A Typical Day, or Some Nitty Gritty

Here I attempt to go through a very typical homeschool day, and also point out where a couple educational principles come into play. I write this with the intent to share some basic, yet vital principles and how I practice them in my home. Two caveats:

  1. I have been studying and applying Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy in my home for a little more than two years now. I am no expert, only a fellow pilgrim on this homeschooling journey. I still have many things to learn, and many habits to implement in my home. But, I truly believe this is the best way to learn. And so I keep at it, despite all of my failures. Really, the principles I am pointing out are short lessons and narration.
  2. I am going to pick a typical day from the last two weeks. Last week we had a very serious and traumatic health scare. The kind that involved calling an ambulance at five o’clock in the morning. Thankfully, we are all in a good state of health now, but it was very traumatic and took time to recover from. We are also still in mourning mode. Life is hard, folks. We all have hard things. My aim is not to look pretty on the Internet. I really have seen the damage it does to so many people, so I am going to be real here.

For my own personal ease, I am going to write this in the present tense, as though it were happening right now even though this was yesterday. I am also choosing a day that we were blessed to stay home for the whole day—nothing until piano lessons which are in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule pretty and perfect. I see value in having an ideal. It helps keep me on track if I get derailed. And sometimes—sometimes—I have fantastic, amazing homeschool days that just knock it out of the park. And yet, we also have very average, ordinary days where things get done, but not according to plan. Below is one of those days.

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And here is what really happened. This is pretty ordinary, at least for this stage of my life.

First, I sleep in. I haven’t had a lot of great nights of sleep for all sorts of reasons. I get up around 8. This pushes our day back by at least an hour, and I didn’t get any quiet time or exercise.

The school-age kids are up before me. They have said their personal prayers (at least they tell me they have), have made their beds (you might not be able to tell the difference, but I can), and are dressed (they wear uniforms, and we lay them out the night before. Ask me about this crazy uniform idea. I will tell you more than you want to know.) But they are playing quietly. They know all too well if they wake me I will make them do things! Like Binder Work! The 3yo is either asleep or blissfully thinking in silence in his crib, which he still sleeps in happily.

I wake up. I make my husband a lunch before he goes to work. We are in the process of transforming our play room into a school room. For now, school is still at the kitchen table. It is usually messy. If I had been on top of things, their Binder Work would be ready to go on the table. It isn’t, so I have to set it out. Also, we are in the middle of a printing crisis. I cannot get the printer to work; this mainly affects the 5yo, because his Binder Work entails fun things, like dot-to-dots, mazes, some basic letter formation, and the like.

Also, my pretty schedule that I posted above? Usually I have a copy of that on my fridge, but I have been going without this week, and so I have been doing things on the fly. This means doing things out of order! So again, things are not going according to plan, and yet, they are happening.

So for this first chunk of time called Binder Work, I give an illustrated Book of Mormon Stories to my 5yo to look at at the table while I work with my 7yo. Normally, they would both have some more independent work at this time. But it didn’t happen this week, so I just started checking off our boxes. I make some ghetto pumpkin muffins, but the kids are hungry and will be grumpy if they don’t have something to munch on while the muffins bake. So they have handfuls of Honey Nut Cheerios at their disposal. By this time the 3yo is awake as well, my sweet darling, and is also at the table, eating Cheerios. I have no idea what time it is, because it doesn’t really matter. It’s still morning, and we don’t have to be anywhere.

We start with a prayer. We ask Heavenly Father to help us learn, and to have open hearts and minds for the Holy Spirit—who is the real, and only teacher—to teach us.

7yo then has to read 1-2 verses of the Book of Mormon to me out loud. I help with the words he needs help with. I read aloud to him one of his scheduled Ambleside Online books from Year 2. Today we read from Robin Hood. After reading, the student narrates back to me in his own words the part of the story read to him (while he was lying on his back on the kitchen floor). Narration is the bread and butter of a Charlotte Mason education. It is crucial, and should be a daily habit. Back in his chair, we do a short math drill on Xtra Math (sometimes he likes this; today he hated it). We do a fluency drill: he has to read a list of words from his new, awesome Phonics program, to see how many words he can read per minute. He reads the Phonics story in cursive that we are on. He then has to orally spell a handful of words. He will be writing them down soon as well, but I need to buy some more notebooks. Normally he would do copywork as well, but I want to go over our cursive strokes again. (More on that some other time). We go over and recite some memory work: a poem, and few scriptures on baptism, since he is preparing for his baptism. For reading practice he reads a Norse myth story that is hilarious, and he also reads a few pages from a book on animals. Today it was gorillas. Next we find the math lesson he is on. I had explained all of the sections on his math page the day before. He works on his own to finish the page. While he does that, I have the 5yo do his fluency drill, read the Phonics story in cursive, and orally spell a handful of words. (During all of this, the children are eating ghetto pumpkin muffins. You know the kind, cake mix and a can of pumpkin? Not great, but they ate the whole dozen. No one helped me make breakfast today. Partly because the kitchen was a mess from the day before since I had run out of energy, and it’s stressful adding small children to a dirty kitchen. This is where I lose serious points in atmosphere, although perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere.)

Then I move back to the 7yo. We do a French lesson using the ULAT program. We are learning some new French verbs. Then I go with the 7yo over to the piano, set the awesome Time Timer for ten minutes, and direct his practice.

Not one, and I mean, NOT ONE single subject done here surpassed 15 minutes. The habit of attention is often spoken of in Charlotte Mason circles. If lessons are not short, the student loses focus and interest, and will get in the habit of NOT paying attention. This is so important! With short, focused lessons, and alternating subjects, the habit of attention is formed!

After this is done, I read a stack of picture books to the 3yo, and the others as well, since they usually show up or lurk around to experience picture books. Then I put in a load of dishes, and the children play outside for a bit, ride bikes, etc.

Next I get Morning Time ready. It is the most important part of our day. Mostly for me. It is our liturgy, our worship, and our ritual. If we miss Morning Time two or three days in a row, I feel it. And I get worn down.

Here is a crappy Morning Time (and Luncheon Basket) sheet. Printer problems, so I have an old sheet from last month. I change the Psalm and the hymns monthly.

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I light our candles, and I inform the children that I will be singing my hymn. This gives them time to prepare themselves to stop playing and come to the table, usually with a handful of Playmobil knights to join us at the round table. I pick my gathering hymn for myself. It is usually a hymn that lifts me up or teaches me or reminds me of something I need help with. I chose this one because I love singing it. “Come Ye Thankful People Come.” Then the boys are all at the table. If spirits seem on the grouchy side, I might make a big bowl of popcorn, especially if Morning Time hits the Elevenses. Popcorn makes everyone happy.

