home school

The look on my daughter’s face when I told her that I was able to change her dr appointment (again) so she could attend the fable festival for her writing class at our tutorial, was one I don’t want to forget.

It was one of those times when I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was to her.  But, when I told her I was able to switch her appointment, her face lit up.  She instantly grabbed the Aesop’s Fables book to look for a costume she could put together.  We were able to put together a pretty good butterfly costume so she could dress up as the Butterfly and the Rose.

We just scanned down the table of contents for characters that we thought we could pull off…. “don’t we have a lion costume?”  “too small”  hmmmm wanna be a rabbit, we could make ears and attach them to a headband?”  “a butterfly?” We remembered wings in the costume bin, I had some paint in the cabinet… then we went for pink and sparkly…. we remembered the silk flower she had given me years before (because it was a flower that would never die) which was in a vase on my dresser… and we had a fable costume.


Then we read the actual fable.

And it did not seem at all appropriate for a fourth grader to read aloud in class. Nor did I even agree with the moral it presented. 

So, we opted for dressing like one fable (the butterfly and the rose) but reading the fable she had rewritten for her writing class. 

She even wanted to bring a snack…. all on less than 24 hours notice… but a trip to Safeway and a scan of the internet helped us find a butterfly snack, which the girls totally put together on their own.  (snack food in a sandwich bag separated in the middle with a rubber band and attached a pipe cleaner on top for antennae).  It really was all her doing.  It was her thing. 

And we almost missed it.  In the scurry of life and in my not wanting to embarrass myself by calling the dr twice in a week to reschedule her appointment, I almost had her miss the party.  And on one hand, it’s just a one hour party… costume, snacks and fables…. not a life changer.  But, on the other hand, it’s these parties and projects that are one of the very reasons we attend a tutorial.  I want them to have these fun moments at school.  I want school to be more than just following the tasks on the assignment sheet.  I want the creativity to flow and the memories to be made.  

And I know for a fact that the fable party probably wouldn’t have mattered so much to all of my kids.  But, it did matter to her.  And I thoroughly enjoyed watching her prepare for it.  I am grateful for our tutorial for many reasons….and this years fantastic, fabulous fable festival for fourth graders was one of them.


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The kids returned to their tutorial this morning.


Well three of them returned and one, very excited 5 year old entered the building as a student for the first time.  IMG_3011

Despite the fact that I have been working tirelessly to prep for this school year AND I even woke up 2 hours before we needed to leave the house, we STILL arrived late.  BUT, perhaps that late arrival made for a smoother drop off for Momma b/c there wasn’t time for me to get weepy as I ushered my lil man into the opening assembly.  He was so, so excited to finally be at school.  As we walked up to the building, wearing his backpack and carrying his lunch box, I had a flashback to his toddler self carrying a backpack to the building when we dropped off the big kids.


He’s been lugging a backpack to the building as long as he can walk.  Often filling it to overflowing with books and pencils. 

Today as we walked into the building, he happily exclaimed, “hooray I get to go to school!”


Boy, those  years flew by fast!  He was just growing in my belly 6 years ago when my now middle schooler began his school journey.


Stop the crazy train!  How is he in MIDDLE SCHOOL?? 


And just like their brother before and after them, the girls are growing up right before my eyes!

4th grade!


Third grade!


I think more than any other year, I find myself fully aware of the daunting task before me this year.  The weight of my responsibility feels heavy on my shoulders.  6th grade, 4th grade, 3rd grade and kindergarten!   And at the same time, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for this time I get to spend with them.  Because these years are flying by waaaaay to fast!  And I am so so grateful for the extra time we get to spend together learning round our kitchen table.


And I am so grateful for the supportive Daddy and husband we have.  (who surprised us real quick by popping back home to wish them well on their first day day back at the building)…. He really is the best!


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Back to School!

September 10, 2015

in home school,homeschool

The circus fam started back to school last week.  Some students were more enthusiastic than others. IMG_2397

And yes, I decided to do recorders for music this year.    After our Bible lesson, our very first lesson of the 2015-16 school year was music.  30 minutes of ear piercing recorder playing. The kids are enthusiastic and I am finding it to be an IMMENSE lesson in patience for this Momma.

After years of watching round the table, my youngest was beyond excited.  And I must say his excitement was rather contagious.  I am totally keeping his art project from this day, forever.  It was his very first art project on his very first day of school.  He was so proud and enthusiastic and I was rather impressed.  (art for kids hub is a WONDERFUL resource for art with kids).


Our tutorial doesn’t start until Sept 14, but I felt that was MUCH, MUCH too long to wait to start school, so we began on August 31st.  We have been working very, very hard on math, as well as reading, art, music, and we even took two field trips in the first two weeks. 


Scott is working on setting up our computer station for school this year and I am SO excited about it!. 


During week one, we visited the Sight and Sound Theatre and saw Joseph.  This fits in perfectly with our history study of Ancient Egypt first quarter.


