Off to College, Homeschooling, and the Jar of Joy

Flowers at a rest stop in Virginia

I’ll say right up front that I nearly took this week off of school. I knew we would be off Wednesday and Thursday dropping Makayla off at college 7 hours away. I knew the beginning of the week had all the last minute packing and preparations to do. I decided that the rest of the kids needed the comfort of routines, so school happened Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

Sibling tears over Makayla leaving began Monday night. It was hard. These children have spent more waking hours together than the average family because of homeschooling. This is an enormous blessing! They have strong bonds, know each other deeply, and have many memories together. The children at home have been praying for Makayla by name ever since she left, in every prayer.

The trip to Virginia was uneventful. Moving our daughter into her dorm, one last trip to WalMart to grab a few items, meeting her roommate, and then goodbye. We all cried. It was hard, but I know she is ready to thrive as a young adult.

One thing we did in secret in the weeks before Makayla left for college was gather notes from people who know and love her. We made her a “Jar of Joy”. The idea was simple, there were five categories for notes, each printed on a different color paper. There are enough notes in the jar for Makayla to read one every day for the entire first year of college. The categories are:

  1. Memories – These all are memories of Makayla from across the years.
  2. Encouragement – These are favorite quotes, scriptures, and personal notes for Makayla. 
  3. Fun Facts – The topics range all over the place.
  4. Humor – Jokes or funny stories landed here.
  5. Just Because – This category was the catch all for anything that didn’t fit the other categories, and some things that would have fit other categories but were placed here by the person who wrote them ‘just because’. 
Thursday my husband and I drove home to Ohio. It is so rare for us to be able to spend 7 hours together without kids. It was a wonderful time. We talked, laughed, and dreamed together. We discussed each of our children in turn. We made plans for the future and reminisced about the past. We found Grandma holding down the fort with the nine children, then we got right back into the swing of daily life in a large family. 
Friday morning my husband was back to work and the kids and I were back to homeschool. We got subjects done early and headed out the door for Homeschool Book Club. This time we talked about The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Catling. It was a really fun book that is a spin on the tale of King Midas and the touch of gold. All the kids liked it. Our next book club title is Archimedes and the Door of Science, which fits in with our history study of Ancient Greece.

Saturday has started and we went to the post office, the library, returned the van we borrowed for the summer so we would have 3 vehicles, cleaned the church, and then grocery shopping. I’m going to go over next week’s homeschool lessons and then it will be time to cook dinner.

Happy End of the Week!

Pizza, Sunflowers, and everything in between

Rebekah helped herself to some cake this week.
She is quite the climber.

Another week has slipped by at our house. Sunday was peaceful. We enjoyed church as a family and spent the day together after that. I love our peaceful Sabbath evenings together.

Monday was full of homeschool lessons. We read great books. Art created. Group science was on the sense of smell, with lots of spices and essential oils to smell and identify. Math lessons went smoothly. It was just a normal, full morning. Then we played Ticket to Ride at the request of the 14 year old boy.

By late afternoon we were going through bins of clothing in the attic, seeing what fall/winter clothing we have for each child and what things we need. I made a list with sizes, details of what they have and need, and finished the process with 7 of the kids.

Joseph has been using chalk pastels regularly this week.

Tuesday school random notes:

  • Reading about lighthouses, Greek scientist Archimedes, levers, a circus, the sense of smell, microscopes, an elf in the mountains, microbiology. Reading poetry and discussing it. 
  • Microscope exploration for the biology students, learning parts and how to use the different objective lenses and focus. 
  • Math topics included adding and subtracting fractions, multiplication and negative numbers, skip counts, adding to make 10, simplifying and solving algebraic equations.
  • Language Arts included sentence diagramming, commas in a series, changing silent e words to -ing words and back, rhyme scheme and stanzas in poetry, homonyms, spelling, sentence dictation, challenging words (vocab), etc.
  • Handwriting. Lots of handwriting.

In the afternoon we got through the last two kids clothing bins. Rebekah napped. We made homemade pizzas for dinner.

One of the kids used a free coupon to rent Secret Life of Pets 2 and we watched it as a family after dinner. 

Wednesday we started school but then Makayla called for a video chat. When choosing between school work and relationships it was obvious – leave the school work on the table and chat from the couch. Again, this is a perk of homeschooling! We can put our priorities in the order we feel is best. Family comes before academics! Everyone spent time talking with big sister. I will never forget how excited Rebekah and Tobias were to see and hear Makayla. The rest of the kids are old enough to understand that Makayla will come back for visits. These two little ones are 1 and 3 and simply don’t understand. They were so happy, they had been missing big sister.

