A Story Of Curriculum Choices

Once Upon a Time

This is the story of a mom who tried really, really hard to love a curriculum. She really did. She tried her hardest to make it work with her daughter, a feisty six-to-seven-year-old who loved doing things her way. And even though the mother worked and pleaded and tried to make lessons shorter and easier, somehow that little girl began to hate school. The mother was an understanding mother and hated to see her daughter, who loved learning, hate the method and the means of education in the home. It became a battle that wasn’t worth losing.

Now, this mother was also wondrously resourceful and never let problems keep her down. She knew that if she kept looking and searching, eventually she would find a better fit for her daughter. This time, it took much less time than it had in the past. The mother took this to be a good sign.

This new curriculum was full of well-written literature and wonderful stories. It has poems, fairy tales, chapter books, history, and even science! Yet it was written in such a way that the mother could add or subtract what she wanted to do that day or even that week. It was enough and not too much. Just like Goldilocks, she had found the “just right” means of education for her home!

Reality of Curriculum Choices

This scenario has played out more than a few times in our home. The latest version of the story has me realizing that the pace of my beloved Ambleside Online just isn’t quite right for my oldest. Not yet, anyway. I have tried to keep a slower pace in general with her, but sometimes it’s easier said than executed. Many mothers have opted to wait for their children to catch up developmentally to the program, especially those whose children have ADHD. However, my children need a form of routine to their days, and I have a hard time coming up with one on my own.

Enter Pathways. The author of the Wayfarers curriculum wrote this slower paced curriculum for preschoolers and younger elementary children. With the well-written literature selections and the slower pace, I think this school year might actually be redeemed! I’m looking forward to when our books arrive and I can sit and read to my three children at once. I’m also looking forward to spending less time per day on lessons.

Yes, I know that Charlotte Mason suggested shorter lessons anyway, but even with shorter lessons, my daughter starts spacing out and losing concentration halfway through the day. Even with alternating riches and core lessons, too.

The New Curriculum Plan

I’m a planner. I can’t really explain it, but planning something gives me lots of energy, much more than actually implementing it. The plans for the rest of this school year (and possibly into the next) are to start with Bible (always). From there, we will read from the Pathways reading plan for 3 days of the week and then work on phonics with Logic of English and math with Ray’s Arithmetic for the other 2 days. During the afternoons, we will spend time outside, do some Nature Study, enjoy Art Lessons, and listen to Classical Music.

It’s still very much a Charlotte Mason kind of method, but the means are not as strict and packed. I am hopeful that after a year or so of this, we can ease back into the Ambleside Online curriculum. We just need to ease into it first. ^.^

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Driving out Darkness: Prayer and Planning

Of all of the many things I could blame for not loving my life, I think the number one thing is pretty easy to spot. I’ve spent a lot of time building up walls over the years, walls so thick that not even my kids can break through them. Walls that desperately need to come down if I’m going to live a life that truly values connections with others. They need prayer to knock them down.

But these walls are my cozy, safe place. I’ve spent years cultivating my own life within them. I know this space, these walls, this life. What I don’t know is what separates me from the rest of the world. Who wants to tear this trusty barrier down?

Well. I do. Because I want to love people well, and I can’t love others if I have huge walls built up. It’s scientifically impossible. And to live life to the fullest, I need those connections.

But all I can do right now is pray for those walls to come down. I have no other practical steps to take, and maybe I don’t need them. Maybe all I really need is the willingness to move forward.

Maybe that’s all we really ever need.

my next step

My plan for the next week is to pray for these walls to come down. That’s it. Well, that’s most of it.

I’m also reading The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson (affiliate link). What began as a search for practical information on how to create an atmosphere of love quickly became this confession. I can’t love if I can’t break down these walls. And I cannot break down these walls in my own strength. I need God to move in a big way.

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Driving out the Darkness

This past weekend, I’ve felt again the insatiable darkness of our day and age. Especially for those of us who have put careers and jobs on hold to build up our families first. I can go for a few days without friends and support, but I can’t go forever. It’s a hard calling, motherhood.

We are told that we have to fill up our cups first in order to fill our children’s cups. But how often is that possible? I woke up at 6:47 this morning, crawled out of bed without disturbing the two tiny occupants, only to have maybe five whole minutes to myself before my seven year old claimed my arms and lap. And most mornings, I’m excited if I even leave the bed without waking up any tiny sleepers!

