Where to Begin?

I love a good book.  I love learning about learning.  Put those two together, and well, I am sorry if you run into me because I will be gushing about what I am reading and learning.  I can’t help myself.  I am a sharer.  If something thrills me, I cannot keep it to myself.  Everyone must know.  And everyone must like it as much as I do, haha.

This past summer, I was able to spend a lot of time reading.  My boys are to the age where they play reasonably well together, and so we spent many a morning in the backyard – they, scaling the swingset and digging up dino bones, I soaking up some Vitamin D and reading & learning.  I read several books on homeschooling and learning in general and thought I would share a brief review here.

If you are considering homeschooling, I highly recommend reading a few books.  The Internet is wonderful, but if you search Pinterest long, you will discover a multitude of blogs.  All very wonderful and useful, but if you don’t know how you feel about homeschooling and learning, you may find yourself following a method and curriculum that is better suited to someone else simply because you saw it on a blog.

Perhaps the first book I would recommend is Teaching in Your Tiara by Rebecca French.  She gives an excellent overview of the different schools of thought regarding education: classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, eclectic, etc.  It is also a great introduction to all the lingo that comes along with homeschooling!  Then, once you have a general idea of a method that you think might suit you, start reading some books that go into more detail.

An excellent read on the Charlotte Mason method is For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  I highly recommend this book to all parents, regardless of whether or not they plan to homeschool.  I would say this is a parenting book actually.  It is incredible to me that Charlotte Mason had such insight into children when she was not a parent herself.  She was a British educator in the early 1900s.  Her ideas were revolutionary at the time.  If you are a fan of Miss Stacy in the Anne of Green Gables series, you need to read this book.  I feel like I am a more patient, gentle, intentional mother for having read this book.

Here are some of my favorite Classical Education resources:
The Core by Leigh Bortins
Perhaps more than any other read, this book clearly lays out what exactly Classical Education is, and why it is effective.  As a former public (modern) school teacher, the first time I read this book, my mind resisted at every turn.  This was not how I was taught to teach.  It couldn’t be right.
And yet, I couldn’t quit reading it either.  It was intriguing.  By the time I reached the end, I was coming around to the idea of Classical Education.  The second time I read the book, I was sold.  In particular, the second chapter Why We Need Classical Education is riveting.
When I taught high school, I was constantly amazed at how many students didn’t seem to know basic facts.  Over time I realized it was not because they were unintelligent, but rather because memorization is no longer valued as an important skill.  Children as young as elementary school are “doing algebra,” “applying content to real world situations,” etc, but drill them on their multiplication tables and you might be shocked at how little they know.  In an effort to push our children to higher levels of accomplishment, we are actually depriving them of a very important step in their cognitive development.
I loved this passage from this book: “While rote memorization is currently considered unnecessary by many educators (as exemplified by the allowance of calculators before college math), classical educators consider it advantageous for two main reasons: 1. It strengthens the student’s brain by straining it a little more each day, and 2. the student takes in quality content that informs an educated person.  These differ greatly from the ‘edutainment’ offered to encourage elementary students to ‘enjoy’ school.  Classical educators prefer to prepare children to work hard at learning until the skills become enjoyable.  Consider this important difference: classical teachers prefer to teach children to like memorizing quality content (such as a rhyme or sonnet) so that one day they can enjoy difficult assignments.  We want their self-esteem to be based on actual accomplishments.”

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise
This mother-daughter duo literally write the book on Classical Education.  I will confess that I haven’t even read the entire tome yet.  I have read the overview and the early years.  I found myself nodding my head throughout my reading.  In particular, I enjoyed this passage: “In the elementary-school years – grades 1 through 4 – the mind is ready to absorb information.  Since children at this age actually find memorization fun, during this period education involves not primarily self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts and training in basic thinking skills: rules of phonics and spelling and how to use them, rules of grammar and understanding good sentence structure,  poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plant and animals and the human body, how numbers work and the basics of mathematical thinking – the list goes on.”

I could literally write on this topic for hours.  But little tummies are rumbling, and that is probably enough for today.  Happy Reading!

CC Cycle 2 Week 6 Ideas

Hello all!

I’m not sure if this would be helpful to many people or not, so feedback would be greatly appreciated!  I thought I would try to post a few of lesson plan ideas for each week that tie-in with the CC Foundations Guide, as well as share the link to my Pinterest board for the week.  Let me know if that’s helpful!

