Native America Unit Study

We finished our Native America Unit Study which I bought from Homeschool Legacy. I am really impressed! It is a six-week study, but I stretched it out to eight weeks. It covered Native America in geographical units: Southwest, Northeast, Great Plains, etc. The unit study included suggested reading, a devotional, interesting facts, website suggestions, some games, some recipes, and more. It claims to be no prep, but that’s not true, at least in my case. I had to prepare ahead of time by ordering the books from the library and making sure I had everything in time.

The best thing about the study? Reading Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell. It really opened up the life of the Navajos to us. Second best? A matching game about the different parts of a buffalo and what the Great Plains people used them for. (No one wanted to get the buffalo chip match. Eww.)

I’m not getting paid to write this review; I just think it’s worth sharing with you. If you’re looking for a different sort of history unit, go over to Homeschool Legacy and check it out!


The Conflict

You could say I’m fairly well tuned to the beat of homeschooling and motherhood, at least for kids still in the elementary age. I am homeschooling and mothering every day. I read blogs by honest mothers trying to do the same things I do. I attend a homeschool co-op and listen to other moms chat in the breakroom. I even read books written by homeschool moms and dads. Well, in all the information and advice I’ve gleaned through these different sources, I sense a conflict. If you’re a homeschooling mom, you probably feel this conflict, too, even if you haven’t tried describing it. I’m just beginning to put it in words.

The conflict is one between taking care of yourself and giving of yourself.

Self-care. It’s important, right? I’ve recently added “Quiet Time for Mom” to the top of my homeschool daily schedule. My kids are old enough now that I can safely leave them with their breakfast and puzzles and Barbies in the downstairs while I take a few minutes upstairs to be alone, read the Bible, a devotional, pray, write in a prayer journal. Then I come downstairs to be Teacher-Mom. But what about at 10:30 am when Teacher-Mom is on her second can of Mt. Dew (because it has been a two-can day already), the grand scheme of the schedule has not been played out yet, and it seems easier to just let everyone play while I plan dinner and switch loads of laundry, which is more relaxing, and besides, Homemaker-Mom is feeling guilty for being non-existent all morning? Or worse, what about the times Grumpy-Mom shows up and refuses to go away? What then? Is it okay to go take care of these other sides of Mom?

Or must I keep going, self-sacrificing, refuse to notice that I’m grumpy, or tell myself that an education is more important than a load of laundry? Give of myself more and more. That’s really a Biblical concept, and that’s what I should be striving after, right? Forget about those selfish yearnings to make money of my own so I don’t have to feel bad about asking my husband for more when my wallet runs out. Forget about wanting some time to do art alone without a thousand interruptions (after all, we moms live in phases, and the phase for being left alone will eventually come). Forget about that walk the kids used to love but now don’t. Forget about trying to be rested on a Sunday afternoon (because that hasn’t happened in forever). My job right now is to Be There. To Live Here with Children. To Be Dependent on my Husband. To Be the One my Children are Dependent On. To Be in the Middle of All These Conflicts.

That’s my conclusion. Being part of this conflict means I’m where I’m supposed to be. It’s a tough job we moms have. It’s confusing. There are no books or blogs written to truly solve this problem. God is a solution, I guess, but God makes it pretty clear that following Him isn’t supposed to be an easy thing. He knows the answers, but I will never understand what I want to understand.

Day Away Home

Once upon a clear fall day a homeschool mom decided enough was enough. She was going on vacation. So she donned her favorite red and black plaid shirt, comfy jeans, put her hair up, and told her children to be good; she’d be right back. She went outside to feed the cats, got a good breath of cool air, and then she came back in. However, she did not come back home! She came to the Day Away Home (which is totally imaginary, but it just goes to show she spends much time around her daughters who play imaginary all the time).

Day Away Home itinerary:
Item 1. School. Even away from normality, one must be educated. Today happened to be science video day, which brought the class into the transition forests of the Great Lakes region. We looked up into the treetops and were thankful for the way God renews His earth.

Item 2. Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell. Oh, we are enthralled with this story of Sacagawea. It is definitely a trip out west. An exploration. We were really horrified that the icky Frenchman won the Hand Game and so won Sacagawea as his wife, but we’re glad she could go with Lewis and Clark.

Item 3. Dinner. We ate food this mom enjoys but doesn’t often make: fried slices of ring bologna and mashed potatoes with pineapple on the side.

Item 4. Apple Orchard. A yearly trip to the orchard playground and store. A giant pumpkin stood in the front (was it real? was it a Cinderella coach?) A new castle structure added intrigue to the playground, and a certain nine-year-old boy who is usually bored with anything his sisters enjoy managed to entertain himself quite nicely.

Item 5. Leaf Maze. Aforementioned nine-year-old boy went to much effort to create an elaborate leaf maze in the Day Away Home backyard, complete with checkpoints and an entry sign-in sheet. Mother and sisters completed the maze and amazingly mother made it out without asking for directions!

