Monday, September 12, 2016

Symposium, and what is working this year

Symposium, or Morning Time, is a concept I have read a lot about and have done in various forms over the years. It is basically a way of creating a specific space, or ritual, of reading aloud and memory work, and making it the most important part of our day. 

The word Symposium comes from the Greek and means "to drink together," which is wonderful however for our homeschool this means tea. We have Symposium mid-morning, and promising tea and snacks is a great way to get everyone to the table.

This year Symposium consists of:

A hymn. Usually I begin by playing the Benediction on YouTube, hopefully we will go a little deeper into other hymns and their composers.

Devotions- The Jesus Storybook Bible (still our favorite, we will switch to another when we are through) and Jesus Calling for kids.

Scripture Memory: I have collected in our Symposium notebook many of the Scripture passages we have memorized in the past as well as what we hope to memorize this year. This way we can review several passages, and I can quickly choose the next. Having passages already prepared is key for me to reduce the paralysis of analysis I often feel with Bible memory- which one to pick next?

Poetry: ditto for poems, I have printed the ones we have already memorized, and selections to be memorized (I chose ours this year from The Harp & Laurel Wreath). We can quickly review a few already memorized, and then work on the new poem.

Classical Conversations Memory Work: we review Memory Work lightly and then spend time going in-depth in the subjects with library books, YouTube, Encyclopedia of World History, etc. For example, this week we are reading through an Eyewitness Book of Medieval Life, we watched a short video on the seven biomes, and a video of Charlemagne. 

Read Aloud: One of our read aloud books is from the period of history we are studying, and there are more picture books from the library on the subjects from our CC week in Science, Geography, and History subjects.

Famous Paintings: I love this set of activity cards from Usborne Books. One brief card per week with a famous painting, the artist, and a few key facts.

There are educational coloring books for kids to color while I read aloud, or they can cut paper or draw. Generally Symposium lasts right up to lunch, from about 10:30 to noon, and is our favorite and most focused time of the day.

Other things which are working for us this year:

I am giving myself Mondays as a slow-entry day. Generally I work on Saturdays, and so Mondays are for managing the house: cleaning, laundry, groceries, and the library. I take the morning to catch up on email, plan our menu, figure out what books we need. The kids help me clean, round up overdue library books, and try to at least practice piano. We also try to fit in Symposium on Mondays. My fifth year of homeschool, I don't feel guilty for taking this day. Homeschool is about living life together, and we need this day.

I'm trying to take back a daily quiet time- all kids in their rooms reading for one hour. Everyone is happier when they take some space from one another, especially mom.

Just-Because-We-Can days. We want to be about enjoying the freedom that homeschool give us. Who am I kidding, we've always enjoyed our freedom, but we are being even more intentional this year and planning fun days and trips.

One of the values of Classical education is the idea of much not many- to go deeply into a few subjects rather than a thin study of many subjects. The same applies to life. Learning how to say yes to a few things- and do those things really well. 

Most of all, I am learning to relax and enjoy our days. I'm learning to laugh more and try to control much less. Everything goes smoother when we take it a little lightly.

I love this permission slip at Brave Writer. I hereby grant myself permission . . .

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Our homeschool plan and why I should not be doing this but I'm doing it anyway

I decide that I am unfit for homeschool at least three times a week. Sometimes three times a day. As the mom, you are so up close and personally involved with every moment of your kids' lives, without the space of perspective. There are no perks to this gig or even a coffee break; you are the crazy person who chose this in the first place.

After taking the Clifton Strengths Finder this summer I thought about my strengths and compared them to what is needed to be a great teacher, and determined that I have none of them.

My top five: empathy, connectedness, ideation, input, adaptability. All of my strengths feel like weakness as a homeschool mom.
I love ideas. I can generate a thousand ideas but be unable to choose one.  
I am highly adaptable, I resist structure and routine which are kind of important in a classroom. (Adaptability + ideation means that I change my mind twelve times a day)
I love to learn and so I can be impatient with things I already know.  I love the learning and research aspect of homeschool but struggle to stick with one thing.
At the very bottom of the thirty-two strengths I am sure would be the command strength. I am terrible at command. I hate telling people what to do. I should not be in charge of anyone, I can't even take charge of myself. I cannot ask for help, I have no concept of time and plan for twice more than could ever be accomplished. I hate details. I make most of my decisions out of guilt.

