January 18, 2011

Mommy Break

This year in order to keep my spirits up this winter and to see my friends I have begun opening my home up on Tuesday nights for friends to come visit and just be with other women.  I provide drinks, couches and a table and the occasional food and they just come as they are.  Many are home school moms and I am enjoying providing an easy space for people to get away and connect with one another.

As homeschool parents I think we often let ourselves fall to the end of the list and forget to take care of ourselves and meet our personal needs.  This year I am trying harder to meet those needs and remember to take time for me.  I hope by offering my home I encourage other friends to do the same for themselves.

Be gentle on yourself today - you deserve it.

January 17, 2011

We Shall Overcome

Today was Martin Luther King Jr. day - we celebrated by doing school and learning a lot about his life.  When my kids began their complaining about being forced to school while the neighbors were outside sledding I had a momentary laughable moment in my mind.  Thankfully I did not laugh out loud, though  I did ask them when they last had school on a Friday?  They could not remember - nor will they have one coming up soon.  I reminded them how long our Christmas break was, when we start and finish our school year typically and how many snow afternoons they have.  They grew quiet in case they were about to lose any of those benefits and settled back into work. 

It was a very productive day - we did only math for a core subject and two of the kids did theirs on the computer :)  As I am typically a stickler for certain daily core subjects (math, spelling, writing, reading, grammar, and logic for the older students) this was quite a shock to their system.  We began the day with science simply because Sirah brought me that book first and asked me to start reading.  We learned about various bodily systems (excretory, muscle, skeletal and digestive), and basic botany introduction.  There actually was a link but it would take to long to write.  The kids then wanted to have some free experiment time so I made myself a cup of coffee and gave them a half hour with strict instructions to clean up their messes.  A half hour later I returned to a room that now smelled of vinegar but to their credit was clean again. 

We settled into our main lesson for the day, the life and work of Martin Luther King.  I do different things on different years but this year I read aloud the book "If you lived at the time of Martin Luther King by Ellen Levine.  It is a very good book which pays excellent attention to detail but still reads in a way that keeps their attention.  My kids are now 7, 9 and 11.  This was an introduction to some hard topics for my 7 year old but she seemed to take them in stride well enough through our discussion time.  I spent the better part of 2 hours reading this book to them, stopping at times to discuss topics, answer questions, watch the actual footage from the "I have a dream" speech and learn the song "We Shall Overcome".  During that time they built things with Legos and Lincoln Logs while they learned.  While listening to the song Maria said to me "I never realized it before but Fields of Athenry is really similar to this only Irish" I could see her mind making the connections and just left her to them for the moment.

After the lesson a much needed sledding with the neighbors break was had by all the kids while I had my cup of tea and lunch.  We returned to school and I began with an open time for them to ask questions or discuss whatever they wanted from the morning and then the older two kids had to work on their main assignment - creating their own version of I have a dream.  Maria had to write a one page essay outlining a problem in the world that needs our attention and outline what she can do and what society needs to do to help overcome it.  Ciaran had the same assignment only he had to give an oral report rather than write an essay.  She choose reducing fossil fuels and he chose reducing deforestation, they did not know each others topics and had choice of anything they wanted.  While they worked on that Sirah finished up her other book work and reading for the day. 

They will not admit it but I think they are glad we did school today.  They still got to sled, ice skate, play video games and read for leisure just like the neighbors.  In addition though they learned something new and were excited to think about the possibilities of how it could be applied in their lives.  Sirah made some important connections between today's lessons and the ones we recently did during our Enlightenment studies and what it means to be a leader and speak truth in a world that seems incapable of hearing or believing it.  As I sat in my chair listening to her young mind ask pointed questions and draw lines between today's lesson and lessons from last week without prompting I was reminded of how little credit we give kids sometimes.  For a 7 year old to see parallels between Galileo and Martin Luther King Jr is no small feat, yet it is also not an incredible one for kids can tune in to truths and lessons we sometimes overlook as adults.  Children have a way of processing information and seeing connections to their own lives in ways we sometimes lose sight of as we go about trying to earn more knowledge or recall what we already know.  As I watch my children learn and discuss even the heaviest of topics I see how they make it personal to relate to it and understand it and how that trait perhaps helps them remember other parts of history and see connections often lost on people looking at the tree and forgetting they are in a forest. 

