Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Home School Year 2016-2017 Is Still Not Over

Since I never got around to posting our school pictures when we were actually starting school, I figured I'd go ahead and post along with everybody else's 2017 first days.

We kicked off our homeschool LAST YEAR on September 12, 2016.

Here are my adorable students and their ages as of that date:

Noah Paul
14 years old
8th grade

Saylor Kathryn
11 years old
6th grade

Gabriel Isaiah
9 years old
3rd grade

Atticus Joseph
7 years old
2nd grade

We have been working through Ambleside Online Year 3. This is our official "curriculum." My bigs do some additional work at their varying levels. Noah, especially, carries a huge workload. Translation: he is reading a LOT of books at once. But our family as a whole works together in most subjects, including Bible, church history, British history, early American history, Greek hero stories, American tall tales, natural history, fine arts, foreign language, literature, geography, science, and Shakespeare.

We try to get our individual math and grammar lessons out of the way first thing in the morning and then move on to family subjects. Copywork and/or dictation exercises help us to transition into a time of independent work, during which my bigs have other assigned readings. Independent work time is when we finish up math lessons, try to do our vision therapy homework, enjoy a bit of free reading, etc.

We decided to take time off from our fine arts co-op this year. And it was just as well. If you could've seen our weekly schedule, you'd completely understand! We had one in soccer twice weekly, one in ice skating twice weekly, one in ballet twice weekly, one in vision therapy twice weekly, and for a time, one in hand therapy twice weekly. It was a killer schedule. We couldn't do any more than what we were already doing. So fine arts had to take its place into our OWN daily schedule. Right where it belongs, really. We have enjoyed doing our own picture studies and composer studies here at home. Although, I will admit. It is hard to fit it all in.

One area that I have really struggled with is making sure we all get enough time out of doors each day. There just isn't a lot of time. Besides, we are not the most focused family in the world, especially in the morning. Getting in gear is rare around here. :( We are working on it.

Some time between 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon a couple of times a week, we try to have tea time with poetry readings. The kids look forward to this so much! Sadly, though, there are days when we canNOT have tea, simply because we are not all home (see above schedule). We also live in a neighborhood full of public-schooled kids who come home and then knock on our door to play right at about the time we'd be sitting down to tea. It just doesn't always work out the way we plan. So we go with the flow. And that's okay.

We also like to go somewhere fun-ish about once per week. Sometimes it's just to a park to do our school; sometimes it's a hike and some nature drawing; sometimes it's a museum or a dollar movie or roller-skating. Fun activities help break up the busy week and give us something to which we can look forward.

We are FINALLY coming into our last couple of weeks of this school year. The home stretch!! ...Just in time to start the next school year. Waaaah!! (I promise, we take plenty of time off. Just not when everyone else in the world does it.)

Stay tuned. Maybe I'll actually manage to post OUR first day of school soon (2017-2018, that is). You know, if it ever rolls around.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gabe's First Birthday 2008--Nautical Theme

Gabriel's first birthday fell right on Memorial Day, so we went with a bit of a nautical theme. I ordered these easy-to-do, blank invitations, printed them myself, tied the ribbons on, and voila!

There were cousins.

And Daddy's famous fish 'n chips wrapped in newspaper cones (lined with freezer paper).

There was cake. (My favorite cake of all my parties to date.)

And there were cupcakes.



And fun.

Party guests received a sailor hat and a plastic sailboat.

Baby boy enjoyed his smash cake.

 It was such a sweet time. All our little babies! (And one 'little bun' in the oven...yes, I was pregnant with #4 WHILE giving my #3 his first birthday party.)

But nothing could be any sweeter than this little guy in his sailor suit.

Happy 1st Birthday, Gabriel Isaiah!

The BITTERsweet part? This scrumptious baby boy JUST turned 9 on me!

Oh. oh. oh.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Our Homeschool Has Been Like This School Year 2015-2016

Most people do these posts at the beginning of the school year. Ahem...I'm not most people.

