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Homeschool

A New Song

I have a rescue chicken named Nikki.
My brother in law, a police officer, rescued her from Walmart.
I could leave you with a mental picture of Nikki being snatched off of the butchering table in the meat department, but let’s get real here; he was at Walmart.
I’ll tell you what the truth is: Nikki the chicken was running around the store with no other agenda besides escaping the intimidating hands of the police officer chasing her down the cereal isle.
I’m glad I clarified for the amusement of your imagination.

So he brings me this hen and lays her on my swing in the middle of the night. She’s scared, shaken up, and tired, but she gets her rest that night on my back porch only to be rudely awakened with the ice cold realization that she now lives with four children who consider it their actual birth right to chase and catch chickens for no other purpose than rocking them like infants, dancing with them like dolls, or force feeding them fresh worms if the day is a lucky one. Nikki is not about this life.

She quietly takes her daily refuge in the back of my husband’s truck. The sun rises, she waits for her feed, and then she jumps in the bed of his truck and hangs out there until she’s hungry again. We didn’t find this out until we found multiple eggs rolling around back there, and realized this is probably how she actually ended up at Walmart to begin with. (Dear sweet farmer missing your truck-loving chicken, please know we are loving on your girl.)

I am telling you this because I have recently learned that I am Nikki the chicken.
I came to this sobering realization yesterday on the front porch when I had my children lock me out there on purpose.

Yep. It was a Tuesday that felt like a well earned Friday. Countless tantrums from the two year old, an intense melt down from the eight year old, spilled coffee, bickering between the two middles, cheated math, he threw away her artwork, eye rolls a plenty, someone scribbled on someone’s paper, the dog ate her sandwich, so on and so forth–until THE time.
Nap time.
That’s the time I call nap time even though only one of the four actually nap. Usually the older two do independent school work at the table and then play outside, the third reads in bed with an occasional nap, and the fourth cashes in on his well needed naps.
Yesterday though the toughest morning was soon soothed by this said nap time where both youngers actually slept soundly, both olders worked on a science experiment, and I caught up on two days worth of dishes. That was too graceful, it was most definitely three days worth of dishes.

AND THEN THE UPS MAN RANG THE DOORBELL.

Cue the bark squad, everyone awake, and instant fighting over who would open the box.

I Nikki the chickened right on out of there.
Opened the door. Stepped out. Used my fingers to ominously instruct them to lock the door, and I sat on that front porch for a solid half hour. I would have joined Nikki in the truck, but I was hoping by my visual presence on the front porch, I wouldn’t come back into too much destruction.
It was the day I ran away but didn’t.
The day I wish I had a mini freezer outside stocked with chocolate ice cream.
The day I identified with Nikki the chicken.

Sometimes this is hard.
Most times this is hard.
I’ve got to force myself to constantly remember that this path was not chosen for difficulty, but it has been chosen for it’s purpose.
I love teaching them and learning with them, but it often takes every ounce left of my very being.
I told Him how tired I was yesterday on the porch while they pressed their noses on the glass and smeared their nostrils all over it as the train tracks for their finger trains poking the door.

Then after a 4am sharp wake up call, I woke up this morning opening up my study with the She Reads Truth Lenten Study of Isaiah only to first see the aesthetically pleasing image correlating with today’s devotion read this:

I took that one and called it mine because my praises sound sweeter than my grumbling every single time.
My heart check was needed as it grew fruits of patience and gentleness with the chaos of this Wednesday that feels like a well earned Friday. We did most of our work today outside under a tree with a cool breeze, and I was timely reminded how much I love the liberty of feeding my children an education wherever it is the wind blows us in a day.

The truth is that although this is hard, it is worth it. It is beautiful. It is an adventure-an excitement-a gift. For every rough moment there is a hundred more I want to forever remember.
We chose this path for purpose.

I felt led to share here, but I might even pass by truck in a bit and let Nikki know what’s up too.

Homeschool

Why We Ditched our School Schedule

We don’t have a school day schedule.
Sometimes people find that weird.

It doesn’t make sense in my head either, but in real life it unfolds well.

Why doesn’t it make sense in my head?
Because I am a time manager. I’m mediocre skilled at it.
I even factor in cushion time for the inevitable meltdown, drink spillage, or broken dish.
Just ask my husband. He’s undoubtedly always late, while I just sit there and silently solve all of this late-induced problems with a sharper schedule. Shower takes 12 minutes, getting dressed and grooming, 4 minutes, walking the dogs takes 5 minutes, put your shoes on for a minute and allow yourself 3 extra grace minutes and he just needs 25 minutes of getting ready time before he needs to leave the house. Easy-that is if you follow my schedule. (Also if you can find your shoes, because sometimes that’s the spoil to perfectly good time management. Good places to check for a missing shoe is known to be: the boy’s toy box, under the couch, the linen closet, and occasionally in the dog’s kennel.)

