I don't work well with a curriculum that require a lot of planning all the time, I would be setting myself up for failure. Because I have learned the best activities for us are the ones that at least one member of the family is passionate and interested in (whether it be my children or myself). I save my planning time for those whenever possible and then the energy is high and the rewards are great. Of course sometimes I have to put planning into something just because it is important and as they get older I imagine that will be true all the more. But for now whenever possible I try to really put effort into areas with the greatest reward. We are also classically styled in school so I don't worry about making EVERYTHING interesting, some of it they just have to accept they have to learn because they do whether or not it is interesting or boring.

From what little I know about Konos is it a high prep time, intensive planning curriculum but it has a lot of great activities in it so you probably are doing a lot already. If you feel you want more time for something you may need to cut planning time in other areas. But my first suggestions would be to write a TaDa list (instead of a To Do) acknowledging all the things you did. Just brief at the end of the day - you may be amazed at all that is going on that you simply were not recognizing before.

That is what blogging does for me. It allows me a space to keep track of all that we have done for me to look back on those days when I need a reminder of what to do, what it is all about or just some inspiration. It acts as a record for my kids to see all the fun things we did growing up and for my family to see (from all around the country) what we do in homeschooling and our lives. I don't spend a lot of time (ok probably more than I should) but I am a fast typer and I dpn't edit or spend a lot of time pondering over what I write. I just sit down, type and press post, for better or worse.

I used to do it at night, and not every day. Lately I have been doing it more in the morning because I have found my kids get along and really like each other early in the morning and want to spend time together and they don't mind if I am on the computer then. Sometimes I just start a post and leave it until I have time to get back to it - like this one.

Speaking of which it is time for me to end this post and get going on our day here. Remember to be gentle on yourself and to enjoy school and your kids. I am sure you are already doing many many wonderful and interesting things all together sometimes we just need to stop and recognize that.


January 22, 2007

Book Meme

I rarely do these, but since this person is a good friend, I will - I have been tagged by Lorraine. She also chose Narnia, one of my favorites. So here is my book. Unfortunately while you caught me I was cataloging our library and in Serona's philosophy section. I have read this book too (well atleast parts of it).

Find the nearest book
Open to page 123
Type lines 6-8 of said book
Tag three others

"Since it is evident that one cannot demonstrate anything except from its own principles if what is being proved belongs to it as that thing, understanding is not this - if a thing is proved from what is true and non-demonstrable and immediate. (For one can conduct a proof in this way - as Bryson proved the squaring of the circle.) For such arguments prove in virtue of a common feature which will also belong to something else; that is why the arguments also apply to other things not of the same kind. So you do not understand it as that thing but accidentally, for otherwise the demonstration would not apply to another genus too.

We understand a thing non-accidentally when we know it in virtue of that in virtue of which it belongs, from the principles of that thing as that thing - e.g. we understand having angles equal to two right angles when we know it in virtue of that to which what has been said belongs in itself, from the principles of that thing. Hence if that too belongs in itself to what it belongs to, it is necessary for the middle to be in the same genus."

Could this author use longer sentences? Okay, ANYONE know who that is? Beuller? Beuller? Come on I gave you a clue it is in Serona's philosophy collection and interesting enough for me to read. Anyone? Anyone? I will be VERY impressed if you figure this out WITHOUT google.

I tag - Socal, annointed and Jen from Little Homeschool.

January 21, 2007

Rhiannon's Fairy Book

This is a book that Rhiannon made with a friend who came over for a playdate. They wrote everything themselves and picked out pictures to photocopy, cut and paste onto their layout. They also colored several of the pictures and hand wrote the cover and facts. It was a fun project to be a part of and they had a great time doing it.

January 19, 2007

Q and A: Support Groups Big or Small?

I have a question about co-ops. We actually belong to a small, 4 family co-op that we love. But, we're moving soon and they have a very large co-op where we are moving to. It sounds like from your posts that your co-op is large. May I ask what you like and dislike about it? Have you ever been part of a small co-op and if so, what did you like and dislike about that?

Hi Jen! Good luck with your move. We have moved so many times I know it can be challenging but there are many blessings that come with it too. Over the years we have been part of several different sized coops and homeschool groups. As you guessed there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

When we first started we meet once a week with two other families and did preschool type activities. At the time I did not think of it as a coop or support group but now looking back these lovely ladies helped me gain my confidence as a homeschool parent and helped me realize the joy and that I would not need to do it all alone. We were just three friends who had similar aged children who decided to get together for the kids and plan activities, nothing extremely formal and it was preschool time anyway. We loved this group because we were friends first but this is not typical.

We started looking around for a support group for when she got older because I knew it was important to have that in place early so when I needed the help and support it was already there and so I had people I could learn from and go to with my questions.
Since then we have formally been part of three support groups or cooperatives. One medium sized, one small and one very large. We spent about two years with the small group and now a year and a half with the big group.

