". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Schedule Planning

For those who are interested, I thought I would post Evan's and my schedule. It is still a work in progress and may get tweaked. But I thought my homeschooling friends, especially, might find it interesting to compare notes.

6:00 Mom wakes up. Have coffee/chat time with hubby, exercise, check email/Facebook/blogs, shower, do morning chores, have breakfast.

8:00 Wake up Evan if he is not already up. From 8-9 he needs to do his morning routine (breakfast, grooming, chores), after which he can have free time until 9:00.

9:00-11:00 Devotion followed by first school block. No screens for either of us. School work that needs more mom involvement will be the priority during this time. At least half of school checklist needs to be completed during the morning block.

11:00-12:00 Free time if morning school done.

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-1:30 Silent reading, for both of us. I think in school they call it DEAR. ("Drop Everything And Read.")

1:30-3:00 Second school block. Finish assignments for the day. Practice piano. No screens (exception for me if I am writing, but no Facebook).

3:00 Free time if all schoolwork done.

This will be our general outline, but there are daily deviations, as follows.

Teaching at Sylvan Learning Center 3:30-6:30. Dad is home on Mondays so he will help out with homeschooling and cooking supper. :-D

Tulsa Children’s Choir for Evan, 4:30-6:00. From there Evan and I will go directly to church for adult choir. Fast food or sack supper night!

Weekly (or semi-weekly) play date with homeschooling friends, 9:30-11:30. (Whoops, there goes that morning school block!)
Teaching at Sylvan for me, 3:30-6:30. I will need to have something prepared for supper as Phillip will come home to eat with Evan and take him to Confirmation. I will meet them at church for Catechetical/Communion service. Another sack supper night for me.

This is a lighter day! Right now there is only one scheduled activity: Schola Cantorum (children's choir) at 4:00-5:00. We hope to add swimming in the morning. Phillip has church responsibilities so I think Thursdays will be "Mom & Evan Pizza, Popcorn, and Movie Night." :-D I think Thursday will also be grocery shopping day. Um, maybe it's not such a light day after all. . . . 

Most Fridays I will be playing piano at a nearby school 9-10 and 1-3. Phillip is home in the morning to help with homeschooling. In the afternoon Evan will need to work independently, with me checking his work when I get home. He won't be completely on his own, though, as Grandma and Willard (the dog) will be here to help. :-)

Teach at Sylvan Learning Center 9:00-12:00. Dad will be home most Saturday mornings.
Saturday afternoon: Laundry & housecleaning.

Church and rest, of course! Not to mention caipirinhas mixed by my favorite bartender. Yay for Sundays!

What this helps me to see is that we will not be having supper together as a family Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. I guess four family suppers out of seven is not bad. The nice thing about homeschooling is that we get more breakfasts and lunches together than families in traditional schools. Truth be told, I don't love cooking supper. I think I'm going to like this schedule. :-D 

(P.S. Ironically, even though I'm going to be cooking fewer suppers, without the freedom and time to make many quick trips to the market every week, I'm also going to have to get better at planning the meals we do have together. Hmmm, I think that's another blog post. . . . )

And so it begins.

Choir practices.
Two new jobs.
It all starts back up this week!

In light of the above, I have been doing a lot of planning and prepping, trying to figure out how it's all going to fit together. Last fall was strange. I wasn't working. I didn't have choirs to play for. My husband was in one state, I in another as we waited for our house to sell. So the mindset of "not enough time" that has been such a defining part of my existence for the last 15 years had a chance to recede. It has been a blessedly relaxing year, but I think I am ready to have more to do. Not as much as I used to, ;-) but more. As the schedule slowly fills up I find myself feeling more motivated than I have felt in a long time. That is probably also a function of fewer bad things happening. But busy-ness is good. It makes one feel useful. God knew what He was doing when He put Adam in the Garden to "work it and keep it." Even in his pre-fallen state, Adam needed things to do. He had a sense of vocation. Of course, during the time that I wasn't working a paying job, with two children and a husband at home, I still had vocational purpose. But now there is only one child at home, and he is becoming more self-sufficient, and as he becomes even moreso I am going to have more time to serve my neighbor. I am thankful this fall that God has seen fit to give me a few more ways to do that that will also put a few more dollars in the bank. :-)

So. How can I return to a fuller schedule without its overwhelming and getting the best of me? I think I need to reclaim a few old practices that I have drifted away from in the last five or so years. The first of those is waking up early. I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool morning person. When my children were small, I made a point of waking up hours before they did just so I could enjoy those precious, quiet morning moments. I have gotten away from that, in part because I haven't needed to wake up so early but also because of plain old apathy and lack of motivation. Instead of waking up between 5 and 6 a.m., I more often wake up between 7 and 8. That is late for me. Time to start setting the alarm clock again!

Second, I need to set limits to my online time. It is so easy to wake up, pour the coffee, go into computer land, and not come out until hours later. The result is that mornings, which have always been my most productive time of day, get frittered away. To avoid that happening, I need to set start and stop times for my online activity. And once those times are set, I need to abide by them.

