Six years we’ve been homeschooling.  We started right off the bat with our oldest in Kinder and have kept right on through and he’s now nearing the end of 5th grade.  And this may be the first time I’ve ever felt this at the end of our school year (I should check back on my blog posts to find out!), but I do not want our year to end.

Partly why is that it is another test year.  That does put some added pressure on being able to say “I’ve taught the concepts thoroughly, now go be tested on them,” and the ‘end of the year’ sort of suggests I should be confident in saying that.  Since I’m not sure I’ll ever be overly confident in that though, I don’t want the year to end so that we don’t have to do testing yet.  But alas, the time is here.

But also?  I don’t want the year to end because I’m quite simply not ready to have a 6th Grader.  I know I don’t technically have to call him a 6th Grader, but he is 11, he’s almost as tall as me and he’s learning concepts that feel brand-new to me!  I can’t slow that down no matter what ‘grade’ I say he is in and the end of the year is such an in-your-face-reminder that time is passing and gone.  

On a brighter note, I’ve discovered yet a few more things that make our schooling go smoothly … it may make more sense to share info like this at the beginning of the year, but I have to share it while it is fresh in my mind.  Plus, one thing I always know to be true is that something may work now and not later so these approaches may not have the same positive effect at the beginning of next year…

Separate School Rooms

SO!  One thing … working in seperate rooms for different subjects.  I used to find such value in all of us sitting around our large school (dining) table, but guess what that leads to now? Lots-and-lots of chatter.  Messing with each other.  Blurting out random thoughts they suddenly have because there are 3 other sets of ears within 5 feet to share them with.

Hello, distractions.  I’m all for my boys loving to chat with each other and having ample time to do that is one of the gifts they have from homeschooling.  But yes … they have ample time to do that after their lessons are done.  Or at least not in the middle of every single sentence they write or in between each step of a pretty challenging story problem.

Plus, it gets us moving.  I’ve discovered that I have just as hard of a time sitting for a long period in one spot as they do!  So putting Math and Grammar in the school room, Spelling in the breakfast nook, and Winning With Writing and Reading Comprehension in the living room keeps us all moving.  Especially me since I just rotate around the rooms pretty constantly checking on how they are doing.

Kaden tends to be the least distracting and least distracted of the bunch so he’s usually at the school table, but likes to also just do his lessons with me at the kitchen bar.

I want to say “How did it take me this long to figure this out??” but realize that this just wasn’t a feasible approach for us before.  But if you find that your older kiddos are distracting to each other as you work in the same room? Maybe try seperate rooms for different subjects.  :)I knew it was helpful from the first day we tried it out, but REALLY knew it was helpful on the days when I shifted back to working all together in the same room.  Those days leave me in a frazzled heap, wondering if any learning took place.  😉

One-on-One Teaching

From the seperate rooms for different subjects, we’ve taken it one step further to just working together one on one for their 5 main subjects: Math, Spelling, Grammar, Writing, and Reading Comp.  Sitting down with one boy, working through his lessons and then excusing him and doing the same with the other.

This came into being pretty naturally over the past 2 months or so as we’ve been battling a few hard-hitting illnesses.  One boy will be sick for a number of days, so pretty unable to ‘do’ school.  So I’d work individually with a healthy one.  Then lay on the ground or whereever with the sick one and work together through the subjects he was able.  And as their illnesses got passed around, this processes was on-going.

And now I see that it is just pretty brilliant of an approach, particularly for the younger two.  My oldest (5th Grade) is free to work on subjects on his own if he’d like to, but we still sit down one-on-one with everything he’s completed and then move on to those he hasn’t.  I was pretty hung up for awhile thinking that they NEED to be doing all of this independently but now I see that:

A) They work better and more focused with my undevided attention, leading to deeper understanding of the concepts and

B) It actually makes our school day faster.

C) It doesn’t stress me out as much!

This also may not have worked very well during previous years of our schooling, but now that the boys are old enough to entertain themselves and not needing me every 5 seconds, it’s working well.   So I start with my 3rd Grader, move on to my 5th, and then the little guy, then finish together with Science and History.  This doesn’t sound like an efficient use of time, but surprisingly it cuts out what seems like hours of distraction so it works.  😉

Starting Later in the Morning

I also used to have it in my mind that we should start school by 8:30.  And then every day we’d start at 9:30 or 10 and I’d feel like I already failed and that’s never a good mentality to have when giving 3 children their education.  As motivation to start early, then, I told them that they couldn’t play any electronics until after school. That kind of worked, but more often than not, we’d still start later but they’d fill their morning with play, reading, going outside, hanging out together in their room, etc.  Hear: they’d fill their morning with quality time!

