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I tend to get more emails this time of year wanting to hear what resources and materials we’re using in our home. Early in this journey, I felt awkward sharing public details about our annual plans or routines. It sounds a little silly to me now, but it also reveals the level of insecurity I felt about charting an unknown course in such a public manner. If you scroll back far enough on these pages, you’ll find there’s no direct course at all, no magic trick to the best education, or must-use curriculum for every child or family. Routines and process have ebbed and flowed here with our family’s needs. As it turns out, the unknowns I felt so insecure about in the beginning have become the most important and life-giving element in this journey. What I have learned is this:

pay attention, recognize the needs in your home, and plan accordingly. Fear and doubt are prone to creep into any choice one makes, but they should never be the decision-makers. A beautiful story waits to unfold in those unknowns. 

As I mentioned here, Liam began high school this year, and aside from the emotional strangeness of entering his final years at home, I find myself stretched in a new way to meet the needs of a high school, junior high, and grammar school under one roof. It changes so quickly. They change so quickly. While I am no longer having to consider nap-times or potty training, I am now considering PSATs and college admissions and keeping transcripts right alongside reading and spelling lessons and experiential learning for my younger two.

I’m mentioning this because you’ll notice the shift here, even as I write out the resources we’re using this year. The boys are both in the Challenge program with Classical Conversations (at their request), and following a designed, socratic-style curriculum with a once/week classroom seminar. Their learning feels like an organic step from our home toward preparation for the college years, learning how to plan for deadlines, how to study or annotate a book, how to take notes in a class, how to form an argument and listen/respond to someone else’s, etc. Although the content they will be studying this year is selected ahead of time, the quality of what they learn is still largely dependent upon them, so they are slowly learning how to manage time and take responsibility for their education in a new way. Their descriptions below will feel more robust than the girls right now, simply because their curriculum is designed ahead of time, and the girls, who are still learning in a more self-directed manner appropriate to their ages are not. We will add activities or reading to their year more naturally as we go, instead of planning the entire course on the front end (which in past years has been too cumbersome for our home).

As for the way these two paths intersect in our home, I spend more time with the girls in their learning, whereas the boys are working far more independently. I am available to answer questions and help both the boys during the day, and I work with each of them on one seminar of their choice each day. All four children are still using Saxon math, and I will say, these teaching videos are life-saving for me!


Liam / Ninth Grade

Liam will began Classical Conversations Challenge 1 program this year. It’s a 30 week, one day/week program with seminar style classes, classical pedagogy, and a Christian worldview. There are six seminars covered each year in Logic, Grammar, Science, Rhetoric, Exposition/Composition, and Debate, although the specific content changes at each level. This year, the content will build around American government, economics, and literature. He will study (and memorize selection from) several American documents, the history and foundations of the US government and economy, read 20+ American novels, short stories, and essays exploring the relationship between government and freedom, which will also be the fodder for his writing of persuasive papers with the help of this writing curriculum. He will continue with Latin studies and also study drama and music theory, reading his first full-text Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew, three different times over the year with his class, and separately studying the connection between math and music. For math, we’ll continue with Algebra 1 and will use these teaching videos to help him with greater understanding, self-teaching, and review. Math is still his most challenging subject, but he’s committed to learning how to do it, which I love! He will also study Physical Science, learning to study from a textbook for the first time and also how to keep a formal lab notebook and write lab reports. Although some parts of the class divert from my own style (and pace!), this will be Liam’s third year in the Challenge program, and he absolutely loves it. His academic workdays are as full as they sound, and although it’s a lot to manage, he is rising to the occasion. The structure has been so good for the both of us in different ways. Plus, at almost fourteen, I’m grateful for him to have a peer class experience without other family members. He is also playing basketball this year, which has been good for so many reasons, and will be wrapping up his summer lawn business with Burke very soon.

Burke / Seventh Grade

Burke is beginning his first year in the CC Challenge program in Challenge A, at his choice, and he is also loving it! The seminar style learning and six classical blocks are the same in his level, although the content serves more as an introduction to several skills that carry through the program. He will begin Latin studies this year and will begin learning the structure of persuasive writing and rhetorical argumentation using the Lost Tools of Writing. The content for these papers derive from the 10 novels he reads for the course, many of which are favorites he’s already read and loves (i.e. The Magician’s Nephew; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, The Door in the Wall; Amos Fortune, Free Man; Number the Stars, to name a few). Science will be similar to what he has been doing already at home, studying the natural world and anatomy, researching, writing a weekly paper with illustrations, and presenting to the class. He is learning how to study texts and use a highlighting system for retention and review. He is also studying cartography, one of his favorite seminars, slowly learning to trace the entire globe, labeling all of the countries, provinces, and major features by memory. Burke wasn’t interested to play a sport this year, but he is interested in music. We’re not able to do music lessons for him quite yet, but I’m wanting to help him learn the keyboard or a string instrument on his own, maybe? If anyone has thoughts, I’d appreciate to hear them.


We have so many books and curriculums accumulated over the years, so this year, instead of purchasing new ones for the girls, I decided to simply go through our bookshelves together, asking them about their own interests. It’s been a refreshing way to approach the year, and I’ve been happily surprised by some of their choices. I have restocked supplies (paper, quad notebooks for math, art supplies and materials) and will seek out small things we may need as go, but for the most part, we’re using what we have already.

Blythe / Fifth Grade

Blythe will continue with the same pattern of notebooking this year––writing and illustrating her learning for this year. We’re still building her reading list for the fall, but there will be an assortment of literature in classics, science, history for her to choose from and copy/narrate passages. I plan to adapt some lessons in descriptive or analytical writing for her from this book, and she will begin studying grammar more formally this year, too, which she is excited about, preparing her for Latin in the upcoming years. I’m using an old edition of this guide from the class I used to tutor, but if you don’t have access, I highly recommend English Lessons Through Literature, as it’s a structured and gentle introduction. Spelling instruction is a must, although I’m not positive which curriculum/method I’ll use with her yet, we have a few and I’m sampling out to find the right one. Blythe loves drawing, painting, and hand-lettering and has been begging for art lessons the last two years. I’m so happy both girls will be taking a weekly art class this year, and I also purchased two new illustration books for her (this one and this one) to practice design and pattern. She will continue with Saxon Math 7/6 and she’s interested to go through this History of Science study she and the boys and I read through and loved a couple of years ago. I’m happy to enjoy it with her and Olive this year again!