When it comes to homeschool, my strengths feel an awful lot like weaknesses. All of these are reasons why I should not be doing this.

But something about turning 39 this summer has me saying, Ack, so be it. I am a bit of a mess, I will probably always be, so be it. I am what I am; self-deprecating, in over my head, usually a bit confused, doubtful, curious, feeling everything.

I do my best. I give my whole heart. I keep trying, and learning, and adapting. I am going to try to be a bit more empathetic with myself this year.

And also? We might not do it through High School. Or maybe we will.

The best bit of homeschool advice I've ever heard is from Susan Wise Bauer who said that every year they asked the question, what does each child need to thrive this year?

This year, thriving is more of the same: Classical Conversations one day a week, and Math, piano, lots of books, friends, field trips, and time to play. And because I have in the back of my mind (and on my prayer list), that just maybe next year will look different, we are being all the more intentional enjoying the just because we can things.

One of the themes for me this summer was the next right thing. Talking with friends who spent their entire career in Haiti, they said that so many people came to Haiti "for life" and left after a very short time. More often, it was the people who came only for a year or two who ended up being there long term.

Today we begin another year of home education. My next right thing is to make breakfast, and read to the kids. My next right thing is to overcome my nature by sticking to a schedule, at least a rhythm, and to help my kids overcome their natures too. My next right thing is to feed my kids enough truth, beauty, and goodness to make them hungry to seek it for themselves.

Maybe we'll only be here for another year. Or two. It is going to be a great year.

Our homeschool plan for the year:

Josie: First Grade
Yes Mom, Please & Thank-you
Patience & Kindness

Math (Math-U-See)
Handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears)
Phonic Museum

Area of Care:
front door

Annie:Third Grade
No complaining 
Patience & Kindness

Math (Math-U-See)
Writing With Ease
First Language Lessons
Spelling Workout
Read great books

Area of Care:
dining room

Sami:Fifth Grade
See what needs done & do it
Patience & Kindness

Math (Teaching Textbooks)
Institute for Excellence in Writing
Essentials of the English Language
Spelling Workout
Read great books

Area of Care:
living room, steps,

*more on our Symposium- my favorite part! Soon . . .

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer 2016 recap

Birthday parties ~ Vacation Bible School ~ Cousin Camp ~ Vet appointments ~ Haiti reunion ~ visits with friends ~ playdates ~ swimming ~ visit my grandma ~ Pennsylvania ~ orchestra ~ a trip to Kelly's Island ~ Lots of walks with Lucy

It was a full, busy summer. The kids are at great ages, they are so much fun. Our favorite was visiting friends who moved away this summer.  These friends have little girls the same ages as ours, they have been the best of friends as long as we've been in Cleveland. Spending a week with them at their farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania was a bit of Heaven. It was gorgeously restful and fun.

The girls paired off and disappeared and we wouldn't see them for hours. Meanwhile Nan and I harvested her garden and made pesto and preserved vegetables or sat on the front porch reading . . . amazing.

We came home refreshed and energized, ready to dive into our school year; in theory. The reality is that we are starting late and still feeling pretty wobbly. Easing our way in is more like it. 

Turning 39 has me thinking about taking better care of myself. I visited a natural health doctor and decided to give it a try. After a reflex evaluation (Reflexology is mind-bending. I love it!) he put me on a few supplements and took me off of all refined sugar- super tricky for me because I am a big-time grazer and could survive on dark chocolate. I'm keeping a food log and go back weekly (it is the first week of homeschool; all that is on my food log is coffee and wine). 

Another thing I learned about this summer is the Clifton Strengths Finder. Our church offers a Ministry by Strengths class, which includes the online Strengths Finder evaluation. This is so interesting! I love learning how people tick. My top five in order: empathy, connectedness, input, ideation, adaptability.

Finally, I discovered a super-cheap babysitter this summer: my kids are now old enough to babysit themselves! I need at least two hours per week to write, and now that Lucy demands my every last breath mornings,  I hire my kids to babysit themselves and Lucy. The better they are (meaning the fewer times they interrupt me or disturb the peace of the neighborhood), the more they can make. Up to two dollars whoa.

Lucy destroyed the house and my sanity, the kids never stopped talking- not even once, I think I finished three books the entire summer. It was perfect.