Book Title:  Free to Learn:  Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier,More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Author:  Peter Gray

Genre: Psychology

Publisher:  Basic Books (A Member of the Perseus Books Group)

Why Did I Choose It?  I chose this book after asking a friend to give me her favorite resources on unschooling as I have become more and more interested in this type of education for my youngest son.  She recommended any book by Peter Gray or John Holt.  This was the book title that intrigued me the most in my brief search of the authors.

A Bit From The Back Cover:  In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that to foster children who will thrive in today's constant changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, he demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient...

Review:  This book was amazing.  Absolutely amazing and I'm sooo sorry I didn't read it 12 years ago when we first pulled out daughter out of the public schools to homeschool.  I think I was in the right mindset then, to let her be and learn in a less structured way but let the years of public education and judgments of others cloud my thinking and raise my self-doubt and anxiety to the point of basically doing 'school at home' for a several years with only a bit of freedom here and there.  But enough about my failings...  here's the thing about this book!

Free to Learn is the most comprehensive and convincing book on how children (naturally) learn that I’ve ever read, and being a dedicated homeschool mom and former public educator, I have certainly read quite a few books on how children learn!  Gray includes an extensive amount of research in this book. Actually, the beginning which focused on hunter-gatherer cultures drove me a little batty...but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.  Really , I totally get why he included it all and it is relevant and very important to his overall message. Dr. Gray also included an abundant amount of other research as well as well as  his personal experience as a parent and experiences with Sudbury Valley - a highly unconventional school but one with idealistic standards! Free to Learn explains, and includes the research that proves it, how we can work with a child's natural drives to learn and not using the compulsory education system which forces lessons, standardized tests, and activities that crush a child's innate drives to learn.

The overall message of this book is that children must play and explore to learn (and that the way children are taught in most schools today denies that to a harmful effect). He presents overwhelming scientific evidence that play and exploration, self-directed learning, and being in mixed age groups (something most public schools restrict)  permit children  come to their full potentials and enable them to grow, learn and develop positively and naturally. “Children need freedom in order to be happy, to learn how to be responsible, and to develop the character traits needed to deal with life’s inevitable dangers and setbacks.”

“Nothing that we do, no amount of toys we buy or ‘quality time’ or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways.”

If you want an understanding of why schools today are failing and we are not finding the results we seek from our standard system, or simply why 'schooling at home' (mimicking the public school system at home)  is still  not the most beneficial answer and  what can actually be done differently with success, I  strongly urge you  to read this book. I sincerely believe that the overall message of Free to Learn has the potential to direct our culture toward a better system- whether public or private or at home.

"...self-directed learning and free play permit children to realize their optimum abilities to learn, grow, and develop naturally and positively..."

Notes About The Author:  Peter Gray, Ph.D.,  is a research professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College and author of the college textbook, Psychology, now in its seventh edition.  He writes the Freedom to Learn Blog for Psychology Today.  Peter Gray is a well-known critic of the  standard educational systems. He speaks often to groups of parents and educators about children’s needs for free play and the detrimental effects of the current methods of schooling, Mr. Gray, along with other concerned citizens, has created a website titled AlternativesToSchool.com.

With Great Lent coming up, I always try to pick a particular book that is connected to my Orthodox Christian faith.  This year I've selected Thirty Steps to Heaven by Vassilios Papavassiliou.  It directly pertains to understanding the Ladder of Divine Ascent and applying the lessons of the monastic text to our everyday lives.

I don't know whether it's because I homeschool or because I'm an Orthodox Christian mother or both--  but I always think 'what can I do for my child during this season?'  as well.  It's probably more just the mother in me than anything.  My older children are old enough now to decide for themselves.  They have an understanding of what Lent is about and know what things we have done in the past during the season to prepare ourselves for Holy Pascha and place extra focus on our relationship with God during this season- even more so than usual.  They know Lent gives us a chance to enter fully into that relationship and focus on the upcoming Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. They know it's a chance to get back on track and remind ourselves of what we should be doing all year. They know it is a season filled with extra church services, prayer and fasting.

But my youngest is six.  So he needs more guidance. And while he will of course be going to those services, I've  pondered over thoughts of what we could do this year to make the Lenten season more meaningful to him and focus on his own relationship to God, I came to wonder what books we could use - if you know me in person or by my blog- you know I have a tight relationship with books!  I view them as friends and they are a wonderful way to deepen our children's knowledge and begin a wonderful conversation about what is important in our lives!    I wondered what others use.

Below is a list of books I have found on my internet searches, on my own shelves and what others have shared with me as good sources/books to use during Lent.  Of course, many of these, if not all, can be used any time of the year and should be.  But if you are wondering what some good books are to add to your collection or to use during this season in preparation for Holy Pascha, perhaps this list can help you.  I'd love to add to it-   so if you know of others, please share with me so I can add to the list !  I have tried to order them in terms of age, interest levels, etc.  Of course, you know your child or children better than me or anyone else.  So review the links (I'll provide them if I have them) and make your decisions accordingly.  I will mark with an * those that I have indeed read for myself.  Hopefully , at some point, I can add some book reviews on these for your use.

