A few weeks ago we began our 11th year of educating our kids here at home. If I would have been more prepared I would have started in early August. Yep - I used to be annoyed when our boys were little and in school that the school year started up before Labor Day. But, now that we set our own schedule we see the benefit of starting early if we want to - giving us more flextime through out the year. Autumn is my favorite season and I love being able to take off a day here and there to explore a cornfield maze or sit at the park while the leaves are falling. Last year Trevor and I took the girls to the lake and relaxed on a nearly empty beach in early September before we traveled to pick up Vivi. Beats the heck out of burning up in July with hundreds of other people. Those outings sound especially appealing today as the temperature reached over 100. That is another reason it seems easier to start in August - we're tired of the heat and tend to stay inside in the AC in the afternoons anyway - so why not get some school done.
Last year I did a lot of this...
...and it was WONDERFUL! Almost a year later and I still am doing a lot of that and I'm in NO rush for her to get to big to rock and snuggle. However, I did see the need for a bit more focus, planning and prioritizing of my time. Because while the idea of snuggling up with Vivi in my lap, reading and teaching is a sweet thought...
...this is more the reality of life with sweet Vivienne. :)
She likes to
make a mess rearrange and organize.
She is so irresistible.
I seriously can hardly keep my hands and lips off of this sweetness!
It's so fun to watch her demonstrate her limited (but growing) sign language vocabulary.
...she yells and bangs on the window.
Or chews on the window. Window sill that is. See those marks there? Yep.
Did you ever see A Series of Unfortunate Events? Remember Sunny? Uh huh.
Good thing she is SO cute.
She is so cute that she's rather distracting at times. And instead of doing this... (Yes, she is doing school in her pjs and robe... we think another bonus of homeschooling - get dressed when you want, only if you feel like it!)
...she is doing this.
I tend to be the type of personality that can get a bit
obsessed focused when we embark on a new adventure (pregnancies, moving, vacations, ADOPTIONS) And I need to focus on schooling as well as the other good things God has placed in our life right now. So, this summer I pulled out a few of my old homeschooling books and browsed the familiar pages. I poured through the recent issue of my new favorite magazine. We packed up Vivi and attended our state homeschool conference which is always a HUGE boost of encouragement and refreshes us for the year ahead.
I took a day away in the mountains for a couple of reasons, but one was to pray over our kids and our school year and to work on getting organized for the year ahead. How's this for a planning office? It ended up being more of a place to pour out my heart in prayer and tears and scripture reading - and that's OK. Oh how I needed that!
But, after a visit to Staples, I did end up spending a few hours later that evening at Starbucks where I got a start on updating and reorganizing my notebook for school that I had been using for years and years. It really is the little things that bring a little zip to my life! I am still loving my new notebook!
If I work at it - I can carve out a few minutes here and there - going over our lessons for the day or week. Making some lists of things to pray about, do, buy, or deal with - not just for school, but for life in general. It helps me a great deal when I put all of my lists down in one spot instead of on 25 different sticky notes scattered around the house, van and my purse or diaper bag. And if I keep that notebook nearby and something pops into my mind while we are doing school - I can jot it down there and forget about it. (They key is remembering to open the notebook later!)
After I mark each book off of the invoice to make sure everything is there, I (put them all back into the box for several more weeks and finally) pull last year's books off of the shelves and box them up. To make room for this year's books.
We keep the bulk of our books and school stuff upstairs in the family room on book shelves and in the hall closet outside of the family room. (I forgot to grab a picture of that - which is probably best as its a MESS right now!) These shelves house Sonlight books for the current year, resource books, along with various odds and ends.
This is her Core along with an extra set of readers we ended up with a few years back that we hung on to so she could read them on her own if she wanted to. See the stickers - so helpful when boxing up books to store or sell - so we know what book goes with which core.
This is the shelf down in the living room. We recently downsized from a GIANT set of shelves we had for years that I actually loved from Organized Living. But they took up the whole wall and what made them pretty was that they were big and open, also drove me crazy - because we had to use book ends and everything was always falling over. And it was a pain for the kids to put things back on the shelf. So, we sold it on Craig's List and bought this small, inexpensive shelf from Office Depot. Squares make me happy and this makes it very easy to keep things upright.
The bottom three shelves have baskets full of toys for Vivi. Loe loves to pull them out and "organize" them so Vivi can play easier.
I put some pretty things in the top shelves. Cool Lamplighter books, gifts from friends' adoption trips - from Ethiopia, China and Bulgaria. We don't have a ton of knick knacks anymore because they are cluttery and collect dust and I long to simplify our home and life. But, a few here and on the fireplace mantel.
The second shelf from the bottom is full of adoption, parenting and general homeschooling books.
The next shelf up is for school.
The left cubicle is for Loe's schoolbooks that she uses on a daily basis. Handy to grab since she does most of her school down here. And easy to put away without everything falling over. Hooray for squares!
On the right is my shelf - where I keep the things I use for teaching Loe, as well as books I'm currently reading, bible studies I'm working on, journals and bibles.
We have a cheap chalkboard in the dining room with a verse on it that I feel God might use to speak to our family. However, now that school has started, we'll use it for memory verses.
We use the swingset for PE. :)
And we read and do the rest of our school subjects all over the place.
Our back on the glider or at the table.
Out front on Grandma' Eloise's old table.
And I admit that not only do I let Ren watch some (preselected shows or DVDs) We also use the TV on occasion for a science movie or Dirty Jobs, Myth Busters and their current favorite: cooking shows.
This little desk (which needs a chair!) will be used for typing, music and probably some preschool games for Ren.
Sometimes when Ren & Viv are being extra loud - Loe escapes to their bedroom to read in peace & quiet.
We have my old laptop in the playroom where Loe does language arts & math. Or we can bring it out to the table - either way she's not too far from me if she has any questions.
We do read alouds all over the place, but often here in the living room.
Loe often will pull up one of the little end tables to do her handwriting or logic.
The other day Ren & Viv were bring rather rowdy and I wasn't sure where Loe had escaped to.
I wondered into my closet and found her barricaded behind some pillows, laying against the wall by the dresser - reading in peace & quiet.
Sometimes if I'm baking, making bottles or cleaning - she will plop down on the island to be near me while she does school.
And she also uses their bedroom for a quiet reading place or to listen to school CDs.
And sometimes she even tries to get work done on the swing set.
I was going to go into what other types of curriculum we are using - but I'll save that for another post as this one is already way too long. Basically we homeschool all over the place! Sometimes even away from home - on field trips, at CHESS enrichment classes, at dance class, the park, the coffee shop, book store. Homeschoolers are not confined to home - the world is our classroom!