It’s all In

First, some housekeeping. Knut and Silje had their family party last night with all of the grandparents and great-grandparents and siblings. It was fun as always! I just so barely had enough cheesecake, so something to expand on next year. I’m glad I made cupcakes too or I would have been in trouble!

The kids finished up VBS today with their AWESOME program, and sadly…I left my camera at home. This picture was from the first day. We did get the c.d. of VBS music on it to take home, though, so if we’re lucky maybe the kids will re-enact it sometime.

However, the most exciting thing going on at our house has been the last of the homeschool curriculums are here! It’s all in!

From our first impressions:
Chinese…haven’t popped it in the computer yet. So no big impression 😉

Apologia Science “Exploring Creation Through Astronomy” —

Seems pretty good for the age level we’re dealing with, and none of the projects seem to difficult. Silje and David have both “stolen” this book off of the shelf and ran to another room and hid with it so that they could look at all the pictures in it. There are some great ones! David has now made a big announcement that he will no longer be a race car driver when he grows up. He now wants to be an astronaut. For him, that’s a pretty big change! He was surprised that this was a book for Silje’s school next year because “this is a boyish book!” Silje doesn’t seem to think so, but I think we won’t need to do an awful lot of convincing to get him involved in our science lessons next year.

Shurley English–

I made the mistake of opening up the student workbook before the teacher’s manual, and got totally freaked out. It looked so hard that my jaw dropped and said to myself “what have I done? Silje’s advanced but not advanced enough for THIS!!!” Fortunately, I got to the teacher’s manual, and spent an entire evening reading through the first 10 weeks of lessons. Much to my relief, I think it will be as awesome as I originally thought it would. It is deep grammar stuff, but it’s presented through arts and crafts, and imaginative stories and songs and raps. Silje is going to love it.

However, they could put a little more effort into organizing the children’s workbook, and dare I say, put something fun looking in it? I mean when I was in Advanced Grammar in college at least my teacher gave us a dragon mascot to cheer on when things got boring. I mean, there’s not a cartoon, doodle, nothing. Not only that, but the word finds in there don’t even look like word finds. It’s like someone put a word find into an excel spreadsheet and printed it off…lines and long rectangle cubes and all. Plus, it’s confusing that you don’t go through the workbook front to back. The first time you crack it open is to turn to page 86 to do an exercise. I just think it’s not organized terribly well, though I do see what they were trying to do.

I’m not sure yet that I would recommend the program yet, though. I think it will be great for Silje because she’s a solid reader. I know not all 1st graders are reading the books she is. This does not have phonics, and assumes that the student has a firm grasp on reading. This makes me want to be sure that David is reading, and reading well before we attempt this program with him in 2 years. If he’s not by then, we may pick something else. He’s already sounding out words though, and this program is 2 years down the road for him.

It does not have spelling either (vocabulary words, but I think those are too difficult to start spelling.) So I’ve found a great teacher’s website with spelling lists, and I think I’ll start Silje on the 2nd grade lists this fall. The first grade lists were primarily 2 letter words with a few 3 letter ones sprinkled in, and I think she’d get bored with that.

What else? Saxon Math–

I have not gone through the huge box of manipulatives out of fear that the kids will get to them and little blocks will be scattered across the house. So for now, they are sealed in their box and will probably stay that way for awhile. I need to get a 3 ring binder for the math workbook, and haven’t dared open it until I have one for her. However, the teacher workbook has each workbook page on a small scale, and goes into extreme detail as far as scripts to use when teaching the math. I think that level 1 was the right one to get for her, and I think she’ll do well in it.

Sonlight Core 1–

As you can see, Silje was eager to jump right in. She grabbed a book on archeology when we opened them up and was telling me all about it already.

