Ben Franklin Class

I’m almost finished teaching a homeschool co-op class about Ben Franklin to a group of six 7-9 year olds. Homeschool co-op is one of the great blessings of homeschooling, and I enjoy it as much as the kids do. Each class ends up differently than I expect at the beginning. For instance, the class dynamics are such that I have three high-spirited boys, one fiery, smart girl, and two sweet, studious girls. Half of the hour involves being quiet and listening to me read a chapter or two from Robert Lawson’s book, Ben and Me. This is a great book which I’ve used as a read-aloud at home several times already, but it’s difficult for those boys to sit and listen. So, I let them draw. Well, then they started drawing pictures of the girls… you get the idea. It’s a little crazy sometimes.

I ended up doing more with electricity experiments than I intended. My library lets me check out Snap-Circuits, so I brought that in for two weeks, and that was a really big hit. Yesterday, we did a static electricity experiment with balloons and soda cans, which was simple and fun. We also worked on a Magic Squares math puzzle, which my teacher aide enjoyed. The kids did quite well, really getting out their math skills and trying to figure it out.

The girls especially liked the art project I did about symmetry. (We were talking about Ben going to the Palace of Versailles in France, and there’s a lot of symmetry in that palace and gardens.)

I always learn new things, too, each semester I teach. I appreciate Ben’s genius more. He had quite a lot going on in his brain at most times. I think he liked to challenge himself. He also knew the importance of smart friends. He had societies where he sat down with smart people and shared ideas. I need to remember that I feel much more inspired to challenge myself and my children when I’ve had time to be with smart, caring people. Much of my writing work is done in private, but that needs to be balanced with those times of social inspiration.

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Need to Write

I’ve been itching to get my fingers on this keyboard since sometime during the night last night. I don’t have any earth-shaking news; I’ve just got to let the flood out.

Homeschool Things

The highlight of the year (at least for me) is The Story of the World: Ancient History. I like the format of short story-like chapters to read to the kids and then comprehension questions to ask afterward. Plus, I often choose a craft or activity or a library book from the workbook to accompany it. I’m also liking our Sassafras Twins Science: Anatomy book. It’s a novel, and I purchased the lapbook kit to go along with it. It’s kind of a lot of busywork, but it’s okay. They are learning brand-new things about the human body that we’ve never learned before. Plus, the story is exciting.

My best idea this year was to purchase Spectrum language arts workbooks. It sure beats trying to teach grammar to them from the Simply Grammar textbook. The kids complain a lot about doing language arts, but that’s because it’s not super easy. They have to actually stretch their brains to understand it!

Spiritual Things

My church has a new pastor! Mr. Freswick preached his first Sunday yesterday. He’s not very logical. At least, not the logic I’m used to. But I like how his sermons take surprising twists, as if he just thought of them while he was standing up there. Check out Isaiah 31:4! The Lord is the lion, and we are His prey. That’s unusual, right? He snatches His people away from the enemy.

I do my daily devotions at night, and I feel like it’s a wonderful way to end a difficult day. My devotion book is called Praying through the Bible for your Kids by Nancy Guthrie. Nancy is so wise and solid. Her words and prayers help me build a Biblical structure in and through my days. It’s supposed to be prayers for my kids, but I also often insert my name and my husband’s name in the blanks. I love the prayers. They are often just exactly what I need to pray.

My husband doesn’t like to have Bible verses flung at him, and I usually don’t, but I really wish I could talk through Proverbs and Psalms with him. I wish we could pray for our kids together. I wish a lot of things that I know can only happen through some miraculous work of God.

Emotional Things

In my last counseling session, I took an anxiety test and scored “Mild Anxiety.” That’s really good! I feel like that’s accurate, too. Certain things still set me off and make me want to hide, but it’s not nearly so much as it used to be.

