MFW Adventures: Jamestown & Reevaluations

IMG_4840

There are times when my children prove with resounding flourish that there is an art to gentle learning. This was definitely one of those weeks.  These kids kept slowing me down! I wanted to press on and they dug in their heels and demanded a slow walk through the unit. They wanted to savor their learning like a delicious meal. It was a good reminder to only give them the very best. Even though I found 12 books on Jamestown at our local library, I only gave the children 4 to look through. Good, true and beautiful is the standard. IMG_4906

After years of careful, parent-led gleaning, they are starting to filter through things a bit for themselves. “This book is….not that great. What are they trying to tell me? It doesn’t seem like its anything good or true or useful,” my eldest mused.  He can’t put many words to his assessments yet, but he can decipher richness from twaddle. This is incredibly encouraging to me!

IMG_4838
Jamestown is mighty good fun, Mom! Lets study it again and again!” said the second born.

IMG_4851We spent the majority of the week in just this way; boys coloring pictures or building forts out of lincoln logs, while I read aloud from books.

This was so pleasurable for everyone, it almost felt like a vacation!

In some ways we are on an eternal vacation from school. Those strict regulations are being stripped away as I become more and more unschooled and we are left with the brilliant truth that learning is living and abundant and pleasurable.

The boys learned so much from their Beautiful Feet Books—Pocahontas and Jamestown, New World Adventure.  We are just thrilled with their Early American History Guide thus far.  We colored in our next 3D map and built a model of Jamestown (pictured above) which we found in a free sample lesson from Homeschool in the Woods.

IMG_4854
Then came the unexpected punch in the gut from my eldest.

“Mom, I loved school this week. It was so nice to not feel stupid.”
“WHAT? You have felt stupid? Why? When? You are not stupid, not in the least!”
“I am such a slow reader and no matter how hard I try to remember what I learned, I just cant. It doesn’t make sense when I look at it and I never know which way things are facing. My heart beats really fast and I feel kind of sick.”

Yeah.

MFW 1st grade phonics was a huge hit with my 6 year old. He’s a duck in water when it comes to reading. Everything clicked. It all made sense. It was all so incredibly effortless. He is reading chapter books on his own now. He is always reaching for something new to read.

My eldest did not do well with MFW 1st phonics. He struggled. It was painful to watch and miserable to teach. We added in Explode the Code halfway through the year and he improved a little bit.  But here we are on the threshold of second grade and it feels like he is regressing.

Do I press on? Do I stop all together? Do I hold the six year old back until the seven year old gets a more solid foothold?

I felt overwhelmed by all these questions at first. Then I remembered to be thankful for them. We are so blessed to homeschool. We can stop if we need to. We can slow up or speed down. No matter what, we have the opportunity to do what is best for our children without worrying about someone else’s timetable. What incredible freedom! What a gift to our children!

We are sticking with MFW and Beautiful Feet as planned but with expectations adjusted for each child. I have taken out a few of our tougher language arts books for now. We will resume Writing With Ease once we’ve had time for remedial reading work. We will continue using First Language Lessons along with our Spelling program. We have ordered All About Reading and will commence with this program once it arrives.  My eldest will work on this program with me in the afternoons. We are hoping AAR will help him decode words and build his confidence! The second born will use this time to read books and make new vocabulary lists to record in his composition book, which we have titled “Discovery Dictionary.” He jots down all unfamiliar words throughout the course of the week and we look up their meanings on Friday afternoons.

We will keep using lots and lots and lots of read aloud books. IMG_4848
We had torrential downpours all week long.

The backyard fort is infested with mosquitos.

Studying Jamestown gave these boys fort fever! So we built forts with pillows and blankets. We built forts with crackers and cheese. We built them with paper and toothpicks and glue.

The boys really melted into their play this week.

I believe with all my heart that there is no better learning than that kind of deep, engaged play. I’m glad we cut back on the unnecessary busyness in our life.

I see our schoolwork transforming into lifestyle.

Books start informing their play. Projects start melding with their dreams and ideas. Chores link up with character studies.

Even if the house is a bit chaotic and I am not using even a tenth of all the great ideas I had scribbled down while planning our Adventures year, learning is seeping into every minute of our day. I see the transformation from those once “busy hectic days” into “full rich days.”

Hard weeks can bring rich blessing into our lives. I am grateful for the revelation my son gave me and for the chance to slow things down and help him. I am thankful for God’s mercy in showing me all the ways these loose threads of many years are coming together to make something lovely.

