Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Planning

In the last few months a couple of friends have been putting weekly plans up on blogs to give them a place to organize what they are doing teaching wise with their family.

Planning is something that I struggle to get to the detail. I have a fixed schedule of what I want us to achieve, but don't pull it down to a level where I can check out whether we need to do all of the exercise, whether we need more or if thier are other things that would bring the lesson alive for the kids.

So I thought I would try blogging out or activities, using this page as a working canvas of what we are doing, and hope that in typing and thinking in words I can reduce the starkness that a plan of what we need to get through gives me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Re-discovering School

Its ages since I've posted, somehow the redecorating got the better of me, and despite having moved more times than i want to remember and getting a house up and running in less than two weeks, this knocked us badly. Its only now that we are starting to feel settled - and all with only three days left in the school year.

School is starting to find its rhythm, late but its one of those years and finally I can smile about it.

So amongst the resettling this is what my naturalist has been up to...

Apologia flying creatures encouraged us to make a nest out of what ever we choose - only my youngest managed to get time to do this one but here is his results ....

It was fun to get back to including fun and play in our studies. Especially to let my eight year old remember he is eight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

3 days to go

We've spent the last five weeks, painting gib-ing, sanding and plastering and we almost have a new interior - 2 bedrooms, on dining lounge and one hall way renewed just waiting for the carpet layer to come and lay the carpet. The boys have to wait until summer before Dad faces painting their room, and the bathrooms and laundry will have to wait until we have the energy to face painting again ...but slowly the transformation is coming to an end.

Tonight we'll have our family nigh camp style in the lounge our rooms either being empty, or stacked with furniture for the carpet layers first day. I am so looking forward to seeing what it looks like and so looking forward to living in a tidy house again.

In the meantime my garden is growing and blooming, and my kids well they're waiting for mum to be more focused.

The break though has been good - I'm not nearly as stressed as I was last term, funny since I have much more to stress me now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Update on my Engineer

Since we stopped and took stock at where my engineer was at we have has some ups and downs and done a lot of learning - or at least I have.

We've had 2 weeks of so of unschooling, where he had the day to himself to choose what he learned and then had to report back to Dad. Admittedly it was semi-unschooling, he had to show narrations of what he had learned and do corrections to his spelling etc if it wasn't up to Dad's standards. He didn't necessarily like it but his level of schoolwork increased heaps.

We then had two weeks off as a family for the school holidays. It was a good break as far as our school holidays go, no planning for mum, a few fun house projects for the Engineer and a lot of rest time. We didn't get out as much as we wanted to but we did re-connect and my engineer caught his breath as bit and started to be polite

During our first week back he was doing his normal subjects, working for me, being checked and marked by Dad. Lots of ups and downs this week. Days when he didn't want to show Dad what he had done because he has spent the morning finding excuses not to work. He also had a one or two better days. Strangely his good days don't always start until after lunch. Maybe it was the motivation of being able to help out on the renovations? It was a good start to the term.

Since I wrote the first part of the post we have had another week of learning and working together. The distractions of redecorating has taken our energy levels and our tension down which has been a good thing. My engineer is happy to do his work, but still easily sidetracked and still dislikes getting reminded to do his school. However - he does accept that he is at his desk until he is finished for the day - so even though he only starts working at 11or 12 am he is at least still doing his days work. I'm starting to accept that this simply may be the way life is.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Planning thoughts

I don't have any legal requirements to keep records so I have a lot of freedom in how I plan. Over the years I have tried various methods of planning out my kids learning time. I've kept overviews, we've used tick-lists, I've created and recreated schedules of our year in detail and in summary, as weekly overviews and daily to do lists. Mostly we seem to get more stress from my planning than benefits.

Recently I have been using very little planning. We are simply doing the next thing and in many ways this is far more productive and less stressful.

But juggling maths, Latin, Greek, writing, dictation, copy work, music, drill sheets, and the weekly round of history, bible, literature, science, art, nature study, composer and artist studies across three children and my head starts to spin.

I realize that any structure I choose needs to be flexible that we can stop and master the work without putting pressure on ourselves that we are getting behind. But, since my children will avoid what they are struggling with I want to be able to see where they are slowing down, or what is being missed so that we don't loose the plot.

My latest review of my planning forms has come down to

  • An overview of our term goals - where I would like us to get to at the end of each 10 week block.

  • A form that allows me to record what each child actually does each day - with room to pencil in my plans for the week in advance for subjects that I want to be organized for.

  • I may add in amore detailed form that lets me mark how we are going with our goals in case its a simple matter of prioritising a slubject to reach the goals. I haven't decided yet if this is healthy or not.

So now in the quiet between re-decorating jobs I'm going to finalize my plans and try and catch up on some marking.

The first of my Iris' are flowering - I haven't had time to take a photo but this is one from last year, they make a beautiful border to the main rose garden.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Brulee adventure

It has been an exciting week or so.

For the last 2 years I have been avoiding the issue of replacing the carpet in our home, the expense, the upheaval and facing carpet stores has put me off doing anything about it. Until a surprise find on our local "trade-me" auction site. I was looking for a brulee touch as a Christmas present for my husband - kinda musing at the options when I stumbled on a house-lot of nearly new, soft brown or dark fawn carpet.

Hubby ignored the item on the watch-list until the morning before when we had a look and worked out that it was both a good deal and a solution to the ever growing bald patches on our floor. Next thing we had carpet, renovating ideas and a 4 hr trip north to collect it. (Did I mention that our family van doesn't have a tow bar.)

We had some fun getting it home, courtesy to my Husband's Uncle and his flat-bed truck. Enjoyed catching up with Great Grandma on the family farm, and seriously prayed that the carpet would arrive dry as it had rained almost continually since we purchased it. It did its dry, and ready to go.

