Nourishing Ourselves: Cultivating Good Habits

I’ve spent a decent amount of time musing about and reporting on how we are educating ourselves and these boys. What we really found is that education goes far beyond just learning what you have to know to graduate high school.

Education is really all about choosing carefully what you put into your mind body and spirit. These choices that we make, sometimes hurriedly or out of desperation, have a lasting effect on the health of a whole person. Education is made up of habits. If I have a habit of reading, it’s easy to choose to read. If I have a habit of choosing to wonder at things I don’t understand, I come to understand them. If I have a habit of whining when I don’t understand, I’ll never learn the subject at hand.

I developed a rather useless habit of solitaire last year that led to many wasted hours. I downloaded the game because I needed a problem that I could solve. The world was going crazy, and everything felt hard. I couldn’t solve any of the problems of the world, so I solved card games. Jon plays video games occasionally. The boys constantly ask for more game time. I might as well join them. The outcome of that habit is that I read half the amount of books I usually enjoy in a year. I also wrote almost nothing, aside from what was necessary for HSOK’s social media. There is nothing wrong with those games. But they kept me from both productivity and rest. At first, solving meaningless problems helped me to process the crazy changes that were taking place outside of my home. But then, solving those puzzles seemed just as necessary as solving the actual problems that were mine to deal with. I deleted the Solitaire, FreeCell, and Tri-Peaks apps that I was using at the end of the year, along with Sudoku and Words with Friends.

The right habits to help me deal with things I don’t control are reading Scripture and praying, studying subjects I love and those I need to know, taking long walks, and escaping into good books. Those are things that restore me. I want my children to learn to work hard when it’s time to work and to rest intentionally when it is time to rest. And so, first, I have to learn it. That’s how parenting (and homeschooling) works: everything that the kids need to know, the parents have to understand first.

Jon and I both spent the last year burning the candle at both ends. While we did prioritize sleeping for at least seven hours a night, we haven’t taken any days off in months. We used four of his vacation days between Christmas and New Year’s so that we had an eleven-day weekend with the bank holidays and such. Those days were lovely. We thought we’d be bored after a couple of days of rest, but it turned out that we needed the whole chunk of time to see what changes we need to make.

Believe it or not, we can’t work all day and into the evening every day and maintain our sanity, whether that work is his full-time programming job or my tutoring jig or just homeschooling, parenting, and housework. Working around the clock just doesn’t work, so we are creating a habit of rest that gives us both time to read, write, think, and be.

Books finished this week:

(Some of these were started months ago, so don’t think I read every bit of all of them in a week.)

  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Fascinating story.)
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Fantastic! Highly Recommend!)
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Thought-provoking classic)
  • Switch On Your Brain by Catherine Leaf (Interesting)
  • Practice Perfect by Lemov, Wooley, and Yezzi (I read all of the headings and summaries, but not every word of the book.)

2020 Reflections

I all-but-abandoned my blog in 2020. Managing all the extra drama and responsibilities brought to us by the Pandemic meant that there was no time or brain space for writing, very few moments for reading, and a lot of solving of solitaire boards. I spent a lot of time on problems I could resolve while all of the ones I can’t solve rolled in the back of my head. I cooked, organized, ran laundry, walked, talked, and parented. I tutored, scrolled, and planned. We took a lot of sunset walks, so I have more pictures of the Oklahoma sky on my phone than photos of my children. I didn’t write for myself almost at all. I did write some for Homeschool Oklahoma.

Over here, I have a herd of mancubs who don’t want to be talked about in public. Most of them don’t want to be photographed and don’t want to have silly stories told about them anymore. They are in that space between childhood and adulthood where their bodies are growing rapidly and they aren’t sure who they are. They do their schoolwork mostly independently, though we check in together regularly to make sure they stay on track.

Micah is now eighteen and a freshman at ORU. He completed his first semester of formal school successfully and is excited for the second. Overall, he is happy with his home education experience and uses the skills he learned in all of his university classes.

Josiah is fourteen and over six feet tall. He is working his way through CC’s Challenge 1 and reforming his way of forming an argument. Since he needs to argue regularly, I’m glad he’s learning to form reasonable discussions instead of just saying that everything he is arguing against is “stupid.” He still does Latin with me every day, and he still thinks it’s stupid to learn a dead language. But he hasn’t chosen a living language yet, so he can’t see the connections he will see later.

Gideon is thirteen and mid-growth spurt. He is in Challenge B and learning logic, which is also making him easier to argue with. He gets the most supervision because he’s had the least time to develop good habits. He does Latin with me every day, but he complains less because he has seen how the vocabulary translates to other languages he plays with on Duolingo.

Jon is writing new books and publishing them through BPlearning. He’s also working full-time in digital research and development for Specialized Bicycles as well as writing for Mind Matters and serving as a Fellow for the Discovery Institute, a teacher at Asbury UMC, and a Trustee for Homeschool Oklahoma.

2020 feels like a wash to me. It was a year of showing up, doing things as fast as I can, and escaping into solvable puzzles. A few notable good things that came out of it were our first homeschool graduate and three boys being baptized into the church.

