Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Friday, December 23, 2016

Back To Unschool

We are back to unschooling.

Well, actually, I don't know really what we do anymore.

Ah. I know what we do, we read.

Seriously, we read. I do not know how else to put it.

We are in the Narnia series right now. On Book 2 because we took a little break after Sara was born. Our living Science book is Jack's Insects. We will start that soon. And for History, we are about to start
Story of the World. All...story books. So we read. We usually read one book at a time. But sometimes more. It doesn't matter to us if we are learning Science and History every day or if we learn a little Science for a month, a little literature another few months and then History for a month or two. Whose counting? And then of course we play games. So we read and play games and she and I both are satisfied. Lots of rich learning and problem solving. Don't forget puzzles. That's before all the outside activities.

And then I count practically everything she does still. Like playing and researching her own stuff-which she is beginning to do- and spending a lot of time at the theatre this year, seeing Narnia, Charlie Brown Christmas, and even the Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre! She wants to see Matilda there this Spring. And the biggest thing of all, watching her sister come into the world! Seriously, I think she has seen enough Science to not teach anything th rest of the year. Sam was just a few feet away and I was turned around backward on the bed. She saw it all and she was mesmerized. At first she said it was gross. And she could not believe all the blood after. She kept saying she didn't like it. It was too gross.

But when talking to her a few days ago, I saw that she was just processing it all, and I think it was life changing for her. She told me in the car she thinks she would like to be a nurse in labor and delivery. Not a doctor since they don't get to deliver all day, every day. She wants to help people like my nurse helped me. (My first nurse was an angel.) She said she thinks childbirth is so amazing and magical and she wants to see it again and she wants to help women through it. She also said she loves the hospital setting. The feel she gets when she goes in. The way it is quiet and you can hear the machines and it smells clean. She wants to work in one. She is pretty set on her goal, despite the fact that I told her nurses change bed pans and draw blood, and even if she does not become a nurse 10 years from now, I still think Sara's birth changed her. I love that she has a goal. For the longest time, she would get so upset because she was confused. She would say she didn't know what God wanted her to do and so when I asked her what she wanted to do, she would say she wasn't sure. Or she would say, "Lifeguard would be pretty cool. Or construction worker." (She thinks it would be like playing blocks all day. Ha Ha.) So she has found a passion and has started her research. We will see where it takes her from here.

Other Areas of Growth:

Math: Still just doing the basics. We just learned simple division and next semester we will do fractions, and, if we have time double digit multiplication. That'll probably be this Summer.

Reading: I never help her anymore. Most of the words she asks me about, even I can't even pronounce, mostly names. She is almost done with the Julie American Girl series. She too took a break after Sara. We are all just now getting back to our own books.

Spelling: She spells like a champ. She is always coming up to me spellng words that we never practiced. Well, we don't do spelling words so we don't practice any words...Anywho, she can spell just about anything I give her, within reason, and if she can't, I correct her and the day goes on. She usually remembers it later.

Vocabulary: Her vocabulary is tremendous.  Not only does she know the meaning of words, she uses them consistently in sentences. I believe she purposely puts herself in that habit because she always asks me how she can use certain words in a in a sentence. I told her the other day I use books instead of Internet if I want to research something in depth. She asked what  I meant by "in depth," and then she asked how she could use that in a sentence. I gave her an example and then she said, so could I say, "I slept depthly last night?" Of course I told her no and we talked about why, but I haven't heard her use it since. Maybe soon. She uses a lot of adjectives also. I guess she also just picks stuff up from us reading. She likes to follow my finger/asks what words in the book mean, and she makes mental notes (according to her) on spelling and definitions.

Research: I mentioned earlier she is starting to research. She is getting good. I fell asleep with Sara the other day after a few nights of her constantly rooting around in the dark for my boobs. Tough nights. Anyway, when I woke up 2-1/2 hours later-long nap, she had cleaned her room, played with several toys, and researched better ways to listen to her favorite artist's music on You Tube. She said she had found that you could search entire albums and also learned how to spell album. I love that girl!

Being a Big Sister: I saved the best for last. She has learned so much this year about pregnancy and development. (I planned to use the What to Expect book with her, but found that she learned more by watching me throw up, going to my ultrasounds/appointments, seeing me grow, and experiencing my recovery with me.) But the learning didn't stop there. She learned being a big sister to a screaming new baby is hard! She has learned about reflux and gas and how to burp a baby and she even changed some diapers. She is learning to calm her now that she isn't completely stuck to mommy. She has played with her, researched her development, and just plain loved on her. (Yesterday they played "airplane" and Sara spit up all over her face. I told her it's part of the big sister package. lol)

All is good. This year has already been a big success. I can't wait to see what next year brings as I watch two grow. (Of course Sara does school too.) They each "take part" in what the other is doing. Sara snoozes in and out while we read and Sam shows Sara things, tells her what they are and talks to her about family and holidays. And then of course there is tummy time. Seeing them both grow makes things go by a bit to quickly for my liking, but it makes it twice as special.

Thursday, September 22, 2016



She will be 8.

Eight is like the last half of 7. At 7 they started reasoning better. At 8, they really get stuff.

I'm ready.

Her major change always comes a few weeks prior to her birthday. Right after school lets back in and it is just her and me again.

This year, the change was huge.

She became more determined. Of course, she is still very laid back. But she does care more about doing things properly, especially her drawing. She has been using maniquins and specific sketch pencils. She asked for sketch paper and canvases for her birthday. She got a bunch. But she is using them properly. Which is nice. (She is using two of the canvases to paint dandelions for their bedroom wall.)

She also has better motor skills than she used to. Her swim laps look amazing. Her swim coach rarely corrects her. Her rotary breathing has also significantly improved. I can tell she is giving it even more effort than she used to. (Although, even in past semesters she has always tried hard and enjoyed swimming.) So we are allowing her to stay in and go as far as she wants to.

