Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Top Three for CC



 
 
If you've been reading here recently you know that I'm loving Classical Conversations.  There are numerous reasons for that, from simplifying our homeschooling schedule, to the free training and encouragement CC provides, to the quality of the academics, etc. etc. etc.

However, there are 3 reasons that I'm especially thankful for this program this year....3 reasons why our school year looks so very different from last year.


#1.  RETENTION

The definition of retention is "An ability to recall or recognize what has been learned or experienced; memory."

My CC Director told me that after just a few weeks of doing the work I would feel like I have a new brain.  It's true!  Our brains crave order and "pegs" to hold information.  Without those pegs, new information enters and exits our brains rapidly, but when we have a memory peg, that information has a place to hang...like a lost hoodie on a coat hook.

As a child/teen I had an incredible memory like my dad.  My classmates called me The Living Dictionary.  I have often wondered how big of a part memory plays in IQ scores, good grades, and success in life.  Is it actual smarts, or just recall of information?  Can someone have a photographic memory, but not be very intelligent or can someone who is extremely smart be forgetful?  Ahhh, that's another question for another day! 

For those with an excellent memory, it is easy to saunter through the school years, getting straight A's without working very hard.  Growing older and having kids (I think each child kidnaps more of Mom's brain cells when they are born) has made my brain a lot fuzzier, and I have to work harder to memorize these days.  So, while I did learn and memorize a lot of information growing up, I could have been learning soooooo much more, and could have been challenged to not just learn it short-term, but also to retain it for life.  A great short-term memory gets you 100% on tests and then the information is quickly dumped.  At the end of the year, one is only able to recall the things that were practiced again and again.

A huge difference between My Father's World and Classical Conversations is that there is retention with CC.  I've talked in other recent posts about learning less and learning it well as opposed to learning more and not retaining it.  I loved the content of My Father's World.  We read tons of stuff in the Bible, made adorable crafts, learned a lot of character qualities, and read loads and loads of excellent, living books that engaged the kids and drew us in.  We read about every state in the USA and made foods from each of the states and learned about things in God's world that corresponded with each letter of the alphabet.  Yet, just 5 months after finishing last year's curriculum, I am hard-pressed to remember anything we learned!  The things that I can recall are the things that we reviewed constantly, like "The letter A stands for apple,....If I stay in Jesus, I will bear much fruit" or "S stands for sun....Jesus is the light of the world."  All of those neat facts about the states and things we learned about pioneers are gone!  I'm thankful for the beautiful States Notebook we have as a memento that we can re-read to remember things about each state and for the fun books we read together that we can go back and re-read, but there isn't a whole lot in the noggin to show for last year. 

  
Though I went through the Kindergarten curriculum TWO YEARS in a row, loving it and delighting in my little ones' excitement over the animals they were studying and the crafts we were making, I recall very little of the facts we learned.  There were just too many!  Every day we were moving on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.  At one point, my mind, which I now realize was desperate for some memory pegs, was crying out to find a list or something in the curriculum guide that we could memorize to review the info from the year and try to retain it.  I was even thinking of making my own list, but I didn't know where to start because the information was so vast.  My brain was begging me to figure out a way to retain....I was frustrated. 


There is no doubt in my mind that CC is the best homeschool curriculum there is on the market today in regards to retention.  I've looked at it all, and I've chatted with kids from scads of different homeschooling backgrounds and I've seen and heard the evidence.  In Junior High, CC kids can draw a map of the entire world, with countries, capitals, rivers, mountains, etc. from MEMORY.  Our 4 and 5 year olds can recite a Timeline from creation to 9/11 with over 160 key historical facts.  Skip counting up to 15, as well as other math facts and equations are reviewed yearly.  They drill together, drill at home, listen to CDs with their grammar on it, learn songs to remember facts, and do memory work tutorials on the computer.  Memory masters must recite over 500 pieces of information perfectly at the end of the year...remembering everything they learned over the entire year.  The retention is INCREDIBLE!  What's also great is knowing that my little ones may not catch everything this time, but they will review each of the 3 cycles at least once before they get to Junior High.  Katrielle will review it 3 times!  If you want to remember something for the rest of your life (like your alphabet, multiplication tables, Scripture passages) you must review it again and again until it is in the long-term memory bank.


#2.  ACCOUNTABILITY

Homeschooling is hard.  There are days when you just don't feel like giving it your all.  Even for an extremely-driven person like me, it can be tempting to cut corners in some areas.  The homeschooling mom needs accountability, and so do the kids.  In all honesty, I have to admit that if I wasn't doing CC we would have skipped a lot of the science projects that require time and effort.  "Let's imagine how big the universe is and look at a book about planets instead of building the scale model."  It's easy to let your homeschooled kids off the hook because we're weary and they can be persistent.  "I suppose you can write that report tomorrow and go bike with your friends."  Knowing that you have to show up to community weekly with your work done, your grammar memorized, and your presentation ready is an excellent motivator!  It provides accountability for the parents as they are teaching their kids to not slack off, and also inspires the kids, who want to be on the winning team and get a prize during review games.  They want to keep up with the pace of their peers.


#3.  CONSISTENT FELLOWSHIP WITH HOMESCHOOLERS

In addition to accountability, it's important just to share life with a community of friends who are "in the same boat."  Before we were involved in CC, our family did have some fellowship.  My kids wanted to do playdates with friends, I had a weekly fondue date with my buddy, I helped lead Pray and Play, and we attended church and AWANA faithfully.  Yet, due to busyness, circumstances, illnesses, etc. often playdates would be cancelled or rescheduled, Girl's Nights were rare treats, and weeks would go by before I'd see this or that friend as they'd have to stay home from church with a sick kid.  My homeschooler friends were the hardest ones to connect with, understandably so, because they were all so busy working at home teaching their children.  So, there was a definite lack of unity and consistency amongst most of my friendships with other homeschoolers.  As I've written about before, investing in CC is a commitment.  Because you are paying for your child to be in the community, you have a financially-backed drive to be there every week unless you have a very good reason not to be.  Tuesday mornings are set aside to be with our community, and we're not just wasting time that we could be using to do school because we're doing school together!  This consistent, united, fellowship with other homeschoolers is such a blessing.  We swap ideas, encourage one another, rejoice over each other's children and their growth and successes, eat together, and share laughs.  Some folks in bigger cities have excellent homeschool co-ops where they meet weekly for this kind of fellowship, so this is not limited to Classical Conversations, but in our area, being a part of CC is the only option we have for this kind of consistent homeschool fellowship.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How Does One Prepare to Homeschool Down The Road?