So in the next 4 weeks the aim is to:

  • Tile the area by the french doors in the boys' room - the condensation off the frames runs down the edges onto the carpet.
  • Take the wallpaper off our bedroom, sand, plaster and paint it.
  • Paint the Artists bedroom,
  • Remove the bookshelves in the lounge (I've been promised new ones),
  • Remove an internal window between the lounge and the conservatory,
  • Gib the lounge and dining room over the artificial wood panelling,
  • Paint the lounge, dining and hall,
  • and then carpet...
All while homeschooling, teaching high school science and trying to maintain our sanity...

But once its finished we can relax and avoid any further mid school year disruptions - at least foreseeable ones. (We will finish painting the boys room and touching up the rest of the house in the school holidays..

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Spring Break

During this last week we have had a chance to catch our breath and relax, apart from praying for the Staffer family, and recovering from a sore throat...

  • I've replaced my trees with fruit trees , an apple, a fig, a cherry, a quince, and two pears. I've also planted a red current bush, a gooseberry, and put in seeds for this years vegetable garden. We don't have much space for veges at the moment, but the more I read about the modern varieties compared to the older ones the more I want to grow our own healthy crops. We went through the same thoughts with the fruit trees, the heritage varieties seem to have it over the modern equivalents both for nutrition and for disease resistance.
  • We have caught up with friends from out of town. My artist enjoyed that heaps.
  • The children have been making puppets which has been fun - I'm hoping that they also put on a puppet show this week.
  • We have done our spring/summer clothing shop (if I hit the sale I can do this in one hit and then we don't have to go clothes shopping again)
  • The boys have done electronics kits with Dad, with mixed but positive results - me engineers project beautifully put together didn't work, but both boys managed to enjoy their time.
  • I've partly caught up on my Latin and Greek work so that my beloved artist is only one lesson ahead of me.
  • And we have started to enjoy each others company again. I am hoping that chilling out this week, putting life in perspective, and the changes that Dad has implemented by reviewing the Engineer's work will set us up for a much better term.
I've often worked the kids through the holidays or played with putting them through the term, and variations thereof. It is nice to relax as a family and enjoy time to chill out, rest up and get other important things done. I need to remember this next time I'm tempted to work through.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


One event overshadows this week, overshadows the end of term and the start of holidays, overshadows family life, teaching kids, reading and learning...

The death of Emily Stauffer, the 14 yr old daughter to one of the families I've met through home school email groups.

A witness of faith and loss...

My prayers have centered around this family, please pray for them...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Gift in the Inbox

I really appreciate how the home school community works together, prays together, and encourages each other. Lately I have been the recipients of much encouragement and prayer.. this morning one of these on line friends dropped this blog header in my inbox.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Story of a Cherry Tree

The cherry tree in Fall -
it hasn't flowered yet
it lags about 2 weeks behind the one
on the other side of the lawn.

We have had one of those weekends - the on again off again debate on the removal of a cherry tree. Our neighbours asked if we would trim it because it was blocking their view. So we thought about it and after several weeks of debate (As well as the end of soccer and the beginning of Saturday mornings) we decided that the tree had already been damaged by the first attempt at pruning so we would cut it down.

I didn't really want to lose it from my view outside my bedroom window - but when you live by a lake you try not to stop your neighbors views. So the morning dawned and while we were waiting for the friend with the chainsaw to arrive, the neighbor rang suggesting that the wood would be of value to a wood-turner.

Later again as we were about to start cutting it down, over the fence was the neighbor and two wood-turners to discuss our tree and come up with a plan... um they suggested we wait...and let their mate and arborist take the tree out.

Not content the woodturners also wandered over for closer look and to discuss which other trees they might like us to cut down with my 11 yr old daughter - she wasn't impressed..nor was her Dad. (My Artist is now terrified of strangers on the property)

I decided about this time that the wood-turners, and our neighbor had gone too far... Hubby to protect my and my daughters sensibilities decided he would trim the tree - no outside "help" required. So since we no longer had a chainsaw it would get tidied up as best as he could manage with a pruning saw.

After a couple of hours effort hubby wandered over to see if we had taken enough off and to let them know it was as done as it would be. Hubby and the neighbour saw the new improved view -The neighbours could now see?

the lake - no,

the mountains - no ..

he could now see our other cherry tree. ... but it is a very nice cherry tree.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Enjoying Shakespeare

Yesterday was a day of ups and downs, but the highlight has to be my girl 11 coming to me admitting to enjoying her Shakespeare studies. She is reading through Lambs and narrating/documenting the plot and the characters. She thinks it hilarious that the Bard keeps having his characters dressing up as guys, or changing their names and appearance so that they are someone else.

She's getting good at putting together diagrams of her narrations to - word webs that connect the ideas and show who is affecting who in the story. That's an achievement since when we were dong these last year she was getting very confused.

I found this link of art works based on Shakespeare plays - we will explore it further together next time she is reading one.

My Engineer has been working well for Dad - he is writting much better narrations and through Dad's insistance working on his spelling. With Dad the thrid day's halfheartedness ended up in a lot of extra work for my dear son wich has to be a good thing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Atmosphere of School

Since we started schooling the kids my greatest struggle has been finding the balance between enjoying learning and trying to get it all done.

I look enviously at peoples blogs and e-group posts where they seem to be able to let go and allow the children to explore and discover. Where belief in the journey is enough to allow the kids freedom to learn without the pressure to finish the chapter or the page. In the last week I have looked at the exams on the Further In and Higher Up website and been amazed at what can be achieved under a pure Charlotte Mason regime, but I am not a Charlotte Mason home-school mum - I love her ideas for nature study artists and composers, poetry and literature. I love the idea of narration for history, bible and science. But I also want to tease things out a little further to discuss and enjoy.

I also want my kids to also have the discipline of Latin and Greek, logic and progym, to be comfortable with Maths. Classical Pure or Latin Centered tugs at my mind and says this way. Veritas' programs intrigue me I love the projects and the learning they pull together. At least I love some of them but the worksheets, tests and red tape leave me and the kids in overload.

