The struggle is real

This is a day that we got back to school work after having two sick days off. My toddler had a doctor’s appointment that involved numbing cream and a freezing cold cotton swab to continue to attack a wart on his ring finger that got bigger. We just couldn’t take him when his little sister was born – we were just trying to eat well and stay hydrated.

This was after we lugged all our heavy bags to the playground next door, because I planned on homeschooling my kids there. Except when I called my doctor about the numbing cream, come to find out it needs an hour to sit on the boy’s finger, which means we had to leave the playground and go to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, we learn about how the Lord helped Jephthah and how Jephthah had to kill his daughter to fulfill his oath to the Lord.

Then at the pharmacy, the prescription hadn’t come over, and my toddler needed the toilet, so we had to leave with all our bags again to see the doctor’s office and use their toilet. By the time we got there, my toddler decided he didn’t need the toilet anymore.  Then I had to go back next door to fill the prescription. Then come back to the doctor’s office so my toddler to be seen by the doctor. This is the story of how 1 stop became 5 small stops, much to my chagrin. 

At the doctor’s office my children learned about Samson, his riddle, and his betraying wife; his revenge on the Philistine’s using foxes tied together, and how he became a judge. Then we learned about temperate forests, and how deciduous forests are different from coniferous forests. The toddler then gets called back for his appointment.

In the waiting room, I get my kindergartener started on his handwriting. He wrote 4 or 5 letters before the doctor arrived.

You would have thought the doctor was cutting my toddler’s finger off, all before anything even touched my toddler’s finger. And this is the most gentle doctor I’ve ever taken my children to, and believe me, we’ve had some good doctors! I had to hand my baby off to a front desk lady, because my toddler was such a mess. This was not easy!

The doctor gave my children peeps for good listening, even after my toddler was screaming bloody murder. Ewe. But they were both delighted.

We go to get in the car. Lo and behold, I had to withhold the peep from the toddler because he didn’t listen to me in the parking lot. This ensures more screaming.

Once home, my toddler refused to follow directions. That means, he wouldn’t carry his book-bag and walk into the house. I had to discipline him on the sidewalk four times before he decided he better listen to me.

After that, my children wouldn’t eat their lunch. Lunch was a delicious homemade chicken soup. Come on now.

I make chicken chili in the crock pot… which I’m thinking they are going to complain about later tonight, but I’m no short order cook.

The toddler goes for quiet time. He comes out 5 times in 40 minutes. During this, I nurse the baby, and finish school work with the kindergartener. Why are we doing school until 2pm in the afternoon?! Oh, that’s right, because it’s our first day back after two days off, and we lost our sense of discipline and concentration.

I lay down with grumpy toddler and the baby, and give grumpy toddler a bottle. He rejuvenates himself an is happy again. My kindergartener has quiet time now. He asked me no less than 5 times when his quiet time was over. I told him twice to stop asking me, and then the third time, I extended his quiet time. But I let him out early if he said some Bible verses with me about anger and self-control. I realized, though he’s learning to write cursive, he has a hard time reading it.

Today I started writing verses about disobedience and obedience. These verses will benefit the whole family.

I send the children outside to play. They play for 15 minutes or so. I let them see a show for a half hour.

The neighbor brings over a delicious Tres Leche treat. I change and nurse the baby. I discover my other neighbor has a birthday today. We will make her a card.

My kids are going to go back outside to play after they finish their treat.

I am wiped out.

This is homeschooling some days. This is reality. The struggle is real.

Tomorrow will be better.

Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!

    Homeschool Mid-Year Review

    We’re almost to Christmas, and I haven’t done a formal review since October 12th. There are some questions I like to address as I do a review, so I thought I’d write them in this blog (a) for accountability, (b) so you have an example you can use too, (c) to get me ready before my big planning push in early January.

    Here’s a copy you can print of the pages I use.

    This is the first year I’ve invited other ladies to join me for a planning day. Since I need peace and quiet, and supplies at home, I’ll do the actual planning at home. However, I hope they’ll meet me for breakfast and lunch that day for chatting and camaraderie while my husband whisks the kids off to some fabulous adventure.

    Before I start this review, let me say some prefacing statements. I’ve enjoyed getting more and more pregnant this year, which is now making me tired as I run into the last leg of welcoming the baby. I am going to approach this assessment with grace for myself – I am not full of pride, nor do I have an inflated view of what we’ve done. I do my best to not compare myself to other moms who are homeschooling, and I hope you aren’t either.

    We’re almost 40% of the way into our school year! Woohoo! This is Micah’s “Transitional Kindergarten” year, because he started the year at 4, and will end when he’s 5.5. We’ve completed 69 homeschool days so far, and have 121 days left to go, if I’m trying to reach 180 days. Truth be told, I teach all summer too, so I don’t know why I’m counting. Probably just because I’m analytical about this, so I can quantify it for my own accountability.

    Let’s go with the assessment now.

    How well are we doing overall in our home? In homeschool itself, we are doing well. There are so many things I can do better but we are progressing in the main areas, so for that I’m grateful to God to have given us the persistence and discipline to keep moving forward. Some improvements I’ve made have been due to linking certain parts of our day. Other improvements I’ve made have been due to me following the rhythm of my children.

    1. Making beds before breakfast.
    2. Morning Bible, Devotion, Reading and Math before vitamins.
    3. Breaking when the kids get crazy for outside play time.
    4. Allowing myself the mercy of at-home days when I’m just plain tired, or when we’ve had an especially packed time the day before.

