Homeschooling as a Cross

“And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
~ St. Luke 9:23 (DR) 

As we settle into yet another year of homeschooling, I’ve been thinking about the whole art of homeschooling. Blessedly, it is becoming more common and less “weird”. Much work has been done by folks when I was still a small child to ensure that I can homeschool my kids without interference from the government.

I am one big cheerleader for homeschooling. If you ask me about it, I’ll talk your ear off (although I’ll try not to). I try not to hype it up, it doesn’t need it; it hypes itself. There is one aspect that I don’t talk a lot about for a variety of reasons. Most of the time is because I don’t want to hear “well, maybe you shouldn’t homeschool then.” And yes, someone had the audacity to tell me that once.

Homeschooling is hard. It’s really, really hard. In fact, it can be considered a cross most days. Think about it. Curriculum is your choice. How you teach is your choice. When you teach is your choice. All that choice is overwhelming at times. It gets dreary, it gets tedious, it gets tiring. You have to report to someone (in most states) on some level. There’s always something to be done (grading/evaluating/planning/pre-reading/etc). There are no breaks – if you’re sick, you can’t call in a sub who will take everything for a day or two. Planning for the school year happens around meals and bedtime. Let’s not even think about homeschooling and keeping the house running. Teaching kids isn’t easy, and troubleshooting is on you. Extra fun if you have a special needs learner. You’re mom, teacher, housekeeper, chef, driver, and more.

It’s a cross, for sure. But crosses aren’t something to be feared or run away from. The Bible verse at the top of this post – note how it says daily. Every single day. Pick up that cross and follow Him. I find that my crosses are the heaviest when I’m not focused on Him.

Our crosses are what sanctify us. Our crosses give us an opportunity to give everything to God, rely fully on Him, and be shown our vices and imperfections so we can begin to work them out of our lives and grow in virtue. God knows I can’t do it alone, so I beg Him daily to come and be with us, to make up what I lack.

Homeschooling is hard, it’s a cross; but it’s also a way to sanctity.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 4 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 6

And now, for this week’s work! 🙂

Year 4

We had the return of “elastic time”. I gave Peanut one of my Happy Planners that I had no use for and wrote out her assignments, breaking them down into “by yourself” and “with Mama”. I came across this post on Afterthoughts, and I will be definitely incorporating that into our days. It should help Peanut begin to manage her time better.

Some things I’m noticing this year with Peanut:
– copywork has drastically improved her cursive writing.
– math is coming along really well. We use Math Mammoth and Simply Charlotte Mason’s Living Math. I use Living Math to explain the concept and Math Mammoth for practice problems.
– Latin had a giant leap and not only is she learning it well, she’s correctly spelling everything
– English spelling is also improving and I suspect it will take a giant leap forward when we start dictation and written narrations

I’ve found some problems with introducing the actual plays of Shakespeare and beginning Plutarch. My plan is start Plutarch again but use Publicola instead of Julius Caesar. I’m also going to either go back to Shakespeare retellings that we did last year or perhaps s l o w l y read the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as we read the retelling of that last year and the kids really enjoyed it.

Year 2

I am absolutely loving this Ambleside year. Moose is growing and learning so much through it, it’s exciting to watch him grow. Based on his excitement in narrations, Understood Betsy is his current favorite book. I’m really enjoying it as well. I was the spoiled youngest of my family so I definitely relate to Betsy, especially as she begins to stretch her wings, so to speak. 🙂

Moose finished six weeks of work which means he gets the next week off for a break week. He won’t be left feral, but it will be good for him to take a week off the books and have some relaxation time.

His major accomplishments so far:
– handwriting is massively improving. We finished the cursive Handwriting Without Tears book and went to printing.
– math is also improving. I’m the same setup that I use for Peanut – Math Mammoth and Living Math – and it’s been the key to unlocking math for him.
– his narrations are really developing well, and I’m quite pleased with how he’s doing. He used to just repeat the last sentence, then he pretty much told me back word for word everything I read. He’s understanding that I’m not looking for a regurgitation, but rather in his own words what he’s heard. What’s impressive that he completely GETS that he has one only one listen through and I think only once or twice has he been not paying enough attention to give any narration. Way to go, Moose!

***

The biggest event this week was, of course; the solar eclipse. We saw about 93% of totality, and it was awesome. We had our solar glasses on and watched everything from the beginning up to peak. We saw crescent shadows on the ground, we felt the temperature get cooler, we saw the surreal haze – it was excellent. The kids were a little disappointed that it didn’t get really dark – but it’s a good lesson that a smidge of sun is still really bright. The kids drew the stages of the eclipse in their nature journals, and even Wok (five next month) has been drawing little eclipses on pieces of paper since Monday. 🙂

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 3 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 5

A little late in getting this up, as this is last week’s work. It languished in drafts until now!

