Oh, Dearest Mother, Sweetest Virgin of Altagracia, our Patroness. You are our Advocate and to you we recommend our needs. You are our Teacher and like disciples we come to learn from the example of your holy life. You are our Mother, and like children, we come to offer you all of the love of our hearts. Receive, dearest Mother, our offerings and listen attentively to our supplications. Amen.



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Connections
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Posted: May 14 2009 at 1:40pm | IP Logged Quote Connections

I have been having some discussions and doing a lot of thinking about simplicity. Namely, a simple HSing plan.

However, the word "simple" did not seem to convey the richness and loveliness of those plans.

I believe that the methodologies and the structure to our HSing days can be simple. Yet, the days themselves are lovely and rich because of the read alouds, the discoveries, the explorations, the time together, the discussions and the joy. It is both the content and the manner in which we live our days (patience, kindness, love, being present to one another) that makes them rich and lovely. I have found that it is the simplicity of our plans that allows me to focus on rich and lovely content.

The definition of simplicity is, of course, different from family to family. I have been thinking and praying about what simplicity means for our family. Progress toward goals, and the goals themselves, will be different among and within families. But it really does not have to be as difficult as I (often) make it. I don't need to pull myself away from my children for hours and hours researching the "perfect" program. Mainly, I need to be with my children. To work toward our goals a little at a time. To set an example. To love them. To observe where they are at and help them get to the places that God intends them to be.

And, of course, it is the grace of God Who allows us to live these days moment by moment- even on the days where simplicity is impossible.

I want to stay focused on simply rich and lovely plans this year.

Anyone else believe in simply rich and lovely HSing plans? Care to share your thoughts?

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Kristie 4
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Posted: May 14 2009 at 2:13pm | IP Logged Quote Kristie 4

Lovely Tracey....

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 3:22pm | IP Logged Quote stellamaris

More and more I find myself longing for this type of simplicity in our home. We have only succeeded in achieving it for the shortest periods of time...it seems so elusive! I am sure this is because I complicate things ever so much more than they need to be complicated. I don't think it is our curriculum that educates our children; I think it is communion...with us, with Jesus, and with nature. I haven't even gotten close to this lovely vision, but it is worth striving for and it is attainable (I'm not sure if it is attainable by me, but I do believe there are some who are blessed). Simplicity is the ultimate manifestation of the spiritual gift of self-control.

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 3:40pm | IP Logged Quote amyable

You women are all so wise.

We have been push, push, pushing to finish our curriculum so we can have summer off. Kind of the antithesis of simple and lovely, and I can see its effect now!   I got blinded by the "it's all so GOOD" aspect - but I need to drop the "good" for the simple, lovely, peaceful *best*.

I like how Charlotte Mason has students go through a few books,slowly. Seems to me you can get more simple/lovely that way.

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 4:23pm | IP Logged Quote Kristie 4

It is the simple but deep that is so hard to discover- it sounds so rich and rewarding, what real education should be, especially at home where we shouldn't be tied to the regular picture of 'school' (but oh, how I can get caught in that). But what about all the wonderful things we want our children to learn...what about X that we saw on a blog that looks so wonderful...what about the daily narration/dictation/etc....

This is where I am at with my thinking as well- looking forward to the discussion!

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 4:40pm | IP Logged Quote Sarah M

I'm caught up in this right now, too. The desire to create a simple rhythm to our days that allows us the time to engage in rich, meaningful moments together. To focus on JOY. Joy, joy, joy. I am so hooked on this idea, that these days with our children should be filled with wonder and light and joy. In my home, that means that I make a simple framework (a rhythm based on mealtimes and read alouds) and then leave big long stretches of time open for nature study and creative exploration. Oh, the places we go when I do this well! But it takes *a lot* of self-discipline on my part to be really present when hanging with my kids- to stop the nonstop chatter in my brain and just enjoy them. To focus on the process and not worry so much about the product. To notice the small stuff.

Connections wrote:
I don't need to pull myself away from my children for hours and hours researching the "perfect" program. Mainly, I need to be with my children. To work toward our goals a little at a time. To set an example. To love them. To observe where they are at and help them get to the places that God intends them to be.


Oh yes. Me too. I am so with you on this.