Is it even possible to take time for ourselves before the kiddos wake up?! Is it possible to make this life one that I look forward to instead of dread?

I truly believe that it is possible. It’s possible to find your tribe, to love your kiddos well, and to look forward to each day. At least, I hope it is.

I can’t say that I’m going to wake up every day before 5, soak in some quiet time, begin my day with exercise and breakfast, and make every moment count. I’m pretty much stuck in some aspects of my routine. But I can change some things.

I can spend less time on my phone and more time with my people.

I can write down the glimpses of light in my life.

I can spend time in my Bible, reading and allowing what I’ve read to change me.

I can live this life instead of the one in my head.

And I will keep a record of what I’ve learned on this blog.

This year is supposed to be one of LIGHT, and already it’s exposing my weak areas. *weak laugh* But that’s what light does: it drives out the darkness.

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Light: One Word 2018

 

A Look at 2017

This past year has been a mostly silent one. After we left a church back in 2015, my words, my good words, anyway, dried up. I have been looking for them ever since.

Some years are growing years. Other years are waiting years. 2017 was both.

The word that I tried to live by, Dreamers, never seemed to play into anything. My husband and I would dream…and then fall. Dream…and then fail. Nothing worked. But as we entered into Advent, for once, I didn’t feel like I had to manufacture some sort of hope. With nothing left to give, I had to wait on God to move.

And boy, did He ever! The very last week of the year marked the beginning of something different for us. While we had been living as victims, fearful of everyone else’s actions, now we are conquering those fears. While we had lived as though everyone was out to get us, now we are confident in our place on this earth.

What could cause such a drastic difference? Naming our enemy.

For us, it was narcissism, that deadly pride in others that we had accepted and placated for years. But in a year marked by victims naming others, we named the source of our own identity crises and turned a corner.

I am careful not to make it seem as though we have conquered this enemy once and for all because we are just now beginning our journey towards true healing. While it feels momentous and huge, it’s just the beginning of the beginning.

Looking Ahead to 2018

And yet it feels so freeing and wonderful that I can’t stop praising God about it!

And so this new year dawns with a new word: Light. I cannot get over how perfect this word is right now!

Light: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Light: Throwing aside every hindrance and traveling light.

Light: Nothing that is hidden will not be brought into the light.

Light.

I feel light! I feel free! And the chains that had once bound my tongue are now gone! My words are back!! For a writer, this is perhaps the greatest gift! To know that my words are here again, that I do have things to say, that my mind and my heart are once again filled with thoughts to share with others…I just can’t get over it! God is so, so good!

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5 Ways to Keep Poppies Busy During Winter

It’s officially winter here, which means that energies are still high even though it’s too cold to go outside and run off this steam. We’re barely into our hibernation, and I’m already exhausted! Having three high energy, intelligent children will do that. Or so I’m told. 😉 Here are some ways that I keep my kiddos entertained and not-as-destructive during the winter.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

My oldest (6) especially loves the stories on this YouTube channel. The method is more about having fun with the poses and the story than about the woo that freaks me out. It gets my daughters moving in fun ways, too. We’ll be using them a good bit this winter.

Dance Parties

These have always been a hit here. On the really hard days, sometimes it’s just easier to start over with music and dancing. And it’s so much easier with Amazon Prime’s music app (probably my favorite app find this year!) We can add all sorts of music and jam out to whatever! So fun!

Separate Play Areas

When things get too crazy, sometimes it’s just easier to send them each to separate areas to either play or nap. If there’s fighting or one sister is being too annoying, one goes to their room. Yes, they all share one room. Because of this, they are separated into the bedroom, playroom, and living room. (Sometimes I’ll even separate one into the bath tub. Because sanity.)

Lots of School Work

It would be awesome to take weeks off from school. However, when I do, my three become even more creative (and destructive.) I’m talking about paper drawn on, painted on, and scattered everywhere. Things that are just. not. okay. Now, we don’t do a ton of school work. We have plenty of days where we can have open play. But some days, when it’s been too long between lessons, they need the mental stimulation. Desperately. And so do I.

Organized Chaos

The reality is that many days, there’s just organized chaos around here. I cannot keep up with them, and most days, I don’t even try. Yes, we do work on cooperation and learning how to keep our home clean. Yes, we play outside when we can. Yes, they have responsibilities. But even on our best days, it’s mostly organized chaos.