My college roomie, who just had a precious new baby girl, and who has a little girl who is almost three, and who also happens to be having a birthday in a couple of hours, asked me this question the other day: 


It's 11 am, I have successfully baked a loaf of bread, made my bed, hung some clothes on the line, walked to the mailbox to get the paper, and washed the dishes, and this does not include pathetic potty training attempts and breastfeeding.  Before you homeschooled did you look at your time and wonder how you would be able to add homeschooling to your day? I was just thinking of you as I was contemplating my hopeful future in homeschooling.


Here is my loooong answer, friend.  I would say that in some ways, as your kids get older, it gets easier in some areas and harder in some areas. 


Babies and tiny kids = simple schedule, basic needs (food, clean diapers, naps), physical exhaustion from around-the-clock care


Older kids = busier schedule (school, no matter what form you choose), emotional exhaustion from the constant teaching and talking and interacting, less dealing with basic needs (they can help with food prep, feed themselves snacks, go to the bathroom on their own, no need for naps, etc.)


I look back on my years with tiny kids and think that my schedule was so simple.  I could plan playdates whenever I wanted, go on daily walks with friends, sew baby blankets and leather baby shoes during nap time, and had the time to experiment in the kitchen and blog often.  I look back and think it must have been sooo easy back when I had only 1, or only 2, or only 3 kids.


But when I start to reminisce, I remember the lack of sleep, the crying, the teething, the diaper blowouts, the inability to have any time away from the baby because I was breastfeeding, the horrific pregnancy nausea, lugging the babies around in carriers, toddlers shoving their friends at playdates or shoving books off the library shelves, etc. etc. and I'm so, so, so, so, so, so thankful to have those things behind me.


Life as a parent will always be challenging.  There are no "easy" years.  Your kids go from keeping you up all night, to throwing ear-shattering tantrums, to arguing defiantly with you, to whining or complaining, to beading and playing with legos and making incredible messes, to jumping off bike ramps, to wanting to explore the neighborhood, to discovering the opposite sex (so I've heard).......and on....and on.  However, as someone who has been getting great sleep for over 2 years and who no longer has to buy diapers or pull-ups (HOORAY!!!  IT'S ABOUT TIME!!!), and whose kids are all graduated from the church nursery, I can say that physically this stage really feels easier than the tiny kid years felt.  Homeschooling is a LOT of work, and it is a challenge to be around your offspring all day, every day, but it is worth it and I am thankful to be in the elementary school years stage as opposed to the infant/toddler stage. 


So, as your kids get older and are more independent, you will find some things to be easier.  Let's face it, getting sleep makes a huge difference in your quality of life!  However, other things will be harder.  If you want to give your children a great education you will have to sacrifice some of the things you like to do.  You can't do as many playdates or answer the phone during school hours. I personally had to give up sewing and crafts, and rarely find time to blog anymore.  I love doing photography, but I don't try to promote my business or take photography classes because right now my focus is on schooling my kids.  I don't usually make our bread from scratch anymore, and we use paper plates a LOT to cut my dishes down from 3 dishwasher loads a day to 2.  I don't have the energy/motivation to do as many volunteer activities or ministries at church.  With my 4th kid, I gave up on cloth diapering and I struggle just to keep up with the laundry my family of 6 produces.


The good news is, we learn as we go.  Just as a body builder gradually increases the weight he is lifting, so also, most of us get to start small in this parenting thing and gradually add more weight.  Though some are exceptions (parents of multiples, foster parents, folks who adopt several kids at once), we get to have one baby at a time, and adjust to their personality and routine, before adding another, and another, and as they grow, we grow with them and adjust to the new life stage before us.  This is why most moms of one look at me and say, "Four kids!  I just couldn't do it!  How do you stay sane?"  I ask moms of 8 the same thing!  The reality is that I took it one day at a time, one step at a time.  You may be looking at me wondering how I am teaching my kids to memorize their multiplication tables and I am looking at the mom of teens who is teaching her kids to translate the Aeneid from Latin and helping her kids through Chemistry and Calculus and wondering how she does it, but I know, by God's grace, I will get there someday as my "homeschooling muscles" grow!  For our family, the sacrifices made to homeschool our children are worth it. 



What are the BEST things you can do to prepare for homeschooling down the road?

I've blogged before about how trusting God and having personal discipline are the keys to successful homeschooling.  You cannot do this in your own strength.  It is hard!  The battle for our children is a spiritual one and we need faith in God more than anything else. 


Also, if you are going to homeschool, you need to be growing in the area of personal discipline so that you can be a consistent homeschooler. 


Considering how much you got done by 11am, my friend, I'd say you already have some great habits down!  Wow!  It's great that you have found a way to juggle the household tasks and the needs of your little ones.  When Ali was 3, I began thinking about ways I could prepare for the homeschooling lifestyle.  My parents had paid for Ali to attend preschool for a year, two mornings a week, and so we did that, and it helped her to get into more of a "school mode."  The next year, I did home-preschool with her and we would do little craft projects, work in an Explode the Code book, work on the alphabet, etc. for an hour just a few mornings a week.  The following year we did a little more, and the next year a little more.  Her Kindergarten homeschooling year only required about an hour of work each day, thankfully, since I had a demanding newborn on top of all the other kids!  First grade was a little more demanding, and second grade was a LOT more demanding.  Homeschooling one child wasn't too bad, but last year, when I was juggling two kids in two different grades, plus a curious toddler, and an active 4 year-old who wanted to do preschool activities and wanted CONSTANT attention, I was on the brink of burn-out!  I was so discouraged and weary with homeschooling.  I realized I needed a change, and thankfully God brought Classical Conversations into our lives at exactly the right time so that we could stream-line and simplify our homeschooling without sacrificing an excellent education.