We read a Psalm to give praise to our God. I alternate reading even and odd verses with my 7yo. We read the same Psalm all month. This will change when I have more able readers at the table.

Then we sing a new hymn, and review a hymn we already have learned. Sometimes I am singing solo, and they listen in stolid silence. But I don’t mind this, because generally they sing these same hymns at the top of their lungs when they sit on the toilet or something. These hymns are getting locked in their hearts. Prayer, everyone has to express gratitude for one thing or person, we pray for others (we have a list), and then we ask for help and blessings. Next, confession and an opportunity to ask forgiveness (something only Mom has offered up thus far), and we recite our current repentance scripture, Moroni 8:10. Next we read a section from the Book of Mormon; 7yo has to narrate. 5yo will be required to narrate when he turns 6 in January. Math Loop, today was a Life of Fred chapter. Calendar in French and English: we say the date, and what the weather is like. We read from the Constitution, an illustrated one, and try to figure out what the heck it is talking about. Poetry, we read several poems. Recite our CM motto:

I am a child of God.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I ought to do my duty to God and others.

I will choose the right.

I am. I can. I ought. I will! (3yo often shouts this part.)

Phonics lesson. I DUMPED our old Phonics program. I have no nice words. It is very popular, highly recommended, and pricey. I won’t even try to sell it to anyone, because I cannot recommend it. If you want it, I will give it to you for free. We are now doing something that I love, and is supposed to bring a student to a third grade reading level in four months. I am really waiting to see where we are in four months though before I try to tell everyone they should do it. My 7yo is an okay reader right now, but he has gotten in the habit of guessing and memorizing. After using that other program for nearly two years, he was still mostly reading from memory and guessing. These bad habits make Phonics virtually useless. Not to mention, after a year and a half with that other program, we had learned hardly anything. This was after like 80 some lessons! This new program covers all the Phonics he learned in a year and a half, in one month. I can’t tell you how angry this makes me. And it is infinitely cheaper, good gravy! Can even access the most important content for free! Maybe $30 or less if you want the books. Anyway, I am starting the 7yo at the beginning with the 5yo with this new program in Morning Time. More on that later.

Move to the couch. Read from one or two read alouds. Then when we are done I say, “The Lord be with you.” And they reply, “And also with you.”

Morning Time done! Then we all break for a moment.

Next chunk: more readings following the Year 2 schedule from Ambleside Online. We are on Week 26 if you want to see what we are reading. The 7yo must narrate after every reading of every scheduled book. We read a history chapter from Our Island Story. I usually read two pages, stop for a narration, then two pages, stop for a narration, etc. Some people have a problem with AO’s history cycle beginning with British history. After learning about Britain’s history for the first time in my life, it has truly made American history all the more precious to me, knowing what came before. Also, I heard on a podcast recently someone mentioned that British history is simply more fascinating. And it’s true! Think of it, you have people that dethrone each other, lock each other in towers, go on crusades, battle with the pope and the archbishops, millions die of the plague, some people learn how to read, most don’t, there are some epic battles that mostly involve true skill with a sword or longbow—there is no easy trigger on a gun that easily kills, it is true combat. History is hands down one of the most beloved school subjects here at Gooch House. Here is some of my best evidence of this:

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We read a chapter of Seabird. Finished a chapter from Parables From Nature. And then, the highlight of my 7yo’s day: MACBETH. Yes, Shakespeare. We get out the Lamb retelling which he narrates quite well from after having done so for two years, and we act it out with puppets. I also have a cartoon of the full play that we are slowly watching each day. MacBeth is a great one for Halloween time, so what great timing!

Then Luncheon Basket. You can see on the crappy sheet above. We missed most of Luncheon Basket yesterday. Room for improvement here. It’s supposed to happen during lunch. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I try to always get a Proverb in. I still have to decide on a folksong to sing for October, and what French songs and rhymes we will be learning. Yesterday we read our Proverb, did a Geography reading, then read from our amazing Weapons book, then a read aloud. Our read alouds right now are typically free reads from the Ambleside Online list.

Then we rejoice! Done! I check off a school day! I make dinner in the Instant Pot. We clean up some, and I fret about what we didn’t get done (mostly housework gets a D- grade this week.) But it is time to be done, and to be done with this post!

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Children Are Born Persons, or Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee.

Jeremiah 1:5

I am undertaking a study of Charlotte Mason’s twenty principles, and in doing so I seek to relate her ideas to Gospel truths. Here is a rough, rambling copy and paste of my thoughts, with scripture, quotes from Charlotte, and quotes from Latter-day Saint general authorities.

As I explore this principle I find myself crossing over into some of the other twenty principles, since the first truly is related to all of her educational principles, but I take no effort to separate them here for now. Also, being such a rough gathering, a collage of sorts, I make no effort to cite things in a formal manner, so my apologies.

Part I

 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: …
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.”

 

The first principle of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is: children are born persons. Admittedly I am ignorant in wholly understanding her faith as a member of the Anglican Church and all it entailed; no doubt her faith had a lot of influence upon her philosophy, but I am not here to explore the history of the principle, but rather to connect it to my own faith. Charlotte was onto something much, much deeper; there lies an understanding that, at birth, despite having a brain far from maturity, there is in the precious infant a mind complete, a person, sacred.

I am anxious to bring before teachers the fact that a child comes into their hand with a mind of amazing potentialities: he has a brain too, no doubt, the organ and instrument of that same mind, as a piano is not music but the instrument of music.

CM Vol. 6, p. 38

And yet, where does this mind come from?

The doctrine is simply this: life did not begin with mortal birth. We lived in spirit form before we entered mortality. We are spiritually the children of God.

This doctrine of premortal life was known to ancient Christians. For nearly five hundred years the doctrine was taught, but it was then rejected as a heresy by a clergy that had slipped into the Dark Ages of apostasy.

Once they rejected this doctrine, the doctrine of premortal life, and the doctrine of redemption for the dead, they could never unravel the mystery of life. They became like a man trying to assemble a strand of pearls on a string that was too short. There is no way they can put them all together.

Why is it so strange a thought that we lived as spirits before entering mortality? Christian doctrine proclaims the Resurrection, meaning that we will live after mortal death. If we live beyond death, why should it be strange that we lived before birth?