Let's keep talking... I can't get enough of this kind of conversation right now.
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Posted: May 14 2009 at 4:47pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

I think the expression of simplicity for us lies in the quiet moments...moments of un-complicated, un-analyzed, un-stressed learning. In these moments, there is freedom for thought, there is a medium for creativity to move within, conversation and expression are encouraged and delightfully enjoyed. It is by definition I believe, rich and lovely. Without the hindrance of over-complicating the learning, or my over-thinking or over-analyzing something, an idea has room to move, and to mature beautifully. I see my role as one who provides a simple, undistracted environment - one of beauty, ideas, tools for learning - which fosters a freedom within those thoughtfully placed boundaries that results in a rich and lovely experience.

I think it is humbling (it is for me, anyway) to let go of my self, my pre-conceived notions, my desires to accomplish "x" amount, and rather just make a few thoughtful, prudent decisions about direction, focus, rhythm, tools provided in order to invite inspiration and rich and lovely thoughts, conversations, and creations in a gentle atmosphere.

I believe it can be the rule, not the exception, but necessarily requires God's banquet of graces to relax into yourself, your family temperament, and God's plan for your individual family. No small task. Still, in reflecting, I delight in memories of these times with my children in my home. They are the expression of who we are in our essence. I joy in the thought of them, and long for them when I've allowed too much noise, or too much of my self into the equation.

My thoughts on the discussions of blogs/forums/books/other's ideas being used as vehicles for comparison...

Inspiration feeds our imaginations and often yields abundant fruit in our learning spaces. Just as children can be overstimulated by too much, when we find ourselves overwhelmed with all the inspiring thoughts, beautiful and valuable on their own, but now a noisy drain on us, it is wise to let go, and turn off the source of the noise for a while. Simplicity cannot exist in noise. All the noise begins to feed an unrealistic idea of our family expression that at some point moves way beyond God's plan for our family and results in stress, burnout, unnecessary comparison and can be a path to envy. It is the antithesis of contentment and a simple environment cannot exist in that place.

...just my thoughts...

You always pose such rich and lovely questions, Tracey, and I delight each time in the thoughts, growth, and realizations they elicit.

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 6:06pm | IP Logged Quote amyable

I would so appreciate if you ladies with large(r) families share your thoughts on simple/lovely as it relates to having many ages/abilities/stages present. How does one make that work.   

I think about educating my brood, and all I think is "complicated"    While one may be "in the groove" another is bored, another is getting in trouble! Then my head is spinning, and it's neither simple nor lovely.

I guess I don't want simple/lovely in theory, I want simple/lovely in practice!

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 6:39pm | IP Logged Quote stellamaris

Mackfam wrote:
I think the expression of simplicity for us lies in the quiet moments..
Inspiration feeds our imaginations and often yields abundant fruit in our learning spaces. Just as children can be overstimulated by too much, when we find ourselves overwhelmed with all the inspiring thoughts, beautiful and valuable on their own, but now a noisy drain on us, it is wise to let go, and turn off the source of the noise for a while. Simplicity cannot exist in noise. All the noise begins to feed an unrealistic idea of our family expression that at some point moves way beyond God's plan for our family and results in stress, burnout, unnecessary comparison and can be a path to envy. It is the antithesis of contentment and a simple environment cannot exist in that place.

...just my thoughts...


Such beautiful and well-expressed thoughts! I'm already seeing the dangers of the online world intruding and distracting, although it is also a wonderful resource.
I love you thoughts on silence, Jennifer!

Amy, I think simplicity is much more difficult to achieve in a large family, and also ironically, much more necessary. To really discuss this well, we need to break it down into separate areas of consideration, such as our physical space, our use of time and our spiritual practice. It has been my experience that it has been increasingly more difficult for me to find the "simple times" in the high school years. There is just so much more work necessary that it can really encroach on just plain 'ol, sweet family time.

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 7:34pm | IP Logged Quote Cay Gibson

stellamaris wrote:

Amy, I think simplicity is much more difficult to achieve in a large family,


I agree, and even more so when we homeschool. I know that isn't something we like to admit to but I was got it square and hard this past Sunday (mother's day, no less ).

I won't go into specifics but I was loosing control over the condition of my house. Most people think my home is pretty clean and orderly. I know what conditions the cabinets are in and how long that box of books has been sitting in front of the game closet and how many other boxes are stacked in front of the book closet at the end of the hallway.

