Thursday, May 24, 2018

1 Year With Kate

Katherine,

Happy first birthday, Little Love.  You seem to have had a wonderful day despite spending much of it in the car running errands.  You accompanied us to the eye place for glasses, the bakery to order your birthday cake for Saturday, the park to visit a friend then to her house to pick up Ruth's kitten.  We paid a visit to Grandmother and Granddaddy before making a stop for an oil change and to Publix to pick up a something we left the night before that they were holding for us.  Tonight we celebrated your birthday with Grumps and Ahna, and Unca Benji with supper at Texas Roadhouse and a cupcake back at the house.  You got to open one of your birthday presents from Grumps and Ahna tonight along with your Easter gift.  We let you stay up till your birthday minute, and despite only cat napping twice in the car, you were a happy girl for the very long day.


It is always amazing to me, just how much a baby grows and changes in the first year.  You go from having to work at nursing to drinking from a bottle and a cup, and picking up and eating real food.  You start out so weak that you cannot even hold up your head, to walking and climbing on people.  You go from someone who seeming knows nothing to recognizing people and phrases.  You start out with a quiet chipmunk cry and now babble with inflection, attempting to mimic words and clearly saying Da-da if nothing else.


This month you are now, walking like a pro.  You walk most of the time, and when you fall you rarely crawl the rest of the way but stand up.  Everyone in Alabama has gotten a kick out of watching you stand from a squat, you don't even use your hands to push up off the floor most of the time.  You just stand right up.  Britt is telling everyone that you are practicing to be a catcher.  After watching Sarah Grace this past week, you have even started "wrestling with Daddy" trying to climb all over him, and his feet and legs, rather than crawling around him when you wanted him or something on his other side.  Today, you took a little walk with Granddaddy.  He used his cane, and you just about kept right up with him walking next to him.  When he turned to come back to his chair, you pivoted in that slow way of yours, and tried to catch up with him, as he as already on his way back.



You have 5 teeth in all the way, which is painful when you bite down.  We think you may be starting on some more.  You chew on the pacifier sometimes, but especially like to bite down on clothing or other fabric, and then pull it out of your mouth.  I'm convinced you are going to rip holes in something.


We began mixing some milk in your formula today.  You didn't seem to have a problem with it.  The formula is handy to have in the diaper bag, but when we get you home, we plan to try to get you on milk as soon as we can.  You still haven't found a food that you don't like.  For a bit I thought you weren't going to like uncooked tomatoes, but after trying them a couple more times, you decided they were ok after all.  Today, Daddy gave you gatorade for the first time, and just water to drink.  You liked the gatorade, but hated the water.  Typical, none of our children seem to like to drink water.  Daddy jokes that you are a sloth.  You are so slow, especially when you eat.  You look at the item, and very slowly but precisely with a pincer grip, pick up a piece of food, look at it, sometimes setting it down and picking it up several times, before putting it in your mouth, and very slowly taking your fingers away.  This week you have even started trying to just put your face down on the tray to eat instead of picking up food.  Who knows what that's about?


You seemed to love your cupcake tonight.  Lately I just about have to force the first bite of food in your mouth, to get you to try to eat something.  Then I can't feed you fast enough after you taste it, but it's like you don't want to try it.  Strange since you are still trying to eat everything you find in the floor.  Tonight, I had to practically pry your jaws open to dab some frosting and chocolate cake in your mouth.  You liked it and then ate a little more.  But mostly you loved crumbling the cupcake and smearing the frosting all over that high chair tray.  We had a good time laughing at you and you shrieked with delight several times.


In the last week, you have travelled to PA, to meet Mrs. Kathy and her family.  She is one of two very specially ladies that you are named after.  You enjoyed playing with and meeting new people.  You especially seemed to enjoy Zane, he and Britt still have a lot in common, and since you adore Britt, I'm not shocked that you enjoyed him.  We then spent several days in DC, you did great with the car rides, and sitting either in the carrier with me or in the stroller.  You did a very good job riding.  You got to meet Old Carroll, and they were so happy to see you.  Almost like night and day, a switch flipped through, and you seem to have some stranger anxiety all of a sudden.  It took Bro. Jonathan several days to win you over, and you don't seem to trust or like Unca Benji at all.  While you love your Daddy a great deal, I think your preference is for me.  As long as I'm the one holding you though, you seem to be really happy to smile at and talk to other people.