During week 2, we visited the Museum of Industry in Baltimore.  This was so exciting to me, because I had really wanted to take them last school year when we studied the Industrial Revolution.  We didn’t make it, but they had a homeschool day yesterday and I was glad we could take advantage of it before we started in on the new history curriculum.  Perfect timing!



It has been a wonderful first two weeks of school and I am actually excited to delve fully in next week when they return to our two day a week tutorial.  It is without a doubt, going to be my hardest year of homeschooling yet.  But, I have been working hard to get us on track, and if we stick to our schedule, I think we will all make out well.  

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Truth be told I don’t homeschool b/c I love teaching.  I am not that mom who stays up late looking up cool lesson plans to do with her kids.  I don’t spend my summer reading books for the next school year.  I wish I was that mom.  I often feel guilty that I am not that homeschooling mom.

Truthfully, the homeschool days are tough.  I mean we have our good moments each day, and those precious moments are what carry me through the L.I.T.E.R.A.L weeping and gnashing of teeth (both theirs and mine) as we fight through the lessons we don’t enjoy.  And as we work on heart issues and character and respect… all which truly add on to an already full day of work.  Latin with a side of Respect is often a huge pill to swallow.

But, we fight through, we persevere and I THINK we are ALL growing and learning through it all and despite our many, many flaws. 

And the reason why is right here….

June 11

We have long, long days from Sept-May…. but then we get out of school a whole month before the rest of the world.  And we play hard. This was the first year that I made us push through and work till June.  I of course was told I was “ruining their summer.”  When in actuality they still had at least a half day of free time to play Legos each day.  Normally when our tutorial is done, we are done.  This year we were done with a majority of our subjects, but still had to spend a few hours a day on math and health for the following month.  We also spent a few weeks DEEP, DEEP cleaning our house.  Because during those longs days of school from Sept-May, I can tell you there is VERY VERY little cleaning that takes place.  Just the bare minimum to keep us closed, fed, and somewhat sanitary.  But, Tuesday we met with the county and showed them our work and then it was SUMMERTIME!!!

Even the dog got in on the summer fun… whether she wanted to or not…

The extra time with my kids, most especially over summer and Christmas is the #1 reason I can make it through the homeschool year.

Sprinklers and worms…. such a fun combo!

My oldest will start middle school this fall.  The plan is to continue on with homeschooling him next year.  I don’t know how much longer we will continue, I take it one year at a time.  And so, I intend to do my best to embrace this long summer.


I can’t believe I am more than half way through my 6th year of homeschooling.  Seriously, how did that happen?  I feel like I am learning so, so much…. and I also feel like this is the first year where I have felt truly comfortable in my skin.  Mind you, that is a FAR FAR FAR cry from feeling like I have it together or have it down.  That I do not.  But, I feel like I am now more comfortable and confident and am thus willing to think outside the box. 

I taught for 3 and a half years before becoming a stay at home mom.  And one thing that I have seen in the traditional classroom as well as the homeschool classroom, is that the third quarter is, for me at least, one of the hardest. 

I am thankful that we have one quarter left in our school year.  The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is starting to peek through!!!!! 

This year I had a strong desire to spend a great deal of time prior to Easter preparing my heart, my mind and those of my children.  A few years ago I bought a book called Amon’s Adventure but I never got around to reading it to the kids.  This year I pulled it out and the kids and I started our “school at home days” snuggled around the fireplace with me reading aloud to them from this book.  Reading aloud to the kids was one of those thing I knew I should make more time to do, but yet never felt like I could fit it in with all the other academic work we HAD to do.   However, I have learned it set such a sweet tone for our days… and it was a time the kids and I both cherished.  We finished the book this morning, but I have already decided read aloud is now a non negotiable start to our school at home days and I’ve already picked out our next book.  

I have known, oh I have even written over and over on THIS very blog, that my days would go smoother if I would get up BEFORE the kids and prep myself and START out school day at a set time.  And we’d do really well at this every September and January.  But then as life set in, I would often get lazy and our school days would start with a behind and frustrated Mom prepping breakfast and ordering kids to start around the table. 

This year has been the first that we have really stuck to a set start time.  And to be honest, this is because Scott has had to go in to work early and so once I am setting the alarm for him and getting up with him, it is easier to just stay up and get started.   It has been a huge difference maker for our school at home days.  One I have known I should do but haven’t felt like doing. 

Those who know me in real life, know that I am not a type A person.  And so I have fought against the notion of having a schedule for our school days.  I liked the freedom and the flexibility of the kids choosing what they wanted to do when… this resulted in my helping one with math, while another worked independently on spelling while another worked beside me on grammar…. more often than not I would find myself answering questions on 3 different subjects at the same time all while entertaining my toddler on the side.  And QUITE OFTEN I FELT LIKE I WAS GOING INSANE!  I felt like a million tabs were open in my head at once and how was I going to get through it.  Scott has over and over and over suggested I just make a schedule dictating when we do what.  And I have over and over bulked at it. 

Until about a month ago.

When I screamed, “That’s it…. I am dictating the schedule from now on.”

