Doing What is Best for My Kids, Part 852…

I feel like I write posts like this often because we have had so much change.  Part of it is my fault and part of it is out of my hands between illness, job changes, etc.

Like I’ve written many times, because of my anxiety, we are keeping the boys in school.  I talked with the school a few days ago, and they are happy that our boys will be back.  I was even able to request Levi’s teacher!  He will have the same teacher that Ethan had last year.  She’s fantastic.  Our boys are still excited about staying in school and they even got to see a lot of their friends here at camp Thursday :-).  Levi thought they were on a field trip with school people.  Haha.  Rocksprings kids get a special deal of only paying $50 (regular price $800!), and they all come the same week.  It’s such a great thing that Camp Eagle does for the community.

We bought school supplies yesterday for the boys and they were so excited to organize and sort them!  Their backpacks are full and they are ready!  They are also excited to take lunches to school again (they didn’t take them much this past year but they want to take them now).

I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to the quiet that will happen once they are at school.  I’ve been super irritable with my anxiety and their noisiness.  I just can’t handle it.  And they have been fighting a LOT so it’ll be good for them to be separate during the day.

Anyway…

I bought a new math curriculum for Karis called Math Lessons for a Living Education.  I got it on a used curriculum Facebook group for only $20 and it was new.  She has been using Math U See and she hasn’t made any progress, she doesn’t understand the way he teaches (I don’t either!), and she was in tears about it… so I thought I would try this.


I received it a few days ago and while I really like it, I’m concerned that it’s not enough.  I talked with Robert and a few friends about it and I have come to some conclusions… 1) She struggles with math a lot and it is okay to do something a little more gentle if she likes it (and she really does), 2) She will learn what she needs to learn and she will be okay, 3) This is Charlotte Mason method math which is what we’re doing for everything else, and 4) I will add in some videos and practice from Khan Academy.  Karis used Khan for some grammar in the spring and she really liked it.

One of the things that I kept getting hung up on was what do I do after level 6 (of Math Lessons for a Living Education).  It ends there… the publisher does make a junior high and high school one, it’s just a little different?  Robert reminded me to take it one year at a time.  I don’t have to know what she’s even going to do when she finishes this book.  We’ll see how she does with it and go from there!  But I am committing to finishing this book.  I won’t buy anything else until she does.

I pulled it out Thursday and made a shopping list based on what I needed for manipulatives and Karis loved it and was excited!  The list included things like rice, contact paper, large index cards, measuring cups, poster board, etc.  I already had some of these things but had to buy a few.  She wants to color the rice so we will do that (she has good memories of when we did that when she was a little younger).

I also bought a short Intro to Energy unit from The Good and the Beautiful and Karis is excited about that as well!  I need to gather the supplies for the experiments but we have most of them here!  I will have Karis complete the extensions for older children (it’s supposed to be for grades 7-12 but I know she can handle it).

I have also decided to go ahead and do level 3 of G&B Language Arts because it teaches diagramming and Karis doesn’t know how to do that.  We will move through it quickly (skipping things that she already knows), and I won’t expect her to read the readers… she’ll read what she wants.  G&B LA levels are not grade level so it’s totally fine.  She’ll be doing this level with me as it’s not independent until level 4.  I just love The Good and the Beautiful.  We are using the language arts, a creative writing notebook (I got the pdf for free), handwriting (cursive), some science (in addition to Nature studies and some Apologia), and next year we will probably use the history.  We’ll see.

I’m so thankful that I’m finally feeling content with doing what is best for each child, that I’m not doing what other people say just based on how it works for their family, and that I’m doing less expensive curriculum.  It’ll save us lots of money in the future.  And I think in the meantime Karis will feel more confident and successful.

I am really confident about this year.

Simplifying for the Summer

Because of all my excitement about the “Brave Writer Lifestyle” among other things homeschooling related, I didn’t realize that I was getting more anxious by the day.  I tend to get obsessed about things that I am excited about and give 200%, then it leads to anxiety (the obsessive/compulsive side of my severe anxiety).

I came home Friday from my parents’ and the kids came home from camp on Saturday.  We spent that day just resting.  Sunday I started to notice something.  My breathing was going back to the way it was last year (and in 2013) when I had hyperventilation syndrome.  It got worse through the day.