Happy reading and God Bless!

The Story of Easter by Patricia Pingry  -  a lovely picture book for small ones, ages 2-5.

*Getting to Know God by John Kosmas Skinas  - another lovely picture book for small ones, ages 2-6,   that accentuate the sense we use in our Orthodox Faith.

*Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco  - a lovely folktale picture book telling of Ukrainian eggs for 4-8 year olds.

In The Candle's Glow  by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson  -  A beautifully illustrated picture book tells of Felicia taking the fruit of the bee and the beekeeper's efforts , lighting her and how she prays.  This story is for ages 2-8.

*The Hidden Garden by Jane G Meyer - A picture book parable encouraging children to open the gate to Christ and tend to the garden their heart.  It is suitable for ages 4-9.

The Blackbird's Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland by Jenny Schroedel  THis lovely book tells of Kevin who learned an unforgettable lesson from an unforgettable teacher.  This book is suited for ages 6-10.

*Catherine's Pascha by Charlotte Riggle  With delightful intricate illustrations and a lovely tale, children will learn much about the celebration of Pasch with this book geared for ages 4-10.

*The Miracle of the Red Egg by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson  For ages 4-10, this picture book shares the story of St. Mary Magdalene and the miracle that occurred in the presence of an unbelieving Roman emperor.

*Pictures of God:  A Child's Guide to Understanding Icons by John Kosmas Skinas  A lovely picture book for ages 5-12, explaining in simple  terms what each icon means and the importance of these people and stories in our lives.

Holy Week and Pascha by J Euphemia Briere  The book takes will take the child, ages 5-12,  through the period in the life of Christ starting at the raising of Lazarus to the Resurrection, as reflected in the Divine Services of the Church.

Lent! Wonderful Lent! by Debra Sancer  This book offers a summary of the weeks of lent for children, ages 4-10.

Glorious Pascha by Debra Sancer   This book offers a nice summary of the days of Holy Week. for ages 5-12.

*From God to You:  The Icon's Journey to Your Heart by John Kosmos Skinas     This book, a nice addition to the library of 6-12,  is a nice follow-up to  Pictures of God,  introducing children to ancient icon archetypes and encourages children to "mindfully consider icons and their stories as windows of inspiration and doorways to prayer."

St. Seraphim's Beatitudes: Blessings for Our Path to Heaven by Priest Daniel Mar  This book contains short sayings patterned after the Lord's Beatitudes  in clear, memorable phrases.

*From I-ville to You-ville by Mersine Vigopoulou   Wonderfully written and appropriate for ages 6-12, this best selling Orthodox Christian children's book of Greece, is a Christian allegory reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress.  A young man makes his way from I-ville to the unknown, long-for kingdom of You-ville, a kingdom where humility and kindness have their home and people put the good of others first.

*Journey To Pascha: An Explanation of the Holy Week Services by Ayman Kfouf   This book was recommended to me as a lovely guide to older children as it offers a simplified explanation of the theological and liturgical themes of the services of the Great and Holy Week.

The Zacchaeus Tree: A family guide through the season of the Great Fast by Lynne Wardach   While seemingly written for Byzantine Catholics from what I can tell,  it seems to offer a nice prepatory discussion of the season and daily meditations for children and adults for throughout Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

2

As parents, we can simply SHUT UP! If we can sit back and listen to ourselves, we can hear how much negative harassment we throw at our kids.  If a parent would seriously and objectively listen to what he says (through his child's ears), he would be appalled and could probably with some effort change that kind of "No".

I think here of Lisey (then 3) who was pouring herself a glass of milk yesterday.  She had gotten it from the fridge, opened it, poured from a fat 2-quart carton a very small juice-glass of milk, had drunk it, then had gotten a paper towel and was wiping up the milk spilt on the table.  There was more milk spilt than the towel could absorb so as she wiped now, the milk was being pushed off the table onto the floor.

I walked in at this point and started with the running "No, No" commentary in a whiny voice:  "oooooh, no, Lisey, you should have asked someone to pour you a glass of milk-no, don't wipe it up, it's going on the floor; now stop, don't do it, I'll do it, it's bad enough on the table- look, now you've got it on the floor- you're making more work for me."

Happily at this point I was struck by a rare beam of sanity and it said to me, "Oh, quit being such a bitch, Lisey has just poured her first glass of milk all by herself and you're ruining the whole thing for her."

And suddenly I looked and saw a very little girl trying very hard to grow up- trying to wipe up herself the mess she had made getting herself a drink of milk.  And I said, "Lisey, I think Sparkle (dog) would like this extra milk."

Lisey stopped and looked at me.  I had finally said something of meaning.  All the negative harassment up till then she had been trying to ignore.  I said, "If you get Sparkle's dishe, we can put the milk in it."

She got it and we did.

