Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fits Day of Scool

(What's that title about?  Check it out here.)

Our first day of school - official sit-down-at-the-kitchen-table-and-do-math kind of school - was going to be Tuesday, August 23. Our academic year starts on July 1, and I count "school" days in the summer when I feel our activities justify it, but we hadn't done too much this year.  So I was all excited about actually starting school, until I realized that Eleanor and I would be waking up in a beach resort town that morning, and wouldn't be home till dinnertime.  This Girl Scout event had been planned for months! How could I have forgotten it? 

So I changed our first day to Wednesday, August 24.  But early that morning I called the vet to describe some symptoms our dog was exhibiting and we were told to get him in; Eleanor went with me. That took about two hours; when we got home, I had to pull together chicken and rice for the bland diet he was prescribed.  By the time that was all settled, it was too late to have a first day of school.   We did spend some time looking over our new books, reacquainting ourselves with the old books, talking about routines and schedules and plans for the year. The kids read one chapter from their new science books, and answered the multiple choice questions at the end, so we did so something.  But, it was not the school day I had envisioned.

So our real first day was moved to Thursday, August 25.  It was going to be a half-day, since James had been invited to an event that afternoon.  It is still summer, after all.  But Eleanor was asked to babysit, and one of the people James does yard work for asked if he could mow before the storm hit.  We like these opportunities for work and don't often turn them down.  The kids learn some skills, provide help to our friends, and earn some money (or, sometimes, service hours).   In between these activities the kids did some math and the first assignment in the writing curriculum - which involved no writing.  But, again, they did something.

But, I still wanted a complete first day of school. Friday?  But I'd already planned to take Eleanor to the hospital for her routine back x-ray.  It was quiet there, but it still took longer than we'd expected.  We still had to make our planned stop at Walmart for our Friday night pizza and a few other things.  The whole town was there!  That's why the hospital had been so quiet - everyone was stocking up in anticipation of the big storm.  The aisles were crowded.  The lines were long.  James called while we were there to report sickness.  He had been on antibiotics for bronchitis; the cough was gone but the medicine-induced nausea had hit.  He was down for the day.  OK!  Where's the Gatorade? 

Sometimes I wonder if my kids would be better off in school, where the distractions of vet visits, grocery shopping, and jobs don't get in the way.  If they were in school, we'd have gone for the back x-ray late in the afternoon and disrupted dinner instead of a school day.  I would have gone to the vet and to Walmart alone.  The vet visit would have been more difficult - no one can comfort our dog quite like Eleanor can - and Walmart would have taken longer because I couldn't deploy a child to fetch something for me. James would be able to keep his mowing jobs, but Eleanor wouldn't have the babysitting opportunities she has now.   Of course a child could still get sick and miss school.  

But then I think about adult life; sometimes it seems like it's just one interruption after another, doesn't it?  I don't think I know anyone who doesn't feel that way.  We learn to adjust, change our routines, and get things done. 

I just looked at the calendar for next week.  It's mostly clear. We'll work on math, read history, complete our science labs, work on Scout merit badges, and write some compositions. We'll stay with our routines, mostly.  But not completely, because next week is going to be sunny and hot, after the big rain this weekend.   Grass will grow!  Downed tree limbs might need to be cleared. Someone will need a babysitter.

So math might get done at 4 pm instead of 9 am sometimes.  Or on Saturday morning instead of Friday afternoon.  We might read history during lunch or after dinner. 

Real life.  It's what school's all about.  Forget about the big first day; our school year has started. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Controller of the Universe

My Boy Scout is away at camp this week.  This is his third year at this particular camp with is own troop; his second as a patrol leader.  (A patrol is a small group of boys within the larger troop.)   This week at camp is usually a highlight of his year.  Yes, usually.  But not this year.

This year he wasn't so sure about going.  He had previously told us that he'd recently started getting homesick while away at weekend camps.  This was bothering him so much he skipped one trip earlier this summer.  But as a leader, he can't bail out on too many activities.  And a Boy Scout who doesn't want to go camping isn't going to be a Boy Scout for long.

So as summer camp approached he was feeling less happy anticipation and more unfocused dread. I know that feeling so well; too well.  When he said "I keep hoping that something will happen and camp will be canceled" I knew we were getting into trouble.  I often have that feeling when an event is approaching and I don't feel ready for it.  It happens almost every time we are expecting company.  I attribute it to my own disorganization: it's hard to look forward to a party when the bathroom still needs cleaning and there aren't enough clean forks and glasses an hour before guests are to arrive. But this was different.

As we peeled away the layers of his feelings, we discovered that he's inherited more from me than his love of books:  control of the universe.   I inherited it from my mom, too!  And now I am passing it on to him.

He told me, "I'm afraid something will happen to one of you (meaning our whole family and the dog), or to me, while I'm away."

Yes, there it is:  he controls the universe.

As I've been working on myself to relinquish that feeling that I control the universe, I didn't realize that I was just passing it on to him.

