Thursday, August 29, 2013

Some Magical Homeschool Moments

I'm happy to report that it's been a good week of school so far. There have been several moments of real joy in our learning and working together. The boys have embraced the tougher schedule pretty well and also some increased responsibility (aka chores) around the house.
This morning Ray and I were working through his English lesson about writing a paragraph. I'm really pleased with the Seton English text so far. It was, however, dragging out the process of writing a paragraph. In the middle of the lesson some kind of light bulb went off in Ray's head. He said, "That is so cool! I want to write a paragraph right now!" Well, ok. So we closed the book and he wrote a really nice paragraph. He was so proud and excited about it.

Truly, it put him in such a good mood. He kept talking about how much he loves learning. And I was just proud of myself for being flexible enough to allow my lesson plan to change. ;)
A few days ago we did our art lesson on the back porch. It was so relaxing and fun. We sat out there and mixed colors and talked about shading and tinting. We painted together and really enjoyed it.

These are the kinds of moments that I really want to hold on to. It's not like this all day every day. We did have some tears this week as lessons were challenging. We didn't have fantastic healthy dinners every night. Adam's reading really well, but won't stop climbing on the furniture like a monkey. There will be tired, difficult days.... but it's so worth it. And now I have this post to look back at and remember..... and be inspired when things aren't so great.
Here's a beautiful article written by a friend of mine: She so beautifully sums up the vocation of homeschooling. It's more than an educational decision. It's a lifestyle choice. It's beautiful and wonderful and hard and messy.
And now I'm headed off --- on this commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist --- to lead my first homeschool group meeting. I'm looking forward to seeing so many other Catholic homeschool moms.... but hoping my head doesn't end up on a platter if I say/decide/do the wrong thing. ;)
Finally ---- check out these new "Opus Domini" (our homeschool group) t-shirts! Can't wait to distribute them tonight.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School 2013-2014

Although we've been gearing up for a few weeks --- adding more subjects each day --- today was our official first full day of school!
Check out these "official" first day of school pictures. Their outfits are funny. No new school clothes or haircuts. Ha ha! But here they are on the first day of 2nd and 3rd grade....

 We continued the tradition of presenting the boys with first day schultutes filled with school supplies and treats.

 Here we are busy learning...

 This year -- instead of our morning workbooks -- we are doing daily journals. Today they wrote three goals for the school year.

Adam's Goals

Ray's goals.
 We are learning about sound waves. This afternoon we did some hands-on experiments and designed our own musical instruments.

It's hard to see in the picture, but this is the old "two cups and a string" trick.
Adam's homemade guitar

Ray playing his homemade "pan pipe."
The day seemed long... but went well. This year I made a weekly checklist for each boy so that he can see what needs to be done each day and mark it off as he goes. I'm giving them more freedom to choose in which order to do their work.

We also instituted mandatory quiet time in the afternoon - after school and before playtime / video games. We are having the boys earn their video game time by competing in a daily Math facts flash card drill. The length of time they get to play their video games is determined by how many Math facts they answer correctly in five minutes. They compete as a team.... taking turns but adding up one tally of facts correctly answered. We plan to use harder cards and then shorten the time period as they get better at it. Today they earned 43 minutes, which is more than we usually want them to play... but they were excited at their accomplishment. The deck is already "stacked" for tomorrow. ;)

So... one day down. 180 to go. Pray for us!

Water Science

Of course - now that school has started - the weather has finally gotten warmer. We enjoyed a backyard water science day with some friends last week.
We  built boats.
It required some trial and error to get actual sea-worthy vessels that would float.

We played the old "sink or float" game.
Did you know that Coke sinks and Diet Coke floats?
Or that an orange floats, but when you take off the peel it sinks?
Adam working in his Science journal.
Which ice cube melted fastest?
We tried plain ice cube, wrapped in paper towel, wrapped in foil, in water, with salt, with sugar, with sand, and in salt water.
The salt water won of course.
My godson doing a little bit of "fishing" for colored ice cubes.
Making sculptures with colored ice.

Floating boats on a tin foil river.
Thankfully, Pappy and Mary were around to help.
They mostly cleaned up after all our messes.
With their help, the yard and house did not end up looking like Armageddon after all this.
Carter and Ava were here too for a while.
This is the boat-building station.

I had frozen water balloons and then peeled off the balloons.
We had fun shaking salt on them and then squirting liquid watercolors over them.
We watched the paint go down into the tunnels that the ice had made.

And finally.... we just had some good fun running in the sprinkler and playing on the Slip and Slide!
Hooray for Summer!
Hooray for learning and playing together!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"I Thirst"

"Let anyone who THIRSTS come to ME and DRINK."
John 7:37
Our homeschooling group has a great tradition of beginning the school year with a retreat for the moms. It's such a wonderful opportunity to get away, re-group, and be filled with grace before beginning the new school year. This year's retreat theme was "I Thirst." We filled the retreat center --- 65 beautiful Catholic homeschool moms came together to pray! We enjoyed a beautiful weekend and came home DRENCHED, QUENCHED, and READY TO ROLL!

Here's what we found waiting for us in our bedrooms.

We had plenty of lovely drinks to quench our physical thirst....
in addition to the wisdom shared and graces poured out to quench our spiritual thirst.

I doubt that many retreats have a "stroller corral" like ours!
It's awesome to have so many nursing moms bring their babies along for the weekend.

 Our retreat included Adoration, Confession, Benediction, the Rosary, Mass, a talk by a beautiful wise homeschooling mom, a craft, social time, personal prayer time, meals (which we didn't have to cook or clean up after!), and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.


 Our speaker reminded us to slow down, be still, and be attentive to God's presence and guidance.... that we must remove ourselves from busy-ness and non-essential distractions in order to be faithful to the mission God has given us. Our true thirst is for Him. And as we strive to quench the thirsts of our spouse and children, we need to make sure that we ourselves are not parched. Just as our bodies need eight glasses of water a day in order to function well and be healthy, so our souls need plenty of Living Water every day. Do we make spiritual activities and prayers an essential part of our day so that we can drink deeply from the Living Water and then give drink to others? When we give water to the thirsty we are engaging in a Corporal Work of Mercy. How can we be more deliberate about quenching the thirst in our souls and those around us?

We were truly inspired and challenged!

We got to design a mug to take home as a keepsake from the retreat.

Thank you, God, for the opportunity to spend this time with my sisters and with you. Please bless us all as we begin this new school year. May we turn to you to quench the longings in our spirits. May we be true to our vocations as evangelizers of your Good News. Amen.

Psalm 63
O God, you are my God -
it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless,
and without water.
I look to you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory.
For your love is better than life
my lips shall ever praise you!
I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.
My soul shall be sated as with choice food,
with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!
I think of you upon my bed,
I remember you through the watches of the night.
You indeed are my savior,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek my life will come to ruin;
they shall go down toe the depths of the netherworld!
Those who would hand over my life to the sword
shall become the prey of jackals!
But the king shall rejoice in God
all who swear by the Lord shall exalt,
but the mouths of liars will be shut.