Friday, June 19, 2015

Summertime Plans and Ponderings...

So, we are actually on a summer break.  I don't know if we've ever taken a really-truly-proper summer break.  We've always been 'take off a week or two here and there' type of homeschoolers.  Taking a good six weeks off all at once….I don't think we've ever done that.
Why now?  Well, we had planned to be travelling all summer, so I had organized our school terms out accordingly since I'm not interested in trying to homeschool on the road.   Now we aren't going to be travelling apart from a couple of weeks to visit my in-laws at the end of July.   I didn't feel like tweaking the plans I had already made, however.  So a six-week summer break it is.    And quite honestly, the lack of regular routine aside, I'm relieved.  I love homeschooling.  Overall it has been a really fantastic, wonderful thing for our family.  At the same time I am really glad to have some time to come to a full stop for a while, to just enjoy being together as a family and doing things when and how we feel like doing them (rather than because the schedule says so), and to take time to reflect on the past few years – where we've been as a family, where we want to go as a family, and what we need to do to get there.             
This article on a Charlotte Mason style summer plan has been circulating lately and it gave me a good framework to think through how I want to use these precious weeks off this summer.  Here are some of my plans, inspired by that article:
Mother Culture:
I'm definitely planning to read this summer, although quite honestly most of my current reading is of the lighter variety.  I'm trying out Elizabeth Goudge on the recommendation of some AO friends, and have a couple of other lighter-but-not-twaddly novels on order thanks to their suggestions.   I'm not up for another Dickens or finally tackling a Russian author this summer. :P  I will hopefully finish up Beowulf and How to Read a Book – both books I'm discussing with some ladies on the AO Forum.   I'm re-reading  When Children Love to Learn (more on that in a minute).  I'm also trying to be intentional to carve out time for daily Bible study and spiritual reading every day – my soul is very much in need of refreshment so this is a top priority.
I am also planning to take advantage of my husband being around this summer to sneak out to a coffee shop once or twice a week to write.  I can't do this in Africa and I had almost forgotten that it was possible.   This is definitely an exciting development.
I'm also hoping to spend time in some crafty pursuits, both for myself and with the children.  Michelle and I have been crocheting together.  Littlest one is itching to do some sewing, and I have been wanting to try to learn some new embroidery stitches so I may sit down and do some of that with her.  We also recently bought the Artistic Pursuits Elementary 4-5 curriculum which focuses on drawing techniques – Michelle and I have enjoyed the first couple of lessons and the little ones have joined in some too – even Papa is intrigued and may join us next time we pull it out.  James is enjoying various hands-on fix-it jobs with his Papa.
We are hoping to plug in to a good local church where we are living for the year – we visited one last week that is very promising – my soul is need of corporate worship, good teaching  and fellowship (in English!!).  And I am also excited that I will be able to attend two different Ambleside Online Retreats later this summer and meet in person many of the ladies that have been my online homeschooling support network these past couple of years.  (I will be in Indiana and at a smaller retreat in the Texas Hill Country…will I see you?)
Nature and Outdoor Time:
This one has been a little tricky because it has been pushing 100 for the past week or so where we are.  We are from Africa.  It gets hot in Africa.  It doesn't get THIS hot in Africa (at least not the part where we lived).  Yeesh.  It's put a bit of a damper on our plans to try out some of the parks and nature trails in this new-to-us area, although as soon at the temperature dips a bit, we will.  In the meantime, we are at least trying to take a walk around our neighborhood in the evening when the heat isn't quite so intense.  We also  just got a season pass for our local pool which is only a 5 minute walk from our apartment – we'll be there often.  We've procured bikes for the children, and as soon as my husband can get a hold of one for himself he will probably start taking the older two out on bike rides a little farther afield than our parking lot. J   There is apparently a nature museum and a hands-on science museum in the nearby 'big city', so we may visit those on some of those too-hot-to-spend-much-time-outside days.
Take a Good Look:
I'm really good at making schedules and other practical plans for our homeschool.  I love making neat-and-tidy charts and checklists and organizing new books.  However, in the craziness of our life over the past few years, it's been a long time since I've considered matters such as atmosphere, relationships, and habits.   I'm re-reading When Children Love to Learn as a guide to help me contemplate these principles, and I'm determined to put off any further practical planning until I've had some good time to think and pray through these more foundational issues.   I'm also teaching in a co-op setting in the fall for the first time, so I also want to consider how to put those principles to work in a group setting.   I'm sure I'll be processing some of those thoughts in this space.  Stay tuned.
Masterly Inactivity:
And yes, we will be practicing masterly inactivity as well – unstructured time for personal pursuits.  My oldest has built – and is continuing to add to – a "Borrower House" in a corner of the living room.  James is spending lots of time with Legos – his room has become his Lego-Man-Cave (are 7 year olds enough to have a man-cave?  Well, he does anyway.)  Now if only I could convince my littlest one that masterly inactivity was a good idea….
What are you planning to do this summer?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

