School Day Journal Week 2 Days 3-4

I am not sure what happened to day 3.  We spent the morning doing the administration tasks for my husband’s JavaScript, Electronics, and Calculus for homeschoolers in our area. Then we did a couple of errands, and it seemed like the day was over before we ever got home. I fell asleep while reading something aloud, and the younger boys made a huge mess in the twenty minutes I was napping. When I woke up, I tripped on the way into their bedroom to get something, and I turned into OgreMom. I left them to clean it up, and I went and fixed dinner. Then I apologized and asked forgiveness.

We did basic schoolwork on day 3, but that was it. On Day 4, Micah worked hard, playing catchup for choices made earlier in the week. We did memory work together, and we read a bit about Beethoven and some poetry form Rossetti. The current bedtime read aloud is Treasure Island, which I have never read before, but we are all enjoying. The younger boys and I worked on their math and spelling and did some cleaning and had a little free time. Once my husband got here, I left for a meeting about the younger boys classes that start in a week and a half. I’m excited about that. I am ready to get back to our full routine and figure out how to make it work.

School Day Journal Week 2 Days 1-2

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On Day 1, Micah went to class, I tutored a little Latin, and then I hung out with the younger boys (since they say I can’t call them little anymore) and their buddy and my mom. We did a little grocery-shopping and got the leaky tire fixed.

On Day 2, I got up early. My world flows better that way. I had a few moments of quiet, made some doughnut dough and then I met my neighbor for a morning walk. I had promised the boys doughnuts, but the truth is that I have been having a craving for a REAL, fried, doughnut since I took them to Krispy Kreme to use the coupons they got from the summer reading program. Since I am allergic to both corn and gluten, I have to fry them myself if I want to eat them. They came out yummy. (That is the only picture from our day today, and Gideon snapped it.)

Micah was sick with a nasty cold and low grade fever that kept him horizontal most of the day. He accomplished about half of what he expected of the school he scheduled for today… just Latin flashcards and an algebra lesson. He laid around and listened to all of The Call of the Wild and started in on Johnny Tremain. Josiah and Gideon and I got their math, spelling, and typing done.

During our morning meeting, we read a little from Rossetti’s poems, Trial and Triumph, The World of Capt. John Smith, and this evening, we started in on Treasure Island. This morning, we went through the memory work binder, and we looked at Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp. We were all happy to stay home all day long.

About half a ream of paper was folded into many differently designed paper airplanes. I took care of some household tasks that needing doing, consulted on a paper, did a little work for BP Learning, and read.  Mid-afternoon, we watched an episode of Iron Chef.  Nobody likes for anyone to feel miserable, but a nice, slow day was appreciated around here.

School Day Journal Week 1 Day 5

We had a reasonably good day, all things considered. We started late because the boys needed to do the yard work before it got too hot. So, we made a deal that I would take them to get a doughnut and a sausage roll if they just tied on their shoes and got it done.  So, they picked up the sticks and pinecones, mowed the yard, and swept up. They also discovered that the new weed-eater can’t plug in to any extension cord we own. We have to go back to Lowe’s before the job can be finished. But they cleaned up, we grabbed some doughnuts, and we were back on the couch ready to start school by 11am.

We did memory work and read Exodus 3o, a few poems by Rossetti, and the Polycarp chapter from Trial and Triumph. We added Polycarp, Rossetti, and Beethoven to our timelines. Micah went on with his assignments for algebra and physical science. Josiah, Gideon, and I went on with their math, spelling, and typing.

The boy who wasn’t working with me on math read a beautiful picture book, Across a Dark and Wild Sea, about St. Columba and the beginning of monastic life and academics in Great Britain. This was the first time I’ve said, “Hey, you, read THIS book.” in a while, and there was some grumbling because the first boy in line wanted to read the ninth Ranger’s Apprentice book instead. He got reminded that he has many hours available to read what he wants, and that I’d asked him to read this short book in this particular ten minutes. He acquiesced. (He had plenty of time to read Ranger later in the day.) That was our only bump in the road during school time today.

Well,…. there were some other bumps that have to do with issues of post-summer-itis and poor decisions that go with a student re-learning to manage time well and to put forth best effort the first time. Those issues require us parents to find ways to encourage good work and discourage poor choices. We’re working on it. At least they are very common struggles for freshmen everywhere.

School Day Journal Week 1 Day 4

I think we actually got through the day with no meltdowns.  Not even from me.