Elder Boyd K Packer, “The Mystery of Life”

This first principle has struck a chord with many Latter-day Saint homeschoolers, myself included, due to our belief in the premortal life. Indeed knowing this truth “assembles a strand of pearls” without the confusion.

We were once spirits dwelling with a loving Heavenly Father; we lived and learned in a spiritual existence before this temporal one. This doctrine reveals a more complete picture of the human soul. “An old soul” is more than a mere expression. Our earthly existence as persons is tethered to a personal history with God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our memory of the premortal life is dimmed by the veil, a God-given forgetfulness, and yet any mother holding a newborn babe knows a heavenly being rests in her arms. The infant is no meager “bag of guts”—a term I heard in college during a lecture in feminist studies—we are indeed more than a bag of guts; we are not born oysters, or buckets to be filled!

From Ambleside Online: “Children are born persons – they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons. They already are persons.”

Although we do not remember it, we came here with a spiritual education hidden away in our minds. We came here with our own premortal, spiritual history, with relationships built in the heavenly realm,  and an abundance of experience in making choices for ourselves. Agency has been with us since the beginning.

Our personal mission began long before we arrived on the earth. In the premortal life, we were “called and prepared” to live on the earth at a time when temptations and challenges would be the greatest. This was “on account of [our] exceeding faith and good works” and because of our “having chosen good.” We understood our Father’s plan and knew that it was good. We not only chose it, but we defended it. We knew that our earthly missions would be fraught with temptation, challenges, and hardship, but we also knew that we would be blessed by the fulness of the gospel, living prophets, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We knew and understood that our success on this earth would be determined by our worthiness and purity.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton

We made the choice to come to Earth, to gain a body, and to continue our birthright of agency. Through the teachings of the Holy Ghost, we have opportunity to grow and show our faith in Christ.

Premortality is not a relaxing doctrine. For each of us, there are choices to be made, incessant and difficult chores to be done, ironies and adversities to be experienced, time to be well spent, talents and gifts to be well employed. Just because we were chosen “there and then,” surely does not mean we can be indifferent “here and now.” Whether foreordination for men, or foredesignation for women, those called and prepared must also prove “chosen, and faithful.” 

In fact, adequacy in the first estate may merely have ensured a stern, second estate with more duties and no immunities! Additional tutoring and suffering appears to be the pattern for the Lord’s most apt pupils. Our existence, therefore, is a continuum matched by God’s stretching curriculum.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Premortality, a Glorious Reality

 

Part II

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

Abraham 3

As educators the very notion of having to teach noble and great ones in these latter-days is nothing short of daunting. How humbling it is to accept the call to teach a person, an intelligence who once made many great and noble decisions in the premortal life. And yet Charlotte gives us inspired guidance on how to proceed. She acknowledges that ourselves, teachers alone, are quite incapable of nourishing the mind of a child for she recognizes the sacredness of each person. More on that in a bit. In speaking of a teacher standing before a class, she writes:

He knows that children’s minds hunger at regular intervals as do their bodies; that they hunger for knowledge, not for information, and that his own poor stock of knowledge is not enough, his own desultory talk has not substances enough; that his irrelevant remarks interrupt a child’s train of thought; that, in a word, he is not sufficient for these things.

Vol. 6, p. 44

Charlotte details how the teacher is not enough. And I am sure most mothers might think to themselves, well, if the teacher is not enough, then what about me? Who am I to teach these noble ones?

This is the first step: the step towards humility. In fact I believe this can empower any mother to teach her own children, regardless of her own education. First, the child hungers for knowledge and knowledge is to be found within books. In the Charlotte Mason world we call it: spreading the feast. Later in exploring a different principle we will discuss the topic of living books, but here is what I am getting at: when we understand the sacredness of a person, and understand that his noble intelligence was created before he ventured to earth to gain a body, we understand that our responsibility lies in providing an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life in which the Holy Spirit may readily be the student’s teacher. It does not let the educator off the hook; it is indeed what brings us to our knees to humbly submit ourselves to be better instruments in God’s hand, and to not hinder the Holy Ghost from doing what needs to be done.

As much as we hear the term “living books” and “spreading the feast” in Charlotte Mason circles, we also hear again and again that an education is the science of relations—it is all about the connections. I believe these connections indeed come from the Holy Ghost. Those a-ha! moments of brightness, light bulbs of enlightenment, these are spiritual gifts. After which, it is the child’s responsibility to do what he will with those ideas (I will pipe in here to link to an excellent article by Karen Glass about how much the student retains and uses the ideas he receives, which is a fantastic read.) As homeschooling mothers, we must increase our faith in the Holy Ghost as the true teacher within our homes, and yes, this pertains to every subject, including math. For simply, who invented math? If we are to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ, we must care about the things that He created under the direction of our Father.

So how do we provide an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life that allows the Holy Ghost free reign to teach? Perhaps in one home it means explaining a little less in lessons. Perhaps in another home it means not burdening a child with busy work. Perhaps in another it means relying more on prayer than on outside influences. Basically, don’t get in the way!

Having virtually no quantitative skills, I was seldom if ever able to help our children with math and scientific subjects. One day our high school daughter Nancy asked me for “a little help” regarding a Supreme Court case, Fletcher v. Peck. I was so eager to help after so many times of not being able to help. At last a chance to unload! Out came what I knew about Fletcher v. Peck. Finally my frustrated daughter said, “Dad, I need only a little help!” I was meeting my own needs rather than giving her “a little help.”

We worship a Lord who teaches us precept by precept, brethren, so even when we are teaching our children the gospel, let’s not dump the whole load of hay.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s, “Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been”

We must be willing to be educators that have faith in the Lord’s timetables and to not rush the Holy Ghost’s work, or be impatient with Him when it takes longer for our children to understand a new concept. We must trust as we put in the daily work required of us, that the Holy Ghost in turn is doing the work according to His plan. Though we may wrestle with our own infirmities as human educators, the Holy Ghost is not crippled by sin and mortal flesh. He does not tire; He does not yell; He does not preach unnecessarily.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Moroni 10

As we are able to take what we learn with us into the eternities, knowledge itself, all of it, must be considered a gift of the Spirit. When we neglect this truth, or simply forget it, we in turn neglect the sacredness of persons. What knowledge you gain becomes embedded into your spirit. It is not the human teacher, flawed and inadequate that performs this embedding of knowledge to the soul. Dry facts are not pinned to the eternal mind by way of cramming for a standardized test. The Spirit performs many great things via living ideas, not so much with fill-in-the-blank worksheets, and multiple choice questions!

