Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Re-Thinking School...Again

I feel the need to do this on a regular basis.  I find that our household has regular cycles.  I will be organized and on top of things, the kids are engaged in lessons.  Then things begin to slide.  The cleanliness of our home slides downward, I am less organized, fewer school lessons are happening.  Since we school year-round, I kind of expect this.  Usually through the summer, school lessons become much more relaxed and less planned.  There is less table-time and more outdoor exploration time.  I think this is fairly natural and good.  However, as my children's peers are returning to school and the world (including most homeschoolers) gets into "back-to-school" mode, I can't help but feel like I need to kick our homeschooling into a higher gear.  Often, I question what this should look like for our family and take a short season of prayerful study and consideration.  Thankfully, we have a couple of weeks here with a relaxed schedule that I can afford to do this.

When I first decided to homeschool over 13 years ago when my oldest was ready to start kindergarten, I was led to a book called, Wisdom's Way of Learning by Marilyn Howshall.  It was so odd how this book came into my hands and I firmly believe that it was a gift of God to point me in the right direction as I began this homeschooling journey.  This book prevented me from having the school-at-home mentality.  Being, myself, a product of the public school system, that was all I really knew about education.  This book, however, was written by a mom who was much further on her homeschooling journey and had really questioned education and sought God for answers.  From this I learned that education should not be all about the curriculum and scope and sequence charts.  It is about our children's hearts, pointing them toward God and helping them to find God's purpose for their lives.  Homeschooling then is more about training our child's character, teaching them how to learn, and seeking God's voice.  This is very challenging, but does lift the burden of making sure we cover everything.  If we have taught our children how to learn anything, when they need it, they will learn it quickly.

I lost this book over the years and after a couple of moves.  I may have lent it out, but I just don't remember.  This year I discovered that I could buy it in a revised e-book form from Marilyn's website.  So, re-reading this book now, as my oldest begins her senior year, I feel like I am coming around full-circle.  Over the years I have struggled with implementing this.  Part of me finds it easier to just use a scope and sequence like a checklist and go through the motions of school using canned curriculum while part of me rebels against it.  REALLY rebels against it.  I can't tell you how many curriculums we have begun to use, but *I* just couldn't get through them.  It feels so wrong to me.  I think it is because God has shown me real life learning and I can't go back.  But because of this I have often felt like a failure as a homeschooling mom.  I have my feet planted in both camps and therefore I do not feel successful with either.

I am still mulling this around in my mind.  I feel like God is really trying to open my eyes to a big truth here.  As this becomes more concrete in my own head, I will be able to share it better.  But suffice to say, I will be stepping back away from most curriculum and textbooks and using real-life, blank notebooks, and my library card this year.  And prayer.  I will be using LOTS of prayer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

As the school bus drives past...

As the rest of the world around me readies to send their children back to school, I can't help but feel so thankful that I don't have to.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that a small part of me craves to gain the hours of quiet time in my day, but ultimately they are not worth the price.  I know in my heart that homeschooling is what is right for our family right now.  It is what God has led us to and it works for us.  I know that for others, God has led them to other avenues for schooling.  But, I do have to say that I am ever so grateful that our place is here, at home.

So, as I hear the school bus rumble by, I will be thankful that my kids are still in their pajamas and preparing for their day calmly without rushing and I didn't have to get up early to pack lunches.  I will enjoy spending the days with my children doing devotions around the breakfast table and reading lessons cuddled on the couch.  Of course, it is not all such sweetness.  It is hard work and there are days where no one seems to want to do what they should be, but I will take those times in trade for the good ones.  The days when I get to see my children's eyes light up with understanding, when they work together as a team, when things just work.  I am feeling so blessed for this opportunity to teach my children!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mundane, but never boring!

