Friday, May 13, 2011

88oz, Life, & A Word On Homeschooling

It's 7:00 on a Friday night. I am alone and in bed. The Engineer took all three to a birthday party. I am sort of laughing...I know that's bad to laugh. I'm fighting sinus/allergy junk and right now, it's winning. Last night, despite feeling awful, was awesome. With a cell phone...from bed...I was able to phone The Engineer, who answered with "room service," should I need anything. Like, say, a third bowl of piping hot soup. And I have to praise the man. He has bent over backwards to care for me. Soup in bed. Sonic slushes (88oz of Sonic Real Fruit Slushes in seven hours...needed to numb the throat). Other than the fact that I feel awful, this has been wonderful.

Guess what I did recently? Took down all my base cabinet doors (you can kind of get an idea of what things looked like from above photo). 

...and put up small curtain rods, and put that dyed drop cloth to good use.

I like our kitchen so much more, now. To access drawers, we slide the fabric to the side. While that isn't the most convenient, it isn't that big of a drawback - at least not in my book. I love accessing the lower cabinets from either side and not having a door in the way. 

They're super easy to launder, too. Just slide 'em off, wash and dry, and slide 'em back on. Compared to what we had, I am SUPER pleased. (And one day...maybe...I'll finish painting the walls and put the hardware back on the upper cabs...hem the cafe day...) 

These two are so cute. Little Bit's personality is literally, busting out of her. She is hilarious and the most stubborn, hard headed little thing I think I've ever met. She ADORES her sis and bro. I found these two cuddled up on the sofa after breakfast this week. I mean, really, does it get any sweeter?

Let's talk homeschool for a bit. I've gotten a lot of emails asking me about homeschool - how and why and a lot of "should I" questions. So...I've decided to try and address some of that here. Lightly. If you have more questions, please feel free to email or comment and I will do my best to answer.

My poor children are total guinea pigs. We have learned a lot about what does and does not work. I have talked to a lot of ladies and read a lot of books and blogs...the more I read, the more I realize I have to learn. We have prayed over this journey and sought to be obedient to the Lord's leading, and He has faithfully met our every need.

This past year, as many of you know, we used as a "transitional year" for Sister. She wasn't quite ready for first grade, but we didn't need a repeat of kindergarten either. So, we decided to homeschool just her for this one year and planned to begin first grade fall of 2011. And then something happened, and we fell in love with homeschooling...for a ton of reasons...and I won't go into all that right here. Suffice it to say, the one thing I adamantly declared I would NOT do (during our premarital counseling), has become something I LOVE and am so thankful for and feel totally called to do.

For Sister, who turned six last summer, we decided to work towards firming up her foundation in reading and math, and of course, I wanted to begin to teach and hopefully cultivate a love for the gentle arts.

Simply because our plan was to put her into first grade at a local private school, we assembled our curriculum based on what they use...however, had we to do it over again, I'd do the same thing. It worked so well. We cover: Bible, Catechism, Handwriting (Zaner Bloser), Language Arts (Sing, Spell, Read, and Write), Reading (aloud - me to her, and she then summarizes what she's learned), Math (Saxon), and a few of the gentle arts.

Can I say I've learned a lot since day one...and that I have a TON to learn. A seasoned homeschooling mama gave me one suggestion that has radically changed our school time - I LOVE it. Sister and Little Man each get two popsicle stick figures when we begin our school day. This translates to two interruptions each. Meaning? Sister is a story teller and something always reminds her of something else...that she needs to tell me. So she can. Twice and only twice. So when she begins to interrupt our lesson, I'll say, "Do you want to give me one of your figures?" And she usually jumps right back into her work. The same has held true for Little Man. One morning last week he used both of his figures early on and sweet Sister gave him hers...

We've read through The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones three times...and this was WONDERFUL!!! I HIGHLY recommend it! However, I've decided to take a little break and we're reading through Proverbs. One chapter each morning. I usually read to them during breakfast and we talk about what the passage means - what is God teaching us and how can we use this in our lives, in our hearts? I am floored with how much they both understand. Young children pick up on SO much. They are like little sponges. May we faithfully drench them with living water.