So, we stand here, in our vacation week, on the threshold of 2021, waiting to see what comes next.

Rule of Seven 2019: #7 Restore

Currently, I’m sitting with my husband on the patio at a Starbucks. We are both working while we sip cool drinks and watch people. We are waiting for another couple that we need to have a meeting with. But I’m thoroughly enjoying the breeze. Usually, in late July, Oklahoma is blazing hot and steamy with humidity. Today is too beautiful to be inside. It feels more like our beloved Rockies than the plains of Green Country. 

We haven’t take a big trip this summer. Last summer, we spent the whole summer flipping our old house and moving to our new one. We finally ran away to the mountains to ski in February. Right after school let out, the boys and I made a fast trip to my brother’s house outside of Denver with my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day and to meet a new cousin. 

Since then, we’ve been at home. My dad has been sick, and so we’ve been doing his sizable amount of mowing. We’ve hung around the house and swam in our pool. We’ve had friends over often, and we have cooked many burgers and had long conversations on the back porch. We’ve sat in our library and discussed books, played games around the table, cooked new recipes, and hung out with grandparents. The boys have had way more screen time than I’d like. It’s been a good summer.

So, Restore looks very different right now than it has in the past, but we are starting our school year next year somewhat refreshed and very much ready for a more consistent routine.

Rule of Seven 2019: #6 Record

I haven’t recorded as well as I’d like in the past year. I have barely written anything except Instagram posts, and those have gotten trickier as the boys get older and have opinions about what I should and should not post. I’m happy to honor their wishes, but I do wind up with fewer things that I can write about in public. I have many other ideas for posts that aren’t just about my family, but I don’t have very many moments for writing them. This cartoon is my sermon notes from a month or so ago. I produced something imperfect, but I produced something. If the summarizing doesn’t seem quite right, just know I was capturing the big idea of the sermon in a tiny space.

They have all continued to produce something almost every day, though their media change regularly. Micah is a fan of Instagram and runs an entertaining account about being a musician and a theater tech guy. He does far better at editing photos than I do. He writes stories, poems, songs, musical compositions, and the required essays. Josiah and Gideon write their required essays and also are producing video game videos and other streaming shows. I don’t understand why anyone would want to watch someone else play Fortnite on YouTube, and I have strongly suggested that they NOT use their limited screen time that way. But they do use their screen time to make videos for other mothers to complain about. They have grandiose plans for international fame as video game designers.I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around a world where the money is made in ani invisible world that you can’t find on a map. What kind of weird world are they inheriting? 

Jon is writing on and off, though the Calculus book is finished and published.  He’s writing at Mind Matters, Blythe Institute, and other places. So, things are being recorded and ideas developed – daily – we just aren’t all writing in the same way that we were three years ago. I supposed it would be stranger if we were still doing everything the same way now that we were then.

Rule of Seven 2019: #5 Read

We read a lot around here. All of us. Some of us love the written word more than others, but we’ve amassed quite a library. Some reading is assigned. Some reading is not. We read for fun. We read to gain information and to learn about people. We read so that we can teach. We read to enjoy the beauty of ideas and the rhythm of well-chosen words.

Don’t think we all read all the time – I read a lot. Gideon does also. Josiah, Micah and Jon read less as they are all constantly working on other projects (writing, videos, programming, composing songs, practicing instruments).

But reading is definitely part of every day in this house.

Rule of Seven 2019: #4 Reason

Charlotte Mason lists Reason as one of her Twenty Principles: “We teach children, too, not to ‘lean (too confidently) to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs” (Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education xxxi).

“Reason” represents a lot of subjects, so practicing it daily isn’t hard. Math. Science. Logic. Latin. English Grammar. All of those require systematic thinking and organized work. These things need habitual practice in order to reach mastery.

This coming year, Micah will tackle thesis-writing, Virgil, Trig, and Physics while Josiah and Gideon work on essay-writing, Henle Latin 1, algebra and life sciences (astronomy and biology). But the goal of all that work is not the adding of specific knowledge. The large goal is to develop the ability to work through problems even if they look big or scary. In order to do that, we need lots and lots of practice.

Rule of Seven 2019: #3 Remember

Our Remembering looks a lot different than it did three years ago. We all got frustrated with trying to do our Memory Work Recitations at a Council Meeting last September, and I finally just gave up on forcing it (probably six weeks after I should have). That doesn’t mean that we abandoned the Good, the True, and the Beautiful as much as we shifted to make our days work better.

However, I really missed having that short half-hour with everyone in the same room doing the same thing and remembering what we have learned before. This year, we don’t have any Foundations/Essentials students, so I may review our notebooks of previous memory work and remove some things that we have completed in order to shorten the recitation period. And there are a few things that would be good for us to add – like Latin vocabulary and paradigms.

We still do lots of story-reading, though I read aloud less than I used to. The boys still narrate what they are reading. We’ve had some deep conversations about things like the age of the Earth, the conjugation of verbs, the discoveries of math laws, and the consequences of actions.