My heart suggests that there is a way that allows it all, but maybe for me it can't be a strick this much by this time regime. I hate the daily need to nudge my kids back to their studies. Yet somehow we need to build in the discipline of learning.. so how. Again I am sure that it is a balance and a weaving together of our days - maybe I just need faith in the process.

Normally my solution to this is to re-schedule - constantly I have the feeling that the answer is not to plan or at least not to micro-plan to let go and let God. The only problem is I'm not so good at that.

Transferring over some old posts ....

I've wanted to be on one place for a while... and now as we re-mediate some of the excesses of trying to fit the kids into curriculum designed by others I figured it was a good time to move over the posts that outline this journey form trying to do it all to learning to rest in God with our home-school... we aren't there yet. Each day I want to plan out where we are going. To make sure we hit the target. Each time I do so I see the joy vanish..Am I just torn by modern ideas that childhood should be fun.. or brainwashed by the modern ideas of planning and striving so that we achieve our goals. umm...

Because this is a journey I have shared what is happening with my middle child and I. Sometimes we get caught up in acheiving and need to accept that we took a wrong path.

But underneath it all I realize that God has a plan and purpose that we need desperately to get on board with.

The posts are all in the April section it seemed the easiest and right place for them . I will keep adding them across as school this morning allows.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another day on...

Today was another good day. A bit of a crash day for me but still encouraging. My engineer is still absorbed in engines and technology - but he wanted to piggyback the younger ones Quia time and review his Latin words. Maybe there is hope ahead.

For the other two it was a good solid day, relaxed by the lack of stress, and mum not running from child to child.

I'm looking forward to seeing what he has done in his note books today. Tomorrow will be the real test - day three is normally when our plans come crashing down around us.

Day one - unschooling one

My engineer had his first unschooling day yesterday. Reporting ot Dad at the end of the day not me. So for the rest of us it was a chance to relax a little, work, and feel like we all achieved something.

My Artist with good intentions and a timer got through her first full day of school in weeks. She often gets bogged down in one or more subjects and like our middle son we have pulled our hair out iwth her in the past. Now she is focused and when not confusiated doing well. She re-started Homer A yesterday after much consideration and unsettledness. Well restarted with the promise of gleaning things from classical compositons (CC) so that we get the grammar application - CW and the variety of writing projects CC.

My Engineer spent most of the day reading and narrating in his room. He had to show Dad that he had worked at theend of the day - so he set himself a daily Aesop fable to narrate, did some work on drawing and writing about a combustion engine and an hydrolic ram. Drew an owl, and narrated from the book he was reading. And read from the history encyclopedia on early smelters. You can see why he has the nick name he has. Bit he also kept to the rules and was polite and well mannered. So all in all a promising start.

My Naturalist - simply got on whith what he had to do and blitzed through his day. I need to give him a ticklist since I rubbed the family one off the whiteboard and he likes to know that he has done what he needed to do. This is a very indenpendant boy. I need to work more with him today, but yesterday I had the freedom to tidy up several of the piles of bills and other stuff that has been building up.

For me - I got on top of life a little for the first time in weeks. Tidied up, sorted out the finances for the last couple of months, found the bills I need to pay this week. That sort of thing. I even managed an hour or so outside in the garden pulling weeds. I feel far more relaxed than I have in a while.

And for the icing on the cake spring is seriously in bloom... this is from last year but already this tree is halfway to this point.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I'm preparing to lead worship this morning at church - and feeling on shaky footing. Its been a messy rough week with my middle child. Lots of questions in this Mum's heart, am I doing the right thing, is it my sin or his sin or both that is leading to the damage in the relationship. Is it all just over-reaction.

When I wrote this I was also looking at music to play at the beginning of the service and across communion. I picked though the cd's that I had and started to listen to a collection called simply "Focus on the Prodigal". The songs speak of God's unconditional love. The welcoming back of the lost son, by a Father that loves and waits, whether he returns or not. Track after track spoke into the situation that I faced with my son, and more so my relationship with God, tarnished with the sin aof a relationship badly handled, and the shame of it not being right.

The CD has become a central part of my quiet times this week ans I read and re-read the story of the prodigal in Luke, a reminder to worship first and formost in my time with God. A doorway to confession, recongnition and healing through Jesus Christ my Lord.

The boys won

My soccer boys - at least the younger one and his Dad coach won their grade yesterday - and they deserved it. They are a neat bunch of kids. They worked hard. They played clean games. They gave it their best shot, and they learnt how to work as a team. The only thing that phased them the whole season were the kids who played the man and not the ball. Even then they had the skill to keep the ball moving towards the goal by teamwork.

When we get the trophy I'll add a picture to this post.

The score for this Catholic School /Christian school combination in the final 3-0.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pointe Shoes & Soccer Finals

Its an odd combination, but this week has had the excitement of both.

For my daughter a lead role in the year end production for her ballet class and she's excited - even if she had no knowledge of the character from her reading of the original story. Her character is a Disney modification, and will stretch her ballet work. Shes normally a very energetic dancer - who lacks the precision. and exactness of many ballerinas - in this case shes a very floaty gentle fish...

But we also went out and got her Pointe shoes to start intermediate foundation, lots of learning what's required, lots of excitement.

For my youngest son, and Dad the coach - we have the excitement of seeing a really neat team of 8 year olds make the final of their grade. They have all worked hard and had lots of fun. So we are hoping for a win on Sat. so far they haven't lost a game - but finals and semi finals ars we learned last week are different.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Another battle - a new ending

Slowly we are moving forward again. slowly.

My boy has turned from the defiant challenging I don't get it lad of last week to a listening, trying to be good. At least the discussions are promising. We aren't always succeeding, but he is trying.

He did manage to do his morning work today with a good attitude, and in a timely way. He wanted it to be right.

This afternoon the effort got to be a little much, and we had to work hard to not fall back into old habits.

