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What Am I Going To Tell My Children?

I see a lot of folks asking what they should tell their children.  Regardless of who you voted for an whether or not you felt you “won”, I believe you should tell your children this:

  1. Tell them that you love them.
  2. Tell them that we can only control our own behavior.
  3. Tell them that we don’t need anyone to tell us its okay to be kind.
  4. Tell them that we live in a fallen world, but we don’t need to wallow in it.
  5. Tell them that in a democracy, the pendulum swings both ways.
  6. Tell them that this is where we are now, we may be somewhere else tomorrow.
  7. Tell them that they can change the world by good deeds, but never by whining.
  8. Tell them to pray for our leaders, that they may have wisdom and fortitude.
  9. Tell them that you love them.

 

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Schooling Outside The Box

Homeschooling has been such a blessing this year.  I love being with the kids (most of the time 😉  ) and I love watching their wheels turn, while they make new connections, and discoveries.  And while I’m sure I still have TONS to learn, I feel pretty confident sharing our successes and tricks.

A topic that has come up more than once when I’m over-zealously sharing our experience with public school moms is “I’d be scared I’d miss something”.  That is a valid concern, particularly for someone such as myself, who didn’t want to use a “box curriculum”.  Not only do we not have the budget for a complete “open and go” curriculum, but I fear I’d get bored and toss it anyway, or dislike parts of it and just not use those parts, which would lead to–you guessed it–those pesky gaps in learning.  Depending on your philosophy, and your state’s law, that could be a problem down the line.  I happen to believe there will always be gaps, whichever education you pursue for your child, so philosophically, gaps weren’t a huge concern for me.  But there is a certain continuity needed for skill building–I’m thinking math and language arts here– and it’s important to comply with your state’s laws.  (More on my opinion about gaps here)

One tool I’ve used to be sure we’re meeting our state’s requirements is a Course Of Study. Simply put this is a one page outline covering what we plan to do for each subject for the year. It may sound overwhelming, but if you’re at the point where you’re researching homeschool, chances are you’ve already started this process mentally.

The first step is to find out which subjects are required by your state.  If your state doesn’t set requirements for homeschool, you’ll need to decide which subjects are important to you.  Some considerations are future college goals, necessary life skills, and any obstacles you anticipate for your student.  We live in a state that requires 11 subjects, but doesn’t specify when, how, or at what level each subject is to be covered.  For my Course of Study/outline each subject is a heading.

Now that I have my headings, I just plug in what materials or resources I plan to use for each subject.  Some activities, and resources may cover more than one subject, and that is okay.  I simply list them separately for each subject.  For instance I have Garden listed under Occupational Ed. and Health.

If you’re not sure what to use for a particular subject, a simple google search will provide an overwhelming number of options.  I’d recommend you start by asking homeschool families in your area what they are using, and if they would consider letting your observe a school day, or subject period.

Here’s my Course Of Study for 2016/17

Half Acre Cottage School
2016-2017
Course of Study
Required subjects: reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation.

Reading

  1. Araya will read independently and narrate back to me from her choice of level appropriate books.
  2. Montana will read with me using Mc Guffey Readers, word building with scrabble tiles, Moby Max
  3. Whenever possible the other subjects will be literature based (ie living books for history, natural science etc.)
  4. Weekly library visits

Math

  1. Math Mammoth (workbook)
  2. Xtramath/ Moby Max

Science

  1. Nature notebooks (observations lead to questions/research)
  2. Weekly nature hike
  3. Burgess Bird Book For Children
  4. Museum and Dam Field Trips

Language arts (language/writing/spelling/grammar)

  1. Reading (living books for history, science, literature, and free reads)
  2. Copy work from the Bible, literary classics, (and Mc Guffey Readers for Montana )
  3. Daily journal prompt
  4. Vocabulary and spelling taken from reading selections
  5. Araya will compose written narrations for some readings.
  6. A Child’s Garden Of Verses