I really enjoy these boys and their expanding minds. Every day is not fantastic, but most days have redeeming moments. These are, however, growing and changing young men. Two of them are in a period of very fast physical growth and hormone changes, and the third (who historically resists change) is looking at a LOT of changes in the next year. So, while we have a lot of great moments of connection and discussion, we also have moments we’d rather NOT remember, in which some combination of us gets frustrated and yells or refuses to do what he or she ought. Some days we struggle. Some days are smooth sailing. Most days are a mix, but we are making slow progress towards a graceful adulthood together.

PS: You can buy that pretty little book of Latin charts here.

Rule of Seven 2019: #2 Relate

Three years ago, I had a little list of things to tell you about Relating with each other that included doing schoolwork together, doing chores together, eating meals together, and so forth.

We still work together a lot, but the jobs are bigger, and everyone is using that work to train for adulthood, whether they recognize it or not. In the last year, we have flipped a house, moved across town, organized all of our things, watched as our bookcases were built, set up our library, learned how to care for a pool, trained everyone in yard work, done lots of cooking lessons, and built a fence.

These messages allowed lots of opportunities to grow in relationship with each other as we worked together to complete them. We all made progress in extending grace to each other. The boys wanted to learn to make sushi because they like to eat far more of it than I would like to pay for at a restaurant. After I had a meltdown over how long it would take me to figure out how to cook something this different from our regular fare, I had to ask them for forgiveness. I found some nori in the cupboard, cooked some short grain brown rice, and purchased a little smoked salmon. The next day we made some pretty tasty Philly rolls and ate them for lunch with some cherries. It turns out I CAN figure out how to make sushi from YouTube videos and a well-timed viewing of “East Side Sushi” on Amazon Prime.

Our days are full of ways to practice relating from a place of grace and forgiveness.

Rule of Seven 2019: #1 Rejoice

This school year, we had some really big changes. Some had to do with moving house, and others had to do with growing children.

As one would expect, the process of moving house disrupted our routine. For instance, I used to spend a little time in prayer and scripture reading before we really had the day underway. But it didn’t happen every day like before. By the time the moving was finished and I had made myself a spot to read, write, and study, I was so tired, that I was spending my early morning hour sleeping in an effort to recover. That pretty much lasted until this spring when I forced myself to revive my habit of intentional morning rejoicing during Lent.

A new house also required different house cleaning routines and new chore systems. We are thrilled to have more space, but it took us a year to dream up a new system that actually works.

Because we lived in disarray for a few months, we struggled with routine. After the first month of the school year, we gave up on our standard Council Meeting (morning time) because it wasn’t working. My two Challenge students didn’t want to review the Foundations material anymore, but my final Foundation/Essentials student needed to get it down. My new Latin student suddenly balked at the Spanish review that was in our memory work. I had a nasty bought of allergies that made it hard to sing. And Micah, as a junior in high school, had enough commitments outside of the house that he needed the hour back in his day. So, after about ten years of constantly practicing Morning Time, we took a break.

But – I don’t like the lack of a Council Meeting because my younger boys aren’t getting the same kind of education as Micah did, and I want to remedy that. So, I’m revamping our system again.

In all, we still rejoiced, but I wasn’t as intentional about my own self-care routines this year, and that ultimately added to my having less grace to extend on any given day. We will work on that this coming year.

Rule of Six for 2019 (series landing page – the real one)

About 150 … or you know… 3 years ago, I wrote a series of posts about how I create a plan according to what I want to do in a day. My kids have gotten bigger since there, I have decided to revisit that series as I consider how things change over time. We still have the same six seven touchstones in our day, but as my kids have grown in stature, intelligence, and responsibility, our days have changed drastically.

Last summer, I abandoned the blog for a year as we were moving from our little house to my husband’s childhood home. It is amazing how much work it takes to move across town. Since we made such a shift just as the school year began, it took a full year for the house to be mostly ours and feel like home. While we were doing all of that other work, Gideon finished his last year of Foundation and Essentials and a summary of Ambleside Online Year 6. Josiah completed Challenge A. Micah survived in my Challenge 3 class, and Jon thoroughly enjoyed directing our campus’s first Challenge 4.

So, our Rule of Six Seven still outlined the plan for everyone, so that I didn’t drown in my day. This coming year, life will shift again, and it is time to make another plan. After ten years, our family is finished with Foundations and Essentials, so that is the end of an era. And, we have a rising Senior. Micah will be in Jon’s Challenge 4 class. I’m still directing Challenge 3. Josiah will be in Challenge B, and Gideon will tackle Challenge A. We need to help Micah finish well, and we need to help Gideon and Josiah develop strong study habits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

I wrote about the idea of a Rule of Six here so if you haven’t dreamed up your own few things that complete your day, you can go read it and start contemplating.

As I finish up the new Rule of Six Seven posts, I’ll link them here.

  1. Rejoice  2016  2018 2019
  2. Relate  2016  2019
  3. Remember  2016 2019
  4. Reason  2016 2019
  5. Read  2016 2019
  6. Record  2016 2019
  7. Restore  2016 2019