What inspires us to be patriotic?  A shared heritage? Traditions?  Culture?  Shared goals and thoughts towards the future?

Our citizenship within our families is all of those things. Are you nurturing the same? I’ve seen strong families bonded by sports, by board games, by a love of reading, by debate and discussion, by quirky sense of humor.   Find it – those things that make your family special and nurture those characteristics.  Seek out ways to continue to grow and nourish a strong family culture and traditions – somber as much as fun and carefree.  Both are treasures.

One of the greatest blessings to our family has been our introduction to board games…. Traditional American games like Sorry! and the more popular Euro games like Catan that are catching on everywhere.  This has especially been a great way to connect with our teens – to set aside and carve out time to spend with them.

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I cannot emphasize enough to you that beginning traditions in which your older children and their friends can participate has great value.  So often we invest in teaching our littles and spending time with them, that we just aren’t sure how to change and continue family traditions when they get older.
Eurogames are more expensive than traditional games, however, we think they are a worthy investment.  They are a great gift idea for grandparents, family gifts, and collections.
Our favorite family games: If you’re looking into branching out, try Catan.  It is a great intro game and has many extensions to encourage new and exciting scenarios.  When you’ve advanced beyond Catan, our current favorite is Agricola.  Our older kids love Seven Wonders and Dominion.  For the younger set?  Ticket to Ride!  This is one of my husband’s favorite games.  Pictured above is Carcassone.  This is a game my husband and I play almost every morning over coffee.  We think it makes a cute couple game… As long as you aren’t too highly competitive.  And if you are (I am) then it’s a good start to learn to play for joy.

Sunshine.  A mudroom.

Recently I’ve seen discussion about homes – what one person loves, what one doesn’t.  My husband would adore a reason to build a house.  What he loves best?  Trees.  And while we are planting madly, they unfortunately do not grow overnight.:/ Imagine that.

I adore my mudroom.  It’s filthy.  I have no pictures of it.  It needs painting.  The dogs stay there.  Really it’s awful from an outside perspective.  But you know what it does?  It contains DIRT!  It keeps boots!  It keeps chore coats!  Best. Space. Ever.

This is my favorite space in our house.  See that sunlight?  After four years of living in the PNW, I discovered something important about myself.  I am a sunshine girl.  I wither without sun.  We had to knock down a wall to make this work and a big shout out to the contractor  at the little taco joint who donated all the tables to me during a remodel – right time, right place.  But this space really works for us.  We spend about 90% of our daylight hours in the house in this room.

 

frontroom

I was blessed last evening to listen to Delectable Education’s Way of Will and Reason podcast.  What a blessing.  I wish every parent and educator could listen to that one podcast.  I think what I appreciate most about the podcasts at Delectable Education must be the multi-generational points of view.  I have just discovered them and they have quickly become my favorite podcast.

So for a long while, the blog was essentially sharing and a podium.  I began a blog way back when Homeschool Blogger was new and growing. I think the year was 2004?  We had five kiddos then and had been homeschooling for a few years. Then, when I began True Vine Herbs, a blog was a great way to build a customer base.  More than that, I wanted it to chronicle what we were doing… Mostly because I was challenged to keep a journal.

Now, frankly, I see the blog being for me.  As we transition from a more traditionally classical approach a la The Well Trained Mind to Ambleside, I feel the need for sharing and accountability in the hopes that we, as homeschool moms, can learn from one another.  I’ve enjoyed what experienced moms, like Cindy Rollins, have to share just as much as I appreciate the eager enthusiasm of younger homeschooling mamas like Sarah Mackenzie.  I’ve had a foot in each community, dabbling, for a very long while.  It seems as though our home education has morphed through the years to meet the needs of the teacher – namely me😉 and each successive oldest child.  Our oldest is at university now, studying Educational Psychology.  She’ll be a senior in the fall which simply amazes me.  Our second is dual enrolled, being both schooled at home and attending our community college.  He is a junior currently and enrolled in Project Lead the Way as well as Comp II.  And now my “oldest” is another daughter who loves literature, music, and lovely things.  I’m blessed that the two current oldest being educated at home are both girls who love spending time together, and while each is uniquely gifted, one extraordinarily artistic with a deep appreciation for nature, the other gifted in home arts with a contagious joy for family and home, both share a love for books and beauty.

