Fresh Start

We officially started our new school year this week.  I delayed starting school this year so I could focus on my busy garden season without any guilt.  Do you want to know how many jars of delicious garden food I got canned during this last month?


So I didn’t really work in my garden like I said I would.  A lot of tomatoes went bad in there.  The strawberries didn’t get transplanted like they were supposed to, and I will reap the consequences of that next summer.  While being all talk and no action isn’t anything to be proud of, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself because I normally burn out this time of year, and I burned out later than I usually do.  People seem to think I’m this great gardener, but I’m of the belief that a truly great gardener doesn’t burn out at the end of the year.  I see neighbors get their garden beds all cleaned and prepped for winter.  Produce is packed up, and stored.  I think it’s the little bit of “city” left in me where I just sit down and say, “I just don’t care.  I can buy that at the store.”  A born and bred country girl wouldn’t say such blasphemes.


However, we’ve had one of the best starts to a new school year that we’ve ever had.  I’m not sure if it’s because David is doing so much better, or after years of trying out methods, or I’ve finally got my finger on a method that’s working for us, or it could be because I’m trying to focus myself to do school well with the kids, and not get distracted by all my pet projects.  I’ve been convicted more and more that if I want to do this homeschooling well, it will require more sacrifice.  Before I knew that it required sacrifice and I was dragging my feet about it.  This year I just feel inspired.  It’s more like a battle charge.  My passion for other things is dwindling, and I thank God for that.


Of course, over the weekend, I looked at our schedule and realized I had picked about the worst week possible to start a school year because of the various outside activities our family is involved in.  Every other week Silje’s orchestra at the public school is more invasive to our schedule than the other week.  This was the invasive week.  (When it’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays it causes trouble, but when it’s on a Wednesday or Friday it’s not so bad.)  Also, choir started for Silje and Elias.  Also I had a doctor’s appointment, which was just routine, all morning in the city on Wednesday.  I’m surprised we got any school done at all actually.

But we did.  It was a victory this week.

It’s also been rough, because I’ve struggled through 2 days of migraines, and so 2 of those days I was pretty medicated.  My oils weren’t even touching these headaches, which usually means bad things around here.

The big thing that I’ve been pushing this year is our 8:30 start time.  I have learned that our family does better with routines more than schedules.  Homeschool is rarely the place for bells.  I’m sticking my foot down on that start time, though.  My kids have constantly been pushing against it the last 2 years, and even though I say we’ll start at 8:30, last year my kids would slowly finish up their chores around 10am, and then protest that they couldn’t possibly start school, it was snack time.

IMG_4067My new method of having a morning hour with them from 8:30-9:30 has been working really well.  Only 1 day were they not ready at 8:30, and I started the morning hour anyway.  They just had to drop their chores, and join, trying to catch up later.  I’ve brought out my guitar, and have started teaching them some of the old hymns, have our devotions, read more of our Shakespeare, and then we work on a lot of the more tedious memorization, Greek, and grammar together.  We haven’t made it to  the Greek and grammar every morning, but I’m sure the kids will live.

The kids are loving our Shakespeare unit.  Obsessively loving it.    I want to thank the book How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare book for that.  It’s not written by an educator, but just a dad who happens to be a renown Shakespeare director, and his method of teaching his own children a love for Shakespeare.  The first play we are doing in this unit is A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  It’s hilarious.

Actually, the reading this year has been a home run this week, and I’m so excited about that.  For instance, for our morning tea time, I do a book directed to the little kids, but that us big kids will enjoy as well.  This year we are reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  We have done other books by this author, and this one does not disappoint either.  We stop what we are doing at 10am, and the kids get a little snack, a cup of tea with milk and sugar, and I read out loud to them.  They’ve been loving this book so much, we often read 2 chapters.

For our evening read aloud, (directed to the older kids after the little kids are in bed) is Little Britches.  I’ve been trying to get David to go through an audio recording of this book this summer, but he is still very suspicious of new books.  Silje has learned that any book I have chosen is 99% a winner and she grabs them eagerly from my hands.  David still looks at me as though it is a trick when I hand him a book.  I’ve given him 3 winners in a row this summer (books he read multiple times because he loved them so much) so I have to be building some trust.  I will win him over.  Just give him time.

