AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 11

We’re winding down Peanut’s term one now, next week will be the last week of the term; then break week and exams! It was a lot of fun working with just Peanut this week and seeing where she is at. She is now highly motivated to get her stuff done – “when can I move on to term 2?” When you have 12 weeks of work done, even if that takes 12 or more weeks. “When can I move on to 5th grade?” When you have 36 weeks of work done, however many weeks that may take. She can’t accelerate, in that there’s no speed-reading these books; but she can definitely drag it out.

By disengaging myself that way and letting her determine how well she will work within her lessons; she has been able to maintain focus and stay on task. “Elastic time” is disappearing, we are making good way through the schedule (but not too fast), she’s engaged with the readings and there’s no slop-rush to finish just to play with her friends or visit the Grandparents.

She’s decided that while Benjamin Franklin had his faults, he was overall a pretty great guy. HIGHLY unimpressed about his leaving his wife in America and her eventual death without him (as she keeps mentioning it over and over, haha), but can understand why he’s still revered in American history.

Bullfinch’s mythology is finally starting to become a little familiar to us, and she feels like a lot of the stories are really repetitive. Same plot, different characters. It’s opened up some great discussions about gods vs. God, and how pre-Christian cultures comprehended the Divine.

Plutarch – oh, Plutarch. Honestly, we’re just plugging v e r y slowly through Publicola, but I think it too is starting to become familiar to us. I’ve never read Plutarch so it’s a situation where we’re both learning. If we get through Publicola  in 36 weeks it will be a miracle. 😉

Shakespeare – still wading through A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hopefully we can finish it up this coming week but if it flows in to term 2, that’s okay.

Math, spelling, and copywork are all coming along great; she’s decided to copy the book of Proverbs for her copywork, as well the prayers she’s memorizing. Spelling is making great leaps thanks to Phonetic Zoo.

I haven’t had a chance yet to look at which books change for her and which books carry on. I know that we’ll have an astronomy focus for term 2’s science, which I’m really excited for. We’ll be using Sabbath Mood Homeschool’s astronomy guide.

Next week I go back to having two kids in the rotation, and the new adjustment period for the new books for Moose. It should be fun, especially with the time change (fall back, YAY!) right around the corner.

What I’m Reading This Week

Now that my brain is coming back online, I’m finding my energy level recovering as well as my concentration abilities. I basically had to pause anything that required some level of concentration – like reading, learning Japanese, thinking ahead (such as bringing a lunch for Greg if he came with me to kid-wrangle for appointments that happened over his lunch break)  – basically teaching the kids exhausted my mind as well as my body.

I’ve been working on pulling my house together. It’s wild to see how tired I was, as it was adequately reflected in my house’s state. It’s not like it’s a total dump but it’s definitely not what we’re all used to. I maintain that the state of my house is a great reflection of my health – I’m a weirdo who enjoys housecleaning, organizing, and decluttering (except the seasonal clothing switch, no thank you!). So if my house is really getting unkempt and there’s no immediately obvious reason; tell me to get to the doctor!

Now that I’m feeling loads better, I’m picking up the books that I put down because I simply didn’t have the mental ability to read them and really understand them. I’m also getting back into Japanese – shockingly I put the hiragana and katakana into long-term memory so it was merely a matter of refreshing things.

I almost purchased a hard copy of this book, after a friend on Instagram had mentioned it. I’ve heard about it before and had shelved it to the “someday” reading shelf in my mind. But after my doctor’s dietary counseling (stop eating wheat and go keto) and my friend talking about it, I figured I should move the book from “someday” to “now”.
And as it worked out, both Google Books and Kindle have the electronic version on sale for $1.99. I don’t know how long the sale will last, but it’s been going on for a couple days now.

I’m through chapter 10 and it’s been a very interesting read already. Some of it I already knew (such as why abdominal fat is not healthy at all) and a lot of it is new to me, especially the science behind modern wheat and what’s in it. I have read a lot that modern wheat isn’t the same as Grandma’s wheat, but this book has done a great job (so far) discussing why it’s so different and how it got to be that way as well as the effect on your body (it’s not pretty). Fascinating stuff.