History/Social Studies

  1. An Island Story
  2. Fifty Famous Stories Retold (emphasize that some stories are based on real people/events but heavily fictionalized)
  3. Viking Tales
  4. Biogrophies: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Buffalo Bill

Health

  1. Daily life-conversations with mom, meal planning
  2. Gymnastics
  3. Weekly nature walks/hikes
  4. Garden

Occupational Education

  1. Life– chores, daily responsibilities
  2. Volunteering/ Camp Fire
  3. Garden
  4. Handicrafts (sewing and cooking at present)

Art and Music Appreciation

  1. Artist Studies
  2. Nature Journal
  3. Composer and Folk Song Studies
  4. Handicrafts

Remember, while we do have laws we need to follow, many of us choose to homeschool so that we can give our children a customized education.  Hopefully this helps you get an idea how to put together your course of study in such a way that you don’t forget any required topics.  Feel free to comment with questions on how to actually use any of the resources I’ve listed.

 

 

 

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Autumn Chores for a Cozy Winter

Ah fall!

It’s my favorite time of year. The colors, the crisp air, bonfires, warm soups and, even the ever present autumn cliche: Pumpkin. Spice. EVERYTHING!

It’s also a busy time on the ol’ farm.

Not only is there a lot that just didn’t get done with the crazy summer schedule, and getting our homeschool legs under us,  but there’s a lot that needs done every year to prepare for a smooth and restful winter.

With frost the past two nights, and a forecast for snow at 3000 ft, winter is definitely knocking on our door!

Here’s a basic list of the things we do to get our 100 year old farm house, and grounds ready for winter.

1. Clean And Mend Chicken Coop.  

We clean our chicken coop every spring and fall, by shoveling out the bedding and droppings into a compost pile where they can “cool” for use in the garden next year.  We replace it with several inches of clean pine shavings.  This is also time to replace light bulbs, cover windows with plastic, make sure water heaters are in good order, and in our case, secure the big blue tarp on the roof.  We’re just so classy.

We planned a new roof for the coop this year, but had some very expensive and unexpected repairs to the actual home, so the chickens get to be the trashiest neighbors on the block for one more winter.

We’re also using this time to enlarge the chicken run, and fix our rookie mistake of fencing the run with chicken wire.  Real fencing, folks.  Free Range chickens can be charming right up until they scratch up your spring plantings and poop on your front porch, and picnic table, playhouse, lawn mower seat. . .you get the idea.  They’re sort of gross.

2. Winterize the Rabbit Hutch

Rabbits are generally much happier with winter than summer, so they don’t need much.  We’ll give them a good deep bedding to burrow in, and make sure we have extra water bottles on hand for when they freeze.  During freezing weather we only fill the bottles half full.  Twice a day we take out a fresh bottle and bring the frozen ones back into the house to thaw.

3. Cover Windows With Plastic

We still have (possibly original, definitely old) single pane windows in our house.  We use clear shrink film on the downstairs windows, and  6 mil “clear” (it’s NOT clear) plastic in the upstairs bedrooms to help reduce heat loss.  It’s not the most elegant solution out there, but it does make a significant difference.

4. Drain and Store Hoses

It’s hard to believe we were still watering the lawn just a little over a week ago!  And the hoses are still strung all over the property.  Time to drain, roll and stash them in the shed.

5. Stock Fire Wood

We have electric heat, unlike a lot of the older homes in our area, so we’re lucky to not be entirely reliant on wood heat.  But is there really anything lovelier on a cold winter evening than snuggling up next to a crackling fire?  I also like to have enough wood on hand to see us through a power outage.  We were without power for five days once, before we lived in a home with wood heat, and we had to find friends to stay with.  I like the thought of being able to stay home and welcome friends next time.

