Unexpected lessons

I was homeschooled growing up, so when I set about to do the same for my own children, my primary goal was to make sure they learned to love math. It sounds silly, but math was a huge sticking point during elementary school for me and I just didn’t want that to be the same for my kids.

We started working on math when the kids were little and thankfully, I think we’ve created a culture of positivity around that subject. So I’ve felt pretty good about our work there. For instance, today, Liam had a lesson in math plus 200 mastery questions. He tackled the mastery and then came to me to tell me that he needed a break. This, for us, is a huge victory. One of the things I have not modeled well has been listening to my body and mind when I have pushed the limits too far. And yet, working with the kids to teach them to recognize these limits in their own lives has proven to be lesson that is far more valuable than times tables. So he did a huge portion of his work, took a break to reset and then dove back in.

Liam loves history. Sylvia loves science. I love nuturing these loves. Nurturing a love for science is easy for me. But when history came up as a love, I was surprised. I mean, I enjoy history and museums and reading biographies, but Liam had never been interested until last year. We started using The Story of the World curriculum and he wanted to learn everything. He kept listening to the cds over and over and spouting information, so I decided it was time to start giving him comprehension tests to see what the outcome was.

There are days when all Liam does is history. Because he’s in the zone and learning and thinking and talking about it. While it always creates a ping of “am I doing enough” in me, I see his growth. And I see him teaching his sister to love a subject so deeply. She has been a hesitant reader, progressing slowly and anxiously, but watching him throw himself into something has given her the courage to do the same. We work and work and when they’ve hit their limit, they have learned to tell me instead of melting down, unable to communicate.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned though, has been how. to. let. go. of. expectations. I knew it. I’ve read all the books, listened to the podcasts, perused the blogs. But until I saw the difference a day of living graciously made in my life and the life of my family, it just didn’t connect. Lowering those expectations and allowing myself to not conduct things in our homeschooling environment like I “think” they should be done and instead realizing the needs of the hour and working with them. It’s freeing, I tell you. Sure, I still want to accomplish things so that the state is pleased with me, but this isn’t about living up to perfection. By learning that, I think I’ve accomplished my own mom curriculum. I’ve got about a B+ average right now, but their enthusiasm for learning is helping my own growth curve. Maybe I’ll be an A student by the time Liam hits junior high? 🙂

A quick field trip

Sylvia and I were on a work trip last week and while we were in between stops, I needed to get a squirmy first grader out of the car. Truthfully, I needed out of the car and a walk around too. The home of James A. Garfield was the perfect stop to remedy our cranky legs.

Even though President Garfield was only in office for 200 days, his museum and home tour were well worth the $7 admission fee. The museum had lots of treasures from his life and the home involved a great tour that was lead by a volunteer who really knew her stuff.

I think one of the best things about this visit was that the home is part of the National Parks Service and to keep kids involved, they had a work book with assignments for the kids to complete. Sylvia’s job was to complete the bingo page (we treated it as a scavenger hunt and sought out each of the items), ask the Park Ranger a few questions and find items on a map. When she was done they gave her a little park ranger pin and I tell you, it made the day for us!

Work will slow down a bit for me after September and at that time we are going to try to do more day trips around the state. There’s so much to learn here in Ohio!

Jitters

It happens every year… the nervousness. First it starts out as simple questions over my curriculum choices. But then, should I even be educating my children? What if I fail? What happens if they can’t pass those darned state tests? What if? What if? What if?

This is my fourth year of homeschooling. I haven’t failed yet. And I don’t think it’s because I’m awesome, I think it’s because this is what my family is supposed to do. God has so kindly directed us to this path and I see those kindnesses on such a regular basis, it’s foolish of me to feel these nerves pre-school starting. But I do. I’m human, so I worry and fret and fuss over things I cannot control, like people’s opinions of me.

