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Homeschool expenses 2017/2018

This is less a blog post than a list I’m keeping for my own information. But it may be useful as encouragement for those of you who either want to homeschool and think it will be too expensive, or are homeschooling and wondering where all the money is going.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, thanks to hardworking homeschool parents who have gone before (such as the lovely Ambleside Online advisary) and are willing to share what they have pulled together and make it available FREE online for you and I.

As I make purchases I’ll add them here and tally it all up when we finish next spring.

I haven’t included the cost of any materials we are carrying over from last year. There are quite a few, and I don’t want to do the math. As each expense comes up I’ll just count it to the year we bought it.

I also won’t include any activities or services we would have paid for even if they had been in public school. So while gymnastics, internet, and the reading tutor definitely count toward their education, I don’t consider them homeschool-specific expenses.

2017-2018

Art Study Prints…………………………….$7.72
Joan of Arc, Diane Stanley…………….$6.00
Handbook of Nature Study…………..$24.8
AO Year 2 Poetry Anthology…………$2.99

Big Spender!!  Let’s see how much damage I can do buying spiral notebooks at the back to school sales!

How I Plan For A Year Of Homeschool

Oleanders and Books, Vincent Van Gogh Image courtesy of Wiki Art

Can you believe it’s already July? I can. I’m about done with Summer to be honest.

We finished our 16/17 school year way back in May, and the lack of structure is starting to get to me. Thank goodness I plan to start us back to school August 1.

I originally intended to do a modified year-round schedule wherein we would school six weeks on/one week off and take the entire month of July as well as six-ish weeks off from Thanksgiving to the New Year. But since the girls were itching to start school early last year, and then we also forgot to take a couple of our scheduled weeks off (which I think speaks volumes about this lifestyle…we forgot to take a break from school…more than once…chew on that a minute)  we finished early this spring, which led to us having extra weeks off in early summer. (Although we’re still doing reading and Math…shhh, don’t tell the kids it counts as school…suckers!) It hasn’t been as structured as I need for my sanity though, so I think it’s time to ease us back into a Charlotte Mason Summer schedule, and then start back to AO in full force August 1.

That means it’s time for Mama to start planning and get some ducks in a row.

The first thing I do is set the dates for our school year.  I like printing free year at a glance calendars from Anny Studio for this.  I start at Thanksgiving and count back six weeks, then cross the 7th week off for a scheduled break.  Then I count back another six, cross one off and so on until I get to August 1.  Then I go to the New Year and count forward six weeks, cross one off etc. until I get to July.  Sometimes it works out to not quite six week intervals, but that’s okay as long as you get your 36 weeks in all.  (Or however many your state requires–find out here.)  We ended up with 37 scheduled last year, which gave us plenty of wiggle room.  Joy of homeschool in Washington State–we don’t have to report our schedule, so as long as it works out in the end I don’t worry too much about shifting dates, or taking time off as needed.

We follow Ambleside Online for our spine curriculum, so my next step is to print the book list and 36 week schedule for the year.  AO years don’t necessarily correlate with public school grades, so at this point I’ve chosen to keep my girls in the same year.  They still do Math and Language Arts at their own level.  More about that later.

Next I go over the book list and see what I need to buy.  Ambleside uses public domain books as much as possible.  Many are available free for Kindle, or as e-texts from Project Gutenberg, or audio books at Librivox.  They also provide alternative suggestions for the books that must be purchased.  Between what we already had on hand, and what I was able to get for Kindle, I will only need to purchase three books for the upcoming year!  I do prefer “real” books over ebooks, so I am always keeping my eyes open for quality hard copies of the Kindle books.

At this time I also take a look at Ambleside’s composer, hymns, folksongs, and artist studies for the upcoming year, so I can have prints made (public domain images can be printed on card stock by Walgreen’s or Office Depot very inexpensively) and create or find youtube and prime music playlists, and decide if I want to sub anything out.  I make note of these right on my 36 week schedule so that I don’t have to keep looking up what I’m supposed to be singing/looking at each term.