She has also received tons of praise from her AHG teachers. Since week one, she has become more vocal. The first day for badge work, they all stood up in front of the class and presented (which has never been a real issue for her). But they could tell she put a lot of thought into her project, a bag of things that describe her. She goofed off and made everyone laugh. She went out of her way to comfort the new girls who were nervous and try to become their friend. She lead prayer without an issue. She did flag ceremony without an issue. They just said they can tell all around she is more confident, and even though I am there occasionally as a parent volunteer which she thinks makes her cool, she does not need me in order to be confident and loving and to be able to speak her mind when they do devotions or presentations or other projects.

We went to visit my grandmother the other day after I saw the midwife. (The midwife is right down the road from her house and S asked to go visit.) It was probably the nicest visit we have ever had. Sam enjoyed hearing her stories about when she was little. They talked about the Bible, because S asked her why she had Phillipians verses up on her wall. They discussed investing, because we recently started discussing it and my Nana had run several successful businesses throughout her life. They talked about Halloween and  her costume, the book she is reading, swim class, being a big sister, everything. She felt very connected. And hearing her talk made me realize how much she is growing up and all the things she has learned and all the interests she has!

She has such a wide range of interests. Things that she spends a lot of her time doing, like:

-Drawing. As I mentioned before, she has become more interested in learning new and proper techniques and adding them into her drawings. Although, like any artist, she always adds her own spin to things. She is currently specializing in life like people and cartoon animals.

-Engineering. She just loves to build and rebuild and remodel things. She loves to draw up "blue prints" and measure things out. She loves to follow the instructions on a Lego set and then take it apart and make her own thing. She loves K'Nex. My mother in law bought her K'Nex motors for her birthday and it was one of her favorite gifts. I believe she spends a majority of her time during the day drawing building, and....

-Reading. This is a new thing. She used to start chapter books all the time and then quit them. I'd try to remind her because she so frequently forgets about things she is working on. Eventually I stopped because I figured...if those things were important enough to her, she would remember. I would not play the role of the helicopter nagging Mom. So I stopped. And as she got older, reading became more fun to her. Because it came easier of course. One day she asked to go to the library to get some chapter books, and she hasn't stopped reading since.

-Swim. That is a given to anybody who knows her. This year she has become more independant in all aspects. She walks into the building while I park the car. She goes straight to class. She packs and carries her own bag. I do still watch her in class. But afterward, she goes up to the locker room, takes a shower-without asking me to stand outside the door, she dries her own bathing suit, and then we leave! Wait...why am I starting all over? ;)

-Tennis. After attending a tennis camp this Summer, where professional coaches taught her the basics, she has been more determined than ever to get the proper techniques down. Of course, kids aren't even supposed to start tennis until 8, so she still struggles, but she is improving and can participate in adult games as long as they are not too aggressive.

-Theatre. Although she does not deaire to be on stage, this has been get another long term interest of hers. Watching theater. Learning how things work backstage. Everything. And this Winter she will be going to see the Atlanta Ballet perform Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre! She is over the moon.

-Cake decorating. This is just one more of the many art related interests she has. But she spends so much time practicing on her Play Doh. And every chance she gets to make a cake....She does. :) She asked for a turn table (to help ice cakes) for her birthday, and she got one. She was over the moon. Next week, we are making a cake, 24 cupcakes, AND cake pops for my baby shower. She has lots of decorating ideas.

-Bible. I listed this last because I would put this between emerging interest and already emerged. If you miss a week of church, you have broken that girl's heart. She wants to understand the Bible. She wants to know how to translate from Hebrew. Last week she enjoyed hearing the TRUE story of Christmas and questioning some of our cultural add-ins. She talks a lot about wanting to know God's plan for her. It actually plagues her almost to the point of tears some days. And she sometimes talks about being a missionary, but not being sure what it is that God would want her to do. And could it be somewhat local, because she HAS to have a toilet! (AHG brought in several missionaries to Summer Camp this year.) I considered letting her go on a Mission trip...when she is older, but until then, we read about missionaries and talk about types of mission work.

I can see growing interests in several areas, including investing and owning her own business. She got some birthday money and wants to save it to buy materials to make cloth dolls to sell. I also see an interest in child development. She loves small children. And hearing about development from the womb into childhood. She asks a lot about motor skills and loves to sit in on my PAT meetings and hear about different types of development.

There is so much she loves. She is so will rounded. And she is open to so many new things.


It's gonna be good.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

This is What Homeschool Should Be

Well, we are back at it. Fall is here. We went all Summer, but Fall starts the new year. This year we are doing "bare minimum" homeschooling. Meaning simple, but formal math and lots of reading.

We are volunteering at the new Center location (by my house). Unbelievably convinient. That is going well. She stays enthusiastic about helping out, which is nice. And if she isn't helping, there is an entire playroom for her to hang out in.

We have also started back "co-op" AKA reading a few Charlotte Mason books from the list with a friend and then playing before swim class. Last week the girls took turns reading aloud and encouraging each other. Those are definitely not easy reads, so props to them. Then they acted out the fables together to make things more interesting. We alternate weeks at the Center and doing co-op so the schedule isn't too booked up. We do both of those things on Wednesdays along with swim. Piling really helps.

Next week swim and Heritage Girls start.

Our home days are going well so far. It seems like our weeks are calmer than last year. I'm not scheduling a lot of afternoon stuff, like playdates because around 2 I have to crash! Baby gets tired and Baby gets hungry. So I eat and sleep before getting dinner ready.

Anyway, we have slowly learned how to spend our days efficiently-after a few frustrating days. Days where I rambled on too long and she got bored. Or days where she played like she didn't understand something that we went over ALL Summer. Or even days I wasn't sure that what we were doing was worth our time at all.