Robert came home from work in the middle of the day and I told him about it and he pointed to the table that was COVERED with curriculum and books and said “this is why!”  I was also staring at my homeschool routine on my google doc (it was very congested).

In that moment I decided something needed to change because I can’t live that way again.  I want homeschooling to be something that we all enjoy and that works for our family!  Not something that makes my kids stressed out and causes me anxiety.

So.

I was so thankful that a good friend of mine could chat that day.  I sent her the link to the document and she helped me make necessary changes to my homeschooling routine, and I have simplified it dramatically for the summer.  I don’t plan to pick up much else in August.

So I picked the non-negotiables and made my routine with that (and definitely not scheduled times… just an order that we follow)!  I thought about just putting school off until the fall but decided to go ahead and start for three reasons: 1) Ethan needs the routine!  2) I need the routine!  3) Karis desperately wants to start (like last week!).  It’ll be good to go ahead and start so that we can take breaks as we need to!

This is the new routine:

Nature walk/journal (a few days a week)

Friday Poetry Tea Time

READ!

  • Mom and kids will read independently for 30 minutes!  
    • Read sitting on the couch, floor, chair, bean bag, at the table, or on the back porch!

Table Time
Writing

  • Copywork, dictation, narration, writing project (Brave Writer Partnership Writing), or free write (one of these per day)

One-on-One Time: The Good and the Beautiful (along with Brave Writer, I am in LOVE with this curriculum!)

  • 1-3 lessons per day (mostly one, but some of the lessons are SUPER short!)

Independent activities while I work with each kids one-on-one:

  • Handwriting Without Tears (1 page)
  • Spelling practice
  • Math U See (one video per lesson and one page per day)

Electronic time

PLAY

Dinner

Read aloud @bedtime- the book Wonder and a chapter out of the Bible.

This is IT!

In the fall I will add “group time” in the afternoon consisting of science OR history (not both) each day.  It will probably take about 30-45 minutes for that.

I also filled the basket in our kitchen/dining area with our essentials and plan to just put things in that basket that we will use each day.  Right now it has:

  • The Good and Beautiful books
  • Handwriting books
  • A binder for each kid (with math pages, G&B printouts, spelling lists, and history questions)
  • 3 composition notebooks for each kid: writing, spelling, and nature journal
  • The book that they chose to read
  • And the readers to go with The Good and the Beautiful

In the fall I will add the Story of the World book and science (starting with a unit from G&B).

I have also been watching videos from Julie Bogart from Brave Writer about simplifying and being okay with what we can handle.  She has a video titled 55 Things that We Did NOT Do As a Homeschooler.  It made me feel okay with what we’re doing!

Now.  Am I better today?  Not 100%!  But it is much better today than it was several weeks in last year, so I’ll take it.

Also, a lady in a group that I’m in told me about a technique that she does when she is struggling with this and it helped me yesterday!  I also meditate and listen to spa music to relax.

Anxiety is a beast.  There are soooooo many different physical symptoms and even when I feel better mentally, it takes a while for the physical symptoms to go away.  It’s maddening.

I see my doctor in two weeks and if it’s still going on, we will address it then.  BUT!  I’m hoping it’s better by then!

I am in a parenting with anxiety group and many of the mamas in there reminded me that it won’t last forever!  It might feel like it in the moment, but it will eventually get better.

Today we are starting school, then I will catch up on housework!  After that I might spend some time meditating while the kids have their “electronic time”.

Despite this physical symptom of anxiety, I’m so happy about life and where we are.  I’m so thankful that I no longer use alcohol to cope and that I don’t go to bed drunk every night anymore.  Sometimes I dream about it and I wake up SO THANKFUL for sobriety!  It’s a good reminder about why sobriety is so important!