6. Run the Mower Out Of Gas  

We could also use an additive to stabilize the gas, but we generally use the mower to clean up the last round of leaves (if the snow doesn’t get ahead of us), so we’re usually able to time it right to just go ahead and run the gas out.  And speaking of leaves…

7. Rake Rake Rake 

Shade trees are awesome.  They really do improve the quality of life in summer.  To the point that we usually don’t even need to use the AC.  In fact we didn’t ever use one until the crazy hot summer of 2015, and only a few times last summer, largely because we have huge shade trees on the sunny side of our house.  Huge shade trees full of leaves.  Which will fall over the course of six weeks or so, and need to be raked or otherwise removed several times.  We’ll use some of the leaves to mulch garden beds, some for jumping in, and the rest will get mowed into the grass.  Good times.

8. Put the Garden to Bed

The garden.  Let’s just not talk about how that went this year.  Suffice it to say there is a lot of clean up to be done.  Weeds and spent plants need to be pulled and burned, rabbit manure spread, fence mended, and perennials need pruned and mulched.

9. Clean and Store Garden Tools

After the garden is put to bed it’s time to clean and store garden tools.  I’ll admit I suck at this.  I usually run around the yard picking up shovels and rakes after the first dusting of snow, and hastily toss them in the shed.  This year I mean to actually clean, oil, and properly store my yard and garden implements, before I have to find them under the snow.  This is also a good time to stage snow shovels, ice-melt and sleds near the front door.

10.  Snow Gear

While it’s not exactly a “farm” chore, I also like to take this time to pull out all of the winter coats, boots, etc. to see what we need to replace.  Outgrown items can be cleaned up and sold, donated or stored for a younger child.  We did some of each this year.  Can you believe we somehow accumulated three pairs of size 4/5 snow bibs over the years?  I gave away two, and stored one for the toddler to grow into.  We shifted some gear from oldest to middle kid, and know what we need to replace before snow.  If you’re down with used gear, this is a good time to find stuff on craigslist of facebook selling groups.  We just snagged a good pair of boots this morning. It’s also a good time to hit discount stores for the best variety.  We waited a little too long on Costco coats last year, and the girls didn’t get the colors they wanted.  Horrors.

11.  Finally we have to make a dump run.  

We accumulate trash.  It seems like every spring and fall we’ve managed to accumulate a bigger-than-the-weekly-can heap of broken outdoor toys, ragged tarps, and other bulky refuse.  I try to have it hauled off before it’s buried under snow to grow mold all winter.

I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting to list here, but these are the most relevant to our household, and top priority.  Everything else will either wait, or be forgotten and we’ll mitigate in the spring.  Life does go on.

Happy Autumn!

Why You Need a Routine

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Have you ever noticed how exhausting a week off is? Needed a vacation to recover from your vacation? I know I have.  We have this week off of school, and I tell you I’m beat!

It’s from all the fun activities and extra projects, right?

NOPE.  Haven’t done a single honey-do, catch up or special treat.  We’ve been surfin’ the ‘net, watching too much tv, eating at weird times and flopping around the house.

It’s been the perfect week for an epiphany, because somewhere in all the hours of “free” time, I read about something called Decision Fatigue. And so much of what I’ve always believed about the power of a routine clicked on an even deeper level.

You see, whenever my kids lose their minds, or are just generally turds, I can almost always trace it to a deviation from the routine.  You’ve seen it.  The first week of summer break, Christmas, a new sport, whatever it is, it exhausts your kids and they turn into beasts, until you return to your regular routine or the new norm is established.  But I never extended that to myself.  I’ve been impatient, cranky and exhausted this week, even though I’m not “doing” anything extra.  Or am I?

Here’s the deal.  When you stick to a routine, you get into habits.  The joy/curse of a habit is it is effortless. When I let my good habits (in this case it’s following the school routine -with built in household chores) run my day,  the decision is already made.  I don’t have to think about every little thing.  I’m going to get up, space out and drink two cups of coffee, then the screens go off and the music comes on. Breakfast then chores then math, copy work, circle time, literature and lunch.  I don’t even have to think about it.  I get no push-back from the kids.  It’s EASY!  