Item 6. Games on the floor. Uno and Spot It! were the games of choice.

The day wound down, and I suppose I am no longer on my day away. But that’s okay. I have a good grown-up book waiting for me upstairs. 🙂

Taking the Long View

I have finished reading the book Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015). My last three posts have been about it. There are many good, practical details in this book about simplifying curriculum and using a loop schedule and how to do Morning Time. I’m going to skip those and quote from the extremely encouraging end of the book (pages 69-70):

You do not need to have a ‘productive’ homeschool day to please the Savior. You do not need to have a clean house to please the Savior. You do not even need to have well-behaved kids to please Him. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you hit every math problem, get through an entire spelling lesson, or whether your child loves learning the way you want him to. You are cultivating your child like a tree, and trees will bear fruit in time. We are taking the long view. Consistency over time goes a long way toward tending our orchard. Faithfully tending to your work each day is what success looks like for the homeschooling mother.

It is true that I am sometimes confused as to what “faithfully tending to your work each day” means in my life. I sometimes think I’m missing the mark, concentrating on the wrong things. But that’s when I get anxious (and thus not at rest). I think I would add, for my own sake, that I do not need to fill in all the blanks in the family that aren’t getting filled. God is more pleased with one content, faithful heart in a dysfunctional family than a perfectly functional family full of anxious hearts.

I end this mini-series by quoting St. Jerome, whom Mrs. Mackenzie also quoted on page 70, “It is our part to offer what we can, his to finish what we cannot.”

What “curriculum” means

Perhaps the biggest mistake homeschooling moms make as a whole is overcomplicating things. After all, curriculum is not something you buy. It is far too robust to be purchased online or checked off on a set of lesson plans. It is a set of encounters that form the soul and shape the intellect.

— from Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015), pg 25

I could say I don’t have one curriculum this year because I am mixing and matching things rather than using Ambleside Online. However, according to Mrs. Mackenzie, my curriculum is not the collection of teacher’s guides, math workbooks, and online lessons. It is the “form and content of our children’s learning experiences” (22). It includes the library picture book about Olivia the pig going to Venice, Italy. It includes the enthusiasm for the animal world they pick up from the Kratt brothers on Wild Kratts. It is also the experience of riding home from the evening church service with the window open, noticing the smells of bonfires, marshes, humidity, night air, manure. And, of course, it is the habit of listening to Mom as she reads on and on, enjoying the rhythm of Song of Hiawatha, even though it is probably at a higher grade level than is appropriate for them.

My note to self: don’t overcomplicate things. They are learning, even when I think we’re not getting in the school hours I promise the government I’m going to keep.

The virtue between negligence and anxiety

Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety, but many of the homeschooling moms I have met, myself included, find themselves more likely to fall prey to one camp or the other. When we are weak in virtue, we inch toward vice. A curriculum that leaves no room for the soul to breathe will suffocate, but so will the absence of purposeful and intentional teaching. If we are doing our children a great disservice by shuttling them through a set of books and plans without consideration for their souls, we are doing them an equal disservice by ignoring their formation and leaving our children to form themselves.

— from Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015), pg 7

I like the image of a pendulum, moving from the vice of negligence to the vice of anxiety. The virtue we need to create balance in our lives, rest, is found right in the middle.

Rest, in this sense, is not relaxing on the couch. And anxiety, in this sense, is not collapsing on the couch because everything is too much for you. Negligence, however, might be one of those. Rest is looking to God for direction, and then knowing that you’re going to fail, and then also knowing that it’s okay because God has everything under control. (See the pendulum in that sentence?) I’m full of pendulum movements. It’s called mood swings! But God remains at the center, fully in control of my life, my kids’ lives, my family, my homeschool, my everything. He is there making sure I don’t go flying off the end into utter ruin.

Teaching From Rest

Today I began reading a book by homeschool mom Sarah Mackenzie called Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (2015). Already I know why God led me to this particular book. Because He is speaking through it to me! I am going to do a mini-series on this blog about my thoughts as I read this book.

Here is the part of the introduction (pg. xv) where she talks about the story of Mary and Martha:

We can picture Martha in her frustration with her sister, right? ‘Don’t just sit there! Do something!’ And yet the Lord gently admonishes Martha’s busyness. Mary, after all, has chosen the needful thing. The contemplative way. The being and becoming over the doing and the checking off. I can almost hear him inverting the message to me–turning my obsession with productivity on its head: ‘Don’t just do something; sit here.’

I almost cried in relief at reading this. I needed to hear that “the contemplative way” was the needful thing. I needed this assurance that thinking and listening to God is not lazy or less important than working, which is what my husband does all day.

I don’t know how this book is going to teach me about marriage. It sounds as if Mrs. Mackenzie’s marriage is good, and her own husband doesn’t work all day (she slipped off to coffee shops to write this book though she has six children, three under the age of two). But I do know that this book is going to teach me about trusting God. And I need that teaching very much.