Scholé Sisters: Virtue is the goal of education

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Scholé Sisters is launched! I’m so excited! We’re giving away a prize bundle of all my, Pam, Sarah, and Brandy’s ebooks and MP3s on Monday’s post. Don’t miss that opportunity!

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For the first two weeks, we have a post every day. We want to start off by establishing what the principles of classical education are and how they play into life and education at home. Then we will settle into a regular rhythm of a meaty Tuesday article and a discussion-starter on Fridays, where we hope to get some good conversation rolling in the comments section.

Yesterday, Sarah Mackenzie kicked it off with “You’re More Classical Than You Think“:

Often, the most meaningful changes take place not when we overhaul our entire lifestyle, but rather when we make a subtle shift in paradigm.

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And today, I start off the discussion of principles with “Virtue as the Goal of Education“:

When we take classical methods and use them in order to get good test scores, in hopes that our children will get good jobs, or in order to get into a prestigious college, then we are actually pursuing the ends of modern – not classical – education.

The goal of education is really the chief end of life itself:

The aim of education is to know God better, and the more we know God, the more we love and obey Him.

If you’ve ever thought you needed to focus more on character than your curriculum checklist, you might be more classical than you think.

Classical homeschooling doesn’t have to be intimidating or confusing. We hope you’ll join us as we explore what it can look like in the context of our individual and unique homes.

Convivial Contentment, summer edition

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round button chicken

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a picture post. It’s about time. :) I’ve been bad about photo-taking, though, so half these photos are not even mine. That’s ok, because that actually means they’re a lot better than anything I’d have taken. It’s good to have photographers in the family.

Pretty Wedding

My brother was married a couple weeks ago and the reception was in our backyard. It was a fun wedding and a good party and it all went very well – thanks to good friends who can step right in and help get things done!

For example, at one point the mother-of-the-bride dropped off the gorgeous wedding cake on a table in the main thoroughfare of the house the day before the wedding. It’s, uh, been 25 years since she’s had toddlers.

wedding cake disaster waiting to happen

What could go wrong?

Said good friend was there, looked around and said, “So, do your kids want to spend the rest of the day at my house?”

Everybody needs friends like that. Thanks, Kirsti, for all you did!

Happy Campers

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What one needs after putting on a wedding is to take 5 young children camping, right? Right.

The kids had a blast. All I can say is that if you must camp, you should definitely do so with 6 other responsible adults who have no children of their own.

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That’s my sister – Melanie Thompson, artist – not me. And no, we are not twins.

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Funny Fitness

Well, the funniest fitness picture is the one above of my brother-in-law teaching various forms of push-ups to the children. Who knew Ilse could do such a good plank?!

We also finished 4 weeks of swimming lessons for the three older kids. That felt like a marathon!

I probably wouldn’t have gone outside if it hadn’t been for our appointment at the pool, though, so it was good for us all.

While the kids were getting their exercise, I took some myself. After looking at them off and on for two years at least, I finally broke down (peer pressure was involved, I promise!) and got a Fitbit Flex. Costco had them, so the risk was low because a return would be easy. It’s not going to be returned unless it stops working, though. It’s actually a lot of fun to generate stats. :)

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Now that every step “counts” – literally – I have definitely been more active all day instead of just a single walk or run a couple times a week. Running up or down the stairs to get something is something I’ll just pop up and do because otherwise I’ll have a stretch on my graph with zero steps! I’ve learned that there’s no way in my normal daily life that I can get 10,000 steps around the house, though, and that’s mildly depressing but good to know.

Turns out my house is laid out too efficiently to be much good for exercise.

But, I have to keep up with (that is, stay no more than 8k steps below!) my friend on the leaderboard, so up I get in the morning and head out the door for a 30-45 minute walk. I had better make it 60 if I’m serious about passing her up. A Fitbit is definitely more fun with friends.

Real Deadlines

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I’ve been writing less here on the blog not only because of these events going on, but also because I’m working on writing that is yet to be published.