    How well am I meeting daily goals? We’ve taken 3 days off of homeschooling in the past 40 school days, and 3 of them were field trip days; however I’ve only written down notes for 20 of those days. How can you track what you can’t measure? I’d say the first 8 days of this assessment period I recorded our progress just fine, recording an average of about 90% of what I’d want to track. But after day 8, the majority of the days I just tracked the bare minimum, only writing about 10-25% of what we did that day. This is ridiculous because I have the tools already in place – but I’m a little tired right now – here’s what I do when I’m tired of schooling. Also, you could see this post about resetting and regrouping your homeschool year about this time last year.

    1. We’ve only done our memory verses 7 / 40 times – given how important this is, I’m most concerned about this. And I’d say we’re not praying consistently enough. We have been faithful however with our Morning Symposium, which is just daily Bible reading and devotion time.
    2. We need to do a better job in the areas of daily toy-pick-up-before-dad-gets-home, and helping with chores. The problem is I don’t consistently hold to a reward system.

    What progress am I seeing in the following areas?

    Bible. We were able to start The Children’s Bible on October 3rd (before this review period begins), and we are 51 stories into it, in a 50 day period. This is because Micah begs me for more each day. In 3 more stories we will be done with Genesis and get do start Exodus. My 2 year old doesn’t enjoy this older Bible as much. Ian and I decided we need to really get Kade’s Bible time in during his nap time every afternoon, since it’s much more on his level.

    Ian also continues to read a chapter from the Bible during dinnertime. We finished Revelation and moved onto Psalms, but for December, we’re taking a hiatus to work through the devotions in our advent book, “The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas“. I love this devotion book for Christmas, and Ian and I will read it long after the children are out of the nest – there’s a child’s portion and an adult’s portion of the book.

    We also started “Young Peacemakers” lessons on October 24th, and finally finished Lesson 1 twenty-eight lessons later. Remember, this is not about speed.

    Timeline. Micah continues to love his CC history timeline. We’re moving into week 13, so that means we’ve learned 91 “pegs”, or events on the timeline so far, starting with Creation. For this review period, in Cycle 2 of Classical Conversations, we’ve moved from weeks 7 to 12, which means we went from when Jesus was born to The Spanish Inquisition, so we’re into the Age of Exploration at this point. Last week, we did a big timeline review where Micah “competed” with Ian, and Micah was able to put all but about 4 cards in order for each week – we have a card for each peg. He can’t sing the Timeline song without help from start to finish (he loops back sometimes), but because we played the game I know he can recall the song if you put cards in front of him and use the song to get those cards in order.

    History. We’ve learned about the Reformation and the 95 theses, the French Revolution, the Magna Carta and the 100 years war, European explorers, Napoleon Bonaparte and General Wellington, and the Industrial Revolution. Since I do book hauls (here’s how, including what books I pulled for these weeks), Micah is not just learning random facts, but he’s reading a little bit about each topic – this goes for all topics, not just history. We’re also working our way through a social studies book called “My World”. I’ve only done 2 lessons in 40 days. Ideally, I would have liked to have done 8.

    English. English I’ve found to be a little more challenging this time, because in addition to some possessive adjectives (ok, not so hard), he’s working through a long list of pronouns that go from reflexive, interrogative, demonstrative, and indefinite – it’s the indefinite list that is indefinitely gruesome, even we have a cute song to help us remember them. I obviously haven’t found the right pneumonic for this.

    Science. Science has been awesome. We love all things space, so Micah’s been able to learn quickly the kinds of stars, phases of the moon, parts of the sun, other bodies of the solar system, planets (we’ve known these for a long time) and U.S. space missions. The projects for science have been great and have ranged from making constellations, to launching rockets, to making a giant parking-lot sized proportionate model of our solar system. We also took a trip to a solar program this year, and that was amazingly fun. We also read Act One of “The Human Body Theater” which was all about the Skeletal System. This was fascinating for Micah since he likes bones. We will learn about muscles next, and some physics. We like physics in this house, so I don’t anticipate any issues here.

    Geography. In geography we’ve studied the European peninsulas and seas, Eastern Europe, the Mid-Atlantic World, the Caribbean, Southwest Asia. Next we’re going back to Northern Europe. I haven’t had Micah do much mapping by hand, though he watches me trace the map for the next week’s work each week – I put these traced map up on a learning board that we both use throughout the week. He’s mainly learned this through the CC cycle 2 App, which I have on our devices, and sometimes play it through Apple TV on our one and only television.


    Latin. Latin seems easy because we’re only doing 1st conjugation endings, and I have him listen to some Sing Song Latin Songs (but I never drill him on Sing Song Latin). He could use some work on remembering the tense and the first word for each tense. There are only 6 sets of these we have to learn this year, and we’re looping back through to the first set already.

