getting off the fence - part 3

it's official.

yesterday i mailed our notification to home educate emma to the school district.  certified mail, return receipt (a.k.a. signature confirmation).  it cost me $5, but it's worth the peace of mind.

now we wait for a confirmation letter.  i suppose it's REALLY official once we receive that.

with the impeding birth of our new wee one, i felt the need to be a bit more organized with my school planning this year (or maybe that's just a side-effect of nesting?).  so this past week has been spent planning out about 1/3 of the school year.  it feels good to have some sort of "map," especially when you have a new baby to throw into the mix.  i know that there will be days where getting dinner on the table will be an amazing feat, so having at least part of the school year planned out will keep my brain from going bananas.

when we first decided to homeschool, i thought that i'd just kind of do a little mix and match or build-my-own when it came to finding a school curriculum.  i wasn't wowed with the ones i had looked over, and many of them were quite costly.  plus, i didn't want to feel tied to one particular method in case it didn't end up working out with the kids. 

so the mix and match (also known as eclectic in the homeschool world) worked pretty well for us the past few years.  we are a go-with-the-flow type of family (or try to be), so the mix and match was a good fit for us.

one of the sources i used last year was ambleside online.  it is a free program/curriculum which attempts to stay as close as possible to a charlotte mason style of edcuation.  if you don't know who charlotte mason is, you can go here, here and here to learn a bit more.

i really, really, really LOVED the books suggested for year 0 (that's any age before 6).  that's how i got hooked at first.  we are big readers here at home and the quality of books listed on the site are fantastic.  then i began to do more research on charlotte mason's teaching methods and philosophy and found myself agreeing with a lot of what she had to say.  it made sense to me and i felt that it would fit well with our family. 

[you can learn more about charlotte mason's approach here.  it's a six-volume book so it's A LOT of reading.  i've only managed to get through the first volume.]

there were definitely some key points that drew me into adopting a more charlotte mason (CM) style of education.  some of them included the following:
  • not all books are created equal.  some books for kids are "dumbed-down" and assumes from the way it's written that they aren't capable of handling and/or comprehending books with rich vocabulary.  a CM style of education encourages, from quite an early age, reading well-written, living books.  books that require the use of your imagination.  books that engage the kids with words and not merely with pictures.  from personal experience, i have seen how our kids have benefited from well-written literary works.  the story doesn't always have to be long and lengthy, but it is quite surprising how much they pick up.
  • learning from reading whole books and not textbooks (see above about living books).  using textbooks was not going to be included, ever, in teaching our kids.  there are so many other ways to gain knowledge and learn new information without having to use textbooks.  i think learning from reading whole books will help instill in our kids a lifetime desire to learn, be resourceful and to think independently.
  • there is a strong emphasis on developing habits at an early age.  this is just plain common sense to me.  encouraging and teaching your kids at an early age to develop a strong habit in paying attention, remembering, thinking, telling the truth, etc. (see more here and here) can make such a difference in their future.  and it doesn't have to be complicated.  a simple lesson in remembering could involve remembering to brush your teeth everyday.  practical and simple.  teaching basic life skills is a practical way to develop and strengthen the habits charlotte mason listed. 
  • the lessons are not about quantity but more about quality.  short lessons or a smaller amount of work that is done well ("the habit of perfect execution") by the child are preferred over rushed, sloppy high-volume work.  i think this concept really applies to everything from handwriting to completing a household task.
  • valuing children and seeing them with respect.  from what i've read (and i'm no charlotte mason expert here), it seems that the CM approach held children in high regard.  they are just as valuable as adults.  they matter just as much as adults.  they are just as worthy as adults.  therefore, from an educational perspective, they shouldn't be subject to only a simplified or limited amount of ideas and subjects when it comes to their learning and instead deserve a varied and wide curriculum.  it kind of brings it back to my first point, i suppose.  i love my kids.  i don't want to insult their intelligence by providing them with content that's "dumbed-down" to what adults have deemed more their level.  while i am aware that there is information out there that may not be age-appropriate, it doesn't necessarily mean that i need to use "simple" words or books with "simple" terms and vocabulary with my kids.

so, this year i made the choice to use the ambleside curriculum.  there are a lot of things on the curriculum that i would have included anyway (such as art study, music appreciation and nature study), and i found myself going to the site for many of the kids' reading recommendations and learning resources. i also appreciate that it's free.  granted, there will be some book purchases, but the book list and suggested curriculum schedule is free. 

we'll be starting year 1 with emma.  each year is divided into 3 terms (12 weeks each).  whether we finish year 1 in 36 weeks is unknown to me.  i'm just happy i have the first 12 weeks mapped out. i do have to point out that even though ambleside offers curriculum through year 12, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will get through all the years.  i think i read somewhere on their site that since the content is so diverse some kids finish their high school years covering only through year 7.  but year 1 is the starting point.  

some of the books we ordered are starting to come in, and i'm excited to be reading all the stories...probably more so than the kids at this point.  hopefully i will remember to post updates on here as we go along (gotta develop that habit of remembering, right?).

for now, we are on baby break...though that doesn't mean we've stopped learning.


roller coaster rides

i don't know about you, but i enjoy roller coaster rides.  they're fun.  they're exhilarating.  they keep me on the edge of my seat.