After Bible reading we go through several catechism questions. I had grand plans for Sister to know all 150 of the Children's Catechism, but here's the deal, I'd much rather her really know the first 85, than sort of know all 150. So...we're drilling on the first 85, still. And it is precious to hear her hear truth. Little Man is picking up on it, too. 

Following catechism, I read aloud to the children, usually for about an hour. Of course, with three small children, there are many interruptions. I have learned to give them something to do with their hands, and they are MUCH happier and more content and listen much better. Some days I give them each a few cans of play-doh (no cookie cutters or other stuff to play with - just their little fingers), some days I pull out legos, other days markers or crayons...I love sitting in the big wing back chair in our living room and looking down to see my babies playing while I read aloud. These have been rich times and we've had many an adventure together thanks to books!

And then we play outside for 20-30 minutes. RECESS!!! And all hands on deck - Little Bit is dangerous on the swings and slide! I literally set a timer and when it dings, we head inside. Little Bit goes in her crib along with a stack of board books and her babies and she plays contentedly for a good hour...

During that hour, I set Little Man up with a color by number sheet (I circle the numbers in the code box with the correct color so he can match it up). He is really into these and takes his sweet time. Sister and I tackle math - which she loves and Little Man likes being a part of that, too. He'll jump in and count with us and say the days of the week, etc. And if there are any manipulatives involved, you can bet he's hands on! After math we do Language Arts, and Little Man will cuddle up with us when Sister has to read aloud. Following that, we spend some time working through speech therapy worksheets and then it's time for lunch.

Sister always has homework. This was super cool at first. Now she's not so pumped. But, here's what I learned, if I gave her, say, handwriting, to do during school, she would take her SWEEEEEET time and I felt like screaming. Something that should take her ten minutes would take forty-five. However, when handwriting must be done on her time, she can execute it well in much less time. Math always has a portion that is to be completed later, so that goes in for homework, too. Depending on how reading is going, sometimes I'll assign her to re-read a story aloud to me or The Engineer. All said, it's about 30-45 minutes of homework on a heavy day. 

Sister carved a dragon head out of a strawberry. It was actually quite impressive. Fruit sculpture has not been one of the gentle arts we've focused on....

I typically eat in about a quarter of the time it takes the children, so usually I'll read aloud to them once I'm finished, until they finish. And then we all pitch in to clear the table, push in chairs, sweep, wash, etc. We go through and pick up the downstairs, put clean clothes away, etc. and I put Little Bit down. Sometimes Sister and I use that time to tackle an art project, etc. but usually, she and Little Man go to their rooms for "rest time."

On an absolutely ideal morning, I rise with or right after The Engineer - around 5 or 5:30, work out, shower, dress, swish and swipe the bathroom (fly lady), start a load, and have my quiet time. This doesn't always happen. And that's ok. The days when it does, I'm just like, "YES!!! SWEET!!!"

Wednesday I'd begun feeling sick. The Engineer instructed me to turn off my alarm, go back to sleep, and sleep as late as I could. I woke at 8:30 when Little Man snuggled up beside me. Sister and Little Bit were sleeping soundly still...we were all exhausted. Mornings like that (ok, every morning) I am thankful, so thankful to be homeschooling. We started later and finished later - what a blessing!

This year we completed the last half of the Sing, Spell, Read, Write Curriculum from kindergarten and we're three quarters of the way through the first grade curriculum. We went through Saxon Math for kindergarten and are about one fifth of the way through the first grade curriculum. We did all of the Zaner Bloser handwriting for kindergarten and first grade...and we read several books aloud. See here for our 2011 list.

I've got a "treasure box" that family and friends help me keep stocked. On the days the children work hard and choose a good attitude and obedience, they get to pick one item...this has helped motivate!