At any rate, we have our share of struggles.  When we have a great school week, I’m just going to celebrate that while I can!  I have put a higher priority on my time in prayer each morning before school. That was not a constant before, and likely won’t be going forward because…life.  But I have realized that I need this time more than I need coffee.  I need that time getting encouragement from the Word, and just begging God for patience, and the wisdom to know when to push and when to let go.  The more I go on this journey to spend daily time with God, the more I see that the key isn’t in my alarm clock, or in having the time.  The key is recognizing my desperate need.  When I’m honest about how much I need it, it just happens.  My hands are reaching for my Bible with the impatience that it reaches for my mug.  That’s why it’s happening.


Our house reflects the fact that we’ve had a crazy busy week.  But if I waited for perfection to have joy, then I would never have it at all.  I’m learning what to push, and what to let go.  Sometimes wisdom looks like a messy house.

Teacher Prep


IMG_4026IMG_4029IMG_4030IMG_4031IMG_4032So, I’m not a very crafty teacher.  This seems to surprise people, because I knit and sew and love all things crafty.  The fact of the matter is I’m a painful perfectionist, and it’s very hard for me to do crafts with kids because, well, they’re doing it wrong.  I hate the mess and fuss of it all.  I want learning to be very hands on for the kids, and when it comes to teacher prep, I actually don’t do a lot of cutting and pasting.  We read a lot of literature.  We do a lot of writing.  We play with a lot of toys that require imagination.  There’s not a lot of gluing cotton balls to Popsicle sticks going on over here.

And I’ve learned that’s okay.  There is no cookie-cutter homeschool mom.  Just do what you’re good at, and adjust as needed.

I have learned through the years, and mostly through David’s reading struggles, that the majority of kids are left-brained dominant, but a small percentage of kids are right-brained dominant.  Right-brained learners move information to their long-term memory differently.  They tend to do better with visuals, especially 3-D visuals.  Humor and 3D pictures get moved straight to their long-term memory.  Also, they tend to do badly with flashcards where the question is on one side and the answer is on the other.  They do better where the answer is right there with the question so they can memorize them together.  We have letter flashcards where the letter “A” is directly on top of an apple, not the letter on one side of the card and the picture is on the other.

We have come so far with David, but I’m suspecting that Elias (my other left-hander) might be right-brain dominant as well.  Being left-handed doesn’t always mean they are a right brain learner, but it is common.  For those who deal with learning blocks in their homeschool I strongly recommend connecting up with Dianne Craft.  She has helped us, and so many other homeschoolers so much.

This spring I went on a search for some 3D letters.  Learning to read last year with Elias was painstaking, and he still has trouble reading 3 letter words.  Even when he gets it, he could see the same word a few seconds later, and the struggle starts over.  It’s not sticking after months.  I thought if I could get some 3D letters to help us work through this year, the superimposed, 3D nature, funny, colorful pictures would help it stick.

I found Alphabeticals.  They didn’t ask me to write a review, but I like them so much I just am.  (I’m linking up to Amazon, though, which is an affiliate of mine.)  The bad news is you have to put them together, and they are a little too tricky for kids.  But they are so amazing.  Even my older kids are loving these.

Some of these were harder to put together than others.  I really liked working with Aleen’s Tacky Glue much more than the traditional Elmer’s.  I think it just didn’t slip and slide so much.  You could probably do rubber cement if you wanted to, but I never seem to have it on hand.  Some of them require a weight in them to stand upright.  A paperclip usually did the job, but for ones like the letter “J” I had to go heavier and use a penny.  The book came with great instructions that I highly recommend reading.  99% of the problem that my kids had is they didn’t assemble each letter in the way outlined, and it never ended up well.  Then I had to fix it.

I didn’t do the letter Q according to the instructions, but that was on purpose. There were multiple crystals coming out of the quartz, and I thought that might be confusing for my kids.  It was cute, though, if they were just being on display.  Plus is was the last letter I did and I was so done.

What I find the most hilarious about these cute little letters, though, is they were designed by a biochemist, not an educator.  He designs paper 3D models as a hobby when he’s not working in a windowless basement of a biotech company (according to the back of the book).  It’s just some genius guy blowing off some steam.  I love it!