Here’s what some smarter-than-me folks have said on the topic.

“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”  – Samuel Johnson

“We are all mere creatures of habit.  We think our accustomed thoughts, make our usual small talk, go through the trivial round, the common task, without any self-determining effort of will at all.  If it were not so– if we had to think, to deliberate, about each operation of the bath, or the table–life would not be worth having; the perpetually repeated effort of decision would wear us out.” – Charlotte Mason

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.”
–Charlotte Mason

I know you’re wondering what my point is and it’s this:  If you’re exhausted for “no reason”, and you’ve ruled out health/sleep issues, it may be Decision Fatigue.

Here’s what you can do :

  • Set up a routine to follow until you don’t have to think about every little thing all day.  (I know, setting up the routine initially requires some decision making, but it will lighten the future load on your decision making muscle, so it’s going to pay off!)
  • Use a checklist for your new routine until you no longer need it.
  • Make your decisions ahead of time, or early in the day if you know you’ll be going off your regular routine.
  • If you don’t like the idea of living by a timer, at least decide what you’ll do first, next, then, last.  (Notice my list earlier in the post didn’t say “8-8:32, drink coffee, 8:32-8:45, chores” etc.  It’s just knowing what to do next)

As for me, I’m planning now for the rest of my “days off”, and looking to Monday with eager anticipation.

And that is something I never thought I’d say!

 

Teaching Multiple Ages, One Room Schoolhouse Style

One thing that initially drew me to homeschooling, and especially the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education was the idea that “school time” should not take all day. I love the idea of being done with our sit down work by noon, freeing up afternoons for “a scamper on the lawn”, nature walks, and handicrafts (translation: afternoons are mostly free time, with occasional input from me).  Learn more about Miss Mason’s Methods here.

But I have three kids. The Baby is very busy, and requires a lot of attention to keep her out of trouble. The middle girl is a struggling reader (we’re pursuing the possibility of dyslexia) and will need me to read everything except her reading practice to her. Finally my oldest is a voracious reader, holds her own in math and is a self-professed nerd. But she is also a video game addict who tends to think she already knows everything, so I have to watch her to make sure she isn’t rushing or skating.

If I were to work with each of the school aged girls separately while also attempting to juggle the toddler we’d be at it all day.

My solution is to combine as many subjects as possible and have my oldest read for the younger two as necessary.

In practice that means we combine everything except math and language arts (reading practice for the 7yo, spelling/vocab for the 9yo).

Since we follow a literature and narration based curriculum rather than a traditional textbook/fill in the blanks type curriculum found in most public schools it hasn’t been a problem starting them at the same level.  Levels in this system don’t necessarily correspond to traditional “grade level”, and students generally graduate somewhere between level 9 and 11, with a few outliers finishing up in level 8 and some moving onto level 12.  Parents who have used this program and sent kids on to college have reported that level 8 is approximately equivalent to grade 12.

We read great literature, live with art and music, and observe nature. Each student makes her own connections and takes from the material at her own level.  Again we are doing math and language arts separately, so they are getting skills practice at their appropriate “grade level”.  (As a side note I’m finding that my 7yo struggling reader is able to retain and narrate at a deeper level than my 9yo voracious reader.  Both comprehend well enough, but I suspect that the 9 year old is deeper ingrained in the fill-in-the-blanks mentality.  It is hard for me to resist asking pointed questions rather than let her struggle to retell the selection in her own words.)

How does it work out on the daily?

Monday – Thursday

Each kid has a spiral notebook with the day’s work laid out for them.  It’s really just a checklist. If they are up early enough to finish #1 before I’m coffeed up they may have some electronics time.

Next comes Bible and Breakfast. (Reading, Music and History, for the record)  While I’m making breakfast I play either hymns or Seeds.  We eat breakfast together and then my older girl reads the day’s bible story.  I’m not following the AO Bible rotation this year.  Instead we are reading together from The Story For Children.

