Friday, February 27, 2015

Never Stop

Learning is an interesting thing.

As a homeschooling mom/teacher, learning is everything. My goal is for learning to be happening :) I am teaching math, science, English grammar, Latin, History, French... plus all the other things like manners, how things are connected, speech & pronunciation, home ec, how to wipe your own toosh & so much more. It's easy to be so tired at the end of the day that you just tune out, turn on the TV & absorb practically nothing for several hours before bed.

But, is that really the fruitful life we are longing for? Is this really in line with the goals which have set us on the path to homeschool our children?

Don't misunderstand me, I know you need a break. I need a break too. I actually got a really amazing, 2 day break last weekend, but it was practically undone in about 3 hrs. I was just telling my husband that I found 20min today to catch up, get motivated & feel on-goal, and then 10min later it was all undone, never to be grasped again that day. It's discouraging to say the least.

I also often tell people that I need to keep on homeschooling in order to not stay stupid. It's very true! I cannot believe how much is out there in life, history, science & so much more that I just had no clue about before I began schooling my kids. Did you know that Helen Keller knew Alexander Graham Bell before he invented the phone? She wrote about him in one of her autobiographies but didn't mention anything about his accomplishments... I was so curious why she didn't say much, so I looked up all the dates. It was eye-opening for me. I didn't even know they lived during the same time! There is SO much in History that is lost on me. But, this is also part of what created a spark in me to keep learning.

You know, there is never a point in your life where you will be unable to learn more! Literally, unless there are complicated health & brain issues, you never get too old to learn. Never too full of information! Your brain is actually limitless!! Most of us are just too tired, too overwhelmed or too uninformed to have the excitement & dedication it takes to learn. It is a long-term investment, and if you are homeschooling, I especially recommend it! Start now! I wish I had started years before my first child arrived. But, I will leave you with one thing I am proud for starting.

Last summer, I went to a local practicum for Classical Conversations. It was excellent! And our speaker shared about her son who has mastered several kinds of Rubik's cubes. He came & demonstrated for us & I was amazed. I was even more in shock when I learned that solving a Rubik's cube is not a matter of being smart. Seriously. I think most people who know how to solve them are, but not because a person has to be smart to solve it. I think it's because a smart person knows it can be accomplished & learns how. It really is just a matter of learning sequences, memorizing steps & practicing. You do it enough, and your brain just gets it!

Now, what I am proud of is that I started to learn how!!!! I have officially memorized how to solve the 2x2 cube, and can solve the 3x3 by looking at the instructions about 2/3 of the time. It has been really amazing to witness my own brain learning in this way. It's saturation - you do it over and over, and your brain just starts to get it. It has been fun, and exciting. And it feels good to make progress on this old brain of mine. And now I am even more motivated to keep learning, trying things that are hard & not to be discouraged by what I don't know. You don't have to solve a Rubik's cube, but you should start something you know will take time, effort & something which will bring you excitement & joy.

I don't always feel so excited about learning new things, or trying hard things, but the goal is to desire this more often. To want to veg out on TV less & less. To want to know more without immediately being discouraged by how much is left unknown. I hope as this blog grows (as God wills), you will find some of that motivation here. No not just by way of my "success" or inspiration, but also just by knowing me, and knowing my struggles & challenges. I hope I have successes & victories to share, but I cannot guarantee how often they will be. But either way, I know the effort to learn more about this life & the world we are in will be worthwhile, for my own life, my children's lives & hopefully the lives of others around me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Planning Type & The Beloved Schedule

I think I might be the weirdest person around. I don't like a lot of weird things, or have a super strange sense of humor, but I am a very A-type, "all-or-nothing", hate to stick to a schedule but must have a plan type of person. Those seem so weird together! Right? This has definitely made homeschooling challenging for me. Even though I hate to plan things to do each day or having scheduled appointments or tasks that occur every week, I also LOVE doing them & crossing them off. I feel like I hate routine, but I also hate being interrupted, or having my plans disrupted. I feel like I am either way out of balance or perfect. I usually think I am either incredible or horrid. 

This has its ups & downs. One bonus is that I rarely start things I don't plan to finish. I just cannot. This is why I got a C my junior year in English (my favorite subject). Too many papers that I just wasn't exactly sure how I was supposed to write, or didn't fully understand the topic & purpose, so I just didn't write them. Ha! I look back & laugh because if this happened now, I would just go & ask the teacher. But back then, I just wasn't as sure of my abilities, and was too afraid to go & admit that 1) maybe I just was not smart or 2) that I hadn't been paying the best of attention. 