Watching you open presents was fun tonight too.  Since you are in that phase where it is fun to empty every bag, box, and purse, so pulling things out of the gift bag was easy.  You were slower at pulling off wrapping paper.  But by the end had the hang of pulling off great big papers.  Of course you thought the box it was wrapped in, where you could open and close it was the best part of all.


You have grown so much, and no matter how much you change, you remain a sweet, contented, happy girl.  We are so thankful for you, and the joy you have brought into our lives, little rainbow.  We can't imagine life without you.  You complete our life in a wonderful way.  We love you more than we can say, and pray that God does great things in your life.

Love,
Momma


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

All Locked Up

Imagine you were locked in Walmart overnight. What would you do?

I would be scared, cause no one was here to feed me, or to say good night too.  I couldn't get any food because I didn't have any money.    I would play with the toys.  And if there was a toaster somewhere in there and if there was some bread somewhere in there, I would make toast.  I like toast, and I know how to cook it.  You just grab a piece of bread, and put it in the toaster, and pull down the switch.  When it makes a sound and pops out, it is ready for you to put butter on it.  There must be butter for toast.  If there is no butter you could put jelly on it.  It's not good blank with nothing on it.  But that is what I would have to eat every day till I got out of the store.  They might have blankets when it is time to sleep but they don't have anything else.  No pillows, no sleeping bags, no beds, so I would have to take one of the blankets and sleep on the hard floor.  I would not like being stuck in Walmart overnight.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Trip to Mars

Imagine that you are traveling to Mars. Write about your experience.

My trip started with a big airplane ride to the rocket center.  When I got there, which took five hours, then I drove 2 minutes over to the rocket center.  They told me where I was going, to Mars.  They gave me a map, and I picked a space suit up out of their closet.  So I got it on, and the ship went up with a boom.  I was soaring into space when I accidently dropped the map out the window when it swung open.  I slammed it shut and locked it with a screwdriver.  But then when I finally found my way around, and got to Mars, I ran out of gas.  So, while I was trying to get contact back to the fleet, and the space center, trying to put oil in it, I was eating a ham sandwich.  I got a sunkist out after that, took a sip and got to work.  I knew I had some wire in my extra large pockets, but they must have cleaned out my pockets like they always do, because all I had was a screwdriver and a wrench and testers glue.  I didn't think the glue made sense, so I threw it aside and got to work.  When I finally got power back, I contacted the fleet.  I said I ran out of oil supplies, so I needed some oil supplies.  But they had no more ships to send out, because the last one that they had left, caught on fire and crashed into Louisiana.  So then, I took a 58 feet rope, and tied it to my suit and tried to pull it back to Earth.  Of course it took me a long time, to even be able to get Earth in my sights.  My space suit was running out of air, so I went back in and refilled my helment.  I tried contacting the fleet, to see if their other ship was repaired and they reported yes, they were on their way back to me.  A week passed and I ate 5 ham sandwiches, and drank 2 more sunkists.  I was almost back to Earth's atmosphere when I was pushed close to the sun.  So close that I hit the sun, but it was so hot, that it got my engines going.  I took control and speed off as fast as I could.  I didn't have much control because it broke and I couldn't steer an inch, but I managed to arrive at Mars.  Now, that I was on Mars, I needed to figure out a way to get back to Earth.  The space ship wasn't an option because it had been blasted to pieces.  I was able to contact the fleet, but the power cut off after I yelled, "Fleet, send something, help!"  Then the radio blew up.  So, they got all 10 of their broken ships repaired.  I was down to my last sandwich and last sunkist, when I saw the ships nearing.  I used my watch to send a in trouble beam, it wasn't very bright because I wasn't on earth, but one ship saw it.  They got me back to work, in 15 minutes pronto!  And I got to get to Dairy Queen, to go in and eat supper.  It was rough, but yes, I'll go back to space again.

