Category Archives: Homeschool

Progress Report

When we started our home(virtual)school journey, I was excited but trepidatious. The ‘what ifs’ shackled me to traditional brick-and-mortar school. I was so worried that I’d miss something important, or completely fail at teaching them – especially math!

What I discovered was that teaching the things that I’m good at is much harder than teaching the subjects that I struggle with. Helping with math, I find myself learning new and better ways to do mental calculations. It sounds silly, but I’ve learned to not use my fingers with basic math facts, something I surely should have learned long ago. But it wasn’t hard to teach because I was only a step or two ahead of them. I learned it and then I taught it. Kinda fun, actually!

Writing, however, GAH! They both have a fine understanding of verbs, nouns, and sentence structure, but putting it all together in one nice package? I found myself getting frustrated with explaining why you write things in a certain order. “They’ve never done this,” I reminded myself every few minutes. So this has been the hardest part so far, this going back to the basics and trying to remember that it’s not something everyone knows. Almost like when someone asks me a question about photography. If you have a camera and you only use it on Auto and then you ask me a question about the other settings, it won’t do me much good to start talking about ISO and f-stops.  You’ll look at me, glassy-eyed, and maybe even nod…but you have no idea what I’m saying. I’m the same way when people talk to me about economics.

I’ve also discovered that the teaching aspect is most certainly not the hardest part. Neither is the organization of it all. Or the scheduling. The hardest part (by far) is keeping the little two entertained while we work. It is hard for them to understand (especially the baby) that while the big kids are at home, they can’t play right now. But they have special school-time toys, which help sometimes. And sometimes they play well together, but not always. There has been more than one occasion where I had to put them each in their own rooms and close the door. Those two are something else, I tell you! Theirs is certainly a love-hate relationship.

But I can say with complete certainty that this has been a good experience for all of us. Our days have more laughter than stress, which I was worried about initially. The curriculum is well-designed and easy-to-use. The teacher support and online learning opportunities are top notch. The school provides lots of chances to meet other home(virtual)school families and socialize with them. I’m getting to be witness to a lot of exciting moments when my kids “get it” and we all cheer and dance. Most importantly, though, is that the kids really, really seem to love it.  They talk and write about it a lot, and it’s not uncommon for them to play homeschool long after our school day is over. I love watching them teach the little kids. They taught Asa some math and then gave him an assessment while I was away last weekend. 🙂

So, yeah, things are going well. Really well. And I think we’ve all found our footing and are enjoying the ride. But I honestly don’t think I could have made this transition as easily as we have without a lot of prayers and love and support. Big thanks to those of you who encouraged us to take this leap, for those of you who have prayed us on, and for those who have held my hand (and my heart) when I was afraid of messing up.

If you’re more interested in our homeschool journey, be sure to check back here on Wednesday and Thursday. Tomorrow I’ll be posting some specifics of the things we love about homeschool, and on Thursday you can read about some of our homeschool struggles (or at least the things that are less-than-awesome).

And then…and then…and then…

Every night I make my to do list for the next day.
Often bits of the day-not-yet-over’s list bleed onto tomorrow’s.
I have our days fairly well-structured.
There is wiggle room, of course.
(I’m a sucker for a playdate.)
(And cupcakes.)
Sometimes we do rearrange our day, but we usually stick to the general routine.
This follows this.
That follows this.
This follows that.
And so forth and so on…

But today my to do list is empty.
Sure, there are things to be done.
But none of them as important as what I’ll be doing.

It’s so rare that I get to spend one-on-one time with my children.
I try to make it a priority, but it’s hard.
So often I settle for two-on-one time.
They don’t seem to care.
(Or even notice, really).
(But I do).

Without the littles there, I can really listen to him without being tuned into the background noise.
Without the littles there, I can look into her eyes instead of scanning and counting “one-two-three……four”.
Without the littles there, I can focus on just the two of them, my “big kids”.

And so today I will.
I’ll go completely off script.
I’ll follow their lead.
I’ll listen (really listen) to them.
And let them show me their world.

*****

And y’all?  I did. And it was perfect and beautiful.
Their world is full and happy and wonderful and it left me on a cloud.
Thank God for kids. 

