a glimpse inside our homeschool


Idyllic fall weather today.  Gave the 4th-grader a light checklist for school, with more reading than writing, and explicit instructions that he might find himself a quiet seat outside, rather than being stuck indoors on such a lovely day.  Girls made leaf-beds under one of the maples, and hosted a granola-bar picnic.

Also discovered the kids’ Spanish DVD I brought home from the library isn’t that great for beginner readers: the format depends on being able to read the English subtitles while the Spanish is spoken, but it moves to quickly for a 2nd-grader who is still a slow sounder-outer.  DVD in question is Spanish for Kids: The Fun and Easy Way to Learn Spanish*, issued by Language Tree.  Will return it and fetch a copy of Hola, Los Amigos, which is the one I wanted anyway but it wasn’t there when I went out with SB the other morning.  I’ve liked the French counterpart to that one (Bonjour Les Amis) — campy, as the genre almost always is, but accessible to young children, and strong on teaching good pronunciation.  I’ll tell you how Hola goes, once we get it in hand.

So what sparked the sudden interest in Spanish?  A scheduling problem. This past Sunday, Aria had a couple of conflicts (all good, Sunday-appropriate activities), such that her strong preference was to attend the 2pm Mass.  Which is in Spanish.  Like most 2nd-graders, she knows almost no Spanish.  (Hola, Adios, and that about sums it up.)  But no skin off my back — my Spanish is lousy, but I can follow the Mass with the help of a missal, the music is fun, and anyway I’d already been to an English Mass earlier in the day, so I’d gotten my dose of comprehensible edification.

So we went.  And she fell in love.  Her belovedly-glamorous CCD teacher was there, the girls from her class got to do the offering — not just bring up the gifts, but actually take the collection! — and then there was Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Just the statue that travels from home to home each week, but I mentioned to her afterwards the music & dancing (and eating!) at that festival, and she wanted so much to be one of those girls who gets to put on the spectacularly colorful and flouncy costumes and *perform*, or maybe one of the kids who gets to be in the passion play that day . . . . and in order to do all that, you must learn Spanish.

***

In other news: It turns out I did not lose Volume III of Mary, Mother of the Son!  SuperHusband inadvertantly took it, instead of Volume I, with him on a business trip.  So now it is back in my hands, and I am taking advantage of gorgeous weather and deep laziness to plow through the remaining pages.   Excellent reading.  I will tell you more when I write up the official review, but I hold with my ‘buy’ recommendation.

***

* FYI: Learning a foreign language is neither fast, nor, when you get into the depths of it, overly-fun.  Learning a few basics — yes, that part is fast and fun.  The idea of learning a language is absolutely delightful. The excitement of the initial quick progress, the joy of suddenly being able to make sense of what was previously incomprehensible? Very fun. And it takes very little skill in order to bumble one’s way through a foreign country as a tourist — a few key phrases and you’re in good shape — so all that is tons of fun.

(Indeed, the ability to speak the language poorly is quite helpful — quickly gets the native to slow down and say only very basic things.  Or even offer to speak some other language that you might know better.)

But the long, frustrating slog to fluency can drive one to tears. The many months if not years of being able to understand some but not all, say quite a bit but never quite be able to say what you want to say, when you want to say it . . . that gets old.  And then there’s the pure *work* of it, having to push the brain that wants to rest.  Not that I suppose you’d sell many books or DVD’s with an honest, “Spanish: The Long, Slow, Painful, but Ultimately Useful Way” for a title.  But I do rather prefer it when a publisher at least discretely leaves the topic alone, rather than building false hope.

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You may recall the agony we went through in early September, when a certain three-year-old learned that, yet again, she would not be attending dance class.  The weekly drama as older sisters rode off in the carpool was so heartbreaking that I actually considered enrolling the child.

Fortunately, I am married to the SuperHusband.  Who brilliantly proposed: Why not give her chocolate milk?

After a month’s trial, we can confirm the SuperHusband’s brilliance.  Promised a cup of chocolate milk every week *just as soon as the big kids leave for class*, our preschooler has lost all interest in studying ballet.  No more tears, no more pleading, just a cheerful “bye kids” and then, “look, I’m in my seat, ready for my chocolate milk.”

