Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Great Day for a Walk

Yesterday we got up really early and headed out of the house to go walk in a breast cancer fund raiser in honor of a friend who recently began her treatment.

 Camille was the "flag bearer" and held this up most of the walk.

Our crew after the walk.

We had a LOT of people in our group and raised the most money as well.  I love this walk because all the money stays in our area! 

We thought the walk was only a mile, so imagine our surprise when we kept going.  And going.  And going.  It was actually a three mile walk!  I assumed Alexander would sleep at some point, but he never did. 

 A shot of all our little ones before the walk.

It was a beautiful day and we had a great walk!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Boy and His Dump Truck

Dump trucks are pretty popular around here.  Especially those that carry asphalt.  Alex comes from a long line of men who worked in road building.  My dad also was in this line of work just on the DOT side instead of private industry. 

We recently had our street repaved and this was a long awaited day for many reasons.  The girls could not wait to ride their scooter down the smooth road!  I could not wait to drive my car down the smooth road without having it rattle.  And Alexander could not wait to watch the excitement.  Well, he really didn't know that, but I was excited for him.

I took him outside as they were nearing our section of the road and we played with his dump truck while watching the big dump pour the asphalt into the paver and smooth it out.  It is interesting to watch and makes you appreciate what all goes in to the roads we ride on each day.

Challenge A

I've intentionally put off posting much about the specifics of our school this year for many reasons.  First and foremost is lack of time to post much of anything.  Second is the fact we are still trying to figure out what works best for us at this point.  Our days are full--and I do mean FULL! 


I just deleted several paragraphs telling how hard Challenge A is for Lillie and me.  I can get carried away at times with how much there is to be done without thinking of how much is gained.  And simply put, Challenge A is just that--a Challenge.  For all of us.  In the Challenge levels of CC, students have seminar day once a week, 30 weeks a year.  They are introduced to work in six strands that they will finish throughout the week.  They are introduced dialectically, with lots of questions and discussions among the students.  The tutor is really there just to facilitate and go over assignments. 

The real challenge for us is that I am the tutor and Lillie is my only student.  So you can imagine how a dialectic discussion is pretty hard with just one student.  Thankfully Challenge A students have a LOT of material still to learn and it is not solely dependent upon the discussions since kids in 7th grade are still in the grammar stage. We try to do a lot of the discussions at home too so she will have at least some of that before moving on to the next level. My prayer and hope is that Lillie will get all the information she needs and feel confident to move to Challenge B next year.  We love our CC community, but are willing to find another group in order to give Lillie the class size she needs.  Even if that means traveling farther than the 45 minutes we drive each week already. 

Each strand in the Challenge program is a skill and that skill is learned through mastery of a subject.  Each of these strands will be used for all years in Challenge which is designed to take a student from 7th-12th grade. Each year the strands they study are Logic, Debate, Rhetoric, Research, Exposition and Composition, and Grammar.

For Logic, she uses Math. She spends an hour (sometimes more) each day doing a math lesson and defining terms.  Again she is still in the grammar phase (the tail end, really), so learning laws and terms are important to future learning.  She is mainly on her own for this.  I check her work and go over areas I see as problems, but Lillie typically has only silly errors as problems in math.

For Debate this year she is studying geography.  She draws maps for about 40 minutes a day and then the other 20 is spent memorizing definitions and places on each map. The goal by the end of the year is to be able to free-hand the entire world by memory including labeling countries, capitals, major cities, rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.  Some question why we do this (including Lillie!), but think about it.  Everything, whether in current events, history, or literature, happens in a place.  We need to be able to find that place on a map. This year it's done grammatically--she's simply memorizing where things go.  In years to come she will learn historical, political, and cultural reasons for the boundaries.

 Our first seminar day was done at home since it is just us; we enjoyed learning about Canada and eating yummy maple leaf cookies.

These are the maps Lillie has drawn so far minus the US. Canada, Central America and the Antilles, and South America.  I am not sure where the US map has gone.  It was amazing!

Lillie is also studying Rhetoric by working with two books: The Fallacy Detective (such a neat, fun book!) and It Couldn't Just Happen. The tool here is to be able to read something and summarize it concisely as well as to be able to avoid fallacies when we write and when we debate.  While doing that she is learning why we believe what we believe. We are actually trying to do this study as a family, but are failing miserably.  In a perfect world, Lillie would summarize during the day and then we would all read at night and discuss it. But we don't live in a perfect world so we do the best we can.

Research is done by studying science.  Lillie researches a different topic each week and prepares an outline and research paper.  This is not a long process, but will get longer as the year goes on.  The main objective is to master how to research from more than one source and present the information on paper and aloud.  She seems to like this one so far!  We started the first semester with biology and will work with anatomy in the second semester.  So far she has researched protists, algae, fungi, wildflowers, herbs, trees, mollusks, arachnids, insects, and butterflies and moths.

