Teacher Notes

We had a good week of learning, though we did not do school every day.  This year is so different than last in the way that I’ve lost all track of days off like Columbus Day, and teacher conferences that the public school does.  Last year I had already written in my calender all of the public school days of note because we were initially planning on sending Silje.  When we decided to homeschool, the notes on the calender stayed because I thought it would be a helpful reference.  When the public school had a day off and we continued on, I’d give myself a little pat on the back for going above and beyond.  When we spent a day running errands instead of doing school, I mentally counted it as using up one of the “day offs” I had stored up by good behavior.

Well, this year has been completely liberating in the fact that I have no idea which days the public school is in or out.  We do school when we’re home to do it, and I don’t worry if we have to be somewhere.  That’s basically been my system.  A few days we were at home and had a bunch of home stuff to do and didn’t get to our “curriculum” part of the school, but I still feel those days were full of life learning.

Last summer got so long last year as Silje missed school, and the whole structure of our days was turned upside down.  This year I have no intention of doing that to ourselves.  If all we have time for that day is to be in the garden, then that’s what we’ll do.  If the kids are acting bored and moping about the house, I’ll pull out “school.”  I’m throwing out the idea this summer of taking 3 months off because I’ve decided that’s too much work.  It’s too much work to figure out what to do with these kids without using the resources that I use all the other 9 months of the year.

The funny thing is, is that I was really worried we were falling behind with this system of doing school when we’re home but not stressing if we’re out and about.  I was thinking we’d need all summer to catch up.  However, last weekend, I looked ahead, as I did about 2 months ago.  This time, I realized Silje only has 3 readers left.  We only have 2 read alouds left.  She finishes her 2nd grade math program next week.

I did not buy a formal curriculum for David this year, but set out some goals for the years with the hopes that by the end of May he’d have met those goals.  I wanted to make sure he knew how to write all his letters, and to get him reading 3 letter words.  Well, he can write, although not terribly well.  He needs practice, but I think he’s on par with what Silje did at that age.  As far as reading, I just pulled out our level 3 Hooked on Phonics this week, and my goal for the year was to finish level 1.  I wanted to get through kindergarten math this year, but we realized that was too frustratingly slow for him and we’ve been working on 1st grade math ever since.

The year isn’t over for him and our goals are already surpassed.

We’ve been dabbling with a few other phonics programs as well, and a few other reading programs that I have on hand.  We’re also pulling a lot of his readers from the library, and he enjoys picking some of them out himself.

For science, I keep looking ahead at our botany course and thinking “O, we should do this project this summer!”  “This would be so much easier this summer!”  So in the mean time, I’ve been checking out books on plants from the library.  For good measure, I checked out a lot of animal books as well.  Silje’s been devouring books on dolphins, horses, and this enormous book from the adult section that lists every breed of dog and different attributes and notes/pictures about each breed.  None of them based off of our purchased curriculum, but she’s spending every “non-school” hour of free time with her nose in those books.  She really wants to be a vet, so spends a lot of her free time studying animal anatomy and behaviors.  Whether or not she ends up being a vet doesn’t matter to me.  I like that it’s propelling her to learn!

When I started homeschooling, many moms who have been down this road told me it would take a few years to “de-school” my brain and look for practical ways to facilitate education without feeling like I had to make a mock-classroom in our home.  I really didn’t understand what they were saying, but I do now.

I think there are some great methods to learn from the educational system, but I feel so free not to constantly be comparing notes with them as if we were in some sort of race to see who was ahead and who was behind.  It’s not that I’m way better than public school people, because that’s not true.  It’s just that school methods were developed with a large classroom in mind, and some of those methods just don’t work in a home setting.

Most notably, I feel good not counting days anymore.  I’m glad I don’t live in a state that requires me to do so.  I’m not sure which days I would count as “school” and which ones I would count as “home” because we just learn everywhere.  This summer we will spend a lot of time in the garden learning about plants and what they need, and how to preserve the bounty.  Is that school?

Silje spent hours this week reading biology books.  She did it of her own volition, I merely placed them in the house.  Is that school?  We sat down at the table and did math worksheets and had to walk around the house looking for various examples of parallel and perpendicular lines.  Is that school?

David spent a lot of time with the math manipulative of the scale and weighed several objects to find out what was equal.  Then through his own discovery, he found out that the math scale can also be used as a catapult.  (smile.)  Then we got to do some history review from earlier this year when we learned about knights and castles.  Is education the part of the day when we are working on a purchased curriculum or the part when we vary from it?

Not only that, but when the summer months come, must we stop reading classic books at night from our reading list before bed simply because public school is not in session?  The kids would be heartbroken. The dangling bait of getting to stay up later than the little kids totally works for getting them to sit and listen to books they wouldn’t normally sit and listen to.  They absolutely love it.

What we talk a lot about in the homeschool mom support group I go to is that we need to focus on our children’s education, and not beat ourselves up about “school” and what that looks like.  I love working from our curriculum, and I love taking our detours.  I feel less and less stressed out about our detours because I’m starting to see the importance and value of them.  They don’t feel like frosting to the education anymore, they feel like part of the foundation.