It’s been an exciting Spring here.  We’ve planted a pear tree, blueberry bushes, and dug out a fire pit.  This is the apple tree we planted last year for Mother’s Day.

appletree

Okay, so that’s really a gratuitous shot to show off my kids.  I can’t help that.  That’s a mama’s right.  The little apple tree was about 6′ tall and she’s been joined by six more as well as two pears. We have visions of making cider with the imaginary grandkids dancing through our heads… Planning ahead.😉

Now if only the weather would cooperate and let us play out of doors all day!  We’re still awaiting the return of our swallows.  This will be our third spring in this house and they’ve shown up each year at about this time.

swallows

We’ve also been spending a lot of time transforming the basement from this:
basementzero

to this:

basement1.jpg

Then, with the help of a talented friend:

basement3   windowcutie

We’re getting there, slowly but surely.  This has been our biggest DIY project to date except the kids.😀

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We’re getting there. Remodeling is being put on pause this summer while we focus on the garden, the yard, and some pretty flowers to attract more birds and butterflies.  I only wish we were far enough from the fields to have bees.  Sigh.  I have fond memories of my Grandpa having hives at his house.

Spring is being evasive today… She’s hiding behind rain clouds.  I’m taking the day as a read aloud and photography day.  Have a blessed day.

 

It has been a long while since I posted. Once in 2012?  Really?  Once since 2013?  Wow.  Time has been flying by.  We added Catherine Margaret in 2013 and William in 2014.  Our oldest, Ana, graduated in 2014 and is now a student at the university, planning on her undergrad in Psychology and Masters in Speech Pathology and Communication Disorders.  Crazy how time just marches on….

A recent picture:

family

I have felt incredibly compelled over the past few months to begin writing again.  I’ve seen, in the last year, how young homeschooling mothers are coming forward and ministering to the homeschooling community as a whole and I applaud them.  The question has been asked on forums though…. Why?  Why are young homeschooling moms coming forward to teach the young mothers?  Where are the older women?  Why aren’t they teaching?

This thought dwells in my mind.  Perhaps it’s because the older mothers know how life has humbled them and are hesitant to offer teaching and advice?  Perhaps they know that young mothers have to find their own way, sort through their own crazy mess, walk their own journey.  I’ve always said I’d rather have close friends who can see my shortcomings than admirers I keep at a distance so they can’t see my failings.

So, when asked, what one tidbit would I want to gift young homeschooling mamas with?

Homeschooling is a lifestyle.

Exactly that.  Homeschooling is a LIFESTYLE.  It’s been said it is not school at home, and it most certainly isn’t.  I couldn’t emulate school at home if I WANTED to, but more importantly, I don’t WANT to.  I’ve been blessed to be the mother of my little tribe, the mother, not the teacher.  The public school system is a false world.  The family was / is the masterpiece of God Himself, created by Him, one man, one woman, together as one, gifted with a human child with souls.   They are created in His image.  The Christ child was part of a family.

Mother!  Don’t foresake the family for some poorer substitute.  If you are so very gifted as to be able to homeschool, EMBRACE that gift.  My littlest children will never remember the little school desk we had for Ana.  They will never remember an 8:00 AM start time, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and oodles of busywork.  They won’t because I’ve abandoned it for something better, something genuine.  I still wholeheartedly embrace a rigorous learning environment!  I just do it better than the way I was educated, teaching, learning, reading, sharing, throughout hours spent together in our home.  We homeschool, not between the hours of 8:00 and 3:00, but as a lifestyle.

We are blessed.

 

We’re HOME again.   While we loved our time in Oregon and adored the people we met, we are so grateful to be back in the Midwest.

Family.

 

It’s something created, by God, maintained, imperfectly, by people, to nurture and love and correct and grow people.    It isn’t just to grow and nurture tiny people… it’s meant to care for adults and seniors as well.   It is a long term commitment – the longest  you’ll ever make, from birth until death.

Relationships take an incredible amount of work, devotion, and effort.  I suspect distance has allowed me to view family relationships from a distance without as much effort and it has been good for me.   I’m grateful for the people in my life from whom I’ve learned.  Life is such a learning process.  I’m becoming very aware of how much I still have to learn.

 

Keep sanctifying me Lord.

Do you remember that June 2009 post?  Meh. Probably not.  But it was the year I left behind all of my former best laid plans and moved to file boxes and folders to organize the children.  (Of which there are now 10.  It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.)😉

Well, recently on The Well Trained Mind forums, I came across someone’s post outlining how she plans.  She mentioned she puts together spiral bound books of their work.  Genius!

Please, imagine for me if you will, a Monday where no mother has to hunt for workbooks, search for papers, frantically make photocopies, and then get everyone seated around the table (again) because Mama had to run off and do these things so they scattered to the far reaches of the house.   That’s right!  Plop down on one book and you are ready for Table Time.  Table Time is when the entire family (current baby included) sits at the table and works quietly.  It’s something to aim for, train for, achieve.  It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile!

