Aug 26, 2016

On selling and staying.

Shortly after I made our homeschool plan for this fall, we sold our house.

Of course, homeschooling will still be happening, but I thought it amusing that just as I was feeling that everything was organized and manageable, this big change happened!

Some of you know that for the past year we've been praying and planning toward moving to another city. We finally listed in the spring, feeling that God was leading through particular circumstances. To cut short the story, some difficult things happened that finally led to our decision to stay where we are for the time being.

The other day I talked with a friend and we realized we're in similar circumstances, although the details are different - this place of thinking that God was leading the way to something new and exciting, that life would look like taking risks and moving into new territory. But instead, His loving hands of guidance seem to be saying stay here, I have things for you in the common and known.

I've feared, the last couple months as we considered staying, that we were simply doubting, perhaps missing His voice, shrinking back when we should be pressing forward, no matter the difficulty. I would weigh out others opinions on the situation and analyze what I was reading in the Word and think about it at night when I couldn't sleep. Here, or there, Lord? (I overthink things, are you in that club? It's a blessing and a curse!)

But in the end we made our decision, planned to take the house off the market at the end of August, ended up selling the house the week after, second-guessed our decision to stay in town, decided with prayer that we should still stay, and bought a house several blocks away.

Well, it has been a plethora of emotions kind of summer, but here we are. I'm holding on to the goodness of God and knowing that He is Sovereign (experience showing me again that "doctrine" is not just theoretical print on paper, but truths that deeply affect life).

God has seen our hearts and circumstances, He's heard our requests. I'm not sure why particular things have transpired the way they have, the purpose of the plans that we've put away - but I know He does, and it's enough.

Aug 9, 2016

Homeschool Beginnings: Our Plan for Junior Kindergarten

This fall our oldest will be junior kindergarten-age, so we plan to "officially" begin with homeschooling. As he won't turn four until the end of November (and I have a 2.5 year old who will tag along some of the time), I'm not planning on pushing a lot of formal academics yet. We hope to focus on reading together, following trails of curiosity, spending time outside, and having fun with arts and crafts.

That said, I did want to create a plan and flexible schedule to help me approach our days in an intentional way.

I love getting ideas and inspiration from other homeschooling parents so I thought I would add to the explosion of information record a bit of our own plan here. (Plus, it's nice to have something to refer back to.)

To begin, I made a list of what's important to us (some are on-going and some specific to our current stage):

  • We want to cultivate a love for books and reading.
  • We want our children to know Scripture and to have a biblical worldview as the foundation of education. (Most importantly, to know the God of Scripture and His love for them in the gospel.)
  • Enjoying nature. Time spent outside, and learning all about the natural world.
  • Music and developing creativity.
  • Introducing math and reading-readiness skills (as the child shows an interest - I want early learning to be fun, not to cause frustration or negative associations.)
  • Character and habits.   

With those things in mind, it's easier to think practically about what to include in our schedule and to consider curriculum.

A quick note on educational philosophy - I've read several books on Charlotte Mason style education, and have been so inspired by her understanding of children and learning. Perhaps in years to come we'll  implement her ideas more consistently, but for now we'll be incorporating some things and doing others differently. (For example, I believe she suggested beginning formal reading instruction at a later age but as our almost four-year-old is keen on learning, we're going to give it a try and see how it goes.)

Knowing what we wanted to prioritize and include in our homeschool, I requested some free curriculum catalogues and spent some time looking through those as well as online resources. If you're planning to homeschool and lean towards a literature-rich approach, I recommend getting a copy of the Sonlight catalogue even if you don't plan on ordering from them. It's a great resource just to be able to see all the wonderful book choices listed for each age or grade.

Again, this year is not going to be curriculum-heavy for us, but here's what I've planned to include:

  • Literature: When my sister-in-law was getting ready to move in the spring, she sent me a message asking if I was interested in a box of books she had picked up used back when she was considering homeschooling. She sent me a picture and I was so excited to see most of the books that are included in Sonlight's curriculum package for age four. She didn't even know I had been considering it! So, fifteen bucks got me most of the books here. I do have the instructor's guide (which includes activities and extras) but will probably come up with my own schedule of working through the books in our read-aloud time.
  • Bible: We have several Bible and devotional books for the kids but will probably be focusing on The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing in our morning Bible time together. And for memory work, a simple catechism or verses.
  • Letter and sound recognition/learning to read: We have not consistently worked at learning letters (and I'm okay with that!) so we will probably take the first half of the school year to completely learn the alphabet. We have this puzzle, which is fun but obviously not necessary. I think we'll aim for a letter a week up on our bulletin board (upper and lowercase), but pointing out letters as we read together or go about life (store signs, etc) is the most helpful, and fun. When we're ready to start learning to read (uh, him, not me), I'm going to go with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. The reviews and success stories for this book are amazing, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes for us!
  • Math: We have these counting bears which are also not necessary (you could use buttons, etc) but sometimes you just need some fun manipulatives! For number recognition, we're going to have some flashcards up on our bulletin board. We're going to use the counting bears to work on counting, sequencing, adding, etc. If you search for "counting bear printables" on pinterest you can find some neat things. 
  • Science and Nature Study: Nothing formally planned but our kids love learning the names of flowers or birds when we're outside and have enjoyed observing different insects in jars this summer. They'll be curious about something so we look it up in a book or observe and talk about it. Isn't that one of the best ways to learn? I thought it would be fun to get a Backyard Bird poster and put out a feeder this winter to see how many species we can attract and identify.
  • Music/Art: I am not very consistent with planning projects but hope to get out paints or playdough, etc at least a couple afternoons a week. And here's my music tip: I put on music for the kids while they eat lunch. I swear it cuts down on the fights and loudness. Somewhat. I'd love them to be exposed to many genres of music so we've been taking CDs home from the library. Last week it was peanut butter toast and French Playground. This week I picked up a Vivaldi collection from a thrift store for a dollar.

I was going to include the four-day schedule I made up for the above but it's quite simple and this is getting long! Let me know if you'd like me to include it in a future post although again, nothing novel! 

Aug 1, 2016

August at a Glance

Despite neglect, the garden is handing us armloads of zucchinis. The geraniums and petunias cannot claim the same health - I somehow can't keep up with watering and there they are in the pots and hanging basket on the deck, dry and limping and giving me the evil eye when I pass by. It's the heat, I tell them, I'm certain I just watered you...the other night?

Oh well. It's at this point in the summer that I'm eager to see fall approaching, ready with a welcoming wave and excited to pull out the sweaters and autumn-themed candles.

On the other hand, I'm glad it's only August since we have some fun things coming up: first, Isaiah will turn one year old on the 16th. How did that happen, sneaky little man! I will cry about it later. He is the sweetest baby and brings such joy to our lives. It just occurred to me that he'll be the first of our children to celebrate his first birthday without a sibling-in-the-making coming up behind him. The spotlight is all yours, Beaderton! (Nevermind.)

Pictures from a couple months ago: we round them up before bed for teeth-brushing and diapering and they often end up in a heap like this, obviously having very important conversations.

We had our fifth wedding anniversary on July 23rd but will be going away for a night (or two, depending on how I the kids do) at the middle of this month to celebrate. I am excited to wander about a lovely old city, enjoy some little cafes and fine dining, and most of all to have some quiet and time alone with my husband!

One more thing for August - I'm gathering books and some curriculum and fine-tuning our plan for "school" this fall. Joshua will be Jr. Kindergarten age, so our plan to homeschool is feeling more official. I'm looking forward to sharing some thoughts on education (at this age), what I'm planning on including in our schedule, and some curriculum choices. Stay tuned!

I hope you're enjoying the last of the summer!

Jul 19, 2016

A New Title

After eight or so years of blogging under Thirsty Soul (however inconsistently at times) I've decided to change the name here to The Happy Art. It comes from a prayer found in The Valley of Vision:

Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal.

This sums up well the desire of my heart, especially in the season I'm in as a mother of young children. Of course, I wear other hats too. The roles and responsibilities we carry are varied and unique. But whatever they may be, we're all called to work faithfully at what we've been given to do (which sometimes does not look or feel exciting), all the while keeping eternity in our view.

All these minutes and hours and days and years are part of God's plan - our stories being woven into His great story and purpose, for this life and the ages to come.

"Ordinary" life, lived in Him and for Him and looking forward to what's ahead: this is the perspective I try to keep.

What can you expect to find here? The above view is my underlying focus, but I enjoy capturing pictures and memories from our simple days too. So along with more thoughtful posts on faith and scripture and life in Christ, expect a smattering of topics: parenting and marriage and recipes and books and decor and homeschooling (our newest upcoming adventure). And...whatever else I want because it's my blog and I'm the boss :)

I hope you'll follow along! (But if not, at least I'll have a written record of memories and the opportunity to hash out some thoughts now and then!)