 

Part III

 When I was younger, my grandfather gave me a blessing. He blessed me that I would “continue my ministry here that I had so nobly performed there.” Now, if I had a ministry in the premortal existence, then so did you. It is not by chance that you were born now, in this season of the world’s history. Each one of you was a valiant and noble woman in your premortal life

From Carol B. Thomas’, “Understanding Our True Identity”

With the veil we are unable to understand the scope and the gravitas of our children’s ministry in the premortal life. What a leap of faith we must take! We know not of the great things the child did then, nor do we know of the great things he will do in his future. This means we must lay a living feast of ideas in the present, a “broad and generous” curriculum that will give the child much to draw from to move forward in his own ministry on earth.

“That his mind is the instrument of his education and that his education does not produce his mind.”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6

Charlotte sought to relate the possibilities of a young child, to establish proof that the mind first exists though the brain still has to grow and develop—the mind is already there, a soul, old and immeasurable. 

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;

22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 93

I testify to you that God has known you individually, brethren, for a long, long time. He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars. He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys! By the way, you have never seen an immortal star; they finally expire. But seated by you tonight are immortal individuals—imperfect but who are, nevertheless, “trying to be like Jesus!”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s, “Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been”

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

We are all born persons, children of God.

This and That for Year 2

In my last post I did a mid-year evaluation of how things are going. Here I map out a “how-to” to improve our year. Maybe it will be helpful for those starting Year 2. Some of these resources I found in the forums for Ambleside Online. There is a lot of gold to be unearthed there and many of my favorite online resources have been found there. This post doesn’t detail all of my fresh efforts, but mostly what new resources are being added.

Here I have linked the headings for each subject to that particular section in Year 2 on Ambleside Online’s website. I hope I have kept within copyright.

Bible

I wanted to add more maps into our Bible readings. I printed off some maps from lds.org’s Study Guide section. I will use them to look at during readings to gain a better sense of place, and perhaps some simple map drills. Yes, these are found in our scriptures, but for drills and such they will be seen and used more in a binder rather than at the back of his quad. I also purchased this insert of Bible maps with “then and now” overlays for my student to keep in his binder, and then this Bible atlas with overlays as well to have on our shelf; however I have yet to receive them to recommend them. As I mentioned previously, we read The Book of Mormon together in Morning Time; I will go over our Morning Time efforts in another post.

History and Tales

I am putting maps of Britain and the world in his binder for easy reference and map drills. In the forums forever ago, someone had linked to d-maps, which is a goldmine for map drills and such. We now have atlases of both British and European history on hand, and I will detail their usefulness after having put them to use.

“I venture to think that a child who begins history thus–not at the Creation, nor even at the Christian era, but at his own “nativity”—will get to understand it better than if he tried to survey the world from any other “pin-point” in time. -from this helpful PNEU article

We will start C’s personal timeline, a Child’s Own History, something we should have done in Year 1. I am not sure how I will go about it yet, having him draw on a poster board, or use actual pictures? This is something I have been over-thinking, I am sure. I have seen variations of it, and perhaps we just need to make one.

In regards to a basic timeline, I decided I like how Celeste Cruz has her Form I students keep a timeline, so we will start that, hopefully adding two entries each week to build the habit. I doubt we will continue with our fancy wall timeline, since it required little work on the child’s end, and after reading The Living Page, I am convinced it is little more than a cut and paste job.

On the forum, someone linked to this map for Little Duke, I mentioned it in my previous post. We use Ambleside’s Study Guide a bit as well.

We will implement these habits of time and keeping, and maps and such, next week. Wish us luck! He will eventually start a Map of Centuries, and then a Century Chart, although those I believe are projects reserved for Form II. I would like to ease into them a little at the end of our current year though, and into Year 3 because C enjoys making charts and maps, and I don’t want to just jump into it all at once when we arrive to Year 4 (among all the other things that are added in for Year 4).

Natural History and Nature Study

We are making a concerted effort to go on a nature excursion every week. I have sought out better ways of storing supplies for each child, etc., and I plan on being more intentional with our nature journals. Drawn narrations of the Burgess book will go in his nature journal, but drawn narrations do not replace oral narrations in our school. We will also be more intentional about following AO’s nature study rotation. As a teacher, I am attending a nature workshop in August with John Muir Laws, so that it something to look forward to, and I am very excited!

 

 

Literature and Tales

I purchased through a group discount Shakespeare in Bits to view some animated scenes. I had difficulty in finding an appropriate Romeo and Juliet for my children to watch after learning the play. A lot of plays that may be worth watching are older and harder to find, and I don’t want to purchase a DVD of something only to not like it. Shakespeare in Bits only has five plays available thus far, but my guess is that three of them are plays that aren’t typically considered kid friendly, so I think they will come in handy. I also love that I can select scenes to watch, that way we don’t have to devote a whole evening to a watching a play. (Which they probably would enjoy, but I want to get people to bed at a decent time around here, so we will do that when they are older.)

I printed some Pilgrim’s Progress maps for fun, and a map I found of The Wind in the Willows. Here is the Pilgrim’s Progress page from AO, full of great information. My kids have loved both the audio-drama, and Dangerous Journey is huge favorite. Obviously the doctrine here does not align perfectly with LDS doctrine, but please don’t let that sway you from reading this classic. It is weaved heavily into the fabric of English literature, and it is a wonderful way to introduce big ideas and heavy topics to your children. Marmee, in Little Women, gifted all of her daughters with their own copy, and told them to read it often. Seeing what an effect it has had on my own children has made me appreciate it all the more, and who doesn’t want to emulate Marmee a bit more?

 

 

Geography

We will be doing map drills and I printed maps from d-maps to keep in C’s binder to have on hand to supplement the Holling books. I may also search for videos to supplement as well (something I wish I had done with Paddle-to-the-Sea), if applicable and appropriate.

I purchased some other geography books, and will add them to our Morning Time, as needed, since required geography concepts for this year are things my son already has a good grasp on. We will also try busting out the Pin It Maps more; the children adore doing them in their spare time. (Full confession: I still have many, many pins to put together, so it is another reason the dust has gathered on our Pin It Maps. It’s a fun resource, but it is also a lot of effort to make the pins.)

I will stop now and later post about revamping weekly work in our Morning Time, though I touched on Nature Study a bit in this post.

 

 

 

 

A Mid-year Review of Year 2

It’s that time of year again. Homeschooling mothers walk around with stars in their eyes, drool decorating their chins, and empty bank accounts staring them in the face as money flows into the Great Amazon Abyss.