We begin school on Monday morning. I have all the curriculum planned out, my closet organized… everything is ready. And yet, I still wonder if I am doing what I should. How much of it is my humanness and how much is my own pride? People will always criticize me. Over the years, I have been told I am “unapproachable”, “unteachable”, “stuck up” and “too perfect”. Well, guess what? I’m not perfect. I don’t mean to come across as unapproachable or stuck up. And I love to learn, so I’m not sure where the teaching isn’t working for me. But the point of this post is to share that I still struggle with worry over perfection.

I was homeschooled. I homeschool. Most of the time I feel fairly confident and “I’ve got this”. I know my children and their needs. I know how they learn best and what doesn’t work. I enjoy these moments with the kids and am well aware that before I know it, they will be off in the world and I won’t have these opportunities again.

What will happen if I fail? I’m not sure. I pray that God will show me when it is time to put them into a brick and mortar school. I pray that I won’t miss His guiding because I’m set in my ways. I think that’s the best I can do.

So as we spend this last weekend before school begins, I’m going to be focusing myself in prayer for the year. Not for anxiety, but for my pride. I need to learn to let go of the expectations I’ve absorbed over the years and just school my children. I know if I spend every day looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to criticize me, I’ll miss these moments that I cherish so much.

On commitment and frustration

I made a hard decision last week. I did not like making said decision, but I know in the long run, it’s the right one.

How do we teach our children to persevere when we are all exhausted? How do we tell them that sometimes, the right thing is to quit?

I was not allowed to quit anything as a child. The only time I did was when my parents weren’t able to financially support the activity any longer. So when I started college and began loading up my plate, I over loaded it and committed. And committed. And committed. As an adult, I’ve continued my habit of over committing and then spending my free time bemoaning these commitments.

Last week, a heart-to-heart with my doctor said I needed to start taking things off my calendar. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had that conversation, but things were scary for me health-wise. So I’ve been working on my own commitments and while I was at it, I took stock in what the kids are doing. In so doing, I realized Liam was over committed.

It broke my heart to realize I had done this to him.  I know mothers are supposed to make mistakes and that I am human, but I was so frustrated with myself for  continuing the you-will-not-quit-mid-semester attitude and forcing him to continue with guitar lessons even though he was clearly burnt out. No one should have to have a fight with their 7 year old over practicing. Nope.

So I sent an email and made a phone call. It was uncomfortable for me. Not because we were ducking out, but because we were ducking out during the school year. And in that moment, as I read a very gracious email from his teacher, I realized that I’m still breaking the patterns of my childhood.

It’s not a bad thing, but I feel like the longer I parent, and homeschool in particular, I’m learning things that I shouldn’t repeat. I know there are loads of parenting books with “answers”, but he’s my child. And no matter how fussy I am about quitting, I should have realized that he was done and drawn the line.

So here we are. Mom learned a lesson. And Liam did too. He needed to learn how to express himself minus the anger and frustration. And when HE is ready to commit again, we will try it. But this time, I won’t set myself up for failure.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on the First Semester

The kids are at co-op right now. I packed them up at 8 am and they headed off, backpacks loaded down with books to return and light lunchboxes for they had the opportunity to order their lunches today for the first time. They are ordering because I didn’t feel like making lunches that will be sent home, yet again. Oh yes, one of the greatest perks of homeschooling has been that I don’t have to pack lunches. With our switch to an all gluten-free house, finding things Liam will eat that can be packed has become increasingly challenging.

I spent my morning organizing their school records. I’m in my third year of homeschooling, but this is my first year with both kids who have school work that needs to be recorded and kept track of. I bought a banker’s box off Amazon that has metal handles and is large enough to have textbooks and papers stored. For the time being, I’ve got it all in one box, but eventually, I’ll have to purchase more. I stood there for a while, admiring my giant binder clipped stacks of worksheets and neatly organized textbooks. I took out the little booklets Liam made last year and flipped through the memories and re-read his journal sheets. Good memories.