I feel like we floundered a bit with Math last year, mainly because I couldn’t decide on a curriculum.  I wanted something not too teacher intensive, like Teaching Textbooks, but the cheapo in me couldn’t spend the money for it.  We tried, Moby, and Kahn Academy (both free) but I didn’t feel like either of those was linear enough.  The girls would do their work each day, but the progress graph never seemed to change, so I was never sure if they were making any progress.  With a workbook, they bring it to me, we go over whatever might be incorrect and I can physically see where they are.  But I keep hearing such wonderful things about Khan Academy that I am giving it another trial for summer, just to rule out the possibility that the problem with it wasn’t my own lack of understanding on how it is set up.  This year I will likely get them some basic grade level workbooks and also use Khan Academy as a supplement/evaluation tool.

I’m also considering pre-planning this year’s copy work (This is the beginning of language arts in a Charlotte Mason style education) and scripture memorization, so that I don’t have to come up with those as we’re going along.  Last year we did it off the cuff, choosing whatever we liked best from what we were reading, or looking up inspirational quotes and scriptures.

Finally I plug everything into a Course of Study, to be sure I’ve got all my bases covered.  This wouldn’t really be necessary if one were to purchase a complete open and go curriculum, but since I’m pulling resources from several places, I like to lay it all out in one place so I can see how I’m meeting each of my states eleven required subjects.

Now all that’s left is daily and weekly planning.  For this I simply take 5 minutes each Sunday to look at the week ahead’s scheduled readings, as well as a look at any appointments etc.  I put a M, T, W, TH next to each reading selection, two or three each day. Again, I just scribble right on the 36 week schedule.  For Math we just do the next thing, so I don’t pre-plan that with the exception of giving errand days lighter workloads.  I leave Friday open for catch up, field trips, Nature walks etc.  This works well because the kids feel like we don’t have school on Friday, but I know that what we’re doing “counts”.  Once that’s done I just sit down each evening and write out a checklist including the next day’s chores, reading, math and copy work for each kid in her spiral notebook.  I leave these on the kitchen table with sharp pencils so they are ready to go first thing in the morning.  I really liked having most of the written work all in one place last year.  Minimal paper-clutter that way.  The notebook checklist also allows the kids to be largely self-directed in case I need to be out of the house or otherwise busy.  I wrote about our average day here.

That’s it!

Reading back through all that it sure seems like it would be easier to open a box and do the next page of the workbook, but that’s just not my style!  If I wanted to follow someone else’s plan to a T they’d be in public school.  😉

Are you doing any planning, dreaming or scheming for the upcoming school year?

 

The Dark Side of Homeschooling: 3 Things Nobody Is Talking About

Homeschooling isn’t really a new sensational thing anymore. It’s almost mainstream. Everyone knows someone who homeschools.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you about all the wonderful benefits of individualized education, more family time, or marching to your own drum.

You need me to tell you what can go wrong.

What?!!

That’s right.  It’s not all lap books and tea time over here.

There are some real issues starting to crop up as we finish our first year of homeschooling, and they’re things NOBODY told me.  I never read a single word about this dark underbelly of the homeschool movement.

I won’t keep you in suspense any more.

Personal Hygiene has hit an all-time low.  

This goes way beyond doing school in our pajamas, and BO.  I was pretty surprised that my oldest had a couple cavities at our most recent dental visit.  But after some thought I totally know why it happened.  We don’t get ready in the morning.  Brushing teeth, washing faces, combing hair, were all part of the “getting ready to leave the house” routine.  And now we don’t get ready to leave the house until late in the day, if at all.  So here I sit in the same ratty sweats that I sweated in yesterday, nursing another cup of coffee instead of brushing my teeth to head out the door, and I don’t even know where the hairbrush is.  The kids do the same.  Yikes.

All the clothes have become play clothes.

This follows the hygiene issue.  We decided to go to church a few Sundays back and sadly discovered nobody had anything really appropriate to wear.  Thank goodness we attend a come-as-you-are church.  (I was brought up with Sunday Best, so that’s hard for me, but now I’m starting to warm up to it.) When you rarely go anywhere fancier than the grocery store or sports, (which solve their own clothes issues with gear/uniforms) it’s so easy to overlook how the kids clothes are looking slightly too small and dingy if not outright ruined.  And my best sweats are about to blow out.

