Friday, October 16, 2015

Weekly Homeschool and Life Wrap-Up - October

Homeschool Philosophical Musings

We've hit a stage in our homeschool in which all four children are receiving a lot of formal education--the youngest having hit first grade. It's much more challenging to fit everything in for each child, and my perspective as to what constitutes "school" continues to mature. 

It's very tempting to view homeschooling as schooling at home, but it's much more than that. It isn't about defined grade-level expectations or taking government the same year as your public-schooled peers. As a homeschooling mother, it's about tailoring a garment to fit each child as well as possible considering their individual growth and stature--the garment being the education. 

Sometimes your 11 year old does better than your 13 year old in math, even as your 13 year old comes into his own as a courageous, discerning sibling leader. When you perceive homeschooling as a one-piece life in which learning is part of everyday existence, not a separate entity, then your definitions shift. 

The home front is the most important classroom and the schooling is learning how to live for the glory of God. Sometimes that includes 5 days of formal math lessons, while at other times it includes laboring in love for someone at church, or reading aloud long because everyone is frazzled and needs to recenter their hearts via Christ-rich content. Sometimes it includes learning how to keep clutter from taking over, and still other times includes brainstorming how to shave $100 a month off the already-shaved grocery budget. 

And very often for one-income families, it includes lessons in how to live with far less than those around you, while still feeling that the term abundant life fits your existence--because it should if you're in Christ. In our "homeschool" the lessons are deep and wide and the love even more so because it has to be. The challenges are just right and grace abounds because God is good. 

This is the Holy Spirit's shaping and as a mother I must help my children identify and be thankful for that shaping, rather than wondering where God's blessings went or why prayer isn't being answered this month. I want them to have lovely souls and that means bitterness and envy cannot take root. Shielding our hearts from ugliness means living a life of gratitude. It means understanding how the Potter shapes the clay and how the clay loves the Potter's work--even when the molding hurts.

Life is not about accomplishment and trappings, no matter what the world screams at us. It's about responding to each day and each trial with mercy and grace. It's about growing in grace rather than growing in goodness (growing in grace being something Ann Voskamp once said, but I don't remember where.)

And all that, my friends, is why schooling is part of a one-piece, big-picture life. That compass is how I measure my days, and I'm continually learning to navigate with it better and better, even as I inch closer to a substantially-wrinkled 50 years old. 

Why must wisdom come with wrinkles...and maybe that's why they both begin with w

The Week in Pictures:

My little Beth is such a delight! She's always creating something. Here's a doll bed made from an oatmeal container for her Rapunzel toddler doll--a doll acquired from a thrift store last week. Some days Rapunzel is reading Jane Eyre, and other days library picture books. "She's only three, Mommy, but she can read now." This, Beth tells me, after she "read" to Rapunzel herself for days.

Having a creative child means a messy house; I had to learn to define my housekeeping skills in broader terms than tidiness, having come to terms with my choices: I can break her spirit by insisting on tidiness, or I can come alongside her to clean up time and again, keeping our relationship sweet and satisfying.

We went to our favorite apple and pumpkin farm.

A hayride to the orchards on a 1950's tractor.

My Mary loving the lambs.

Beth and I, and me marveling that a precious one still fits in my lap!

About the tenth photo Daddy took, as you can tell by the so-not-enthused expression.

Always a doll or a stuffy with her. They need outings too, you know.

15 pounds of apples, which we've been happily feasting on--including one batch of applesauce, an apple crumb pie because I'm lazy about crusts, and one double-batch apple crisp.

This kind man, with a baby in one arm, was happy to introduce his springer spaniel to my smitten girls. It didn't work out with our stray dog last month, by the way.

Daddy with our boys. I believe Peter is 5'5'' now--gaining on Daddy's 5'8' and past my 5'3''. Doc says he'll be six feet.

Peter and Paul are well loved by their sisters. His OCD, though it drives us all crazy, doesn't impact their admiration and love. It may even increase it, in fact.