School planning! Isn’t it dreamy, isn’t it fun? Hours spent coveting, desperately wanting, greedy hearts poring over pictures and videos of beautiful homeschool rooms, pining for pretty planners filled with wishes and hopes, reading the testimonials of a perfect curriculum and a perfect education, and perfection personified! Next year will be perfect, y’all! You’ll see. I bought these baskets that will solve all my problems.

I feel it too, lest you think I am better than you. The organization! The pretty pictures! The labels on shelves and boxes. It’s all part of the job, I tell you, this desire for pretty plans and pretty rooms. And yet how better off we would all be if instead of focusing on aesthetics and proving our homeschool to be prettier than hers via glimpses on Instagram, we focus on the small and simple things. We focus on the things that are often unseen. For all the time and money spent on crafting perfection—IN THE NAME OF EDUCATION, I MUST HAVE THOSE SHELVES—I hope we may take time to account for those other victories, the ones that involve real makeovers, real transformations in the hearts of our children and within ourselves.

Where’s the old joke? I made all these perfect plans… and then the kids had to show up. Wah wah waaaaah.

I like plans too. And we all need one. We all need to know what the heck we are doing each day, and we need to know where all the stuff is, so when life throws a wrench in your face you won’t go crumbling all to pieces. But one thing I do know: looking at what other people are doing all the time—when I honestly don’t need to, because God has already made my path clear enough for now—fills my heart with discontent. And that is when I sour. That is not where my heart needs to be. Even if I had all the money in the world, we all have the same amount of time, at least, the same amount of hours in a day. I can’t have all the things, and I can’t do all the things. So here is my strategy for warding off discontent: Pray. Figure out what needs to happen in your homeschool. Figure out what doesn’t need to happen. Print what needs to be printed, collect your books, have fresh notebooks ready, buy those super cool erasable pens, get it all in fair shape, and then don’t bother looking at what your friend has, or what the lady with the perfect room is doing with her space. Be content with what you have, accept that you don’t have all the things, and find something small and simple that brings you joy, for comparison will not. Then after a while when it becomes apparent that you need help, or something needs tweaking, take off your blinders and seek out ways to improve those subjects or habits that need a lifeline thrown their way. Then get back to work, friend! NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE! And other such italics.

That all said, I am not really planning next year yet. Instead we are halfway through this one since we follow the calendar year. C-age7 started Week 18 of Year 2 of Ambleside Online this week. And here I am ready to evaluate our year thus far, in hopes of improving our step (peeking out from those blinders), and finishing with a bang.

We started our school year a month after we had our fourth son. It may seem odd that I haven’t mentioned him here, but I probably won’t ever. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It’s not a matter for public discussion. But I will say that last year before we knew something was wrong, before we knew our son was going to die, I had read on a homeschool forum how homeschooling itself is one of the best things for a bereaved mother. God wanted me to read that, and what a tender mercy it was. I tucked that thought in the back of my mind for safe-keeping, thinking I might have to remember it someday. What a gentle forecast of things to come. So we began our year in bereavement. And I can honestly say if I hadn’t had the new year of homeschooling to look forward to and to form my days, I would be a much bigger mess than I currently am. Like, much bigger mess.

Here are some highs and lows of 2018’s school year thus far using Ambleside Online’s Year 2. I hope I am following copyright laws. All books he is required to narrate except for free reads.

Bible

Probably one of the hardest things to narrate, but he’s doing well for himself. We follow AO as written however I have added in a little more from the book of Matthew, since it seemed odd to skip a few things. Like Chapter 14. I get why it was skipped, what with the horrid death of John the Baptist and all, maybe? But I wanted to read about Jesus walking on the water, and feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, even though C will be reading it again later. But this is going well; I love reading from both the Old Testament and the New Testament simultaneously. We also read daily from the Book of Mormon (also something C is required to narrate), and in Morning Time we always read a Psalm and the Proverb chapter that corresponds with the date. I will have to make a slot one of these days for Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. Perhaps an FHE slot? Eh, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

History and Tales

We love our history books. I have failed with having him keep up on a timeline, so it is something to correct for the rest of the year, especially as we are dealing with more and more kings and archbishops and wars and such.

Little Duke is a magnificent book, and I just found a map someone had made to go with the book. So with three chapters (spread over the next six weeks) left, we will use that map. So again, another correction to be made, but better late than never. Besides, this is my first go around for Year 2. I get to do this two more times!

Natural History

Have you ever had to study a star-nosed mole? Seriously had to keep the curse words from spilling out of my mouth it is so disgusting. I think we have been managing the Burgess Animal book well. I read, he narrates, we look at images of the animal, and then watch video of it. I had some lovely little drawings that someone had collected up until Chapter 15, but we have managed without in the following chapters. Would be nice to make notebook entries though, especially since C-age7 without any prompting has drawn pictures of different animals he is learning about.

Tree in the Trail is supplemented with a Beautiful Feet Books map, but after reading about what Celeste Cruz has her children do in their notebooks on her blog, and after having read The Living Page, I feel this is more of the direction I need to go. (There, I took off my blinders to find help.) So we will finish the map, and I will let C color in and fill out the map when we start Seabird in a couple weeks. But I feel like my eyes have been opened to the beauties of consistent notebooking, and truly I am so grateful for Celeste on her blog to share what her children are doing. What a beautiful showcase of their work. Just lovely. The Beautiful Feet map is kind of fun, but huge. And I would like the student to draw their own maps, not just color and label one.

Speaking of Geography

So here’s where a mid-year evaluation comes in awful handy. Besides Tree in the Trail, and the occasional geography song here and there, and my kids doing their own mapwork for fun, I looked at my AO grid, and realized I had forgotten to really do Geography. Whoops. Another place to correct. And happily too, since we all love Geography. (I did buy atlases to go along with our history recently, so wahoo!) I had messed Geography up in Term 1 as well, and was made aware because of the exam questions for that term (which C did quite well on), but then sort of let it slip my mind.

Literature and Tales

Shakespeare remains a great favorite here. Who knew Romeo and Juliet seen from the eyes of a seven year old could be so refreshing? And also reading it as a parent, and thinking about the priest, and how it was a great lesson in how you may go to an authority figure, even an ecclesiastical one, and be given very, very bad advice. That we can’t just blindly follow whomever. Oh, that Shakespeare.

We have loved all the books thus far. We have been listening to the Orion’s Gate (?) audiodrama of Pilgrim’s Progress every day in Morning Time. Since my kids are quite familiar with most of Pilgrim’s Progress through Dangerous Journey, I made the call to listen to the highly recommended audiodrama. At first some of the acting was comical in a way that was unintentional, and I had to stifle a giggle, but it really is wonderfully done. And listening to it together, I feel such power in some of the allegory. It is such a great way to introduce heavy topics to children, such as injustice, suicide, despair, and flattery. We are all getting a lot out of it.

