Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Carnival of Homeschooling- Logistics of a Homeschooling Family

As the mother of 6 children, my life is complicated already. Just getting all the children up, dressed, teeth brushed, and fed before noon is a major accomplishment. Add homeschooling 5 of the children to the mix, ferrying them all to various extracurricular activities, and fitting enough time to keep the house tidy and at least one cooked meal on the table each day keeps me moving at a frantic pace.  

We have never put our children in "away school" so this will be our 9th year sitting at the table learning phonics, arithmetic, spelling, science, history, English, and religion. If our family continues to homeschool all the children, we could conceivably still be sitting at the table each day reading and working out math problems for the next 15 years since Julia Ellen won't even be starting Kindergarten for another 3 years.    

Logistical management is what every homeschooling mom spends much of her time doing: planning days so learning occurs in whatever form that takes, while also fitting in housework, cooking, shopping, bill paying, doctor's appointments, errands, volunteer work, exercise, children's activities, and squeezing in a tiny bit of alone time to renew her spirits. Some families also sign up for extras for the kids such as music, sports, arts, and/or scouts outside the home. Making the schedule "work" is sometimes a difficult task, but sometimes it all clicks, such as me signing all the kids up for this fall's swimming classes on Saturday afternoon. Let us learn how others homeschoolers cope with "trying to fit it all in."

Summer is a great time to try out all those extra classes and projects. Neo at The Tiger Chronicle shares her son's summer vacation in Summer: Part 1 and Summer: Part 2.  

Denise presents More Than One Way to Solve It posted at Let's Play Math!.

Kim shares some great ideas to learn art, poetry, and science outside in A Child's Garden: How We Conduct Nature Study posted at A Child's Garden

Read Aloud Dad shares one of my favorite children's authors, Robert McCloskey, with his kids in Burt Dow, Deep Water Man. The setting for many of Mr. McCloskey's books is just across the Penobscot Bay from us and my kids love getting out the Maine Gazetteer (page 14 and 15) and tracking the rainstorm in Time of Wonder as it goes across from the Camden Hills to Little Deer Isle. 

M.O.B. Mothers of Boys shares some ideas to get those creative juices flowing in Storytelling Games for Boys

Annette at A Net in Time share her upcoming year's routine for her son at Organization of my school year
Amy at Hope is The Word has already started her school year and shares a typical day in School Day Snapshot.  

Linda and Arby of The Homeschool Apologist share the difference in their homeschooling methods and styles since they started teaching their kids years ago in He Said/She Said #2: How Has Your Teaching Changed?.  

Christina at Home Spun Juggling shares some great advice in What I've Learned This Summer.
Alejandra at A Guide to Raising Great Kids shares some tips on making sure our kids are having fun and learning to be good hosts in The Perfect Play-Day

Linda Dobson presents Just One of the Many Reasons to Choose Homeschooling for Your Family posted at PARENT AT THE HELM.

Gidget shares a resource to help kids learn those multiplication tables in Favorite Math Resource - EVER! posted at Homeschooling Unscripted.

Mrs. Gaddy gives us some tips on Using Life Experiences to Teach practical living skills to our kids at momSchool

Jamie at Homeschool Online Blog reminds us that we homeschooling moms need to care of ourselves and exercise to maintain a positive attitude and stay healthy in Too Busy for Exercise?

Miss Nirvana shares an easy and recognizable craft in Eric Carle Style Art posted at Nirvana Homeschooling (we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar just last night to the little ones).

Kelli presents September as Chicken Month (!) in Monthly Unit Study posted at 3 Boys and a Dog Deals.
Victoria reviews Lesson Planning via Bento posted at Teaching Mommy

Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers shares A Typical Homeschool Day at her house.  

Pamela at Blah, Blah, Blog writes about her method of trying to logically fit in all her children's activities in I Guess It's Fall.  

Merit K gives us some ideas about higher level classes in Back to School with AP | Your Mission, should you choose to accept it posted at Mission Possible!.

