How We Spend our Days…….

by Edie Wadsworth on September 25, 2009


I am no pro at this. I am not even what most would call a ‘seasoned’ homeschooler. But as year 2 is delightfully underway, I am more convinced than ever that this is where I belong. I receive lots of emails about homeschooling and I am probably ill-equipped to answer them.

I wish I were more disciplined and patient and organized.
But one thing is for sure, I love learning and I especially love learning with them.
Kids are smart and can see right through us. They know us sometimes more intimately than we know ourselves. We can do everything ‘right’ on the surface and they know if something is missing. I think sometimes they’re lack of lots of knowledge makes them more intuitive. I say all that to say that—they know if we are not living authentically—if we’re just going through life’s motions. My most important homeschooling advice is to live honestly and authentically with your kids. They can spot a fake a mile away. You aren’t hiding anything from them. You might as well live in humility and forgiveness. That is a language they understand. So, don’t fret so much about the small stuff—whether to do Shurley Grammar or Rod and Staff or whether to use this or that reading program. Live an honest, authentic life and they will learn to do the same. The rest will come easy.
So here’s what’s new and different and definitely working for us this year:
1. Literature We spend 30-40% of our day in whole books—either me reading to them, them reading to me or listening to books on tape. This is a big change from just doing a series of worksheets all day. Here’s what our reading list looks like so far:
~Pilgrim’s Progress We are reading this together—and so far I’m doing the reading. Soon enough, when I order more copies of it, they will read it aloud and to themselves. We are reading the unabridged version—-with all it’s old english language and we’re reading it slowly. Very slowly. Like 5-10 pages a week slowly. At this pace it’ll take a year and so to finish it. Charlotte Mason recommended this very slow reading of Pilgrim’s Progress as a way to ‘live with the book’—to intimately get to know this book, its’ main character Christian and its’ themes. After one month of reading it with my girls, I am completely enamored with their ability to understand a complicated allegory with very formal language. And I’m also awed at Bunyan’s ability to communicate theology in such an inspiring way. I would NEVER have believed that a 7 and 9 year old could understand, let alone, enjoy a book of this magnitude—-but they do. This is a highlight for us!
~Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb~~ This is a wonderful adaption of many Shakespeare plays written with beautiful, complex language. We read one story a week in 2-3 sittings. The girls LOVE these. As you know, his stories are often convoluted and can be difficult to follow. But because he’s a brilliant writer, they are compelling. The girls almost always want me to read more. And what a gift to give a child: to introduce them to the best in literature at such an early age. Every family, homeschoolers or not, should have this book!
~Jungle Books/Robin Hood ~~ These classics are also read in smaller sections over a longer period of time according to the CM literature list. We’re currently reading JB and will start Robin Hood (likely in January) next. Again, these are the original works and unabridged and meant to be read on a somewhat slower pace.
These books form the core of our literature and curriculum. I also use the CM reading list for the girls’ ‘reading’ books. So far this year, they have read The Saturdays, Understood Betsy, and are currently starting Caddie Woodlawn. This is what I use in lieu of ‘readers’—so they read these books on their own (usually a chapter a day) and then read a couple of pages aloud to me.
The website for incorporating the Charlotte Mason method is called Ambleside Online and although we are currently using only her literature method, we are heavily influenced by her philosophy.
We also add 2-3 books a week on top of that to supplement what we’re learning in history. For example, because we’re studying medieval history, we listened to an audio book on King Arthur this week and read aloud Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As icing on this very rich ‘literature cake’, we listen to books on tape every night before bed—usually something ‘fun’–like The Wind in the Willows or On the Shores of Silver Lake.
2. Math—I thought I’d have to jab sharp objects into the ear drums if I was forced to do another year of Saxon. Anyone who could—day in and day out—-read all those scripted pages for every lesson—deserves sainthood. So, in an act of desperation and self-preservation, I switched to Singapore. And now I know why Asian countries always beat us in math. This stuff is advanced. No more hand-holding and repetition like with Saxon. You’re on your own baby. And sadly, I’ve come to miss the ‘handholding’ of Saxon a bit. I think our girls have inherited my general lack of enthusiasm for math—-hard as I try to feign it—and I find we need more repetition than Singapore. So, we’re doing Singa-saxon, which is greek for ‘my own chaotic mix of Singapore and Saxon. I’ll let you know how it works out but so far—-so good. I’ve only had them in tears twice, I think. And my eardrums have been spared from sharp objects.
3. History—We are using Story of the World 2–The Medieval World. Did I ever tell you how much I LOVE this program. If you could see the list of amazing stuff we’re gonna cover, you’d sign up to enroll at our school pronto. We just finished the lesson on Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora from Constantinople—–which I love to say over and over again. Say it with me, Constantinople. Thankyouverymuch. And this week, we studied Mohammed and the Rise of Islam. As a supplement to our studies, we talked about Islamic extremism and watched YouTube videos of the towers falling and President Bush’s bullhorn speech. Talk about wide eyes and questions and interested kids—-they couldn’t get enough.
“Where were you , Mommy, when the towers fell?”
“Did you cry?” “Where was Daddy?” “Was I born yet?”
And we learned the five pillars of Islam, which they recited back to me last night, followed by questions about how they can possibly go all day without eating (Ramadan).
With history, I tend to focus more on Western Civilization, so we sometimes skip the lessons on India and the far East and spend more time on things related to christian history. But this program has become a favorite of my girls. They will often say that history is their favorite subject. I’m pretty sure when I was 7 and 9 that I didn’t even know the meaning of the word ‘history’.
4. Memory We are still going strong with our memorization. I bought the Andrew Pudewa program for memorization and have decided NOT to use it as it was intended. I am borrowing many of his selections but we’re doing it in our own order and supplementing with other stuff too. There are so many great passages and poems that I want to memorize that I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into someone else’s choices. That said, I love many of the poems in his book and we are currently memorizing “Rebecca, Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably”—-which is oddly quite an entertaining little piece. We’re also still finishing up on the catechism for the ten commandments, doing regular scripture memory, and adding to our history catechism weekly—-which I basically make up from important events in history. (I also follow the Veritas History cards fairly closely). I use Luther’s small catechism and The Harp and Laurel book for sources.
5. Latin and Spanish I am completely excited about language this year because we’ve been able to hire a latin and spanish teacher for the girls. She was their teacher at the classical christian school they attended two years ago and has done a phenomenal job so far with them. They are already conjugating Latin verbs and using conversational Spanish at the breakfast table. She comes for one hour 3x a week and if you live in the Morristown area, she has more slots available. Just email me if you’re interested. I’ll be featuring her soon on my blog because she also makes jewelry and has an Etsy shop. I feel so blessed to have her and the girls are learning oodles.