I keep thinking about a speaker we heard a few months back who said in their house they only studied 3 subjects:
skills
knowledge
character

They filled their days with those 3 subjects.  As I look ahead to this summer, I hope our days will continue to have those 3 subjects.  I’m finding that we’re actually not falling behind on my goals for the year at all with those being the structure to our day.

I don’t mean to say we’ve gone all “unschooling” because I’m not all on board with that philosophy.  We sit and learn with structure.  We cuddle on the couch with books a lot from our Sonlight curriculum, with sprinklings from other books from a classical model of education.  We work on handwriting, we work on spelling.  We work on grammar and math.  However, not all days have all things.  We just keep moving.  We just keep working and learning. 

I wish I could say that I’m “done with the guilt” but I know that that’s an area in my life where it grows up like weeds in a garden and I need to stay on the lookout for it.  I can say that I feel like as I’m nearing the end of our second year, I’m starting to feel the hang of it.  Well, at least for now.

As I look back on this post, I see how many references I’ve made to a garden, and weeds.  It must be Spring.

Quotes That Last Forever

Growing up in my family, and I’m sure likewise in most, everyone seemed to tell the same stories.  The stories told about me usually, in circulation to this day, I can narrow down to 2 stories.  The time when I spit out my green beans into my milk without anyone noticing, and then when I left the table, my mom made my brother finish my milk so it would not go to waste.  After all, he was always hungry.  My sister tells me that this story made my name famous among the 2nd graders at the school she taught at.

The other story is basically the first of many showdowns I had with people.  Shortly after my parents separated, my grandparents moved in to help out.  I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet, and after seeing my brother and sister leave for school in the fall, I was finishing up my bowl of cereal, and my grandpa told me to finish the milk in the bottom of my bowl.  I, apparently, looked him square in the eye and told him in the biggest 5-year-old stern voice: “You’re not the boss of me.”  I didn’t shout it.  I just wanted him to know that he did not intimidate me.

Writing that out, I realize that the stories about me both involve me not finishing milk.  Funny, because Knut complains about that too.  Huh…

Anyway, there was a moment last weekend where Silje said something that will be burned into my brain forever.  I absolutely must record it.  Last Saturday we went to an early morning basketball game.  Then we came home to do chores before Silje was going to a friend’s birthday party.  Still after that, we had a family over for supper.  (Knut’s doing his I’m-soon-going-to-not-see-people-because-I-will-be-planting-the fields social juggle right now.)

Anyway, I was running around vacuuming, changing sheets, etc. etc.  I had assigned the 2 older kids jobs as they are somewhat able to do chores without me in the room.  At least I’m trying to get them to that point.  Silje’s job was to fold and put away clothes.  She’s very good at this job.  However, there was a lot of laundry, and the socks nearly threw her over the edge.  I was planning on letting the kids take a break after about an hour of work, in which I’d most likely forget to ask them to help again.  I’m not saying I was intentionally not going to ask them, but you moms out there know that helping isn’t always helpful.  So it often slips the brain when you have a job at hand.

About 50 minutes into it, Silje approaches me as I’m shuffling the enormously heavy old, old Kirby vacuum down from upstairs.

“Mom, can I be done?”
“No, Silje, I asked you to do a job, and I gave you a very easy one.  You don’t have to finish the whole pile, but I’d like you to work at least until I finish this [whatever I was doing] and then we’ll wrap the present and go to the birthday party.”
Silje walked off in a huff.  I probably should have followed her to discuss the huff, but I was on a cleaning roll.

Silje calmly walked back to me as I was scrubbing the bathroom sink and said, “Mommy, I’m just asking you to think.  How would you feel, Mommy?  How would you feel if you had to clean for a whole hour other people’s stuff.  Clothes that weren’t even your own?  Huh?  How would that make you feel if someone asked you to do that?”

It was one of those moments as a mom where you know the absolute wrong thing to do was to laugh at your child, but I’m sorry to say I couldn’t help it.  With cleaning grit up my fingers I couldn’t even wipe away the tears as I bent over doing a “silent laugh” which is what happens to people in my family when we’re laughing as hard as we can.  Even now I can’t but help smile.

Knut walked by and asked what’s so funny.  I tried to tell him with a straight face…honest.  He smiled at Silje and said, “Silje, if that were ever to happen to Mommy, you know how she’d feel?  She’d feel like she was on vacation.”

Sadly for Silje and David, it’s never been more apparent to me that they need some more chores around the house.  They’ve been pretty good about it.  Silje especially rarely complains, which is why this story is so funny.  Silje helped Knut clean out the chicken coop yesterday without a complaint.  It was a dirty, dusty job and she enjoyed every minute.  Well, it involved animals so that makes sense.

On that thought I should add we had a chicken death this week.  We’re down to 16 now.  I’ll save that story for another post.

