Sometimes the best laid plans can get eclipsed.

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Last week, our first week of school, went so smoothly.  I was sure, SURE, this week would be the same.  I had all the lesson plans written out!  The calendar is filled in until May.  I was all set to teach a few neighborhood kids our first science class of the year.  Then one by one, my children dropped.  It started out with little innocent coughs and sniffles.  Suddenly, high fevers and lungs threatening to burst with each breath.

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It took us until the 6th day to have our first sick day.  However, Mother Nature stepped in  and took charge!  The clouds cleared just in time for us to put our pinhole projector into use.  In between rests, the kids came out with eclipse glasses in hand that a neighbor had generously given us.  We shared with other neighbor kids who were in and out of our back yard testing various pinhole contraptions.

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The five year old even came out for a look despite being fearful of “ending up like Helen Keller.”  He survived with all senses working perfectly.

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As a bonus, monarchs and swallowtails flew all around us and we found quite a few monarch hatchlings!  A container now sits on our windowsill with swallowtail larvae as well.  The kids and I were also given an opportunity to research how to get rid of aphids without killing monarch caterpillars.  Let’s hope soapy water works!

The kids are on the mend, so I think we may get back to our schedule tomorrow…or we can just wait and see what Mother Nature gives us.

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Saint Coins Revisited

Cleaning out the classroom closet, I unearthed our old Saint Coins!!  I did a post about these seemingly forever ago.  I thought it would be a good idea to use them again with my younger children.  But when I told them about it, the older kids begged to be included!  They remembered fondly “the family store” on Friday nights.

I’m happy to report The Family Store is now back in business with a few changes.  We no longer use the laminated task sheets.  I implemented a hanging tag system a few months ago that works really, really well!  I can move tags around to give kids turns with chores and add in monthly chores, such as vacuuming the van, when needed.  When the chore is complete, the card is flipped revealing washi tape.  Once all the tape is showing on a kids’ row, they can have screen time, friend time, and almost earn their saint coin.  I say almost because the one other “task” they must complete to earn the coin is to joyfully complete school that day.  Bonus coins go to kids when I see them acting kindly or serving someone when they don’t think anyone is looking.

I’m surprised at how excited the kids are to earn that saint coin every day.  The family store is stocked with candy that costs 5 saint coins a piece. Awesome candy around once a week, sounds like a deal to me!

Some of my coins need to be updated, however.  I still have a Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul II.  I need to visit Happy Saints again!!  I’m sure I’ll find many new saints I want as well.  It’s so exciting to share these with my little kids while bringing back fond memories for my older ones.

You Won’t Finish Your Curriculum

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You’ve spent all summer planning, ordering, reading.  The calendar is perfectly filled out through May 31st.  Now the books are all lined up nicely on their shelves.  All of the supplies are bought.  Digging through the sofa cushions and looking under beds, the kids find all the missing pencils from last school year.  Sharpened, they are ready to write beautiful essays and reveal the most difficult sums.

Before you settle in that first quarter of school groove, know this, you  won’t finish every single bit of your curriculum…and that’s ok!

When I started out eight!! years ago,  I was so wrapped up in doing it all.  I researched and purchased what was of course THE BEST of all curriculum.  And we were to complete everything by the end of May.  It was written in the calendar darnit!

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As the years went on, I changed curriculum more than I changed diapers.  We’re settled now on the best curriculum FOR OUR FAMILY.  Even that may change as the little ones grow.  And you know what, many, many times we don’t finish our curriculum before we declare summer break and jump in the pool.

Did the kids suffer?  Did anyone have to repeat a grade because we didn’t finish everything on my list?  Absolutely not!  The key, I finally discovered, was that it was my list.  In the beginning, I set expectations so high because I wanted to be the perfect teacher, prove to all that I can do it!   Eventually I started becoming so interested in the things my kids were learning, I became a kid myself.  We all started learning together.  Learning turned into a 365 day affair from dawn to dusk.  Each year we spend less time at the desk and more time on field trips, at the library, reading, playing, making art, just getting out there!

So take a deep breath.  Finish what you can of IEW or All About Reading or that geography book with good effort, then put on those hiking shoes and get out there in the world!

 

Last and First

Today was our last weekday of summer.  We spent the last few days exploring forests, visiting turtles, climbing trees, sword fighting in the backyard, swimming, and reading…lots and lots of reading.  It was a good, slow summer that is now meandering into the school year.

Monday is the first day of our 8th year homeschooling.  While we don’t have definitive grade levels here, the kids are of age to be in 7th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, K, and the toddlers bringing in the caboose.  The 7th and 6th grade boys are getting older and thus needing a bit more privacy.

So while I will keep blogging here for the few people that read, I think I’m going to switch to just a homeschool blog.  I’ve been working on compiling all the things I’ve learned (and some that I should have learned) over the past almost decade of homeschooling.  I hope I can help at least a few of you out there in the homeschool trenches!  I’ll still be in the same places on social media since that’s where most of the great discussions happen. Here’s looking to lasts and firsts!  Have a great school year!

Birthdays…obvious and sweet

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One and eleven.  We teased the boys saying that combined they are the age Bilbo was when he left the Shire for good…111.

Our sweet Henry is one.  We had a quiet little celebration with just the siblings and his wonderful Godmother and her daughter stopped by for a visit.  This past year with Henry has been one of such joy.  He really is such a kind baby.  I know that’s not a typical adjective that goes with baby.  Usually one uses such words as cute, silly, or cranky.  Kind is, however, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Henry.  His hugs and kisses are given freely and often, and anytime one of the other children is crying, Henry crawls right over to them and pats their back.  I’ve never seen a baby so young do such a thing.  I bet the Blessed Mother smiled so big the day Henry was born.

