Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Living (and Blogging) Coram Deo

We women are notorious for comparing ourselves with others, aren't we?
I know I struggle with it. I know in my head that we are all normal human beings, with our own strengths and weaknesses. Still, I can't seem to help myself.

I suspect that most women do a better job at keeping house than I do. On the other hand, I have mad skills at whipping up a meal when any other person would think there is nothing in the house to whip a meal up with. When it comes to homeschooling, I do none of the wonderful creative, crafty things so many seem to be able to do with their little ones. And yet we have a wonderful time with our nature study and our living books and our math games.

And I don't just compare myself and other women. I compare my children with theirs. It just seems like a natural reflex. How do their skills measure up against other children their own age? I feel encouraged in areas that they are doing better than their peers, discouraged when another skill doesn't seem to measure up.

To be honest, this is the one thing I struggle with when I blog. I know that homeschoolers are going to read what I write and compare their lives, their gifts, and their children's gifts with mine. I know this because I fall into that myself when I'm reading other people's blogs.

We all need to remember that we live coram Deo. As R.C. Sproul defines it, "To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God." 

It should not matter at all what anyone else is doing. It should be enough for us (more than enough!) to try to faithfully use the gifts God has given us for his glory. It should be enough to do daily the work He has set before us.

The gifts and the callings he has given us are different from those he has given our blogging friends. We are not called to faithfully use their gifts or to do what they are called to do. We are called to encourage one another and build each other up. I hope you see that heart here, and that when you visit this blog you look for encouragement to apply to your own calling as you live before God.

We do not live before the face of the internet. (coram interrÄ“te?) We live before the face of God.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Not Subjects, but Relationships

Dear Readers, I have just been going through old drafts that never got finished and published on the blog. This fragment is several months old, and I've long since lost that train of thought (It seems to have been a good one!). I want to save it, so I'm publishing it just as it is.

In a Charlotte Mason education, the so-called "extras" are not really extra. They are what make life rich. The poetry, the music, the handicrafts, the nature walks are all part of the "science of relations"...the relationships children are forming with the world around them. Yes, the core subjects of reading and math are essential, but not for any utilitarian reason. Reading is a skill that opens the door to even more relationships...with people from history, with places far away, with ideas. And yes, math is about relationships, too.
"a system of education should have for its aim, not the mastery of certain 'subjects,' but the establishment of these relations in as many directions as circumstances will allow." (vol. 3, p.88)

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Top Ten Books of the Year

Last year at about this time, Tim Challies put out a reading challenge on his blog. While I have always loved reading, my reading had slowed down considerably in the last few years. I blame my four rambunctious little boys. I was still reading childrens' books for them, and homeschooling books for me, but that was about it. Reading through the challenge last year, I was very inspired to begin to read intentionally again. I first set my goal at 26 books, then later changed it to 52. I would have liked to jump to the next category, but 104 still seemed a bit much for me! Right now I'm at 70 books (a few of them did not fit into the categories in the challenge), and I hope to finish a few more before December is over. I will definitely be joining the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge again.

I must admit, I did not work through the challenge in an orderly way. I used the categories as inspiration as I looked for books to read, but then I read whatever I wanted and found a category to fit. I am thinking I will do the same next year.

I recently charted all the books I'd read to see what I could find out about myself and my reading habits. Here's the breakdown:
I read 32 fiction books, and 38 nonfiction. Of the nonfiction, 22 were memoir, biography, or autobiography. Of the fiction, 14 were historical fiction. For some reason I expected that I would read more fiction, and before this I had no idea that memoir was a favourite category of mine. Only 16 of the books were explicitly Christian, though a few more were by Christian authors. I would have expected more than that at the beginning of the year. But there you are.

I also broke down when the books were written. I read six books that were over 100 years old, and eight more that were over 50 years old. Forty were written after 2000. The rest were in between. I was surprised at this, too. I also noticed that I started reading more newer books about halfway through the year (That's when I started to listen to Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next podcast. I'm thinking maybe I should stop, but I do enjoy it so much!)

Here are my top ten books of the year (Links for your convenience, not affiliate links. If you're buying, please find a blogger you want to support that way!):

1. The Island of the World by Michael O'Brien. I reviewed it here. I still think about it.

2. Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. Here's my review. I know I will come back to this one again and again.

3. George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore. Here's my short goodreads review of the first volume. This was a set of two HUGE volumes, and they were definitely worth the time I put into them.

4. More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen. I would never have expected an interpretation of the book of Revelation to be in my top ten, but it was wonderful. When I was finished, I wanted to start at the beginning again.

5. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. It was even better than Hannah Coulter, which I read last year. Lovely, lovely writing. My goodreads review is here.

6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I read this with the classics book club I'm a part of. I also narrated it to myself, which slowed me down and surprised me by allowing my imagination of the book to become much more vivid than it would normally be. I loved it.

7. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. There was a specific category for this author in the 2016 Reading Challenge, and I am so glad there was! I will be reading more by McCullough.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you haven't read this before, you need to put it at the top of your to-read list now. I didn't review it, but Cindy Rollins gives it ten out of five stars, and I agree with her.

9. Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman. Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time. This biography of the author is well written, and I found it fascinating.

10. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. I read this for the "Pulitzer Prize winner" category of the 2016 Reading Challenge. It transported me into a world that is completely foreign to me. This is another book that I would never have picked up without the reading challenge, and I am grateful.

Honourable mentions:
Persuasion by Jane Austen. This would have gone into the top ten at number 6, except that this is probably the fifth time I've read it, so I decided to give the space to the books I hadn't read before.

High Call, High Privilege by Gail MacDonald. Another re-read, and on a specialized topic that's not for everyone. If you're a pastor's wife (or will be one), this is well worth reading. For pastors, I'd recommend On Being a Pastor by Derek J. Prime and Alistair Begg.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.
If all the above titles seem a bit over-serious to you, go for this bit of fluff. Just lovely.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Living & Learning Update # 5: Books, exams, more books

Living

Don't tell anyone, but I think I might be in trouble with my husband for using the word "minimalism" and "books" in the same sentence. I might have him a bit worried... he would be quite happy if every book that came into this house would never, ever leave. I tried to relieve his mind last week by buying four new bookcases and eagerly attending a library used book sale. Seriously, though, despite our growing collection of books, I am still comfortable using the word "minimalism" in connection with books. To me, minimalism is about keeping the things we truly value and getting rid of the excess. That is what I intentionally try to do with our books. Some might not understand how people like us could possibly value so many books so very highly, but we truly do. The thing that makes me a minimalist despite this is that I am intentional about evaluating each book that we keep. He feels a little more comfortable with the term "curated collection" so maybe I'll just go with that instead of "minimalism," at least in his hearing...