    Math. Micah LOVES math. He sometimes opts to do more math than I have him set to do. We finished Kindergarten Book A in Singapore Math and he was elated. We started book B, and while this version is black and white, he doesn’t seem to care. He breezes through the pages. What’s tough for him is the writing part of it. As of now, we don’t do any formal handwriting, except for what appears in his math book. We will start handwriting this January, however. In Kindergarten Book A we covered matching, sorting, numbers up to 10, ordering numbers, shapes and patterns, comparing sets, and measurements. To be honest, this book was far too easy for him. I think that’s why he likes math though, and I like that he’s practicing his handwriting in such a low-demand way. Book B takes him from comparing numbers, to numbers up to 100, number bonds, addition and subtraction, more ordering, time, even and odd and fractions. Micah can count well past 100 by now, and can mostly do his skip counting from 1 to 15, and then by 100’s up to 1,000. He’s just starting to connect the dots that skip counting means multiplying. Micah can also add and subtract decently, but especially with manipulatives. His weakness is working too quickly, so I like the review in Singapore, and there’s not hurt in going over math until it’s second-hand nature, since it’s cumulative. We only did Abacus 1 day. However, Micah is thoroughly enjoying dot-to-dots and he loves mazes. And I love these because he’s also working his fine motor skills, or pre-writing skills.

    Reading. Reading is a big deal for us this review period. We did well here, and it’s the hardest part of Micah’s day because it takes the most focus on his part, and the most patience on my part. We started the Book It! Program and that has been very motivating to Micah, and a useful accountability tool for me. He’s earned his reward for 2 months in a row now, so he’s 2 for 2. We need to go get his Pizza from November and celebrate. We are two lessons from finishing “How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” This means on Tuesday we get to have a big celebratory ice-cream party! And believe me, I will be celebrating just as much as he will be! I ordered this book in October of 2014 when Micah was almost 3, but we started it at the tail end of Micah’s 3rd year. Before that we did lots of phonics games, and it was perfect. Now I’ve been met with the challenge of ‘what next???’. I got great recommendations from trusty, more experienced homeschool moms. I was generously given the “Spell to Write and Read” core books, and have done some digging myself. I decided that next we will (a) move onto easy readers at level 1 and 2 from the library, (b) start hand-writing very slowly, (c) review phonics, and (d) start spelling using the Spell to Write and Read. Funnix was a good program, but I spoke to a rep on the phone from Funnix, and it’s only computer-based. Micah’s just too young for required screen time in my opinion, and I sometimes see behavior whip-lash from screen time. I’d rather go with something that still allows us to cuddle up somewhere if we want. “Spell to Write and Read” is a complicated program to pick up. It requires a lot of pre-reading on my part. I purchased the amazing, wonderful, tremendously helpful “Uncovering the Logic of English” book and am reading that before starting back in “Spell to Write and Read”. There are 11 steps to complete before getting to “The Wise Guide for Spelling” which contains the actual lesson plans for this curriculum. I anticipate we will spend at least a solid 40 days practicing phonograms, playing phonogram games, reading easy readers, and learning correct cursive penmanship for the 26 letters and 0-9.

    What were our favorite field trips? We had three chances to feed the animals at Emma Prusch Farm Park – that’s a major draw! Each time we go, Ms. Lisa explains something different to us, and we observe new behavior about the animals. The last time we went we learned about some of the digestive needs of the goats, we helped her find a growth on one of the bunny’s eyes that needs attention, learned about how much care these animals need and how farm hands sanitize their dishes, and we watched how aggressive turkeys are around their food – yikes!

    We also loved Yosemite National Park in the snow – we built snowmen and had snowball fights! We adored the Fremont solar program, the Portola Redwood Forest, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

    We tried camping at Uvas Canyon County Park and failed. Due to Rain. The first time it rained since we moved here. Noah was finishing his Arc next to our tent. That’s how much it was raining, so it seemed.
    But… we hiked and explored Rodeo Cove in the Marin Headlands, Coyote Point Recreation Area, Fort Funston, and Sanborn County Park. We played at many, many playgrounds around town.
    This time of year brings some seasonal fun too, like a visit to Spina Farms, the fall festival at church, birthday celebrations, and Christmas in the Park and a Walk Through Bethlehem.
    We did some focused outreach. Some of this outreach happened before this review period, but some leaked over into this review period.
    What was our favorite art or music lesson or topic? Someone should sound a fail alarm for music, because we only did one formal piano lesson in the last 40 days. We are still learning music theory, however, and he knows a relative amount of theory for someone so young. Micah’s picked up learning tin whistle, and can play Mary Had a Little Lamb, but I lament his lack of piano here. And I haven’t taught him more than the one song on tin whistle. We haven’t found a piano teacher, and I need the accountability of someone else to teach him. Oh yea, grace for the season, right? At least he started learning a new instrument and likes it! In fact, the last six weeks have been all about tin whistle, music dynamics, rhythm, scale, and music symbols.
    I also made playlists for all 24 weeks of lessons, so he listens to rounds of various scripture to song, classical music, seasonal / holiday music, folk music, and classic kindergarten songs in addition to memory work.
    He’s moving into the age where he’s really beginning to enjoy drawing, so I purchased the Draw Write Now Book 1 and he’s enjoyed the lesson we tried. We are starting to move back into visual arts again in CC, so we’ve been looking at fine art together. I’m excited about the next 6 weeks of CC!
    We enjoyed some math art, and of course, holiday crafts and cooking too.
    Oh, and he tried a hip hop dance program at the YMCA and loved it! We need to go back!
    What were some of our favorite learning games? Micah’s favorite learning games, by far, include War, building a tower with Solo Cups, solo cup bowling, and solo cup CC-Pong. I’ve gotten lazy in offering him quality review time. Kade has not been napping! It’s exasperating. And I’m tired and need the down time being this pregnant. Grace for the season, right? Micah LOVES legos and spends a long time building new creations almost every day.
    What trends have we noticed in behavior for each child? Kade is fully in his two-year old stride. He’s ready to potty train, but I’m not ready to potty train him! And he requires consistent follow through, that I do what I say I’m going to do. Micah needs more patience with Kade and to learn to let me help Kade share, comply, or whatever the case may be. There is the normal brother teasing that happens every. single. day. So tiring. Micah does better in correction if I pull him in for a hug and a smile while I correct him. Sometimes this is not possible.