I want to be hopeful, that soon we will round that corner where schoolwork becomes something that we do, grow in and occasionally enjoy without all the fuss.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still Three At Home

After much discussion and soul searching,

After the encouragement of many ladies who have walked this path before me,

After apologies and prayer,

And with the realization that if it takes him until 18 to decide that he needs an education it is OK, after all he is a bright boy, he just doesn't realize it or see the need to learn.
My engineer gets to stay at home rather than heading off to school with Dad on Monday.

While we hope that he has come to see the light I need to be prepared for the idea that he possibly hasn't. I need to prepare myself for the likely slow down on Monday. He has however been lovely this weekend, helping, finding opportunities to do right and letting me know where he is at in healthy terms.

For my part which is probably the most important - I need to believe in him even if he chooses not to work. To believe that when it matters to him he will be able to catch up.

  • I need to remember to only work on one thing at a time, and prayerfully. I always want to fix everything in one clean sweep. ( I used to be an accountant - with numbers anything is fixable - every ledger is balance-able kids simply aren't they don't sit in neat columns. ) I probably need to repeat that ...

  • I need to free myself from trying to prove to everyone else that homeschooling him is a better option - proving that we can succeed isn't healthy for anyone here - it only adds more pressure. Pressure neither of us cope well with. (Dad's on board with this too - he's come a long way in not rocking the boat when we don't do things like his school does.)

  • I need to remember that there are hundreds of Home school scope and sequences out there - none of which are designed to fit my three.

  • I need to also remember that for me and the kids why we do something is as important as doing it. We are why people, its why I struggle so much with the writing curriculum's I choose - I simply don't understand the why in a way that makes it hang together.

  • I need to remember to surrender - to rest and let go of my need to control, plan and worry.

So now to prepare or not prepare for the week ahead.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Getting to the Heart of it

It seems that all to often I find my self changing curriculum because what we are dong has gotten to hard - or more specifically because the resistance has reached a point where I don't know what to do next.

For my daughter we seem to have reached the end of that phase she has enough of the basics down that learning languages has become fun, maths is slowly getting there and her reading is at a standard where she can enjoy at least some of what I ask of her.

My youngest simply gets on with it, he does what he does does it well and unless he is tired or confused can almost school on auto pilot.

My middle son greets each day with a pile of excuses and frowns. Nothing is good with school for him, and slowly over time he wears down my best intentions to come along side and take it at his pace. Eventually we find ourselves in a cycle where neither of us can give up the fight - the battle to be accepted as mum vs. an independent and persistent spirit. Once I get angry he will work, work well acheive and feel good about himself, but that doesn't change the inborn part that simply doesn't want to do school or dishes, or put away his things.

We have fallen into a cycle, a largely destructive one in which I try and be loving and gentle and he patiently waits for it to go bad again... which after a couple of hours of passive resistance it generally does. The cycle leaves both of us guilty, angry, hurt and depressed. It doesn't do much for the rest of the family either.

So where to find the energy to give it another go ... or is it time to send him off to school let someone else have a try, enjoy the honeymoon as he responds to someone else.

Out loving him seems to be beyond me, I cannot seem to love him enough to be content that he says "no" to school and to helping out with the rest of the family. Giving in and letting him have his own way seems unproductive. Given the choice to unschool and read science books all day receives a "I promise to be a good boy now just let me do school like the others." That is quickly forgotten the next time I ask him to come to the table. Prayer helps but slowly. Sometimes it seems like the relationship is beyond repair, sometimes at least till the day has a new start it is.

I usually end up wishing we could start over... go back to the beginning and take all that we have learnt with us.

A Round of Goodnights

Last night as I made my way through the goodnight routine, two of my kids settled into bed with new books from the library,

My youngest - simply wanted to be in control, and to have cuddles, he's still feeling the effects of the last cold/flu that swept through the house and is tired.

My Engineer is dreaming of making a hydrogen driven go-cart with his mates - or one mate. He is so excited! I'm just not sure that the reality of the situation and his talents at this time live up to his dreams. OK in truth I see a petrol motor filled with water and? but his efforts in planning and designing are amazing. Time to bring the physics teacher Dad on board I think.

My Artist brought home a book on drawing pets. She was really excited to see how to draw cats and dogs and fish. I think she had made a couple of drawings already in the 3 hours since we had gotten home. It adds another dimension to the theory of Artistic pursuits.

There wasn't much sleep for the first part of the night but lots and lots of dreaming.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Ballet Exam Down


My daughter just finished her grade 5 Royal Academy ballet exam, which is probably the most stressful thing in her life ...

For three years she has been working hard to regain a mark over 75 in order to get a distinction. Most of her class is at this level, and for most of the year she holds her own in the class - until exam day. Then she comes unstuck. This year she is hopeful, we talked a little, I joked that I would give her a fun size chocolate bar for every mark under (the little bite size ones), we went skiing and kept busy... and since none of that made much difference we asked the ladies on our home-school support email group to pray.

She had a good exam. At least she remembers more of this exam than other years, and could tell me what she was working on and thinking about, and where she knows she went wrong.

So maybe this year, and if not we're proud of her pre-exam standard anyway.

This is from one of her art lessons last seemed fitting

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Beautiful Day on a Beautiful Mountain.

Not this mountain - the one besides it, but this one is so tall and round ..its much more photographic.

July and August are ski season here, and looked forward to by the kids as a great break from the normal routine. This year we have had so much snow that the trip has been delayed over and over again. We snuck up twice in between storms and then last week we could look forward to a day when the mountain was clear, the winds low, the kids healthy, and yep we could go skiing.

Even for the views it was worth it, we came home exhausted, but happy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nothing else to do

What makes the routine normal?

For the last week we've managed to combine out of town guests and sickness. An interesting but regrettable combination. Its Gran and Gramp's annual visit and all the kids now have temperatures, sore throats, runny noses and are becoming couch potatoes. Fortunately the Olympics have been a distraction to the situation.

