another school year begins

DSC_0054DSC_0057DSC_0060DSC_0061 (1)DSC_0062DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0066DSC_0069DSC_0070DSC_0074DSC_0095DSC_0108DSC_0112DSC_0116DSC_0136DSC_0139DSC_0141DSC_0155DSC_0161

I have been trying to get this post up for two weeks now but we have been busy getting our “school legs” back under us again, and also I’ve not been feeling well with full-body hives all over since Tuesday morning of this week (honestly made me feel really strange).  So, here I am with a post at long last, and a good long one for you today, too!

We are wrapping up our second week of school today, and it has been good to back in this rhythm, finding our way once again through what always feels a bit like new and unfamiliar territory.  This is our fourth year homeschooling.  Phoebe is in 3rd grade, Noah is is 1st.  I’m not doing any formal schooling with Philippa or Wren, although Philippa is participating for the first time in our weekly co-op (Classical Conversations) in her own class so she is getting some instruction here and there.  However, there’s no real pressure or expectation on her yet.  She’s only 4 years old and I’ve always erred on starting my children later than earlier, longing to give them as long of a childhood as possible to explore and wonder without busying up their day with book work.  Philippa can join in and do whatever work she finds interesting but when she tires of it she happily trots off with Wren.  I see a new little bond forming between the two younger girls as they begin to have longer morning stretches playing together while the older two are engaged in work.

Every year this endeavor becomes both more comfortable and more daunting.  Children grow and change, their needs, weaknesses, and strengths fluctuate and we keep a close eye on where help is most needed.  While I gain more understanding of my little learners and myself as a teacher, there are always new wrenches thrown into our best laid plans and the home dynamic changes as the littles grow and interrupt in different ways.  I understand now why older more seasoned homeschool mommas told me at the outset 4 years ago that I would need to be prepared to be more tired than I ever imagined.  I can feel that now and we aren’t still that far along.  Truly, this is such a monumental task.  Teaching to multiple ages, keeping a close eye on their progress, adjusting as needed, juggling the work of being both their mother and teacher–it truly is far harder than I imagined.  I am learning so much about myself, and also my understanding of “education” is really shifting and morphing, coming from a traditional public school background.  I studied Outdoor Education in college, which falls under the umbrella of experiential education.  I fell in love with that major because I found it to be so effective, teaching and learning experientially.  I am thankful for that background which helps just ever so slightly as we find our way along this arduous journey.  I never imagined giving so much of my life and mental energy to this work, but I do truly love it, even despite the many days and moments where I feel totally overwhelmed and under qualified.  I don’t know where this journey will lead us, but I feel confident we are in the right place.

And so we embark on another year.  Even as a child, I loved the beginning of a new school year, the fresh supplies, the excitement about growing older and discovering new things.  I try to fill our children’s hearts with that same eagerness, purchasing some fresh supplies, filling our morning basket with new books, showing each of them what they’ll be tackling this year and asking them what they hope to learn as well.  I love dreaming up a few field trips or ways to bring learning to life.  I love surprising and delighting them.

Occasionally I get questions about what curriculums we use and I always hesitate to answer because I guess I feel inadequate in a lot of ways and it feels vulnerable to open our little humble home school to others opinions.  I also feel like there’s a lot of temptation for us mommas to compare ourselves to one another and measure ourselves against one another, which is never the goal.  However, if those specifics can be helpful to someone, then I’m happy to share.  I’m still learning and fumbling my way through this in so many ways, and nothing is done perfectly.  We have many frustrating moments, and there are tears and arguments had by all.  Such is the nature of being together 100% of our time.

I have always used The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer as the backbone for our curriculum choices.  We have also always done one day a week with our classical community (Classical Conversations) which takes a bit of pressure off as they provide basically everything except language arts and math.  I love the emphasis on memory work through music and am always amazed at my children’s capacity to memorize huge amounts of information.  They always astound me!  This year I am beginning to do more Ambleside Online readings as I’ve always been drawn to move fully in that direction.  Charlotte Mason’s philosophy has resonated with more than any other approach I’ve encountered.  Some other books that have been instrumental in shaping our home school have been For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay, Mother Culture by Karen Andreola, Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola, The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins, and Home Education by Charlotte Mason.  There are many I’m forgetting, I’m sure, but these have been so helpful and memorable.

