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Homeschooling Plans

This photo has nothing to do with this post. It’s just nice to look at.

As we ended our first year of homeschooling my middle child, much was up in the air (my least favorite place to locate things). So I put off planning too much and took a wait-and-see stance for a while. But we’re now definitely homeschooling this year, too, and a few things have fallen into place.

We’ll be continuing with Story of the World as our spine for history, and when our world history gets up to the Age of Exploration, I expect we will start with the first book in A History of US, by Joy Hakim. We’ll also continue with her science text, The Story of Science, supplemented with hands-on science as we go along, primarily based on interest.

Last year for math I used Life of Fred; I talk more in depth about my gentle approach to math here. This year I feel he’s ready to move into something more rigorous, and I’m going back to Singapore Math, which I used for my eldest. It gave him a great foundation in math. We’ll take it as slowly as necessary, and of course real-life math is a part of our days. I’ve noticed my middle child likes to explain his thinking process in his own way. I’ve learned to be quiet and let him have the time he needs to explain what he’s figured out on his own about whatever math concept he’s been thinking about. He doesn’t want to hear me say it; he wants to get there on his own. His train of thought is not necessarily the school/textbook train of thought, but if he gets to the same station in the end, I don’t really care.

My 9yo also came out of school really not enjoying writing at all. I gave him space on that last year and didn’t push it, hoping he’d come around. He had fits and starts but no regular interest. This is something I don’t want him to abandon entirely, so this year we’ll be using the Brave Writer curriculum. He is in the Partnership Writing age group, and I assured him I’d be doing the same writing exercises as he. Actually, I was surprised by his response when I told him we’d be using a writing program this year. A year ago, I’m sure he would have protested immediately. This year, he said okay, as long as it wasn’t like the writing he had to do in school. We each bought three new notebooks: one for copy work (from the Arrow portion of the program), one for lists (because lists are fun), and one for Friday freewriting.

We’ll continue to start our mornings reading aloud together, whether it’s the book for that month’s Arrow or other books. And we will get more focused about project work, which kind of fell by the wayside this spring and summer. I’m enrolled in Lori’s Project-Based Homeschooling Master Class, which begins this week. I expect it will get me more focused and on track to get even better about mentoring my kids’ interests. I’ve already gotten a head start by beginning to tackle our studio space to get rid of some accumulated stuff and improve ease of use. I have my eye on the office/play room too, which has never been used well. (It tends towards entropy.) My hope is that by signing up for the first session of the class, I can take advantage of the natural beginning-of-school-year momentum and keep that ball rolling all the year through.

A big change from last year is that I’m taking a break from our homeschooling co-op, at least for the fall session. This was a hard decision, but several families with older kids left, leaving no offerings for my 9yo’s age and interests except a class I was teaching. I looked at the two classes I was to teach and the effort and time required (which is considerable, because I don’t use a prepackaged curriculum but instead plan as I go based on the students I have), versus what my son would be gaining, and decided it wasn’t the best use of my energy right now. I’ll miss the other moms, but given some challenges at home this winter and spring, I am wary of overextending this fall. My energies need to go to my own kids and family first, my own self-care (running, exercise class, and hopefully art classes), and my work (both shop and classes).

And those are our homeschooling plans, which look quite comprehensive when I write them all out. My biggest challenge, I think, will continue to be that my 9yo and 4yo bicker. They love to play together, but they experience quite a bit of friction, too. My second biggest challenge is that my oldest is in school, so I have to juggle a homeschool rhythm AND a school schedule, and those often work at cross-purposes. Also, I realize I haven’t mentioned plans for my 4yo at all. She’ll do what her older brother does, because she won’t have it any other way. She is practically teaching herself…she is writing more and more, copying down words and reading them back to me, making up her own math games….homeschooling a preschooler is easy as pie, in my opinion. She is also a pro at project work; she just needs her mama to get back to being a good mentor.

We all have our work this school year! I think it’ll be a good one, though. The second year of anything is always a little easier than the first.