Creative Things

I’ve been thinking more about my own creative ventures. Homeschooling is a creative outlet in itself, but I think I should be doing more writing or art. That stopped when my marriage problems became worse. I have been doing some Zentangle-inspired art, just for fun. It’s very repetitive and probably good for me. I keep thinking if I do more and more, then I will end up with something beautiful that pleases me. As for writing, this blog and my private marriage blog and my Verblio freelancing job are my main outlets. I wonder sometimes if I’m in one of those gathering times, where I’m learning things that will later be poured into a story or characters. I hope so.

I’m off to my private blog now. My writing itch still isn’t satisfied!

East Meets West

This was the title of our Five in a Row lesson yesterday. We began reading the beautiful picture book Grass Sandals by Dawnine Spivak. It is a biography of Basho, the Japanese haiku poet from the 17th century.

The lesson introduced my kids to the differences between Eastern and Western culture. Whereas Western culture promotes adventure, going from one new thing to the next new thing, and a fast paced life, Eastern culture tends toward a slower clock and a gentle attitude with an emphasis on tradition. Western literature may be exciting. Eastern literature may be slow-paced with seemingly nothing happening at all. Certainly, Basho’s haiku poems are gentle and (if I wasn’t so determined to enjoy them) almost pointless.

So where does East meet West? Basho closed his little house, took up his simple possessions, and traveled around Japan. Exploring is a Western thing. He could have stayed home and written lovely, timeless poetry about the things he could see at home. But instead, he went out and became inspired by homey things from far away (the splash of a frog in the water, the blue strings of the sandals a friend gave him).

I am going to try a little Eastern sentimentality here and not make a conclusion. I enjoy the book a great deal, and I took out all the haiku books from the library, and you will be hearing more about haiku, I’m sure.

School Enjoyment

Although I’ve personally had a rough summer, I’m taking a few moments to count some of my blessings. Our homeschool is really high on the blessings list. I love the challenge of teaching my children, I’m happy to be sharing the world of beauty and knowledge and wisdom to them, and I am convinced this type of home education is a benefit to them.

Three weeks into the school year… what have we done that merits so much praise from myself? Let me make a list.

  • Five in a Row Volume 4: FIAR continues to be a winning curriculum choice for my girls. When I pulled out the first book on our list, Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, all three children gasped and said something like, “I love that book! That’s one of my absolute favorites!” Building their own Roxaboxen in the upstairs family room was a fun adventure which included blankets, legos, Monopoly money, a store of stuffed animals, play food, and empty Mountain Dew cans.
  • Doing an archaeological dig in our little flower garden. I buried some recyclables and let the kids dig them up. Not too difficult, a little wormy, but overall pretty enjoyable, and it was a project that coincided with our history topic.
  • Creating treasure maps with brown pencil and watercolor. We made this fun art project educational with a little info about cartographers. The kids hid some treasure in the house. I had to follow their maps (thank goodness for the obvious symbol of stairs, or I would have been lost!). I found a coin jar (quickly reclaimed by its owner) and two full cans of Mountain Dew. My youngest daughter even made the treasure hunt difficult by adding string-laser beams to the stairway and a teddy-bear rescue mission.
  • The Sassafras Twins Science Book: Anatomy. We enjoyed Zoology last year, and we are finding Anatomy to be even more exciting! It is definitely the most-asked-for subject. And mean Mom only schedules it twice a week.
  • Sneaky Geography. I don’t call it geography at all. My girls claim to despise geography. However, they willingly pull state and country books off the library shelves and beg to write a story about them. We sit on the couch together, paging through the books, and they dictate a vacation adventure story (starring ourselves, of course), which I write down faithfully. Today we went to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. I nearly sat on a patch of prickly pear cactus!
  • Spelling! Spellwell workbooks are simple, not too boring, and do the job of making my kids think when they write their words.
  • Homeschool Co-op. We’ve had one week, and already we love it. I am teaching a class about Beatrix Potter stories to a group of 16 four-and-a-half to six year olds. They were very well behaved, excited about Peter Rabbit, and willing to do the projects I created for them. Yay! I love my class!