Breath of Fresh Air and The Brave Writer Lifestyle

Writing has been one of the things that I have struggled with from the beginning.  I was considered an excellent writing teacher when I taught, but it hasn’t gone as well at home. Karis HATES writing and dreads it every day.  There have been many tears over writing.  I have tried teaching it the way I taught in public school (Writer’s Workshop), Writing with Ease, Writing and Rhetoric, WriteShop, Essentials in Writing, and most recently IEW.  Some of those I liked and she hated.  Some of those she didn’t hate (still didn’t like) but I hated.    She didn’t get good instruction in school either.  It has just been a terrible struggle for years.  She even hated it when she was in school back in Frisco (Writer’s Worshop).  She would spend weeks on one paper and she wouldn’t end up turning them in, which resulted in poor grades.

I thought that she needed IEW because it tells you what to write.  You use a passage and a keyword outline.  This worked okay, but I honestly hated it… and I know she didn’t love it.  The more we got into it, the harder it was for both of us.  I chose this program because that’s “the program” to create good writers.  I thought it was my only choice.

I was going to continue IEW for my kids… then I was going to just use it for Karis and use Writing with Ease for the boys (because I felt that they wouldn’t do well with the strictness of IEW).

A few days ago I was chatting in The Good and Beautiful Facebook group and learned about “The Brave Writer Lifestyle.”  I had never heard of this (though I had heard of the curriculum, I had never heard of the “lifestyle.”).  Many of the ladies that use The Good and the Beautiful also use Brave Writer for writing (G&B doesn’t have the greatest writing… at least in the lower levels).

I decided to check out “Brave Writer Lifestyle” on YouTube because I was curious what that meant.

I wasn’t prepared to have my whole view of homeschooling changed by a new philosophy of education.

Check out the video below:

It’s an hour long so I’ll summarize it with these bullet points:

  • Poetry Teatimes
    • Have a time set aside each week to set the table with a tablecloth, have tea or hot chocolate or whatever your kids want to drink, a breakfast treat like scones or muffins, then let your kids read their favorite poetry.
  • Read alouds
    • Read aloud from many and varied books each day
  • Copywork/dictation
    • The kids should copy sentences and paragraphs and write from dictation.
  • Art appreciation
    • Appreciate art… look at it and discuss
  • Shakespeare
    • Read Shakespeare, watch Shakespeare movies and plays, etc.
  • Movies/television
    • Watch documentaries, watch movies of good books, etc.
    • Movies and tv teach characterization, plot, etc.
  • Friday Free Writes
    • Set a timer and write.  You can use a prompt if necessary.  The kids write about anything that is on their mind.  Pay no attention to grammar and mechanics.  Do not correct, just admire.  Write while the kids write if possible.
    • The kid can write “I don’t know what to write” over and over if necessary, as long as their pencil is moving!
  • Nature journaling
    • Go on nature walks and draw/color/paint pictures of what you see.
  • Literary elements
    • Learn about things such as metaphors, analogies, similes, alliteration, etc.
  • One on one time
    • Give each child one-on-one time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes.
  • Language games
    • Play games such as scrabble, Scattergories, Cranium, Apples to Apples, etc
    • Also do crosswords and word searches
  • Writing projects
    • Make writing fun!  Turn it into a project (use her ideas if you need them!).
    • This will only be one a month or even less if necessary.

 

Then I decided to keep watching Julie Bogart YouTube videos.

Can I just say that she’s a breath of fresh air?  I have had so much anxiety about homeschooling (even though I was so excited about it) because I carried so much weight thinking that I had to do everything a certain way, that the kids needed to be on or above “level,” that I needed to have a schedule so that Ethan could thrive (because I thought he needs extreme structure), that I needed to have “school at home,” that I had to have the perfect curriculum in order to have everyone on or above level, and so much more.  I have spent so much money over the years on curriculum because I didn’t trust myself to teach them and because I wanted “rigor.”

Here are some great ones!

Through all of this I’ve decided to:

  • Do The Good and the Beautiful for all of language arts but writing (I got my books the other day and I LOVE them!  They are beautiful!).
  • Go ahead and do copywork, dictation, and narration with all of my kids, not just the boys (using Brave Writer products to reinforce mechanics, learn literary elements, etc through novels).
  • Do writing projects with all of the kids.
  • Do Friday free-writes.
  • Continue with my plans to do nature journaling, read Shakespeare, do art appreciation, and do read-alouds.  A lot of this will happen during morning time.
  • Do poetry tea time every Friday (get out the tablecloth, make a breakfast treat, have hot chocolate and/or tea, and allow the kids to choose their own poetry to read).  I showed Levi the video about this and he is so excited!  I have so many poetry books that we haven’t been reading.