My Underwater Adventure

You have the magical power to breathe underwater.  What do you do first?

I would swim down to the bottom of the sea.  Down, down, down to the depths, and I would go to the Mermaids.  I would meet Ariel and I would collect things down there like rubies and marbles.  And I would talk to Ariel and all of her sisters.  I think it might be fun to have 7 sisters like Ariel, if I wasn't the youngest like Ariel.  Then I would look for lost treasure like tiaras and golden braceletses.  I would look for pirate coins and a medallion.  I would sword fight with it so that I couldn't die.  (She starts singing the Pirate of the Caribbean music.)  I would give some of the tiaras to Momma and she would look beautiful.  She could dress up like Ariel's Momma, and I'd be Ariel.  I'd learn to swim with my feet together, so that I could get something that looked like a mermaid tail.  Then I could wrestle in the pool with Mister, so even when he throws me in the water, I could breath and be ok.  I would catch a few gold fish too, so that we could put them in Britt's empty fish tank.  But I would get King Triton to go with me, for underwater stuff, because I wouldn't want to be eaten by a shark.  Momma and Daddy would be rich because I found so much stuff.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day, Love Rebecca

Sunday is Mother's Day.  Write a letter and tell her what she means to you.


Momma does school with me.  She takes me to the splash pad to play in the water.  She plays Candyland with me.  She likes when we cuddle together.  Momma takes us to PE to play games with others.  One of the games is to knock down hula hoops houses.  She carries me to baseball for practice and games.  Momma makes sure that I have a cleans uniform with my hat and cleats.  She takes us out to Halloween to go get tons and tons of candy. When its Christmas there is always a Christmas with Momma.

Thank you Momma for cooking lunch, she loves on me, and she tickles me on my ham hocks.

Thank you for being my teacher and taking care of me.

Love ya ...MOMMA

Cuddle bug.

Happy Mother's Day, Love Ruth



A Family Poem...

Moma is like a flower that never fades.

She glows as bright as the Sun.

She is like a summer breeze and cool wind. 

She floats in the water like a lily on the water.

And even when its winter she has the glowing touch of the sun.

Her face is as beautiful as a rose.

She teaches me all the things I need to get ahead.

Even when the days are cloudy and dark she can find happiness.

Her voice is as gentle as the breeze.  


I love you Momma very much and thank you for home schooling me and thank you for being with me.




Happy Mother's Day, Love Britt

Sunday is Mother's Day.  Write a letter and tell her what she means to you.


I love her so much forever.  She's my teacher that helps me to how to do it.  She teaches me history, handwriting, math, and reading.  Momma shows me that she cares by taking me to baseball practice, 4 H building, and to the splash pad.  She lets me play the Wii and other fun games.

I try to show Momma that I love her by giving her flowers, making her cards, and kissing her on the check.  I will try to show that I care for you by doing my chores and by staying on task without being distracted.  Also by not making so much blowing up sounds.

Thank you Momma for teaching me and for all the help you have given me.

I love you Momma,

Britt


Sunday, May 06, 2018

International Bereaved Mother's Day

5-6, Rainy Days.
Did you know that Mother's Day was begun by a woman with no living children, who wished to honor her deceased Mother?  However, alot of mothers feel overlooked when they have no living children.  Someone somewhere decided to name the Sunday before Mother's Day as the Sunday to recognize their motherhood.  So, these days I get to celebrate two Mother's Days one without Abigail, and one with the rest of our children.  Today, it was rainy and gloomy, about like my mood.

2-4, Abigail's new flowers which Britt picked out.
2-4, Her song.



