Friday, August 31, 2018

Week 3 ~ Year 20 Seven Tenets of Our Homeschool

Over the last 20 years many things have changed. Curricula have come and gone; some goals and dreams for my children have shifted; and the focus of our days has sometimes been taken over by life, forcing us to set books aside for more pressing life lessons. However, there are certain tenets that have always remained. I have never truly experienced burnout in our homeschooling journey. I attribute that to a true love of teaching and the discovery of a Charlotte Mason Education in the earliest months of our homeschool journey. A Charlotte Mason education is so rich. It fills our senses with wonder and leaves our lives full. These seven features of our homeschool have never wavered throughout all these years. They have been with us daily, weekly -- or in the case of poetry teas --monthly, since the beginning of our journey.

Character Training ~ Character training is truly an element that is taught day in and day out in our home through conversations, great literature, curriculum, Bible study and example. This week we focused on the book, Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember, by John McCain. This was our small tribute to Senator McCain as we send up prayers that our country will heed his words and come back together to help all Americans live better, more peaceful lives.

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." ~ Mother Teresa

Nature Study ~ We have done formal and informal nature studies through the years. Some years I have meticulously picked nature topics and we have studied them. That is not the way we are currently doing nature study. We currently have a much more natural flow to our study. For instance, this week we went to say our final farewell to the Chihuly exhibit at the Biltmore and were stunned by the lily pads and other pond plants. Before long, I realized that we (the kids and I) were taking more pictures of the pond life than of the Chihuly glass. So we enjoyed the beautiful plantings and identified later in the week what we had seen. One book that has really stood the test of time in our homeschool is Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. This book has been a staple in our home since the very first month of our homeschool journey.
Victoria Water Lily Pad

Water Lily

Egyptian Lotus Flower
A Rich Art Program ~ Art has always been a vital and intricate part of our homeschool. We have used picture studies since the kids were old enough to sit and look at books. I love this book I just found, How to Talk to Children About Art, by Francois Barbe-Gall. I am sure it will benefit children who cross my life in the future. Besides visiting Chihuly again this week, we also had our monthly art class with Grandma. Dean also went to his weekly art class. 

The children learned the seven principles of art for visual arts and photography with Grandma. Then they went outside to take photos to portray the seven principles. These are a few of Anne's shots. After, they critiqued their photos using, the Rule of Thirds Grid to determine the photos with the best compositional layout.

Charity Work ~ It is vital to me that my children have charitable hearts and are able to put others before themselves. I believe we have achieved that goal for three out of the four (and our fourth does care, at least as far as her mental health will allow). This month we found ourselves out of homeless kits, so we made 15 more with the focus on hygiene. Usually, we are concerned with the weather, which dictates our homeless kits -- water and sunscreen in the summer, energy bars and warm socks/hats in the winter -- but our fall bags could take on a different focus since fall is one of the easier seasons to live outdoors if one must do so. Our bags are filled with soap, tooth paste and tooth brushes, combs, socks, shampoo and lotion. We will pass them out over the coming weeks as we see people in need along our city streets.

Poetry Tea ~ What isn't to love about a poetry tea? You get to eat treats, drink tea, use crystal and listen to great poetry. We studied four poems by Emily Dickinson this month. We had an animated conversation about her poem, Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Field Trips ~ There is no better way to experience the world than going out into the world. We love field trips and I am always on the hunt for fun and educational experiences. This week's field trips were to the Biltmore Estate and to play miniature golf with the visiting grandparents at a new course in town. 

Family Read Aloud Time ~ There is such value in sharing great literature with your children. It affects so many aspects of their lives from writing skills to an understanding of the world around them ... and so much more. As I mentioned before, we have been reading Character Is Destiny this week. We plan to start Christy by Catherine Marshal next week. This book is one of my all time favorite books and is set in the mountain hollers not far from our mountain city. I think it is timely, since we hope to visit Cades Cove this fall, which is where our adopted children's lineage stems from. 

Thanks for hanging in there for this rather long post!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 24, 2018

Week 2 ~ Learning with the Who Was Series...

We had a great second week of school. We managed a full schedule of at-home classes and added two out of the home classes. The kids are taking classes at a local church that offers "homeschool tutorial" classes. We haven't taken classes with them in a few years and the program has grown a great deal. This year Anne is taking Sign Language II and Dean is taking Creative Art and Photography (the photography class doesn't start until September). They both loved their first class and liked being with so many homeschoolers in one place. There were lots of homeschooling teens which is sometimes hard to find in our area. This year alone, four of their homeschooling friends started public school for high school. I hope this will open up doors for a few new friendships.

