We know our well-laid plans will inevitably meet up with real life sooner rather than later. But sometimes real life hits while you’re in the middle of laying those plans. And you end up not dealing well with either.
Last Monday I was slated to read 1 Corinthians 13-16 in my Bible reading plan. But I went to the gym that morning, and when I got home I jumped right into what I knew would be a crazy-busy first day of a crazy-busy week, in which I hoped to “do all the things”.
I was most excited to get a good start on planning for school since our start date was just one week away. So there I was, reviewing where we’d been and making wonderful plans for where we were headed.
Idealism was running high.
But I had been running on less sleep, so I was a bit irritable. Maybe the gym wasn’t what I needed that morning.
The boys were super hyper. They need school in their lives, I kept telling myself. Stop fighting! Calm down! I kept telling them.
The library couldn’t recheck my books over the phone–I’d be adding a trip to town today.
Our dinner guests for that night had to cancel, but only after much deliberation trying to make it work. It was somewhat of a relief, except for the amount of time it took.
I had to make a complicated decision about another social event that day, too.
The interruptions drew me away from my planning. The boys bickered and bugged and bombarded. And I lost my temper more times than I care to report.
Our “break week” was off to a very stressful start.
Before heading into town (library books, remember?) I took a peak at my Bible plan.
*Insert deep sigh.*
1 Corinthians 13? Yes, I definitely should have started the day there.
My husband gave the ok for me to spend a little extra time in town to process away from all the hubbub at home. I ran straight to 1 Corinthians. I was not disappointed.
Well, except that I was disappointed that I hadn’t run there much, much earlier.
God’s word is good and true. It brings conviction, but it also brings comfort. Reading it in the morning isn’t some magic pill that zaps us into holiness, but it is a tool in God’s hand to soften and mold our hearts–whenever we humbly approach it.
The Lord just happened to use all of last Monday to humble me before I got there.
Tuesday morning I made a point of writing out 1 Corinthians 13 in terms that were immediately applicable to my circumstances.
It’s tempting to put confidence in our accomplishments, knowledge, or sacrifices. The Corinthians thought they were spiritual for such things.
But love is greater than all of these.
And my confidence is in the accomplishments, knowledge, and sacrifice of Another. And He leads with love.
Fast forward to today. The boys’ alarm clock will blare its rousing tones in precisely nine minutes. And our first day back to school will officially begin.
My plans are (mostly) laid now. Most everything is in place. Best of all, as I now move into putting my plans into practice, I have this reminder of what is most important.
The two greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Including the little “neighbors” that are about to come tumbling down the stairs asking for breakfasst.
Lord willing, I’ll greet them with a smile, pray over them earnestly, and readily give a back rub or a tickle instead of a lecture when stress begins to mount in our days.
The Lord knows I need His word and His grace to follow through. But that’s my prayer for our homeschool this year.
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Ever wondered what homeschooling looks like in our family? Here’s a peak into what we’ve been up to since ringing in the New Year. Since this is the first post of its kind, I’ll include a bit more detail about our usual daily routine. Just make sure you scroll to the end to find out about some of our more exciting learning adventures since they don’t quite fit into a “usual day”. 😉
This semester began much like fall of 2017–with me landing on my rear. Literally. There’s just something about that first day back to school that makes me miss my step, aparently. Or maybe it has something to do with fuzzy socks on a carpeted staircase at dark-thirty in the morning. At least I wear shoes to go down my stairs now.
At any rate, once I’ve picked myself up off of the floor at the bottom of the staircase and limped into the kitchen to make coffee, our day moves along fairly smoothly: from quiet time for the parents, to breakfast and Proverbs as a family, then to chores and personal Bible time for the kiddos (while Mama gets her homeschool game face on).
My boys have enjoyed listening to The Jesus Storybook Bible and the free dramatized audio bible available from Faith Comes by Hearing. In the past few months, C-age-8 has begun to read about a chapter a day from the New Testament in his own bible, so the transition from bible listening to bible reading is going pretty smoothly so far!
Then there’s this lovely thing called Morning Time. A dear local mommy friend who’s a little further down the road of motherhood than I am turned me onto this idea several years ago.
“Do things together as a family first! Then split up to do independent work. That way you’re not having to corral everyone back together multiple times throughout the day and you can start with things you value and enjoy most. Like prayer, music, poetry, a fun read-aloud…”
I latched on to this idea and went searching the interwebs, eventually finding further inspiration from Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket podcast and resources (and she has a new book available on the topic if you’re interested!).
That groundwork having been laid and tested over the past couple of years, we usually start out our school day with lighting a candle, going over our calendar and plans for the day, prayer, singing a hymn, reciting from our memory work binder, poetry reading, and currently reading aloud from Story of the World Volume 2 and a children’s adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress.