On top of this was the fact that I've cleaned and decluttered quite heavily at least twice since Christmas. The last time was the week before Easter. Then we were gone quite frequently.

Could it be that we have been home more and that's why I'm seeing more wear and tear, clutter and crayons overtaking my home because we're home? Would make sense.

Could it be we're in way over our head w/ remodeling this old house?

Whatever the cause, the effect was overwhelming. I felt way over my head and began a major tidy-brighty that night. Then I froze and lingered for two days. Didn't get dressed from my pjs until after lunch, didn't get outside enough, and focused more on getting the workbooks done than on enjoying my children.

Then a local friend sent out an email saying she was going to organize a used book sale in June. Talk about get the mama hen motivated.

I spent yesterday and today decluttering and going through our school cabinet, baskets, boxes, and closet. I threw away three bags of clutter and have boxes of books to bring to the sale.

For the first time I regretted having my children write answers in notebooks so I could save CHC and Seton books. I have lots of older books that I saved for my younger children but, preferring to start fresh each year with each child has this defeating the purpose.

There is simply too much! Too many books, too much paper, too many binders. Too much off the "school" has taken over. My house is not a home. It's become an office!

And, for a moment, I thought how clean and uncluttered my house would be if we weren't hsing. No clutter.

Of course I didn't linger on it very long. I knew I would miss it and long for it if it weren't here. In truth, it all defines me.

Part of Colleen's recent blog post gave me one of those "Amen!" moments. She wrote:

"I have wondered if it was a poor use of my energies over these last few weeks, but looking back has let me see that planning to educate my children in the heart of my home is my passion. It inspires me in all the other areas of my motherly duties, it gives me a framework for the days that lie ahead, and makes life seem manageable. With a plan in place and the big picture in mind, I feel less overwhelmed by the marathon of a life I am running."

The sentence in bold is what grabbed me.

I do this...no matter not how simple it is but how complex and complicated it is because my family and this lifestyle is my passion! It helps me move forward (to borrow more of Colleen's thought process) with purpose and passion.

If I did not have this great big noisy busy lifestyle and family, I would not have had to energy or motivation to lift the first box. I would not have had the desire to clean the closet. I would not have had the first thought to push out the old so as to move on with the new.

It's God's way of saying "Renew! Refresh! Revere the life and home I have given to you!"

Speaking of which, no time to proof, dh says it's time to go and pick out a new bathroom door. Lowe's has a sale going on.



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Posted: May 14 2009 at 8:38pm | IP Logged Quote CandaceC

Sarah, I love what you have said...and agree with it wholeheartedly. Even the part you quoted from Tracey...that is so me.

Now just getting myself there.



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Posted: May 14 2009 at 8:46pm | IP Logged Quote Nedra in So. CA

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 9:06pm | IP Logged Quote Kristie 4

I also find the 'simple' hard to mangage as the children get older...

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Posted: May 14 2009 at 9:25pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

amyable wrote:
I guess I don't want simple/lovely in theory, I want simple/lovely in practice!


I don't really meet large family standards yet, so just so you know where I'm coming from...this year I finish up with a 7th grader, a 3rd grader, a preschooler, and octo-baby (she sure seems like she has 8 hands).

So...brainstorming the practicals...

**Spend some time really thinking about and identifying with your core philosophy and preferred teaching style. Eliminate everything you have on your shelf that doesn't prop you and your philosophy up. Just let it go. There went some noise.

**Identify your learning spaces...do you work at the kitchen table? have a learning room? read history on the couch? devotionals with breakfast? where are your shelves? Think about every single learning space in your home. Most homeschoolers can identify 2-3 primary spaces they tend to gravitate towards. Water always runs down hill...which is to say, you're likely to gravitate to the same spaces for learning because they just fit. Are they working for you? How can you make them work better?
    ~ Empty shelves and cupboards. Be brutal as you go...have you used it in the last 3 years? gift it to another family who may use it.

    ~ Organize manipulatives into something useful - big ziploc bags...clear plastic shoe bins...baskets. Find a closet or a big bin that can be locked away under a bed somewhere to contain all the manipulatives you don't want out in the open.

    ~ Set up your learning spaces to accomodate the rhythmical learning that takes place in your home. Streamline your material offerings to fit your family philosophy and put things back so that it is in an order that works...not necessarily Martha Stewart order, but your family order. An example might be...if you do morning devotionals and a picture book in the morning with breakfast, gather your favorite reading materials into a nice basket and find a home for it in the kitchen so that you're not walking back and forth to gather items.

