Friday, September 17, 2010

Improving self - body, mind, soul

Maestro has inspired me. He said a few weeks ago that he is really working to change and improve himself. He set some pretty specific goals, things like: keeping his room picked up, keeping a good attitude, getting all of his school work done each day. Thought he is not always successful, in many ways I can see the changes taking affect. My favorite is the goal for attitude change - maybe he'll prevent himself from having teen angst problems (fingers crossed here, People!)

I am so inspired by him that I've set some goals of my own to try to reach - goals to improve my body strength as this baby comes along, to sharpen my mind now that I'm "done" with school, and my soul as I move forward in my journey in faith. Following a rather vigorous walk with Buttercup in her stroller and two dogs on leashes, I have decided to share my goals here - maybe it will keep me accountable, who knows?

Start with the soul - it is the basis for everything real and important in life. At least, if I'm on top of my game, it should be! I am not to the point where I am reading my Bible every day as I should be, but I have at least increased my prayers and try to make sure I say them often. Reading anything is a luxury right now, so someday I'll get back into it.

Body is easier than mind, sort of, and being pregnant, so important right now! I've started taking vitamins (a huge thing for me, as many know!) and taking walks nearly every day with Buttercup and the dogs. I try to keep my pace fast enough to get in some cardio. Can't do an hour a day yet, but it's a start! Cardio has long been one of my weakest points. From carrying my babies around, muscle strength has not been something I've worried about as much.

And mind... Well, I'm trying to keep up with improving in photography, have started this blog and am working on some new crochet projects. Perhaps more importantly, I've begun to weed out areas of life and volunteer things that are no longer fulfilling for me or that do not help me become a better person. I've stopped so many of the e-mail ads that I signed up for (Staples, Borders, etc.) I don't need to know about every sale, special or event that comes along. The ones I'm really interested in, I have a pretty good idea of when they will come about and can look them up for specific dates (educator's weekend at Borders, for instance.)

There are my three plans of attack, set in the stone of the Internet forever-land. Nothing ever gets erased here, or so I've been told, so I'll be able to look back in six months and see where I am in all of this. Mmmm... hope that's a good thing!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teachers who Were and Who Were "Almost"

I had it suggested that I create a post a about some of the teachers that I remember from my own school years. As it happens, I made one as a FaceBook note quite some time back. I'm transferring that here now. Enjoy!



This thought occurred to me the other day:

In high school, I had an AP (Advanced Placement - do they still do those classes??) history class. The teacher was a great teacher and the class got into some of the most interesting conversations. The instructor would let it go on for some time - three or four minutes, maybe five? - and then would say, "But we digress..." and thereby bring the class back to the topic at hand. I learned a lot in that class.

But I could have learned more. In large part, I didn't learn as much as I could because of my own lack of effort, and though he was a good teacher, he didn't push us for more. Instead, he gave us lots of room to explore and discuss (helpful in adult discussions and debates, not so much for history!)


I had a Japanese class at the same school. Very nice teacher - one of my favorites. He was a new teacher, still very green and looking to save-the-world-through-teaching. He started a hiking club and I joined - he tried to encourage my vocabulary acquisition by quizzing me as we hiked through the woods and up the hills. The club didn't last long, unfortunately and I am not sure where the teachers is now.

A third teacher - longer in the tooth, taught English, had very definite and high expectations, or gave the appearance of it. She tried to make it so her higher grades were hard to get, but there was still always the feeling of who-were-her-favorites.

These teachers all stand out in my mind and memory - and for me, that is a big leap, I don't seem to have a whole lot of memory space left (can somebody hand me my RAM, please??) But each of these represents something else in my memory - teachers who were "almost."

Finally, my junior high band teacher. Definitely long on the tooth - he was the band teacher when my (ahem...) MOTHER was at the same junior high 20 years before. But he will always stand out for me. He was the teacher who held us to high standards; who expected we had practiced, stopped us in front of the other students and said that what we were doing wasn't what it should have been. Who cared enough to be honest and tell us that we weren't giving it our all; that we weren't. Doing. Our. Best.

My last day of junior high - a place that I would NOT miss being at because of the students, not the teachers (many of whom I really admired and looked up to) - I went to his classroom and, of all the teachers, I went to say goodbye and I hugged him... and I cried. I didn't know where I was going or what was coming next, but I knew I was leaving behind a teacher who really made us feel like he cared about us enough to say that we could do better.

As a home schooling mom, I hope that I will be that teacher - the man from my junior high band (Mr. Sorenson, for those in the know). I hope that my own children - and their friends - will look at Mrs. Edens and say, "She cared enough to hold us to standards and to make us reach for the stars, even as she gave us the stepladder to get there."

Is that too much to ask?



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No regrets

I have lived much of my life by one series of thoughts:

Every decision I have made in life,
whether seemingly good at the time
or seemingly poor,
has led me to where I am now.

I have no regrets.

So I've decided to take a sort of "life inventory." Here are the stats for the last 18 years (I'll include pictures where I have them digitized.)