Tuesday was the last time we had any sort of routine. It has left me with the realization how important the breathing spaces in our day are. Our morning and afternoon tea, the space after lunch when I sit with a cuppa and relax, the moments before dinner when Dad comes home and we somehow re-group as a family.

Strangely many of our routines are centre on school or around food. Its strange what makes it all hang together - cups of tea or coffee or Milo and conversations or joking as we do the dishes. I used to hate dishes as a kid, now they are a respite to gather my thoughts, reconnect with the person drying/or washing and resettle.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Ongoing Journey

With sending my engineer to school being somewhat out of the question, and him still continuing to resist Mum's attempts at teaching he has been let loose into the world of unschooling.

There are several reasons for this but mainly the realization that as much as this tension has taken its toll on me it has also taken its toll on him.

He is constantly down about school, and while I can get him happy in individual subjects it takes a hugh effort every day to get him there. Effort that is taking a toll on the Artist - who thinks mum has become lost somewhere on the kitchen table, and the Naturalist - who knows where mum is but isn't sure he will get to spend any time with her...

So we will be giving him a break to get himself sorted out. Realize that life and the family learning pattern won't stop and wait for him to get himself sorted. His younger brother will be ahead of him within weeks. (Up to now I had been pacing the younger one to at least give the illusion of being a little behind his sibling. ) Time to realize what he is throwing away and maybe that the grass isn't really any greener on the other side of the fence.

Or if he truly is a different learner the option of plotting his own course and realizing what he needs to learn in order to be him. The latter is going to take some effort to convince me.. but just maybe he is different enough that he has a point. And isn't that the point of homeschooling.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

In Grace and in Love

God is amazing - he constantly takes our fears and our failings and offers us a second chance. His love in picking up up putting us on our feet again, and in the meantime teaching us and making us grow.

This week has been full of examples of God bringing good out of what seemed wrong. The highlight the chance to lead worship for the first of our churches new reflective services - contemporary litergy, we're still working out what it will look like. Made more special was that this was one of those things that has always sat on my heart and yet is something that for the last 10 years has been frustrated by circumstances around me.

This was a week to re-address the need to work with the kids one on one where they are at - and enjoy them.

A week that finished on a mountain in the snow - and after a day where everything seemed to go wrong. As we walked away I had an undeniable feeling of joy for a day which stripped away some of the frustration and revealed what could be achieved if I put love first.

There is much to thank God for this Saturday as we come to worship. Much to rejoice in.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pruning and Planning

While our mid-winter break was a good time to prune the roses, yep all 42 of them. I didn't prune the five in the small garden or the 6 in amongst the trees on the back fence - but I did prune the other 42. (which makes our estimate of 50 a little light.)

It gave me time also to relax and schedule out the next ten weeks with all the changes that have been creeping into the curriculum during the first half of this year. I still have a couple of subjects to enter in and some changes to the timetable to make but I an happy. Along the way I tried to tweak most subjects to each child, select copy work from what we were studying, and par down those courses and books that are to heavy for my kids. All in all I feel good about what we are doing.

Dare I share the details - feel free to skip over this.

My Artist is working on not getting herself bogged down, I'm trying to be avalaible to nudge her around when she gets overwhelmed. (She's 11, a young grade 6)

    • Maths - Keys to ... Decimals 4, Measurement 2, Geometery 1, or Percents 1, she can choose which at her leisure.
    • Latin Henle 1 first year continuing
    • Elementary Greek year 2 continuing
    • Classical composition - Fable, but only 1 week per fable, and only selected parts.
    • Mother Tongue book 2, part 1 Adverbs onwards and adding in Mary Daly's diagramming Book.
    • Simply Spelling - dictation selections.
    • Bible - the Gospels using Veritas press cards,
    • History - Columbus to America, and the start of the Reformation, using Veritas and Genvieve Fosters World of Columbus and Sons.
    • Literature - continuing through Tales by Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.
    • Science/Nature Apologia Flying Creatures the birds section.
    • Art - Artistic pursuits and whatever else sneaks in. We cover a few artists in History and well they took over a bit.

For my engineer 9 yrs approx grade 4

    • Maths - Singapore - My Pals book 4A
    • Latin Latina Christiana 1 Hoping to finish this term.
    • Elementary Greek year 1 continuing
    • Classical composition - Fable, Just starting and working through a couple of re-writes for each model.
    • Mother Tongue book 1, part 2 only the grammar bits and adding in Mary Daly's diagramming Book.
    • Simply Spelling - dictation selections.
    • Bible - Judges using Veritas press cards,
    • History - Greece and Rome using the Vertias activities and Famous Men of Greece / Rome.
    • Literature - continuing through d'Auldaires Greek Myths Book.
    • Science/Nature Apologia Flying Creatures the birds section.
    • Art - Artistic pursuits.
The Naturalist 7 yrs grade 2 going onto...
    • Maths - Singapore My Pals level 3B trying to slow him down a little and let his brother sneak ahead.
    • Latina Christiana II Lessons 1-5 spread out over 10 weeks.
    • Elementary Greek year 2 continuing
    • Mother Tongue book 1 part 1
    • Simply Spelling - dictation selections.
    • Bible - Genesis Noah to Joseph using the Veritas press cards,
    • History - Egypt and Israel using the Veritas Press Cards and activities.
    • Literature - Finishing Tree in the Trail and then Seabird.
    • Science/Nature Apologia Flying Creatures the birds section.
    • Art - Artistic pursuits.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mid - Winter Break

It is so good to know that we have two weeks off as family.

Two weeks to get over the coughs that have been a feature of the last 3 weeks....

Two weeks to prune the the roses ...

Two weeks to put plans together for the next term...

Two weeks to enjoy each other as a family...

Two weeks to share the cooking and the cleaning ...

Two weeks to stay home, take walks, rest up...

