Defined as “a graphic representation of progress in learning measured against the time required to achieve mastery,” our lives have been marked by an uncommon number of learning curves lately.
The blog & gallery upgrades
Since Stephen made the necessary tweaks to our sites, blogging has become more difficult as we get familiar with the new software, and determine what subsequent plugins are necessary and how to use them appropriately.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know how to export iPhoto pics into gallery. Therefore, these photos aren’t linked to albums where you can view all the images. Luckily, I at least figured out how to include single images so that my post isn’t totally void of fun visual content.
I’m sure we’ll figure it out … eventually. But with three kids and loaded schedules, piecemeal progress is as good as Stephen and I can do these days.
The dudes check out cattails alongside the Bodie Island Lighthouse boardwalk.
Classical Conversations & homeschooling rock!
Although these education methodologies get my ringing endorsement, each and every day includes innumerable learning curves and subsequent lessons. But then again, that’s part of the fun of schooling at home: it’s never dull and it’s full of surprises.
I have been officially homeschooling Houston for two weeks now. The CC grammar curriculum for Foundations (the program name for elementary-age kids) includes: history, geography, English, Latin, math and science. Students are also required to give a three-to-five-minute presentation in front of their CC class every week.
Additionally, we’re doing a more in-depth math curriculum, as well as phonics. For math, I chose the tried-and-true Saxon. A favorite of homeschoolers for decades, the program produces great results. In fact, my neighbor, Shawn, has used Saxon Math for all three of her kids, ranging in ages from 6 to 16.
For phonics, I chose Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, a popular book I picked up for $5 at a homeschool book sale in the spring. We’re also supplementing with having Houston “read” lots of Dick & Jane — classic and effective.
The woman who sold me the phonics book said it worked wonderfully for her first two kids, but not her third, proving again that all children and their learning styles are unique. So, I’ll give it a whirl.
If I find it doesn’t work with the boys — yes, I’m attempting to teach all three to read — I’ll use The Writing Road To Reading, which is what Christie’s using for Asher. That gal is a research fanatic so I know anything she approves of is a winner. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and ideas with me, Christie!
Gabriel rocks his sunglasses while everyone checks out the marsh (yep, that’s the lighthouse covered in scaffolding in the background ).
See, one of the cool things about homeschooling is that if something doesn’t pan out, you stop using it and try something new. No big deal ’cause you’re not locked into any curriculum.
And that’s how CC operates, as well. Does the program have expectations? Yes. But it is ultimately up to mom and dad, not the weekly tutor, to determine how much or little the student delves into the subject matter. CC is totally parent-driven.
Soaking in the knowledge
Another cool thing is that Houston and I are learning together. Obviously, for this old atrophied brain, some of the rote material is even challenging for me to memorize. Yet because I often struggle right alongside him, Houston sees that learning is sometimes difficult, but is also so rewarding once you attain the knowledge.
Moreover, he sees that we can get creative when we’re in a bind, coming up with our own silly tricks or mnemonic devices to help us learn the material. It’s fun and it works. Whatever it takes to “train the brain to retain,” as CC founder Leigh Bortins describes it.
Sure, there has been some sighing and eye-rolling over the course of our short school year. But so far, Houston is loving the structured learning process, especially all the CC timeline stuff, which includes history recitation through song and hand motions.
The night before each school day, I try to create a loose lesson plan. This is when I hop on the Mac to find any appropriate printables, videos, maps or ideas that would compliment the materials. I also look for neat worksheets and/or easy crafts for Gabriel and Zeke to do to occupy their time in a constructive way.
Old pals (literally): Ashley & I strike a pose on the beach in south Nags Head.
They’re always invited to do the phonics and even sometimes the math (especially when we’re using the teddy-bear counters or the pattern blocks) if they show an interest. But if they’re disruptive or don’t follow directions, one or both has to leave the lesson with no reentry allowed.
Houston and I spend extra time on the drills that are more demanding and less time on the easier ones. If we happen to run out of time, we try pick up with the left-out material the following day. So far, this organic approach is working well.
I’m also trying to take it easy as far as the academic extras go. See, homeschoolers are some of the most creative and motivated people around, and they’re always coming up with additional ways to flush out the studies or even tacking on new curriculum to the already-existing subjects.
More power to ’em, if they can handle it. But I want to avoid the “activity addiction” that so often consumes our culture and stay focused on the task at hand: to know God and make Him known through understanding His truth, beauty and goodness.
“Properly speaking, there is no such thing as education. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” — G.K. Chesteron
Hence, I want schooling to be a joyous things for the entire family. And if making the effort to avoid over-scheduling the calendar or jam-packing the curriculum is what helps meet this end, I know I won’t be errant in providing a good education for the kids.
As our friend, Max explains, if I’m doing “one percent above zero,” I’m still beating the efforts of most government-run schools. As the dad of three homeschooled kids, he’s biased, but his sentiment is instructive in keeping me focused.