And immediately she began an animated chatter about how Sparkle would like this milk and how she had poured them both a drink of milk, etc.  Until then, she had barely said one word. In fact, if I had pushed her far enough- "Ok, Lisey, get out of the kitchen while I clean up your mess"- she would have probably ended up crying (over spilt milk!).

But the happy ending here did not require much effort on my part because I wasn't very emotionally involved.  My mind could still be objective about the situation to the extend of being ale to control and change it.

The above was taken from Teach Your Own (The John Holt book of Homeschooling) by John Holt.  It really struck me this morning as I read this passage, recognizing my own self in the story, both as a parent and as a child and the view of the child in today's society.

There is beauty in a child.  They are gifts.  Gifts from our creator.  And they can be the most joyful blessing if we open our eyes to see it.  They can teach us by far more than any textbook, lecture, magazine article written by a scientist, lab experiment, or intellectual conversation.  A child can change us, mold us into the beautiful work of art intended by our God. But if we take society's stance as an unborn child has no right to live and that toddlers are A**holes (yes, a real book title that totally appalls me to the deepest core) whether it be in a joking manner or not, we miss the true essence.  We miss the chance to be shaped and yes, even work through our salvation, through the experience of carrying a child to term, giving birth, raising or even spending time with a child and enjoying that child to his and our fullest potential.  That is a great tragedy.

Today's society seems to tell us that children are born trouble makers....even viewed as a problem from within the womb.  It is not the child that is the problem.  It is our selfish worldview that is the problem.

When I walk into a room cluttered with my son's toys and artwork, it is me with the problem.  It is me that has trouble with how to accept that clutter as beauty.  It is me that grimaces at his noises and interruptions as nuisance to my ears rather than music and opportunity for my betterment and growthn. It is me that worries over insects or a cool wind as he goes in and out the door enjoying his world. It is me that doesn't take the time to observe the things he is learning as he builds the mountains of blocks or stacks his 20 animals around him in the living room or the mountains of papers on the kitchen table and floor surrounding it.  It is me that is not grateful for the messes.  It is me with the problem.  It's not my child.

As a child,  I was raised in a situation in which everything I did seemed to be a problem...  whether it was an accidental spill, noise, moving my lips when reading, a thought of my own, forgetting to pick something up off the floor or table, a question that wasn't wanted to be answered, or simply not performing to the adult perfection or timely fashion expected of me.  No and consequences for simply being a child and doing things that children do, did not shape me in a  positive manner. I grew up, even after that environment changed, believing I must perform perfectly (in the eyes of others and myself) to be worthy of love or acceptance.  Which means I often gave up many things before even trying due to fear, or didn't and still don't give myself credit for a job well done.

Is that what I want for my child?  Is that what we want as a society for our children?  For the young men and women that are growing up who will become the leaders of our society? I see myself, though over the years I've certainly changed for the better, still saying no when it could really be a yes.  There are still so many cases where I really just need to shut up and listen. I need to stop condemning my child for being a child and just shut up....listen, observe and soak it all in like a beautiful symphony. Listen to my child and realize he (they) is there to teach me just as much if not MORE than I am to teach him.  Observe from his perspective and see the beauty that God has given me through the eyes of this child.  Yes, we are here to guide our children-  but how do we do that?  It need not be in the words of "No", "Get out of there," or "Not now". Learning not to say no in a way that demeans or stifles their spirit is a challenge but so necessary for them to be themselves and freely learn more than a school room or academic lesson will ever teach them- or ourselves for that matter.   We don't HAVE to panic at every mess (though I still stick to my rule that he has to ask before he tapes one more thing to my walls.....) or assume the worse at their every move.  We can enjoy these moments.  Savor them really.  Use them to awaken and change our spirits.

 

Create in me a clean heart O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 50:10

 

2

2016-05-14 21.32.04There are days I am completely at rest with my plans and style of homeschooling.  AND there are days I am ....well.... a normal mom who panics and worries and stresses that I can't possibly do it all.

And those are the days I'm most grateful for Sarah Mackenzie's book, Teaching From Rest.  Sarah really talks sense when she points out to us moms that we are not meant to do it all!  All we can really do is give it our best and TRUST IN GOD to do the rest.  If Jesus can feed the thousand with a little fish and bread, then I guess I can do right by my children by giving all that I can and trusting that God will do the rest.

So this summer, I am trying to move into a 'school year round' mode while also staying mindful of my new 'Teaching From Rest' mindset...and trying to catch up on those things that haven't gotten accomplished since moving to our newest home (almost two years ago)...you know, like the garage, basement, and yes, my  'office area' - of which I am proud to say I am typing in right now.....  yes, there are still piles off to my right which need sorted, but the desk is clear and functioning!  WOOT!!!

But while I spent time modifying our morning time routine and school schedule to be shorter for summer days, I haven't exactly kept up with it but for a few days here and there   -  meshed in with cleaning, organizing, errands and all those other things that interrupt our school day.  BUT.  I am at rest.  (Well, mostly....there's a little agitation that surfaces from time to time, I admit.)  Here's my updated schedules, if you are interested.  I'm using Looping a lot now... it's definitely putting more rest in our school plan!