Last year was such a challenge with our mornings being interrupted with a baby who needed mid-morning nursing and nap time and who was frequently up in the night, leaving me very groggy and slow to get up in the mornings.  It felt like we weren’t getting into a good groove until 10 am.  This year I am enforcing a stricter schedule for our morning and it’s been making a huge difference.  I am getting up far earlier to ensure that I have time to enjoy coffee, the scriptures and some knitting before our day begins.  Phoebe begins promptly at 8 am with math, which is her most challenging subject and it is her preference to tackle it first rather than dread it.  (My aim this year is to recapture her wonder and love for math, if at all possible.)  By about 8:30 am Noah begins and I bounce around between them both doing hand writing, copywork, grammar, spelling, reading, and math until about 10am.  Then we break for snack and morning time — scripture reading, hymn singing, catechism memory work, poetry, ambleside readings, or whatever else strikes our fancy.  Then we get back to work wrapping up whatever we can until 11:30 am.  If the weather allows we head out for a walk.  By noonish we are having lunch, some read aloud time, naps, and then everyone has a quiet time from about 1-3pm.  This break allows them to read or play, while the little girls sleep.  During this time I usually catch up on housework, workout, rest/knit, or work on this blog!  If we still have work in the afternoon (usually history, science, nature journaling, or art), we will finish that up between 3-4pm.  Then they are free for the remainder of the day and usually encouraged to spend the rest of the afternoon outside.  As the warm days give way to cooler temps they will enjoy being outside for longer stretches.  Of course we still do some read-aloud or game time in the evenings before bed and we finish our day off with scripture and prayer once again.  I try to allow for at least one day a week that we do lighter work in order to be able to get out for a fun outing or hike.  I’m also trying to fit in a few more extracurriculars, like music lessons and sports.  Anyway, that’s a loose picture of what we are attempting this year and so far it is working more smoothly.

I finally named our school this year after deliberating over it for, well, the past few years.  A name that we will carry with us throughout the years feels important and shaping somehow.  So, I have named it Scattered Beams Academy after a very favorite quote of mine from Jonathan Edwards:

“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.  To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.  Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends are but shadows; but God is the substance.  These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun.  These are but streams.  But God is the ocean.”

And these words by Matt Papa in his book Love and Live reflecting on this quote:

“The creation is ‘scattered beams’–God’s artwork, full of glory and dignity.  But Christianity is not secularism–we do not run to the world.  We don’t feast upon the world for its own sake, because these are just ‘scattered beams.’  They are not the sun, and thereby they are unable to bear the full weight of our worship and interest.  To be a Christian means we don’t from the world, and we don’t look to the world.  To be a Christian means we look through the world.  Idolatry looks at the world in amazement.  Worship, true worship, looks through it in amazement.  To its source.  To the One who is infinitely more amazing.  More interesting.  These things God has made–these shadows, these scattered beams, these shallow streams–are good.  And God is better.”

Romans 1:20 tells us that God has revealed his invisible nature and eternal qualities in everything that He has made, so we can look at every subject as a scattered beam that points us back up to the source, the brilliant Sun which we cannot gaze on directly but by which all things are visible, beautiful, enriched, alive.  Every creature and every subject of study has value and finds its place in the kingdom of God, revealing His nature, His beauty, His order, His brilliance, His delight, His creativity.  I could go on. 😉  It is our aim to see everything through that lens and find Him in everything.  (Hello, name of my blog..)