***

There was a lot happening this week, with the excitement of the upcoming solar eclipse and a day off to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. Moose resumed physical therapy to keep working on recovery from his leg break (seriously, don’t break your leg – we’re four months away from the one year anniversary of leg-break and here we are, building up muscle still). We had a lot of flexing and bending to our schedule but we still managed to get everything accomplished that we needed to and I didn’t need to turn into a drill sergeant in the process.

There are many forest fires in the vicinity, and a cold front has blown in so much smoke. Several times visibility dropped on the interstate to 5 miles or less, simply from smoke. We have had ash falling from the sky on multiple occasions. The kids eagerly check out the Air Quality website, if the dot for our city is yellow or green they can go out and play. It’s been orange and red, which is not conducive towards people with lungs. We’ve talked a lot about air particles and measuring that, why it’s not a good idea to go outside when the air is rated orange or red. Naturally everyone has a bit of cabin-fever and it hasn’t been pretty. We’ve watched some nature and military documentaries; but mostly the kids play with Legos, Playmobils, or other toys; read or draw, or end up doing extra chores around the house.

God willing we’ll get some rain in here and help put out the fires. Needless to say, we are all looking forward to cooler temperatures as Autumn slowly arrives.

The biggest excitement this week was finally getting to “the main event” in Robinson Crusoe. The copy I found in a thrift store has no chapter breaks and unique spelling for some words, so it’s something I’m reading aloud to Peanut. The lack of chapter breaks and figuring out what words are (walk’d vs walked, for example) makes it pretty tiring for me to read. I was unsure if my copy was even acceptable, as I kept waiting and waiting for the shipwreck and finally we got to that point. Things are picking up now and it’s becoming one of Peanut’s favorite read-alouds. 🙂 (The spine is really pretty, so I was concerned that someone had taken a random text and stuck it in there and sold the book as a decorative book. I checked it against Project Gutenberg and it’s the correct text and it looks to be unabridged. Score!

‘What I’m Reading’ Wednesday

Two weeks ago my spiritual reading book was the book pictured above. It’s a very quick read, written by Fr. Carney about the people he has met as he walks the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri; as well as his motivations for doing so and his plans for the future. I enjoyed it greatly, Fr. Carney writes very simply yet profoundly, and you can feel his enthusiasm for souls leap from the page. I’m extremely glad Amazon’s algorithm recommended it to me, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it again and again.

This week, I was WAY! TOO! EXCITED! to see that Formed has Cardinal Sarah’s new book available to read.
I read his first book, God or Nothing and was greatly moved. The African church has gone through so much (and continues to do so) and yet the joyfulness they have is amazing.

I also needed some mental candy lately, on a whim I checked this book out from the digital library:
It’s quite a cute book as well as informative. I’m about 2/3rds through it, and so far it’s discussed things like capsule wardrobe, femininity, eating and enjoying it, using the best you have (because saving it for later means that it never gets used), and so on. Delightfully refreshing and still informative at the same time. Hopefully the digital library will purchase the other books that Ms Scott wrote about her time in France, as I’d like to read those next!

The links above are Amazon affiliate links, which provide me a little commission at no extra charge to you when you do your Amazon shopping.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 2 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 4

Last week was the first week in which I was doing two years simultaneously, as opposed to having the luxury of one child not yet started or another child off at a camp. It was a very good thing to start Year 4 last week, Peanut and I were able to work out some wrinkles in the schedule and be prepared for this week, when both kids are at home.

I was expecting the worst and we came out unscathed. Deo gratias!

I found it quite easy to flip-flop between Peanut and Moose. Moose worked with me while Peanut worked independently, then when I worked with her I sent Moose off on movement breaks. Moose finishes first, Peanut and I do a little bit more work in the afternoon and it all works out well. Even when Grandma stopped by to take Peanut on an impromptu walk, we still were able to stay on the course and not have any drama.

