Homeschool overview, Grade 1

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My last homeschooling update was in the very beginning of this journey, when we were still just figuring out how. Now we’re coming to the end of our second year! And I’m still figuring it out, definitely still learning each day, but I’m happy to share where we are, where we’ve been, and what’s working for us right now. One of the beautiful things about home education is the flexibility and the way it can be customized for each family, each child, and each season of life. (If you’re curious about why we chose homeschooling, I wrote about that here.)

Currently Seth is 7 (+4 months) and in first grade. This year was so full of ups and downs. The adjustment that accompanies adding a third child into the mix is no small thing. The first six months or so after Eaden’s birth in September (and let’s face it—that last month  or so of pregnancy, too!), it was basically survival mode. We sometimes skipped days, even weeks, of formal “school”. At times doing just one day of schoolwork in an entire week felt like a victory. I went through times when I felt so much guilt, and so much worry that he’d get “behind” and that we weren’t doing “enough”. I was just. so. tired.

But guess what? They learned a ton anyway. Seth kept progressing in his reading, handwriting, and math skills, even when we we’re spending a lot of time teaching it. His reading fluency astounds me (because it seemed to happen so suddenly) and he got there because he wanted to be able to read things. Handwriting was similar, along with telling time and understanding measurements. Math comes up naturally in our lives on a daily basis. He picks up a ton of science facts simply because he’s curious. Beyond those basic academics, he’s become more capable and independent (he made me scrambled eggs and did the dishes the other day!) and knows so many random and interesting things. He is constantly learning. I understand and appreciate the unschooling, child-led learning philosophy so much better now than I ever did before. Kids will learn, naturally and without force or even much guidance—it actually works! (Here’s a great article I read recently on this topic.) Overall though, we like at least some structure and planning, and I got to the point where I felt ready to return to a school routine. Eaden is 8 months old now, and yes life is constantly still in flux and we still have some sleepless nights and tired days. And I’m working more again, which adds another interesting element to the mix. But we’re doing schoolwork more often, typically four days a week for a couple hours a day, and we’re really enjoying it- which is so important to me!

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We’re going to be schooling through the Summer, to keep this momentum going. I’ve been reading about the Waldorf philosophy and I’m feeling so drawn to aspects of that lifestyle and hoping to learn to incorporate some of it into our lives. There is a lot of focus on creativity and beauty, as well as on rhythms (daily, weekly, and seasonal), which I feel we need pretty deeply. I’ve noticed that without any structure we’re too scattered and chaotic, so I want to bring some grounding routine into our days. For preschoolers, the entire “curriculum” is basically stories and songs, and letting them play freely and participate in the life of the home and family. I love that, and am looking forward to applying it with Isaac and eventually Eaden. I’ve learned so much through this series on Waldorf-inspired preschool at home. I’ll share more about all of this (and how I’m approaching preschool with Isaac) once I get a better handle on what I’m doing, but I will say that I’m pretty excited about it! I’m just starting to incorporate a slightly more Waldorf-inspired approach (or maybe Waldorf and Charlotte Mason hybrid) into Seth’s language, history and science lessons by having him create journal pages that are a combination of painting and writing- copy work either from what we’ve read or from his narration as told to me, directly onto an illustration he creates from the material. These will all go into a binder, either laminated or in plastic sleeves, creating a nice record of what he’s learned over time. (I got this wonderful idea from Jodi’s Mockabee‘s recent contribution to a Wild and Free bundle.)

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So on to what we’ve been doing this year! Right now, Seth’s Grade 1 work consists of the following:

Brave Writer for language arts and writing
Quiver of Arrows is a literature-based language arts curriculum and we’re loving it! We’re nearly finished with Charlotte’s Web now. I like the way it ties spelling, grammar, literary elements and copywork directly into the text of a really great book. We’re also about to start doing the projects from Jot It Down!, which is a project-based creative writing program.
We also do some memorization, written on our blackboard (door)—poems or verses taken from books such as The Child’s Garden of Verses. Sometimes I just pull out a book of poetry and read, and I’m hoping to create little more of a daily ritual around it. Brave Writer recommends poetry tea times, and I love that idea. It sounds peaceful, but I wonder how it would actually go with my two boys!

