Saturday, December 31, 2011

Daybook: New Year's Eve Edition

:: outside my window's dark because it is already evening.  Still not all that cold, really.  I guess I should be glad we've been able to keep windows open and let the kiddos play outside.

:: listening to ...Chopin.   And my sweet hubby getting ready to take the kids to the bath.

:: giving thanks for ...God's abundant provision for all that we need and more.

:: living the educational life ...We've still been off school this past week.  I'm hoping to do a 'light school' schedule of 30 minutes or so each morning starting this week - our new calendar (in French), maybe some math and handwriting...if I'm really ambitious we'll get the foundational events onto our new history timeline.   We'll see how we go.  We're getting ready to move internationally in three weeks time, but I think it will be worth the effort to get a little bit of school in if for no other reason than to give the kids some sense of routine.

:: preparing in the kitchen .... Nothin'.  We are still up to our ears in Christmas goodies and leftovers from having company last week.   Enjoying the simplicity.

:: creating by hand ... Michelle got a sewing kit and the Handicrafts Made Simple Hand Sewing DVD for Christmas.  We've been doing some practice on some scrap material and she is doing really well.  I'm looking forward to working through the projects with her this year. 

:: following these links ...I am really excited about these 100 Supreme Classical Masterpieces MP3s on Amazon, shared by someone on the SCM Forum.  They are "best of" albums that actually include full concertos, sontatas, etc, instead of just random excerpts.   And I need to find time to work through these reflection questions.

:: turning pages ...  Still reading through some of the books I plan to use for read-alouds in the next year or 2...this week has been Homer Price.  I remember my third grade teacher reading this to our class.  It's hilarious.  No wonder I still remember it. Robert McCloskey was a genius.

:: finding rhythm ... We ain't got none, at least today we didn't.  I need to sit down tomorrow and think through what we need to do to give some kind of rhythm to these busy days as we prepare for this huge transition.

:: keeping house ... Today we sorted just about everything in the house into trash, give away, store, ship, or take boxes.  Now that I have some idea what we have here, I can start getting things we need for our future household in Africa.

:: praying ... For grace and patience and strength as we face many transitions in the new year.

:: planning the week ahead ...  Getting organized for the weeks ahead.  Finding some kind of rhythm for the kids (and ourselves!) to stay sane.  Buying more stuff for our shipment.

:: capturing a few moments ... Christmas Day at our house...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Education is....Part One

We've often been asked what curriculum we are using in our homeschool.  We aren't using any particular curriculum package, but rather an assortment of materials that fit into our philosophy of education and the season of life we find ourselves currently in (See the Goals and Curriculum page in the sidebar).  Our philosophy of education is eclectic with a heavily Charlotte Mason flavor.  Charlotte Mason was an educator in Great Britain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Charlotte Mason recognized that there is more to education than just academics.  This is what she means when she says "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."  Let's look at the first part of that, shall we?

Education is an atmosphere...
"By 'atmosphere', Charlotte spoke of the environment our children grow up in. She knew that the ideas that rule our lives, as parents, will have a profound impact on our children. Some of those rules we are completely aware of; others we may not realize are controlling our lives. Nevertheless, “the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives” (Vol. 2, p.247)."

The atmosphere that we build in our homes is a major influence on who and what our children turn out to be, and therefore an important piece of their education.  Is my home a place of love and order where my children are built up and encouraged?  What about me: am I setting an example that I would be pleased to have them follow?  It is important to remember to ask these questions regularly.    I would contend that building a positive home atmosphere is important regardless of what method or philosophy of education you have chosen for your family.  However, one of the things that drew me towards Charlotte Mason's philosophy was the intentional emphasis on it.   It is easy for me to get caught up in the more tangible things: academics, discipline issues, the endless to-do list. So often I find myself behaving as a thermometer: reacting to the environment around me, rather than being a thermostat: taking intentional steps to ensure a pleasant atmosphere in my home.  Recognizing that our home atmosphere is an important part of the overall education of our children provides the reminder that I need to periodically evaluate how this is going in our home and make any necessary adjustments.

Next up: Education is a discipline.

Quotations and the thermometer/thermostat analogy taken from Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life, a free e-book available from Simply Charlotte Mason

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Daybook: Christmas Eve Edition

December 24th, 2011

:: outside my window....
Cool, grey overcast skies.  But not cold.  So much for having a White Christmas while not in the tropics this year!
:: listening to ... Grandpa reading books to the kids.  Grandma playing games and doing puzzles with the kids.  Happy noise.
:: giving thanks for ... Time with family.
:: living the educational life ... We are off school this week.  But Michelle keeps asking to do her cursive book!  And I am working on getting together the last of what we will need to get going again after we move in January.   We've recieved ever so many boxes from Amazon this week.  New school books are just about as good as Christmas for me.
:: preparing in the kitchen ....  Still trying to decide what kind of egg casserole to make for breakfast in the morning.  And wondering if it was a good idea to try a new cake recipe for Christmas dessert with company!
:: creating by hand ... Does adding bows and ribbons to Christmas packages count? 
:: following these links ... I am appreciating other people's thoughts about transition as we look ahead to some transitions of our own in the new year...especially this and this.
:: turning pages ...  Just finished reading The Happy Orpheline by Natalie Savage Carlson.  One of the books we are planning to use for school next year.  Too cute.
:: finding rhythm ... We used this advent candle this year instead of our normal advent wreath (too much moving around this year!)  But it't s been fun to watch how excited Michelle has gotten as the candle has burned down lower and lower and there have been fewer and fewer days left until Christmas.
:: keeping house ... Enjoying the fact that I have a husband who is more than willing to be helpful....
:: finding joy in ... Watching the kids enjoy time with their grandparents.
:: praying ... For grace and patience and strength as we face many transitions in the new year.
:: planning the week ahead ...  Christmas week!  A couple of days here at home, and a couple of days with the rest of Dan's family up in Virginia.   And then we get to the final big push leading up to our big move....
:: capturing a few moments ... Outtakes from trying to get a good Christmas picture of the kids...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why do we homeschool?

