August 29, 2011


I have a hard time with scheduling for the traditional reason: so many GREAT IDEAS and so little time. This year I wanted to start Spanish and even without that, our days feel packed. Maybe it is because my children have resisted getting back into a routine after our 6 month Harriet hiatus. Or maybe it is because it suddenly turned hot enough to fry our brains.

Regardless, scheduling is hard. Always.

I had an epiphany over the past few weeks. I don't have to do as much as I do. I know, I know, basics that I can never quite grasp. This time the point was driven home though for several reasons.

Reason 1: Harvest season.

Reason 2: Being the RS pres is busy. Very, very busy.

Reason 3: My house is a disaster and I don't have time at night to catch up (see reason 2).

Reason 4: I want to enjoy this year at least a little bit.

SOLUTION: Here is the good part. I scheduled in half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate harvesting and bottling, and I love it. Love it. Instead of having science/history/music in the mornings we just have devotional and jump right into our normal afternoon subjects--math, spelling, handwriting, English. That way, we are still doing school but I get an afternoon to catch up. Two actually. It is wonderful.

So our schedule (right now) works like this:

Monday/Wednesday--devotional, music/dancing, science/history then lunch and quiet time during which Miriam and I read our scriptures and Miriam reads silently for 20 minutes. After quiet time we do math, spelling, handwriting, English.

Tuesday/Thursday--devotional, core subjects, lunch, quiet time, free time.

Friday--devotional, core subjects, lunch, quiet time, art.

I might end up switching the days around to accommodate Miriam's Liberty Girls and Book Group, but the plan will stay the same.

Now, my next challenge is figuring out when Miriam should do her Rosetta Stone and piano flashcards. I sit down with her every morning to facilitate her piano practice (translation into real mom speak: make sure she counts) while Cowen does the dishes, but I haven't managed to work in flashcards yet. She's still relying too much on learning by ear instead of mastering the notes.

Also, I've been super good about making sure Cowen reads, but I need to make sure Emeline gets her 15 minutes of reading also.

Sometimes it feels like I have a lot of kids!

How are your schedules working out? Gotten all the bugs out yet?

August 23, 2011

This Year's Theme

It took me a long time to decide what to organize our homeschool around this year. I usually do history and the children like that, but last year I did science and the children loved that--but I like history more than science and if the teacher ain't happy . . .. I wanted to combine history and science but wasn't sure exactly how to do it.

Then it hit me--careers. Not necessarily careers I want my children to pursue, but just interesting careers in general. Think about it--all careers have a history, interesting people who started doing whatever it is, and almost all careers have some science aspects to them. Plus, a career is easy to research and organize into one month (or two-week) segments.

This month we are studying paleontology. My children are thrilled. They found some library books hidden in my room a few weeks ago and have been talking dinosaurs non-stop since. Little Eli went outside a few days before school and on his way out said, "Mom, I'm going shoot dinosaur bones." Yep, a lot of excitement can be generated by not allowing children to read certain books until school starts.

The first day of school we had devotional. Then we read two books about fossils. My children were fascinated. Our new wall chart has two sections, one for people and another for vocabulary. We added a bunch of words to the vocabulary section, and had fun looking through the books to remind ourselves of what trilobites and ammonites look like.

Then a beautiful thing happened. My daughter read the definition for "mineral replacement" but couldn't explain it because she didn't know what dissolve meant. I pulled out a bowl, warmed up some water in the microwave, and had my kids stir some salt into the water. They quickly understood dissolve when they watched the salt disappear but could still taste it in the water. Then we put the bowl outside and by the time Dad came home from work, the water was gone, but the salt was back. I love accidental lessons so much more than planned ones. It just feels so much like kismet or serendipity or whatever you want to call it. Makes me happy.

After the lesson on dissolving we had lunch and I put the four younger kids to bed or in their rooms for quiet time. Miriam pulled out her scriptures and scripture study binder (I'm using the Discover the Scriptures/Discover the Book of Mormon program). The scriptures are brand new--a baptism present--and Miriam has been anxious to use them. She was a little flustered by the difficult vocabulary in the Joseph Smith history, so I read the whole thing to her. It was pretty amazing to read it out loud and chat with Miriam about parts of it. At one point Joseph writes about receiving the priesthood so I went and got out our Book of Remembrance and showed Miriam her dad's priesthood line of authority document. If you don't have one of these for the priesthood leader in your home, you should get one. It starts with the person holding the priesthood--so my husband--and then says who ordained him, and who ordained the person who ordained that person, and who ordained that person, back to Joseph and Oliver, and then to the Savior through Peter, James, and John. Miriam was impressed. We had a great discussion about proper authority.

After quiet time, the kids pulled out their new math books and handwriting books. They loved it. I'm always amazed at how much my children enjoy worksheet type learning. Miriam started her new spelling program (Rod and Staff--I'll tell you what I think of it after we've used it for awhile), and Emeline played with her new maze book--proud as punch that the other kids were falling all over themselves to please her so she'd share with them.