Learning

We finished Term 1 of our Ambleside Online years 3 and 1 this week. I haven't counted, but it took a bit longer than twelve weeks. We'll take this coming week off, with the exception of an exam question at breakfast every morning.

I asked SA(8) an exam question this week about "When Mary visited Elizabeth." I got only silence until he finally confessed that he was confused about whether I was asking about the Bible or Our Island Story (Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots)!

We finished The Princess and the Goblin on Friday. We had a bit of a rough start with it at the beginning of the term. I was having SA read it on his own, and he found it hard to narrate. Then halfway through I decided I'd read aloud to him, and I think he fell in love with it. In any case, he picked up the sequel The Princess and Curdie and has been reading non-stop since yesterday. He had only two chapters left to go this evening. This makes me very happy, because it is still very rare for him to pick up a chapter book and just read. He may turn into a bookworm yet! (JJ, on the other hand, is already a bookworm.)

Reading

I'm reading Caddie Woodlawn and Robin Hood with the boys at bedtime. SA and JJ rush to get ready so they can be the first to put their vote in as to what we will read. MM(4) has figured out that if he's last he can be the tie-breaker, though, so he takes his time!

I'm reading Side by Side by Ed Welch, a book about how we need the Lord, and how we need each other. I'm also deep into the Iliad again in preparation for my study group, and I've begun reading Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, spurred on by Brandy at Afterthoughts blog. I also have a novel on the go: A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle. It's the second book I've read by L'Engle. The first I read was the fourth volume of her Crosswicks Journals. I'm starting on the opposite end than most people do with L'Engle (she is well known for her children's literature) but I am really enjoying these mature works. I will get to the children's books too someday.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Living & Learning Update #4: Flat Stanley, Shoeboxes, Scheduling App

Living

SA(8) had a cousin from Saskatchewan send him a Flat Stanley. On Tuesday we went out and took a couple of pictures at Peake's Quay (where the Fathers of Confederation landed) and Province House (where the Fathers of Confederation met and Canada was born.). The tiny figure on the step is SA, holding Flat Stanley.


Yesterday SA(8), JJ(6), niece I(9) and I went to the Operation Christmas Child packing party at our church. In the last few years we've just packed our own boxes, but the party was great fun! 82 boxes were packed in just over an hour.


Learning

This week was much nicer weather than last for our #FallOutside2016 nature challenge! We are trying to get outside every day for at least 15 minutes this month. This week started out gorgeous. On Wednesday we even had lessons outside because it was so warm... it actually went up to 13 degrees (about 55 Farenheit)! We stayed outside almost all day that day. We didn't get all the schoolwork done, but it will probably be June before it's that nice again and we wanted to enjoy it.

 
 
MM(4) has been very earnest lately about trying things on the piano. He looks very carefully at his brother's piano book and tries to figure it out with his fingers on the keys. Afterwards he comes to me and asks if I heard him playing.
 
 


In other news, I have discovered a lovely app for my iPhone called 30/30. It seems perfect for scheduling Charlotte Mason-style short lessons. I put in my "Daily List" of lessons we do together as a family. For each item on the list I can add a specific period of time. When the timer rings, our lesson is over and it goes on to the next item (I have it pause at that point until we're set to go with our next lesson.) So far it has worked really well to keep us on track. Because that list is quite similar for us every day, I just make minor adjustments to the list each evening. This may even end up replacing my paper and pen daily checklist!

I have lists for each child for the work they do separately as well. That works a little less well because they work at different things at the same time. (SA does copywork while I read to JJ, for example). I may figure out how to make it work yet, though.

Has anyone else tried this app for homeschooling to-do lists?


Reading

In light reading, I read Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires this week. I loved it. She was the New York Times restaurant critic for a while and this book is about her various disguises as she did that.

In slightly heavier reading, I started Kathleen Norris' Acedia & Me. It seems very promising. I read her Amazing Grace earlier this year and found it very thought provoking and worth reading, though I come from a very different background and disagree with some foundational things she seems to take for granted.

With the boys I started Caddie Woodlawn for their bedtime reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Living & Learning Update # 3: Origami, Fall Outside Nature Challenge


Origami

I have been greeted by this sight every morning for the last several weeks. SA(8) and JJ(6) are obsessed with origami. Earlier this fall at a yard sale I found what I thought was a package of origami paper for a dollar. This origami paper turned out to have folding instructions on the back of each page. The boys have been making their own square "origami paper" by cutting printer paper, and have been making many of the designs.

I am amazed at how skilled they have become. We did origami as our "handicraft" last year at some point, and it was very difficult for them at first. Now they are doing quite complex folds, making paper tulips and elephants and cranes. They have definitely left me behind! (This is making me feel better about myself, since I am failing to teach them a handicraft this term.) I must say, though, that the mess they create is terrible, especially since their instructions are loose-leaf and not in a book.


Fall Outside 2016 Nature Challenge
This "adventure" is put on by Dawn from Mud Puddles to Meteors. The challenge is to get outside in nature for 15 minutes every day of  this month. November can be so cold and grey (and it was, this week!)! I knew I needed the kick in the pants to get the children out every day. There was quite a bit of foot-dragging at the beginning of the week, but by the end the boys were getting used to the cold again and enjoying being out in nature. On Thursday we lit a little bonfire, and that was a huge hit. They stayed out for a couple of hours that day.

 We are also doing some little drawings on a calendar to chronicle our month with nature. I love MM(4)'s poplar leaf!

Reading
Here is my youngest book lover AJ "reading" The Gingerbread Man. His favourite book, though, is One Summer Day by Kim Lewis. It has a little boy of about his size who, like him, plays peekaboo, and likes to get his shoes and coat on to go outside.


In other reading news, I finished reading William Steig's Newberry Honor book Abel's Island aloud to the bigger boys. They loved it, and the pictures really enhanced the story for them. I enjoyed it, but I did find Abel a bit eccentric at times, and the story ended rather abruptly. William Steig is an interesting author. I don't like all of his children's books, and I don't find his art all that charming (children like it, though), but he has a few books I absolutely love. Amos and Boris definitely goes into my top 10 picture books of all time. Another one I love is called Yellow & Pink, which is a quirky parable about intelligent design.