I will try to be objective but will be upfront in saying that my perceptions of small and big groups are obviously very influenced by our experiences with our support groups, since that is what I can draw from. There are wonderful small and big groups and there are lousy small and big groups. Many of the advantages and disadvantages are similar to the benefits and challenges of going to a big school or a small school, or a big church versus a small church. The short answer is big groups offer more flexibility and options but are intimidating and sometimes overwhelming and small groups offer more intimacy but are very limiting.

For our family there is absolutely no question that the group we are with now is the best group for us and I love being part of a big group. The advantages of a big group are primarily in opportunity. With more families to choose from you have more opportunity for friendships to develop for both you and your children. You have more opportunity for meeting like minded people. You have more opportunity for finding answers to your questions and support for your needs. Typically a big group offers more opportunities for field trips, classes and other organized activities. A well run big support group is also very organized. A big group offers the opportunity to create smaller groups of friends and to have different friends for different things. A big group can do certain things that a smaller group can not. For example I have not yet come across a field trip we could not do because our numbers can be small or very large. One of the most valuable assets of a big group is families with children of wide age ranges and parents who are veterans, are in the thick of it, are in your stage, and are just starting out. A big group offers a lot of flexibility.

The downsides to a big group is it can be intimidating and difficult to become part of the activities. Big support groups are like big churches, they can be great or they can not be. You have to be the kind of person who can just jump in and get involved in smaller activities right away. You typically need to take much more initiative with a big group and get yourself and your children involved. There can be a less welcoming environment (though there does not need to be) and it can be really intimidating to some people, both parents and children. When faced with a large group you can feel overwhelmed and like everyone else knows each other and you will never get to know everyone and be part of everything. A big group can have a central core of people that can seem (and sometimes really is) not able to be broken into as a new person. A big group requires more personal work and intiative. It can take longer to develop closer relationships. There are often so many options that you face "a problem of good" where it all is good and you have too much to choose from.

Now onto smaller groups. Smaller support groups are usually welcoming and very intimate. You grow close together and you know well everyone involved both parents and children. Small groups offer an easy circle of people to get to know and offers a level of intimacy hard to intially find in a large group. It is usually easier and less intimidating to break into a small group. Small support groups you typically do everything together so your families grow comfortable together and you have a tight knit group of people. There are less people to coordinate so it is easier to meet more peoples needs and desires. In small groups people tend to be willing to compromise a lot knowing they need to meet each others needs. The intimacy often offers a safe environment for sharing and support. Very often the support group becomes your closest friends and the relationships extend well beyond homeschooling.
Small groups are intimate and usually close-knit.

The downsides I found of a smaller group were in its limitations. As a small group you have less options, you have less people to meet minimum numbers for things and less people to organize and run things. Typically there is less organization and formality to the group and it can kind of ebb and flow in activity. A small group can easily be controlled by a strong personality or a cluster of people and if you don't agree where things are going it will affect you. A small group is limiting in the number of friends your children and you can make. It is harder to find like minded people in small groups, especially for each member of your family. Small groups can often become cliquish to both outsiders and even sometimes to some of its own members. In small groups you put "all your eggs in one basket" so to say and if you lose that basket or something cracks inside it everyone gets messy. Small groups can be limiting.

Now all that being said there are always exceptions and really the bottom line to finding any support group is not size but what it offers you and your family and how you feel about the individuals in the group and the groups organization and overall philosophy. Sometimes in your life you need different things, sometimes you need small and sometimes you need large, both offer advantages and disadvantages and that is why both are around. Personally I find we fit better with big groups because then we can make our own smaller groups within the larger group where we fit but I still have the opportunities, support and experiences from the bigger group to draw from and rely on.

Since you mentioned you are moving to an area with a big group I want to come back to talk about big groups. In moving to a new place being part of a big group will offer you a lot of opportunities. Opportunities to meet people, to do things, to make friends in a variety of circles. But it will require more work from you and a willing spirit to just jump right in and take initiative to get involved and get to know people. Most often people in a big group are welcoming but busy in their lives and don't always stop to invite people in. Sometimes you will crash and burn in a big group and things you try will flop and you will have to try again. It takes more time for intimacy to develop and it can seem like everyone else is close but really often those are perceptions and the work pays off and you find yourself in the middle of everything with a lot of options.

It really depends a lot on your personality and what you like and dislike. I will be honest though and say that the large group that I am a part of is truly an exceptional group of women. It is like a small church and we support and love and encourage each other in so many ways that go beyond homeschooling. I know that what I am a part of right now is rare and a blessing and I am enjoying every moment of it. Our group has led me to make posts like It Takes a Village, Spotlight on our Coopand Way to Start the Year. I have found a group of very close intimate women as my friends that I meet once a week for coffee, discussion, prayer and a bible study, we've been meeting almost since I started the group. My kids have started developing their closer friends and have a large circle of people to choose from to play with and enjoy. We have so many field trips, class and activities that learning to say no is an important skill. We are part of thriving cooperative classes, have done drama camps, serve together as a group, and have what feels like all the resources I need when it comes to a question or need related to homeschooling and experience. So my post may be very biased because we love our big group!

