Friday, June 30, 2017

Minimalism's Influence on Our Homeschool

   The minimalist's goal is to have only what you need or what you find truly beautiful and useful. As we keep simplifying the areas of our life over these last few years it was bound to creep into our homeschool choices. Spring 2017 I graduated my daughter, my middle son is starting 10th grade and my little is going to be 4. After a year of paring down to what we need for the last two, one looking at high school and the other the whole 13 years, we ended up with what we consider to be the perfect amount to school books/curriculum to use through the years. Most of the good books we have used throughout my daughter's school years are still on our shelves. We have access to a library and kindle books but some books or topics are much better when you hold them in your hands. I find books heavy in photos, maps, timelines, or often times books for little people are better in print. I also don't keep a bunch of books on my shelf that I can get at my library. The basic lists for us that reflect both my teaching style and their learning styles follows. Remember this is for MY children's entire schooling years not including books on kindle or at the library, your choices may be very different.

personal bible
100 verses to memorize
Bible Atlas and Companion
Food at the Time of the Bible by Vamosh
Daily Life at the Time of Jesus by Vamosh
The Kregel Pictorial Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times by Dowley
The Kregel Pictorial Guide to Church History by Hannah
The Feasts of Adonai by Moody
The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe
The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs by Knight
The Victor Journey through the Bible by Beers

The Good and the Beautiful History years 1-4(only 1 and 2 are available)and the corresponding read aloud books and games
Homeschool in the Woods timeline and figures

Language Arts
The Good and the Beautiful levels Pre-K through High school, any required reading books and quality literature that can't be borrowed from library or on a kindle.
(this curriculum covers spelling, reading, writing, grammar, art, and geography)

Math-U-See books, dvds, and manipulatives

Pre-K and Kindergarten we use Take-Along Guides for different groups of animals and the One Small Square books on different habitats
Apologia books, basic tools/experiment supplies(microscope, binoculars, bug jar, etc.), and a binder for each student for 1st through high school(tweaked to their learning style)
Field guides of trees, birds, plants, butterflies, bugs, weather, stars, etc.
Handbook of Nature Study by Comstock

As they have interest..... my one son is a boy scout and plays chess, does woodcarving, plays piano, and enjoys video games.
My daughter rides horse, spins wool, and crochets.
My youngest is raising three bantam chicks and helps his sister feed the animals.
As a family we go kayaking, hiking, and camping.

Our basic supplies:
tracing paper(used for geography)
mixed media paper(drawing, pastels, and watercolor)
copy paper
card stock
lined paper
pencil sharpener
colored pencils
chalk pastels
fine tip sharpies(great for maps and art projects)
tape/double stick tape
paper cutter and punch
glue/rubber cement
binder clips

So my list is not extreme minimalist but it does lay out a complete yet simple education for my students through the years. Simplifying our homeschool has made it more joyful, more productive, and more focused. I have been about quality books through the years. Books I even enjoy reading and using as an adult. No twaddle here!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Habits and Rhythms to Our Day-part 2

    Now for the practical stuff.... we all go through different seasons of life and we all have different priorities, jobs, skill set, etc. So I am going to give you MY practical and you can glean from it. So a typical week for us looks like this...
Monday I wake around 6 to make coffee and start my day. A brief trip to the bathroom to pat my hair down and wash my face before heading downstairs to boil the water for the french press coffee and take out the dog. A short devotion, prayer, and feed the dog. Then my husband and Little get up, brush teeth, wash face, get dressed, and come downstairs for breakfast. My husband goes out to take care of meat chickens, feed the wood boiler and back in to finish up before heading to work. I throw a load of laundry in, brush my teeth, get dressed, make the bed, and fill out my middle child's planner for the week. Start to get brunch ready for middle and oldest. Do a few activities with the Little(3). Other two join us to eat, finish caring for the other animals(2 cows, a goat, chickens in 2 places, rabbits, and 2 cats), and then thier school work. Change laundry. Help middle for about 30 minutes with math and science. At around 2:30 the Little gets crazy and occasionally naps but most often we go outside to play and explore. In summer it will flip and mornings will be outside and afternoons resting or playing games. Then my 2 oldest watch the youngest so I can make dinner. Daddy comes home, we eat, and relax together. Then to bed. Start all over again. The rest of the week I continue checking things off my mental list. The list is laundry, swish toilets, wipe sinks and mirrors, wash dishes, sweep, separate laundry, and general tidying. By the end of the week I am done with my list. I only put away my clothes and the Little's clothes; which is only about 40 items each. The Little helps with dusting, laundry, wiping down windows, cleaning off the table, putting away groceries, feeding the cats, and helping daddy. My middle and my husband put their own laundry away and my daughter often does her own laundry. My middle takes care of trash, recycling, collecting eggs, the dog poop, taking the dog out, taking the compost out, and some light gardening. My daughter cleans the hay room, takes care of cows/goat(grooming, trimming hooves, shots, etc.), her rabbits, and general maintenance on fences, hutches, etc. She has also helped with painting, gardening, and building things around the farm. As a family we cut, split and stack wood together. The weekend we either plan something fun or work on farm projects. Sunday afternoon every other week I do a little meal prep so I am ready for the next week. That could be making granola, chopping vegetables or fruit, making salad dressings, or mixing up meatballs or meatloaf. The children often take turns helping. We only shop every two weeks so my menu usually gets repeated the second week to make for easier shopping and cooking.  So that is the weekly. My daughter does work at a horse farm part-time at the moment but she now has her license and my middle has scouts and co-op once a week but other then the occasional appointment we are home. This is key to keeping things flowing. Don't have yourself or your family so busy all the time that you can't take care of the health, cleanliness, and rest that everyone needs.
    My monthly list- I wash the sheets, dust and sweep behind furniture, scrub shower/tub/sinks, and mop the floor. I do one of these each week spread over the month. These are all habits I have cultivated over the years. I gleaned from others and found what worked for me and my home. Since I do a swish and swipe throughout the week I find things don't get real yucky. You may find you need to do something more or something less depending on your family.
    Each season of life and each season in the year this gets tweaked slightly. But the rhythm and habits flow none the less. I hope that was helpful. I know it sounds silly to look at someone's simple day but often times it is just a reaffirmation to keep you motivated.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Habits and Rhythm to our Days