Summer 2016 Rotation Schedule
Summer 2016 Rotation Schedule & Morning Time Plan

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I'm really enjoying our Memory Work time, as does my son.  And for Literature right now, our selection is the first of The Boxcar Children.  I know there's a whole series of that one now, but doubt I'll read any more than the first.  There's so much good literature out there.  I've heard the rest are not as good - so if he's really interested, I'll just let him use them for his own reading pleasure, rather than using them as our read alouds.

We are starting to use the Orthodox Study Bible to do the assigned daily readings and using his bible reader more as a reader for him for reading practice when we aren't using his nature readers (which by the way, has a great chapter on...... worms!)

For nature study right now, we are doing worms!  We have the farm which we observe on an almost daily basis and several books checked out of the library on earthworms.  Who would have guessed learning about worms could actually be interesting?  Just yesterday we learned that inchworms are not actually worms at all.  Who would have thought those tiny little green 'worms' turn into moths?

History for this summer and upcoming school year will be a mixture of Ancient History and American History and geography will be based on that.  Although I did purchase this to help us along:

I doubt we'll get far this summer, but who knows?  My main goal is to introduce the concept that school or education does happen year round, on a daily basis- whether we sit for a whole hour or two of lessons or not.  And to ENJOY learning- of course!!!  And, to achieve what Sarah Mackenzie set out to help us all do with her book -  RESTFUL TEACHING!

What are you doing this summer in your homeschool?

You Know You're a Homeschool Mom When....

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You spend your Saturday morning drinking coffee and reading about earthworms....

Yeah-  I'm really wanting to get down and dirty....well, not really dirty, but....

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THIS kid is so worth it!

My library shelves are overflowing with nature books, but I was thrilled to be able to buy one more sources this year at the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference...

http://www.homeschooljourney.com/nature-portfolio.html
http://www.homeschooljourney.com/nature-portfolio.html

I've been eyeing this product by Barbara Shukin for  a couple of years!  So yesterday I finally started browsing through it and saw that one of the things to study in Spring is the earthworm! So....

.... today I sit reading up on earthworms in Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study and looking up earthworm farms on Amazon.

Yep, I'm going to do this!  Has anyone here done this before?  I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you have to offer!

 

 

What are you doing for nature study this season?

7

Book Title:  Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace

Author:  Sarah Mackenzie                                                                              

Genre: Homeschooling; Education

Pages:  89

Publisher: Classical Academic Press  (ClassicalAcademicPress.com)

Why Did I Choose It?  I saw the advertisements for the book last year and,honestly,  the concept of rest pulled me in!  Rest?  What IS that?  I had a feeling it wasn't about sleeping until noon or handing out lessons from my bedside, but I found the title appealing and had to find out for myself what it was all about!

A Bit From The Back Cover: Those who have made the decision to homeschool their children have done so out of great love for their children and a desire to provide them an excellent education in the context of a warm, enriching home.  Yet so many parents (mainly mothers) who have taken up this challenge find the enterprise often full of stress, worry, and anxiety.  In this practical, faith-based, and inspirational book, Sarah Mackenzie addresses these questions directly, appealing to her own study of restful learning (schole) and her struggle to bring restful learning to her children.

Review:  This book is amazing! Seriously-  I think this book has helped me in my homeschooling process more than any other book I've read.  In the Book, Teaching From Rest, Sarah gives real practical advice on how to simplify our days and our 'curriculum' to a point that allows us to accept our limitations, trust in God to make the miracles happen, and teach from a true state of rest (note:  Rest is NOT a state of ease ).   Sarah covers a variety of ways to achieve our end goal including prayer, morning time, lightening the load (and how to do that), understanding the  limitations of published resources, simplifying the schedule and much much more!  This is a book I firmly intend on reading each and every year through the rest of my homeschool years.  It will have a permanent place by my bedside for those moments I'll need a few moments of  review and 'pep talk' from Sarah! 

I hope to write more posts soon on Teaching From Rest.  In the meantime, I just finished planning for an upcoming book study I am conducting on Facebook.  It starts THIS FRIDAY!!!  (May 20, 2016)Don't panic- if you don't have the book, buy it now... Friday we are only going over the introduction, so if you're not in the group yet, join and catch up when you get the book!  The rest begins Monday.  The schedule for reading is on the Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1112029392194451/

2016-05-14 21.31.43hoo

 

Fellow homeschoolers, let me know what you think of this book! And feel free to list other recommendations for my other readers!

We took a walk today...finally.

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One of the biggest things of the CM method I wanted to implement this year was nature walks and nature study.  And if I grade myself according to the quantity of time we actually spent doing any of those things... I failed miserably.  At least, the way I would grade it.

However...

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My son LOVES nature.

So I must be doing something right.

