Homeschool Friday

(used with permission from The Family Man)

Well, I normally do my lesson plans in 4 week chunks, and we are at the end of our first chunk.  With a month of school under our belts, I feel good about our progress.

I was at a “Mom’s Night Out” with our homeschool group last week.  It’s a lifesaver to get together with a group of women who deal with the same issues, or are veterans at this homeschool thing and are full of helps, and sometimes it’s just a safe place to vent without someone saying, “You really shouldn’t be homeschooling if it’s that hard.”

This last week we listened to a speaker named Andrew Pudewa via c.d. player that someone had bought when they were at a conference.  It was honestly one of the best talks I’ve heard on homeschooling ever.  I’m not 100% certain it was the best ever, but it’s certainly on my top 3 list, and I ordered a copy of the c.d. so I could listen to it again.  The mom who brought it in said she’s already listened to it 6 times.

So today I’m going to rattle off all the things that have stuck with me from that session, as I journal what shapes me as a homeschool mom.  I’m not sure how to forward someone onto obtaining a copy of the session, but it would be worth it to find out.  I literally can’t wait to hear it again.

It talked about leadership training with your children.  It talked about educational philosophies throughout history, and where we as a culture stand right now in education.  He talked about tracking in public and many private schools and the educational philosophy put forth by Dewey (as in the Dewey decimal system) and how that changed things.  He quoted a book written by a teacher called Dumbing Us Down that has now been added to my reading list.  He quoted several other books that sounded depressing, yet interesting.  That book, however, I might actually read.

Then he talked about the education that people got in history before the time of Dewey.  There were a few different kinds of education: education for the lower classes, and education for leaders.  Learning to read and write were basic.  Future leaders received an education based off of logic and thinking skills.  The peasants were taught what to think, and the leaders were taught how to think.

Bringing it back to modern homeschooling, he talks about his own family and the struggles they faced with their little school.  Specifically, the speaker’s wife who did the majority of the nitty gritty teaching.  He said she would hate to go to conventions where there were tables of different curricula.  After taking a few spins around the exhibits, she would feel overwhelmed thinking “I can’t do all this!”

As an educational expert, he said that going to homeschool conventions 5+ years ago, he would talk to moms after a session and they would say things like: “Hi, I was homeschooled, my husband was homeschooled, we’re so excited to homeschool with our kids…”  Now, after a session moms come up to him and say, “Hi, I have a 7th grader, a 4th grader, and a 1st grader.  We just pulled our kids out of school and we’re trying to figure out how to do this and I just want to be sure that we’re covering all the bases.”

Then he went on to say that covering all the bases is the last thing you want to do.  There is just too much information out there, and if you attempt to cover it all, your kids’ knowledge will be a mile wide and an inch deep.  Knowledge like that evaporates with time.  He said phrases like that speak fear and not vision.

We need to stop constantly comparing our little schools to public or private schools as if each needs to keep up with the other.  I don’t mean to portray public schools as either evil or good.  They are neutral.  They are not, however, the North star: directing all of us homeschools on what we should be teaching, or how it should be taught.  They are a completely different ideology of education, and unless we agree with that ideology, we should not be trying to emulate it.

So, with his overwhelmed wife, he said they were going to stop having 10 different subjects (reading, handwriting, grammar, math, history etc.)  It was overwhelming.  He said from now on, when we do school, we will choose activities that fit into 3 subjects.  Just 3.  No more.

These subjects are:
Character
Knowledge
Skills

He pointed out that when you have only character and knowledge, but no skills, you are ineffective.
When you have only character and skills, but no knowledge, you are not believable.
Lastly, if you have skills and knowledge but no character, you are a president (hardy, har…har).

Therefore, a well rounded education will have these 3 subjects, and these are the subjects to focus on.

He said as they planned their days, they would make sure that whatever they did fit into one of those core subjects.  They didn’t stop teaching history, math, grammar, etc.  It was merely a way to evaluate their own school to say, “Does this activity build character?  Does it add to their knowledge?  Does it give them a skill?”

He says we get so focused on making sure our kids have all the same subjects as kids in other types of schools that we lose focus of the potential of our own school.  We get in the “cover all the bases” mentality.  We educate with a fear that we’re missing something, instead of a filling our day with depth in study.

When I thought about it, all of our subjects fit into those 3 categories very well.  That was good.  It also gave me some much needed freedom to break out of the box.  The other day, I was filling overwhelmed by the to do list, and so I pushed aside our spreadsheet, and the kids helped me in the kitchen for half the school day.  Silje helped me layer the lasagnas that I was prepping for the freezer.  David and Elias helped me mix the bread dough for the refrigerator.  We talked, did dishes, made food.  It was wonderful.