Began taking college classes (18 years ago)
Left high school and college for the Navy (16 years ago)
Got married (11 years ago)


Had our first son - Maestro (10 years ago - born the week before our 1st anniversary)










Left the Navy (9 years ago)
Sold Pampered Chef (8 years ago)
Had boy #2 - Smeagol (8 years ago)









Stopped selling Pampered Chef (8 years ago)
Moved from Georgia to Maryland
Joined the Orthodox Church














Visited Ireland (6 years ago)


Had boy #3 - Bruiser (5 years ago)
Began homeschooling Maestro









Worked as a mystery shopper (3 years ago)
Started a writing business from home
Began homeschooling Smeagol

Had our first baby girl (22 months ago)





Graduated from college after working at it for 18 years (9 months ago)










Now I am homeschooling all three boys, working on baby #5, finishing some big projects for my writing business, and enjoying the process of moving toward the next step in life. Still big on my dream sheet: earning a pilot's license - saving for that now!

This is the culmination of 20 years of work, patience and love from those around me. I can't wait to see what is next!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homeschooling Adventures


Well, this week is the "Overlap Week" - the week when we're working our way up to a full homeschooling schedule and out of our summer relaxation. No more getting up at 9, no more Lego games until noon, no more free-wheeling days. This year promises to be a challenge if we're not organized. Maestro is in sixth grade this year and I'm a little nervous about the making sure we "cover all the bases." Is there ever a time when we parents are not worried about something?

Putting together a homeschool schedule can seem overwhelming at first - especially if you've never done it before, and sometimes even if you have! This is our fifth year homeschooling and I finally feel like I have somewhat of a clue. There are so many options out there now that weren't around even in the early 80's. Some of the questions I have grappled with seem to come up for all of us at some point: Do I use a boxed set, that includes everything? Do I put it together piece by piece at Borders? Do I enroll them in classes at a co-op? Do I have to be a fully hands-on teacher or overly creative and artistic?

I've gone through all of these. Each homeschooling family will come up with their own answers to these same questions. Below, you'll find some of the solutions that we find successful in our family. Throughout the year, I'll try to put updates on how well we're sticking to it and on some of our milestones and projects. This blog isn't entirely about homeschooling, but it is part of our lifes' journey. May our struggles inspire your journey and help your path be a little smoother.

After weeks without time, I've finally written out the boys' schedules. I have tried to make it both fun and comprehensive - and something they can fairly well follow on their own. Now that Maestro is 10 and "Junior High," I am trying to work him into taking on more responsibility for his schedule, work and chores so that he's well used to it all by the time we get to high school. By then, he should be keeping track of his own records as well.

Our oldest children tend to be our testers, don't they? Lucky boys!


So here is the schedule for Maestro this year - I hope it serves to inspire you and, if you've decided to homeschool, I hope it helps show that you don't have to go for the most expensive boxed-set curriculum. As a side note, for now I've decided against a boxed set because our boys each have their own strengths and are weaker in other areas. It just seems to me that a boxed set would make it more difficult to tailor the work to their needs. Not only that, but they are often more than I can afford for as many children as we have.

We will work four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is set aside for group PE and errands, Saturday and Sunday are days for family, friends and field trips.

Music: Guitar or Keyboard - 50 min./day - Fridays play a new song for Pop at dinner
Language Arts: 20 min/day - Both boys are working through an older version of Hooked on Phonics that is for advanced readers where they have a little card they read a story on and then answer questions about vocab, detail, etc. It starts out fairly simply, but by the end it is high school level.
* Art: 20 min./day - Pick one major artist each week:
Mon - look the artist up, write down major or interesting facts about that artist (birth day, year died, country, major medium, etc.)
Tues - Pick one major work of art by that artist and attempt to copy it as well as you can. Work on this the other three days of the week.
Math: 50 min/day -
Saxon math: we started out at a full chapter a day, but he is not ready for that in this program so he does 1/2 chapter each day, and checks his own work
* Science: up to 50 min/day - We have several science kits we have been given over time that we are working on using up. Might do this twice a week and spread it out a little so we can get more involved in each subject than just one day will allow.
Reading Comp./Vocabulary: 50 min/day - Maestro really likes to read so I've give him extra time for this. He is to work on one classic novel a week (more if he can but I really want him to delve into one). As he reads, he is to keep his notebook beside him and write down five new or lesser-known words a day, and their meanings, anything he finds of interest in the story or anything he might have a question about. I will also be looking up "book club" type questions for him to answer as he reads or to discuss with me. Once a week, he is to write out a one-page review of the book for me to put here on the blog.
* History: 50 min/day - We use Story of the World and the CD's. They are to listen to one or two chapter(s) a day (they're short on the CD, a little longer to read on their own), and work on the activities for that chapter(s) from the activity book.
* Social Studies/Geography: 20 min/day (might change to 50 later)
Mon. - look up one country (have suggested they look up the country of the artist they are working on), write down major info. about that country (imports/exports, capitol, etc.)
Tues - copy the map, color in the major landmarks, crops, cities, etc.
Thurs - Draw and color the flag and also the traditional dress for a boy and a girl
Friday - Read a traditional story/folk tale from that country and listen to one or two songs from that country.

Down the line we might make the country/artists bits into lapbooks or something equally cool if we have time to spare.

Once a month, we'll go on a field trip to a museum or someplace similarly cool.

The stuff with an * the boys do together.

Some may have noticed I didn't include PE specifically. Well, with all the time they spend with their friends each day, helping out with the house, keeping up with Buttercup and trips out, PE is one subject I'm not worried about scripting in! That should be a time of freedom and pleasure for the boys to choose their own activities. I've signed them up with the Catonsville Youth Baseball League and they'll do bowling or swimming through the year as well.

I hope that this helps you by giving you an idea of how one homeschooler's day goes. Enjoy the journey - it ends all too quickly!
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