Many blessings to you in your move. If you want to talk more about this personally feel free to email me.


Q and A: Are You SuperHuman?

Dear Tenniel,
You are amazing! You are inspiring! But are you superhuman? Let me begin my noting that your blog may have been the most influential factor in my decision to homeschool this year. Your links are extremely useful; your lesson plans are tremendously helpful. Most of all, though, your conversational description of your daily homeschool adventures has set a very productive (albeit sometimes lofty and intimidating) bar for my own family. I'll admit, I feel alternately inspired and inadequate when reading your blogs.

So I post this question (a variation on the prior "superhuman" inquiry): is it all really as amazing as it sounds? Do you NEVER have days when you hunger for adult conversation? Aren't you ever short of patience with your kids out of an inexplicable sense of resentfulness that has no foundation in their behavior? Do you ever feel the mother-guilt that I (and I would venture to suggest at least a handful of other mothers) feel when faced with your own ambitious standards for parenting? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you EVER sleep?

BTW -- Homeschooling has been going FAMOUSLY for us. Thank you for your inspiration. It has been, and I daresay it will remain, a joy to follow your blog.

First Amy, thanks for the compliments and I am glad you find the blog useful and inspiring at times. I never thought when I started writing this for our own little family that anyone would even want to read it much less enjoy it, so thanks!

I am honestly glad someone asked this question and with the good humor that you did Amy :) If there is a subject that permeates most of the emails I get and some of the comments I get in real life it is this superhuman thing. It makes me both want to laugh and cry at the same time. It is a tough question to answer but a very reasonable one to ask. My answer will likely be long and complicated, as you asked quite a few questions in this one, just like me so please be patient with me.

The short answer is of course I am not super-human and I have bad days too, we ALL do! Ever notice when I have not blogged for awhile? Sometimes it is because I have nothing good or positive to say or things aren't going great, sometimes it is just because we are too busy or I don't want to blog. The bottom line though, I CHOOSE what to blog about - this is not a full open peek into our home and our days, this is the "best of", the "high points", the things I want to replicate, remember and share. As a friend of mine pointed out reading my blog does not offer a realistic picture of the WHOLE of homeschooling or parenting. So please don't take it that way, what you are reading is a glimpse of our best moments, of the moments I choose to share.

People have suggested in the past that I blog about the ugly side of things too and our down days. I have honestly tried, and have managed to hit post a few times, but I don't like what I type. I don't like the way I sound or how I come across, so I typically don't do it. These are also typically days that I don't want to remember or replicate so why bother writing about them? In most cases if I don't want to write about it and it does not come from my heart I don't write about it. In real life I welcome my friends to see the messes in my life and it helps them realize that I am a real person with real flaws. In my blog I don't try to portray a realistic view of all of homeschooling, I just write what I want to share and remember. We have bad moments and bad overall days just like everyone else. And if it makes you feel better I just washed my floors tonight for the first time in I can't remember how long (many months at least) and the water was black!

One of the things you mentioned is that you like my conversational style and descriptions of our day - those come from my heart and they are things I think people can find value in reading, whether it be just my own family or another homeschool family so those naturally are all the good things. In real life my conversations may share more of my flaws but here it is easier and more interesting to write about my victories and precious moments than my struggles. Just because I don't write about them does not mean I don't have them.

The bottom line to remember when homeschooling is not to compare your actual homeschool life with the snapshot of another homeschool family's life that you see. Because all you are seeing in anyone else is a snapshot - a part of their broader life, the details you can see, the details they choose to share, or you happen to see. You are not seeing the whole reality in my life or in anyone else's life that you admire. Whether it be in a blog or in real life, we only see what we are shown and not the whole picture.

Now we really do have a lot of great days and we really do love homeschooling and that is what you see here, those are the things I choose to share, the good things, those are all real, we do the things I write about here. So I am glad you find them inspiring but don't be intimidated or ever feel inadequate. The other thing to mention is this is what is right for my family, for me and my kids, every family is so different and our style will not work for everyone. So continue doing what you love with your kids and ENJOY them and homeschooling.

Remember none of us are superhuman, not me, not your best homeschooling friend, not the head of your homeschool coop, none of us, we are all normal homeschooling moms and dads who face similar challenges and want to share our victories and what worked for us with others, always keep that perspective

Now was that too long of an answer to the first part of your question? I think that was the meat of the question so I spent a lot of time. Can you tell since I am conversational that I just type like I would talk and until I am done saying what I want to say no matter how long that is? On to your more specific questions.

Is it all really as amazing as it sounds?