We are using, like, quadruple the amount of toilet paper.  

No joke, and the youngest one isn’t even wiping consistently.  I don’t know how often the kids were visiting the restroom when they were in public school, but if toilet paper usage is an indicator it was a lot.  No wonder public schools need more money.

You know what, though?  It’s worth it.  

Even with the warts exposed, homeschooling has been a great fit for us so far.  The grooming issues are just things were going to have to add to our daily check list going forward, and the toilet paper usage is something I’ll just have to allow for.  Goodness knows I wouldn’t have them cut back.  I don’t need another laundry issue.  😉

If you homeschool, what is the dark side for you?

 

Mother Culture Monday #2

Thanks for coming back for more Mother Culture!

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Let’s dig right in, and take a closer look at the words Mother and Culture.

Click below to find out what Merriam-Webster says:

Definition of Mother (alert… one definition is decidedly naughty…I don’t know why they included it)

Definition of Culture

Did you make it through all that?

I’ll admit I only skimmed it.  Study skills, y’all.

We can use each definition as a lens.

In this case Mother means just what we first think; Mother, Mommy, Mama, the lady in charge of the kiddos

As for culture, this week we’ll focus on definition 6, and think of Mother Culture as the process of cultivating living material.

Do you feel alive?  You should.  Read on.

The reason I’m choosing this lens first is that the primary purpose of Mother Culture in CM’s approach was to prevent burnout.  Yes, even in the good ol’ days Mothers were prone to burn out.

How do we cultivate ourselves in order to prevent burnout?

First we have to decide it’s absolutely necessary, because I bet you’ve thought this:

I don’t have time for myself.  

Who’s in charge here?

This is going to start out like a political post, but if you’ll bear with me I think I can bring it around, to NOT a political post.

And since it’s rather a rant, it won’t be my best writing. I pay the hosting, I can lay an egg now and then if I want to.

Here’s some background info that you may not be aware of:

I’m brown.

I came from a broken home.

I’m pretty sure my absentee father –who I’ve never laid eyes on– was “undocumented”. (That’s code for ILLEGAL in case you didn’t know, and I HOPE the reason I’ve never met him is that he was deported; it’s better than thinking he ditched me by choice.)

I grew up desperately poor.

I was responsible for my little brother, and a latch key kid at eight or nine.

I was often unsupervised as a child.

I even had a real, live bully in junior high.

Sounds pretty rough, right?

According to the leftist rhetoric, if anyone were going to be oppressed, it should have been me. But guess what?

I’m not.

Being held down never even occurred to me. What did occur to me was working hard.

I don’t want to paint too proud a picture of myself. I was a typically bratty kid, and I had some advantages; a level playing field, if you will. Public school. Financial aid for community college. A big loving family.

Except for the latter, I’m pretty sure those are things that every American still has access to.

I’m not saying there aren’t obstacles.  What I’m trying to say is that if I can overcome obstacles, like being a poor minority, so can anyone. We don’t lack opportunities in this country,  what we lack is gumption.

Now I’m not saying don’t stand up for yourself.  I’m not saying don’t be kind.  I’m not saying don’t help.  I’m not saying if you need help you’re somehow flawed. I’m saying that help is already available. I’ve used it.  I didn’t have to throw a fit to get it, and neither do you.

It comes down to locus of control. Who’s in charge of your life? I hear a bunch of young people saying in not so many words, “My life, My choice, My rights; Your responsibility”.

That’s an external locus of control. Let me just say, if the government is in charge of your life, you’ve put them in charge.  And don’t even get me started on your right to feel a certain way (safe is the word that comes to mind). Nobody gets to choose your emotions for you.  If being different makes you feel unsafe, my guess is there’s no legislation that will change that for you.

The good news is that we can change our locus of control.  I think the current buzz phrase is “adopt a growth mindset”.