    What improvements in character have we seen in each child? I’m enjoying Kade’s “my turn” phase. He’s really wanting and trying to do everything himself! While this doesn’t have to do with character, it’s more developmental progress I want to recall. Micah is so sweet and compassionate about his baby sister and my pregnancy it’s just darling. And many times I find him helping his little brother, or talking sweetly, or recruiting to persuade him instead of force him to do something. It blesses me to see Micah have patience and discipline to finish hard things. We are benefiting from Peacemaker lessons!

    What needs more attention?

    • Scripture Memory work!
    • Chores and cleanliness, including ‘the daily 15 minute round-up’
    • Indefinite list of pronouns and grammar games
    • Abacus and manipulatives, math games, mazes and dot-to-dots.
    • My World lessons. There are 6 units, and I’m on Unit 3 Lesson 4.
    • Piano and music appreciation. Perhaps we should pay Ian what we used to pay his favorite teacher and make it a formal weekly lesson again so he structures his lessons. I did purchase music flashcards for Christmas so he will have fun using those.

    How well have we followed through in new ideas, investigations, and integrations? I’ve done a better job honoring God first with morning symposium than last review period – this is important to our family. We didn’t do as well with being consistent with scripture memory work, but we have done better in reading and math consistency. I noted last review period he needs more time with geography, the timeline, english review and manipulatives. I think I’ve done the best with the timeline, but the rest lag behind a bit.

    What answered prayers have we noted? There are so many answered prayers to list! God answered me about taking in the Support Representative position with CC. He’s been so clear to some specific questions I have for Him. He’s given me peace and wisdom for homeschooling and parenting, and I notice a change in behavior when we pray throughout the day, but especially when we set the tone in the morning.

    What were some of the most memorable moments and victories this month? The biggest victories or memorable moments are probably finishing out his math book A, and seeing how excited he was to move up a level! I’m so glad he’s happy about this accomplishment.

    Kade’s language is really exploding into 3 and 4 word sentences. He can almost count to ten. He understands letters represent sounds on a page, and asks me to write his name all the time. He loves to tuck his animals into bed and says “here go” to them, and “aw” as he admires them. He loves to pray. He can do summersaults really well now, and is very brave climbing challenging structures on the playground.

    What were some biggest evidences in grace, mercy, faithfulness, protection and provision we noted? God is helping us budget better, or have more discipline. I’m understanding some hard lessons learned about stewardship and waiting on Him before I make decisions. I’ve learned about the topics of Grace and Righteousness, doing some deep dives myself. I’ve been really blessed by some women friends from church and CC! Surprise baby showers. Who would have thought? With regard to the SR position in CC, He’s rolling that right along too… and the biggest fruit from this is my listening, prayer, and new friendships forming.

    What insights, revelations and feedback have been impacting this month? 

    Hmmm… probably how much more we should focus on our ‘frogs’: Worship time, prayer, Bible, and scripture memorization. Then everything else can come. I need to do a better job setting time-slots for work and honoring margin with the new SR position. I need to do a better job getting the boys to do chores. Less TV time even if I need to lay down. Be more creative with other quiet activities for the boys.

    Some things I’d like to keep in mind for next semester:

    • Math – There are 151 more pages to cover the Kindergarten B book, so I expect this will take another 75 school days or so.
    • Start Young Peacemakers Lesson 6.
    • Start hand-writing and spelling, and phonics. I anticipate we will spend at least a solid 40 days practicing phonograms, playing phonogram games, reading easy readers, and learning correct cursive penmanship for the 26 letters and 0-9.
    • Start The Properties of Ecosystems. There are 35 lessons. I’d like to do one a week.
    • Start the Lives of the Scientists – there are 18 of them. I’d like to do one a week.
    • Read the Human Body Theater – start at Act 2 muscles
    • Try the idea of loop schedules for more items
    • Try presentations for Dad each weekend

    Loop schedule samples

    • social studies
    • science – ecology
    • spelling deep dive
    • science sundays
    • history
    • geography game
    • math game
    • review time
    • daddy presentations
    • art project
    • music appreciation
    • bake 

    Outdoor afternoon loop schedule

    • nature journal
    • bike ride
    • park play date
    • YMCA dance
    • chalk drawing in back
    • dog bathing
    • sidewalk sweeping 
    • hike
    • gardening
    • entrepreneurship 
    • farmers market
    • tour/museum/extracurricular 

    Chore Loop schedule

    • declutter
    • wipe walls
    • wipe cabinets and baseboards
    • sweep floors/ mop
    • dust surfaces
    • sort toys
    • clean hamster cage

    Quiet time loop study

    • Lego’s
    • Jenga
    • poetry 
    • Aesop’s fables

    How to do a Classical Conversations Book Haul, Cycle 2, weeks 11-14

    I enjoy sharing my book hauls so you can gather some ideas for your next library visit. We are well embedded in the grammar stage of classical learning, which means we are focused on the who, the what, the when. Sometimes we learn the how and why, but I don’t necessarily embellish for topics for things that are complex like things of historical nature. Rather, we make indulgences in science to learn the why or how of things, listen to more music or look at more art. More often we are just out exploring nature and the things around us.