6. Grammar—I settled on a combination of Shurley Grammar and Daily Grams. The girls love the SG chants and this week we added the preposition to our arsenal of words we can diagram in a sentence. We do a ‘Daily Gram’ everyday and then do about 3 lessons in SG a week. It’s working so far but I will likely switch (in a year or two) to Rod and Staff Grammar because apparently (according to Susan Wise Bauer) that is the only program that teaches the correctly and fully how to diagram sentences. For now, I like the chants and the question/answer flow of SG and the repetition of Daily Grams.

Our other subjects are basically the same and you can read about those here. We have also started piano this year, which has been so wonderful! And the girls are swooning over their new dance classes (Lakeway School of Ballet and Dance). Between the two of them, they’re taking ballet, tap, jazz, irish, lyrical, hip hop and progressions. Basically, I watch little girls read and dance all day. What could be better than that?
This Irish dancing is contagious—and how about the fact that she’s 7 and has had maybe 7 classes so far!!! They’re trying to teach me but it could be a lost cause.

By far the best part of homeschooling is the sheer amount of time I’m able to spend with them. We share an intimacy that I wasn’t sure was possible between mother and child. It’s only made me more ‘jealous’ over them. Now I better understand why God is a jealous God. He wants our hearts—fully, completely. He loves us unconditionally, has our best interests in mind, and can teach us more about the world and about ourselves than anyone can. And that’s what homeschooling has been like for me. It has the familiar ‘ring’ of a relationship that I know deep in my spirit. I was created for this—–to be in communion with Him and these little ones in a way that is often difficult to put to words. I couldn’t be more grateful…..

to be here…..
today…..
in our home……
learning to live this beautiful life He has given us…….
Together.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gina Williams September 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Well said Sis. You and your girlies impress me so much with all the learning you do. They have blossomed with you as their teacher and the many things they have learned. I am so happy that it is working so well for you. They will cherish this time being taught and nurtured by you forever. Keep up the good work! I love the video and the dancing is impressive. Can't wait to see you doing it too…Love you!!

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2 Ruby Red Slippers September 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm

I like what you are doing-From a teacher's perspective-you picked a great curriculum, all around…And I love you are flexable-You are so right-It is about relationship….in the long run!
Have a great year of homeschooling!

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3 The Hill Hang-Out September 25, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Edie, my goodness, everytime I think I have challenged my little one to her full ability, you raise the bar on me! Now you've got me wondering how I should tweak again.

I didn't know your girls attended a classical school before home schooling. We are considering sending ours to a classical school next year. I would love to have your thoughts on that.