So this first semester has passed. Grade cards are completed and I’m planned for the next quarter. I’m pretty pleased with my work. I’m pleased with the kids’ work too. Liam has taken an interest in cursive handwriting and so we started that on Monday. Sylvi feels she should also be working on it so I suppose I will have to get her a book as well.

Today is my first break that included silence in probably two months. Between working from home and homeschooling and teaching Sunday school and life in general, I don’t get much silence. I enjoy silence. It felt indulgent to sit quietly at my table checking records and ordering library books, but my did it get done quickly. So quickly, I may not only complete all my goals, but accomplish a few more tasks.

My goal for this year is to keep better records. Over the years, we have read so many books, but I haven’t recorded them. I always mean to, but I don’t. Last year, I kept track of my own personal reading and I loved seeing my total last weekend. So I set up a goodreads list to keep track of the books we read for the kids this year. I’ll be including the audiobooks as well since both kids are absolutely captivated by listening to them in the car as we travel between classes and errands. I’m excited to see where this lands us in 12 months!

To close, here’s where are sitting with our school progress at this point in the year!

Liam: 

  • Lesson 45 in Saxon 3 for math
  • Lesson 15 in comprehension (we do one a week)
  • Lesson 28 in Volume 1 of Story of the World (Liam has taken charge of this subject and listens to the audio book version all day and even at night. I check in frequently, and give him the chapter tests. At this point in the year, he has only missed one question. I keep track of the additional resources that are included in the teacher’s manual and get extra books from the library to follow along with the lessons.)
  • Phonics and reading are at the halfway point of lessons, but Liam is also reading in the evenings with us so he’s reading more than what the curriculum dictates.
  • English 2 has been a bit of a challenge. Liam is bored by the curriculum, and I plan to make a change next year, but for the time being we continue to work through the lessons. He’s got a good grasp on the parts of speech and grammar, but writing is not his jam. He can tell you anything you’d like to know about a sentence, but to write that sentence? Nope.
  • Handwriting without Tears, introduction to cursive – just begun.
  • Step 21 of 25 in All About Spelling level 2. I’ve stopped a few times throughout the year to do reviews of the spelling rules and words and he has done well. We will continue on to level 3 in a month or so.
  • Astronomy is running out of steam. We will be visiting the Air and Space museum next week and I’m looking into the audiobook version of our textbook to keep his interest. Liam has discovered the science channel and asks to watch it whenever he can.

Sylvia:

  • Handwriting without Tears Kindergarten. She’s almost done with this book and even though she wants to move on to cursive, I plan to continue with the next HWT book on printing.
  • We began Saxon Math 1 this week and she’s just buzzing along. I did the ABeka kindergarten math last semester and while she liked the pictures, it was just too easy. I’m glad to be moving on.
  • We took a break from Phonics for about two months and now she’s back at it, whipping through the lessons. She needed those months to get a better grip on her speech so she could hear the sounds in her own ears before she could apply them to the lessons.
  • She’s on lesson two in All About Reading 1. I took my time introducing this book, waiting on her speech as well. She places a great deal of pressure on herself during the sight word portion of the lessons so I am working on how to address this.
  • We did the requisite kindergarten science book that the Independent Studies program asked us to do, but that only took  few weeks. When your children are raised by a science-crazy, homeschooling mom, it’s hard to follow certain books. Sylvia has been participating in the Astronomy work alongside Liam all year as well.
  • In addition to The Story of the World, Sylvia is completing the required social studies book from the IS program as well. We don’t like it.

Both kids together are listening to Adventures in Odyssey for Bible. We aren’t attending Adventure club on Wednesday nights because of how late it runs, but the kids are enjoying this option. Liam takes Jiu-jitsu 2-3 days a week and has private guitar lessons once a week. Sylvia takes ballet lessons on Tuesdays and a combo ballet/tap class on Saturdays. And they are still working with a counselor who addresses Liam’s obsessive behaviors and anxiety disorder. Sylvia attends most of the sessions and I’ve loved watching her blossom socially as a result.

That’s where we are for school! Now that it’s all written out, I think I know why we are all so tired at the end of the day!