This week, I’ve also re-attached our Preschool Prodigies Music lessons as well as 5-10 minutes of Spanish to our Morning Time routine. I tried to shorten Morning Time by moving these things to the afternoon, but found that they simply didn’t get done!
Confession: there have been many days in the past quarter that I have skipped Morning Time to dive right into math because we were just short on time, but I have been finding lately that when life has gotten heavy and my energy reserves are running thin, starting the day with Morning Time ministers to my soul, helping me to take a deep breath, enjoy the time with my kids, and humbly move forward with my heart more focused on the Lord.
Turns out biblical truth and delightful learning are a great way to start the day.
Moving on to math, D-age-6 finished Right Start Math Level B in February and has moved on to Level C after a well-earned week of playing math games.
My older son, C-age-8, is half way through Level D, currently working on mastering multiplication facts and applying them to solving area problems.
As for me, I’m learning to read ahead in our math books and plan our lessons accordingly. This subject has been the hardest for me to keep to short lessons. Partly because my kids just take longer than expected, and partly because the lessons sometimes require two days rather than the one day suggested by the book (or more realistically speaking, the one day expected by their mother).
I started out last semester working with a timer, keeping our math lessons to 20-30 minutes. That worked well until I stopped using the timer (oops). This quarter, I still haven’t been using the timer so much, but I am learning to repent of the pride that drives me to want to push my kids further and faster.
I’m teaching my kids, not a lesson. This is not a race. Our math curriculum itself is built upon understanding and enjoying math, not racing through to the next thing. Embrace the time it takes to grow.
When I keep things in perspective, it’s a lot easier to see how much work is reasonable for a given day (it’s a lot less than what I used to think!).
For language arts, we’re continuing to work through First Language Lessons levels 1 and 2. My oldest could have been into level 3 by now, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after level 1, so we stalled out for a year. That means his brother is only one book behind him. Oh, well! They’re both learning and enjoying their lessons on basic grammar, poetry, story and art narration, copywork, and dictation for my oldest now in level 2. I love that this curriculum has been a gentle introduction for me to these classical methods of teaching.
We also have enjoyed these free copywork resources from Simply Charlotte Mason this quarter. They include scripture, poems, and hymns.
Overlapping a bit of reading and language arts, C-age-8 reads aloud to me from McGuffey’s second reader about once a week, narrates the story to me, and then says and spells the words listed at the end of the lesson. D-age-6 is reading aloud to me almost daily from McGuffey’s pictorial primer in order to continue progressively practicing his budding reading skills (we used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to start the process). I use these readers because they’re progressive, they use older English so that we’re starting out in the direction of classic literature, and because they were hand-me-downs (read: free).
Any further discussion of reading blends into everything else we’re learning: history, literature, nature/science. C-age-8 has recently finished The Tale of Desperaux, The Secret Garden (with some guided discussion on the ideologies presented), Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Great Brain, Julie of the Wolves, The Little Prince, Because of Winn Dixie, and The Burgess Animal Book, among most of the books in the Boxcar Children series (these are free reads). I can hardly keep up for record-keeping purposes! Nathaniel decided to give him a more challenging read to slow things down a bit: G. A. Henty’s For the Temple, historical fiction covering the Roman sacking of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD. We just covered this event and the diaspora in Story of the World, so he’s got some points of connection with it already. He’s also reading a chapter a day in Seabird by Holling C. Holling for geography and natural history. I ask for him to narrate, or tell back in his own words, what he has read on days when I’m paying attention. Admittedly, there have been several days (weeks perhaps?) in the past quarter that I have been too busy to ask for a narration for every bit of school reading!
D-age-6 has recently enjoyed moving from Frog and Toad readers to The Boxcar Children and Amelia Bedelia books. He’s enjoying reading more fluently for himself, but soon I think he’ll be ready for more assigned books. I think Whinnie the Pooh is in order next. We’ve read it aloud many times over, so I think he’ll be delighted to read it for himself!
This section could be a post all its own, so I’ll try to let pictures do most of the talking with a few extra words here and there for things not pictured.
We enjoyed a Little House book club party with a local Charlotte Mason group.
Exploring historic Ft. Smith after mama read True Grit.
New strategy games: Risk, Battleship, Ticket to Ride
We took in a stray German Shepherd dog that followed me home last fall–right after the 500th anniversary of Luther posting of his 95 theses, so naturally we named him Luther. C-age-8 had almost full responsibility for feeding him each day. There was plenty of character development in caring for a dog, and even more when we decided he needed a family who could care for him even better. It was hard to let go of Luther since he had been a part of our family for three months and had in that time doubled in size and made it through the coldest winter we’ve had in years. It was hard to let go, but we all learned a lot and are thankful for the part we had to play as a doggy foster family.
