February Reading List

February reading


Wow!  How is it the middle of February all ready?  There is a good reason for the silence — we had a great trip to San Diego, enjoyed the sunshine and thought about our “ocean science.”  I’ll share some of that in the next few days.  For now, I want to tell you about a few books we’ve enjoyed in the past month.

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth.  This book, with its wonderful illustrations, is one I remember from my childhood.  I began reading it aloud to the little kids, and as usual with books I am reading aloud to them, I had to hide it so that they wouldn’t finish it before I did!  It is the story of a boy whose hen hatches out a Triceratops.  Definitely not scientific, but a great read-aloud nonetheless.

Dinner:  A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.  I came home one evening last month to an Amazon package on my bed.  Since I hadn’t ordered anything, I was sure I was going to be in trouble with Shandy for an “accidental” purchase.  Instead, I found a gift card from my mother and this great story/cookbook.  For those of us who believe getting dinner on the table for the family every night should be a top priority, this book is a definite must read.  Whether you are already a pro, or need a “dinner doula” as she calls herself at one point, you will enjoy the book and the recipes.

Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson.  The only thing I had ever read by this author was her famous short story The Lottery.  When I heard that she had written some autobiographical books with these titles, I was instantly interested.  Some of the things she chronicles (searching for her cigarettes, and moving the brandy and cigarettes around from bed to bed while sleeping with sick children) are shocking to a more modern way of life, these were humorous books that were good, relaxing reading.  I also checked out from the library a book of her short stories, and these were not relaxing at all.  In the two I read, children were involved in discussion that I can only describe as horror.  I did not continue reading.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  The last time I read this book, I was in high school.  Now, both my teenagers were assigned this book as part of their curriculum, and so I read along.  This is a well-written, tragic work, even if you don’t buy into the Jesus Christ allegory that my high school teacher tried to sell us.  It means much more to me now than it did when I was a teenager, and is so often the case with classics.  The assignment I chose for myself on this book was to match a candy bar to each character.  I’m still working on that one!

Soon . . . sunshine and ocean pictures!  Stop back by!

What have you been reading?  Please leave me a comment.


A Day in the Homeschooling Life


Inspired by the link-up at Simple Homeschool, I am writing this post to give you a (glorified) peep into our homeschooling life.  Before I tell you what time I get up in the morning, I want to tell you that I rarely stay up at night past 9:15.  I always say that I turn into a pumpkin at 9:00, and even when we have company, I shoo them out the door so that I can go to bed.  I have to put in that disclaimer, because I know most of you will groan when you see when my day starts.

I get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every day, including Sundays.  No one makes me do this.  Often, I am lying awake waiting for the alarm to ring for half an hour.  I have always been an early riser, and when I began running in the early mornings, the time just got earlier and earlier.  This is a secret I keep from my friends and co-workers, so please don’t tell them!  I don’t get up early to boast, and it’s not because it takes so long to do my hair.  I just really like to get up and get started on my day.  I would call 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. my “me time.”  I do a little laundry, some studying and puttering.  I go to the gym or on my run.  I help make breakfast and lunch for Daddy to take to work.  That early start to my day just makes me happy.

About 8:00, school starts for the kids.  I usually keep working on housework and other chores while the girls get started on their practicing and Brett begins his schoolwork.  Music is a real priority at our house, and with everyone’s practicing, the piano is in use about 5 hours every day.  Eden also teaches a few students, so piano practicing always has to start early, even at 6:30 a.m. on some days.  Lulu does her violin practicing early in the morning, too, as she finds this is her best concentration time.  Max uses this time to play, read, and clean his bedroom.

Since Brett and Eden are doing on-line high school this year, they are pretty much in charge of all their own work, with me checking in from time to time to see how they are doing, if they need extra help or contact with their teachers, and making sure they are not getting distracted.  So I concentrate on schooling the younger ones.  When Lulu finishes her practicing, I read aloud to them from whatever book we have chosen for the moment.  Right now, we are reading My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.  I try always to choose a book that would be too difficult for the kids to read on their own, either by content or vocabulary.  That is becoming more difficult as the kids get older, but I am convinced that reading aloud to them is the basis of a good education.

After half an hour or more of reading, I review Lucy’s math lesson with her.  She is currently working in Saxon 65, and is able to easily do most of the lessons with just a little help.  Then, I start working on math with Max.  He is working in the Saxon 3rd grade math book, and he still needs someone to sit beside him through the whole lesson.  Saxon is thoroughly scripted, but since this is the fourth time I am teaching these lessons, I am able to short cut a little.  One thing we do not short cut on is the meeting portion of the lesson.  This daily, thorough review, especially of the skip counting, seems to me one of the essential parts of any math program.

We are usually finished with math by about 11:00, and what follows really depends on the day.  We schedule all of our music lessons on one day.  On that day, we are gone from about 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  While we are switching between lessons, whoever is not with the teacher spends time reading at a local library, doing history or other work.  Most days, however, we relax a little before lunch.  I take time to review what the older kids have done, check e-mail from teachers, and start one of the younger ones on their piano practicing.

After lunch together, we often have time for a little outdoor play or walk.  We have two different local ponds we like to go and visit.  Our walks often turn into nature discussions, and when we come home we look up birds we have seen in our bird books.  Spring is an especially joyful time to visit these areas, because the frogs, snakes and ducks are all out in full force.  In later spring or fall we also take time to go to the mountains for hiking.  These nature studies are an essential part of our school time.  If we do not go outdoors, after lunch is usually project or cooking time for an hour or two.

Around 4:00, the older kids are often finished with their school work for the day, and I send the younger kids to finish up chores and anything else left on their daily list.  Then they read, play or do whatever they like until dinner time about 6:00.  Their school day ends around 8:00, with Daddy reading bedtime stories, usually a classic chapter book (right now The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting.)

Writing the day’s schedule down like this makes it seem exceedingly calm.  It isn’t.  We are always scurrying around, trying to do too many things.  However, I have learned to calm down and schedule less than I used to.  When I began homeschooling, I felt that it was important to assign math, English, handwriting, history and science work every day.  I have more confidence in their ability to learn without busywork since my older kids have enjoyed such good academic success, so I assign much less work now.  We do assign math every day, and some history from The Story of the World.  We do a spelling test once a week, with only a little practice on missed words. For the most part, the backbone of our school is reading, with math and music also essential.  After that , we work hard to relax and let the rest take care of itself.   I try to remember that the days are short but the years are long, and if we spend our lives hurrying to the next thing, we will find we never enjoyed our lives at all.

I hope you enjoyed your quick view into our daily life.  Has your schedule changed in the time since you began homeschooling?  Have you become stricter or more relaxed?  I would be interested in your input.  Please leave me a comment.