The Incredible Un-Edible Egg

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a message about something she’d seen on Pinterest: how to make a naked egg.
I thought it would be a fun project, but I’ll admit that mostly…I just wanted to take pictures.

First we soaked the eggs in vinegar and watched the bubbles for a while.
It’s fun because the bubbles occasionally make the egg spin.

  

You’ll note that we started with three, but ended up with two.
User error.  (My bad.)

After a day or so, I rinsed them off and put them in fresh vinegar.
If she shell wipes off in your hand the first time, a second soaking may not be necessary.

  

I would go into what we talked about, but I pretty much just expounded on what he said in the video.

I will say that it’s fairly squishy and bouncy at this point, but one over-zealous bounce and you’ll have a big mess!

  

After I’d taken 7,000 pictures, we soaked one egg in corn syrup.
We only had dark syrup, so ours looks even more disgusting!
We soaked the other in a water-blue food coloring mix.

We talked a little about diffusion and osmosis.
(Don’t be impressed…I couldn’t remember too much about those, so I watched this refresher.)

The one in corn syrup shriveled up and – get this – the yolk got hard.
It was super gross.

  

The other one became swollen and very, very blue.

Earlier (when it was still just a plain ol’ nekkid egg) I let the children do a few squeeze tests.
But once it was full of blue?  Not so much.
Since I’d forgotten to take a squishy picture though, I smooshed it a few times myself.

We wanted to prove that the colored water was actually going into the egg and not coloring the outside like at Easter.
Our hypothesis was that if it was just coloring the membrane, then the yolk would still be yellow.
BUT if the food coloring was actually going into the egg, it would make the yolk look green.
Guess what?
We were right.

 

 

 

If I Were A Raindrop

My daughter writes like I do.
My son writes like my husband.
She uses lots of descriptive words.
He keeps it short and sweet.
I have to remind her that more isn’t always better.
I have to give him a sentence minimum.

I give them a topic each morning and they write about it.
Sometimes they are narratives, sometimes opinion pieces, or maybe explanatory.
But we begin our day with a writing prompt of some sort.
Yesterday’s was: “If I were a raindrop…”

If I were a raindrop
I wold be in
the cloud’s. And then
I wold get smushet. And I would be
falling. And I would
be in the sky. And
then on the grownd.
And I would
become a puttle and
I would dry and
just lie there. And
I would be happy. 
Befor I dry
chilgren will come
to jump on me. And
I will have fun.
And I would
be lieing there. And
I would be me.
And then I will
dry up. And no
one at all will
jump on me.
And I will
not be seen. 

There are two themes in her writing: being a princess or “just being me”.
I love that so often she is happy with just being her.
How can we bottle that up?
How can we preserve that?
When does that slip away?

Scientific Method

One of the things we’ve been studying this week is the Scientific Method.  We’d gone over it several times and had done 4 different experiments, and yet they were having a hard time remembering some of the key words.  So to help ourselves remember, we combined this with one of our summer list items we still haven’t finished – write & perform a play.  (What?  Summer’s not technically over for a few more weeks!)

We recorded the play and although they still say ‘hypop-es-sis’ instead of hypothesis and ‘experience’ instead of experiment, I think they really get it!  It was fun making our movie and even more fun watching it.  I hope that it’s something we’ll be able to look back on in twenty years and laugh all over again.

(I especially love Lydia’s look when Carter steals her line!  I get that look from her a lot!)

If I were a…

Every morning my children write in a journal.
I give them prompts and they have 10 minutes to write.
We don’t go back and correct anything.
There’s no editing to be done.
The misspelled words stay misspelled and the run on sentences keep running on and on and on.
Recently I was wondering if I should encourage them to self-edit.
Should I push them to correct themselves as they go along?
And I decided no.  No, I shouldn’t.  There is plenty of time to learn to self-edit.

And then even more time to unlearn how to self-edit (which is where I find myself right now).

It’s hard to just write.
It’s hard to just let the words flow without worry.
I have a nagging need to clarify, to justify my words.
I want to use my words to be understood, but if I add too many words it gets all jumbled.

“If I were a…” they began today.
And I sat and scribbled with them.
Ten minutes.
No stopping.
No erasing.
No scratch-throughs.