So, my advice for you to build up your homeschooling muscles would be:


*Practice

Begin having school time each morning for 30 minutes-1 hour.  Read stories, learn letters, count, or do fingerpainting or other preschool crafts.  If you want a book I recommend Mommy, Teach Me, which has tons of fun ideas, or Slow and Steady Get Me Ready.


*Research

Read a TON on the subject of homeschooling.  When your kids are in full-blown homeschooling mode, your reading time will be more rare, so take advantage of the before-school years to read up on all of the homeschooling methods and styles.  Talk to friends who homeschool and ask them to share favorite resources and ideas (hey, you are already doing that...hence, this blog post!)

The Well-Trained Mind

Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child

Called Home

Simply Homeschool:  Having Less Clutter and More Joy in Your Homeschool

Echo in Celebration:  A Call to Home-Centered Education

Homeschooling posts here at Faithful Homemaking.

Holy Experience

Simply Living for Him


*Personal Discipline

Get into some good habits.  Challenge yourself to work on one new habit at a time.  Whether it's rising before your kids, having a daily devotional time, exercising for a little bit each day, making your bed, reading an intellectually challenging book, or whatever, start developing more personal discipline wherever you lack it.  You may wonder how a small thing like making your bed each day would help you homeschool, but it does!  Building great habits into our lives, one small step at a time, helps us to be more disciplined in other areas, and then in even more areas...growing like a snowball rolling down a hill.  If you are disciplined in your morning routine, it will be much easier to add homeschooling into your family's routine than if you are the type to get up at 10 am every day and stay in your pajamas until dinner time.  It sounds like you are already doing really well in this area!  Kudos!


*Minimalize

I love minimalizing and I think it is crucial for a homeschool mom!  The less you have, the less you have to manage, clean, care for, put away, store, keep track of, protect, and fix.  Before you start homeschooling, get into a habit of living simply, having fewer things, fewer commitments, and fewer distractions.  I promise you that this will help you be a more-effective homeschooler!


*Master Basic Homemaking Skills

This doesn't mean you need to become a Pinterest Project Queen or a Martha Stewart to homeschool!  What it does mean, is that if you get into the habit of frugal shopping, menu-planning, once-a-week or once-a-month shopping, bulk or freezer cooking, and setting up a home-keeping routine (example: FlyLady), you will find it easier to homeschool.  I could not homeschool without a menu plan and cupboards loaded with ingredients to make meals for the whole week.  I. Just. Couldn't. Do. It.  When you are homeschooling more than one child, or older kids, it is like having a part-time, or even full-time job outside of the home.  You have to get into "working mom" mode.  In order to make dinner happen, you need to have a plan ahead of time.  After a day of teaching, you then have to face the household chores, and if there isn't a plan for dinner, you will feel like crashing and burning.  Moms who work outside the home do one of the following:  start dinner before work in the crockpot, heat up a freezer meal when they get home, grab take-out or pizza, or make something very simple and quick at dinnertime.  And you will too.  A homeschooling mom is a working mom.  You will find that you cannot perfectly keep house and have incredible school days simultaneously.  Yes, the kids will do chores and help you clean.  Yes, they will do some of their schoolwork on their own.  No, I have never met any woman who is able to keep a perfectly clean home and still homeschool well.  It just cannot be done.  You only have 24 hours in a day and there is not enough time to keep up with all of the messes they create from being home all day as well as giving them all of the spiritual training, guidance, discipline, character, academic experiences  and assistance with schooling that they need.  You will learn to juggle the best you can and sacrifice the lesser for the greater.  I don't fold clothes, they go straight from the dryer into the kids' clean laundry bins.  I've cut them down to 3 outfits each to make laundry simpler and they have few toys.  Dirty dishes often clutter the counters during the school year.  During the summer, I could keep up with dishes and laundry, but in the school year...forget it!  You have to learn to be okay with it, or homeschooling isn't the right option for you.  When the school day is done you can work to catch up on household chores but there will be always be more to get done than you can do, especially if you are homeschooling multiple children or have babies and toddlers at the same time that you are schooling older children.


*Train Your Children

During the little years, your kids are figuring out that they aren't the center of the universe.  Even if you aren't doing math equations and spelling words at this age, your children are "learning at home."  They are learning to respect authority, obey, pick up toys, help set the table, pray, worship the Lord through song, be kind to siblings, share their teddy bears, etc.  Kids who have not been trained/disciplined are extremely difficult to teach in school (ask any public school teacher you know!)  So, during these younger years, focus on training them to obey well and enforce the rules of the home.  Help them to practice kindness with friends and siblings.  This is a continual growth process (as anyone who knows my 5 year-old Justus can attest) but the important thing is that you are working on it during these little kid years.



I hope this lengthy post answered some of your questions and gave you something to think about!  Because I know you well, I have full confidence that you, in God's strength, can do this, and will do an excellent job schooling your gorgeous little girls (and any future kiddoes that may come along) at home!  Happy Birthday Roomie!



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Classical Conversations Conference Part 7

Home-Centered, not Home-Bound
 
 
Homeschooling doesn't have to mean holing up at home and hiding from the outside world.  It doesn't have to mean you never leave the kitchen table or have adult conversation.
 