    Let’s get into the book haul now.

    We happen to have the timeline cards for classical conversations, and the science cards. We also have a science encyclopedia. But when I approach a new section of learning for CC, I look up about three weeks of information at a time. This happens one of two ways:

    Method one. Online in my library’s online catalogue… in this case I ask the library to reserve the books for me and set them aside. This allows me the flexibility of picking them up from the check out area at anytime, kids in tow or not

    Method two. At the library either by myself or with the kid’s librarian’s help… in this case I need my husband’s help focusing on my kids while I search

    Before I go searching and compiling. Before I use either pick up method, I just make a list of the upcoming topics covered by CC. In this case, it was weeks 11-14. I just literally handwrite a list starting with the timeline, history, science, math, English and geography topics. And in that list, I look for overlapping subjects, so I can consolidate the books I need if possible.

    I also look up the book list from Half A Hundred Acre Wood’s blog online. And the kindergarten, preschool, and picture books lists from my local library, including early readers. And note any upcoming holidays.

    Back to compiling my books. If I’m using method one, then while I’m logged in to the library’s catalogue I write down call numbers and sections where I will find the topics I want to cover. Then I literally go hunting, comparing a few books from each section to make sure I have one appropriate for my young Kinder-aged son. I have a heavy preference for cartoon books, comic books, picture books, story books or rhyming books if I can find related ones. Next, a heavy preference for simple explanatory books. We may not read every one word for word. Sometimes I summarize. Sometimes we soak in the pictures if the book is very advanced but that’s all that was available.

    I may have to ask the librarian for help if certain books are missing. See how not everything is crossed off my lists? That’s okay!

    Here’s how my lists end up looking before I go hunting.

    If I’m using method 2, I look at user ratings to help me decide which ones to pull.

    My kids also get to pick books at random that they’d enjoy.

    This is what we ended up with for weeks 11-14 for Cycle 2 of classical conversations.

    In my last book haul, you’ll see we covered Week 11 already. I don’t mind doing weeks over again, whatsoever. We have a break week due to Thanksgiving, so we can take advantage of that buffer.

    This is where the type A in me halts to a grand stop. We read twice a day, before rest time and bed time. We read four or five books… or if the books are long, a chapter… or if the books are really long, a page. We “dog ear” where we left off and pick it up again whenever we feel like it.

    As our three weeks comes to an end we either return the books we’ve had enough of, or renew the books we want more time with.

    We are discovering so much this way! My son’s favorite book from the last haul was called “Plagues, Pox, and Pestilence”. I never would have guessed that he’d be so into that! And on our drive today he proclaimed “I really love Buzz Aldrin” and asked me if I knew about Vostok missions.

    Here’s one more view of the book haul for weeks 11-14 for Cycle 2 for you.

    There’s no way around the fact that this is time-consuming. Method one takes a solid hour and a half for me to cover three CC weeks. Method two takes me a good two hours. But we are finding the benefits are innumerable.

    I didn’t include the silly books my sons picked this week or the early readers, since I am focusing on how you can do a CC haul.

    We are in the grammar stage, but my young Kindergartener wants to know what he’s memorizing, so off we go every three weeks to fill in some of those learning pegs with a little meat.

    While some moms have impressive book collections, we don’t have the space or money to purchase all these books every week, and I’d feel gridlocked if I did it that way anyhow. I do, however, prioritize making the time.

    I hope this helps some of you enjoy CC more!

    A Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mom

    My kids are 5 and 2 years old. Both boys. I thought it would be fun to post a day in the life of our home. Our schedule is more of a routine than it is a schedule, meaning we follow patterns over being gridlocked by timing. That said though, there are regular things we do each week and month.

    This morning both boys were up at 6:30am. I got up and put on praise music, and made a quiche for a ladies’ gathering which was meeting at 9:30am this morning, and heated up two pieces of quiche that I had made from two days ago for the little one and myself. My older son doesn’t like quiche, regardless of what I call it: egg pie, egg cake, egg pizza… he will have none of it. Thus, we all enjoyed hot cocoa and peaches for breakfast, and either muffins or quiche.

    Then we got on to our morning symposium. This is our Bible story, and as of right now, a Young Peacemaker’s “sliver” of a lesson. We are reading from the Bible I had growing up, because my oldest son is finally ready for this one. It’s Paul Hamlyn’s Children’s Bible in Color. I say we do a sliver of a lesson in Young Peacemakers, because that’s our attention span right now. My son is fully grasping the concepts, however, so I am grateful that I’m meeting the purpose instead of feeling some false external insane time-bound pressure.

    Right after our Bible time, we go on to our reading lesson in “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.  I wrote about how we do this reading lesson here, but I will add that I started numbering the lines of the long stories. It puts my son in control of his ‘reading guide’ and enables him to have the book right in front of him instead of closer to me. As I become more pregnant, I am having trouble scooting up close enough to the table anyway.

    After reading, we do math. We are using Singapore Math Kindergarten Book A. At the time I didn’t realize I ordered the Common Core Edition. I don’t think there’s any difference between regular Kindergarten math and common core kindergarten math, though, so I don’t mind. My son does well in math, so lessons are quick. I do the book more so he can practice writing. We don’t do formal writing yet, for many reasons.

