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

Rule of Seven 2018: #1 Rejoice

Rejoicing actually begins with me before my children are out of bed. Our day is better if I have some time with Jesus and some time to drink the first cup of coffee and work before the boys open their eyes.   It makes me a better mom.

By nature, I am an ugly, critical perfectionist. I try not to be, and I am far harder on myself than anyone else. Inside my head, I expect that I must do all the things, pick up all the slack, and be everyone that my people need all at once. Now, I know all of that is impossible and unrealistic. It looks more than a little crazy typed out here.  This is who I am without Christ – an ugly nut case, from whom you would never want to hear.

Jesus makes me better. Grace makes me better. Love makes me better. Rejoicing makes me better. Rejoicing is a conscious decision, made in my heart, to believe that I am who God says I am because of who He is and who He made me to be and to look for evidence of that in my day. Some days, that is easy. Other days, it is a lot of work. Every day, it is necessary.

I have kept a physical list of these blessings. Sometimes I photograph them so that I can return to them later, and sometimes I need to hold blessings in my hand. That is how I crawl from the black hole of deep grief. If I just hold on to proof that God cares about me, I survive. I don’t remember most of 2005, when Danny died five years after he made me a mother, or 2009, when our fifth son, Isaac, was born and died three months later, but I survived those seasons. For several years now, my days are colorful, and there is no whirling darkness threatening to engulf me. Occasionally, a smoke blows in, and I find myself anxious and exhausted and blind to blessings. It is the grace of God, and rest, and a re-evaluation of this particular habit of rejoicing that clears the air

Choosing to rejoice is still a critical part of my every hour (though sometimes I fail). Abiding in Christ and in His Word must happen each morning. The decision to worship needs making every day. These habits are as life-giving to my spirit as coffee is to my body. A good day doesn’t start without them. While my boys and I do worship and read God’s word together most days, this part of our Rule of Six starts with me in the quiet of early morning.

My Rule of Six and Creating a Plan (series landing page)

About 150 years ago … or you know… 2 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 now that everyone has at least one activity outside of the house, our days have changed drastically.

I’m carefully looking at next year to make sure that we get to stay home more. It is time to make a plan. It feels very early to plan now, but I have to have all of the books pulled and boxed together before we move the library next week because we are working on moving house this summer. I will have Gideon in his last year of Foundation and Essentials who will be working on parts of Ambleside Online Year 6. Josiah will be in Challenge A. Micah will be in my Challenge 3 class, and Jon will be directing Challenge 4.

So, I’ll use the Rule of Six Seven to outline the plan for everyone and for our Council Meetings so that I don’t drown in my day. I wrote about the idea of a Rule of Six here so if you haven’t dreamed up your own few things that let you feel like your day is complete, you can go read it and start contemplating.

As I finish up the posts, I’ll link them here.

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

Things I Learned this Term (or Enjoying the Journey) pt. 6

So, I discovered a LOT of things to NOT do this term if I want to enjoy this home education journey.

  1. Do not overtask me: I can only spend my time one way. I must seek God’s will for my schedule.  Because I am a people-loving introvert, I need to see people often, but I also need to make sure to have a little time every day in which I am alone. Otherwise, I feel very overwhelmed.
  2. All education is self-education. My students have their own abilities, desires, faults, and deficiencies. While batch education is easier, each of us needs slight personal variations.
  3. Do not expect more than my child can give. Those relationships are of eternal importance.  Quickly finishing up a math page right this minute is not. Try to call an end to a lesson while it is still tolerable. If frustration is building, take a break.
  4. Expect the best effort. Model giving my best effort as I go about my day. Perfection is a goal as we try to be like Jesus, but we expect only our Best Effort for our current circumstances.  Remember that the standard of Best Effort is fluid. I must inspect what I expect often so that course corrections can be made
  5. Do not compare. All children are persons. All persons are different. Therefore, all children are different. Adults don’t do things at the same rate or the same way. Why would we expect children to?
  6. Summer is a great time to put chore, laundry, and mealtime systems in place to grow the habits of all involved. These adults that I am raising must know how to wash dishes, clean, mow, launder, and vacuum. Those chores are a built-in class in Adulting.
  7. Do not overtask my kids. While sports, music lessons, etc. are all good, you must leave time for Masterly Inactivity: Nature Study, Artistic Exploration, Handicrafts and Life Skills, Creative Projects. Charlotte Mason says (quite rightly: “Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs, the elders must neither meddle nor make. They must be content to know that they do not understand, and, what is more, that they carry with them a chill breath of reality which sweeps away illusions.”
  8. Do not feel guilty. Only Jesus can be everything to everybody.  God created these boys and gave them to me. He knows what I am capable of and what they are capable of. He will inspire me towards what is right if I ask Him to do that.

I am enough for these boys.

And you are enough for your crew.

Things I Learned this Term, (or, Enjoying the Journey) pt. 5

WHAT ABOUT THEM?

“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen. We must begin with the notion that the business of the body is to grow; and it grows upon food, which food is composed of living cells, each a perfect life in itself. In like manner, though all analogies are misleading and inadequate, the only fit sustenance for the mind is ideas…

You aren’t actually required to educate your children. You can only help them learn how to learn and to spread a veritable feast of ideas in front of them. That’s it. They have to apprehend knowledge for themselves.

You can help them develop the habits of learning and learn to use the tools of a student. You can tutor them when they are stuck. But you can’t make them learn one single thing. They have to do the learning for themselves.

Good habits are essential. You can develop those in yourself and help your kids to develop them in themselves. This extends to housework as well as to study.

We cannot do all the things by ourselves. It isn’t healthy for anyone in our household for us to try that.  But I inevitably get tired of reminding people to finish their jobs and wind up doing them. Then I overdo it and am sorry for days. That doesn’t work around here. The boys get frustrated if I can’t do all my usual things because I did theirs. Since I struggle with chronic pain, they are very aware that me doing all of the work is going to mean that they won’t get to go and do something that they want to go and do because I won’t have the energy to make it happen.

Spread the Feast: the real work of an educator

Education happens when we get our hands on real ideas, and those are found in books and in real things. It is important to meet authors by reading their words, even though some of them require practice to understand. We need to use different tools, create with different media, perform different experiments, inspect different discoveries, and explore new places. We learn the most from things we can touch and hold and from varying voices we can read and hear. Spreading a broad educational feast will give students a broad experience of the world.

We can learn from apps, screens, and devices, but those things don’t impact us as much as the things we can put our hands on, see up close, listen to, taste and smell. Screens are good for watching documentaries, enjoying stories through films, studying foreign language vocabulary and learning from native speakers, and even creating worlds in video games, but they can’t replace the learning that takes place when we really get our hands in the dirt and experience things for ourselves.

I have more joy in this journey when I am sure of what I am responsible for and what my kids are responsible for. Are there consequences if they don’t accept and act on their responsibility? Sure. Are they fun? No. But I know that I can’t make them learn something.  I can make life uncomfortable for them if they don’t try, but discipline is not going to force any knowledge into their brains any faster.