To Homeschool Happier: A Little Recap and Refresh, Part 1

I’ve wanted to share how our homeschool year ended up, but it is hard to get it all out in words. The year 2020 was a very rough one in our homeschool, if I am to be perfectly honest. It was not just the stress of COVID, either. Yes, having less time out and about with friends and having much more limited access to places like the library and even, for a time, local parks and green spaces, definitely took their toll on us.

But moving to a new state mid-year, during COVID, was probably the bigger stressor on our life and homeschool routine. It was also challenging for me to keep up with everything with both kids when I needed to start really working with my daughter on letter and number skills. We fell “behind schedule” by about 6 weeks from where we would usually be and ended up not finished my son’s AmblesideOnline Year 4 books until mid-February. But we DID finally finish!

Looking back, there were many things we did not do as well or as thoroughly as I thought we would when we started Year 4, especially written narration, which I completely forgot about until after we had finished the year! Oops! We did start a Book of Centuries, but many weeks I completely forgot to have my son work on it, and it still is mostly just a timeline, which I know is not entirely “correct” in terms of following Charlotte Mason’s intent for the BoC. But we tried to do something along those lines, and hopefully in the future it will improve. We also did start Latin, although we primarily just used Duolingo for practice a few times a week and only just started memorizing some verb conjugations near the end of the year.

The books were definitely the highlight of Year 4, even the hard ones that started off rocky. Here are some of our favorites:

  • George Washington’s World (my son read this one independently and really enjoyed it)
  • Abigail Adams (a hard book which I read aloud, but one we all learned to appreciate by the end of the year, including my 5-year old who tags along)
  • Kidnapped (this started out being one of my son’s least favorite partly because of the dialect, but he ended up being very sad when he finished)
  • Incredible Journey (an easier book and one that my son definitely enjoyed reading every week)
  • Minn of the Mississippi (we have really come to love Holling C. Hollings books over the years)
  • Robinson Crusoe (I almost forgot this one was even a Year 4 book, it seems to long ago we read it, but it was and is one of our favorite books!)

All in all, the thing I regret most to say about this school year, at least the second half, was that we lost our joy and pleasantness in the midst of all the difficulties of the year. I tried to re-infuse some of that with extra special morning tea time snacks after we got settled in our new house, but that also became somewhat of a stressor for me eventually. By the end of the year, everything felt like we just had to press on and check things off the list so that we could say we had done it. This was obviously not the spirit or atmosphere I want to have in our homeschool. Something had to change.

In the second part of this series, I hope to write a little bit about how I am attempting to make positive changes to make our homeschool a happier place again. So far, a few days into a new routine, I think it is making a difference! Stay tuned to hear more next time!

What Are We Doing Here? (A Writing Update)

My family room and dining room are under renovation. Dust is flying as my husband sands drywall mud off the patched spots on the walls. I am over in the finished living room (that was under construction during the holidays), sitting under my cozy blanket writing this post while the puppy dog sleeps on his pillow a few feet away. The kids are in bed, so I have some time to sit and write for a while.

A couple of days ago I published a long blog post out of the blue after almost 2 months of quiet. I have been wanting to write regularly again for some time, but I always got stuck on the idea that if I didn’t have time to sit down and make everything perfect and pretty, I needed to wait. But you know what? That time is never going to come. And if I don’t just sit down and start writing, it isn’t going to get any easier. So I gave up the idea of waiting until I had crafted the perfect post with gorgeous graphics and meaningful quotes. I decided it would be better if I just wrote something and put it out there. So I did. And you know what? It felt good.

But now for a little backstory…one of the big reasons I am getting back to writing on the blog is that I am leaving Facebook and Instagram again. This time, it’s permanent. My husband and I decided that after so much that has happened on and through social media over the past year, it was time for us to make a change in how we use it. For me, that means my permanent departure from all things Facebook related. I am trying out MeWe, but since I have very few contacts there, I am not spending much time or energy on that platform.

Instead, I want to return to the habit of long-form writing, both on the blog and in emails and letters to friends. I will likely be devoting more time to the subject of long-form writing in a post very soon because it has been on my mind so much of late.

That is what we are doing here…returning to this space, this writing habit, this “outdated” form of communication…and I couldn’t be more pleased about that! Perhaps you’d like to join me?

