Do You Ever Feel Thwarted???

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This may or may not be someone who shall remain nameless

That was my day Monday. As the saying goes, I couldn't win for losing.

First, let it be noted that it was Monday. 'Nough said.

So, yes, I got up late. And, yes, all the normal morning things took twice as long to accomplish, but I was bound and determined I was going to get back into my exercise routine. I got half way though when a child (who shall remain nameless) came howling from the barn. I ran out to the porch. While investigating the situation, the Jehovah's Witnesses showed up. Now, we live in the middle of nowhere. How did they find us?

By the time I was through with the JW's and got to the bottom of the situation with the kids, I had completely cooled down. I gave up on the rest of my workout.

Finding the two little ones to start our lessons was a challenge since one (who shall remain nameless) decided to investigate all fifty acres of the farm. I opened my mouth to begin teaching when the lunch person came in asking, “So, what's for lunch?” Already?!?

I did about half of the lesson with little ones and then paused to eat. Well, not the first menu suggestion, since we were out of cheese. (When are we ever out of cheese?)

Trying to hurry the clean up along I pulled out a chair to sweep and found someone's (who shall remain nameless–wait, he's been nameless three times–I see a trend) lunch on his chair. Apparently, the dessert offered tempted him to hide his lunch. But it took some time to deal with the situation.

Ugh, it was after one o'clock. I try to get outside for an hour between one and two because I need vitamin D. I scooped up all the little ones craft supplies and took them out to the picnic table. And here is where it gets really interesting.

Just as I set up my chair, a huge clap of thunder rolled. “Don't worry, Mom,” my big kids said. “It's been doing that all morning.” Dark clouds rolled in, another big boom, and I scooped everything up and took it all inside. Just as I got everyone settled in our dining room, a windowless antebellum log cabin–the electricity went off. As steam poured out my ears, thunder rattled the house.

We lost a branch and my son and daughter-in-law had no electricity because a telephone pole went down (which actually brightened our day because they came to visit.)

Once the electricity came back on we actually accomplished everything I set out to accomplish, praise the Lord, but WHAT A DAY!

How about you? How's your day going?

 

History Comes to Bristol

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Last Friday, our family attended a lecture given by Steve Wilkins about Confederate generals Lee and Jackson. Here are two biographies he wrote for the Leaders in Action series.

All Things for Good

Call of Duty

We were so impressed with the stories of godly character from these men's lives.

From conversations we had with Pastor Wilkins, I decided to begin a new unit on Booker T. Washington, particularly focusing on his autobiography, Up From Slavery. Look for more information on that coming up soon.

 

Preparing for Summer

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I recieved a nice e-mail from Becky with All About Learning as a follow-up to this blog post that included this information:

“I wanted to let you know that we do have a free letter tile replacement program–if you are missing 6 tiles or fewer, we will pop them in the mail for you at no charge. :-)”

 

Isn’t that great to know?

Seasonal Change-over

We had a big day yesterday. It was the big change–transforming the house and wardrobes from fall/winter to spring/summer. We usually get this done in late April or early May, but with the wedding we didn’t get to it.

Because our home is not large, it makes for quite a chaotic day when we bring in all the summer clothes and pack up all the winter clothes and give away all the clothes that don’t fit anymore. It probably doesn’t help that I got a little over-ambitious and decided to sort through books and reorganize the shed, while we were at it. We also had to go through the hat and glove bench (which had a whole lot more than hats and gloves in it) and transform the boot tub into a pool supply tub. (We have a four-foot inflatable pool that we enjoy every summer.)

Here are few quick thoughts on completing big projects:

This is a family event. Everyone participates. Throughout the process, everyone had a job to do. Delegating requires more thought on mom’s part, but once children are trained it is amazing the productivity of teamwork. I could never accomplish all I do without the help of all the children.

Assign older children to apprentice younger children. Some moms-of-many have the older children care for and play with the younger children while mom accomplishes the work. We prefer to all work together.