Hurray.  Suits me.

****

Quiet weekend here, by the way.  I firmly resolve to direct my goofing-off towards actually reading all the words in the volume 3 of Mary, Mother of the Son, so that I can report back with a review soon.  (Though you already know the answer: order it.)

Started the new school year yesterday.   So far so good.

Mr. Boy & I are starting up a massive Latin review, as we realized we hadn’t quite mastered our lessons from last year.  Fun — I mean that.  Also this year we’re doing a year-long unit on just warfare, waging peace, legitimate self-defense, and conflict resolution.  Combination of thelogy and history.  (Literature tie-in: Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series.)  Way cool, I’m super excited and both of us are already enjoying it.

Happy to report that a year of Spelling Power, the boy’s first year of formal spelling study, has pushed him up two grade levels on the placement testing from this time last year.  Turns out that study and practice can be good for you ; – ).

Aria is doing a heavy push on reading skills as she enters second grade — she’s a definite beginner reader still.  At her request we’re also starting ASL this year, which I took a couple classes on when I was younger, but still have much much much to learn.  All kids are doing that, and so far so good.  All children are also in for intense penmanship training — they have nature and nuture both working against them in that department, and it’s evident we need to take radical action to counteract the forces of illegibility.

Discovered the Bun is definitely a right-hander (had my doubts).  She is thrilled to be K, and begs to do her princess math book every day.    Startling to have a kindergartener again, and see both how much a little one has to learn, and see that fresh enthusiasm for school.  Delightful.

Andabel of course was indignant that any suggest she *isn’t* in school.  So she sits at the table and pitches fits when I won’t give her magic markers.  I don’t care if they are “washable”, you’re only 3, you get washable crayons, darling.

And all this is pretty much got me consumed.  Skipped fighter practice tonight (SCA – fencing!) even though I really really want to get back to learning (have been away due to the summer vocation and vacation combination), because I just have sooo much to do before tomorrow morning.  Like sit around and breathe, lol.  And get children to bed.  And then actual work, too.

So that’s the news for this week.

The vocation goes well, in a crazy, overwhelmed kind of way.  Finished school last week, Superhusband, big kids & I went to an archery event over the weekend, then big kids went off to camp Sunday evening.  First time for them, but it’s a local place where multiple friends are working or attending (including my #1 all time awesome highly-recommended babysitter, who is Aria’s counselor for the week).  So it’s not quite like ‘going away’ the way camp can be.

Meanwhile, supposedly I’m cleaning the house the week.  Dragged my way through Monday, still tired from the weekend (up waaay too late), plus took two little girls swimming.  Tuesday was grandma day, today after a short cleaning fest we took the Bun out to lunch with her best friend, in observance of her birthday.  More cleaning this afternoon, I guess.  Tomorrow, cleaning fest continues, maybe another swim, and an evening meeting to plan for Vacation Bible School.

(Yes! I am teaching VBS.  Big kids.  I get my 5th graders from CCD last year, plus the rising 5th graders.  Woohoo!  Okay, and let’s admit it, those peppy tell-it-like-it-is VBS songs really are the ticket when you are immersed in the depths of grief or despair.  Makes sense — kids need songs that fit their world, and their world is even crazier and out-of-their-control than the adult world.)

So goes life.  I repent of ever trying to do a book review during the spring and summer months.  Cleaning fest keeps getting set aside for Yard Fest and Garden Fest, plus Fitness Fest and I’m not sure what else.  Reading time just.isn’t.there.   Something to look forward to now that the days are getting shorter again — evenings inside, curled up with a good book.  Months from now, of course, but a little something to take the edge off that darkness I don’t otherwise enjoy.

–> The angel book really is very good.  And has been an immense help in my spiritual life these last few days.  But not light reading, and right now my brain is all about light.  Full review coming just as soon as I’ve completed the thing.   You can go ahead and get yourself a copy, it’s a safe buy.   Rock solid.