Some things that have helped me:

  1. Daily schedule
    Amazingly, when I wrote out the daily schedule for me to follow (which broke the weekly schedule down into “things to do each day”), it turns out that the page numbers I “assigned” fall within the time required for a lesson, including scaffolding and narration and discussion. I was the most worried about this, because the last thing anyone wants to do is deal with elastic time. I was much more cognizant of starting and finishing on time, and as long as no one dawdled and attention was kept; we were golden. I imagine we may have to massage the pages read each day vs going longer, as I really start believing that it’s OK if we don’t finish the book.Because everything is written down, I’m not stressing about when to read X, as I know when it will be read. This means the kids aren’t stressed out because I’m stressed out, and we’re not shoving all the books on one day. Glorious.
  2. The habit of attention
    Peanut seems to be over her dawdling habit, which is super because I don’t need her zoning out for most of the lesson time. Since she knows each lesson is 15-20 minutes tops, she knows she can give a concentrated effort and not have to worry about tiring, and that we won’t spent all day long doing school. Moose is coming along well with his development of attention, and he is beginning to understand that there are fun things to do in the house and outside once we are done with books. However, it’s not a reason to slop through and rush – privileges will be revoked if that’s the case.

The little girls have understood that when it’s School Time, it’s Quiet Time. They usually color, play with the Playmobils, play out in the (enclosed) backyard, look at books, or just sit and listen. Nugget sometimes takes a nap, sometimes he has a snack, sometimes he plays while I watch and read to the big kids. It is all coming together so nicely, I’m somewhat paranoid about when/if the other shoe may drop!

 

‘What I’m Reading’ Wednesday

And I’m actually writing it on Wednesday! 😉


The spiritual reading I mentioned last week was fantastic. I found it hard to put down, and gleamed so many great ideas from it. It really is great for establishing a Christian household, covering aspects of prayer, devotion, discipline, cleanliness, order, and more. But rather than provide a list of “shoulds”, it provides principles and explains the reasoning behind them.

I found a great deal of Charlotte Mason-y ideas in it, such as reading of good and noble literature, plenty of time outside, limiting the TV (which could be expanded to all screens, although we do need some screens in this day and age), and more.

The Kindle edition is $0.99, and is priceless in its contents. Highly recommended!

This week I am waiting for my dog’s new friend, the UPS man to bring me new book mail (and some vitamins). Our lovely UPS carrier always brings a little dog treat for the dogs on his route, and therefore whenever the big brown van drives by, my dog starts whining and crying to be let out for his treat. Too bad Mr. UPS doesn’t stop by every day (although it’s probably best for my dog’s waistline…).

After lots of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to purchase this book. One of the big factors was seeing a “before” and “while working through the book” set of pictures from my fellow home educating friend in England. I can barely draw stick figures, so I’m excited to maybe improve my ability, even just a little bit.

My spiritual reading for this week is this book, which was a “suggested for you” by the Amazon algorithm. It’s a the (true) story of a priest who walks along with a Rosary and Crucifix in St. Joseph, Missouri; ministering to the souls he meets along the way. The Kindle sample was very engrossing, and I’m really excited to receive it and read it.


I also began Volume 3, and as usual is slow going. It takes me much more attention to read Charlotte Mason’s works, and to understand what she is trying to convey. I’m finding that the Modern English Paraphrase, over at AmblesideOnline; is truly beneficial to me in reading her original works.

As usual, the book links are to Amazon unless otherwise noted. Amazon links are affiliate links, so please use them and help further my book addiction. 🙂 

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 1

This week was Peanut’s first week of school, while Moose was off at acting camp. Last school year we spent 2 terms transitioning back into Charlotte Mason philosophy with Peanut, so it was exciting to start this year fully prepared for it. 🙂

Peanut is able to read most of her books, although I still read a couple (Shakespeare, Plutarch, Bullfinch, and Defoe). I gave her the assignments for the day, she would read and then come to me and narrate, or draw a narration for me. Her narrations are superb, and next week I will start introducing written narrations for her.

She is quite thrilled with the books this year, although some of them she initially wasn’t impressed with (looking at you, Mr. Defoe). Whether or not that changes remains to be seen.

We still have the same problems we had last school year, mainly the concept of “elastic time”. I need to make sure I am on top of the lesson time limits and enforce them. Next week, with both kids doing school; it’s even more important that I ensure Peanut isn’t taking all day to do one thing. I also need to find a balance for everyone – Nugget is dropping his morning nap (no! no! no!), the two little girls need something to do or else they’ll climb the walls, Moose needs me intensely (as well as quiet) and Peanut needs a quiet place where I can still keep an eye on her so she doesn’t end up too off task. While the weather is awesome we may head outside, but I’m not totally sure on that.

Halfway through the week she remarked how well everything is running. Hallelujah! It’s the schedule! Amazingness can be had when (once again) I put up hard stops and actually enforce them.

Peanut finished all her work for the day early, so it’s time to knock off and relax. Have a good weekend!