My Father’s World Adventures Year: Getting Ready

I can’t believe second grade is upon us, but here we are! After a lovely  “Summer in Spring” break, we are ready to start My Father’s World Adventures.

For all you MFW Mamas out there—here is a breakdown of how we “organized” our year, what extras we tossed in and what we took out.

I know lots of über-organized Moms like to label, laminate and make special work boxes for each subject, etc. God bless you, wonderful organized women!  I am not gifted that way.  If I tried to buy one of those rolling rainbow carts I keep seeing on the Facebook page for Adventures, it would end up hijacked by toddlers driven wild by malicious intent to destroy shiny newly discovered object. The once lovely homeschool cart would end up a fully weaponized derby cart for chickens before the week was out.  So yeah, this post won’t feature work boxes of doom.

BEHOLD!
IMG_4612

I call it, “Basket of Curriculum.”

Don’t everybody pin it all at once.

The MFW manual has planned out the curriculum by week. I have found that the homeschool planner term “week” is equivalent to a thumbtack-encrusted anvil about my neck. Weeks 1-4 will be fairly smooth, but you know by the time 5 hits someone will be throwing up on Tuesday and on Thursday you will need to make a meal for your super pregnant friend who is on home lockdown with her 9 kids. You’ll have to mash tons of lessons in on Friday and miss your nature walk, all for the sake of getting that crisp week long unit in.

So I ignored the word “week” and subbed in “unit” or “theme.” The lid is off the pressure cooker AND if we are having a great time on a certain topic we can stretch it out a bit without feeling like we are behind.
IMG_4613
Each unit has its own high-tech manilla folder. I write out all the various themes, supply lists, Draw Write Now page numbers, pinterest ideas, correlating Magic School Bus episodes, etc., on the outside.  I enjoy pulling it out for the sheer pleasure of gazing upon its state of the art efficiency.

Thankfully, there are lots of loose hand outs this year.

Yaaaaaayyy.

Gone are the days of 1st grade spiral-bound splendor.

Last year, my Christmas list had a comb binder on it (take a moment to absorb the coolness of that confession) so we traded spiral binding for comb binding…

unnamed

The boys each have four bound booklets.

1. States Notebook (State sheets from MFW)
2. State Motto Copywork book. (Extra handwriting practice)
3. My Father’s World Scripture Copywork (Scripture sheets from MFW)
4. Student Sheets Notebook

IMG_4422

The rest of the basket contains:

1. Saxon Math 2
2. Spelling by Sound and Structure
3. Writing With Ease Level 2
4. First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind
5. Usborne Scince (Included in MFW Curriculum package)
6.  Teach Them Spanish Grade 2 (A cheap win!)
7. Star-Spangled State book
8. Maps
9. CTB Bibles
10.Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades
11.Classical Conversations (which includes our new grammar, Art, Music Theory and Science)

IMG_4615

Most of my reference books I stack next to my other basket, which holds timeline cards from Classical Conversations, tin whistles, flashcards, etc.

Explode the Code, Draw Write Now and any other remedial teaching aids I need to access quickly rest against that basket.

If its one area I don’t skimp on, its books! I am a mathematics disaster zone so the personal library overload is a bandaid on my numerically illiterate heart.

The boys have small book baskets on their bed, filled with read alouds from the library.

IMG_4621

I am encouraging them to keep a simple log of their favorite books this year.

IMG_4614
Found this puppy at convention last month in the Rainbow Resource booth. I have no doubt that this particular item will either be a total hit or miserable miss.

I have also surrendered my counter space in the classroom to our History books. We received many of these when a local library closed and everything else was found at thrift stores or thrift sites. I’ve added several books off of the Sonlight core reading list for American History, which I bought used.

IMG_4599

And now for a quick look at the setup in our classroom  (which was once a garage, refurbished into an office space by the family that lived here before we bought the farmhouse).

This is the cleanest my work space will look all year. I am more than ok with it looking a bit messy. I love those Montessori preschool spaces with their airy light and open bookcases and trays of educational goodness, free from pesky bourgeois germs, boogers and crayon marks. Alas, this classroom is dripping with books and papers and life, and so the lofty Montessori Play Space pins remain in the graveyard of my pinterest board.

IMG_4611

The work table. A donation from the basement of my generous in-laws’ home. I go through at least one bottle of Goo Gone on that table alone each year.