Not only did they learn about cooking, like yeast and how it works, and how to save time making meals in bulk.  We spent time together just talking about what it means to be a family and to take care of one another.  We’ve been having a tough time as I’ve alluded in previous Fridays, of whining and arguing.  I realized listening to this speaker that I’ve been focusing very heavily on the knowledge and skills part of our school but neglecting the character portion.  So we spent a half of our “school time” that day working on character as a family.

It wasn’t a matter of getting behind in the subjects that were more important.  It was a matter of catching up in a subject we were getting behind in.  It wasn’t a matter if we were ahead enough to afford a half day off.  I had to ask myself, “Ahead of who?  Ahead by what standard?”

It really was “My kids were behind in one of our essential subjects so we put the other ones aside and tried to work on the subject most needed.”  In all reality, other schools do this as well.  Teachers stop and work on listening skills.  Kids there get afternoons off all the time for this or that reason.  But I’m comparing again.  I need to stop doing that. 

What I have been doing that’s good, is examining our days in a different light.  When everything on our to do list did not get done, I ask myself, “Did we fill our day working on character, knowledge, and skills?”  When I realize that we had, I realize our day was a success.

There’s a freedom to this standard, and I’m excited to work on my next 4 weeks lesson plans with this goal in mind, rather than the idea that we must do it all.  I will see success when my child spends a half hour looking at the diagram of the anatomy of a seed, not when we cross of “read next 5 pages of science book.”  So what, we didn’t get all 5 pages.  We got deep into the page that we were on.  I don’t want my kids to have an education that I designed for them that is a mile wide and an inch deep.  I want it to be very deep, and I must allow us to soak a bit for that to happen.

There still so much for me to learn.

If you made it to the bottom of this post, you must have an interest in reading about these types of things, or writing about these types of things.  I’ll put up a little list below here where people can put their current blog posts about what they did this week in their homeschool, or any random thoughts on homeschooling (like I did).  Please be sure to put a link to this blog in your post if you do leave your link.

I’m going to keep putting it up on Fridays indefinitely because selfishly, I’ve been enjoying getting to read what other people are doing in their homeschool, or to just be encouraged and inspired by others in similar shoes.  

Third, Fourth, and Fifth plus chickens

I’ve been trying to remember to bring my camera out with me when I haul the kids out to the field to deliver Knut’s meals.  There are so many different points of view to be seen out there.  Last night I missed an amazing shot of a field with bright colorful trees at the end.  I’ll try not to miss such an opportunity again!

Yesterday I had the luxury of taking pictures from my front lawn. 

As they gave that pretty field a buzz cut, the kids rotated taking rides.  David went out in the tractor with Knut first.  Knut ran the grain cart, and my father-in-law was running one of the combines.

When I took this picture of David sitting with Knut, and my father-in-law in the combine just behind, I thought this is generation 3, 4, and 5 of our family to farm together in the picture.  It was my father-in-law’s grandfather who started this family farm (although not on the exact piece of land they are farming here).  I often wonder if Knut’s great-grandpa could see the farm now…what would he think?  Farming is so different now than it was then.  I know there is a trend now returning to some old ways, and that’s good I think.  Technology in all things needs to be handled judiciously.  Still, I think he would be amazed.

Here’s the combine dumping it’s load into the grain cart at the edge of the field.  I always like watching this part for the thrill of the speed of seeing so many beans flow so fast!  I remember back to when I first came up to this part of the country when I was in high school.  The year before I met Knut, I was talking with a classmate of mine who was from a farm family.  Someone told me to ask him what a combine was, since I had never heard of one before. 

Here my friend, Doug, tried to explain to this city girl what on earth a combine was.  He started out by saying, “Well, it’s got this header on it that…” and I interrupted him and said “What’s a header?”  At that point he dropped his head to the cafeteria table.  There was no point of reference that he could explain this farm machinery to me.  Doug should be proud how far I’ve come.

Silje and Elias both got a turn riding as well.  Near the end Solveig and I went out and just sat on the lawn and watched them all.  It was such a warm day.

I haven’t missed all the photo opportunities as we’re running around the farm.  I took this one a few days ago as I was walking out to close the chickens in for the night. 

Knut says he’s beginning to believe that we’ve been duped, and chickens don’t actually ever lay eggs.  The chickens were hatched near the beginning of May.  They’re supposed to start laying between 4-6 months.  We’re in the second half of that estimation now and these days waiting are so long.  Every time I go to the grocery store and we need eggs, I get so disgusted that I still have to buy them.  I buy less of them thinking that surely, this week will be the week we’re flooded with eggs.  Then we run out because I don’t buy enough.

I put little plastic Easter eggs in the nesting boxes because I heard that’s a good way to get it in their brain that’s where the eggs go.  My heart always leaps when I see the pastel eggs laying there, and then I remember, “O yeah, those are the fakes.”  One of the ladies at our homeschool group who also keeps chickens told me that if I add paprika to their food I’ll see eggs sooner.  I’m nearly at the point of trying that.