Hiking in 20 degree weather to see this 95 foot waterfall when it was mostly frozen. Petit Jean State Park.
Bird poster and Calendar of Firsts helping us to learn to pay attention and take note!
Gardening, listening to classical music, watching the ants in our ant farm.
Our four-day backpacking trip on a 24-mile section of the Ouachita Trail in the Winding Stair Mountains of eastern Oklahoma.
Field trips to animal shelters and to learn about hippotherapy (that’s with horses).
Ice and roller skating and get-togethers with our Schole Sisters group–watercolors, poetry and tea, fish feeding and nature walk.
The past two months have been a bit crazy. There were many times I said to my husband, “I just don’t think we can do school next week with all we have going on.” He gently encouraged me to try. And we did. We kept going through sickness (though we did take a week off when it was really bad), a job change and consequent change of insurance and all other such things, two grandmothers in the hospital, a car wreck, among other things. I think I would have given up somewhere along the way, so I’m thankful for my husband’s gentle encouragement to just keep going. Like I said above, our scripture and praise-filled Morning Times were a balm to my soul during a such a hectic season.
I suppose in terms of the average school year, we should be wrapping things up in about two months. We plan to keep going with our current routine, and we’ve got some fun activities planned with our homeschool group, including Field Day which my husband and I coordinate. Should be a fun spring!
How about you? What’s up in your homeschool world?
In this review I’ll give a bit of history as to how we decided on the Prodigies Music Program for our kid’s education, a discount code for my readers, and then some examples of how our kids have benefited from the program over the past nine months! This post contains affiliate links, but I’ve been promoting Prodigies to friends long before signing up as an Ambassador–you’ll see some of the reasons why I believe in it so much in this post.
My husband and I both love music. And we love sharing it with out kids. But it’s hard to find the time to introduce them to the basics of music theory with my husband’s busy work schedule and the fact that I’m already teaching them every other subject in our homeschool.
We looked at local general music classes, and probably would have gone that route if we hadn’t found Prodigies. We sampled the videos they made available for free on YouTube, and I was impressed. So impressed that after crunching numbers and comparing our options, we bought the Lifetime Membership for our family.
Here’s why the Prodigies Lifetime Membership beat the local class option hands-down:
Finally, here’s some of the benefits I’ve seen in my children over the past year that we’ve been using Prodigies.
I hope this review has been helpful! Check out the Lifetime Membership at the Prodigies site, and don’t forget you can use the code LMJ to get an extra 5% off your Lifetime Membership PLUS 5% off anything in your cart–like the bells, or hard copies of workbooks or songbooks.
Many of the public schools in our area started back yesterday, and so did we.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might be a little confused since I posted about our “First Day” back in July.
That would be the first of my confessions.
I thought that in the middle of all of our remodeling craziness it would be a good idea to re-institute some order by starting back to school. We made it a whopping four days before a trip and life in general took over again.
So yesterday was technically something like day five (or six if we’re counting the immersive day of water color painting last week–hey, I’m counting it!).
I’m just thankful that my husband encouraged me not to worry about it. Now that the living room is, well, livable again, we can start to throw some school into the mix.
His support has been invaluable since we would, in theory, like to have our kids keep going with at least math and reading through the summer months. I planned to just take June off, and keep a bit of review going even on break, but it stretched into an extra month-and-a-half and our review became non-existent.
And it’s ok. Really, Lauren, it’s ok.
But those scheduled intentions are just surface-level. I’ve got some deeper issues to confess, as well.
This is our fourth year of officially homeschooling and yet I have felt less prepared than ever. I gave up on a traditional homeschool planner this year, opting to build my own system for planning and record keeping (a combination of Plan Your Year, a bullet journal, and clipboards for the kids). I hope to share some reviews, articles, and videos about it sometime soon once the dust clears and the wires are all rigged up in our remodeled office/studio. But the process has been like stepping out on an invisible floor, hoping there is something to stand on when you land.
Unlike Indiana Jones, however, on our first day of school yesterday, instead of finding a firm footing, I literally slipped on the slick, wet front steps, finding that gravity still works and that landing your rear on the corner of the step an entire foot lower than your feet began makes for a very purple derriere and quite a stiff and sore neck.
This didn’t exactly quell my fear of more figurative slips. Again I’m reminded of the only truly firm footing I have in the first place–and that gives me strength to press on.
I know that the end result will be a good one–having a completely customized system that meets our needs better than any pre-fab planner ever could. But with a new arrangement on paper comes a new arrangement of habits–both mental and physical–and building those habits takes time. I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.
