Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not-so-Wordless Wednesday

Q: Did you know that Daniel Boone had 3 ears?

A: Yes. A right ear, a left ear, and a wild frontier!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grace Week

We have just finished our first official "Grace Week", and we all agreed that it accomplished what we were hoping for. A change of pace, a moment to rest, an opportunity to process what exactly it is that we are doing. We plan to include a monthly Grace Week for the remainder of this school year and then re-evaluate.

For those unfamiliar with Grace Week, it was started by Queen Shenaynay over at The Beehive. She did this with her daughters in their early years of homeschooling, and recently when I felt I needed a break it whispered itself in my ear, Grace. If anyone needs grace, it's me! So I did a little homework and came up with a plan. We already school year-round, so the schedule part fit perfectly. Up until now, we take breaks as we need them, a little longer break at Christmas and between academic years, and we just keep going. However, our breaks usually are just like summer break was for me growing up - do nothing. Well, what has ended up happening is I have a list of projects, way too much free time, and the kids have way too much free time, and when school gets going again we all struggle to get back into the swing of things only to find that I didn't accomplish all of my projects and they are still looming over my head! It kind of defeated the purpose of the break when it was so hard to get going again. But Grace Week is different. It's a break from the rigor of the schedule, but it is a very purposeful break. Here is what we did:

We had a little family meeting at the beginning of the week, and I laid out my expectations of the children. There would be daily Bible time, daily personal reading time, and daily exercise time. The reading could be any book of their choice, and so could the exercise. The daily Bible time was intended to be personal as we are beginning to encourage the boys to have their own daily time alone with the Lord. That part did not happen this week, so it will be a focus next month. The exercise ended up being basketball out front, bike riding, long walks, and jumping on the trampoline. Also dancing :O)

We also laid out some projects we would do together. This time it was bake bread, prepare the ground for a garden, and memorize Psalm 100. The first two did get accomplished, the memorization is still a work in progress.

Finally, we each had individual projects. I had the boys choose something they had learned that they were very excited about and create a project to present to Daddy & I after a special dinner on Saturday evening (prepared by Jirafa and myself). I really did not know how these projects would turn out, but after hours of work they each came up with something that blew us out of the water! Jirafa made himself a costume and presented a first person dramatization of George Washington's retreat from the Battle of Long Island. He used pillows "dressed" in clothes (armed with guns & swords) as additional characters and reinacted parts of the battle for us! To distinguish himself as George Washington, he even made a wig out of white paper and put a hat on top! Paco made two large drawings - one was King Philip and the Spanish Armada. The other was Queen Elizabeth and the English Navy. He described to us how the little English Navy defeated the Spanish Armada, sending them fleeing quickly away. They both were so proud of their presentations and are already talking about doing another one! Yay! It was a very entertaining evening for Daddy & I.

As for my own projects, I got two closets cleaned out, kept up my excercise routine, and worked a day on potty training our little princess. It turned out she wasn't quite ready, but rather than feel bad that we didn't accomplish it I am going to feel good that she & I got so much one on one time together.

So, for the rest of the semester we will work 3 weeks on our regular curriculum/schedule, and then we will take one Grace Week. We don't need 4-6 weeks off in the summer, and little 3 & 4 day weekends don't quite give us enough time to both accomplish a project and rest. Thank you, Queen Shenaynay for sharing this magnificent idea with the rest of us! Our family is rested, refreshed, and energized to start back on our "school schedule" tomorrow.

Later I will have to collect the thoughts swimming in my head about the correlation between this idea and the grace offered to us from the Lord. For now, I just wanted to get the facts out there and share our experience with Grace Week.

Monday, February 4, 2008

123 Meme

Something New! A Game!

My friend Laura posted this on her blog, and it just is too fun to pass up. I had never heard of "meme" before, but I'm intrigued.

For those of you who are new 'meme-ers', a 'meme' as defined by 'The Daily Meme' is:

In the context of web logs / 'blogs / blogging and other kinds of personal web sites it's some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions. Then someone else sees them and does them and so on and so on. I generally consider these to be actual questions and not some multiple choice quizzes that determine some result at the end (what color you are most like, what cartoon character are you, what 80s movie are you).

Here are the rules for this one:
  • Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more (no cheating!)