I told the kids that whoever finds the first egg will be paid a dollar.  I want them searching the dog house, and in nooks of trees everyday to be sure the chickens aren’t laying out and about and I don’t know about it.  David especially is putting some time into the egg hunt each day and is always the first one to run to the coop to look it over.  He wants that dollar bad.

Believe me, that when that first egg is found…the blogging world will hear about it.

Yarn Along

It’s yarn and books day.  I look forward to it every week.  I’m once again linking up with Ginny, where she hosts the famous “Yarn Along” party at her blog.

As for reading, we just finished up Red Sails to Capri for Silje’s read aloud in school.  It had a very different flavor than other read alouds we have done in the past, but we both enjoyed it just the same.  It was so multi-dementional both culturally and intellectually.  There was adventure, as well as philosophy.  Well, there was an adventure in philosophy which involved legends, secrets, and a mother who talked to her food as it cooked.  I cannot wait for when David will get to read this one, as he will go bonkers.  He drifted into the room when we were reading this one more often than he normally does during Silje’s read aloud time.

We finished it, and then we started Ginger Pye.  Since it involves animals, Silje is all over this one and has begged and pleaded with weepy eyes if we could read just one more chapter.  She waits until I’m knee deep into something and distracted and says “Can I read a chapter just by myself?” So I have given in a few times and I hope to actually find out what happens in this book and hopefully Silje won’t steal it all for herself.

I also added the basic Primer that is part of the full set I bought at a used book store.  It’s the most basic, no frills, old fashioned reading program out there.  Can I just say that David loves it?  It is moving him along so much faster than the Hooked on Phonics that we have been doing.  Although I don’t regret using HOP either, because it laid a great foundation for him.  What surprises me is that with all of the cartoon filled, colorful books that we have in our fancy modern readers, he prefers this old one that is so simple and straight to the point.

We’re way past this page now, but he’s picking up new words every day.  It is really neat how he’s getting into this book.  It’s making me very happy.

As far as knitting, I’m all over the place.  I mistakenly happened upon another knitwear designer’s blog.  She’s a mom with kids at home as well.  She had 6 projects or so cast on at that time.  For some reason, I thought that was a free license for me to cast on more projects.  I started working on this “distraction knit” of a wool bonnet for Silje to match the mittens that will follow.  I love bonnets.  Knut thinks it’s cheesy, so I said I won’t make him one. 

It wasn’t on “the list” of things to knit and came in out of order, but that’s always fun.  I’m still working on some cowls, and I cast on and frogged a few inches of a cardigan with that dark purple-ish yarn at least 3 times.  It’s a design for this Spring, and I didn’t like how it was laying.  So I’m modifying my notes and after a week with this lovely yarn, the skein will be set aside. 

I just got my Knit Picks yarn in the mail, for the Dirk sweater sample.  That means I need to finish up the cowls on the needles, wrap up this quicky bonnet, and get down to business with this whole pattern thing.  Time to show these needles who’s boss.  That Spring cardigan will be moved right back to that back burner.

Harvest

It’s a sure sign that harvest time has gone into full swing when I get a call from Knut saying “I’m going to be driving past the house in 5 minutes, can you bring my supper out to the road?”

That’s soy bean harvest.  I’ll know they’ve finished the beans and have moved onto corn harvest when he says, “Hey, I’m driving by the house in 5 minutes.  Can you bring supper out to the road, and maybe some pop, a thermos of coffee, and a big bag of popcorn and a couple sandwiches because it’s going to be a late night…”

Those 5 minute warning phone calls (well…sometimes I get 15 minute warning phone calls, but those always end up being 45 minutes and everything is cold by then) throw the household into a tizzy as the little ones are put in high chairs or play pens, I put on some loud music, and pull things out of the fridge.  The pressure to get supper ready on time increases as even 5 minutes late can mean that Knut won’t be able to eat for another few hours.  I wouldn’t like having supper hours late, but he rarely complains when that happens.

It’s that time of year when we have to make sure that the bikes aren’t left on the driveway because semi trucks are often passing through.  The kids are already asking when they can get a combine ride with Grandpa.

It’s that time of year when Knut is always present around our house, and needs immediate help when he calls, but I get the evenings to knit or sew for hours without distraction.

The amber waves of grain in front of our house will soon be given a haircut.  The kids and I have been having a lot of fun, as their behavior has finally turned and we can enjoy fun times without all the whining and arguing.  I’m very thankful that we’ve gotten over that hump for this time.

As I posted on Facebook yesterday, Elias brought me a dandelion turned white yesterday.  He brought it to the back door where I met him, and he handed it to me very solemnly and said, “You’re bu-full, Mom.”  Then he turned and left.

David’s birthday is just around the corner.  Our wild child will soon be 6. 
He wants a racecar-rockstar-crocodile party. 
I’m not sure how to do a cake for that…