Thursday, May 19, 2016

End of the Year Musings

It's a beautiful spring day here in the Midwest. The windows are open, and the coffee is hot. The newly installed bird feeders are full of life and color. Life free from thinking (as much) about school for a few weeks has done my heart a lot of good. Last year was a year of a lot of lessons learned the hard way, so I thought I'd share some of my experience.

This summer my goal is to slow down. A friend recently sent me a blog post about wanting to have a summer from the 50's. I grew up in the 80's, and I'm pretty sure it was just as good. I remember being outside with friends until the streetlights went on, and my dad would whistle for us to come back home. There were long days swimming in the lake. There were mud pies and baseball games. I want to slow down like that. I want enough room to breathe. I want to remember why we homeschool. I want to be true to our family's mission to nurture relationships with God and one another. I want long and lazy days filled with warmth. I want fresh food from the farmer's market and to share my table and couch with good friends.

Last summer I was in a flurry of re-planning. It was honestly a royal waste of time. I went into this past year harried, worn out, and that was the furthest thing from my goal.  I've thought about last year a lot over the past few weeks. If any of you want to know what not to do, ditch all your plans and start over. I think I may have lost my mind temporarily. I had planned all of our school year, and then I completely ditched all of my plans for both boys. I mean...Can someone say midlife crisis? I finally re-found my way about halfway through the year, but please don't be me. Just don't.

Sometimes we homeschoolers are guilty of doing too much research (I am probably more guilty than most.) We check out all the options - There are far too many these days. While having options is a wonderful thing it can often lead to becoming easily discontented. If we have a bad day we blame the curriculum when sometimes it's as simple as the hormones having had their way, too little sleep, or even low blood sugar. Last year I stepped away from something familiar to try my hand at planning everything. At first it was a lot of fun, but as the year rolled on I realized I had worn myself out with all the decisions and that we weren't having as much fun as in years' past.

None of how I was feeling had anything to do with the curriculum I chose or the one I didn't choose. It had all to do with my heart. I listened to too many voices. If you are looking for critics you will find them. If you look for the positive voices, you will find those too. I made the mistake of listening to the critics instead of listening to my own family's personal experience. Often times we are reading reviews from families we will never meet, who have children that are not anything like ours, and they are nothing like us as moms. Listening to too many voices is confusing. They cause you to question everything and you then forget the reason you are doing this whole homeschool gig to begin with. 

By the way, you don't have to live exactly according to the homeschool philosophy you love. You may not look like the perfect Charlotte Mason homeschooler. I know, I know. They take beautiful pictures of nature romps through mashes and forest. Who doesn't want all those beautiful experiences for their kids? I know I do. I'll tell you a secret though: The pictures we bloggers take are just snapshots of events that may have taken 30 seconds. You have the same snapshots written on your heart even if you don't have the digital file. You may not look like the perfect classical homeschooler either. You might never fit in every Shakespeare tragedy and comedy (though I absolutely adore Shakespeare.) That's ok. Live according to your season and your family. To thine own self be true. None of us have to look the same, and no way is the "right" way.

And guess what? God cares. He knows that you won't settle for less than the best for the kids you love so dearly. He knows you and them better than you can even know yourselves. I was truly feeling myself going into the same crazy mode for the coming year. I took a different approach and really prayed. He was gracious. He listened, and He guided me. Take a deep breath sister. There is someone on your side, and He will walk you through all of this if you ask.

So for the record, I know you are doing the best you can. I know it because most homeschoolers I meet are all-in kind of gals (and guys.) You didn't get into this thinking "Oh let me just be mediocre and do a half apple job." No. I know you love your kids as much as I do. So here's a pat on the back. Job well done. Can I just give you permission to take it easy for a while? Take some time to rest. Really. Pray for guidance. Stop searching for the perfect fit. There isn't one by the way. Make everything your own. Adjust where necessary. Let go of perfection. There really is no such thing (just in case you didn't already know.)

Love and peace to you from my corner of the woods <3

Friday, April 29, 2016

Last Day of School - First Day of Summer

 Welcome to Summer! Ok, well....maybe it's really just mid-spring, but it's our summer! We just crossed the last day of school finish line. We live in the midwest, so I love being done by May 1st if possible. One of my besties and I usually start and end at the same, so we try to do something fun with the kids at the end of the year to mark a job well done.

 This banner actually makes me giggle. I'm sure the people at the park were thinking "What in the world kind of summer party is this?" It was a dreary day, and our toes were cold. Aedan forgot his jacket. We were a motley crew, but it was our party and we were going to celebrate rain or shine. It's hard to be sad when you know there is rest coming! I found this printable banner HERE. You can edit the letters to say anything you like.

