Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to Home School Fun

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Most homeschoolers are getting ready to begin a new school year in the coming weeks and today I wanted to share a couple of things with you all.

First, as a member of iHomeschool Network I’ve been blessed over the past year to participate in some awesome blogging opportunities, but the best of them all has arrived. Today is the release of iHomeschool Network’s The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Ever wish there was a book that could help answer ALL of your homeschool questions? Ever wish you could get sage advice from homeschool moms who have been there and done that? This thing is ENORMOUS, a true homeschool encyclopedia of over 500 pages, covering over 100 topics, written by 55 homeschool moms ready to help answer your homeschool questions and give you some great advice for struggles in your homeschool. I’m beginning my sixth year homeschooling and even I have benefitted from this book! It’s great for those just beginning and for the veterans. Pick up your copy as soon as you can so you have to time to read through it before school starts. It’s your own personal homeschool convention at your fingertips.

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Next up is something I’m so excited about that I had to share it with all of you. Our family doesn’t “technically” start a new school year until January and school year round, but I love to do something special on the first day that all of our public school friends go back. We sleep late, eat a special breakfast, take pictures for our new grades {I promote the kids when the schools go back so they know how to answer, “What grade are you in?”}, buy new school supplies, and go somewhere fun for the day. This year I wanted to do something a little different. I’ve secretly been purchasing school supplies for the kids over the past few weeks, and I’m letting the kids do a Homeschool Supplies Scavenger Hunt to find all of their new stuff!!! I know they are going to love it and I’m having  hard time containing myself for the next three weeks. I wanted to share it so that any of you who were looking for something a little different and fun to start the homeschool year could jump right in and let me know how your family liked it. Yes, I’m asking you to be my guinea pigs!

Homeschool Supplies Scavenger Hunt

Homeschool Supplies Scavenger Hunt

Here are the answers to the clues and where the items should be hidden:

Clue #1: Glue in the laundry room (I’m putting mine in the dryer.)

Clue #2: Pencils on a window sill

Clue #3: Stapler in a closet

Clue #4: Crayons on the stove

Clue #5: Ruler at the front door

Clue #6: Binder on the table

Clue #7: Colored pencils on the bed

Clue #8: Notebooks in the bathtub

Clue #9: Personal size marker boards under a chair

Clue #10: Unashamed attempt for me to get hugs and kisses from the kids, but I’ll also have their homeschool books in some new backpacks for them.

I’m already thinking of fun locations that we could take our scavenger hunt next year: the library, the zoo, a park, etc.

Wishing all of a you a blessed and magical school year from the tree house,

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Friday, July 11, 2014

From Type A to Scholé: Morning Meeting Makeover

Disclaimer: I have been extremely hesitant to write the next two posts in this series because I will be sharing exactly what scholé looks like in our home. I hesitate because I do NOT want anyone to try to copy our homeschool. What makes leisure work in our home will probably be completely different in yours. I chose to share, though, because reading other blogs that describe teaching from rest help me determine what works for me. Hopefully the next two posts in this series will inspire you to create leisure and rest in a way that works for your family. I write this in the hope that if you try to implement a Morning Meeting time and it fails, be willing to tweak it until it works for you.  

Book concept Landscape of lake in mist with sun glow at sunrise

The first area of our homeschool I wanted to attack with my new philosophy was our Morning Meeting time. There was only one problem: we didn’t have a Morning Meeting time. At one point we had done a Circle Time, but I’d slowly dropped it as Chipette got older. However, one of the things I kept seeing repeatedly in  scholé homeschools was their use of a Morning Meeting time. Cindy Rollins and her Morning Time posts were my biggest inspiration, especially her 31 Days to Morning Time series. Her series really helped me solidify what I wanted Morning Meeting to be and how to gradually implement it {31 days is NOT a drastic change!}. As I read through Cindy’s writings, I needed to answer a few questions for myself about creating a Morning Meeting time.

What was my purpose?

Basically it boiled down to wanting to start the day off right. I wanted truth, beauty, goodness, and wisdom to be the first things we feasted on every day. Morning Meeting would hopefully provide a way for me and the girls to center our minds, to discuss, and to focus our day. As a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooler it also provided me a way to cover those “little” subjects that seem so often to be pushed aside, such as art and music appreciation, Shakespeare, poetry, etc. So my purpose for Morning Meeting was to bring truth, beauty, goodness, and wisdom to our day through Charlotte Mason inspired topics.

What would I like to cover?

At this point I took up pen and paper to write down items I wanted to include during Morning Meeting. I thought of Charlotte Mason, Cindy’s blog, and our family culture. Eventually I had quite a long list without any idea how to make it all work or if it would work! On my list I had Bible reading, hymn singing, Shakespeare, art and music appreciation, mythology, memory work, classic literature, Plutarch, content subject reading, character study, and poetry. Okay, that list would take us all day to complete, not to mention I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do with each of those areas. In other words, I had a purpose, I had a list, and I had NO idea how to make it work!

What will work logistically?