The rest of the morning was spent doing school. Today’s The Good and the Beautiful history lesson was about several famous Greeks. We read about them, placed them on our timeline, compared when they lived with other peoples and events we are familiar with, and talked about their contributions to the world. We only have one more lesson set in Ancient Greece before moving to Ancient China. If I get terribly energetic we may do an Ancient Greece themed art project.

I thought it would be fun to share a peek at the Good and the Beautiful Language Arts. One thing that I love about TGTB is that their language arts courses rotate your student through so many subjects. It is not just reading and writing. They integrate things so well. For example the geography/map work is related to the stories you are reading or the people who wrote the poetry/created the art/wrote the stories you are studying. Here are notes about what was covered today in the various levels my kids are in:

  • Spelling practice.
  • Sentence dictation.
  • Grammar definition card review.
  • Geography cards reviewed.
  • States/Capitals Ladder reviews.
  • Poetry memorization practice.
  • Reading aloud (elocution) in a variety of forms: poetry, story, vocabulary and definitions, factual information relating to geography, an artist’s experience as a POW in WWI, and an author.
  • Personal reading of stories set in several time periods and places, depending on the level.
  • Reading challenging words. 
  • Grammar/punctuation practice with focus on apostrophes, commas, dependent clauses, independent clauses.
  • Beginning to write a ‘How To’ Essay.
  • Learning about protagonists, writing about the protagonist in a story, creating a list of possible protagonists and their descriptions for a future writing project.
  • Mapping European countries (related to an artist whose work would be studied).
  • Observing a painting and then oral discussion of the painting.
In biology Joseph and Emma are finishing up the first module. We were reviewing some of the concepts in the chapter by doing the study guide questions. It is fascinating to see the difference between these two students. They approach, absorb, and interact with the information differently. 
The kids planted sunflowers this year. 
They are growing and blooming so the
kids brought a few in this week to enjoy.

Thursday’s school was peacefully uneventful. We followed our routines and the day went easily. In the late afternoon I loaded everyone up to take Joseph and Emma to the orthodontist for regular adjustments. I sit in the van with my car full of kids and we listen to an audio book while we wait. Joseph only has 2 appointments left before he gets his braces off, which he was excited about.

Friday is here and the afternoon is in progress. Kids are pursuing their own interests. Rebekah is napping. It is the end of the school week and it is wonderful! 

Summer Reading for Homeschool Moms TOS HwH Post

Have you been homeschooling for a while?
Or are you relatively new to the homeschooling world?
However you answer those questions, this blog post is for you. And let it be known that even if you have only been homeschooling for a week, that still counts as “a while” in the homeschool community!
You may have noticed that there is a TON of reading material aimed at encouraging new homeschoolers, but those resources sort of seem to dwindle away for those who have been at it for a decade or so. I think that is because those of us who are “veterans” work hard to encourage the new homeschooling families… But the truth is, we long-term, older homeschooling mothers need a hefty dose of encouragement on a regular basis as well!
That’s just one reason The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Homeschooling with Heart blog is so wonderful! It gives homeschoolers of all ages and stages the encouragement so desperately needed!
One of my life goals is to encourage homeschoolers. This lifestyle means so much to me that I continue to stay plugged-in and involved with the homeschooling community, even though all five of my children have graduated from our family’s homeschool, and have either graduated from college or are currently attending college. I know how vitally important regular (as in daily, when possible!) encouragement is, because I know how vitally I needed to be encouraged when my children were still at home.
One of the sources of encouragement for me involves the study of the lives of heroes of the faith, who have gone before me. The writers such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer and A.B. Simpson have served to push and to pull and to move me along, spurring me on to love and good deeds as I homeschooled for a quarter of a century.
And modern-day women of faith bless me in spades as I refer to their writing on a regular basis. Anne Graham Lotz, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Susie Larson and Joni Eareckson Tada are just a few of the authors I turn to on a regular basis as a source of encouragement in my daily life, as a follower of Jesus.
Let me note that these are in addition to my daily Bible reading, of course. They never replace my time in the Word of God–rather, they encourage me to be in my Bible even more often!
As we go through the month of May and move into the homeschooling rhythms of summer time, let me encourage you to create a summer reading list, Mom. One that encourages you as a Christian woman, and draws you closer to Jesus, as well as strengthens you for your task as a homeschooler.
Have a wonderful, encouraging month of May!

Never, Ever Forget that The Lord Has Amazing Promises For YOU

Not a super-duper long post today.

Just sharing a Facebook Live that I did recently.