Aedan has gotten SO tall this year! He looks like a giant next to these little guys. He was a good sport to take this picture with the little kids. You can find these signs HERE.

 We made gift bags with all kinds of summer preparedness supplies like sunglasses, beach balls, leis, water guns and a little candy of course. I found these tags HERE.

The boys filled out their end of the year interviews.

My big kid! None of his older friends were done with school yet. He still willingly had light saber fights with our friends because he's pretty sweet even though he's a teenager.

 Their favorite foods have never changed - Always chicken noodle soup for Aedan, and fried chicken for Silas. You can find these interview sheets HERE.

 The boys with some of their summer loot.

I decided we needed an official finish line to cross for the summer. It all looked like it was going go go well.

Aaaaannnnd then this happened! Silas was showing promise until he tripped. We watched this video a dozen times and laughed and laughed! Here's to a great summer!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Learning with Laura - Prairie Primer - Week 33-35

This week we wrapped our final chapters of Little House on the Prairie and also our 4th grade year. Prairie Primer has been such a sweet end of the year. I wish I had thought to do it sooner in the year to do maybe just one more book. We have really enjoyed snuggling on the couch and getting to know the Ingalls and the part of the country that we live in now that was quite different than the one we know now.

As I said in Aedan's final post this year was a lot of trial and error. I'm thankful I had the freedom to enjoy a few learning tangents this year, but I am looking forward to next year's steady plans too. Silas is becoming a very wise little man. It's fun to see him growing into his personality and watch him as he grows in so many ways. I can't wait to enjoy long and warm afternoons with these two.

There was just so much goodness wrapped into Prairie that it was hard to fit it all in. I let Silas choose a few things each week rather than over-burdening us with activities. I think Prairie Primer makes a wonderful and full program. I wish I had found it sooner. This late in the year I chose to take a more relaxed approach to it.

One of the things Silas wanted to do was make these little heart cakes. One of the stories in the book takes place on Christmas. The children are awaiting a visit from Santa, but Santa happens to be Mr. Edwards coming from Independence. The river was too difficult to cross, so Ma feared that there would be no presents in the stockings for the girls. Laura heard her mom whisper "There's still the white sugar." Thinking that Mr. Edwards wouldn't come Ma made these little heart cakes and wrapped them in tissue paper.

The boys just started flag football. They each have a practice on a different night, so one boy stays home with me. When I asked Silas what he wanted to do it was to make the little heart cakes from the book. We have the Little House Cookbook, and the recipe was in there! We subbed butter for shortening.

It was neat making the recipe together. I love that this is what he chose to do when we had some time together just the two of us. 

These were quite delish! They are sort of a cross between a biscuit and a scone. It was neat experiencing something that was so special to Laura so long ago.

Mr. Edwards did in fact make it across the river. He didn't want to let the girls down. He brought sweet potatoes which were a special treat for their Christmas dinner. They had turkey, but I ended up making a roast chicken and sweet potatoes instead. We pretended it was a prairie hen. We also got to go to a really neat farmstead in town where there were many things that were relevant to the book. I left my phone in the car that day. It was nice to not think about pictures.

Ok, so I adore Center for Lit products. I got the Ready Readers picture book guide just to get a feel for how they apply the Socratic questions in Teaching the Classics. I love that they schedule picture books all the way up through even the older grades to teach different literary devices. These were all absolutely wonderful books! I need to write a whole post on Center for Lit products. Soon and very soon.

Of all of the books this was my very favorite. I could write a whole post on this book alone. Absolutely beautiful and deep. Silas thought the book was kind of sad until I explained why it was so beautiful. Maybe someday he'll understand.

Silas has been reading 13 Clocks. He absolutely loved this book. It was one of the books on the Reading Roadmaps 4th grade list.

We completed our final visit for SCM Visits to Europe. We finished our final book Children of the Northlights. This one is going in my D'Aulaire collection to never be sold. We spent some time in Finland, and this book captured that part of the world so well. Silas got every single country correct on his final map test! I highly recommend this program!

Next year we will be using HOD Creation to Christ. Aedan adored the science from that guide. Silas has covered animals multiple times and asked if he could learn astronomy this year instead. He said he would like to still read some of the CtC science books, so he read through this one over the past few weeks. Instead we will use the science from HOD Resurrection to Reformation next year.

We wrapped up the rest of our science experiments. We made it through the whole thing! That was no easy task. REAL Science Chemistry had a ton of experiments! I can't bear to skip them for my hands on kid. A few weeks ago we did an acids and bases experiment with cabbage indicator. We had leftover cabbage water for yet another stinky experiment. P-U!