All of that said, our first day went wonderfully well! My well-laid plans did pay off!
At least, before lunch.
Our first day of school started well but ended woefully.
In my planning I took into consideration the longer-than-ever-time-off from which we would be recovering, and I tweaked our curriculum accordingly–especially math. My big boy would do only half of the worksheet. My youngest would copy numbers, do some basic math facts, and then we’d play a math game. The almost-six-year old finished his work in no time, blazing through math, reading, and copy work so he could go to town with his beloved watercolors the rest of the morning.
I was thrilled. This was easy.
The just-turned-eight-year-old, however, struggled to focus. His work certainly should have taken longer than his little brother’s, but it drug on and on and on needlessly. I told him time didn’t matter, that he didn’t need to set a timer, just work diligently. But he set the timer anyway and then stressed himself out with it. Long story short, he was anything but diligent, even when I gave him breaks to go outside or read and then come back to it with a fresh mind. His score in the end was near perfect, but it was well into the afternoon before he finished and then there was language arts to do.
I was patient for the morning. But eventually my patience ran out.
I had planned fun activities for our afternoon. A game, read-alouds over Afternoon Tea. Things my children LOVE.
But a dawdler was messing up my plans to do him good.
I escaped into my own projects and spent some time online to boot.
“I’ve tried to help you. You won’t be helped. I’m done.”
Signing off. Checking out. On day one.
Over dinner my husband asked us each how our day had gone and how we felt about it. There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly. But it was good to get it out in front of us as a family.
He sweetly encouraged me not to base the success of my day on other people’s performance–especially little people. Control what I can control–my own responses.
That’s hard, isn’t it? But it’s exactly what I needed.
After further consideration and prayer last night, I realized that I had judged my children worthy of my time and patience during the morning hours–I had even decided this long in advance. It’s my job, after all, as their mom and teacher. But with one child dragging his half-sheet of math work beyond any reasonable time frame, and with the other testing my patience at lunch time, I came to judge my children as unworthy of my time and patience for the rest of the day.
Forget my God-given role as their mother and teacher, I measured them against my plans and expectations, found them wanting even after patient instruction and care, and since I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I decided they didn’t deserve my effort–I decided I needed a break.
There is wisdom, at times, in walking away from a situation so that both parties can get fresh air, deal with what’s in their hearts, and come back in much better spirits. But I can’t say that was what was going on this time. I was resentful. And it took ME “beyond a reasonable time frame” to get my heart right.
Math work or heart work, my son and I were both taking too long to learn our lessons.
I suppose I could steal a quote from my reflections on planning above since it seems to fit this character-growing, relationship-building process, as well:
“…building those habits takes time. I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.”
The goal of education isn’t ultimately results or getting things done anyway.
As I wrestled with my own bad response–with my sin–the Lord kindly reminded me of His love and patience toward me as His child. I cowered at the thought of His great love and my great lack.
Father, You chose to love me while I was yet a sinner when You sent Jesus to die for me. And You choose to love me still even when it takes me years to learn a lesson, even when my attitude and actions are quite like a distracted and unruly child.
Because You have chosen to love me, because You have made me Your child, Your patience and Your love never wane…like mine so often do for my own children.
Forgive me, Father. I repent.
Thank You for being a GOOD Father. My need for Your love and patient correction is ongoing. And the work You’ve called me to do for my children is ongoing. Oh, please produce in me the same patient, diligent love with which You parent me.
I saw yesterday morning that I could choose to be patient with my children. But O how I need Your Spirit, Lord, to choose to be patient even beyond my good intentions! When my planned patience wears out, show me Your patient love, and please help me to then pass it on to them.
For those of you who also started school recently, I hope your first day fared better than mine (and you should read that as “I hope that your patience lasted more than four hours”).
But it’s just the first day. And it’s now behind us. Sins repented of, mercies new this morning …and every morning hereafter. We’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we? Let’s do it with patient love, remembering the One who continues to lavish us with it.
Happy New School Year.
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Our family doesn’t completely follow the Ambleside Online (AO) free curriculum, but we pull heavily from it for our book list, among many other things.
One of those other things is their Nature Study schedule. If I want to pick a particular topic of nature study for us to focus on for a while, why not start with their suggested schedule and tweak it along the way, if need be? This way there is less choice-fatigue for me and I can find some community around what we are studying, whether with other AO families I know in real life, on the AO forums, or on the Facebook group.
This summer and fall is for the birds, so I’ve been doing a bit of research and collecting materials that will prepare me to assist and inform my children in their own observation and enjoyment of our feathered friends over the next several months.
I’ve seen a lot of materials for purchase on the interwebs, and many of them were quite tempting, but I wanted to see what was available to me for free before punching in credit card numbers.