Sister and I have one morning a week when Little Man and Little Bit are both in "school." We take that time to eat breakfast out and we take our school work along and make a long morning of it...over coffee, a cinnamon roll (Sister) and a bagel (me). Those one on one mornings are sweet and precious times.

We've got a little over a week left. I can't believe we've made it. The Lord has been so gracious. This has been a sweet season I wouldn't trade for anything! And...three years ago, had you told me where I'd be, I'd have laughed HARD.


  1. I LOVE your kitchen!!! The curtains and the colors are beautiful! I really love reading about other people's homeschool schedules! It's so fun to see what everyone else is doing! Sounds like you all have had a great year! And I am with you- I always said I would never be one of those moms:) but I am so glad I am!

  2. I love that Sister gave Little Man her stick figures. Sweetness! Owen is getting a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible for her birthday thanks to your recommendation. Feel better soon!

  3. Hey there! What a fabulous post! I loved all of your homeschooling we prepare and pray for what is to come with our little ones, I am so thankful you are real and honest and allow us a glimpse into your lives as you live it! It sure does look like you are really good at this and that the entire family is responding so positively. I love that!! Please keep sharing all the ups and downs - and congratulations to Sister on a big year in the books!!! God is good!!!
    Oh and I love the JSBB idea - we might have to start reading through it w/ K as well!

  4. Wonderful post Jennifer! (Do I ALWAYS say that?!) I think your kitchen looks GREAT!! Good idea...fresh it. :)

    Soooo sorry you have been feeling unwell...soooo glad you have been cared for so it...yippee for your Engineer! :)

    I'm sure many will glean much wisdom from reading about your homeschool journey...I think you have done FABULOUSLY well! And yes, we ALWAYS are learning and growing and tweaking and changing...and that is okay...actually it is just how it is meant to be.

    Much Love,

    P.S. Rest well my friend...I will pray you heal quickly.

  5. I applaud you for homeschooling! Even trying it for a year and being open to the idea! When the kids are older, we would like to homeschool and we will try it one year at a time! We realize God's ways are not always our ways and so we will patiently see where He leads us!

  6. As usual love reading your blog, but especially loved reading about how you structure your morning/day with your kiddos. Our days go so much better when they are really structured and lately I've been pretty slack about it (read: going crazy those days) and this has been good encouragement to get back into the swing of a schedule and doing preschool activities. thanks so much!

  7. Your kitchen is cool!

    Hey, remember even teachers take sick days. She is SIX!!! You could take two weeks off and be just fine.

    I've been fighting the same thing and it feels like it is winning. There have been days where I started to HS, but then I gave up part way through and just told them to put their books away and go clean their rooms instead.

    I am finding that if I stick to the three R's, my stress level goes down and we have more fun. I have also rotate some of the extra curriculer stuff like typing, spelling, social studies, history and science. I'll do spelling Mon, Wed, and Friday. On Tues and Thursdays I will do social studies/history. This gives them some of that stuff, but I don't have to do it every day. We still manage to get through the text every year, even at this slower speed. We then get done with our schooling usually by 1:00 and that is with corrections.

    I love your interrupting figures. Great idea!

  8. Hey! I found this really helpful. I have been praying through my heart's feelings on schooling options. Not to share too many details, but Hannah has been struggling in some areas at school, and I have found my gut reaction to be "just stick it out!". I have not even let my mind wander to homeschooling, because I, like you in premarital counseling, have always said that I would NEVER homeschool. Yet...yet...reading this post has encouraged me that God would give me grace and support me to that which He calls me to do. I felt much less intimidated by homeschooling after reading what "a day in the life" of a homeschooling family looks like. It is actually attractive to me! Never thought I'd say that! So, thanks, as always for your honesty and for being vulnerable and sharing your heart. You are a great mama, and...your kitchen is fabulous! :)

  9. love hearing all about your daily homeschool routine! very helpful for those of us facing school decisions in the near future.

    ps, kitchen looks great.

  10. Been catching up on your posts. :) And I'm missing you as I read. So i'm thinking I might visit you. Shoot me an email and let me know if that might be a possibility.
    Love you!