So that’s a little bit about us, four years in.  To everyone else who is beginning a new year, whether homeschool or public, private or some combo in between, may we do that work before us (of shepherding our child’s hearts and minds) with diligence, with curiosity, with fresh eyes and faith, with joy and dependence on the one who breathes the energy and ingenuity into our sails daily.  And to the students, which is hopefully all of us in one degree or another, let us keep an open learning mind!  Know that I’m cheering you on from here, dear ones!

sweaters and swimsuits

DSC_0053DSC_0051DSC_0057DSC_0061DSC_0064DSC_0066DSC_0069DSC_0070DSC_0073DSC_0077DSC_0078DSC_0083DSC_0085DSC_0087DSC_0089DSC_0091DSC_0092DSC_0093DSC_0095DSC_0100DSC_0101DSC_0103DSC_0106DSC_0107DSC_0109DSC_0111DSC_0114DSC_0123

Looking at these pictures today made me chuckle, the juxtaposition of sweaters and woolens with sprinklers and swimsuits.  We had a few cooler days (more like 80s instead of 90s) last week and cooler evenings, and thankfully here we can escape on the Blue Ridge Parkway to higher elevations and it is usually always chilly.  I’m thankful for those little respites from the heat, the glimpses of fall.  On the weekend we went for a picnic with my parents and of course, I didn’t pack enough warm layers because I couldn’t imagine it being that chilly, but it was.  The fire was so cozy and we hope to get out camping soon, soon!  The kids helped hunt for firewood and good climbing trees, and played hide + seek.  We lingered in the beautiful evening light and Brandon did a short, impromptu map + compass lesson with the older three.  Time up there in the quiet wilderness is always refreshing to my soul.

Meanwhile at home, flowers are growing, the garden is still giving its gifts, and bored sweaty children plead for sprinkler games.  I’m in the thick of planning for the coming year, and I’m getting excited for school days to begin soon.  I mentioned on instagram that I listened this week to the Charlotte Mason Poetry podcast latest episode (from Jul. 23) titled “Habits for Life” and was so reinvigorated by it.  I highly recommend it!

Anyway, these are simple little snippets from my week.  It is the first of August now, and the last days of summer freedom are upon us.  May we savor them!

yarn along

DSC_0052

My summer is proving to be busier than expected, how about you?  I am still working away on both of these from last week and enjoying them so, so much.  I’m knitting an Ara shawl with the called-for yarn, Even Tinier Annapurna in color way Red Pear.  It is so very soft and dainty, beautiful to work with.  I’m also highly enjoying reading Mother Culture.  The chapters are short and topical so you can pick up and read wherever you want in the book, though I am reading it chronologically.  It is full of beauty, inspiration, and encouragement!

What are you reading or making lately?

Joining with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.

Schiele Museum of Natural History

DSC_0003DSC_0006DSC_0013DSC_0014DSC_0016DSC_0020DSC_0022DSC_0026DSC_0030DSC_0032DSC_0033 (1)DSC_0034DSC_0043DSC_0045DSC_0049DSC_0050DSC_0055DSC_0058DSC_0061DSC_0062DSC_0065DSC_0066DSC_0067DSC_0069DSC_0070DSC_0071DSC_0075DSC_0077DSC_0081DSC_0084DSC_0089DSC_0092DSC_0093DSC_0094DSC_0097DSC_0098DSC_0100DSC_0103DSC_0106DSC_0110DSC_0119DSC_0122DSC_0127DSC_0133DSC_0135DSC_0136DSC_0138DSC_0143DSC_0145DSC_0150

Recently, a good friend and I did a day trip to the Schiele Museum and Planetarium in Gastonia, NC, which is a couple hours drive from us.  It was a field trip I had been looking forward to all school year.  For our science work, we have been focusing on earth science, rocks + fossils, dinosaurs, and outer space.  I visited this museum as a college student either for an ecology class or field natural history, and it left an impression on me!  I thought it would be so neat to share this with the kids, to let them see the constellations in such a neat way in the planetarium, the life size dinosaurs, and all the other exhibits.  Of course, the kids thought it was a blast to skip our regular school day and do a day trip.  They absolutely loved it, especially because we shared the experience with friends we love.  My only regret was that it felt pretty rushed and the kids were flying through and not taking much time to read and learn as they went, more so just taking it all in.  We can always make another trip!