Olive / Third Grade

Olive is still a busy bee and loves working with her hands, so all of her learning takes on a natural kinesthetic vibe. She will also be notebooking a couple of times a week from readings in literature, history, and science, and I imagine doing a lot of self-initiated crafts and forts. Wink. She is still growing in her confidence as a reader, so we’re pulling abridged classics from the shelf for her to practice reading aloud or independently. We are using this book for spelling and for reading practice with me. If you’re interested in hearing more about our family’s long journey in teaching reading, you may find this webinar helpful. She finished Saxon Math 3 over the summer, but I didn’t feel confident about her speed and confidence with multiplication facts to move onto 5/4, so we borrowed this math book from a friend (which we both love), and are spending this semester reviewing concepts and strengthening her fact skills. We’ll re-evaluate in January whether to begin 5/4 or do something else. We’re not doing any formal grammar this year. She’s not interested, and I honestly don’t find it necessary right now. It’s more important to me that she’s confidently reading (and enjoying it!) and practicing skills she’s interested in right now. I think having older children has made me appreciate how simple these years can be. She’s listening and enjoying the History of Science study with Blythe, and she decided she also wants to listen to this history on Ancient History (MP3 audiobook here) and trace maps. She refers to this as “her history.”  Like Burke, she has a general interest in music, but we havne’t been able to do formal lessons yet. I’m hopeful we can work something up here at home sometime this fall, but I’m open to feedback and ideas for any of you who may have them!

GENERAL SUPPLY + RESOURCE FAVORITES

Check out both of my Homeschool Gift Guides here and here. Or follow the bunny trail of past years here, here, and here.

Other helpful resources from friends: Wild+Free bundles. Jodi Mockabee’s “Schoolhouse Curiosities” guides. At Home podcast. Jennifer Naraki’s main lessons. The Peaceful Preschool and Playful Pioneers both here. Salty Tribe homeschool videos. And Pinterest.

I know it’s mid-June, and most every parent in the northern hemisphere has already blocked last school year out of their brain and moved into summer. But I discovered a drafted blog post I wrote in the fall talking about our plans, rhythm, and resources. Don’t ask why I never posted it. But anyway, I’ve tweaked it, more as a reflection of the past year, a broad reflection, to give you a better idea of how our year looked and our favorite resources. I had also begun a Civil War/slavery resource guide in the Spring, based on books our family read this year. Would that be helpful to share, too? Can you tell I’m recovering pace and reflecting right now? Wink. Either way, enjoy!


I have shared here and on Instagram thoughts about doing less in our homeschooling, about not having to accomplish everything in a day, a week, or even a year. I wanted to expand on that thought a bit here, too, as it feels ironic considering we were doing far more this last year than any other. What I mean is I would love to go back in time and assure that young, uncertain mother: it’s okay to not do everything right now. Now that my children are older and the oldest three are confident, independent readers, with my fourth also now entering more fluency, I understand how their capacity for learning has increased and blossomed and how my own has too. We can do more, not from a place of striving to do more and check off subjects, but because their natural capacity and curiosity has grown. For young families on this journey, please don’t belittle the power of quality play time, outdoor exploration, read aloud, and artwork. They take in SO much and all of you will enjoy the learning even more than tons of assigned paper work. Encourage your child’s love of reading as much as possible, as it will be the greatest asset to future learning of any sort as they grow.

It is difficult to discuss the way anyone chooses to educate their children without first acknowledging the temperament of the family members, and also the culture of the home. Some parents are more relaxed and some tend to worry. Some need high structure and others prefer to move on whim. None of us can be all or do it all. Nor do we need to. After the first five years of homeschooling, working to fit several wonderful curriculums into our day and cover all the subjects, I burned out and was even ready to throw in the towel altogether. I didn’t sense any of the creative freedom I had once imagined and prized in homeschooling. I felt boxed in by my plans and our segmented studies. I felt frustrated and grumpy. Exhausted and overwhelmed. Some of this had to do with other stressful circumstances our family was navigating at the time. My children seemed to be happy, but for the first time I wondered whether I actually had the capacity for homeschooling any longer. That was three years ago. We looked at school options for our children again, and once again did not feel peaceful about any of them. Instead I took a less obvious route and ditched almost everything we were doing: our weekly homeschool group with other families, my job tutoring other students, extra-curricular activities, and most formal curriculum. Although I still began the year with some plans and ideas, we paired down to formal lessons in only reading and math for the year and added space and time for more flexible read aloud, art, and outdoor play into our day again. I said no to a lot of my personal work and opportunities (so hard!) and most of my formal plans went out the window. I learned instead to listen to the needs of our home, to listen to my own soul’s needs. Over the course of that initial year, my heart began to grow and I fell in love with homeschooling again.

In the last three years, here’s what I’ve learned about myself and our home: I won’t stick too closely with rote plans, even the best ones. I love the hands-on approach of Montessori, the seasonal attentiveness and artwork/handwork of Waldorf, the literature in Charlotte Mason, and the skeletal strength of classical education––and I’m learning better all the time how to glean the things we love in each area. And of course, never belittle the quality of natural learning.


OUR CURRENT FAMILY RHYTHM

I realize it’s now mid-June, and many homes have already moved into their own summer rhythms, some choosing to put aside their formal learning for a while and others choosing an annual approach. I typically try to get a post of this nature out before the school year instead of near the end, more in sync with all the questions I receive about curriculum and routine, but I figured it might interest to some of you in the coming months as you think about your own home and homeschool. I’m also writing up some ideas and thoughts on our summer, too, since I have received many questions about what summer will look like for our family. So stay tuned.

Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what this last school year would look and feel like, as so much has changed for our home last year. To begin, Mark is now working from home and homeschooling the children in the morning while I work––(inserts: streamers and high fives for so many reasons). Liam just finished a Challenge B course with Classical Conversations at his request the year before for Challenge A, taking a once a week seminar-style class on his own with friends and learning so many new things and skills at home through research, writing, and discussion. The work load has been a big change for our home’s rhythm, but he loves it! My sister and her family recently moved down the street from us and also began homeschooling her younger children, so Olive spends an hour or so in the morning at her house down the street, practicing reading, handwriting, and playing. In the afternoon, her son Shepherd joins all of us for read-aloud, nature study, and mapping. This is a gift for our social seven/eight year olds, and a logistical help to both of us right now. And a few times a month, our family meets with friends for nature school, enrichment projects, field trips, and presentations of our week’s work––a way for them to play with and learn from friends and also share their work. The pace of our days have changed, but it’s good.