Poetry

We read a ton of poetry at breakfast every morning, seven days a week. I cannot stress enough how powerful this alone has been. J-age5 asked me just yesterday if he could be a poet. More on poetry later, but we have loved all the poets for Year 2. I will be sad to move on from them, our new dead friends. We also read from other collections and Mother Goose as well. Generally I try to read a poem for everyone at the table, and keep to the AO poet schedule at the same time. I probably over-do poetry, but I don’t care.

Math

I keep math lessons short, and we do math in both Morning Time (group learning), and our one on one time. In addition to our free curriculum, MEP, we use Xtra Math to work on math facts. This has been such a good thing. Lately in MT we just read Life of Fred, and then play with pattern blocks and do math wrap-ups. I intend to go back to a math loop, but for now the stuff is already in my cart ready to go. We are going slowly with math, but I feel this is how we should proceed for now.

Handwriting/Copywork

So handwriting is something we have been very behind on. C-age7 loves to form letters and draw, but it took so long for him to have a dominant hand (after doing all these “crossing the midline” exercises, who knows if they really helped), and to not have a terrible grip, so we are still doing letter formation. I also began with cursive instead of print which may have not been the best thing, since it has happened so slowly and his printing needs a lot of work. He will be working on both from here on out. But I will say this, his cursive is suddenly coming along! I had days where he did like three letters, and now he can finish a whole page of cursive practice well and happily so. So forward we plod, and I am confident to see giant improvements by the end of this year alone.

Phonics/Reading

C seems to be doing well enough here. We use All About Reading for phonics lessons. He reads aloud to me everyday, and he also has to read two verses of The Book of Mormon out loud everyday (with some help). In all honesty I thought he’d be miles ahead in his reading by now, and I think if I took out the phonics he would be, since he would much rather I just say what a word is and let him memorize it. But phonics we must! I don’t think much has to change here other than maybe throw some more games into the mix to liven it up a bit.

Foreign Language

French! We love French. We use the ULAT (about five to ten minutes of a video and then about five to ten minutes of an exercise), Talkbox (we learn a new phrase to use around the house each week), a nursery rhyme book with a CD that we memorize from, French songs that we have mostly picked up from MamaLisa.com, and then of course my brilliant idea of watching a short French cartoon and telling them what word to listen for—when they hear that word, they raise their hand and get a chocolate chip. G-age2 loves this game! Mostly because I give him chocolate chips just for participating. But it really entices them to listen ever so carefully to the video (as much as I am against rewards and bribery). Before they enjoyed watching the cartoon because they are deprived children that don’t ever watch TV or play video games, so a five minute French cartoon is always a treat, but they weren’t always listening very carefully. Now they are picking up stuff before I do. I saw on Celeste’s blog that they play Simon Says in their foreign language and go over a calendar each day. I think those will be great additions.

Nature Study

Probably my biggest failure at the moment. The heat mixed in with having too many activities made Nature Study fall by the wayside. Although, we went on a nature walk this week, and again, I am looking at Celeste for inspiration. But since we left our co-op we will have more time for this.

Timeline

Fail. I have to refer back to The Living Page again even if I think Form 1 just requires a personal timeline, I would like to do both.

Recitation

This could use improvement. My student isn’t an eager “performer,” shall we say. But he recites scripture and poetry and parables daily. So we’re working on it.

Picture Study

It has a pulse. Could be better. Room for correction.

Drawing

Fail. Haven’t done a drawing lesson in a while. Student draws a lot on his own. And we did start drawing narrations with our Picture Study. That was a fun exercise.

Handicrafts

Probably where I need most improvement (read: we have done nothing). This is something I hope to finish with strong for the year though with some paper sloyd and some soap carving. And I will throw in some cooking and count that as well.

Piano

Meh. Could be more intentional. I need to find a different time of day to do it. We use Hoffman Academy. C loves it, but I need to be better at making it happen.

Composer Study

Needs improvement. We are stuck on Beethoven, which honestly, not a shabby place to be. I will have to rethink things here for next year. There was that year when we spent the whole year listening to Bach. I tried to move on, but I kept coming back to Bach. In fact right now, I wish I were listening to Bach. I always want to listen to Bach.

Folksong

Not bad here. My kids have loved all the folksongs we have learned. G-age2 loves his folksongs, and how cute to hear him ask for, “Howdy Dowdy.”

Hymn Study

We sing hymns everyday. Probably could read up on the history of some of the hymns, but honestly singing them is what is best.

Free Reads

Ah! Free reads! We have loved them all. Well, I tired of Five Little Peppers about halfway through, but I understand why it’s on the AO list: 1) my kids LOVED it, 2) it introduces some really heavy topics in a gentle way, such as: poverty, single mothers, childhood diseases, strange creepy men that will kidnap you, Santa doesn’t visit every house, sacrifice, etc. We are just about halfway through the free reads for the year, so on target for that. We have about a third left of Heidi right now.

So a lot of things going well, but still room for improvement here and there. I hope to establish some notebooking or “keeping” habits through the rest of the year, so it will be an easy habit to carry into next. I also hope to have J-age5 follow a bit of a Year 0.5 schedule for twelve weeks or so, to fine-tune our daily routine,and to prepare myself for having another AO student when he turns six.

No time to waste on pretty pictures, you see! I’ve got subjects to improve, and exams to prepare for, and I also hope to prepare a sort of year-end review for my students to get a chance to recite and show their work for the year. I do need some serious organization though. And to buy stuff from Amazon. However I will try, like Cindy Rollins says, to look at what I have instead of what I have not.

 

Unclutter Your Life or Build Your Own Cathedral

We are embarking on a new chapter in homeschooling. We left our wonderful co-op after having it be a major part of our lives for the last four years. This decision was a strange occurrence, for I did not plan it nor see it coming. It was sudden and abrupt, and now we will march through uncharted territory, having faith that God will bless us in His way. Something for the co-op changed and I was impressed by the Holy Spirit that I could not go along with this change. It was a complete shock to me that I received this prompting. The idea that I would have to leave an entire community I had worked for and loved deeply over this one thing was a slight smack in the face, a kick in the gut. But I understood what it meant, and it was this: God was telling me to leave, and ah, man. I was going to have to obey. Even so, at first I tucked this information safely in the back of my mind since the change still needed to be voted on, and I had hope that the change would be blocked. When the overwhelming majority voted for it, I was devastated, but I tucked the impression I had received further inside my head thinking perhaps I could take certain precautions to make the change palatable; however, I could not. It was still there, this personal warning that my family could not move forward with this change, and I would be an utter fool to ignore it.