There’s always love and understanding. But I’m just one Mama with three little girls, all ages 3-6. And I’m already more of a Type B personality, so keeping clutter at bay is always a challenge. So, some days, I smile, say it’s good enough, and turn on the TV until their daddy gets home.

How do you keep busy on these cold winter days? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to sign up for emails and follow me on Instagram!

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5 Charlotte Mason Resources

 

There are so many different ways to interpret Charlotte Mason’s words. Many have chosen to rely on someone else’s ideas and follow them, more or less, in an attempt to try something that they see as valuable, even when they don’t have the time to truly invest in it. Charlotte Mason’s volumes are definitely worth investing in, but how do you navigate the waters when you’re just starting out? After all, her words are rich and need time to settle.

I have spent the past several years reading through resources and finding what works for me. Here are my favorite Charlotte Mason resources from across the web. I hope that they help you as you work through your homeschool journey.

1. A Delectable Education

I just started listening to this podcast this year, after a time of serious prayer and searching for our homeschool direction.  I have not been disappointed. The women who gather to talk about all things Charlotte Mason come with such a humble, gracious attitude that is infectious. If you’re just starting out with Charlotte Mason, or if you want to check out where they’re coming from, I highly recommend their Charlotte Mason 101 episodes. This podcast has been my most encouraging resource so far!

2. Ambleside Online

I love that Ambleside Online has been in use for years and has thousands of high school graduates. That being said, I do differ from their suggested history curriculum in deference to the suggestions from A Delectable Education. However, as a bare bones curriculum (meaning that they do provide a booklist as well as suggestions for what weeks to read them but not a teacher’s manual, per se) it definitely works. The women who have spent hours tweaking and writing and proofreading have also included Charlotte Mason’s volumes online for free, including a version in more modern English (and lots of notes to help you navigate some of the ideas she had that have been proven ineffective).  Curious as to how I use it? I’ll share how in my next post!

3. Charlotte Mason Soiree

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always feel like I fit in with the Charlotte Mason Soiree. They approach Charlotte Mason as a definitive authority on education and child rearing while I tend to use her methods without prescribing my children to them completely. (I’m a rebel that way!) But the community that they have online has helped me to define my own position on Charlotte Mason. And, as they say, if you go “whole hog,” you have not reached perfection but are merely taking each day as it comes, trying to implement Miss Mason’s methods one at a time. Their Facebook group is also full of ideas and questions that can help you to refine your own ideas!

4. Exploring Nature with Children

This curriculum is heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason, although it acts more like a unit study than Charlotte Mason probably intended. However, it’s wonderful for getting ideas for your own nature journaling. It also provides several activity ideas and living books to help your children understand more about the world around them. (I’m even using one of their recommended books instead of Ambleside Online’s Burgess Bird Book suggestion for our nature study topic this term!) I also love the collection of fine art prints that she suggests in the curriculum. They’re just lovely! Right now, it’s only available as a PDF download, so if you’d like to print and bind, it will cost a little more. Exploring Nature with Children is well worth the $15, as you can use it over several years.

5. My Local Charlotte Mason Group!

If you do follow Charlotte Mason Soiree, you can check out their Facebook page and see a listing of Charlotte Mason groups. There may be one in your area! If not, you can always ask in a local homeschool group. A couple of months ago, one woman from Chicago asked if there was a CM group in my area. Several people replied, and now we have a real CM group in my county! It’s worth asking and even worth starting. We just started up, but it was so good to meet other families who also follow Charlotte Mason’s principles! Even though it looks differently in each of our families, the camaraderie was good for my soul.

What are your favorite Charlotte Mason resources? Do you have a group nearby? Let me know in the comments! I’ll read and respond to each one!

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Logic of English Review

The links in this post include affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the site, I will earn a small commission. It’s like your buying me a coffee. Mmm…coffee… As far as the review goes, this post is not sponsored by Logic of English, and all of my opinions are my own.

When I started looking at reading programs for my oldest, I searched Facebook groups for answers. One program kept coming up: Logic of English. Not only was it highly recommended, but those who mentioned it almost always talked about how much they absolutely loved it. After hearing so much about it, I started looking through other reviews. I was not disappointed.

After some research, I tried out the first 5 lessons with my daughter. She absolutely loved them! We flew through two in a day because she didn’t want to stop! That settled it: we had to get our hands on the Logic of English: Foundations program! And we did!