My son is 4, soon to be 5, and though this is our second year to be part of a CC Community, it is his first year in a Foundations class.  Since he is so young, I am only focusing on Geography, Science, Timeline, Skip Counting, and the Presidents song consistently.  I will include the other subjects if I feel like he is up for it.

Science Memory Work
For this week’s Science Memory Work, we are having a little fun!  We watched The Berenstain Bears Don’t Pollute (Anymore!) and School House Rock Earth!  We may do some of the activities featured on the Pinterest board as well.

History Memory Work
This week, I decided to try out the History Sentence, which focuses on the Renaissance Period and mentions Shakespeare.  We read this cute, quirky book, Will’s Quill or How a Goose Saved Shakespeare by Don Freeman (author of Corduroy).  And wouldn’t you know the feathers were on sale this week at Hobby Lobby?  So, we brandished our quills (and had I had the forethought, I would have gotten some ink as well), and pressed the ends onto an ink pad and tried at our hand at writing with quills.  We decided pens were a marvelous invention.  ;)


Pinterest Board
Here’s the link to my Pinterest board for this week: https://www.pinterest.com/mamimeg/cc-cycle-2-week-6/.

Happy Homeschooling!

That We Should Live in Them

“You seem so happy,” my mom commented for not the first time in the past two months.  And she is right.  And the best part?  It’s not just a fleeting, savoring-my-favorite-flavor-of-ice-cream happy.  It’s a bone-marrow deep joy bubbling up in my soul.  It has caused me to pause and reflect on our current station in life.

You know what I didn’t see coming with homeschooling?

The complete and utter transformation of my heart. God is so good, and He knew that this homeschooling thing – it would be more than just a “thing” for me and so very much what I needed to be a better mother.  (Please note that I said “better,” not fantastic or great or even just good.  Each of these revelations listed below is coupled with some embarrassing admissions on my part about my human nature.)

  1. It makes me a more intentional mother.
    Some mothers are really good at this, even without homeschooling.  I am not.  I do not naturally find ways to tie learning into our daily life, mostly because I am really bad about doing everything myself because it is quicker and easier.
    Homeschooling has caused me to include my boys in more daily tasks and to find the teaching moments as we go.  We baked blueberry muffins last Friday.  The boys scooped and measured; Creed wanted to count how many holes were in the muffin tins, so we skip-counted by 3s to see how many there were; we talked about how baking, blue, and berry all start with the letter b.  Yesterday while reading our morning Bible story, there was a footnote about the Minoans, one of the civilizations mentioned in the CC timeline song.  Creed was so excited to recognize the word.  None of these are solely “homeschool” practices, and I am certain that they are things my mother did with me when I was a child.  For some reason or other though, I am much more intentional in our daily life now that we have a focused school time as a small part of our day.  Our actual instruction time only takes 45 minutes – 1 hour, but I find that it bleeds over spontaneously into the rest of our day.
  2. It makes me a more patient mother.  
    It is a rather pathetic character flaw of mine that I am more patient with people I am not related to than with my family.  Nothing is more humbling than the moment you realize that truth about yourself.  Seeing my children as students has caused me to be more patient with them.  But never fear – one can not simply turn off “mom mode.”  They will always be first and foremost my children.  :)  The role of teacher/student though has definitely been a positive change around our home.
  3. It makes me a more peaceful mother.  
    Because I did not want school time to fall to the wayside, I have tried to establish a routine for our little school-house.  Oh my!  That has been such a boon to my housekeeping skills, as well as to my attitude towards chores.  I am easily overwhelmed when there are many items on my to-do list.  When my environment is cluttered, so is my mind.  When my mind is cluttered, I lose my patience.  But knowing that there are built-in times in my day when I will get x, y, or z done has been such a relief to my mind.  I can rest and focus on our Morning Basket when I know that during Morning Break, the boys will play and I will do dishes, make beds, and start laundry.  I can concentrate on Table Time knowing that after lunch, I will finish laundry and do what ever daily task that needs tending to.

Above all, I am reminded of these words from Scripture: “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10) More than at any other time in my life, I feel certain that I am living out the good works that God had prepared for me.  I have always felt called to teach; my time as a public school teacher is full of treasured memories.  But there is a peace beyond telling in my current role as a teaching mama. What joy it has been to seek out “the good works that God has prepared” and to “live in them.”


An Ode to the Unnoticed Hero

This morning, as the early dawn’s rays filtered through my bedroom window, I began to waken to the day before me.  Anticipation built in my head and my heart as I pondered what lie ahead.  After taking an extended weekend to spend time with family, and then our CC Community Day yesterday, we were finally getting to settle back into our routine.  How I had missed it!

