Fresh off of our fall break and with the holidays approaching quickly, I could not think of a better time to take a bird’s eye-level assessment of our homeschool this year.
We are moving forward well and feeling the sense of ease that comes from allowing the Lord to take on our burdens. I say that because, from my point of view, I am sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the weight of life around me. I think I am seeing the first stages of my “change of life” to come; I can count the number of nights in the last few months that I have slept the entire night. As these hours of wakefulness occur around 3-4 a.m., I am a basket case when I should be up at the normal start of day (7:30-8-ish). Wisdom would say that I should just get up when I wake up and make good use of the time. The problem is that our son does not get out of college until 1:45 in the afternoon, which means Bible study and our family read-along happen after 2 p.m. That is the height of my fight-this-crash-and-burn point in the day. I find myself zonked out (25-cent word there, huh?) on the couch for an hour or so after school while I try to regroup for the evening shift.
In spite of all that, school is going pretty well!! That is why I say that we are being carried in the grace of God; left to my own devices, I would be too “out of it” (another 25-cent word) to function effectively right now.
Our living books this year have been tremendously rewarding—at least for me. Our family read-along is The Narrow Road by Brother Andrew and John and Elizabeth Sherrill. I bought this book perhaps as far back as 10 years ago at the indirect suggestion of Sally Clarkson, but never found the right time to read it to the children. After we finished the “Lost Years of Merlin” series on last school year, I really had no clue as to which way to go, or even if it made sense to continue with family read-alongs given the changes to our schedule with growing children. Yet, I am glad that I did not abandon our collective reading time before we opened this one. It just seems so appropriate to read of this man’s journey into post-World War II countries that were behind the Iron Curtain to preach the Gospel, especially when I parallel his teenage years to our son’s season of life right now.
I still am not sure that The Last of the Mohicans is the right book for the high school history curriculum I am currently writing. I wanted to capture the life of the Native American in early American history through a high school level reader. Honestly, it took me a few minutes to adjust to the vernacular of The Last of the Mohicans (what does that say about how “dumbed down” information is normally fed to us)! I am still toying with the value of the unabridged version versus one that might make this tale more bite-sized, so to speak, but still good. Nevertheless, I thought our son and I might enjoy this classic in its fullness (to his utter dismay) before I take on the task of finding a shorter version, or a different book altogether.
Napoleon’s Buttons is my choice of a supplement to make chemistry for meaningful for our son, along with The Elements. After all of my deliberations about which chemistry curriculum to use for our 11th/12th grader, I returned to Apologia. This text seems to be a better fit for him than it was for our daughter. Yet it certainly does not live up to the expectations set by the elementary and middle school series. Napoleon’s Buttons can get bogged down in the chemical make-up of any compound (ex. several pages on the different chemical mechanisms that can form various sugars), but it also introduces the reader to a whole new, fascinating history of those same compounds. No wonder its subtitle is “17 Molecules that Changed History.”
We are moving steadily through the second look at Jewish laws presented to us in Deuteronomy. I will perhaps blog about that later.
Perhaps the most challenging area for me right now is adjusting to our youngest, who is a very different little kid than her older siblings. It occurs to me that there are marked differences between kids who have been a part of a traditional school system and then come home, versus kids who have been homeschooled from the start. Her expectations of what she is doing versus what she thinks her friends are doing tend to overshadow everything we do, and I am not sure how to marry what she wants and expects with the realities of school and learning. Nor do I think I should have to—at least that is how I feel on most days. But my heart is to have her enjoy school, at least most of it if not all, and leave this environment with a thankful heart. What I see most often is a sense of relief that the school day is over and a reluctance to do things that have even a hint of academia (like reading or writing) associated with them. When our older two were smaller, we took more field trips; we cooked, and we played games in the backyard (despite their protests). Now, with one that has a foot in college and the other here at home, a husband who lives out of a suitcase, and a full evening schedule between dance practices and church youth services, I cannot think of how to squeeze in one more thing. And I do not know what to leave behind. My overall thought is that if I can push through this year, I will have an opportunity to focus more on her middle and high school years. I think what is missing most—for me, not for her—is some much-needed reflection time, as well as the time I once spent “visiting” others’ blogs for creative ideas. I perhaps need to make more deliberate trips to “see” some of my favorite online friends.
I am definitely at a sweet spot with our high schooler—that place where information leaps past the page and becomes food for discussion. History, the sciences, literature, and even (occasionally) math all come together and make for great conversations. In fishing vernacular, they call it a “honey hole,” i.e. a slang term used to describe an area containing big fish and/or a high number of fish—the fishermen’s dream. As one example, he was discussing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was on our reading list at home, but his college class is covering it. He mentioned that Huck was chastised for not reading Don Quixote, another read-along that we covered years ago—disastrously, I thought. Thank God for the vision, or perhaps sheer stubbornness, to press onward. That might also be the ultimate answer with the youngest—just press onward toward the next honey hole, wherever it may be.