The process of dewheating is slow and steady, it’s not that I was consuming massive amounts of wheat but there as definitely some wheat going on in the house (cookies…). And it’s funny, I started getting horrible cramps in my belly on our trip when I did have wheat – one would think I’d connect the two? Nope. But it looks like my body is starting to react how the kids all react. So even if I wanted to wheat it up, my body is reacting more and more to it.

My reading plan is to finish the books that I had started but had to abandon due to my inability to concentrate. It’s so great to finally be feeling better!

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 10 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 12

Whew! We are at the end of the week and we managed to wrap up Moose’s Term 1 this week. The original plan was to keep schooling last week and have this week be the exams/break week; but we had our great trip to Washington last week and saw a lot of really neat places (looking at you, Museum of Flight!). While we did get some work done, there was a lot that didn’t get done, so we just shifted the remainder to this week. The glorious buffer comes through once again!

For Moose, we finished up reading Understood Betsy and Saint Benedict: The Story of the Father of the Western Monks. (Those book links are affiliate links, btw!) The rest of the books roll into Term 2 (and some even into Term 3!). It’s nice that not everything changes all at once, and all I’ll need to do is select a different Saint biography to read. Next week is Exam Week for Moose, which should be interesting since I’ve never done a Charlotte Mason style exam. I’ve used the exam on the Ambleside Online site and did some changes to reflect what we’ve read and done. It should be pretty fun and interesting.

(Exams serve a different purpose in a CM education – you can dive deep into the thoughts behind exams at the Ambleside Online site here, at Simply Charlotte Mason here, and at Charlotte Mason Help here.)

After I finished Understood Betsy, Moose just looked at me like he couldn’t believe the story was ended. He quickly claimed that he really didn’t care about “a stupid girl”. 😉 I get the feeling that when it comes around again for Wok’s Year 2, he’ll be back in listening to it (it also sucked Peanut in, since she didn’t get it during her second grade year).

* * *
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve had some issues regarding Peanut and “elastic time”. We have had some small successes in helping Peanut to stay on task and get her stuff done without zoning out and dawdling. A big help: a timer and natural rewards (such as, “get X,Y,Z done by lunch” type stuff). But even still, there’s a lot of issues in transitions and just general motivation. I could give her a carrot, so to speak; giving her a certain number of minutes to use on the tablet or watching TV, or an allowance or whatever.

But I wanted her to have self-motivation, in that I want her to stay on task and focused based on her effort and not on the carrot at the end of the stick or whatever. When she’s an adult, she’ll have to get down to business on her own effort and gumption and get stuff done. I want her to develop that in the house.

I sat down with Peanut and had a small chat with her. I explained to her that her break week will come when she has completed 12 weeks of work. If it takes her 15 weeks to do 12 weeks of work, that’s fine. She can move at her speed. If she needs to take some time to complete stuff, that’s fine. I won’t shove her through each week. We will take our 20 minute lessons, have some natural rewards, and armed with the knowledge that she is in charge of when her break week comes up; let her go to town.

The first day it was kind of … meh, like she was still mulling over how exactly this was going to impact her. The next day she overheard me telling Moose that his break week was next week. She asked when hers was. I told her technically it should be 2 weeks after Moose’s, as I staggered their starting days but if she needed an extra week or two to work through what is assigned for week 10, she could take that time. Light bulb! Suddenly things clicked for her and she realized that she’s in the driver’s seat with her education, at least the pacing of it. She’s staying on task much better now and can have her sustained attention for the 20 minutes of lesson.

Another breakthrough Peanut had was in the math department. She started learning how to subtract four digit numbers and was just stuck. For whatever reason her mind just couldn’t wrap itself around the concept of regrouping these large numbers. We slowed way down and just kept plugging at it, over and over until – it finally connected. You could see the connections being made and suddenly it went from impossible to easy-peasy. She started asking me to make up math problems for her to do, after doing all the ones in the workbook.

It is so gratifying to see your child finally make those connections, after wrestling with the concept for a while. It’s probably one of my favorite things about homeschooling, is being present for all the connections and revelations and “aha!” moments.

Have a great weekend! 🙂

Just Call Me Iron Mom

I’m happy to report that I finally have an actual direction to pursue regarding my current health problems. A simple blood test showed that my ferritin iron levels were low, and that some iron supplementation should fix me right up. My original doctor didn’t think the iron was an issue as my iron serum levels were a-okay; but the new doctor explained that ferritin iron (the iron stored in your body) and serum iron (the stuff in your blood) are two different things, and you can indeed be low on the ferritin and normal on the serum.