This week we took several of Anne's dance friends back-to-school thrift store shopping. It was a lovely day and we all had so much fun. We will have to make this a seasonal event.
Image may contain: 5 people, including Camille Cummings, Debbie Haeger and Dawn Beasom Purdom, people smiling, people sitting, people eating, indoor and food

The 36 Challenge ~ One of the kids' goals this year is to write 36 papers using writing prompts. This does not include science, history or quarterly research papers. This goal is just strictly creative writing and expressing themselves. They will write a draft and a final each week. This week's writing prompt was If you could suddenly go on a road trip, where would you go? Include details and plans.  Both kids were enthusiastic about the prompt and wrote fun papers. Dean selected the beach and Anne planned a trip to Salem, Massachusetts that sounds like lots of spooky fun.

The second 36 Challenge is for Dean alone. I have challenged him to read a book from the Who Was Series and answer questions about each book each week. This means I am reading 36 books from the series, too. The series also includes books about Where Is? and What Is? I realize that these books are below high school reading level, but they are rich with information, and he can easily focus on them and gain lots of knowledge. He enjoys the books and talks about them afterward. I have even seen him delve deeper into the subject and do a bit of research on his own. I strongly feel that meeting each child where they are and helping them to learn on the platform that serves them best is one of the great blessings of homeschooling. This week he read Who Was Jacques Cousteau? I have been scouring our local used bookstores and have come up with a pretty good stack so far. 

In a matter of hours we will have grandparents arriving so I am off to try to cram in a day of schooling before they get here. Have a blessed weekend!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 17, 2018

Week 1 ~ Year 20 -- A Gentle Start

Yes, this is our 20th year of homeschooling. I am totally blown away that this is year 20 of our wonderful, amazing, blessed homeschool journey! I am so very thankful for this way of life. I am grateful that I have been able to stay home and shape my children for the last 20 years. What an incredible blessing it has been to all of us. As I watch my friends send their children back to school and start to hear the horror stories (especially from parents of special needs kids) pouring in and the hopelessness my friends feel to improve their children's situations, I am reminded of the awesome power my husband and I have as homeschooling parents. We are not trapped in a broken system and forced to bow to the will of others who often do not have our children's best interest at heart. We do not have to force our children to conform to something they are not or to ascertain facts in a way they do not learn. We can and do make all of the decisions for our children's well being and education. At the end of this journey, if there are failings and missed opportunities, we will have no one to blame but ourselves -- AND I am okay with that. I am content with the fact that I am doing my best every day and that my best is more than good enough. I love my children and am completely invested in their success, and I have the freedom and power to make alterations in their education to boost their chance for success. No public school can ever say that. There will always be missed opportunities and missteps in life. Picking yourself up and moving on is all part of learning and growing. Homeschooling doesn't have to be perfect every day or even every year. There is great learning in the imperfect. So we go on to learn and grow and I feel so blessed.

You would think after 20 years there wouldn't be much new to try, but there are always new opportunities. This year we tried something that many homeschoolers do every year -- a gentle start. We only added in a few subjects this week. I decided that since the kids are in high school now, we are counting hours (per subject), not weeks or days.  Thus, getting everything going at once did not matter in the least. So we started math, their daily grammar worksheet, group time (world history, health, biology/physics, depending on the day), and independent reading this week. That is it. I must admit one of the days felt overwhelmingly full, which was a bit scary considering that we haven't started yet the 16 hours a week of out of the home dance classes plus three other out of the home classes for art and sign language. We also still plan to add in a weekly English paper each week, plus literature and industrial arts for Dean. We will see if it can all be managed, and if it can't we will adjust.

Highlights from week one ~ 

Use It! Don't Lose It! is the perfect review of grammar. It is only taking the kids about 5 to 10 minutes a day do the assignment. Money Matters for Teens Workbook is also a great fit for Dean. He is doing consumer math this year.

Anne dived off the diving board for the first time.

We watched the 1954 version of 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Dean read Who Is Jules Verne? and gave us a review of the book before we watched the movie. We also found a chair for $40 at the thrift shop and it is in great shape (which Dean is sitting in). Now everyone has a seat in the living room during movie time.
We did several science experiments with solar print paper and popcorn on our quest to understand radiation uses and x-rays better.