Without further ado, this is what I had yesterday morning:

Before photo planning_zpsb97641db.jpg

It was as simple as:

1. Make a resource list. List every subject you do and every resource you use for that subject.
2. From that list, make a list of everything that gets copied or comes in a workbook form.
3. This is now your list of what to include.
4. Now, pull out anything that needs photocopied and make detailed notes on a Post It. This should include how many copies, who it is for, and whether they are single or double sided. (Divide single side and double side into two piles.)
5. Design a cover page and dividers.
6. Are there additional resources you want pulled in?
Ideas might be: IEW checklists, math tables or charts, a reading log, assignment sheets, etc. We have a chart in there for All About Reading for consistency in the little kids’ books.

You’ll then have this:

 photo pile_zps6f293f5c.jpg

– Head off to the printer’s.
7. Decide the order in which they go.
8. Make copies.
9. Divide them up and put them together.
10. Drill and add spiral.

Finally!  You’ll end up with this:

 photo binders2_zps4f26003f.jpg

So far I have been asked the following questions and I’ll include them here for convenience sake.

Q. Is it all mixed up or in subject order? How do you find the exact page you want?

A. They are divided by simple pages that just have WEEK 1, WEEK 2, etc on them. I’m going to add labeled tabs so we can “quick turn” to each.

I didn’t go in daily work because there are days we don’t get everything done and then I get snippy and perfectionistic. I’m not setting myself up for that. So they are divided by weeks and by subjects for the little folk – 5yo, 6yo, and 8yo.

For the 9yo and the 11yo I am dividing by weeks, but dividing the subjects up into daily chunks within the weeks. I wanted to do it this way with the littles but I had been at the printer for HOURS at that point and wanted to be done. Now I can’t decide which I’d prefer for them but I know I want it like this for the girls mostly because they are more independent and can work through a day’s worth of work with minimal guidance from me. “Do the next thing” philosophy is kicking in on those workbook-y things that they can do themselves.

Q.

Love it!

Did you include your math and CLE sheets in there?

A.  Yes on the CLE sheets but no on the math.  When I make the switch to Math Mammoth (when it goes on sale next month at HBC) I will include them as well.  I wouldn’t recommend the CLE though – it did NOT play nicely!  The sheets are thin and not quite the right size so it took some effort to get them lined up.

Q.

Where did you get this idea? It looks fantastic!

A.

The idea was in a planning thread from a few years ago where I caught that someone else had just put everything into one big book.

Comment:

Those came out great!

One thing I also do is have my dd sign her book so I have a record of her signature.

My comment: Great idea!

Q.

Can I ask how you ordered the sheets?  By day’s worth of subjects, or by chunks of subjects?

A.

I went to the UPS store yesterday thinking it would take an hour.  It took four.  So, by the end, I just grouped it by subject per week in the books for my littles – they are 5yo, 6yo, and 8yo.  So, for example there is a big blank sheet that says:  WEEK 1, followed by the WWE sheets (redone in StartWrite to have italics copywork), then all my CLE sheets, SOTW activity sheets, ETC, BibleScribe, Christian Kids Biology, etc in chunks.  I don’t like it and I’ll change it, but frankly I was exhausted.

I can still change it though – the spirals come out easy peasy so if I get motivated today while I do NOTHING but sit, lol, I can organize it better.

However, I have my 9yo and 11yo still to bind and that’s going in DAILY order, still divided by the weekly separation sheets.  They have the addition of weekly assignment checklists and a planner area that they record exactly WHAT they did that day.  It’s my goal of training them towards good record keeping.  My oldest DD tracks everything in Homeschool Tracker (she’s my Type A girl) and it’s just so much easier to have them be accountable for this.

Q.

Very nice! I am interested in more details too!  Did you take it somewhere to have it done or did you do it all on your own at home?

A.

I did some of it at home.  I burned a CD of my downloads and went through them and found out what pages I wanted printed of each.

Some things, like Christian Kids Bio and SOTW, I needed everything printed of Units/Chapters 1-8 for Liz and for Rebecca, but I needed 4 extra copies of coloring pages for Tim, Abbie, Sarah, and Ella.  My post it notes made it SO much easier when I got to the copier.  Make notes of things like single sided and double sided and separate things that are both.  For example, in WWE 4, you have some pages that are double sided.  Those should be pre-pulled and marked double sided.  It’s a LOT easier to do before you get there. I took over one table and one copier.  You might call around and find out if anywhere in your area gives an education discount and ask for homeschoolers.  A very kind homeschooling mama told me about our local UPS store (one does honor homeschoolers and one does not) that does single side copies for three and half cents.  I was thrilled.   The girl behind the counter did my binding.  *But* apparently you can “drill” the holes all for free and the spirals are re-useable and cheap.  So, don’t let that be inhibitive.