Janice at Why Homeschool shares some of the challenges of having a homeschooler apply to college in Homeschool to College- Part 2.

I had some logistical challenges hosting the carnival this week with my computer performing the "black screen of death" early in the week and a planned 2 day trip with the big girls to go down to our new home (with no internet access) to clean and receive delivery of our new washer and dryer. Luckily the Auburn, Maine library is WiFi capable. But these are just the sort of little time-consuming glitches that we homeschoolers have to deal with every day.

Thank you for coming to the Carnival of Homeschooling and hope to see you next week at The Common Room. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

death and destruction

Well, the little baby mice didn't make it, but that was expected. Mice need mouse mommy milk, not cow milk and they need the warm nest of mommy mouse fur to stay warm and thrive. The children were sad, but the excitement of Hurricane Irene gave them something else to focus on. The winds were pretty strong and the bands of rain explained how this type of storm moves better than any book could. Of course we pulled out a book about hurricanes as well as of course reading Time of Wonder aloud, since the story features a hurricane hitting Maine.

This morning I went out at dawn to haul downed branches out of the road and fields, but mostly the damage was confined to my garden. The once tall corn stalks are now bent over to a 45 degree angle. I don't know if we will be able to harvest much past the two dinners of wonderful white sweet corn we had this past week. The sunflowers took a beating as well as the squash (no big loss since none of us like it much), and the tomatoes got knocked down. 

The girls and I are heading out this morning for the 2 hour trip down south to clean and organize the other house. Tim starts work Thursday and needs ice cream in the fridge, a coffee pot on the counter, and towels in the bathrooms. My job is to provide all those things, receive the delivery of the washer and dryer from Sears, and clean the place of all the crumbs and slime that the previous owners so rudely left for me to deal with. It amazes me that if you rent a house it has to be pristine at move-out, but when you pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a place, the house looks grungy and gross. Since the western part of the state got hit harder by rain and wind than we did, I'm not sure what we shall encounter on the drive down, but I'm sure we will be able to handle whatever comes our way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

feeding with an eyedropper

On Monday or Tuesday evening Will went out to the barn and accidentally scared a mother mouse who was nesting on the deck of the riding mower. Her two babies were still there the next morning so Tim and Will carried them into the house and set to work feeding and attempting to rescue the little guys. So, for several days they have been fed around the clock tiny drops of milk and have miraculously stayed alive. 

They don't have any hair, their eyes are still shut, and they don't even squeak. It seems very strange to be expending so much effort trying to keep field mice alive while trying to decide between poison and traps to keep the barn rodent-free. My job in the next week or so is to find if there are humane traps to set up in the barn so we aren't inadvertently killing the babies' mother or father.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

we escaped Virginia just in time

Last night's Drudge headline:


I did attempt to call my grandmother at her assisted living place outside of DC right after the earthquake, but couldn't get through due to everyone else calling their friends and relations for the same reason. Later I talked to her and she related her experience of being evacuated from the doctor's office, "Everyone ran out! Well, I didn't run." Since Grandmother hasn't been able to walk without assistance for many years, the ground shaking didn't help.

The forecasters have been predicting that Hurricane Irene might be a cross between Hurricanes Gloria and Floyd, both of which I witnessed. Our hearts are with those in the path of this storm. While exciting to see, the aftermath of power outages, long lines at the few functioning gas stations, property damage, and flooding are expensive and frustrating to live through.   

 In the meantime, Our Curious Home is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. I'm hosting next week, so if you are a regular reader and have posted anything about homeschooling this summer, especially pertaining to planning for this rapidly approaching school year, email me your blog title, name, and URL of post to me (the official carnival submission form has not been functional the past few weeks) at katherinecollins2000 at yahoo.com (insert @ for at, I don't want tons of spam in my inbox to wade through).

Carnival of Homeschooling

Monday, August 22, 2011

only 9 days of summer break?

