Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Day in the Life of My One Room Schoolhouse

I’ll try to stay on track here.  This is about my one room schoolhouse not teaching styles, learning styles, the teachable child, or Sonlight curriculum. Stay on track, Rachel.  Stay on track.

 I like to think of my teaching job like a delivery service.  I’m the UPS guy and I am here to deliver this awesome box of information to my awesome students.  There are three things that I want them to get out of my awesome box:

I want them to RETAIN the information.

I want them to ENJOY the information.

I want them to COPREHEND the information.

Of course they are not going to RETAIN everything, nor are they going to COMPRENHEND everything, and they certainly aren’t going to ENJOY every single second of it but we’re going for mostly.  For laziness sake we’ll call this goal our REC.

If you don’t REC then it will be a WRECK.  I kill myself.
You best REC yourself before you WRECK yourself. Anyway…

Keeping REC in mind, how am I going to deliver this information to my children?  I have chosen to do that in a one room school house fashion which makes me as cool as Laura Ingalls Wilder which is really the point, am I right?  Instead of delivering the information in four separate boxes, we all get one box and we open it together and the awesome explodes in our faces at the same time. 

I have a daughter who is 9 and my sons are 8, 6, and 4.  My four-year-old isn’t quite there yet but he hangs out with us most of the time.  He plays toys quietly on the floor, he watches the kids do their math, he listens to the read-aloud or I tell him to go play in his room because he is being obnoxious. 

Math: My older three do the same math grade.  My older two have always been in the same grade.  They are 13 months a part so they started the same year because their teacher is a genius.  My third child just catches on to concepts very quickly thus they
are all doing 4th grade math with Teaching Textbooks.  This is a computer based program that includes the lecture.  They all take turns doing their lesson on our desktop. This takes them between 10-20min.

Spelling: When it isn’t their turn on the computer, they are writing out their spelling words.  This takes care of writing practice and spelling.  We use Sequential Spelling.  This multi tasks as writing practice as well.  The older two have to write their spelling words in cursive.  During snack time I quiz them on their spelling list.  I go around the table and ask them to spell a word and when it’s Ben’s turn I ask him his phonics sounds.  I haven’t figured out if they are really retaining their spelling yet.  This is something I’m still working out.  I have yet to see REC from this program translate into REC in their compositions.  I might switch back to Explode the Code.  I’m open to your opinion.  This takes them between 15-20min.

Grammar: Honestly, this is an area that I have yet to really find something where I see REC happening.  I’m not a big fan of the Sonlight LA work pages so I’ve never really done them.  A friend, who is a high school English teacher, recommended a book to me called The Grammar Bible.  I just go it in the mail and started reading it to my kids like it’s just another one of our read-alouds.  They love it and I see a lot of REC happening.  I also made a grammar game for them, kind of like a movable adlib game, which they pull out every now and again.  I see them getting the structure of grammar but it hasn’t all come together in their heads yet.  I read the book to them while they eat lunch for maybe about 10min.  I know I can do better in this area.  There’s always room to improve.

Writing Composition: We started Institute of Excellence in Writing about a month ago.  It’s a DVD set of a very humorous and talented homeschool dad who just gets how to teach kids to understand and love writing.  I am so impressed with his concepts.  My kids think he’s funny and that’s a big deal since he’s competing with how funny their main teacher is.  The three older ones watch the lectures and I do their writing with them.  My 6-year-old dictates while I write for him.  This takes about 45min and we do this about twice a week.

Reading:  My preschooler and I are making our way through “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons.”  We make time for it maybe 2-3 times a week.  The other three are reading on by themselves.  They read a chapter a day out of their Sonlight readers.  Sometimes they read in the afternoon and sometimes it’s their bed time reading.  We all know that the Sonlight book list is the bomb.  I just love all the amazing stories they get to experience.  They each read for about 30min a day.

Science: I’m taking a break from Science right now so I can be more hands on with it during the summer.  Sonlight gives you a plethora of Science material that is very hard for me to make time for.  My kids get a lot of hands on stuff at our homeschool co-op and they do a lot of digging in the dirt so we’re covered right?