I wasn’t as low as I could be, most likely due to our usage of cast iron pans and consumption of red meat. But, most likely due to these wonderful children; the iron basically has been sucked out of me and never really bounced back to where it should. The new doctor also knew darn near everything there is to know about MTHFR. Mine is the 1298 mutation, which I always understood as “no big deal” vs the more intense 677 mutation. Apparently the 1298 mutation can mess around with homocysteine levels, so he had that checked to ensure it was where it should be (it is). He also said I may need a different kind of methylfolate, as my current stuff doesn’t always play well with the 1298 mutation. Bottom line: any MTHFR mutation should be addressed.

We discussed in detail my Factor V Leiden and discovered that I am clotting more than I did in the past (aka I used to clot only when pregnant, now I’m clotting regularly and I’m definitely not pregnant). I absolutely need to stay on top of the low-dose aspirin all the time (I had been slacking on it, forgetting here and there. Don’t do that, self.)

So that’s the scoop. It’s disheartening that my original doctor, the one who had I had been seeing for years was 1000000% convinced that I was depressed and was more than happy to throw an anti-depressant (and birth control pills) at me. I’m definitely not against anti-depressants – been on them in the past with smashing success – but I knew this wasn’t depression. Even when I told original doctor so; he just ignored me.

I’m making the new doctor my new primary care doctor, as he obviously is better versed in MTHFR and FVL alone; and was very interested in why I felt so yucky and how to fix it. Rather than saying “you have five kids, OF COURSE, you’re tired” he recognized that the number of kids you have doesn’t always correlate to exhaustion levels. I feel like he took everything I told him seriously and didn’t brush me off as a ‘hysterical woman’, which was definitely how I felt when interacting with original doctor. I’m debating whether or not to write a complaint to the clinic where original doctor works, because I feel he diagnosed me based on my history and not my symptoms, and he completely blew off actually listening to me. Anti-depressants are powerful meds, but not every case of fatigue and joint pain is depression (especially coupled with all the other symptoms I have been experiencing). Anyways.

The plan is to treat the iron with iron pills, revamp my diet – new doctor wants me to go back to some form of a ketogenic lifestyle (not super hard-core but definitely lower carb than what I’m doing now) in order to treat my OCD (which had been flaring up since that pesky earthquake in July), and a couple other supplements. If I still feel junky in December (and if my ferritin levels show improvement), he will start investigating autoimmune disorders. Hopefully we won’t get to that point, but God’s will be done.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 9 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 11

This week was one of those weeks where flexibility was the name of the game. It came apparent to me that we had something going on every day of the week and in some instances; had some double booking going on. Happily Grandma helped out by taking the kids to and from choir for me while I went to the doctor; and we basically forced ourselves through the rest of the week.

Monday and Tuesday Peanut (Yr 4) and Moose (Yr 2) discovered the wonder of having all their school done by 11:30 in the morning. I have told them until I’m blue in the face that if you finish your work well (as in, not slopped or rushed through) and don’t dawdle; you can be finished before noon – which leaves the rest of the day for playing, reading, visiting Grandparents, playing with friends, and so on. Sure enough they discovered that I wasn’t yanking their chains.

Peanut and Moose both had math tests and passed. Peanut finally finished up Math Mammoth Grade 3 and can begin Grade 4; Moose moves on to the next chapter in his Math Mammoth text. We also went on to the next list in both Phonetic Zoo and high frequency words.

Wednesday was a day where everything went south but we managed to get things accomplished. Our special needs kid had an extremely hard morning of therapies which meant that that child was fried and drained and needed to rest all day (but was irritable making it hard for others to work), I was fried and drained from whatever health problem I’m having, and it was just blah. I didn’t force school too much on everyone because when we’re at each other’s throats, sometimes we just need to shelve everything and have some hot cocoa (or a Snickers bar) and chill. The relationship with the kids trumps any knowledge they may gain. And besides, who can learn when someone’s antagonizing you, you’re frustrated because things “aren’t easy” and so on.