So I made up two solutions:

-A folder. Every morning she has 3 review math problems. A large addition that includes carrying. A large subtraction that requires borrowing. (for review) And a simple multiplication problem-which is what we are currently working on. Then she has to write out her own math problems (addition and subtraction three digit or more) and solve it. I mostly do this so that she can practice writing a little slower and neater and lining up her numbers without it being so long and tedious like a worksheet. Then she writes a sentence, any sentence. We go over spelling and punctuation. She has not struggled in that at all. She likes to challenge herself and she is great at spelling and grammar/punctuation because she reads so much. I feel accomplished just by getting that done. It keeps stuff fresh. After her folder she has taken to reading before getting out of bed while she eats her breakfast. Then she makes her bed and the day starts. It is excellent. Because while she does that, I have finished all my cleaning for the day. And already we have done our "bare minimum."
The second portion of the morning we play a few math games to review multiplication facts and read one of her Charlotte Mason books. A few chapters. Right now it is the Burgess Bird Book-super long. We have been on it most of Summer. Anything else is extra-puzzles, working on Sara's binder (our current project), etc.

-My second solution had been to make a list of priorities. This really helped. I could see what our priorities are, make sure that our days are being spent the way we would want to say we spent them, and see how we are doing it- and it really helps that some things overlap. I made a schedule, but won't post it. Here is the list:

God: *Church *Reading Luke together every few days *AHG

Service: *Center *AHG

Family: *Weekends are ALWAYS family time *Focus in November will be getting to know the new baby

Friends: *Play dates *Tennis *CHEA *AHG *Co-Op

Activities (Includes Fitness and Community Building): *AHG *Swim *Tennis *CHEA *WEC *Hobbies-We always have a new hobby going on. This year it is kayaks. It gets us outside in the community, staying fit, and learning about a new skill/nature.

Reading (We strive to have a well read child. If nothing else, she needs to know how to gain knowledge through reading. This encompasses our Science and History): *Co-Op *Reading CM Books Together *Independent Reading

Math (Includes Problem Solving): *Right Start 3xs a Week *Puzzles *Brain Games (We have them placed everywhere around the house.) *Legos and other building materials *Play

Practical Life: *Home Projects (Sam always helps with those.) This week it is building a new porch. Then painting Sara's room. Then clearing out land. Next semester it is building raised beds and gardening. *Housework, from cleaning to cooking. And recently, preparing for Sara by freezing meals and packing a labor bag. *Pretend Play

So that pretty much sums up how our time is spent. I have found lots of hours at the end if the day if we spend it efficiently. (By end I mean 2-5.) When Sara stops demanding so many naps from me, and she is here with us, I plan to spend that extra time focused on her. Getting to know her at first, (And of course bowing to her every demand, which will be time consuming.) and then working with her once she is old enough to sit up and play. But that is months away.

Until then, this year is going well. Calm. Just how I like it. I'm happy to be spending these last few months alone with S NOT running around like a crazy person, and just reading, playing, doing puzzles, and cuddling for an afternoon nap. This is what homeschool should be.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bars Bones

Sometimes I feel guilty about not using a "real curriculum," and the older S gets, I start looking into them. But then I actually start to feel guilty about considering using curriculum! What is that all about? I guess because even with the best "pre packaged" curriculums, there is still all this fluff. All this stuff that either isn't important, doesn't really need to be taught, or probably won't be remembered.

But math is getting HARD. I mean, she is grasping the how to, but I'm having a hard time helping her understand numbers. Like truly. Sure, she can skip count to find 5×8. But does she realize she can manipulate the numbers by saying 5×10=50-10=40=5×8. I mean, that is how I do math and I can manipulate numbers faster than anyone I know!

But...I'm not into worksheets and neither is she. She would rather play a game that drills facts, so we know Right Start is good. It has visual (abacus), tactile (games), and now we are going to add in lessons-auditory.

I was going to purchase their transition book as well as their level D book. Minus the worksheets. I really just wanted to work with the darn abacus and have a way to explain the concepts. I knew we would skip over some of  fluffy lessons. I mean, come on, each book has over 150 lessons. Book A starts with counting and Book B and C are still stick in addition and subtraction mastery. It should not take 6 years of math to get to multiplication.

Then I found their very first curriculum back when they were Al Abacus math. It took some digging, but I found some books for sale. The book covers everything from understanding numbers the way they teach them to long division. WITH THE ABACUS. Each lesson is one page. No fluffy topics. You stay there as long as you need. It even touches on percentages and decimals. Everything she needs to get to middle school and no petty busy work. It just has how to explain it, show it on the abacus, and which games in the game book (which we already have) compliment the lesson. Woo Hoo. I am so excited. We can continue our laid back, bare minimum lessons and still have some guidance.

Sure, that makes me sound lazy, but it isnt that. Why does she need 13 years of daily math to prepare for life? She doesn't! Life is not that difficult! And academics are not as important as they seem. I just want to make sure she gets what she needs while still enjoying life as much as possible. Serving God-she has been a real help at the Center lately, seeing family/friends, playing tennis-tennis camp taught her a LOT, being outdoors-she is really mastering kayaking with us, going to activities-this is her last semester of swim-but then she will really dive into AHG, playing with her toys, exploring her interests-which lately seems to be multiple births. She asked to watch a National Geographic on twins and that really set her interest on fire. She even watched a woman give birth! And it didn't bother her. She cares for her baby dolls like real babies. She even "nurses" them And went to a lactation class with me to learn more about breast feeding. And once Sara gets here, she will learn exactly what babies are like. There is so much to do! Last night she helped with dinner (She breads chicken like a beast now!) She dried dishes and put them away. And we made a red velvet cake for the first time. I love this age!

She can't miss out on all that for academics. Sure, we could possibly find a way to cram it all in. Maybe. Probably not without sacrificing somewhere-probably time with N at night. And she needs her down time. Talk about grouchy and over worked when She has been on the go too much. She is low energy. She loves adventure, but needs a long break afterward. She spends a a lot of time reading, drawing, and sleeping. She needs it. And I want to give it to her so she can be the best Sam she can be.

Our goals for her education are this: (time to redefine in time for the start of another school year.)

-Learn to serve. We have been on that track for years, but I want to keep an emphasis on it.