And after several attempts we have kinda worked out a system that works for the kids and I.  It is kind of a combination of both worlds.  I have a set start time and a set end time.  We do school from 8:30-3 with an hour to hour and a half break for lunch and recess.  Some days we go until 3:30 and some days we may finish around 2:30.  But typically we are 8:30-3. Each day I write out my plan for what we will do when, but I have built in flexibility as well.  For example, there are some subjects such as spelling, handwriting, flashcards, and typing, which the kids do not need me for.  I have set an hour where I work with one kid on grammar while the other two work through those subjects.  I get one on one time during that hour with each kid to work on grammar, but they also get the independence to pick what they do when of those 4 free subjects during that time.  And we bang through 5 subjects in that hour!!! 

I don’t do the same order each day.  Other than the fact that I start every day with a read aloud and then quiet reading…. after that it switches up day to day.  I have a pulse of how many subjects we need to do before lunch and definitely try not to save all the hard or heavy subjects for afternoon.  But, by switching up the order day to day it keeps things changing and flexible like I wanted.   There are still a few times where I have them working on different subjects at the same time… this is so we can space out one using the computer for writing while the other does Latin and I do my best to help both at the same time. 

I have found recess to be a necessary part of our homeschool day.  It allows us to have a fresh start, a natural do over, which is so important on days when we have had a rough  morning.  Often times we return refreshed and with new attitudes after a time away from the books and away from each other for a bit.  The kids and I need a breath of fresh air, or time to play and or create (even if all I create is dinner in the crock pot).  Some days we will still return to rotten attitudes and battles of the will, sometimes no amount of fresh air can releave us of those as we tackle the task at hand… and on those days, I am still thankful for recess b/c at least we had a temporary reprieve which is vital to making it through the day.  Since we live very close to Scott’s work, he tries hard to make it home for lunch.  It isn’t always doable and sometimes it is really just a quick stop in to grab food and head out, but other times it is a nice sit down meal together as a family in the middle of the day.  I love those times.  And because of this, I need prep time for lunch so we try to break around 11:30-11:45 so I have time to prep lunch and we get back to the books by 1:00. 

So, with the end in sight…. I say I have learned that getting up early, starting at a set time, having a schedule set in writing, having read aloud time together and RECESS have all been HUGE HUGE game changers to our homeschool days.   

I will also say that just today I sent an email to Scott venting about a huge battle with one of my children.  Sometimes no amount of scheduling or read alouds can rid us from the inevitable battle of wills, and we must just work through them.  And I am so so thankful for a loving and gracious heavenly Father whom I call out to day after day in repentance for my shortcomings as their mother, for wisdom in discipling them, for guidance and comfort.  And I have found…. He is always there.  And He shows me glimpses of the work He is doing in my heart and in theirs.

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I feel like we are off to a pretty good start this school year and we are settling into a routine.

The hardest part for me about home schooling and the part I like the LEAST is the juggling act of wearing both the hat of mom and the hat of teacher.  The kids don’t understand that my making them do a subject they don’t like doesn’t make me a mean mom, it makes me their teacher.  That is a struggle.  I am just hoping and praying that these struggles will produce character… godly character in all of us. 

I think my favorite part of homeschooling is the actual  mom part… getting to be with my kids more and them getting to be with each other.  As I write this my oldest and youngest are playing football in the backyard for recess.  If my 10 year old was away at school they would not have this time together… nor would they have the moments of talking around the lunch table.  These are the moments I cherish… these are the ones I have to hold on tight to when we are crying over wrong math problems and struggling to recall declensions and arguing over who gets to use the computer first.

These moments…


Always, always when they work on jingles or recitations or memorizing, they are upside down… not sure if it helps them sink in better to their brains or not. 


As part of art (something that I am SOOOOO guilty of neglecting) this year I bought some cards which are so so cool.  They have pictures from several paintings at the National Gallery of Art.  Each picture has a set of 2, one that is a close up of the painting and the other has the whole painting and the title and artist.  On Fridays we play Old Maid, or Go Fish, or matching using these cards and it is helping us get face time with these famous paintings.  Then I plan to use these cards on a field trip later this year where we will go on a scavenger hunt to find them.  This has been fun.



His favorite subjects are history, literature and writing.  He loves working on his writing projects, especially when he gets to type on his computer. 



IMG_5775And her subject of choice is and always has been math.  This girl LOVES numbers like I love words.    Nothing starts her day off better than jumping in on some math.

Science this year is AWESOME!  There are TONS, TONS of labs to choose from each week.   I really, really hope I can keep up with this, b/c I think these will prove to be the moments we all savor the most from school this year.

We made and experienced an amorphous solid this week using cornstarch and water.  (it was so so cool)


And we learned about freezing points and even lowered the freezing point of water by using salt and making frozen apple juice.


This was fun and tasty and something everyone could participate in.


It was good for me to stop and reflect on the good moments at the end of this week, because to be honest, the moments aren’t all good.  It’s messy… messy b/c we are living life while doing school… and messy b/c we are shaping character while doing school.  There is disrespect, and disobedience, and selfishness and fighting, and laziness… there is a short tempered Momma wearing her pjs’s reheating her coffee and desperately yearning for a few moments of peace…