Writing this out, it sounds like we do a lot. A whole lot. But we don’t accomplish all of it in a day. Some things might not even happen each week. We have foundational skills each child works through daily, Monday through Thursday: Latin, Logic, and Pre-Algebra for Liam; math, spelling, handwriting, and independent reading for Burke and Blythe, and reading practice, math, and handwriting for Olive. Different books are often read aloud in the morning, afternoon, and before bed because we love it! And that’s it! Everything else [illustration, handwork, grammar, copywork and writing, mapping, nature study] feels like a wonderful bonus, and they cycle through our week in intervals, often only once or twice a week. Also many practices overlap with the other; for instance, the kids will sketch or paint or practice their handwork while I read aloud. We try to read books aloud that tell us about history, people, and different cultures. Those books serve as a springboard for other valuable self-directed activities, too. For younger families, take the pressure off yourself to do or study everything.

With four children spanning age 8 to 13, the skills and needs vary so much. I’ve learned so much about understanding home rhythms from reading about Waldorf and Charlotte Mason guides. Much of it is intuitive, but I’ve found it’s helpful to focus our routine around the energy and pace of our home rather than a particular subject. It is an art I’m still learning. Here’s roughly how our day rhythm was structured this last year, with resources included below.

8:00 am | THE MORNING TABLE a nurtured beginning

We do our best to begin at a consistent time in the morning, although it does flex a bit. We eat a simple breakfast together, read 1-2 chapters of the Bible together, practice memory work, and pray together. We try to bless our children into the day, briefly speaking something true and encouraging over them. I hope this beginning to our day will happen more often outdoors as the days begin to cool off. It always seems easier to wake up outdoors.

8:30 am | MORNING RHYTHM  focus + independence

maths, logic, independent reading and read aloud (emphasis: 19th century history and literature), spelling, handwriting, play

For our home, it has always turned out well to begin with the work that requires the most focus and attention. After a full night’s sleep, our brains tend to be most alert. Coffee can help make up the difference for the adults. Wink. Young children and toddlers tend to be more calm and happy, too, making it easier to carve out a small window for a brief reading or math lesson with an older child or for self-directed play/learning. As mentioned, Mark leads this part of the day right now. They do not necessarily keep with a rigid schedule for the morning, although they tend to begin with math and carve out generous time mid-morning for read aloud in the backyard. In the morning this year, we read books aloud about or written in the 19th century––i.e., Of Courage Undaunted about Lewis and Clark; SALT: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War about friendship and the war of 1812, Frankenstein, and more about Commodore Perry, Napoleon, Queen Victoria, and several books surrounding the Civil War this last Spring.

Burke and Blythe also have a mixture of assigned and self-selected independent reading covering the same time period, which they find time for at some point in the morning, often while Mark is working through a Logic lesson with Liam. Burke and Blythe are also responsible to read aloud to Olive a bit each day, a way for them to practice their own intonation and storytelling and also connect with their younger sister. All of our children struggle with spelling––don’t ask why––so it’s something we try to practice a bit each day.

We give each of our children a lot of flexibility in how they work through their more intensive morning work, but we strongly encourage each to respect one another’s work and to pay attention to what others are doing when you enter a space. At age eight, Olive has the least amount of independent work, so we encourage her to self-directed play, handwork, or art while she waits for a playmate. She also spends an hour or so at my sister’s each morning for a reading lesson with her cousin and free play, which is such a gift for her social self. Throughout the day, we encourage a lot of play, and when Mark or I notice any of the kids struggling to focus, we tend to send them outdoors to romp around a bit, to get their heart pumping and lungs breathing deeply.

NOON   | THE RESTING TABLE an intentional pause

We keep meals easy at lunch, often sandwiches or leftovers or bento-style, and everyone makes their own. At this time I try to wrap up whatever I’ve been working on and swap roles with Mark. We try to clean up from the morning, although that doesn’t often happen, and also save texting and emailing for this time.

1:00 pm | AFTERNOON RHYTHM  exploration + expression

read aloud of children’s classics and the Holling books, handwork, map work, painting, nature study, grammar, writing, Latin, play

After lunch, there’s always a different sort of energy, more erratic and noisy, so we save the more expressive and active learning for this time. Since our home is no longer a napping home (insert: tears), we try to help the kids notice when they need quiet or a break from the crowd. Mark built a few tables for Liam’s party, and we moved one inside to replace the old preschool sized table before it. I keep a pile of our favorite illustrated nature books there with a wooden tote of colored pencils and paint brushes and a stack of thick cardstock nearby on the shelf. We don’t have much formal nature study, so I encourage them to flip through the books and sketch/paint whatever interests them while I read aloud ( The Wind and the Willows, Dicken’s A Christmas CarolLittle Women, or books from the library). On the charmed weather days, we’ll take the wooden tote and nature books to the backyard to sprawl out on blankets, using a slab of plywood for a desk surface. The kids might also carve wood or weave during this time, too.

One day a week, instead of The Wind and the Willows, we read a bit of a Holling C. Holling book, using the book and this study as a guide through US geography. We read and mapped Paddle-to-the-Sea , Tree in the Trail, Minn of the Mississippi, and Seabird. It was wonderful! Several people have asked me about the maps we used, and I highly recommend them. I didn’t purchase them at first because of the expense and also the want for my children to create their own maps, but I changed my mind in the first few weeks and am so pleased! They’re beautiful and large enough for all age groups. And my kids love mapping!

What happened after this depended on the day, my energy, and the spirits in the home so it’s hard to write out neatly here. Sometimes we stop after read aloud. Sometimes we go for a walk or to the park. Sometimes we meet up with friends. But I tried to practice writing with the youngest three and my nephew once or twice a week, as it is a foundational skill of expression:

Burke + Blythe | In the fall, one to two days a week, I pulled a couple of sentences from whatever they read that day, dictated one sentence each for them to write on our chalk wall. We parse it together and discuss the parts of speech and jobs of the words. It takes 10-15 minutes. It’s a natural and brief extension to our reading and a preparation for when they begin foreign languages. One afternoon a week, they write a paragraph or two about their reading (any reading). I often help them draft an outline and they write it on their own and I revise it with them. I’m not using a formal curriculum for any of this, but if you prefer one, I highly recommend English Lessons Through Literature for a gentle approach to language, which I wrote more about here (diagramming begins at level 3). Also, the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) has a geography-based writing curriculum that compliments the Holling Geography study.