In my own reading, I am almost through Elizabeth Goudge's Scent of Water. I am enjoying it, but not as much as I had hoped. My expectations were too high, and the deficiency is in myself. I can only explain the problem in MBTI terms. I am not "iNtuitive" enough for this book. As an ISFJ, I have put some thought into how I interact with other types. The "N" types are the ones most likely to mystify me. As in this case, this is usually in a good way (I stand in awe of the way someone sees the world and communicates about it.), but sometimes it is in a not so good way (I am completely mystified by the way someone thinks...they seem to be ungrounded in reality.) I think Elizabeth Goudge is an "NF" type. Her writing is very evocative. She does put a lot of sensory detail in her novels, but it is all about the feeling her description creates in you. Any attempt to recreate the scene (whether in a movie or in real life) would be disappointing, because it's not about the details, it's about the atmosphere. Does that make sense? Any other "S" types out there that get what I'm saying here, or does this sound crazy to you? The feelings I get as I read are lovely but nebulous, and they drift away from me. The truth that comes through sometimes in this novel is beautiful but almost always startling to me, as it seems to burst forth out of almost nothing (there is no logic, no natural progression to it). I'm not at all saying I didn't like the book, just that I didn't feel quite at home in it.

I should say that I think most of the best novel writers are "N" types, and very few of them make me feel like outsiders in the worlds they create. Marilyn Robinson is another very strongly intuitive type, and I think her books are wonderful. I am not like her Lila, but I love her and stand in awe. Even L.M. Montgomery, who speaks so much of kindred spirits, does not make me feel as though I am not one. (After all, she lets Diana Barry be one, and Diana does not "get" Anne all the time either.) Elizabeth Goudge creates a sympathetic world between her intuitive type kindred spirits --Mary, Edith, Paul-- and the ordinary people really don't matter all that much in her world. Perhaps this is why Goudge is so very loved...all the "N" type readers feel like the characters are kindred spirits, and her way of thinking and imagining feels like home.

So end my jumbled musings...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Minimalism for Homeschooling Book Lovers

Is there such a thing?

I have been reading about minimalism for a while now, but I have never found a good article or book on minimalism that directly addresses the kind of book lovers that we are in my family.

We love books. They are not merely entertainment for us. We homeschool, not using textbooks, but real, living books. We already have many books, but with our oldest child only in grade three we still have many future years of homeschooling to collect books for. It is quite possible we will never be quite done. When the kids leave home, we'll have more time for reading ourselves, right?

However. All these books must have a home.

Our home is not large. We have eleven bookcases, each with four shelves: four in the boys' room (categories: children's fiction, children's nonfiction, adult fiction, biographies, poetry), four in our bedroom (categories: theology, other nonfiction), and three downstairs (categories: school books up to grade 5, current school books, Canadian books, music and art books). That doesn't include the picture books in plastic bins for the little children's easy reach. We already have too many books for our shelves, and are keeping some in boxes.

I am attracted to minimalism, and working towards it in the areas of my home that I have control over. At the same time, I know that our book collection will continue to grow. Books are what spark joy around here. They are also the tools of my trade (homeschooling), and will be for some time to come.

Here are some ideas if you are like me.

1. Only keep books that spark joy.
This concept is borrowed from Marie Kondo. I know, I know, the section of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up dealing with books probably horrified you to your core, and no wonder.
And yet... it has been very helpful for me to ask of every book on my shelves, "Does this particular book spark joy?" Since I am quite selective about books anyway, most of the books on my shelves did indeed spark joy. Still, by removing the few that didn't, I really concentrated the joy. My bookshelves really, really make me happy now.

If, like me, you are into Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, you could also ask, "Is this a living book?" If it is not, it generally can go. There is no need to keep mediocre books when there are so many excellent ones out there!

This also means getting rid of the "What if I will need it some day?" books. For example, I had some books on great artists. They were not living books. They were not even beautiful (a lot of black and white prints of paintings). I thought I wanted to keep them as references for when we did picture study in our homeschool. And yet, when we studied one of the artists in those books, I did not pull it out. I got a variety of books from the library instead. I realized that this was likely to be a pattern, and I truly did not need these books. It took me a long time, but eventually I did let them go. I have other art books that I am keeping because they are beautiful and bring me joy. If you are saying to yourself, "It's not a living book, but what if I need it some day?" Let it go and make space in your life for more living books.

2. Get rid of duplicates.
We have a lot of classic children's literature. That kind of literature is the very kind that people like us "don't mind having more than one of." However, that kind of literature is often easily replaceable (even used, cheap) if you ever do need another copy. In the meantime, where space is finite, getting rid of duplicates frees up space for more titles. Of course, there will be exceptions, such as different translations to compare, or favourite vintage titles that are hard to get and must be passed down to several children.

3. Organize your books.
Until your books are organized, you will not realize how many duplicates you have, and you will not be able to find what you need when you need it. My books are organized by category, and by author within each category. If I accidentally buy a duplicate, I notice immediately when I am putting it away. I am working on putting our books into libib, a lovely cataloguing website and app, but I'm not sure I will ever be done... this takes time!

4. Accept that some books have their seasons.
There will be a time when I will no longer need my early reading books. I will probably keep a few of my favourites (Frog and Toad!), but at some point most of them will be passed on to someone who needs them. Some day I will be finished homeschooling, and while it is probable that by then many of our school books will be such favourites that I will never part with them, others will be able to be culled.

5. Keep only the books that reflect the kind of "book person" you actually are, not the one you want to see yourself as.
This is one I'm struggling with. I have several vintage books. I have had them for ten years now, have never read them, and never will. I might like to think of myself as a collector of vintage books, but really, I'm not. I buy and will continue to buy vintage books that we will actually read. I personally do not keep books just to look pretty on my shelf. That's not the kind of "book person" I am. Realizing this might help me to let these books go. We'll see... they're not gone yet!

Be careful, though. If I had been following this principle two years ago, I could have gotten rid of a lot of my adult literature (hypothetically speaking, in case my husband is reading this...). I could have thought to myself that my husband and I don't really read anymore. It was true, there were several years when we didn't read much. But now I'm back into reading again. It was just a really busy time of babies and diapers and beginning homeschooling. If this is you, ask yourself, "Am I really not a book person, or am I just in a stage of life that makes it difficult to read?"