Peanut did have her heart broken a little bit more about Benjamin Franklin, she was entirely unimpressed that he stayed in England so long, despite his wife begging him to return (and not returning until after her passing). She still thinks he’s a “mostly good guy” though. 😉

Thursday was worse than Wednesday, in that I had a blood draw scheduled for 1 in the afternoon. “Please fast for 12 hours beforehand” said my doctor. Welllll I don’t know about you, but I’m not up at midnight getting my last meal in. I ended up having an unintentional 17 hour fast. At least I was hydrated enough for the five vials that needed to be drawn. I forgot to ask the phlebotomist (I was ready to go to the grocery for ALL THE FOOD) when my results would be in, and since I have no new lab reports in my online account I’m guessing all the tests are done across the state. Maybe on Monday!

(My doctor thinks that maybe I feel so screwed up because my ferritin iron levels may be low, so he’s having that checked, plus thyroid antibodies and like 249820675698719584867 other tests.)

Friday was swim class day and absolutely TGIF. Moose wasn’t impressed to learn that we’re finishing Understood Betsy next week. I find that we’re slowly “falling behind” except that we’re not, if that makes sense. Yes, we got off on our Latin schedule so the regularly scheduled quiz wasn’t on Friday, and next week we’ll do some extra reading to get done with Moose’s first term. But really, it’s not a big deal. I’m finding in necessary to cut myself slack and let go of some tightly held (and wound) beliefs. I’m participating in Brandy Vencel’s “Charlotte Mason Boot Camp” right now. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it while feeling so lousy BUT it’s so great, I’m glad I took the chance and signed up. Plus, I enjoy having to make some time to be quiet, read and discuss and pray about certain aspects of our homeschool and life in general.

How We Learn Shakespeare

After lots of trial and lots of error, we finally have landed on the “what works for us” with regards to teaching Shakespeare.

1. Preparation
We start to learn about Shakespeare – who he was, where he lived, what time period he lived, how it’s different from now, how it’s similar, his background, the Globe, and why we like to learn about Shakespeare. I try to be enthusiastic about Shakespeare – like most American students, I wasn’t considered “ready” for Shakespeare until high school, where we read the plays and discussed them into boredom. If we were lucky we watched a video of a play.

We do Shakespeare as a family subject, and we do it during tea-time. The prospect of tea/hot cocoa/hot cider and popcorn or some other fun snack really helps everyone be excited to do Shakespeare as well, plus it’s good fun for everyone. Ages 3, 5, 7, and 9 are represented at Shakespeare {tea-time is when Nugget is having a nap}.

2. First, the retelling
I select a play – my kids are young so we’re working on the comedies. I thought we could follow Ambleside’s Shakespeare rotation, but I don’t think they’re quite there yet. We started with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because it was short, it was a comedy, and it seemed like it was something everyone could grasp.

I read everyone Lamb’s retelling {wouldn’t you know, after studying this play in high school I had no clue what was going on, except Puck; but after reading the retelling everything made tons more sense}.  We stop – a lot – and narrate and discuss, defining terms and explaining things. We use paper dolls, a character map drawn on a whiteboard, or Playmobil to keep everyone straight and make sure we know who’s in love with whom.

3. Then, the play
At first, I started reading the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but it got old VERY quickly to be constantly defining the characters. We decided to let other people read it for me, and listen to this Librivox recording {which hits what I want in a Shakespeare audio – multiple people for the different parts and some English accents because well, I think it sounds better that way!}. We follow along a text from MIT. Just like the retelling, we stop – even more than the retelling – and break apart confusing language, help the littles figure out what’s going on, and so on. We keep out the Playmobils and work on arranging the characters as they enter and exit the scenes.

Peanut running the characters for Act 3 of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”

We listen to an act per week – sometimes all in one sitting if it’s short and everyone is feeling it, or breaking it up if it’s longer and there would be a mutiny to listen to it all at once.

And that’s it! I’m going to start reading the plays with the kids once they’re older and can handle reading the language (right now Peanut is the only one who would be even remotely capable). But right now, it works well what we’re doing.

I am interested to see which play our local Shakespeare company will be performing next year. I would love to read the retelling, read the actual play with the kids, and then go watch it live; since that’s the best way to experience Shakespeare, in my opinion. Hopefully they put their 2018 schedule up soon!