Comment and Q.

The two threads I’ve seen about this are:

http://forums.welltr…t-spiral-bound/

http://forums.welltr…ther-materials/

This would also work well with the infamous Filing System — I’m thinking of printing and filing by subject, and then making 2-6 weeks worth of booklets at a time, incase things don’t go according to schedule.

My Response:

I think my blog was one of the first to switch from WorkBoxes to Filing.

http://truevineherbs…-for-workboxes/

That was 2009.  It still gets a fair amount of hits, lol.  Maybe I should update? ;)

If you look at the first picture in this post, you’ll see I still have a couple of the file boxes, lol!

I was proud of myself for getting on this early, but apparently I always have.  That was June 30th. :D

Here’s my problem with the filing system – it’s too much for me.  It became too much bulk, too many folders, too much loose paper.  Now, granted, if you have 1-3 children, it might still work, ESPECIALLY if you want to file everything – three hole punch it and put it in binders a la TWTM book.   For me, a lot of those cute file boxes got used as step stools.  FYI, they don’t hold up great this way.  So, last year, in an effort to revamp, I went down to TWO file boxes with color coded quarterly folders and labeled them Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, etc.  It was okay.  It was nothing spectacular.  I still had a lot of loose paper.

So, something that’s relevant here:  I’m a clutter-phobe.  I have a serious issue with clutter.  This is really bad as a mom of ten kids, btw.  I think it makes me twitch to see “stuff” all over the place.  Not at other people’s houses, mind you.  I actually LIKE knick-knacks and pretty things at OTHER people’s houses.  Just not at mine.  I literally just packed away about 50% of the books I own so I don’t have to look at them this school year.  I’m thinking it wasn’t enough.  I have some nekkid bookshelves right now and I’m loving it.   It’s an illness, lol.  These books?  They’re my happy pill.

I wanted to share bits and pieces of a couple conversations I’ve had lately… I’m hoping it will be encouraging.

 

Some veteran homeschool mamas and I were chatting online and we have talked previously about the cycles homeschoolers go through.

 

August / September – I’m so excited!  I just KNOW a new schedule and X curriculum is going to solve the problem I had last year.

October – Keeping on.

December – Thank goodness for Christmas break.  School is still enjoyable, but just ready to take a break.

February – YOU WILL BE DISCOURAGED IN FEBRUARY.  And, strangely, it seems to NOT just be a PNW thing….  Many mothers switch curricula in February, convinced that the problem they are facing is definitely whatever they are using.

March  – Spring Break – you were planning on working through it in the Fall, but all of a sudden a little break seems like a good idea.

May – You work longer than expected in hope of finishing up something… Even the school system is guilty of not finishing the textbook you know.  Just sayin’.

July/August – The urge to start again is overwhelming. J

 

We’ve also noticed:

 

  1. You’ll know that one other homeschooler who always has it together at all times.  BTW, she doesn’t.
  2. You’ll know that homeschooler whose kids NEVER cause any issues, debate whether something is necessary, and her kids never dawdle.  First, she probably has been doing this for a while and has some tips to share, sincerely ask her to share and then listen to her.  Second, trust me, at some point in time her kids did dawdle, or debate something, or cause some kind of hub-bub. J
  3. You know the homeschooler who does it all and does a million outside activities as well.  It’s AMAZING!  She only has 24 hours in her day too.  Everyone has priorities.  Some of us do a lot in the home, some outside the home, but everyone has only been gifted with 24 hours.  Pray about what YOU should do with YOURS.  Our God is not a “one size fits all” God.
  4. Cover your decision to homeschool, or to public school, or to private school, or to co-op, or whatever YOUR family needs in prayer.  God can answer, “What should we do?”  Anxiety can’t answer that.  Worry can’t answer that.  Fear can’t answer that question.  God can.  And whatever HE says, obey.  His is not a spirit of fear or anxiety.  If you do not feel equipped or a friend is “advising” you, that is NOT relevant.  Only obedience is relevant.  Simply because God called a friend to do one thing does not mean He is calling you to the same.  See #3.

 

Finally, in a conversation with Kara the other day she mentioned Nehemiah and his task of building a wall.  She talked about how the people came to bother him, to keep him from his task.  But he had a task for God in front of him to complete.

