Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Harmony Homeschool

 Last fall, we began our third official year of homeschooling, with Sadie beginning kindergarten, and Elisa starting second grade work. This year, we decided to join our local classical homeschooling community - called Classical Conversations.  CC is a national organization that gives students an opportunity to be tutored each week at a co-op style meeting.  My older girls are in different classes, each with a a tutor they love. I currently teach the preschool/nursery group while they go to their classes, but most parents sit in the back of the classrooms, so that they are being "mentored" by the tutor in how to teach the material the rest of the week.  If you are not familiar with classical education, the grammar being taught seems a little bizarre, so hang in there with me. :) Each week the kids memorize seven different pieces of information (Math, English, Latin, Geography, History, Science, and seven pegs in a world timeline). During the week, we review the memory work, and try to delve into each subject a bit deeper. For example, this week they memorize Newton's First Law of Motion, the area of a rectangle, the definition of a verb, the Balkans, a sentence about World War Two, Latin verb endings, and timeline pieces beginning with the Industrial Revolution.  Our school day yesterday went a little haywire, but we are currently enjoying a WWII read-aloud, and maybe today we can do some map-tracing and explore what it actually means that an object at rest stays at rest until....
 There are things I really like about CC. I love that my kids interact with other homeschoolers and are taught by other mamas. I love that they give a weekly presentation, get to do a science experiment, and art, and have lunch once a week with their friends.  I love that if I accomplish nothing else in a given week... well, they've still memorized those informational "pegs." 

But it has been a tough year for us, too. I named our homeschool this year, after several fruitless attempts last year. I dubbed our learning space "Harmony Homeschool," because my prayer was that our home learning would be filled with grace, peace, unity and order.   I still pray for that, but there are definitely days - most days - when idealism shifts into survival mode. Because a toddler dumped 5 pounds of rice on the carpet, and my 8-year-old is yelling in anger and frustration for reasons I don't totally understand.  And  I am trying to work with a kindergartner who legitimately needs help, but Raina is begging for a story above the din. Not exactly harmonious.   

It is genuinely hard to be pulled in so many directions, to have four needy little ones (who, by the way, I think are precious gifts from God!) and I just want to nurture them and love them...  but there are tasks, and work, and we are accountable for the work we do and what we learn and how many days we spend doing it.  Yes, I could snuggle and read and play all day, but then math wouldn't be learned.   And while I don't homeschool in order to have academically accelerated kids, the academics matter.  And the hard work of learning gives way to lessons of character that are not easily taught.  Some days I feel like I spend 75% of my time in character training, and the other quarter on school.  And it doesn't sink in in a day, so we start over the next day. 

In case you are a fellow homeschooling mama, and you are interested, we teamed CC with Horizons Math, All About Spelling, All About Reading (for Sadie), Drawn Into the Heart of Reading (for Elisa), First Language Lessons, Writing With Ease, A Reason for Handwriting, and the read-alouds from Sonlight Core A. We also used Ann Voskamp's A Child's Geography the first semester, and we are using Our 24 Family Ways for devotionals while studying Grandpa's Box for some Bible History.

When I say this has been a tough year, please also hear me say that God is so gracious to meet our needs.  Right when I was feeling discouraged about some of my failings, a sweet veteran homeschool mom invited us to her house once a week for art lessons. Free. It's awesome. God is so good to encourage my heart through an older mama who has been there and "done that." 

My girls are so different. Sadie is flighty and fluttery - my dreamy little princess.  But she is motivated to read, and even though she forgets things, and sometimes needs reminders to follow directions, she takes pride in her work and is always eager to tell Dad what she has learned or done.  Sometimes her needs get lost in the shuffle, because she is the easy-going one. She doesn't demand my help or attention; she just waits for it.  She still loves story time with Mom, and she enjoys math.  She likes doing copywork, and even though reading lessons sometimes seem tedious to her, she wants the skills, so she perseveres. A cup of cocoa and a snuggle help, so we wait until the little ones are napping. 

Elisa is a bright and determined. She reads a 200 page book in an hour, and, when she is motivated to focus, she can race through her math assignments. She skis fast, and she has the athletic endurance of her daddy. But, she has always been my strong-willed one. The one to push buttons, and test, and rebel.  So, sometimes, she chooses to do her work poorly. Or not at all.  And then we find ourselves in a character-training session that involves screaming and flailing. And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.   I adore my strong-hearted child. And I am thankful for every opportunity to try and reach her heart through tender correction.  This year, God has reminded me that her strong personality is how He made her. And He fashioned her for His glory. It's not something He did so I could learn patience, at least not JUST so I could learn patience.  He made her because her unique character traits can be used for His purposes to make Him known in the world.   So, as the mama of this out-of the-box and often challenging sweet one, I need to both accept who she is, and lovingly help her turn those stubborn traits in God-honoring directions.

Little Raina is my energizer bunny. She never stops moving, but she is tender and sweet and snuggly, too.   She has great fine-motor skills, and she revels in doing school with Mommy.  Give her a handwriting page, and she is a happy little scholar. 

 I don't know what will happen next year. We are in the midst of some decisions.  Two new classical, Christian schools are opening in the fall, both with opportunities for scholarships.  We may try to send Elisa. I am beginning to think she would thrive with more structure than I can give in our home.  And, the schools offer so much more academically than I am capable of - not to mention the enrichment activities available.  I don't know about Sadie-girl.  I would kind of like to teach her one more year at home, but it also makes sense to keep them together....   We don't know.  I don't want to give up homeschooling because it is hard. That isn't a good reason. Every good thing is hard.   But, if God is showing us that His purposes for their lives might be better accomplished in a different setting... well, I want to listen to His voice.  I want to follow His lead.  I want to send them if it is God's best.  If He wants me to keep them at home and grow and learn together through the hard stuff, then I want to do that.   I love the idea of having my sweet ones with me.  But I don't want to cling to my ideals if they are not also God's ideals.  So....  we press on. One day and one decision at a time!


  1. Thank you for sharing your heart Colleen. I am always so encouraged. I have been feeling discouraged about homeschooling a bit for some similar reasons (and we're only in first official year). Mainly that I can't properly give myself to everyone the ways that I think they need; but trying to trust the Lord in that as well. We are praying if we need to take a different avenue as well.

  2. I love seeing what you're doing!!! You are such a wonderful mama and teacher. Keep up the great work, even though it is sometimes survival with prayer :)
    That is fascinating that you will have classical Christian options. I recently learned there are only 2 of those in the entire state of Colorado!

  3. The gifts of our children are precious in countless ways - you, my precious daughter, are a beautiful mother, teacher, encourager and most importantly an example to your sweet girls - demonstrating God's love for them while teaching them the skills they need to be all that He created them to be. You are doing an incredible job and I know that God is guiding your decision. My prayers are with you, too.