This came in a big box! (The other box was the Saxon math from them.) The inside of the box had lines drawn to show how to turn the box into a castle for the kids to play in. Can we say they understand families? Knut and I got a good laugh out of that. The part of the core 1 that we got is divided into 3 sections: History, Read-Alouds, and Readers. It comes with a big wipe-able map to mark whenever we come across a place in one of the books, and a big timeline book with stickers to mark major events in. Core 1 covers creation to the fall of Rome…so quite a span.

I’ve heard from several sources that core 1 can easily cover 2 years of schooling, but after we saw all of the books lined up, we thought “Silje’s going to read through these 4 times this year.” So we’ll have to see how it goes. People said that there’s no way you can do every single thing in the curriculum, and after going through the teacher’s manual, I think it might be easy. No that’s a totally newbie talking, so we’ll see how far we get by the end of the year. My goal for this curriculum is to get at least half way through by the end of the year. Knut’s goal is to make it “make it” to Christmas! The good thing about it is it does give “optional” discussion questions for each chapter of each book, and I think that Silje will really benefit from doing those with us. She tends to speed through books, and we’re pretty sure her comprehension doesn’t always match her reading ability. This will help her slow down and think about what she’s reading more, and help her notice those little details in books.

The books are fabulous. There’s no better word for it. The read alouds look fun, and rotate from girl to boy heroines/heros so that boys and girls enjoy them equally. Even for David there will be things that are “boyish”. The sheer number of cultures talked about and touched on surprises me. When they say “World History” they really mean the whole world! I can tell that this curriculum is supposed to be a jumping point for the kids to do related projects and searches in the library.

We were surprised, though when everything we ordered from a variety of places all fit on one shelf that I cleared off.

Well, more liked shoved everything on that shelf onto the one below, so I’ll need to do a bit more rearranging. Knut took this as a big hint that he’ll need to finish the bookshelves in the den one of these days. I didn’t intend it that way, but I’ll take that as an added bonus.

Now that everything is in I’ve read through at least the first half of the year in each of the teacher’s handbooks, and read at least the back of every book that we’ll read together, and read little snippets of each one. I’m coming up with a list of goals and a list of school supplies for the upcoming school year, and trying to assemble a basic time line. I’m probably doing too much, but this is my first time attempting this, and I don’t want to miss anything. Making these lists and more lists help me sort through my thoughts, and hopefully by this fall I’ll be feeling more confident!

One Decision Down

Well, I think we’re going to try it. I think Silje will be homeschooled next year. First, I feel the need to do my normal disclaimers. We don’t feel that this was in any way a reaction or statement of the public schools around us. Personally, we think the school she attended was great. It wasn’t a waste, and we are not ruling out public school in the future. Her teacher was first rate. I’m on the curriculum review board in town, and have seen what they study through the years and am not only impressed with the school, the school board, but our very innovative and thoughtful superintendent.

So why the switch? Well, mainly, I think we see more education there right now. A depth of education that logistically cannot be obtained through her school. It doesn’t take an analyst to realize that 1 on 1 teaching might be better than 1 on 25 teaching, or whatever the ratio is now.

We feel led to this right now. I feel like God is putting our kids in front of me and saying “This is your mission field right now.” Worst case scenario is that we hate it and go running back to the public school next year. However, the more we research it, the more excited we get. We spent so much time looking at different websites, and a little bummed that we didn’t start thinking about this during the last homeschool convention near us, where we could page through all of the different curriculums. We did a lot of research both online, and talked with several homeschool families, and those we would consider “homeschool experts.”

Still, we don’t feel as we are addressing this as a moral decision: as though one is Biblical and one is not. I think you could find Biblical grounds for sending your kids to public school as well as homeschooling.

To prepare you for this this lengthy and traditionally long-winded post, I’d like to write a bit about how our minds changed about some things with homeschooling. You see, I never ever saw myself as the homeschooling kinda mom. I’m not nearly fun enough for that. When my older kids were toddlers (really…not that long ago) I remember counting down until they could go to school! Get them out of the house so I can actually go on a bit with my life! I desired nothing more than just a little bit of peace and sanity in my house, and saw the availability of schools to meet that need.