On the mornings that we did start early, we’d finish by 11:30 or so and guess what they’d do as soon as they were done?  Not quality time … they’d immediately ask to play the Wii, the phone, watch a show, etc.  I could say ‘no’ but who’m I kidding … I’d want some quiet time and so I say fine and that sets the tone for the rest of the afternoon: playing and watching electronics.  Because school was ‘done’ I’d feel a little guilty but for the most part okay that they were occupied and I could get a bunch of stuff done.  NOT a good use of our time as a whole though.

So instead, I’m embracing the later start time because wouldn’t you know that when we start at 10 and finish at 3, the first thing they want to do at that point is run outside!  I don’t know what it is about that shift in time but it’s the way it goes.

That being said, as we near summer and we’re seeing nicer days, we may be starting earlier because our desire to be outside rises with the sun.  So we’ll see if this changes.

We’ll see if all of this changes … it very well might and that’s okay.  I’ve learned a lot of things about how to approach our home-school and I think I’ve finally accepted that it doesn’t have to look like a traditional school setting or schedule.

We have to go with what works for us, and as sure as that is true, it is also true that what works for us does change fairly often.  I’m grateful that homeschooling gives us the freedom to adapt our approach to their changing needs and that God has worked on making me less rigid and more willing to embrace and take on those changes.

Thank you for visiting!  Have an amazing weekend!  ♥

And, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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Brothers were gone for the weekend of their first baseball game of the season, so Kaden had the experience all to himself.  This is his first year playing baseball and is part of a ‘transition’ team (ie, coach pitched) on our local home-school league, Home Run.  The team is coached by our best friends and his best friends play on his team.  Talk about a win, win, win.  😉

He was super excited for the game, but truthfully, I don’t know if he even knew what to expect!  It turned out to be a fun, relaxed game on a gorgeous evening.  And better yet, he and all his teammates played great! 

(I have since cut his hair … no worries! Hah!)

I have quickly fallen in love with seeing him interact with his new friends. :)

And with the little glint of sunflare that comes off the top of their batting helmets.

He nailed it!  Closed eyes and all!  And because I was ‘first base coach’, Nugget got to run right to me. :)

… and then onto 2nd!  I love how fiercely he’s running while the other team just stands there.  😉  That was pretty much how it was for both sides. :)

And then onto Home Plate!

On the way home we noticed we were racing some clouds that were dumping rain just behind us.  I drove past this field, then asked him if we should stop to take a few photos.  He was totally game.  😉

Our next game was unfortunately rained out so the anticipation for G & C to finally get to join their team for a game is sure building!  They can’t wait!  And Kaden can’t wait to ‘show them the ropes’ since it is so rare that he has experience in something they do not.  Bless his little heart.  ♥

With the exception of missing practices because of illnesses and a sprained ankle, one practice of insane, freezing downpour, missing the first game, and one black eye, their baseball season has gotten off to a good start!  😉

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I really never thought I’d say this, but one of my happy-places is watching these sheep and the new lambs.  Yes, lambs!  We have two now!  I thought for a second about not sharing these because I thought, “Who wants to look at photos of sheep and lambs??”  Then I came to my senses and realized, who doesn’t want to look at photos of sheep and sweet baby lambs??

These first ones are from when Henry, our first baby, was about 5 days old … and Charlie lovin’ on our ram, Otis.  Otis doesn’t mind one bit when Charlie wants to give him licks.  He flaps his little tail and closes his eyes and takes in the loves. 

And then, Henry.  He’s already so much bigger than this now, so these are fun to look back on!

His ‘throne’.  😉

In the first days after Henry was born, his mama was super protective of him against the other ewe in our group (Mabel) and Charlie.  Thankfully she never minded when we’d come in and interact with him.

It became apparent a few days after Henry was born that Mabel would be having a baby soon, too.  Her udder dropped, she was super wide and seemed very uncomfortable.  So we watched and waited thinking, “Any day!”.  Twenty days later, Gage looked out the window of the house and spotted this little bitty guy hovering by his mama.  We figured he was just a few hours old and my oh my, what a teeny-tiny cutie!

Given how young Mabel was when we got her back in September, we think this is her first birth.  And I was just amazed again, how instinctive the act of mothering is for these girls.  Mabel took right to it, comforting him, cleaning him, feeding and protecting.  It was just beautiful.  ♥

It was apparent at this time that it would be a bit until Mabel would be comfortable with her baby interacting with Henry, and while we patiently waited for that to happen, we enjoyed watching Mabel behave so naturally as a mama.  The dynamic in the flock was so interesting to watch, especially how quickly Gerdy (the first mama) released her protective hold on Henry and how casually the babies hung out around Otis (the ram). :)  And of course seeing just how quickly these little guys grow and develop … it was only a few days after their births that Henry and this littlest guy were running and jumping and twisting and turning in the air.