Olive + Shepherd | Two afternoons a week, they copy a couple of sentences from our reading and illustrate it. We tried to organically discuss parts of speech, but I let that go sometime in the fall. We stuck to writing and illustration primarily.

Liam | Liam did much more of his work independently this year. In the afternoon, I quizzed his Latin vocab or checked his translation/parsing, read his writing and helped him think through his composition/research papers. This often times might happen organically during dinner meal-prep or in another setting.

4:00pm | CLEAN-UP

5:00pm | MEAL PREP + PLAY

6:00pm | THE EVENING TABLE unwind + reflect

We each share our best/worst part of the day, and often eat with another family or friends. The kids play afterward and we bathe and have read aloud. We’ve read the entire Wingfeather Saga this last year and loved it! We’re finishing book four this month. I highly recommend it for family read aloud.


RESOURCES

mathSaxon math for all the kids. It’s rote and straightforward, but it works for us. If you have younger children, here’s something I wrote about introducing math concepts without a curriculum. If teaching math overwhelms you, I also recommend Teaching Textbooks as a helpful alternative.

reading lessons | My sister is using All About Reading with the kids, which is wonderful if you or your children love all the activities. Last year I used Reading Lessons Through Literature and loved it. I did fill in the gaps in places where I felt she needed extra practice.

read aloud and independent reading| reading lists from Tapestry of Grace, Ambleside Online, and our own personal love of literature and research

spelling | word lists from Reading Lessons through Literature; also recommend All About Spelling 

geography | Beautiful Feet Books

writing + grammar | taken from reading

nature study | exploration + quality nature books

extras this year | canoe trip, apiary, participated in A Christmas Carol play, seaside daytrip, trip to Gettysburg and Washington DC, flower studies

National School Choice Week | How We Began HomeschoolingNational School Choice Week | How We Began HomeschoolingSeveral times in recent months, I have been quieted by the thought that Mark and I can choose how we educate our children, not simply the methodology we follow but to homeschool at all. Even on the hard days––and there are hard days––it is such a privilege. The choice itself is a privilege. For a week each January, National School Choice Week, a non-partisan, non-political effort, seeks to raise public awareness about the variety of educational options for children. Schools, organizations, homeschool groups alike host events nationwide hoping to empower parents with the positive educational options for their children. Last year they hosted nearly 17,000 events, and next week, January 22-28, 2017, one will more than likely be happening near you. If you are interested to know who is participating in your area, here is an event map for you. Today, in my own effort to celebrate the freedom of educational choice, I thought I’d share a bit of our own family’s story, how we arrived at homeschooling these last nine years.

It sometimes surprises people that I never intended to homeschool. In fact, not long after Liam’s birth, on a day when I sat nestled in a bookshop corner reading with him sleeping on my chest, a clerk paused me for brief conversation, wherein she asked if I planned to homeschool him. I politely laughed. Homeschool? Probably not. Truthfully, I hadn’t even thought of school options yet. At that point, I was more concerned with showering regularly and sleeping through the night again. I didn’t know anything about homeschooling, let alone whether I was committed to that choice yet, and what little I had observed until that point seemed altogether unappealing. How could I do it with children at different ages? How could I have a life outside of it? How would I know what to teach them? Aren’t homeschooled children socially disconnected? Aren’t they a bit weird?

National School Choice Week | How We Began HomeschoolingNational School Choice Week | How We Began Homeschooling

A few years later, after two family moves and with two more children, I found myself in another conversation with new friends about homeschooling. Liam, my oldest was three and attending a two-day week preschool we loved, a godsend for me in the new transition of three children [in three years]. Kindergarten was growing closer by the day, and suddenly, the school conversation seemed more relevant. Listening to my friends’ conversation and excitement around homeschooling, I couldn’t help my internal naysayer. Do people really do this? Is homeschooling really an option for our family? I understood why people might be drawn academically to homeschooling. At that point, I worked part-time at a local college tutoring in writing and grammar. I experienced the callousness of classroom learning in the students’ attitudes, their lack of preparation and skill. I met many students who had only read one or two books in their entire high school experience, and others who hadn’t been required to read anything more than excerpts from anthologies. With access to computers, most of them didn’t understand the point of reading or of literary analysis. Many didn’t even know why they were there. I certainly understood the academic allure of homeschooling. But what about team sports and school lunch? What about recess and school plays? What about my own time for self, for errands, for personal work? For the most part, I had a positive school experience; wouldn’t my children? I felt stumped.

The following year, Liam returned to preschool two days a week, but sometime mid-fall, he began asking to stay home with us. His teacher, an absolutely precious woman who adored Liam, assured me he was enjoying the days there, but all of these previous conversations began to rattle in me. Was homeschooling an option?  With Liam’s first school years nearing, I began doing my homework, reading books from the library, beginning with The Homeschool Option, a wonderful overview of different ways to homeschool, and then onto John Holt’s How Children Learn and  Teach Your OwnSusan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained MindLeigh Bortin’s The Core, and Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion eventually so many more in Montessori and Waldorf methods. I looked into our state requirements for homeschooling, surprised to discover how homeschool-friendly our state is. My ideas about homeschooling were evolving. I began doing a reading lesson with Liam a few times a week, which he loved some days and hated others. I immediately had to deal with my own expectations and how this journey would look in our home. I was pregnant with our fourth child and could for the most part only imagine napping during the lulls in our day, not making space for a reading lesson. But we kept at it anyway.

National School Choice Week | How We Began HomeschoolingNational School Choice Week | How We Began HomeschoolingNational School Choice Week | How We Began HomeschoolingDuring the preschool year while we deliberated about what to do, Liam continued at his two-day preschool, supplemented with afternoon reading lessons with me, and plenty of art time and outdoor play with his brother just 17 months younger. I used Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years to help guide a few simple hands-on activities. Mark and I also set up tours with several local schools, inquiring about the language immersion program versus the traditional classroom at our local neighborhood school. We visited a few private schools, too, talking with teachers and directors, observing and wondering where our son fit best. I was amazed by the variety of options and diverse experiences. There were schools I quickly crossed off the list, like the one where we were escorted on a tour by a woman in a fur shrug and stilettos. I knew quickly that environment wouldn’t complement our casual, relaxed home atmosphere, no matter how beautiful the classroom or how advanced the technology. There were schools with open concept classrooms and multiple teachers and children working on the floor instead of a desk. There were classrooms that included a child-sized kitchen and personal gardens, where the children were encouraged in independence. There were schools that included daily lessons in French and Spanish, and different schools that issued each child their own laptop or iPad and focused on STEM learning. There were classrooms with igloos made of milk cartons and others with international flags sprawling the walls. Classrooms with traditional desks or tables and ones with only carpet mats.  Uniforms. No uniforms. Neighborhood schools. Schools on the other side of town. I realized, even in our small town, there were several options for us to choose from, options that would require us to know our budget, our family goals, and ultimately, our children. Where would they thrive best? We had to make a choice. Based on Liam’s kinesthetic learning style, difficult time with traditional worksheet methods of learning, and his love of play and art, we chose to homeschool him, knowing three more siblings would be following close behind, too. He loved being at home and was as excited as we were for this option.