Faithfully Moving Forward While Honestly Looking Back

This year started out much like any other for me, though perhaps with less anticipation and expectation than most. Call me jaded, but I had no illusions that the world would suddenly return to pre-COVID, pre-election peacefulness and predictability once we flipped the page on the calendar. No, instead, as much as I may yearn to go back to what seemed be better days, I knew that the outside world and culture would continue on in much the same way it has been. And this knowledge did not encourage me one single bit. In fact, to tell the truth, I’ve been a bit of a Negative Nancy here lately.

Moving during a “pandemic” and trying to find a new church, new friends and even new places to shop and get library books is not easy, let me tell you. Some bad attitudes and some complaining, and some long periods of loneliness are sure to crop up, especially when winter weather in the Appalachians compound the problem by keeping us home more. But even in the midst of these challenges, we do have a regular hiking group we see at least once a month, a church in which we have been able to start serving in a small way, and the option of Walmart pickup only 5 minutes from our house, not to mention 2 small local libraries to browse. So my situation was not really a good explanation for all the negativity.

This week I had to admit that most of my personal pain points have had more to do more with setting too expectations for myself a bit too high and not making enough of an effort to organize both my attitude and my life. I realized this ugly truth this week as I did some honest evaluation of how I truly spend my time on a typical day as well as an audit of our homeschool over this winter season. When I came to questions about how much time certain parts of our routine take, I was completely stumped. It suddenly dawned on me that our days have become so helter-skelter and unpredictable that I don’t have the foggiest notion how much time we are spending doing lessons or even how much time we should be spending at this point. Oops…

As much as this honest reflection hurts, it is also a necessary and beneficial step in moving forward. I have to identify what is not working, as well as what is, if I want to have any hope of changing things for the better. Although it is of some value to keep trudging on and doing the next thing, I think that truly being faithful involves more than just checking things off the list and going through the motions out of a sense of duty and drudgery. Faithfully moving forward should involve not only a choice to obey but to rejoice in obedience. And I certainly have not been modeling an attitude of joyful obedience recently. So it is time for an attitude adjustment, as well as some serious, prayerful consideration of how to adjust things in out house and homeschool to set us all up for success.

Even though I had felt for some time that things were going poorly, it wasn’t until I sat down and had an honest look back that I was able to see some of the causes of that feeling. It hasn’t been easy to stare my faults in the face like this, and more soul searching is definitely in order, but I do look forward now with hope for positive change. And I know now how to pray for guidance in taking the next step and move forward with faithfulness, and joy!

Over the Horizon: When God Moves Us Beyond What We Can See

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way,

Where many paths and errands meet.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings

The year began as others have, with new plans and goals and hopes. We try to think ahead and prepare ourselves as best we can, but as humans we never can tell what the future holds. And this year has shown us all, I think, how little we know about what will happen tomorrow or the next day. I don’t know about you, but I am a little weary of hearing words like “fluid” and “pivot” and “adjust.” As comfort-loving creatures, we would almost all prefer to keep things a little more controlled, familiar and predictable. Oftentimes, however, this tendency is actually not in our own best interest, and sometimes God has to shake things up a bit to get our attention.

As I sat down to write this post, a picture came to mind of Frodo Baggins in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. He was just a young hobbit, setting out on a journey to an unknown destination, uncertain of his task. In my own personal life, aside from all the national and international chaos and crises, God has been mapping out a journey for me. This path is going to take me beyond my comfortable little hobbit hole and out into my own patch of wild and unexplored territory. This change is happening on two fronts simultaneously, and it all sometimes has me looking off to the horizon and feeling overwhelmed.

The First Path

Back in June, Alisa Keeton, founder of Revelation Wellness, announced that the next session of their instructor training program would be completely online for the first time ever due to COVID-19. Then she added that the cost of training would be half what it normally is. My heart skipped a beat when I realized that this might be my best opportunity to pursue the call that I sensed God laying on my heart 2 years ago when I attended Rev on the Road in Franklin, TN. After some prayer and talking with my husband, I knew that this was the time, and I joined Platoon 25!

But I am not fitness instructor material. This girl stinks at choreographed workouts, not to mention that she feels like throwing up anytime someone brings up leading group fitness classes. I’m not strong, or fast, or even very flexible. Beyond the fact that He wants me to get trained, I honestly have NO EARTHLY IDEA what God wants to do with this in my life! But in some strange way, the not knowing is a comfort. I don’t have to have a plan. I don’t need to see what is beyond the horizon. All I need is to simply trust that the Lord has it all prepared for me, and that He is getting me ready for the work He has for me to do. (To find out about Revelation Wellness Instructor Training, click the image below.)