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We have read a lot of nature books.  In the winter, when I was a sissy- yes, despite the very mild winter we had- we stayed indoors a lot.  We watched the birds and we read books.  He does love the nature books.  Though he did NOT seem to appreciate the Burgess book on birds....everyone on Ambleside raves about it.  But my boy?  He was bored out of his mind.  I finally put it down for awhile.  I got the Burgess chapter books instead.  Much less valuable information is inside these little gems, but he loves them. And we still read his nature magazines and other books.  And since the kid recognized , all on his own the other day, a red breasted grosbeak... the first I've ever seen and have never pointed one out to him in a book (in other words, he looks at the bird book himself quite often), I'd say we are doing okay.  🙂

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I'm still using Ambleside as a guide for next year...but I am going to use a lot of my learning I absorbed from Teaching From Rest to tame things down and simplify quite a bit.  There's no need for me to be stressing.  This kid is a sponge.  He's soaking up knowledge everywhere we go.

I'm continuing things through the summer but at a much much slower pace and with time to enjoy life and , well, especially nature!  At least, that's the plan! 😉

I know I haven’t written much lately. Part of my time has been spent  reading more about various aspects of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, Teaching from Rest – a VALUABLE book by Sarah Mackenzie – if you homeschool and you haven’t read this book you absolutely MUST!, observing my youngest child and, of course, being overwhelmed by the other

Pixabay had no matches for the term "Teaching from Rest"- but I liked this one for 'rest'.
Pixabay had no matches for the term "Teaching from Rest"- but I liked this one for 'rest'.

aspects of life: changes brought about by the holiday season and the season of winter upon us, maintaining a home with all the boring details that go with it (you know – cleaning, laundry, cooking, cleaning, laundry, cooking, over and over again!), and with all of this, basically reevaluating where I am on our homeschool journey.

As most of you know, I have two kids that I am now homeschooling (my third is a junior in college!); I have a 5 year old and a seventeen year old. The seventeen year old is in his junior year of high school. The 5 year old is my extrovert….quite the challenge to this introverted mother and while I don’t have to label him as anything at this point according to our Pennsylvania homeschool laws, I’m calling him a kindergartener.

For this post, let’s start with the highschooler. While I thought I had a great year planned- sort of laid back but still getting the academics necessary in and also allowing him to explore his interests- having coffee with a friend made me realize I could have done so much better. UGH. Face Palm. But….. relax….take a deep breath, Carol…. We’re all learning, here, right? That’s really what life is about I think…..loving others, and keep on learning - keep improving- finding ways to be at peace and closer to God….

So….. the friend I had coffee with is a unschooler…and it took me being enthralled with Charlotte Mason and really listening to this unschooling friend and her outlook on education that made me really see how bent out of shape I get on ‘meeting those academic requirements’. Yes, absolutely, the requirements must be met. BUT… I must get out of my public school mindset on HOW those requirements must be met and that the bottom line is I need to educate my son in the way that best suits HIM.

SO…… what to do now? Well, I have all sorts of ideas on what to do next year….but how to tweak this year so that I don’t drive him crazy asking him daily if he’s caught up and we can relax about the other activities that have cropped up since I planned the year (like his trip to Florida over the holiday break and the guest we will have in March and scouting activities, and time away from school to get to the weight room at the high school to work out with the football team, etc. ).

Well, first let’s look at what he’s doing this year:

English 11 - that’s not much of a problem as I really made this to be more relaxed this year already.

The only requirements I gave him this year was to read at least 15-20   quality books with a figure of about 3200 pages total(one book was allowed to be twaddle as I knew there was a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book coming out and my son has always LOVED that series and , let’s face it, reading should be fun and why not read a book JUST for fun?) and to give oral narrations as well as a bi-weekly written narration of each book.   In addition to the reading, he was to complete 2 research papers via a online research class.

Anatomy & Physiology - this is taken with a local homeschool co-op.

This was the class we knew would be challenging, not so much as the material is hard but as it’s set up to be a college prep course, we knew it would be a LOT of material, fast paced, and would require a lot of time.

Consumer Math & Finance - This fulfills his third math requirement as he has already fulfilled the algebra and geometry requirements.

I set this class up quite similar to my daughter’s class from years ago. He is completing various chapters I assigned in a consumer math book (I chose the Abeka curriculum) as well as Dave Ramsey’s high school curriculum on finance. To me, the most important part of this class is what he learns from the Dave Ramsey program. This, in addition to him participating in our family monthly budget meetings, will give him a sound understanding of money (making it, saving it, spending it) that he will truly need throughout his life, regardless of anything else he does as a career or family man.

Economics – Economics fullfils a requirement under social sciences. (1/2 credit course)

I attempted to make this course as interesting as possible and refused to use the typical textbook but used a popular book in the homeschool world – Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard J. Maybury as well as various parts of A Bluestocking Guide: Economics and The Money Mystery.

Home Economics - I had to make up this course on my own.