History and Read-Alouds: Sonlight…I love thee.  You are the Spring breeze to my cold Wintery foggy day.  Sonlight integrates their read-alouds with their history cycle.  Right now we are in early American history, my favorite!  I read to all four of my kids at any of these times…while they eat craft, play quietly on the floor, and right before bed time.  I rarely have them sit and do nothing while I read unless it’s more of a picture book.  We talk about life and read and talk and snuggle and read and my kids are my BEST FRIENDS.  I just love how our books have made us close and made the world open and made learning a complete REC.

Bible: We have devotionals together every morning.  We’ve done devotionals a million different ways over the years.  A lot of the time, I write a little devotional for their bed time reading.  Those are the ones I Instagram that always include my left thumb.  In the morning, we follow the stories in my four-year-olds Bible.  We read the Bible story in the storybook and then the older three take turns reading the verses straight out of their Bibles.  We each have prayer cards that we write out every couple of months that include a thank you, a prayer for someone else, and a prayer for ourselves.  After we read and pray, the kids draw a picture of the Bible story and the older two journal a sentence or two.  I want to start including something daily that has to do with missions.  I need your missionary ideas.  Devotionals take about 30min. 

Classical Conversations IPad app:  I love this program.  What a wealth of well-thought out structured information.  I see tons of REC coming out of this program.  We listen to the memory work while we fold our giant mountain of laundry.  The memory work is a perfect background of information that combines all the subjects they are learning.  They are skip counting for math, memorizing science facts, History sentences (my six-year-old was playing Legos the other day and perfectly quoted the 7 wonders of the ancient world in a conversation between two Lego guys), and memorizing grammar structure.  We take out each item of information from our box and then CC builds every item together into one awesome tower.  Dude, that’s a lot of REC.

Throughout all of this, the kids get their chores done and go outside and wiggle for a bit and eat.  They are always eating.  Always.  I don’t have us all sit down at the table and not move until everything is done.  Even I’m to hyper for that!  Most of their school takes place on the couch and sometimes I send a kid to finish on their bed because they get distracted by siblings and dust specks floating through the air.  This is what works for us because I’m Rachel Cook and that’s how I roll.  They get a lot of extra curricular fun time our our Friday homeschool co-op.

You can look up homeschool teaching styles and get an idea of what you might be.  I’m Charlotte Mason/Classical.  This makes me cool but not cooler than you.

We are together most of the day, laughing at the same stories, giving pointers on the same math lesson, writing the same composition story.  It’s my one room school house.  It’s my pride and joy.  Life is good.  It’s not perfect but it’s good.  

You guys stay cool.  God has big plans for your day and it’s doesn’t include freak outs.  Go hug a kid.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Don't Love My Children More Than You Love Yours

This is more of an apology blog post then the usual blah blah ones that I write.  My heart has softened a lot over the years of being a mother.  Mostly, because I’ve made so many mistakes and done so many not so godly things that God has really broken me down from my prideful, self- righteous view on my walk with the Lord.  I tell you this because I want you to know that I am sorry.  I want you to know that I was wrong.  I want you to know that if I made you feel like my faith is greater than yours that I really truly am sorry.  I am down on my knees begging your forgiveness because I’m about to write a blog post on my passion for homeschooling but I don’t want to do it in a self-righteous way. 

Every Christian mother needs to reach THIS point in their Christian mothering...

I DO NOT love my children more than you because I homeschool them and you do not.  I did not love my babies more because I chose natural childbirth and breastfeeding and you did not.  I do not love myself more than God because I have four children and you have eight.  AND I REFUSE to condemn what you have chosen to sacrifice for God whatever that might be.

There is no math involved when it comes to loving the Lord and living for Him.  I gave Him nothing.  He gave His everything to die on the cross and save me from my nothing.  I give my time to educate my children. That does not give me more Christian points than you.  No math going on here.  None.
I am not the one with the greater faith than you.  You are not the one with the lesser faith than me.   I homeschool because it’s the song that God plays for me and I just have to get up and dance and sing because that’s our song. ..just the Lord and I…nothing to do with you.  I am so sorry I made you feel smaller than me.  I’m so sorry I made you feel like you need to like that same song that wasn’t even written for you in the first place.

