2016-2017 School Year

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Ready or not, we commence another school year this coming week. I have changed a few things compared to last year. The biggest change is that we will school five days a week. Last year I did six days a week because I wanted to try it.

It was tiring but I just could not let go. I had to take the experiment all the way to the end of the school year.

Father, son and daughter picking up fireworks for July 4th

Picking up some fireworks for the 4th – one of the memories of the summer which is coming to a close slowly but surely

This year, we are going back to schooling Monday-Friday and taking the weekend off. I am hoping this will relieve some of the pressure I felt last year. It will give me a full day to catch up on my writing deadlines and housework. And the kids get a full day to free play. Knowing them, they will spend some of that free time coding on ScratchContinue reading »

I like to make the first day of school special. I don’t make it into a huge deal, but I mark it with a special breakfast menu (pancakes in addition to our daily oatmeal, for instance) and maybe an outing in the afternoon or early evening if we get everything done.

We will take pictures, of course. It’s the only way to gather up a couple of portrait-style pictures that – I found out – are needed for different things throughout the year.

For instance, last year, their piano teacher made them Christmas ornaments and asked me for nice head shots of the kids. She is an artist, not just a piano teacher, and likes to make crafts for her students at Christmas time. The best pictures I found of my kids were the school pictures from the beginning of the school year.

Then, for this school year, one of our homeschool support groups gave us school IDs. As such, they required nice head shots of the kids. Again, I reached for the school pictures from last year.

So I made a note to self, that we should definitely start every school year dressed nicely and with semi-formal pictures of the kids. You never know when you can utilize these portraits.

What about your first day of school? Do you have any traditions?


Thoughtful Thursday Week 32 – Back-to-School

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This is our first week of going back-to-school and it has already presented some challenges. But in my second day, God spoke to me through Zechariah 4:6 and reminded me that WHAT we do is not as important as HOW we do it. You may be familiar with Zechariah 4:6: “… not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord.” I would like to submit to you that this verse holds the secret to homeschooling successfully.

The Lord called you to a mission – homeschooling – and He will provide the spirit in which to do it. If you are listening, you will hear His still, small voice and will know to turn this way or that.

Back-to-School

If you go into Strong’s Concordance for the original Hebrew words, you will find that “might” can mean wealth and “power” can mean physical force. The way I see it, homeschooling does not need the most expensive curriculum or an angry call to obeying the schedule. No wonder Charlotte Mason calls it the gentle art of teaching.

You know how some people who are afraid of homeschooling invoke the need for structure in a child’s life? Well, I dare say that a child can have a structured life even without having to be in a school building by 7:50 every morning. A homeschooled child also can learn structure without being a slave to the clock.  Continue reading »

“My Spirit” in Zechariah 4:6 is a feminine noun in the original Hebrew, by the way. Already, that fact alone brings a different perspective. I am no theologian, but I am aware that God has some female characteristics, otherwise He could not have made both Adam and Eve in His image.

The Hebrew word for “spirit” in this verse is transliterated into ruach (pronounced roo’-akh) and here’s the translation which makes the most sense to me for homeschooling: “imparting warlike energy and executive and administrative power.” Every morning, homeschooling parents must have the kind of energy needed in war – courage and stamina as if their life depended on it. I speak of spiritual war, first of all. But we also have a physical war to wage. One of the public school moms I know asked me, “But aren’t you EXHAUSTED by the end of the day?”

I replied, “Not more than you. You have to wake up early enough to get your two children ready for school, drive them there, then go to your work and be on your feet for so many hours, then rush to pick your kids up from school and do your late afternoon and evening routine. If anything, you should be more exhausted than I. I can always take a quick Time Out or a longer Quiet Time from my kids and get refreshed somewhere in the middle of the day.” She asked, “Oh, you do Quiet Time?” “Yes, we do. Not every day, but we do.”

When I find I need more physical strength, I go to apple cider vinegar. I have never acquired a taste for coffee, I am afraid. Plus, I don’t want a caffeinated brain. So I mix 8 oz of water with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and, if I feel like it, one teaspoon of honey. But honey is not necessary. I know people who use lemon instead of the apple cider vinegar because they like to stay away from fermented products. So there are options beyond coffee. Just sayin’.

As to the executive and administrative power, I would encourage you to get organized before, during and after your schooling time. I know I need to have a clean and de-cluttered home in order to function. Some days I turn a blind eye to the clutter because I am focused on what we must accomplish academically. But it catches up with me. If anything, by the end of the week, I must enforce clean up time for my own sanity.

Another meaning for “My Spirit” in this vers is “as energy of life” and “as manifest in the Shekinah glory” – these expressions are reminders that we must have our own time with God to get refreshed and aligned with His plans for us. The Shekinah glory which made Moses’ face shine can also hover over us as we read the Bible and listen to God’s voice through His Word.

Cheers to you as you begin your new homeschool year and may God bless our efforts!


First Day of Homeschooling

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And… they’re off! No, not exactly. They are still here, at home. And yet, they are learning. A lot. Isn’t that amazing? Our homeschooling journey started yesterday, on September 1. Of course, Self-University Week started yesterday, too. When I made this schedule I did not know about this neat coincidence.

I dressed the kids up in their school uniforms. DD asked, “Do I have to wear this all the time?” She’s such a girlie girl, she wants the scoop on her outfitting options. “Only for school time.” She accepted it.

I chose to buy school uniforms because

a. children look cute in uniforms.

b. it helps them get into “school mode”.

c. we are a private school. Well, sort of.

d. we can use them on field trips.