  • Find page 123

  • Find the first five sentences

  • Post the next three sentences

  • Tag five people

I had to pass over a devotional book of less than 123 pages and some math books before reaching a "real book" - hah! The closest book to my desk, which is where I am, is Getting Things Done by David Allen... Page 123... Five sentences down, and here are the next three:

- That item may be more attractive to your psyche because you know right away what to do with it- and you don't feel like thinking about what's in your hand. This is dangerous territory. What's in your hand is likely to land on a "hmppphhh" stack on the side of your desk because you become distracted by something easier, more important, or more interesting below it. -

Okay, the Bible IS the only living, breathing, inspired Word from God, right? I am SO busted!! We are having Grace Week right now (which I will blog about this weekend), and one of my personal goals for the week is to get my inbox to "zero". Another is to clean out my closet. Today, I cleaned out my closet - it is done. To my dismay, I found my "old" inbox... the one that is essentially a "hmppphhh" stack all by itself. Can't I just throw it all away and pretend it never existed???? Uhhhh....

Okay, your turn!!! Put your meme on your blog & comment to me so that I know you did it & can come read it! Or if you don't have a blog, email it to me or post it as a comment. I want to know what everyone's closest book is! How do I pick 5 people? Do you have to do that? I want everyone reading this to do it - so if you've read this count yourself tagged.

Let The Game Come to You

This is one of Sr. Smith's "staff development" quotes. Carletta over at Successful Homeschooling likened her husband's encouragement in their homeschooling to staff development that a school principal provides for his teachers, and I love the analogy! So I'm going to use it ;o)

"Let the game come to you." Charlotte Mason has taught me so much, and our homeschooling is what it is because of her writings. It will be better as I learn more and follow her methods more closely. One thing I struggle with from time to time, though, is that every so often you'll find that she comments that these methods will work well with children of normal development. She uses older, less PC ways to say this, but you get the idea; she's referring to the fact that there are children who don't learn as quickly as the majority of the others. And she is acknowledging that there may be some modifications necessary for these kiddos. We find that her methods work fantastically with both of our school age children, but what needs to be tweeked for one is the amount of work required, and the timeline in which to expect it.

I'll give an example. Last week my Paco made a huge turn in his reading. Paco is 9 years old, and was diagnosed with a syndrome at birth. I won't go into all of that; it isn't common & hardly anyone has heard of it anyway. But the ramifications are that he struggles with almost everything that we take for granted. And he pretty much operates about 12-18 months behind most of his chronological age peers. So when I start getting worried that something isn't happening, or a goal isn't being met, that's when Sr. Smith gently reminds me to, you got it, let the game come to me.

So last Tuesday I sat down with Paco and asked him to get a book of his choosing. We took turns reading Nate the Great. I read a sentence, then he read the same sentence. This went on a few pages until he told me to stop reading. He only wanted me to help him with the hard words. So I skimmed ahead & alerted him to any I thought he might struggle with. We did this for about 30 minutes, and then we went on to other things. That night, he asked his Daddy to read a Flat Stanley book with him, and he explained about our method during the day. He taught his Daddy how to help him!

Fast forward another two days. Paco came and got me, and wanted me to listen to him read from the House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. The original one with line drawings that is so precious. Now, this had been something I read to him in Year 1 - but now he wanted to read it to me! He opened it, not to page 1, but to page 17. He had started reading it on his own during his free time! CM'ers know where I'm going with this, I think, but I'm going to spell it out for non-CM'ers. His little heart and soul were not satisfied with the twaddle he had picked up earlier in the week - yes, he read and was entertained by those books. And really Nate the Great is pretty good. However, he went for something meatier of his own accord. The light dancing around in his eyes as he read to me was amazing. He was enthralled and could hardly contain his excitement! He looked at the line drawings of Pooh and Tigger at their first meeting, and made a face to mimic what he saw in Tigger. Then he said what he thought Tigger must have been thinking based on the expression on his face! This is huge for a child who has difficulty reading body language, nuances, and social cues. HUGE!

And more!! Sr. Smith told me later that, yes, Paco had pulled out the book the day before and read to him when I wasn't home. He read the hard words all by himself! And he had laughed and made the comment after reading that Pooh had "whispered loudly" - "Hah! That's so funny. How can you whisper loudly?"

So I offer two gleanings from this experience:

One, Charlotte is right that just as we do not waste our time with that which does not nourish the soul, neither does the child when given the choice. Second, Miss Mason cautions us not to speak too much. To let the children's minds digest what they take in without our manipulation of how they are to interpret this and that. It's her way of telling us to let the game come to us.

And truly, if we give it time, it will.