I think my insistence that the younger boys clean their room before they got into bed last night might have really helped out morning. There was no conversation about how their bedroom became a pigsty overnight because they awoke to the same tidy room they put in order before they went to bed. And nothing was spilled because no one got tangled up in his covers on his way out of bed.

We had breakfast and worked through Memory Work, some beautiful readings, and math without incident

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Micah moved on to Latin, and Josiah and Gideon traded off between a typing tutor game online and spelling with me. (Do you have a favorite typing program? It has to teach touch typing and be fun. Not just one or the other.)

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These two put together a mosaic from pattern blocks, made a ton of paper airplanes, had a Nerf battle outside, and made mayhem in general. I graded Latin and algebra. We made lunch. Micah is going to skip an activity tomorrow because he needs more time to get work done. (That goes on our family’s list of failures for the day, but I’ll respect his privacy and tell you nothing more.)

My mom came over to give haircuts, and we ran a couple of errands before returning home so Micah could get some more done. My husband and the boys all went to Taekwondo and to have a guys’ pizza night with some friends.

I stayed home and ate grilled cheese and answered questions for a friend about my memory work notebook and Latin flashcards. Then I introverted – played the piano and read and thoroughly enjoyed the quiet.

School Day Journal Week 1 Day 3

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I got up on time for the most part. My kids were up too late last night because I hosted the Educating Ourselves Study Group (moms studying math and Latin), and I let them sleep until 8am. In between, I made and drank coffee and took care of a few necessities. When I did get them all up, I started off by yelling at a half-awake kid who spilled water so that it went under a bookshelf. What a good mom am I. There was a flurry of trying to get it cleaned up without moving the shelf, and then another in which the little bookshelf was emptied and scooted so that the water could be soaked up. I apologized for yelling. We reassembled it, and we got back on track.

By 9am, we had all gotten ready for the day and eaten. I was proud of us for starting on time. It was a pretty routine Wednesday school day: Memory work binder, 1 Samuel 28, a poem from Rossetti, a lesson from Plutarch were all done by 10am. Micah moved on to algebra, and I read the end of our last term’s geography read aloud to Josiah and Gideon.

We finished Russell Freedman’s The Adventures of Marco Polo. I was completely intrigued by Marco Polo’s discovers, but for some reason, my one adventurers were not as interested as I expected them to be. I think that is probably because all the things Marco Polo saw in Asia in the 13th Century aren’t as cool if you can’t compare yet what you know about European, American, and African history with what was going on in Asia.

We had a little mathematical conflict. It really had more to do with a kid stuck in perfectionism than it did with math. We had a discussion about how to receive constructive criticism. (I can hear my mother laughing. That stupid perfection struggle I am very familiar with.) The kid was able to learn the math lesson afterwards, so we’ll put math today in the Win column.

IMG_1300Micah moed on to Latin, and the younger boys and I did the first lesson from Phonetic Zoo. That went better than the last spelling program we used. We shall see how we feel about it in six weeks.

There was lunch and company and a fish fry and golf lessons this evening.

School Day Journal Week 1 Days 1 & 2

We start school early in August because we live in Oklahoma, which is beautiful ten months of the year. It it not so beautiful in July and August. It is nasty humid and hot. Sweat pours the second you leave the air conditioning. Outdoor chores must be done early in the morning. We do the errands and the yard work. We go to the pool. But even my outdoor-loving boys are happy to spend these steamy afternoons with their noses in books. Most of the time.

You would think that would mean it was easy to get the schoolwork done. But, really, they just want to go on reading their favorites and doing as they please. It is summertime, after all.

Yesterday, Micah went to his first day of his Challenge 1 class. I went and tutored a couple of Latin Classes. Josiah and Gideon and a friend of theirs and I ate lunch with my mom, did some grocery shopping, and hung out at home.

Yesterday, a dear friend texted me to ask if she is doing something wrong because her children aren’t perfect. I am blaming my morning on her need to know that we often fail around here. One particular child decided to dig in his heels this morning. He just couldn’t choose to do his work happily. He had to argue about everything. He earned some time to cool off and make better decisions. I lost my cool and yelled at him. He lost some privileges. But he returned to his work and got it done efficiently for the most part. I apologized for yelling, and he forgave me. He apologized for being difficult. I forgave him. I forgave me. We moved on.