First, I searched my own shelves.
We already own the Handbook of Nature Study, which will serve us for many years and topics to come, making the purchase price slim over the long haul.
Birds are covered on pages 27-143. The pictures are not the most impressive, but this book is chock full of information so that you, the parent, can be a literally walking resource for you children on the trail. Types of birds, parts of birds, migration of birds, lessons with suggested questions, pictures, diagrams, and even related poetry are included. I plan to read this section for my own knowledge and make a few notes on particular questions or topics to raise while I’m out with the kids.
Remember, the purpose of Nature Study is to get the child in touch with the world and creatures God has made and to enjoy it. The Handbook of Nature Study is NOT a textbook of information you have to cram into your precious children’s little heads. It’s a tool to aid the work of observation that the kids ought to be doing and delighting in on their own.
I found another volume that I may reference over the next few months: Living with Wildlife: How to Enjoy, Cope with, and Protect North America’s Wild Creatures Around Your Home and Theirs. I don’t think there’s much to say about this book now since the title is so descriptive! We found this gem at a library cast-off sale for probably about 50 cents.
The point here isn’t so much that any of you need THIS book, but that if you keep your eyes open, you may find something similar. If I didn’t have the Handbook of Nature Study, this book (or some other like it) would suffice quite nicely. Birds are covered on pages 180-252, if any of you by chance come across this guide or find it at your library. There aren’t so many pictures or diagrams, and it’s not aimed at teachers or parents to instruct their children, but the information is valuable and would do the trick of providing a parent with both a general and some specific knowledge of birds.
My oldest has read many chapters in The Burgess Bird Book for Children, one of the great selections found on the AO booklist.
It’s a narrative introduction to all kinds of birds, with animals talking and acting consistent with their particular habits and personalities. Each chapter covers a different bird, and we may just read one here and there for fun if we’re interested.
My mom gave us a laminated Pocket Naturalist Guide of Arkansas Birds for Christmas several years ago. This guide isn’t particularly detailed, but it does provide color pictures of a variety of birds, including their Latin names, size, and an occasional special note. Listed on the back are bird viewing areas and sanctuaries, as well as a state regional map.
For very young children, a laminated field guide is almost a necessity! Even when they can’t read, they love feeling like real explorers with a guide in their pack that they can pull out at will. And you as the parent love feeling like it won’t be destroyed on the first expedition! If you don’t live in Arkansas, you can look up the Pocket Naturalist field guide for birds in your state.
Even just one or two of the above resources is more than enough to get started with nature study. Actually, all you really need to do to get started is step outside and pay attention, and maybe take along a notebook and a pencil! But we’ve been at this for several years now and I wanted to add to our resource collection (and convince myself that I didn’t need to buy anything new or shiny in order to do so).
So…where did I go for new FREE resources?
I went online.
Many of the paid resources I’ve seen lately were all ebooks and video courses anyway, so I thought I’d search in the same format–starting with websites specific to my home state of Arkansas.
The Audubon Society of Arkansas and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have a wealth of free resources for studying birds, among many other kinds of wildlife! There’s a searchable database where you can find pictures, details, and songs of birds when you search by color, size, habitat, and more. The Game and Fish Commission provides free printable brochures on birds and so much more, but they will also send you a hard copy for free if you send them your mailing address!
If you’re outside of Arkansas, check out the corresponding organizations for your state.
There are two more ways I’d like to complement our focus on birds, and both can be achieved without spending a dime.
I’d like us to improve our artistic abilities in the area of drawing birds, so that our nature journal entries can better represent what we see out in the field. Enter YouTube. There are TONS of FREE video tutorials to help us hone our skills. I think we’ll get a start with watercolor painting a saucy little wren like the ones we see every day around our house.
Finally, one of the greatest gifts I can imagine giving my children when it comes to nature study is to tie God’s truth to what they see. The heavens are declaring the glory of God, and I want them to see it. I just read the Sermon on the Mount this morning, and I think we’ll incorporate Matthew 6:26 into our memory work as we observe the winged creatures around us:
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
I hope this has been helpful to you, my friends.
Do you have any other super awesome free resources for bird nature study? If you’ve studied birds already with your kids, what did your family enjoy most?
Today seems like an appropriate time to write my first “Friday Five” post. After all, it’s not every year that the first Friday of the fifth month falls on the fifth day of the fifth month. If I were really good, I’d have posted this at five this morning.
Don’t you just love the alliteration?
It’s my hope that “The Friday Five” will be a fun addition to the blog. Some weeks it may be five related things, and other weeks it may be five completely random things. And, just being real, some weeks it may be non-existent because life happens. But when I do get to eek out one of these list posts, I plan to include spiritual encouragement, practical tips, personal anecdotes, and much more.