-Love learning. Keep that curiosity alive by making learning fun and getting excited about what she gets excited about. And take all the negative connotations off of true learning. Whoever said documentaries are boring, they were wrong. Whoever said researching in encyclopedias is outdated, wrong.

-Read, read, read the classics. Being well read means being knowledgeable, being a better writer, and being a better speaker. I plan to read aloud to her and Sara until the day she graduates. Of course, she will have her own books to read too. We just finished Mother Theresa's biography. It drones a bit at the end, but we made it through and now she knows more about her and What nuns are and how the Catholic religion works. We are also finishing up the Burgess Bird Book. No rush there. We are enjoying it and learning interesting stuff, like the fact that robins make thier nests out of mud. And some birds do not eat worms!
The classics cover massive amounts of History and Science. And to be honest, I don't see a need fir anything more. I take the reading list from Ambleside and take away some books and add others that I think need to be covered or things that relate to what she is interested in-housewhich are usually biographies or the classic version of a play we just saw.

Slightly unrelated to the classics and not really something I'd require all my kids to do unless they had a passion for it like S, but there is a big emphasis on fine arts here. We attend lots of play. In fact, my Dad will be taking S to see the Nutcracker put on by professionals this year! She really loves musicals. And despite the fact that she had an opportunity to be a stage hand this year and it didn't turn out well, she does plan to try again when she gets older. She still loves drawing and painting and going to galleries and museums, but it seems her interests are more in theatre lately. All her drawings are dramatized with a story behind them.

-Know basic math. That requires one lesson a week and a day of fun games/review. This will go through 6th grade.

Decide by 7th/8th grade if she wants to prepare for college-which she will attend in high school if she does, or if she wants to spend the next four years preparing for something else.

-Play and be outdoors as much as humanly possible. I don't care what she plays. Yesterday she went on a two year adventure to save twins that has been abandoned by an old lady in the wild. Some days she goes outside and rides her bike for 3 hours. She likes to bird watch and recognized many of the common birds in the area. Some days she sets up town for her Lego people. (Poor thing. By time she gets it all just perfect, we have to leave or something.) I don't care. Play. Anything.

That's it. Those are the goals. And so far this Summer we have done a great job meeting those goals. If we continue to meet these goals over the years, I will be completely satisfied with our bare bones academics, life experience rich, home grown education.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

AHG Summer Camp Photos

These are completely out of order and some of them there are doubles of, but I am tired and Blogger is giving me such a hard time about uploading photos since I got my new phone. So here it is. We look messy and worn out, but that's the reality of it. Oh, and ignore the crazy outfits some girls have on. We had theme days. But most people did not participate, as it was too hot to dress up in pajamas or you know...anything that is not a tanktop and shorts!

AHG Summer Camp 2016

Wow. Can I just say that AHG-our specific troop- never ceases to amaze me?! Seriously. We have been tirelessly planning for Summer Camp which requires SO MUCH work. Sure, it is separated between volunteers, but it is insane to me to think of how much stuff we have to bring and how everybody has to remember their part and their stuff so that it runs smoothly! I had the pleasure of teaming up with a lady that I thought I would clash with since we are both go-geters, but we split our work up and we were actually able to accomplish a lot! We lead the Pen and Paper Arts badge for the Tenderhearts and Explorers. We had a few kinks but this is first year for both of us, so we are still learning. I personally had a blast, and although it was a lot of work, I would not have wanted to miss it. Even if it did mean time at home alone to prop by feet up. I arrived around 8-8:30 every morning, set up my badge area, helped out where needed, and then once all the girls were there, I was on my way to help with sports. Then back to prep for badge, then I taught badge until lunch, sat with Sam to inhale my food and ask how her day was going, and then returned to my station. Afterward, I taught badge again or on certain days I served time in sibling care, and after that we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned! We left between 4-4:30 each day. My feet ached a little the first few days, but I mustard the energy to cook dinner and even go kayaking with the family one night. By time my head hit the pillow, I was done. Although, overworking my muscles walking back and forth all over campus each day caused me to consistently wake up with Charley Horses! By Friday, I looked at my Husband and said, "Pizza for dinner tonight." My feet were so swelled and my body was burnt because it was field day and I was stationed right in the sun. I was so glad we got to relax at home today. It was MUCH needed. Much. Needed. After I go to sleep tonight, I think I will have recovered. But I'll say one thing, Miss Sara is going to be a tough little cookie. She kicked and kicked all day long while I walked from one side of camp to the other. While I sweat and while I lifted tables and boxes and all sorts of things. (I've run this by several doctors. They all say the miscarriage thing is a myth and they generally tell you not to lift because your center of gravity is off and you could strain your back.) Now, as for Sam...I saved her for last because she will take longer. The first two days of camp she enjoyed, but not as much as she imagined. She complained about being rushed from one activity to the next and said a few of the girls weren't listening, which made it harder for her to listen. But by Wednesday, most of the leaders had gotten a grasp on the timing, and although, there was a lot of rushing from one activity to the next, they seemed to have enough time at each station. Every day started the same. They began with a flag ceremony and some worship music. Then they headed off to sports. The first two days were volleyball. They learned some of the requirements for a volley ball pin. And the second two days were jump rope for the jump rope pin. Friday was a water/field day, so they didn't do sports. Instead, they did a service hike. They found an area and cleaned up all the trash. They collected a BUNCH of stuff that had blown away. (Luckily, the wind provided an occasional break from the blistering heat this week.) After sports, they came over to work on their Mission Minded badge. Throughout the week they had a guest speakers come and talk about Mission efforts around the world. They learned about Widow's Harvest and Good Samaritan, which are both local. And they also listed to speakers talk about Peru and South Sudan. Friday they forgot the microphone and Sam said she couldn't hear the speaker. I was helping in the other side of camp, so I'm not sure what he talked about. The speaker for South Sudan brought photos and gave many details that made Sam hurt for them. These speakers opened up for us to have conversations at home about her thoughts on what God has for her life and how she always thinks about her purpose. After the speaker, they did badge stations. She worked on the badges, two were before lunch each day. And one was after. She worked on Toys and Games-her favorite. They made dolls and real kites and talked about the history of toys and played lots of classic games. Native American was another. Her second favorite. She came home the first day talking about Pocahontas and how she was a real person and also telling us everything she learned about Sacagawea. Surprisingly, pen and paper arts was her least favorite thing, but it makes sense because half the stuff she had done at home already-like paper mache. Other stuff, was too simple, like stamping with food. After lunch and the third badge, they went over to have more devotion time. During that time, they studied their Bibles, talked about serving and Mother Teresa-who really sparked her interest so I checked out a biography from the library. And on Friday, they filled Blessing bags to carry in the car and give to people who are homeless. It was just a giant ziplock bag with things like toothbrush, tooth paste, comb, band aids, snacks, etc. Very nice idea. On Friday, instead of doing the badge work, they had 3 stations to rotate between. A giant 50' slip n slide, dunk tank and snow cones, and water balloon games. Each day at check out, she was WORN out. In the morning, she begged me to make camp start just an hour later, but once she got there, she had fun. I'm happy. She made new friends. (This was a multitroop event hosted by us.) She had new experiences. Lots of new experiences. And she learned a tremendous about about God and Mission work. Our troop Shepard has done an unbelievable job this year centering ALL their activities around God. She keeps the girls encouraged and she is always praying with them. She is a positive role model, and I love her for that. Our troop leader, I don't know how she does it all. She went home after each day and she made a list of things we told her the parents needed to know and she sent an email update each afternoon to all the parents. She went to the store for anybody who had forgotten anything. And she even showed up at 7:45 each morning, which wouldn't be QUITE as impressive if she didn't live out in the middle of nowhere! About an hour away. I can't imagine Sam's troop running any differently. And yet, one day, it will. I only hope that it will still be just as amazing as it has been this year. With wholesome women of God who strive to do their best all the time. Women who aren't catty. Women who have their eyes on what is important, raising our girls to know God and serve others and love each other as much as they possibly can. Neither of us can wait for next year. She is already registered and paid for. Before I know it, Sara will probably be a part of AHG too and we will get to start this journey over with a Pathfinder and a PIPA. The first step and the last step. It will be bittersweet. But I know in my heart, if the group continues to go the way it is, it is worth every ounce of energy I put into it. Driving her there-27 miles one way. Attending leader meetings on our weeks off. Serving a whole week of the year out in the hot sun. Staying up all night during Forts and Floats. And getting up early on some Saturday mornings to get her to service projects. Every bit of energy. It will be worth it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