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading for reading and phonics
Along with early readers from the library and our own collection. Some of his favorites have been the Piggy and Elephant series, Dr. Seuss, Frog and Toad, the Little Bear series, and Bob Books.

Math Mammoth for math
We also play math games—Seth is loving 4-Way Countdown right now—and he learns and practices so much math in everyday life, through clocks, money, measuring, and counting in various situations. I purchased the Loving Living Math e-book recently and am hoping to learn more ways to bring math conversations into our daily lives. In our Waldorf circle times, I’m planning to teach skip-counting songs to help prepare for teaching multiplication. Overall, I want them to see math as fun, interesting and relevant, which is something I never really experienced as a child.

Science Lapbooks from Elemental Science for science
We’re currently working through the solar system, and will likely move into a long and involved study of plants after this, along with medicinal herbs, foraging, and gardening. I can’t wait, and will definitely post about it once we’re there!

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We also do nature study for science. In late 2014 I started a local nature homeschool group, “Wild + Free South Florida”, and we meet weekly. Much of what we do is free play, but always in natural areas, and the kids are constantly finding and studying animals, bugs, birds, rocks, plants, etc. They learn through being immersed in nature, and from each other. Sometimes we will then further research a specific thing we saw, and draw it in our nature journals at home. The boys are also part of the Wild Explorers Club, and work through assignments and earn badges, which they absolutely love.
Speaking of Wild + Free, I can’t stress enough what an amazing source of information, encouragement, and inspiration the international W+F community has been for in homeschooling. I’m so grateful!

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Beautiful Feet Books – Early American History Primary, for history
This is a great history curriculum based entirely on wonderful, engaging literature rather than dry textbooks. I’ve always preferred learning history this way, through the perspective of a person living in that time period, so this immediately drew me. We’ve started with the first half of the Early American History pack and are gradually making our way through. Sometimes I revise or skip certain questions in the teaching guide to better fit my worldview, but the books themselves are great.

Teach Them Spanish, grade 1 for foreign language
My mother-in-law, whose first language is Spanish, works with Seth each week. We bought this book so she’d have a guide on what to work on. Isaac picks some of it up as well, through observation and in everyday communication with my husband’s grandmother who only speaks Spanish. We’re incredibly lucky that our kids get to spend time native speakers, which is truly the best way to learn a language!

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Art
Our days are full of art. They have free access to almost all art supplies, which can be messy but leads to a lot of child-led creativity. They cut, paste, fold, paint, and draw.
We also attend a pottery class each week, so beautifully taught by my friend Lani of Avenue Pottery (I photographed her gorgeous pieces for her website!). Seth has developed quite a talent for the wheel, and I love it too! Now we’re hoping to have one of our own someday.
Seth asked for a loom for his birthday after seeing some giant ones in a fiber arts shop in Asheville this winter, so we purchased a wooden lap loom for him. He’s still working on his first piece—he’ll work for an hour or two one day and then let it sit for a couple weeks before picking it up again, but he really enjoys it and focuses so acutely when he’s working. He also loves to finger knit, and has his own balls of yarn that he frequently pulls out to make chains with. He really wants to learn to crochet and keeps asking me to teach him, so we’ll likely attempt that soon

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As I look through this list, it’s really only part of the picture of what homeschooling is for us. The curriculums and books we use are only a small part of what we do. Most of the time, our kids play. They play at home and outdoors, with toys and sticks, household objects and cardboard boxes. They imagine whole worlds and stories to play out. They are enjoying being children, and it is beautiful. They play, and they also observe us, their parents, as we work and care for them and the baby and our home. They help with cooking and cleaning, and are gradually becoming able to do those things on their own. They ask me literally two thousand questions a day. When I don’t know the answer, we look it up together. Sometimes an entire day of school will be focused on something Seth asked about—we ditch everything else and follow his interest (because we retain best what we’re actually interested in learning anyway). And then they play some more. And in the process, they are learning incredibly valuable things that no school curriculum could ever teach them.