Yes a lot of it is, I think the opportunities and experiences that we have homeschooling our family are amazing and wonderful. BUT of course it is not ALL always amazing. Some of it is quite mundane, some of it drudgery, some of it annoying, frustrating, and sometimes I am just plain tired but all together it really is amazing and wonderful. Apply all the discussion from above about only seeing part of our homeschool experience.

Do you NEVER have days when you hunger for adult conversation?
Of course I hunger for adult conversation - on a daily basis! I need it and I do my best to try and get it. My husband is wonderful and let's me decompress when he comes home. Sometimes in the middle of the day I will email or instant message or call him just to talk. I call family members or talk to neighbors. I often will call a friend in the afternoon and chat or if I am having a bad morning in the morning. I do out of respect for their schedule try to ask right after I say hello "Is this a bad time or an ok time?" and respect the needs of their family. Often I call in the afternoon when I am doing my chores, laundry, dishes, cleaning that I can talk and work at the same time. I also get together with regularity for field trips, classes and other events with other moms. A strange thing I do that helps me feel in touch with the "adult world" is I read news sites all through the day - it keeps me connected, keeps my brain going and gives me a break from the kids. I used to read blogs but I get too sucked into them so now just news headlines and a few stories.

Aren't you ever short of patience with your kids out of an inexplicable sense of resentfulness that has no foundation in their behavior?

I am not really sure what you mean here. I lose my patience to be sure just like anyone else. Most often this is child behavior related for me though. I can not relate to the reason you listed. I do not feel any resentfulness to my situation or my kids because I chose it and I want this. I do not wish I was doing anything else or that my kids were in school or not here. I really don't. Generally if I lose my patience I know what caused it, unless of course I am PMSing, LOL! I do pray every day for patience, strength, creativity and wisdom. No, I guess I don't experience this. Or maybe I don't understand the question.

Do you ever feel the mother-guilt that I (and I would venture to suggest at least a handful of other mothers) feel when faced with your own ambitious standards for parenting?

Do I feel guilty when I do not meet my own high standards? No - but I try to be better - and sometimes I feel like a failure to be sure. But guilt only comes if I know I should have done something different and purposefully made choices to do something counter or different to that. For me that is not guilt that is conviction of the poor choices I am making (like spending this long on a blog post with four laundry baskets sitting next to me). I have high standards, but they are there for a reason and we feel they are best for our family so I try my best to meet them but don't beat myself up if I fail.

We try to be very intentional in our choices as a family and we therefore do have high standards. There are a lot of reasons for our choices and a lot of prayer, thought and research goes into our choices. We have tried to make conscious standards and priorities for our family and do our best to live up to them. We fall short to be sure and sometimes we re-evaluate and change our standards or goals if we need to. Other times we are convicted to bring our behavior into line with our priorities, and try to work at that. We are gentle with ourselves and don't beat ourselves up over it but are also honest with ourselves and hold ourselves and each other accountable.

I guess for me that distinction between guilt and conviction is important. As is a continual reminder to myself that we made intentional choices for a reason so we should try to follow through. But there is also reality and sometimes we expect or want too much from ourselves and we need to re-asses and be willing to change our own standards. We also need to be careful not to make someone else's standards for themselves our standards for ourselves. Each family is unique and has different needs and priorities and we need to be careful to not compare or try to adopt someone else's standards that we simply can not live up to as our own.

Create your standards for your family then do your best to live by them but understand and forgive yourself when you don't. No need for guilt, just improve what you can and let go of the rest. Sometimes we all need to re-evaluate our standards and remind ourselves that our standards are different than other peoples and that is OK.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you EVER sleep?

Not enough :)

Amy, thanks for your questions and your honesty. I am so glad to hear that homeschooling is going so well for you and your family! Many Blessings


January 18, 2007

You May Not Read Shakespeare Without my Permission!

Now there is a sentence you do not expect to utter to your 7 year old child. Or atleast I did not anticipate the words come out of my mouth until they did. I walked into our home library to find our copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare open on the couch. The only person that could or would have opened it was Rhiannon, our 7 year old daughter.

What would have possesed her to do so I am not quite sure. Perhaps because it was on our leather bound bookshelf next to her copy of Anne of Green Gables? Perhaps because it is one of the largest books and she wanted to know if she could read it? Perhaps because she remembered us talking about him recently.

At any rate for sure there is content inappropriate for her to read in there and I doubt she can understand much of it anyway. So out the words come and a reminder that she may not just pick up any book in our library and start reading without permission. She may read any book in her section but not any book.

The things I have to say as a parent confound me sometimes.

Q and A: Homeschool Schedule

"hi, I really enjoy reading your blogs. you asked for some questions and I have one for you. Do you try to have a set schedule for homeschooling and getting your lessons in with the kids or do you just do them when the timing is right and it’s a good opportunity? or a little of both? I have kids about the same ages as yours... "

In general we try to have some set school times and then we do other things when they come up. We typically start somewhere around 9:30 and try to be done before noon. Somedays we really only get in two solid hours of school but that is enough to complete our lessons. Sometimes we school later in the afternoon or longer one day of the week to take off for another day for a field trip or activity.