Next is Morning chores. (This is Occupational Ed, for the record) They get dressed, make their beds and feed and water the animals.  We try to keep it to 20 minutes, but sometimes I have to crack the whip to get them back inside after they feed and water.

After Morning Chores comes math.  (You guessed it…this is math) We haven’t settled on our Math curriculum yet, so for the time being the younger one is practicing 2nd grade math using worksheets printed from the internet, and the older one is doing Khan Academy.  I try to keep Math to about 15 minutes.

Now it’s almost 9:00 and up next is Copy Work.  (penmanship, grammar, spelling) This looks different depending on the age of the child, youngest students start with letter formation, then move onto short words etc.  Right now both of my school girls are working on developing the habit of always making their best effort.  I require either five minutes of perfect effort,  or perfect execution, whichever comes first.  Right now they are using printed handwriting worksheets with short phrases, but will move on to copying selections from their reading freehand when they consistently produce nice work.

“A Child should Execute Perfectly. No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required from him as a matter of course…Set him six strokes to copy; let him, not bring a slateful, but six perfect strokes, at regular distances and at regular slopes. If he produces a faulty pair, get him to point out the fault, and persevere until he has produced his task; if he does not do it to-day, let him go on to-morrow and the next day, and when the six perfect strokes appear, let it be an occasion of triumph. So with the little tasks of painting, drawing, or construction he sets himself–let everything he does be well done… Closely connected with this habit of ‘perfect work’ is that of finishing whatever is taken in hand. The child should rarely be allowed to set his hand to a new undertaking until the last is finished.” – Charlotte Mason

After Copywork comes our daily “circle time”. (Music)  We stretch, wiggle, and listen to/sing a folk song (usually a new one each week) to break the tedium of seat work. I also give each kid a chance to share something.  I usually ask a leading question such as “what was your favorite part of…”? We finish up Circle Time with a poem.  This week we are working on memorizing “Foreign Lands” from A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Up next we move onto our literature selections for the day. (The Literature selections cover History, Geography, Natural History/Science, Social Studies and of course Reading, but not necessarily all every day) We are following Ambleside Online Year One, with a few modifications for books we happen to have already read, or that I’ve chosen to substitute something else for. We are skipping Aesop, because we had already heard most of them, and Trial and Triumph because I didn’t manage to get it purchased and also because some other mothers on the AO forum thought it was boring and skippable. (how’s that for honest?) I’ve also added some independent reading for my older girl.  More about that later. The folks at Ambleside have been kind enough to lay the readings out in a 36 week schedule and allow each family to break the weekly readings up in whichever way works best for them.  I find that it works out to about two literature selections per day.   I try to pair a shorter reading such as one of Fifty Famous Stories Retold, with a slightly longer one such as a Parable from Nature, so that I don’t end up reading for ten minutes one day and 40 another.  This way it works out to about 30 minutes of reading and narrating each day.  Some readings have to be broken up over multiple days.  For short stories, I read the whole selection and then listen to narrations. For longer ones I’ll find a natural stopping point and have them narrate before reading more and having them narrate again.

Next is language arts.   I work directly with my middle girl on reading practice, while my oldest reads independently.  Reading practice with the middle girl is phonics flashcards, word building puzzles, and her reading aloud from beginning readers.  The older girl is reading from Lamb’s Shakespeare.  (Two Gentlemen of Verona, at present) Each day she narrates to me what has happened so far in the story and looks up the definition for one word that I have selected from the passage.