Next week we launch Scholé Sisters! I’ve edited and scheduled the first week of content and let me tell you, this is good stuff. I am so excited! Sarah, Brandy, and Pam make an awesome team to work with. We’ve had way too much fun talking rabbit trails over iMessage and Voxer as we’re getting this site up and running. I hope you’ll all come join us in the conversation over there when it “opens.” Every Friday there’ll be a conversation-starter post that we hope will lead to some rich and encouraging discussion. This will be real, in-the-trenches-with-you classical homeschooling: we have our ideals, but we also have our share of rough days and laundry piles. I am so thrilled to be a part of this!

I’ve also turned on the afterburners to wrap up my Simplified Organization project. It started out as a domain purchase and ebook outline over a year ago, and as I worked here and there at writing the ebook, I kept wondering if there was a better way to do it. It seems like ebooks can be helpful and inspiring, but they also easily just sit on the virtual shelf and are difficult to reference in the muddle of trying to do real life. Plus, it was starting to get way too long.

So after poking around online and talking to a few people about it, I realized it made much more sense to make it an online course! My husband the programmer is working on the technical side of it, but the plan right now is to have it be web-based content that’s really easy to navigate and pull up the instructions or inspiration you need to get your home and habits up and humming. I’m really excited about how it’s shaping up, and I’m even more happy that going through all these principles and instructions has forced me to implement it myself much more consistently!

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And that’s good, because next week we start ramping up for a gradual back-to-school season.

Wait, what? I’m going to have to actually do all these plans instead of just writing about them? Drat.

That’s a deadline I’d rather not think about, but the shift back into steady routine is always welcome when it arrives.

Cheerful Chore Challenge, week 6: Beastly Bedrooms

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Well, it’s the last week of my plan to improve our chore routines. It’s been helping a lot, even though summer things like swimming lessons and camping trips interrupt the routine. It’s still good to get that introduction phase over before the school routines are added back in. This week we’ll talk about the real challenge: how to get the kids to keep their rooms clean!

Cheerful Chore Challenge

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Beastly Bedrooms: The Problem

So, I think most parents with average kids know this problem – at least, most people I know do. Kids’ rooms can be disaster sites! Even if they pick it up, it can go from tidy to disaster in about 1 minute flat. I grew up as a kid with a disaster room, and though I’ve gotten better, still even my own bedroom seems to attract disorder and disarray. Bedrooms are an out-of-the-way, non-public spot. The natural tendency is the let one’s guard down, to have bedrooms be the spot one unwinds and allows carelessness.

So, one short-cut solution is to keep bedroom doors closed.

I’m not joking. It totally worked for me as a kid. My mom knew it was bad, but if she didn’t have to see it and be reminded, we could both just ignore it and not start a fight.

Bedrooms are last in my 6 week series because though I think a clean bedroom is a critical aspect of an identity-forming atmosphere, it’s the best corner to cut of the six areas I’ve mentioned when life is crazy and there is no energy for consistency. Been there, done that, periodically revisit it, we’re all still alive and functioning.

Bedroom-maintenance takes a lot of work and energy on both Mom’s and kids’ parts for the first couple months of learning the habits, and it’s going to be an exercise in frustration if there’s no reserves left to make it consistent. So, wait for a different season if that’s where you are. It’ll be ok. There’ll come a time to get to it, if you keep it on your radar but let go of the stress that it all has to happen now.

We are at a point where I think we need to conquer the bedroom-as-disaster-zone habit. We’ve had bouts of consistency, enough where I know what works for us and what doesn’t, but I’ve let my vigilance go too soon and it all slides downhill faster than anything.

As I’ve learned as I’ve acquired the habit of making my bed, the state of your bedroom communicates to you what sort of a person you are. Are you a person who likes things neat or a person who is a slob when given the choice? If you don’t give yourself or your kids the choice for long enough, then you all acquire the habit and the taste for order (in an -ish sort of way, nothing meticulous here). So it can be a very strategic place to work on habits of neatness – more so, I think, than with schoolwork. As orderliness in one area becomes a habit and a part of our identity, it will become easier and more natural to learn neatness is other areas.