IMG_4616

The upper cabinets are stocked with art supplies, audiobooks, math manipulatives, science supplies and yard after yard of lovely fabric and bundles of yarn, relics from when I used to have this amazing thing called “Time.”

The rest of the classroom is outfitted for the imaginative play needs and heavy-handed dictatorial demands of the preschoolers. Nothing matches and everything is covered in a fine layer of cracker crumbs.
I love our play stand, which is rarely used as pictured in the catalogues. It is, in fact, a jungle gym for marine training, and occasionally moonlights as a covered wagon, submarine, wigwam, and/or a Starbucks.

IMG_4554
The book nook was built by my Hubs and Father-in-law. I modge-podged pages from a science book onto the back wall. The lower cubbies hold a science center to the left, puzzles and cars to the right. When the curtains unfurl they display a terribly inaccurate map of the globe courtesy of Urban Outfitters.

IMG_4620

I try to stack things in corners for the nosey ones to sort through: lacing cards, magnet tiles, a basket of peg pirate people. By the end of the school day these shelves are typically empty and some enraged tiny person is standing on its wiry top, shouting down at the rest of us.

IMG_4618

All of our Schleich toy animals live in wooden sorting crates under these science posters. They do take frequent sojourns throughout the house, but this is their main landing place.

IMG_4619

Lastly, the littles enjoy these Big Joe chairs (which lost their shapes 5 months after we purchased them). I usually leave the elders working on an assignment so I can cuddle up with Team B and a few books.

IMG_4622

And that is how we pulled stuff together this year for MFW Adventures. We are adding in our preschool curriculum this August so stay tuned for that bit of lunacy.

The Morning Hour: Listening, A Way of the Spirit

unnamed-2

The morning hour is one of the best times to work in reading aloud into our daily rhythm. Specifically, breakfast time.

I have a captive audience upon which to pour out beauty–for my children and for myself to soak in.

Starting the day off with something beautiful and purposeful, gently nudges us in a good direction. Even when kids are crabby and upset (TANTRUM), its good to know that we have this block of uninterrupted time to move slowly and work out kinks. Breakfast is a long affair at our house. Not fancy, just slow. The boys set out their dishes, napkin, cups. They pour out their drinks and sit down to wait for their food. Sometimes its just Ezekiel bread right out of the bag with a pat of butter on it.

We set things up, we pray and then, we experience beauty!

We are never in a hurry to finish.

They need time to think and absorb and process.

There are days when it takes 7 minutes start to finish and they are racing off to find an activity.

But there are also days when little hearts have questions they don’t know how to ask aloud and gentle patience is needed.

So I read to draw out their hearts. I read to pour in a piece of truth that will soak down into those soft pink ears to light upon their souls.

unnamed

We are currently reading through several poetry collections. We read one or two poems in the morning as a fun warm up. Oftentimes the kids will beg for more or ask for one long poem to be read out loud again. They have surprised me by memorizing several small poems after only a few readings. My boys love the cadence of poems. The certainty of what the next sound will be and the uncertainty of where the poet is taking them—calculated suspense! Poetry is adventure.

Next, we will read a lovely story. This book is almost always focused on virtue or character building.  We have read excerpts from biographies, short stories, children’s fiction, and allegories. The qualifications are simple: beauty and truth.

Composer study, Artist study, and hymn singing are also treasured parts of the morning.

Lastly, we read a brief devotional from a study to close out the breakfast hour. We are currently reading through some devotions by Sally Michaels, who has become a household favorite! (I will include all book links at the end of the post).

1 or 2 poems
A story
1 small devotional

That has been the routine for many years. But now, we have a pair of second graders ready to read the Scriptures on their own.

I have never taught anyone how to read Scripture. Perhaps I will have fancier goals as time marches on, but for now the goal is simply this…

I want my children to be confident navigating the Word so they can feed themselves from Scripture.

I don’t want them to be depending upon me for their sole Scripture reading. Not at this stage in the game.  We will still read the Bible as a family, but they must now take up their swords and learn how to wield them on their own.

Our four and two year olds will be excused after the short devotional and the two elder children will be studying their own Bibles for 5 minutes.