The outdoor exhibits weren’t open but we had fun running through the woods and exploring it all, reading the placards when we could.  It would definitely be neat to go back when these outdoor exhibits are open!  Wren eventually lost steam and by the time we were due for the planetarium show at 12pm, she was pretty much done.  Needless to say,  I stepped out with the screaming baby while the others enjoyed the show.  We ate a picnic lunch that was hurried/interrupted by the rain and then we scooted off to nearby Ikea.  It was a bit of a feat taking 8 children into Ikea between my friend and I, and we were hurrying because it was a Friday and we wanted to do our best to avoid weekend traffic in the rain.  We ended up taking longer than expected, and the bed frame I was looking for for Philippa was out of stock 😦 but I would say it was still a success and really, really fun.  We returned home tired but also energized.  It was a fun way to culminate our science work for the year and a reminder of some of the best parts of homeschooling–experiential, hands-on learning together as a family + with friends.

fresh mountain air

DSC_0030DSC_0032DSC_0033DSC_0036DSC_0037DSC_0039DSC_0040DSC_0041DSC_0042DSC_0044DSC_0045DSC_0046DSC_0047DSC_0049DSC_0053DSC_0055DSC_0057DSC_0062DSC_0066DSC_0068DSC_0073DSC_0086DSC_0087DSC_0097DSC_0075DSC_0099Nothing clears my head like escaping into the mountains, even in the smaller capacities that we are able to manage in this season of raising little ones.  A friend and I got together last week for a day trip to Mt. Mitchell, which is now a pretty decent drive away from where I live (versus college days when I was in this area all the time).  We took the day off of formal schooling and enjoyed getting out and away without much agenda.  My children so enjoy playing with hers, and they were busy drawing in their notebooks, hiking, climbing around, picnicking, and gathering scattered down trees to build a fort.  It gave my friend and I some time to catch up and just be away from our normal routines.  Breathing that fresh mountain air and connecting with friends did wonders for all of us, but probably especially me.  I was needing the cool air and the break away from As I was loading the stroller back into the van I forgot that my DSLR camera was tucked in the bottom of the stroller with all the coats and it fell out and clattered on the pavement.  It no longer takes pictures and I’m hoping to get over to the other side of town sometime next week to drop it off at a repair shop for a diagnosis.  I’m sure it will be okay, one way or another.  At first I felt panicky because as I’m sure you would guess after years of blogging here, I kinda sorta can’t live without my camera now.  (I mean, that’s an exaggeration.  I really could if I had to, but it’s a pretty big priority.)  I do also use it on the side for some very part time work.  I’m sure we will find a way to have a functioning camera soon.  If the blog goes quiet for a bit (or at least less picture-heavy) you’ll know why. 🙂

Ps. Wren is wearing a sweater knit and gifted to me by Natural Earth Farm.  They make beautiful things and she has similar baby sweaters in her shop right now for such an affordable price, if you’re interested!  She gifted me some of her hand cream too and it is the nicest I have maybe ever used.  Also, wren’s hat was gifted to me by Ruby.  Knitters are such generous folk. 🙂

 

making progress

DSC_0001DSC_0009DSC_0011DSC_0014DSC_0016DSC_0018DSC_0003 (1)DSC_0004DSC_0007DSC_0008DSC_0009 (2)DSC_0011 (1)DSC_0018 (1)DSC_0019DSC_0021DSC_0022DSC_0026DSC_0028DSC_0030DSC_0027DSC_0017DSC_0035DSC_0036DSC_0045DSC_0047DSC_0052DSC_0065DSC_0067DSC_0068DSC_0071DSC_0078DSC_0079DSC_0081DSC_0083