Two weeks ago Beth searched our property for fall nature samples. We have a lot more yellow, red, and orange this week.

Fall means Kent State University football games. They don't care for pro football, but college football rules their fall fun (or at least Paul's). They even play it out back with their sisters, which is a hoot. My husband is frequently gifted with tickets from various people at one of his workplaces, which makes up for the fact that we don't have cable to watch games. They see a few online via ESPN3, however.

I'm using recordings more and more in my homeschool. Here Beth is drawing from a library book while listening to Psalm 23 on my cell phone with headphones (recorded by my voice). She memorized it for AWANA this week and each time she recited it I choked up. Few things are sweeter than a six year old reciting Psalm 23.

Life News:
One of our Compassion International correspondent children left the program due to her family becoming more independent. They felt they could take care of her by themselves, leaving room for another needy child. She's been a delight to correspond with this past year, as our newest child, eight years old from Nicaragua.

That night, after Compassion called me about Abdi, they put a new correspondent child on my account: Brayan, a 13-year-old boy from the Dominican Republic; he lives with his mother and sadly, his father is deceased. I went into my account to write the October letters to our children and there he was... a precious new heart to share with. They told me they'd put me on a waiting list, so that was fast!

A correspondent child is not a sponsor child. Someone else, often a big company, will sponsor children but not commit to writing--writing being something that, along with helping in Jesus' name, is the cornerstone of Compassion International's program. They immediately assign a correspondent for these children.

We became correspondents in 2011, before we could afford to sponsor for $38 a month. After that we were so hooked on the experience, we sponsored a child without waiting for the budget numbers to work out. We've never missed a payment. Then we acquired another correspondent child, and then leaped ahead with another sponsor child. The last two have been correspondents, and that is the end of our faith walk for now. We can't squeeze another inch from this budget, though my heart longs to come up with more and more increments of $38, because these children are precious to their core and their letters are like gold. Outside of marrying and giving birth to my own loved ones, these children are the highlights of my life.

Call Compassion at 800-336-7676 to be a correspondent to a third-world child, which is a fantastic heart and learning endeavor for the whole family. Your children will grow in gratitude just by being exposed to these wonderful children...and they will fall in live with each one. You should try to write every six weeks or more often, which you can do online at Compassion (and you can attach photos).

 You can send monetary gifts online (for sponsor children) or over the phone for correspondent children. These gifts profoundly impact daily living conditions, like providing shoes, mattresses, or a non-leaky roof--all of which improve their performance in school. The personal letters remind them that God loves them...that he has not forgotten them...that he has plans to prosper them and not harm them.

Praise God for being able to speak these things into their lives. If you've been reading my blabber about this for years now, but haven't taken the leap, go right now to Compassion to have your life changed. (But use the phone number above to become just a correspondent. You can only sign up for a sponsorship online).

Homeschool Readings:

~ The boys finished Treasure Island, which Peter liked. Paul felt that though it was exciting in the end, it dragged at the beginning and it was too dark. Now they're reading Susan Warner's 1850 Christian, sentimental novel, The Wide Wide World, considered the first bestseller. It isn't listed in any of the literary analysis sources I invested in, but literary analysis is available online. We started reading it free on the Kindle, but that copy had so many errors we switched to a Gutenberg Project copy, which is how we read Elsie Dinsmore novels too. Did you know that Elsie mentions reading The Wide Wide World in Elsie's Girlhood? After I spoke about that famous novel and they heard Elise talk about it, they wanted to read it next.

I'm reading Pilgrim Stories to all of them, which is very interesting, and next we'll read The Courage of Sarah Noble, as part of the girls' Beautiful Feet Early American History.

The boys really love two things in particular so far this year: General Science by Apologia, which they've really taken to after years of Sonlight Science, and The Story of the World history series. They have one and a half books to go in that history series. They'll certainly be sorry to see it end!