While there are numerous homeschool home-ec courses out there, there isn’t a single one that I could find that really tailored to a boy. There was soooooo much emphasis placed on girly things. I know (don’t get me wrong) that men do cook, sew, and take care of babies. And yes, that’s all part of his home ec course too. But I don’t feel that the home ec courses that I saw emphasized the male role in the household. What about home maintenance? What about general repair? What about the automotive aspect? Most curriculums offer these things as separate courses but I know, having been the second half of a household now for 23 years now, it all comes together. So I tailored the course to include these things as well as cooking, sewing and the general topics that are usually included in home-ec courses. But, rather than sewing and cooking taking up the bulk of the course, they are not emphasized as being the end all and be all of home-ec.

Introduction to Christianity - To know and teach our faith to others, one must be aware of what others believe. (1/2 credit course)

I knew right away that I was including Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick’s book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. To me, being an Orthodox Christian and creating this course for my homeschooler just automatically led to the use of this book. I just wasn’t sure what to use in addition to that. But in my research of college courses offering an introductory course, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bishop Ware’s book – The Orthodox Way- was used in a few that I came upon. Thus this book became the second book to be used.

Study Skills - A must course for anyone that is considering college in their future. (1/2 credit course)

I kept this course the same as I did for my daughter several years ago, using the same books and very similar requirements for both. (If you’re wondering about the books, we use “College Study: the Essential Ingredients by Sally Lipsky and How to Study in College by Walter Pauk”)

So that’s the gist of what he’s been doing this year. Being that I’m using narration for a lot of the courses, not just English, and that I’ve strayed from the common textbook, I’m already on the right track for using better education strategies. But coffee with my friend made me realize, I wasn’t using my son to truly gear my decisions on his education. I wasn’t really focused on his interests, his GOALS, his input. Of course, when I ask him, he doesn’t know what to say. After all, I’ve been the one taking the lead for all of these years. Yes, I ask for input- but not a lot of it – sad to say.

So in listening to my friend talk about unschooling and what she has accomplished and how she has done so (and the struggles), my gears started working….and I have already formulated ideas (just ideas- need to sit and actually PLAN with my son) for next year. So what about now? How can I lessen our stress load NOW?

Well- it shouldn’t be terribly hard. The set up of English with narrations is easy. Obviously I need to ditch the idea that there needs to be a set number of books. What I need to focus on his discussing the quality books he reads, whether it be 5 or 15 or 50. I’m relying heavily on gems of information I’m gleaning from the Read Aloud Revival – another great source offered by Sarah Mackenzie- on how to gear these discussions. He’s completed one research paper and has also given a speech (a surprise in the Anatomy & Physiology course) and will be giving another presentation in the spring so I am dumping the second research paper and will do the online course next year. Anatomy & Physiolgy isn’t controlled by me but I do need to step up my participation and make sure I’m helping him study. I could kick myself in that I allowed him to choose whether to start with that course or the Christianity course at the beginning of the year and realize now, that shouldn’t have been an option since he was taking a college prep course and NEEDED to know how to study. Aw, well…. he isn’t doing poorly- but it has been a bigger challenge than expected and I think his father and I guiding him on how to apply the study skills he’s starting to learn to the class he’s taking is a necessary step. Next is Consumer Math & Finance- this isn’t going too badly but I’m wondering what I can do to eliminate some of the textbook stuff in the consumer math book. I’m thinking more participation in our budget meetings and some general computation at the grocery store, etc. I’m really thinking there can be more overlap for some of his home ec course that we haven’t gotten to yet that can be applied to both courses. I’m still thinking on this one. As for home ec itself, my only problem has been the logging of the hours. I’ll need to check with my friend (who will also be the evaluator since I’m filed under the homeschool law this year rather than home tutoring that I usually select). His economics course is almost completed. I think just reading the last book and giving a few narrations will suffice. And the same thing to complete the second book for the Christianity class- just read and give oral narrations- forget the written narrations- they are not truly necessary- unless perhaps one at the end to show a general summary for his portfolio? And there’s the Study Skill Course. I’ll need to reread the requirements I gave him. I still want to use both books- though I may shorten the second one and pick what I feel to be the best chapters and tweak some of the requirements. The goal there is he has lots of tools to use to succeed. Obviously what’s most important is he read the material, understand it and be able to use what works best for him- NOT whether he does personal action statements or fills out tables and charts….so….

I’m looking forward to him getting back from Chicago with his dad (yeah, another event to divert away from the academic curriculum- though an absolute positive experience) so we can sit down and look things over together- yes, even dad because he’s the principal afterall J . I’ll have to post more later, but if you have any ideas- please fill free to share!

As for the kindergartner? Well, that’s to be continued on another post, another day!

And REALLY, if you haven't read this book yet- order it TODAY! And check out Sarah's website too! AmongsLovelyThings.com

hello-1006469_1920I'm taking a few moments to just say hello to my faithful readers.  My time on the blog has been scarce as of late but I'm still here.... still writing, or at least THINKING and DREAMING of writing, even if the actual pen to paper is rare, still homeschooling, still reading, still eating paleo, still practicing my faith (though I really do need to spend more time in prayer), and still trying to figure out how to balance it all.