6. Always have enough shelves for your books, and keep no more books than fit on your shelves.
This is a rule I aspire to, but do not follow right now. I have three large boxes of books that do not fit on my shelves. But it's what I'm working towards. In this case, the solution will have to be to build more shelves.

7. Accept the process.
To quote Sarah MacKenzie, I have made the decision to "build [my] family culture around books." In doing so, I am accepting the work it takes to curate and maintain a collection that reflects what we love and who we are as a family. I am accepting the tension created by limited space, and that books we like will have to make their way out to make room for books we love. This is hard work, but it's work that I must accept if I want to have and keep the books we love. If ever I am not willing to accept responsibility for taking care of these books, it will be time to let them go.

What about you? Do you see minimalism and book collecting as competing goals? What ideas have helped you as your book collection grows?


Edited to add some pictures of my "children's fiction" section, because I know you like looking at other peoples' bookshelves. :) You're welcome.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Living & Learning Update # 2: Moss Nature Walk, Learning Styles

Living
The week started out with Stephen and all the boys sick. Wednesday I thought they were all well enough to start working on our lessons again. Now they are all full of energy!

My sister saw my links about decluttering last week and asked if I'd like to join her for a decluttering challenge. She is going to get rid of one thing a day, and I am trying to get rid of a box or bag a day. In real life, it is going a little slower than that for me...I just have a box on top of my fridge and I pop three or four things into it every day. It feels so good to get these things out of the house!

I am also working on reorganizing my books...a constant challenge for me, mostly because I keep acquiring more. (Yes, I do know I have competing goals here as I declutter stuff with one hand, and take in more books with the other! I am still working on reconciling those goals in my mind and my home. When I do, I'll write a post about it for you.) I now officially have too many books for my shelf space, so I have boxed up all my biographies and my poetry to await the day when my husband will make some more shelves.

Learning
After a week of sickness, it was good to get out for a nature walk on Thursday. We went to Reardon's Pond, which is only a three-minute drive from our house. As we walked along the trail to the pond, we noticed a clearing in the woods that almost seemed to glow. We broke through the brush and found ourselves in an almost magical place. The ground inside that circle between the trees was thickly carpeted with light green moss. It felt springy under our feet, and I put my finger in it to measure how deep it was --about 4 inches! There were a few decomposing fallen trees in the circle, but all of them were under the same carpet of moss. There were several varieties of mosses and lichens, and I want to go back to put them in my nature journal. My nature journal is sadly neglected right now because the AJ(1) will never let go of me in any unfamiliar place!


Reading
Today I started reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I am afraid it's going to be a tough slog for me. A friend put several of Eldredge's books into our hands and highly recommended them, so I feel I must give this book a chance and read it deeply enough to interact intelligently about it. As of page 9 it is not promising...

My book club had our Till We Have Faces meeting this week. I thought our discussion was the best yet, even though I can't profess to have understood the book well (I will definitely read it again!). It had so many ideas to chew on, so many "this reminds me of that" moments. Next up: The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. I have read one book before by Goudge and did not love it (The Heart of the Family). However, I've since discovered on Goodreads that this book is not generally a favourite among Goudge lovers so I probably should not have started with it. It was just what my library had available at the time. Time to try this author again.

Links
Learning Styles are Bunk (Podcast) by Brandy Vencel and Pam Barnhill
Before you turn away because you just know that you personally have a learning style and so do your children, let me assure you that they do not deny that you probably have a learning preference. The point is that you do your children a disservice when you cater exclusively to their learning preferences. This really rang true to me.

My learning preferences are ones that work well in school: reading and listening to lectures. My greatest weakness is visualizing, seeing things in my mind's eye. Of course, my education catered to my learning preferences. Before I started using Charlotte Mason's methods to teach my children, I had never been challenged to use other ways of learning. I didn't even realize until a few years ago that other people often have a better ability to visualize things than I do. Now that I've done some picture study with my children, I realize that this is because this way of learning has never been developed in me. If I had done picture study as a child, my ability to visualize would be better now. I know this because it is improving now. When we study a picture, I can actually recall it visually --not perfectly, but still as a picture. Maybe you'd have to be me to know how miraculous this seems to me. It is never too late, but it does tend to seem easier to learn these things when you are young.

What did you think of this podcast?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Living & Learning Update #1: A New Weekly Newsletter

I've been very quiet on the blog lately. I need to ease back into it, and what better way than with a weekly newsletter?

Living
Monday was Thanksgiving Day, and it was an interesting one! We were going to go to my in-laws for dinner, but they lost power (Thankfully the turkey was done cooking!). We hadn't left home yet, and I invited them all over here. This would normally have been no problem, except that Stephen was working on putting in a door in the living/dining room, and it was cold, wet, and windy in there. (The picture is from a couple of days before, when the weather was still warm.) So I laid out all the food in the kitchen, and then we all traipsed upstairs and ate in the bedrooms where it was warm. Our power went out too, but not until the evening.

Wednesday morning MM(4) fell down the stairs and pulled a muscle in his neck. He ended up lying on the couch for two and a half days straight. Since he wasn't sick, that meant crankiness!

Wednesday evening SA(8) came down with a nasty bug. Since then the other boys have also gotten sick, though they just seem to have a bad cold.


Learning
Needless to say, with all that sickness, our lessons went down the drain this week. SA(8) and I did get to go to our French class on Tuesday afternoon. I am so pleased with this class! The main benefit to us is that the children are learning from a teacher whose native language is French. There are seven homeschooled children in the class, mostly around 8-10 years old. The class runs from 3-5 PM. I must admit that I worried a little about taking my son who is used to Charlotte Mason style short lessons to a two-hour class. My fears were groundless. The teacher switches activities often enough that no one loses attention. There is also a break in the middle. This week they learned numbers from 1-20, played hangman to reinforce the alphabet in French, and learned the conjugation of "avoir," using it in sentences.

Reading
We are still reading through Robin Hood at bedtime (When AO Year 2 ended, I decided to finish the book as a bedtime read-aloud). We also read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in the last two weeks. It was good, silly fun. While all the boys are there at our bedtime story time, I often read a chapter from one storybook for the little ones first, and then another for the older ones.