Third, not only do I need to assign times for waking up and going to bed and using the computer, but I need to do so for other things as well. That becomes more needful and, ironically, easier when your time is no longer your own. As I look at my weekly schedule taking shape, with choir rehearsals, Evan's activities, and paid work claiming large chunks, it is going to be important to schedule the other things I want to do. Blogging, exercise, piano practicing, reading, housecleaning, cooking, shopping, laundry . . . . They aren't going to happen organically. They need designated times, too.

If you have any tricks or suggestions that you have found helpful for staying on top of the to-do list, I would love to hear them!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Little Pitchers

You try to protect them. You think you have done so. And then you discover that no matter how hard you try, you can't completely shield them from the difficult truths of life.

A few days ago my 10-year-old and I watched an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. In it, Spongebob gets fired from his job at the Krusty Krab because his boss, Mr. Krabs, is trying to cut costs. Spongebob is fired rather than his coworker Squidward because Squidward has seniority. The rest of the episode depicts Spongebob trying various other restaurant jobs (with such success that the other owners end up fighting over and kidnapping him from one another) but ultimately getting hired back at the Krusty Krab because his presence there is so missed.

Some hours after we had watched this episode, Evan asked me, "Mom, what is seniority?" I told him, and after a pause he asked, "Does Dad have seniority?"

There was a world of meaning in that sentence. After my husband was let go from his job a few years ago, we tried our best to shield Evan from the specifics of the situation. It wasn't just a matter of his dad getting fired; it was a matter of it being done by people Evan knew and trusted. We didn't want him to be hurt by that knowledge so were careful not to speak of it around him and to explain the changes in his life in the vaguest terms possible. But ultimately, kids know when something isn't right. They know when their parents are sad. They know when their family is struggling.

I couldn't bear to tell him that no, actually, right now Dad doesn't have seniority. He's only been in his current position, and we have only been in our current church, for a year. So I fumbled for an answer, doing my best to reassure him that things are good here and that his Dad is not in any danger of getting fired the way Spongebob was. But on the other hand I can't really know that for sure, can I? We can't ever be sure what tomorrow will bring. As I write this I think it would have been better for me to tell him the truth: that even though his dad doesn't have seniority in the world, in the person and work of Jesus he has all the seniority he needs, because Jesus invites him (as He invites all of us) to sit at the head of the table, partaking of the finest food and drink even though we have not earned nor deserved it. In Jesus we need not worry about finding our place in the world, because that place has already been determined and set for us, and it is one from which there is no threat of demotion.

Job security? No, Evan, we don't really have that. Not any more than the next guy. But what we do have is the certainty of an eternal place in the Lord's kingdom, a place He created for us two thousand years ago on the cross and one from which He promises we will never be dismissed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On Friday I took my daughter to college. On Sunday I left her there.

If you've ever seen the movie Big you'll remember the last scene. In it, the female lead, Susan, takes Josh, the little-boy-turned-big, back home to his real life. As Adult Josh trudges through the autumn leaves towards his house, Susan looks briefly away. When she turns back for a last look, Adult Josh has become Young Josh. He smiles and waves, then turns and runs home, calling for his family.

This weekend I experienced something like that, only in reverse. On Sunday after we went to church I took my daughter back to her dorm. We had to rush our goodbye, as it was already 11:30 and she had a required event to go to at noon. We had gotten some fast food, and she had hurriedly eaten in the car, but I had not eaten yet, so after we hugged goodbye I sat in the car a while longer, trying to stem the tears to the point I could take a few bites of my bean burrito. I watched my daughter half-walk, half-run down the sidewalk toward her dorm, but instead of seeing a college student I saw a kindergartener. Panic quickly ensued. What in the world was I doing, leaving a 5-year-old to fend for herself in college? This was all wrong! But a few minutes later it wasn't a 5-year-old who re-emerged from the dorm. It was a young woman. She briefly stopped to study her map, and I resisted the urge to jump out of the car, run down the sidewalk, and help her figure out where to go. I knew she needed to do this on her own, and more important, I knew she would be able to do this on her own.

This is the last look I had at my daughter on Sunday: my little-girl-turned-big, on her way to the rest of her life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Homeschool Outlook

Looks like it's time for the annual homeschool planning post. Today I ordered materials for the coming year. Since I only have one student now and we are carrying several of last year's books into this year, the order was not large. Still, I obsessed over it for several weeks. This publisher or that one? That book or the other one? Even after all these years, it is hard to know what's going to work and what's not.

Here, for those who are interested in such things, is a rundown of what we plan to do for fifth grade.

We started Saxon 54 last year. We didn't get as far in it as I would have liked. The goal will be to finish it this year.

Language Arts
We also used Saxon for grammar last year. We still have plenty we can do in that book, too, but for fifth grade I am going to return to a curriculum we tried for the first time a few years ago. It is from Queen Homeschool Supplies and uses an integrated, literature-based Charlotte Mason approach. You can view the book here.

