Summer Schedule: A Guide to Simplicity (Part II)

I choose to school year round.  Slowly. With lots of interruptions.  It just seems to work better for me and the gang.  And in yesterday’s post, I explained that school is the first task to be tackled in our day.

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Since I’m educating children ages 5-8 at very different levels-and with a toddler and baby in tow-there’s quite a bit of multitasking.  But because we teach classically using Classical Conversations (essentially a one-room schoolhouse model that isn’t divided by age and covers all material via rote memorization until age 9-ish), we’re able to accomplish quite a bit in a short amount of time.

So, here’s our Summer School Schedule:

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And it hangs over our breakfast table with the other aspects of our schedule. Plain and simple.

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This nook serves as our ‘school room’.  As does this bookshelf in the kitchen…

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…along with my laptop and the local library.  As a minimalist at heart, this is something I really appreciate about the classical model; it doesn’t take over my home. Or day.  A common saying to describe classical education is “give me a stick and some sand and I’ll give you an excellent education.” My own personal saying is, “Just gotta stay one chapter/youtube video ahead of the kids!”  We really are learning together!

So let me break down each part of our school work, noting that there is a sea of fantastic resources out there and that these are simply the ones that are working for us.

  1. Math:  This is our 4th year using Math U See and we’re sticking with it.mus-products-fan

We can move at our own pace, and even the toddler enjoys playing with the math manipulatives when the others aren’t using them.m-blocks_zps252c4656

  1. Memorizing Books of the Bible: Classical Conversations offers a song by which to memorize the books the Bible, so we’ve put that in the summer rotation.  Because the kids are used to memorizing large amounts of information through song, this is coming very easy for them.IMG_5575
  2. Timeline: This is another fantastic resource offered through Classical Conversations.   Timeline is a 12 minute song covering 161 historical events, representing major cultures on every continent, from Creation to current events.  And it’s awesome.  And catchy.  Catchy in the kinda way that one might find them self humming it while in active labor (The Middle Ages, Counsel of Chalcedon, Western Roman Empire falls to Barbarians, Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Benedict and Monasticism….ooh…contraction….breathe….Muhammed Founds Islam, Zanj and Early Ghana in Africa.)  True story.  Each week we cover 7 history facts and supplement them with books, youtube videos, etc.IMG_5578

One note about our memorization: we knock this out first thing in the morning.  Kids sit groggily awaiting breakfast, which serves as the PERFECT time to practice our memorization.  We’re finished faster than they cay say “I don’t like this protein smoothie”.  Kale?  Kefir?  What’s not to love??IMG_5592

4. Spell To Write and Read:  Starting with phonics-based spelling, Spell to Write and Read weaves beginning through 12th grade spelling into a full language arts program. Rather than merely memorizing words, students are taught how to analyze the reasons behind a word’s spelling and pronunciation, giving them a strategy to learn any word they encounter (side perk is that it will undoubtedly help them win Jeopardy.) We are almost done with memorizing all the flash cards, and sometimes-like today- we wait until we get to the pool to work on this.  Because being able to cannonball after reciting Rule #2 is just way cooler. 18623558_1853711684894867_6523151618553572431_o

The last few items on our school schedule- cursive, penmanship, alphabet & reading- are a semi-orchestrated movement that’s hard to even put into words.  One might sit at the coffee table to work on a math test while one practices cursive and I help the other with the alphabet.

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Or one copies the sentence of their choice while the other reads about the Spanish Inquisition as I sit with another and read Treasure Island. 18527284_10154382598047657_2299440506994164160_o

There’s just so many variables! However,  I find it helps if I put them in different spaces with different tasks. We do try to stick to 30 minutes, and we’re almost always done with school by 10 am!

Lastly, here’s a few ways we continuously supplement our curriculum:

1.Story of the World.  These cd’s are just fantastic and are often playing in the van as we run errands, or in the background to their lego-building, or at night as they fall asleep.  Story of the World covers everything from Ancient Cultures to the Middle Ages to The Modern World. They’re wonderful for road trips, too!