The boys woke and began playing so sweetly together.  I fixed my hot coffee (unusual for me – I’m a hot tea girl), and then encouraged the boys to come out on the back patio with me.  They played; I enjoyed my mug of coffee, and then we came back in for Morning Basket.  We prayed, we read the Bible, we practiced our Memory Work, we went on a voyage around the world with our maps, we recited poetry, we read a story from the Treasury.  Then it was time for “Morning Break,” and the boys continued to play well together while I stripped the beds for sheet-laundering day and did the dishes.  I listened to my boys chatter while simultaneously listening to homeschool podcast.

In preparation for “Table Time,” I got out my lesson planner and weekly assignment binder.  And then it hit me, how this was all possible.  Other than God (who of course is truly The One who makes all things possible), my days – these dreamy, frustrating, lovely, sometimes exasperating days – are made possible by one sweet, quiet, steady man.  My husband.

He is so reserved.  It is so easy, scarily so, to forget, to take for granted the sacrifices he makes for me, for our sons.  He has an hour commute one-way each day, to a job with unpredictable hours.  He is gone much of the day.  He is so reliable.  Never do I question whether he will be able to hold down his job.  Any doubts I have regarding homeschooling do not stem from his role as a homeschool dad.

People often comment to me that they “couldn’t do that” when they find out that we have begun our homeschool journey.  But you know what I couldn’t do?  My husband’s job.  And he does it so unflinchingly, so steadily.  So today, I just wanted to proclaim my gratitude for the member of our family who makes it possible for me to do what I love every single day.  And he’s pretty cute to boot!  And he belongs to me!

A Peek at Our Morning Basket

I’ve briefly touched on Morning Basket in earlier posts, and have gushed profusely on my Facebook about how much we love it, but I thought I might give a few more details on how we are doing Morning Basket.

First, the disclaimer that I am no expert!  And Morning Basket will look different for every family, but I am using this blog as a record of our homeschooling adventures, and I thought it would be fun to look back later and see how it has transformed over time.  I only instituted Morning Basket as part of our daily routine in June I believe, and we’ve already had one major overhaul, so I foresee many over the years!

Our Summer Morning Basket

Oh, sweet summertime!  Our routine in the summer was to go outside first thing before it got too hot, and then do Morning Basket afterwards.  Since we didn’t have any formal school work to do, Morning Basket just sort of grew and grew.  The boys loved it, and I loved the anchor that it provided in our otherwise blurry-run-of-summer-days.  We did music, art, fine motor skills activities, and of course lots and lots of reading.  We easily spent 2 hours, sometimes 3 each day on Morning Basket.

School Term Morning Basket

Once school started, I quickly realized I needed to trim back our Morning Basket time.  I mean, the main reason I even considered homeschooling is because I feel like children spend too much time in school.  So, I whittled away and moved things around until it better fit our school day schedule.  I am going to give a brief rundown of what our Morning Basket currently includes:

Prayer & Bible Story – I actually have a couple of different options for both prayer and Bible time that we rotate through.20160910_205746

Calendar Time – debating on whether to keep this as part of Morning Basket. I just can’t get it to flow nicely. I think it might be better suited for Table Time.

Memory Work – This includes our CC Memory Work (Presidents, Geography, Timeline, Skip Counting and Science), as well as letter sound flashcards and Mother Goose Poetry. It takes Creed 1-2 weeks to memorize a poem, and I was amazed at how much he seems to enjoy that task.

Children’s Treasury of Virtues – We read one story each morning.  This may be Cruz’s favorite part. He loves these stories, particularly The Knights of the Silver Shield and St. George and the Dragon.

Then, we rotate the following subjects: Spanish, Music, and Art.  I believe I will also use this time for seasonal picture books.  I am getting anxious to add our Fall Books to the Basket!  :)

Back-to-School 2016-2017

Things Pondered

I haven’t written in quite some time.  During my “silence,” I have read so many books & listened to an abundance of podcasts.  My thoughts on education are ever-changing, and I am so thankful for the many resources now available to homeschooling families as we navigate this sometimes bumpy terrain!

As a former public school teacher, it is difficult for me to not just recreate school at home.  As I have studied more about education in general and specifically how children learn at different stages in their lives, I have happily settled on the idea that a blend of Classical and Charlotte Mason  philosophies are best suited for my children and myself, neither of which is very well represented in public schools.  In fact, in all my years of preparation to be a teacher (a bachelor’s plus a Master’s degree), I never once heard of either of these frameworks.  It was all modern education, with an enormous emphasis on learning styles.