    After that, I consider it break time. During that time, the little one who is 2, is either running through the house, or sitting down with his own drawing notebook (a composition book) to draw, scribble, paste and do dot art. Every time he sits down to draw, I write a ‘the next’ capital and lowercase letter on the page, so when we go back through his notebook to admire his drawings we can practice the alphabet.

    Today we headed out to a Bible study. The kids play and the moms get some much-needed reflection time. Some moms bring a treat to share. Like I said, I brought quiche. Our whole morning lesson took an hour. Sometimes if my son is really focused, it could be faster, but we’ve literally covered the core pieces that I care about already, all before 9am.

    It took me 15 minutes to rally them into the car and do a double check that I had all the items I needed to lead the study, bring the quiche and plates/cups etc, and diapers/wipes, etc. I should pack the diaper bag the night before every night, but sometimes I’m tired.

    We got there on time, and I find these women revitalizing and enjoy their company. What a blessing they are to me!

    We left at 10 after noon after helping clean up toys a little and picking some fresh lemons from the hostess’ tree. What a fine treat!!

    On our 11 minute drive home I caught up with a friend, and lagged in the street talking because my tot fell asleep in that short time.

    We had to try nap time twice today. But in-between nap time, I fed this crew some Annie’s mac and cheese mixed with last night’s fresh lemon cilantro parsley zucchini and carrots – mac and cheese day is an indulgent treat. During our lunch, we reviewed our new material for Classical Conversations (CC). It took only 10 or 15 minutes to do that.

    Feeling big and pregnant, I let us watch a show. It was a lovely show about house cats that we found on Netflix. Then we read stories, and tried nap time again. Nap time didn’t work. So we got up, my tot decided to go #2 in the potty for the 2nd time (yay!!!).

    Then we played stacking cups which is just making towers out of solo cups. We also played the old game that magicians play sometimes, where you hide something under a cup, and rotate three cups around to try and guess where it is in the end. <— these two games make great CC review games by the way. We tried balancing cups on our head and walking while reciting our math squares song for CC. This is how I fit CC into our day in a fun way. I’ve found that every single game under the sun can be a CC game. A few times doing this, and my son will have the whole week down. He already knows the science for this week, and I didn’t feel like I really taught it to him. Part of his knowledge comes from the books we choose. I’ll post another reading haul again in a few days, for Cycle 2 Weeks 9 to 12. I also put on CC music during my older son’s rest time, but it’s mixed in with about 2 hours of other music too. Much of that music is Bible verses sung outloud to beautiful music, and then your standard Kindergarten music. Also in that mix, is relevant Story of the World chapters.

    After that, I put the tot on my back for a piggy back ride and played chase older brother through the house. And then older brother decided he’d delight me with brushing my hair. How wonderful! We also rehearsed our notes rhymes that tell us how to memorize the notes on a staff line while we played.

    This is our homeschool day! It’s as simple as that, and it’s fun! If you’re thinking of homeschooling, don’t let anyone intimidate you away from it. Homeschooling is awesome. It gets more complicated as children get older, but that’s why we start young. Just remember to keep it fresh.

    That’s our day today! On other days, we’ve followed similar routines, but portions of the day may be pushed later in the day because we’ve gotten an earlier start. And often on those long days, I’ve plunked my kids in a loooong bath to decompress… to the tune of an hour long pruney-fingered dunk.

    I hope this encouraged some of you to keep it simple, and take it slow! Do what your children need, and put God first.



    Chores for littles

    By request, I’m writing about chores today. Let’s break this down into three parts:

    1. Why are chores important?
    2. What chores can my kid do?
    3. How do I teach kids how to do chores well?

    Chores matter because it’s an integral part to teaching kids responsibility. Responsibility matters because one day, you’re going to send those young birds out of your nest to fend for themselves in a relatively unforgiving and competitive world. You don’t want them to wonder how to clean their own laundry, do the dishes, and even how to cook a meal. You want them to know how to pay their bills, budget, and balance a checkbook. You need them to know how to save money for the future, and what the fruit of hard work looks and feels like. You want them to know how to run their own households. Start building good work ethic by training them in these skills from the very beginning.

    There are so many lists available on the internet that outline what kids can do by what ages, but one of my favorites is this one: Mind you, only use someone else’s list to get you started. You know what your kids are capable of, and what your family needs. I’ve observed that large families do a better job delegating and training their kids in doing chores well out of necessity – moms and dads are just out-numbered! This means the parents of smaller families need to make delegating and training kids to do chores “feel” all the more important to them (the parents). And remember, it’s mom who ‘generally’ sets the stage for this kind of work. Mainly, because moms operate the home.

    Training your kids to do chores well is a three-step process which I’ll come back to in a minute. Let me tell you what’s going to happen as you introduce each new chore. In the beginning, you’re going to get a some, or a lot of, resistance. Because. Chores. Are. Hard. Don’t you remember how making your bed when you were young was so hard, because the sheets were so long compared to the size of your body and your arms, and you could only fluff a pillow so much? Plus, your attention span was that of a gnat… or it seemed that way to your parents. To you, you just remember something else glimmered in the corner of your eye and so you went to it like a moth to a flame… and the next thing you know, you were in trouble for not listening to your parents. Granted, the level of resistance you get from each child depends on his or her personality, age and attitude. Use chores as an attitude-tuning tool. In our home we say “How do we obey? All the way, right away, and with a cheerful heart.” We’ve also found the need to start teaching my strong-willed first born to obey us first and ask questions afterwards, lest we fall into the trappings of an argument.