That’s my theory, anyway, and I’m going to try to put it into practice and see if it holds.

Beastly Bedrooms: Minimize the Problem

There are several strategies we can implement before we get to habits that will make working and learning the habits easier and more effective. Mostly, they all boil down to declutter. The fewer things the kids have to manage and the easier it is to put the away, the more likely they will feel success when doing the work, and the feeling of success is a vital component of intrinsic motivation.

  1. Reduce as much as possible the number of toys in their bedroom. It was easiest to keep kids’ rooms clean when we had a no-toys-in-bedrooms policy. That’s ideal if you have an arrangement where that works. Because of our mix of boys, girls, ages, and rooms available in the house, this is no longer viable for us. However, now the boys’ room only has Legos and books – no other toys. The girls’ room is a little more problematic, because my daughter has her own Legos, dressup clothes, and her dolls, and then random other items she ends up collecting. To minimize her mess, I got her a Lego container that fits under her bed for storage, I moved the dolls to live with the kitchen stuff downstairs so they can be a part of playing house, and I let her use a small jewelry set of drawers my grandpa gave me to keep little things she wants to keep – but that’s her storage limit. One of the drawers under Geneva’s crib holds her dressup.

  2. Reduce the number of clothes. Whatever drawer or basket or shelf system you are using, the clothes have to fit in the space with room to spare for children to be able to manage putting their clothes away. If the drawers are overfull, it is difficult to put things away at all, much less well. We want to find as many ways to make it easy for them as possible.

  3. Label drawers and shelves. This falls under another way to “make it easy” for the kids. Where things go might make sense to you and to me, but apparently it isn’t as obvious to the kids. Don’t fight that, work with it and make it crystal clear.

  4. Use open containers. This is another way to make it easier – by removing the barrier of opening a lid, putting something away, and closing it again. You can reduce that three-step job into one step by just giving them containers without lids. I like shallow Sterilite bins that slide under beds, and I just store the lids in the basement.

A few other ideas I’ve seen around that I haven’t put into practice but am considering are giving your children a shelf or peg for them to hang their clothes they’ve worn but want to wear again tomorrow. Then it’s easy to just plop that outfit on the shelf or peg rather than dump it on the floor or toss it in the dirty hamper. You can also teach them to put their pajamas they can still wear another night under their pillow when they make their bed. I think that would help reduce my laundry load considerably! Right now, the easiest thing to do with clothes they have to deal with is toss them into the open hamper in their room — so that’s where they go most of the time. Giving them another easy option for clothes that can be worn again is a great idea.

Beastly Bedrooms: Maximize the Solution

Have you ever had the experience where someone’s offhanded comment is, to you, brilliant insight? This happened to me last year while chatting with my mom and youngest sister when my mom was giving my sister a hard time about the state of her room. She then admitted that said youngest sister was still much better than I had been. She then said, “Kirsten’s room gets just as messy, but she picks it up more often.”

Blink. Blink.

What if it were that easy? Maybe it is that easy.

Bedrooms will get messy. What if, instead of fighting it and feeling frustrated by it, we all just pick it up more often. Does everyone else already know that and I’m just obtuse?

So much of my head-banging frustration over not only the children’s rooms but also my own has been relieved with this simple change in perspective:

Don’t stress about the mess happening; just EHAP often.

After all, the more often you pick up, the less likely it is to get completely out of hand and impossible to deal with. Also, the more often you pick up, the more practice you get at cleaning up — it becomes normal, rather than a big deal.

Make sure room-cleaning is on the once-or-twice-a-day loop, not the once-or-twice-a-week loop.

In the kids’ bedrooms, for us this looks like these guidelines posted for the kids to see:

  • picking up clothes & making beds is a morning chore
  • no computer or playing with friends unless bedrooms are clean (it has to be clean before asking or the answer is no)
  • bedrooms have to be picked up after EHAP jobs (this means the time between EHAP & dinner is used to clean up their bedrooms instead of to play if they haven’t been keeping it tidy or putting things away when they’re done)

Then, if when they grumble about one of these, I point out that if they put things away when they are done with them, their room would never need tidying. I’m hopeful that after 10,000 such reminders, they might get it someday and try it out.