We finish up before lunch (around 11:00) and after lunch we have a mandatory Quiet Time/Reading Hour.  I put the baby down for a nap, put on some spa music, and the older two take books to upstairs for an hour.  I hope they read, but honestly as long as they don’t bother me, wake the baby, or burn the house down I don’t care if they doodle, daydream, gossip or sleep.  (Translation: Mama either gets to take a nap or get some writing done)

After quiet time they have free time – I strongly prefer and urge that they play outside in the mud, trees or water- (Nature Study) until 3:30 when we listen to classical music while doing afternoon chores. (More Music and Oc Ed) Afternoon chores typically include a quick clean up of any dishes, toys and books that are lying out, then sweeping and vacuuming while I tidy the kitchen (read: scrape off the top layer of mess) and start dinner.  At 4:00 they are given a snack to take outside so that Daddy doesn’t come home to a messy house full of loud children.  In September Gymnastics will start again, so whichever afternoon that ends up being on will also end up being our library/town/errand day, in which case we’ll head for town right after Quiet Hour.

Friday is reserved for making up anything we missed during the week (we haven’t had to do any catch up yet–there seems to be plenty of time M-TH), Nature walks/Nature Journaling, Art Study (Science, Art, and PE, for those keeping track of subjects), visiting friends, and planning for next week.  More about Friday later.

So far keeping the kids on the same AO year has worked well even given their different reading levels.  I love the simplicity of the approach, and the flexibility of being able to add, sub, or skip where needed.  Most of all I love being “done” by lunch and the structure that having a daily checklist has added to our home.

All that said, we’re a whole 4 weeks in here…give me some grace if I have to change things up later 😉

 

 

 

 

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The Ultimate Sensory Toybox

Lately I’ve been noticing a trend in parenting.

We’re convinced that our children aren’t getting enough “sensory play”, so we manufacture opportunities to feel a new texture, hear a new sound or absorb a new odor–yeah, I said absorb a new odor.

You know you’ve made the essential oil play dough.

Me too.

With Sparkles.

We’ve all seen the Pinterest boards. We’ve all made the busy bags, paint squishy thingy-dealys, and pop bottles full of beans. The’re fun. And they’re super handy for the plane ride, or for seriously inclement weather, or for preschool rooms where a dozen sets of fingers must be kept out of mischief.  They have serious applications in occupational therapy.

While they definitely have their places, and may be very important for kiddos who struggle with various sensory disorders, it’s been slowly dawning on me that for most kids these things are almost completely unnecessary (I say almost because there will always be waiting rooms and airplane rides).

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But how will you make sure your child is adequately stimulated, you ask?

Friends, I’m here to tell you, there’s something better out there.

You know, OUT THERE.

Where there is no electrical outlet for your glue gun.

If we all just let (or even force) our children outside in good weather, AND in bad weather, with and without shoes, coats, hats and toys, EVERY SINGLE DAY, I promise they will get all the sensory stimulus they need.  They will even learn some stuff.  They will learn how much water makes a mud which will squish sloppily through the fingers. Maple leaves smash into a delightful green slime.  Water from a hose laying in the sun is HOT!  Falling on the rocks can hurt.  Balancing on a slippery log, or steep porch rail requires concentration.  Twigs from the cherry tree are bitter.

Who needs a playhouse?

When they are new at playing in the actual world, it may take practice and getting used to, but before long the little tykes run, jump, climb, squish, smash, sniff, and build until their little sensory banks are full.

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Then they come in the house (hosing them off before you let them in is optional) and probably take a nap.  Do you know what that means?

YOU can take a nap too!  

You don’t have to seize the opportunity to bedazzle a rain stick for them, because they went out and heard, felt, tasted the actual rain.

Am I saying you should toss your busy bags?

NO!  Like I said before, they have their place.

But let’s also not attempt to do the job of nature with any number of clever doodads.

It’s just too sad.

Are There Gaps In A Charlotte Mason Education?

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I was recently chatting with one of my oldest and dearest friends who also happens to home school. We were gabbing about homeschool, curricula and perks, when the question arose as to whether I thought there might be gaps in a Charlotte Mason education. My first response was, No, I didn’t think there were gaps.  After a few seconds I added that if there were, I didn’t care, which I suppose sounds rather cavalier.

