Thursday, February 21, 2013

Middle-school Musings

I spent the better part of a year worrying, crying, pleading, and begging my 7th grade daughter to WRITE.
She would read the book in a half day, take one look at the questions I had prepared for her to answer, and scribble off a silly poem about the emperor's billy goat or talking rabbits in refrigerators. My most memorable had the title, "When Caesar Gets the Sniffles". These were FUNNY.
I did not appreciate them.

My dear friend with a daughter that age would tell me NOT to worry, that somehow the quick mind in my daughter's pretty head WOULD begin to work the way I wanted it to....
I appreciated her, but I think it is safe to admit I had my doubts.

She was right.
 I was wrong.

I wanted (deep, deep voice)SERIOUS work out of her. I knew she was capable of DEEP THOUGHTS and I wanted to push her in that direction. So we plowed on through Sonlight World History in-a-year and she read all the depressing(oh, gracious, what depressing stories!)books....the Egyptians with their superstitions and obsession with death, ancient Rome with its mixed-up leadership strand, the Greeks and their grossly immoral gods, the history of Britain with the evils of kings and queens that will make your blood run cold, the French Revolution(she read three GORY books on that topic!)....on through World War II and all the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust and Hiroshima, we read and tried to discuss and I was UPSET that she wasn't WRITING.

This morning I realized I wouldn't have been writing, either!
I mean, that stuff is GLOOMY! Who wants to write about maddening, gloomy, sinful ancient people and their problems? Certainly not a bright 7th grader, which is at least partially why  I received poems about rabbits and runny noses. *smile*

We put her in Composition with Veritas Press Scholars Academy that next year, and she produced some nice work. I was encouraged. I knew she COULD do it, but they weren't really writing anything analytical at that point. I wondered, then, if maybe I had pushed too hard for her to make connections and see parallels, to problem solve for the Ancients of Rome in ways that they themselves had been unable. Should I have pushed her at 13 to struggle with the problems of the heart of man from the last 3,500 years?

The next summer she took another VPSA course, Omnibus I. Now, this course is supposedly for children as young as 11--my daughter was entering ninth grade when she took it, and it made ME uncomfortable with the content, but we knew she could DO the work, and we felt that the best place for her to learn and process all that information MIGHT be home with us rather than in a freshman college classroom, so we took the dive.

She read C.S. Lewis, Herodotus, Thucydides, The Aeneid, The Odyssey, "Julius Caesar", Plutarch, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Code of Hammurabi, and many more books that I would NEVER have picked up for myself to read, let alone have handed my child.
She loved it.
You know what else? She wrote. She wrote and wrote and wrote and TALKED and wrote some more and TALKED about what she had written--to us, to grandparents, to her classmates.

And she's still talking and writing. She's making comparisons and seeing parallels and talking about how those men's viewpoints compare to the Bible and the wretched condition of the human heart without the redemptive work of Christ.

Guess who's learning now?
Her dad.
Her grandparents.
Her friends.
Her sisters and brother.
(I had to discourage her from reading Herodotus to them as bedtime stories...*shivers!*)

She's also still being funny. She has a way with humor that keeps us on our toes.

I am so thankful.  For her, for God's goodness in providing courses and teachers to us online to help her develop her gifts. I'm so VERY thankful for the ongoing work of God in our lives, and for being allowed to see the pictures of Him at work through the ages.

So yes, it can be depressing to look at the ways of the world, even from ancient times, but that's because from the very beginning there was a problem--man thought he could be God, and he cannot. Man cannot solve every problem, but he can certainly mess everything up in his trying. ONLY God, through His plan which He put into motion from before the beginning of time, can fix things, starting with the hearts of men and women. And He will fix things. That gives hope.

So if you're a (homeschooling or not) mom(or dad) out there, struggling with a middle-schooler who just won't DO what you ask in his school subjects, I am asking you to take a step back and enjoy the journey with your child. Don't give up the sweetness of that relationship over ANY academic subject. Sit down at the table and do math together(we're still struggling with that a bit!). Listen, listen, listen, and laugh, laugh, laugh together. Enjoy the days, because you will before long be staring down the junior year of high school and what lies beyond...always remind yourself that your child is a treasure. The only failure you should fear is trading academic success for the heart of your child.

Depend on God to do the work that He has begun.
Be full of faith. Love your student, and be willing to learn something yourself in this wonderful process!


Monday, February 18, 2013

First Week of Classical Conversations at Home

We finally decided(I finally decided and managed to convince the hubby)that we(I)had gone long enough to Classical Conversations every week.

I should qualify that statement.
( I might suggest you take a DEEP breath here.)

We live a full 40 minutes away from the Classical Conversations "community" that we "joined" this year. My husband is a tutor for the Challenge I level, which begins a full 30 minutes earlier than the Foundations level for my younger children. He needs to be there about 30 minutes before his class begins in order to be ready for the breakneck pace of the day. His class also runs a full 30 minutes longer in the afternoon than the class for my Redhead, which means that we were leaving home at 7:45 on Tuesdays and returning somewhere around 5:00p.m. on "normal" days.
That's too long to be away from home, added to the stress of "What's for dinner?" and the stress of "CC is tomorrow!!!" and the strain of staying up WAYYYY too late the night before CC in order to get everything ready.
We weren't what I would label "thriving", the younger two kids and I. 
I was melting down, spending all day on Monday repeating this phrase to myself: "You could stay home tomorrow if you really wanted to!"