Here are some 2015 across the curriculum Picture books we've enjoyed:

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson, published March, 2015:

Synopsis: Kadir Nelson, acclaimed author of Baby Bear and winner of the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Awards, presents a resonant, gently humorous story about the power of even the smallest acts and the rewards of compassion and generosity.

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

The Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood published September, 2015.

Synopsis: In the wide-awake bed in the full-moon house, everyone is restless! The moonlight is pouring in and no one can get to sleep: not Granny, her grandchild, the dog, the cat, or even a mouse. It's not until a tiny musical visitor offers up a soothing song does the menagerie settle down, and finally everyone is off to dreamland.

With a perfectly crafted text and stunning paintings, Audrey and Don Wood reveal once again why they are picture book creators of the highest order. The Full Moon at the Napping House, the highly anticipated follow-up to their beloved classic The Napping House, is the ideal book to share at bedtime or anytime.

Voice of Freedom: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Fannie Lou Hamer, published August, 2015

Synopsis: Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Featuring luminous mixed-media art both vibrant and full of intricate detail, Singing for Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with an inspiring message of hope, determination, and strength.

Lillian's Right to Vote:A Celebration of the Voting Acts Right of 1965 by Jonah Winter, published July, 2015

Synopsis: An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Veteran bestselling picture-book author Jonah Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans vividly recall America’s battle for civil rights in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.

The Bay Boy & His Violin by Gavin Curtis (not a new book)

Synopsis: Reginald loves to create beautiful music on his violin. But Papa, manager of the Dukes, the worst team in the Negro National League, needs a bat boy, not a "fiddler," and traveling with the Dukes doesn't leave Reginald much time for practicing. 

Soon the Dukes' dugout is filled with Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach -- and the bleachers are filled with the sound of the Dukes' bats. Has Reginald's violin changed the Dukes' luck -- and can his music pull off a miracle victory against the powerful Monarchs? 

Gavin Curtis's beautifully told story of family ties and team spirit and E. B. Lewis's lush watercolor paintings capture a very special period in history.

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess, published April, 2015

SynopsisEnormous Smallness is a nonfiction picture book about the poet E.E. cummings. Here E.E.'s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Lively and informative, the book also presents some of Cummings's most wonderful poems, integrating them seamlessly into the story to give the reader the music of his voice and a spirited, sensitive introduction to his poetry.

In keeping with the epigraph of the book -- "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are," Matthew Burgess's narrative emphasizes the bravery it takes to follow one's own vision and the encouragement E.E. received to do just that.

Let's Knit: Learn to Knit With 12 Easy Projects by DK publishing, published September, 2015

Synopsis: This guide for budding beginner knitters shows how to master the basics of knitting. Includes easy to follow steps for projects such as Brilliant Bracelets; Finger Fun; Fred's Hat and Scarf; and more. Ages 8-12. Fully illustrated in color.

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz by Jonah Winter, July, 2015

Synopsis: In this unusual and inventive picture book that riffs on the language and rhythms of old New Orleans, noted picture book biographer Jonah Winter (Dizzy, Frida, You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?) turns his focus to one of America's early jazz heroes in this perfectly pitched book about Jelly Roll Morton.

Gorgeously illustrated by fine artist Keith Mallett, a newcomer to picture books, this biography will transport readers young and old to the musical, magical streets of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century.

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather! by Kathleen Kudlinski, published August, 2015


Ancient Sumerian warriors used to think that lightning and thunder were caused by an angry weather god —boy, were they wrong!

Even today once common ideas about how our weather and climate work are changing as new discoveries are being made. Kathleen V. Kudlinski and SebastiĆ  Serra team up to debunk old—and sometimes silly—myths about weather and to celebrate the pioneers that made meteorology the science it is today.

This award-winning series is especially meant for the budding scientist and is perfect for children who are fascinated by the natural world and how it works.

Thanks for reading some of this here novel of mine. Didn't mean to make it soooo long. Have a blessed weekend!

Weekly Wrap-Up

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