But I’ve given it plenty of thought since then and can easily understand how it might appear to be a rather fluffy education, for those who haven’t seen the whole picture, or even most of the picture , and it’s a huge picture.  I’ve spent many, many hours reading, listening, pondering and praying over how to best implement CM in our home, and I still don’t have it completely figured out.  In fact when I first started reading her Homeschoool series, I thought it sounded an awful lot like unschooling.

Wow.  I was wrong.  The method, applied the way Charlotte Mason intended, is anything but fluffy, and in fact, is extremely rigorous.  There are books on the first year list (that’s roughly first grade) that I’m intimidated by.  And I’m a genuine book worm, folks.

But yes, there will be gaps.

There are gaps in any education.  It’s simply impossible to cover everything your child could ever possibly need to know.  Public schools, private schools, boxed curriculum, online curriculum, unschooling and homeschooling will all have gaps.  What those gaps are will vary depending on your philosophy of education, and your goals for your child.   Is your intent to homeschool start to finish?  Do you intend to return to public school at a later time?  Are you concerned with your child being able to answer questions correctly, or ask his own questions and find answers?  Are you more concerned with technology, life skills, the ever important SOCIALIZATION?  Do you have a struggling student in a particular subect?  There are too many variables to make a given curriculum fit every student without gaps.  Indeed what may be a “gap” for one, may be another’s redemption.

Isn’t that why many of us homeschool to begin with?

As for my children, I recognize that when we fully implement CM this fall, they will not be learning the same things at the same times as their public school counterparts.   Since I have no intention of sending them back to school any time soon I’m not worried about that.  They will be learning to appreciate the Bible, history, literature, music, art, nature, and pursuing their own interests as well.  If I feel they are missing an important point or skill I will try to find a new way to present it, heck, if I have to I just may print out a worksheet.  There are no Charlotte Mason police to come and shut us down.  They will each learn and practice Math and Reading at their own pace and level, until they are able to pass a college entrance exam.  And then they’ll go to college and learn some more. Or they might not.  I am genuinely unconcerned about it.  I expect bumps in the road.  I expect attitudes to flare, ground to be lost, regained, and I expect to occasionally feel a deep urge to flag down the school bus.

I’m ready to take it as it comes, gaps and all.

 

Only In Winter

And in the morning the pipes sent forth a mighty gurgle, and the toilet flushed slowly, and Mama said “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow” and it was yellow, but it was not mellow.

Because it’s a proven fact that septic tanks only ever get full in the winter. And the lid is somewhere under all of this:

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And goodbye cloth diapers, and hello laundromat, and paper plates.

Crossing our fingers that light usage and a big bottle of Roebic will limp this thing until spring.

If not, I guess we start digging.

Update 1/28/2016

Helpful hint for those of you on septic systems: The septic tank pumper guys just left, and they were able to narrow it down to two brands of toilet paper we use when they pumped our tank. They said they could tell it was either Charmin or Kirkland (costco). Those two brands do not break down as well as they should and they end up clogging your baffles, preventing fluids from moving through the system as well as they should. Guess what I have two huge bricks of in the basement? Kirkland TP. Good thing Costco takes returns!

I think I feel a blog post about comparison shopping TP brands comin’ on!

Getting Out Of The River

Hold on, it’s a wordy one!

One of the things I mentioned in my last post about letting go of things that are no longer working for us, was bringing our girls home for the upcoming school year.

My long-time readers , all three of you, (Hey Paul, Lisa, Denise, how are you? ) already know that Homeschooling has been on my heart for about a million years. Honestly, before we even had our first kid, I was trying to dream up a way to convince Nate that it was a good way to go.

He had some reservations, because he’s a good Dad, and naturally didn’t want anyone turning his kids into “those weird homeschoolers”.  Also he knows me, and if we’re honest I will have be very diligent against laziness. You know the stereotype where homeschoolers wear pajamas all day? That’s a thing because of people like me.