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This morning, we:

  1. Read today’s portion of the Memory work binder
  2. Read aloud the first half of John 12
  3. Looked at Rembrandt’s The Artist in His Studio and read the first bit of a book called What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt.
  4. Math (one lesson per boy – Saxon 54, 65, and Algebra 1)
  5. Latin: Graded work for Micah (who did some other work today besides math and Latin.)
  6. Gideon read every Sir Cumference book ever written and read The Race of the Birkebeiners. Sir GrumpyPants refused to read about the Vikings and complained about reading a chapter in the science book. But my floors were well swept and vacuumed.

This afternoon we:

  1. Appointment for me
  2. Violin lesson for Micah; hanging out with friends for the rest of us
  3. Errands: Library, homeschool consignment shop, Staples, Lowe’s, the bank, the Salvation Army, and the gas station

This evening, I taught a class of moms the first lesson in the Latin book we use, and Jon and the boys headed out to a friend’s house to learn how to fillet a fish.  They returned with several pounds of beautiful fillets. We’ll have to pull out the fryer for that.

Things on the list that we skipped today:

  1. spelling
  2. a second read aloud
  3. actually cooking dinner (leftover night)
  4. finishing several blog posts
  5. copywork

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Rule #7: Restore (or Rule #1, again)

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We all need ample time to rest and to restore ourselves. As I write this, we are driving home from a trip to the mountains for a cousin’s wedding. We had a wonderful week with my brother and his family and my mother. We took notice of different activities that we did that were all restful, even if they were rather active.

We played board games and read stories together. We watched a few cartoons and read a few comic books. We cooked tasty treats and easy meals; we walked by the lake; we fished; we just sat on the porch and visited. We toasted marshmallows and smashed them with chocolate and graham crackers, and the boys had too much sugar. We tucked all the boys into their beds and sat around the fire pit with adult beverages or soda and told stories and laughed. We sang. We slept earlier than usual (though we rose with the sun every day.) We rented a pontoon and spent an afternoon on the lake. My mom enjoyed having all her chicks under the same roof, and we marveled at her joy knowing that we will understand it some day.

It was a brilliant week in which we soaked up each other and the beauty of the San Juan Range and the Vallecito Reservoir. We celebrated the wedding, and we celebrated each other. My brother and his family live in on the front range in Colorado, and we are in the green of northeastern Oklahoma, so we see each other every few months, but not as often as we’d like. It was wonderful.

Now, we are an hour from home, and my brother’s family has arrived at theirs. Tonight, we tidy up from the trip, and tomorrow we all return to our normal jobs (park ranger, art therapist, programmer, tutor/maybe-writer/mom, and volunteer/grandmother) and our kids return to their regular school routines. We’ll remember the fun we had, and we’ll loosely plan the next time we will meet. Another moment of respite will be required if we are all going to continue offering our best to our occupations and to each other.

This was a big (and rather tiring) rest. But we each build into our days the moments we need to not feel overwhelmed by the world.  I drink my coffee in quiet and read and write. My husband practices tae kwon do and puts his headphones in and pretends the rest of the world doesn’t exists while he writes and researches and programs. Our kids rest outside or in books or games. My brother hikes or fishes (often with his son in tow), and my sister-in-love runs or does yoga or creates.  My mom reads and creates. We all enjoy seeing new places, especially when we can do that together.

All rests, big and small, need to be measured and consistent if we are going to benefit from them. Sometimes rest is reduced to making good choices: good food, some exercise, some inspiring words read or heard, and a good night’s sleep. Other times, we take a chunk of time off and just do something out of the ordinary. We have to make sure we take time to rest if we are going to continue pouring ourselves out at the foot of the cross for other people. If we don’t take the time to soak in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, we will find ourselves empty and have nothing to give.

 

Rule #6: Record

 

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We record what we are studying. We keep it very simple; only a pen and a composition notebook or timeline is required. Every day, we each want to make sure that we write something down. That’s because we are more likely to remember the things that we write down… from poetry or scripture copied to the grocery list.

It’s just the way the brain works. If I just hear something, I’ll likely forget. If I read it, I may remember it, though I might shift it around. But if I write it down, it’s there in my head for a good long time.  My husband remembers everything that he tells back, and when he takes time to write down his thoughts on a topic, those ideas are in his head forever.

My kids’ minds work similarly. I have one kid who remembers everything he hears (unless it is an instruction from me… those he forgets), and two more who remember everything they read. We’ve worked to develop the opposite abilities in each of them. We’ve also worked are to conquer what seems to be a hereditary pencil allergy, one short line of handwriting at a time. (We’re still working on it, as most males in our house seem to be allergic to pencils.)