We are continuing with our Classical Conversations community this year, and have already completed Week 1.  Neither of my sons are in my class this year, but had so much fun last week!  I am happy for them that they are making friends and getting to enjoy a “school” experience.  I am happy for me that I am not totally missing out on that!  My favorite moments with my children are when I see their eyes light up with the realization of a new concept; I can’t imagine handing over that enormous privilege to anyone else full time just yet.

Our boys are 4 and 2 years old (turning 5 and 3 in November).  Our older son is starting pre-k this year, and I am so relieved that I am not sending him off all day, every day.


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Here is the routine that we followed our first week, and amazingly it worked very well!  I don’t know that I will have to do any tweaking, at least for now!  I do not do well when I have a schedule, as in a specific time for certain activities, but thrive on a routine.  So, the times listed are general guidelines; we sometimes vary by as much as an hour on our start time, may take a longer break, etc.  The blocks of school time remain the same.

9:00 – Morning Basket
9:30 – Morning Break (boys play outside or in the playroom while I do chores)
10:00 – Table Time (Math, Religion, Pre-Reading/Reading, Handwriting)
11:30 – Finished for the day!

I’m going to list our resources/curriculum here, but this is more for my own reference to look back at later.  There are so many wonderful resources available, both online and in print.  Do your research and choose one that fits your educational philosophy and your & your children’s personalities.  :)

Morning Basket:
At this time, we include the following in our Morning Basket: calendar time, prayer book, Bible stories, CC Memory Work (Geography, Presidents, Science), The Children’s Treasury of Virtues, and readers that align with our memory work.

We are using Kindergarten Saxon Math.  So far, we love it!  It starts out really easy though, and my little one is ready for more of a challenge.

We are finishing up the All About Reading Pre-Reading curriculum.  This has been a huge hit with my son!  As much as we loved it though, I just felt like it made learning to read drag on and on, so we are going to switch to The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading after we finish up AAR.
For sight words, we are going to use Carisa’s (from the 1+1+1=1 blog) You Can Read! sight words program.  I am not a big fan of sight words in general.  I plan on focusing more on phonics, but realize there are some words that do not follow phonics rules well and/or are such high frequency words that being able to automatically read those words would be beneficial to young readers.  We will start this program some time during the Fall semester.

Handwriting Without Tears kind of fell into my lap, and I am so glad it did.  I had looked at the student book at Mardel, and was honestly not that impressed with it.  Certain it was not the fit for us, I had scoured the web trying to find another program.  When the teachers manual came my way, I was blown away by the attention to detail the creators of the program include.  The activities are so hands-on and fun!  My boys are BOTH loving it so far!

Friends & Favorites

Okay, so I alluded to the fact that Handwriting Without Tears kind of fell into my lap.  You guys, I have the best friends ever.  They are always looking out for each other.  One friend found my Math manipulatives kit on a Facebook homeschool swap group and grabbed it for me.  Another friend found the Saxon Math teachers manuals for me at a book swap, and still another found the Handwriting Without Tears manual for me at the same book swap.  If you are trying to homeschool alone, stop!  Right now!  Go find some friends!  Even if you don’t formally join a group or co-op, having like-minded friends to visit with & pray for is a blessing!

Here are some favorite resources of mine that I devoured over the summer as I tried to become more educated about education.  ;)

Homeschool books:
Teaching in Your Tiara (wonderful overview of homeschool and the different philosophies)
The Well-Trained Mind (fabulous Classical education resource)
For the Children’s Sake (life-changing read on Charlotte Mason education)
Teaching from Rest (words to live by!)

Your Morning Basket (great podcast on the practice of Morning Basket)
Read Aloud Revival (all things reading aloud)
Scholé Sisters (fun, charming conversation between homeschooling mamas)


Well, I think that catches us up!  Until next time, Happy Schooling!


Read the Bookshelf Challenge!

We are loving our All About Reading curriculum and I will post about that soon, but I wanted to share an idea that popped into my head yesterday and I am excited to start with my little one soon.

We go to the library twice a week and easily go through 20+ library books a week.  Don’t misunderstand me; I am beyond thankful for this resource and have found so many treasures there!  However, while cleaning up the toy room yesterday, it dawned on me that we have only read about half of the books we own.

Enter “Read the Bookshelf Challenge!”  We are going to attempt to read every book on our bookshelf over the next couple of months.  I think it will be a good way to purge unwanted books as well, and make room for new ones!  My children are only 4 and 2 and we are already running out of room for our books.

As we read, I will make a list of our favorites to share!  Who wants to join me?