"Summer School" Update

I panicked a little last week. Okay. A lot. I lost it because I was going through my calendar, big mistake, adding every little thing we have to do this Summer, right down to "school," playing tennis on Wednesday mornings, and going to the pool on Fridays. Aa usual, I have my brother this Summer. So I'm thinking, "How on Earth am I going to get time with my precious Only before Baby Sara comes this Fall. Ahh... Then my mind starts racing and all these scenarios play though about how busy we will be and how I will just be "doing school" to check it off my list and Summer is supposed to be relaxed and S is going to hate me forever. I'M THE WORST MOM...EVER!!!! Fast forward to this week. Okay. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I made it out to be. Most weeks I only have my brother 3 days. But this week I had him the whole week. And it went...smooth. And I realized that our new "school time" is so flexible and so fun that it IS part of our Summer relaxation. I spend the last two weeks before we started finishing up all the projects I would usually do during the Summer while my brother distracts S. Mwahaha. You know, like the bi-annual house scrub down. Minus the moving of the furniture. Because, I'm too pregnant to do that. That would be bad, right? *shift eyes* Serious though, I also got the rooms all situated. S wants to share a room with other S, because "all her other friends get to do it!" Okay. So they have a sleep room and a play room and it looks amazing! And we have somewhere to do our puzzles all spread out on the floor. Except not on my round belly. Wah. Off track here. So I got all that nesting stuff out of the way. And we have just spend the days playing games and reading. And they challenge each other on the math games and they bounce off each others questions for the reading. (even though my brother jumped in the Paddle to the Sea book half way through and I totally made it optional for him to join, just like with S, he wanted to and he is loving it!) And they are all, "So the iron ore turned him red?" and "I know what the stream leads into!" And I'm like, "Look how much this adds to our days!" We just kind start when we feel like it. Usually when they are bored of playing. And then we go on until...we don't even realize the time anymore! Next thing we know, 3 hours of making change and adding up money has gone by! And they don't even care they missed their time on the Wii U. And that is where we are. S is catching on at an incredible rate and I am thanking God that I stood back and let her play all those months instead of pushing her to learn her math. Because in the end, I'd rather spend one good day learning it and practicing it, than a whole month trying to explain it 50 billion different ways and wanting to rip my hair out in 30 million different directions. So this week she learned, and I mean truly learned how to carry the one in addition, borrow in subtraction, add up change, and make change for a dollar. And really, I cant ask for more. Can I? And she applies them in real life situations. And she enjoys it. And I'm like, "I took a risk (by today's standards-letting her play) and I can finally breath again!" We will definitely delay academics for Miss Sara too. Unless she shows signs of wanting more. We will get there when we get there I supposed. But now I feel better. And not like the worst Mom is the world. And I know we have time to learn in a informal/formal-ish way. And at the same time, they spend the mornings playing while I do my housework. And then on the days we aren't home, we are out doing Summer stuff. Going to the lake. Camping. Hiking. Parks. Pool. Slushies. Six Flags. Boat. Mini Vacations. You know, outdoor stuff. Good balance. I couldn't ask for more. Right Start has really worked for us. Math is so much fun on explained on a board we can all write on, using an abacus, and practicing on games. As for the CM curriculum, we have focused more on the reading, but this Fall, will make a habit of our weekly studies for nature and art. However, the reading is packed with learning opportunities. Until then, Summer is for learning/catching up on the basics as her birthday nears and the typical school year is for what we do best-playing, picking topics to study, going to events, taking classes, ask that stuff that tends to keep us busy. And this year, learning our new family member. Hooray!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