I worked hard on these, people!  If I show off my knitting for you, you have to see this stuff too.  I’m pretty proud of them.  I’m thrilled with how they turned out.  Now to work on being a laid-back  mom and let my kids play with these works of art…


It’s Going to Be Wonderful

So, I may have mentioned before that we’ve been doing sort of half-time school for the months of July-September, and this October we’re starting more of a full time day.  I just needed a little grace during the garden harvest/canning season this year, so I pushed off the big kick off for the year until October this year.  I’m getting antsy, though, and since October starts on a Thursday, we are going to start the Monday of that week.


I finally sprawled out all the curricula purchased for this year, and started organizing.  You see, I don’t order a package deal anymore.  We’ve become very eclectic, based off of the Classical model, and it fits us well.  I make up my own book lists now, and I really customize it off the cuff for each kid.  Basically, I fill our school shelves with good stories of various reading levels about a certain age in history we are studying.  This year it’s the medieval age.  So I pulled down my collection of books on that age, and a few extra that aren’t historically based, but just really good fiction for the kids to read.

My excitement is building as I’m nearly in tears, wishing I had the time to read all of these wonderful books instead of just assign them.  I want to be a student again.  I now see what a luxury it is! I do read many of them for the purpose of discussing, but mostly I just assign them, or read them aloud to the kids and experience it for the first time with them.  The majority of homeschool moms just learn right alongside their kids.

I’ve written out the kids assignments for their first week coming up already, and we’ve discussed how to handle trips to town for orchestra, the understanding that if they don’t finish their assignments by Friday, they will have to finish up what didn’t get done over the weekend.  I’ve got their reading lists written down, and I just need to move around some books on the bookshelf so they aren’t so scattered.  I’m going to put together a Morning Hour basket in my kitchen, so I have all the stuff ready.  Once I have the kids’ attention, I won’t have to say “wait here while I find our poetry book” or something like that.

So do you want to know what I plan for our homeschool day to look like?  I’m going for more routine, less schedule this year.  With 5 kids, especially the little ones, it’s hard to put exact times on things.  I’m going to be flexible.  Screen time will be moved to weekends only.



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Silje’s Top 10

My eldest daughter, Silje is obsessed with reading.  We keep trying to figure out where she got that from…


She has loved books since she was a chubby little toddler, and her love isn’t satisfied even now as a lovely young lady.  One of the most asked questions I get on the blog is: what books would Silje recommend?

I feel the need to preface, that Silje is more of an advanced reader than my other kids.  Also, from the time she was little, we have been working hard developing this love into an obsession, much like her dad is obsessed with the perfect cup of coffee.  We wanted her palette to be so discerning that she would spit out anything that was cheap or not written well.  To do this, we took out any “twaddle” from our house, and she kept gravitating towards it even at the library that we had to cut off any “candy books” for awhile while she was really developing those reading taste buds.

Candy books are those cheap little books with popular cartoon characters, that are entertaining, and not morally bad, but does not require much from you as a reader.  It is pure entertainment.  It does not require you to think.  Entertainment is not bad, and I believe that there is even a place for it, but it’s not the meat and potatoes that help you grow as a reader.  I have used candy books to beg and plead my other kids to just give it a try because I’m worried they’re lacking literature-based nourishment, but I have found it’s hard to introduce “vegetable” books once “candy books” have been discovered.

My degree was in English Literature, so I’m familiar with many books, but I still could not homeschool without some reliable book lists.  If you want to know how I pick out various books from the library, etc, I recommend: Read for the Heart, as well as Educating the Whole Hearted Child (which is far more than a book list, but has some great novels to read while studying various ages in history.  It’s basically the book list the parents of the ‘Read for the Heart’ author used while they were educating her.)  Also, I don’t own it (yet) but I really like the Honey for a Child’s Heart book list.  It’s very well done.

So when you see this list below, know that I have kids who struggle in each subject.  Silje has subjects that are a struggle, but reading isn’t one of them.  All my kids don’t excel in reading, but I am using various techniques to develop their palette anyway.  She was my easy one for this subject.  Maybe it’s bad to say, but I’m very proud of her developed tastes, and I laugh when she will discard a book “because it lacks depth.”  I’ve turned her into a book snob, and could not be prouder.

So I’ve asked Silje to come up with her “Top 10 Book List” to share with other moms.  This has been agonizing for her.  It’s like picking a favorite child.  You will notice a strong animal theme with her.  She wants to stress they are not in any particular order.

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