 

Day 13

I must admit that the last three weeks have gone by surprisingly fast. I had no idea that homeschooling two children would be so simply complicated. Yes. Simple and complicated at the same time. I don’t understand it either.

I remember my brother’s kindergarten year. I was in third grade and pretty offended that his work took less than half an hour to complete. I prepared Liam for this possibility. Thus far, he hasn’t been upset about Sylvia doing her work and leaving the table while he plugs along. Let’s take a moment and raise our coffee mugs in gratitude, shall we? She rejoins us when we do science and history and so far, it’s a system that is working very well.

While I type this, Liam is doing his phonics worksheets. He’s also lecturing me about the habits of hummingbirds. We have bird feeders outside the dining room window and often suspend our work to watch the hummingbirds zip back and forth. We may need to add another feeder or two in the spring. I haven’t witnessed any territoriality, but I’d like to keep encouraging their visits as much as possible!

One of the things that surprised me the most about school this year would be how much Liam is enjoying our world history study. We are using the book Story of the World and he is just absorbing every detail. I’ll admit that it makes the class so fun for me because we are currently studying the ancient Egyptians and that was the first historical period I remember studying and thoroughly enjoying.

I think one of the most complicated parts about homeschooling for me is the time. I love my children and spending time with them, but when we are in school mode, I can substitute our school time that we spend working in place of playing. So then life becomes all about work. I’m an all about work sort of person, so this doesn’t bother me, but they are too young (and mentally healthy!) to be like this, so they crave play. It’s probably a sad state of affairs that I have to learn how to play. But, to be fair, I don’t think 80s parents did that so this super-factual and old-souled mom has to be her own example.

We are really focusing on read-alouds and legos and playmobil and dolls. Those I can do. We played in the pool a lot this summer, often with me being the oddball mom doing cannonballs off the diving board or chasing them around the deep end. But the pool is now closed, so I’ve got to be more creative. I’m learning.

So school is simple. Life is complicated. But it’s all good. Really. The kids have their first day of co-op tomorrow and uniforms have been tried on and waistbands adjusted. I’ll pack lunches tonight and we will walk to the school building the morning, taking photos and waving goodbye. And on Monday, we will start it all over again with our math books and stories about the ancient Egyptians in our pjs.

Bitty Ballerina

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On November 3rd, 2010 an ultrasound tech told us we were going to have a little girl. Matt’s brother had died the night before, we were exhausted and emotional and mustering up a response was almost too much for us. As she went through and identified each body part on our little girl, I remember thinking that her legs were nice and long… perfect for ballet.

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Last night, my little one finally got to attend her first ballet lesson. She’s waited for weeks and weeks for this night and I tell you, she was practically bursting with excitement. She was supposed to wear a costume instead of her leo, but I couldn’t talk her out of it. 🙂  Halfway through the class, she took off the costume and happily danced and stretched.

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Her little face was filled with a mixture of concentration and awe as she watched the teachers demonstrate throughout class and I could hardly hold back tears of excitement watching her finally find something she enjoyed so much. As we left she sighed a deep, dreamy sigh and told me how much she loved her dance class. Thursdays are going to be a wonderful day for all of us!

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In the weeks to come, I’m looking forward to lots of twirls and pliés. Mom bonus? Watching every single version of the Nutcracker suite I can find before Christmas. I didn’t realize how long I’ve waited to have a little one in ballet until last night… and I’m so happy to be soaking up every moment!

Sight words and life lessons

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.

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When we moved into this home 4 years ago, I struggled to make it my home and get over that it was my grandmother’s home my entire life. Initially, I picked darker colors for all the walls… Covering every inch of the stark white paint I could. The hardest room for me to “transform” was the dining room.

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For one thing, it’s in the middle of the house, and filled with the massive dining room suite I couldn’t sell when we held the auction after her death. Dark and formal, it’s never been the style that is practical for our family. And the added worry of little ones opening the glass doors and breaking the china? No thanks.