For instance, Micah, who is nearly fourteen, copied down Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “My Shadow” when he was six. He can still recite most of it now. It took him weeks of one-line-a-day work to accomplish the copying, but those lines are stuck in his memory. He gained a few new vocabulary works, and some knowledge of rhyme as well as the idea of a shadow and some observations of how shadows work. It wasn’t a unit study. It was just copywork spread out over time. Copying down someone else’s beautiful words counts when the goal is to record something every day.

Also, composing an essay, typing a story, or creating a poem or writing a letter all count towards our household goal of recording our thoughts or experiences every day. Journaling, blogging, and planner-keeping all record what we have done in a season of family life.

A habit that we are beginning this summer is that of timeline-keeping. I have kept a timeline of my own for a couple of years, and now that the discipline of starting it is over, I really enjoy seeing where in time people existed and events happened. Timeline-keeping is a personal bird’s eye view of history. A timeline brings order to the stories that we read and the people that we meet in books.

Occasionally, recording comes in the form of snapping photos or creating art, but usually, we just write something down as neatly as we can.

Rule #5: Read

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As a girl, I received discipline often for reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. I now understand my parents’ frustration with the fact that I wasn’t sleeping when I should have been. Even then I recognized reading under the covers after lights out was dreadfully naughty, but I just had to see what happened next in the tale spun on the pages before me.

In our house, books are normal, and reading is a habit. We joke that our home is well-insulated against Oklahoma’s scorching summer heat and frigid winter blasts by our library. My husband and I are both avid readers, and we aren’t very good at sending our paper friends and teachers away from our shelves when we are done with them. Our children have the same compulsion. The books they love are well-loved, and they don’t want to send them off. So, the books stay in the our household library, guarded by the dread dragon Draco (a beardie), when they aren’t being read in our house, unless they journey to be enjoyed by a friend.

I did teach each of these guys how to read, and they each became fluid readers around the time they turned eight. Reading is a skill that is usually taught, but the desire to read isn’t taught. It is caught. My bookworm husband and I read books to ourselves, to our boys, and sometimes to each other. We both tend to stash something to read near any spot we often occupy.

We want these boys to know that reading is a cozy activity that this family just does.  They need to me to read with and to them, and they need to see me reading for and to myself. Even more so, they need to see their father reading, and it is awesome if he is willing to read aloud. My husband is not a fan of fiction, but he enjoys reading aloud histories or biographies or well-written science titles. It is covert bedtime education for all of us.

Often, we find a boy curled up in an odd space (like in a closet, under a table, or upside down on the couch) with a book, completely engulfed in story. “Children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times – a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books” (Mason, Home Education, 153). I’ve lived in Narnia, visited Rivendell, walked the moors of England, inhabited a garrett in London, and shivered in a little house on the prairie. My boys have lived in most of those places also, and we have visited some of them together.

Once in a while, a book drags one of us in and doesn’t let go when it ought. The freedom to roam literary lands is a treat that grows strong readers. Most characters don’t compel their audience to read far into the night, so these infrequent journeys are allowed. Even if it causes an occasional grumpy morning, the delight of immersion in another world is not to be missed.

#4: Reason, part 2

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My morning started with light saber repair.  Gideon couldn’t figure out why the button that makes it light up and make noise was stuck, so we took it apart while he told me all about the problem. He said that the button was stuck down and had been for some time, so therefore the batteries must now be dead. Reasonable reasoning for a boy who is nine.

When we solve a problem, we apply reason and logic to the information we have in order to exclude non-solutions until we can put a finger on the solution. We weed through facts and lies and arguments until we find Truth. That’s what we do when we repair a broken toy. It is also how we unravel logical fallacies in articles in the paper or on the internet.  That is how we decide which statements made by presidential candidates are true and which are not. We have to work through the words we hear and compare them to the plumb line of mechanics and physics or Scripture or the Constitution in order to decide what is Truth and what is not.

Sometimes we have to take apart a sentence to understand the truth in it. This is why we need an understanding of grammar. Charlotte didn’t address this subject until students were at least ten. That makes a lot of sense because most students are reading and writing fairly easily by the time they are ten. Why would you make a student deconstruct a sentence before he can read one or write one? Thinking through the job of each word in a  sentence and how the words work together makes us better writers, readers, and listeners.

Oh – and the light saber: The final diagnosis was a stewardship problem. It turns out that if you leave your light saber out in the rain, it probably won’t work well anymore. Once the wiring is nasty, there is no amount of new batteries that will be helpful. I bet Yoda didn’t need to teach Luke to keep his light saber with him so that it didn’t get soaked.