When I realized we would have to leave it forced me to reflect and weigh the pros and cons of it all. Regardless of The Impending Change of Doom, how had the co-op enriched our lives, and how had it not? I remembered what I had hoped it would do for my kids when I originally joined. And then, what did I have to gain for leaving this sort of second family we had been a part of? God closes a door, then opens another, right? I had to consider the blessings of this decision, for surely I could find some. I noticed things I had either been ignoring or had forgotten or didn’t want to see. Different pieces merged together creating a clearer picture, obvious and lucid, and there it was: a rich tableau, a map detailing what we should be doing and where we should go. Fear blinds us, but faith sharpens our resolve and fine-tunes our focus. It was time to stop listening to my fears, and trust the Lord.

Cindy Rollins said the reason she didn’t involve her nine children in a co-op is because she believed a co-op generally only benefited one or two members of a family. My kids had fun most days at co-op; they had some opportunity to play with other kids, and my oldest had a wonderful experience playing Christopher Robin in a darling, little Winnie-the-Pooh play. They tried new things and enjoyed themselves most of the time, yet now I see clearly the person who had benefited most was me.

I wanted to not feel like the lone, weirdo homeschooler. I wanted friends. I wanted to feel like I was socializing my children, so no one could possibly accuse me of not doing so. I wanted community and connection, and I wanted to feel like an important member of said community. It had been for me.

Being a part of a co-op those first scary years of homeschooling was most likely the right thing, just what I needed to boost my confidence, and it provided a security net. Yes, it quelled my fears, but in return it made me dependent and a mother of discontent. I became mired in selfishness and greed for here was a group that could be molded and formed to create a perfect village for my children to grow up in, a pretty utopia worth bragging about as a way to quiet the commonplace and uninformed naysayers. But like any utopic illusion it was full of faults and disappointments, flaws and politics, alongside all its joys and fun parties. It was full of human beings, which means no utopia it could ever be.

This sounds harsh and critical, though I do not mean it as a critique of the co-op itself, rather I am criticizing how I had personally viewed the co-op, and whether or not the purpose it served was a worthy one. Most of my friends in the co-op have other needs, desires, and visions for what the co-op means and does for their family. Eventually I understood my reasons for wanting to stay were the ones I stated above. Co-op was a way to soothe my vanity and my pride; it made me look good. This is not the best of motives, and certainly not the best use of our time as homeschoolers. Our best use of our time was learning in the home. So I thought, do I dare to stand alone instead? Am I brave enough to forge on without the crutch of a co-op, to stand taller on my own feet and educate my children without distractions, without being over-scheduled, and without the constant anxiety of missing out if we didn’t do all the things? What if I stop using my most precious resources—my time and my energy—to teach other people’s children and instead pour them into teaching my own? What if I unclutter our time? What if I prioritize and protect our time at home, and only seek outside opportunities when necessary and convenient?

A cluttered life is a life that you do not have control of. It is a life in which the things you have surrounded yourself with, and allow to use up your time, are controlling you and negatively influencing your happiness and eternal progress.*

In my analysis of how the co-op had served our family, I was unable to distinguish anything that made it worth ignoring a spiritual prompting over. Truly nothing trumps a prompting. Besides, I had wanted my children to make good, close friends, but that didn’t really happen, at least not in the way I was expecting. Part of that had to do with age, for they are still very young, and another part had to do with personality. I was putting forth many hours mentally, physically, and emotionally towards a social construct that was not providing what I wanted most out of it. I felt obligated to the community, and yet was ignoring the true needs of my family. It was cluttering our lives, and as much as I have been disappointed in The Big Change of Impending Doom, I now have a great feeling of gratitude for it; it made me reevaluate and recenter where our focus should be. This sudden understanding that we would have to be ‘without’ something I had seen as being so important to us, and realizing that God was trusting me to go on and move forward without it, gave me courage and lifted my spirits. My crutch now appeared unnecessary and crippling even, and I didn’t need it anymore nor did I want it. It was very freeing; I felt inspired and light. And best of all, we will have a five day school week—more time! More time! Isn’t it what every parent wants, more time? More time to do the things at home that are of highest priority, like restful learning and habit-training, and giving the children time to think. There will be more notebooking, more Nature Study, real handicrafts, more drawing, more cleaning, more physical decluttering and purging of too much stuff. Not to mention more time for things like teaching children how to read and such.

Nothing suits the devil better than to become a silent partner with us. He knows that we have agency and are at liberty to make choices for ourselves. He also knows that while in mortality we are subject to time. If by his subtle means he can become our silent partner, he can then influence us to make wrong choices that use up our time unwisely and prevent us from doing that which we should.

We give our lives to that which we give our time. As I have said, while here in mortality we are subject to time. We also have agency and may do what we will with our time. Let me repeat: We give our lives to that which we give our time.*

We have plenty of outside classes that the boys can utilize, like swimming and other sports. We will have to work harder to strengthen friendships in playtime with smaller groups and individuals, and not a structured community day. (My boys are more likely to make solid friendships this way, and myself, too.) The idea of being friends with a group as a whole bred a social slothfulness in me, and instead of focusing on individual women and how I should improve my friendships with them, I was more concerned with my own place within the group. I needed to be a better friend, and model it for my children. Now I feel open to making new friends outside of co-op, and outside of homeschooling. I had been so socially tapped out that those weren’t even on my list of priorities. 

This season of motherhood is fleeting, I must take the greatest of care in budgeting our time. I have been called to teach my own children, not shuffle them off to extracurricular classes while I teach other people’s children, even for one day a week. I am ready to advance my vocation so to speak, in the home. 

When the boys are older, we may rethink a co-op. But for now, we will be doing what is best: staying home. It’s where the real magic happens.

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

“The Builders,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

*Quotes are from Elder William R. Bradford’s, “Unclutter Your Life.”

Repetition in Nature May Not Be a Mere Recurrence

Here I return to this dusty thing, another recurrence of blogging. I have felt inspired to share in more detail about our home education journey. One of the reasons I haven’t wanted to blog for some time is simply I have nothing of importance to add to the great mosaic of ideas on homeschooling other than our own experience. (I also still take issue with ads being on this blog, so I hope your Adblocker is on.)