Include rewards if the work is hard. Yes, I’m not above bribery–for me or the children. At the beginning of the day I promised that if we accomplished all we set out to do we would buy pizza (a big treat for us) and rent a movie. About an hour into the work, I rewarded all the diligent workers with a small handful of candy. I did this a few more times throughout the day. Although we had plenty of discipline situations to deal with, the “catch ‘em being good” method encourages a positive attitude toward work. And, yes, we enjoyed our pizza and movie last night.

Give children specific instructions rather than general goals. When I was a child, “go clean your room” overwhelmed me. Especially with boys who struggle with organization, I have found that more specific instructions help. I tell the boys “make your bed, put the dirty clothes in the hamper, put the toys away, and clean up the trash.” This results in a clean room, but they don’t get as overwhelmed when they focus on one task at time. By the way, some children struggle with remembering more than one or two instructions at a time, so I often give one of these directions and then say “and then report back to me.”

Know when to retreat. There comes a point in every big project when you lose sight of what you’re doing. When that point comes, take a break, eat a snack, and go sit outside for fifteen minutes. Usually after my brain has had time to rest I am ready to tackle the next thing.

Specifically concerning kids clothes: Use a chart to evaluate each child’s wardobe. Down the left column. I list all the types of clothes my children need (short sleeve t-shirts, short sleeve collared shirts, shorts, jeans, etc.) and an estimated minimum number that they need. Across the top row are all of the children’s initials and their estimated sizes. I use tally marks to keep track of the acceptable clothing as we sort. At the end of the day I can easily see what I need to purchase.

This morning, as I think about all we accomplished I am very impressed. Not only did we get a lot done but we are also ready for all the summer fun that I am (working on) planning. After all, wihtout the infrasturcture of organized spaces and clean laundry, summer activities won’t be nearly as much fun.

What are you doing to get ready for summer? Share your ideas below.

 

 

 

Planting Vegetables and Trees

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One of the first things that drew us to the property we live on was the huge, old maple near the house. The maple not only provides cooling shade for a house without central air conditioning, but it is beautiful. Given the age of the house and the estimated age of the tree, we believe that the maple was planted after the house was built.

The foresight of those who came before us in planting a tree where it would provide shade and beauty in future generations is humbling.

Planting Garden Seeds

Every year we plant a vegetable garden in the back yard. Not ambitious gardeners, we plant enough to feed our family for the summer months, but not so much that August is spent canning and freezing. (Note the reference above to the un-air conditioned house.)

Gardening is a fun short-term project that yields almost immediate benefits.

Long- and Short-term Goals

In parenting, we must always keep both the short-term and long-term in view. We must train and discipline our children to be a blessing to others now and in the future. Training in hand washing, answering respectfully, keeping rooms clean (or trying to!), and how to wash the dishes, these are the short-term, garden seed style investments.

It is easy to get wrapped up in these.

Long-term character qualities like patience and kindness, considering others ahead of yourself, and being faithful in responsibilities are like planting saplings. The work is harder and the growth is slower, but the long-term results benefit not only your immediate family but also your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

As you go about your day, be mindful of the seeds and saplings that you are nurturing in your child’s life. Don’t neglect one or the other and you will enjoy the blessings of an early harvest and lifelong shade.

 

Better Use of All About Reading

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We’ve been using All About Reading (AAR) for about two years. It is, by far, the best curriculum for children with dyslexia that I have seen. I wish it had been available fifteen years ago when our Luke was a little guy struggling with reading. At that time I had fifteen phonics programs on my shelf–and I just wanted one of them to work.

AAR combines all the best components of those curriculums into one cohesive whole. My children enjoy the illustrations and stories. The only thing I don’t like about AAR is that we keep losing the letter tiles.

Today’s blog post at All About Learnig gives an example of a mom teaching many littles and how she adapts AAR for her family. Perhaps her idea for organizing letter tiles will help us keep better track of them!