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4 Get Your Martha On September 25, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Thank you for sharing your curriculum choices! I'm also a classical homeschooler in my second year (third grade boy). Just the improvement in our relationship is enough reason for me to keep going on our "bad" days. And when I doubt myself, I look at our curriculum and think, "I'm not screwing him up. He's learning stuff he'd never learn in school right now!"

I read "Dumbing Us Down" per your recommendation. Whoa. Good stuff.

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5 Darla September 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm

what a great time i had homeschooling! greatest memories ever! changed our lives. really. i also remember being very frustrated at times and throwing a book! haha. it is so funny now. but seriously i am a little jealous of your fun. enjoy every minute.

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6 erica e September 25, 2009 at 5:47 pm

wow. i really enjoy your homeschooling posts. i have two little ones who are still preschool age but have begun to worry and stress over the whole school issue looming ahead. i've wondered if homeschool would work for us. reading how it works for you really makes me want to try it! thanks for sharing.

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7 Ells September 25, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Thanks for the joy and enthusiasm you put in this post. It's one of the only homeschooling stories that hasn't scared me off lately… and we don't even have children yet!

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8 Ells September 25, 2009 at 5:59 pm

P.S. Mind if I link to you? :)

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9 Victoria September 25, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I can so relate to your Saxon issues…I feel the same way about the LifePac Science we're using this year. It is our second year, as well. I made my own curriculum last year and figured anything was easier than that. Turns out having an experiment every other minute is just as insanity inducing. I'm actually really pleased with the homeschool edition of Saxon math, though…you might want to give it a look. No scripts and lecture like instruction at all…

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10 laniebethsinclair.com September 25, 2009 at 6:41 pm

You write beautifully and give more inspiration than you know. Thank you!

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11 Jessica September 25, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I love all your curriculum choices. Glad to see your year is going so well. It makes me miss homeschooling for all the reasons you listed. I am anxious for their fall break. 2 1/2 weeks of field trips, park days, Story of The World and read alouds…can't wait! I'm proud of you Edie, for sticking with it even when it's been challenging and isolating at times. Look at how you've grown into this amazing teacher/writer!! You're the bomb.

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12 Kelly September 25, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I love how she held her pants to Irish- that is Tessa's favorite too!

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13 Kathy September 25, 2009 at 10:04 pm

I would soooo sign up for your school :) Might bring my kids too:)

I respect your math decision and it does makes sesnse to me …BUT I wanted to put in a plug that we stuck it out with Saxon. It gets much easier from a teachers' position in 5/4. I have 3 kids, different levels doing Saxon right now. We are also using the DIVE series (kind of a powerpoint presentation with the lessons) it does work well.

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14 Sarah September 25, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I feel speechless yet again by your inspiring curriculum and your creative writing! xxx

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15 ohio12 September 25, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Thank you so much for this. I especially appreciated the part about skipping some of the Ancient India and Asia. I have been too nervous to skip certain parts in order to cover other things more, and I think I need to just trust my own judgement on this.

We just did the chapter on Islam as well and I couldn't believe how much my daughter could understand.

I forgot that this is only your second year hsing. It is only my second year too, but you sound so much more wise and knowledgeable and sure of yourself that I forget you are a newbie too!

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16 Jessica September 26, 2009 at 12:01 am

BTW, getting a Spanish/Latin tutor is so great!! Lucky kids.

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17 Lanie's Life September 26, 2009 at 12:31 am

I absolutely love love love this post!~ Well said on all your topics but my favorite thing to read was your final thought. Thank you for that.

BTW, We (my self and my 3 that I homeschooled) loved the Story of the World and #2 is the first one we ever started with. It is wonderful that there are writers of history that actually believe that our young children are capable of learning about an amazing past that our world holds!

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18 Molly September 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I am so glad you posted this. I was getting very curious how things are going. My boys and I just finished week 5 of our AO year. I am trying to pace myself and talk myself down, when I start to think it isnt enough. They offer little hints that it is all sinking in, so I am remaining prayerful that we are on the right path. Also, i LURVE your craft room….Molly

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19 Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience September 26, 2009 at 7:02 pm

30-40% of day on whole books… beautiful. We're right with you…

Thank you, Edie — you inspire!

All's grace,
Ann

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20 Robin's Nesting Place September 27, 2009 at 3:23 am

I've recently discovered your blog through Between naps On the Porch, and I love it!

My children are 21 and 17 and we have homeschooled them both. My son is in his Jr. year, so we are almost finished with our journey.

It has been a wonderful experience for our family. Your post brought back so many fond memories, especially the part about reading Pilgrims Progress. We loved that book and I read it out loud to them every year for several years.

Imparting the love of learning and a love of reading is definitely a key factor to successful homeschooling. You are doing an amazing job!

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21 Hopefull September 27, 2009 at 5:16 am

I heart classical education in a BIG way. We love Story of the World -

It is so awesome to see GOD in all things. God has given you a lovely creative home to grow in HIm.