    Children need some motivation. And all children are motivated by something different. As someone who used to do behavior therapy, I was taught there are some broad stroke categories of rewards that kids respond to: positive and negative reinforcement. This could be positive or negative attention; access to items like food, activities, toys, money, or motion; pain or attention avoidance, and sometimes self-stimulation (this could be like rocking, or hand flapping). When you think about your kid, you’re trying to understand the ‘why’ that underlies whatever behavior you’re seeing. You’re trying to figure out how to motivate that child to act or behave in a certain way. At the same time, you’re training their minds through your dialogue with them to process certain outcomes in a particular way. Here’s what I mean:

    • ‘I’m really proud of you. Hard work pays off. I’m going to tell [insert loved one’s name] how well you did today’.
    • ‘You worked hard on that. How do you feel now that you’ve learned a new skill?’
    • ‘You see how your father and I have to wait for to finish some things before we can do other things? Why do you think that is?’
    • ‘After you do this ten times, you’re going to be a pro, and you can take a turn to teach me how to do that better. Once you can teach me, we’re going to go [insert reward].

    Of course, with a child who is a toddler, you don’t engage them with all those questions. You just fill their minds with phrases and consequences to form those associations as you want them:

    • ‘Yay!!! You did it! You put your toys away!’
    • ‘You’re so big! You did pee pee in the potty!’
    • ‘Great work! Let me give you a hug and a high five!’

    Figure out what motivates your child by testing their response to various reinforcements. The best reinforcers will lose their salience over time, and you’ll have to constantly go back to the drawing board anyway. Depending on your child, and their level of competency and competitiveness, you will also ‘up the ante’ for receiving their reinforcers over time. You could do that by increasing the number of times he or she completes the chore before receiving a reward, or increasing the skill with which you child completes the task. Ideally, both of these requirements will increase over time until you consider your child a master of that chore. Once your child masters a chore, either he or she becomes totally responsible for the chore in your home (even on a part time basis), or then is responsible to help train the next child in your home who is ready to learn that chore.

    Now let’s return to that three-step process of training your child how to do chores. It’s simple, and it’s complicated at the same time.

    • Step 1: Model the chore how you want it done. Show your child how to do the chore. Give the chore a name. Call it the same name every time. (i.e. cleaning the bathroom, dusting, cleaning the floors). Include the same steps to completing the chores every time. Break a multi-step process down into smaller steps (You don’t give a two year old a 5 step process, you give them one task. You give a five year old two or three tasks, depending on his or her ability. Keep the task the same until your child does that one thing well. Then add the second task.) Cleaning the bathroom (for a teenager) might look something like the list below, but put it in check list form so they can keep track of where they are. You always want to give a child a review time after completing a task that includes what he or she did well, and what you want him to focus on doing better next time:
      1. Reminders
        1. work from top to bottom
        2. have a cheerful heart
        3. your reward is this: ______________
        4. your goal is to finish this in [insert time]
      2.  Prep
        1. gather white vinegar, microfiber rags, a toilet brush, cleaning spray (we use water, white vinegar, and essential oils), whatever knock off brand of magic eraser you could find for cheap on Amazon… because they exist for cheap on Amazon, and some good music
        2. put away countertop and bathtub clutter – organize drawers and cabinets if necessary
        3. put baking soda and white vinegar in the sink, toilet and bathtub to let soak (remember to plug the drains first)
      3. Top
        1. dust the corners of the ceiling
        2. dust the light fixtures
        3. dust the window frame, clean the window panes, dust the window sill
        4. dust above the bathroom mirror, clean the mirror
      4. Middle
        1. clean countertop with spray
        2. clean sink faucets and shower/tub fixtures with spray
        3. clean sink basin with spray
        4. dust sink cabinet sides and doors
        5. clean back of toilet tank, sides, toilet lid and top and bottom of seat, toilet basin and flush, and then finally the toilet base all the way to the floor
        6. clean sides of shower walls with spray and that fake magic eraser
      5. Bottom
        1. clean tub basin with spray and that fake shower eraser
        2. wipe down baseboards
        3. sweep (always start farthest away from the door and remember to go behind the toilet)
        4. empty trash, put in new trash bag
        5. mop (this usually requires some work on your hands and knees, unfortunately, to achieve a really clean bathroom floor)
    • Step 2: Guide while he or she is doing the task. You want to show your child how to do the task, and then let him or her take turns doing it for you. You will offer mid-course corrections along the way, and stay with the child to ensure success. You may even place your hand over your child’s hand to show them how much pressure you want them to apply. Please do yourselves a favor and keep this a positive experience. Watch your tone, your words and your body language. Keep track of your facial expressions. Give honest feedback. Don’t sugar coat what you’re feeling. Ask your child for feedback. Ask specific questions. Monitor and correct your child’s attitude along the way. If you cut corners or take over doing the task because it’s easier for you in the short-term, watch your child cut those same corners later, or put up a fuss because he or she knows you will allow him or her to escape the activity. Be persistent, kind and supportive.
    • Step 3: Let your child complete the task without you hovering, and come back to offer feedback once your child is done (or a certain amount of time has elapsed). When you have feedback to give, have your child go back and correct items that aren’t done.

