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Month: August 2018

Our Homeschool Journey – Something I Said I’d Never Do

I vowed I would never homeschool.  Oops.

I have a bad habit of letting my all or nothing personality get the best of me and ‘never’ is something I’m learning to not to say.  I’m a work in progress I guess!

I enjoyed (most of) my public school experience and wanted the same for my kids, but I also looked forward to the day when I could have my ‘me time’ back once my youngest was off to elementary school.  And yet here I am on the brink of my eldest’s kindergarten year and plunging full-steam ahead into the realm of homeschooling.  What changed?  Well, to sum it up briefly, my husband and I knew we wanted to prioritize the flexibility to see our families when it suited both us and them, which could mean a couple weeks away at a time due to their being spread out across the continent.  We also wanted to ensure that our family’s preferred pace was not dictated by the busy Bay area breakneck speed which often threatens to overtake us if we’re not intentional about slowing down.  After a year of homeschool preschool in which we dipped our toes into unknown waters, we knew that homeschool would suit our family best in this season of life, and with our oldest’s learning style.  Those things may change and we always want to be open to other options, but at present (and for the foreseeable future) this is the option we feel most at peace with.

Anyway, all that to say, here we are!  September is around the corner, and while we’ve already been slowly incorporating lessons into the final weeks of August, I can’t bring myself to ‘officially’ begin school until after Labour Day.  There is just something in me that feels like I’m rushing the seasons if we start school before ‘fall’ (even though that looks a lot different in Northern California compared to what fall looked like growing up in Canada!).

So that’s the brief summary of how we got to where we are, and if you’re at all interested in what the rest of our year ahead is (hopefully) going to look like, you can both check out the first Homeschool Episode on my Instagram TV channel as well as read the details and check out my show notes below.

“We wanted to ensure that our family’s preferred pace was not dictated by the busy Bay area breakneck speed”

Classical Conversations

Once a week, for 24 weeks out of the year, we’ll be meeting with a group of other homeschooling families who are following the same Classical Conversations curriculum.  It is based on the classical model, which means that for our littles, the focus will be on memory work (relating to history, language arts, math, science, and Scripture) through games, music and activities.  This gives them the ‘grammar’ they need to eventually expand upon the various subjects as they mature.  The students are broken up into class sizes no larger than 8 kids, are taught by parent-trained tutors, and participate in art projects and science experiments every week.  They also practice their public speaking skills on a weekly basis with a short, individual presentation given during snack time.  We use the Classical Conversations curriculum as a framework for our other lessons and most of our memory work is done while in the car or at irregular intervals throughout the week.  We did CC for Lauren’s preschool year and all of us enjoyed both the classical model and the community.

Connecting Waters

We have also chosen to enroll in a public charter school (Connecting Waters) that gives us a ‘distance ed’ option and offers support and resources through the monthly visits of a credentialed educational specialist who can assist with assessments, guidance, and information regarding state requirements.  One of the other big benefits is funding, which we can put towards everything from school and art supplies to curriculum and books, to swimming and ballet lessons.  This is a new experience for us but our ES is wonderful and we’re looking forward to our monthly visits.

Morningtime

Morningtime is something I’ve found a lot of homeschooling families incorporate into their daily routine, but I love that it could be a rhythm that any family could weave into their day.  Essentially, we come together as a family (usually around the breakfast table–or lunch and dinner if we just haven’t gotten through everything) and go through an assortment of reading and flash cards that enrich our days and our girls’ education.  Here is what we currently incorporate into our Morningtime routine:

We initially started with one or two things and then just added in other elements as we felt inclined.  When the kids are older I foresee moving Morningtime to the living room or outside where the kids can work on their nature journals at the same time.

Nature Journals 

My intent with nature journaling is that this is the space where art, science, latin, and geography merge.  I’ve ordered all the necessary supplies and have been inspired primarily by Kristin Roger’s Nature Journal guide, which I purchased (but may have run out) from Wild + Free — a homeschooling resource and community I love.   I have a feeling that Will, Natalie, and myself will also have our own nature journals that we take out when we’re all sitting in the backyard, when we go on nature walks, or when we travel.