More About Struggling Readers

As a homeschooling mom of ten children, ages twenty to three-and-a-half, including eight boys, I’ve learned a thing two about teaching reading over the years. Statistically, forty percent of eight-year-olds cannot read. Before you cluck your tongue and blame ‘those public schools’ I want to interject that I have found this statistic to fairly represent homeschooled children, despite our strong emphasis on early phonics. I believe that this is related to the way young minds mature. History is full of examples of “late bloomers” such as Thomas Edison who was labeled a “dunce” in school. Edison’s mother’s response to remove him from that environment and teach him at home was not only appropriate, but also a very effective solution. (Hang on while I turn on the lightbulb in the lamp next to me.)

In our home, half of our children would have been labeled “struggling learners” had they attended institutional schools. In general our “late bloomers” lag behind in their studies until they hit the age of fourteen (approximately) when they suddenly burst ahead knocking out their remaining studies to be able to complete their courses early on “on time,” according to a traditional school timetable.

 

Words of Advice for Dealing with Struggling Learners

I’ll probably go into more detail about some of these over the coming months, but for now, here are a few quick bullet points to remember:

  • Don’t panic! Despite the homeschool success stories, your child’s struggles are normal and natural and will be overcome.
  • Don’t compare. Each child has his own unique timetable, character strengths and weaknesses, and personality.
  • Be consistent and reasonable. It is better for a struggling learner to spend five to ten minutes every day in practice than an hour once a week.
  • “Every day” doesn’t mean every day. It would be nice if life never got in the way of our goals, but it does. Faithfulness, not perfection, is what is most important.
  • Patience is being developed–your patience and your child’s. The more you enjoy the process, and stop pushing for the product, the more relaxed you and your child will be. Patience is good for your relationship with your child. Patience is loving.
  • Keep hope. He will learn to read. God is refining your child uniquely for his purpose. We have found that struggling learners are harder workers, more cheerful in the face of adversity, and more compassionate as a result of their own struggles. The character forged into their lives more than makes up for the fact that learning to read wasn’t easy.

This summer is a great opportunity to experiment with fun ways of learning. Whether you do more reading aloud or find a fun outdoor reading game on Pinterest, use the coming months to practice enjoying the journey.

Got any great ideas to share? Post them in the comments below.

 

We’re Ba-a-ack!

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As you may have noticed, the Organic Homexchooling blog has taken a backseat in our life in recent years. In addition to the regular challenge of prioritizing how to use our time as we manage a house-full of children, in February 2013, our oldest son, Rich, was in a serious car accident with a prolonged recovery. It was during that time that our old laptop died and (such a silly thing, I know) I (Kara) could not figure out how to blog easily from an iPad.

Family Update

To bring you all up to speed on where the Murphy family is now, we entered a new stage of life on May 16 when our second son, Luke, married his beautiful bride, Sabrina. Luke and Sabrina live about a quarter of a mile away. What a blessing to have them so close.

The week before the wedding, our oldest son, Rich, proposed to the love of his life, Hannah. They plan to marry in August.

That leaves us with eight children still at home. Elizabeth (or Lizzy, as we call her) is seventeen and driving. She is almost done with her formal schooling and beginning to look for new ways to serve beyond our four walls.

Matthew (16) and Harrison (14) are beginning to make the transition from child to adult. They stay very busy with their mowing business and doing their studies, most of which they do independently.

The five younger children are the main focus of our organic homeschooling—Jonathan (11), Jackson (9), Gabriel (7), Josiah (6), and Maggie (4). For the first time in our parenting, we have no babies or toddlers in our home. We'll see what the Lord does about that in the future.

Easter 2015 (Sabrina, Luke's wife) is in white between Steve and Luke)

Steve is still a full-time pastor. Steve and I now write and create podcasts for Highlands Ministries. You will also find the new year-long Organic Homeschooling curriculum sold exclusively on their website.

Another fun change is that my parents, Tom and Carol McGinnis, moved in next door. The children love to have daily interaction with their grandparents. I love to have a place to escape to from time to time when I need a few minutes of sane conversation.


Warning: Expanded Topics Ahead!