Yarn Along

I’m still working on Nicholas and Alexandra, a history of the fall of the Romanov dynasty in Russia.  I’m about half way through, and honestly I’m moving at a snail’s pace.  It’s not the book; it’s me.  I just haven’t devoted much time to it at a time as I should, but I’m really enjoying it.  I wish I would have been taking notes from the beginning.  Knut almost always has a notepad by whatever he’s reading and takes tedious notes.  You should have seen the notes he had last time he read the “Lord of the Rings” series.

I find myself thinking to myself several times, “Now who is that again?  Was he a revolutionary, or an imperialist?”  The main reason for this is I’m not familiar with Russian names and sometimes they all blend together in my brain.  I should have taken notes.  I’m not going to now, anyway.  I’ll just keep plugging along.  Just don’t test me on the names.

It’s kind of neat, though, because Silje’s history this last week had us reading and illustrated story of Peter the Great, the tsar of Russia who forced Russia away from the “backwards” Eastern ways, and dragged his country over to the “modern” Western ideals.  He forced his noblemen to build western style houses at their own expense.  He cut off their beards, and taxed anyone who dared to grow one.  He traveled Europe, and was the first tsar to do so.  My book had talked a bit about Peter the Great, another Romanov of the past, and it was fun to read the children’s story of him near the same time.

My knitting was a bit all over the place this last week, but it’s settled down now.  I was working on a lace shawl, but I did not like how the lace border was turning out.  So I put the project on the back burner as I look through my stitch dictionaries as time allows in the future, to see what lace I should use instead.
I’m still working on the Little Pearl Vest for my niece, whose birthday is coming up in May.  I’m nearly done, and then I need to make one more tiny Little Pearl as a sample for my local yarn shop.  Then I may take a break from that pattern for a little bit. 
Since I don’t always like doing colorwork, I cast on a solid pattern so I always have something to grab on the go.  This is one of my designs moving out of the sketch book, as it’s been waiting there a few months.  It’s a little capelet/cowl in a Japanese lace design.  I’m calling it “Tsu.” (Pronounced “Sue”)  When thinking of a name, I thought back to my Japanese (exchange student) friends from high school.  There was one girl named “Tsubasa” and she had the cutest clothes ever, and let me borrow them sometimes.  I loved how they fit me, and realized that someday if I went to Japan, I might actually find clothes that fit people like me there!  
The pattern will be available for other sizes as well.  I’ve had this yarn (Misty Alpaca worsted) for about 2 years and it did not work for the project I had first intended to use it with.  I’m so glad to take this lovely yarn out of my stash and put it to good use.  This pattern may require another skein, but I’m pretty sure the yarn store still has that dye lot there.
I’ve been a good girl, and following my daily pattern writing “chores” in order to get the Ginger Cardigan pattern off to the tech editor before the quilting retreat this weekend.  I’ve allotted about an hour’s worth of work each evening with milestones to reach each night.  I’m working on the “grading” right now, and it should be finished Wednesday night.  Although it’s not difficult to knit up, writing this pattern is more complex than I’ve ever done before, mostly because it’s my first adult sized sweater.  I feel like I’m writing in a different language.  It really uses a part of my brain rarely awakened.  There’s several pages of this gobbledygook.  Doesn’t it look that way?  (For those of you who look at that closely, don’t mind my blank number spots filled in with “;oasidfj'” random spacers until I get all the numbers filled in.  I do that so I don’t forget to fill in any numbers when they’re all computed.)
I wasn’t planning on finishing it so soon, but last week I put the pictures of the finished product on my Ravelry page, and wouldn’t you  know, people started sharing it, and I started getting emails from strangers saying “I can’t WAIT for the pattern to come out!”, and one that made me laugh, “Is there anything I can do to help you speed along the release of  this pattern?  I really want this pattern, like yesterday.”  The response pretty much lit a fire under me to get this done ASAP.  So far, everything is on schedule.  I’ve even given myself a few evening wiggle room in case of family “emergency.”‘  You know, ’cause Netflix is delivering a new movie here today, and Knut may “steal” some of my evening time.
 Yarnin’ Along with Ginny.

Drum Lesson

David loves to play the drums, and a popular past time these days (besides emptying out the bottom cupboards and hiding in them) is to play the pots with chopsticks.  Normally David is the only one who does this, but occasionally Elias jams with him.  Yesterday I got the pleasure of having David and Solveig do a concert for me. 

They’re really not all pots.  There’s a double boiler, a steamer, a stainless bowl, and a stainless colander thrown in there as well.  David was teaching her the beats.

Though she was constantly wandering off to see if there could possibly be any other drums to pull out of the cupboard.

Every single time she hit her colander, she blinked in shock of the noise of it.  It was so noisy, but she just couldn’t stop herself.

Well, then her love of sitting in tiny places trumped her love of noise.  She found a new use for her drum a few minutes after tapping it, and my camera was thankfully still nearby so I could catch a picture of the position she got herself into before she figured out how to get out of it minutes later.