 
Leigh Bortins describes "home-centered education" in her book, Echo in Celebration. 
The family unit is strong, and home is the base where we launch learning from,
but other people and instructors can be a big part of our children's lives too.
For the CC family, the weekly community is a huge part of the home-centered education.  Having positive peer-pressure among their peers in class and reinforcement from other parents about school expectations is delightful.
Going to weekly worship and church activities is a vital part of our children's lives and therefore, a part of their education.
Children benefit from music lessons, and/or sports teams, dance, hobbies, clubs, and extra-curriculars. 
We are blessed to have a local library that puts on all kinds of fun events, like Lego Club, Reader's Theatre classes, Creative Writing groups for kids, Origami Club, and plays. 
The Missoula Children's Theater comes to town each year and puts on an amazing show; Ali enjoyed being a part of it last year and hopes to do it again
 
.
The sky is the limit when it comes to extra learning opportunities for our children.  One of my friends has a child who is a die-hard historian.  He volunteers weekly at the local Pioneer museum and cleans the Trapper's Cabin.  Another friend's son is obsessed with mushrooms.  I didn't know anything about mushrooms until I met him and now I take notice of them when I see them.  He would love to intern on a mushroom farm 40 minutes away from here and he collects them wherever he goes.  Other kids are in orchestra, 4-H clubs, or Nature camps.
 
 
Leigh talks about how important it is to find quality friends for your kids and also wonderful mentors.  She says when she finds a godly person that she wants her children to emulate, she would be willing to pay that person just to have her children haul dirt for them if it meant they could hang around that person and learn from their wisdom.  As children grow older, they begin to search knowledge outside of their relationship with their parents and it's important that there are excellent people in their lives to enrich them.  I firmly believe this, as my mentors in Child Evangelism Fellowship were some of the biggest influences in my life and people I have utmost respect for and still want to emulate.  I hope my own children join the CEF team when they are teens and travel around the state teaching 5-Day Clubs!
 
 
Don't ever think that because you are homeschooling your kids that you have to be all things for them.  If there is an area where they are struggling, it is wise to seek outside help.  I am so thankful that my mom is not teaching school this year.  It is so nice to see her more often and have her emotional support.  Once a week, the two older kids ride their bikes to her house for handwriting lessons.  It is amazing how much that one hour helps us out and boosts my own teaching in that area with them, as handwriting has always been something I intensely dislike teaching!  If you have the ability to hire a tutor to help your children with a certain skill that is difficult for you, then by all means, do it!  If you'd like to but don't have the funds, consider a bartering arrangement.  Maybe your "Math whiz" friend would give your children lessons in exchange for you teaching her children to sew/bake/garden/write/play piano, etc.
 
 
Some school districts allow homeschoolers to participate in part-time classes and also to join in public school sports.  Many homeschooled high schoolers take community college courses.  Internships and apprenticeships are valuable learning experiences for teens that could help jump-start their career goals.  Having your teen get a paper route, a job, or start their own business are also opportunities for them to mature and build character.
 
 
In previous posts I've talked about simplifying homeschooling and maintaining consistency.  I realize that taking on too many activities sabotages these efforts.  Activities and learning outside of the home can be great things so long as they are done in moderation, taking into account the child's age, abilities, your own "busy-ness threshold" and finances.  The challenge is to keep the "home" in home-centered, without making it home-bound!
 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Classical Conversations Conference Part 6

Consistency

 
In my opinion, you cannot give your child a decent education if you cannot be consistent. 
This is not to say that I think homeschoolers need to achieve perfection. 
None of us are perfect people, perfect Christians, perfect wives, perfect parents, or perfect homeschoolers. 
Even though perfection alludes us on this earth, consistency with schoolwork is possible.
 
Another word for consistent is harmonious.  Remember that word from this series?  *w*
 
Consistency means dependability.
 
It is the opposite of erratic and irregular.
 
One way we "find harmony" as homeschooling parents is through being consistent with our teaching of our children.  An example from Leigh Bortins book "Echo in Celebration" (available free in PDF form online) that really stuck with me was this one:
(I'm paraphrasing and adapting it to illustrate my point here.)
 
Jayne's grandma had a cow.
The cow got milked every day.
Whether it was raining, snowing, or the sun was shining the cow got milked.
The day Jayne's grandma died, the cow got milked.
The day the relatives came for the funeral the cow got milked.
The day after the funeral the cow got milked.
 
Are our children's educations of less importance than the cow?
 
Though we would initially say "No!" to this question, our actions will tell the true answer.
We always have time for the things we want to have time for.
A person who owns a cow makes time to milk that cow.
 
 
Do we consistently make time for the kid's lessons even when it cuts into our own agenda?
Do we model a love for learning and reading for our children on a regular basis?
Do we demand excellence from our kids or let them do just enough to scrape by?
Do we strive for school to be "easy" and fun above all else?
Do we cancel school when we're having a rough day or feeling lazy?
Do we allow our kids 100 days off from schoolwork and reading and learning during the summer months?
 
 
I know many, many homeschooling parents.  While the majority are doing their best to teach their children and give them an excellent education, I know that consistency can be a struggle for many families.  Life is full and there are many interruptions.  If it hard for people to commit to events and groups, then you can imagine how hard it is for parents to not want to give up when schoolwork demands sacrifice and struggle.
It isn't easy, and it takes a LOT of discipline.
Consistency is of extreme importance to our children's education.
If you can't provide consistency for your children, I think your children are better off in public or private school.
 
Some families will approach academics more rigorously than others.  Some will spend 8 hours a day doing school and others only 2.  Some will want to include lots and lots of extra-curriculars or foreign languages and other families will stick with the basics.  What books you use and what teaching method and what extras and crafts you do are less important than the fact that you remain dependable about carving out time for learning on a regular basis. 
 
When moms ask me for advice on homeschooling I tell them that, after reliance on the Lord, personal discipline is the key to successful homeschooling.  There are lots of great curriculums on the market, but it won't matter which one you buy if you are not faithful to use it!  I knew that I lacked discipline when Ali was a preschooler.  My life was pretty chaotic, with 3 kids 3 and under, and how each day went depended largely on whether or not I got any sleep the night before or how many kids were sick or had diaper blowouts.  It was an exhausting season of life. 
 