I don't know exactly how it happened, even after very few field trips this year, not many days of Christmas or Easter break, and no sick days, but Will, our 7th grader and oldest child, is finally finished with school for the year. Actually, he has 1 last section of the CAT left to take today before he is officially finished. All the other children did school on the same days, Charlie didn't even get his 1st grade books until January, but they all completed their assignments by early summer and could enjoy their days in Maine without anything hanging over their heads. Of course Will wasn't exactly tethered to his seat all day watching everyone else play outside, he got to go to summer camp, spend 2 weeks at sailing camps, go to various lakes and ponds, take swimming lessons, and become proficient enough to be designated our family's grill master. 

This week I will order the upcoming school year's curriculum, with an official start date of September 1. We will jump right into our lessons and get a running start before the majority of extra curricular activities begin so when we move down to southern Maine for the winter we will actually be ahead of schedule. I seriously doubt this will happen, but it is always better to have a positive attitude (at least the appearance of one in front of the children).

Friday, August 19, 2011

packed away

When the packers arrived down in Virginia I walked around the house and as we passed the children's bedrooms, I told them, "Do not pack the items on the kid's beds or the box fans, everything else is fair game." Unfortunately, Timmy's stuffed giraffe, Geraldine, the one he has slept with for 5 years, the animal we have had to retrieve from the car, the barn, the next door neighbor before he could go to sleep, must have rolled off his bed and onto the floor. Last Monday night we could not find Geraldine and after opening a few newly sealed boxes to search, managed to put him to bed with promises of asking the packers to retrieve her in the morning. Well, even after intense grilling (though not quite to the level of involving water boarding), the crew could not recall seeing a tan giraffe among the myriad of other stuffed animals, dolls, and toys we own. After all, they wouldn't know how precious that particular item is to our little boy and in turn, our whole family.

But Timmy has shown maturity beyond what I expected and patiently waited for almost 2 weeks to find his precious companion. I dread the thought of Timmy possibly having outgrown needing a lovey, a precious toy to snuggle against his soft little neck every time he goes to sleep, a comfort he can see and touch. When our boxes of dishes and blocks, books and toys are moved down to southern Maine this upcoming Monday I will ask all the children to assist me on the urgent mission to "rescue Geraldine." I just hope it isn't too late for her to resume being his faithful sidekick once more.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

not summer people anymore

After several days of driving a van full of crabby children up the East Coast, we pulled into our own driveway where I jumped out of the car and let Tim handle our youngest who had been screaming for the last several hours (she wasn't hungry, thirsty, or in need of a new nappie, she just wanted out). Every mile we traveled I kept reminding myself, "This is the last time I have to sit in traffic, go through a toll booth, or see the state of New Jersey." After all, we have done the annual family migration north to Maine and south to whatever urban duty station Tim was assigned to for a dozen years so it might take until October for the reality of his retirement to fully sink in.

For the first time I don't have to use up the 15 pounds of blueberries I bought a few weeks ago (they are safely in the freezer) or the green beans the children are currently picking (I blanched and froze the first of many batches this morning). Maggie proudly collected 2 quarts of cherry tomatoes, over a dozen cucumbers, and many yellow squash before I had even finished unpacking the car yesterday. I think a chest freezer and a pressure canner are on our list of necessary new purchases to handle the excess from our garden, but I'm still planning on taking a box full of produce to the food pantry on Wednesday to share.

We will still enjoy the lovely, but short Maine summers, but now we can take full advantage of the opportunity to work in the woods this fall, play in the inevitable winter weather, and plant fruit trees and delicious raspberries in the spring.

It has been a long difficult slog getting to this point, we have been bounced around every 2-3 years by the military, career low spots, and long separations, but we always have had our summers in Maine to rejuvenate and restore our spirits. I thank the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Benedict for their assistance and prayers. 

We are now full-time Maine residents!!  

Monday, August 08, 2011

long ride

2 days in a van with 6 children, one of them a fussy toddler, is enough to make anyone wish for a little break away. A good choice is perhaps a week at a luxurious spa with unlimited massages and gourmet food. Instead I got to return to a house that hadn't seen a dustcloth in 8 weeks and the packers arriving the next day. In the next 3 days I have to supervise everything getting boxed up and put on the truck, clean the entire house, and make sure no one wanders away or goes hungry. 