Hope you’re having a good summer (or winter as the case may be), and I’ll check in again now and then to keep you updated on where we are.  Meanwhile, lots of great other sites out there to keep you entertained.

So Mr. Boy received the gift of cardboard this afternoon — enough, he tells me over chocolate pudding, to make a ladder to the top of Mt. Everest.  Much happiness, and then some speculation on when the Everest climbing season begins (I never kept track), and his mother allows that she does not want him climbing Everest, but it might be fun to visit Nepal.

Nepal?  What’s that?

Time to pull out the globe.  “It’s north of India,” I tell him.  He starts scanning the area all around India.  “North,” I remind him.  “Which way is north?”

I am certain he can answer this.  And yes, he can.  With complete confidence, he turns around and points to the backyard.

Last week Mr. Boy was sick.  Pathetic little child, looking up at me with mournful eyes whenever I asked him to do something.  A child too sick to want to read about late-period Roman Infantryman.  That is one sick boy.

So I let him play video games.  All day.

Now you should understand the video game situation in our home.  Several years ago,  a beloved relative gave us one of those little things that plugs into your TV and you can play 80’s-style Atari-knockoff games.  In a rare fit of lucidity I did not donate it after the mandatory post-Christmas waiting period.   Probably thanks to pleading on the part of the SuperHusband, and extreme smallness on the part of the game.

Mr. Boy got to play shark-shark once about two years ago, and other than that, our little zombie-generating* device has lived a quiet existence in a dark corner of the kids’ closet.   My poor child.  He goes to his grandmother’s house to practice on her playstation so that he is less embarrassed at his gaming skills when he visits friends.

But last week the child was just miserable.  So we dug out our little electronic blast from the past (which he found without difficulty, curiously, though I myself couldn’t remember if we even owned it anymore) and I let the boy play.  As much as he wanted.

[Well, okay, I made him quit when he started to get that hunched-over posture you may have noted in your most rabid gaming-fan friends.   And yes, I told him that was exactly why I was making him turn it off.  You didn’t think I was suddenly getting all tactful, did you?]

Did the trick.  Kept him quiet and rested, he got better, game went back into the closet for another few years.  All’s well that ends well.

***

So then, I got sick.  Mmmn, lovely.  Was glad I had been merciful on the child, once I got my taste of his sufferings.  So Monday morning, ’bout time to start school, and I tell the kids, “Listen, remember last week when Mr. Boy was so sick I let him play video games all day?  Because he felt so bad he just didn’t want to do anything at all?  That’s how I feel.  You can do pretty much whatever you want, as long it is safe, there’s no fighting, and you clean it up afterwards.”

Hands rubbing with glee.  Eyes lighting up at the prospect of getting into all kinds of usually-restricted activities.   And then my sweet little boy says, “Mom, you want me to set up the video games for you?”

*********************

*I don’t know if it has a zombie game on it.  What I mean is, it turns your family members into zombies.

Finally got Prince Caspian DVD last Friday – takes awhile when you are tenth in line for the requests at the library. Good movie; not unlike the Lord of the Rings movies, or The Sound of Music, it is important not to think about the book too much while watching the film.

So the other day, Mr. Boy comes to me – having finally decided to start schoolwork after quite a lot of getting ‘carried away’ through the morning – in search of a penmanship sheet.

“I gave you one this morning.”

“It disappeared.”

Disappeared, eh?

And this is when I realized we were living in Narnia ourselves.  Aslan having opened the hole in the tree, and things from one world vanishing as they travel to the next.

Understandably, things from Mom World are always trying to get back home.  After all, they feel quite out out place as they fight against the forces of all that is good and right in Mr. Boy’s World.  Homework list, penmanship sheet, literature book – these are constantly trying to make holes in Boy World and slip out into the nether regions of the universe.

Luckily I have special powers, and was able to re-open the door between worlds – in this case by moving the laundry hamper on his bed (do not ask why there is a laundry hamper on his bed, it makes sense in his world)– and pull the lost papers back into Boy World.

But they’re only visiting.  Soon enough they’ll have to be called back to Mom world, before they accidentally slip away again.

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