For now, we can call this a “Special Events” edition. Here goes!
Again, I wouldn’t normally consider sharing a puke story as part of a “special event,” but how often do I get to be “that mom” with the sick kid who just made a horrid mess for everyone else to walk through? I’m at least hoping this was a “special” occasion–and not a new norm.
And, when I think about it, I am so incredibly thankful that the mess happened outside where a kind man washed it off with a few buckets of water. A few more steps and it would have been inside the library itself: on the carpet, smelling up the whole place for who-knows-how-long. Or it could have happened in the van. God was merciful. And I was thankful. With no fever and the sick feeling lasting only about six hours, I also thanked the Lord that this was apparently just a response to way too much junk food and not a virus.
Our last day of co-op sure was fun–a real blowout!
How about you? Any special happenings or celebrations lately? Any “special” visitors or messes?
In past years I have shared the books I’ve read based on an academic calendar, because when I started recording what I was reading I was using a planner that followed that format. I’ve since decided it makes more sense to post my micro book reviews as a round up of all the books I’ve read in a calendar year.
Which brings me to this post. The transition had to happen sometime, and it’s happening now. So, without further adieu, I give you the books I’ve read in the latter half of 2016. If you’d like to see the eight other books I read in 2016, they are at the bottom of my 2015-2016 post.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin I made the mistake, dare I say, of picking up this novel around 4 o’clock one afternoon when I heard that it would soon be discussed on the Circe Institute’s Close Reads podcast; and, since my husband was traveling and would not be home that evening, had the opportunity (and by compulsion took it) to read the entire thing in one night. Once upon a time five or more years ago I had tried to read Pride and Prejudice, but found it to be nothing more than the screenplay of the A&E film version of the story, so I didn’t make it more than a few chapters before I felt there was no need of reading it. Having not seen the movie adaptation in several years, when I picked it up this time the banter and character development of the film which was even more prevalent in the book drew me in at once. As Miss Elizabeth Bennet learned, so have I: some things, upon second evaluation, are found to have much more merit than we may judge them to have at the first. Plainly stated: I very much enjoyed this book and regretted having not read it in its entirety much sooner. (The article that provoked my reading was “Don’t Follow Your Heart”. I highly recommend it and the podcast discussion of the novel. It was great fun!)
Courtesy in Christ: An Ettiquette Handbook for Christian Teens by Diane Pickup I found this on our shelf one day and my curiosity got the best of me. I have little boys, so training them in courtesy is on my bucket list for them. I enjoyed how the author tied acts of courtesy and consideration to scriptural attitudes and commands to put the needs of others before our own.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame Listening to the Close Reads podcast also led me to this interesting read. It’s a children’s story, but not just a children’s story. Some of the vocabulary is very challenging for a children’s book (or for the adult reader, if I’m honest). But I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out new words as I followed the wanderings of Mole and Ratty and the mischievous escapades of their foolish friend Toad. The discussion on Close Reads explored similarities between The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit, The Illiad, and even Shakespeare. Grahame’s skill in writing and thematic depth make this a thoughtful book for adults, and maybe especially young adults ready to leave home for the first time but who find themselves longing for it once they’re gone. I do have a major caveat, however: chapter seven “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” involves Mole and Rat finding a lost little friend with the pagan deity Pan—and they worship him. While I think some generalized lessons can be drawn from this chapter with its wonder and awe, and while I think that it’s placement by Grahame in the center of the book is perhaps significant, the rest of the story line can be enjoyed without it. My husband and I agree that there is so much wealth of children’s literature out there that we don’t feel any urgent need for our children to read The Wind in the Willows. If we do read it out loud as a family while our children are young, we will skip chapter seven. Most likely, however, we may save this as a fun return to childish anthropomorphism when our boys are in their late teens, where the themes may be particularly meaningful and when our boys could take on chapter seven as an exercise in practicing discernment.
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi On a much lighter note, we listened to the audio version of this classic on a road trip this year. Our boys, 4 and 6 at the time, gobbled it up! What does it mean to be a real boy? What are the consequences of having your own way and ignoring those who give you wise counsel? These questions are addressed in a very outrageously funny, though sometimes violent story. I highly recommend this story, though parents should consider the age-appropriateness of some of the darker elements (Pinocchio kills the cricket, a cat’s paw is bitten off, Pinocchio is hung by his neck from a tree, etc). For our kids, these were effectively shocking—they grabbed the attention—without causing any bad dreams or inspiring violent play.