Us on a school schedule should work.
But it just didn’t.

And this is where we take the freedom of homeschooling into our own hands and mold it into what will work for us. I laid down my mental picture of what I thought our teaching and learning should mimic and really fine tuned it to the dynamic of our family. We have four children ages 2, 4, 6, & 8. The wildcard in there at present is going to be my 2 year old, although we are growing into a season where he is slightly more tamed and predictable than he has been. He is a high maintenance baby (and now toddler) and requires much of my constant attention. All. day. long. (Really though last week he baby powdered himself, my Labradoodle, and entire bathroom, wrote on the walls with an ink pen, broke into the pantry to feed the dogs an entire loaf of bread, and spilled a container of coffee grounds onto the floor all in one day.) Mommas schooling with babies, I know you feel me. It is difficult to teach on schedule and simultaneously prevent these things from happening.

Scheduling produces thriving for some families, but I’ve found at this stage in our learning it just produces pressure.

I think a strict time format is an incredibly fruitful, well-disciplined practice, and I would love to better revisit it when my children are of older ages.

For now though, if lunch time comes and we haven’t squeezed in all of our normal routine subjects, I don’t feel like a failure. I feel normal. I feel like someone somewhere along those lines needed my attention somewhere else besides teaching, and that’s a beautiful part of home learning. If someone scrapes a knee and needs a cuddle for 20 minutes, I’m here. If a couple of them are struggling with conflict, we make time to figure it out. If we get an invite to bring four wild children and two wild dogs to a dog park, I get to say yes. When my sister needs help with her newborn, we get to run on over. The books will wait. There is so much freedom for me in not being a slave to a schedule right now, and it makes the moments even sweeter for us.

We get to explore so much child led learning this way too. So many times a Geography lesson turns into an Art lesson which turns into a Science lesson which tip toes over History and ends up in Dictation. These snowball learning days are free to come whenever they might because we’re so liberal with the whens, wheres, and hows.

I like that- being free. I want my kids to feel that way while they still very much are.

We are busy people. I have a little calendar in my bag with things jotted on every single day of the month, but I like not having to turn over my school hours that way right now. They get to learn and play and snack and nap and read this way at a much more organic pace.

Years ago when we first began homeschooling I had an hourly schedule something like: breakfast at something o’clock, free play for thirty minutes, clean up for ten minutes, math at something o’clock, art at something thirty, lunch no early or later than noon, etc. It put so much pressure on me-on us, that I was a nutcase by the afternoon. If the youngest wouldn’t go down for a nap on time, or someone threw a tantrum somewhere it threw our whole game off and just stressed us all out.

When people come to me for homeschool tips and advice this is usually among the first thing I talk about especially to those teaching with babies and toddlers in the mix. I understand this just doesn’t work well with some families, and that’s okay. The rad thing about learning at home is that you get to format it to what fits your family best. If your school flourishes by scheduling, then you get to implement that how you like. If the clock brings you stress, you get to throw it out. No one way is the right way, and sometimes the right way shifts.

Right now, for us, we are thriving in the freedom of having ditched the o’clock boss.

Books Homeschool

School Book Favs

We have so many resources we pull from for our learning, but today I wanted to share some that are our tried and true go-tos on at least a weekly basis. I’m talking if nothing else, these are thumbed through, devoured, loved on, or rediscovered every few days around here.

Lehgo:

Okay so these little books were included in an All About Reading curriculum I purchased 4-5 years ago. The curriculum itself wasn’t a good fit for our family then, but these books ARE.
My new readers love these books. They are cute little stories with black and white illustrations as well. I love the simplicity and my kid’s love the confidence boost that comes with reading one of these in 10-20 minutes and feeling like they read a big “chapter book”. My 6 year old son absolutely loves the little reading guide card at the bottom, which actually would be simple to DIY, laminate, and help guide along any early reader feeling overwhelmed by paragraphs or many words together. Looking these up now I see they’ve been redone in a color format and are available here.

These are our absolute favorites. If we have down time and I ask the kids to work independently I’ll bet my ten chickens they’ll grab these and get to reading, drawing, and/or creating their own “lessons” to teach the younger ones from. Seriously they’re on the table daily. The illustrations in these are fantastic, and the short blunt subject pages are honestly captivating for all ages in my opinion. These are wonderfully priced and available here. We give these as gifts, we love them so much!