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2. Memory Cards. Classical Conversations covers Latin, English Grammar, History, Science, Math, Geography, as well as the Timeline.  And then they kick it up a notch and put all that material on these nifty laminated cards that are color-coded, water-resistant, and are easily placed on a key ring and stored in a diaper bag.  I take these everywhere and the kids are continuously reviewing all they’ve memorized.  These cards really help me take our school on the road…or the park…or the backyard…

cycle-1-memory-flashcards-33. Handwriting paper. For every day.  In every way. We have an ever-flowing supply of handwriting paper in our school nook, and it is well-used.

4. Perspective. Homeschooling can quickly feel overwhelming. It helps to remind myself that I don’t have to cover all the subjects all the time.  Lord willing, we’ve got a lot of years. And at these ages, I find that subjects pertaining to science and the arts are beautifully built into their days as they explore the world around them and ask questions. It just happens organically.  Like today, when we were given 2 bikes by a lovely friend, who’s husband happens to have a glass eye and was happy to talk about it with the kids, which led to googling all things eye-related!

So that’s how we tackle summer school.  Funny, my hope was to make this post as simple as possible, but I wonder if it sounds complicated?  Actually, I wonder if any other human’s life sounds complicated compared to the one they’re living.  I used to find myself saying things like, “I could NEVER do what so & so does!” or “I don’t know HOW she does it!” What I’m learning is that we all have our own unique approach to parenting and schooling and life.  And as you explore your flavor, I hope this post offers some fresh seasoning!

 

Summer Schedule: A Guide to Simplicity (Part I)

 

 

It’s summer!

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Which often drums up thoughts of putting your feet up and relaxing.

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But in reality, parenting over the summer can feel like this.

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Or this.

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Kids are up early. They’re hungry around the clock, and bored by 10am.

(Same applies to weekends.  Is a Saturday really that much different than a Monday?  The answer is no.  No it is not.)

So to avoid feeling like a perpetual camp counselor charged with entertaining a hoard of little people, I’d like to share the schedule I’ve adopted in order to preserve my sanity.   Over the next week or so, I’ll be sharing various aspects of this schedule, but for today, I’d like to share the big picture.

Basically, I divide our days into 4 chunks of time: School, Chores, Pool, & Outside Maintenance. Obviously there’s a lot that finds it’s way into those blocks of time (like my exercise, food shopping, cooking & eating meals, diapers, naps, etc.) but these 4 divisions serve as the building blocks of our day.

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This incredibly unimpressive piece of paper hangs on the wall by our breakfast table with the 5 other aspects of our summer schedule (to be discussed later this week) and serves as a sort of compass for my day. You’d think it would be easy to remember a 4-part daily schedule, but insert crying and complaining and spills and diapers and it’s amazing how quickly the brain can scramble.

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Why these 4 blocks, you ask?  Allow me to share my reasoning:

1.  School: We continue with homeschooling over the summer which, don’t tell the kids, means we do school year round (gasp). This allows for a slower, more gradual pace with lots of breaks, trips, and visitors without the stress of ‘catching up’. Plus, it’s pretty hot here in Georgia over the summer, so we actually tend to stay inside more.  Which means we can get through 2/3 of our math curriculum from May-September!

2. Chores: The children continue to help manage the home for the sanity (and sanitariness) of us all.  Simple as that.

3. Pool: Our neighborhood pool is a great motivator for points 1 & 2.  We actually moved into our current home sight-unseen.  My only requirement was that we had access to a pool, and boy it has not disappointed. This only works because I, too, really enjoy the pool, so it feels like a treat for me as well.

4. Maintaining the grounds: Because we live in a community with covenants, the children are responsible for picking up all toys from the yard every night. They also tidy the porches and garage so that, when mom and dad sit outside in the morning with their cup of coffee, it doesn’t feel like we’re sitting in a disaster zone.  Ambiance, folks.