Reading + Math Curriculms 

I’ve been going through The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading with Lauren and it’s been a fantastic resource.  I love that everything is scripted so I’m not trying to figure it all out myself or needing to lesson plan.  We have ordered our math curriculum from Right Start Math and I can actually say I’m excited to get going with this–math has always been my weakest subject, but thankfully Will is very hands-on, and a good teacher so if I get hung up on something I’ll be passing things off to him!

Reading Aloud

I’ve become convinced that reading aloud (along with the use of audio books) is probably one of the most important things I can do to contribute to my kids’ education — whether I were to homeschool or not.  I believe Lauren’s vocabulary, communication skills, love for learning, desire to learn to read, and unquenchable thirst to explore the world around her has been nurtured through the act of reading aloud.  I’m sure I’ll be observing the domino effect for decades to come.  You’ll likely hear me trumpet over and over again about Sarah Mackenzie and her book Read-Aloud Family, podcast the Read-Aloud Revival, and her fantastic book lists.  I might be inclined to share my own booklists from time to time.  You’ve been warned!

Extra-Curricular Activities 

Lauren has been involved with swimming and ballet for the past couple of years, but we’ve decided to put a pause on those things for the fall so that we can a) get our school rhythms established before our third baby arrives, and b) spend more time bonding as a family once the baby is here without needing to rush off to other activities.  We plan to get both of the girls involved in these activities after Christmas, but for now we want to pare things down to ensure our girls get as much time with us as possible throughout this new season.  In the meantime, Lauren takes virtual piano lessons from a dear friend and has become obsessed with sewing as of late.  There are also a number of fall projects from leaf-dipping to cornhusk dolls that I’m excited to enjoy with them before the baby is born.  Once our little guy has arrived, I’m sure they’ll be spending lots of time on nature walks with their dad and grandparents, which should keep them active, inspired, and hopefully sleeping well throughout the night!

So that’s an overview of what homeschool will entail for us in the near future, and I’ll be sure to update you with more details pertaining to each aspect, as well as what our schedule looks like both pre-baby and postpartum!  If you have any questions, I’d love for you to jump into the Bringing Inspiration Home Facebook feed or hop on Instagram and share your questions for the larger audience.  I really want to grow the Bringing Inspiration Home community so we can all inspire and support one another in our dreams, adventures, and rhythms.

Speaking of growing our community, I would LOVE to connect with you through my regular email updates.  I promise they’re not obnoxious and are chalk full of updates and inspiration.  If you sign up, you’ll be the first to know about what’s coming down the pipe for Bringing Inspiration Home, and I’ll always make sure my email subscribers are given extra special love 🙂  Click here to become a part of our growing community.

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Embracing the Beauty of Boredom

Have you ever wondered how we as a society have become so dependant on mindless scrolling that we take our phones into the washroom with us?  I’m not talking about slipping your phone into your back pocket (in which case you’re definitely tempting fate with the high probability of your phone plunging to the depths of the toilet bowl!), rather, I’m recognizing the fact that probably most of us have succumbed to the ‘squat and scroll’.  Am I right?  Definitely some cringe-worthy guilt over here!  Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored or left with our own thoughts for a few moments that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??

I don’t know about you, but I’m on a mission to alter my scrolling habits. When left with a few moments of potential boredom, I want to seek opportunities that result in creative, imaginative thinking, problem-solving, and greater awareness—of my inner self, the world around me, and of God’s Spirit speaking to my soul.  Doesn’t this sound like something we could all be refreshed by and excited about?  What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?

“Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored…that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??”

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.  Whether you’re just waking up, hanging out in a waiting room, or are waiting in the car, I’ve outlined 3 ways that you can utilize boredom as a catalyst for creativity.

1) Transition from scrolling to another activity.