My own reading has sadly dropped off a little since our school year started...I think too much mental energy was being expended. However, I have managed to keep up with the Iliad for my study group, and Till We Have Faces for my book club. I love both groups...both are for homeschooling moms who are interested in self-education. I don't make friends easily, and these groups who share common interests are a pure joy to me.

While I was out and about for groceries this week, I stopped at our local library for their used book sale. I found a hardcover copy of The Lord of the Rings series at $1 per volume! I also found a beautiful edition of Arabian Nights (this one), also for $1.

Links
Some things I've been thinking about lately...

How Getting Rid of 'Stuff' Saved My Motherhood by Allie Cassazza
I handed this to my husband after I read it. I hadn't realized that this being stressed because of too much stuff is a real "thing" for women. I've gotten rid of ten boxes of stuff since I read this a month ago. Not that anyone can tell yet. I just keep on keeping on...

The Joy of Less: 4 Decluttering Epiphanies that have Changed my Life by Michele Connolly
I really liked number 3.

Anchoring: An Organizational Tool by Renee Tougas
This post changed my life several years ago, and I still live by it.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Daily Planning Routine

I've mentioned my "average day" schedule before. Now that I'm in the swing of things this school year, I'd like to share what I do every day to keep things going smoothly.

I have a clipboard full of plain lined paper.
Every evening I look at my schedule, I look at my Ambleside Online charts, and I think about what else I have planned for the next day.
Then, I quickly write down a checklist of what lessons we will do together as a family, and little checklists of what lessons I will do with each child individually.


And that's all there is to it! Ten minutes, tops.

I find that if I'm ever too tired in the evening and skip this step, the next day is practically guaranteed not to go smoothly. I think it's not the list that makes the difference so much as the process of making the list. Making the list helps me mentally walk through my day before I find myself in the middle of it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review: Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins

http://www.meremotherhood.com/I have often thought that if I could have one wish, I would wish to have wisdom without having to live through difficult and painful experience. I think it would be nice to have this wisdom now, while my children are young, rather than waiting until we have been through many dangers, toils, and snares together. This wish comes out of an earnest desire to get mothering and homeschooling right. I like doing things right the first time, as my mother could tell you.

Of course, that's not how it works. And even if I was perfectly wise and had all the experience in the world, my children would still be themselves, and it would still take the amazing grace of God to save them from their sin and the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth.

Cindy Rollins' new memoir Mere Motherhood spoke to me. It told me hard and overwhelming things. It told me that even when a young Christian mother is earnest and intentional and hard-working, she is not exempt from potentially costly blind spots and mistakes. It told me that the results are not guaranteed. My boys will grow up and make their own choices, and their choices might not look like my hopes and dreams for them.
"Perhaps our roles as caretakers just give the Holy Spirit ample scope to humble us and remind us how little we know and how very little we control... Maybe the greater part of our sanctification comes as we remember  that those around us were not born as appendages to us; they are unique individuals made in the image of God." (p. 6)
This book also gave me hope. It taught me that I will never regret anchoring myself and my children in the Word of God and in prayer. It told me that I will never be sorry for "tethering" them to a heritage of all that is good, and true, and beautiful. These little things that I keep doing faithfully every day matter, even though I cannot control what fruit they will bear in my children's lives.
"Mama, you are the first pillar of education. You are a vital part of the infrastructure of culture, family, and even the body of Christ. This is not about having the perfect family or the perfect school. Your success or failure doesn't rest on your perfection, just your faithfulness." (p. 160)
Lest you think this book is all earnestness, I must tell you that it has some great laugh-out-loud moments. Cindy weaves in an abundance of understated humour and, happily for me, literary and biblical references that I actually 'got.' For example:
"Jayber Crow had a barber shop in town, and Barney Fife was our one policeman."
Isn't that a delightfully quick way to give a person an accurate view of what the town in question was like?

Before I began to read this book, I intended to pass it on to my sister after I was finished with it. Once I read it, though, I handed it to my mother first. As a homeschooler of the same generation as Cindy Rollins, there were parts of it she could have written.

There is something for every homeschooler in this book. Young, newly minted homeschoolers will be encouraged to faithfully weave what is good, true, and beautiful into their daily lives. Some may be disturbed at the idea that they are not in control of the outcome, and yet the warning is necessary and the hope Cindy points to is rock solid. Christ is the one who covers all our sins as mothers. Homeschoolers in their middle years will find this a book for the journey when things are hard and perhaps not turning out the way they expected. Even mothers who have finished their homeschooling journey may find encouragement to trust and not be afraid.
"I am less tempted to fear for my children these days. I still worry, but not as much as I used to. I know bad things can happen, but I also know that God is up to the challenge. He is trustworthy and I can give my precious family to him. I do not have to clasp them tightly in my hands. As Corrie Ten Boom said, 'Hold everything in your hands lightly, Otherwise, it hurts when God pries your fingers open.'" (p.4)
I commend Mere Motherhood to all homeschooling mothers, not just those of the Charlotte Mason persuasion. Cindy Rollins reminds us of what is really important in this journey we're on.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Show and Tell: The "Schedule"

I use the term "schedule" loosely in my homeschool...being tied to the clock does not work well with babies and toddlers in the house! However, we do have a routine, and I have found it helpful to post our "average day" on the wall so the children know what to expect.


In keeping with my habit of pinning our school activities to normal household routines that always happen no matter what (meals and snacks, for example), I have divided our chart into smaller charts. Somehow it seems slightly less overwhelming that way too...



 
This routine is very similar to our routine last year, except that this year, I have a new Year 1 student! I have planned to do several lessons together with my Year 3 student (the Morning Time and Tea Time routines are done together), but I still need about 45 one-on-one minutes with JJ(6). That's 10 for math, 10 for phonics and reading, 10 for piano, and 15 for beginning narration.

 
When I total it up, total school time for my Year 1 student is 2 hours and 15 minutes, and for my Year 3 student is 2 hours and 30 minutes. This does not include our "Morning Time" routine, but it does include our relaxed "poetry teatime" routine and 20 minutes of Phys. Ed. and play in the middle of it all. For me, of course, the total is more like 3 hours and 45 minutes. I hope that will decrease a little if SA(8) gets more independent with some of his lessons. 


 
I am trying to get most of the work done in the morning so the afternoon can be much more free. I will be trying throughout to do as much as is reasonably feasible outside, even during the morning.
 