I would love to tell you I began homeschooling confident of my abilities, or even confident that we had made the right choice. I didn’t. We began homeschooling as an experiment, with more questions than answers, more ideals than facts. But nine years later, with many soul-searching moments, conversations, research, and prayer, we’re still here, finding this path meandering and growing right with us. While in the early years, I wavered often, especially on the hard days, wondering if we were doing the right thing. I can see the gift of those years now, how precious the experiences with my children are to each of us now, especially the more challenging obstacles. My children have seen me at my best and worst, and likewise for them; they have watched me try new ideas and encourage their own. The beauty of beginning something new together is that the journey has a way of growing us together. For us, this journey is about more than academics and social protocol. Homeschooling is about relational connection, about enjoying their childhood and young adult years together.

The Choice to HomeschoolLast week, we began our school routine again, awkwardly fumbling to find our rhythm for the new year. I grabbed my camera on Thursday afternoon, a random day with nothing extraordinary planned outside of our home. I watched each child toggle from independent artwork or play toward connection with one another, sharing a book or baking a pie together. They don’t always get along. Some days our lessons are more focused on serving one another, on kindness, on attitudes of the heart. These too are preparing them for independent lives outside our home one day, and I’m grateful. Other days we have rich dialogues about ideas and stories we’re reading together. We practice difficult skills in language and mathematics and more practical ones in wood carving or in learning to sew. It is an eclectic path, the most unexpected gift. I will never romanticize this homeschool journey for others. It is hard work and demanding of every resource, but it has empowered me as a parent, taught me how to trust instinct, an instinct that a random bookshop clerk seemed to intuit in me so many years ago.  


This post is sponsored by National School Choice Week, a non-partisan, non-political awareness effort about the variety of educational options. All thoughts and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the organizations and businesses that help keep this space afloat.

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Everyone relates to planning differently. Some depend on it. Others despise it. I’m definitely in the “I love plans” group, but I also love change and spontaneity–go figure. I enjoy re-creating old ideas and nurturing self-directed learning in my children within a little structure, so in our homeschool days, it’s best for me to have structure with flexibility, days or blocks of time that can be shifted around when necessary without throwing everything into chaos. Plans may give you chills and cause paralysis. If that’s the case, please know that the greatest gift you can give your children and family is to understand your own family style and pace. Be challenged and stretched and inspired by others, but always understand what your own family and children need, and build your own style around it. That’s my disclaimer, otherwise, I hope this inspires you. It’s long, but fairly thorough so grab a cup of coffee. Also feel free to ask questions in the comments if you feel they might be helpful to other readers, or you can of course email.

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As I mentioned here, last year was a harder year for us.  I felt burned out and tired by what we had been doing (even though they were good and worthy things) the previous years. We had also moved twice within one year, which I know added a bit of hardship, too. We decided to rest from the local Classical Conversations group we helped start and enjoy a little time experimenting with other interests we have as a family, namely the arts. As Lilian kindly commented in that post last May, I should refer to last year as a sabbatical year, and honestly, that’s exactly what it was. We had an unset routine with little scheduling (or screen time) and worked in some way each day reading, exploring, and building. By the end of the year, I had a better idea of what my children needed in our learning and how we moved through our days in our new home. I also knew we needed more structure and sharper boundaries between work and rest.

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This summer, I’ve been gathering notes and reflections from our years of home education. I loved the way art and creativity was again a norm in our days last year and wanted that to remain an integral part to our learning. I decided to save money for better quality art supplies and tools. I had also been cleaning out and ordering our home last spring after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was such a valuable resource concerning our homeschooling materials. I knew there were a lot of things and books on our shelves taking up space physically and emotionally that we no longer used–or worse had never used at all. So I took the room apart and went through each bit Marie Kondo style, asking myself what really brings value/joy to our learning versus what feels burdensome or even a haunting reminder of what I’m NOT doing. This took me two weeks, but was so worthwhile. As I put the book and tools on our shelves, it helped give me a clear picture of learning together, of organizing our academic year around these specific tools and ideas. Below I’ve included our own family’s ideal plan for this year, followed by the resources we’ll be using. I’m sharing them in hope they inspire and somehow compliment your own planning this year.

Some of you have asked how I have time to write or photograph or blog, so I’ll add a bit of that here, too. I generally wake up at 5am, sometimes a little earlier, during the week. I often write or edit photos or answer emails during this time. This year, I’ll be alternating those morning wake-ups with running or meditative yoga, as a way to take care of myself and nurture my own time with Jesus. I’m not a morning person, but I am more introverted, which simply means having time alone before my children wake up sets my spirit and mind in a good place to begin another day. I usually leave my big camera nearby us so I can grab a quick shot when the moments present themselves. My phone is usually in my back pocket, and this summer I’ve been practicing leaving it there more. I love the connections I’ve made and inspiration online, but sometimes I can lose important time there. So there’s that.

7:00 am | MEET AT THE TABLE

7:30 am | MEMORY WORK

8:oo am | READING, SPELLING, HANDWRITING

9:00am | MATH

10am | NATURE

10:30 am | ENGLISH LANGUAGE

11am (on TR) | HAND WORK

NOON | LUNCH

1:30 am | SCIENCE or HISTORY [alternate days M-R]

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TABLE MEETING

I know, I know. 7 am feels too early to formally begin a day, and honestly, I would prefer to begin sometime between 8 and 9. But my husband has to leave  for work around 7:15/20, and I discovered during our Spring semester, our days go smoother when we all begin together. Plus it’s a small way to connect him with the rest of our day since he works full-time outside of our home. During these first 30 minutes, the kids arrive to the table dressed, teeth brushed, and beds made. We eat a simple breakfast together, read a portion of the Bible together, and pray. This is short and sweet, but still meaningful way to begin. The children will each be in charge of making one breakfast/week, but I will share that in a different post.