The Truth of the Matter

Capturing carbon dioxide during a science experiment. We did this, but I won’t be blogging about it.

The truth of the matter is that so much good is going on around here, not just with project-based learning but with karate, our co-op, and homeschooling in general, but I can’t get out from under myself to post about it all. I am worn to a nub. I am up much too early, to get my oldest off to school, and “on” much too late. I’m not getting enough sleep because I am loathe to give up the nighttime hours when I can sit and knit or read a book in peace without having to attend to anybody else’s needs. (Plus, I’m a night owl, and my body has me wide awake and full of energy at midnight. No, it really doesn’t mesh well with the reality of my life!)

I try to get us outside, even if just into the yard. I need the sunshine, too.

I know there have been other portions of my mothering life during which I had only cracks and crannies of time to myself during the day. My kids were younger then. I’ve had a stretch of balance, though, and I haven’t yet adjusted to this new scheme, the one where I am up early, full on with the younger two all day, and then my oldest comes home with all that after-school energy. First, second, third shift. I’m frayed. It’s not helping that our recent weekends have been non-weekends, with family and work obligations that have left us either busy, separated, or both.

My youngest, at almost four, is used to having me to herself during school days. She likes having her brother at home, but only to a point. They bicker. They both want all my attention. It can be challenging. We do most things all together. Nobody wants to be left out, of course. After spending a few weeks thinking This has got to change and I’m going to have to adjust our rhythm and I can’t keep on like this, I am realizing that it’s probably my thinking that has to change. I could go on and on about the challenges particular to our situation, but I’m sure everybody has variations on the same.

This past weekend began the way the last one ended, with me on my own with the kids. Just two of them this time–my husband and oldest had left (and rightly so) to help my sister with some moving-related stuff. But oh, I was cranky. Friday was my birthday and it was just like any other day and I’d had no time to myself and I’d spent the day at co-op, which is good but long and lots of preparation and I’d ended up doing laundry at 11 pm and here we were on Saturday, and my daughter had melted down in the parking lot at my son’s karate studio, and all I wanted to do was send the kids to their rooms and crawl into bed and wallow.

Instead, I got us into the car and drove us to a local harvest festival, where we listened to a Native American storyteller and hung out in the nature center and saw moon rocks (straight from NASA!) and soaked up sunshine and fresh air and went on a hay ride.

The woman across from us agreed to take our picture, so we have a rare Mama-and-kids photo.

By the time we got home, my mood was much better. Sunday I carved out some time to sew. Today was back to normal, though. I thought about catching up this blog on our homeschooling activities, but not tonight. Tonight, I’m sharing that it’s hard, and I’m tired, and I’m still adjusting. I know I’m not the only one. But I’ve chosen to do this, and I can already see the benefits for my son. At some point, I’ll blog about those too!

But right now, I’m going to go knit. How about you?

Hiatus

When I began this blog in the autumn of 2010, we had a newish art/craft area that I felt wasn’t getting used. I wanted to make it a priority for my kids and I to make time for art-making together, and I used this blog to both record what we did and keep me on track. In that regards, it’s served its purpose for me personally. As evidenced by my spotty posting lately, it feels as if, in its current form, it’s come to a natural end. However, I don’t want to close this space. Lots of people land here via Google searches, and I hope they find inspiration and ideas. Various posts have been pinned, and I don’t want those pins to come to a dead end. As our family life is evolving, I suspect this space may evolve too, but I haven’t quite decided yet what form that will take.

So I’m officially taking a break from this blog for a month or two while I think about it, and I hope to return with, well, a plan. In the meantime, if you’re interested, I blog about my own creative projects at Salamander Dreams. You generally won’t find ideas for art projects specifically with the kids there, but you may find inspiration all the same, especially as I believe there isn’t a clear delineation between what the kids do and what the adults do, creatively speaking. It’s always overlapped here, to the benefit of us all.

May your days be filled with joyful making, until we “talk” again!