    ~ Set up learning spaces for the littles. Use bins, buckets, baskets and set them out at their eye level or on the floor. This does take some work to maintain, I'm not gonna lie! But...it also gives them some purposeful work/play at their fingertips. Put some thought into these. No need to set out 20 at once, that wouldn't be simple. Make a nice list of themed activities for the littles - a set of duplos, playdough, water play, scoop and sort, puzzles, etc. Set out some themed spaces for them and rotate them. Use your list to keep it fresh.

    ~ Purge. Purge. Purge. One of the biggest practicals of living within the framework of simplicity is living a life-less-cluttered. And, it is a constant battle...uphill...in the snow...with bare feet...walking backwards.

**Pare down your list of subjects to be covered and keep that simple. I think this is one area we tend to get off track and over complicate and over think. We think,
    ~ "...if everyone on 4Real is using "x" to cover subject "d" then it surely must be good and must trump whatever I'm using that is far too simple to produce results."

    OR we think,

    ~ "I'm floundering with ___insert subject/s here___ and everyone on 4Real says program "b" is perfect. It will solve all my problems if I just purchase it and use it."

    OR

    ~ "Our rhythm is lovely, but it's much too simple, I must need to add subject h, i and j to my day because everyone else is teaching them separately."

When we have 13 different curriculums on the shelf that must somehow be covered in one day that's a sure recipe for disaster. There's no time to soak in a delightful novel, or discuss and build a volcano - you're simply moving as fast as you can to get to the next thing. This goes along with identifying your core philosophy - once you have identified where you feel most comfortable teaching and where your children thrive in learning - offer what is core to communicating that philosophy and combine subjects. For ex, Narrations, Copywork, Writing all serve other subjects - don't make them separate.

**Plan in blocks of time, rather than subjects at a time. I move in Learning Blocks - some are Family Learning Blocks, and some are blocks of individual learning. When I plan a rhythm to our day I consider carefully how these blocks will look and work. I leave wide margins in them - room to explore, time for the development of an idea. The blocks are typically about an hour to hour and a half long. Family learning blocks are self-explanatory (and my favorite!), Individual learning blocks take some thought - I can't plan to teach Math all at once during a block because I can't possibly teach an Algebra lesson while simultaneously bouncing back and forth between multiplication facts practice and also number/counting practice with my little guy. It's absolutely unrealistic . So, I plan a learning block that looks like this:
    ~ S. Algebra lesson

    ~M. Drawing/Sketching lesson, Religion reading time (all these can be done independently)

    ~JP. & K. Choice time (there's no way to keep a toddler or the baby from interrupting, but I try to keep choices available that are fresh and attractive for them and I open up choice time when I need to be really present to an older child for explanations or discusssions)

If, during a family block, we discover something exciting, something wonderful and the desire to dig into it and uncover all its beauty presents itself, the blocks I have planned generally allow for investigation time and an unfolding or discovering of some new learning. The blocks set a rhythm which I think is reassuring to follow and builds a sense of security and routine - very important to some of my children - while leaving enough wiggle room to explore. (**edited to say that this section was added after the initial post**)

**Consider teaching in tandem...same subject at a different level for the different ages of children in the home. I LOVE doing this, but I have a very good friend IRL who just cannot teach this way. If you are able, I think this is key to multiple ages, multiple levels - study together and allow rabbit trails to develop naturally within these family learning blocks.

**Provide meaningful work for the younger set. I'm a huge Montessori fan. I won't gush on that, but whatever your personal tastes, consider some purposeful work for small hands - activities that inspire connections for them. Present them in a lovely and attractive way and rotate them out frequently so that you keep it fresh.

**Relax. This is a big one for me! I'm fairly sanguine, but also pretty darn choleric. I like a plan and I like to keep us moving. But, God in His Wisdom is offering me many ways to exercise humility and self-control. I see that I can make use of my organizing skills in planning a thoughtful rhythm to the day, but He asks me to let go of that plan frequently and just follow the children down a delightful path. Here's where I exercise daily. Here is where simplicity lives...in letting go, in living in the moment right where the children need me to be, in looking through their eyes with all the wonder and excitement they possess and embracing it and allowing it to express itself. I can help direct and channel this energy, but I can't get in the way. Simplicity means dismissing all the noisy thoughts in my head and just taking a deep breath and using my children's eyes to appreciate their perspective. Beauty lives there - whether it's a high school student discussing the dynamics of a novel, or an elementary student who has just discovered a frog stuck to the living room window.