If kids can have “emotional twins” then Henry is Jack’s.  Jack is so thoughtful and empathetic.  I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming and can’t wait to see him grow (well, I can wait just a bit).

Jack will be eleven next week, but we celebrated early before his friends left town for the holiday.  Jack’s strange but awesome sense of humor is well known around our home.  Often he’ll run away from me while saying “Running away sounds, running away sounds.” And no question is returned without wit or sarcasm.  He’s a Ravenclaw for sure.  To return the humor, I threw him a party with the theme “obvious.”  It was a big hit!  Who knew something so simple would bring so much laughter.  Happy birthday, Jack!  May laughter ever flow from your smile.

School Year in Review

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The school year is done!!!!  Before I barrel into next year, I thought I’d share a quick list of what worked and what didn’t work for us this year.  I’m so glad to say that after 7 years of homeschooling, most of the books we used this year treated us well. I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.  ***This post contains affiliate links.***

What worked

  1. All About Spelling and All About Reading  This is one of the few programs we’ve used all the years I’ve been homeschooling.  Liam and Jack completed level 5 of spelling.  Matilda completed level 4 of reading (the last one!) and level 3 of spelling. Matthew completed level 2 of reading and level 1 of spelling.  Max completed level 1 of reading and started level 1 of spelling.  He’s now begging to do it all summer so he can pass up Matthew. 🙂
  2. RC History  We are halfway through Volume 2 (the arrival of the King-early medieval).  The only reason we didn’t complete this yet is because the older boys had an intense extracurricular this year.  We’re finishing it up this summer, but the kids don’t mind one bit!  The literature selection is fantastic for this volume.  Liam is working on the logic level, Jack and Matilda are working on the grammar level, and Matthew and Max are working on beginner.  We have some fun projects lined up for the summer!
  3. Saxon Math I think this is the first year no one cried about math…well Matthew did a little. ha!  Liam completed the 6th grade book and Jack completed the 5th grade one. Both boys are taking pre algebra next year. More on that later.  Matilda finished the 4th grade book, and Matthew completed the 2nd grade one.  For summer maintenance, they will be doing Times Tales and Khan Academy.
  4. Elemental Science This was new to us and I loved it!!!  Matthew and Max worked on  Grammar Stage Biology.  The demonstrations were super easy for them to set up and we had most things on hand.  The best part is the boys retained quite a bit of information!  My goal was just to expose them to new things, but they completely surpassed that!  I loved it so much that the older kids are doing Logic Stage Biology next year.
  5. IEW writing and Fix-It Grammar This was another new program for us.  We’ll definitely be using this again.  The three older kids worked through the first Fix-It Grammar book, The Nose Tree.  For composition, Liam and Jack used Following Narnia Vol 1: The Lion’s Song.  Guys, they LOVED this.  I’ve never seen two boys so eager to write before in my life!  And the worked they produced, oh my goodness!  Matilda loved hers as well, and I loved that she kept wanting to rewrite each story and illustrate it.  Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales was the book she used.
  6. Read-Aloud Revival  This isn’t necessarily a curriculum, but I finally got a membership.  We use this to “attend” live author seminars and various lectures about poetry and other things.  Seeing the kids learn about their favorite writers’ processes has been extremely fun.  Now when we read certain picture books or novels, the discussions the kids have has taken on a whole new level.
  7. Finally, our wonderful enrichment program worked well for us yet again.  The kids attend once a week to take such classes as Latin, art, jujitsu, etc.  They also attend Mass with their friends.  Little ones worshipping together, this is what homeschooling is all about!

Since this list is already reaching War and Peace length proportions, I’ll just give a quick what didn’t work.  Mystery Science (a little too simple for my kids to stay engaged), TOPS Science (a little too hard for my kids to stay engaged.), and Spectrum Geography workbooks (a little too much social studies and too little map work).

I already have my book list for next year, and I’m elated.  But first, summer.

 

Jack’s Tragedy

We’re winding down the school year, but I had my older boys eek out one more small essay for me.  Both Jack and Liam used the same source text, yet they both produced very different writings.  I loved them both, however Jack’s paper kinda made me tear up.  I thought I’d share

To give a little introduction, we were talking about CS Lewis’s character Diggory in the Magician’s Nephew.  Lewis drew inspiration from his own relationship with his mother to form Diggory’s relationship with his mother in the story.  For those who don’t know, CS Lewis was known as Jack amongst his circle of friends.

Jack’s Tragedy

by Jack (age 10)

Jack loved his mother, yet her life came to a tragic end.  Jack enjoyed when his mother spent time with him learning and having fun.  Her name was Flora Lewis, and she spent much of her time with Jack and his brother, Warnie, reading to them and teaching them how to draw.  Both Flora and the boys were exceptionally intelligent and imaginative.  In time, Warnie was sent to boarding school because he became of age, so Jack and his mother grew very close having fun and learning Latin.  Later, when Jack was still very young, Flora became ill and was confined to her bed.  Only six month later, Flora passed away, and Jack, who was heartbroken at the loss of his mother, became deeply depressed.  He would later find comfort in retreating to his attic and thinking of all the fun he had with his mother.  Later, in his days as a writer, he would reflect upon Flora, who had directed him to the world of literature and set him on his path to take part in it.

**For those homeschoolers who follow me, we use IEW.  This particular piece came from the theme writing book Following Narnia Vol. 1: The Lion’s Song. (affiliate link)**