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As the years have passed, I’ve taken things out of the china cabinets and packed them away. The table no longer has a centerpiece or a table cloth for that matter. And little by little, the table became the place to settle in and draw or paint. So when we decided to homeschool, I knew right where we would set up.

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The cabinets now hold workbooks and books I’ve been collecting in the last year. The drawer that once held fancy silverware now holds my Montessori letters and 100s board. And the table that was only used for holidays now is the table I will always hold dear as the place where Liam learned to read.

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Every morning we settle in at the table and I’m grateful that although I never thought I’d find a way to make this room ours, it fits like a glove. We watch the cardinals out the window and spread our words out on the table. We high five our success, jump out the frustrations and soak in our lessons.

For us, the room that didn’t fit is now the room I look forward to spending more and more time in as the years pass. In that, we all are learning together – sight words and life lessons.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Being Barlow Home Tour — Follow along as Jessica at Being Barlow gives you the tour of her family’s home.
  • A Tour Of My Hybrid Rasta Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes you on a tour of her kitchen complete with a Kombucha Corner, a large turtle, her tea stash, and of course, all her must-have kitchen gadgets. Check out Hybrid Rasta Mama’s most favorite space!
  • Dreaming of a Sisters Room — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, dreams, schemes and pins ideas for when her younger daughter is ready to move out of the family bed and share a room with her older sister.
  • Building a life — Constructing a dream — Survivor at Surviving Mexico-Adventures and Disasters shows you a glimpse inside the home her family built and talks about adaptions they made in constructing their lives in Mexico.
  • Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook welcomed a new baby but didn’t have a spare bedroom. She explains how her family rearranged the house to create Lydia’s nursing nest and changing room in spaces they already had.
  • The Gratitude Tour — Inspired by Momastry’s recent “home tour,” That Mama Gretchen is highlighting imperfect snapshots of things she’s thankful for around her home. Don’t plan to pin anything!
  • Our Home in the Forest — Tara from Up the Dempster gives you a peek into life lived off-grid in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
  • natural bedding for kids — Emma at Your Fonder Heart shows you how her family of 3 (soon to be 4) manages to keep their two cotton & wool beds clean and dry (plus a little on the end of cosleeping — for now).
  • I love our home — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings explains how lucky she feels to have the home she does, and why she strives so hard to keep it tidy.
  • Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Sunshine and Rainbows Edition — Dionna at Code Name: Mama was tired of her dark, outdated house, so she brightened it up and added some color.
  • Our little outdoor space — Tat at Mum in search invites you to visit her balcony, where her children make friends with wildlife.
  • Our Funky, Bright, Eclectic, Montessori Home — Rachel at Bread and Roses shows you her family’s newly renovated home and how it’s set up with Montessori principles in mind for her 15-month-old to have independence.
  • Beach cottage in progress — Ever tried to turn a 1980s condo into a 1920s beach bungalow? Lauren at Hobo Mama is giving it a try!
  • Conjuring home: intention in renovation — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama explains why she and her husband took on a huge renovation with two little kids and shares the downsides and the ups, too.
  • Learning At Home — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling helps us to re-imagine the ordinary spaces of our homes to ignite natural learning.
  • My Dining Room Table — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves her dining room table — and everything surrounding it!
  • Sight words and life lessons — The room that seemed to fit the least in Laura from Pug in the Kitchen‘s life is now host to her family’s homeschool adventures and a room they couldn’t imagine life without!
  • A Tour of Our Church — Garry at Postilius invites you virtually visit him in the 19th-century, one-room church where he lives with his spouse and two kids.
  • Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the Montessori baby-toddler space she’s created in the main living area of her home along with a variety of resources for creating a Montessori-friendly home.
  • The Old Bailey House — Come peek through the window of The Old Bailey House where Erica at ChildOrganics resides with her little ones.
  • My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shows you her new laminate stairs in her not-so-new-anymore house.
  • To Minimalist and Back Again — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went to the extreme as a minimalist and bounced right back. Read how she finds it difficult to maintain the minimalist lifestyle when upsizing living space.
  • Our Life As Modern-Day Nomads — This family of five lives in 194 square feet of space — with the whole of North America as a back yard. Paige of Our Road Less Traveled guest posts at Natural Parents Network.