**Repeat after me..."That is a lovely idea, but it is unrealistic for my family right now. What a lovely idea for another family." Use the mouse to close the browser and let it leave your mind. Immediately say thank you for something. Thank you, Lord, for the awareness that this is too much right now. Thank you, Lord, for giving that person such beautiful talent. Thank you, Lord, that this day is almost over. Thank you.

**If you are in a groove with your lessons and ready to entertain the thought of allowing ideas and inspiration from the outside in...consider a way to organize the ideas so that they don't overwhelm...
    ~ Consider a file crate system like Dawn's. This method is great for keeping ideas and notes organized for the year. Here's how mine is set up...

    ~ I have 5 folders right up front labeled Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas. Ideas pertinent to these liturgical seasons are filed here as well as artwork that applies to the season, craft ideas, liturgical ideas I printed from various blogs and sources, and prayers.

    ~ Behind that there are 12 more hanging files - one for each month of the year. In each hanging file I keep 2 folders:

    ~ One folder: Seasonal plans for each month. Each of these has their top tab (where you write the label) on the left so that they are visually easy to see in the file system. I file nature walk ideas and plans, secular holidays and crafts here.

    ~ The other folder: Liturgical plans for each month. I found that just keeping the 5 liturgical folders wasn't enough. Each of these folders has a top tab on the right, again making them easy to spot in the file crate. Each tab is labeled with the month and the dedication for the month - May is Our Lady, June is the Sacred Heart, etc. Within each of these I keep craft ideas, art and specifics related to saints of that month as well as other crafts and inspiration that pertains to that month's theme.

    ~ Having a file crate system like this means ideas have a place to land. No more guilt. If I see that Charlotte has posted a great idea, but I don't have the time or ability to complete it, I print it, file it and then next year when I pull out that month's file to plan, there it is and I can consider it more carefully.

    ~ Planning with an eye towards simplicity ~ Pull out the appropriate month's folders, consider your schedule, your budget, your rhythm with lessons and plan for a few crafts/activities that fit. Don't overplan and don't try to accomplish every activity you have filed. Do choose tried and true activities that make family memories and build family traditions. These are priceless. Practice your mantra from above...repeat after me..."That is a lovely idea, but it is unrealistic for my family right now. I'm glad I have it filed...maybe next year." Drop the paper back in the file and walk away...just walk away.

**Finally, do consider a periodic evaluation of your daily rhythm as a healthy part of your year. Be careful here --> thoughtfully considering rapidly turns into over-analyzing...and --> over-thinking a daily rhythm rapidly suffocates that freedom of movement in simplicity that yields the beautiful, rich, lovely connections. What is healthy? Consider if something is working. If it's working - LEAVE IT ALONE! Prune where necessary - you're eliminating something that is causing angst and noise in your day and isn't working right now. Give yourself permission to shelve it temporarily and give yourself time to step back and consider its usefulness/purpose in your home. Allow yourself to scale back the peripheral studies. What always happens in my home when I do this is that it simplifies our days, quiets the rhythm, and a natural desire to pursue unique and interesting rabbit trails evolves quite spontaneously resulting in richness, beauty, and joy. These are the magical moments in my home where learning becomes sheer joy!

To underscore some of my earlier thoughts, I think simplicity is a place. It is a place where there is a reasonable and comfortable (not militarily regimented) amount of order in the day and home. It is a place that thrives in quiet - not necessarily hushed and reverent tones in the home accompanied by kind gestures by every member of the home , but quietude of my own intrusive thoughts, pre-conceived ideas, quietude of planned activities. It is a place that carefully protects and nurtures the intimacies of the family. It would be misleading to think that simplicity is "simple". It isn't. It is an atmosphere I work to foster, and I can see that the dynamics of simplicity change...shift...as the family grows. Still, I think...I hope that there will always be a place in our learning philosophy that offers room for ideas to grow, be nurtured, breathe and mature. I think this takes place within an environment and philosophy that values and fosters simplicity.