Lillie and Camille sorting candy to go over ways of classification.

Exposition and Composition can be a little daunting since we have not done a lot of writing. This year we are learning the art of the persuasive essay through literature.  We are reading some really good books and we use those to find issues and write a persuasive essay.  So far I have been able to see how this will work well for Lillie.  It's very slow in explaining and builds each week.  And I could not ask for better books to study! The books we will be using this year are The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Carry on, Mr. Bowditch; The Magician's Nephew; Number the Stars; Amos Fortune, Free man; The Secret Garden; The Door in the Wall; A Gathering of Days; Crispin: The Cross of Lead; and The Bronze Bow.

We are studying Grammar by learning Latin.  Lillie has done a few small courses in Latin, but this year we started in earnest! I have already seen where having a limited knowledge of Latin is helping, but this is really just about memorizing rules, declensions, and conjugations.  I am having to learn this right along side her.  Once I got going, it just makes sense too.  But I notice that it requires a daily commitment.  Kind of like Alexander as he tries to walk.  If he slows down too much he falls, but the faster he goes the longer he stays up.  I'm finding that when I slow down I tend to forget what I had been learning.  So studying each day is a must for us both.  Lillie is required by her mean teacher to do this one for an hour a day, no questions asked.

This is just an overview of what Lillie is learning.  The material she is learning is rich, the skills she is mastering are invaluable, and the method she is using is time-tested.  I'll share what Camille and I are doing this year in another post.  And maybe a glimpse into our days.  We are still trying to get a handle on a good schedule and after trying different things, I do think we are getting closer.  That is until Alexander changes his schedule again!

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  --Aristotle

I read this quote the other day and have been pondering it ever since.  I tend to see things in black and white and not even think of other ways to do things.  This reminded me of what and how I want my kids to learn.  Hopefully I'll learn it in the process.  We need to constantly evaluate what we believe and be willing to change what is wrong or bend if necessary on what is not absolute truth.  To do that we must first know the truth and then evaluate everything by that.  CC is giving us the opportunity to do just that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Morning Time

This is what most of us look like in the morning.

Every year we set out to do what is known in the homeschooling world as "Morning Time." And it just conjures up these delightful pictures of time around the breakfast table with everyone smiling and happy and learning all the fun things.  Things like Bible verses, poetry, songs, art, music, and neat facts.  Throw in a read-aloud and a cup of cocoa and scone and it is just about the most perfect picture I could paint in my mind.

Except that picture never plays out how it looks in my minds eye.  My girls (or maybe it's me!) are just not wired for it I guess, but this year I'm throwing out the picture but keeping the things we do in place.

We eat breakfast pretty quietly around here.  The girls are not fully awake and at least one of them is pretty grumpy.  So I typically let them eat in peace and read the paper while music is playing. I came up with the idea of having a different type of music playing each week of the month-- 1st week is classical, 2nd is spiritual, 3rd is patriotic, and 4th is music from a specific decade.  After we finish eating, we do a few things that I still want Lillie to participate in with us. This may or may not work long term. I like the idea, but sometimes those ideas don't pan out.

We go over CC memory work (I am happy that Lillie can sit in on this and at least get some of cycle 3 in her head since she never had that one), read from the Bible (Proverbs and Psalms), learn poetry or speeches (currently The Gettysburg Address), read about a neat place in our world and find it on the globe (using Wonders of the World as a source).  That is all we've been able to do most some a few mornings.

I had plans to start back our read-aloud (currently Anne of Green Gables), do an artist study, talk briefly about a musician (all genres), and get back on our Bible study (using The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study) at least some days.  It will require waking the girls a little earlier and I just have not managed to do that. They covet their sleep and I covet a few more minutes of working in complete silence.  I've tried doing two of these (read aloud and Bible study) directly after lunch and this seems to work well.  Maybe this will be our "afternoon time" instead.

There is so much to be said for a set time like this each morning.  Given Lillie's schedule it is really the only time in our days that something like this could happen so I feel like it is pretty important.  It allows a slow, yet intentional, start to our days while learning a lot of things that tend to get pushed right off our schedule. Yet, some days it just doesn't seem like it is for us.  I'm grappling with how long to give something a try before tossing it completely.  Thoughts from seasoned home schooling moms with kids close in age to mine?

October Menu

I really need to get back in the habit of posting my menu each month.  I don't know if any of you want to read it, but it actually helps me cook what I plan.  And given I have most, if not all, the ingredients on hand already for all my recipes this month, I really should cook this stuff.  It also keeps the recipes in one place in case I misplace my copy. Our month does not always start on the 1st, it just depends upon when we get paid and I can get the groceries.  Both of those things happened recently so here goes.

I typically find myself perusing Pinterest a little more in the fall in hopes of finding a few new things to put in our recipe rotation. There are several that made this list and I hope we get to try them all! I've marked those with a star.

