Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Margin of Error

The question of the week seems to be, do I have room for error? I am referring to the relatively small things that happen through out the day that become time stealers. Last night I was out with my six year old. We had a fun evening together. On the way home we stop by the grocery store. I let her pick out a snack. Before we had left the parking lot of the store she had spilled the better part of a large bag of goldfish on the floorboard. Room for error? Today, while working on math with my older two, my two year old managed to dump the vacuum canister down the stairs. Room for error?

Have I placed so much pressure on myself to accomplish a certain amount, or so filled our family calender that these minor issues become a breaking point? My children are still so young. I want to leave a large margin of error. I want to be able to calmly pull the car over and help collect a spilled snack. I want to stay clear headed enough to remember that I left the vacuum at the top of the stairs, not the baby.

I would like for my children to remember their home as usually peaceful, loving, forgiving, and safe. As a place with a pace that allowed for time to correct their errors, purposeful and accidental.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Well, I don't know the answers to ALL your questions

Author's note: I love my children. All of them. A whole lot!

My oldest is exhausting! She starts asking questions before the sun rises and is still asking questions after we shut the bedroom door at the end of the day. She is 8. Eight.

Questions from today:

During Bible time, "Can you read us a new parable today? I think that you have already read all of those." That question lead to a conversation about the fact that while the words in the Bible stay the same our understanding of God should grow each time we read them.

While reading The Squire and the Scroll, "But did the princess want to marry him?" She was totally offended that the princess was given to the hero without being consulted.

When I sent the kids to play outside, "Will we be in trouble if we don't have fun?"

No matter what option parents choose for school, raising children is mentally draining. It is God alone who keeps me from screaming, "Yes, you will sit in time out until you turn 20 if you don't get out there and have fun!" It is also God who is gracious enough to pour out his forgiveness when I fail to train my children in ways that reflect the fruit of the spirit.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A little sample

If I had a scanner I would use that right now. Then you would be able to see the handwriting and the spelling errors that I missed. I do not have a scanner. You might have noticed that we are still working on acquiring a digital camera. I am sorry that the flaws are all hiding behind the computer screen, but here a sample of Mckenzie's writing.

"Becoming a knight"
It took many years to become a knight. First you would become a page. They learned to clean stables and ride horses. They served food. Later if a page worked hard enough he became a squire. He learned to care for weapons and to use them. He learned manners. If he was a good squire he would become a knight.

When a squire became a knight there was a special ceremony. first the knight spent the night in chapel praying. The next day people would help him dress. Then the knight got a tap on the shoulder with the king's sword. Then he received a sword and other gifts. After the party the knight was considered a great knight at everything he did.

Perhaps a tad idealistic at the end, but she is 8. Knights and soldiers are heroes. I can be ok with that.

Teaching writing

One of my goals for both of my school age children is that they would be able to write well. In my mind that encompasses proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, and a level of comfort with putting words on paper. My oldest daughter (third grade) has no problem putting words onto a page. She has a lot to say! We are focusing on spelling, punctuation, grammar, and structure of paragraphs. My first grader struggles to get ideas written down. I am starting to step away more as she works on short writing assignments. I don't want her to focus on correcting errors; she needs to get something on the blank page. We will be able to work on the details once that has happened.

For my first grader I have found lapbooks to be quite helpful. Rather than a large empty page, she starts with a small space. She also has specific instructions about what should go in that space. For example, what types of weapons did the vikings use? Two to three sections of her lap book at a time seems to work well. Beyond that the frustration level becomes so high that we are no longer productive. I am starting to walk away after I explain what she is supposed to write about. She usually tells me that she can't do it. I encourage her to try. We might go back and forth on that a few times, but eventually she will get something written down.

My third grader is more comfortable writing. I am spending more time focusing on the writing process. Here is what that looks like for us (all of these ideas are pulled from Tapestry of Grace curriculum):

Day 1: I give her a specific topic to write about (this week: in the middle ages how did a boy become a knight?); she completes a brainstorming sheet (this week: a ladder diagram); after she is done with school I look over this sheet to see if she understands the assignment

Day 2: brainstorming sheet looks great: I review the parts of/rules for paragraphs and ask her to write the paragraph ; brainstorming sheet has errors: we review the sheet together, if necessary she starts over, usually she is able to make corrections to the sheet she has already started

Day 3: self -proofing - - before I read her paragraph she looks over and and makes corrections. She is checking for - indented, topic sentence, each sentence supports the topic sentence, conclusion, each sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark. I read the paragraph, mark any spots that need to be corrected and she makes those changes.

I remind both girls often that it takes at least 10 years to learn to write. I do not expect them to know how to write yet; I expect them to give their best effort to learning how to write.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A warm mug of hot chocolate

We are now six weeks into our school year. I naively thought that I would not experience what many call "the fog". I assumed that since I had experimented with Tapestry of Grace last year, extensively research all of my curriculum choices, and was entering my second year of homeschooling that we would seamlessly slip from summer into school. In fact, I was so convinced of my ability to avoid the back to school blues, I didn't even recognize the symptoms.

On Thursday of this week I was thoroughly enjoying being home with my children. We were defiantly having a Kodak kind of day. The weather was classic fall mountain weather; chilly, damp, and foggy. School went well, the toddlers kept their tantrums to a minimum, and I was canning applesauce. While standing in the kitchen, I took a deep sigh and tried to think of a way to describe how I was feeling. Not being a coffee drinker, the first thing that I thought of was swimming in a mug of hot chocolate. What a fabulous thought!

My day had certainly had plenty of normal adventures for a stay at home mom with young children. I was behind on the laundry. I had hoped to accomplish a little more during school, and the apples were trumping dinner planning. Yet, there I was swimming in my mug of hot chocolate. Completely relaxed, perfectly content, and even a bit confident.

I began to consider what fact could possibly have brought me to this point. What was so difficult about two weeks ago? Last week? Even yesterday? After a few minutes of reflection I realized that I had experienced the "four week fog."

Well, I am humbled to discover a new layer of arrogance in myself. I am also thrilled to be mentally back into the school routine.