Saturday, August 19, 2017

The First Week: Sleepy Weekend Afterthoughts

Oh friends, I write from a sleepy sort of haze, full coffee mug at hand, as we close this first glorious week of school together. No, "glorious" was no typo, because it really was. It brimmed with curiosity, delight, contemplation, and slow feasting for minds that have starved for more filling dishes. It also held more late night planning, adjusting (of both attitudes and studies), and humility than I guessed it might, so yes, we're all now pretty tired at this end of things, but I think I can safely say for all of us that it's the contented kind.

I have so much on my heart to sort out before I can put the week behind and fall into much needed rest, so please bear with me as I use this space to ponder.

Language Arts / Phonics
When I pulled out the Turbo Reader in prep for that first day, A visibly cringed. Hm, not a good sign. I was already looking more critically at the thing because I was realizing the need for a program with more broad coverage (another topic for another day), so I turned a more serious eye on the other options out there, discussing my way through them with Will. Thus entered The Good And The Beautiful. On one hand, it seemed perfect, almost too good to be true. On the other, I was wary that too many subjects in one curriculum was too overwhelming. But in the end, that beautiful reader of theirs, the fact the program covers topics I would either have to buy elsewhere to cover or create something myself (super basic grammatical rules, spelling, etc,), and the price sold me and I ordered the thing.

Best decision.

It has the straightforward simplicity I need, and the element of fun that A needs - she loved it so much that she kept asking for more! Not to mention I can better see this program fitting a wider range of learning styles for "recycled" use. And once I wrapped my head around the dynamics of it? My former concerns evaporated because it was so easy to break up and distribute it to our needs. But I'm starting to sound like a radio ad now. To be clear, I'm actually not for hopping from one curriculum to another at the first hint of trouble, but this is the starting line for us and it's a time of joyful challenge and foundation laying, not punching through what needs to be done - there's time aplenty for that.

I'll be honest, I went into this week with no more than a vague idea of how studies would be distributed - these subjects for everyday, and those for just a few, maybe this in the morning and that in the afternoon?. . . To some extent, I'm glad it happened this way because I felt more free to probe for the most natural rhythm (read: lifelong) than I might have with a set schedule, and I have a lot to learn about all that anyhow.

It started on day one minute 15 when I tried the whole inserting breaks between subjects thing - that didn't fly. Easy adjustment though, just surprising. Then I found that nature and art in one day? That's a no go, so they had to be shuffled around, which worked out anyway because it turns out that we all thrive on having at least one different thing every day. Oh and that one different thing? It usually best fits into the afternoon, while on the other hand, I'm finding Charlotte Mason's advice to keep most lessons to the morning hours were given for a reason.

You get the idea.

It is tickling me how much behind the scenes work it takes to seep learning into life so that it both feels and happens more naturally and habitually over time (read: again, lifelong. See the theme here?). I mean what did I expect? Even I don't really know the answer to that, but I am now assured that it turns out to be much like the festivity of Christmas experienced in childhood versus that of motherhood.

If you read the planning post, you already know I went with Beautiful Feet to guide us in this subject. Well, that didn't work out too well for us. Yeah I know, already. You see? Humility.

Honestly, I don't think A had any idea of change because she was busy gobbling up the stories and churning her thoughts out with (slightly prompted) discussion and some narration. The problem was on the other side of the table with me who was hemming and hawing over cutting this activity, pasting in a lesson here from over there, replacing that book, shoving small readings closer together to satisfy the demand for them, etc. I love Beautiful Feet and all the beautiful literature they're bringing back in print, but the guides just weren't a good fit for us personally.

All credit to what happened beyond this point can and will be attributed to my wise MIL (and Mom's seconding it). She listened to my woes, took one look, and said "just stick with the literature on your shelf, go simple." Ah, duh. Digesting her advice did my resisting heart a lot of good - what are assigned readings and a few good prompts to the actual content? Again, duh. Also, hallelujah hands. So that's exactly what we're doing,

Oh Ambleside curators, how I love thee.

Go figure that it was again my dear MIL who pointed me their way. I mean I had browsed the Ambleside curriculum before, but I was totally overwhelmed at the time, so other than for articles and book suggestions I hadn't looked since. Maybe they reformatted though because when I looked again at MIL's prompting, it was so comprehensive that I was able to spot right away that "hey, this is pretty nearly what I'm doing." So after inserting some different choices under general subject categories, tweaking just a touch here and a pat there, I adjusted us to most of their general Year 1 outline.

Let me tell you, it helped so much with record keeping. I now know how to term the things I was struggling to, and categorize some of the obscure CM things that I wasn't sure how to. Besides that, I just feel more at ease because, as Brandi discussed on her blog this last week, I trust operating within this method to take care of all the little details as we press toward that end-all goal of loving the Lord God with all ours hearts, souls and minds.

Small Children
Leave it to the toddlers to give you consistency.

I say that mostly for the humor factor, but honestly, I almost appreciate that I could, at the very least, confidently anticipate what would happen there. Five thousand interruptions, the pressing need for cuddles now, quite a bit of background shouting, more snacks than usual, etc. Here, at least, my experience as the eldest of a larger family and A's understanding of her sisters could shine. Sort of. Actually, the truth is that we survived but I'd like to do better than that - to see all of the above as opportunities to shape character, shift habits, and bring our everyday tasks and interactions to a place of worship, however imperfect it may be.

Now how that happens? I suppose creativity, patience, and prayer will show.

And this is only week one. See what I mean? So much to learn. But that's good, right? Because it shows we're growing.