This time of year also makes me want to bake yummy treats! Some time ago and I pinned a recipe for Caramel Apple Scones.  I went so far as to print it out and put it in my "to try" binder and that is where it has been for a while.  But this morning we pulled the recipe out and got to work.  It was very easy and I do believe they beat any scones I've had at coffee shops or tea parlors. It would have been even easier if I had not been toting a little boy around while trying to prepare them! Here are a few other treats we hope to make this month!

 And just because you want to see him and he is really cute, here is Alexander cleaning his plate.  I've started putting his plate in front of him instead of giving him some here and there.  He likes this pretty well and is very good about not picking the plate up until he is almost done.

 And, it's gone!

Friday, September 19, 2014


I was reading an article from a Classical Conversations blog and this statement by the author, Ruth Holleran, really hit home:

"Be honest: do we parents not feel lazy when we just sit and think? We have so much to do! And yet, if we live an uncontemplated life, we are just ticking days off the calendar, moving inexorably to our final one. The habit of contemplation makes us wise, for it not only satisfies the curious mind, but informs the conscience. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds through attentive study."

Wow!  I tend to constantly be moving and in the process I move everyone around me, mainly my kids.  I know this is not what I want, yet, I do it anyway.  The first line is what always runs through my mind, even when I'm having quiet time with the Lord in the mornings.  I am Martha even when I try to be Mary!

This is actually one of my goals this year--to spend some time in contemplation and observation.  We are beginning a nature study this year to help with this.  It's something I have always wanted to do, but just never felt we had the time.  I noticed how unobservant one of my kids was one day and realized what a valuable asset a nature study would be to helping mold them all into being more observant about what is around us.  

This has value not only because we miss out on so much of God's beautiful creations--things He made specifically for us to enjoy--when we are not observant, but it could also have greater implications if we don't notice a danger that could harm us or something in our school work that we did not notice but should have (like the directions!). 

So maybe that is my word for the year.  Contemplation.  Maybe I'll go sit a while and think on that.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

First Day of School 2014-2015


This year I have a 7th grader (how is that possible?), a 4th grader, and one that is learning more than I can possibly imagine.  He may just end up be the smartest kid ever!

Lillie began her Challenge A program with Classical Conversations (CC) a few weeks before we actually started our school.  The program runs for 30 weeks and needs to be finished by a certain date so we had to start.  Camille started her Foundations and Essentials classes with CC a couple weeks after we officially started, but we went ahead and began math work and a few other things.

This year will be a hard one.  Partly because the amount of time I have to spend with the girls has significantly decreased since Alexander is so active.  Thankfully he is taking good naps most days, but as the year progresses I imagine that will change too.  Also, I have a 7th grader.  This is a hard year just because of that transition, but the amount of work Lillie will have compared to last year is amazing.  I am in awe at what Challenge A provides in terms of material she is learning as well as skills.

I still wish she had a true class for this, but we felt pretty strongly about going ahead and doing it this year even if no one joined us.  And they didn't, so it's just us.  Next year for Challenge B that will not be an option.  The material she will cover, in my opinion, cannot be mastered effectively without a few others.  She can learn the material, but the conversations really matter a lot more starting in B. So we'll figure all that out as the time for it approaches.

For now Lillie works about six hours a day on six subjects.  She is actually trying to master a tool by using a subject as the source. I had typed up information about each subject, but then realized it was just too long for this post.  So that will come later.  Just know there have already been a lot of prayers, angry words, and tears and mostly all that from me!  As I talk to other moms of other 7th graders, both home schooled and traditionally schooled, I am finding this is just what happens.  We seem to all be struggling.

Sweet Camille is enjoying the 4th grade so far and experiencing a few big changes as well.  She has more independent work this year mainly for when Alexander is awake and I cannot instruct.  Also, since Lillie is spending her time differently, Camille and I are alone for her school.

Most home school moms prefer to teach "across the grades" for things like science, history, Bible, etc.  And I used to think that worked for us.  But I think I am finding this new way works so much better for me and the girls for many reasons. Camille enjoys spending time learning with just me (and some days Alexander) and prefers for me to walk through things where Lillie has always wished I would give her more independence. The balance is being able to find time to do that and not neglect checking what Lillie is doing.  I'm finding out the hard way she still needs a lot of accountability!

The first picture of all the kids at the top shows how I hope our year goes--everyone still and looking at the camera.  Those last two are how I imagine we will spend lots of days--someone wanting mommy all the time (oh, that is what it feels like every second of my days!), papers wrinkled, one girl smiling trying to make it work, and the other just ready to stop!

But we will take the good with the bad and through it all I will remember how much of a blessing it is to do this.  Not all blessings seem perfect all the time because most things just aren't! We'll manage to learn more than we set out to learn--things about ourselves as individuals, things about our family, and most importantly, things about how God loves us and provides for us even in the small everyday things!

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”
― Mahatma Gandhi