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder We read Little House in the Big Woods in the first half of 2016, so naturally we moved on to the next in the series. We enjoyed following Laura’s family as they traveled to Kansas and set up their home and everything they needed from scratch. We all gained some perspective from imagining a life in which all of your family’s belongings fit on a simple covered wagon. And since we live in the country, there have been ample connections for us to make—they set up a garden, and we started our first garden last year; they had to dig a trench in order to protect their home from a prairie fire, and we have discussed fire safety measures like that as well. All in all, this is a series that no child should miss.
What was your favorite read from 2016? What’s on your list for this year?
2016 has come and gone. Another year in the books with no opportunity for a re-write. But with lessons learned and memories cherished, we move forward.
This year I’m changing things up a bit, both in my day-to-day life and on the blog. Here’s a run down to let you know what new things I’m taking on for the new year and what you might expect from me in the coming months.
I’m following a new Bible reading plan recommended by Tim Challies. I’m nearly two weeks in, and it’s been wonderful. I love that it has readings assigned for only five days a week, and that it has me reading in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms most days. If you don’t already have a plan for this year, check it out.
I’ve also got a new healthy eating mindset. Having struggled in the past with autoimmune disease, the effects of steroid treatment, and being overweight, I’ve tried quite a few “plans” out there, some more extreme than others. Two years ago I did a very limiting protocol that made me feel miserable rather than better, and on top of that I gained back all the weight I lost and then some when I rebounded from it. The past year has been spent stuck at the same weight but just eating whatever–I’ve not had the gumption to try any plan whatsoever, having been burned so badly the last time. So for this year, and actually starting in December, I’ve been learning to navigate disciplined eating and weight loss from a place of freedom rather than from a place of vacillating between an all-or-nothing extreme plan and a chuck-all-the-rules-I’ll-eat-whatever mentality. I have a weight loss goal in mind, and I have tools to get there. I am not ruled by the tools, they serve me. And ultimately I serve the Lord, not food or body image. By God’s grace, the scale is beginning to move without rigid rules.
Along with some better eating habits, I’ve also begun to change other daily habits. My husband has been getting up at 5:30 so he can spend time in prayer and in God’s word before heading off to work, and, though my body has been set to wake up at 6:30 for a LONG time, I’ve made the switch to rising at 6am. What a blessing this has been! As a stay-at-home home-schooling mama, I rarely have outside time commitments, so I can either fly by the seat of my pants or set my own schedule. As I was reevaluating my life and goals in December, I realized that I needed to work on the concept of keeping my appointments–with God (to seek Him), with myself (for exercise and personal development), with my husband (to stay in step with each other), with my kids (for school among other things), and with others (to show respect and honor to those with whom I’ve made commitments). I’m stoked because these are habits that I began BEFORE January first. I didn’t wait for the calendar to roll over in order to start doing what I know I need to do. Making changes immediately rather than waiting for an arbitrary start-date is a new aspect for me, and I think it’s consistent with the idea of laying off rigid rules and learning to simply choose freely to do what needs to be done.
I’m also approaching our homeschooling with a new level of confidence and consistency, thanks, largely, to an opportunity I had last fall to be part of a consistency boot-camp for homeschool moms that helped me evaluate where we are and where we want to be. Perhaps I’ll get to share more on that in the coming months. 😉
Along with being more consistent in our schooling, I’m also learning the art of taking true breaks from our school schedule. We had a full 17 days off from school for our Christmas break–normally we would only take off a few days around Christmas and maybe one around New Years, since in past years I have always been trying to cram as many days in as we could (a product of NOT being as consistent the rest of the year). This time, I had to hold myself back every time I thought, “Oh, I should try to throw in another day of school,” or “Oh, they’re doing something remotely educational, I should write that down in my planner!” Nope. I resisted. We had a TRUE break, and it was glorious. I plan on carrying this mindset with me as we go forward. Breaks are awesome. For all of us.
Along with that two-weeks-plus break came some fun celebrations with family and some newly organized spaces. It’s like a tradition around here. My husband’s work load usually lightens a bit between Christmas and New Years, and we usually have a few new things from Christmas that we have to make room for (such is life in a small house), so the last week of the year is unavoidably taken up with massive reorganization efforts!
With greater organization comes greater ability to manage our responsibilities, and my husband and I are optimistic that some of the major projects we took on last year (starting a garden for the first time, organizing our home school group’s Field Day event, and planning and hosting a retreat for college friends) will go off much more easily this year now that we’ve gone through the process once before and can take them on again without having to reinvent the wheel.
Less overwhelm from some of those spinning plates has freed up my sanity to consider moving forward with the blog. My goal for this year is to post about twice a month (up from once a month last year). Ambitious, I know. 😉
Over the next year you can expect to see more posts about homeschooling, including some video content, which I hope you will enjoy. Articles on marriage and parenting, devotionals, practical helps, photography, and book reviews are in the works, too. And speaking of book reviews, I plan on trying on a new schedule, ditching the school-year model I have been following and starting to post my micro book reviews with the calendar year. So be watching for a 2016 wrap-up post before January is over. (See? That will make two posts for January! We’re off to a good start!)