up.  down.  [scream]. up.  down. [scream].

thrilling, right?

but i'm always glad when the ride is over...ready for the break to catch my breath again.

i feel like this past year has been one long, giant roller coaster ride with hardly a break to catch my breath.  i've had ups and downs through out my lifetime, so it's nothing new.  i'm sure we've all had our ups and downs.  aaron and i have experienced ups and downs together, and we always get through it.

except it seemed like this past year there has been so many changes, things we've had to deal with one after another that we haven't felt like we've gotten off the ride yet.  that's one long ride.  i like roller coasters, but i'm ready to get off.

i don't mean to imply that this past year has been miserable, because it certainly hasn't been.  not at all.  but looking back and seeing how we've gone through the full spectrum of emotions for the past 12 or so months is pretty insane.  and exhausting!  so many different things came our way, one after another.  and when we thought we were almost done, one more thing would come up.  like i said, looking back at it all makes me feel exhausted.

i don't know that we'll get off this particular ride any time soon.  it may slow down, but i don't see us getting off for a breather just yet.  there's more change to come...like having this baby in the next few weeks!  that will be a big change.

i do think change is a good thing.  in fact, the more i think about it, "good" or "bad," change always ends up being a good thing.  changes that affect your life can put you on an exciting (usually unpredictable) roller coaster ride.  when it happens to us, we just go with it.  but i do admit that while you're on that unpredictable ride, it can be challenging emotionally and physically.

i am one that likes change.  i get antsy when i feel too settled.  so on the whole, i am always open to change.  sometimes, change is hard, tedious or stressful, but i think it's worth it in the end.

change helps me draw closer to God.  it builds and strengthens my relationship with him.  it strengthens my faith.  i put my complete trust in him and that sometimes means big changes in my life.  change allows for personal growth.  change allows the Lord to transform me on the inside. 

while we may not know how long this loop de loop ride will last, we are trying our best to embrace it.  to take it day by day.  even though we can't quite see what lies before us, we know that God is right beside us leading the way.  and in that, i find peace and rest.

and the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
 isaiah 58:11


wordless wednesday::how many takes?

 all we wanted was one last photo with big brother before he goes.
seriously, how many tries does it take to get everyone looking at the camera, or smiling or have eyes open all at the same time?

more wordless wednesday here, here and here.


wordless wednesday::just because i'm asian

my husband thinks he's so funny...just because i'm asian.  it's a good look for him, no?

more wordless wednesday here, here and here.


wordless wednesday::a quiet space

we went to the library the other day.

as the boys enjoyed some play time in the librainium...

i found our girl tucked away in a quiet spot engrossed in her books.

check it: more wordless wednesday here, here and here.


keeping things simple

well, i thought i was doing pretty good at blogging and then all of a sudden i kind of hit a wall.

there have been a few posts in the works in my head, but finding time to write it all down (with accompanying photos, of course) in a way that is cohesive and clear has not been easy.

and my biggest excuse?  nesting (and we really have just had a busy couple of weeks...meetings, block party, 4th of july...).

at least i think it's nesting.  i've been reading through the book, organized simplicity by tsh of simple mom, the past couple of weeks, and i think it kicked the whole 3rd trimester nesting mode into high gear for a bit.  the book is wonderfully written.  simple, straight-forward advice about simple living and your stuff.

most of the methods she writes in her book, we are already implementing as a family, but her thoughts on simple living are encouraging and inspirational.  the whole book pretty much embodies our own views on simplicity and simple living.

one of my favorite points in the book is the idea of valuing relationships over stuff (and by "stuff" it includes material things, over-scheduling, TV, work, etc.) and living with intentionality.  which is more important to you?  the more stuff you have, the more things you have to take care of, clean-up, etc.  does that take away time from investing in a relationship (or relationships)?  how does the whole relationship vs. stuff reflect on your children?  what are you investing your time in?  and why?

aaron and i have embraced the whole idea of having minimal "stuff" and doing our best to be more intentional about our choices.  but one of the challenging parts is keeping the accumulation of our physical stuff under control.  especially when you have 4 kids.  i know for us, our home environment becomes very stressful when we begin to find that our stuff is taking over our home and our lives.  there's more to clean.  more to put away.  more energy you need to expend to keep your stuff under control.  it's distracting and suffocating.

when my husband spends more time during the week at work than at home, our time together as a family (and as a couple) is very, very valuable.  and the last thing i want to be doing is spending our free time together catching up on cleaning, putting away, fixing up, etc.

anyway.  back to the whole nesting thing.  baby is coming in about 1 month and i have had this underlying sense of urgency in cleaning, organizing and simplifying.  reading that book really didn't help.

so, i've been organizing things, throwing things out, cleaning, giving things away, and more cleaning...

not to mention we have to schedule house painting, chimney and gutter repair, and tie up loose ends before the baby comes.  and i kind of want to make some clothes for the baby since we have hardly any newborn/infant items at the moment.

then there's food prep.  we have been transitioning into a more traditional diet over the past few months (i'll have to save this for another post) and there's a number of grain-related food items i'd like to make and freeze before the baby comes.  but the grain prep takes time.  and then when i do try to make an extra batch to freeze, there isn't really a whole lot left to freeze because it tastes so good who wants to save it for later?

so there you have it.  so much for simple living, huh?
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