I mentioned a couple of posts back that we’ve been doing some work on our little “school room” which is a room right off of our kitchen, where my laundry room and also our little sunroom adjoin.  Since moving into our home over a year ago it was my plan to make some changes in this area of the home and make it more suited to study.  I think creating an environment that is beautiful, simple, clean and inspiring is important to foster learning.  Last year we mostly did schoolwork in the living room, but it became a difficulty for phoebe to focus, and for me always lugging all of our supplies and books from the school room over to the living room.  Thus far, keeping our schoolwork in the school and sun room area has really made a difference in helping us all to focus and I love having all of our supplies within reach.  It was essential to me to make a “bigger kid” space for Phoebe that was clean, minimal and well-lighted.  Brandon does such a great job taking my ideas and making them happen.  He built for me a simple floating desk in a little nook that was in the school room, and I think it’s been fun for Phoebe to have a more grown-up feeling area to work.  He also finished the chalkboard I dreamed up and I love everything about it.  I was just telling him last night what a huge difference it makes in our school room and in our teaching/learning to be able to write things out and keep work up on it that we aren’t finished with yet.  There is still, of course, a lot I would like to do in this space, but as with most projects we take on in this season of life we have to take small steps at a time because of both time and cost.  Instead of feeling like I want it all to be perfectly “done” all at once, I’m happy to make it a goal to improve, add to, and tweak it every new school year.  It grows as our little home school grows.  Anyway, I promised to share finished photos with you, so here they are, messy desk area and all.  I think a nice big rug would make this space a bit more cozy, a really great overhead light to replace that old fan (because this room is the least well-lit room in our home, unfortunately), and I will probably work on replacing chairs in this room as well.  We may add some book shelves in somewhere (the wall where the map is now?) because our school book collection is growing steadily.  Brandon would love to vault the ceilings in this room and create a nook up in the attic area above it, but those are lofty dreams.

I feel like I have a lot of creative projects on the go and in my mind.  I would really like to (and sort of need to) update and overhaul this blog space.  I mentioned that I have a few homemade items that we would like to sell in a little family etsy shop space.  I need to get that up and running, hopefully in October!  I have a litany of knitting projects and of course, Christmas and birthdays are approaching and I have a few birthday sweater ideas for the kids.  So there is a lot to work on and really so little time in the nooks and crannies that are leftover in a day.

I spent most of a recent Saturday working in the garden, pulling out the zucchini and squash and peas that were dead (everything got powdery mildew a few weeks ago) and tying up the tomatoes, tilling the soil to prep for planting a fall garden.  It felt so very good to get in there and clean everything up after some weeks of neglect.  Our tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, asparagus, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and zinnias are still going strong, although with hurricane florence expected to arrive here Thursday evening, I wonder if we will have much that survives.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t planted any fall things yet?  I’ve never done a fall garden and don’t really know if I’m too late anyway, so if you have any tips on that, do comment below and share your wisdom!  I was hoping to do a lot of greens like spinach, arugula, kale, and try again at beets (the groundhog destroyed what I had planted earlier in the summer).  Is it too late to plant some butternut squash?

Our marigolds are abundant, and although I’ve sworn up and down to Brandon that I’d never have an interest in dyeing yarn, something has suddenly switched and I’m curious to use some of the plants we have in abundance on our little property to try a little natural dyeing.  (Because I really need to add another project to my plate!)  I’m really only planning to try dying a few skeins for sweaters for my girls, but we’ll see.  Both girls wandered into the garden with me to harvest the marigold blooms and all of the children want to help me dye.  I think it could be a fun little science-y experiment for us all.  You see your whole yard and surroundings differently when you know how many plants give such vibrant color!

Also, about the hurricane.  We are in the western part of NC in the mountains, but are still slated to see quite a bit of wind and rain.  Typically with any big storm our neighborhood looses power and has some flooding (our unfinished basement almost always floods), so that’s probably the worst that we will see.  Maybe some downed trees.  We do have some family on the coast who stand to suffer quite a bit more, so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with everyone bracing for a fairly big hurricane.  If things are quiet here on the blog it may be because we are out of power.  I went through the garden yesterday gathering as much as I could, and then made the most simple and amazing roasted tomato soup with all of our big heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping everyone stays safe, warm, and cozy this week/weekend.

our first week

DSC_0002DSC_0002 (1)DSC_0004DSC_0008DSC_0011DSC_0017DSC_0021DSC_0023DSC_0024DSC_0026DSC_0029DSC_0036DSC_0037DSC_0038DSC_0041DSC_0046DSC_0048DSC_0049DSC_0052DSC_0055DSC_0057DSC_0060DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0072DSC_0070DSC_0071DSC_0076DSC_0079DSC_0082DSC_0088DSC_0091DSC_0093DSC_0095DSC_0107DSC_0113DSC_0114DSC_0129DSC_0135DSC_0141

So many firsts this week I hardly know where to begin.  Even though our homeschool co-op began a couple of weeks ago, we had our official first week of school this week and it went surprisingly better than I had thought it would.  I spent a lot of time this summer dreading, moaning, and complaining to my husband about school starting up and all the new things I would be juggling this year versus last year, all my fears and worries and things I wasn’t sure how to approach.

