July Reads


This month I only read four books (three of which are pictured above), which is the least amount of books I’ve read in a month since February of this year. The reason is two-fold: first, I spent a good portion of July planning out the first six weeks of the school year, finalizing whether or not we had all the books, printing out maps and other things; and so on.

Second, July was a lot like February in a lot of ways. February was supposed to be recovery month from a nervous breakdown I almost had in January. February was almost like January Part 2, minus extreme panic attacks.  I didn’t start recovering until March and in some ways I’m still recovering – I still need a lot of sleep, I get stressed out easily, and whatnot. While I may not have come close to a nervous breakdown this month, I have had a massive upswing in anxiety and stress which halted my ability to read books. This starts a cycle because I get mad at myself for not reading – it’s my favorite thing to do and it’s how I collect information in order to solve problems – so when I can’t do it I feel broken and dysfunctional; which shuts me down further from reading (self-fulfilling prophecy) and I feel worse and worse.

Fun, right?

At any rate, I did read four books this month so it wasn’t a total wash:

Blackfeet Indians by Frank Linderman. This book went back to the library already, but I really enjoyed it and will use it in our Montana history studies. Linderman was an ethnographer who was adopted into several Native American tribes and wrote extensively about them, after countless interviews. This particular book was all about the Blackfeet Indians – it’s very anthropological in that it talks about clans and how children are named and whatnot; but still quite accessible for the average reader.

Smart But Scattered by Richard Guare and Peg Dawson. One of the books recommended by my autistic kiddo’s diagnostician way back when. If you have a child who struggles with executive functioning, this book can help immensely. I found it helpful for all my kids (minus the baby), as it helped me figure out who’s EF skills were developed where, where there was still development going on, and so forth. This book can feel a bit clinical at times; but it’s extremely details and thorough. You can essentially develop an EF “treatment plan” off of this book.

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss: This is one of the books that really solidified my desire to homeschool and that I could actually homeschool my kids. It’s one of the perennial Catholic homeschooling books and is always a good read. I feel like I’m sitting down and having a cup of coffee with a sympathetic ear. There is so much good information in this book. If you can get a copy of it, I highly recommend it. Copies are hard to track down but if you wait; you can get one rather inexpensively (mine was $15 from Amazon, actually!). I like to read this book when I need a good reminder about why I’m homeschooling or when I’m feeling discouraged.

Kitchen Confidential – Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain: I was hiding out in the library as opposed to going to a social for rock club (which is like the canary in the coalmine of RAPIDLY RISING ANXIETY for me), and I wandered into the biography section to see what was available. My entire town essentially put holds on all of Bourdain’s books in the digital library after he died, so I knew that getting a digital copy was going to be a while. Happily, the physical library had this copy in, so I justified my avoidance by checking out this book.

Let me state a huge, giant, MASSIVE disclaimer here: if you don’t like profanity, if you are offended of detailed R-rated descriptions of various events; if you know that you prefer to have clean reading – stay away from this book.

And if you want an indication I’m probably not a good role model; I rather enjoyed this book.

If you took the Sopranos and put them in a kitchen; you’d have this book. Bourdain, like in his shows; was no holds barred, extremely blunt and open and held nothing back. Most of the book was his stories about working in various kitchens, going to the Culinary Institute of America, trying to “make it” and the various working hazards (like drug use) along the way.  There were a couple of chapters in there where it’s almost like he went on a HUGE tangent and talked about cooking equipment – knives, pots and pans, even towels; various dishes that people order and what not to order; herbs to use, and so on. Then he went right back to his stories.

The best part of this book is that he wrote exactly how he talked. So, I read the whole thing with his voice in my head, which was quite amusing. Despite the sordid subject matter; he was a fantastic writer and really could turn a phrase with dry sarcasm and great humor.

Recommended if you like The Sopranos or Anthony Bourdain, and aren’t easily scandalized.

Next month we start school and hopefully my anxiety can get a little more under control. I don’t have any massive plans for what I want to read, I figure I will let next month happen as it comes. That being said I do have two books coming in the mail – one about neuroscience and personality; and (yet another) biography of Tesla. 🙂

Putting It All Together – A Hypothetical School Day

Now that I have three kids to teach this year, our standard operating procedure won’t be sufficient. Last year, we simply worked at the kitchen table. My then Year 2 worked in the morning while my then Year 4 worked independently; then in the afternoons I worked with her on things like spelling, math, and reading the books that were a little hard for her.

This year, my Years 1 and 3 will need 100% of my help. My Year 5 can do 99% of her reading but will need me for things like math, spelling, Latin, and the stretching books of Year 5. I don’t want to be doing school all day long, we have family subjects to do AND I have two other kids who won’t just sit docilely all day long!

The first change was turning our downstairs play room into an informal school room. All the books are kept in this room, and it would be easier on everyone to be able to leave their work spread out. We can keep everything in one area, keep the kids in one area, and still have toys accessible for the two non-schooling children. My table is long enough that child (or two) can saddle on up and work with me; and there’s desks in case they want to have their own space.