I was much like this:

We were spending all day Monday worrying over papers for Essentials and topics for Presentations, then packing up(ewww!)lunches(I've mentioned LUNCH at CC before)and skedaddling out the door on Tuesday mornings LONG before any of us were ready. We were crashing down on Tuesday evenings into a stupor of over-peopled-ness, and this state was lasting through the day on Wednesday....
are you counting how many days of our school week CC had thus far consumed?

We weren't getting ANYTHING done, school-wise, at home. I've been teaching my kids at home for the better part of eleven years now. I know that not getting ANYTHING done most of the week is NOT the way to meet grade standards AT ALL.(Please don't jump on me for mentioning standards. There's a plethora of reasons getting nothing done is bad, I realize. Trust me, standards, the expectations of other people "in authority" in regard to my kids' education, are NOT the biggest worry I carry around! Just so we understand one another here.)

So I begged and cried and pleaded with the hubby to LET ME STAY HOME.
Tough guy. Really. :)
It was too late in the year to "quit" and find another curriculum to use, and the CC curriculum for Foundations really is quite adequate for elementary children, so I decided--with his blessing, finally--to stay home on those LONG Tuesdays that he is gone with the older two girls to Challenge I, and to "do CC day" at home.

It has been SO GOOD.
Fun, even?
I mean, I didn't KNOW that CC could be FUN with my kids.
We've done art, science, review, and new material, and have ENJOYED it each week. I feel like we've been able to use the quiet day at home to do a great job of "kicking off" our week of learning.

The first week "out" we were able to take our time and enjoy art.

 We took our time and enjoyed lunch.

After lunch and having started prep for dinner, the Redhead and I even began our very first TINY QUILT PROJECT.(Did you hear that? I actually KNEW what was for dinner on a CC Tuesday!)
 She's working on a Little House on the Prairie dollhouse.
We had TIME.

 I don't know how many 1" squares we cut, and matched, and pinned.
 We still haven't finished it, but we are now working on tons of projects for C's birthday party in a couple of weeks.

 While we were enjoying our little bitty quilt project, the Boy was building a wall for his soldiers' next battle.

We did geography with a map. 

We read some of the history from the cards, and we  watched some fun videos on our science topic that week. 

I do think we have enjoyed "having time".

In my first "Tylenol Tuesdays" post I addressed some of the pitfalls we've seen in the Classical Conversations setup--some of them are curricular, some are just preference of homeschooling style, and some of them are likely campus-oriented. I know there are families who LOVE this program, and I don't begrudge them that joy. I do believe that in the exercise of wisdom as a mom, however, at times what MY inclinations tell me would be BEST path for my kids(and for myself as their teacher) IS the right thing.  

Our experience--at least some of it being our distance from our campus community--was just not even MOSTLY positive. We were tired. We felt out of the loop no matter how hard we tried. I always felt torn between wanting to be WITH my kids and having to be in a certain place with no real options to do differently. We weren't able to spend time getting to know other families because of the intensity of the schedule. We weren't enjoying school at home anymore because any mention of "school work" called forth feelings of anxiety and fatigue and "having to" on Tuesdays. It really ROBBED our joy and depleted our energy--very similar to the year we had the girls in public school.

This welcome change has us enjoying HOMEschooling again.


Valentine's Day

We had a fairly quiet Valentine's Day.
The Redhead wore pink AND red for the occasion.
 They waited quite patiently to open gifts.
 There was quite a bit of silliness thrown into the mix!
 This is his "patient" look.
 Joey the puppy had her first birthday and received a new pretty dress as a gift.

 Tiny little vignette above my stove.
 My camellia is really making beautiful blooms this year.
 The boy and his daddy spent part of the afternoon building fence.
 We're getting a new fence and a new "lovely" gate.
 The Redhead and I found this sweet tiny little chicken a couple of weeks ago while out antiquing. 
We had heart-shaped chicken alfredo for dinner.

It was a peaceful, lovely day with those I love most(or most of them!)


Monday, February 4, 2013

Kitchen Window Spruce-Up

I recently took an afternoon and deep-cleaned the kitchen window area. The dust had taken over completely, and there is NO dust like kitchen dust! The lemon oil solution I finally settled on worked wonders quickly, though, and it smelled WONDERFUL.

I love the light this window gets. It's so pretty throughout the day. 

MOST of my chicken and rooster collection is in this area. I try to keep collections  confined when possible...unlike the REAL chickens roaming all over the yard!
The polka dots on the red-topped mushrooms just make me happy. 

I also reorganized our coffee station. My 15 year old calls it "the shrine". Too much Roman history!

The new vignette on top of the shelves adds a bright perky burst of color to that drab wall, and ties in the kitchen colors with the red wall across the room.

The kitchen sink area is C's prime flower-growing spot in the house, which I enjoy until it gets out of hand. It can be difficult to keep all these pots straightened, cleaned under and around, and watered!

I just adore this tiny violet. The pot is 1.5" high! TEENY-tiny!
Broken ceramic chopsticks make fun plant pot decorations for the dormant calla lily.
Do you see her cactus blooms on the bottom shelf? Since this picture was taken, one of the violets has bloomed in purple and white ruffles. Maybe it appreciated the light from the CLEAN window! 

Thanks for visiting my kitchen sink!
 Come back sometime when there are dishes to wash! 


Linking to Tabletop Tuesday, Tweak it Tuesday, and Rednesday.