Wednesday, September 24, 2014

From Dumbledore to Dori and From Max to Marie, Wisdom for the Classical Lutheran Homeschooler

In July I attended the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education Conference held at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. One afternoon I gave a presentation entitled, "Wisdom for the Classical Lutheran Homeschooler." Self-evalutions are a booger, and I suppose I did alright. I was thanked by the attendees and some personally told me they appreciated my talk. But self-depracating extraordinaire that I am, I imagine they were all simply polite.

I was thinking about my presentation over the last couple of weeks as our school year has begun and I've been reviewing what from my plans works and what does not. I decided to share the main points of my presentation and add a few comments about how it looks in our home this year.

Being a book and movie loving family, I used quotes from both genres to introduce each point. Hannah helped me put together a nifty powerpoint which was fun to use. You'll have to find one of the people who attended and ask how fun it actually was to sit through. I won't be sharing all the slides, just a few of the main points.

Dumbledore may have been trying to keep Harry from wasting away in front of the Mirror of Erised, but his advice applies to homeschoolers. All the conventions and presentations we attend, the books and articles we read, the curriculum catalogs, the forums, and email lists we pour over are our "Mirror of Erised." Those are ideals and dreams and we have to remember to step away from the mirror and live in reality.

The reality of multiple kids at multiple levels. The reality of dealing with health problems for a family member. The reality of being not only teacher, but chief cook and bottle washer. The reality that interrupts all those ideals, dreams, and plans every time we turn around.

This quote of C.S. Lewis is a perfect reminder of how to view life's interruptions.
"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination." (from a 1943 letter included in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction.)
Time to wake up and live and use the advantages of being a homeschooler. All of life is a classroom and I have continued the home economics of the youngest three by still enforcing chores. Saturdays have become our "clean-the-house-and-make-mom-happy" day and those three are great at checking off the list I make of what needs to be done.

Another advantage is I don't have to teach them only between the hours of 8-3. Tuesdays through Fridays find our day starting with Latin at 7:00am. Yes, you read that correctly - seven in the morning, the time I would rather be drinking coffee, reading blogs and emails, playing Words with Friends and scrolling through my Facebook feed. But no, instead I'm teaching Latin to Sam while David is teaching Latin to Nathan and Abby. We're done by 8, which is when we head to church for daily Matins.

Last night was an example from the other end of the day - we were watching Smarthistory videos at 8 pm. Some nights we are sitting and discussing the logic book, or like tonight helping a child figure out why his account balance and his actual cash do not match.

Included in this is my flexibility to schedule piano lessons in the morning, which we love. An hour and a half where we are forced to sit, relax, and read. I'm either reading something I need for teaching them or a personal book. The kids choose what school lessons to bring and complete or personal books to read. Library and grocery shopping is another afternoon. Some days we find we all need to have a larger break in the afternoon. Taking advantage of an entire day gives us flexibility and options.

But how do I fit teaching school into life?

The often-dreaded "o" word is important to not being rushed - too much. Organization.

You can't get around it no matter how hard you're kicking or how loudly you're screaming at me right now. You DO organize your day even if you decide you have no plan except to get out of bed. . .or not.

The key is to learn how you think and utilize that to organize your time. For me, I like lists and binders, schedules and color-coded plans. I make lists on paper, I make schedules in a computer program. And then I feel like I am in control. For a while at least. No schedule has ever been perfect and definitely has not fit our life even for a whole year. I'm always having to rethink and reschedule. It is an ongoing process. But the basic plan stays the same, just the details change.

This year I thought I would be able to reuse the list I made last year each week for the kids' assignments. But after two weeks, it just wasn't working and neither was our schedule. So I rethought them, redesigned them and this week we are all readjusting. Jury is still out on whether or not the changes are effective.

On those days when nothing goes as planned, our schedule gives us a framework of what we should be doing "now." As well as what still needs to be done, what is finished, and what will have to be put off till tomorrow or the next day, or even next week.

My way of thinking and scheduling will not necessarily work for you. Think instead how your family life is - how many people, their ages, their abilities, their needs and organize your day the best you can. Be flexible  - it will change as your family grows and time progresses. Be forgiving - you are simply trying your best to manage the time you have each day. Planning is the key to getting things done. Mostly done.

This next slide is very important.