The sandiness of the sand perturbs grumpy-boy Zeke.
Moreover, I’m spending WAY more than two hours a day — the purported amount of time kindergarten takes, according to some veteran homeschoolers in my CC community — on all curriculum combined. Sure, much of that is due to late starts, interruptions, disciplining, food prep, mealtimes, cleanup, etc.
But I’m hoping this will take care of itself as we get more into the groove and become more streamlined and efficient with our homeschooling style, structure and daily rituals. My practicing better prioritization of to dos will also aid in this hopefully natural evolution.
The proverbial curve ball
And then again, some days just don’t go as planned. Like last Thursday …
I woke up with a migraine. As I struggled to even read words on a page, Gabriel puked all over the living room. I sequestered him to the tub so I could clean up, when all of a sudden, Houston went diarrhea in his undies.
How could this be? These things weren’t on my schedule!
Luckily, Zeke was not sick and not as much of a troublemaker as he had been in recent weeks. Once my migraine morphed into a tolerable headache, Zeke and I did laundry, and Houston and I were able to complete the math and phonics.
“Okay, we can pull this day together after all,” I said confidently. Then I heard the bathroom sink running and thought, “Who the heck left that on?” Turns out, I did.
Fortunately, Zeke likes the OBX surf more than he does the sand, as does Houston.
When I was filling up the sink to hand-wash a shirt, I stepped away for what I thought would be a moment. Of course, mommies constantly get side-tracked, so I was gone for a good five minutes before I realized my error and discovered the flooded bathroom.
Fortunately, I had a ton of dirty clothes right there in a hamper and was able to quickly sop it up. Plus, our bathroom is apparently a bit uneven, so the brunt of the water was up against and around the toilet, the tub and one wall, never making its way to the laminate in the bedroom or down the air-duct register.
I checked the crawlspace and the water doesn’t seem to have leaked under the house, so I think we’re okay on the possible major-water-damage front. Thank God for stinky laundry and shoddy homebuilders!
Speaking of stinky, sickness stinks!
Gabriel and Houston’s illness lasted a few days, but the puking and diarrhea have subsided, and both boys finally ate some food today. Not quite sure what it was that they had, but I think they’ll be in tip top shape by tomorrow. And we’re blessed that Zeke, Daddy and I were spared the ravages of the sickness.
A steep learning curve down the toilet
In other words, what we finally accomplished for the clan: two more potty-trained boys!
In fact, Zeke has been wearing undies to bed ever since 9/5 and has yet to have a nighttime accident, and Gabriel is wearing undies to bed for the first time tonight.
Gabriel thinks the ocean (i.e. the “rough beach”) isn’t much fun at all; luckily, he is entertained by the giant sand hole Cousin Kara dug.
Gabriel was slower in his big-boy maturation, having to do naked training and pull-ups on outings and at night for a bit longer than Zeke, but I do believe both twins have surpassed the major milestone once and for all. Hallelujah!
To reward the twins, Daddy and I ordered new Spider-Man bikes for them yesterday. Since he was potty trained first, Zeke got to pick his color; he chose the comic-book-looking white bike and Gabe will get the more movie-esque black bike. Yay!
The mastery of enjoyment
Luckily, there is no learning curve for fun and we’ve been having a great deal of it lately.
- Houston has had two t-ball games. He loves going to practices with Daddy and putting on a good show when the family comes to see him play. Houston is quite good and quite ready to move on to pitch ball in the spring.
- Last weekend, we hosted a “Welcome Home, Rorie” baby shower for Uncle Greg, Auntie Merdy and their sweet girl. The outdoor party got rained out half way through, but it did give us an opportunity to see some friendly faces of yore.
- Every week after CC class concludes, there is a park gathering with all the other Foundations families. It’s a good post-studying release for the young ones and a good occasion for all the moms to relax and socialize.
- Christie and I hope to do a bi-monthly park outing, where one of us will do CC memory work with Houston and Asher — Big Hashy, as the twins lovingly refer to them — while the other tends to siblings. We has such an outing this week and it was a nice diversion from schooling at-home.
- Stephen and I attended a fundraiser banquet for my favorite local charity, the life-affirming Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center. I hope to one day soon volunteer at GPCC. I’ve already turned in my application and done the in-person interview to be a peer advocate, so I pray that God will enable me to carve out the time to do something I truly believe is a calling.
- I forgot to mention in the last blog that Stephen and I also started a new Sunday school class on Promotion Day at church. We’re now attending Grace Under Fire (GUF). It’s a good fit for us, with mostly older parents who aren’t planning on growing their families. And it just so happens to include tons of homeschoolers and charter school parents to boot.
- I just finished another storybook with the boys: Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It is an incredible read and the first in a trilogy. We’re now getting deep into the second of the series, Shiloh Season. Thanks, Aunt Lisa, for sharing your sizable children’s book collection with our family … we’re putting it to good use!