We have some work to do in this area. Evan has learned the basics of cursive but we have not emphasized it heavily. This year we will work on fluency. To do so I found a new product, also from Queen Homeschool, that combines the study of art with practice in handwriting. The books utilize Zaner-Bloser style, which as luck would have it is what we teach in our homeschool. Take a peek here.

We will continue with Story of the World, Volume 4 (The Modern Age) as soon as we finish with Volume 3! (I think we're about 3/4 done.)

This is the area I struggled with most. Evan likes science, and I want him to keep liking it. Last year we did Exploring Creation with Astronomy from the Apologia Elementary series. I love these books for the conversational approach and the beautiful illustrations, and there are at least six more books on various topics, including several branches of zoology, botany, human anatomy, and chemistry/physics. But it seems to me that when we stick too long to one topic Evan tends to get bored. So I have opted to use this A Beka book as our main science text because of the variety of topics that it covers. I have used it before and it is attractive and accessible. Plus, it comes with a useful activity book. It is possible to spend a lot of money ordering supplementary materials from A Beka (such as the lesson plans and the quiz and test booklets), but I have learned that I don't need any of that. The main text has chapter checkups that cover the same thing as the tests. And the lesson plans just lay out a day-by-day plan for getting through the book, something I think I am capable of figuring out on my own. I don't think it will take us a year to get through this book. Once we're finished, I may follow up with several volumes of the Apologia series on the topics Evan seems to enjoy most before we gear up for Jay Wile's secondary science curriculum.

Yes, we're going to do Latin this year. I don't think I've broken the news to Evan yet. We'll use Prima Latina, but here again, I didn't buy the teacher's edition or the pronunciation CD's. Unless they've been updated, those pronunciation CD's leave a bit to be desired. I took a little Latin in college and think I can manage the pronunciation as well as do without the answer book. Why do we teach Latin at this age when we probably won't stick with it through high school? I think it is beneficial for teaching an understanding of the building blocks of language that doesn't automatically come from studying only English. The learning of Latin roots is helpful in vocabulary development. Studying another language now is good preparation for learning one in greater depth later. And besides, it's fun! (Evan doesn't know that yet, but he will.)

Evan will be in Confirmation class at church this year and will receive his First Communion at the Easter Vigil (yay!). In family devotions for the last few years we have been using the Treasury of Daily Prayer. That will probably continue, but I am hoping our home devotions will become a little Evan-friendlier this year. He has often had to sit and listen to the big people talk over his head. It will be nice to tailor the teaching to his level for a change. We will, of course, incorporate the catechism songs. :-)

Reading aloud has always been the core of our home school. Our readalouds bounce between something that fits the period of history we are studying and something chosen for its literary value. Right now we are working our way through the Narnia series. We will probably pick something historical after that. To encourage independent reading (something Evan doesn't automatically do) I am planning to institute a daily silent reading time where both of us will sit and read. I need the discipline, too. I am getting my reading chops back, but I still need to work harder to carve out interruption-free time for it.

Let's see, what am I leaving out? In addition to these main areas of study, Evan will continue with piano lessons as well as sing in two choirs (one at church, the other a community children's chorus). I am also looking for a PE option for him, probably swimming or tennis (or both). Another possibility is Tae Kwon Do, which his sister enjoyed and which I think he would enjoy, too, since he is pretty keen on Power Rangers. Finally, we are working on setting up a regular, weekly time to get together with several other homeschoolers from church. We'll let the kids play while the moms chat. Maybe we'll even do something educational every now and then. :-)

Fifth grade, here we come!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My 10-Year-Old Life Coach

Yesterday we went to the home of friends who have a swimming pool. It was a wonderful afternoon. At one point, while I was floating around the pool on an inflatable chair, I remarked that it was very comfortable but rather hard to steer. Evan replied, "You're missing the point, Mom. You're just supposed to relax."

Oh, right. That. What would I do without this kid to around to keep me properly centered? :-)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This One's for the Girls

I invite you to read this.

And then, if you have a fourteen-year-old girl in your life (or a 10, 12, or 40-year-old one, for that matter), share it with her.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bible Class Today

Today in Bible class we studied Luke 19:28-40, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Pastor pointed out how this point in Jesus' earthly life is in a literary sense like the turning point in a story where suddenly everything pivots and the final chapter of the narrative starts to play out. Jesus, of course, knew what was to come and in his humanity certainly felt all the overwhelming emotions one might expect. One of the men in the class asked if, since Jesus also knew the ultimate outcome (his resurrection from the dead and redemption of all creation), that knowledge might have made it easier for him to face the events of the week. Pastor responded by pointing out that we as God's people have that same knowledge. We know how the story ends, yet we still struggle every day with the crosses we are called to bear. Knowing the outcome, such that we can keep our eyes firmly fixed upon it, strengthens us in our resolve and in our faith. But it doesn't make the pain and sadness of the present any less real.