However, I knew that in a couple of years, Ali would be starting school.  I knew that jumping in from "uber-flexible mode" to daily schooling would be hard for me.  So, I slowly began to build school time into our days.  We did morning Bible stories and songs together.  My parents paid for Ali to attend Christian pre-school for a year and that helped us get into more of a "school mode."  When she was 4, we did a little bit of school each day, working on fun projects, crafts, and reading lots of library books together.  By the time she did start homeschooling officially we were in a habit of making time for school studies in our busy days.
 
Each year, as my kids get older and need to spend more and more time on schoolwork and reports, our time spent homeschooling grows.  This means we have less time for some of the activities and playdates that we used to enjoy.  I ignore the phone during school time and have to put chores and laundry on hold for later in the day.  It requires my own committment first and foremost because I am the model my kids will follow.  If I am ready and excited about school every morning, they will get on board and join me.  I have found that 8am-11am is the best time for productivity at our house, so if we waste those hours, getting schoolwork done becomes a much harder task.  I have found that for our own family, jumping into school immediately after breakfast is the best way for us to get on task and accomplish what we need to for the day.  Dirty dishes may sit in the sink, but they will wait.  We can get to the chores later; studying and learning are more important ways to utelize our best hours of the day.  There are times we have to be flexible, like our 2 weeks of homeschool swimming lessons every fall, but this is our plan for the majority of our school year.
 
An excellent education requires consistency.
I love that Classical Conversations helps parents remain consistent with weekly support and accountability, yearly training practicums (which are offered for FREE!), and outstanding content that truly raises the bar for kids in our culture today, who have little, if any, understanding of History, English Grammar, Latin, Science, Geography, and also have a lack of ability to speak well in front of an audience.  By consistently working on memory work and memorizing a little each week, CC students come away from their school year retaining most of what they've studied and knowing more than most people learn in college.
 
 
If consistency is a problem for you, get some help! 
Talk to some experienced homeschool moms about what has helped them to be consistent with schoolwork.  Find a trusted person you can pray with about growth in consistency.  Join a homeschool co-op or a CC group if you have one in your area.  If you order curriculum packages, join an online forum or fb page related to the program and check in with people weekly, sharing joys and struggles.  Put your phone or internet in lockdown for certain hours if it helps you avoid distractions. 
 
The kids will model your behavior. 
If you make studying a priority, they will follow in your footsteps!
 
Milk the cow!
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Classical Conversations Conference Part 5


Investment and Accountability
 
 
If there's one thing I've noticed over the last several years, it's that few people today are committed to things they start.  I've seen it in every single group that we've been involved with in a social setting.  Whether it's AWANA, Youth Group, Pray and Play, Bible Study, homeschool events, Kindermusik Group, Frugal Friends Club, Book Club, exercise group, sports activities, 5 Day Club, Library Story Time, etc. it is rare to find folks who stick with a group and make it a priority to be there on a consistent basis.  To be fair, rearing children is truly exhausting, and many times our kids' activities and illnesses dictate how committed we can be.  I am a busy mom so I understand how busy moms are and how full life gets.  I know that being flexible and caring for your family and their health comes first and that there are many interruptions to life as a homemaker that are unplanned.  Also, things like pregnancy, having a special needs child, health concerns, having preemie babies, etc. can completely de-rail one's life and committments.

 
But it is disappointing when people don't show up.  I've planned or been a part of countless get-togethers that have had a poor showing of attendees, even if several people said they were going to come.  I've seen my husband plan many things that fell through when people backed out at the last minute.  While some have great reasons for missing, a lot of times it comes down to "I didn't feel like it" or "I forgot" or "I committed to two things on the same day and had to pick one."  I think oftentimes there are so many good choices, that people fail to choose the best things over the good and load their schedules so much that they end up having to back out of some things.
 

 
One thing I had drilled into me as a kid was to be a person of your word.  To be faithful.  Hence, the title of this blog...Faithful Homemaking.  Sometimes I think that all you need to be a leader nowadays is to be consistent at something, because consistency is so rare.
 
 
One thing I LOVE LOVE LOVE about Classical Conversations is that it requires an investment.
Because you pay tuition in advance and sign a contract saying you will actively participate, you are obligated to be at the weekly class time unless you are very ill.  Because the kids learn so much during class, a parent will not want their children to "miss out" unless it is absolutely necessary.
For someone like me who enjoys interaction with other homeschoolers and desires for my kids to have great fellowship with their friends, it is a dream come true to be in a group where people are truly invested.
 
 
At one point someone asked if we could do the CC material together as a group, and not be registered with the official CC, and therefore, not charge tuition.  It sounded like a great idea considering that for most homeschool families money is very tight.  But, the truth is, if CC were free, there wouldn't be as much incentive to be faithful.  If you didn't get your schoolwork done, or if the weather was dreary, you might just want to stay home.  I think the same few people would get stuck doing all of the work, and then would end up feeling bitter about it.  In the CC model, the parents who do the majority of the work, tutors, are compensated financially.  People have to INVEST in it to join and therefore, only those who are serious enough to back their intention with cold, hard, cash are a part of the group.  Although it's expensive for us, I feel that it is worth every penny.  And I'm speaking from a stand-point of being at the bottom of the totem pole regarding incomes!  Though CC costs more than our former homeschool program did, it still costs only 1/10th of what Christian school tuition is here. 


Another reason I love being a part of Classical Conversations is the accountability as a homeschool mom.  One of my student's moms and I were talking over our picnic lunches yesterday about how having to be prepared for our group time each week pushes us to do more schooling with our kids.  I'm a very disciplined person, and I care about my children's education, so whether or not I am in CC I will be working hard to ensure that they get a quality education.  However, there are definitely some things that used to get put off or skipped because there wasn't a deadline on them.  Now there is a deadline: our CC community time on Tuesday mornings.  So the kid's oral reports had better be researched and ready to go!  They better know their memory work and have practiced their map tracing, fine arts, and math facts at home!