    I am going to start off by confessing I am by no means perfect nor have I "arrived". But I can tell you that I have grown and learned a lot on this journey of motherhood. Also MY way may not be your way but I hope to inspire you to always move forward from where you are in life. I have been homeschooling for almost 16 years. We have only lived in 2 homes in that time but they are very different in layout and function. Over the years I have learned how to best manage my time and my resources to make for easier days. We do not have a set schedule but we do have a calendar so we can record appointments, field trips, and seasonal things we need to accomplish. Most days we have a list to accomplish... some days it is simply the farm chores and other days it is tasks to work towards finishing a bigger project. Every time I struggled with an area as a mom I made a point to either embrace that season of life(if it couldn't be changed) or to find a better way to make things flow. Almost always did it start with ME learning a new habit that I then would teach to my children.
    I don't know about you but when I became a mom I quickly realized I better come up with a sane solution to "stuff" or I would quickly drown in it in a few years. So I first started down the "organize everything into bins" phase and "pass it on to other mommies" phase. After many years I realized that there is a better way... enter the journey into minimalism. By first glance I do not look like I manage a minimalist home but if you peel back the layers you will start to see... or not see certain items. I first make sure many things don't even enter my home and then I make sure that if it does enter it has a purpose or we find it worthy of taking up space. Watch Story of Stuff with your family and decide for yourself if this is a journey for your family. I can tell you that the less stuff you have the less stuff you have to maintain, clean, and find homes for. Keeping toys to a minimum also helps children complete their tasks of cleaning up and taking care of their belongings.
    Chores are a wonderful way to introduce your children to a solid work ethic. I never want my kids to just sit on the couch and depend on everyone else to DO for them when they can do for themselves. So even when they are little we teach them how to put toys back in baskets, how to make a bed, take care of personal hygiene, and care for a pet. As they grow their tasks grow as well. This is so very important for many reasons. They learn to take care of themselves and take responsibility for the material items they own. They also can be helpful to someone who is elderly, a neighbor, or someone in need including yourself when you get sick. My own children have learned how to cook, clean, organize, and manage their days. We also keep things kid safe with homemade cleaning supplies and Norwex clothes which just use water to clean.
    Meal planning has become very important to smooth days. I try to keep it very simple by keeping our meals simple and making many recipes twice. We shop every two weeks and often repeat a meal a second time the following week. Ours meals are mostly Paleo recipes using whole foods. Our grocery list is half vegetables, a few fruits, pasture raised meats, good fats, and some nuts. I meal prep on a Sunday afternoon which is essential for me to use up my groceries in a timely manner. I chop vegetables, marinate meats, mix up meatloaf or breakfast patties. Twice a year I mix up some "box" mixes for my teens or for when we have guests over. These DIY mixes in mason jars are for desserts, quick breads, muffins, or breakfast items for special occasions made with mostly organic ingredients. Recipes can be found for these and many other DIY recipes(cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc) in the book and site called Little House Living.  As children grow and learn safety they can help you in the kitchen. You can have a special day for making bread, mixing up baked oatmeal, trail mix for snacks, or dip for fruits and veggies. A few favorite sites for quick meals the Stone Soup and Paleo Hacks.
    We also keep our homeschooling minimalist so we can fill our day with practical learning. We find curriculum or ways to learn a subject that is simple and straight forward. We mostly follow a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. One of my favorite sites that talks more about keeping a simple homeschool is Salty Tribe. Our days flow naturally with appreciation of scripture, nature, music, art, and good literature. It fills our cup up.
    Lastly some tips on "mother culture". Mother culture is cultivating YOUR soul so you can tend to those of your children. Don't loose yourself when you become a mom. They will find you more interesting if you have passions and good habits of your own. Embrace you, your talents, your heritage, and your passions. These things will feed your soul. Sometimes we do go through seasons that make certain things hard; like exercise, morning devotions, or hobbies that may be dangerous to little ones. But never loose it, always return to it or learn ways to cultivate with little ones in your presence. Over the years I have gone on scrapbook/creative weekends with friends, I learned to knit and crochet, took a quilting class and set time aside to sew at home. I block out a few hours a month for a meeting or coffee with a friend. I also make sure I get enough sleep, use an app to track my water intake, and exercise a few times a week. My husband and I plan a date night once a month. The last one we stayed home and he made dinner. Other times we have gone for a hike, stargazed, or worked side by side on the farm. This year we will use some of that time to can vegetables and work on our new bedroom/sanctuary.
    Next post I will give you some practically tips on the day to day for us; but for now....
    What does your family do to make the rhythm of the day or season flow? How do you cultivate new healthy habits? If you have questions please comment!