School Dayz

These short and sweet "school days" are really working out for us. I was really afraid for not having time to be spontaneous, but we actually have plenty of time. We did 3 days this week. Mostly because DH was out of town over the weekend. And here is what we were able to accomplish. Monday: We took our bikes out first thing in the morning. We had a nice ride. The weather is nicer and I am having a much easier time getting around and doing things. Granted, I still didn't make it super far. But my wheel is warped and that had a lot to do with it too. So I walked the last half mile and then S played on the playground. Went to lunch. Yes, I know, that isn't school. But everybody eats lunch, even at school. Then we went to the Battlefield National Park, set up out hammocks, and read. (We had planned to bird watch, but forgot the binoculars at home. So instead, when we were done reading, S explored the monuments and read the inscriptions while I talked to DH on his trip home.) It was a successful day. We were in two books, John James Audubon biography and Paddle to the Sea. Those both encompass so much history and science. And really, S reads completely on her own now, so we don't really focus on learning to read anymore. John James Audubon's biography was a requirement for the birding badge S wanted to earn, so not necessarily on the reading list, but a good, living book anyhow. And at the rate we read, we will have plenty of time to add in books to our list. (The classic, Peter Pan, is one of those, as we are going to see the play soon. We attempted Treasure Island since she will be assisting back stage with it this Summer, but it is too above her level and I refuse to read her a watered down version of it. Luckily, S has never seen the Disney versions of the plays we go see.) Anywho, another day we did our reading from home in the morning before co-op. Then she played a bit. Then we left. They made some homemade shampoos and body washes for co-op. And afterward, of course, played. Next year, however, we will be at the Center regularly, every other Wednesday. So we will do co-op only on the weeks we aren't at the Center. We planned out our year. Together with the girls we will read some of the literature books that aren't chronological. Things like Aesops Fables and daily poems. To expose them, give them a chance to learn together, and have a different "teacher" but if they lose concentration or if 2 weeks is too long between meetings, they won't be lost. We may also do some math games with them. Today we had a lot to do, but I was determined to get that reading in. So, as our morning ritual usually goes, we read as soon as S woke up, while she ate breakfast. Then we left to run errands. While errand running, we stopped at a close by thrift store. S counted out change, which made her want to review counting change. So we did, the entire ride to the bike shop and then to the grocery store. After a few tries,she was flawless in her adding up change. We came home for food and rest and played some board games. She got a new brain game from a yardsale and really enjoyed it. We were supposed to go to the nature trail/tennis court by the house to do a nature study and play tennis, but it began storming. So we did a nature study/badge requirement in the house using You Tube videos. She drew and labeled a bird and them we listened to bird calls and tried to identify them. (She had a good ear!) And that got us started on another book on our reading list called Burgess Bird Book for Children. Cute tales about birds that teach about their behaviors and conservations, etc. Since we had extra time, I was going to let her play on her Kindle. You know, educational games. ;) But she fell asleep in less than 5 minutes. I guess I wore her out. These days don't feel like school days. They feel like they did before. Of course, with less guilt. Not that I think total unschooling is bad. I LOVE IT! All we did was add in literature with a plethora of information, always optional. And now I feel like we are getting more done! And just as the "school year" is ending for everyone else, we are starting something new. Tomorrow we leave for Mother/Daughter camp with AHG. ❤ We will do safety training, hike, go bike riding, play board games, have a fire-with s'mores of course, and just be. Together. She will get to play with friends. I will talk with moms. And at night we get to snuggle up in our hammock together to sleep-probably for one of the last times before I grow to the size of a whale. What we will accomplish by next year: A weekly nature study. Rotations between birds (current), Summer (random discovers in the Summer, mammals (winter), wildflowers (next spring). Bi-weekly artist studies. And on the weeks we don't have those, it will be composer studies. Charlotte Mason's Geography Book Part 1 and 2. Books: Paddle to the Sea (RICH with Science and Geography) John James Audubon (History) Burgess Bird Book for Children (Science) Trial and Triumph (Church History. Next year starts books based on chronological history.) An Island Story (England History) Peter Pan (Unit Study/Suggested Extra Reading) Co-Op-Literature: Aesop's Fables Parables of Nature Blue Fairy Book (Fair Tale Classics, Before Disney) A Children's Garden of Verses (Daily Poems) I'm sure she will add more as well as her independent books. She usually reads Animal Ark or Boxcar Children. She is a mystery lover. Math: We will also assess where she is with math at 8 and maybe begin a regular math time if she needs it. If she doesn't, we will continue to do math games weekly. She seems to be grasping math concepts easier. My only goals for her math wise is to learn borrowing, learn to multiply single digits, divide easy problems, and go a little more into fractions. If I can familiarize her with that, I'm happy. Activities: AHG (even through the Summer they have events, Summer Camp, "Slip, Slide, and Slaw," and a few other small events) And she will choose a few badges to work on from home once they decide which ones they are doing in class next year. They also have tons of new service projects coming up. Swim (most likely) Center (She will get to assist in the opening of our new Center and will have lots to work on there.) And of course our annual "unit studies" about traditional holidays, boats-we are still slowly restoring ours, home repair-there is always plenty of that going around, and the best unit study of ALL, ADDING A NEW FAMILY MEMBER!!! There will be a lot of adjusting and learning and connecting when the baby comes. In fact, there already is. Next year will be so great. And the best part is, "next year" is already here. :)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Planning for Next Year