Accountability isn't just good for the moms, it's great for the kids too!  Positive peer pressure is a beautiful thing!  I have two students who are pushing each other to become Memory Masters.  This is no small undertaking, but their friendly rivalry will hopefully keep them going so they earn that prestigious title.  (A Memory Master is one who can perfectly recite all 24 weeks worth of grammar at the end of the year.)  It's great for the kids to give weekly oral reports in front of the class and to practice the memory work at home so they can ace the review games in class.  I don't have to beg my kids to work on memory work.  The LOVE to memorize.  One evening when I was at a Missionary Dinner they persuaded Daddy to play the memory work CD for the whole year (he didn't realize they aren't supposed to "jump ahead" but are supposed to only learn the current week's grammar) because they wanted to learn more history songs.


So, this is why I'm glad that CC costs.  It does cost some money.  It does require agreement with the statement of faith and the students' signed statement of cooperation.  It does demand that you be involved because you are the primary teacher of your child.  You must either tutor or be observing in class and aiding the tutor at CC community each week; you can't just drop your kid off so you can have free time. 
However, the return on investment is amazing!


Anything worth having is worth investing in!


Would my students have spent so much time on their biome projects if they hadn't had to do a speech on them in class?  Probably not!

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Goals for the Week

Last week's goals:

Spiritual Health

Finish reading the book of Romans.


 Marriage

Cook a special dinner and eat in candlelight with Josiah after the kids are in bed.
I was hoping it would happen on the weekend, but it didn't work out, hopefully this week it will!


Children

Work on fall chore schedules.


Homemaking


Pull out my autumn decorations and decorate the house.


Hospitality/Friendship


Mail a few packages off to friends who recently had babies.

 
Fitness

Jog 1x, do Pilates once, and bike 20 miles.
Jogged once and biked 10 miles.


 Minimalist Living

De-clutter my sewing stuff and my vase cabinet.


Work

Study hand motions for the Timeline Song and history chants.
 
 
 
This week's goals:
 
Spiritual Health

Read half of the book of Luke and ponder the things I've learned over the last several months of our pastor's sermons on Luke.

Marriage
Cook a special dinner and eat in candlelight with Josiah after the kids are in bed.

Children

Plan a "Movie Date" in the living room with them where we have special snacks and watch a fun family movie together.  This is something they keep asking to do and we've haven't gotten around to.

Homemaking

Put summer stuff in the shed (fan, coolers, swim toys, etc.)

Hospitality/Friendship

Take a birthday gift to a friend having a birthday this week.
 
 
Fitness

Jog 3x to get ready for a 5K coming up.

Minimalist Living

De-clutter my vase cabinet and take a load to the thrift store.

Work

Prepare for a Senior Photo Shoot I'll be doing this month.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Classical Conversations Conference Part 4

The Stick and Sand Principle
 
(Sorry, I couldn't find a picture in my archives that contained BOTH sticks and sand, so you'll have to settle for just sand here.)  =)
 
 
Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations and mom of 4 boys, writes,
 
"When teaching my own boys or when tutoring CC students, I always ask myself this question: If I only had a stick and sand, could I engage and effectively dialogue with my students about the concept I want to teach them?"
 
Hmmmmm.  Interesting.
 
I think Leigh is saying:
 
You don't need a lot of stuff to homeschool.
You don't need all of the latest tech gadgets.
You really only need a "stick and sand"  to instruct your child.
(Or in Abraham Lincoln's case, a wooden shovel, a piece of charcoal, and 6 books. )
 
 
 
 
Exactly 9 hours after arriving home from the CC conference, I joined my husband, kids, and in-laws for a camping trip to Yellowstone.  I decided to test out the "stick and sand" thing on my kids while we were camping.  Around the campfire, as the boys lit sticks on fire and Ali learned to whittle with a pocket knife I began drilling them with questions from their book "My First Book of Questions and Answers."  Then we practiced our 26 verses we had been memorizing over the summer.   I found out, to my surprise, that Ali had already learned all 26 verses, one for each letter of the alphabet, and could recite them perfectly.  Even though I didn't have any "school materials" along with me on our camping trip, we went over verses, math facts, theological questions, and talked about the wonders of nature all around us.  We sang together while Grandpa played his harmonica.   The boys could practice making their letters with a stick in the dirt.  It was amazing to me how much learning took place without the kids even realizing we were "doing school" orally.
  The Stick and Sand Principle really works!
 
 
 
I appreciate the fact that CC requires simplicity during our teaching time, because my family can't afford to have a lot of gadgets.  We still don't even have a cell phone!  Tutors are not supposed to use computers, power point, tablets, etc. in our class time each week.  We are not even supposed to bring "souped-up" tri-fold boards or lap books into the classroom that will intimidate other parents.  Tutors must model simplicity so that the parents can emulate that at home as they instruct their children.  Not everyone has the fancy gadgets or is talented with fancy school projects, so if we are using them in class, the parents will go home and feel like they can't do what we've done in class because they don't have the technology, talent, or motivation.  That is why we drill the kids using just a simple white board and dry erase marker, the modern version of the stick and sand!
 

 
It seems that everywhere you turn people are embracing or striving after the simple life.  It is refreshing as a homeschool mom to realize that you don't need a lot of "extras" to give your kids an outstanding education and for us to see that the schoolroom really can be simplified.   Now don't get me wrong, I do have a huge, organized homeschool closet that is the envy of many of my friends and my kids do love getting into the playdough, puzzles, craft box, markers, glue, books, etc.  so I'm not saying that it's wrong to have all of that "fun stuff."  It's nice to have toys, activities, and games to play with.  But we don't have to have shiny stuff to help our kids obtain grammar, learn to think and dialogue, and express themselves. 
 