But I also did things that surprised me. Like deciding to write & prepare a speech for graduation. I was no valedictorian by any means, but at our high school, anyone could "try out" for the speech-giving roles at graduation. I was SO nervous to see if I was selected. And I was elated, surprised & fulfilled in being one of the graduates to speak that night. I've always wanted to be a writer. I'm not the best, but I feel a fire in my bones to share hope with others. I often feel I am not smart enough, eloquent enough, educated enough or just even liked enough to be a popular writer. I will never be Jen Hatmaker, or Beth Moore, or Elisabeth Elliot. I will never have enough good stuff to say for it to be a worthwhile endeavor. But then again, I know it's actually God speaking, Him giving me words (hopefully, most of the time), and His divine purpose in placing that fire in me. Like the desire to homeschool, I just have to keep doing my best, taking risks, seizing opportunities & moving forward!   

What does this have to do with a homeschool schedule? No idea, getting a little side-tracked, but I think all that other stuff is still worth saying :)

So, here is a photo of several months of my "schedule" for schooling my kids. I have a general routine each day, but it has been in flux the last couple months as my daughter changed from 2 short naps to one kinda short nap (as fun as it sounds, trust me). And I am trying desperately to pray think & will a better rhythm into place! 

Last year, I had no schedule, but with a Kindergarten kid who could read & add a little, I did not think it was necessary. And I still don't think it is. The only thing I had planned, was that 2-3 days a week we spent one of Jovi's naps doing math and/or reading or spelling. And it worked. We made it through all the spelling & reading (only about 80 lessons total) and about 80% of his math. Plus, we did Classical Conversations, and while I did not expect him to memorize everything, we just worked on stuff & learned things alongside it that he was interested in. I felt behind a lot of the time, but I really had no clue how much I was "supposed" to be doing, so it was weird, and not amazing for sure. 

So this year I decided I was going to map out the entire year! And it was fun. I looked at how many weeks we were going to school, how many lessons were in each of my 2 boys' subjects & figured out how many lessons that translated to each week (basic math skills were key in this process). I opted for making it a smaller load each week & schooling well into June, in the hopes that I would not get super far behind & become discouraged. And it has mostly worked. But I find myself getting really worked up when we are 1 lesson behind, or 1 entire day behind. I mean really, to be in mid-February and have my 1st grader reading well, but being being stressed that we've been just 1 reading lesson behind for a couple weeks.... stupid,  right? And to be doing so much explaining to my boys each day, both in school-work and in life, I should expect to be pretty tired & not overly on top of things. 

This is the most challenging part of homeschooling for me. And actually, this is probably the most challenging thing in life for me! Learning to chill out. Every year, one of my New year's resolutions is to relax, chill out, become more laid-back. My husband often says, "I just want to see you relaxed & happy." I'm sure my kids do too! But, it is tremendously difficult to do!!! When you have a lot of responsibilities, and you feel like you are failing others by simply not picking up the living room or cleaning enough dishes, it's hard to just relax & let things be. We put a lot of these weights on ourselves. And while we do have responsibilities, we have to weigh them against the responsibilities we have towards our husband's & children's hearts too. 

Having the opportunity to invest so much into my children's lives is worth the effort of overcoming my laziness, overcoming my selfish ambition, finding ways to cope with fatigue & still be a pleasant person! My schedule has definitely helped me a lot, and if you have more than 1 kid you are  homeschooling, I totally recommend having one - even if it's very loose or vague! Despite all of my all-or-nothingness, I am learning that just a little is still better than nothing. And "not the best" is still better than nothing. When it comes to taking steps of faith, doing scary things & trying something challenging, you just really have to start. Start small, start easy, or go all out & make a crazy plan. Start trying and analyze as you go. Most of all, pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." 

Be brave, ask for help, try something you said you would never do. Go for it when you feel incapable & you will see God filling in the gaps. It really is amazing. I feel like I have learned a million little & big things about Him and about everything since I started homeschooling. He makes us able. You can test that to your limits! Don't be afraid to find those limits... While it is scary to come to the edge of your ability, it's a thrilling, yet humbling, & fulfilling place to be. It is where you see your child's growth, your flexibility & God's divine power. 