Two weeks to be

Friday, June 27, 2008


I've often stumbled on the issue of forgiveness - both in forgiving others and receiving forgiveness. Not in terms of wanting to or not wanting to. I realize how much God wants us to forgive others both in the little things and the life changing dream-shattering events in our lives.

Always previously I have focussed on forgiveness being needed for my healing, a process of letting go and stopping the hurt that a situation brings. Sometimes that's a slow process. Today's thoughts came from a new angle. They made forgiving easier - cleaner, simpler.

Todays insight came with the realization that if the person I am forgiving is a believer, someone who has accepted God's forgiveness then God's Spirit will be at work in their lives and eventually whatever hurt me will get resolved, somehow, in God's timing.

If they haven't asked for and received God's forgiveness then they have bigger issues than whatever I am struggling with. It simply doesn't matter whether my issue remains on the slate or not. I can let it go and move on.

For me this is a new perspective on the issue. It has been good to clear the decks.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A visitor on a cloudy day

The kids found this little one wandering at the bottom of the garden. I hope that it was just the overcast day and not illness that brought it out into the daylight. It looked like it was born this year.

It must be Winter

The Cats have found new places to while away the day -

This is Pheobe, our official bitza. She's really small, round, demanding and has claws.....but she looks so pretty. (Never bring home a Devon Rex, Burmese, Siamese cross that wasn't socialized as a kitten)

This is Zeke - almost the perfect Burmese gentleman - cuddly, trained to sleep in kid's beds, personable, understanding and caring, except in clinging to the belief that Humans will wake up and let you out at anytime in the night that you feel the urge. (Unfortunately for him, we are too aware that some cats just don't know what roads are for.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Teacher or Mum?

As a home school mum, their is a natural tension between being a mum and a teacher. It has taken me a few years to realize that, and a couple more to understand that even though God has asked me to Teach my kids - I'm not a teacher.

The issue is complicated that my husband is... somehow the lovely man I married (I still think he's lovely) became the classic Physics teacher, complete with semi-dry wit, sarcasm, and strict discipline in his classes ...

When our school days get unsettled - his first response is that I need to be more strict. Unfortunately, I always want to see the good along with the bad, the possibilities along with the defiance and naturally give my kids the benefit of the doubt. In other words, I'm more mum than teacher. More encourager than disciplinarian.

However, my kids know this and being strong willed they take advantage of it until my plans are in tatters and I'm struggling to see the point in it all.

My current challenge is to fit it all together - trusting that God put me, my Artist, Engineer and the Naturalist together and asked us to go on this journey. So of course he must have plan. One that isn't at odds with who we are.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This quote turned up in my daughter's dictation exercises today ...

"These roses under my window make no reference
to former roses or to better ones;
they are for what they are;
they exist with God today. "
by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So often I wonder if the stress and drivenness I feel is simply because I want to make the grade. If I stop striving will it all fall apart or will it reveal itself in a glorious whole?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday on a Tuesday

Settling onto the week after a long weekend is always interesting. After all mum has had an extra day to think and to tweak things a little, and so far I'm still tweaking us towards individualized programs.

This week poetry crept back in - hopefully both reading and writing. In the last few weeks our poetry memorization has slipped, it simply doesn't fit in so well now. But I didn't want to loose it. So we still have poetry, and I will choose from the kids books which one we will memorize together. In the meantime, we have a place each week for my children to read poetry - and enjoy it. My children get to read as many of their poems as they like, decide if they like a particular poem, or poet and write down the things they like or dislike about them. (I'll add in writing poetry with the oldest latter in the week - I think she misses what we were doing in this area. )

We also went back to time based learning - simply working on a subject until the timer rings. This change is simply the realization that if my middle child isn't held accountable - he simply dreams the morning away.

Generally the changes went down well. Having poetry back and as a reading subject was a hit with the oldest and youngest. My engineer was trying hard to stay focused on what he was meant to be doing, so it will be latter this week before I see his reaction.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A New Progym Curiculum

A few months ago I recognized that my Artist Daughter was struggling with lour writing program. Classical writing was causing her more than it's share of con-fus-e-a-tion (her word for anything that gets too hard.)

Try as she and I might we simply couldn't keep the objective of the weeks exercises in our heads while we completed it. So for the last couple of months we have been working on grammar with an older text called Mother Tongue, and playing with the occasional writing program. The fun came back into my Artist's writing.

At the same time I gave in and brought the scary background books on classical education and the progym. Scary both because of the cost, and well, was I up to reading them. So far I've worked through wisdom and eloquence, and looked at classical composition by D'Angelo enough to start fleshing out our own progym.

But just as I came to pull the plans together a post of the Latin Centered board caught my eye. Someone posted about another progym program Classical Composition by Jim Selby. We tried out the first half of the sample lesson and had a lot of fun. My artist can use her creativity rather than getting bogged down in the analysis and the grammar, which more often than not had us struggling with the how much are we required to do. So I'm looking forward to its arrival shortly, Beth is looking forward to its flexibility, and I'm pleased that it is straight forward enough that I can add or subtract lessons as we need to. (Actually knowing what I am looking for when it comes to mark her work is a bonus. )

The Samples are here if anyone is interested Classical Composition.

Now we are one more step closer to having a comfortable, encouraging plan ....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Catching My Breath

It is hard to see where the last week has gone to. I realize that I haven't posted for a while, and yet apart from thinking through the details of our days - I don't know what has kept me busy. Possibly the logistics of separating out our history and bible programs, buying in new history books so that the boys can work at their own level, and investigating an alternative progym curriculum.

I also took the plunge and ordered the 2nd edition Latin - Centered Curriculum from Memoria Press, simply because I want to see a classical scope and sequence with the Latin, Greek, Progym and Logic included. Very few of my existing overviews bring these together, and so we always seem to be busier than we need to be. Hopefully this will help me see where we can or should prune.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yep that would be the issue.

