July 26, 2018

Curricula 2017-18

If you read my last post, I went over our loop schedule and what our days would actually look like. And this post is all about which curriculum goes with each subject.

Every year I spend a good amount of time researching and praying and trying to find the "perfect" curriculum for us for that year. Sometimes it stays the same from year to year, and other times it changes. Curriculum is a tool, your tool. Don't let it be "in charge." You are in charge. 
For reals.

These are the core classes

For Language Arts we have chosen The Good and The Beautiful. It is our second year using it and I absolutely adore it!!! It is very thorough and advanced, it is a grammar nazi's dream! My mom was an English and Literature teacher, so I am a hopeless grammar nazi. I get giddy almost every lesson!!! It also includes geography, art, and some social studies. For instance; if we are reading a book that is set in Italy, then we will study the geography of Italy, the art of Italy, and even some customs and try some recipes! (The recipe for gnocchi in Level 4 is amazing! Yum!) The spelling and vocabulary words come mainly from the reading. It is all very integrated. That helps it to be engaging and interesting because it matters and connects... it also helps tremendously with retention. Plus this curriculum is so wholesome and uplifting. It is just GOOD. It is a non-denominational Christian point of view. It incorporates values and morals quite heavily. There is no smut. It is beautiful.

We are also using The Good and The Beautiful for Science and History... oh and handwriting and typing. LOL. Everything they have is just so good! I do love it so much!  The history is a different set up, again with a Christian point of view. What really sets it apart for me is that it covers the overall view of world history every year. Each year builds on itself. Most curricula do a 4 year rotation; Ancient Studies, Rome, Dark Ages and Renaissance, and then Modern. But by the end of the 4th year, kids have completely forgotten EVERYTHING from Ancient Studies. This way, each time period is covered every year. The depth is added in subsequent years as they repeat the time period and build on what was learned the previous year. It's still fresh in their minds so they can build on it, and it gives them a wonderful overview and ability to see history as a whole, and be better able to see patterns, cause and effect. 

Math is always the most difficult subject for me to find "the right" one. Maybe because I hate it so much. Or maybe because there just isn't much out there that makes me feel like it is engaging and enjoyable, without sacrificing academic quality. That is super important to me. I have been through many curricula in math, and none of them ever fit. Either it was too much, too dry, too drill and kill... or it was light and airy fairy, going in circles and never really getting anywhere. I think we have finally hit on the perfect middle ground for us! *knock on wood* 

For Math we are using Mathematical Reasoning by The Critical Thinking Company. It is excellent! It is fun and engaging. It focuses on true understanding of concepts, and why they work the way they do. It is full of games, puzzles, logic puzzles, even pages where the answers to the problems gives you the answer to a joke. It is so fun and engaging that my kids actually ask to do extra pages! That is a full fledged miracle in our house! And it is challenging and thorough. It is the first math curriculum which my very mathematically minded husband has actually liked. He is very impressed with how it's laid out and how it teaches them to reason and understand concepts. He feels it's an excellent foundation for moving into the higher maths, which he did all of and I did none. LOL. 

Another class we do is learning about the Constitution. The Constitution is extremely important to me. Original intent is vital to understand. I know everyone hates political talk, but I have very strong feelings on the matter. My children will be taught correct principles and be able to defend their freedoms. We are using 28 Principles of Freedom to study it this year. 

Then another subject that is very dear to my heart... Logic and Rhetoric, otherwise known as Critical Thinking. This is just an introductory course for a 6th grader. We will study more in depth in later years. I think that being able to understand an argument, discern truthfulness of claims, and just generally be able to think clearly is one of the most important skills that anyone can have these days. There is so much falsehood, so much stupidity... too many people base their opinions on sound bites and memes. Giving your children the ability to think and reason will be one of the best gifts you can give them. The world is crazy!!! We are using The Basics of Critical Thinking by The Critical Thinking Company.

We are also going to learn Spanish this year. I haven't taken any Spanish since high school so I need help. We are trying out an online option called Calico Spanish. It's an immersion style option, which is what I was looking for. Basically you watch a video as a family once a day and learn the language together. There are also worksheets you can print off and posters you can buy. I don't have any of it yet because it's a monthly subscription fee and we aren't starting for another month yet, but you can goo.gle it if you're interested. 