The reality of how fast this time of childhood thing is going is really sinking in.

No one was surprised more by the change than me. Well, maybe Knut. You see, I don’t mean this to come out sounding awful, but I started liking being around my kids more. I mean, I love my kids, and I miss them when they’re gone, but really, I couldn’t wait to hand them off to a teacher.

The idea of Silje being home all day so we could do things together starting sounding more and more fun, and less like a chore. She’s so smart, and so funny, and did I say smart? It’s amazing how her mind works when we sit and talk about anything. Then there’s the struggle that she spends so much of her day at school, that we barely see her. If she were learning or playing or having fun during that time, that would be one thing, but she’s bored a lot.

If we can’t see her, how are we to disciple her? How are we supposed to train her, and coach her through the challenges she’s bound to face? Knut put it well, that we could still do public school, and have no problem. However, with our goals in mind, homeschooling might be easier for us. We think the idea of addressing problems as they come might be easier than waiting for her to come home, making supper, having supper, and having baths, and then maybe scheduling a time to talk to her about something right before bed she may not be interested in talking about anymore…well it sounds easier to just talk to her throughout the day when it’s appropriate.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it will be work. I think I’ll find out exactly how much pretty soon, too! I think we realized it might be more effective, and although time consuming, maybe easier work to be in charge of her schooling. Plus, the curriculums we chose just excite us so much, that I really think Knut and I will enjoy it as well!

So for those who are interested, here is what will be ordered for our classroom for the next school year. It’s probably a bit overboard, and if it is, we’ll just have to roll it into another year.

Sonlight “core 1″ (this will cover literature, history, geography and Bible. Many families wrap this around 2 years, but we’ll see how long it will take us to get it done as Silje is a huge reader!)

Saxon Math (in close second was “Math U See” which we may try another year)

Shurley English

Apologia Science – astronomy

Rosetta Stone Mandarin Chinese (homeschool addition)

We are also planning on signing her up for the children’s choir at the center for the arts in town (which practices once a week I believe), and are debating whether or not it’s too much to have her be in piano lessons and/or ballet lessons this fall as well. Cost, of course, will play a role as well!

So want to hear details about what we picked? Feel free to leave now if you’re not! You’ve been warned! First, I’ll start with the core 1 from Sonlight. This was so different from other programs we saw in that it is completely literature based. There’s not a textbook or workbook in sight. The program comes with a box of amazing books. (I mean, my jaw dropped at some of the titles. From a literature perspective, I love their book list.) There are books both for Silje to read independently and for us to read aloud to the family, a teacher’s guide with too many activities to possibly do, a map, and a timeline, etc. From what we gather, we have daily readings, and then we discuss what we’ve read to insure comprehension, and then we mark all the places we read about on the map, mark all the dates we read about on the timeline, and do supporting activities. Core 1 covers creation to the fall of Rome. The Bible elective that comes with it has memory verses, which we will incorporate into our handwriting, and every memory verse is also set to music.

For the Sonlight, all the activities are ready to go, and require little to no preparation. All the lesson plans are laid out daily depending on how fast we plan on getting through it. We really loved their teaching philosophies as far as how we want to introduce our children to the world, rather than protecting them from the world. The worldview it teaches from is stellar. Not only that, it is taught in the old one-room schoolhouse style option, so that, let’s say David starts next year, we’ll just go onto core 2, and there will be activities for both Silje and David’s level, while using the same books. There are a few modifications that would have to be made, but from our understanding, that’s all laid out very well in the teacher’s handbook. I think this system works well when there is less than a 4 year gap between students.