As we closed the lesson today I asked my kids if they feel our society has moved to a point where children are judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  They were quiet for a moment and said well we don't have separate drinking fountains, buses and the like anymore and President Obama is our leader.  Sirah piped up that she was glad she could hold hands with all her friends and go places together as they grew older.  Maria seemed quiet and did not answer I think she is old enough to understand the question is more complicated that it first seems.  We have come a long way and we need to still remember that We Shall One Day Overcome"

Thanks you Dr. King for all you did for me, for my children, for our nation, for our collective wisdom.  May we not only never forget your work and the lessons you imparted to us but may we always pick up the torch and carry it forth and pass it to our children and ask them to do the same. 

January 14, 2011


Some of the best gifts of home schooling come in the conversations I have with my children. Sometimes I wish I could just remember all the details later to share.  We recently discussed taxes in the car driving to a swimming practice.  What they are, why we have them, what they are used for.  We talked about the difference between state, local, and federal taxes and the various random taxes we pay.  This started because I got pulled over by a police officer for not having renewed my tabs and paid the state their yearly tax for my car.  The police officer was grace filled and just gave me a written warning and I have since fulfilled my citizenry duty and the state can once again be happy with me.  I simply forgot and was in fact 14 days late.

Yesterday while learning about Galileo, Newton and Locke in history we talked at length about what it means to speak truth into a world not ready to hear it.  We discussed power, knowledge, enlightenment, and how to still be honest and direct if it means you lose friends and influence.  We discussed the various ways those in authority tend to try to keep people with different opinions from expressing them.

We talked about how the moon may have formed, how microscopes work, how Artemis Fowl uses DNA, and how to build campfires.  We discussed how great math is that numbers always work out and tell the truth.  We talked about how history goes in cycles and so many wars have been fought over land, power, money or religion.  We discussed the difference between a free country and a theocracy.  We talked about media bias after discovering samples of it.  We discussed the invention of their minds they hope one day may come about - like air hog helicopter that only take one battery and are charged for a whole year, flying cars with a single bulb to power them, hover crafts and zero calorie ice cream that really tastes as good as the real thing but is as good for you as broccoli.

We discuss a lot.  As my kids grow this is definitely my favorite part of homeschooling. Conversations.  Learning through discussion and debate.  Ah, life is good.

January 7, 2011

The volume of boys

Two girls and a boy ~ our normal makeup. Today though 3 boys filled my house and car and life. Three very energetic and loud boys. Well behaved, polite, good kids, but very full of life and energy and volume. The whole feel to the day is different, filled with wrestling, yelling, pillows flying, one upmanship, competition and of course video games. The noise is joy to my ears and the chaos becomes mere background noise to me because my son is so happy. Boys have brought airsoft, archery, fencing, legos, forts, sledding jumps, skateboard jumps, blowing up things, science projects, frogs, zelda, lightsaber duels, and so much more into our home and my life. Boys are wonderful and easy to please, even if life is just a bit louder when they fill my home.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

January 5, 2011

When They Know Themselves

Homeschooling is definately getting more interesting as they get older and know themselves more and more.  I had a great conversation today with my tween daughter.  She is in 6th grade now and has begun to develop some strong opinions about her own schooling and the direction it should be going in.  The conversation would be suprising with many children but somehow it just seemed to fit her personality.  She wanted to know when I would be adding Spanish in to her curriculm and if we could find some more advanced science options.  She wanted to discuss ways we could work together to help her find success in memorization of definitions (a weakness of hers in her mind) and to talk about her strengths and weaknesses as a student and strategies to help her overcome areas she wants to.  She finished the conversation by asking me if I could please assign her some traditional writing for school, I asked her what she meant and she said "You know normal essay questions like 'Global warming is bad for the planet' or 'Should we repeal Obama's health care plan'. You know things I need to research and have an opinion on and defend and you tell me how many pages to write."  I said "Yes I think we can add that to your studies if you want".  Who would say no?  What kid asks for this?

Then she watched the CNN student news program.  An addition to our day I am contemplating making a regular part of our curriculum.  We had some interesting discussion about food safety and state budgets and the difference between state and federal rights.  Then she asked if her first essay question could be about whether or not schools should move to digital textbooks and started rattling off some of the advantages and disadvantages.  She said she also would not mind researching and writing about the debt ceiling and if we should raise it or decrease spending because she had never heard about that before and thinks it is interesting.