If I can’t implement all of these all the time, that’s okay.  It’s just a guide.  She even says that sometimes she goes months without implementing some of these things.

I’m learning to be okay when they aren’t “perfect” at things because NO ONE IS PERFECT.  And small kids shouldn’t be expected to do things that aren’t developmentally appropriate for them.  Also, writing comes easy for some people and not for others.  That’s normal.

Rigor doesn’t equal right.  Rigor isn’t my personality and it’s not the personality of my kids.  Sarah McKenzie talks about this in her book Teaching From Rest.  I have learned a TON through that book as well (read twice and listened to 3 times)!  There are tons of videos on YouTube about it, and I suggest watching the 3 part Teaching From Rest book club!  This is the gist of the book and a great conversation about it.

I feel like I can take a deep breath and just enjoy being home with my kids educating them!

Most of what I’m adopting for our family is the Charlotte Mason method of education (along with a little bit of classical).  I am at such peace and “in love” with where I have landed!

Here are some pictures of The Good and the Beautiful:

Here are some pictures of Brave Writer:

I can’t wait to get started!

Now, For Curriculum We Will Use…

…MOST things I already have!  I ordered a few things (some used).  And I’m borrowing several things from my neighbor!  I am set for the year!

Morning Time

I haven’t been super consistent with this in the past, but I’m going to try again :-).  I have so many great resources that I want to use!  I will do this on a loop schedule.  Literature and poetry, fine arts, geography, and Bible.

Geography

Bible

Math (Math U See)

For the boys

For Karis

Language Arts

They will be doing The Good and the Beautiful for phonics, reading, grammar, spelling, art appreciation, and geography (levels 2 and up).  The boys are starting with level 1, and Karis will be starting with level 3 because it’s very advanced.  They need the spelling and grammar from the lower levels.

 

 

Karis will be doing IEW Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons.

Ethan and Levi will be doing Writing With Ease Level 2 (this is narration, dictation, and copywork).

All 3 kids will also read novels and library books and do a reading response journal using these:

Reading Response Menus

Informational Text Question Cards

Reading Response Question Cards

I will also use this list of “book reports” to have them report on the books that they read in a creative way.

Here are a few pictures of the reading response questions that we will use:

This is a rubric to go with the menus.

 

Science (Apologia Astronomy)

I had this for this past year but I wasn’t consistent with it.  We’re going to use it this coming year.  We will add field trips to it!  The McDonald Observatory, the Scobee Education Center Planetarium, and NASA.  It’s going to be so much fun!

History

We’re borrowing Story of the World Volume One: Ancient Times from my neighbor.

I bought these to go with it.  The encyclopedia has internet links to go with it.

These will be our read alouds… one per month.

Handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears)

For Levi

For Ethan

For Karis

Nature Studies and Poetry Memorization

Journaling a Year in Nature by Simply Charlotte Mason

I think this is everything :-).  It seems like a lot, but many things we will not do everyday.

Coming Up: Week of 3/27-3/31

This coming week we won’t be doing school Monday because we will be in town most of the day, and Tuesday we will be in town in the morning so we will do just the basics.

Morning time will consist of:

Bible 

Bible study Genesis chapters 5-6 and mom/daughter devotional.

Shakespeare

Learning about William Shakespeare

Fine arts 

Artist study: Getting to Know the World’s Greatest ArtistsPablo Picasso

Geography

For geography we will be studying the continent of Africa.

We will spend 5-20 minutes on each.

 

For spelling we will do All About Spelling Level 2, Step 1: Review.  This reviews what was taught in Level 1, which we did not do.  This step is very necessary to move forward.  We will not use letter tiles like the lessons state because that would just drive her crazy!  We’ll do everything in a composition notebook.

For reading she will read The Devil’s Arithmetic chapters 1-3, do vocabulary, and answer questions.  I love these units!  I have so many more coming up!

I will also have her read something of her choosing for independent reading time (3 chapters will take her like 15 minutes… she loves to read so she’ll need more).