    If you want to be very thorough, you’ll keep track in a journal somewhere how well your child is doing on various aspects of the chore. That way you’ll see patterns emerge and be able to address them. Be aware of your child’s physiological or neurological handicaps too, please. If you’re child has vision problems, memory or hearing problems, don’t penalize them for something her or she can’t help. Help him or her figure out ways around those issues. Some children pay better attention to detail than others. Some children are natural people-pleasers. Some children simply lack the physical strength for certain tasks. In that case you’ll have to teach the child ‘hacks’ like using the weight of their upper body so they can scrub better, or finding the corner of the top sheet of the bed and walking it up towards the pillow instead of trying to shake it out like he might see you doing.

    If you’re child can’t read yet, make simple picture charts. Your child will gain a certain momentum or inertia if he or she does the new chore more often and consistently in the beginning. If you’re teaching your child how to dust, find something for him or her to dust every day at a certain time of the day, like before lunch.

    I hope you’ve found these instructions helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to post comments for me.

    Please don’t… 10 things to avoid as a homeschool mom

    This was brewing in my fingertips like a hot cup of coffee today.

    There are so many things we homeschoolers try to figure out. We compare, we read voraciously, we study, we ‘stay ahead’, we worry, we ask, we see, we change, we know… But here’s a list of 10 things you just shouldn’t do!

    1. Don’t compare your kids’ progress to your friends’ kids. Compare your kids’ progress to your own wisdom in who God made them, and their capabilities and trajectory. You know them best. Trust your instincts – they are there for a reason.
    2. Don’t try to be like someone else’s family. Be yourself. Embrace who you are as a family unit. Each child God adds to your family, forever changes your family’s quilt, so to speak. Love your quilt and the thread that holds it together. “Life-ing” any other way violates God’s design for you.
    3. Don’t try to fit your kids into the kids you read about in books. No author holds a perfect mirror up to your family. Every writer, writes from his or her own unique experience. As you read, treat those books as a la carte. Take what you like, eat what you like. Politely discard what you don’t like. Not everything that looks good, tastes good!
    4. Don’t get bogged down by curriculum or process. Focus on progress. Curriculum is wonderful, but it’s also a source of stress. Do the things that work for your child. If your child isn’t progressing with one method, or book, switch. Experiment. Ask your child what he or she likes. Observe. Use your better judgment.
    5. Don’t take the quick or easy way out. There are times removing yourself is right. Ask God for that discernment. But for some things -like reading, like math, like chores at home, like teaching discipline and consequences – you just can’t take the easy way out. Your children are watching you. God is watching you. You are watching you. If it’s a core piece of your task (given by God), do it to the best of your ability. In fact, if it’s a core piece of your task, then shave of other things until you can do this well.
    6. Don’t let your kids escape. It’s easier to do things for our kids, like make their beds, do the dishes, even wipe their tushes… in the short term. Don’t do it. As soon as your kids are able, start training them towards independence and sharing in the work that it takes to maintain your home and their lives. And there’s certainly a time for grace, but in general, please let them face the consequence of their actions. They will thank you for this once they are adults, though they gripe and complain now. If you want me to write about kids and chores, let me know.
    7. Don’t be lazy. Making excuses comes naturally. But please don’t be lazy. Find the resources and energy to stay the course. There’s a difference between laziness and rightfully letting things go that don’t belong. Ask God to know the difference. Your kids see the difference. God sees the difference. Most things we are lazy about don’t take much time. And much of life is determined by our small habits. Make it a habit to do the small things that add up. Bless your husband this way too, by the small diligent efforts you make all day, that add up to the monumental woman you are, and the world-changers you are turning out.
    8. Don’t ignore your season. We all have seasons in life, like when we experience a death, a newborn, a job change, a move… please acknowledge and make room for whatever season God has for you. See it, process it, discuss it with your family, and accommodate it. Then take advantage of the times of ‘rain’ so you can better weather times of ‘drought’. God promises us times of hardship, so while we don’t live in fear, we carefully plan our days, right? This is true for your children too, by the way. Your children have seasons in their maturity and development. Please pay attention.
    9. Don’t do too much. Do less, but do it exceptionally well.  And please train your children to do the same. Teach yourself and your children the discipline of mastery. Don’t stay busy. Get focused. Petition God until He answers you about how to spend your time, and in whom to invest, and in what you should put your money. Take care of your physical self. Feed your family quality food. Good stewardship is not about spreading butter everywhere. Instead of peanut butter slapped on white bread, I’d rather have a tiny flaky and decadent raspberry and chocolate stuffed pastry that someone labored over (though I suppose your tastebuds may differ, but you know what I’m saying, right?).
    10. Don’t do things out of order. This is a statement as much about energy management as it is about honoring God. Put God first in all you do – this includes your day. This includes how you start your day for your children. Remember that you set the tone in your home. How much would you rather have a day of peace, than a day of disarray? How much would you rather do the three mission-critical things today, than the 25 non-urgent and less important things today? When you get “this” backwards, you’re far more likely to leave the mission-critical things to (A) slip through the cracks, (B) become an end-of-day monster that keeps you up past your bedtime, or (C) become something you’ve only done with half-hearted effort. One way you can figure out what’s mission-critical is to ‘start with the end in mind’. This takes you figuring out what the end should be. Ask God. Ask your husband. Ask yourself. Ask your children as they become old enough to give you realistic input. If you want me to write a post about prioritizing, I’d be happy to do that, just say the word.

    I hope this has blessed you today, and helped you think about what you can let go of in your life while maintaining or gaining some more peace!

    XO, Robyn