From My Commonplace: On Victory

"But the Lord was weaving a victory on His war-loom for the Weather-Geats.  Through the strength of one they all prevailed; they would crush their enemy and come through in triumph and gladness.  The truth is clear: Almighty God rules over mankind and always has."  (Lines 696-702)
"But the Heavenly Shepherd can work His wonders always and everywhere.  Not long since, it seemed I would never be granted the slightest solace or relief from any of my burdens…But now a man, with the Lord's assistance, has accomplished something none of us could manage before now for all our efforts." (Lines 929-933, 938-941)
~Beowulf (translated by Seamus Heaney)

My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: Job with a commentary: Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Ash)
Theological or Christian Living:  The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction (Ferguson)
AO Book Discussion Group: Beowulf
On Education: How to Read a Book (Adler), When Children Love to Learn (Cooper)
Topic of Special Interest: Galileo's Daughter (Sobel)
Novel/Biography/Memoir: The Bird in the Tree (Goudge)
Read-Alouds with the Children:  The Wheel on the School (De Jong), Pilgrim's Progress (Bunyan)

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

What We've Been Up To...

Out and About:
We spent our first week back Stateside at my parent's house in Florida, and the kids had their very first 'real' beach outing.  We've been to rocky beaches before, but not a swimming beach.  I thought the waves might freak them out, but they had a fabulously fun time splashing around and trying to run away from the waves fast enough.  Sand castles and shell collecting featured heavily in our outing too.
Now that we are settled up in North Carolina where we will stay for much of the year, we have already found a lovely wooded nature trail around a pond just across the road from our apartment. Stay tuned for photos of that soon.  I have a feeling it will be a favorite we will revisit.
In the Schoolroom:
For the last several weeks, school has consisted solely of science in the form of "How it's Made" episodes on TV, various nature study opportunities in the form of walks around the neighborhood, and literature in the form of bedtime read-alouds. That all counts, right? ;P This week, we are back to a light, basics-only school schedule (math, Ambleside reading, copywork for all, and a bit of dictation and written narration for my almost-10-year-old) plus a bit of nature study.  We'll do that for two weeks, which ought to get us to a good 'pausing' point, and then we will adjourn for the rest of the summer.
I got a new stash of yarn when we arrived in the States, and have been crocheting dishcloths and coasters to use in our apartment.  Michelle is crocheting with me (yay for a new stash of yarn!).
I also finally broke down and a bought a copy of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.  What a beautiful peek inside a vintage nature journal!  Worth getting your hands on it if you can – I found mine used online quite inexpensively.  It is lovely and inspiring, and now I am working to revamp the way my nature journal is set up.  I love the way her notes and drawings carry her through the year.  I am so looking forward to seasonal variation while in the Northern hemisphere this year and want to record that in a natural, intuitive way.  Stay tuned. J
In the Kitchen:
Berries.  Melon.  Berries.  Broccoli.  Berries.  Mushrooms-not-from-a-can.  Berries.  Milk-that-isn't-shelf-stable.  Berries.  Grapes.  Berries.  Sandwich Meat.  Berries. Cherries.  Berries.  Peaches.  Berries.
I think that sums it up pretty well.
Around the House:
I think we are about as settled as we can be in our furnished apartment for the coming year.  That 'getting settled' process involved putting the TV in a closet, moving the computer desk into our bedroom (I have never cared for having our 'office' space in the middle of the living room), and obtaining a couple of extra bookcases so I could put our books away.  Not sure what that says about me as a person…but there you have it. :)
What have you been up to lately?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

From My Commonplace: On Justification

"So, in Christ a 'wonderful exchange' took place.  He became what he was not, a condemned criminal, in order that we might become what we are not, men declared righteous and justified in the sight of God…In justification we are not only told that Christ has paid the debt of our sins.  We receive Christ's righteousness…we are in Christ."
~Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction

My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: Job with a commentary: Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Ash)
Theological or Christian Living:  The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction (Ferguson)
AO Book Discussion Group: Beowulf
On Education: How to Read a Book (Adler), A Philosophy of Education (Mason)
Topic of Special Interest: Galileo's Daughter (Sobel)
Novel/Biography/Memoir: Between books - anyone have a favorite lighter-but-not-twaddly novel to recommend?  I'm not up for anything heavy or intense right now...
Read-Alouds with the Children:  The Last Battle (Lewis), Pilgrim's Progress (Bunyan)

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