A well-known Bible verse that most people think of when it comes to this subject is David’s psalm 51:17.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart…”

David wrote that after He broke God’s commandment and sinned with Bathsheba. 
This is so beautiful.  He disobeyed God.  God forgave Him.  David recognized that God wanted His heart above any sacrifice he could make.

I am a sinner.  I have broken God’s commandments.  I choose to recognize that God wants my willing and obedient heart over any sacrifice I could make to Him. 

So do you forgive me?  Because I’m going to start working on a homeschool post and I need you to not think that I think that my faith is greater than yours.  Homeschooling is my calling. I love it.  You can tell me about your passions if you want but if it’s ice fishing, or video games, or bowling I might fall asleep or slap you in the face and then I’ll have to write another apology post. 

I love you a little and God loves you a lot. K bye

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Rachel Met Denise

You need to understand that this our story is funny to the both of us.  I lived in the Central Valley of California for 25 years where you shoot people over race or you laugh and have a good time over race.  I’m with the laughers.  We all laugh about it.  The blinding white people are laughing with their caramel opposites.  Our differences are funny to us not good or bad…just straight funny. 

Denise….you know I would never be your friend if we didn’t have Jesus to make us exactly the same.  You would have never grilled hamburgers with me if Jesus hadn’t brought us both from the opposite sides of the road to land in the same church with the same Savior.

I grew up completely homeschooled…back then that meant long hair, long skirts, long vocabulary words, and long books that you actually wanted to read.  That’s why Denise lovingly calls me “homeschooled.”  And I’m just so…you know…white girl…whatever that might mean to you.  What that means to Denise is that in the first few years of being friends with her I tried to break out of my whiteness and maybe throw down some street talk…it never really worked out though.

Like that one time she made Spanish rice and her husband was bringing it over to the table and I said REALLY loudly…

“I gotta get me some of that!”

…Denise and my husband (who also speaks fluent street talk) just stared at me in shock and then started laughing.

What?! What did I say?  Denise said I really should just stick with my white homeschool girl talk.  I was just trying to be cool like them.  Excuse me. 

We would never be buddies if it weren’t for Jesus.   But here we are.  She finds my whiteness entertaining and I find her streetness educational.  That’s how amazing our God is.  He takes opposite people and fills them with love for people that we would think were weird in a life without Christ.  You guys really need to step into this life with Jesus.  Cool stuff happens.

Denise, I still haven’t convinced you how cool I am but for some reason you still like to hang out.  You don’t seem to mind that the only time I’ve been high is when I was overlooking the Yosemite Valley.  You still let me make high jokes even though I don’t know what I’m talking about.  God has brought us together because he is one of the laughers too. 

Now give me a hug…come on…bring it in.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Little Pony Undies

Four Reeses Walk Through a Corn Field, Down an Asphalt Road, and Into a Dried Up River

