Scaling Back, Learning through Anxiety, Healthy Habits, and Becoming More Relaxed

Yesterday morning I was having an “I hate mental illness” day.  I went to bed with a lot of anxiety and that stupid breathing issue again.

After some time and talking things out, I figured out WHY I was having anxiety, but it didn’t make me hate mental illness any less.

I have still been putting too much on my plate.

I will feel really good so I’ll pile stuff on my plate.  Then I will have anxiety, and throw it off.  Good, more.  Anxiety, less.  Rinse and repeat.  I was talking to ladies in my Home of the Croslands group and one of my friends said that it sounds like a bipolar thing.  Then another friend said that it sounds like an anxiety thing.  But whatever it is, it has been something I have struggled with for years and years.  I guess, ultimately, it doesn’t need a label.  I just need to learn how to cope.

Also, Tuesday, I was obsessing about curriculum again ALL day.  I wrote a blog post that took me HOURS (I have since deleted it).  All I was thinking about was homeschooling curriculum and mostly about ALL of the resources that I have (SO many)!

And then there is the whole *hiking as my new habit* for the Balance 365 program that I have been feeling guilty about not doing even though I said I would!  I had a goal of getting to hiking every day and that was over my head.

I have just been feeling overwhelmed.

Yesterday afternoon Ethan went to town with Robert so I let Karis and Levi just be on electronics so that I could lie down.  I was in bed for quite a while and couldn’t ever fall asleep, but it was still really good.  I listened to my Serenity Spa Music and just focused on my breathing.  It was very beneficial for me.

Then I got up and wrote in my Balance 365 group that I am struggling with my first habit, still.  One of the founders and a coach both reminded me that it needs to be so easy that I am 90-100% sure that I can stick with it.  I’m realizing that the 4-5 days a week of hiking is just way too much for me right now!  So I told them that a few weeks ago the kids and I started hiking once a week for their nature studies and they told me that would be enough for now!  If I’m 90-100% sure I can stick with that, then do that for a while.  Once I’m consistent with that for about a month, then I can add more to my plate.  This is going to be a VERY slow process and that is so hard for me to get used to!  I’m so used to dieting and exercising hard for a little while and not being able to continue because that’s not sustainable!  I can do 1 day a week!  I’m hoping to add in another day after Family Camp :-).

I actually have a lot of good habits in place: daily self care, one load of laundry a day, getting the kids to do their daily chores, making my bed each day (most days at least), tidying the house most days, once a week “big clean,” mostly healthy meals (balanced), meal planning and prepping (every 2 weeks),  and most importantly, I’m almost 9 months sober (on Sunday!).

Then there’s the whole curriculum and book/resource thing…

I was sooooooo overwhelmed after looking at all that I have.  Thinking about coming up with my own units for science (in addition to Apologia and nature studies) using living books in addition to our history curriculum, and just having ALL of the books and resources was too much.  And trying to do The Good and the Beautiful AND Brave Writer was too much.  So I’ve decided to reduce and scale back.  I keep having this fear that if I scale back it won’t be enough, but I’m learning that the kids need me healthy and it actually benefits them in many ways to reduce what we do.

I decided that for the next few weeks (until Family Camp… we leave on the 19th), the kids will just do math and read for 20 minutes.  We will also do nature studies once a week.

After Family Camp (we come back on the 29th) I will add in The Good and the Beautiful, then after labor day (after Robert and I get back from our backpacking trip), I will add in science and history.