All the curriculum you buy is a tool you use to teach your child. It will always look good in the catalog or in your good friend's home. You will always want to think that if only I used "that" curriculum my child will finally understand. It might, but it might not. In the end, you still must teach your child. I finally realized that I need to pick the curriculum that I understand. (I'm looking at you Saxon.)

Oh a side note. You do know that you don't have to do every subject every day, right? It is okay to only do art or music one day a week, or history only 2 or 3 days or science only 1 or 2 days. It is okay to do them every day! You are teaching your child who has strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Whether they are like Ron or Hermione, use the curriculum to teach them where they are and move them along to a greater knowledge of the subject.

So look at those catalogs, talk to friends and strangers at homeschool conventions about the curriculum that strikes your fancy. If possible, try to see the book in person, and do the best you can to figure out if this book is laid out in a way that fits your thinking. Then, get to work, teaching your children.

Life as a homeschool mom looks different for every one. It even looks different for the same mom depending on the day, month, and year. But this is what every homeschool mom needs to remember.

Thursday, September 04, 2014


A stack of books ready to be read . . .

A stack of caramels ready to be made into the best and most evil dessert . . .

A new binder decorated by my daughter ready to be filled with more notes. . . 

Yep, you guessed correctly, we are getting ready for annual week at camp. I am getting very excited!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This, That, and The Other

June and July have been busy months for me and my family.

Ellie came home from England and filled our ears with all she saw and did. She really loved visiting there, especially Jonathan and Rachel and dear sweet Miranda.  We have loved looking at her pictures and hearing her tales.

Hannah's favorite day of the year came the last day of June. Of course she took pictures. I made three pies that day. Ellie made the crusts having learned Rachel's secret ingredient.  WOW!  Fantastic crusts, I will not look back at my old recipe. We shared the pies with family, and the kids complained when they were all gone the next day. Hannah and Abby decided to go to the field on Saturday and picked more so that I could make another two pies.  Oh how fun to spoil the kids with fresh strawberry pie!

July 8-11 found most of our family and about 1195 others on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin.  Higher Things is awesome and this Crucified conference was the best of the three I've attended.  Hannah says it well.

Now I'm at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  The CCLE XIV retreat is going on.  I'm learning all sorts of things, old and new, and even attempted to share some wisdom with fellow homeschoolers.

I'll be ready for mom's and the ability to lay in the hammock and read my book.  And nap.  I'm exhausted.  All these conferences that have me going from morning till night have wore me out.  Don't they realize I'm really a lazy bum that sits all day?

August will come soon and then I'll have to feverishly plan and begin our new school year. Oh summer, where hast thou gone?  You've slipped through my fingers once again. Such is the life I'm living now. Full of worship, family, and learning.  I need to be more grateful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Water in all the Wrong Places

Can you guess what happens to a town which sits between two lakes that are joined by a river and also has another creek running through it after copious amounts of rainfall?

Yep, there is flooding.  And it so happens that those who've lived here all their lives say it is the worst in forty odd years.  About five blocks to the west of our home the lagoon is overflowing and filling the road waist high on grown men.  Four streets surrounding the lagoon were evacuated by the Red Cross.  About five or six blocks to the east the road by the bay is covered and several houses and campgrounds are flooded.

Sunday the mayor called for help to fill sandbags and lay them.  Many citizens from our town as well as from other towns and volunteer fire departments heeded the call. David and I went and they said over 10,000 sandbags were filled.  The process of figuring out where to put them continued in earnest.

The forecast has been and continues to be rain every day.  But our dear gracious Lord has kept the rain away from us for the last three to four days.  What help that gives the people fighting the flooding.

God continue to bless the people of our town, give us grace and forgiveness, understanding and sympathy, compassion and knowledge to help one another through this trial.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rainy Saturday


drip down,
slip down,
splashing out their song.
raining down
their rainy

by Helen H. Moore (1921-2005)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Abby's Adventure

This past week was a busy one for our youngest daughter Abby.  Each day she was up by 6:30 and on the road by 7 am.  She returned home each night around 6:00 pm. No, she isn't old enough to drive, but she is old enough to attend the week-long summer Pops Camp for youth string and symphony orchestra.

Her older sister Hannah attended this camp twice and loved it. Abby was quite excited to be able to participate this year.  The same guest clinician that lead the two Hannah attended, led this year's.  He is so good and makes the week quite fun for all the kids.  Abby was overwhelmed with the music the first day, but by the end of the week, she felt quite a bit more confident.