So there's the million dollar question.  Why do we homeschool?   Well, this past year it's been for practical reasons: we haven't stayed in one place long enough to even think about enrolling Michelle in a traditional school.  And depending on where we end up being stationed when we get to Africa we may have to because there may not be a school locally available to us.   But the truth of the matter is even if we did have a good school available to us we would homeschool anyway.   There are many reasons why people decide to homeschool, but for us the main reasons are:

1. We want to give our children an individualized education.
     I am a former classroom teacher, so I understand very well the hearts of teachers to give their best   efforts to their students.   But, I also know it is an uphill battle.   One teacher, even a truly wonderful one,  can only do so much when faced with the individual needs of many students.   I remember one school year that I had a class of 18 students.  2 of them needed serious remedial help in math and writing.  1 was pretty severely ADD.  1 had recently arrived from Germany and spoke very little English.  3 more were probably gifted and needed extra challenges.  And then there were the other 11 that fell somewhere in between those extremes!  As much as I desired to meet all of their needs, I always felt that I fell short.  There was only one of me, and I could only do so much.   By choosing to homeschool, I am in a better position to meet each of my children where they are, and to provide the support they need to be successful.

2. We want to develop a strong family culture.
     Being involved in overseas ministry means that our family faces a greater-than-average amount of transition.   While we certainly want our children to develop relationships with peers and others outside of our family circle, we also realize that they will face goodbyes far more often than the average family living in suburban USA.   Because of this, we feel it is even more important for them to find stability, comfort, and friendship in our family relationships. And what better way to do this than by "doing life together" day in and day out?

3. We want our children to have time and freedom to discover who they are.
     Homeschooling doesn't have to be 'school at home'.   It can be integrated into the daily life our family.  This past year for "kindergarten", we have spent maybe an hour or a bit more on our formal school lessons each day.   Other things (Bible, reading, literature) have been naturally sprinkled throughout the day.  Even after all of this is done, there is still ample free time to play, explore, and discover...far more time than they would have if they were 'at school' for 4-6 hours each day.   As they grow older, we want them to have time to develop their talents and interests and participate in service projects without having to constantly worry about keeping up with schoolwork or sacrficing time together as a family as we all run in separate directions with our various activities.

So there you have it. Our top three reasons why we homeschool.   Does this mean that I think that anyone who doesn't homeschool is wrong or about to ruin their children?  No, of course not.  I do think that each family should evaluate all of the options available and choose to do what is best for their family situation, rather than just go by the default of what they grew up with or what others in their community do.  I know that we will continue to evaluate what the best fit is for us as we enter different seasons of  life.  It is very possible that our kids may even attend a traditional school for some part of their education.  Time will tell!  But for now, homeschooling is a good fit for us and the best means that we see to meet the goals we have for our family.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Yes, I have taken the plunge and started a blog.  Why?  I intend for it to mainly be a chronicle of what we are doing in our homeschool.   I realized that with all the moving around that we do, keeping a whole notebook-type portfolio for each child for each year of school really wasn't all that practical.  It made much more sense to do something digitally.   And I figured that if I did it in the format of a blog then it would be easier to share what we are doing with others.  Maybe you are some of our far away family or friends and you'd like to follow what we're doing on the homefront (the stuff that doesn't usually get much space in our ministry updates).  Or maybe you are another homeschool mama who likes to see what other homeschooling families are doing (like me!).  And I also figured it might help hold me a little more accountable both to keep better records and to follow through on the goals that I've made.  (For example, all this past year I have told myself that I want to be more consistent with nature study.  But have we been?  Not as much as I'd like.   But if I've told all of you that I want to be more consistent with nature study, I'd hate to let you down, ya know?)  

All that said, this is what you can expect to see in this space:
- Regular updates on what we are doing in our home and school
- Occasional posts with more information about our philosophy of education, how we tackle certain subjects, resources we love, or other more in-depth education related topics.
- Possibly some book reviews or links to other articles...if I come across a really good read that relates to home and/or school.

What you're not so likely to see in this space:
- Ministry updates
- In depth spiritual reflections
- Recipes, Crafts, Free Printables, and such like

This list is as much for me as it is for you!  I know myself and I know I can let my ideas get out of control.  While I am excited to share a bit of our lives with you, I don't want to spend so much time maintaining this blog that I start to neglect the needs of my sweet family.  As you will find, we keep our homeschool simple, and so as a reflection of that, I intend to keep this blog simple.

So, welcome!   We're glad to have you with us on our journey.