The Discoverer’s Bible is a large print Bible for early readers. We have incorporated the Child Training Bible program to help them in learning to navigate this precious tool.

unnamed-3

unnamed-4

The CTB includes 6-7 heavy-weight pages of guide material. The guide provides boxes with key struggles in grid form. References are provided so parents can hi-light and tab, related Scripture. My kids can open their Bibles and study the topic of “Anger,” together. They will read the prompt and discuss an example from the life of Jesus that I read to them. Then they will find the yellow box that says “ANGER”,  they will look in their Bibles and find all the yellow tabs on top, which lead to pages containing anger related verses hi-lighted in yellow. They are free to discover these verses and read them aloud or to themselves. Overtime they will become more familiar with where books of the Bible are found and will have read over 200 scripture references concerning struggles like “Fighting, Not Listening, Fear, Pride, Disobedience.”

I do wish the CTB incorporated other topics, like the Fruit of the Spirit, but for now it helps us in behavior training and Scripture training in a valuable way. I am glad that they have a thorough section entitled “The Gospel.”

I’ll let you know how things progress as the kids learn to feed themselves from Scripture!

Check out Ann Voskamp’s routine: “Listening: a Way of the Spirit” for more inspiration!

BOOK LIST

Poetry Collections:
A Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevens
Now We are Six by AA Milne
The Oxford Illustrated Book of Children’s Poems Edited by Donald Hall
101 Great American Poems
Favorite Poems of Childhood Edited by Phillip Smith

Stories:
10 Boys Who Made History by Irene Howat
10 Boys Who Made a Difference by Irene Howat
10 Boys Who Used Their Talents by Irene Howat
10 Boys Who Changed the World by Irene Howat
10 Boys Who  Didn’t Give In by Irene Howat
(Girl counterpart books found here).
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Boys of Grit Who Became Men of Honor by Archer Wallace
The Children’s Book of Faith by William J Bennet
The Children’s Book of Virtues by William J Bennet
Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman
The Quiltmaker’s Gift by by Jeff Brumbeau
When Daddy Prays by Nikki Grimes
The Circle of Days by Reeve Lindbergh
Song of Creation by Paul Goble

Devotions:
Five-Minute Devotions for Children by Pamela Kennedy (Many in the series)
Training Hearts Teaching Minds by Starr Meade
God’s Names by Sally Michaels
God’s Promises by Sally Michaels
God’s Wisdom by Sally Michaels
God’s Providence by Sally Michaels
God’s Battle by Sally Michaels
God’s Word by Sally Michaels
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones

Whistle While…

Time for “keeping the home” is an essential part of our rhythm.

10395175_825466662908_5706535401222614085_n

I have learned the importance of building in times for cleaning the house as a family, instead of on my own.

Is it easier to clean something quickly by myself?

Today it is.

But slowing down and teaching a child to take on the task for himself today, yields over time, a greater independence and self sufficiency later in life. We clean for the future, people!

10919058_808676999528_7162464425388624200_n
And so the image of a home in a magazine cover has disintegrated and we never “clean up,” we “practice cleaning up,” because the eventual goal stands firmly at “adults that are knowledgable in the arts of housekeeping and home repairs.”

So we slowly pick our way through chores and the house is rarely ever “all clean, all at once.”

10015652_745518165338_557796223_n

We work side by side “practicing dishes” or “practicing floor sweeps” etc. It is the slow and steady work of someone who is learning to master a skill. My time table is not pleased with this concept, but the future me demands it.

10155711_749834739888_4064864238509153763_n

This year we are starting each day with our morning five, which is tailored for each individual child. I have traced their Daddy’s handprint and on each finger is an item they must complete. When the work is done, they get to give Daddy a hi-five! (Many thanks to the incomparable Jill S. for showing me this trick last year).

When schoolwork is done we make sure the classroom is put to rights. The boys use the carpet sweeper under the table. We wipe down the desk and put away supplies, books. etc.

IMG_4498

“Blessing Hour” is essential to my health. In the hour before dinner, our boys clean the home while I prepare our evening meal. They understand that their work blesses everyone in the family. “Blessing Hour” relieves the stress I feel as primary homemaker. “Blessing Hour” gives grace to Dad when he walks in through the door feeling tired and run down. “Blessing Hour ” blesses our boys with a relaxed Mom and Dad that now have free time after dinner to join in games and read books and play music. In the seasons when “Blessing Hour” falls to the wayside, I feel its loss keenly.