First, we need to kick the habit of scrolling when we’ve got a few minutes to either wait or busy ourselves, and I think one of the best ways to transition from scrolling to intentional, imaginative thinking, is to read something tangible that does not require a screen, nor your thumb’s ‘scroll function’.  Author, podcast host, and speaker, Sarah Mackenzie (of the book The Read-Aloud Family and the podcast Read-Aloud Revival) suggests simply keeping a book with you.  Her straightforward suggestion has prompted me to keep a smallish piece of light reading material in my handbag at all times.  You’d be amazed at how much reading you can accomplish with just five minutes here, or ten minutes there.  Now I wouldn’t recommend Dostoevsky’s War and Peace, or anything else that’s a) cumbersome and b) needs some time to access with focus, but I would recommend anything from a self-help or business book to a children or youth novel that you could read either silently or aloud to your kids.  If this seems too daunting, keeping a couple of magazines in your car, or a crossword puzzle or sudoku book on hand might be a great alternative for you.  Start with what is most accessible and gets you in the habit of doing something other than turning to your phone for entertainment.  I’ve kept a crossword puzzle book in our master ensuite for years and it’s the one washroom I’m almost never tempted to take my phone into.  A devotional, magazine, or piece of light reading by my bed—something I’m eager to delve into that doesn’t take much brain power either first thing in the morning or later at night—will often persuade me to read tangible material rather than scroll through my phone.  This bedside habit has resulted in both better sleep at night and a more positive outlook first thing in the morning.  Win-win right?

2) Stir the creative juices with prompts.

If you want to take things to the next level and stir your creative juices up a bit, I’d recommend keeping a notepad or journal with you, along with a short list of prompts, perhaps penned at the back at the top of a few blank pages.  Here are a few prompts to get you going:

  • “If I could design my dream house, what would I include?”  Keep a running list of design and landscape elements that you come across that you’d want to integrate into your dream property.  Mine would definitely include complete privacy, acreage, lots of big windows with sunlight streaming in, rustic wooden beams, and pretty Mediterranean tilework. 
  • “If I could spend 10 days in one place anywhere in the world, what would that look like?”  Would you spend your time exploring a Caribbean island while staying in a jungle or beachside bungalow?  Driving the backroads of Tuscany and sipping wine in the local piazza every evening?  What would you pack for a trip to Thailand?  Would you find yourself walking the Cotswolds or the Scottish Highlands, or roaming the plains of the Serengeti?  Let your imagination wander and try to envision what you’d wear, how you’d travel to and from your destination, what the weather would be like, and who your travel partners would be.  You might find yourself staring off into the distance instead of writing…a fun and essential part of becoming lost in creative thought!
  • “If I could plan the ideal dinner party/Sunday brunch/high tea, who would I invite to join me?”  Let yourself think beyond the box of close friends or potential acquaintances.  Consider a mix of people from history, or an assortment of creative minds and talents, along with the meal’s setting and menu.  Every time I delve into this daydream, Queen Elizabeth is definitely at the table, but we’re at Balmoral in Scotland where she’s on holiday and more relaxed.  Then I fill in the gaps with an eclectic mix of friends, family, and famous figures from throughout history.  

3) Consider your surroundings and tap into a deeper awareness.

For an even more ‘advanced’ attempt at pushing the boundaries of boredom, even if just for a few brief moments, I like to consider my surroundings and tap into what my brain and body are experiencing.  This not only prompts me to reflect on my current needs and desires, but also on my preferences and opinions.  Taking a few deep breaths and noting how my body feels as I wake up, or how it settles into a chair, what the light around me is doing, or how other people are responding to our surroundings, helps me be more attuned not only to myself, but also to those around me.  This process enables me to be more open to hearing the Spirit of God speak into my life, often compelling me to meditate on Scripture or extend love, patience, or compassion to someone else, whether they are physically present or not.  I believe that intentionally seeking opportunities to be aware of one’s surroundings can have a beneficial effect on one’s mental and physical health, relationships, and spiritual growth.

The great thing about embracing the beauty of boredom is that it opens up opportunities for growth and enrichment, fulfillment and peace that trolling the internet never can.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t spend time online or use our phones for pleasure or purpose, but the more that we view boredom as having the potential to cultivate creativity, (and less as something to avoid) the more our scrolling habits will find an appropriate place in our lives—preferably not while in the loo!    

“What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?”

If you are struggling to draw creative ideas from a wellspring that starts with scrolling, the results will be largely inauthentic and even less gratifying.  Visual inspiration is important, for sure, but I would argue that it’s vital to engage in observation that takes places offline if we want to produce results of the highest caliber.

Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring creative looking to take your ideas to the next level and really grow as an artist, business person, or influencer?  Let’s set up a time to chat and discuss the possibilities for your future success.

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