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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It has a pulse. Could be better. Room for correction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
We sing hymns everyday. Probably could read up on the history of some of the hymns, but honestly singing them is what is best.
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.