Now, I do not live in a delusion. The Foundations program is one of the more expensive programs out there, especially for homeschooling. However, the only consumables are workbooks, and those are $15 a piece. With only four needed per child, it’s not much more than other programs that require many more consumables. I have also found them on eBay and homeschool curriculum pages on Facebook, but those usually go pretty quickly. You really have to keep an eye out!

Why would I be willing to spend a pretty penny on a phonics program? Because it works.

1. Phonemic Awareness

The first half of the first level mostly deals with phonemic awareness: hearing the sounds, understanding the phonograms, and differentiating between similar sounds. There are exercises that focus on segmenting words and exercises that focus on blending them together. Before she even read one word in a lesson, my daughter was practicing blending sounds together!

2. Spell to Read

At first, I was skeptical. Would spelling to read really help her read? Is it really better than reading to spell (a method I still employ)? Simply put: yes! My daughter was struggling to sound out words at all, always guessing them instead, but having taken the time to practice phonemic awareness and then spelling to read, she is already well on her way to reading and spelling well! We have had 5 whole lessons with spelling to read, and she was more than ready to tackle the first reader when the time came.

3. Readers Without Pictures

I was so excited to see that Logic of English uses this method! The children in Foundations A read the reader and then glue each picture in its correct place. And then they can read it over and over after that! My daughter enjoyed this activity and was so proud that she could actually read it! We were proud, too!

4. All. The. Phonograms.

Not only do you learn the first sound that each letter makes, you also learn any other possible sound. Like when s says /s/ and /z/. While the first level does not get into why or when to use them, later levels go into depth. (In case you’re wondering, the first level just uses the first sounds. Easy peasy!)

5. Games and Activities!

These are optional, but they are so much fun! From matching to a game of Dragon or Slap It!, there are plenty of fun games for kids to practice their phonograms! The activities are also fun. My daughter thinks she’s getting to play games, but really? She’s learning the building blocks of the English language. She looks forward to the workbook exercises, too! Our reading time is one of the highlights of our school day!

There are other reasons why Logic of English rocks. Did I mention that it’s based on the Orton-Gillingham method and works great for dyslexics as well as those struggling with dysgraphia? Yeah. There’s that, too.

Because it works well for any kind of learner, I know I will be using this program for my other two daughters. And when my oldest is finished with it, we’ll be moving on to Essentials. It’s just that good!

You’ll notice that there are no pictures in this post. There’s just too much to share! So instead, click on the link below to watch me vlog all about it!

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Am I A Charlotte Mason “Purist?”

 

There are several ways to define a “purist,” especially a Charlotte Mason purist! Some people define it by sticking to every. single. principle. and prescribed method, no matter if it works in their family or not. Others decide to follow it “more or less,” never really understanding the nuts and bolts of the method and thereby not understanding what they’re really looking at.

Now, as I said in a previous post, I have not read all of Miss Mason’s works. I am not an expert at her methods, but I’m learning and reading as much as I can. And what I have come to understand so far is that Charlotte Mason deferred to the mother. She did not mean to prescribe a set of hard-set rules to live by. She gave a standard that encompasses a wide variety of topics, suitable for all children, but in that standard, there is more than enough wiggle room.

One example that sticks out in my mind is reading. She did give suggestions on how to learn to read, but she never said that children MUST learn using that particular method. The point is to teach the child to read by whatever means possible. Thank goodness! We now understand that children with dyslexia and learning disabilities need a different approach than children who learn to read easily. In fact, the program that we use successfully does use several of Miss Mason’s ideas and suggestions, but as a whole it differs greatly from her prescribed method.

As to being a purist, it really boils down to her 20 principles and using them. You could not say that you love Charlotte Mason’s methods if you mean to say that you love nature and picture study but treat your children as if they must find a way to meet you on your terms. Charlotte’s posture is always bent towards the child, to his or her own personality, and to what they have to tell us. If we are not listening to our children, I do not see how we can say to follow Miss Mason at all.

Personally, I find that I wholeheartedly agree with Miss Mason’s principles and her view of children as a whole. I do not always follow her example (she did have a lot to say on health that is outdated and best overlooked), but I see her overall vision and strive to follow a similar path.

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Why Choose a Charlotte Mason Education?

 

This post contains an affiliate link. This means that if you purchase something after clicking the link, I will receive a small amount from the site.