So there it is.  Part I of how we as a family schedule our summer in order to preserve sanity, promote simplicity, and save lots of room for adventuring.  Like today, when Judah decided to play out in the rain.  And drink the road water.

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Followed by the discovery of an unacceptably too-long snake in the woods by the 3 bigger kids.  Which led to many youtube videos of snakes eating various animals in order to decide what they saw in the woods.  They’ve decided it was a Rat Snake.  Worst. Name. Ever.

So, yeah, adventures…

 

 

Peaceful Punctuality

 

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We’re about to be 10 minutes late to our homeschool coop.

Actually, 11 minutes late now that I stopped to take a selfie.

And we’re celebrating it.IMG_5488.JPG

Why? Because we got through the morning with love and kindness in tact.

Backstory: I heart punctuality.  Like, really love it.  Everything within me craves timeliness. To arrive early is to arrive on time.  To arrive on time is to arrive late, right?

Then I had kids. Then we started arriving late to things.  I was mortified. All those people judging me.  Why can’t that lady with the 2…3…4…no wait, 5 kids get here on time like everyone else? Sometimes we’d arrive on time, but the victory was short-lived because either way-late or timely-we always arrived the same way: STRESSED. Me mad at kids.  Kids mad at me.  Kids mad at each other….as we all smile, meet and greet. You get the picture.

Punctuality was becoming a key component to my ideal image and had to be upheld at all costs. This meant yelling, huffing, puffing, pressuring, coercing, threatening…whatever was needed to get those little hindrances to my image into the van and off to my triumphant procession engagement on time.  After all, everyone’s watching, right?

Then one day I woke up and thought, this isn’t working. This is stressful for me.  This is stressful for the kids. I’m focused on supporting my ideal image over nurturing the kids.  Or myself.  I’m trying to impress people who don’t care about my punctuality nearly as much as I do and are far more gracious than I am to myself and my family.  I’m not being authentic. And I definitely don’t heart inauthenticity.  Inauthenticity totally crushes encouragement and support among parents of little ones. It’s pretending and lying and I was teaching my kids to do it.

So I came up with a phrase 2 months ago and it’s really helping me.

I’d rather arrive in peace than on time.

Then the strangest thing started happening: getting out the door started becoming less stressful, and arriving started becoming less chaotic, and we all started becoming more peaceful.  Oh, and we started arriving on time more frequently.  I know, right?  Go figure.

Here’s some small practical tips that have helped my family do the best we can to be punctual peacefully:

  • Allow 2 hours- yes, 2 hours- from start to finish to get out the door. If we need to be in the van at 10 am, start getting ready at 8 am.  For a long time I wanted to believe that this wasn’t my reality.  I mean, 2 hours?  Really?? But alas, tis true.  So 2 hours it is.
  • Brief kids the night before of the morning’s agenda.  What needs to happen? When? What responsibility does each child have?
  • Ask spouse for specific help.  Don’t assume he’s a mindreader and knows what would help get everyone out the door.
  • Pack as much as possible the night before.  Lunches, diapers, water bottles…whatever can be done ahead of time.  Your morning self will thank you when the inevitable diaper blow out and sibling blow up deters you from your timeline.
  •  Ask the kids for suggestions.  What could make our mornings easier?  What could we do better?  They have some pretty clever ideas.  Recently, my kids suggested they get into the van one at a time while the others wait in the garage as a way to mitigate fighting.  And.It. Worked.
  • Repeat over and over “I’d rather arrive in peace than on time.”  I can’t tell you how much this has guided me when I  feel tempted to spiral into frantic stress ball mode.
  • When scheduling an appointment that must be met on time (doctor, dentist, etc.), pick a time that you know you can make.  Preferably after 10 am.
  • Reward your kids-and yourself- for your efforts!  Just yesterday the kids and I had to be out the door by 9:30 to get to a Farmers Market to do a ton of shopping for a 17-person gathering I’m cooking for this weekend (stay tuned for that blog post!).  I told the kids the night  before what we were doing, who we would be cooking for, what these friends mean to me, what grocery items we will need, which child will be pushing the baby stroller, the shopping cart, the other shopping cart….It was a LOT of coordination and energy.  So when we actually pulled it all off and checked out, we celebrated with cupcakes and cannolis. At 11 am.  IMG_6826

So there you have it. My small, practical tips to arriving in peace and possibly even on time! If you have tips, victories or epic fails, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

Honey Sriracha Chicken

This recipe is just too good not to share!