I don’t have an eloquent wrap up.  So I’ll finish by saying this isn’t a politics post. It’s a parenting post. I’m not going to waste your time by telling you how to parent, or how your parents went wrong. I don’t know you. I’m not an expert. I’m just a small town poor girl, who turned into a not-oppressed woman, who has exactly the life she wanted, because she didn’t wait for it to be legislated for her.

This guy does have some credentials though, and some great advice if you want to raise kids with an internal locus of control, who face challenges head on, rather than seeking safe spaces.

https://www.circeinstitute.org/podcast/commons-12-building-sturdy-children

Happy Saturday

My Great-Grandmother’s Commonplace Book

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“Our Wedding Day, August 1 1912, Humbold Sask” Henry and Eliza eloped in an ox-drawn carriage in Saskatchewan. She was age 15

I never knew my great grandmother. But looking through her commonplace book, I know I would have admired her. And she probably would have been puzzled by, but tolerant of my my wide-eyed enthusiasm for doing things the hard way. I can almost hear her saying ,”For pity’s sake, just use your microwave”!

What is a commonplace book anyway?

It was your great grandma’s Pinterest; a scrap book of notes, ideas and clippings related to the interests and every day life of it’s keeper.  I was lucky enough to stumble on two of my Great Grandma Eliza’s in my mom’s basement, and Mom was nice enough to let me have them.  They are full of frugal recipes, garden tips, measurements (did you know 15 lbs are in a peck?), home remedies, and housekeeping tips.  You know, mom stuff.  My kind of stuff.

11259348_611568168946949_7970244153906018005_oGrandma Eliza was born in 1897, and she married in 1912.  Her commonplace books appear to have been started in the the early 1900’s.  The earliest date noted in either book is 1915, but entries don’t appear to be chronological.  I suspect she “filled up” the pages, and then came back later to add more in leftover spaces.  It even looks as though her daughter, my Grandma Dolly (given name Hazel, my youngest is her namesake) added a note or two.  One is mostly handwritten in a record book, and the other is mostly cut and pasted into what appears to have been a school notebook.  You can see bits of History and Math peeking out from between the pasted-in articles.  I love that.

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Her recipes and tips reflect the thrift of the day, and the articles she clipped feature women making do and rising above.  One clipped article features a Mrs. HG who found herself widowed and without an income on “the shady side of fifty years”.  But she did have the family home free and clear.  She sold a piece of jewelry and purchased three tables and twelve chairs, which she used to convert her front parlor into a dining room.  She offered a luncheon of baked beans, green salad, bread, and her neighbor’s fruit preserves for fifty cents, and having such a low overhead was able to support herself nicely thereafter.  Such an inspiration!  I love that even so many years ago, my great-grandmother was interested in many of the same things I am today; frugality, good food, and creating a warm home.

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Calves Brains With Potato Balls and Tomatoes. YUMMY!

Aside from giving a glimpse at the sort of things Grandma Eliza was interested in, her commonplace books offer useful information.  Okay, I admit I’m not likely to need directions for maintaining a kerosene cookstove, and honestly, I’m not keen on tasting calves brains with potato balls.  But you can bet I’ve tried her method for cleaning and seasoning cast iron with great success!  And my girls, who have been learning about proper tea etiquette, will be very interested in the article she clipped on Table Service In The Home.11217604_611568282280271_1343129495048705349_o

I’m inspired to start keeping a commonplace book of my own.  Yes, I know my great grandchildren will probably be able to look back on my facebook, pinterest and even this blog if they are interested, but how much more valuable to have a book to hold in their hands, leaf through, and use as a resource for “old timey” wisdom?

Oh and as a side note, as I was putting my girls to bed this evening, the two year old asked “Mom, where’s my notebook?”  Yes, she actually speaks that well, and her notebook was jumbled in her covers.  All three of my daughters adore notebooks and journals. My husband is a serial note-booker, so I always figured they got it from him, but now I realize that they may have come by some of those tendencies on my side as well!

How about you?  Do you keep a “commonplace book”?

Special thanks to my mother and cousins for filling me in in dates and details of Grandma Eliza’s life, and for the wedding photo.  I would love to hear from any of you who have more stories to share!  

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.

 

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!

 

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.