We have been having a break from screen time this summer, and I will continue with that as long as the weather is nice. In the winter I will probably return to our usual allowance of screen time at 4:00.
 
Keep in mind that this is only my plan! No doubt it will evolve over time as we work it out.
 
How do you organize your school days?
 


Monday, July 25, 2016

Show and Tell: Maps for the New School Year

I'm sure a lot of you do the same thing as we do: go back and forth from the dining room table to the couch, to the backyard to do your homeschooling. We have a normal-sized house, adequate but not expansive ...no space for a dedicated room for homeschooling here!

I had an idea this year for all the maps we need for our lessons. I put a tablecloth on the table, laid out the maps, and put a clear vinyl tablecloth (from the dollar store) on top of it all.
I'm finding the vinyl tablecloth a little thin and will be looking for one of a bit heavier weight, but I think the idea will serve us well. I may also look for some clips to hold it all in place. The vinyl has been sliding a little bit, though the tablecloth underneath and the maps stay in place remarkably well.
 
Most of the maps are outline maps, unlabeled. We will write in the names of the places as we read. The map below is one of Newfoundland, the Maritimes, and part of Quebec for our study of Jacques Cartier this term. I also have maps of Canada, Europe, the Great Lakes, the Exodus from Egypt, and the Mongol Empires of 1200-1480 AD. All of these relate directly to our lessons coming up this year.

 
For the maps themselves, I searched online for maps in the public domain, saved them, and sent the files to Staples to print them in the format I requested. Most are 11x13 on cardstock. 11x13 was the largest size I could print before the price jumped from 89 cents to $14.99, and I thought cardstock would be a bit more durable than paper. If you are using Ambleside Online, I realized just after I did all the work of finding maps that the forum there has links for all the maps you might need!
 
We also have a world map and a Canada map on the wall next to the table to give context to these smaller maps.
 
What about you? How do you use maps in your homeschool? I'd love to hear how everyone else does it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Deciding What to Combine in AO Years 3 and 1

As we begin this coming school year, SA(8) will be in Year 3 using Ambleside Online, and JJ(6) will be starting Year 1. I also have two preschoolers: MM(4) and AJ(1). I think I mentioned last time that planning for two official students seems like a huge thing for me. (Feel free to smile, you moms of many. Some day I will be where you are.) This process of deciding what to do together and what to do separately is a personal one. Some people combine, some don't, some just combine a few things. This is just my plan...it is prescriptive for no one but me!


Pre-Reading...The First Step When Choosing What to Combine
I started my planning by pre-reading week 1 of Year 3. Pre-reading is becoming more important now as I plan to have SA read more of his lessons on his own. (Narrations will still be oral, of course.) I am hoping to keep a few weeks ahead of him if I can. I take notes in my bullet journal that I can refer to as we set up the lessons...names to introduce, places to find on our maps, and words to define so they don't bring him to a screeching halt in the middle of a lesson (I try not to do more than three per lesson...many words are easily understood from their context.). I also jot down sentences that might be good choices for copywork.

Besides these things, pre-reading the first week of lessons before even beginning to think about scheduling allowed me to easily see which books might be good options to do with SA and JJ together, which books SA can probably read on his own, and which books I should continue to read aloud to him.



Some Obvious Things to Combine
There are some things that we have been doing together all along, and we will not change that. These things are:
  • Bible reading and narration (JJ will just begin to take his turn narrating along with SA.)
  • Pilgrim's Progress
  • Bible, hymn, and catechism memory work
  • Poetry reading and memorization
  • Folk songs
  • Picture study (again, JJ will begin to take his turn describing the pictures)
  • Music appreciation
  • Drawing lessons
  • Nature walks
  • Chores
  • French
  • Handicrafts
These things already have a place in our routines, and it will not take much to add one more "official" student to the mix.

Readings I'm Planning to Combine
This takes more thought. In the first place, having JJ participate in some of SA's Year 3 lessons means taking away some of the Year 1 lessons in order not to overload him. We might be able to circle back to some of them in the future, but it's hard to leave out books that I loved reading with SA in Year 1.

In the second place, I have been seriously thinking about beginning JJ's Year 1 with more of an emphasis on Canadian history, and less of an emphasis on British history. Canada is his own country, and he naturally has more of an interest in and relationship with Canada. I listened to the History podcasts (episodes 11, 12, 14, and 15) from A Delectable Education a few months ago and was quite convinced that learning about their own country was the way to go in the early years of a child's education. This actually works quite well when it comes to combining, as SA is just beginning Canadian history now in the AO history rotation.

So here are the books I'm planning to do together in the first term:
  • Pagoo (leaving out The Burgess Bird Book for JJ's Year 1. But I think I may come back to it, possibly when MM starts Year 1 in two years.)
  • Trial and Triumph (I'm planning to add this to our breakfast circle time, in rotation with Pilgrim's Progress and selections from Paterson-Smyth's commentary on Exodus. If I was doing Parables of Nature, I'd add it to this rotation, but I think I'll skip it again this year.)
  • Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence (A wonderful Canadian living book - will review soon! This actually has quite a few pages, and I'll regretfully have to take out both Benjamin Franklin and Our Island Story for this term.)
  • Tales from Shakespeare
Deciding Where to Plug Combined Readings into the Routine
For me, it makes the most sense to add these readings to activities in our routine that we're already doing together. Trial and Triumph will be added to our breakfast circle time (We have two circle times...Breakfast for Bible-related things, and Tea Time for poetry and art.). Pagoo, Cartier, and Shakespeare will all be added to our Tea Times.

This is as far as I have gotten in my planning. The next part is even harder... deciding how and when to do the lessons that will be done separately. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

It may seem like I'm going off-topic from my usual homeschooling theme here, but please bear with me. This is what I'm thinking about these days, and this blog is the place I have to write through it. And the truth is, this applies to homeschooling too, even though that wasn't the point of pain in this particular story.

My husband is going through a career change. At the end of the month, he will be quitting his job as a computer technician, and he will become an elder in our church and minister full-time there. He will be preaching three times every Sunday, leading a mid-week Bible Study, and doing whatever pastors do as he begins to study towards becoming a pastor himself.

The interesting thing about God calling a man into ministry is that at the same time God calls the man's wife to be a minister's wife. And I don't feel like I have what it takes.

I have seen good pastor's wives. They are warm, and caring, and kind. They connect people. Their homes are open. They are intentional and wise.