The routine wasn’t much different than before, but we did take pictures.

First Day of Preschool at Home

DD and I

We started with our Accountable Kids morning cards, followed by a devotional. We are using GraceLink Kindergarten for our Bible story time. This week’s lesson is about Baby Moses. It find it providential, because when God came to me about homeschooling two years ago, He used the story of Baby Moses. Another neat coincidence for our first day of homeschooling.

DS tutored himself through Simple and Motorized Mechanisms from LEGO Education while I worked with my daughter on preschool activities. She was very eager to learn, but got silly after 10-15 minutes. That was my cue she was done. I sent her to play by herself, which she was happy to do, while DS and I tackled the 3 Rs for 30 minutes.

They had recess and lunch. Then, they had P.E. and art (drawing with chalk).

That was it. Easy, peasy, homeschoolese.

First Day of Kindergarten at Home

DS and I

However, it was not smooth. In the early morning, our cat left us a calling card on the living room carpet. Later on, as I reached for a box, I knocked down a tray. Glass shattered and contents spilled out. My husband and I spent fifteen minutes cleaning. Just when I thought I could start teaching, I noticed the magnetic letters I had chosen so carefully the night before for my son’s reading lesson were missing. DD had noticed them in my tote bag and put them back up where they belong. So I had to pick them out all over again.

How do I come up with the four hours of homeschooling instruction required by the State of Tennessee? I’ll tell you in a future blog post. For now, I covet your prayers on our behalf. We need wisdom to guide our children well. Thank you in advance for praying for us!

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Homeschooling Retreat

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As I wrote in my previous post on homeschooling back-to-school, I think it is a great idea for homeschooling parents to take an overnight trip without the kids, just before school starts again. My husband and I chose Hot Springs, NC – about 90 minutes by car from our house. The trip was good for our school on many levels:

  • For the first time in five years, my husband and I were not parents for a full 24-hour period. Don’t get me wrong. We love being parents. We love our children. We planned to have them. Then, the constant job of parenting wore us down. We have taken time away from them for the last five years, but it was only for three hours at a time, at the most. We did not leave them overnight mainly because I could not handle it. However, as the children grow, so do the parents. I guess I have done some growing for the past few months.
  • We talked at length. We covered our educational goals, methods, and developments in the character our children that we noticed lately.

Hot Springs Sign

  • We were quiet, too. We focused on our individual laptops and did not say a word. Reading or writing for a full hour without little voices asking me this or that is a luxury I do not take for granted.
  • I used to feel guilty about not being with my children 24/7. I knew intellectually that a break would actually make me a better mom, but it was hard to move that piece of information into my emotional brain. During this trip, I made that switch. Not sure how it happened other than by being a tourist.

Eating good food + taking pictures + buying souvenirs + listening to the French Broad River from the porch swing + soaking in a Jacuzzi filled with hot spring mineral water = rest and relaxation.

After this trip, I feel I am ready to tackle homeschooling again. It won’t be long now. I’ll be back to tell you all about it.


5 Steps to Homeschooling Back-to-School

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I spent the last few days before our homeschooling back-to-school cleaning, dusting, washing, sanitizing, sorting and organizing. Every six months we turn the house inside out, get rid of clutter, clean corners where the sun doesn’t shine, and eliminate any sources of potential hazards (like mold). In the process, we find things we had been looking for or things we completely forgot about.

Since we teach September through July, the two semi-annual cleaning sessions happen in August, just before school starts, and in February, when everybody is burned out of learning and suffers from cabin fever. What a perfect way to spend a week, cleaning and organizing, feeling like you have something under control. It is also a semi-annual reminder that we don’t need all this “stuff.” So we scale down our inventory to the next new maximum.

Here are 5 steps to organizing for homeschooling back-to-school:

1. Clean the house thoroughly. Slide furniture out of its place, get under couches, look at corners you have not seen in months (or, – dare I say it? – years). Dust bunnies have killed many a homeschool.

2. Discard items you have not used in a year or so. When it comes to sorting possessions, most organizing gurus tell us to get three boxes: “Keep”, “Throw” and “Donate”. Of course, if the items to throw or donate are large, you leave them in their spot for the day you are ready to haul them off. If they are small, you will need to use some boxes until you finish the organizing process.

3. Organize books and school supplies. You have heard the saying, no doubt: a place for everything and everything in its place. Nothing discourages more than looking for something for ten minutes before using it. Get a grip (no pun intended) on school files and binders. If it stacks, it’s a pile. If it hangs, it’s a file. As for our daily school books, I put them in a medium size tote-like box with handles. If we have to move from one room to another, I just grab the tote.

Homeschooling Tote

4. Sort clothing according to the system under step #2. Be ruthless. Ask your spouse to help you make cutthroat decisions. The more you linger, the harder it is to get rid of stuff, especially if you have warm, fuzzy memories of your babies wearing a particular item. I am personally guilty of that.

5. Take a day off. Find a reliable babysitter, if at all possible, and take an overnight trip with your husband. After all, he is the principal of the school. You two need a retreat to focus on the upcoming school year, right? Or just to forget about homeschooling entirely and relax. This year, we took our first ever overnight trip without children since we became parents. We chose Hot Springs, NC and it was a good choice. I will tell you about it in a future blog post. Here I am in front of their library. I love their sign…

Read to your kids sign @ Hot Springs Library

How do you prepare for homeschooling back-to-school? Leave me a comment below, please.