As we were reading through the Da Vinci book and talking about how Da Vinci was always heading off thinking about different things my engineer summed up the struggles we have with schooling

"You know Mum he's a lot like me...."

No one ever did force Da Vinci to finish something once he was elsewhere did they....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Da Vinci

We all seemed to wake up tired this Monday morning, and so enjoying some freedom we ran the biography of Da Vinci that my "Artist" started last week. She had to read Da Vinci by Emily Hahn and then put together an essay on his life. We are still scrambling together a format for the essay, but this morning we read 80 pages of the book as a read aloud including my two boys, and she drew alongside the story.

Here's her version of a Vinci's Christ figure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Separate paths

Over the years our home school journey has worked best with us all on the same page. If only because then I can read that page once. Now that my oldest the artist is independently reading it may be time to re-think the plan.

So my artist will be left to continue on the plan that I had for her at the start of the year. Originally I was trying to give her an overview of history before we start into a great books style approach from when she turns 13. She's currently studying the reformation based on the world of books by Genevieve Foster. I wanted her to have a world focus to here history, rather than an American focus, so I could add in our own New Zealand History easier.

My youngest, the nature lover, has been reading on the same track. I have to decide soon whether to leave him there, or let him move back to a study of Greece and Rome, using the Famous Men of ____ books that Memoria Press has reprinted with colour illustrations. If we switch it will be easier to pick up the progym with him again. Either way he will be able to continue moving forwards at a comfortable pace, which means that I don't have to be worried about his academics.

My engineer however is a different story. He's never seen the point to school is seems to get in the way of his grand plans. While we have made progress in the past, it seems to come and go. One day he will try and the next sit passively and wait until the day is over. Historically we have come to loggerheads over this which never manages to improve the situation. My first plan is to let him wait it out until he is ready to give school a real try. I suspect that will mean that he is in his room waiting for the next couple of months and am thinking of what books I should strew in there while I wait for him to get bored. He seems to think that the idea of this is enough and that he is already sorted and ready to go. I still have to think through how this will work because I don't really want him playing at school without putting his heart into it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wisdom and Eloquence

This book arrived in my letterbox on Monday, and since then I have been steadily reading my way through it. I was encouraged.

Many of his comments have been encouraging.

The call to weave our faith throughout the curriculum.

The need to work on character and discipleship along the way.

A sense of being able to merge subjects together as we work on tools and not on set texts or blocks. (Since the book itself is aimed at teachers I'm wondering if that's just what my heart is telling me is the next step and not his actual message.)

Most importantly he has challenged the thinking that keep me tied to doing this series of great books or that for the "High School" grades.

I'll end up re-reading this slowly latter. For now the overall impressions have revitalized my enthusiasm.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Faith or Fear

As a home school mum, I've often felt the need to show a perfect image. The idea that because we were doing something different I had to prove it was right.

Tonight it is time to recognize the fear as what it is - fear.

Homeschooling is a faith journey. Just like normal school journeys sometimes our kids fly sometimes they struggle.

Proving that it is right doesn't help us home school. It only makes Mum stress over the small stuff.

My faith challenge for the week, to home school without the fear that my family and friends won't approve. They either do or don't and I can't change that.

A clean page

Autumn has come to the backyard. With the falling leaves is a restlessness, a desire for a clean page of paper. Clearing out what is old and finished. Ready and waiting for what is new. Change is in the air and the warmth of the winter fireplace beckons.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Fresh Wave of Learning

My books have arrived, and I've enjoyed settling down to read my way through them. I've been encouraged. I've remembered what the point of a Classical education is - the cultivating of the mind to recognize truth, beauty and virtue. A simple statement, but it lets me focus what we are trying to achieve and the path for the journey.

In the last year I've struggled to see the point of lots of what we do. Other things I love but couldn't say why. Always its seemed strange to admit that that we do both Greek and Latin.

What I have discovered is the purpose behind what we do, or at least I have re-found it under the programs that were supposed to make it easier. I have also come to see that each of us needs to put that journey together for ourselves. There isn't classical in a box, because it isn't a set course of study, its a conversation, a journey. Along the way are tools to be mastered, a command of language, tools for thinking and analyzing, ways of thinking, and a vista of history and thought that gives us a backdrop against which to evaluate our understanding of what it means to be human.

We are still mastering the tools, learning to read, learning how English works, discovering the precise thinking of Latin, and the creativity of Greek, surveying the highs and lows of history, learning to observe our world and storing away ideas to chew on later. I need to work through what we need to acheive on the journey for each skill.

The pressure to finish the text, complete the program in this year - has faded in light of a process of learning how to learn, how to think and how to express oneself. The united whole will be challenging and I'm not ready to go their yet. but we are still surveying the landscape seeing the big picture. The time will come to dig deep.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stepping up to Seventh Grade

Next year - that is 2009 will see my oldest enter 7th-ish grade. She's not quite likely to be ready, so apart from the subjects that get their by the do the next thing method. We will probably wait for a year or such. But the question raised itself or are we going to do a classical ed, or simply a language arts based, living book one. The though of the first scares me a little as we get closer, not that I don't want to go there , I just don't feel confident.

It is good for me to admit this because it has been a long time since I have really had to admit that - but there it is Logic, Rhetoric and the progym scare me. Normally not much academic does- I can normally get my head around most things if I can see it - but these things are a little harder to see. At least they are from here in New Zealand.

So yesterday I took the plunge and ordered all the books that I have been avoiding for years - mainly because they didn't have direct relevance to our school days ...

My 2008 Reading list
  • Finalizing workbooks from my PDF copy of Mother Tongue - which is also my personal grammar study.
  • Wisdom And Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm For Classical Learning
  • Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin Tracy Lee Simmons;
  • "Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education" James S. Taylor;
  • "Socratic Logic 3e: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles" Peter Kreeft;
  • Composition in the Classical Tradition [Paperback] by D'Angelo, Frank J.
  • Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student [Hardcover] by Edward P. J. Corbett 
  • The Art and Craft of Poetry by Bugeja, Michael J
I'm hoping that at the end of this I will have a clear picture of the way ahead. Having finally ordered the books, and resisted the feeling of panic that maybe I was out of my depth, I feel excited about the new journey. it will be good. My husband has even offered to read some of this alongside and the company will be good.