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MEMORY WORK

Although what we memorize changes, memory work has and will always be a part of our learning. There’s plenty of research about the value of memorizing during early years, and the funny part is CHILDREN NATURALLY LOVE TO MEMORIZE and feel accomplished when they can recite for others. We currently have three parts to our family’s memory work: Bible, poetry, and historical timeline. When possible, I try to find a song or a rhythm to help make this time more engaging or easier for them to recall. We’ll begin with memorizing Proverbs 3 this fall. Each of the children will work on their own poetry. Liam most recently memorized “If” by Rudyard Kipling (a poem each of our children will be required to memorize) and is now working on Psalm 1. Burke is currently working on “If,” and the girls will begin with shorter works from Robert Louis Stevenson and Christina Rossetti, both included in their language studies. We’ll be using Classical Conversation’s historical timeline, which includes 161 major events and dates, set to music. They also have timeline cards, which have the historical event, time period, and a painting/sculpture from a famous artist representing the event. I’m not sure if this resource is available to people not involved in a CC community, and if not Veritas Press offers something similar.

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READING | SPELLING | HANDWRITING

My three oldest are excellent, fluent readers, a huge milestone in our home education journey. Olive is a beginning reader and should be moving into early chapter books sometime this year. I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for my boys, which was wonderful for reading but seemed to leave a gaping hole in their spelling. For the girls, I wanted to move back into memorizing phonograms and learned of the Spalding method. However, I was so intimidated by the methodology, texts, and workshops introducing it. Instead, I used All About Reading for my girls, which felt like a slower, but more methodical path to reading. They both have a better understanding of word segmenting (sounding out words) and spelling. I used All About Spelling for my oldest three and loved it for the same reason. They’re both a solid, multi-sensorial introduction to building and decoding words. That said, I’ve struggled with how time consuming both programs are, especially with four children at different levels needing their own lessons. It took forever, which also makes it difficult for consistency. This year we’ll be using Reading Lessons Through Literature for all of my children, expecting to consolidate time between reading, spelling, and writing practice. It is a spelling introduction to reading, which I also expect will give my readers a stronger foundation in spelling. The older children will quickly review all of the phonograms and word lists, while Olive will move more slowly at her own pace. For handwriting, we’ll continue using Handwriting Without Tears methods, a program I highly esteem and wrote about for an upcoming article in Wild+Free, but will practice writing using sandpaper letters, chalkboards, and our own primary composition notebooks. The older three will review print letters and practice cursive more intently.

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MATH

We have and still use Saxon math. It is a non-frilly, but thorough math program that we use because it’s what I know at this point. Olive is finishing up Math 1 and will be moving to Math 2 sometime this year. The younger ages provide worksheets for them to use, which I enjoy as she’s still learning to write. For the older three, using Math 5/4 and up, they each have a large, quad-ruled composition notebook, where they write out their daily work. Over the last year, I’ve tried to add more application and play into our maths, inspired by Montessori and Waldorf methodology. After reading books and researching on Pinterest this summer, I plan to add more projects for my non-worksheet loving children, which I’m excited about.

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NATURE

This will be a more fluid rest period after a more focused morning of work. We’ll always be outside during this time, running, playing, collecting, building, painting, etc with nature. Essentially, I wanted a time for the children (and myself) to interact with nature in a way that we need for that day. Sometimes this might evolve into its own study, but more often I imagine observation, play, and enjoyment of the seasons.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Last year, we used Michael Clay Thompson’s Island series for our language study, a more gentle and story-filled approach to language, diagramming, and writing. This year, I’ll be using English Lessons Through Literaturesomething I’m very excited about again for its consolidation. The lessons are only three days a week, the reason our language block will be longer on MWF mornings. On TR, each child will complete their reading for the next lesson, practice their memory work, and do a bit of copywork or dictation. We will study works of art, read classical children’s literature, memorize and read poetry, and also learn (or review, for the boys) the parts of speech and sentence diagramming. Most of their writing will be kept in a large composition notebook. However, every book they read and poem they memorize will be copied/narrated and illustrated on single paper with watercolor, crayons, or pencils for them to keep. These will be kept in a separate binder. Although we used notebooks for this last year, the kids were frustrated when their paintings or illustrations bled onto the next page. Ideally, this will curb that problem. Wink.

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HAND WORK

We added more hand work and home skills into our learning last year, and we all loved it! But there are so many skills I don’t know myself, so this year I wanted to build in a more formal time for learning new skills together. This fall, we plan to begin with sewing, pottery, and candle-making. For Christmas, we plan to give each of the children their own straight knife (yikes, I know!) and to introduce wood carving and weaving in the spring. Although hand work will be apart of the children’s routine everyday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings will be a more focused time to learn together.

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SCIENCE

Most of our studies in science have been through experience, nature walks, and books. We’ll definitely be continuing that this year using Nature Anatomy, Farm Anatomy, and Animalium. Gardening is a large part of our scientific learning, and this year I hope to include more of their own artwork and learning in its own binder (much like the language binder). They won’t carry around the binder, only add to it when they finish their artwork or writing. This will work both as a record of our personal garden space and their own reference for the future. The older children will also be reading biographies and doing small experiments about several pivotal scientists in history. The History of Science as a guide for this, learning about the ancients such as Archimedes, Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Galen to Galileo and Di Vinci and more modern inventors like Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, and Benjamin Franklin. Some of this reading we will do together, and some they will read on their own. Narrating/summarizing and painting/illustrating will be a part of this process, too. Mostly, I hope this study will help them understand the connection of thought and scientific breakthrough in a bigger picture, to see how one idea builds off of another.

HISTORY

We still love The Story of the World and will continue with Early Modern history two afternoons a week this year. We will keep track of our history readings as well, but I’m still waiting to see in which way works for us. I do know we’ll create some sort of project around our studies for the week, making sure our hands stay as busy as our minds.

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PUTTING IT ON PAPER

I’ve written before about planning on paper. It’s a simple way for me to gather ideas and for the children to see what they’re doing in a day. If and when we don’t finish an area of work, I either let it go or begin there the next day. I created this sheet really quickly using a table in Google docs and made one for each day of the week.

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TOOLS + SUPPLIES

In terms of art supplies, we’re using Lyra Rembrandt pencils, Stockmar watercolor paint and crayons, cardstock and watercolor paper. My oldest will use charcoal sticks a bit more to work on form drawing. Each of the kids have their own set of watercolor paint jars and will eventually have their own carving knives, but they will share the pottery wheel, weaving looms, and general art supplies.

