Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesdays with Words: Steadfast, Endures, Forever

It's the day before Thankgiving here in the US.

The children and I are heading to my parent's home to help my mom prepare tomorrow's dinner.

That way my mom's kitchen can be as she prefers it for Thanksgiving: pristine.

Like no one has cooked in it.

It makes me laugh, but I would do better to follow her example than I do.

Anyway, today I want to consider the reason for and recipient for our Thanksgiving.

The recipient is God. He is deserving of our thanks. Period. We are his creatures, his creation. For that reason - and that reason alone - we should be grateful and express that to Him.  Every day. Not once per year, not when we think about it, but all the time, every day.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
(Psalm 118:1 ESV)
But - and He is so good - He understands our frame. He knows that his existence, his being - while sufficient to be adored and thanked - is a little abstract for us fallen creatures. So He gives us reasons to thank him.  Why should we thank the Lord?

1. He is good. Not only is His being sufficient to deserve thanks, but He is good. His goodness, as an attribute, is a reason for thanksgiving. We don't have a wicked creator. He is goodness, he exudes goodness, he shares his goodness with his people, his creatures. Oh, give thanks to Him!

2. His steadfast love endures forever. A refrain throughout scripture is God's steadfast love. In 1 John, God is love. (but be careful of the reverse!) He is the essence of love, he expresses love within the Trinity, he teaches us to love. And that love is steadfast. Constant. Unchanging and unchangeable. He is not capricious, but loves enduringly. Forever.  Oh, give thanks to Him!

You want to *revel* in God, consider the wonders he has done and be thankful.

He has created this magnificent world. He has sustained the world instead of utterly destroying it after man fell. He has chosen and guarded and guided a people for his purposes. He has sent His only Son to live as a man, die as a man carrying our sin and His righteaous wrath against our sin, and rise again that we might have life.

He continues to call people, give them new hearts, give them a new community and fellowship, build a new creation. Behold! He is making all things new. We can "Rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory."

We are thankful to the Lord and for Him. 

We are thankful for his goodness. 

We are thankful for his enduring, steadfast love. 

A challenge to remember in the everyday, not just Thanksgiving Day.

Wordless Wednesday: First Lego League Competition


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Simple Woman's Daybook for November 23, 2015

For Today... Monday, November 23, 2015

Outside my window.... it's cooooold. We took the dog for a walk and met our friends this morning and it was soooo cccccold.  Winter coats and hats and gloves.

I am thinking... about what we want to eat this week.

I am thankful... there are several meals this week I don't have to worry about. My parents and Jason's parents are wonderful about opening their homes and feeding us for these holidays.

I am wearing... slightly smaller sized jeans (woohoo) than normal and a black sweater and a red blanket. Did I mention that it's cold here?

I am creating... a bullet journal. Of course, I started it on Tuesday and am already several days behind. I can pick it up again today, though, right.

I am going... for haircuts, oil change, and groceries this afternoon. Gotta get that done early in the week ...

I am wondering... how much of the children's bedroom floors can be seen. They're supposed to be cleaning their rooms today and tomorrow.

I am reading... Lynn Collum's Regency Romances on Kindle Unlimited.

I am hoping... to get the kitchen and family room cleaned a lot this week so we can get a Christmas tree on Friday.

I am learning... to Work the Plan.  Over our Yuletide Session, I plan to spend some time reading and watching through the whole course. I like to get a big overview before doing the individual pieces.

In my kitchen... I haven't cooked since Friday. Yay!

In my garden... I should be cleaning out dead stuff. It's frozen now.

In the homeschool... We're on break into January! I wrote about how we align our academic year with the calendar year last week.

A favorite quote for today...

A peek into one of my days... a boy and his dog waiting outside organ lessons.

One of my favorite things... our Art with Friends group. I love seeing my friends and the children love seeing their friends mid-week. We make some fun projects, too, like these pumpkins and trees:

From the board room... One way we organize our group is by a shared Pinterest board of projects or inspiration we're considering. We usually use a curriculum, but around holidays we do themed projects like those above and sometimes we enjoy a seasonal project instead.

Post Script... Kortney at One Deep Drawer is collecting Advent ideas. She also has an Advent eBook available for subscribers that is sure to be a lovely resource.

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yuletide Session 2015

Every year I overplan.

Officially, this is our break time.

I still want to do something after a devotional, beautiful vein. And math.

Oh, wait, math is beautiful too.

This year, I sat down with my mom and planned our "with them" outings. They're on Mondays, which I may regret, but that was the day that worked between our schedule and hers.