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Posted: May 15 2009 at 3:53am | IP Logged Quote mayappleridge

How did y'all know that I needed to read a thread like this today. Simplicity has been in the front of my mind lately. I've found the less I plan to do with my children for "school" the more learning they accomplish and the more peace and joy in our household.

Lovely. Keep the words coming, they are inspired.

Jo

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Posted: May 15 2009 at 6:07am | IP Logged Quote mariB

Having my morning cup of coffee...I love this thread! I must come back here and really read through this...I've been trying to lead our family into this "simplicity".   I am excited to glean all the things you ladies have to say.

I've been decluttering the house and that seems to bring more peace here already! I have so many homeschooling books and materials too that I need to weed out! Stuff everywhere seems to always drag me down. Hmmm...less is more as the saying goes. I love Jennifer's lengthy but meaty post. So worth the read and application to our homes!

Ah...now I know what I need to do today.

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Mackfam
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Posted: May 15 2009 at 6:36am | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

I just dropped into my long post above one other practical I thought of this morning that I think is essential in a day that embraces simplicity and fosters richness and loveliness...I'll quote it here, but I thought for context it made more sense to put it in the long post as well...

Quote:
**Plan in blocks of time, rather than subjects at a time. I move in Learning Blocks - some are Family Learning Blocks, and some are blocks of individual learning. When I plan a rhythm to our day I consider carefully how these blocks will look and work. I leave wide margins in them - room to explore, time for the development of an idea. The blocks are typically about an hour to hour and a half long. Family learning blocks are self-explanatory (and my favorite!), Individual learning blocks take some thought - I can't plan to teach Math all at once during a block because I can't possibly teach an Algebra lesson while simultaneously bouncing back and forth between multiplication facts practice and also number/counting practice with my little guy. It's absolutely unrealistic . So, I plan a learning block that looks like this:

      ~ S. Algebra lesson

      ~M. Drawing/Sketching lesson, Religion reading time (all these can be done independently)

      ~JP. & K. Choice time (there's no way to keep a toddler or the baby from interrupting, but I try to keep choices available that are fresh and attractive for them and I open up choice time when I need to be really present to an older child for explanations or discusssions)


If, during a family block, we discover something exciting, something wonderful and the desire to dig into it and uncover all its beauty presents itself, the blocks I have planned generally allow for investigation time and an unfolding or discovering of some new learning. The blocks set a rhythm which I think is reassuring to follow and builds a sense of security and routine - very important to some of my children - while leaving enough wiggle room to explore.


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Nique
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Posted: May 15 2009 at 8:26am | IP Logged Quote Nique

Nedra in So. CA wrote:

I feel like this...if we don't have a full day each week, and some shorter time spent each day, in nature then something is wrong. If I don't have time to just sit and talk with each of my children every day then something is wrong. If I don't have time to read to each of them, and do something special(play a game, bake something, push my twins on the swings) with each of them, something is wrong.


Nedra, that is so beautiful! I've been so overwhelmed these last few weeks with the books, that sadly I had not even thought about this..thank you for the shot in the arm to refocus on what is the most important, for me and my kids!

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Angel
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Posted: May 15 2009 at 9:02am | IP Logged Quote Angel

Mackfam wrote:
   It would be misleading to think that simplicity is "simple". It isn't. It is an atmosphere I work to foster, and I can see that the dynamics of simplicity change...shift...as the family grows. Still, I think...I hope that there will always be a place in our learning philosophy that offers room for ideas to grow, be nurtured, breathe and mature. I think this takes place within an environment and philosophy that values and fosters simplicity.


I read the beginning of this thread last night after dinner, had some thoughts, but wasn't able to reply. So I've been musing on this all night. Most of my musings focused on the idea that "simplicity" is not really "simple" -- that is, whatever "simplicity" is, it is not simple in the sense of being "easy". *Especially* in a large family.

I think when we start talking about simplicity it's easy to get caught up in one of two notions: having a definition of "simple" meaning "easy" and/or a vision of simplicity that sort of vaguely equates with "Shaker" or "Amish" -- you know, everything is homemade, handmade, food is grown or raised, there is no clutter, no outside commitments, life goes on in a reliable rhythm day to day, season to season, and only the important things, the meaningful things -- ideas or objects -- have a place. When either of these notions is applied uncritically to homeschooling, I think we run into 2 different problems which are sort of interconnected.