There’s my list of a few good things that have happened in the last three weeks. I won’t spoil it by listing a few bad things. I may not be earning money, but I really am doing something important with my life.

Beginning School Again

This was our first week of school, and as it is a week earlier than planned, I chose to begin easy with only our workbooks. It is going well. Workbook work doesn’t consume too much time, and the beginning of our math books are not too complicated.

Emotionally, I’m drained. Too much confusion. Too much personal drama. I pray for peace, but I’m also praying for God to send out His truth, and I imagine peace and truth don’t always come at the same time. Hopefully, the truth leads to peace eventually.

The beginning of the school season means the beginning of homeschool co-op, and I have a challenging class this year. I have begun to prepare, but I’m not a great classroom teacher, and I will be teaching 16 four-and-a-half to six year olds. Thankfully, I’ll also have the help of three adult aides. And also, my class is first hour, meaning they aren’t so tired yet.

And then there is Sunday School, which isn’t hard, but it is extra preparation.

I’m not exactly overwhelmed with the upcoming school work, but I am concerned how this is all going to work with my personal marriage problems. My counselor says to keep doing things I enjoy. I need to take care of myself. I enjoy writing. So I need to keep writing. That is how I hash things out so I can understand them.

Summer Vacation has Begun

Now that summer has begun, here’s what I’m thinking about homeschool:

  • I refuse to regret anything in the past year; it went well enough, and the kids learned things.
  • I have a lot of research to do during the summer.
    • I have to get new history curriculum (or decide to do more unit studies).
    • I have to decide which math program to move my middle daughter into. She’s not thriving on Math-U-See.
    • I have to decide if this is the year we begin learning Spanish.
    • I want a more thorough language arts curriculum (in combination with the literature I choose to read aloud) because I don’t want it to be all on me to teach them the technicalities of writing and grammar. I’m a little vague on the technicalities.
    • I might want to purchase a different typing program because Keyboarding Without Tears is getting old and tiresome for the girls.
    • I need to find ways to keep my son busy doing things he loves. Thankfully, he does love some aspects of school.

And here’s what I’m thinking about summer vacation:

  • I want to be more creative with our time than I was last year. Go places, be brave, but not so brave that I get lost or in situations I can’t handle.
  • My son is now mowing lawn, so I’ll probably be clipping edges all summer. He doesn’t get as close as last year’s lawn mower. I need to convince myself that this is okay. The last time I clipped, my hand wouldn’t stop twitching for 24 hours. Hopefully that doesn’t continue.
  • I hope the pool is enjoyable for the kids and I this summer because it’s a great place to go when everything else is boring.
  • And I want to paint that picture I promised myself on New Years!! I just have to begin.

 

Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m making an effort to think clearly tonight, being honest with myself. Certain things that bother me are bothering me again, and normally this causes a type of confused panic to begin. Lots of points and counterpoints going on in my thought processes, and I get lost and start wondering which point is “the most true.”

Well, here’s my attempt at removing myself emotionally from my own situation.

God loves His children. God can be trusted. God is in control. God’s plan is beautiful.

What do I like about this poppy painting? The heart of small things are monumentally important. Something traditionally beautiful (like flowers, or say, a marriage) can show unusual beauty and interest when examined closely. But see, I can’t even talk about a painting without trying to talk about my own problems. How about this: the painting is startlingly beautiful, kind of like seeing a flower in real truth after only seeing fake flowers.

I just realized how great school was for getting your mind off your own problems. You can bury yourself in the world of academia. Homeschooling doesn’t work so well because it’s studying in the environment of home. Home is vital and must not be buried.

And God’s plan is always the best plan, no matter what I think.

[Afterthought: I suppose choosing a Georgia O’Keefe painting to help me remove myself emotionally from something wasn’t very smart. I probably should’ve gone with something still clinging to the Middle Ages, like Giotto.]