It still leaves me with how to schedule everything. There’s several options:

  • work with everyone on one subject at once, like math and copywork. The upsides are that everyone gets me at once and the subjects are done for the day. The downsides is that it still leaves me with lots of reading to do and I have a very hard time changing gears when lots of people are asking questions or talking at once.
  • work with everyone like train cars – everything for my Year 1 at once, then Year 3, then whatever my Year 5 needs. The upsides is that it gets everyone’s school taken care of in one block. The downsides are that I have a lot of kids hanging around, and it makes for a long day for me.
  • work in blocks. I’m thinking this will make the most sense for me. My Year 5 should be able to work in the background, so this will mainly apply to my Years 1 and 3 but still have me available for my Year 5 as she needs help.
    • Top of the hour: do subjects that need individual help like math and copywork. Year 1 first, then Year 3 due to age and attention spans. (15-20 minutes)
    • Set up one child with something to do (or draw, read, watch documentaries, play with non-schooled kids) and begin working through the AO readings with the other child. (20 minutes)
    • Switch children and repeat. (20 minutes)
    • Repeat each hour until subjects are completed. As the Year 1 readings are less, Wok will be done with school and can go play while Moose would then get more time each hour to do the readings.

Hopefully this will work and still allow my afternoons free to work with my Year 5 on the things that she can’t do independently as well as family subjects. I’m anticipating an hour of specific Year 1 work, about two hours of specific Year 3 work, and about three to three and a half hours of specific Year 5 work (I’ll let you know when we actually run the schedule out when school starts 😉 ). Family time should be less than an hour, except on experiment days for the science we’re using. SO all in all:

  • Year 1 – one hour of specific work
  • Year 3 – two hours of specific work
  • Year 5 – three (maybe 3.5) hours of specific work (this includes working with me)
  • Family time – one to two hours depending on experiments
  • Totaling: 7 hours of “school time” all together.

A way of scheduling this out could look like:

  • Breakfast and chores: 7-8am
  • Family Time: 8-9am
  • 10-11am: Hour 1 with Year 1 and 3
  • 11-noon: Hour 2 with Year 1 and 3
  • Noon to 1pm: Lunch and chores
  • 1-2pm: Hour 3 with Year 3 (if needed), work with Peanut
  • 2-3pm: Experiments, or work with Peanut if needed
  • 3-4pm: work with Peanut if needed

There’s a real possibility that we may decide to do something completely different once we actually start running the schedule and living it.

I was talking with a homeschool friend yesterday about scheduling and planning and not being a slave to dates, as well as finding that happy medium where you’re not RIGIDLY SCHEDULED but you’re not just flapping in the breeze of unstructured. I like to plan things way out but then get crabby when things don’t go to plan (and they never will go to plan). But not enough structure sends everyone in to hysterics.

My hopes by planning just six weeks out and making a rough draft, so to speak; of how the days are going to go is not to say “this is how it’s going to be if it’s the last thing we do!” but give me an assurance that everything can fit and we all won’t be doing school from sunup to sundown.

Here’s to a great new school year!

Our 2018-2019 Family Time Plans

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to do a “family time” where we combine everyone for a variety of subjects. I wanted to write out what tools we will be using for FT and a basic schedule outline.

First, the subjects and resources:

  • German – Deutsch Mit Felix Und Franzi, found free at the Goethe Institut.  My father-in-law also has a massive German library, including a plethora of easy readers and kid-books, movies, tapes, and more. Both he and my German mother were excited that the kids are going to learn German and thought the lesson plans were quite good.
  • PE – I don’t really feel the need to have an actual PE “curriculum” as the kids are already outside running around, riding bikes, climbing things, going to the park, etc.
  • Artist study – AmblesideOnline has a very phenomenal artist study rotation, with artists and pieces already selected. I wanted to weave in as much Montana history as possible; so we will be studying Montana artists this year. I’ll list them when I post about Montana history resources. 🙂
  • Composer study – same as Artist Study
  • Real Science 4 Kids: Geology – I wanted to add some more science onto AmblesideOnline, specifically experiments and a deeper focus on some topics. Due to my involvement with the local mineral club; the older kids have been on geology field trips and therefore have wanted to learn about geology in-depth. I found that RS4K has the most of what we’re looking for – focus on a specific topic, experiments, and isn’t overwhelmingly expensive. There are five ‘focus on’ subjects of RS4K, I plan on doing one per term until we’ve done all five.
  • Nature Study – honestly, this is my weakest thing to do because sometimes it feels like I have 500 kids versus 5, and I am at a loss of where to go that is interesting but also safe for littles. A friend of mine who does nature study with me suggested we focus on learning about local flora and fauna, which is fine with me.
  • Typing and Programming – We have used typing.com in the past for typing with Peanut and have been successful, so we will use that site again. I may put Moose on it but his frustration tolerance is rather low so we may just focus more on programming. Speaking of Programming, we plan on using Scratch Jr to play with, as well as other resources like the Hour of Code and some great coding games I found at Target to supplement. We don’t want the kids to program for the sake of programming but want them to learn how think like a programmer. If you know how programming works in general, then learning programming languages should be considerably easier.
  • Shakespeare – nothing fancy here – read from Tales from Shakespeare, then watch the play. I’m skipping the “read the actual play” because it’s just too confusing for the kids since I’m the only one who can read the plays. I could have Peanut read with me but I still think it will be too confusing.
  • Montana History – post coming soon!
  • Folk songs – We plan on using AO’s folk songs that are already selected as well as some Montana-centric songs. And a couple of cowboy songs for good measure.
  • Hymns – We will be using Erin McFarland’s Sacred Music Studies (starting with Year 1).
  • Read-aloud – I selected a book from the free-reads list from AO for each year I’m teaching to read-aloud. I selected Pinocchio, Men of Iron, and Anne of Green Gables. We should be able to read one book a term.