The reality is that it is always better to just get going and work out the kinks as they come.  I always feel a big sense of relief once we just get started.  I’ve made some changes in my expectations and my managing of household duties that I think will really help our school year.  For instance, instead of trying to quickly get school done in the mornings so we have time before lunch to run to the store, library or park, I’m devoting all of our mornings to being home until lunch time.  If we finish earlier, great, but at least I need to remove that pressure from all of us.  Errands will have to be run in the afternoons after the little one’s naps (which is not my preference), and some errands just devoted to weekends or evenings.  Already I can tell that one little shift has made a big difference in my stress level with school–we have all morning to be home and to work.

This year, I feel like I jumped from homeschooling one child to homeschooling three.  Since Noah is now busy for a bit in the mornings with school, Philippa also wants to have “work” to do until her brother/compatriot is free to play.  (I’m a big fan of letting children be children for as long as possible and not beginning any formal educating until 5 or 6 at minimum, but this little precocious 3 year old just won’t be left out.)  I also know that if we don’t get started right away and I don’t capture their attention early in the day, they lose focus and motivation pretty quickly.  It just so happens that this week Wren has been unusually fussy and skipping naps like crazy, and I realized she was cutting her first two teeth.  Of course that would need to happen this week!  So on top of trying to figure out how to jump between two kids asking questions and Phoebe’s adjusting to not having mom’s full and undivided attention, a 3 year old who wants to be in on the game, there’s been a lot of time shushing a hysterical overtired baby.  However, with all that said, it really went pretty well.  I feel more calm and relaxed, I have a better understanding of how to approach teaching phoebe (with some insights that we received from the state-required testing she did over the summer), and I’m learning that we have more space and time to experiment, stretch, and savor than I think we do.  It’s funny, teaching kindergarten to another child, chanting the “five vowels” poem with another little one and remembering how far we’ve come, Phoebe and I, since then.  So I’m telling myself to slow down, to enjoy these precious days because they will never come again.

The work, the planning, the weight of knowing their education is on my shoulders–it is the part of homeschooling that I like the least, but in reality, I so treasure and love this work.  I can’t believe we get to do this, and I’m so thankful.  So very thankful.  We may barely be able to pay the bills, but it is worth it to have this time with them during these fleeting years.  And God is faithful!  He always provides.

We are continuing to make some changes to our little school room, some improvements.  I am working to keep us more settled in that room as we work versus spreading out all over the house (as we used to last year).  It is helping as well!  Brandon has been building me a nice big chalkboard because I simply can’t do without it any more, as well as a “floating” sort of desk for Phoebe.  I’ll share some photos of them once we’re done.  Weekends are everything–so much that has to be packed into those two precious days!  Slowly we are getting little house projects done.

In other news, Wren has moved into her big-girl crib in Noah’s room and also started her first solids this week.  She isn’t terribly productive or interested in eating yet, but she is curious and feels very grown up to be eating like the big kids do.  She is really changing and growing so quickly and I did cry a little when I saw those two bottom teeth poking through her little gums.  I remember how it felt like it took FOREVER for Phoebe to turn six months old, eat solids, begin teething.  I couldn’t wait for her to move onto the next thing!  Now, I just want to slow it all down.  It seriously feels like we just brought Wren home from the hospital and already she is beginning the first real stages of growing up and growing independent.  Of course, it’s all good but you parents know what I mean–these are bittersweet changes.

Crunchy leaves are beginning to accumulate in our yard bringing the earliest feeling of fall, even though September in our neck of the woods can be quite humid and sweltering so I keep telling myself the worst of summer’s heat isn’t behind us yet.  Those fall winds are almost here and then with all the busy activities of October (my favorite month!) and the birthdays and holidays of November/December, it will be New Year before we know it.