For writing we will do Week 2 of Writing with Ease Level 4.  The excerpts to narrate and dictations are from A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich.

Math will be Math U See Delta, lesson 1 A-F and Test (we are moving through this fast because I went backwards to fill in some gaps). Tuesday she will do A & B, Wednesday C & D, Thursday E & F, and Friday will be the test.

Grammar will be Easy Grammar 6 and Daily Grams 6.  I haven’t received these yet so I don’t know what it covers.  We’ll just go in order.

Art will be creating art like Picasso.

Science will be Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy Lesson 3: Mercury.  We will receive her notebooking journal from Rainbow Resource on Monday.  We will study lesson 3 for 2 weeks since we only have 3 days this coming week.

History will be Story of the World chapter 2: “Egyptians Lived on the Nile River.”

Morning Time, Loop Scheduling, and Spelling

I spent some time thinking through my morning time loops yesterday and decided to split some things up.  It didn’t make sense the way I did it.

Like I said yesterday, I learned through Teaching from Rest that a loop basically means going in order, not assigning certain days for things.  So if you miss a day, you just move on to the next one in the loop.

These are my morning time loops:

Bible Loop

  • Karis uses a quiet time box called Doc’s Discovery Books that has booklets in it for 5 chapters at a time.  The first booklet covers Genesis 1-4 and Psalm 1.  The box of booklets goes from beginning to the end of the Bible.  The website no longer works or I would share that.  I’m super sad that I can’t find a way to buy this again!
  • Between Us Girls: Walks and Talks for Moms and Daughters.

Fine Arts Loop

  • Artist study
  • Art appreciation
  • Musician study
  • Music appreciation

Literature loop

Geography will not be in a loop.  We will study it a bit each day so as to not forget what she did the day before (with map work).

We’re starting with Africa since she’s studying Egypt right now in History.  I’ll write a post for the unit once I gather all of my materials :-).

We’ll continue having evening time with the boys in which I read aloud (currently reading Wayside Stories) and read out of a family devotional (Exploring Grace Together).  This doesn’t happen every evening because I hate to make them come in too early from playing with their friends outside, but I try.

On another note…

After seeing Karis’ spelling recently (I knew it was bad, but I’m realizing lately that it’s really bad), I decided to pull out my All About Spelling and teach her from almost the beginning (we’re starting at Level 2).  I asked her if she knew what a long and short vowel was and she has no idea!  She was never taught phonics (at least since the middle of her kindergarten year), and I think that is what has made spelling so hard for her.  She decodes really well (she reads on an eighth grade level in fifth grade) but encodes terribly (taking it out of her mind onto paper).  We will see how it goes!

The first couple of weeks we will just be reviewing what she didn’t learn in Level 1.  I think the review is enough that we wouldn’t have to start fresh in Level 1 (plus, I already have level 2 so I’m just going to use what we have).

We’re going to just try this and see how it goes.  It could fail miserably, but I thought I’d try it since I had it.

I’m kind of having to go backward in some areas.  She is a great reader so that’s not a problem, which makes history and science great too (it also helps that she loves these).  We had to go backwards in math so that we could fill in some gaps (she wasn’t great at long multiplication and doesn’t know how to do long division at all) as well as spelling and writing (I wrote in previous posts that we’re doing level 4 of Writing with Ease for now in which she just does narrations and dictation until she feels more confident… then I’ll have her start using the writing process to produce pieces of writing).  I’m hoping that with going backward and filling in some gaps, it will allow her to feel more confident.

We’ll see what happens!

I’ve pretty much landed on a Charlotte Mason/Classical education mix!

I plan to use these Narration Ideas from Simply Charlotte Mason for Karis’ writing along with Writing with Ease (which is classical).  I’ll also have her just journal about whatever she wants to on Fridays.

The beautiful thing about all of this is that I have had to buy very little!  I initially told Robert that I was going to have to spend $450 on curriculum and he basically told me that it wasn’t possible… so instead of being frustrated, I have spent my time asking to borrow things, looking at Pinterest, checking things out in the library, and digging through my things.

Can you tell that I’m very excited about things?  🙂