Monday, September 18, 2017

Back to Homeschool 2017

At last, school is back in session. One big sigh of relief from me!  Not that I didn't love summer, but after awhile it just gets too loosey-goosey for me and I am ready for schedule and routine again.   This is my 11th year of homeschooling! It all started way back when Mister was four and now, incredibly, he is fourteen.  

Here's the updates for this year:

Here I am, homeschool mom of four crazy kiddos.  11 Years and Loving It! my sign says, but after I wrote it, I chuckled, because it could also look like 11 Years and Losing It!  Depending on the day, either could be true.  This is the best and hardest thing I get to do.
When I'm not homeschooling, I'm baking, trying to read good books, trying to blog, dreaming of travel, sipping coffee, and planning. Something. Anything. I thrive on planning.  I'm one year away from 40, 17 years into marriage, and full of wonder (still) at this amazing life I lead that is so unlike what I had planned.

 Mister is in his last year of middle school! Eighth grade! I am excited and terrified all at once.  This is an important year as far as preparation for high school (which we do plan to keep on doing here at home), but also because I feel like it is my *last* year of all of us learning around the living room together.  Next year, he will be on his own a whole lot more.  So this year, I want to read lots of wonderful books aloud, ones I don't want him to miss, and savor what feels like his last year of childhood. Sad face.  No more talk like this.

Mister loves making stop-motion movies with Legos. And he is so good at them. Just this morning he told me he had over a thousand followers on his Youtube channel.  I think that is so very cool and I'm excited to see where this interest takes him.  (As a side note, I have like five blog followers. Hmmm... he is way more popular).  He continues taking karate and is eligible to test for his blue belt this fall!

Brown-Eyed Girl is in seventh grade this year.  She has changed so much in the past year. Not only is she growing into a lovely young lady (vs. my little girl), but she is maturing. Leaving behind toys more and more. Totally obsessed with having friend time. Wah! Stop it. No more of this talk!

She is a huge Harry Potter fan right now.  Huge. She and her friends all pretend to be different characters and she is Harry.  She loves books that take her to made-up worlds and she continues to grow in her sewing talents and is overall just super creative.

Petite is my third grader this year.  She is such a little sponge, so eager to learn, and takes creativity to a whole new level.  She loves doing more school work because to her, it means more time to express herself.  With doodles and drawings and stories and fancy writing and lots of ponies.  She is huge fan of My Little Pony.   She's still my little homebody and I have no fears of her wanting to leave me any time soon.  That's good news.

 And then there is Little B.  Homeschooling is going to be wild and chaotic with this guy around.  He is the busiest of any of my children, mostly because he is just so curious about everything we do.  He is very hands on, longs to be outside, and already wants to learn how to drive.  He is a natural performer, athlete, and heart throb.  We all adore him and as crazy as it will be, he is one of the major reasons I love homeschooling.  All my kiddos, growing up together.  Day in and day out.

Little B currently loves Mickey Mouse, tools, tractors, frogs, and helping Daddy work around the house.

As for curriculum, I feel like we have found a pretty good fit for us in most areas.  My older two use Teaching Textbooks for math, Petite is doing great with Singapore.  We are using The Mystery of History for the first time this year and will integrate science when applicable.  My older two use Wordly Wise (I really love these workbooks and they like them too- I feel it is a great resource for vocabulary but also reading comprehensions skills for test taking).  All three school age kids use Spellwell.  The older two use Essentials in Writing (LOVE!) and I use Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind with Petite. I do a lot of reading aloud, often fiction that coincides with what we are studying historically, but also great books I want my children to hear before they grow up.

All right new school year! Let's do this!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to the Basics of Blogging For Me

In the past week or so, I've been thinking how much I miss blogging- about my family.  I occasionally blog over at My Life in Crumbs, and I kind of prefer that blog name to this one, but this is where it all started for me.  Writing about family life and sometimes an issue or two.  As social media became more prevalent, and an easier way to share photos and the Mathews news, I got away from blogging here.

But I miss it. I miss the goodness of just sharing photos and tidbits from our daily life.  Nothing too controversial.  The joys and tears of raising children, married life, homeschooling.  Simplicity.

There are big issues out there. The past year has been a doozy in many ways, with the election, racial tensions, global tensions. It all matters greatly. But yet, I find I can get so caught up in those things and wondering what on earth little ole me can do about any of it. And the Lord brings me back to my family.  They are what I can do about it. I have been given the gift of four lives to raise, potentially as world changers.  Maybe not global world changers, but hopefully in whatever sphere they are given, they will do great things (for God, I hope.)  My job right now is to be faithful and be a part of preparing them.

I planted two little gardens this summer. You should know I am a terrible gardener. While I long to have a beautiful flower bed, everything I have ever planted has died, save some ground cover.  But this summer I decided I would commit.  I invested my time, my back, and my husband's hard earned money.  I dug up the flower bed several times over, loosening the soil, digging out rocks and bricks.  I added compost and plant food. I researched flowers in the gardening book I bought ages ago.  I visited the nurseries and made lists of what they had.  I planned where the flowers would go and I bought them.  I planted them, laid newspaper around them to keep weeds at bay, and mulched them for protection and beauty.  I prayed the whole time, "Lord, let these flowers live!" I have gone out almost daily to weed (because weeds are pesky and will always find a way through). I have watered.  I have been delighted by the bees the flowers have attracted and I hope for monarchs, too.  The ground cover has spread and the flowers have survived so far.  I pray often that they make it through the winter.