Now I'm just sounding all inspirational & attempting to be motivational. But really, it's worth it. Even if I never turn out to be a famous writer, an amazing genius, or a fabulous entrepreneur, I will never regret the effort put into being the first-hand witness of God opening the hearts & minds of my children. It is a gift I am willing to devote my life to unwrapping. What is stopping you? What is hindering you? Seek out the Lord with those questions. He already knows the answers. And He is willing to help you over those hurdles. And chances are, there are hosts  of other women trying to jump those same hurdles! And many more who have gotten over them! 

Really, all I wanted to do was share my schedule, share my failures & share a little about why I keep pressing on, why I feel like it's worth it. I hope you go away feeling a smidge better, or at least a teensy bit more inspired. If not, I guess I will just try again next week ;) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Trivium - My Dumbed Down Version

Today was not one of those amazing homeschool days... well, it was not a particularly amazing any type of day, by any standard actually, from my perspective. Sick kids, less than 4 hrs of sleep, kids knocking over things & making giant messes... I was a wreck before 9am. Anyway, so that is why I am going to write about something totally unrelated! Hahaha! If I think about my day too much, while somewhat unstable, I'm sure whatever I write won't be reading-worthy.

So, the trivium! This is the basis of a Classical Education. Now, I am not going to go into a ton of detail, but I hope my basic rundown will pique your interest & cause you to look into it more.

Trivium means "the 3 roads," and these 3 roads are the pathway to learning. Well, they are actually 3 stages of learning - the grammar, dialectic & rhetoric stages. We'll take a quick look at each one & then I'll give you an example of what this looks like as a child & what these stages look like when learning something new.

Grammar - also known as the poll-parrot stage. This consists of lots of repetition and recitation. Kids are in this stage from about age 4-9 or 10. During this stage, you want to focus on teaching them the basic foundations in all the different subjects. Memorizing math facts, memorizing grammar rules, memorizing basic science laws, learning historical events & gaining a basic grasp on the order of  their events. All of these things are easy for little kids - they love to memorize, and their brains are made to store all this information well!

Dialectic - this stage is full of what's & why's. My kids aren't here yet, but I hear that this can be an incredibly fun & frustrating stage. Children's brains during this stage (ages 11-14-ish) are beginning to connect dots. They are primed for learning how things work & why things work. So, you can expect lots of questions! Now, if your kids have gone through the first stage of the trivium, they are in a great position for this stage - they know all the facts they need to really start to understand all the why's.

Rhetoric - this stage is where they learn how to use the facts, the knowledge of why & how, to effectively persuade others towards the truth. Rhetoric is not "just talk" but it is persuasion aimed towards the truth. And around ages 14-18, especially when armed with years of classical education, teens are in a great position to effectively use all that information, stored effectively, to learn the art of persuasion. They can read great literature and understand the historical contexts, because they memorized & learned about the time those people lived in. They can make great strides in science because they already have the facts stored away in their brains - no need to spend countless nights crying over not undstanding atoms, trying to memorize the table of elements or Newton's laws... the information was stored efficiently & is now easily accessible. This is also a stage where they like to argue, and it's great practice for them! So don't hate on it, let them argue & do your best to keep up ;)

Now, I'm not going to spend time arguing why this is such a great way to learn, possibly the best, but I will give an example to show how this is how we all learn new things best. My example - CrossFit!

When you first start CrossFit, you learn the basics - names of different moves, the general structure of workouts, where a all the equipment you need is stored, etc. As you progress, you start to learn more of the why's. How do I do a snatch? Why do I need to lift heavy weights for only a few reps sometimes & a lighter weight with higher reps at other times? Why do we need to keep our elbows near our sides when we do push-ups? Later, you gain a burning desire to build your own workout that will be effective. You need to have all the earlier information to do that. Do you see it? The trivium is the natual process by which we learn new skills. Try thinking about a new hobby you undertook, or of a new skill you are learning... write out the things you've learned & see if you can find the pattern.

For me, seeing that the way kids learn best is the same way I learn a new skill, is what sealed the deal with teaching my kids using a classical method. This doesn't mean I don't ever tell my 6 year old why something works a certain way, it just means I focus on making sure he is spending his efforts memorizing the facts of life, science, history & math that will serve him so well later in his education.

Well, my brain is about tapped out, so I better wrap this up. I hope this was a simple, easy to grasp synopsis on the trivium. Obviously, I am no professional, but maybe someday I will be! And now you  know just where to start on your journey if you want to become one too.