10947219_812617797138_4739367306183748909_n

I am not a Martha (neither Biblically nor of the Stewart variety). When it comes to tending house,  I would love to be Martha! Having the skill set and flawless time management needed to keep an immaculate home–wow! But in reality I am a Messy Martha. Someone who desperately longs for cleanliness and order, but am led astray by my rather wild spirit, tendency for creative disasters and propensity for misbegotten adventures that leave my home looking less than clean at best and slightly catastrophic at worst.

I often have to talk my defeated Martha side away from the cliff of despair, which towers over the pit of never-ending laundry, or alternately, the abyss of Legos and crushed cheerios. (I rarely need to dispense encouragement for my Messy side– It is well and thriving, thank you very much!). My husband repeats almost daily, “Have some grace for yourself!”

It is hard enough to balance out my own housekeeping tendencies—add in the four tornadoes I have in constant tow and let the picture complete itself.

If you happen upon our schedule, don’t read “Blessing Hour” and interpret: Immaculate Familial Harmony. It is likely the loudest volume level of our day.

Its a frantic race to throw legos in bins, shove couch cushions in place and scrape whatever that mysterious purple mass of gelatinous quality is, off the wall and into the trash.

There is probably a heavily-armed toddler presiding over this activity, wooden hobbit sword in hand readily leveling out swats on unsuspecting behinds thereby generating an ear piercing cacophony of indignant squalls and protests echoing throughout the farmhouse.

And yet this time of day, carved out with the purpose of blessing, accomplishes just that. Despite the horrific noise level and dubious cleaning jobs, it blesses me bone deep.

10868183_802650930818_1018921262594839242_n

It does what tending a home should do. It somehow, miraculously, gives me rest.

The WHY

We only experience childhood once.

1561106_841007024898_2887365657950436297_n

At first, I chose to keep my children at home because I wanted their childhood to be protected and enjoyed to the fullest.

I wanted their world to be filled with dirt and sunshine and books.

We chose to homeschool.

This is the path we have set upon to help one another seek God.

10915279_820075911018_1848104050298760662_n

Their spiritual inclination, the shaping of their character, the passion in their hearts, over time these elements have risen to the top of the list of why we homeschool.

The acknowledgment of my own personal limitations and abysmal failings has also heightened over time.

11041768_818500069018_3506911816524175328_n

There is no earthly way my children can learn every piece of information out there.

I can not teach it all.

They can not learn it all.

After accepting that bit of truth, our homeschool style began its never ending metamorphosis. We constantly change. We have learned to forage, evaluating what stays and what goes. Discovering what remains true, good and beautiful for our children to engage with.

We are a home that strives to cultivate wonder, not entertainment.

10404279_818500193768_3553229702981825360_n
We engage slowly, playing skillfully in these tender early years and savoring the gift of discovery.

10991252_815181833788_5161386146884013680_n-1

This past May I had the privilege of attending a few seminars given by Sonya Schafer of Simply Charlotte Mason. She was easily one of the best speakers at the FPEA Convention.  She touched upon a topic close to my heart: Which question do we ask when we want to know if our children are learning well? She posed two questions to consider. The first, “Is my child learning enough?” and the second, “Who is my child becoming and what does he care about?”

I am committed to the latter question because I am not interested in creating tiny humanoid google search engines.

I am passionate about who my children are becoming in Christ.

My daily child-centered energies are focused on loving my children well, gathering knowledge that forms who they will become, sharing stories and ideas that will shape who they are today and above all, pouring the Biblical foundation upon which they will stand.

I am teaching my children to feed themselves from Scripture.

I am training them to have a sharp eye for truth and beauty.

I am gifting them with time to explore and wonder and create and grow.

Those are the standards I try to flesh out each day in spite of my sinful nature and my, at times, frail standards which waver on days when the laundry has accumulated to an exceptionally horrid degree.

If homeschooling has taught me anything it is humility and flexibility.

Our homeschool is a hodgepodge of curriculums and ideas. A Year of Playing Skillfully, Simply Charlotte Mason, Ambelside Online, My Father’s World and Classical Conversations. We learn through beautiful books and puddles and farm chores. Life is messy and chaotic on this farm packed with four kids, eleven hens, three turkeys and an overly confident west highland terrier. We yell at each other more than we should. We often choose selfishness in the moments when we should choose selflessness. I am never, ever caught up on laundry. Yet we have fallen into grace and will remain there until He comes to make all things new.

Welcome to Farmhouse Schoolhouse.
10407472_821494183788_2726922143200852810_n