Then there was the argument that we both attended public schools and turned out fine. Which is true, and our kids would probably turn out fine if we left them in school, too. In fact, our school is a very good one, as public schools go. The kids even like it, so why rock the boat?

For me, the ultimate reason is that I want to raise my own children, and from day one, sending them to school felt like shared custody.

I want to let them sleep in because we stayed up to see the Aurora Borealis, but they’re not ill, and we didn’t plan ahead, so that’s an unexcused absence.

I want them to learn at their own pace, but that’s disruptive to their class.

I want them to have mental energy for gardening, nature walks, Bible study, and really great literature.  As things stand now, they just don’t have much left at the end of the day.  I know how I felt after a long day in the classroom, and it’s not hard to understand why they want to stare mindlessly at screens when they get home.   Of course there are great days when the sun shines down from heaven, and angels sing, and we all still have something left after homework, so we go for a walk or visit neighbors, but more often than not, we just lump.  I have nothing against a relaxed evening mind you, in fact, I prefer them.  I just wish there were time for all the things.

As it turns out there is; it’s between eight and three.

When I was working in the school one thing that bothered me was the amount of what I called shuffle time.  Time students spent  being shuffled from one place to the next,  one activity to the next, inside, outside, lunch, gym, music.  All noble and necessary, but so inefficient.  They did the best they could, of course, everything just takes so much longer with thirty kids.  It drove me crazy, and added up to a lot of time when kids are at school, but not actually in the classroom.  Not that every moment has to be spent at a desk to be useful, I’m a firm believer that not all learning takes place in the classroom.  I’d also argue, however, that anything they need to learn from standing in a line, silently walking from place to place, can be accomplished by the end of kindergarten.

The point is; we can get our “sit down” work done in a fraction of the time they’d be away at school, and have the rest of the day for the rest of the things.  Does anyone else hear that Chorus of Angels?

And then there was the lice. . .

And the common core. . .

And the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  .  .

And a couple hundred conversations where my husband said, “They just need to. . .”

And I replied, “Yes.  But they aren’t going to.  This is the way it is.”

And the stark realization that we were swimming against the current, when what we needed to do was get out of the river.

So that’s what we’re doing.

 

 

Letting Go

As I started the new year, I had one major goal in mind: Getting Dressed.

I’m only half joking.

For the past year or so I’ve pretty well been living in the same crusty clothes, because I’m not going anywhere, and let’s face it, someone is going to snot on me.    From a purely laundry-logistics point of view it makes perfect sense to not get dressed.

Unfortunately it lends to also not doing other things, like uh, leaving the house, or showering, and let me tell you, things can start to stagnate.  When one hops out of bed and gets dressed right away, she is ready to face whatever the day has to offer.  Sunshine beckoning a walk?  Ready.  Friends heading to the library?  Ready.  Need to run to the grocery?  Ready.  UPS man at the door?   You get the idea.

Getting dressed is a pretty good resolution, so I’m keeping it.

Lately however, I’ve been slowly coming around to something bigger, something that could seriously change the direction of daily life, long term goals, and maybe even this blog.

I tend to hold onto things.  I hold onto tupperware lids, I hold onto old jeans, I hold onto big ideas.  I hold onto physical clutter, mental clutter, emotional clutter, despite the fact that they all bog me down and ultimately make me unproductive.  So this year, in addition to getting dressed, I’m going to work on letting go of things that no longer work for me.

Some examples of things I’ll be working on:

  • de-clutter closets
  • get rid of unused kitchen stuff
  • keep an ongoing Goodwill box by the back door
  • not plant foods in my garden that my family won’t eat
  • use disposable diapers for night and travel
  •  bring the kids home for the upcoming school year
  • butchering and replacing layed-out hens
  • replace/enlarge chicken run
  • evaluate weather I really want to keep blogging
  • not comparing our life/ garden/ ideas to yours
  • quit extracurricular activities we don’t enjoy

I’ll keep you posted!