In the last couple of months we've studied Ancient India and Ancient China.  We have also talked about the religions of that area of the world, and how the are similar in certain beliefs and very different in others.  We read a story of a woman who asked the Buddah to bring back her only son from the dead, and he told her that he could if she could bring him a mustard seed from a house that had not known death.  She searched and searched but couldn't since every family knows death.  And so she buried her son, and was comforted by the fact that all people suffer not just her.  While I find the knowledge everyone suffers of no comfort AT ALL, because it just makes me feel worse for everyone, and it does nothing to lessen my grief.  Still, I asked the kids for their thoughts.  And of course Abigail came up in the conversation.  Rebecca is the child who randomly tells complete strangers like the checker at Walmart, that she has 3 sisters but one of them is dead" and she never says her name, but always refers to her as "that dead one, you know that died?"  She out of nowhere said, can you just stop talking about her it makes me sad.  And I told her no, I would not.  I asked her, how would she feel if I all of a sudden stopped talking to her, never said her name again, and never spoke about her.  She said she wouldn't feel very loved.  I then asked her do you know that I love my babies, Britt, and Ruth, and Kate, and her?  She said, of course I do.  I then said, do you think I love Abigail any less even if she is not here with me.  I told her I will NEVER stop talking about Abigail, and saying her name, because she is MY baby and I LOVE her.

Abigail should be a precocious handful of a 2 year old now, but she's not here.  That sting doesn't go away.  I wonder what kind of big sister she would be.  We have a friend with a child about the same age.  She adores Kate, and loves on her, always wanting to play with her and do things for her.  She is all the time asking for a little sibling, and wanting to have "Baby Kate" come home with her.  I wonder if Abigail would have been as loving and excited about having a little sister.  I think sometimes I am better at dealing with her loss.  I still struggle an awful lot with depression and anxiety.  It complicates everything in my life.  This time of year, the anniversary of taking a pregnancy test is difficult.  The weeks leading up to her birth are hard.  The month of December leading up to her due date is hard.  Not being able to see her or do things together that's hard.  I still have a lot of enjoyment in our days all year long.  I can have a ton of fun at the ball field talking with friends, cheering on the kids, and wish I could see her interact with her siblings and friends, and be sad that I'll never see her bouncing around in a little t-ball uniform, digging in the dirt and tackling other kids for a ball.  Joy and grief, it exists together, just like the memories in the movie inside out are both blue and yellow, all interconnected.

2-6, Cemetery in the rain.
2-6, Rainbow on the way home.


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Homeschool Planning: Daily Scheduling

(This is the ninth post in a series of planning post, and the eighth post on planning for our homeschool.)

I've seen friends in the past post about making a daily schedule, and I've always cringed.  It seemed more like a straight jacket than a tool that I could ever see myself wanting to use.  Occasionally I have thought, I should try that, once I even bought "Managers of the Homes."  Let's just say it was a total flop for me.  Our days also vary a lot over the course of the year.  Also, in the past, the kids have wildly varied on any given day as to how much time it takes them to complete anything.  One of the aggravating complaints I had last year when we had Britt tested is that I know he is bright, and some days he can do 20 math problems within 30 minutes, and then there are days that we sit at the table for 3 hours straight and they aren't finished.  I just always moved through our subjects in order of importance for Britt.  For Ruth she would often finish ahead of Britt, so she'd move through all the things she could do independently while I continued working with him, before we would move on to the next item that they would do together with me.  Two of the suggestions that we got to address this issue, that was greatly influenced by the ADHD, we implemented this year.  First, was to set an amount of time for a subject, and only work that long on it.  For us that has been anywhere from a 15 minute to a 45 block of time.  Second was to figure out his optimal times, and schedule more intensive subjects then.  That means he needs to burn energy first thing in the morning, then we tackle math.  After lunch when the baby is down for a nap and he's had time to recharge, we can focus on reading and language as that gives us quiet time.  As a result this past year we tried scheduling our days for the first time.


It was an interesting experiment.  At first it was a work out just trying to change trains at the times, I had set aside.  The first week, we only got about half of the things done to completion.  And I will say that our school schedule and afternoon schedule for the most part happened.  The evenings were fairly close, but the mornings were never truly realized.  After that initial period though, what I found was that Britt and Ruth had better attention, by limiting the time we spent on a given subject.  I also found that after a few times of finishing our day, only to have Britt have to pull back out the math he hadn't finished while everyone else was free to go play, I didn't have near the resistance to working that he did before.  Now, this didn't solve our focus problems entirely.  In the past I was in the habit of teaching a lesson, and getting them started then leaving them to do it while I cleaned house, or paid bills, or prepped meals, or whatever.  This year, at another suggestion from the neuropsychologist, I just told Gary that 10-3:30, I was teaching, and that I really just couldn't do anything else during that time. Britt isn't ready for that level of independent work yet, and I need to sit next to him to constantly redirect him.


