Some of the books we used on the day I'm blogging about.
I've wanted to talk about our new year for a while now. I keep track of school years from July 1-June 30. That was the way Missouri (where we began homeschooling) defined a school year for documentation purposes, and I have just never changed how I think about it. This year I am trying to recover from a very chaotic year in which I suffered a lot of burnout. I'm trying to go back to the roots of how we used to do things, which means lots of books and unschooliness. In a book on homeschool transcripts I browsed through recently there was a chapter for "Unschoolers and the Chronically Relaxed." I thought, "Hey, that's us -- chronically relaxed!" But I have to tell you, being chronically relaxed is very hard work! When there aren't as many divisions between learning and life, there isn't ever a time when you're really "done with school." Paradoxically, though, when we work this way I feel much less uptight. If the boys don't work in a phonics workbook before lunch, it's ok; they can read to me before they go to bed. If the big kids become absorbed in writing their novels and ignore reading history or science or whatever, it's more than ok; I'm overjoyed. Let them write; they'll pick up the reading later. I just put some newspaper articles on the couch where my 14 year old likes to read; I know he'll read them and we'll talk about them after dinner. Maybe we'll watch some science tonight, who knows.
It's been a rocky process, coming back to this. I've been working on a post for a couple of weeks in which I try to talk about this process of figuring out that while I have a few guideposts, I can't really divide up our year or our lives in the traditional way. But I haven't been satisfied with that post, and I thought, well, maybe I could just show you a day in this new year. I don't know if anyone really enjoys reading about my days, but I do enjoy writing them.
Wednesday, August 3
6:30 AM: My day starts a little later than it did yesterday, when I was awakened at 4:30 AM by Pip crying that his leg hurt. Assuming that he was merely feeling the pins and needles of his leg falling asleep, I packed him off to the bathroom and then back to bed. By dinnertime, it had become completely clear that not only was it not pins and needles, it was something that needed medical expertise. So we spent part of our evening at urgent care discovering that apparently Pip had dislocated his knee somehow (not playing scooter demolition derby, of course) and although it had popped back into place on its own, the joint remained swollen and painful. I was worried that he wouldn't be able to sleep, and therefore -- considering that Andy was out of town -- I would be up with him all night, but no, it was the baby who was up every hour instead. I nurse the baby now and put him back down, hoping he'll go back to sleep so I can have a couple of minutes to myself before the little boys get up.
6:50 AM: No chance. Someone has left a Duplo train right outside my door, which makes a really loud noise when I step on it. The little boys are instantly awake. The good news is that Pip's knee isn't quite as bad this morning. He manages to limp out to the kitchen on his own. The other boys head upstairs to build Legos, so I carry Pip up there with them.
(The upstairs room is a disaster, but I am willfully ignoring it for the time being. A) It's 7 AM; B)I have not yet had any coffee and C)I'm trying to recover from a year of burnout. Things are not efficient around here and I am ok with that right now. We will do a better job in time.)
While they're playing with Legos and the baby is miraculously still sleeping, I write in the spiral notebook that serves as our homeschool log, catching up on the past two days.
And I make coffee.
9:30 AM-ish: Everyone (even the teenagers) is up now, has eaten, and the little boys have also played outside and watched a Magic School Bus episode (on flight). I've managed a shower and Katydid has fed and watered the chickens and ducks. We say our prayers, adding the prayer to St. Michael, which we're memorizing, and ending up -- from a question Farmerboy asks about St. Sebastian -- in an interesting theological discussion about martyrdom, Islam, terrorism, the persecution of Christians, and just wars.
10:15 AM: Ok, chore time. I've been trying to read from The Golden Children's Bible after prayers, but we had a good discussion and the little ones are antsy, so it's chore time. And Leo (the baby) is cranky, so I sit down to nurse him and to read through this list of basic science fiction books. Gareth spends most of the day reading. I'd become concerned that he only spent a minimum of time reading and working on what I thought he ought to be working on, only to escape upstairs to the books and work (his writing) that he really wanted to be doing. So, ok, we're making a list of classic SFF novels and I'm giving him a reading journal. I have to sort through the list, though, because obviously not all of them are appropriate for 14 year olds!
11:00 AM: Math with Farmerboy, with Pip contributing from the couch, and Pop listening in. I'm trialing Saxon 3, with modifications. I have him do one of the worksheets, which counts as a little bit of language arts, too -- writing dates and days of the week. I think we'll be skipping some of these lessons, though. We didn't do a lot of math last year, and I thought Saxon might give us the structure to fill in the gaps along with some living math books and our Montessori activities, and I thought FB would enjoy the "meeting" aspect. FB runs outside to check the temperature for our chart; it's 96 degrees already. He wants to keep counting by 10's; he made it to 1000 yesterday, but today we have to do a little review of place value to write 1010. I make a place value chart for him since our base 10 blocks aren't handy, and in the process I draw a thousand cube. FB is fascinated by the way it looks 3-D and demands to know how I did it. So instead of doing the graph Saxon says we ought to be doing for this lesson, we draw cubes and cones and prisms, and try to fiure out how to make an S look 3-D.
