quick {homeschool} 5

I've had some homeschool posts piling up so I thought I'd bring it all out at once. Happy Friday- and on to the 5!

REALITY CHECK: Our homeschool year has been a bit of a rollercoaster. We have stellar days. We have zero productivity days. We have days where I fantasize about working, about being a classroom teacher, about being anywhere other than in my own kitchen with the weight of this little thing called My Children's Education on my shoulders. So as I share ideas and things that are spurring me on, I want to nix the whole "She's a rockstar homeschool mom" myth. We aren't rocking it- not much, not every day, not in everything, not often. But there are a few things that I am excited about and I keep coming back to. So here they are.

1. Books. 
I know reading is important. You know reading is important. But I'm beginning to really embrace this idea that language development isn't the icing on the cake or the actual cake itself; knowledge and love of words is pretty much the whole party. The entire thing. The balloons, the invitation, the big day, the whatever. It all goes back to words, lots of words, different words, celebration of words, experiencing words on every level, all the time throughout the foundational years of childhood. This idea is ever pressing on me right now as Drew is falling in love with reading, Isaac is reading his first books, Ella is sounding things out and becoming a rhyming addict, and Tessa's vocabulary is blooming in humorous and amazing ways. Words, words, WORDS! 

But then I think, how do I stay at it? How do I keep getting books and keep on the audio books and keep encouraging them? How do I engage them all, when Drew wants to listen to Narnia and Tessa doesn't want to listen at all? We had dropped off a little, lost enthusiasm for reading as evidenced by the fact that the last batch of library books were returned with almost half the books untouched. So I had the thought to do a reading challenge: 500 books in 50 days. It's a short time span, close enough that we can focus and really try to keep it on the radar.

So we made a sign (out of green wrapping paper) and hung it on the kitchen wall. We are counting down the days and listing all the books. 

I know an average of ten books a day isn't extremely radical,  but the point isn't to be radical- it's to be steady. So hopefully this will help us build some good habits, keeping those books at our fingertips and whetting our appetite for new reads. 

Three days and 37 books later, it's been good. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

2. Googly eyes. 

I'm serious. Every day (when I have my act together- which has NOT been every day this week) my girls do a letter worksheet. And what makes it different than the way that they color nonstop the rest of the day? Googly eyes. They're all about it. For real. 

3. Creativity: you are welcome here. Really.

This lesson is coming at me from several different places. One is this book I've mentioned, this book that talks about living art and being brave and living a life that is authentic to who God made you. Then I read this article, How Music Could Make You a Rocket Scientist, about the correlation between sustained participation in childhood creativity and later academic success. And then I see my kids, brainstorming and building and creating all around me. Creativity is problem solving and expressing and motor skills all wrapped into one unending, usually messy experiment. And I want to embrace that and embrace the direction that takes for my own kids. 

One of Ella's projects

Viking Invasion by Drew
"I wrote you a song!"

Show time!
Lots of this
There will be a day when they don't have time to pursue the things they love, though I hope they will always carve out a niche for it. But today, today while they are young and fully thrown into this business of being kids, today will not be the day they are told they aren't artists. That what they made isn't correct. What they bring isn't really significant. Today they create. They experiment. They try things out- try saying them or singing them or drawing them- just to see how it goes. 

Today, they can't help but create. And I fight the urge to clean it up or fix it or push it to the back burner. I can cultivate their creativity, today, by simply creating space for them to create. And in that space, they dream and scheme and live out loud,  and we all are better for it. 

4. Maps. 

A friend told me about "blobbing", a geography practice that you can do with kids. It is a basic way to start acclimating your kids to the world, beginning with the basic shapes and locations of the continents. (For real info and printables, read here. For how we are faltering our way through it, read on.)

We started with the kids simply tracing a map that is covered by a plastic page protector. 

Everyone is in on it. 

You repeat this every day. With the eight year old, I have him trace and then draw his own. The exact shape isn't so important as the general shape and location, using the major lines of latitude and longitude to place continents. 

Above is Drew's first time, drawn while looking at the example. It's fun to start with the blank piece of paper, fold it in half both ways to label the Equator and Prime Meridian. Add the two Tropics and two Circles, and then start with the continents. Over time, students should be able to label and make their own page, adding more detail and accuracy as they increase in confidence and skill. We'll see how it goes.

Some people ask, "Why study geography? I mean, we have Google maps at our fingertips." I think a person who doesn't understand geography is like a character that doesn't understand the setting of their own story. Geography is so much more than location. When you hear that something happened in the Middle East, your mind goes to a part of the world, a history, a religious history, a culturally diverse and tense region. But your mind has to have a place to put all that, a specific site to tie it all together. That's what geography is. It isn't a list of places, a boring map. It's building a rich map in your head, a map that can move through history, can add layers of meaning to everything you hear, make sense of information that you read- in the news, novels, the Bible, Facebook, and beyond!

I'm becoming a geography person. I know. Weird. 

5. Steady on. 

That's my motto, my homeschool motto. My children's education is not the sum of one day, one year, one activity that we do consistently or inconsistently. Their education is a long haul, collaborative effect, complicated mixture of all their days and books and experiences. And so if today wasn't what I had hoped homeschooling would look like, Steady on. If I am not the teacher or mom or Christ-follower I want to be, Steady on. If there are character issues that seem to pull us constantly away from the books, Steady on. It's not so important how fast we go, just that we keep going. Steady on. I tell myself this, whisper it aloud during two year tantrums and bigger kid's frustration and me about-to-boil-over-because-it's-taking-fifteen-minutes-to-gather-pencils-for-heaven's-sake. Steady on, Beck. Steady on. 

Well, that's a little bit of how homeschool is taking shape for us. I hope your weekend is coming towards you gently, bring anticipation not dread. Remember to rest and dream a bit and allow yourself some grace. And if it's not what you wanted or you weren't all you hoped, well, "Steady on" works for weekends, too.

Thanks for reading- catch ya later. 

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