When we began the Organic. Homeschooling blog in 2009-2010, we used it to promote our monthly subscription-based curriculum and to support the Organic Homeschooling users with encouragement and additional ideas, research topics, and project and craft ideas.

This summer, I plan to expand the topics of this blog to include other topics that are near and dear to my heart–health and fitness, home and family life, nature, crats and activities, hobbies, and so on.

This is your forewarning. If you do not wish to read about family music night, our favorite movies, picnic ideas, T-Tapp, Trim Healthy Mama, taking nature walks, preschool summer crats, pool time, knitting projects, scrapbooking, fiction and non-fiction writing, Every Thought Captive, and our new HomeWise podcasts, now is the time to unsubscribe from the Organic Homeschooling blog.

You have been warned.

If however, any of these topics interest you, let us know in the comments below. If you do not comment, I will be forced to blog according to my whims something I will enjoy, but that you may not.

 

A Review of The Donkey in the Living Room Book and Nativity Set by Sarah Raymond Cunningham

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Finding resources to use with little ones that keep Christ central to our Christmas celebration is difficult. The new book by Sarah Raymond Cunningham titled The Donkey in the Living Room: A Tradition that Celebrates the True Meaning of Christmas will be a big help.

The illustrations make the book appropriate for the preschool and early elementary crowd, although I know my older ones will also listen in. For use during the nine days before Christmas through Christmas Day, each double-page spread represents one character in the Christmas story. The instructions suggest that you wrap up figurines from a crèche, opening each one at the beginning of your reading. You can easily use your family nativity set, or purchase the matching box stable and wooden figures that coordinate with the book. (Since our Nativity set is breakable, we chose the coordinating wooden set.)

The text is in sing-song rhyme and there are a few slang phrases (“As Mary’s belly was getting ready to pop . . .”), yet it is still meaningful, accurate, and engaging. Almost as important during this busy season, it has an appropriate amount of reading to do each day, not so much that you may be tempted to skip it, but not so little as to be trite.

I am convinced that my little ones will be enthralled with this new resource and I look forward to continuing the tradition of The Donkey in the Living Room in the years to come.

Bonus!
Coordinate The Donkey in the Living Room with a Christian Christmas reproducible activity guide such as Very, Merry Christmas by Anita Reith Stohs and choose one carol to sing together each day.

9 days before Christmas: Mary
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary”
Sing “What Child is This?”

8 days before Christmas: The Donkey
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “The Road to Bethlehem”
Sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

7 days before Christmas: The Cow
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “No Room”
Sing “Away in the Manger”

6 days before Christmas: The Sheep
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Christmas Bookmark”
Sing “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”

5 days before Christmas: The Shepherd
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Go to Bethlehem” and “Glad to See Jesus”
Sing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”

4 days before Christmas: The Angel
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Joy to the World” (Make an angel); “The Angel’s Song”
Sing “Angels We Have Heard on High”

3 days before Christmas: The Camel
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book page
Sing “The First Noel”

2 days before Christmas: The Wise Men
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Follow the Star” and “Gifts for the King”
Sing “We Three Kings”

1 day before Christmas: Joseph
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Off to Egypt” and “Christmas Places”
Sing “Silent Night, Holy Night”

Christmas Day: Baby Jesus
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Jesus is His Name” and “Christmas Stamp”
Sing “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”

After Christmas Day: Simeon
Very, Merry Christmas: Activity Book “Looking for Jesus,” “Simeon’s Song of Praise,” “Christmas Crossword Puzzle”

Beginning Organic Homeschool Mid-year

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The new Organic Homeschooling provides content for a full year. Because OH is seasonally appropriate, we break the curriculum into monthly sections. After all, it makes sense to study pumpkins in October and Pilgrims in November.

Many homeschoolers make curriculum selections in April and May and begin a homeschool year mid-Agugst. Because this is the most common pattern, we organized OH to make it easy to use it this way.

Now, this does not mean that if you do not begin mid-August that you cannot use OH. This year my brother and his family came home on furlough and spent the month of August with us. Do you think schoolwork was our priority?