The drive itself was uneventful except for heavy traffic, rain, and many, many bathroom stops. If you want to know how many times a 7 and 8 year old need to go potty: every 90 minutes on average. By the end I made Charlie utilize the little blue potty in the car so we didn't have to stop on the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to get an up close view of the bay. It took a total of 17 hours in the car and about $35 in tolls to arrive in Virginia. It dawned on me this morning as I slogged through the steamy heat just to get a bag of ice at the store that I can't recall the last time I was here in August since we don't usually return form Maine until mid-October. I'm acclimatized to Maine summers where you might need a jacket in the evening, even in July. The positive is that this is my last trip south, the negative is that we have to pile back in the van on Thursday to make our way slowly back up the East Coast.

Friday, August 05, 2011

preparing for snow

No, Maine weather is not so frigid that it snows in August, but since this will be our first winter in New England, I'm trying to get ready now. Down in Virginia if it snows once during the winter then it is a hard one, so I've been stocking up on gloves and turtlenecks.

You can find some great deals at Goodwill during the summer such as LL Bean gloves for $2, thick socks for $1, and I found a pair of classic duck boots for $25 (normally retailing for $89). Every year I pair up all our outerwear in a big basket, but by February many of the mittens are orphans and there aren't enough hats to go around. I figure that phenomenon is going to happen at twice the rate with actual snow and below zero temps so I better have many more than the usual number of each to start the season.   

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

don't need to decide now

This morning Will and I drove 2 hours down to the southern part of Maine to the only Catholic high school in the state. The house we are buying just happens to be nearby and we have seriously contemplated sending the oldest 2 children there this year or next.

Homeschooling has become more complicated and sometimes exasperating with more children "doing school" and the oldest one's work taking longer and longer to complete. Seton's program is intense, some days there are 3 day's worth of work crammed into 1 day on the lesson plans, but Will tends to drag out any complicated assignment, his 4th quarter reading test took him almost 4 hours to finish. One of our options in Maine is a good, academically rigorous, wholesome Catholic school so today he and I toured the building, looked at some of the textbooks, and read some of the syllabi crafted by the 8th grade teachers.

Naturally I want the kids to be in a more social environment, after moving 4 times in 6 years, it would be nice for them to make long-term friends and be able to play sports, be in clubs, etc. On the other hand, after looking at Seton's high school curriculum again after supper it was so apparent how superior academically and Catholic homeschooling truly can be. The choice of novels, the rigorous textbooks, the lesson plans all contribute to a sublime education which only a very few private schools could boast. In contrast, modern secular textbooks tend to be visually jarring with lots of color and boxes on every page, the novels selected tend to be more modern works with less literary value, and the lessons are a mystery. We could be paying $13,000 a year for a pig in a poke or a wonderful experience that allows the older children to expand their minds and world, leaving me more time to focus on the younger children's academics.

But we decided that this is not something we are going to jump into in the next 3 weeks so for the upcoming year our decision is to continue on our 9th year of homeschooling. Homeschooling has been our one constant and being in a new house, having new teachers/leaders for music and scouts, attending a new church, and transitioning to a new civilian lifestyle is certainly enough change for the children.    

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

carnival of homeschooling

This week's carnival is being hosted by Home Spun Juggling with lots of pictures of art her kids have made.

Speaking of homeschooling, I filled out our enrollment form for Seton yesterday and have been stocking up on cheap, cheap school supplies from Walgreens and Staples like $0.10 index cards and highlighters, $0.39 notebooks, free pens, $0.25 reams of copy paper, and free Crayola markers.

Before we start school in a few weeks we have to drive down to Virginia, supervise the packers and movers, visit the aunties in Maryland, have our household goods delivered, attend the closing of our new house, and move some of our stuff again. I think I'll wait until the last minute to send off for our books, if I piled up the huge stack of lesson plans I think it might send me over the edge.