For this school year we transitioned more fully to Ambleside Online curriculum. Admittedly, I still have much learning to do with regard to Charlotte Mason and her methods, and I still have unhealthy attachments to various and sundry curricula. (It's a sickness.) But I do have a good working foundation, thanks to all the meetings I had with a little CM group in North Little Rock between 2011 and 2014. If it weren't for those ladies and Charlotte Mason's writings through which we were reading, I might never have found my way as far as I did. I am also thankful that my friend Holly invited me to a Teach Them Diligently conference in 2014, where I was blessed to hear Sonya Shafer speak. Her talk solidified my decision to school in this way. That didn't mean I had it all figured out, mind you, but it was a start and helped me give up some of the aforementioned attachments. Since then, just by knowing my new Dallas friend, Joel, and then attending a CM Gathering with immersion in northwest Arkansas last spring, I made leaps and bounds of improvement in my understanding of Miss Mason's pedagogy and resulting practice of her methodology, and I love it all the more.

However, having four kids and attempting at 100% the rigorous workload of Ambleside Online, as written, is not something I am willing or capable of doing, as each kiddo would ideally be in a separate year of study. There simply aren't enough hours in the day for that. So I spent a lot of time over the summer making modifications, choosing literature with a realist's outlook, gathering supplies, etc. And many of the things you will see here are not new to us exactly; implementing them on a regular basis is what's new. 

This school year, as a family, we have followed the Year 2 plan of study at Ambleside Online. A few of our texts for history, geography, biography, and science have been This Country of Ours, A Child's History of the World, The Burgess Book of Wild Animals, and The Little Duke, among others. Continuing from our Year 1, we also have readings from An Island Story, Trial and Triumph (church history), and Parables from Nature. Of course, we have spent time in Shakespeare and poetry and have enjoyed some more Holling C. Holling books and plenty of other wonderful literature. Plus, there has been the occasional music and drawing lesson. It is so hard to get it all in!

One thing we've been doing differently this year is separating the bigs from the littles some as well, to provide a bit more challenge to the former. I intended to have the bigs explore geography with Halliburton's Book of Marvels while the littles continued in their phonics studies. But the littles ended up being around for the geography, which is just as well. And, I had hoped to try Delightful Reading for phonics this year, but I have struggled to make time for it all, honestly. Charlotte, I sincerely hope that your copywork and dictation will come through for us. I am trusting the process, as they say. But while things didn't exactly go as I had planned, Noah and Saylor have both become increasingly independent. I write individual assignments in their own personal plan books. These items are generally taken care of once our family time is over.

During their independent time, Noah and Saylor complete extra readings in the areas of science, literature, Bible, and character development. I am also hoping to incorporate some typing lessons for them both in the next month or so. And as I mentioned before, we all spend time each week doing dictation exercises and working in our copybooks. And we have added map work to the mix as well.

One of the best parts of a Charlotte Mason education is the keeping of notebooks. We are still a work in progress when it comes to doing that well, but eventually we hope to spend regular time in our family Book of Firsts, Book of Centuries (for the bigs), Nature Notebooks for all, Book of Words (for the bigs), Copybooks for all, and several Books of Commonplace. 

Our afternoons are IDEALLY filled with nature study, handicrafts, free reading, and taking turns on the computer doing our CTC Math. But most often, afternoons look a whole lot like neighborhood kids coming and going and a whole lot of loud, messy, blessed chaos.

We also attend a Charlotte Mason Fine Arts Co-op every two weeks with four other CM families, where we focus on composers, artists, poetry, Shakespeare, and the like. Weird, unsocialized homeschoolers we are not. Well, not entirely weird.

And now for the portraits, taken September 8, 2015 :

Noah Paul
Age 13
7th grade

Saylor Kathryn
Age 10
5th grade

Gabriel Isaiah
Age 8
2nd grade

Atticus Joseph
Age 6
1st grade

My intention is to school more in the summer than we have in the past, as we have learned that Texas summers are brutal. So we took off nearly the whole month of December and then much of April and May (while the weather has been pleasant), opting to leave the third term for the summer months. As I type this, we are only a couple of weeks away from heading into our third trimester. I'm thankful we chose to school through the upcoming summer this year and take off more in the spring, because if you could've seen our spring calendar--
with all the homeschool days and field trips to various locales...

Let's just say, there's been no TIME for school; we're just too busy LIVING! 
(Which is probably fine with these four.) 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Flashback Friday: Farewell, House on the Hill 2007-2013

Saylor's Room

Boys' Room

Once a nursery, turned a playroom

Bonus Room/ School Room

Thank you for the memories.

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