The day I planted my flower bed.
My flower bed today- there is growth!

I also found a few seed packets we had purchased last spring in the shed.  I decided to hoe up a few rows in the other flower bed and plant some peas and beans.  I again loosened the soil, but then I just made a few haphazard rows and planted the seeds.  I rarely watered them.  I barely pulled a weed. And today I picked my first batch of green beans.

I'm a novice gardener at best, but it reminds me of raising children.  Sometimes we do everything right, and we get the expected result, but sometimes we don't.  I know I will have flowers that don't survive, and some that will.  And those bean and pea seeds I just barely poked in the ground and left alone remind me of God's grace.  Sometimes we don't do all the right things, and fruit grows anyway.  The beans took about eight weeks to produce, the peas haven't shown a pod yet.  Sometimes growth takes longer, seed to seed, variety to variety.  And so it is with kids.

I am not always faithful to do the "right" things as a mom.  And I am confronted daily with my inability to do everything as a mom, period. I'm so grateful that the Lord doesn't expect perfection from me. I'm so glad he fills in the gaps I miss, that he covers my mistakes, that he causes supernatural growth in me and my children.  And I'm so grateful he continues to grow me as a mother who cares, who sacrifices, who invests her life for her children.  I'm so grateful when he whispers "well done" on the good and hard days.  More and more, I realize that this mom job is totally dependent on his grace.

I don't want the simplicity of that, or the enormity of that, to ever escape me.  So I want to write about it more.  To remind myself. To look back in years to come and be reminded of the ever-present song that plays in the background of our lives, its words whispering, "He is faithful."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

So Long School Year

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart."
2 Corinthians 4:1

We have officially reached the end of our 10th year of homeschooling.  This is kind of my life, teaching my kids at home.  It's hard to draw lines between me, my kids, our home, our lives, because they are all rolled together.  This isn't just school, it's living our lives together. Because of that, I admit, nearly everything brings me back to them.  These four children I have dedicated my life to.

I kind of worry about that sometimes.  What am I going to do once they are grown and raised and on their own, when I don't have the board books scattered across the floor anymore and all the curriculum I've collected just collects dust?  

I have no idea what I'll do. But I believe what I'm doing right now is preparation for it. Because, yes, this is my life right now, but so much more is being cultivated in me- and my kids- than I can see.

For now, I love what I get to do.  I'm not saying homeschooling is easy. It isn't. When people ask me how I do it with four children, one a toddler, one almost in high school, I shrug. I really don't know how I do it. We just do and we always have. Some days it does seem impossible.  I doubt myself a lot. But here's what I know:

God has given me this ministry. When almost everything else seems unsure, I am convinced this is what the Lord wants me to be doing with my life.   And this ministry of raising my children, and homeschooling as part of that, is given me by God's mercy. His goodness. I could have done anything with my life, but he has given me this.

But I do lose heart, often.  This verse from 2 Corinthians really blessed me this week as we read it at Bible study.  The Lord is always so faithful to give me a "parting verse" every school year. This was it.  No matter what we are called to do in this life, no matter how sure of it, we will be tempted to lose heart.  There is always that elusive Easy Street a few blocks away.  Over and over, I think I have to make peace with the fact that this wasn't meant to be easy, but it doesn't mean we are failing.

My hope for the summer is to rest and soak up the sun and make wonderful memories with my kids outside of math and spelling.  I am very proud of my kiddos for their hard work this year, for tackling new things and sticking it out.  I love to imagine all the plans the Lord has for these kiddos.

Our crowning achievement, or should I say, the joy in our homeschool, is all the wonderful books we have shared together. So allow me to share with you the titles I either read aloud or that we listened to via audiobook.  Because this is the good stuff we will remember.

Return to Gone Away Lake- Elizabeth Enright

Thimble Summer- Elizabeth Enright

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (audiobook)- JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (audiobook)- JK Rowling

Tales From Moomin Valley- Tove Jansen

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (audiobook)- JK Rowling

The Green Ember- SD Smith * A favorite of the kids

About Average- Andrew Clements

Five Children and It- E. Nesbit *

Turn Homeward, Hannalee- Patricia Beatty

Brady- Jean Fritz

George Washington Carver- The Benges

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (audiobook)- JK Rowling

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott*

Peter and the Starcatchers (audiobook)- Dave Barry

Across Five Aprils (audiobook)- Irene Hunt

The Children of Noisy Village- Astrid Lindgren

The Great Wheel- Robert Lawson

Little Britches- Ralph Moody* 

Island of the Blue Dolphins- Scott O'Dell

Mary on Horseback- Rosemary Wells* A tiny little gem of a book

The Year of Miss Agnes- Kirkpatrick Hill *This is the book that made me fall in love with reading aloud many years ago

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt- Coco Young

Wolf Hollow (audiobook)- Lauren Wolk *

Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John

The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley * Hands down my favorite. Just read it!