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Wild + Free | Saving Sisterhood

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On Friday of last week, I hopped on a plane to Virginia Beach to spend the weekend with over 100 beautiful women who are dedicated to raising our kids with love and intention. Wild and Free is a homeschooling conference, but even more so it is a retreat aimed at fostering true sisterhood among mothers and refreshing us for the coming year teaching and raising our kids.

There was an incredible lineup of speakers who inspired and encouraged us throughout the weekend. I’ve followed many of them on Instagram for some time, so meeting these amazing ladies in person was a little bit like meeting celebrities, only much more exciting. But despite their fame in the blogging IG moms community, these were real, relatable women. This made me love them each even more. The real-life friendships I formed this weekend are ones I am so very thankful for. There was laughter and tears and late-night talks and long hugs. These girls just get it, and that can be so rare. I came away wishing so much that I’d been a little braver and started more conversations, connected with more new faces- but there is only so much time, and the ones I did meet were truly awesome. (Like this girl, Tara—this is us at the beach on the last day. She seriously rocks.)

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I wish I could share every nugget of wisdom, every takeaway. I took a lot of notes.
Joy is gratitude/giving/getting back up (Naomi), sisterhood is worth saving (Kelsey), say no to the rest so I can start saying yes to the best (Tiffany)… these thoughts only scratch the surface. It was good.

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I am already looking forward to next year. I’m making it a priority, financially and logistically, because this weekend fed a very hungry part of my soul. I came home refreshed and more ready to pour into my kids, and with new friends to stay in touch with and share encouragement with throughout the year. Of course motherhood still brings it’s daily challenges, but I feel like I’ve added a few more tools to aid in those days.

I really hope to see some of you there next year.

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Reading up on parenting

Building on my thoughts from last night… we are reaching a point with Seth where there is definite testing going on and a need for boundaries and discipline. And so we’re faced for the first time with what our methods will be and how we feel about what by some might be considered “normal” methods of disciplining children. I have always believed in trusting my instincts when it comes to parenting, and in this case that has led me to into the world of “positive parenting” and “positive discipline”. And what a world it is- I feel like I could read about it forever, as there is just so much information out there.

Basically, positive parenting is all about love, respect, and empathy. You build a strong and trusting relationship with your child, affirming who he is and how he feels, and causing him to want to do what is right, rather than only doing so out of fear of punishment. It prepares children to be self-disciplined, happy, and well-balanced as they grow up.

The more I read, the more I feel that the theories behind this model are so in sync with my intuition, and so right for my son. A friend shared a wonderful link with me recently, Aha! Parenting, and I have been soaking up a lot of the articles there.
I am also reading The Discipline Book by William and Martha Sears (the Sears have consistently written some of favorite parenting books, from pregnancy and birth to baby care and nutrition. Love them.) Aha! Parenting also has a great list of book recommendations that I plan to pull from next.
I know that not every parent feels the need to read all about how to do this, but that is always how I’ve learned everything. If something was interesting to me as a kid, I went and spent a few hours at the library. For me, reading about parenting solidifies and informs what my instincts are already telling me, and brings a method to it. It aids my confidence.

What are your favorite parenting resources? I’d love some new links and book titles to take a look at as we navigate these toddler and preschool years.

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I was just thinking…

Do you ever feel like you just have so much on your mind, so very many random thoughts, that you just wouldn’t know where to start? How to verbalize everything…? it is impossible. My writer’s block is due to overthinking. I start a sentence, a paragraph, and then scratch it out. No words encapsulate how I really think and feel lately. So… silence. Some thoughts are to complex for words, and some are far too simple.
I find myself envisioning this completely still and serene place where my mind is organized and calm, and I observe each thought and idea from beginning to end, unhurried. That place looks like a sunbathed field, and feels comforting like a soft blanket.

Anyway, sometimes you just have to start, with a single thought, right? So here we go.