 

This piqued my interest.  So this morning I looked it up.  I am sadly deficient in the OT.  I love Proverbs for teaching and Psalms for encouragement but I always find myself in the NT.  But this morning, I found myself in Nehemiah (thanks Kara) and loving it!

 

Nehemiah Ch:2

Nehemiah is finding himself heartbroken because the wall around Jerusalem is broken down.  He asks permission from the king to rebuild it.

 

Then as you read through Nehemiah, you find that as Nehemiah is working on building this wall, the people are angry and they want to stop the work.

 

They come to him four times and ask him to come to the village to meet with him so that he will stop working on the wall.   And yet he keeps building.  Then they come to him, charging him with revolting.   Another distraction!  No, no, it’s a rumor; he keeps building.

 

Then Chapter 6 v9 – I LOVED this!

“9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

How could he not be growing weary?  Discouraged?  He is facing much discouragement and opposition, many distractions, and everything is threatening to tear him away from this wall!  His answer?  He prays for strength.

 

In v15 the wall is completed.  The work is done.

And then is verse 16:

“16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”

 

In almost all things that are obedience to our beloved and living God, we will face opposition and hardship.

 

I hold tight to two verses:

~ James 1 ~

Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

 

The second verse is a gift to me from when we lost our daughter Hannah.  I learned that we can be comforted and that God absolutely used the comfort we have received to later comfort others.  I know this is absolutely true.

~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ~

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles,  so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are in distress, it is for your comfort and salvation.”

I know a few other truths:

 

  1. Homeschooling can be very challenging.  It is never, ever continuously easy.
  2. Parenting can be very challenging.  See #1
  3. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean stop IF God has called you to it.  This is why the decision to homeschool should be BATHED in prayer.  Have you heard the rule?  If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.
  4. Never do anything just because everyone else seems to…  Be it curriculum, outside activities, or anything else.  Pray.
  5. You’ll hit a wall.  Make cookies.  Take a break.  Breathe.  Pray.

 

 

I don’t believe all Christian families are called to school in the same way.  Nor do I believe all Christian families should look the same.  Our God must like differences; the sheer number of different butterflies is astounding! ;)  But I do know, that as Beleivers, we are called to three things:

 

Seek Him and His will

Obey

Give Him the glory for the wall so that others know He is God and He is mighty.

 

 

Hold tight to the truths.  There are days when you can’t see your path for the clouds and the fog.  (Also true in places other the PNW, lol.)  Those days you’ll desperately need to know those basic truths of why you are doing a particular task.  Because, had I been Daniel in the lion’s den I am certain I’d have been eaten.  After all, what lion doesn’t find a snack running around screaming, “This isn’t right?  This CANNOT be God’s will for me! I QUIT!” enticing?   Yum.

 

You’re going into a new school year.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  Rest in the task God has given YOU.   Seek Him daily.   Pray.  Recognize that anxiety is NOT from God.  Recognize fear is not from God.  When you have a question, it is good to seek wise counsel.  Seek it, however, “season” that counsel with the knowledge that we are not all called to the same journey and, again, pray.   Moreover, when seeking counsel, seek it from the older woman, seek it from someone who has older children, and you’d want to emulate the wall they have been building.  Do not ask your closest friend, she may not be the best counsel.   See 1 Timothy 3 in what an elder should be like and Titus 2 in what an older woman should be like to decide whether this is a good person to seek counsel from.   You’re seeking wisdom, not just advice or empathy.

 

There… My .02 and a few bucks might get you a decent cup of coffee.

 

There were so many hard days when we started homeschooling! Some days are still hard, but  I know now  they will pass.  I do wish someone had told me these things though, admittedly I don’t know if I would have listened.   Now, it is easier.  Instead of asking, “What am I doing wrong that this curriculum doesn’t work for me?” I am okay with the “best” curriculum not working.  The best curriculum isn’t the “best” when it sits on the shelf, unused and unloved.  Moreover, what is “best” is fickle.  Curricula changes as often as fashion.

 

A nap can sometimes be time well spent.  Staying home does give you more time.  Nobody can do everything and be everything.  You will fail.  It’s okay.  Tell yourself what you tell your kids, “Get up.  Brush off your knees.  It will happen again but you will be OKAY!”  Then what do you do?  You love on ‘em and send them off stronger and more capable and willing to try again.  Extend yourself the same grace you would extend a beloved friend if she called you on the phone after a hard day.  Love covers an awful lot of shortcomings.  If you find yourself crabby and impatient, make hot cocoa, turn on praise music and dance with your kids.  Kiss your husband.  Be grateful.  Be thankful. Pray.  These days often don’t feel like a gift, but they are.

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