Here are some of our electives

For the 6th grader, lots of logic puzzles and brain teasers. Clearly this is an important area to me. 

For the 6 year old, some handwriting and scripture dictation, some logic puzzles and brain teasers, and a "game" that helps you to learn parts of speech. 

I don't know that this is all interesting to anyone else, but I want to keep it to look back on. 

July 25, 2018

Juggling Health and Homeschool

We will be starting school this year in the middle of August. 
That's so soon! Where did my summer go? 
But honestly, my kids are so much happier with that little bit of structure, even if they do think it makes them miserable. They get along so much better and have much better attitudes when we start the day with school and chores. So, while I do thoroughly enjoy summer break, and part of me never wants it to end, I know that life will get better, and our home will be full of more harmony and less fighting... so I'm also really looking forward to starting.

This is my schedule for the year.

This one is mine. To keep everyone on track.

This is for the 11 year old boy.

This is for the 6 year old girl.

Let me explain. I have autoimmune diseases and I have to plan for it. Some people build endurance by maxing out every day. Eventually doing more will make you stronger. But that's totally NOT true with autoimmune. My health/strength/energy is more like a bank account. If I spend it all, it's gone. More doesn't just magically appear. I'm not earning interest on my energy and health. LOL. If I do too much it's like bouncing a check. I have to claw my way back out again. With all sorts of weird penalties coming out of nowhere to keep me in the hole. I can't afford to max out. 

So every day I have to decide how much I have to give without maxing out. I have my schedule set up to reflect that. It's set up by categories of importance. Set priorities and get most important things done first so you don't freak out if you have to stop and miss something that day. 

No matter how sick I am, we will always do the "Always" category. Hence the name. It is quite rare for me to be this sick, but I have to plan for it, so that I don't feel pressured to push through, which sabotages my health for days, and makes my kids need to go to therapy because I'm so grumpy. This is giving myself permission to take a sick day.

If I'm feeling pretty normal, but not awesome, then we do the core classes which are listed under "Daily." We do school 5 days per week, and all 4 of these classes are done every day that we do school. (Also, note that our Language Arts is an integrated curriculum which includes Geography, Social Studies, Art, Spelling, Grammar, Reading, Writing, etc.) All of these take one on one instruction with each child. 

Loop 1 is the next most important, not necessarily "core classes," but the most important of the electives we're studying this year. So if I'm feeling pretty good, then after the Daily category, we do ONE item from Loop 1, whichever item is "next."  Basically it's set up to be 5 days a week as well, but if I miss a day due to sickness or vacation or anything else, we just do the next thing because nothing is tied to a day of the week. So if last time we did L1, we did a 28 Principles (Constitution) lesson, then today we will do a Science lesson no matter how many days we took off in between. Make sense? These are all taught "family style." Everyone together. We almost always get done with Loop 1. 

Loop 2 is full of the more fun and independent electives, those which could be skipped without too much guilt when I'm not feeling up to it, but that I still want to make sure get done regularly. Again, just one item from L2 per day and whatever is "next" on the list. 

When we get done with all of this then we can do chores, run errands, read books, and maybe get some screen time if there is time and attitudes are respectful. 

The biggest thing I still need to figure out for this year is what to do with my 2 year old while we do school. He is the most energetic, determined, beautiful toddler that ever existed. He can climb anything, and I mean anything. And when he falls and gets hurt, he doesn't much care. It just makes him want to do it again to "master" the thing. He can't be distracted. Rather, he will let you think you've successfully distracted him, but as soon as you look the other way he sprints back to what you thought he'd forgotten and does it anyway. Quoting Mad Eye Moody, he requires "Constant Vigilance!" I need ideas for some busy boxes or something to distract him for longer periods of time... but things that don't make a giant mess for me because I will just never do that to myself. So sand and water based ideas are not for us. In fact, it kills me to let him use play doh. LOL. Anyone have awesome ideas on activities for him during school? He doesn't want to join us. He mainly wants to rip papers and break pencils.

July 11, 2018

Anxious Organizing

I have a problem.
I love to organize and set a schedule and get everything looking like it will work perfectly.