I'm back! Well, kinda. I'm still on the edge of any bit of food that I don't want to see or hear about could make my stomach turn. BUT, I'm not in constant pain so I'm okay with that. I have been able to clean a little and cook very simple things. What a relief. I'm not sure if it is the meds (which however, are giving me horrendous headaches and making me a little sleepy, which I will take any day over nausea) or if my hormones are evening out. Seriously...I caught a stomach bug last week. On top of my morning sickness and allergies. I thought I was dying! Then when I got dehydrated, I really thought I was dying. I didn't have the strength to stand up. It got scary. This pregnancy is taking it out of me completely. With Sam I could walk miles in the Summer he's in my second trimester. So far, with this one, I can barely make it down the isle at WalMart. Of course...it has been close to a decade. So...on to what this blog is about. Unschooling. We unschool. This year I decided to be a little more "laid back" and in turn ended up being too hands off I feel like. She accomplished some things. Made some major strides due to age. And of course took some classes and had some cool new experiences. And...I really hope all her play time has paid off, but even she feels like she has too much time on get hands and she can't fill it. She wants more. But doesn't know how to get it at this age. By no means do I regret letting her just play until she is 8. But if she wants to move on, it's time. Right now, "school is out." This pregnant lady cannot promise a good tomorrow. So we shall wait until I feel better. I found a curriculum and a guide on how to piece it together. (I was going to buy but it is hard to find Charlotte Mason completely pre packaged.) I just know Sam will love Charlotte Mason. I told her what she would study and she was in awe! We are going to skip put on grammar, dictation, and spelling. We will do History, Science, Geography, Composer, Classical Art Study, and Poetry. That's what she is wanting. And Math will be separate. Most curriculums do not include math. We will keep using Right Start. Looking over the curriculum, it seemed simple, lots of living books and reading poetry and looking at art. A true classical education. Kind of what what we were doing, but on a higher level. BUT, we have 4 day weeks. And a lot going on. Plus, a new baby on the way. I don't want our time taken up by curriculum. It's restricting. I don't want to be doing things for the sake of getting them done so we can check them off. I want us to have lots of time to cuddle with baby and learn about our new family member. I still want time for nature walks. And when my brother comes over, I want them to still build forts. And when her friends come over, I want them to build things and discover things. I want her to still have a childhood. I don't want to have to rush through school and threaten her, "if she doesn't get ger work done in time for the CHEA field trip, she can't go." With that said, S and I talked it over and decided on having school two days a week. Year round. Of course I'm going to try to do as much of it informally as possible. And maybe give her some work at night once she is 100% independent at reading. But even then, because she will be reading classics, it'll be hard. She will start on year one. (Year zero is just reading Aesops tales and such.) They don't go by grade. We may move to Year 2 for some stuff like Geography, because it teaches N, S, E, W, etc. She knows all that. They advocate for delayed academics, so while there are thirteen years, including zero, by year 9 they have read more classics than the average privately educated high school student. And the Science is quite in depth too. I'm nervous. This year is a lot of changes. I am not volunteering for CHEA anymore. I'm not on the board at all. And I'm serving in a small position with AHG. Of course Ill still be at the Center. But a very big part of me died a little inside when I stepped down from the board. I guess it was real then that a lot would be changing very soon. It will be good. Just different. And I'm just praying everything goes well. My labor with Sam scares me to no end. Anyhow, we will have enough to fill our time. Until then, lazy days. I'm going to enjoy an entire night of sleeping. A date with my Husband. Going random places with S. (as soon as I feel 100%.) And I'm going to start preparing for our baby and our school year next year. I'll be a real homeschool mom....feels odd.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Spring, I Miss You

It's been awhile. Again. Got our handouts done.  We have an orientation on fostering to adopt on Monday,  but otherwise we are in the waiting period. I update that a lot on my Mays Family blog. Today it's about S. Winter got the best of us. I went back to feeling guilty. But honestly not guilty enough.

S is at a point now where I don't worry too much anymore about her functioning ability in society. She reads.  A lot.  I don't mean she reads a lot of books. I mean she just reads whatever is around her without asking for help.  She read the contents on the Chick-fil-A sauce package and knew soybean oil and corn syrup like it was nothing. Today at co-op we let the girls go wild with crafts and they got out an origami book.  Sam read off the directions like nothing and they were able to complete i twithout help.

She is nearing 7-1/2. And as I predicted, we are in the car yesterday and I told her she would have her allowance on Friday.  Then I hear this, "Three days away. I have 27 dollars. Ten more will give me 37 and I'll only be 3 dollars short of 40. That's okay. I just need to find 12 quarters in my piggy bank." My first thought was,  "Had somebody been giving her math lessons behind my back?" Sure. We did 2 20 minutes sessions in the last week on adding up change, but it was like, "What is 2 quarters plus 3 dimes plus 6 pennies?" And then she would use her abacus (which she loves) to add it up.  No worries there either.

But winter does have us longing for a change of pace, so Friday we will be leaving the house first thing in the morning, going to the bank to teach her how to withdraw money, continuing to the mall, talking about how to use a calculator to do a percentage off, calculating sales tax-with calculator,  a few requirements about good stewardship for AHG badge-I'm buying lunch-which the catch is she has to learn to use a check register to input my total-and then she is going to shop for a toy with her money.  Day done.  And we will go home and crash. We just need out of the house to do something we don't always do!

Neither of us can wait for Spring. The smell of Spring alone brings so many emotions and memories for me.  Playing games outside in the driveway,  laying on her trampoline while she bounces away,  taking the hammock to the park to read together-and then napping until the park is empty and it is time to go home.  ♡ Oh Spring, come quickly!

Monday, January 18, 2016


I have been so focused on this adoption thing lately - completing our profile, making our cards, preparing mailouts, and contacting lawyers, that I have neglected this blog. It has been neat though. S has been learning right along side us. The differences between independant and agency adoption. (As well as some about fostering to adopt.) She has learned about inducing lactation and dealing with RAD. Among other things. We gave her her own copy of our profile and I find her reading through it all the time. But we still must move along with homeschool...

This year has been something so far though. She is somewhere between little and big. And I continually find myself holding tighter to the things that once were and still are, but may not be the same soon.