It’s all well and good to have wonderful intentions, but if you can’t complete the plan, then it’s worthless. I decided to jump in with both feet and figure it out as I go along since I’ve learned that what looks good on paper with my crew explodes into a fiery ball of good intentions once I try to use it. I wasn’t sure 1) how my kids would respond to each subject and 2) how long it would take.

1) How my kids would respond.  Surprisingly, my girls enjoyed all of the subjects on my list. Chipette doesn’t like memory work (and never will!), but Magpie surprised me the most by really getting into Shakespeare and Plutarch. Because of their enjoyment none of the subjects were dropped, but that brought other problems…

2) How long it would take. While they enjoyed the content, the length of Morning Meeting was entirely too long for them (and me!). We were hitting two hours or going over consistently, so I began to play with rotating subjects by day, week, and term. As I began to whittle down the amount of content, the girls really began to enjoy Morning Meeting. After about a month of tweaking I finalized our Morning Meeting routine. In all our new schedule takes about one to one and a half hours depending upon how much discussion takes place.

How do I deal with challenges?

While I don’t think that having a Morning Meeting is a necessity to homeschool or even to a scholé-based homeschool, I do recognize that there are probably quite a few people that would like to try a morning time with their family, but they have concerns. I wanted to address some common problems that come up when trying to begin a consistent Morning Meeting.

I have babies, toddlers, and/or early elementary kids (Pre-K-2) and there is NO way that I could do this! 

I currently  have a couple of children that fit into these parameters, so I totally understand the problem with trying to get everyone to sit and listen when there are babies, toddlers and short attention spans around. If your oldest child is 8 or younger, then your morning time should NOT be for a long period of time. I would say about 30 minutes at the most. When I did Circle Time with my girls, they were in second grade and preschool, but I had a toddler running around as well. He enjoyed all of the singing and board work as much as they did. It was a very active time with a lot of moving around and a small part of sitting and listening. Option number two, if you have children that are old enough (upper elementary and up), is to let your older children do most of the reading while you tend to babies and toddlers. Option number three is to make your morning time an all day experience by breaking it up into 20 minute bits all day long (morning, afternoon, and evening) so that there is never a super long time period of stillness. Sometime I make use of this option if we’re late getting our day started and I need to squeeze Morning Meeting in using a more flexible schedule. And of course, there will be days that you will not be able to do a morning time because life happens. That’s okay too. Personally I shoot for doing Morning Meeting 3 out of the 5 school days; that’s good enough for me. Magpie is an odd first grader in that she will sit and listen for long periods of time as long as she has something else to do (see the next point), but Monkey is a super active 4-year old boy so he plays in his room for most of Morning Meeting.

My kids would not sit for an hour listening to books!

Guess what? Mine won’t either! One of the things I quickly discovered was that I needed something for them to do while I was reading. While some parts of our Morning Meeting require a more interactive approach, quite a bit of it is listening and discussing. I decided to make a Busy Hands Basket filled with puzzles, tangrams, coloring books, felt boards, etc. for the girls to use only during Morning Meeting. It instantly turned our time into a much more enjoyable experience. Again if you have young children, though, see above.

My kids would HATE most of the stuff that you do during Morning Meeting. Plutarch, Shakespeare, and poetry? Get real!

When I started our morning time I firmly expected to drop Plutarch. I thought there was no way that either of my girls would want to listen to it, but they totally surprised me. They really enjoy it. However, if they hadn’t, I would have dropped it from the schedule and tried again next year. I knew that Chipette would like Shakespeare since we’ve been studying his plays for a while, so if Magpie had been resistant I would have moved Shakespeare to the end of the schedule and let her leave before Chipette and I continued. In fact, Cindy recommends doing this if you have a large age span with your children; focus during the first half of morning time on the younger children, then let them leave and continue morning time with the older children. I’m sure I’ll have to adopt this approach next year as we start folding Monkey into our Morning Meeting.  Sometimes he sits with us, but he knows that he has to do quiet activities or I’ll make him leave. Another thing to remember is this is YOUR morning time. If you don’t want to study those things, then don’t! Create a morning time that is reflective of your family’s interests and educational goals.

If you are interested in starting a Morning Meeting time, then start small with only a few subjects. Slowly add one or two more. I kept a timer on my phone while we did Morning Meeting for those first couple of weeks to see exactly how long it was taking us (that’s how I knew that it was running too long!), so I slowly played with things until I got it like I wanted it. I still set a timer for a hour and a half so that our time still doesn’t get away from us. Once the timer goes off, I might wrap something up if we aren’t finished, but I stop where we are at on our list. Remember this is supposed to be leisurely not a stress-inducing exercise. Also, if it’s important to you, then don’t stop. My kids complained and complained about Morning Meeting for the first few weeks, but I basically told them that Morning Meeting was here to stay. Now they love it, and if I miss a day they are quick to remind me, “But we haven’t done Morning Meeting yet!” Just what I wanted, children who are eager for truth, beauty, goodness, and wisdom.

Check out the rest of my From Type A to Scholé series: Exorcising School, Seek and You Will NOT Find,  and Starting with the Woman in the Mirror.

From Type A To Schole Series

Up next in the series, how I deal with content subjects without stressing out. It’s all in the scheduling and the approach, folks!

The winds of change are blowing strong in the tree house,

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