Well, I am in housework catchup mode.  There are many areas of our home that I have been too busy to keep up on properly.  My pantry, which I mentioned the other day is one of them.  I suppose that I should take an after picture.  It is amazingly better.  Now, I am tackling laundry.  "Laundry" should be a four letter word.  It certainly is dirty and not very pleasant.  Add my inconstancy with laundry and a household of eight people and you get a LAUNDRY MONSTER!  So yesterday, I spent the bulk of the day washing, drying, folding, hanging, sorting clothes.  My laundry room was piled full with clean laundry which I have sorted through.  Now, my bedroom has stacks of out of season clothes, clothes that I am saving, but don't currently fit a child, but will, and boxes of clothes to donate.  Of course this was all done amidst schoolwork, reading, meal prep, cleaning, as well as dealing with a certain 4 year old that God must have put into my life to make me realize that I am totally inept as a parent.  Let's just say that when she is in a mood, I could tell her to go eat candy and she would feel the need to refuse just because I said it.  [sigh] It is exhausting.  Needless to say, this one child took a large chunk of my day yesterday.  I am praying for wisdom and guidance from God, because nothing I have learned from my 17+ years of parenting is helping.  God clearly has to intervene and I am depending on Him.  Of course, that's right where He wants me now isn't it?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

It's Summer!

After cold and rainy weather for what felt like FOREVER, it finally feels like summer.  We've had HOT, humid weather and lots of sunshine.  It does look like a storm is rolling in today, though.  I am kind of bummed about that because my garden needs a bit of tilling so I can get it planted.  This was not a good year to try and create a new big garden.  It has been too wet to work the ground.  Hubby finally got our garden plowed and disked, but it needs some tilling before planting.  It should have happened last weekend, but mowing took precedence.  I am hoping we don't get so much rain today that we can't till and plant this weekend.

Now that I have more days at home without outside commitments, I have been taking this opportunity to do some cleaning and organization that was long overdue.  Our schoolroom/office was a ridiculous mess.  You couldn't even walk through the place because it tend to be a dumping place for everything.  I started sorting though stuff, but got discouraged.  That paired with the fact that we were have people over last weekend, I just boxed everything up and hauled it to the basement.  I promised myself that I would go through one box per day.  I might not be keeping up with that so far this week...BUT the schoolroom looks great! 

Yesterday, I started cleaning out my pantry.  It is packed full and I can never find anything. I had shelves full of bags of bulk foods, etc.  I would look for something, not see it, and end up buying it.  After returning from Sam's Club yesterday, I realized that something HAD to be done.  I didn't have room to put anything away.  So I broke down and purchased some containers to store all of our bulk things like nuts, grains and dried fruit.  I was so glad to get rid of all of those little bags!  It is still in process and my kitchen counter island is still covered, but I am hoping to have it put together by the end of the day.  Fact is, we go though a lot of food.  We have changed out diet to mostly unprocessed, whole, real food.  This can allow for way less packaging and a tidier pantry.  I just had to break down and spring for some containers.  I fell in love with one type, but they were $10-15 each.  I settled on a more economical option and they seem to be working out great.

My next big project will be our clothing/laundry situation.  I have come to the conclusion (with help from my hubby) that I am a clothes hoarder.  I save every outgrown thing for the next child coming up.  I buy any good deal I find even if I have enough clothes for that particular child.  (When I mean good deal, I am talking a quarter.)  However, I am discovering that much of what I have saved looked pretty sad.  It is worn, faded and outdated.  This should be no surprise.  I have about 7 years between several of my same sex siblings.  If you figure that most of the clothes were purchased used, they are over a decade old and have seen the wear of at least two children.  A couple of boxed were attacked by mice as well, so they were trash.  So, I am sorting through and getting rid of a bunch of stuff.  I will only save the best of the best clothing and pass on the rest to someone else.  I probably have a couple of weeks worth of work to go through my stash. 

That's my life right now.  It is busy with the mundane but necessary.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

School's NOT Out for Summer (Schooling Year-Round)

As the traditional school year comes to a close and our year-round homeschool does not, I begin to question myself and reevaluate whether we are on the right course. Even all of my homeschool friends are counting the days until they are done for the year. As much as I would like to take a vacation from my teaching responsibilities, I feel like learning is a lifelong thing and we should never actually take a break from it. I find it hard to believe that my homeschooling friends truly take a break from learning either I think what they are really doing is taking a break from the schoolWORK. You know, the textbooks and curriculum and grading papers and making assignments. I can't blame anyone for that!

I really struggle with traditional schoolwork aspect of education. Part of me would love to see my children happily sitting at their little desks working away at above grade level curriculum each day. But the reality is that that is not always very fun. It can be so boring for the kids and therefore, they are not learning very much. It is also a lot of work planning and grading all those lessons not mention the pain in making the children get the work done when they would rather be doing other things. I remember how boring I thought much of my schoolwork was. What I don't remember is much of what I “learned” in that process. I feel like I am learning so much more with my kids now.