I questioned why? If I wanted to simply keep a journal, why make it a blog? Why not keep it private, handwritten? A blog allows me to use images more readily and ways to link to pertinent resources. People ask questions all the time, though I am no veteran. At first I loved talking about everything I have learned and discovered (and continue to learn and discover); I still enjoy those conversations, but I don’t always have the time for them. Through a blog I am able to direct people to my thoughts on a particular topic if they are that interested in my opinion. I do write down what we do everyday in a spiral notebook, so I am keeping a record, a checklist/scratch paper kind of thing which happens to be more of a celebratory “hurrah, we finished the things!”

I enjoy homeschool checklists so much more than cleaning checklists because once I have read a chapter of a certain book to a certain child I don’t have to do it again! As opposed to cleaning out a drawer or wiping pee out of the bathtub. Those things require a different kind of obedience and it is one of my greatest failings and an easy spot in my character that begs serious repentance. (I also do everything with my kids. Reading to my children is much less stressful than trying to get a five year old to clean a toilet properly with a faucet-obsessed toddler nearby.) But as handy as a checklist is it does not well portray the experience; check-marks fail to connote the beauty, the awe, and seeing a notebook full of them conveys not the gentle art of tending to a child’s mind.

My last and final wish for this blog is to dust off a few writing skills, and unload those things that no on in my life wants to hear. Not private thoughts reserved for a professional therapist, but mostly everything else. It was made quite apparent to me how tedious and unwelcome my conversation is, so my new habit is to write more and say very little—a lofty goal, if I ever set one. Still perhaps if I can cultivate such a habit I will in the end become a better listener.

So there it is, my own assurance to myself for why I would do such a thing as put effort and time into a blog such as this.

On Repentance

Here is a post without any pictures. The battery on my camera died weeks ago, my cell phone only works half the time, and my computer with all my pictures no longer connects to the internet.

So here I type on my husband’s computer, while he sleeps. But not a single picture to keep things interesting.

I hope to write every seven weeks. Kind of mind-blowing, right? But here is what’s going on:

C, now being six, is old enough to start Year 1 of AmblesideOnline. I wish I had kept track of when I realized that this was the curriculum for us (it might even be right here on this blog). I know it was during the summertime—last summer, probably—after we had done a “trial run” of six weeks. Nearly all the texts for Year 1 are on the free domain, so I was able to use the texts, try them out for free before buying any books. Even though, looking back, I was “doing it wrong,” it was confirmed to me that this is the path to be taking. The problem was, he was still five, and it is practically a sin to start the child earlier. I won’t go into the preciseness, and rules of such a thing, only that if you know me well, you know this fits into my personality. I am trusting AO, mainly because I am learning to trust Charlotte Mason. It is God I put my faith and trust in first, and I am learning that in terms of educational philosophy, CM was truly inspired by Him.

So, C is six, and he was six at the start of the year. So we dived into Ambleside. Granted, we had been doing school before, so it didn’t seem that different, at least, I don’t think it felt too different to him, except more was required of him, especially in getting him started with narration. It is a learning process for both him and myself, his learning to narrate, and my learning to set it up correctly. And we got to return to reading the glorious books. I read these books and sometimes I weep, because I wish they had been a part of my own childhood. (And by weep, I mean tear up, and lament to my homeschool friends.)

The “big deal” in all of this? Now that he’s in Year 1, it’s technically first grade, in a sense. No more namby-pamby kindergarten. And I had decided to plan the year with a “Sabbath” schedule, of six weeks on and the seventh week off. There are many reasons for this, of which, I won’t go into here. But this meant no more halfsies. Before I figured he either was ahead in some areas or right on track with kindergarten, so last year we averaged on a three day school week. Now, it’s the big guns, right? And it was time to habit-train ourselves (both teacher and student) to do school everyday. So these first six weeks we did not have a single day off, and sometimes even had school on Saturdays.

It was a real push for me. And I also was habit-training myself with a few things. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning, trying to be asleep by 9 PM. I stopped watching any TV; I read more books; I wasn’t eating buckets of ice cream at midnight.

I was being stretched. I have acquired some pretty bad habits over the years, or rather my entire life. So this was new, and it felt like a momentous inertia, a beautiful constant. School happened everyday, even when there were bad attitudes, or a disastrous messy house, or a teething toddler. Come hell or high water, I was rocking my homeschool, doggone it!

Still, I kept eyeing my “Sabbath” week. It would give me time to evaluate and think on improvements for areas that needed it. I thought of all the prep work I could get done, I thought of all the housework that could be accomplished, and I thought of the break. Just having a break.

So. This week was the absolute worst. It did not feel restful. I caught a cold, the baby has been nothing short of demanding, and everything. just. fell. apart. I’ve been sleeping in, I’ve been staying up late, and last night for the first time in nearly seven weeks, I binge-watched a show on Netflix. It was awful. And I am tired.

Yesterday, I began to reevaluate this kind of schedule. Maybe I have it all wrong? Maybe I should be doing a traditional school year, or maybe I shouldn’t space our breaks like this?

I was feeling desperate, because here’s the solid truth: I love to homeschool. Oh, the joy! Learning together with my kids! It’s the best thing. It’s my favorite part! (Teaching phonics is not my favorite.) Nearly everything about it is my favorite part of this whole gig. And without it, I seriously start to fall apart. I need it to be good, I need it to be a better person, to improve myself.

But, before I threw my hands up and gave up with this Sabbath scheduling, the line from a T.S. Eliot poem that Cindy Rollins has quoted popped into my head,

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.

I realized that the system, our practice of homeschooling, was keeping me in check, which sounds good in theory, but when the system wasn’t currently in process, I was no longer being “good.” I threw my new sleep habits out the window, I just plain forgot to do my personal prayer and scripture study, and I failed to keep doing the good things because I was taking my precious “break.”

It has made me think about repentance. And that age-old issue of pride, thinking we can be perfect, that if we have the perfect system, we won’t need to be good anymore, we won’t need God anymore.

So now this week has become less about taking a break, and more about practicing repentance. Things will fall apart regardless of even the most perfect of systems, because we are not perfect beings. (And I realized, that if I didn’t have this break from school this week, things probably would have fallen apart anyway—why not just plan on it? Plan on letting things go a little bit, to remember, to remember, to remember how to be good.)

Not to mention, I am filled with a rush to gear up and get back on the horse on Monday. Back in the saddle! Crack that whip! These little trips and stumbles might be just what we need to remember our Savior, and to be better, to be better and to repent. Repent, and put my faith back in God, and not in the system.