This left me with a need to not only schedule our school day, but to work in time set aside to chores.  I've long divided up a list of chores with the kids and expected them to do some in the morning and some in the afternoon.  But in order to actually get things done around the house, if I was going to have to devote that much of the day to sitting with the kids while they worked, I needed to really map out things.  After running pretty close to schedule before Christmas during our first term, and comparing it to not running on a schedule second and third term, I am again sitting down to work out a schedule.  It's a tool that I foresee us using for the foreseeable future, at least until they can truly embrace working independently.


If you too are interested in giving a daily schedule a try, I'll share my process with you.  The first key is to look at your goals you made and to really prioritize them.  For me, reading is a goal that is right there at the top, and with Britt's dyslexia it's going to take a significant investment of time and effort.  However, with the ADHD we want to break it up in to manageable chunks and work the skill, every single solitary day.  So it ranks pretty high on my priority list.  In contrast there is Nature Walks.  I really admire the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, and I have thought for a while now, that even if no one else does that I would benefit from us getting out and walking a little each morning.  I've felt guilty that we didn't do more of that kind of thing in our homeschool day.  We tried it some this year.  I'm going to be honest.  It was about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist office.  We can't move at any speed, due to the littles, so really it's no benefit to me in that regard.  If I use the stroller going off road is more work.  One kid is yelling wondering what kind of animals we might see.  (Answer, none, because you are yelling.)  Another kid is complaining because she has sand in her sandals, but she refuses to wear tennis shoes.  And they spend plenty of their free time exploring outside anyway.  So, the priority is so low on my list that it's not even on the schedule for this year.  Let me provide one last example on this topic.  Read alouds, this has been high on my priority list even before I began homeschooling.  But we were always so sporadic with it.  We'd read before bedtime for a while, then I would just be exhausted and still have a list of things to do.  Or we'd read in the car, and that works when the hubby is along to drive, but not if I'm the one making the long car drives.  I felt like it was really important to continue with, but I was having trouble setting aside time when other other necessary things were pressing. I had to get creative, but it dawned on me one day, that I eat  lunch in about 15 minutes while they easily take 45 minutes.  The answer had been staring me in the face for a while.  I could read aloud at the table, after I finished eating, while they were still eating.  You need a priority list, and you shouldn't feel guilty for what is on it, or not, and where you rank things.  And your priorities will change at different seasons in your life.

Last Year's Schedule (side 1)
Next, you need to make note of what things can be done mostly independently and what things you will need to walk them through.  This is important.  I will use the example of reading aloud.  Each child needs to spend about 30 minutes a day reading aloud.  I obviously cannot listen to all three of them at the same time, and be able to follow a story, correct mistakes, remind them of phonics rules when they are having trouble with a word, or ask questions to gauge their reading comprehension.  This proved the most challenging in looking at this year's schedule.  If you have a baby in the house, or several that aren't doing any kind of schooling, you may need to work to figure out how to entertain them.  I've lucked out in that Kate is pretty happy to entertain herself in the living room, or crawl around the dining room table trailing me as I teach.

Last Year's Schedule (side 2)
One of the often cited benefits of a schedule, is that the kids learn it, and eventually stop asking what is next because they learn to anticipate and expect things.  Last year every day of the week varied so widely that I worked up 6 separate schedules, that was really difficult.  Even when the mornings for all of them are the same (get up, make up your bed, pick up your room, get dressed, go and eat, brush teeth), there is the attempt every day to do none of those things, and instead get on the wii or play with Barbies.  I don't know if they will ever get to the point where they will check the schedule for themselves and continue on to the next thing, instead of attempting to sneak off to play.  We are going to try a different tact to manage that this year, but I'll talk about it in a later post.

This coming school year's schedule.