The Road Goes On

The second path involves our whole family more directly, and it has us all heading into uncharted territory. In July, my husband was called by Bluefield College in Bluefield, VA to serve as their new Dean of Registration Services. Over the course of about 3 weeks, he had an online interview, an in-person interview, got hired, went on 2 unrelated business trips, and took us all house-hunting around Bluefield! It was quite a flurry of activity. He is now hard at work in his new job, and the kids and I are packing and cleaning and getting everything ready to move to our new house in our new state!

Bluefield is a unique town in that it crosses the border between Virginia and West Virginia, and it is situated in the heart of the beautiful Appalachia Mountains. For this born and bred Nebraska plains girl, driving into those tree-covered mountains was a brand new experience. Perhaps the more significant change for our children will be learning to live in town instead of the country. The house we are buying is right in the heart of historic Bluefield. They have never lived in a neighborhood before, and I have never lived on the side of a steep hill. The view on the horizon of our lives is certainly amazing, but it is also a little intimidating!

With Eager Feet

As I look out toward this future I can’t quite see, one thing is certain. God has us in position to be on mission for Him. What with being in town, our family can get more involved in our local community than we have ever been before. Even though I don’t know how God might ask me to use my RevWell training, I have a feeling He isn’t going to want me to just sit on the sidelines once I’ve finished. And what is more, we have a church and a homeschool community out there just waiting for us to find them, too! So it is with eager, though somewhat trepidatious, feet that we set out down the road. Truly, God only knows what lies ahead, just over the horizon.

The Reading Report, Vol. 20: Reboot Edition

Hey, readers! It has been over a year (yikes!) since I posted an actual edition of The Reading Report. I have a ton of books going right now, but I don’t have any new reviews for the B2tC 2020 Challenge. So I thought I would pop on here today and give ya’ll an update on how I’m doing on all my current reading challenges. Brace yourselves…this could get long! ūüėČ

Back to the Classics Challenge Report

I haven’t finished any new books on my B2tC list lately, but I am currently reading Gerald Durell’s My Family and Other Animals. I am likely going to use this title to replace Little Britches in the “Classic About a Family” category. I am also about to begin The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, and I will probably sub that for Til We Have Faces in the 20th Century Classic spot. After those are finished, I will have just 5 more categories to fill for that challenge.

The Literary Life 20 for 20 Challenge Report

For this challenge, let’s take a look at the titles and categories I have finished. The titles with an asterisk have been subbed for those on my original 20 for 2020 list:

Currently, I am also working my way through the following categories and titles:

Schol√© Sisters 5×5 Challenge Report:

This is probably the challenge on which I have made the least numerical progress, but the work of stretching me outside my usual novel-reading habits has been good for me so far. Here is how my 5×5 Challenge list is going so far. Titles marked with a ^ are finished. Those with a ~ are in progress

Mathematics

  1. ^ Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos ^
  2. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
  3. ^ The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz ^
  4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
  5. ?

Biography/Memoire

  1. ~ Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser ~
  2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl
  3. ~ Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson ~
  4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano*
  5. ~ My Family and Other Animals by George Durell ~

Theology/Christianity

  1. ^ The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer ^
  2. ^ In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen ^
  3. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
  4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer 
  5. ~ Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton ~

Health/Wellness

  1. ~ The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton ~
  2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
  3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
  4. ^ The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro ^
  5. ?

Literary Fiction

  1. ^ A Room with a View by E. M. Forster ^
  2. ^ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ^
  3. Silas Marner by George Eliot
  4. ^ The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde ^
  5. Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

Summing It All Up:

As you can see, I’ve been reading a lot for these challenges, and making some good headway for where we are in the year. This is also in addition to all the pre-reading I am doing for my son’s AmblesideOnline Year 4 books, plus family read-alouds that are not school related. Hopefully I can finish up some of my current reads because I am honestly having trouble juggling them all and still feeling like I’m making any visible progress. But, as the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race…and since reading isn’t a race anyway, I can feel good knowing I am learning and growing in my reading life at a steady rate!

How about you? How are you doing in your reading life? Are you doing any challenges, and if so, how are they going? You can always leave a comment with a blog post link so I can come read about your progress!