I have set "goals" for the week and when they are done, they are done and we don't push on unless the kids want to - which sometimes they do. If we don't finish our goals for the week we try to make them up the next week but find that over time it works itself out. Of course this is for our formal sit down together school time and does not include the kids independent reading time and other crafts and activities that we do which tend to be in the afternoons or when there is interest.

My kids are still young so I anticipate and plan for that time to get longer as they get older and I am schooling more of them. In our morning school time we typically cover math, language arts, phonics, handwriting, spelling, and either history or science on a daily basis. This is our formal teaching time and they do their math and language art worksheets or practice now as well. We also try to do either music or art, geography, read alouds, any special lessons we may have, on a weekly basis. The kids also have some quiet devotional time, I find this works best when they need a break from each other, their work, me or just the room, or if they need an attitude change.

As for everything else - we do as they show interest usually based on a question they ask me. One of the annoying things about me is when they ask a question if I can I try to look it up and answer it. One of the annoying things about them is they have learned that about me and when I don't want to take the time to do it they remind me the real answer (not the made up mommy answer) is right there (as they point to a computer) and I then have to look it up. This is not to say I ALWAYS do but we try to more often than not. Sometimes this leads to a full lesson and sometimes it does not, sometimes it leads to an addition to our library list and sometimes it does not.

The only other thing we try to do each day is read. I try to read aloud to the younger two early in the day, Ciaran has to read aloud to me and practice reading on his own and Rhiannon reads at least a half hour (usually it is more difficult to make her stop reading than start). At night after dinner we always do a family read aloud - a big chapter book with no or few pictures that we read a chapter from a night. We started this when they were 3 and 2 years old and have tried to continue. Of course we miss nights - but they remind us when we do and we try to make it a priority. I count that because I honestly think a good majority of their education has come from being read aloud to continuously, and it is a good reminder that not all learning has to come during school hours.

That is just what we have found works best for us. Good luck with your own family and finding the rhythm that is right for you!


January 17, 2007

Q and A with Tenniel

Every once in awhile I get kind of stale in my blogging and to try to spice things up. So I throw out an opportunity to ask me questions that I will try to answer in a blog post. Someone once asked me about what I did before kids and that led to an interesting post. So anyone have anything they want to know about homeschooling or blogging or us? Of course this is my blog so I reserve the right to not answer :) But typically I do. Leave a comment or send an email and I will do my best.


January 15, 2007

January 14, 2007

Switching Math Programs

Since the beginning we have been using Miquon math for Rhiannon. We have recently come to a point in her book where we need to stop. She followed through fractions pretty well but now we are at multiplying and dividing fractions and I have decided to stop for awhile as the concept is pretty complex for her and she really does not need to be learning it yet.

We are going to switch over to Singapore math for awhile and review some of the concepts that she needs more practice in. The books just arrived and I am looking forward to it. Will report back later how the transition goes. We are keeping all the Miquon books and will come back to this when the timing is right. Ciaran is continuing his work in Miquon as well.

January 13, 2007

Good Kids

I am thankful to have such good kids. Serona is out of town and I got sick. I am really not feeling well, like stay in bed all day not feeling well. My tummy and head hurt and I have some sort of bug that keeps me running back and forth to the bathroom. But the kids are being so good and so helpful, especially Rhiannon.

We have a system down now where I actually have my cell phone and she has the house phone and I can call her if I need her, the kids are managing well all things considered and they are being very good. It is times like this that I am thankful they are such good kids and I realize how blessed I am.

January 12, 2007

Brrr...it is MN

Been wondering for awhile if this really was Minnesota, now I know for sure that it is. Right now it is a balmy 2 degrees and negative 11 with the windchill. Don'tcha wish you lived here now?

The Vikings

To complete our recent study on the Vikings we went to the MN Science Museum with some friends and too time to see the Omni Presentation Vikings:Journey to New Worlds. It was really well done and it was a perfect way to round out our recent studies.

It was almost as if the books we read and the movie were created in parellel, suppose that is simply because they both stuck fairly closely to the actual historical events and covered the main points fairly accurately. I will be honest the film is intense for young children, it is well done but let's face it the Vikings are a tough subject to teach given some of the things they did. The opening scene is one of the toughest for kids and it made me question the wisdom of having them in there but by the end I was glad we were there and the film never went too far over the top IMHO.

It was neat to see Rhiannon's face as she watched what we have been reading about come to life for her on the very big screen. She made the connections often before the movie told her. Part of the film was told from a narrative perspective and she knew who it was, Leif Ericsson, who she also knew as Leif the Lucky, she recognized who Erik the Red was and knew which countries they went to and the reasons for the names of different places. She would often realize right before they shared the detail and share it with me or get wide eyed at the fact that she knew it already.