I am introverted. Caring conversations do not come easily to me. I feel insecure about opening my home. I do not have the spiritual resources in myself to do the job God is calling me to.

There's something else to this story. My husband has actually been preaching for years on the side as a lay preacher. We have been part of a lovely congregation, one that gave him grace as he worked more than full-time and just did not have the time to do many of the things pastors do. In many ways we were allowed to be a blessing just by being there... I could feel that I encouraged just by adding my voice to the singing, and by taking our young boys to church amidst an aging congregation. But my expectations of myself have changed now that my husband has changed his focus and decided to go full-time.

Is this a question of expectations of myself that are too high? Maybe that is part of it, but I don't think it is all of it. I do still see my callings as wife, mother, and educator as primary in my life. I ask myself what God expects of me in this new role he has suddenly placed me in. I believe He wants me to love His people and to show that love. And the openness required in showing love is not something that comes naturally to me.

"I'm going to need help, Lord," I prayed last night. "I'm willing, but I'm not sure I have what it takes."

And this morning (I was reading Spurgeon's commentary on Matthew) He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Poor in spirit. What can that mean but that a person doesn't have what it takes, spiritually speaking? I realized that this place I am, where I realize that I don't have enough love, or openness, or wisdom for the job God is calling me to is also the place where I know I need Him. This is a good, a blessed place to be, however uncomfortable it seems.

Since this is a homeschooling blog, I'll take it back there. I've always been quite confident in my ability to homeschool. I've seen this as a blessing. I know that none of it is worth anything unless the Lord blesses it, unless the Holy Spirit teaches my children. But this is a place of confidence, not of pain, for me. But some of you are poor in spirit when it comes to homeschooling. Perhaps you know God has called you to do it, but you don't feel have the spiritual resources to teach your children for his glory. You are blessed. Blessed! You know with all your heart that you can't do it without Him. You may not have what it takes, but He has everything that you need.

Yours is the kingdom of heaven.



Monday, July 11, 2016

Our Year 2 with Ambleside Online

This summer SA(8) finished Ambleside Online Year 2. I may have mentioned before how grateful I am for the booklists Ambleside Online provides so I can get on with homeschooling. Once again I did not deviate much from what they laid out, though I did begin with Canadian history near the end of Year 2.

Next year is going to be interesting, as I will finally have two students! JJ(6) will be starting Year 1, and SA(8) will go on to Year 3. Of course, I'm not implying that JJ hasn't been learning before this --he learned to read this year, and is loving his math. But somehow starting Year 1 is still serious business for me. School suddenly becomes much less casual somehow. I am a little overwhelmed at the thought of two students. I know, you moms of many. It's nothing! But it seems like a lot to me now. I know I will adjust and move on, and do it again when I add another student, and another. Each step is an adjustment, though, and feels like a big deal.

Anyway, (big breath) before I jump into that I'm just going to take a moment to look back at Year 2. This is going to be long, sorry!

The Books


The books are my favourite part. There is something so satisfying about gathering a good feast of wonderful books and getting to know them well over the course of the school year. Some of the books are hard at the beginning, and then your student adjusts and you suddenly realize that what was once difficult has become easy. I also noticed over the year that SA made progress in narration from telling back a few sentences at a time to a few paragraphs at a time.

The History Books

Our Island Story (British History) was continued from Year 1. I continued to read aloud, even though SA became quite good at reading over the year. This book has a lot of names and places. In Year 3, I think I will introduce the names at the beginning of the lesson and allow him to read to himself.

We added several names that stood out to us to our timeline. I love our timeline! This year we will start a fresh one because JJ is starting school. I am considering making it a little bit longer (more space for SA) and giving SA the bottom portion and JJ the top. We will transfer names from stories that SA found especially compelling from the old timeline to the new one. At this age it is not so much about understanding who the most important figures are as it is about getting to know people in history and making connections between them. Having some people he already knows on our new timeline will help him make those connections.

We also had a few readings from A Child's History of the World this year. I was excited about this book at the beginning of the year, but in the end I didn't love it. I think it was the tone...it seemed to talk down to children a bit. However, we had some good experiences with it, especially when it enriched our understanding of Our Island Story.

Using Ambleside Online, we begin to study the history of our country parallel to the history of Britain when European explorers begin to arrive in the New World. I am reconsidering that for JJ's Year 1 next year (I would like to start with Canadian history from the beginning.). However, with SA I have followed AO as written and so we began our Canadian history near the end of Year 2. We used E.L. Marsh's Story of Canada for the stories of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, and supplemented with Brown's Story of Canada for more on John Cabot. This worked well, and I would do it again. It meant more of an emphasis on Cabot than Columbus, which was appropriate for our Canadian homeschool. The books complemented each other well, not overlapping so much as adding to each other.

The Little Duke is a good example of a book that we grew into this year. It was difficult for SA to narrate at first, with all its description. However, over time narration got easier, and we grew to love the characters. I'm already looking forward to reading it again with my next child.

Trial and Triumph went much better this year than last year.

Somehow I missed Diane Stanley's Joan of Arc! I didn't buy it because it's in our local library system, but though I ordered it, it never ended up at my house.


The Literature

We managed to read through most of Pilgrim's Progress Book 1 in Term 1 of our school year. (It was supposed to take all year...) I don't know why, but I think it went that fast because the schedule told us to read 800 words a week. I wasn't about to count out 800 words every time, so I just read a little every day. We started in on Book 2, but went much slower. We still have a little bit to finish up in the new school year. The boys told me what to draw afterwards in a sort of picture narration. (SA in particular is not much of a draw-er...) So really, it was just a narration, but it felt unique to them because I drew what they were saying.

Understood Betsy was a fun, easy read in term 1. We really started to lengthen the amounts I could read to SA before we broke for narration, and that carried over into his other narrations.

The Wind in the Willows was SA's favourite of the year, I think, along with Robin Hood.

We dropped Parables from Nature.

Natural History and Geography

These were the books SA read on his own: Tree in the Trail, Seabird, and The Burgess Animal Book. I read Burgess aloud sometimes, but I found that he actually did a better job of narrating when he read it himself.  Usually, I set the timer for ten minutes. When the timer went, he read on to a good stopping-place and marked it in pencil (so he'd know where to start next time...). Then he came to me and narrated. I am hoping to hand over more of his reading to him in the coming school year.