During our break, here are the fun activities we have planned (by ourselves or with others)

* Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner
* 2 Thanksgivings
* 2 Homeschool Choir Concerts
* Family Progressive Dinner
* Baking Day with Mama and Papa
* Sibling Shop with Mama and Papa
* Victory Mission Food Box preparation
* Progressive Concert in support of Habitat for Humanity (the website has 2013, but it is 2015)
* Downtown Columbus Adventure (Statehouse - they have a concert everyday at noon in the basement by the restaraunt, OSU Campus, other stops)
* Dickens of a Christmas at Ohio Village
* Christmas Eve, Christmas, Pajama Day
* Cleveland Museum of Art Monet to Matisse exhibit
* New Year's Eve, New Year's Day

There are other activities we do that are not yet on the calendar, but are more "as time and weather allows":

* Cut down a Christmas Tree
* Decorate Christmas Tree
* Wildlights at the Zoo
* Fantasy of Lights at Alum Creek
* Drive around and look at the big light displays nearby
* Decorate the House
* Baking Day(s) at home
* Chex Mix Day(s) at home
* Crafting Day(s) at home
* Ice Skating?
* Christmas videos (Peanuts, Grinch, Frosty, et. al.)
* Shining Dawn Nature Study Through the Holidays

I'll try to post pictures as appropriate of the activities and link them back here.

I did plan a devotional/GroveTime/Circle Time for each day, but this year it is very simple:

* Reading
Advent: Handel's Messiah Advent Reader
After Christmas: Rembrandt: The Christmas Story

*Carols (by week) We use this set of songbooks and the CD.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming
Silent Night
Joy to the World
We three Kings of Orient Are

Advent: Carol by Kenneth Grahame
After Christmas: Visit of the Wise Men by Timothy Dudley-Smith

Khan Academy

It is possible we'll do some Copywork (My First Advent Copywork or My Lessons and Carols Copywork) also, but I'm not adding too much! This is one of the things I always *want* to do, but never gets done. I'm not going to stress about it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesdays with Words: Life Can Be Explored

From Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake:

The child should enjoy an atmosphere where life can be explored in a rich way. Little holy hedges are not what is wanted. Understanding the objective certainty of the truth of God gives an atmosphere that is free from fear. We can face up to people's ideas. Questions can be asked.We can talk about them right in the open. Indeed, the child should be able to know, read, or listen to people who hold all sorts of ideas. As they mature, it is absolutely imperative that they be trusted to have access to current "worldly" thought. Some of it has true greatness (say a play essay, or book). They should be able to enjoy what is good, and yet be able to see what ideas are wrong.
This open frank atmosphere can only be achieved when those who produce it are aware of what is good, pure, and of good report (cf Philippians 4:8)
It amazes me how often on my favorite podcasts (Read Aloud Revival, Homeschool Snapshots, Your Morning Basket, The Mason Jar), the homeschooler pioneers mention two major influences in their homeschooling. The first is an interview of Dr. Raymond Moore by Dr. Dobson on the book Better Late Than Early. (It's available on YouTube! Who knew?!?) So many of those pioneers heard and were influenced by that broadcast.  The second, though, is this book, For the Children's Sake.

I've never actually read this book, although I've owned it for years. I'm now reading it with Anna and a group of ladies who are going through Brandy Vencel's Start Here. We are having wonderful discussions. This section, on the atmosphere of environment was both encouraging and challenging. What does environment actually mean? Macaualay does a nice job of giving examples and questions worth considering.

I really appreciated the paragraph quoted above for the healthy attitude about how an atmosphere of openneness and discussion and inquiry are a worthwhile goal of education. We have a mom who is almost done homeschooling her two children using a CM philosophy. Her examples of the healthy ways her family interacts on any subject was inspiring and shows the fruit of this atmospheric attitude. She said her children have a strong "twaddle radar" ... not that they'd express it in those words ... and have had their tastes and affections formed and aimed at what is true and lovely. They used questions like "How does this song portray women?" "How does this movie objectify the other?" I loved this a lot.

I'm looking forward to those discussions as the children get older.

Wordless Wednesday: Fall Scarecrow Obstacle Course by Mama & Papa

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Aligning your Academic Year with the Calendar Year

Homeschooling affords much freedom.

One of many options is the running of our Academic Year. Traditionally in the US, school runs fall to spring with summers off. This is a wonderful option, one which many homeschoolers follow for their Academic Year.  I would like to present another option, which is to align your Academic Year with the calendar.

We fell into aligning our Academic Year with the Calendar Year naturally. My oldest has a birthday in October and our local school district has its cutoff date as August 1. She was entirely ready for "school" at just turned five - reading well and in need of some structure to her days.