This offered an opportunity for her to see that we are spending time on important things, things that it is helpful to know or that other people know. It also gave her a confidence that she knows things and brought to life a story that she knows from history. The fact that we were even sitting in this theater is a personal victory for Rhiannon as well. A year ago she simply could not handle discussing anything that was tough or related to someone being hurt much less something as intense as the Vikings history.

Rhia is a sensitive soul and we try to be sensitive to that but also help her understand that some bad things have happened in history and in life and still do. We are cautious in the way she has to face those and have really worked with her in the difference between fantasy and reality and the value of learning the negatives of history and the things that went along with them. She was not at all upset by this film because she already knew what was coming and why they did what they did. She understood the ugliness of the warfare of the time but also that the same personality traits are what opened up the new worlds of Iceland, Greenland and part of North America. It is amazing to be part of this journey with her and watch her as she grows and matures.

We do respect her limits though and do our best to help her succeed. For example later this afternoon while walking through the museum several of the kids were quite interested in the mummy exhibit. Knowing that was too much for her I warned her before she ran ahead to join them, they are in the mummy room and she stopped and went to look at something else. Knowing your child and their needs and limits is very useful at times like this. Learning how and when you need to push a little and pull back and hold close is an interesting walk as a parent - a lifelong journey with different situations but a similar theme running through it.

If you have studied the Vikings history I would recommend this film - but you need to know your own child before you take a young child - so maybe preview it first. I am glad we went and it was overall a great day spent with good friends and a very empty science museum giving us lots of time to explore, learn and play.


January 8, 2007

Family Bio

It's been awhile since I updated our bio so here you go.

There is Serona (the dad), he recently turned 32 and is in the middle of a career change. He has spent the past 6 years as a a senior computer consultant and manager for a small software company. He is transitioning into a Director of Product Managment position for a very large software company. He has two undergrad degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and a graduate degree in Communications, and is also a former debater. His interests are reading, writing (especially fantasy and science fiction), keeping up with current events and politics, wine tasting and blogging. He loves anything and everything Star Wars, acting and playing Xbox games.

Then there is me, Tenn, also 32 and a Stay at Home Mom. My undergrad studies were in Environmental Politics and I have an MA in Communications with an emphasis on Social Movements and Argumentation. My main interests are: reading, blogging, journaling, research, hiking, biking, crocheting, and knitting. I have recently started watching some TV shows on DVD with Serona - a real stretch for my 15 years of no watching TV, but atleast it is just on DVD and on my own time.

Next come the children: Rhiannon, Ciaran, and Sirah. Rhiannon is 7 years old and in second grade. She loves horses, fairies and her American girl dolls. Her current favorite fairy is Rani and her most recent American girl doll is Kirsten. She has also recently developed a passion for art, especially sketching and colored pencil coloring. She is an avid reader and we can't keep ahead of her. Recent reads include all the American girl books, the Little House series, Fairy Realm series and all the Disney Fairy books. She also enjoys reading classics like Anne of Green Gables and Peter Pan. She enjoys dancing, rock climbing and playing dress up with her sister and friends. Some of her favorite games to play are gin rummy and da vinci's code. In the summer she likes biking and swims like a fish.

Ciaran is almost 6 now and all boy. He loves his new punching bag and learning boxing from dad. He still loves frogs in an amazing way and has developed a real passion for science, especially nature and the human body. He has started reading and is doing well with it. He loves video games and would play Monkey Ball or snowboarding all day if he could. He also enjoys playing nearly any board game he can get someone to play with him and doing puzzles. He has started to show a real interest in K'nex and seems to have a natural skill for it. He plays with his star wars action figures, cars, blocks and trains. He also loves to dress up as a knight or prince. We recently got a foosball table that he can be found at every day and he reaches the top of the climbing wall with ease now. He is swimming very well and loves his water rockets. He is loud and proud and has a contagious smile and a genuine spirit that is very loveable. His newest passion is music, he loves his choirs and he works hard at it learning all his songs and motions and singing them with passion and pride.

Sirah, she is the kind of little girl that makes everyone wish they had more little ones. She is very cute and adorable and she knows it and works that angle pretty well. I find myself treasuring her hugs and just pulling her into my lap and holding her more and more knowing that she is growing so rapidly now. She is three and her newest milestone, no more pullups (first time out of diapers and pull ups for our family in 7 and a half years!!!!) She loves animals, especially dogs and kittens. She got Bitty Baby twins for Christmas and they are her newest friends she plays with, joining her care bears and of course Special Bear who came from London, a traditional Winnie the Pooh bear at tea parties. She loves music and sings all the time, even when she goes to the bathroom. She has recently taken to dress up and playing fairies and horses so Rhiannon will play with her. She plays board games with Ciaran and moves easily between them and their interest. She is now showing more and more interest in being read to and started sledding for the first time. When she talks you think she is much older and she is very expressive of her opinions and desires. She has a very cute dispostion and a fiery temper that is actually cute if you can imagine that. Her favorite pastime is "cooking" food for us all in her kitchen, setting up her grocery store and ringing us up with her cash register and being my actual assistant in the kitchen while I cook. She seems to have a passion and interest for food and serving others.