Now we just need the winter rains and the warm fire to complete the picture. The snow below is wishful thinking, the closest real snow to here will be at much higher altitudes than we are.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A picture in Purple Green and Orange

By The Artist 11yrs, playing with secondary colors and contrasts.

A Quiet Day

I am hoping that I have stumbled on a solution to our over-busy mornings. As a family we both love and struggle with routine. We need the routine to function. One of our main routines is to do school all together at the dinning room table straight after breakfast. The four of us around the table is lively situation, sometimes we bounce of each other, sometimes we just bounce.

As a family we seem to need the routine in order to get through our days work, but it's often a stressful place to be, especially for this quiet loving mum.

Regardless of my efforts to keep everything stable and settled also has its routine struggles - the child who routinely can't find his books, or gets distracted so that everyone else has to wait. Niggles and children winding each other up also play a part despite my attempts to prevent it.

If I give way to no routine, or even put something different in the routine - we loose our way and virtually nothing gets done. Whether it be a home school outing, a visitor dropping by, friends, or simply something out of the ordinary that occurs the work stops at the slightest opportunity. It's just how we are.

Yesterday was one of the days when the distraction of the rain and misplaced books left us with the feeling of looming chaos. The arrival of my rainbow order was the final straw. the morning ended with three hyped and boisterous kids looking to blow off steam.

Couple this with a growing sense that we should be learning and mentoring, not just getting it done and ticking it off - and suddenly we have a change in how we order school and I hope its a good one, but for now the kids are released from the dining room table to spread out and work on there own with me falling into a role as mentor not timekeeper. They have a list of work to get through, and I wander from child to child through the morning depending on what they are doing.

Today it went well.

Only my middle boy is left at the kitchen table, he's the one that needs to be nudged more than the others. For the first time in ages he managed to do all his morning work.

My youngest loved the day, and seems quite at home working in his room, (but then he's the one that announced at 7 1/2 today that you cant trust the "us" endings on Latin nouns to show declensions because he just found a third declension noun with that ending.)

My oldest had a good day as well. She changes her work habits based on her confidence for the day - sometimes she flies, sometimes she simply looks out the window and waits for the cavalry... today the cavalry managed to give her a nudge that sent her soaring for a little longer.

We gathered for our read alouds and project time. The read alouds went well, the project working together on the white-board reminded me why we had done this.

I am more convinced that this is where we need to move long term, partly together, mostly separate, so that each gets one on one direction without it being a general conversation. We're keeping some together stuff - an hour at afternoon tea for discussion, read-alouds and projects that need more mess or discussion than our rooms allow. (although after this afternoon I will choose our together projects carefully)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting My Head Around Mastery

It sounds really simple - you teach to the level that your children are ready to learn.. sometimes stretching them, sometimes easing back and letting them get their confidence, sometimes continuing on the journey while they gather information.

It really sounds simple.

I work hard to get the level right and get everyone happy, then I look at what they could be doing. I glance at someone's schedule for the next year, or the next grade, I consider the big picture from "X" home school education supplier, and it falls to custard again.

You really would think I would have gotten the idea by now - unfortunately I'm still getting there.

We have improved our daily learning times so much simply by working where each child is. We are happy when mum concentrates just on one lesson, one week, one objective. We find our rabbit trails, end up discussion theology, finding links pulling it together, exploring, growing and having fun. Then I look at the goal written by someone else and suddenly I'm pushing.

My husband put it nicely - one really good day and my expectations jump back to where my "perfect kids" would have been had I been the "perfect" home school mum. As I do that I loose sight of the reality of learning the lessons that God has for us, the lesson that he has given me - a unique person and my three unique children.

In the midst of all of this is a small voice whispering that it's time to stop looking at the big picture, time to stop planning and to start learning. That the next step will always be waiting for us just ahead. That already I have studies and re-studied the accepted classical path, and no its time to take our journey. To reach out for the next thing, and to enjoy the journey.

I just have to remember this beyond Monday morning.

This Owl turned up in our back yard almost a year ago, on one of those days where I had taken my eyes of the possible and was stressing over the impossible. It stayed for 2 days in our suburban back yard before returning to more natural surroundings. It is a special reminder for me to trust...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seeing the Wood for the Trees

I've spent a lot of time lately second guessing myself, wondering, pondering, praying. Have I got it right. Is school on track. Frustrated with the hiccups, disillusioned with the interruptions and unwillingness from my three beloved pupils who just don't get what I'm trying to do here.

Some days I can walk away proud of my kids who they are, what they are doing. Some days - and it can be the same day, I can feel like it is all falling down around my ears in disarray. Why? How is it that depending on my mood a day can seem so different.

I started today - disillusioned from having seen the downside. Doubting curriculum, doubting how my kids were growing, concerned at lessons that dragged and attitudes that well - didn't fit my quiet family at the table mold. I have three wonderful, active, independent kids, I love them, but compliant they are not. And yes my picture perfect world wishes they were. They hype, they bounce, they wriggle, they object to assignments, make it known they would rather be outside, and wishing desperately that we could just settle and enjoy a quiet, ordered, sane, morning I miss the wood for the overpowering awareness of growing trees.

Sitting with a friend this afternoon, I realized anew how much they were doing, how much I enjoyed what we did together, how well it all fit together, and begrudgingly how much their energy and spark is a positive if untidy influence.

Today I was encouraged as I talked curriculum and methods with my friend, I realized how passionate I was about what we were doing, how we were schooling. While their are rough edges to polish, hurdles to overcome, disciplines to embrace, sometimes it's my ideals that need to get real.