(Today I would care more about Charlotte Mason's "A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six."  At the time, I had a great deal of pressure about homeschooling and showing it to be both successful and "normal" from family who included a retired early elementary teacher. That's a story for another time, just know that I wouldn't begin formal schooling as I did with a five year old again.)

While we always knew we'd home educate (despite strong family opposition, so thankful for my INTJ husband), and in Ohio we're required to notify in the fall after the child turns 6, M-girl was ready to start. So, after Christmas and N-boy's fourth birthday early in January, we did.

And we haven't stopped using that schedule. I did a brief periscope broadcast on Monday about our schedule:

There were other practicalities to using a calendar year.

  • First, the season from Thanksgiving and Advent through Epiphany is my very favorite part of the year. I knew we wanted to mostly take that time off from formal schooling in order to do baking, crafting, traveling around. We call it our Yuletide Session (more on this year's plans later this week, but here's a post from 2013). I still consider Yuletide Session a lot of educational hours, just not as formal educational time as we do the rest of the year.  I like to be "done" with nothing hanging over our heads during this season and the emphasis on the new in the new year is a wonderful impetus to begin again and enjoy having some traditions for the "start."
  • Second, I knew we wanted to school "year round." I knew we would want to have a daily routine or schedule, I knew we would want to not take a big summer break where we forget a lot of things. I knew that discipline issues increase when children (and mommies) are left to themselves. Mystie wrote a brilliant piece yesterday about Year Round schooling using six-week intervals. She has had a great influence on me and in 2015, we changed from "breaks when we want" to six-week intervals. You can do anything for six weeks and "you just had a break" and "it's almost break week" are great incentives to all of us. This change has been a rousing success and we will continue the practice.
  • Third, my husband likes the schedule. It makes sense to him as we aren't living an agrarian lifestyle in any way. He likes to say we aren't "tied to the man." That makes me giggle every time. But what I like about it is that it is very freeing. I don't feel pressures the same way to finish or start anywhere but where we are. Officially, we're about 8 weeks behind the AO Year 4 schedule. We've had a rough illness year - I had shingles in the spring and the children took turns passing around illness for several weeks. I messed up my arm this fall. We relied a great deal on Netflix documentaries and Khan Academy during the spring time.  It was fine. In January, we'll just pick up where we left off. We might try to consolidate and catch up a little, but we might not. We keep moving ahead and learning together. If we finish something during the year, we just start the next work. It's a family culture of learning we're after.
  • Finally, at the end, when I have seniors in high school, we'll have five or six months for an independent study time. I plan to assign, encourage, and facilitate a time of free inquiry, of digging deeper into an interest, a profession, or a topic of their choosing. But we're free; if we don't get there we don't get there.

There's another benefit to calendar year schooling.

  • We get a big boost from January being the start of a new year. New school supplies, organization, planning. February is in the first six weeks, and we rarely hit February dismals ... plus our first break week hits in February. August we get another boost when everyone else is in back-to-school mode. October and November are push through to finish for the holidays. This is not to say that we don't slump, but our slumps seem mitigated to some extent.
  • Because we're Charlotte Mason educators, we try to finish as early in the day as we can, so we can still have a lot of free time in the afternoons anyway.

There are, of course, challenges.

  • We always have to explain that we homeschool and our schedule is different. All that "go and do" in December? A lot happens during the school day and we get many questioning looks. So be it. I try to turn it into an opportunity to share about homeschooling and its benefits.
  • "When do you promote grades?" Like other homeschoolers, we use grade levels for two reasons: to answer "how old are you?" by strangers and Sunday School placement. In September, we tell our kids what grade they would be in if they were in public or private school. Even if they're "advanced" or "behind" in some area or another.
  • Most online classes - even for homeschoolers - begin in the fall. Sports seasons are based on the "school schedule." If we take advantage of PSEO courses, those are on the traditional schedule. Frankly, we'll face these challenges as we go. My main thought is that we take advantage of those options as we can and don't worry about where they fall in our schedule.
  • In Ohio, we have to report before the first day of school in August and include a list of resources we're using. I simply list what we're currently using and send it in. No matter if we'll finish it next week and start the next thing. I never send everything we're doing, just the minimum anyway.

I think the main thing to remember when Aligning your Academic Year with the Calendar Year is freedom. We are free to build a family culture and make learning a lifestyle as we see fit. So are you. That culture and lifestyle works best when it's flexible, refuses to compare or worry, and acknowledges that there is no real "beginning" or "end" to learning and loving.