*Note to self: must get a video of that.

 

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  • Megan - I love seeing your pictures of the sheep and lambs! The babies are so cute and the alla just look so sweet too. Thank you for sharing – and surely I can’t be the only one that enjoys these pictures!ReplyCancel

At the beginning of the year, I felt a pull toward making the decision to live with stronger intention.  Intention in all areas of my life; meaning, I wanted purpose to back the things I do and say.  What purpose?  Glorifying God pretty much sums it up.  In every choice I made there-out, I wanted to intentionally do that.

Naturally, I had to raise this matter up to Him in prayer, and I desperately and whole-heartedly asked Him over and over to give me clarity by showing me areas of my life where I was falling short.  So much of the time we’re looking for our successes, feeling comfort and confidence in the things we’re doing well.  So much of the time we’re told to let go of guilt, that we’re doing fine, and to not be so critical of ourselves … But I tend to find no growth in that.   I need the areas needing growth to stand out.  To be glaringly obvious. I knew full well that they were there and I needed God to make them apparent.

Conviction started flooding in.  His Light shown through my life revealing so many things that needed cleaning up …. that needed to be carefully, prayerfully, wisely addressed.

As I was getting ready in my bathroom the other day, the sunlight shown through my window just so.  Revealing all the smudges and grim and imperfections that had settled on the window.  In the midst of those smudges, though, was this smiley face.  Drawn my one of my boys, however long ago.  And it occurred to me that this is such a perfect illustration of what God is doing in my life through answering my plea for clarity.  Through His light, our smudges – imperfections – are made clear.  But there is that smiley face … that hope … that we’re not stuck in dealing with those smudges on our own.

The underlying ‘smudge’ that God has revealed to me is how these specific areas of my life that need to be more thoughtfully  worked on, affect my boys.  Truly, the overall concept that my actions influences my children is nothing new, but God has made it very clear how several issues I often address in my boys’ behavior is so directly the same as issues I need to address in myself. 

What does this mean?  Here are just a few examples …

  1. Limiting screen-time…  I find myself anxious about how often my boys watch TV, play the Wii, want to play on the phone, etc.  But what to I grab the second I sit down to each my lunch?  My phone.  What do I when I’m cooking dinner and want some background noise?  Turn on the TV.  What do I often suggest they do when I want some quiet time to blog?  Play the Wii.
  2. Follow through… What gets my blood pressure rising every time?  My boys not following through with what they are told … time for bed in 10 minutes, and 15 minutes later I have to remind them again.  Or, I remind them to put their clean clothes away, and the next morning the clothes are still waiting in the clean-clothes basket.  I tell them it is time to head out to the car for baseball, and 5 minutes later someone is just now searching for their hat.  BUT … when one of them asks me to come look at something, or to find time to play a certain game later in the day, or if we can make smoothies later, or if we can research something together online.  My answer is most always “Yes …..”  But do I always follow through?  Do I come see them “in a minute” or “when I finish this one thing?” all of the time?  Nope.
  3. Tone of voice and the words we use … This one is painful.  It is painful to hear one boy using a demeaning tone of voice with his brother and hearing my own voice in the process.  He sounds just like YOU, God tells me.  I know kind words are like honey and the wicked tongue is like a flame … I know this, I remind my boys of this,  but all too often my tone of voice is just wrong.  I use harsh words to make a point.  And then they do the same.  Ouch, big time.  
  4. Spending money … I admit, I am not the most mindful about spending.  My husband totally is, and I *think* they inherited his knack for saving, but I’m realizing that every time I tell them ‘no’ we can’t buy that, but then I turn around and order another workout tank online … I’m contradicting myself.  If I want to stop at Dutch Bros for a coffee, but then tell them ‘no’ when they ask for a smoothie, what leg to I have to stand on for getting that coffee?  Teaching the value of money and sharing about times when I have had to self-discipline myself and not make a purchase is critical.  Thankfully, there have been times when one boy in particular has demonstrated the importance of mindful spending and is in turn setting a good example for both me, and his brothers.  😉
  5. Being defensive and displacing responsibility … My whole life this has been an issue for me.  The defensive part, not as much the responsibility part.   When someone calls me on something or is critical of me, I get defensive.   I’ve known of it, but it hasn’t been until I became a wife and a mother that the effect is crushing.  Being defensive is a manifestation of pride and years ago when I prayerfully asked the Lord to make me a better wife, He opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to humble myself when Matt would point out something, or question something, that I felt was “against” me.  He, being a loving husband, was never against me and it took a bit of time for me to be able to not be defensive.  Now?  When I hear my boys being defensive … “It wasn’t my fault … he did it first!” or “How was I supposed to know?  You didn’t explain it well enough.” … etc … I get heated because I’ve seen how harmful it was for me to behave this way and I’ll be darned if they grow up with this mentality.
  6. Listening … Hmm.  How often in the day do I ask them, “Are you listening to me?” … or “Did you hear what I said?” … or “Look into my eyes so I know you know what I’m saying.”  Buuut … how often, too, do they ask me a question and I need them to repeat it because I’m distracted?  Or they are telling me a story and my mind drifts to where I’m going to transplant my daisies to.  Or worse, they want to talk to me about something but I’m in the middle of something else, so I tell them “in just a second” and then forget…  Fortunately, not TOO often but enough to make me feel a bit hypocritical.
  7. Focusing … Some call it multi-tasking.  But that is a fancy name for what I call, easily distracted.  😉  I often have the attention span of a ping-pong-ball and I tend to notice this same tendency in one of my boys in particular.  I have to tell him to sit down and work through the completion of a lesson before asking how he will earn the money for a knife he wants, again.  Or to sit down and eat his meal before getting up to going to snuggle the cat, again.  But how many tabs to I have open on my browser when I should be focusing on just getting my critiques done for the workshop?  Or how often do I walk intentionally toward accomplishing a task but get distracted by this-that-and-the-other task before ever even getting to it?  Again, this isn’t a huge issue I’m battling within myself, but I face it often enough that I know I need to work on it if I expect my boys to work on it, too.