This year in an attempt to streamline things, I have 3 schedules: our typical school day, this is a day where we don't go anywhere and we cover everything; a modified schedule, this is a day where we cover just the essentials and expect to be in town all afternoon; then a schedule for a Saturday where Daddy is home.  When I try to do a typical schedule I'm planning to cover everything.  Now, I know in a given week, that we are going to do math every day, but our science curriculum doesn't have 5 days worth of material.  So even though it's on the schedule, there will be days that we don't do science.  We might stretch our read aloud time out longer, or do something fun like bake.  But I want that on the schedule to be sure we allow time for it.  However, I know there are going to be days that we are going to leave the house.  We will have Ruth's speech some afternoons, there will be our homeschool book club other afternoons, and our afternoon PE classes.  We will have a day every couple of weeks that we go to the library, and I'll try to schedule doctors appointments after lunch.  On those days, I want to still do some of our school.  So, I further prioritize our list.  Everyday I want to be sure we do a page of math and have them read aloud to me.  I also want to be sure that we work on our memory verse each day.  So for our modified schedule I have all of that down to do before we eat lunch and head to town.  There may be days that we have morning field trips, but that's less common and in that case I can always reverse my morning and afternoon schedule, or just pick up the schedule in the afternoon when I get home.  I have several options.  The final schedule is labelled Saturday, but it's really in mind that Gary is home.  In the summer he's home on Fridays as well as Saturdays.  In the fall when he is in his busy season, he's at work on Saturday so we will treat it like another school day.  The truth is that the schedule completely falls apart when he's home.  He wants to relax, and I want to lay around and do nothing with him.  BUT, there are still some things that need to get done.  So the schedule is just bare bones, with the exception, that in the afternoon they all have a time to read with him.  This lets him be a part of their schooling, it lets them have a chance to show him what they are learning, and it gives me a break.


Another plus, to doing this, is that I use to get so wore out trying to get everything done, and was aggravated when Gary didn't pitch in when he was home.  He has told me, if I will ask he'll help most of the time.  But I hate to ask.  This way we can talk about, what he's willing to do, and still have a chance to unwind at the end of the night.  We find a reasonable middle ground, since I need help in the evenings, but unlike him I get to sleep longer in the mornings.  It also helps me to be able to allot my major task each week, so that for example I don't forget to balance the checkbook and end up having to pay a fee when they transfer money for me.  The months we've used this schedule this school year, things have been less crazy.


You may be like me and build a beautiful perfect schedule, only to immediately need to throw it in the garbage and try again.  I frequently discover that things will take twice as long as I planned, or I forgot to put something on our list, or that we hate how this is working.  I always let Gary check it out for me before I start using it, to see if he catches any of those things for me.  Occasionally he tells me that something or another won't work.  And to change something.  Then, I put the thing everywhere.  It's in my school planner, it's in my personal planner, it's tacked up on the command center, for everyone to see.  It will go in each of the kids planners this year.  Because it doesn't do any good to work out a schedule only to never look at it again.


Friday, May 04, 2018

Homeschool Planning: How Do You Eat an Elephant? A Guide to Long Range Planning.

(This is the eighth post in a series of planning post, and the seventh post on planning for our homeschool.)
Part of the teacher books for next year.
Not all of them have been ordered or arrived yet.
The saying is "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  This is the stage in my planning where everything really comes together.  I have spent a ton of time trying to flesh out what our goals are for the upcoming year.  I've decided what's important to us.  I've sat down and done my homework, searching for curriculum that will meet those needs.  And now, is when I figure out how we will fit in in an entire year.  I pull out all the books I am going to be using, and start figuring out how they can be spread over the entire school year.

I have done long-range planning for the last three years.  The first year was a total fiasic.  Our fourth child was stillborn, and we did devote time to formal schooling, but basically just basic necessities, and that as I felt able to manage.  That year was proof for unschooling.  We spent alot of time reading library books, playing outside, and doing a little math and reading, but when it came time for Britt's evaluation he had progressed a great deal over the course of the school year.  So the first thing you need to know is that sometimes life happens, and you may throw absolutely all of this out.

Last year's long range planning.  I've checked off some of what we've done.