Basically, it’s like you’re buying me coffee. Mmm…coffee…

What makes a Charlotte Mason education worth it? What exactly leads someone to choose such a different path?  To choose living books over textbooks? To choose nature study over a science textbook? Or even to choose attention to detail over quick success?

At the risk of sounding a bit snobbish, I think the answer lies in those questions. Do we really want to teach our children what to think? Or how to think?

Of course, there are other methods out there that cater to a more imaginative, methodical crowd. Both Montessori and Waldorf education are known to cater to children and their ways of seeing the world. However, Charlotte Mason not only appreciated the child’s view, but she saw unlimited potential in the child.

Charlotte Mason had 20 principles that she tried and found to be true. Her first principle has stood out to me since the moment that I read it: Children are born persons. This means that they are born with their own personalities, their own bad habits, their own ideas, and their own way of viewing the world. Each child is unique and already a person, not a blank slate on which we can write all of our own ideas. (Ask any mother! If we could, in fact, apply our own ideas on our children, it would seem that childhood would be much easier!)

But this is not what we find. We find that our children each have their own leaning, their own area of specialty, their own passions, and their own ways of making the world work. I have three daughters. Each one not only favors one relation over another but also favors one area of knowledge and experience over another. My oldest loves science and math, my middle enjoys painting, dancing, and other creative endeavors, and my youngest has been an orator since she was a toddler. Should I try to prescribe the same ideas on all three, only one should take them readily. How could someone possibly try to accommodate all three?

Ah, this is why Charlotte Mason offered up a wide feast, allowing children to learn various subjects, especially the arts, and thereby allowing each to shine in his or her own area of expertise. Children can and should learn much about our world, and it is sad that many never know the joy of hearing Vivaldi’s Seasons or seeing paintings by the Masters. My middle child, for example, may never do well at math or science, the two subjects that dominate much of schooling these days. She may never do well at reading, either. However, she could easily enjoy classical music, art, dancing, and picture study, yet who would recognize her gift in today’s society?

I am still reading Miss Mason’s six volumes (in fact, I haven’t even finished her first, Home Education (The Home Education Series) (Volume 1) !) But I recognize the importance of her philosophy in today’s times. We all strive for a slower path, a richer feast of ideas, a community that does not have to congregate online in order to be heard. Miss Mason’s words are, I believe, more poignant now than ever, and we would do well to study them and apply them.

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My One Word for 2017

 

The empty page called to me: write it all out. All of the frustrations with last year. All of the hopes and dreams you hold for the new year. Write!

I wrote a long list, at least a page long. It took a couple of hours, but at least I was done. Most of the resolutions listed included vague goals like read my Bible more or be a better friend. That list lasted maybe a couple of days at best, and at fourteen years old, I already knew that resolutions were a waste of time.

Five years ago, I started reevaluating my parenting. I saw a need and realized that unless I changed, my parenting wouldn’t. Instead of a long list of vague goals, though, I picked one word that embodied the person I desperately wanted to become: intentional. I did not become intentional in a year, but I have become more intentional over time. The words that followed (obedience, shalom, prophetess, and abundance) also shaped my character and habits.

Last week, I shared about my year of abundance. In many ways, I was surprised at how much abundance came from my relationships rather than my comforts in our home. Comfort in the home only comes when we are comfortable with ourselves, and that’s something that only happens when we’re around others who breathe life into us.

It’s a perfect segue into this year’s word: dreamers.

I have fought this word unlike any other. In all honesty, I am afraid to dream or to watch others dream. And at the same time, my husband and I are, in fact, dreamers. We have spent years dreaming with nothing to show for it, and our dreams have led us to a cynical sort of planning for dreams to fail.

But when the Spirit pressed this word onto my heart, I wanted to cry with relief. It feels as though we’re being called to dream again. So why the struggle?

Reality flooded in. That cynical voice inside of my head spoke up and spoke loud. Dream? You dare to dream after all that’s happened to you? It’s better to stay inside and forget about dreaming. Keep your head down. Yes, that’s much safer. 

But then a quieter, stronger voice whispered, Yes, dream. Keep dreaming. Keep walking forward. This is the hard path that leads to life. 

And it has. We are dreaming again. We are loving others again. Finally, after years of betrayal and hurt, our wounds are healing. Once again, we are working with a church plant, but this one bears little resemblance to the last. Here, we are heard. We are valued. We are not pushed or prodded with guilt but appreciated and loved as friends.

2016 was rough, but it brought us to the place where we can dream again. And I am thankful for that.

 

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