My children were so excited to have school again. Thrilled.

I had designated this morning to go to the lake, but I needed to finish canning some beans (33 quarts from my garden, yeah!), so we worked in the morning and just did our afternoon school. All morning my kids whined, "Why aren't we doing school, Mom?"

And I wondered to myself--is this worth it? All the prep time and the follow-through efforts, and the whining, and the wanting to pull my hair out, and the working all other activities around homeschool. Is it worth it for the reasons that I love homeschooling? Yes, my children have fantastic relationships with each other. Yes, I get to *enjoy* their company all day. Yes, I get to move at their pace so they always feel successful and love learning. Yes, my children get to move around and not sit all day. Yes, my children get to have the gospel incorporated into their school all the time. Yes, I learn a ton.

But it is hard, so I still wonder sometimes if it is worth it all. Maybe it isn't--I really don't know. I do know, though, that watching my daughter pore over the priesthood line of authority sheet while reading Joseph Smith's own words describing his experiences was pretty amazing. My kids' yells of excitement when they saw the bowl of salt without the water were pretty cool too.

Worth it? I can't say. I just know that I keep doing it--and can't imagine stopping.

August 22, 2011

First Day of School . . . Bliss??

Sorry for the "graphic" images but I'm in an honest mood.

This is how I usually feel.

This is how I felt today.
I think a period of adjustment is upon us because my children did not respond well to the imposition of routine and order on their day.

Yes, today was our first day of school. I was up and ready to go with my happy face on. We got bogged down after breakfast when Cowen dawdled doing the dishes (unusual for him) and Miriam sobbed through her piano practice (unusual for her).

We finally made it to the couch where I introduced our new devotional theme--characteristics of Christ that we need to develop, beginning with the one with which I need the most help, patience. We worked on the scripture we're going to memorize, we discussed the definition of patience I put together that we're going to memorize, it was all going so well.

Then I pulled out the book about Jackie Robinson that we are reading--he's my person for patience. That is when things fell apart. Yes, it has been months since I read to my children. Thank you for pointing that out. I quickly remembered why I put Timothy in charge of bedtime stories. The whining. THE WHINING. "I can't see." "I want to sit by Mom." "I don't want to read this book." "She just kicked me."

Then there is the two year old who is on and off my lap fifty bajillion times in the course of three minutes. Why, Eli, why???

We struggled through patience (ha) and then I pulled out two science books about fossils. The room quieted, interest was immediately secured, I had them in the palm of my hand. I love science.

But putting the vocabulary on our new wall chart was a fiasco. Cowen was mad because he couldn't read the definitions in the glossary. Emeline wanted me to write her made up definitions on the wall, while Miriam tried to yell over Cowen and Emeline with the actual definitions. There were tears, hysterics, anger. (And then something cool happened, but I'll tell you about that in my next post.)

Watching a movie on fossils went great--watching movies is, after all, what we've been practicing the past few weeks as I've tried to put school together and get a handle on this RS pres calling. Lunch was fine.

During quiet time, Cowen threw a toy through the girls' bedroom window. Grr.

After quiet time, we pulled out the new math books and maze books and handwriting books and spelling book. The kids loved it. It was only later I realized Eli had found a dry-erase marker and wrote all over baby Harriet's head. Sigh.

The children loved it, but I felt like I was being pulled in fifty different directions simultaneously. Mom, check off my handwriting. Mom, how do you do this math problem? Mom, Emeline won't let me use her maze book.

And they all ask for my attention at such loud volumes!! Where did they learn that?? (Ahem.)

And so another school year has started.

Give us a week and if we have survived, I'll check back in. Otherwise, you can find me hiding under my bed, overdosed on choco-covered raisins.

August 14, 2011

Library Finds!

Every once in awhile I let my kids just grab books off the library shelf. Not often, though. My reasoning is that my kids make a huge mess in the library if I take all five by myself, and also that very few of the books in the kids section of the library are any good.

The last time we did a grab and go library trip my children came home with two treasures.

Patience Wright: America's First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deilz Shea is about, obviously, an American woman who was a talented artist and also a Patriot. I had never heard of this woman before and her story is fascinating. She was clearly a feminist and forward thinker and I quite liked her by the end of the book. If you are studying Colonial history, or feminism, or just like to make sure your children study heroes of both genders, give this book a try.
Yellowstone Moran: Painting the American West by Lita Judge is another clear winner. The book is entertaining but also great history. Since we live fairly close to Yellowstone, my children have heard a lot about it so they were eager to learn more. Great book.

August 8, 2011

Head on Over

Head on over to Latter-day Homeschooling to see a wrap-up post about Baptism Prep.

Also, for those of you wondering where I disappeared to this summer, I was called as RS president and I've been trying to figure out how to do that calling!! Busy, busy.

I'm excited for school to start, though, as I need to get my children back into a routine before our whole family degenerates into a yelling/crying mob. We like our routines around here!