1)If I take the idea that simple means "easy", and I decided that any sort of planning is too hard and everyone is singing the praises of x boxed curriculum, and I decide that this will be the year that I can use x boxed curriculum to the letter without making any (or many) changes because that will be simple and then I can focus more of my energies on the little ones, or on the house (or whatever), and then I receieve x curriculum and I cannot force one child through the books and another suddenly needs too much help or it requires so much sit down time from me that the little ones have set up their own little Lord of the Flies in the living room, then what is "simple" on the surface is not "simple" for me. In fact, what I am likely to do (this is just me) is to dissolve in bitter tears and ask myself why we can't just be like everybody else, which is, as you might expect, slightly counterproductive. So "simple" for us, in this case, is not following the way that on the surface seems easiest.

2)So now we come to the 2nd problem, which is to treat "simplicity" as its own self-contained, boxed idea: Simplicity (TM) complete with all its accoutrements: clean and ordered house, long afternoons spent knitting, homemade bread, handmade quilts, hours of cozy read alouds on the couch with all the family gathered around, the little ones playing quietly on the floor with blocks perhaps, taking home-canned produce off the shelf for dinner... Now, all of these things are GOOD THINGS, and reading this list, I find myself saying, "Yes! That's absolutely what I want!"... even though I can't knit or sew, 6 of 8 of us in this house could probably be diagnosed with ADHD (including the 2 parents) and I KNOW all the work that goes into homegrown food. The problem is, this image is an ideal. And it's easy to get this idea of Simplicity mixed up with the idea that "simple" means "easy". But this vision of Simplicity is NOT easy. It is NOT effortless. In fact, it probably takes MORE effort to achieve (as a whole) than any other lifestyle. If you are in the least bit perfectionistic, "failing" in any portion of this lifestyle will probably leave you discouraged and thinking that you are a failure as a homeschooling homemaker. (Or maybe that is just me.)

At this point in my thinking, I was left wondering: what then IS a good, workable definition of "simplicity" when applied to homeschooling in a large family? It occurred to me (in the shower, of course), that I hadn't considered another definition of "simple", the simplicity that is most often mentioned when we speak about faith. A "simple" faith is not easy. But it is innocent, uncomplicated, trusting, open to wonder. And it is based on love. So often the things that *really* complicate my life are not the logistics involved in raising 6 people, but the attitudes and pre-conceived notions I bring to it. Sometimes I find myself obsessed with providing an experience or an environment -- often something "simple" -- because I envy the "simplicity" that I think other people possess and that I don't have because of various complicating factors. And there are other times when I find myself working to provide something lovely -- say, a clean house -- not for love of my family but because, "What will people think???"

These attitudes tend to be the real complicating factors in my life.

So maybe a way to bring simplicity from theory to practicality is to make my goal the kind of simplicity that stems from faith, and to ask myself frequently, "Does this action, this curriculum, this lifestyle show my love for my family, my husband, my children -- my God -- in the circumstances in which God has placed me?" I think that question cuts through so much that is truly "extra" and burdens me unnecessarily. And I think it's a good test for the day-to-day practicalities.

Now I should probably write this down and stick it on the refrigerator.      

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MarilynW
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Posted: May 15 2009 at 9:13am | IP Logged Quote MarilynW

Just a few things to add to all the wisdom above:

1. Simple and beautiful can vary by personality and by season.

eg for some people simple might be to use a pre-designed curriculum whereas for others this might cause "getting it all done stress"

For moms who are suffering from morning sickness or are newly postpartum - simple and beautiful can be just reading aloud!

2. I second the simplification and decluttering of our homes. I posted about it here The less we have to distract and tidy up - the easier it is. If we have a beautiful, organized space regardless of size - it is so much more conducive to learning and peace and joy

3. Schedules/blocks/plans - I find having a regular rhythm and some kind of realistic plan really helps with the peace of the children (and mama!) and the flow of our days. I am not a slave to the plan but it is my map reference for the day.

4. Christ-centered - this is something I am slow to learn but am getting there - having Christ at the center of all my planning and purchasing decisions. Also our daily prayer pegs. This is what ensures beauty and calm to our days.

5. Some bible verses I try and have in my mind constantly with planning, deciding on children's activities etc:
"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul"

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain"

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.


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