Sometimes families begin one curriculum and realize that it is not a good fit. Must they continue to use it even when it is not best for the family?

Friends, even classroom teachers change and adapt their plans based on the needs of their classroom and they do not have anywhere near the freedom we enjoy as homeschoolers.

First, let me encourage all homeschooling moms. Curriculum is a tool, a servant. There is no ‘I-followed-the-curriculum-perfectly” award at the end of our year or journey. If you do not like my suggestions, use OH as it best serves your family.

My recommendation for families that begin OH in any month other than August is to begin at the beginning of the current month. For example, if you purchase OH on October 12, start with Week 7, the first week of October.

An exception to this is a family with all little children who would be fine skipping the chapter book for that month, in which case, jump in in the current week.

Are the earlier months wasted? No. Either put them at the end of the year or take off mid-June to mid-August and go back to the Week 1 and do them then. Your children will do fine jumping into the middle of the year-long books.

The one big encouragement I have is: DO NOT TRY TO ‘CATCH UP.’ OH is all about simplifying and reducing pressures. Although it may be entirely possible to double up on readings and assignments, it defeats the purpose for which you chose OH!

Looking for Organic Homeschooling? Look HERE

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http://highlandsministriesonline.org/product/books/organic-homeschooling-year-1-curriculum/ 

Look at sample here: http://www.organichomeschooling.com/YearlyCurriculum/SampleYr1.pdf

Organic Homeschooling is no longer a monthly subscription-based product, but a full-year curriculum. At first, we will offer Year 1 available for purchase. Three additional years will be coming soon as we complete them.

The new plan offers weekly lesson plans. It is available as a PDF digital download, as it has been in the past, or you may choose to purchase a hard copy printed in full color and bound in a three-ring binder.

Purchase it here: http://highlandsministriesonline.org/product/books/organic-homeschooling-year-1-curriculum/

We are partnering with Highlands Ministries to make the new curriculum available. Organic Homeschooling users will no longer order the monthly curriculum from the Organic Homeschooling website. You will purchase the full-year plan from Highlands Ministries.

Is Year 1 of the new Organic Homeschooling the same as the first year (2010-2011) of subscription-based curriculum? No. Although there is definitely overlap between the two, we have completely reworked the booklist and schedule.

Organic Homeschool is for use with all of your children from preschool to age 12. It includes:

  • Bible
  • Read Aloud Picture Books and Chapter Books (Literature, Geography, History, and Science)
  • Memorization
  • Natural Language Learning (Copying and Dictation)
  • Creation Science Reading and Activity Ideas
  • Music
  • Art
  • Crafts
  • Recommended Curriculum for Basic Skills*
  • Continuing Education for Parents
  • Additional Recommendations for: Family Worship, Additional Creation and Art Materials, Nature Study, Art, Preschool, Singing, Foreign Language Resources, Games, and Beyond the Organic Homeschooling Years.

*Basic Skill Scheduling Charts by Grade will also be available.

Purchase the new, full-year Organic Homeschooling curriculum here: http://highlandsministriesonline.org/product/books/organic-homeschooling-year-1-curriculum/

Let’s Discuss: The Artful Parent chapter 9

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One of our optional books for Mom’s reading this year is The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. Read my review here. Over the next few months, let’s read and discuss this resource to see what we can learn from it and how we can apply it to our families.

(Yes, I know we’re going out of order!)

Look at Artful Activities: Chapter 9 “Quick and Easy Art” pages 149–166

Read Introduction (pages 149–150) and ““Using Recycled Materials for Art and Craft Projects” (pages 165–166)

Choose an activity to do with your child and report on how it went.

Artful Activity 8: Mondrian-Style Postcards (See note.)

Artful Activity 9: Bean Face Mosaics (Variations)

Artful Activity 10: Q-Tip Pointillism (Variations)

Artful Activity 11: How Big Can You Draw? How Small? How Curly? How Curly?

Artful Activity 12: Trace Shadow Shapes (Variations)

Artful Activity 13: Paper Fun: Fold, Cut, Decorate (11 variations)