Next on the list is Saxon math. This is different because it has workbooks for Silje to do, and then manipulatives to work with more hands on. There are weekly tests with this curriculum, (whereas “core 1″ only has oral review) including things like drills and timed tests. The main deciding factor for choosing this was that this is the curriculum my sister taught at her super elite private school, and she highly recommended it to us. We drool over the school that she taught at, and her husband still teaches at down in Arizona. However, several homeschool families recommended “Math U See” and said it is very much preferred to Saxon math when you get into the upper grades. So we’ll keep that one in mind as well.

Shurley English is next. While I know some people use the Sonlight’s program for English, and still other families recommended Abeka for several subjects, one “homeschool expert” (aka Knut’s cousin;) ) told us to look into Shurley English. As an English major, all I have to say is WOW. Abeka was totally workbook, which was going to be my next choice, but I looked into Shurley English and again, WOW.

It does use a workbook, but the depth of things studied astounded me. You basically start off learning grammar and such by dissecting sentences, and labeling each word SN (subject/noun) verb, etc. Sounds dry, right? O no! Every grammar rule has a song to go to it. Can you tell I love the idea of learning through song? What a great way to embed something into your mind painlessly! So there are songs with actions, and workbooks with application, and of course, the daily lessons. I’m pretty excited about this one as well.

When it came to science, we got a lot of conflicting feelings from our pool of advisers. Not only that, not a whole lot of options were available for the 1st grade. Why? Because science isn’t a huge part of most school’s curriculum until 3rd grade. It gets entered here and there where it makes sense, but nothing formal. Several families said that they just studied nature together, gardened together, and checked out interesting books at the library.

We chose to go with an Apologia textbook on science because Knut especially (along with my Papa!) was horrified at the thought of doing science so laid back. The thought was there should be a plan, and it should be part of the routine. Apologia has amazing science textbooks, recommended by about everyone we talked to for all grades. For elementary school, it has 6 textbooks for 1st through 6th grade: one representing each day of creation. So we’ll start there. The first textbook starts with astronomy (God made the heavens and the earth.) There are 2-20 minute science activities to do with Silje (but most likely all the kids) a week. I’m guessing it will be things like studying the moon, constellations, etc. Apologia sounded in their philosophy to not be “preachy” as some Christian curriculums can be, but rather just grounded in solid science.

Lastly, we both felt very strongly, that if we were given the opportunity to homeschool, we would introduce a foreign language as early as possible. Why schools wait until high school to introduce a foreign language, I’ll never know. Language is most easily picked up and very young ages.

The question might be “why in the world Chinese?” Well, Spanish was a close second. There are a few reasons Chinese came out on top. First, Knut really wanted to learn it in college, but it wouldn’t fit in his schedule. Not only Silje, but Knut could work on it as well. I have an uncle living and working in China, and Knut has a cousin doing the same. Silje’s ability to Skype and speak to either of those would be within reach. We both feel that Chinese is the language to be learned in the future business world.

Not only that, it’s the language Silje wants to know most. She’s always had a fascination with China in general. She scours anything at the library on the country, and loves talking with people back from working there, and loves to talk with any Chinese people. She prays for China often. If there were one language she would be obsessed with, it would be Chinese.

Rosetta stone has the best program hands down. Really, nothing else came close. This class will be done completely on the computer. We’ll pop in her lesson for the day, and she’ll sit there with her headset and microphone, and do her lesson. At the end of the lesson, we’ll get a report as to how she did so that we can track her progress.

It’s done on the computer, but it’s not done online. There’s no instructor she’s working with. We’re planning on setting aside our old computer in the office that is not connected to the internet, and have that be the “school computer.”

As far as David goes, I’m not planning anything so formal, but there are some plans. He misses the cutoff for public kindergarten this fall, and I would agree, he’s not ready for that yet. Still, I think with Silje doing school at home, he’ll want something to do as well. He’s in the process of teaching himself how to read just as Silje did. He already reads most traffic signs, in church tries to sound out words in the bulletin, and he loves learning every word on a cereal box. I think I’ll do the basic “hooked on phonics” (I only have the first part I got at a consignment store.) with him just to get him started.