 
 
 Lately, I've been reviewing memory work with the kids as we drive to swimming lessons in the van, and Daddy quizzes them at the dinner table.  The other day we went to the skate park nearby and were the only ones there because public schools were in session, so I whipped out my CC Cycle 2 flashcards and we worked on our schoolwork together in the park, with the kids biking and ziggling wildly around.  We often drive up to a nearby canyon to explore and hike with friends, and it's a snap to bring "school" with us, with or without our one textbook or our ring of flashcards, since Mommy is learning all of the grammar too and has it in her head, ready to sing it with the kids at a moment's notice!
 
I have about 1/4 of the school textbooks/workbooks/binders/supplies  to manage this year as opposed to last year.
I spend 1/2 of the time I used to on doing school, and my kids are retaining more.
I have given away a LOT of our homeschooling "extras" that we don't use.
 
Simplicity rocks!
 
 
 
 
Other great thoughts from Leigh: 
 
One of the concerns I raised in my book The Core is that students in the modern education system do not get to spend enough quality time with caring adults. I believe this system results in children forming attachments with peers who often steer them toward foolishness rather than with adults who steer them toward maturity and wisdom. In his book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, Mark Bauerlein also highlights these issues (Chapter 5, “The Betrayal of the Mentors”).

In Classical Conversations, we want to use technology wisely so that it enhances our knowledge and skills instead of doing our thinking for us. On the community day, my desire is for tutors at all levels to spend the day modeling and discussing rather than showing media presentations. I am excited by the quality of the review resources that the Classical Conversations Multimedia team has created. These products—such as the Memory Work resource CD, the online tutorial, the IPad app—are wonderful tools for parents to use at home, but these digital tools are not designed for use in the classroom on the community day. Instead, the tutor builds a personal relationship with the students, engages, guides, and leads the community through ideas, questions, forms, examples, and illustrations.


Engaging in relational recitation in the younger years and moving into idea-centered, truth-seeking conversations in the older years is the life blood of the Classical Conversations community. Often, the use of technology gives our children (and sometimes their tutors and parents) the illusion that education should always be fun, quick, and easy. Even worse, they may come to believe that raw information equals knowledge, understanding, or wisdom. In contrast, students and teachers of the past knew that education was often slow and difficult. In earlier generations, students understood that a quality education involved wrestling with big ideas and agonizing over the right words to express the ideas well. They understood that true education results from hard work and occurs over a lifetime. Their labors often rewarded them with deep satisfaction when they conquered a difficult skill. I want to help our students regain the pride of a job well done through reading, writing, ciphering, and thinking.

To read Leigh Bortin's article in its' entirety, go here.




Did you miss my previous posts in this series? 
If so, go here to read about Freak-Out Homeschool Moms, How We Learn, and Modern Education vs. Classical Education.

Monday, September 9, 2013

3 Things Moms Can Do to Sabotage Their Lives This Year

 
 
1.  Take on too many commitments.
 
 
Say yes to any and every opportunity that comes your way.  When someone asks you to babysit their kids, teach a Sunday School class, or do them a favor, don't consider how it might affect your schedule or your family.  Join a gym, a couple of Bible studies, and a Mom's Playgroup and answer the phone every single time it rings.  Get involved with lots of ministries, home business opportunities, lots of friends, and let your kids be in several extracurricular activities each.  If you homeschool, try to do every craft project mentioned in your teacher's manual and read every book that literature experts recommend for your child's age bracket.  Attend every playdate, home sales party, Girl's Night, and event you are invited to.
 
 
On the other hand....if you want to experience a smooth and peaceful day with your children....
...be careful with your time.
 
Only you and your spouse know how much is too much for you.  We all have different abilities and personalities,so you will have to determine how many activities and commitments you can have in your week.  In our rushed society, it's all too easy to get over-committed, whether it's with volunteer work, home businesses, playdates, sports and kid's activities, church committments, etc.  Moms often try to do too much because they earnestly want their children to have as many enriching opportunities as possible.  It's freeing to say "No" to things that are not in line with your top priorities.
 
 
2.  Don't have a food plan.
 
 
What's for dinner tonight?  Stand at the fridge at 5pm, banging your head on the door while wishing there was a Dinner Fairy whom you could summon daily.  Order pizza....again.  Dig random, weird, ice-crystal-covered things out of the freezer and try to throw them together and pass it off to picky kids as an edible casserole.  Sigh everytime the kids ask for another snack and tell them they can chew on some old celery that's hiding in the back drawer of the fridge.  Start your day frustrated because you forgot you were out of milk and now you aren't sure what to make the kids for breakfast.  Go the store every day or so, with cranky kids in tow and purchase whatever sounds good.  Hit up the fast food drive-throughs routinely and blow your grocery budget.  Feed the kids Cheerios for supper.
 
On the other hand...if you like your hair and don't want to end up pulling it all out.....
...plan ahead for meals and snacks. 
 
I know it's difficult to juggle all of the responsibilities that come with running a home and being a wife and mother.  It's a lot of work to plan menus, stick to your budget, and cook healthy meals.  But, not having a plan only sets you up for disaster, because like it or not, kids have to eat.....every day.....several times a day.  Having a plan allows you to shop less and feel confident that when dinnertime rolls around, you know what you are having and you have the ingredients on hand to make it.  Some moms like to plan meal ideas in their head, others use paper or their phone, and some just buy their favorite items in bulk and keep a well-stocked food supply so they can "wing-it" knowing they have plenty of ingredients on hand to make a healthy meal each day.  However you do it, the point is that you have some kind of a plan in place so you aren't caught off guard by the inevitability of your family's hunger.
 