Of course, maybe sometime I should try it out myself.

For my own bedroom, this just-pick-up-more-often approach means that when I make my bed, I also tidy up any clothes out of place or otherwise spend 2 minutes EHAPing in my bedroom. It means I am working on hanging my clothes back up or setting them aside on a shelf at the end of a day rather than making a heap at the bottom of my closet.

My room does collect the clothing piles when seasons or sizes change, and that does mean some piles will stick around for awhile. But that needs to be a temporary issue and not one that drags on because I’ve stopped seeing the piles. I think dealing with those times would make a good part of an interval plan, so that the goal would be to have the piles all gone by the end of the interval.

As we all grow more accustomed to putting things away and to living in clear spaces, it will become easier.

Do you have any other strategies to share for keeping up with beastly bedrooms?

Plan Your Year Winners!

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We have winners! Thank you to all of you who entered and who left comments sharing your response to our series and also sharing your struggles. We were thrilled with the response, and are talking about how to do more giveaways. :) Thank you!

Our winners are:

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They’ve already been contacted with their download link and I hope all of you who either won or purchased Pam’s planning pack are loving it! It’s a great resource!

If you missed any of the posts, you can find them here:

Scholé Sisters on Scheduling

Make sure you sign up to hear more about Scholé Sisters as we prepare to launch! We’ve arranged to have an awesome Scholé Sisters giveaway bundle our first week. Sign up so you don’t miss any chances to enter!

Planning with an Open Hand

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Today Sarah is sharing about what she’s learned about Planning with an Open Hand. If you’ve read Teaching from Rest, then you know she has a lot of wisdom to share on this topic even while being knee-deep in living this out.

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There is no foolproof way to homeschool, and though we may try to delude ourselves into thinking otherwise, we aren’t in control. (Thank goodness!)

I have a tendency to live in my ideals. I picture our ideal day, week, or term, and then I feel chronically disappointed because it never becomes my reality. I’m tight-fisted. I cling ruthlessly to my own vision and fail to recognize that the beauty is in the muddle.

What it really boils down to is a lack of humility and a failure to see that God is glorified even when the day looks nothing like it did when I mapped it out on paper. I’m so intent on having things go my way that I don’t leave room for Him to turn the whole thing on its head and do with it what He wills.

How do we open our fist? How do we teach from rest, willing to receive anything He hands us?

Head on over to Amongst Lovely Things to read the rest.

And remember that you can enter the giveaway for Plan Your Year every day this week! But if you buy it now, you can use the discount code sisters through Saturday to get 20% off.

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Scholé Sisters on Scheduling

Five Tips for Making Room: Extras are Riches

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Today’s post in the Planning with the Scholé Sisters series is from Brandy on how to fit in the extras, and why they are necessary.

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enrichment

I think that, culturally, we are finally moving away from the conception that the so-called “Three R’s” are what a good, solid, simple education should look like. I’m glad because, taken alone, the Three R’s are about as boring and utilitarian as you can get. When I think of my own life as a student — and do you ever do this? do you ever take the time to remember what it was like for you back when you were in their shoes? — all the extra stuff really shines.

Now, I don’t mean projects. I don’t mean building models of the solar system or creating a diorama to illustrate my very boring history textbook.

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I mean the stuff that the schools these days are most likely to cut due to budget issues — music, art, drama, etc.

Some people call these things “enrichment” and I have a love/hate relationship with that term. On the one hand, these things do, literally, make one rich. But on the other hand, the word has come to be synonymous with the idea of easily discarded extras. They’re the things that we get to, when or if we ever have time.

Head on over to Afterthoughts to read the rest.

And remember that you can enter the giveaway for Plan Your Year every day this week! But if you buy it now, you can use the discount code sisters through Saturday to get 20% off.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Scholé Sisters on Scheduling