We also managed to do every lesson we set out to do and a few extra. Everything is going well, even Algebra. Anne likes Teaching Textbooks but did struggle at the beginning of the week to remember how to do a few things. Maybe we shouldn't have put math away for the entire summer. By the end of the week she was getting back in the hang of it.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Wrap-Up ~ The House Edition

The past two weeks have found us home more than usual and it has been nice. The rain has been intense at time, but our city's rivers are staying in their banks for now. This entire summer, I have spent lots of time thinking more about how to make our home work better for us. We bought this home as a foreclosure almost six years ago. It was a mess when we got it, but we felt very blessed to move our family to a safer neighborhood where we could live in relative peace. The yard was completely overrun with weeds, vines, trees, bugs and snakes of all sorts. It was a real jungle, but the almost acre of space gave us breathing room from our neighbors and somewhere for our rather loud family (at the time) to run and squeal. The inside had faulty electricity, leaking windows, no fixtures, broken flooring, leaking windows, and plumbing issues galore. The new mortgage was bigger and stretched our budget so greatly that we could hardly afford to make necessary improvements. It was extremely overwhelming, to say the least, but there were five bedrooms and three separate common areas so that everyone could get away from each other when need be. With the high level of special needs in our family plus living with a child with mental illness, space and breathing room were absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe. We dug in and tried to find the diamond in the rough, feeling blessed all along the way that we were in a better place than before with our tight, antique, former home in the heart of a very crowded inner city environment (where drug dealers sold their wares on the corner and our children (especially our daughter, Goldilocks) befriended the neighborhood prostitute who would stand on the other side of our front fence. Yes, we were blessed to be able to move. But then, within just a year in a half, everything changed. Our daughter Goldilocks ran away from home, and the professionals agreed with us that we would not be safe if she were returned to the home. A big part of our move had been to protect her and protect us from the type of people she attracted to our door. She was the driving force behind our move and now she was gone, leaving us with a huge mortgage for more land and house than we now needed (not to mention the hundreds of dollars it costs every month to board her in a mental health facility). At the same time, the housing market went insane in our city, and our old neighborhood became very popular and much safer. We missed the beauty of our old 1930's Dutch Colonial. This 1950's rancher had never been the style of home my husband and I desired. I hate to admit it, but resentment set in. Here we were in an overwhelming house, with a huge, unmanageable yard; and because Goldilocks had left, we didn't need it anymore. I am a city girl. I love crowded, small and vibrant spaces. However, because of the market being so "hot," there is no way we can afford now to move. We probably can't even make a step-down move because everything is so ridiculously expensive. 

I do not like feeling resentful, knowing full well that we are truly blessed. So this summer, I have been working on falling back in love (or at least "like") with my home. We are blessed to have a safe home that, due to lots of work, has new windows, safe appliances and electricity. The front yard is welcoming and manageable. The back and side yards are coming along. We spent the better part of the first four years in this home ripping out unwelcome plant life from the yard. Thanks to my Mom and an Aunt, we now have some nice plantings that we have added to the yard. Recently, we bought a ride on lawnmower, so the grass part of the yard can be done quickly. That way, we can get back to fighting the creeping vines.
Inside the house, I have employed the same policy this summer that we used to improve the outside of the house -- get rid of anything that isn't needed and/or makes my heart sing. It is a huge work in progress! We are by no means done getting rid of stuff and painting/recovering/replacing the dated walls, floors, counters and ceilings. However, I did make lots of progress this summer, and I am ready to start the school year with a fresh sense of gratefulness for our home. It is much less overwhelming than it used to be!
BEFORE -- former owner took drawers, doors, and hardware with her
We touched up all of the paint and moved furniture in the living room to make it work better. We still need to find one more chair for the corner by the lamp, but otherwise it is working well. I got the little tea cart (circa World War II) for my birthday and it makes the perfect side table.

We finally decided what to do with Goldilock's room. We had made it into a guest room/eBay office area, but it really was a constant disaster. I decided that it would make a good guest room for grandparents and for when the kids have sleepovers. I am so much happier with the space.

Well, I hope this doesn't come across as a whiny post. I really am glad to be a homeowner in this very desirable city in the mountains. So many of my friends are trapped in rentals or have been forced to move far outside the town or even had to move away entirely because the cost of living here is so difficult. Also, I get annoyed when people complain about money when they have so much. I get that, and we have been blessed to be able to make adjustments to our mortgage to make our month to month budget easier. Also, we were blessed with a small inheritance which we have used to do the traveling we accomplished this year. We are indeed very blessed.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First Day ~ August

The first day of August in photos ... it is a slow rainy day.
Wise words that spoke to my photographer heart.

Walking my buddy while waiting for daughter to get out of dance.

My view from the parking lot outside of Anne's Cecchetti classes.

Bourree across the room
New pointe shoes

weaking a Nerf gun


Tim's night to make dinner ~ it was a spicy one!

A fun game

Making progress ~ maybe I will get a real shower soon!
Blessings, Dawn