 
3.  Don't de-clutter regularly.
 
 
Refuse to get rid of anything because it all holds sentimental value.  Keep every birthday gift your children have ever gotten.  Let your kids go yard-saling and thrift-shopping with you.  Don't get rid of toys, dress-ups, craft materials, etc. because after all, you might need those someday!  Only go through the kids' toys and clothing once or twice a year.  Let them keep beading kits in their rooms and take legos outside.  Make sure they have at least 20 outfits each in their closets.  Don't limit the number of books in your home, after all books are educational...the more the better!
 
On the other hand...if you value your sanity and don't want to end up on Hoarders someday....
...have less stuff.
 
I absolutely love the blog Becoming Minimalist.  I have gained so much insight from reading Joshua's articles and have been inspired to continually pare down our family's possessions.  When we went and stayed in a friend's condo for a few days this spring on vacation I was stunned at how little housework there was to do when we had a small place, only 3 outfits each, one dish/cup per person, and just a few toys.  Homeschooled kids are in the house all day long, and that means EXTRA mess.  Having less means less to clean up and maintain.  The more you have, the more you have to manage.  My kids know that they have fewer chores when they have fewer toys so they often beg me to put most of the toys away in the shed so they have less work each day.  Thanks to grandparents, hand-me-down bags, birthdays, Christmas, carnival goodies, VBS prizes, Happy Meals, birthday party favor bags, and the kids buying toys with their own earned money, I need to ROUTINELY work on de-cluttering.  A one-time purge just won't cut it.  Going through the house weekly or monthly and finding things to throw in the Yard Sale or Thrift Store box makes my life much easier.
 
---
 
While these three things aren't the only things moms can do to make life easier, they are a good place to start.  Guarding your time, planning your meals, and de-cluttering your stuff will go a long way toward helping you soar as a mom!
 

 
 

Summer Bucket List Update

Since Summer is technically over for us today as our Classical Conversations school group starts tomorrow, I'd thought I'd look over my Summer Bucket List and see if we met most of our Summer goals.  Setting goals or making a list is a great motivator for me to get things done.


Here are the goals my kids and I came up with:

 Do the Library Summer Program

Ali-Go to Pioneer School at the museum for a week

Josiah and I-10th Anniversary getaway trip

Visit the local museum

Have some friends and their families over for dinner

Visit some parks we've never been to before

Ride Boppa's horses

Make a water sensory blob

Go on family bikes rides

Draw with sidewalk chalk

Hike

Swim in the backyard pool almost every day

Visit Yellowstone with Josiah's parents

KK-play with Abigail and "Emmy" her friends

Do a Family Movie Night

Summer matinee movies at the theater for $1

Go to the park in Thermopolis and have ice-cream with cousins

Go to the Circus

Go swimming at the local pool

Justus-have a family birthday party in August

Celebrate Daddy's big 30th birthday with a BBQ party

Attend a couple of Vacation Bible Schools

Host a 5-Day Club and help feed the teen missionaries

Lake Days with friends

4th of July fun--picnics, fireworks, parade, rodeo, etc.

Camp a couple of times as a family

Attend Lego Club (Ali) and Jr. Lego Club (the boys) at the library

Eat lots of ice-cream

Lots of hanging out with friends

Attend the weekly church sport's nights/fellowship nights when we can

Playdates with Ansley, CC and Diana, Heidi, Eli, Stella and Celeste, Carston, and Dylan

Attend Gold Rush Days at South Pass City

Have lots of leisure time for fun in the sun and relaxing




The MOST IMPORTANT goal of our summer is to get into the Word of God. No matter who you are or what your responsibilities, it is always a fight to make God's Word a priority and you have to make the time or it won't happen. I have seen how easily even church activities and homeschool studies can crowd out family Bible time. So....here is what our family is doing to make sure that doesn't happen. If nothing else happens on our Summer Bucket List, I want to make sure that this stuff happens:


The kids are continuing to listen to Daddy read to them from the Bible every night


Having morning devotional time with Mom (Going through Thriving Family magazines' 60 Day Trip around the World praying for the nations) We didn't do all of the 60 Days Around the World--we kind of forgot about it after the first few weeks!  Oops!


Memorizing the ABC verses (26 verses printable I found online)


Ali and I: Mother/Daughter tea time Bible Study every Friday morning
We didn't do it every Friday morning but we did meet together about 5 times this summer.


Me-weekly Bible Study that my mom leads in the summer-this summer we're doing "Having a Mary Spirit" by Joanna Weaver.
Best part of my summer!  I'm so blessed by the ladies in our Bible Study group!


Take the kids to 5-Day Club, as well as church and Sunday School


Ali-personal Quiet Time once a day where she is looking up Bible verses for our study.
This was one of Josiah's goals for Ali.  I know she said she was reading her Bible each day this summer but wasn't remembering to look up her verses for study.



Educational Goals:


Ali and Jer: Read/listen to books for 1,200 minutes during the month of the library program challenge


Justus and KK: listen to 600 minutes of stories


Ali and Jer: 1-2 pages of Math each weekday


Ali: Learn cursive, do 1-2 pages in cursive workbook copying Scripture


Jer: Practice handwriting, reading, and writing for 10-20 minutes a day


Ali and Jer-taking a free, 3-day class at the library in June called Word Play


Ali and Jer--taking a free, 3-day class at the library in July called Let's Pretend


Working on their Nature Notebooks (which they love) as we explore God's creation


Make a Gold Rush Days lapbook


Make a lapbook of their choice


Read alouds:


The Secret at Pheasant Cottage and Rainbow Garden

by Patricia St. John


Start the Christian Heritage series by Nancy Rue
 
We ended up reading lots of library books and fewer chapter books this summer.



Me-attend a practicum (training) for Classical Conversations in Casper, WY


Me-prepare to be a CC Tutor for the coming school year



Summer Chores:


Morning routine after breakfast:

Brush teeth

Make beds

Straighten Rooms

Help Mom with a household chore


Afternoon clean-up time before Daddy comes home
 
 
 
 
Not every goal was met, but we made some serious dents in our goals for summer fun!  I hope you all had a wonderful summer!

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