We went over all his fears and talked them over - endlessly, it seemed; that last week before camp was exhausting.  He listed the bad things that had happened to people at camp.  Nearly all of them were the result of poor judgment on the part of the victim, and even the one that seemed like a random, unexpected medical problem could have been caused by a boy simply not drinking enough water on a hot day. 

We talked about the fact that we believe in a sovereign God - a God who truly does control the universe.  We talked about the fact that God does allow bad things to happen to people, but that we still need to trust in him that it will all come right in the end.

We agreed that God is a better controller of the universe than any of us.

Did that help?  I don't know.  He stayed at camp.  He sent a letter telling of fun during the day and homesickness at night.  We will see him tonight for dinner and the closing campfire and awards ceremony.  Camp doesn't end till tomorrow morning, so he will stay another night.

When he gets home, we'll start working on him to relinquish his notion of control. I'd like him to give it up before he has a child to pass it on to!  That's an inheritance I don't want to leave.

The 31 days blog challenge

Here's something that's intriguing me this morning:  You're Invited:  31 Days of Change.  It's a blog challenge hosted at The Nesting Place.  Pick a topic and write about it every day in October.  Every day?  I am not sure I am up to that challenge.  What would I write about every day for a month?

Homeschooling?    Cooking?  I am working on getting my kids cooking more.  Reading?  Hmm.... "last night I read 3 pages of The Three Musketeers before falling asleep."  Compelling isn't that? You'd come by every day for a month for that, wouldn't you?  How about "31 days of improving my reading life"?

I'm not sure about this.  But with a month and a half to think about it, I might just... think about it!  And you should too.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Curriculum Week! at Heart of the Matter Online

It's Curriculum Week at Heart of the Matter Online's Not Back to School Blog Hop and this year I am ready!   Last year I missed this week because I didn't have my plans together.  I'm doing a little better this time around. 

This year I have a 7th grader and an 8th/9th grader.   So it's time to start thinking about high school a little more seriously.  My kids have done a lot of their schooling together and I'm trying to keep it that way as much as possible, while not shortchanging the new highschooler or overwhelming the new middleschooler. 

Last winter we started Veritas Press Omnibus I, which covers Ancient History, Theology, and Literature, and we'll continue with that, moving into Omnibus II sometime in early 2012.  I'm hoping it will work for us for the duration; it's hard to find a history curriculum that fits us.  I don't do well with "just reading" - I need a plan.  Since my kids still love to be read to, we'll do a combination of reading together and reading separately.

I'm excited yet a little nervous about Science this year.  Taking a cue from The Well-Trained Mind, we're using Biology: A Self-Teaching Guide by Steven Daniel Garber (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides) as our main text, and supplementing with activities from Janice Van Cleave's A+ Projects in Biology.  I'm not sure how well this will work for my 7th grader, so if it is too burdensome, I've keyed sections of the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of Science and David Macaulay's The Way We Work for her.  I'll just be watching to see how it goes.  It's nice to be ready with an alternate plan for once. 

We've never used a specific all-inclusive curriculum for English and we're not starting now.  My 7th grader will continue with Our Mother Tongue by Nancy Davis (published by Canon Press).  We'll also do Writing Strands 4, which is our first encounter with this curriculum, and weekly writing from various prompts.  My 9th grader does not like to write and needs a lot of practice; along with the Writing Strands work,  he will be working on several Boy Scout merit badges this year that require short essays and such.  He'll also continue using AVKO Sequential Spelling.    In November both kids will do NaNoWriMo again, but I don't think I'll be doing it this year.  They get to pick their word counts; I don't, and I don't have time to throw together 50,000 in a month!

Math is one area my kids are not working together.  James will start Algebra I with Life of Fred, Khan Academy, and Dad.  Eleanor is working in fractions, also via Life of Fred, Khan, and Key To Fractions.  

We'll continue to do Bible Study via Starr Meade's The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study Latin  via Getting Started with Latin, which we have been stuck in for a long, long time; we should finish in a few months and then I'm not sure where to go next. They get their PE at the YMCA and our backyard and neighborhood.

Eleanor takes piano lessons but James needs something for Music.  I have tried doing "Composer of the Month" a la Charlotte Mason before and it never works well for us.  This year I'm thinking of "Genre of the Month" where we explore different forms of music, from classical to blues to show tunes to pop/rock.  This might work better, or at least be a little more fun.

 Last year we had some great Art lessons from a teacher who lost her job when her school closed.  She is planning to teach homeschoolers again this year, so we'll probably do that again.   I also found (via Pinterest; who says it's a waste of time?) some art lessons put together by Concordia University. They are listed for 1st - 6th grades, but look like they could work for older kids too.  I have to admit I have not studied them in great detail yet.

Like Sandy, I decided not to put links in; most of the materials are easy to find online. You can also check the left sidebar under "Educational Materials We Like" for links to some of the books and programs we're using.  Leave a comment if you have a question or can't find something you're interested in.

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