Growing up and Growing up in Christ is the same thing.

Oh, and my favorite part of this post was the living with a book thing. Never would have thought to attempt Pilgrim's unabridged – but we have it, so Im gonna see how we live with it too. Cheers!

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22 Marie September 27, 2009 at 5:39 am

Hello Edie – what a beautiful post. We are going into our 8th year home schooling. It's the biggest blessing of my life! I never would have thought I'd have this honor. It was the furthest thing in my mind. But it became God's will for our family and we've been happily following Him since. There are days when I do ask "why me?" But there are a zillion more days than that when I say "thank you Lord for this Blessing." You made me giggle about Saxon. We spent years trying to be successful with that curriculum. This year we switched to McDougal Littell. So far, so good! We love Story of the World too. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

Blessings,
Marie
http://emmacallsmemama.com

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23 Marianne@Songbirdisnesting September 28, 2009 at 11:03 am

Congratulations for being featured on Todays Creative Blog. When I saw your blog there I thought, 'I know this blog, I follow it' turns out I didn't but I have been over here so often it felt like it. So now I have made it official, you have another subscriber.

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24 Karin Katherine September 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm

We are now almost 4 years into homeschooling and we love it too. It really is a lifestyle and its about being together.

Right now our homeschool is in limbo with our move and that has been hard on us, but I know that God is faithful and we will be settled soon and back on track. I'm trusting in Him and trying to enjoy the process.

We also love Sinapore and I couldn't even get through one week of scripted Saxon so I'm impressed by you and know of what you speak! We fill in the math gaps with math games, worksheets from online and the Family Math series…try it, you may like it.

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25 Ruth September 29, 2009 at 10:57 pm

I couldn't do Saxon math any longer. We have switched to Math U See and are enjoying it so much more. I love the Shakespeare from Charles and Mary Lamb. I love to spend time reading to and with the kids.
What a blessing to homeschool.

Ruth

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26 bwestenhover October 15, 2009 at 3:11 am

I was homeschooled all the way through high school (I'm 24 now, have a B.S. from a big state school, teaching pre-k, married, no kids). The last part of the post about "jealousy" really resonated with me. One of the reasons my mom put forth all the effort to teach us four kids is because she didn't want to give up the pleasure of our company to anyone else. Knowing that I was valued in that way gave me a strong foundation that I didn't even realize wasn't typical until I met people who didn't have it. I always felt good enough, smart enough, and knew I was worth it, which allowed me to find a good mate who treats me lovingly and accepts my love in return. I covet the parent-child relationship you described and I experienced with my future children (as I homeschool them, naturally)!

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27 Louisiana Laura November 6, 2009 at 4:37 am

I'm sure you eventually make it to all your comments at some time, just wanted you to know, how inspiring your blog is! to me. I posted your button! Looking forward to your 12 days of christmas crafts! And reading more about your books & activities in homeschooling. Classically- un-bunned & un-blue-jeaned-jumpered, Laura

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28 Paula November 10, 2009 at 11:08 pm

we use singapore as well! and are in our second year of home schooling! Last year I supplemented the sing w/horizons…a page a way..my 8 yr old HATED saxon! We do growing w/grammar…and sotw as well. Great to read your stuff! (we need to do a bit more with the lit I think!)…and I've finally succombed to Apologia science. I thought it was too religious at first…but it's not too bad and is targeted quite well. We're doing creatures of the sea or something. She reads it aloud to me & dh.

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29 proudmama November 16, 2009 at 2:10 am

Edie,

I am new to your blog and I am very interested in speaking with you further about a more in depth detail of your daily curriculum for your girls as you home school them. I am a mother of a 4 1/2 year old (who would be starting kindergarten next year) and a 10 month old. Through many conversations my husband and I have come to the conclusion, being a family who is also trying to instill a strong moral (Christian) base in our children, that the benefits of homeschooling seems to to far outway sending them to public school (as private school is not financially an option for us.) But I have to admit, that I also lack large amounts of patients and discipline myself and question my ability to make it all work, especially having the baby right now. I would be greatly appreciative of your insight and advice. Thank you for opening up your life and sharing it.

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30 Gale December 16, 2009 at 6:38 am

Your comment on Pilgrims Progress made me smile. When I was a little (I'm 62 now so that was a LONG time ago), my sister and I would go on vacation to Gramma's on the farm. She was a widow and worked as a housekeeper. The two elderly farmers were both Christian men who spent an hour everyday reading their bibles. When I was about 9, I had finished all of the books I had brought with and asked for something from their little bookcase library. I was given Pilgrims Progress. They had to tear it out of my hands when the reading hour was up. Sometimes I think we "dumb-down" the choices we now give our kids.

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