This is my plan for the fall:

  • The kids will read independently for 20 minutes per day.  Karis will read extra to do her history novels (1 per month).  She’s 11 and can handle that.  And she loves to read.
  • The Good and the Beautiful language arts covers all of this, a little bit each day: Phonics, reading/literature, poetry, spelling (with additional activities that I came up with), grammar, writing, art appreciation, and geography.
  • I’m scaling back on the Brave Writer Lifestyle.  We will do Poetry Teatime because the kids love it (but even if we miss a week it won’t be the end of the world).  The kids like Friday Free-writes, so we will continue that most Fridays (I told them that they didn’t have to, but they want to). Copywork is through G&B handwriting.  No consistent dictation (only once in a while).  No writing projects for now (Brave Writer Partnership Writing).  I have this for good (it is a pdf so I can’t sell), and we can always add them later if we need/want to.  We will continue movie nights and playing games because we’ve always done that before Brave Writer.  And like I mentioned, we will do nature studies.
  • Instead of reading aloud (for morning time), we will listen to audio books: Shakespeare, The Action Bible (I also bought the book for them to take turns following along), and novels (some classics, some newish books).  If we don’t get to it in the morning we will do it before bed (or even in the car).  I won’t be strict about this… just several days a week.
  • Math will be the same: Math U See with some Kumon books thrown in for extra practice.  Karis is JUST doing the Kumon division book right now to practice.  Like I’ve said before, she’s a few years “behind” in levels because she really struggles with math.  That’s okay.  She’ll get there.
  • We will do Apologia Astronomy for science and Exploring Nature with Children (with the Handbook of Nature Study) for nature studies.  We will not add in extra fun units for now even though I have a TON of living books.  This may be something I add in eventually, but I need to keep it SIMPLE for now.  I have the Apologia text, note booking journals, and the lab kit with the materials in bags labeled with the lesson on the outside.  Karis will do every part of the notebooking journals (including taking notes, answering questions, doing vocabulary crosswords, project recording, mini books, and more), but the boys will do less.
  • Story of the World for history:  The boys will answer the questions and do narration orally.  Karis will do written questions and written narration over what we read together.  She will also read the novels on her own to go with it (one a month) and do a book project over it.  We will do the internet links through the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History together because they are fun videos.  I probably won’t do any extra projects through history.  Maybe every once in a while.

That’s still a lot but I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore.  I won’t use many “living books” after all because I just can’t right now.  And that’s okay.

This is all of the stuff that I WON’T be using (at least not intentionally, for now):

Everything that I’m using is in the kitchen/dining room where we do our school (well, except novels that the kids will choose from).

I’m in the process of making a list for the kids’ independent work to put in their binder, but mostly for Karis.  She will be involved in the read alouds of science and history and will branch off for the rest.  I’m going to make her level of the Good and the Beautiful more independent even though it’s supposed to be together (we started on level 3 even though she’s 11 because this curriculum is advanced and she doesn’t have a solid foundation in grammar).  I will find a way to make it work because she is ready for independence (she WAS independent before the boys came home).  Also, making her more independent will actually help me out a ton.

I’m also going to make things more relaxed.  As long as we get things done in the day, we’re good.  Ethan is doing better these days without a strict schedule so I’m trying to have more of a routine and not a schedule.  I want the kids to be able to stay up for fun camp activities, to have people over, and to just have movie nights and game nights.  So I want them to be able to sleep in if they can/want.  Of course Ethan CAN’T sleep in no matter how late he stays up, so we’ll have some limits :-).

 

One of the biggest things that I am learning is that I can use the breathing issue to my advantage.  I have noticed that when I am doing too much and I get overwhelmed, I struggle with my breathing.  When I take stuff off my plate, I feel better.  So if I struggle with breathing, I will evaluate what I need to take off my plate!

I also just keep telling myself “grace” over and over anytime I get a thought in my head that I “should” or “need to.”

Now to print this off and hang it on my bulletin board!  Haha!

 

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.

Shakespeare Unit: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We will begin Shakespeare by learning about him and his life, then we will be studying the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Here’s another video about him: Brain Pop William Shakespeare

We will begin by watching a “Shakespeare Lives” video of the play.

Then we will read A Midsummer Night’s Dream out of this book (Kindle book):

After we’ve read it out of the children’s book, we will read:

After all of the readings, we will do a packet of activities and questions.

I will then let her choose an extension activity or two.

We will finish reading watching the animated version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

We will then fill out this interactive notebook kit!

My plan is to do this for the month of April, but it may not take that long.

I’m looking forward to getting started!