The last two years, I made did long range planning we stuck very close to the schedule.  In the 2016-2017 school year, we moved and got off on some of our planning as it took long than anticipated to get everything back together.  But with the game plan, I was able to look and see where we could double up, and which things I could delay or push off.  By the time the beginning of May rolled around, I was able to stop, having accomplished nearly everything I set out too, and still have time to prepare around the house for the birth of our fifth child.  With the 2017-2018 school year, We will have accomplished everything and more than I had hoped, with the exception of falling off schedule with bible verses since Christmas and with the exception of history.  The kids have loved history so well, rather than spending 6 or so months on Ancient Egypt we ended up spending about 14 months on Ancient Egypt.  But that kind of change to the plan is something, that I enjoy.  I want the kids to be so interested in a subject that they really retain the information. I want them to be disappointed when we check out the 374th book on Ancient Egypt only to discover that the library doesn't have any more books on the topic.

This year the two oldest made such leaps in their reading speed and ability that they covered more than I anticipated they would, and they blew through math in 5 months.  I did buy the next level of curriculum in language arts, but I opted to wait on the next math level.  Knowing the speed at which they are currently moving.  I have made plans accordingly for this coming year, and mapped out a little heavier load in those subjects than I have in previous years.


For Rebecca I planned very little.  She said she wanted to do school, but I didn't think she was ready.  I thought we'd work some on writing her letters, her learning that, and maybe do the Math U See Primer book.  Well, I quickly realized that she did want to do school, and that I wasn't going fast enough to suit her.  We pulled out all the miscellaneous workbooks, and she has gone through 7 this year.  We had some beginner math materials so we used that instead of Math U See Primer.  She has also learned more reading in the last 2 months than the kids did in their first year.  I'm concerned about keeping up with her and challenging her, so I have mapped out a fairly fast moving year for her across language arts. She also has done a little spelling this semester with the older kids, and wants her own spelling book for next year, so she's going to be using more language skills in more ways than the others did at this age level.  If we get into it though and she gets bogged down or is having too tough of a time, we can always scale back or lighten up the pace.

The first year of planning is the hardest for me, because it's hard to make a realistic plan not really knowing how they typically handle new material.  It's hard to tell how long it will take to grasp a new concept, and when they will be ready to continue on.  And that may still fluctuate from time to time.  For example, Britt had just turned 5, and was working his way through Math U See Alpha.  He was doing a lesson a week, having no trouble with new concepts.  He really didn't even need to spend a whole week on each lesson, but I wanted him to do plenty of review.  Then when we hit the week where they introduce solving for x (4+x=5), he just didn't get it.  We went through all the examples, the worksheets, got online and used the practice material there.  We spent more than a month on it, till it clicked.  Every other math lesson he has ever done has taken 3-5 days to get down pat, but that one.  We may hit a snag this year that means we have to push some of the things we've scheduled back.  But this is ideally how I'd like our school year to go.


I've also planned an insanely ambition school year to cover the Ancient Greeks and Roman's in a single year.  If I get through all of it, I will be shocked beyond all belief.  To be honest, I don't expect to get through all of this.  And it won't bother me if Greece stretches into February instead of wrapping up before Christmas, and if we don't finish Rome before the end of the year.  However, when I schedule while I want the plan to be realistic, I want to plan ambitiously.  It's not a big deal for me to have to slow down.  On the other hand, I don't want to be scrambling in the middle of the school year to figure out how to make up for finishing things far faster than I had planned.  This year was the first time that happened, and I don't want to do that again.  I'm afraid that leaving off math since February is going to hurt us when we get back into the swing.

Most curriculum I've found is set up for approximately 36 weeks, probably because alot of schools traditionally use four 9 weeks periods as their schedule.  You might recall that I have allowed for 32 weeks of school this year.  So, what do I do about the extra 4 weeks.  I'm so glad you asked.  I'll illustrate.