Also, he hates writing, and needs the most work there. My goal for the year is to get him to write his name well. I’m planning on getting hims some “Kumon” workbooks that Silje liked so much for learning to write letters, and maybe some fun dot to dot sheets to help him handle a pencil a bit better. We’re thinking he might be a lefty, although he uses both hands very well, so I’m a little apprehensive as to how to teach him writing. Then of course, he’ll be apart of the read aloud books in Silje’s core 1, and he’ll love being a part of the science projects as well, I’m sure.

As for Elias, our goal for the year is to get him talking! We may regret that, but I think it might be a necessity!

Just What We Like To See

I had an early ultrasound today, and everything is just as they like to see. The yoke sak is healthy, the baby’s heartbeat is strong. (yes, ONE baby. I made the lady do a sweep of the place twice to make sure there was just one!) To guide those who don’t read these well, the black part is the amniotic sac (I think…I really could easily get this all wrong.) Of the “clump” in the sac, the baby is laying horizontally, with the head on the right, and the bum on the left, and the little yolk sac just below that is supporting the baby until the placenta is fully ready to go in not too long. If you look hard, you can see little arm buds starting to form, right on target for where he/she should be right now. This ultrasound gave the same due date as the doctor: December 19th. My NFP charts gives me the date of December 15th, and since I usually go early, I’d lean in that direction.

On a different note, here are finally some pictures of Silje’s school program.

Elias liked to look at the program!

Here’s Silje doing her reading about lightbulbs. The whole theme was on “going green.” As adorable as the kids were, it was a very…we’ll say: “interesting” program.

Here’s all the kindergarteners on the risers.

After the program, Silje’s teacher, Mrs. B, did a special program and little snack and activity for the Moms for Mother’s Day. It was so cute, I had to get a little video of part of Silje singing in the classroom:


As always, I’m going to try to work out my thoughts by writing them out, and sharing them with all of you.

I think when it has come to schooling, Knut and I have been on the same page pretty much all the time. We both want our kids to go to public school, as we feel it is so important for there to be a presence of Christian kids and Christian families in our public school system. We had no intention of going the private/Christian school route for a few reasons. One of them is the usual: money. The other is the fact that both of us knew people from both here and where I lived in Arizona, where kids grew up in Christian schools and were never really exposed to non-Christians, or a non-Christian culture, and college can be such a shock to that. Knowledge of God to those friends seemed boring, and commonplace. We never want that knowledge to be that way for our kids.

Don’t get me wrong, Knut and I both graduated from a Christian high school, which I attended for two years and he attended for one. I hope our kids will decide to go there someday too. However, there’s a difference between getting immersed in that culture for awhile, because it is such a fun culture, and living there your whole life.

As far as homeschooling, we’ve played around with the idea, but neither one of us has been fully onboard. We keep coming back to it over and over, and I don’t think it will ever be ruled out, but for now, we’re going the public school route.

I should say, there is such a spectrum to homeschooling, I think. There are those who do it poorly, and those who do it well. There are those who get their kids out and involved in their community, and those who just shelter their kids as long as they possibly can. We don’t want to go this route, unless we can have a plan to do it well.

We are near completing Silje’s first year of school. It was only kindergarten, and it was all day, 3 days a week. Here are some of my observations that I’d like to reflect on about our first year in the public school system.

First, her teacher was awesome. I don’t think we’ll ever get another teacher as awesome as she is. She sent us home with a weekly update. She gave us her work phone, and her home phone, to call her anytime. She let us know what they studied that week, and what they intended on studying the next week, so we could have talks with Silje about any possibly “if-y” topics in school. Two examples of topics we felt we should talk to Silje about before it was address in the classroom was the various holidays studied in the “winter holidays” session, and their unit on families, and how a family is defined.