The first thing you have to settle on before you walk through a corn field and down an asphalt road to a dried up river is what the scenario of this particular adventure is going to be.  Are we the boxcar children running from renegade grandpa?  Civil war solders running from renegade Southerners?  Maybe by some outlandish twist of plot we are the ones renegading some poor fools that are at the time hiding in the dried up river bed.  Now is the time to settle all that and to also sneak out of the house while Mama is taking a nap with the baby and to never consider that you might need to wear shoes or that the truant officer might spy us across the alfalfa fields we’ll be tromping through.  Our very white freckled foreheads tend to reflect the sun right into the very binoculars of the bus driver who tattles on us. 
Josh is the eldest but Rachel is the most bossy. Peter is the most trouble but it is Hannah that this story is most about.  She is three or four at time and far too much trouble than she’s worth but it’s either pull her along with us or sit at home and read one of Dad’s giant encyclopedias. 
“Violet, hurry up; the police will soon find our foot prints,” said the beautiful, intelligent, Rachel or should we say Jesse.  As you can see, the Rees children decided to play Boxcar children.  Somehow, to play orphans is incredibly exciting when actually being one is incredibly sad.
“I have to go potty,” says the Hannah or Violet.
“Violet, you need to just go in the field like the rest of us,” says the Josh Henry who always gets to play the hero part just because he’s the oldest Rees.
“I don’t like to pee in the field.  It rolls down my legs and mixes with the dirt and makes me muddy,” whined Hannah.  She was always whining.  It was her special talent.  I’m informed that it might skip a generation so she might find great companionship with her grandchildren.
“Hannah, if you don’t go pee behind that tree right now we’ll have to hear you whine the whole time.  Boxcar children don’t whine,” said Peter or Edmund or Benny or Prince Caspian or The Trouble Maker.  You get who I’m talking about.
“Okay, fine.  Don’t look at me or I’m telling on Mom,” she whined.  She walked behind the tree and the rest of us, who were trying very hard to stay in character and do what Henry, Jesse, and Benny would have done, just ended up doing what Josh, Rachel and Peter would have done and still do.  Of course, that meant snickering, guffawing, the boys squatting like a girl would and generally causing Hannah great irritation.  Maybe what happened next was our fault but honestly I don’t see how it could be with a little girl like Hannah carrying on about us carrying on when she should have been watching where she was aiming.  What happened, happened.  We can’t undo it. 
Hannah walked out from behind the tree with a pair of My Little Pony undies dangling from her finger as far away from her body as possible.
“They got wet,” said the out of character Violet.
We rolled our eyes.  This is what you have to put up with when you take your whiney little sister on a walk through a corn field and down an asphalt road to a dried up river bed. 
“Just hang them in the tree to dry and we’ll pick them up on the way back,” said the hero.  It really was the most heroic way to save those My Little Pony undies.
She stuck them in the tree, did a little shimmy dance to dry off her legs and we were back on our adventure.
My dad told us never to walk through the corn fields because we will get lost and eaten by coyotes and what father wants to deal with that kind of ridiculousness so we would walk through only the first couple rows.  We felt like we were in a jungle but we were also avoiding death at the same time.  When you walk through a corn field in the Central Valley of California in the middle of August it feels exactly like a jungle on the equator.  The humidity is squeezing you to death but gosh is it fun.  The edges of the corn leaves make little cuts on your bare arms which combined with sweat, turn you into Captain Itchy. 
We all made it through the corn field fine and maybe one of us felt an extra breeze blowing in from across the irrigation canal but she seemed okay with it.  The asphalt road lead straight from our goat pasture to the dried up river bed which means the corn field was a detour but a necessary one.  We ran along the asphalt road, our callused feet could walk on fire.  We ran for quite some time seeing how the renegade grandpa was driving by in his car.  It didn’t take long to get to the river from our house.  We lived on what was called the island because the Kings River surrounded this part of Lemoore.  They should have called it The Oasis because the river was almost always empty and crops were always being watered by wells.  The asphalt road turned into a little burm and we made our way past the white trumpet vines, pausing for a moment for the girls to stick one in their hair and I think Peter tasted one. And then there we were at the long ditch full of sand.  We slid our way down the bank and started filling our pockets with river clams as we liked to call them.  They were about the size of our thumb nail with a light brown color on the outside and a little while spot near the point where they connected.  They were treasure.  We had jars of them in our room next to the pressed flowers we gathered from the fields.
Filling your pockets with river clams makes you so hungry that you run all the way back home, possibly forgetting something that you hung in a tree, and sneak into the freezer to steal chocolate chips out of the 20lb bag that mama buys form the food co-op.  We added our pocketful of river clams to the mason jar in our room that the ants would find later.
And then foggy gray Winter comes.  Gone are the walks to the river.  We would all be so busy watching PBS and reading encyclopedias that that Summer day of wet undies just wouldn’t come to mind.  Then came Spring in the Central Valley.  Hannah and I would go out every day and gather up fiddle neck, shepherd’s purse, wild radish flowers, wild mustard, and put them in a vase on the table that would make a big mess and have my dad proclaiming “What are those weeds doing in here” in his teasing way.  Still no one had a thought for what became of the old friend drying in the tree.
Then one day Peter walked in with a outrageously sheepish grin.  He held in his hands the fossilized My Little Pony undies.  He laid them in front of Hannah in all their glory.  They looked like a paper mache project gone completely wrong.
And that’s why you learn how to properly pee in a field when you’re walking through a corn field, down an asphalt road, and into a dried river bed.