I've spent a LOT of time reading and contemplating, as always I suppose, my whole approach on homeschooling.  I'm not abandoning Charlotte Mason in the least, but I am questioning the need to follow Ambleside as rigorously as I had been in the beginning of the year.  After reading Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and taking quite a long break over the holiday season, I can see that taking a break was actually highly beneficial to my son.  It was needed.  He is now requesting to do school and enjoying the activities, though limited at this time, that we have doe.  I am not abandoning the materials suggested by Ambleside, but I am less convinced that they must all be used in the particular year suggested and am focusing more on observation and discussion of nature, playing games and reading for pleasure while just fitting in the 'academic' reading materials of Year One over a longer stretch of time- I'm thinking 2-3 weeks rather than one for now.  And I completely ditched Our Island Story- much to the dismay of the Ambleside Forum ladies.... oh my , you would think it a crime!  LOL

And I'm trying to figure out how to get blogging and writing back into my schedule..... it's not an easy task.  But I do think a monthly or biweekly babysitter may be in order.  I hate to spend the money though, since at this point in time, it's not exactly a money making adventure- so I feel guilty spending anything to do it. But I do think the one on one time with the babysitter, a sweet homeschool girl that lives close to us, is actually very beneficial to my little man. It keeps him away from the TV and keeps him actively involved with someone that enjoys his creativity and offers a different approach to play than that of his brother, sister, or myself and his dad.

And of course, there's the kitchen.  I managed to stay out of it for almost the entire day today... an expensive accomplishment.  Yes, in order to give myself most of the day off it consisted of a gluten free frozen pizza (not exactly Paleo) and an expensive run to the local sushi place for dinner.  Expensive, but a nice break.  I really must figure out how to make cooking from scratch and sticking to a primarily paleo diet less time consuming.  I have come to the conclusion that my main problem is probably trying to please everyone in the family and trying to have too much of a variety in our meals.  And really, I simply MUST start putting more things (pre made meals) in our freezers!

And if that and the million other thoughts in my brain aren't enough, in addition to trying to figure out the homeschooling, save time in the kitchen and figure out how to best fit writing  back into my days,  I also need to figure out what to start writing and blogging about again.  Oh, I definitely will be stcking to the main topics of this blog (writing, reading, homeschooling, health, our faith).....but where to begin and what kind of schedule to keep?

But alas, I will do my best to start again soon- until then dear reader-  drop me a note and let me know what you have been up to lately- and what, if any, topics do you miss reading the most?  Maybe I'll start there!

 

 

 

 

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Wrapping it Up:  November

The year is just flying by!  I can hardly believe that December is upon us bringing with it the end of 2015!  My oldest son will be turning 17 and I will be....um....well, older than I was last year!

My Writing World

It's PiBoIdMo 2015- have you signed up??

This was the month of PiBoIdMo - the month where aspiring picture book writers check in with Tara Lazar's posts on her blog to see the day's guest writer's post to find inspiration on our craft and attempt to come up with at least 30 ideas for a picture book.  You can check out my posts about the month starting with this one and ending with this one with a few in-between.  Other than reaching most of my much smaller goals for PiBoIdMo this month (I didn't actually get to work on a manuscript), I did get a few other blog posts out and thus have done better than the last few months.  But I really need to figure out a way to work on some manuscripts.  Sigh.  In time, I guess.  If you want to check out some of the other blog posts, here they are:

My Commonplace Book - this is something that I hope will also improve my writing skills; it will certainly lead to more writing topics!

Peaceful Reflections

Book Review Wednesday: Ishtar's Odyssey - finally- the first book review I've done in ages! Hopefully I will get back to at least doing one a month....fingers crossed!

Year One Homeschooling & Orthodoxy

Foster The Good (actually posted at the end of October)

My Book World

Photo by Kregel Publications
Photo by Kregel Publications

It's been a slow month for reading.  I really haven't been doing much of it at all.  I didmanage to complete For The Children's Sake and worked here and there on The Living Page.  And, if you've followed, I read all of Ishtar's Odyssey in time to do the blog post for Kregal Publications.  It wasn't my favorite book by Arnold Ytreede, but still a quality book for family reading during the advent season.

 

 

 

Our Parenting/Homeschool World

This has also been a slow month for completion of homeschooling.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I have determined that it's okay to stretch out a week of schooling (according to the Ambleside Online 'curriculum' that I'm using) into two or more weeks...but I'm not okay with days going by in which we don't do much of anything for school.  Unfortunately there were a few stretches like that this month.  I don't necessarily think that was a bad thing, but I don't want it to turn into habit.  SO - I just need to juggle this around in my head and figure out how to still get a half hour or hour of school into most of our days, even when really busy.

I've also been thinking over twaddle vs. living books as I mentioned in some of my PiBoIdMo posts (yes, even my Writing World intersects with our Homeschooling World).  I'm thinking more and more these days while there can be a huge difference between twaddle and living books, there can also be some overlap.  What's more- perhaps rather than focusing on eliminating 'twaddle' completely, it's just more important to make sure that better quality Living Books make up the majority of your child's reading time.