Friday field trip

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Today marked the 10th day of homeschool for our little family. We celebrated with a field trip to the nature center. I could hardly wait to get to this day because I had found the cutest little Nature Scavenger Hunt from Simple as That. 

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Joy of joys, Matt only had to work until lunch today (yay holidays!) so we waited until he got home to leave. As we were all lacing on shoes, Vito started jumping around like a puppy, so I asked if he wanted to come along. He gave me pretty much the same look he gives me when I ask if he needs to go outside, so I asked if he wanted to ride in the car and he let out a YIP! like I haven’t heard in forever. So we had an extra student along for the excursion.

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Once we got to the Nature Center, Liam was far too set on his personal goals to really play along with the scavenger hunt. I’m so grateful for a daughter who thinks every little thing I do is phenomenal. She was thrilled to carry a clipboard and pencil, searching high and low, delighting in crossing things off her board. At the very end of the hike, I found some acorns and she squeezed my legs, telling me they were “de best!”

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In the end, we found almost every thing on the hunt except for animal tracks, deer and of all things, squirrels. We did find a lot of poop though. A lot of poop. We listened to the cardinals calling, the insects humming and the dog gasping. I’m planning to take the kids back again as the weather chills for another hike to see what we discover as the seasons change… I’m even hoping to convince them myself it’s a great idea to do a snowy hike!

The first week

We officially made our homeschool decision in June. Once the decision was made, I went to bed and actually slept through the night for the first time in months. We LOVED the school Liam attended for preK and I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel settled about sending him to Kindergarten there! {Of course, now… months later… it makes complete sense as Liam’s needs have changed and the sweet people who handle his OT are becoming some of my greatest cheerleaders.}  I cried a little knowing that I wouldn’t have the amazing teachers in his our lives, but the fact of the matter is that we need to do what is best for our family {specifically Liam} and homeschooling is the answer.

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Monday morning, I fed the kids a first-day-of-school pancake breakfast and we headed into the dining room to start school. Because it was day one, every thing was shiny and new and interesting. I had very low expectations for the day for several reasons, but mainly because new routines are hard! Additionally, my parents decided after my 1st grade year that they needed to homeschool me and although I was excited to stay home, I remember being sad when my peers walked by my house on their way to school. I figured the same would be true for Liam, especially since he really thought his beloved Mrs. Lilly would also teach Kindergarten.

Monday was all unicorns and glitter. It was fun and new. Tuesday and Wednesday were challenging. We had to stop a few times and wait for attitudes to clear, but the overall day wasn’t bad. But then. Thursday and Friday Liam blew me away.

I grew up doing math as our first subject of the day, but decided for my own children, we would do reading/writing first. But on Wednesday since Liam was just not cooperating, I asked him what he wanted to do first and he chose math. Shockingly, he completed his pages and then asked to do more. Once math was done, he was cheerful about what was coming next. Thursday, I tried the same routine and again, it was a smooth day. Soooo…. Mom? You were right.

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Friday we ended the week on a high. I think I’ve finally figured out our daily routine and feel like next week we can hit the ground running. I planned a month of schooling out in advance, leaving the details to be determined on a week-to-week basis. Liam will finish the first math workbook I got him Monday and we’ll start the next Tuesday! He needs to refresh his handwriting as over the summer, he’s forgotten how to make lesser used letters and numbers. Sylvi needs to work on her pencil grip.

The upcoming week I’m hoping to keep pretty quiet. In addition to all the newness of school, we had errands that cropped up and derailed our attention or nights where the three of us hardly slept, so I’m really praying that it doesn’t happen again. But you know, just because you plan it, it doesn’t mean it will happen!