11:30 ish: The boys want to read Pagoo, which we started because we've been thinking about taking a Gulf of Mexico vacation. While I read on the couch, the twins and Chipmunk sit at the table and draw ocean pictures. Pop is concerned to get the correct number of legs on his lobster, so I give him The Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia: The Natural World and he finds a picture to draw from. FB says, "I love barnacles."
12:00 or so: Break to clear the table and make lunch. The little boys start playing a game of "lobsters attack the hermit crab" using laundry baskets.
I check in with the big kids about their mornings. Gareth has spent the entire morning working on the novel he's writing as his One Year Adventure Novel (which is actually taking a lot longer than a year, but who's counting). Katydid did some Rosetta Stone French, but mostly she, too, has been working on her novel. They both tell me the same thing: "How do people write 30 page first chapters? How do they write enough pages to make a novel?" I just laugh. One page at a time, kiddos.
A couple of books arrive via UPS at lunch time:The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan (for me and anyone else who's interested) and Paul Johnson's A History of the American People (for Andy and anyone else who's interested.) I try to steal a few minutes book browsing and checking my email.
1:30 PM: Time to gather in the little boys to read before quiet time. Katydid has been singing in her room. Gareth has been reading... something. The Goose Girl , I think. Nobody wants to go outside today, which is good for Pip, who can't in any case. FB informs me that it is 100 degrees. He's been upstairs building with Legos and listening to a Hank the Cowdogbook on audio.
I read one chapter from This Country of Ours. We're reading about Columbus. And this is August 3, the anniversary of the day that Columbus set out from Spain! Excitement! FB says we should have a party. With cake. I'm not sure I can pull off cake today. But it's a good idea.
2:00 PM: It takes a while to get Leo and Chipmunk to actually take a nap. Actually, only Chipmunk really takes a nap. Leo just keeps popping up, so I'm not able to do much with the big kids and I can't settle into a book while I'm rocking him either, which is frustrating, but I'm not sure it has entirely to do with Leo. Katydid works on her math (Life of Fred: Fractions) and Lingua Mater, reads Bernd Heinrich's Summer World (I am a Bernd Heinrich fan) and also Fellowship of the Ring. Then she works on marine biology using the weekly plans from Fieldwork, Theresa's marine biology blog. This looks pretty schooly, but most of it she chose. I made some "weekly guideline" charts this year, but I am trying hard not to think of them as hard and fast requirements. They're mainly to provide the structure that is sometimes necessary to remember that you really wanted to learn French, for instance, and that you probably need to do that every day.
Gareth spends a long time doing Geometry (Jacobs), then sits on the couch reading The Andromeda Strain. He didn't make it all the way through Algebra last year, but by the end of the year I was concerned that what he was learning most was how to hate math. So we stopped and I poked around the Living Math site and we decided that it was probably okay to take a break from algebra and work on geometry instead, and here we are.
At this point, however, I am a tad frustrated with the way naptime has gone and unfortunately this frustration comes out as an "Is that all you're going to do today?" lecture because I have forgotten that I am relaxing. It would have been so much more productive to have a discussion about The Andromeda Strain, but this doesn't hit me until later.
It also happens to be 104 degrees. I check the thermometer when I give up trying to get the baby back to sleep and take him out to get the mail. Katydid, however, has been taking pictures outside.
And somewhere in there the little boys watch some episodes from Jonathan Bird's Blue World, upon which they are hooked.
5:00 PM Time to make dinner. I pick up where I left off yesterday before we went to urgent care -- making zucchini bread. Chipmunk helps.
It's grain-free. I make it from a recipe in The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. We have chicken sausages for dinner, and the kids get to eat in front of the TV. (Because I'm tired. They watch a DVRed episode of Iron Chef: "Battle Cucumber!") Then we do after dinner chores, and the kids all mess around for a while, and Gareth and Katydid pick up the articles from the weekend Wall Street Journal that I left on the couch (about "unwriting" and why fantasy fiction deserves more respect, and whether or not the Easter Islanders really committed "ecocide") and we have some discussion about that.
8:00 PM: It's 99 degrees. Andy texts me that he's in Atlanta. Almost home.
8:30 PM: We're getting ready for bed. FB and the twins choose readers to read to me. FB reads part of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. His reading is improving, just slowly. I found Writing Road to Reading in a box I was unpacking in the spring, and so we're using the word lists and reviewing the phonograms. Andy usually gets the phonogram flashcards out at bedtime every night, and before he reads their bedtime story, he calls out phonograms and the boys fire back words that start with them. This sounds like a classroom, except that the boys are all in bed (or in their sleeping bags) and they think it's a lot of fun. I don't do this tonight, though. Tonight the boys read to me on the couch in their pajamas, and then Katydid reads The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor to them while I put on my pajamas, and then we pray and have a little theological discussion about whether saints help you themselves or if they have to go get Jesus so He can help, and after that I am required to sing "Away in a Manger".
9:30 PM: The house is finally quiet and I am nursing Leo to sleep. The big kids are still up, of course, reading, taking showers, etc. I read my Bible, and then I work on this post a while before Andy gets home around 11.
So that's how our year is starting out. Some of it's planned and a lot of it isn't, but it seems to be shaping up okay.