Homeschooling aside, I've struggled with parenting in general. Nothing surprising. We ALL struggle when it comes to a method of how to get our children to be obedient without killing their spirit or doing it in a non-loving manner.  My son is struggling with following directions without doing his 'growling' thing or actually attempting to push me or protesting by putting his face right in mine with the dirtiest face a five year old can give.  We read recently, my husband and I, Peaceful Parents Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham.  We believe entirely in her theory but putting it into practice isn't always easy.  His behaviors definitely push my buttons whether I recognize his need for guidance in how to display feelings or not and , well, it's a challenge.  So we are working on that. This afternoon was a difficult task - telling him no, he can not go to the neighbor's house as his behavior after church was not of the quality to earn privileges such as that.  While it was difficult, it was manageable, but only because I was able to prepare myself for it.  I knew , getting into the car at church, exactly what was going to happen when we got home and I had 20 minutes to prepare my own set of mind for carrying through.  It's not so easy when a situation presents itself necessitating an immediate response when we are needing to go somewhere or get a list of things done in a short amount of time.  Those cases don't always go the way  I'd like. But I'm sure I'm not the only one in that boat, am I?

Our Food and Health World

My husband continues his health goals in losing weight and becoming more conditioned. doing-the-w30-fb-cover-660x244Have I mentioned since doing the Whole30 during Lent this past year and sticking to a paleo eating style (at least 95% of the time) he has lost over 100 pounds?  The man is amazing as far as I'm concerned!  While I used to be the one doing the attempts at motivation, he is the one trying to motivate me to start exercising now....sigh... the vision is there....finding the time to do it and everything else needs some work!  I'm at least starting to walk a bit more again...if only I can figure out how to keep it up during the winter!  I have a HUGE aversion to cold weather!

This month we started the Nativity fast that is practiced by Orthodox Christians. I'll admit, we've never been ones to follow the nativity fast as well as we do the Great Lent fast.  But this year, my husband decided he wanted to do another Whole30 for the fast.  While my love for sugar was reluctant, I assented to his wish....well, for the most part.  He's doing a whole30 which I help with by keeping completely compliant for the meals (with a few minor exceptions on Thanksgiving) and I'm doing my own modified whole30- while not whole30 approved, is certainly a step up for me as I remain about 95% paleo,  I'm not adding sugar to my teas, keeping my meals whole30 compliant, sticking to non-processed snacks for the most part (at least at home) and attempting to increase my water intake.  And I'm doing my best to keep Wednesdays and Thursdays as days we not only observe the Whole30 rules, but stick to abstinence of meat products as well in accordance to the Orthodox fasting rules.

Our Faith World

Again, the nativity season is upon us.  I'm trying hard to keep up with my morning bible time, adding an Orthodox Advent Study to my materials. I purchased this last year through Sylvia Leontaritis at Orthodoxmom.com.  Unfortunately, I never got past the first week last year.  This year is still a struggle to keep up but I am sticking with it thus far.  I have actually learned a few extra things about the Theotokos I hadn't known before and I always like reading passages from the Old Testament that were prophecies of the birth of Christ.

We were disappointed to know that my husband has been scheduled to work both the nights of Christmas Even AND the night of Christmas Day.  He will be forced into missing both church services.  It's a struggle to not want to pout and think ill thoughts of those in charge of his schedule....  but we are trying to stay positive and be grateful he has a job and, really, other than church - which is of course the most important part of celebrating the holy day- we can do the other celebrations any time...and have planned to do just that.  Yes, Santa is such a NICE man, that he's decided to wait a few days to visit- so we can all open presents together....  cool dude, isn't he?

Other Parts of My World

Hmmm....what haven't I covered?  My son's girlfriend came up from Florida for a few days and visited.  She was able to watch him in one of his last football games of the season.  It was really nice to have her here.  Of course, it was really sad to watch his sadness in the days following her trip back home.  But they are able to at least count the days to the next visit which isn't terribly far off...though I'm sure it seems a terribly long time to them.

Thanksgiving was spent here at home as it usually is.  We had a quiet day- my husband  worked the night before so he slept for a number of hours during the day after he came home and prepped the turkey and chicken (long story that one).  The kids and I lounged in the living room watching the parade and dog show.  It was nice that I didn't have much cooking to do since I was inspired to do the majority of it the day before.  THIS is something that I plan on doing again!  I was sooooo thankful for a low stress day on Thanksgiving!

The days continue to get shorter and a bit colder though I can't complain about temperature just yet, especially for October.  And we've found an excellent 'handy man' to help us with cleaning gutters and other household/outside tasks that makes prepping for season changes all the  more easier.  We also installed a new pellet furnace in the basement and a pellet stove insert into our fireplace.  Between the two, we expect our electric bill and the hassles of last year's woodstove to be a thing of the past.  Time will tell but we are hopeful and feeling warmer already.

It's now 4:08 in the afternoon as I write this and I can see the color changes of the sky in the west already. This indicates to me as the day is nearing an end that I really should be thinking about ending this post and starting the evening meal.  So, until next time- take care and drop in and say hi sometime!

What did you do during November?