OTHER RESOURCES

Here are some of my favorite helpful references for practical homeschooling and home ideas. I write monthly for Wild+Free and Babiekins Magazine’s blog right alongside several other inspiring parents. There are a plethora of creative homeschoolers on Instagram and you can find several following links connected to the print and blogs below. I hope these offer you much as you prepare for another academic year. Happy planning, friends!

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Wild+Free | Babiekins “schoolkins” features | Taproot magazine | The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Shafer

BLOGS

If you haven’t read Jodi Mockabee’s last blog post, you should. She’s a long-time online friend and homeschooling powerhouse. You’ll notice several of our resources happen to overlap, which I love. She steered me toward the language lesson books, which I’m thrilled to be using this year. (Thanks Jodi!)  I also highly recommend Kirsten Rickert’s blog (another brilliant online friend turned real friend) who always draws attention to the earth and art in learning. More recently Kirsten has been including a variety of contributors around specific themes, such as honey and water.

Happy planning, friends!

 

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When friends who don’t homeschool first hear that I do, if they don’t immediately respond with the socialization question (which is merely a polite way of saying, “aren’t you afraid your kids are going to be weird/not fit in when they’re older?”), then they usually respond something like,  “Wow, I could never do that; you’re so much [braver, more patient, more creative, etc] than I am.”  Although the latter comments do boost my ego, I figured it’s time for me to deflate the mythos they’re cultivating and tell the truth: I’m really not. I’ve written before how I unexpectedly stumbled into this uncharted world (uncharted for me anyway), but as with most things, the longer I do something, the more I realize how little I actually know about this something — a trend in my DIY parenting style for sure. But “homeschooling” really is such a deceiving term, leading most of us to believe it’s simply school work done at home. But that’s only a part. For our family, it’s better described as an extension of our parenting; thus, education becomes a broader word touching all parts of our lives and the ways the Lord speaks to us through them, whether it’s by spelling, gardening, Latin, learning how to clean up after ourselves, tie our shoes, or love others.  And we are still in the wee stages of learning all these things.

Classical Conversations

“Sure, but what is it that you actually do everyday?” Much like our children, no two days look exactly the same (although at some point I will record one or two of our days to give an example), but there are some constants in all of our flexibility.  I follow a classical model of education doused with inspiration from the Waldorf and Montessori approaches. For the last three years, we have met with a local Classical Conversations community once a week. There, our kids meet in classrooms of 8 kids with a tutor who introduces them to their memory work for the week, mostly through singing or a fun rhyme. The parents stay in the classrooms and participate with their kids and tutor, where we also learn new things much of the time (wink).  CC really has been such a wonderful constant for our family; in addition to the kids’ weekly presentations in front of their classes, science experiments, and fine art projects, they are learning other practical skills like walking in a line and raising their hand when they need to share something with the larger group (things we don’t do at home). So part of our mornings at home or in the car, we review our CC memory work: facts in history, English grammar,math, Latin, geography, Bible passages, and a historical timeline.

 How that Translates to OUR Home

Reading really is the backdrop of our home-school. We read everything from the comics to novels to biographies to picture books to news articles to history and science encyclopedias. We read aloud. We read silently, sometimes alone and other times side-by-side. We try to discuss some elements of at least one, usually brief, narrative each day (characters, setting, conflict/problem, climax, resolution, and something the story might be trying to teach us), which is actually much simpler than it sounds: “Who’s in the story?Where does it take place? What problem does this character(s) have? Is there a surprise in the story? A place where the story/character changes? How is the problemeventually resolved; is it resolved? What is this story saying to us? Is it trying to teach us something?” Even Olive can participate in this activity. And now that the boys are reading larger chapter books on their own, I try to have the same sort of discussion with them after they’ve finished. This way I can check their comprehension of the story, and they can practice narration skills and identifying the “skeleton” of a story (although they don’t yet recognize that’s what they’re doing). Plus, sharing in their enjoyment of a book just makes me giddy.

I structure very few “lessons” for the kids: only spelling, handwriting, and math, for the most part. It’s seems too stressful otherwise, especially with little Olive’s limited attention span and longing to create her own activity. We begin each morning all together (with my cup of coffee) reading the Bible, sharing what we’re thankful for on that morning, and of course, prayer. Because you know, I need it: prayer coupled with thanksgiving. Then we fill the rest of our day with poetry memorization, history and science readings (usually while building Legos or creating play-dough sculptures), spelling lessons, dress-up, reading & reading games, drawing or painting, math, plenty of outdoor play, hand/writing, eating, emailing, and eventually having to clean it all up again. It feels about like that, only louder and messier, as each of these things overlaps the other.

The “Prepared Environment”

I repurposed one of our bedrooms two years ago to design a “prepared environment,” as Maria Montessori refers to it, the place where each of the kids can initiate their own activities and learning, the place where we spend most of our mornings now.

Early Childhood Resources I Recommend

I could go on about the logistics of our day, but that may be as boring for you to read as it is to write. Besides, if you’re still reading, I’m quite impressed. I never have been one for monotony. But I did want to share a few of my favorite resources for teaching young children. Resources that are valuable for ALL families with young children, not just home-schoolers. (And just to clarify, I’m not receiving anything for suggesting these to you.)

Nurturing Competent Communicators (1 hour long audio by Andrew Pudewa)

Reading Comprehension from Seuss to Socrates (1 hour long audio by Adam Andrews)

Teaching the Classics (by Adam Andrews) A more expanded seminar than the audio above. He teaches you how to discuss literature with your kids, regardless of their age. If you’re at all intimidated about discussing literature, this is worth looking into, even for your own enjoyment and education!

Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization –(by Andrew Pudewa; these are the sample pages at the beginning of the book. To purchase or listen to sample audio, go here.)

Handwriting Without Tears (K-5) / Get Set For School (3-4 year olds) : I LOVE this program! It’s a multi-sensory approach to learning handwriting and early math skills. They have several demo videos on their website to help you use their products, too. The workbooks have plenty of repetition with pictures to color along the way; older levels include more copy-work and dictation.

All About Spelling Another multi-sensory approach, with tons of repetition; I LOVE it! She’s recently developed a complimentary reading program, but I haven’t tried it out. I’m sure it’s also wonderful.

Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer Here she explains the value and know-how to building a confident young writer. If you are homeschooling, she has workbooks that compliment if you don’t feel comfortable selecting your own texts.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons There are several wonderful reading programs out there. My kids enjoyed this one the most and it had some of the least amount of preparation for me — that I can always get behind.

Take It To Your Seat Phonics Centers This book comes with pre-made folder games, you cut out and glue to a manilla folder. All the games are self-check. These games are very helpful when you have multiple little ones at the same time, plus they reinforce the skills their already learning through reading and spelling.

Montessori for Everyone A website full of beautiful, colorful printables in all sorts of subjects.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: Preschool Years (by Elizabeth Hainstock) She gives you some very practical, easy-to-follow ways to apply Montessori theory at home with little ones.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions (or comments), please feel free to leave them in the comments section! I

When people ask me, “How did you decide to homeschool?” I’m still stumped. Usually (because I don’t go into as much detail with everyone), I  begin with you, Liam, and the conversation I had with your pre-K teacher so many years ago after you had told me you didn’t like school and just wanted to stay home. I didn’t understand: Your teacher, also an artist, adored you, always doting on your love for storytelling and art. She would tell me, “I give Liam as much time as possible in the art and writing centers because he doesn’t seem to want to do much else.” You have always been fearlessly independent, easily engaging new people, so I knew this dread of school was due to neither a fear of leaving me/home nor a lack of affection within your pre-school environment. Dad and I went back to the drawing board, so to speak. We had friends who had or were planning on home-schooling, and this was the first time I actually began thinking about it as an option for you. I started reading, of course. First, I borrowed a brief book from a friend journeying through several different families’ style of homeschooling. I then read The Homeschooling Option by Lisa Rivero, which I highly recommend. Who knew home-centered education could be so diverse? Then I read Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind, and I was hooked, although I wasn’t entirely quite sure to what. You finished your pre-K year, and I began to teach you how to read at home. You’ve always loved learning, Liam. Always. Voraciously absorbing anything we would read to you, I naturally assumed teaching you to read would be easy. Nope. Lesson #1: Don’t assume. You have thus far been the most difficult of our three readers to teach, in part because you hate sitting for a formal lesson of any sort and another part because you would try to read to too fast, leading to tracking issues. We solicited help, and you spent three months meeting weekly with a reading specialist, whom you loved! You learned how to read with more confidence, and I observed and learned how to channel my inner elementary school teacher squealing voice of encouragement.  Lesson #2: Always encourage. I now have to tell you to stop reading: before breakfast, at the table, when it’s time to clean up from our day, or get ready for bed. You and Burke both enjoy reading enormously (can you feel me grinning?). Lesson #3: Revel in accomplishment, no matter how small.

This brings me to our current topic, worksheets. Remember how I mentioned your loathing of most formal lessons? Well, that more appropriately applies to the “m” word — math; you languish at the very mention of it. You see, most of our “school day,” we read, recite, and discuss ideas, while you all build with blocks or Legos or draw or paint. Math is the one area of our day you have to deal in absolutes — either the answer is right or it’s not. And you desperately HATE being wrong. Lesson #4: We all fail. Trying to engage you, I’ve experimented with many things these last three years, such as standing, laying on your stomach, or sitting on a bouncy ball during our math lessons; changing the time of day; or even as of late, changing to a computer-based curriculum (enticing because you hardly get to be on the computer). But still, you wither. The truth is we learn quite differently, Liam. I gladly would sit and listen to a teacher, complete whatever work(sheet), and move on. You want to participate, always questioning. You want to touch and build and play. You still have an insatiable love to learn. You want a conversation. A story. A Lego sculpture. A play. Not a worksheet. Not a fill-in-the-blank. And certainly, not a “lesson.”  I love this about you. I love how you inspire those around you to learn and explore and see the world differently.  Yet, some days I am ready to pull my hair out watching you will yourself against a sheet of paper. I mean it’s just a worksheet. Why is this so hard? You understand the concepts. Just do it. Lesson #5: You are not me. And this is a hard lesson, still. The goal is not to conform you to me, seeing the world the way I do. Instead, our goal is to help mature and develop/flourish you into you (whomever the Lord has created you to be), and that requires faith. So I recite to you what I often need to hear myself: “The Lord has made us different people and put us in the same family. So there’s something in you to teach me, just like there’s something in me to teach you. And sometimes. Just sometimes. We all have to do things we don’t want to do. For you right now, Liam, it’s this math lesson.” You sweetly ask for me to pray for you. I later talk with Dad; I talk with Nina; I talk with other home-schooling moms; and I read more, wondering if this process really is for us. I read The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein, Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the World of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto, How Children Learn and How Children Fail by John Holt, The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori, and The Core by Leigh Bortins. I feel more resolved, encouraged, and confident. And sometimes our “great ideas” agree, like last week when we declared that from now on all of your (including Burke’s and Blythe’s) finished math worksheets and scratch paper must be used to design new paper airplanes. (And thanks to the modern era of the world-wide web and google, we have instructions.)

Below are pictures from some of our “school” days within the last year, also your sketches on our chalkboard, with pencil, pastels, or a pen. I included the picture of our geography map from last year, when we were learning the European waters, and you showed me how they each resembled a sleeping dragon, a space ship, a Pteranodon, etc., an enlightening moment for me as to how your spatial-oriented brain works.

“Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” -Henry David Thoreau Walden 

By nature, I am not a simple person. I love details, even the ones that simply remain imaginative, and can easily involve myself with them in ways that no longer serve the original purpose for which I started. As Mark sometimes remarks, there are times that I can inexplicably “check-out” or occupy myself with something that is neither necessary nor pertinent to things that actually need to be done around me. Parenting has been invaluable to me even if only for this one reason: simplicity. For those of you who have children, I’m sure that you can attest to this as well. There are more demands made on my time than I could possibly meet; so, I am required to prioritize and shed the wanted, but unnecessary “stuff” to meet the immediate needs around me.  And so, I’ve created this blog. Funny? Maybe. I’m sure that it would disappoint Thoreau to see that in an effort to simplify my life, I have actually taken on another “affair.” But, I’m hoping that the simplicity will come by way of streamlining my thoughts, stories, and pictures into one venue that everyone/anyone outside of my little, immediate world can partake. I named it “Cloistered Away” because, in spite of having tons of interaction with people on any given week, there is in fact still a seclusion or set-apart-ness that comes with having young children. For your part, at the very least you can expect to see pictures of the kids more than once every six months (!).