Our Circle Time

Circle time is our time to learn things together as a family. As I have done from the beginning, I divided our "Circle Time" into two parts. One part was immediately after breakfast for Bible reading and narration, Scripture and hymn memory work, and prayer. The other part began at around 10:00 and marked the beginning of our school days. We read poetry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, studied pictures on Tuesdays, and listened to music on Thursdays. A real highlight in the poetry this year was Robert Frost's little book You Come Too. Whenever I gave the children a choice of what to read, SA chose from that book. (JJ and MM still love Cat up a Tree.) My favourite times of picture study were in Term 2, when we studied Canadian artist Tom Thomson. Music...well...let's just say I need to work on getting them to sit quietly and listen. We really enjoyed watching The Nutcracker ballet (on YouTube) before Christmas.

We also tried to work on our French at Circle Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In Term 2, SA really enjoyed working online with Middlebury Interactive Languages. I didn't end up purchasing more of it, though, as it is expensive! In term 3, we watched quite a few BookBox stories in French on YouTube. They were much in the same style as the Middlebury Interactive program (only without the step-by-step lessons, of course.). The stories seem to be real folk tales from all over the world. Also like Middlebury Interactive, they include the written word at the bottom of the screen (which Charlotte Mason would not have approved of, at least not at first.). I don't feel that I used these stories as well as I could have. I know I need to do better at teaching foreign language. Or maybe I just need to hand it over to my husband...


We did well (for us) with drawing in the third term. I discovered the Art for Kids Hub. I am no artist, and I have picked up and dropped Drawing with Children several times already in the few years I've been homeschooling. I still like it a lot, but I just can't seem to get any momentum with it. With the Art for Kids Hub, we'd just watch a video once a week and follow along. SA did not complain, and JJ and MM continued to draw throughout the week based on that one lesson. If I can't be perfect, art lessons done this way still bless my family...

The Skills

SA made a lot of progress in copywork from the beginning of the year to the end. His neatness remained about the same throughout the year, but his fluency increased quite a bit. He went from printing three words in five minutes to printing two or three lines. He is still "behind" other children his age, and would still not voluntarily pick up a pencil and write something down. I think this coming year will be the year it takes off, though. He is becoming conscious that he can't write or spell what his cousin (just slightly older) can. JJ is also catching up with him in this area. I think these things may just give him the motivation he needs. I may add spelling to circle time this year, as I think SA and JJ will be at about the same level this year.

We made some changes between Term 2 and Term 3 in the way we do math. Those changes have worked out very well, and I plan to keep going with them. Our every-day math conversations started coming back, and SA began to amaze me again with the way he figures things out. He had been getting bored with just Singapore Math day after day, it was as simple as that. More variety and more inspiration has been good for him.


We had a good year. We still love homeschooling, and learning, and Ambleside Online!





Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Second Generation Homeschooling Family

I am guest posting at They Call Me Blessed today. Make sure to check out the whole 30 Ways We Homeschool Blog Party as well, and don't miss out on the Ultimate Homeschool Giveaway there!

http://www.theycallmeblessed.org/second-generation-homeschooling-family/

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Keep a Thankful Heart as You Plan

Are you an idealist?

I can be an idealist when it comes to homeschooling. I have great ideals in Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, and I do my best to live up to them. But I fail sometimes. I lose energy, and things I planned don't happen. These things creep on me almost imperceptibly, until I realize suddenly that we haven't done x, y, and z for weeks. This happens especially at the end of a school year, when spring arrives and boys' attention spans shrink.

The result is that as we wrapped up this school year last week, my first thought was to take stock of everything that went wrong and to plan how it will be better next year.

  • SA(7) did only two (of twelve) nature journal entries in the last term. Obviously, that was not well-planned.
  • I did not increase the amount of reading for narration that SA did on his own over the year as I had planned. I was enjoying reading aloud to him, and I didn't consider what was best for him.
  • I feel SA's copywork got a little more sloppy over the year as he gained speed, and I did not deal with it.
  • I didn't go outside enough with my children.
  • I didn't sit down every day with JJ(5) to teach him to read.
  • And on, and on...
I felt like a failure!
(Don't laugh, you older homeschool moms... I'm realizing as I write this that this doesn't sound all that terrible.)

Once I had a little rest, I realized that my feelings did not reflect reality. Yes, there were things that I could have and should have done better, things that I will plan to improve next year. But there are many, many things to give thanks for, too.

I'm writing this list to remind myself, and you.

Don't jump into planning for next year before giving thanks for the blessings of last year.

Look at all of it with a thankful heart, and you will feel so much more ready to go on and do what must be done.

Here's some of my thanksgiving list.
  • We are so rich in books. Not just any books, good, living books. Even better, we don't just have them on the shelf, but we are reading them and getting to know them well through narration. SA has gotten to know the books in Ambleside Online Year 2 this past year. When I asked SA for his favourite, he picked two: Robin Hood and The Wind in the Willows.
  • SA(7) has a twinkle in his eye when it comes to poetry that wasn't there before this year. This year, a dear friend gave us Robert Frost's You Come Too, and it became his favourite. He has always enjoyed our poetry tea time. In kindergarten, he loved it for the snacks that he could form into mathematical equations on his plate. In Year One, he loved it because it was a predictable and steady part of our day. In Year Two, he has found a poet he loves. This makes me so happy!
  • Despite my failure to sit down with him every day, JJ(5) learned to read. He decided he wanted to. I had an Explode the Code book that he worked in independently, and he insisted on sitting down with Alpha Phonics a few times a week for a while. Then I pulled out an easy to read book one week, and another one the next week, and he hasn't looked back.
  • For the first time, MM(3) learned the Bible passage we memorized this term (and is very proud to recite it...).
  • Our math lessons were revitalized in the last term of this year by the addition of inspiring stories of mathematicians, by me sitting down with him to explore new concepts orally a few times a week (using MEP), and by the judicious use of DreamBox for fluency. SA had been losing a bit of his sparkle as he sat down day after day with his Singapore Math. He still does Singapore as his core, but the joy and creativity is back with these additions.
 
As I begin planning for next year, I don't only need to consider my failures. I also need to remember what we did well, and continue the good work there. Of course I continue to reach for my ideals. I'm not saying my failures are okay or that I don't need to improve. But to be healthy and happy in my homeschooling, I will keep a thankful heart.

How about you? How are you doing as you plan for next year? Do you take time to give thanks?