This year we’ve found ASL to be easily incorporated to every lesson. We pick 1-4 words a week/day depending on how well the retention is between my four, and we generally keep this dictionary at hand to do so. For example last week when did a bee unit study, we learned the signs for bee, honey, hive, and spring. I love to outsource YouTube for this or @signedwithheart on Instagram, but my kids also get a lot out of referencing the signs in this dictionary.


This one. Just get it. It is another great gift book for even those not homeschooling. The map illustrations are so incredibly fun and the book is so very versatile. This fall we studied Europe and each week would take an imaginary train through each country. We used this book as an I Spy inspiration for each kid to pick landmarks, culture references, native animals, etc. that inspired them and we’d concentrate on each one by referencing other books and videos to dig deeper. They key pictures around the countries/continents are great memory markers and this one was well engaged with by all of my crew and even myself.


I’m an art girl, and I’ve got an art girl. So we do art things. Usborne has various titles for us art lovers, but these are two that my littles gravitate toward most. They’ve got some beautiful classics and provide lots of sweet tid-bits about pieces, and the best part is that they almost always end up providing some artistic inspiration.  They go well with the Art sticker books and coloring activity books Usborne offers as well. I get mine here.

Oh I do love this one. Again, you just get me real good when you’ve got some bomb illustrations and this one delivers there as well. My 8 year old daughter loves this book, and she often uses it along side her personal journaling. This one’s more geared towards girls ages 6-10. Angie Smith is so gifted, and this book is nothing short of a treasure around here.

I love discovering new favorites, so be sure to let me know if you think I’m missing out on something!

Homeschool

How Our School Looks

Let’s compare homeschool to a wardrobe.

You have a variety of pieces to choose from.
Some are worn and well-loved.
Some are new and need to be tried on.
Some have holes in them and need to be repaired.
Some are no longer functional and need to be thrown out.

This is absolutely comparable to the way we school. We aren’t a uniform kinda family. We like our options.

We are the stripes with polka dot people.
Plaid on plaid.
Print on print.
Print on plaid on polka dots.
and just when you think we’re going to show up in worn out holey denim and a stained Mickey Mouse tee shirt, we come at ya smooth and classy in all black with red lipstick and heels.

Where are we going right now?
Oh yea. Not to dinner. To school.
kaaaay

Yes. School.
There are several different methods/styles (Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Unschooling, just to name a few).
We like to try them all on, which has us generally landing in the Eclectic style of home educating.
We dabble and pull from all kinds of styles until we’re working with the best fit for us.

I say all of this to preface this point:
No one way is the only way.
This works for us.
It may not work for you.
and that’s okay.

It took two years of homeschooling before I figured this out.
I can buy a curriculum now and not feel mandated to use every single component.
I can research a learning style and not feel required to implement every single aspect.
I can receive a suggestion and not feel pressured to apply it.

Once I figured this out, our schooling that took on a freedom that sparked both in myself as a teacher and my kids as learners.
If I announce right now that we have some school to do, I will undoubtedly hear cheers and yays and tiny feet running over whereas there was a time where that announcement brought groans and eyerolls and attitudes all over.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” -William Butler Yeats

I love these words. I love them dearly and not only because we literally light things on fire sometimes for “projects”, but because the objective in my teaching right now is to give these little ones a craving for knowledge and a passion for seeking it.

So right now we stride in our ripped denim and worn out stripes, while will we even get out of pajamas tomorrow?

Homeschool

Hello world!

Ten years ago I was probably in front of a computer screen writing a history paper for college with a degree in Elementary Education in my line of sight.
Now I’m in front of a computer screen writing a blog about how I homeschool my four children and I’m not seeing much other than that because my it’s 9:26pm and if we’re being honest, my brain likes to check out shortly after 6pm. It’s on airplane mode until bedtime, basically.

Didn’t see that one coming, 2007 Courtney, did ya?

As the story goes, I gave birth to my first little treasure in 2009 when God shortly after began to reveal homeschool as our future. I won’t say there wasn’t resistance met there, but I will say it is a calling I’ve been blessed by answering. 2014 came and all of a sudden there were four of them I had to keep alive and love and teach and not mess up too badly.

We are in a place now where learning is more like thriving on life for all of us. I’m on my second education here while I’m totally winging this thing, and these kids think I hold the key that unlocks knowledge itself. I’m no expert, but I’d like to ehhem a bit and bring in my small voice on this topic that I love.

This space here to do so excites me, and I thank you for reading.

Allan Bloom is quoted to have said, “Education is the movement from darkness to light.”

Oh and am I ever a lover of the light.