When Silje is at school, the house is so peaceful, which surprised me. She’s not very loud. However, she and David aren’t fighting and bickering as kids their age often do when she is gone. I get more alone time with David, and he thrives on the days that she is at school, because he doesn’t feel as though he is living under her shadow.

Those are the really good things. Now for the annoying parts. First, Silje’s attitude when she comes home from school is usually terrible. Her attitude in general has become worse, and she has more and more of a feeling of entitlement, that we are fighting and compares herself to other kids much too often. She looks down to David since she has started school, and talks down to him. We are constantly correcting her on this. Constantly.

I don’t like seeing her like this, and the more we correct her, and she will not be corrected, the more I worry how to reach her, and how to help her understand. We’ll sit and talk about it over tea. We pray together. We talk about how God wants us to treat others. Still, whatever our efforts, it does not seem to be changing. Is it just her age, or is it going to school? I don’t know! Our relationship seems to becoming more distant as I feel like I can’t get her to open up about certain things, and with the younger kids, I’m not able to volunteer in her classroom as I had once hoped I could. My mother in law works, and has her parents to look after, etc. I just don’t feel like I have the resources at hand to ask others to watch the boys so I can spend more time with Silje at school. Knut and I have each been able to go on at least one field trip with her, but I don’t feel like that was enough. Not only that, I need to be spending time with the boys while they’re home!

I don’t mean to say she always has this attitude, but there’s been an attitude to deal with on days when she’s at school, and more often on other days as well. Part of me wonders that if we had more opportunities to correct this, it would be beneficial.

There is so much wasted time in her day, and that bothers me. The biggest part of this is her extremely long bus ride. It’s about an hour to school, and an hour home. That’s 2 hours of her day every day. She hates that, by the way, and it’s very obvious to me that those 2 hours are miserable for her. From what I can tell, she’s not bullied or anything, but is bored stiff. We’ve allowed her to bring books, toys, and I’ve started writing her letters on some days for her to read on the bus. It does not work for our family for me to bring her and pick her up every day. The gas money alone would be crazy. Waking the boys up from their nap in the afternoon to pick her up would make our evenings unbearable.

When I heard that so many homeschooling families only spend their morning in school, and their afternoon doing other activities because all the wasted time in a large school setting is cut out, I was surprised. The feeling of doing school all day long is daunting as I have so much else to do! The idea of spending some hours every morning doing school work with my kids doesn’t sound so terribly different than what I’m doing now: reading books, playing, talking, coloring.

I suppose there’s no point to all of this, but I’m just revisiting the thought again. As we make plan for this fall, we’ll need to figure out what to do. Both Knut and I are still leaning towards public school, but the homeschooling has again, not been ruled out. I’m dabbling at looking at homeschool curriculums, and trying to wrap my head around the concept again, to see if we could do it well. One plus would be that we could travel as we pleased in the winter when Knut has more free time, without regard to Silje missing school. We would just work around it.

We could study U.S. History in the capitol itself. We could take the kids on mission trips when they got older. There are so many awesome things about homeschooling, that it seems almost wrong to take it off of the table. However, we refuse to make any decision lightly, because in reality, it’s so scary. Parenthood is scary. You don’t know how many times I ask myself, especially at times like this: “Are we really screwing up our kids?” What if we make the wrong decision? What if we leave Silje in school, and she is over influenced by the world, and struggles with her faith? What if we school her at home and she has a tough time adjusting to the world when we get her there, and has a huge crisis?

When I dwell on all the ways we can royally screw up our kids, I start panicking. How can one not? It always leads me back to the same place, and the same prayer. We must, must release our kids to the Lord, because if we rely on ourselves we will screw up. We must pray, “Dear Lord, take my children and overwhelm them with your presence. Never leave them, and never give up on them. Take whatever we screw up, and turn it into something beautiful in them. Help them understand your plan, and open their eyes when we cannot.”

So what are we going to do? Well, we have to give our kids to God. Whether we are going to put Silje back in public school or decide to go the homeschooling route, I still don’t know.