Part of me is very rebellious toward traditional education methods. I feel like so much of it is busy-work that doesn't engage real learning. I personally love to learn new things. Something will spark my interest and I learn about it. You would not believe all of the things that I dabble in. I am reading non-fiction books all of the time just to learn about stuff. Do I do this because it was assigned to me? Of course not! I do it because I want to. I do it because there is a reason to learn it because it will be a help in my life. As I think about it, this is the gift of education that I want to pass along to my kids. I want them to passionately want to know about and do things and have the skills to be able to learn them.

I am coming to realize that I could be classified as and “unschooler.” According to Wikipedia:
Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed playgame play,household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities led by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.”
Yep, that sounds a lot like me. I definitely am not a radical unschooler because things are not completely child led. When I see a need for my children to learn something in particular, I force my own agenda. The older children do use a math curriculum and we use various curriculums for different subjects during different seasons. I require reading, copywork, dictation, and some memorization. When the kids have an interest or questions about something we look up an answer. Google can be our best friend. If more interest is sparked, we utilize our local library to research more. Sometimes we get all school-ish with a subject doing more paperwork, but more often we just talk about it so I know that they understand it.

One thing I find is a big requirement for this type of education is a lot of one-on-one quiet time with God. Before each of my children were born, He knew their complete life-path. He knows exactly what they need to be equipped for the work He has for them.  So, that's what I am doing praying and thinking and listening.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm Back....

Why yes; yes I have fallen off the face of the earth.  
Life has just seemed crazy-busy lately.  I have resigned myself that with a houseful of children from young to old, life is gonna be full.  This is not my restful season of life.  Keeping up with day to day life has just been a big ol' challenge for me.  There is never a break from the meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, cleaning, laundry, child training, and more.  I know there are women who handle much bigger households much more efficiently than me, but for this only-child mom, managing a household of 8 people is very challenging.  I am figuring this all out as I go.  

So, blogging has taken a backseat. Pretty obvious when my last post was back in February.  (We did get rid of the lice, by the way.)  There are a lot of things that I love to do that I have had to set aside for a while.  I hope and pray that I can train myself and my family to be more organized so that I can pick them back up again because I really miss them!  Not doing much photography or any scrapbooking makes me feel like I have cut off an arm.  I will come back to it though.  I pray it can be soon.

Now that many of our outside activities are ending for the summer, I feel like I have just a bit more time.  I intend to use it to catch up on some much needed home organization and to do some projects that I have put off.  No, school is not ending for us, but it is shifting into a different, more relaxed mode.  I am loving it!  So, hopefully, I will be around the ol' blog more.  There are so many cool things that I have been learning that I would love to share here.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

They're back....

Perhaps it is inevitable when you have 6 active, social kids who are involved in things, but we are dealing with head lice in our house again. [big giant sigh]  Three years ago, we dealt with this in a big way and it was a bit of a nightmare.  Thankfully, we have caught it early this time and I pray have already nipped it. 

Tuesday morning as I was brushing my four year old, Rachel's, hair, Samuel began messing in my bathroom drawer and pulled out the Robi comb.  It made me think about the fact that we haven't done any head checks in quite a while.  Being the procrastinator that I am, I didn't intend to do them at that time either, but it was on the brain.  I think that is why I took notice of the teeny tiny speck I saw in Rachel's hair as I brushed.  It looked just like a nit (louse egg), but I'm thinking that it couldn't be, I just had lice on my mind..  So, I starting looking closer at her head.  I found more!  I was still having trouble believing it. I kept hunting for a live one.  I did eventually find a live baby.  Trying to stay calm, I checked everyone else.  Not a sign of anything on any other head.  Whew!

So, the work began.  I did a mayonnaise treatment on Rachel.  Mayo works great to kill any live lice on a head.  You slather it on thick from scalp to tips and wrap the head in plastic (a shower cap works great).  Although the mayo is not toxic, it smothers the lice.  They need air to survive.  After 8 hours or so, you wash it and the dead bugs out.  We found only one dead adult louse when we washed Rachel's hair out.  The mayo does not, however, kill the eggs so I spent an hour or so nit-picky her head.  I found about a dozen eggs and removed them.