Tonight she went down to our library and came upstairs with an advanced math textbook and a college argument textbook and asked if she could read them.  I asked why and she said because I think I need to read something with challenging vocabulary and I think these will have good vocabulary but be safe reading material.  I asked if she needed some new fiction and she said "No I am in the middle of a series but think this will be good too"

I can't make this stuff up :)  Maybe she needs to take a week off swimming and have winter vacation at the same time.  She was my most thankful child that we were starting to get back into a rhythm of school and schedules.  Homeschooling is certainly getting more interesting :) 

January 4, 2011

Fuzzy Minds

I am reminded why I generally do not let the kids take long math breaks. It as if their minds fuzz over and forget how to do math. Today I was reminding them of basic things like how to carry, borrow and skip count. This was just two weeks. No wonder we keep doing math through summer vacation.

Dusting off our brains and getting them back to full speed is taking a bit more of this week than I expected. I suppose a slow start is better than no start. Maybe we need to take down the Christmas tree and dump all the treats from the house so they believe vacation really is over.

Serona just got an XBOX Kinect for his birthday, maybe some gaming time on that will give me some extra motivation and leverage. Nothing like some low dangling fruit to keep things moving along. Maybe time to break out the math games and other edutainment.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

January 3, 2011

Unexpected Monday

I expected today to go rough in the normal Monday after vacation ways.  I expected sleeping in, dawdling, slow moving and unmotivated students and I expected some push back and resistance to working. What was unexpected was a three hour trip to the doctor and pharmacy.  What was unexpected was finding myself wandering around Target aimlessly for an hour with three school age kids on "the first day back to school" while we waited for our prescriptions to be filled.  What was unexpected was starting our school day at 2pm instead of 10am.  Then all the expected things still happened and we unexpectedly finished school at 5pm.

By this point in our homeschooling you would think that I would be used to and more adaptable to the unexpected in life.  I suppose to a degree I am but I am still surprised each time the unexpected comes my direction.  We take it in stride, we adapt, we move forward and we make our best plans for the next day in the hopes that we have planned enough to allow time for the unexpected that seems to often overtake our days.  I am hoping this will help my kids be more adaptable later in their lives, or it can down in the annals of their childhood as one more way their lives were so hard.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring, I guess we will just wait and see what the unexpected brings.

January 2, 2011

Quick every day

This year I intend to get back to regular blogging. Posts may be short but I intend to write every day for atleast a year to see if it is time to move on from this blog ofr reenergize it.

In many ways it is hard to write because the interesting things I want to say take a long time and the luxury of time is something I rarely have. I feel short posts will not be worth as much but I am going to give it a whirl. The kids are older now and we are so busy running from place to place so I have installed an app on my phone which updates my blog.

Hope you have a wonderful New Year. Thanks to all of you who have kept reading this blog through its ups and downs and lack of consistency at times. Hard to believe I have been blogging here for 8 years, our entire home school journey. This was my second blog as I started blogging in late 1999, 10 years ago! Many blessings to you and yours.

Kiss those babies and even the teens,
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

January 1, 2011

Vacation and Routines

I have granted us all a true school free vacation.  Several days into it Maria was asking to go back to school and I actually refused for a change.  We just really needed a break, she could read more if she wanted and she did. We played games, read, watched movies, played Wii, crafted, slept, sledded, ice skated and just loafed around.  It was wonderful, it was restful, it was needed.

Monday we are back to routine or the beginning of a new routine.  January always seems to start slowly for us but typically ends up being one of our most productive months since it is so cold here.  Outside activities generally don't resume until the end of January so we have time to be just us  and to do some field trips that the fall seemed to busy for.

I am trying to be proactive this year about homeschooling in Minnesota in the winter and taking more time for me.  When the sun shines on my couch for an hour a day you will find me sitting there.  When my alarm reminds me it is time to exercise, you can find me on my treadmill.  When the dinner dishes are put away on Tuesday nights my family members will have to make themselves scarce as my home becomes a haven for fellow women to come for some friendship, fun and freedom to escape the winter here. On Thursday mornings my alarm will go off far earlier than I am accustomed to as a dear friend and prayer partner will come to visit with me over coffee. Sometime in this month or the next my feet will touch an ocean and bury my toes in the sand on some beach somewhere.  I will find time to pray, to write, to exercise, to rest, to read for fun, to play, to be a friend.  It will be a good year.