Raymie Nightingale (audiobook)- Kate DiCamillo

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (audiobook)

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The Watsons Go to Birmingham- Christopher Paul Curtis

Turtle in Paradise (audiobook)- Jennifer Holm

I have noted with a * our favorites, though it is so hard to choose.  This is the good stuff, when all else seems to fail.  You will notice, maybe with surprise, that we forayed into world of Harry Potter.  We have enjoyed them greatly.  If you ever want to talk about our choice to read them, I'd love to.  

Happy Summer, sweet friends. Soak it all up!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Homeschool Lessons 2017

We have less than two weeks left of our school year!  Folks, we will be legally done before May is even over! But anyone who knows me knows that school never really "ends" around here.  Not that we are always in the books, but because life itself is an education. Books just supplement.

Last year I posted about what made our school year really great.  We have had some good years, one really truly bad year (The Year I Wanted to Quit) and some meh years.  I get reflective as a school year draws to a close and I've concluded this year has been very good.  So, some take-aways for me (and maybe you):

1. Not everything in our school (our home) can depend on me.  In fact, if they do, they won't happen. That's why I have chosen a lot of curricula that are DVD driven (Teaching Textbooks, Essentials in Writing, Atelier Art).  The kids watch the lesson that is assigned and then do the assignment.  It's the same with some of the workbooks we use for spelling and vocabulary. I assign the work, they do it.  If it depends on me to dictate a spelling word list every day, it won't happen. I won't find time to teach writing every day.  I have chosen my teaching priorities, and that is what I spend the brunt of my time on.  I adore these programs that teach for me!

2. Some part of our day needs to be good. The Three Rs, in general, are not fun. They just need to be done. But for us, our "morning time" routine is the good stuff: Bible, history or science, and then read-aloud time.  No one complains about this part of our day.  It is the good stuff, the stuff that I pray my kids look back on as adults and say "homeschool rocked."

3. I'm a mom first, then a teacher.  Relationships with my kids need to be more important than what is happening in our school.

4.  Preteens, teens, puberty- oh my! We are officially there!  I will say I don't think it's as bad as it could be. Bad isn't the right word. Just new territory. But I think what they need is lots of grace, extra sleep, extra protein, and a listening ear.  And permission to skip something hard every now and then.

She's not a teen, or a preteen... so she's still pretty excited about school!

5.  There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. We get to do what we want.  I can read any book I want to my children, whether it's in the history cycle or not.  Or if it's in next year's cycle but I want to read it now.  There is no best math product or writing product or any product.  We get to do what works for us.

6. Adapt to the kids' schedules if possible. I have an early bird and a very late riser.  I am an early bird.  I would love to get started pronto and get our work done by early afternoon. But this doesn't work for one kiddo, so I'm trying to adapt and accept that as long as it gets done, it's good.

7. Fill out weekly assignments on Sunday night in an assignment book. Revolutionary for my older kids!  If it requires me to help them, I make a note of it. Otherwise, they can see at a glance what they have to do for the day.  A step in the right direction to independence.

8.Turn off social media on my phone each morning.  It's too easy to constantly check my notifications and really distracts me from my kiddos.  I sign out of Facebook on my phone each morning, but I still get private messages which tend to be more important.

9.On the rough days, I need to pan out and see the big picture. I tend to zoom in and see that one character problem or continuing behavior issue or the still-struggling student.  But when I zoom out, I see so much growth and that we really are making progress.

10.The Lord provides. He just does.  Resources, strength, joy, connections I could never make. He is here. A recent example: In history, we read a little blurb about the Battle of Dunkirk.  That very same day, in our read-aloud, the characters experience the Battle of Dunkirk first hand. Powerful and memorable. Keep in mind that I'm planning my own curriculum this year, not following an Instructor's Guide... but who is really guiding this whole thing? He is faithful! This stuff happens all the time.

11. They're my kids- enjoy them! And enjoy their education!  I get to give them the childhood and education I want them to have. That doesn't mean I have every resource or ability to do everything I want, but I get to choose so much!  I want my kids to have a literature rich education and that is what I give them.  I want to give them more travel, more experience, more of the outdoors, but literature is my priority.  Some families want their kids to have a strong STEM education, or an outdoorsy education, or an artsy education.  I think it's fabulous that we get to choose and then give our kids what we value.

12. Stop comparing, stop feeling guilty for not being like everyone else, stop judging everyone for not being like me.  There is no place in the body of Christ for this. None.

13. Even though I am trying to adapt to my kids' schedules, I also need a point in the day when I am done. No more teaching, no more tutoring.  I am "off the clock".  For me, that is three o'clock.  Anything they haven't completed by then still needs to be done and checked by dad when he gets home.

I will write my annual end-of-the-year post, but I these are things *I* keep reminding myself of, things I don't want to forget. Because this. Is. A. Marathon.  Not a sprint.  The days are long, but the years are short. And I'm feeling it. I want to enjoy each and every day that I get to do this.