You may have already noticed the new name on the blog: Life Meets Jesus. As the name indicates, this will be a place where I share about life–anything and everything–and what it looks like for our family as we wrestle with aligning it all with our Lord Jesus Christ.
And with a new name will come…Lord willing…a new blog domain! I’m praying that transition will go smoothly.
God is at work in us to accomplish His good pleasure. And we’re excited.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
How about you? Any big changes or special plans for 2017? Are you still going strong two weeks in?
What are you looking forward to from this blog? What topics or types of posts most interest you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!
Charlotte Mason, children, Children are born persons, education, For the Children's Sake, homeschooling, motherhood, Right Start Math, Short Lessons, Struggling Learner, Teaching Math, Teaching Reading
I had an a-ha moment today.
And who would have thought that it would come from two very different experiences happening on the same day?
I’ve posted before about the initial struggles I had with our math curriculum. Since that first-year learning curve, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Until this week.
Our curriculum made some huge leaps this week, as far as I’m concerned. My oldest son struggled with two separate lessons that took his addition skills and subtraction skills up a few notches. And by a few notches, I mean like FIVE. There were some tears, and I decided to split his work for one lesson over two days. “Short lessons” is one of many principles of education promoted by Charlotte Mason, a British educator at the turn of the 20th century, whose methods I have been reading about in For the Children’s Sake.
We would revisit his worksheet tomorrow, I said. In the mean time, I did some digging.
Looking back over our lessons, I realized that while the jump in addition may simply be larger than I agree is appropriate (at least for a child who is young-for-grade-level), the leap in subtraction was mostly difficult for two reasons:
My conclusion from this negative experience is that I’ve been too focused on getting to the next lesson. Or to the next child on a given day. My son is slow to get his work done, so we’ve not had time leftover for games. Instead of seeing that as a hint to slow down, take a day off for a “Game Day”, and build the skills that would help him work faster, I’ve plowed forward, getting us further in the book but not necessarily further in skills and understanding.
As all of that was sinking in this morning, I had the pleasure of a very positive experience with my younger son.
Today I got to introduce my five-year-old to “one-thousand”. Place value may not seem that exciting to adults, but when you’re five, and you’re the little guy, it’s pretty exhilarating to finally feel like you are catching up with your big brother. After the concepts were introduced, one of the exercises was to write in his math journal “5000 dogs”, “8000 pigs”, “3000 cats”, etc. This little man is just beginning reading lessons, and we’ve been stuck pretty much at the beginning. He often forgets his letters and their sounds, and the idea that sounds, once identified, can be blended together to form words has been pretty much lost on him.
I helped him say each sound of each word in turn, then write the correct letter. He actually guessed the letters correctly most of the time. Then we worked on sounding out the words he’d written. He blended sounds together rather painlessly for the first time ever!
We were both thrilled!
He happily copied his name and the words “can read!” right next to where I had written them on his paper. A math lesson turned into our most successful reading lesson yet!
We were so excited and felt so full that it seemed silly to do anything more! In the past, if we had made some progress on reading I would have thought “more is better” and pressed on to do the next lesson–or at least tried to re-focus us on finishing the math lesson. But today I realized that the joy of learning is the ultimate goal. And I saw very clearly how pushing for more would have ruined the moment for both me and my son.
It made me wonder: How often has my son had a “moment” in his learning, but I didn’t detect it? How often have I squelched his joy in learning by trying to move ahead too quickly?
With my oldest’s recent painful math lessons, I saw how my desire to “finish this today” and “check off a box and move on” over the past several months has done him a disservice. We would have done much better to have played more games by insisting on less arbitrary “progress”. Behold, the negative effects of ignoring Charlotte Mason’s concept of short lessons.
Once I got around to my second-born, I was ready to put the rubber to the road, and we had the incredibly awesome experience of seeing the joy of learning spill over into the rest of the day because we didn’t bury it in any more school work.
Less is more. Especially when you’re five. And maybe even in your thirties, but that’s another post for another day.
We are forging ahead, but our destination is now a more distant consideration. Stopping to smell the proverbial roses along the way is now on my list of “objectives”.
I have learned today that I am teaching a child, my child–not a subject or a curriculum. I’ve heard others say that before, but now I own it by experience.
Any other teachers or homeschool mamas out there? Have you had this “a-ha” moment, too? If you’re into Charlotte Mason’s philosophies, how has implementing the principle of short lessons helped you and your students?