One of my faults is that I am ridiculously self-conscious. I really admire people who do not care one bit what others think. I want to be that way. I feel silly sometimes that at almost 24 years old I still worry about things like that, that I’m still unsure of myself and at times feel I hardly know myself at all. I guess I used to assume that I would have these things figured out by now. But really, just like so many other things, it is a journey and a process. {For me anyway. Some people just seem to have that strength and confidence. Bless them; they are special and inspiring.}

While I may not ever “arrive”, I have such an intense desire to raise kids that are confident and strong. I don’t want then to be swayed by the opinions of others. I want them to know who they are and what they love and own it. I want to shield them from the kind of fear and baggage that attached themselves to me.
And I feel like I don’t know how most of the time. How do you protect your children from the emotional crap that most people in the world seem to be bogged down with? How do you help them to be free and happy, creative and caring, passionate, confident, curious, and all of those things we all want for our kids? In short, how do we not mess them up? Because doesn’t it seem like everyone is somehow messed up? and that usually it can be traced back to childhood? I’ve always been kind of afraid, because I never had time to read all the parenting books I wanted to and have always felt like I’m winging it a little. (Okay sometimes a lot.) I’m not one of those “professional moms” and I don’t “have it all together”.

I’m just taking it a day at a time. I’m doing the very best I am able to. And I look at my son, and he is astoundingly smart and sweet and happy. He is confident, in the way that only a two year old can be, and he’s curious and imaginative and certainly passionate.
He already is— and I didn’t do that. But I will certainly do absolutely everything I can to make sure that it is not taken away from him, and that it grows.

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An Ode to the Mamas

You are superwoman.

Trust me I know it doesn’t always feel that way.

But listen…

You are a warrior without even trying.

You accomplish in one day what some people can’t get done in a week.

You incubated and birthed a human. {If not in your body, then certainly in your heart.}

^That alone attests to your awesome power.

You switch effortlessly between a plethora of contrasting roles.

businesswoman, home manager, accountant, master scheduler, cook and personal shopper…

and in the next minute- nurse, teacher, kisser of booboos and changer of diapers, comforter if all hurts

and let’s not forget, you are also wife, soulful wanderer, full of dreams and prayers- a woman.

You are amazing.

You are breathtakingly beautiful.

You are strong

and the essence of grace and courage.

You do early mornings and late nights.

Your uniform ranges from heels and drop-em-dead dress

to jeans and yoga pants

and you look stunning and at-home in both.

Every day you shape the future of our world

and love in a pure and unconditional way

that is beyond normal human capacity.

You are truly incredible.

{Don’t forget it.}

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practicing peace

“No” Seth screeches again. This time there is no obvious reason. I lift him up- my arms have gotten stronger as he’s grown- and breathe deeply before calmly asking him (once again) what the matter is. This happens so very often throughout the day lately- the breakdowns interspersed with the joy and wonder of this little being. We’ve been battling teething pain and the frustrations that accompany toddlerhood. He wants to do everything, yet he can’t. He wants independence, and yet he afraid of it too. Aren’t we all?
My patience level seems to correspond closely with my sleep patterns, which have not exactly been ideal. Aside from that, though, I have found that the times I get most frusterated are when I’m interrupted from something else I’m doing- or when I’m trying to focus on more than one thing at once.
I long to be a pillar of calm and peace in Seth’ life, never yielding to frustration. I want to respond to everything with love and gentle discipline, but sometimes I feel my peace slipping. Okay yeah- sometimes it completely flies out the window and I break down right along with him.

Peace is not something I feel often right now. I am always, always being pulled in multiple directions. I am mom and business owner. Working from home while raising children is… well, a bit crazy sometimes.

In the midst of it all, I am trying to make sure that I am truly present for my son when he needs me. While my work and home lives are so deeply intertwined, I am intentionally separating them when I can- taking some time to give each my undivided attention for a while, on a regular basis.
Peace is not going to come naturally here, but I am learning to create it- to practice it and incorporate it into my home, my life, my parenting and my business. A huge part of this is being present in each moment. I am a planner, and I need organization to function, but I find that if I take it to an extreme and am constantly looking ahead or  mentally reviewing my to-do list, I get anxious.
So when I’m working, I’m working, and when I’m with my family, I try to put work out of my mind and focus on them. Then I no longer feel so pulled, so divided. I can handle each situation more calmly and rationally because I am not simultaneously trying to focus on something unrelated.

There is more peace everywhere in my world.

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What I have learned from motherhood.