Words are super powerful, but really, words of advice and instruction from a person who doesn’t live out their advice and instruction are more hazardous than helpful.  It is clear to me that the best way to instruct my boys is to live out what I say.  Practice what you preach, is not a new thing.  But God has also made it abundantly clear how damning it can be to my boys’ upbringing if I preach one thing and live in opposition to it.  More so, I believe, than if I didn’t preach it at all.

He’s showing me my smudges, the areas I need to put more attention on, and intention in living out and fixing.  And thankfully He’s giving me the glass cleaner, the paper-towels and the elbow grease in the form of His guidance, wisdom, patience and grace to do just that.

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  • Mom - You are so painfully honest! Your last sentence helped to wipe away my tears.
    XO to you
    XOXOXO to GCK from GrammieReplyCancel

  • Carol - What a beautifully written post! You really have such incredible insight. Love the face in the window. What a creative sign from God. I think the smile is for you from Him.ReplyCancel

After one failed attempt to visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm because it was jam packed like sardines, we finally made it back when there was actually room to walk around.  Go figure, Tuesday morning was a better time to visit than Sunday afternoon.  😉  My good friend, Megan, was in town and came with us on this field trip and while it wasn’t quite the same two-day photography dream that it was for us back in 2014 (you can see all of those posts HERE), we still had fun and the highlights for the boys were the slides, the mud-puddles, and the tractors. :)

My highlight, as usual, was photographing them enjoying it!

I took this shot to spot meter off of the ground and then check my histogram and exposure, and I ended up liking the shot!  Photographer friends, this is how I typically meter in shooting situations like this.   When the sun is high and the light is crazy, I just meter for the areas receiving the direct light (here, the ground) and then let the shadows be shadows and highlights be highlights. :)

They could have played on these old tractors for hours … I thought as they grew they’d grow out of their ability to make an adventure out of anything, but I’ve been wrong so far.  They had their stories and their roles and all that while each playing on ‘their’ tractor.  It was wonderful.  ♥

Until Cooper fell off the huge wheel of his, backwards.  Tough guy was okay, but we decided to move on after that.  To tip-toe through the tulips where injury was unlikely.  😉

Before we headed out, I passed the camera to Gager for one shot of Megan and me…

Until next year, Tulip Fest.  😀

From here we headed over to the Woodburn Outlet Mall and that was a fabulous, productive adventure in and of itself!

Thank you for visiting, as always! ♥ 

Photography pals, I shot these with both the 35mm 1.4 and 135mm 2.0.  I had a feeling I’d want wide environmental shots with the 35, but know myself well enough to anticipate that I’d want these shallow depth of field images too, that blur the tulips together into a lovely shmeer of color.

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  • Carol - So jealous you live near this tulip farm! (Here in MN my tulips are just coming up.) Someday I hope to know like you do which lenses to bring along. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos. Love, love the “shmeer of color”!!ReplyCancel