And these ingredients are just too good not to have in your pantry at all times!

And since my pet peeve is having to read an entire novel depicting the blogger’s every.single.thought regarding the recipe before actually getting to the recipe, let me jump right in!

  1. Make a marinade of sriracha, rice vinegar, honey (or maple syrup) and liquid aminos.
  2. Add a bunch of minced  garlic and approve taste via the pinky dip.  Sorry, I don’t measure.  You’re just gonna have to pinky dip.
  3. Pour over chicken thighs and marinate over night.
  4. Remove chicken from marinade and cook on stove top over med-high heat until ooey gooey perfection.
  5. Remove chicken from pan, lower heat to medium, and pour in leftover marinade.
  6. Allow it to simmer and deglaze the pan before adding a generous portion of cashew butter.  Let it thicken into creamy awesomeness.
  7. Cook rice noodles according to package and then toss in the pan with the cashew-siracha-honey sauce.
  8. Sprinkle the heavenly plate with sesame seeds, add some veggies, and enjoy a healthy, easy, ridiculously tasty meal.

I promise, what it lacks in color it more than makes up for in taste.

Coddiwomple

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This word pretty much sums up my parenting strategy lately.  And yesterday, when both I and six-year-old Sam awoke grumpy, there was a whole ‘lotta coddiwompling.  My irritability increased throughout the day.  So did Sam’s.  School was choppy.  As I read The Burgess Bird Book For Children, I couldn’t help but notice his glazed-over eyes as he slumped in his seat.  But I kept my eye on the prize: a 4:00 pm date with a 4-mile trail in the most beautiful 700-acre park nearby.  Alone.  Without kids.  Just me and nature.

At long last, 4:00 arrived and I sprinted for the front door.  Finally-Me Time.  I glanced over my shoulder as I closed the door, yelling “Thank you” to my husband for keeping the kids, only to see Sam slouching on top of an end table.  Grumpy. Lashing out at siblings. Bored.  Eyes glazed over. Not his most endearing traits.  Yet in that moment, I felt so much compassion for him.  I saw me.  And I realized we were experiencing the same kind of day and that commanding him to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘just be happy….or nice…or good’ would be as helpful to him as it would’ve been to me.  Not so much. And just like that, the very person I longed all day to escape, I suddenly felt compelled to invite to join me….in the woods…in the rain…for a 4 mile run.

Maybe I can help him.

It took him about 15 seconds to slip into his boots (he’s really embracing the South) and haul his bike into the trunk of the van.    IMG_6366.JPG

As we drove to the trails, we started talking.  Not a scripted parental talk.  Just talking.  Like 2 people trying to figure out life.

Me: What are you feeling today?

Sam: Grumpy.

Me: Me too. When did you first notice you felt this way?

Sam: Right when I woke up.

Me: Me too.  What do you think might be causing this?

Sam: I think I’m tired.

Me: Wow!  That would make sense.  We were out late with friends last night and didn’t get as much sleep as we normally would. I hadn’t even thought of that!

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We spent the next 4 miles  mostly in silence.  He rode his bike, occasionally pointing out cardinals and sparrows as described in our reading of The Burgess Bird Book that morning- the book I thought he was totally despising- and we did a lot of smiling.  And I think we did a lot of healing.  IMG_6360.JPG

Maybe we can help each other.  

Travel together.

Toward that as-yet-unkown destination.