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Seth helping me in the garden today.
Yes, he really did cover himself in dirt- hair, ears- everything. Yes he had a total blast doing it. Yes he went right into the bathtub afterward. :)


I have been a mom for almost eighteen months now.

Before that, I had so many ideas in my mind about how I would raise my children, and what kind of mother I would be. I had image in my head of what it was to be a parent.
But now that I am one, now that I have been on this motherhood journey for a little while, I understand what people meant when they told me having a baby would change my life. I knew that they were right, but I wasn’t worried at all. I knew that having a baby would be worth anything I might need to give up. I knew that I would love this child with every fiber of my being.
About those two things, I was right.

Here are some things I have learned from motherhood…

The intensity of a mother’s love.

There was nothing that could have prepared me for how much I would love this child. So much that it practically hurts sometimes. That love has exceeded the limits of my patience so often, smoothing things over and making me able to handle the harder times.
It also makes me care more about the future, about the earth and about humanity. I see the world differently, now that I am a mom. When a piece of your heart is going to outlive you on this planet, suddenly the future state of the planet matters so much more.

Live in the moment.

Being a mom has taught me to focus more on the present, to be present more than ever before.
I often feel like I gave birth, blinked, and suddenly he is a year and a half old- walking, talking, and asserting his independence at every turn. One of the universal truths of parenthood seems to be that time flies- that children grow up too fast.
Experiencing the fleeting nature of each stage in Seth’s life has made me slow down and appreciate who he is right now. Savor the present rather than constantly barreling ahead, a slave to my to-do list.
This is such an important lesson for all of life- to live in the present- its something I feel I will always be working on. I am thankful for all that Seth has taught me about not taking time for granted.

Have more grace toward other parents.

This is not an easy job. Every family is unique, with different sources of stress and pain. Raising children in the midst of the rest of life can be so incredibly hard at times. I try not to judge other parents, even when it might appear they are making some negative choices. Instead of thinking negative thoughts toward them, I send them silent love and understanding. We all have our moments, and we are all still learning to be what our kids need- no one has it down perfectly yet.
Along with that, being a mom has giving me a completely new perspective on my own mom, who I am so very thankful for.

Life is a beautiful mess.

When you have toddler, messes are just part of everyday life. My floors are usually dirty (even if I just washed them), food gets smeared everywhere, toys scattered randomly throughout the house. I don’t always feel “put-together” each day when we leave the house, because I often just don’t have the time.
But it’s all ok. Life is being lived in my home. It is filed with laughter and babbling, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I am not always organized. I forget things- sometimes even important things. My hair is often neglected and most of my clothes either don’t fit or are quite worn-out. I feel lucky each time I get a chance to shave my legs. I don’t sleep enough. I get impatient and frustrated. Once in a while I yell, or cry. I’ve even had bouts of depression (which I’ve written about here before.)

Life as a mom isn’t as glamorous as the picture I had in my head before Seth was born. It isn’t as glamorous as the lives of some other moms I read about.
But in its own way,
it’s better.
I love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is my life.

And motherhood has taught me to embrace it all, including the messy parts.

xoxo,
h

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a thing of beauty

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I love orchids. Manny remembered and got me one for Mother’s Day. Today the last bloom fell off, already. I loved it while it lasted though.

Seth has been teething worse than ever before, and is perfecting the art of the tantrum. I think the “terrible twos” have come nine months early… because today can really only be described as terrible. Sorry for being so negative, but I’m just being honest here. I feel so guilty because I definitely lost my patience a few times. I try so hard to be even-keeled and gentle even when Seth is being difficult, but the lack of sleep and lack of time to myself gets the better of me, all too often lately. I feel so alone and in desperate need of a recharge. I feel like a bad mom because I lost my cool, because I want to respond to everything, no matter what, calmly and with love. But I know I need to be easier on myself. Everyone has bad days, and of course no one is perfect. Motherhood is hard. It is the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life, by far, but no one promised it would be easy.

(So I may be blogging a little less in the coming days. I need to find my inspiration again, life has been kind of sucking the life out me lately and I have nothing to give right now. I am praying for some uninterrupted time to myself to work through some of what is tripping me up.)

Sweet DreamerI love this boy, more than I ever would have dreamed possible. He is my joy : )

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