We vacuumed everything in the house:  floors, furniture, pillows.  I tore apart the younger kids rooms completely.  Anything fabric that couldn't be washed in hot water and dried on high got quarantined in plastic bags in the attic.  They will stay there for 2 weeks.  Lice need heat and human blood to live.  I vacuumed, wiped everything.  As a bonus, it was a perfect opportunity to completely rearrange the kids' rooms which they had been bugging me to do anyway, but I didn't want to do without cleaning out all the toys.

All bedding along with comforters and extra blankets have been washed hot.  This is a lot because we like our extra blankets.  They are everywhere and we even have a big trunk FULL of afghans.  My washing machine is not fast; its shortest cycle takes 45 minutes.  I have been trying to keep right up with switching loads as soon as it is done, but this process is slow.  We are also washing all the towels, coats, pajamas and clothes that have been out in circulation the past few days.

Then there are all of the hair things:  combs, brushes, rubber-bands, hair pretties...  They either need to be boiled for 10 minutes, soaked in rubbing alcohol, or quarantined for 2 weeks.  I have been cleaning out every drawer where we keep this stuff.

Needless to say, I have been very busy the past couple of days!  There is much to be thankful for in all of this, though.  God is good!
  1. I caught this early and we are not dealing with an infestation affecting the whole house.  I believe it was by God's grace that I even looked.
  2. This happens to be a week without as many outside commitments as normal.  We have been able to stay home and deal with this.
  3. It has forced me to do some much overdue cleaning and organizing.  That does feel good!
I am praying that we have nipped this!  I am doing head checks every day and will continue to do so for the next couple of weeks.  Three years ago we went through lice hell.  We didn't discover it until we had a huge infestation and I didn't realize that all it takes is missing one egg for the process to restart two weeks later which it did for us.  I learned a lot through that process which I documented here: Head Lice: More than you ever wanted to know

Hopefully, you won't ever need this info. Gotta go; time to switch the laundry!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

POIIs...Points of Internet Interest

Here are a few interesting things I have discovered in my internet wanderings...

Theo Jansen's Strandbeests - It is amazing what this man can do with a bit of PVC pipe.  Truly incredible wind-powered kinetic sculptures.  I love how he says that designing them has giving him an appreciation for the design by The Creator.

Meal Planning with Google Calendar - something I have discussed here before.  Since acquiring a smartphone, I am trying to implement this again.  There are great links to other articles with advice on this, too.

Meal Planning Resources - great list of sites

Handy Reading Level Lists - I always find these little lists helpful when trying to direct my young readers.

Colleges and Universities that Offer Free Courses Online- another great web resource.  This one links to complete college courses available online.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thought for the day...

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.
~ Amy Carmichael

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homemade Rice Milk

As I have shared before, we have been trying to eliminate dairy in our house because of one of my daughter's allergy to it and because it is just overall a more healthy choice.  There are times, however, that you just want some milk for your oatmeal or cereal. We have bought soy milk, rice milk and almond milk, but they can get pretty pricey.  Well, I discovered that you can make these milks at home for a fraction of the cost and it is easy.  I shared some friends that I was making my own rice milk and they looked shocked.  "You make your own rice milk?"  They seemed impressed.  Well, once you hear how easy this is, you will find me very unimpressive. [wink]  AND you will think twice about spend $4 for a half gallon of it in the store.

Homemade Rice Milk

Step 1:  Cook up some brown rice.  I like to use my rice cooker, but any old way is fine.  Just follow the directions of the package.

Step 2:  Add 3 cups of your favorite water to your blender.

Step 3:  Add one cup of cooked brown rice to blender.

Step 4:  Blend.  Your water will turn white and milky fairly quickly.  I keep the blender running on high for several minutes to pulverize the rice thoroughly.

Step 5: Add flavorings if desired.  I usually add a squirt honey or agave nectar while the blender is still running.  If you like the vanilla flavor like they sell at the store, add a splash of vanilla extract, too.  You could even add chocolate if that's your thing.

Step 6:  Enjoy!  You can strain it if you want, but I don't find it is very gritty unstrained.  You can also just let it sit for a minute and let the things settle a bit.

See, I told you it was easy!  You can use this same technique for any grain based milk.  I plan on trying quinoa as another healthy alternative.  You can also use this method to make soy milk.  Just cook the soybeans and use them instead of rice.  You will probably find that you want to strain that, though.

Later I will share with you how to make almond milk as well as other nut milks.