Rounding out our family are our Australian Shepherds, a four year old male and a 2 year old female. They are loving, patient and friendly though fiercely protective of the kids. They love to run and spend time in the yard. Oh and chew lots of cardboard and run dirt paths in our yard!

We are Christian, environmentalists, social justice advocates, vegetarians, right-leaning, techies, outdoors loving, non-tv watching, attachment parenting, homeschooling, crunchy conservatives, friendly, funny, highly educated, readers, and researchers) So come get to know us and stay awhile. We love having you.

Physics Circus

We recently went on a fun field trip called The Physics Circus. It is a great and interesting show. Like they said at the end of the show Physics is interesting, understandable and fun! Ciaran and Rhiannon both seemed to really enjoy the show and Sirah was okay, though grew impatient by the end.

The show was filled with interesting things you can do with physics and the kids were amazed and interested in them. I am glad my kids are young though because if Ciaran was 12 or 13 I am not so sure I would have been thrilled with the demonstration of how to teepee a house using a leaf blower or how to propel yourself on wheels with a fire extinguisher! But since I am pretty safe, for the time being, from them doing those things I was able to relax and enjoy the show.

Ciaran's favorite part was when they demonstrated the force of air pressure by launching a ping pong ball through three pop cans and across the stage just with air pressure! Rhiannon's favorite was when they shot a billiard ball from a cannon while simultaneously dropping a man from a crane and he caught the ball with his glove because both objects fall at the same rate. Sirah's favorite part was when they launched an egg with a slingshot and caught it in a sheet and it did not break.

All in all the show was entertaining, fast moving and enjoyable. Majority of the audience was public school groups and a few other homeschool groups joined us. It was a nice way to spend the morning and it fueled Ciaran's love of science more and gave Rhiannon some insight and interest that science is fun. If you have an opportunity to see this show or one like it I highly recommend it.


January 7, 2007

New Homeschool Coop Classes

We will restart our homeschool cooperative soon. For this semester I will be co-teaching a Little House on the Prairie literature class for the 2nd-4th graders. We will most likely use On the Banks of Plum Creek and end the class with a field trip to Plum Creek since it is located in our state not too far away. More details to follow as we plan and execute the class.

I will also be teaching a research class for 5th grade and up students. I will target the class for the older end of this spectrum but allow younger students willing to do the work to join the class. The focus of this class will be to give the students a basic understanding of the value of research, how to approach a topic, how to narrow and choose resources, how to integrate resources into your writing or assignments and how to navigate different sources such as the internet, the library and newspapers.

As always I am excited for the upcoming semesters and look forward to another great group of classes from this group and am thankful for the opportunity to share some of my skills and to teach so many neat kids.

Happy Birthday Serona

Serona is 32 now! Happy Birthday Serona! We had a lovely dinner with friends that involved wine which was what he wanted. For his birthday he got lots of wine, a gift certificate for wine, a wine rack, a riedel white wine glass, notice a theme? He also got a set of Guinness glasses, the new X-Men movie, some dark chocolate, and a creative zen. We ad a very nice day.

January 3, 2007

Printables Online

I really do love homeschooling in this day and age. Using the internet for resources makes everything so easy. Nearly every day I print something off to use in our schooling. Whether it be a coloring sheet, a dot to dot, a manuscript worksheet, a math practice page, pictures or descriptions of a topic we are working on or the many other things I print out I am thankful for it.

Resources are just seconds away, easy to find and print out and use here in our home. It truly is a blessing. For our stage right now I love that I can print out manuscript pages for numbers, letters and even cursive. There are even tools that let you write your own sentences to print out.

When we first started I bought an expensive letter stamp kit and it was messy and never really worked perfectly. Using printable pages online gives me consistency every time and an unlimited reuse. Thank you to all who provide free resources and thank you to google for making it so easy to find.


Blessing our Friends

I have been blessed these past few years with some truly wonderful women that I get to call friends. Over the years I have had many friends and some have come and gone and a few have stayed around through the passing of years but it is only recently that I have been blessed with some friends who are also prayer partners and fellow ministry workers and we have made bonds of friendship that are truly unique. I am thankful for them. For Christmas this year I put together a special CD for them, coming out of my mixed tape background. Okay so they are getting the gift post-Christmas as I just finalized it tonight.

I also wrote extensive liner notes (because as you know it is near impossible for me to be brief)that I have decided to post here. The notes list the titles and artists of each song and the reason I choose the song for the CD. There were others I thought I might put on that did not make the final cut. Putting together this CD made me realize how truly blessed and thankful I am to have friends that pray for me with regularity. For I have seen the results and know the importance and the difference it makes and that above all else has drawn me to these special women.