The first subject I sat down to plan was Math U See for the two older kids.  I know they have moved at their slowest at a pace of one lesson a week, and even though I don't yet have their books in yet, on the website I can see that there are 30 lessons in the next week.  That gives me easily 1 lesson a week, plus two extra weeks, if we have trouble understanding a concept and need some extra time.  However, I'd like to try to move through about a book and a half this up coming year.  So I'm opting to let math be the first subject I reintroduce during the summer break.  You might recall that I ease the kids back into a full blown school routine.  I've figured out that a little school work off and on in the summer, gives us some routine, and it makes starting back less of a chaotic shock.  Knowing that we are quitting by memorial day, I just work backwards based on where I'd ideally like to be at when we stop.  For Rebecca, I'm only going to shoot for one math book this year, it has 32 total lessons, that's one a week.  Very doable.

The next subject I looked at was history.  The kids love history, but it takes some planning ahead of time to be able to really implement.  I didn't make it as far as I wanted this year.  So in order to make covering the Greeks and Romans both this up coming school year more feasible, I need to cover a little more ground this summer to set the field for Greece this fall.  The kids LOVE the stories I read, and really love the crafts and activities, so by doing a little in July and August, they are going to be excited to create and do things.  They won't even realize that it's school, in fact I may get some complaint that we aren't making anything fun in June.  After that I divide up all the material on Greece over the 13 weeks from Sept-Dec.  Then I do the same for Rome over the 19 weeks from Jan-May.  Once again, there is very little chance we will move the material that quickly.  I could spend an entire school year on each of these civilizations, not just a half, but we'll see how it goes.  Rebecca will use the resources from Story of the World with us.  She's enjoyed listening and doing the coloring pictures, thuogh I don't test her on the material, and don't expect her to retain a whole lot.  As for the Homeschool in the Woods projects, most are going to still be out of her ability level, but I'll let her take part as she's able.


Next I wanted to slide some science in this year.  With the free curriculum I got from a friend that has been sitting on my shelf the last 2 years, it has a guide for 36 lessons, though it doesn't have work for every day, like my math or language programs do, so I'll review the first five short chapters in August.  It's all on material that the oldest two have learned about in the past, some of which Rebecca is familiar with.  From there I'll cover one lesson a week from Sept-May.

Finally I get to language.  This is where the bulk of my time goes.  It is more difficult for me to plan so I always leave it till last.  HOWEVER, this is the area of our school year that if I have to drop every other subject, this will be covered.  I strongly feel that reading is the foundation for EVERYTHING for the rest of your life.  You can learn anything if you can read.  This is an area that requires more work for Britt, and a slower pacing.  Ruth is fairly on par with him at the moment, so I can also schedule this aspect of their school together.  However, they take turns working one on one with me in this area.  This year's we are going back to Sing Spell Read Write, and there are 36 steps.  If I do the one review step in August, the other 35 will fit over a 32 week period, because their steps aren't weekly steps.  Some take only 2 or 3 days, and others 2 weeks.  All About Spelling has 25 steps, last year we covered 1 a day, but I'm going to allow for 1 a week this year, since the difficulty and number of rules needed increases.  Handwriting Without Tears has 24 weeks of work and recommends review the remainder of the year.  All of these can easily fit in our 32 week plan.  These two subjects are the ones that I know that I can push off and still finish in 32 weeks if I need to spend more time focusing on other subjects.  These also, if I don't have to push them off, will give me a lighter load in the Spring, when baseball starts up and everyone is kind in the mood to be done with school anyway.  Rebecca will be starting level 1 of Sing Spell Read Write this year.  I found the pacing to be much too fast for Britt and Ruth, but I'm optimistic that it will be perfect for her.  All 36 steps and the review of letter sounds should fit in a 32 week schedule.  The toughest part is that this will only work if we skip no days of reading instruction for her, which is probably unreasonable, someone will get sick at some point, there will be days with field trips, and sometimes, you just don't want to do school it's a nice day, or we get behind on house cleaning, or we want to do something out of the ordinary routine.  Her handwriting and spelling follow the same schedule as the older kids, and it will be the first thing I drop if she feels too overwhelmed.  Because while I want to challenge her, I also don't want to burn her out.


This process has been much more exact since starting to schedule our school year.  Before I was just dividing up the curriculum based off of what I thought could accomplish in a week, from say from the time I thought we'd start through May, not figuring to do any school in December or June.  But that didn't account for the weeks we'd travel or take off for other reasons.  Now, I have a more realistic expectation for what we might accomplish.