We dipped coffee filters into cabbage indicator to make PH strips.

Next we tested water, baking soda water and vinegar to see which was most acidic. The paper turned pink for acid and blue for alkaline.

Silas painted with the various mixtures.

We made a PH scale.

Next we did an activity where we built teeth. First we took chalk (calcium carbonate) and ground it into a fine powder.

Silas had fun smashing it to bits!

Next we poured vinegar into the jar to dissolve the calcium carbonate.

It was fun seeing something bubble that wasn't vinegar and baking soda.

After a while the mixture separated.

Silas thought the bubbles were weird.

We left the calcium carbonate mixture over night. We also mixed baking soda and water.

Mixing these two liquids together formed a solid. I didn't get a picture, but we poured off the liquid and saw our solid. Awesome!

The last few experiments we played with fire. Always a hit with boys! Sooo.....Our next experiment was to light a dollar on fire without actually burning it. Umm...

We were supposed to soak the dollar in 90% alcohol, water and salt, buuuuuttttt we only had 70%. Sounds like a good sub right?

Silas took the dollar out and let the liquid drip off. You know that inner voice that says, "This isn't a bright idea." I had a bad feeling about that substitution.

 Next we lit our dollar on fire that wasn't supposed to burn, and well, it burned anyway. Ha! Can't win em' all right?

 Sorry George.

We also learned how oxygen and fire are a team.

After lighting the candles we put a small, medium and large jar on top of the candles.

We had to get them on the same time to see which candle would burn the longest.

Of course it was the large jar with the most oxygen present.

Here is where we say goodbye to the memories of last year. I'm so thankful for this sweet boy. He sure lights up our days. I'm sure I will check in with you all between now and next year. For now I am thankful you have come to walk alongside us on our journey. Best of days to you!

Heart of Dakota - HOD Rev to Rev - Week 35

This will be our very last post of Aedan's 7th grade year. Boy has this kid grown! He really is becoming a young man right before my very eyes. He is still quite the kid at heart, and I hope that part of him will always remain. He definitely knows how to make his family laugh! This year we experienced a lot of trial and error, but I finally came back around to what has always worked. Sometimes you have to just try a few new things to figure out what you really loved in the first place. In the meantime we still learned a lot of wonderful things, grew a lot in skill, and also in character.  I'm thankful for what we learned this year, not only in school but also about ourselves.

I have to admit I am very ready for summer break. I made the mistake of not taking spring break this year. Normally we start earlier in the year, but we had family in town. I always love being done by May 1st. The weather is just too perfect, and you don't get a lot of that in the Midwest. It didn't take as much of a push to get through the end as normal. It was fun switching back to HOD mid-year. Everything still seemed new by the end of the year. I am looking forward to long and slow days with the boys without the worry of a schedule. I know come school time I will be ready to be back to it. The boys will too. After a while we all start missing routine. Until then I plan on soaking up a whole lot of sun and logging plenty of hours reading books I actually want and get to read.

Our final week we learned about the Annexation of Hawaii, the assassination of president Mckinley, and the reign of Queen Victoria. 

We learned about the very long reign of Queen Victoria and the many territories the British held during that time. We made a 3-D map of the world. Aedan painted the areas that were part of the British Empire in 1914.

Annexation of Hawaii - 1898

Aedan's written narration was about Hawaii which happens to be my dad's home state. My grandma and grandma grew up there as well. It's neat when you can connect your own story to history. My childhood was surrounded by sounds, sights and tastes from this faraway island. I got to visit once which is definitely not enough. My dad still smiles like he his full of the sunshine of way back when.

President McKinley is Assassinated - September 1901

Our Worthy Words this week was to read a first hand account of the assassination of President McKinley. When he was shot he looked at his assassin and said "God forgive him." I am very interested in knowing more about this president after reading the article.

Queen Victoria's Reign - 1837-1901

This is a portrait of Queen Victoria's family. She reigned from age 18 until she died at 81.

Aedan drew a picture of Queen Victoria out of Draw and Write Through History.

Aedan made it all the way to the end of dictation for the year. Silas has started helping me give Aedan his dictation lesson. He graded it too. Sometimes it's fun to let the littler kids help. He drew the "great" picture! He loves when I draw on his, so he passed on some of that love. Sometime I will have to tell you why I appreciate dictation as a spelling method sometime.

 This was Aedan's final written narration for his inventor study!

I thought his astronauts were so cute (though I am officially banned from using the word cute to describe anything he does.)

I would love to eventually write a post on what worked and what didn't this year. It will take me a few weeks of nothingness to get around to anything. For now that's a wrap on 2015-2016! Thanks for sharing our memories with us!