Best,
Amy

Mother’s Day

At the end of a trying day not too long ago, I sighed and said to my oldest, “You’re going to grow up and talk to your friends about your childhood and say, ‘You mean your mother didn’t yell?'” He looked at me with genuine skepticism and said, “Noooooo I’m not! I’m going to say, ‘You mean your mother didn’t do art with you all the time?'”

Here’s to recognizing our strengths as mothers! Happy Mother’s Day to us all.

Celebrate the Caterpillar

I’m in the “another” portion of “one sick child after another,” so there hasn’t been much going on in the studio lately. But besides being the first day of Spring, Sunday is also the Third Annual Very Hungry Caterpillar Day, and I wanted to share some ideas on how to celebrate (which may or may not happen here, depending on who this virus gets next!). Because we can’t all get to Northampton to celebrate in person…

  • Eat some fruit salad. You’ll need one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, and five oranges. Don’t forget the slice of watermelon that the caterpillar eats during his binge on Saturday!
  • Read some of your favorite Eric Carle books. Visit your local library if you need to borrow some. Our favorites include Dragons, Dragons, Mister Seahorse, and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • Paint some tissue papers like Eric Carle. When they’re dry, make a Carle-like collage. (Collage link is a PDF instruction sheet from Eric Carle’s website.) Or make your own sort of collage! Paper + scissors + glue = fun.
  • Plan a butterfly garden. It’s spring! (Sort of–here, anyway.)
  • If you are incredibly handy with the cake decorating, make a hungry caterpillar cupcake train. Isn’t it amazing?
  • See if the caterpillar is coming to a bookstore near you. While you’re on that website, check out the other resources on that page.
  • Try some of the activities listed on the Carle Museum’s resources/activities page.
  • Read this conversation between Eric Carle and Tomie dePaola, another wonderful children’s book author/illustrator. (You need to scroll down; it’s under the Editorial Reviews heading.)

Have fun! And Happy Spring! Are you celebrating (either Spring or Caterpillar Day) in any particular way?

What if Culture Stopped?

From www.culturestops.org:

On Thursday, March 10th, 2011, Culture Stops! will ask you to imagine a world where writers put down their pens and artists put down their paints. Where architects stop designing our cities and poets, dancers and sculptors stop teaching our children. Where our national landmarks fall into decay. Where debate is no longer fostered in our universities, or on our radio dials. Where our symphony halls fall silent and our libraries go dark. Where our collective history is left unmade and unwritten.

On Thursday, March 10th, 2011, you will be asked to witness a world devoid of creativity, imagination and thought: America after culture stops.

Culture Stops! is a citizen-driven, peaceful day of action by individuals and organizations in the creative sector across the United States who share the simple belief that the power of creative thought is the lifeblood of democracy.

We come together to call attention to the deep and widespread cuts, proposed by Congress and the President to federal funding for the arts and humanities, heritage and preservation, arts education and a host of related federal programs that quietly fuel the creative sector. We understand and accept that our country’s economic crisis demands shared sacrifice, but we see these cuts as uneven and disproportionate. We believe that Congress needs to apply reductions fairly and evenly – but that it must not balance the federal budget at the expense of the millions of people who add critical vitality to American life. The issue is not only an economic one, but also a moral one. Arts and culture feeds the minds and fuels the souls of Americans. Seriously weakening these creative forces seriously weakens our country.

Our day of action will put a face to the millions of individuals, for-profit companies, non profit organizations and institutions who fuel and sustain the creative sector and are the backbone of America ingenuity.

Sign the petition here.

Break!

My big kids are on break this week, so I am, too. I’ll be back next week with details, but here’s a peek into some of what we’ve been doing so far.

G "seeing what happens" at RISD's Exempla exhibit

V's artwork turned into a stamp

Painting like the Impressionists

"Making purple!"

Happy 2011!

Notes: Until I corrected him, my oldest called them “New Year’s Revolutions” instead of “Resolutions,” but I think Revolutions might just be a better term anyway. And Miss Rumphius is tasked to make the world a more beautiful place. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, buy or borrow a copy and read it to your favorite small person.

Happy New Year, and good luck with all your revolutions!