Okay, so I don't love organizing everything. I actually struggle to keep the house looking presentable. But school schedules and supplies and checklists? Oh yeah, all day long baby!

I guess I think that if I can get it all laid out "perfectly," whatever that is, then the whole year will run smoothly and we'll never miss a lesson and never get sick and never argue. And yeah, that always works. Ha!
Still, the drive to do it every year kicks in and I can't resist it. I mean, it certainly can't hurt to get organized... can it?

The curriculum I use it very open and go, so I don't actually need to do any of this, but I just can't help myself. 

This year I am trying a "loop schedule" for our electives. The core classes will be every day. The electives will cycle through. This is a new concept to me, and it's so simple and "duh" that after 5 years of homeschooling, I feel dumb to not have thought of it on my own.. but I actually got it from a book.

A fabulous book!!! It's called, "Teaching From Rest" by Sarah Mackenzie.

Basically you just do the next thing next. I used to say Subject A is always on Mondays, B on Tuesdays, C on Wednesdays, etc. But without fail, one of those days would have constant interruptions and one of those subjects would get so far behind that we'd give up on it before the end of the year... or worse, try to force our way through and get it done, but be so burned out that we hated even looking at the subject ever again. 

With a loop schedule, it's like you put them in a pile, and they aren't assigned to a day, they're assigned to go in order. So if you do Subject A on Monday, but Tuesday is a pukefest, and Wednesday you still want to Clorox every surface, then on Thursday (or whenever you finally feel back up to it) you just pick up the next subject, in this case Subject B. Just do the next thing next. So simple and brilliant! 

I have 2 loops for each child. One that is much more formal education, real curriculum like Science and History. And the second loop is for more fun type subjects, or shorter subjects like handwriting and logic puzzles. 

And now I'm trying to figure out a way to track it and keep track of it so that I don't get all mixed up and crazy. Not the individual lessons, but "which subject are we on again?" Oy. I almost need to write them on the whiteboard every week and erase as we go. LOL. And I might just do that.

Anyway, what do you do to get organized and set before starting school for the year? 
How do you find that peace that you are really "ready" already?

July 2, 2018

Filling Your Bucket

So first of all, I think I'm back? 
I'm not all the way sure yet, but I'm feeling the urge to write here more frequently so maybe. But I do think that I will be more focused on homeschooling than I will be on infertility... although I reserve the right to talk about both of them... or something else entirely. Just whatever pops into my brain.

Those of you who knew me before as an infertility blogger... hello! 😃 I now have 3 miraculous children!!! All of them were complete miracles and I am so grateful! I am still really hoping to maybe somehow have more... but I'm now 42, and have been fighting infertility and loss for way too long... so I guess... well I mean Sarah had Isaac in her 90's so there could be hope still.

I think that I homeschool now partially because of how difficult it was to get my children. I can't even imagine handing them over for 8 hours a day to someone else to teach them and raise them. I am basically Hermione, minus the hair, so we do quite a lot of schooling and my expectations for them are high. But I love it so much! It has been the biggest blessing for my family.

To have my children home.
To be their primary influence.
To be "in charge" of everything from the curriculum we choose to the days we take off.
To have our relationships blossom with the extra care we are able to give them.
I love everything about it.

Well, almost everything. I've been homeschooling for 5 years now. And I'm hitting a burn out. It's a little scary. I've never burned out before. It's summer vacation, so it's good timing, but I am a little worried how I'll get the old fire back in time to start up in the fall. Right now, even thinking about doing lesson plans has me wanting to crawl back in bed and hide. Which is dumb because the curriculum I use is AMAZING and is totally open and go, so I don't even have to make up lesson plans anymore. 

I think I just have nothing left in my own bucket. You know the saying about how you can't give water to anyone else if your own bucket is empty... something like that anyway. Well, I'm just not sure how to fill mine anymore. Everything that I love to do involves my family. I do love to do homeschool. It's quite a passion and on its own used to fill my bucket just by doing it. So I'm wondering if I need to find something that's "just for me" to fill myself up? Or is that just a mirage? I would like to be able to pee by myself again at some point. 

So please share. I need ideas. 
What do you do to recharge your batteries? What's your best self care strategy? 
What do you do to fill your bucket?