The plan for getting all of this accomplished is as follows:

  • German is done 4-5 days a week, including review days
  • Real Science 4 Kids is done five days a week
  • We will loop read through our Montana History books – the spine on Thursday, and biographies and other books on Monday and Tuesday
  • Artist study done on Wednesdays
  • Composer study throughout the week
  • Nature study TBD but probably on Thursday, this worked well for my friend and I; hopefully we can get some other homeschooling families involved as well
  • Shakespeare on Friday
  • Folk songs and hymns each day
  • Read-aloud daily
  • Typing and programming at least 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)

And there you have it! Subjects that often were neglected in years past or just wishful thinking can now be done without me having to replicate it three times.

Our 2018-2019 Homeschool Plans

We are less than three weeks away from our first day of school! I finished planning the first six weeks of the term so it’s time for me to post what books we will be using this year.

This year, I will have three kids in school: Wok in Year 1, Moose in Year 3, and Peanut in Year 5. Little Miss Sunshine and Nugget will be along for the ride.

Peanut is essentially independent as she should be able to read almost all of her schoolbooks, although I expect she will need me to read a couple like Age of Fable. Moose is getting there, but will most likely have me read his schoolbooks; and Wok will need my help 100% of the time.

I’m doing a “family subjects” time, that combine some subjects and add others that I want to do:

  • German
  • PE
  • Artist study
  • Composer study
  • Real Science 4 Kids: Geology
  • Nature Study
  • Typing and Programming
  • Shakespeare
  • Montana History
  • Folk songs
  • Hymns
  • Read-aloud

As we are studying Montana History this year, all of our artists and composers are Montanans as opposed to using Ambleside Online’s artist and composer selections. Folk songs we are going to learn some Montana themed songs such as the state song; as well as using some of AO’s folk song selections. Our hymn selections will come from the Traditional Catholic Living’s Sacred Music Study selections.

For the kids, we are following Ambleside Online’s curriculum somewhat closely. I did substitute some books and add in others. I’m linking each AO Year we’re using below so you can see the entire year that AO has designed.

AO Year 1 | AO Year 3 | AO Year 5

Here is my list of substitutions and additions. My list is based on the kids’ abilities, our family dynamics, our faith, the books I already had on hand, and if I could find the book for an appropriate price (unless they’re public domain books).

Wok – AO Year 1
Remove Trial and Triumph, replace with Saint stories
Remove Parables from Nature
Add in Catechism – Our Holy Faith Book 1: My Father and Mother on Earth and In Heaven

Moose – AO Year 3
Remove Trial and Triumph
Remove Parables from Nature
Remove Pilgrim’s Progress
Add history supports – The Old World and AmericaA History of England for Catholic ChildrenOur Lady’s DowryChrist the King Lord of HistoryLight to the Nations, Our American Catholic Heritage (note: most of these books I am simply reading sections out of in order to give a rounded view of the Protestant reformation as well as Columbus.)
Add Saint biography – St. Edmund Campion
Add additional reading – Crossbows and Crucifixes
Add Catechism – Our Holy Faith Book 3: God’s Truths Help Us Live

Peanut – AO Year 5
Remove Trial and Triumph
Remove Madam How and Lady Why
Substitute Bold Journey by Charles Bohner for Of Courage Undaunted
Substitute Blood and Guts by Linda Allison for Christian Liberty Nature Reader
Add Catechism – Our Holy Faith Book 4: The Vine and the Branches
Add Saint biographies – one about Fr. DeSmet and one about Fr. Palladino, two priests who were instrumental in both Montana and Catholic history
Add Native American biographies
Add a three-term course on health – The Care and Keeping Of YouThe Care and Keeping of Your EmotionsThe Care and Keeping of Your Mind and Spirit
Add history supports – Our American Catholic Heritage, others as needed

Finally, all three kids will be using a combination of Math Mammoth as well as Simply Charlotte Mason’s living math. Wok will use Handwriting Without Tears for her handwriting refinement (she already can write quite well). Wok and Moose will use MCP’s Plaid Phonics Program – Moose will continue with Book C and Wok will begin with Book A. Wok will be the third child to use BOB books to gain fluency and hopefully she will be into easy readers by the end of the year!

I think that covers all of what we are using! I will post what we’re using for Montana History as well as go deeper with our “family subjects” in later posts.