If I were a superhero I would see a need and fix it.  I would look for the sad, the broken and I would help.  I would, of course, be able to fly because what good is being a superhero without such a simple superpower? And I would be able to close my eyes and breathe deeply and, like a genie in a bottle, blink and nod the sad away.  Actually, if I were a superhero, I wouldn’t go and fix things.  I would go and teach the sad, the broken how to fix it.  (Which is easier said than done, isn’t it?)  (But I’m a superhero, after all, so why not?) 

And my self-editor said, “Don’t publish that.  It’s silly.”
And it is, but it’s where I am.
It’s where we are.
And I kinda-sorta like this place, silly stories and all.

 

Your Words

I usually write late at night after everyone is asleep.
But after a very full weekend, I collapsed into bed and watched TV with Marshall.
We went to two birthday parties this weekend, which were super fun!
One was a Christmas in August complete with stockings and lights and (paper) snowball fight!
The other was a backyard camp out with s’mores and tents and a hay ride.
I think maybe I had as much fun as the kids did!
Sunday, nestled between church and meetings, we re-watched “Despicable Me” (which, if you’ve never seen it, is pretty funny) with my parents.
I won’t lie; I caught a little snooze while we watched it.
There’s something extra special about Sunday afternoon naps.

There are times I feel quite silly for blogging.
There are times I write words like the ones above and think “who in the world cares”?
And there are times that I just write what I’m thinking and find that a lot of you are thinking it, too.
And there are times when pictures really do have more to say than words and so I share my view of our days that way.

I post here and on Instagram and Facebook and sometimes I wonder why I do it.
Part of it is that I love going back and looking at our days.
I love remembering tiny details I’d otherwise forget.
I love rediscovering emotions that were wrapped up in moments long ago.
I love looking back and seeing how some things have changed but other things never, ever change.

But lately, I started to contemplate how long I’d do this blogging thing.
I started a photo website to share pictures with our family back in 2005.
In 2007, it morphed into a blog called QueenOfHaddock.
And in 2008 I changed everything over to The Ivey League moniker.
And in 2010, I finally moved over to my own domain.
I love this little space, even if it does need a makeover!
I love this space because it’s a place where I can write and I can think and I can process.
But I also love this space because it has connected me with so many of you!
And it seems that whenever I think about closing up shop around here, like I did this summer,
I get an influx of kind words from you!
You are such wonderful encouragers!
When I am down, you lift me up with your words and prayers.
When I need help, you ask what you can do.
When I need guidance, you offer advice.
When I just need to know that I’m not alone in this journey, there you are.
And I really, really appreciate it.
More than you’ll ever know.
Thank you.
Thank you so much for your words.

Up and Down and All Around

I never knew it was possible for my emotions to be as wild as they have been the past few weeks.
I am so incredibly happy to have the children home with me and we are having a blast.
And, for the most part, we are floating along just fine.  I am learning as much as they are (probably more).
Our schedule is pretty flexible, but I am a list-making rule-follower and I like for everything to be just so.
I like to know what’s coming next and I don’t like it when the the schedule gets turned up-side down.
But in a house with 4 small children, schedules are bound to not only get turned up-side down, but to stay up-side down.
And so I am learning to let some things slide.  And to know which things are okay to let slide.  (That’s the hardest part!)
It’s hard for me to balance work time versus play time.
I have a tendency to want to push on through and play later, and I have to remind myself that they aren’t made for that.
They need time to just play.
They need time to read for fun.
They need time to (gasp!) get bored.
I’m having to set aside my go-go-go and embrace “Be still…”
Y’all?  That’s hard stuff.

The other hard thing is the little people.
I can honestly say that sometimes we follow the schedule to a tee and no one screams or cries or fusses, but that’s not often.
There are moments when the little one shrieks at her big brother while I’m giving a spelling test.
Or I hear “I missed the potty” while I’m in the middle of a science lesson.
*headdesk*
Again: hard stuff.
But ultimately I’m grateful that my hard stuff isn’t really all that hard.

And I’ll be honest with you:  It isn’t as hard as I expected it would be.
I expected a lot of things, most of which haven’t come to fruition. (Yet).
I expected that we’d try this and all hate it.
I expected that we’d try it and I’d get frustrated or they’d miss regular school or it just wouldn’t work.
I expected more crying, more whining, more nagging.
And (so far) I just haven’t seen those things.
(Ask me again in two months and see if I’m singing a different tune).