I remember when I first started taking S to the library at 3 years old. We would go to story time and then she would run around finding books written by authors such as Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle and O'Conner, etc. The same is still true. Minus the story time and the addition of checking out some of her favorite chapter books - American Girl. Last week we spent an hour in the library going through the Children's books as she obsessed about find as many EC books as she could - especially ones she had never read before. She admires Eric Carle. In fact, she just did her author presentation with CHEA on Eric Carle. She loves his art style and she imitates it in some of her own books. Watching her that day...I wanted to hold on to it forever. She has already begun making the transition to the juvenile fiction, but the day is coming where the storybook section will not be her first pitstop on her list.

Seven and a half is coming up and I know soon she will start showing an even better understanding of things. We have delayed academics, but will start to pick up some math around 7-1/2 or 8. (Yes, succumbing to peer pressure because Sam is feeling thr weight of everybody expecting her to do math off the top of her head and it is killing her. While she and I both don't mind her feeling different, I certainly do not want her being resentful for that sort of difference.) So we bought the big Right Start math game curriculum set. Which is - you guess it-ALL manipulative and game based. And goes all the way up through 5th grade. I consider Sam 1st for math and will probably leave her in elementary math an extra year because we will take it slow, so we are looking at a good 5 or 6 years in something that only cost me $60 new. We have played some of the games using the basic card deck I bought her at a used book store. And she loves them. We play them in a relaxed setting and it is all about fun. Now that I have the book with over 300 games about math - from basic addition and subtraction to multiplication and division to negative numbers, fractions, and percentages, I will start explaining everything using the manipulatives it came with and the ones we have. I keep hearing a lot about visualization and I agree. She needs to see it and understand it - not just memorize it and be able to spit out 30 facts in 30 seconds. I am overly excited about this, but careful not to push it on her. I'd like to take it really slow and not go past addition until she is 8 - this September. We have touched on multiplication and fractions, but I am halting on that. She struggles in math and I don't want her understanding it on a memorization level only. Funny thing is, she only struggles with explainable math. She soars in building and problem solving, which I attribute to all her play time building with Legos and KNEX and playing problem solving one player games. Or even Chess.

Enough about math. We have a few other new things going this year. Briefly, I want to mention guitar. We have been learning together using a You Tube video series, which she thoroughly enjoys. But he didn't lead through how to read actual music. (I showed her tabs because I only partly remember sheet music from when I was younger.) So I found a DVD series specifically written for children to carry her back through as a review and teach her to read music. That was free-library resource. She remembered her chords, easy peasy. But it is painful to her on some of them and she is learning to hold her hands just right. I'm fearful to mess up her form, so that should help also. Then if she is still interested, a friend of ours will give S guitar lessons once a month. So that is going well. The holidays had us bogged down and it went on hold a bit while she just learned Jingle Bells, but she is back on top of it.

Another thing we began this semester is a co-op! A friend who lives right down the road, whose daughter is a year younger than Sam, and they homeschool similar to the way we do, and I just kind of came up with it out of a joke and then neither of us could let it go. Our girls have similar interests, so we began planning. (Even as an Unschooler I must have well written plans for things when it comes to stuff like that.) And kf course they get input. The last thing we want is resistance. The first week we assisted the girls in sewing doll skirts. They learned a lot about sewing and Sam got to use a full size sewing machine - which made me badly want one! Then during the "free play/Mommy talk portion," they read instructions and assembled some doll furniture on their own. That was Thursday. (We are moving the co-op around days to whenever we are available.) So tomorrow we will be doing a doll party. We will discuss Ettiquette (the badge they are covering during AHG). We will teach them to make tea in a kettle. They will make petit fours from scratch and use professional cake decorating supplies to decorate them. It is little things like that, things they will learn and play through that we are excited for. Some other topics we may do are going over some guitar together, doing some art together, a full board game day, a day where we swap kids and do whatever we are good at, and maybe as the weather warms up some gardening or Science days, or small "field trips" etc. Sam is just happy to have someone to learn with throughout the year like she does in the Summer. And I couldn't be happier for her. We should totally just open a Sudbury school and make loads of money while letting children run free and wild learning whatever they want.

Speaking of running free and wild, Sam is really enjoying AHG. Not that they run wild. They are actually pretty structured, but at the same time they give the girls this freedom to do things the way they want them done. They let them have their own ideas and figure things out themselves and have lots of free play at events. It doesn't have to be packed with one game after the next to entertain them. She has made many, many friends. She had her Christmas party in December. And in January - well recently - she had her lock in. They did Bible devotions and talked about God being their fortress. Then they built forts that they were allowed to sleep in - if they chose to sleep at all that night. They had floats and popcorn. And then they were able to play board games and hula hoop or jump rope or play ball or dolls (they all brought dolls and stuffed animals.) We turned down the lights around 2 AM. And some of the kids went to sleep. They slowly dropped like flies, but most of them went to bed at 4 AM. And a hand full didn't sleep at all. All of us Mom (about 5 of us who spent the night) just visited all night, getting to know each other. And in the morning we cleaned up and headed home. I got home around 10 o'clock and Sam and I passed out until 2 PM! I definitely slept well the next night too. Coming up she has Feed My Starving Children and a Daddy Daughter Dance! Both she can't wait for at all. I love the wide range of opportunities and experiences that AHG gives her. I am already a registered volunteer with National, so I fully intend to help plan some activities for next year - particularly a pro-life event. Sam is stoked. She really wants me in her class. And I adore that she thinks that is so cool, so I may do that. But I truly wish I could work with the PIPAS, which are the teenagers. They are the sweetest group of girls and they are old enough to start studying and understanding the Bible. Their discussions during devotion are so deep and they have build such strong relationships with one another. And it is evident when they all go out and do fun things together. I'd love to mentor teenagers, but maybe that is a future thing, when Sam is one herself. One of the PIPA moms is a main leader and her daughter loves it! If AHG helps us to mold S into a child like that, I will be forever grateful.

So that is it. Between preparing our home for homestudy to staying active in those things, well....I won't lie, we still have lots of down time. And it is great. Sam gets her 8 hours of play time most days and I read my adoption/child development/theory books on the Bible. Or I do housework. Whichever. This season of our life is slow, as it needs to be. Because soon I know it will be busy again.