I wanted to post it here because I want to remember this and share it with all of you as a tribute to these women. Thank your friends and count your blessings of them in your life.


1. This One's For All the Girls - Martina McBride
This first song makes me think of all the stages of being a woman and the struggles and beautiful moments we go through as women.
2. Bless the Broken Road - Rascal Flatts
This second song reminds me of my past and the broken road that it was. I went through many trials and bad friendships but I thank God for those individuals that prepared the way for each of you and led me to appreciate you all the more.
3. Painting Pictures of Egypt - Sara Groves
This song is a transitional song for me. Having traveled and moved so much and having lived what feels like two completely different lives this song holds a lot of meaning for me. It helps me remember not to compare my past life with my present with rose colored glasses and to really enjoy the place that I am right now because I can never go back because I have outgrown it.
4. Jesus Take the Wheel - Carrie Underwood
This song is about letting go of the false sense of control I have over my life. Reminding me to truly turn control over to God and to trust him completely.
5. That's Why We Praise Him - Maranatha Singers
There are so many awesome songs about God how do I choose? This one is uplifting to me and reminds me of so many of the amazing things he has done for us and reminds me of why we want to praise him - he gave his everything.
6. Song to John - June Carter Cash
This song few people will understand or appreciate the way you all will. Women who view their husbands and their marriages this way are rare - I am thankful for each of you and the way you help me walk the walk and be honoring to my husband.
7. Teach Your Children - Crosby, Stills and Nash
I grew up on music like this, my dad's passion and what better song for a bunch of homeschooling moms? I am inspired by the way you teach and love your children, not only the basic school subjects but about faith and life and all that is truly important. Thanks for being an inspiration to me.
8. Fireflies - Faith Hill
This song may seem not to fit but it is currently our favorite family sing along song. We blast it in the van and all sing different parts. It is about dreaming, imagination and all the good parts of being a child and remembering how to be a child even as we grow up, holding onto our dreams and sense of imagination. Also Sirah sings the Tinker Bell line, you can imagine how cute that is!
9. Rainbow Connection - Kenny Loggins
Another song from childhood that is great to listen to as adults. Makes me think of Winnie the Pooh and the muppets, rainbows, joy and friendship.
10. No One Like You - David Crowder
David Crowder is a favorite singer of mine and this is another inspiring worship song. Full of energy and passion but deep and beautiful - the way I want to be before God for there truly is No One Like him. In you my friends I see God's image and each of you is also beautiful and there is none like you.
11. Somebody's Praying Me Through - Allen Asbury
The words of this song are self-explanatory. While it may be about soldiers and war it is also about all of us. You have prayed me through the spiritual minefields and battlefields in my life. Thank you and keep praying dear sisters.
12. More Than You'll Ever Know - Watermark
This song was the inspiration for this whole CD. Because you truly mean more to me than you will ever know. I laugh and cry with you. I do feel like I have been near God when I am with you and above all I know that you have been on your knees for me and my family and have fought off my enemies and carried my heavy burdens. You have been my strength and my inspiration and my spiritual warriors - you have spoken the truth over my life even when it was hard to hear.
13. Because You Loved Me - Celine Dion
This is a song about friendship and a song about how friendship and love inspires us to be better and how we are blessed to be loved by each other.
14. Best of Friends - Soundtrack Fox and the Hound
This is from one of my favorite Disney movies and it is a cute song about friendship
15. Home - Deep Blue Something
This is a band many of you have probably never heard of but Serona and I love. This song makes me think about friendship and all the fun and silly moments that we remember and love. And if I lost my memory I might really sit and just have a Guinness and I know that friends feel like home to me.
16. I Hope You Dance - LeeAnn Womack
One of my favorite songs of all time. A good reminder that we always have choices to make and that we can be bold and have fun. Let this be my reminder to you to not take life for granted and sit on the sidelines but be passionate and involved and have fun and always remember to dance.
17. Wish for You - Faith Hill
When I hear this song I think of being on the ocean shore during sunset, on top of a mountain looking over God's creation and all the peaceful places I have been in my life. These are the things I pray your life is filled with.
18. Every Minute - Sara Groves
"I am long on staying. I am slow to leave. Especially when it comes to you my friend. You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet. It's the fine art of being who I am...And at the risk of wearing out my welcome. At the risk of self-discovery. I'll take every moment and every minute that you'll give me."
19. Hey God - Lonestar
God has His ways and His plans and while they are sometimes hard to understand I am humbled by what He does for us and in our lives. I want to thank Him for all He has done for me and especially for bringing you to me.

Thank you dear friend.
May God bless you and know that you will always have a friend on her knees for you and your family through the years and all that they bring.

With much love and friendship,
Your sister in Christ,