Is our homeschool situation going to be long term?  Probably not.
Is it always going to fit our needs?  I imagine it won’t.
But I’ve been wrong before.
And so my answer is maybe.
We’re doing this now and it is a good thing.
And we’ll keep doing it until it isn’t.
Who knows when that will be…

A New Normal

I’ve had lots of people ask how home(virtual)school is going, and I’ve had a few ask about the details of our days.  If you’re one of the former, the answer is GREAT!  We love it!  If you’re one of the latter, read on.

Last week I took it one day at a time.  For the first week of school, that was perfect as we were all getting acclimated to the system.  I did, however, spend quite a bit of time each night preparing for the next day.  Now that I know a little more about the system and know what to anticipate here schedule-wise, I decided to sit down Sunday night and prep their folders for the week instead of doing it daily.

We start our morning together at 7:15ish.  While we are eating breakfast, we talk about our weekly bible verse.

By 8AM everyone is fed, clean, and (mostly) dressed.  (Unsurprisingly for our house, pants are optional.)
While I finish getting the littles all ready for the day, the bigs write in their journals for 10 minutes.
(One child’s writing style is very Bridget-esque.  One is very Marshall-ly.)

Once they are dressed, the little two get special “school toys” that I have locked in a closet.
They only get these toys while we are working in the other room, and only if they stay in Alden’s room.
Sometimes Alden just wants to be with us, and as long as she’s not distracting we don’t mind.

  

Carter gets started on written work while Lydia does work online or with me.
Then we trade.   Then we trade again.  And then we trade again.
(Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.)

In the morning we cover English-Language Arts and Math.
Periodically someone finishes before I’m ready to start with them and they get a break to go play with the littles.

By around 11:00-11:30, we’ve finished most of our morning work.
If it’s not raining, they can go out to play while I work on getting lunch ready.
(Last week we had a lunch date one day and a picnic on another day!)

After lunch, Alden goes down for a nap and Asa gets iPad time.
We do one or two lessons in either Science, History, or Social Studies.
Because they are only one year apart, there is a lot of overlap in the lessons so I teach them at the same time.

We also throw in ‘extra’ classes such as art, health, PE, music, and such.
Most of those were things we were doing anyway.
(We’re going to the dentist today, so that’ll count towards our Health requirement!)

We do have access to teachers if we get in a bind or I feel like we’re struggling (and I know those moments will come)!
They each have teachers who have regular classroom times where we can log on and connect with her virtually.
If we are logged in while the class is in session, they can interact with the teacher and other students.
If we don’t make it to the class and then realize we need to see it, we can watch the recorded sessions.

If you’re interested in this model of education or just want to know more, you can visit the Georgia Cyber Academy online.

 

Home Work

I looked them both in the eyes as we studied, and I realized just how little I actually look at them carefully, intentionally.
I tend see them all collectively, which isn’t fair to any of us.
Each so unique and special, I love their personalities.
He can talk non-stop about black holes or cuttlefish or light sabers.
She sits and pours every ounce of attention on the story in her chapter book.
The little two are just as special – with those big eyes and bigger smiles.
If I close my eyes, I can see the outlines of each little face…but not their eyes.
Sad that I’ve gone so long without paying attention.
Grateful that I realized it now.
My first homework assignment is to look in their eyes, to listen and to really hear.

We start the morning with scripture and breakfast.
Copycatting phrase after phrase, rote memorization.

Even after only a few days, they know it well.
I pray they always will.
(I’ve promised that they can pick next week’s verse.)

Our day starts chugging gently like a train until we are full-steam ahead.
The little two mostly play while we bounce back and forth from lesson to lesson.
Alden likes to sit in Lydi’s lap while we read, and so we all three cuddle during school.
It seems so natural, and yet it is a novelty to us.

Carter prefers working at his desk.
I give him a checklist every morning and he checks it off methodically.
Lydia loses hers a few times every day.
They are us, I tell Marshall.
I knew it would be hard, I tell him, but it wasn’t as hard as I expected.
I knew it would be trying at times, but we haven’t had any major meltdowns.  (yet.)
And then contentedly I say:  I knew it would be wonderful, but I had no idea how much it would flood my heart with happy.