On Friday evening, parents and family, friends and interested parties attended the evening concert to hear the culmination of the week's hard work.  This is the list of songs they played:

Fantasy on a Japanese Folk Song
by Brian Balmanges

Music from Brave from the Walt Disney/Pixar film BRAVE
arranged by Robert Longfield

Let It Go from Disney's Animated Feature FROZEN
Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
arranged by Larry Moore

Abby and the other half day participants left the stage while the remaining strings stayed and played:

Edward Elgar
arranged by Mitchell Bender

Romanian Folk Dances
Dela Bartok
arranged by Deborah Baker Monday

Then all the string players left the stage and three french horns, one trombone, one saxophone, one flute, and one oboe took their place and played for us:

Quintet by Ludwig von Beethoven
Mvt. 1 allegro

Those brass players moved towards the back of the stage, up came more including percussion players as well as the all-day violins, cellos, viola, and double bass.  They played two songs:

Russian Sailors' Dance from The Red Poppy
Reinhold Gliere
arranged by Merle J. Isaac

Movements from The Firebird Suite
Igor Stravinsky
arranged by Merle J. Isaac
Danse Infernale
Bercuese and Finale

Finally, Abby and the other violinists who had left the stage first now returned to join everyone in the finale:

Overture 1812
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
arranged by J.F. Lehmeier

What a wonderful evening of music! Abby really had a nice week despite it being long days.  This was her first time ever playing with a big group and she realized how right her sister Hannah was when she told her that it is so much fun to play in a group.  Hannah enjoyed it so much that she responded with a big smile when the violin teacher, who was hers and is also Abby's, told me that if Hannah wants to come play in the concert, she certainly can.  Fortunately Hannah was not scheduled to work on Friday, so she tagged along with Abby and spent the entire day with her and the other participants, quickly sight-reading and learning her part.  Having more experience then Abby she played the entire concert and had a good time.  She also enjoyed playing these more modern pieces, especially Stravinsky, because she had just studied modern music in her music theory class this spring.

Making Memories together.  Abby already is planning on attending the next summer Pops Camp in two years. And music camp is one activity we are happy to help Abby attend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

May's other Milestone

May was bookended with two milestones, one each for our middle and oldest.  Middle child's milestone was mentioned already.  Oldest one's is on the docket.

Hannah graduated from high school!

We hosted a party for family and friends on the evening of Memorial Day.  After much discussion, decisions were made or food, drink, and decorations.

Let's start with dessert!
Lots of cookies and cupcakes!
About two weeks before the party, Abby became my little baker.  Each day she made a double batch of cookies; chocolate chip, molasses spice, peanut butter, and oatmeal.  I made two double batches of caramel bars.  Yep, that means 192 bars of temptation, which I was able to resist this time.

The week before the party Hannah had finished her college classes and she joined Abby in baking.  Over two days they baked double batches of cupcakes: chocolate chip cookie dough, raspberry white chocolate, and lemon.  Then one day Hannah, Abby, and Ellie used a huge batch of buttercream frosting I had whipped for them and began decorating the cupcakes fangirl like:


Dr. Who,

and Lord of the Rings.

The rest of the food was easy since we had Pizza Ranch cater pizza and chicken.  Of course it wouldn't be Hannah's graduation party if there wasn't fruit, and plenty of it.  Mom and my sister Margie, who had come up for the week to help, spent the afternoon cutting pineapple and strawberries, washing grapes and blueberries and tossing them together in a big bowl for fruit salad. Add in a keg of Schell's 1919 root beer, gallons of lemonade, plus water and coffee and the food part is complete.

I handed decorating responsibilities over to Hannah.  Along with help from her sisters they made paper bunting and chains from old books as well as decorated candles, which were placed in groups of three around the flowers I bought at the store.

Hannah also decided to make a this for her card box:

Hannah had great fun finding pictures to hang for a display.

The party was lots of fun.  We were blessed with so many family and friends who made the trek out to wish Hannah congratulations.  Hannah and Ellie's best friends, Ramona and Lydia, even surprised Hannah for the weekend.  What fun it was to see her expression when she arrived home from work and there in her home were her best friends.  And also to surprise her were good friends, along with their brother and mother, who showed up to celebrate the night of the party.

Much planning, much fun, much to remember.
Congratulations Hannah!
Our first high school graduate!