I hope it blesses you and reminds you of something amazingly good…like how much the Lord has planned for you 🙂

And be sure to find me on Facebook if you’d like to see more stuff like this ~~

All Things Homeschool


Titus 2 Discipleship With Jan L. Burt

Lord bless you today as you lean in big time to the promises of God for you!

Lessons from the Third Week

Last week was nothing short of revolutionary. Have you heard of The Wild and Free community? We joined a local group. Also, we had our first outing with them – at the Knoxville Botanical Garden. I have been praying and hoping for more time outside.

Outdoor exploration classroom

Botanical Garden, Knoxville

The answer came in the form of this group. Another homeschooling mom introduced me to them. This means that I will only get four days of instruction at home with the children. We spend the fifth day exploring nature in our area, at local gardens, hiking trails, zoos, and parks.

The kids get time to be kids. They meet other homeschoolers and interact with people of various ages. I keep an eye on them, but monitor their progress in social skills from a distance.


Lessons #2 and #3

This is also about freeing myself from the tyranny of the curriculum. Teaching from books for four days a week instead of five scares me, but I feel I need to try it. It makes me a better mom. I make picnic lunches for us for the day and we load up in the car without a care in the world. It takes me back to the times when they were preschoolers and we just went places to explore and have fun.

Kids climbing a tree

Meeting new friends and climbing a tree together

The other thing that happened, which was equally liberating, was that I felt tired on Friday and I let one of my children go without a lesson in writing. I had it planned, but we had an extra violin lesson that morning, to prepare for auditions next week. It pushed the schedule too much into the afternoon. By 3pm, I was sleepy and ready to tackle the cleaning of the house anyway, rather than plough over writing techniques with my son.

Girl smelling flowers

Take time to smell flowers

He has published three books and yes, he still has a lot to learn. But the boy is 11 and has written three books already. In fact, he is working on book number four. It’s not like he needs desperate help in writing. Where is the flexibility in homeschooling?

So there, a revolution is happening in our home, slowly but surely. Skipping lessons to adapt to heavier days. Replacing book instruction with nature field trips once a week. Do we dare? Apparently, we do.

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Lessons from the Fourth Week

The fourth week went by smoothly. The children had auditions for Knoxville Youth Symphony Orchestras on Monday. The results came in on Wednesday and, sure enough, they reached their goals. Our daughter wanted to stay in the same orchestra, but move from Second Violin to the First Violin section. She did. She instinctively knew the next orchestra would be too hard. Well, not just instinctively. She also knew from experience.

Mom and Kids at Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome, Observation Tower

Last summer, during string camp, she tried the next orchestra level up. She kept up, but barely. She prefers a more relaxed environment and we respect that. In fact, her violin teacher said this shows a rare form of insight for a nine-year-old, and also recommended we let our daughter go at her own pace.

We are not in a race to a particular point. The journey is worth more than the destination. As such, our orchestra journey should be a pleasure, not a chore.

Warming up in the waiting room before auditions.

Mom holding music for daughter

Butterflies, we all felt.

Our son wanted to advance to the next orchestra, and he did. He went from First Violin in Philharmonia to Third Violin in Sinfonia. This is a much tougher level and he was a bit surprised he made it. If he parks himself in Sinfonia for the next three years, nobody will mind. The two other levels beyond Sinfonia seem daunting at best at this moment.


Piano, too

The kids also started piano lessons again this week. Over the summer break, we do not do but two or three lessons, just to keep their skills from rusting out completely. While the weather lasts, I plan to take a walk with the child who is not doing a lesson and then switch. It affords for great bonding.

Boy observes insect

During our walk at the piano teacher’s house, my son observed a white caterpillar.

Our second outing with the Wild and Free Great Smoky Mountains group happened to be at Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. It went well and the kids wanted to stay a few extra minutes to play with the other children. I knew we would be late for art class, but I thought, “Let’s just see how it goes.”

Boy on big rock

Scaling big boulders was one of main attractions

Girl on Boulders

They loved climbing these big boulders.

This was the biggest lesson of the week: these outings might interfere with art class, especially if they start a bit late due to their location. We need to learn to be content with 2-3 hours of nature and socialization and then move on to the rest of our schedule for the day. It’s good to learn boundaries.

We were 15 minutes late to art class. I asked my son to text our teacher when it became clear we would not make it in time. She understood. We also talked about the future. As long as we communicate, she will not mind if we get there a bit late or if we switch to another day just for that particular week. Isn’t that nice?

But the biggest take away is, “Don’t spread yourself too thin.”

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