Tag Archives: large family

Helpful Changes

Last year I made a few changes which helped me streamline as I’m adding children, but not hours, to my life.

  1. Instead of scheduling a 36 week school year, plus 3 weeks of exams, I scheduled a 30 week school year. Each 10 week term is divided in half with a “project week” and ends with an exam week. I added the project week because I always have ideas for fun activities and outings during the year, but in my head they take away from “school” days and put us “behind” so it’s hard for me to actually take the time to do them. By scheduling a week for activities, it helps legitimize the activities in my head. It’s mostly a mental thing for me, but it gave me more freedom this year. We did a big collaborative painting one week. We went to the zoo and a museum several times…and didn’t do school when we got home. The last term, we shipped Kids Tres and Cuatro off to their FL grandparents and they had a 10 day project week of kayaking, swimming, fishing, making slime, building styrofoam boats, having tea parties, playing at the beach, and launching rockets. Kids Uno and Dos had less fun–they spent their week helping me with some organizing and cleaning, but they did a lot of reading, some weaving on a new loom, and going to 7-ll for Slurpees. 🙂 Exams don’t take us a full week, but scheduling a week for them gives me more mental flexibility. As far as planning…books and curricula divide just as nicely by 30 as they do by 36. Imagine that! Overall, decreasing my school year by 6 weeks eased a lot of pressure on me to fit everything in, so I’m keeping that schedule for next year.
  2. I started the year with 4 kids using Ray’s Primary, Intellectual, and Practical Math as their main math curriculum, supplemented by Miquon, Strayor-Upton, and a couple living math books. Within a week or so, I was going nuts trying to keep over a dozen math balls in the air. And the teacher key for Ray’s is horribly incomplete; instead of just being able to flip a page and check the kids’ work, I frequently had to work the problems myself because the answer was not in the key. I just do not have time for that! So I ended up putting the Year 3 and 5 students in Strayor-Upton (which is written to the student and has a full answer key), supplemented by Miquon or living books twice a week and doing Ray’s Intellectual orally twice a week (to keep up their mental math skills). The Year 2 and Year .5 still did Ray’s Primary or Practical with me every day since their math is still all oral. But I limited their lessons to 10-15 minutes daily, which kept my time very manageable, and kept them alert through the whole lesson. The Year 2 also had Miquon 2 days a week, and I Love Math weekly. So the math year ended much less frantically than it began. I’m definitely keeping that format for next year.
  3. The other positive change was how I laid out the schedules for each term. Luke kindly reformatted them for me so they are easier to read (his word processing skills are much more current than mine). And instead of scheduling every single box to check every day or week, we made some more open-ended boxes. That gave my box-checking mind more breathing room. As I plan 2018, I think I’ll use even more open-ended schedules (more logging and less scheduling). I feel like we have a good handle on a Charlotte Mason lifestyle (outdoor time, nature study, art, music, living books and things, practical skills, etc.) and instead of planning everything in advance, I can just fill things in as we do them as part of life. Serendipity meets Type A, or something like that. 🙂
  4. Finally, in looking for other ways to streamline, I calculated that I spend about 20 minutes each night writing next-day lists for 4 kids. I think I can get that down to 5-10 minutes if I template a to-do list, print it, and fill in the relevant bits for each kid. As much as I love lists, I’d rather spend less time writing them…and more time blogging about them 😉
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Ella Frances Lynch vs. Charlotte Mason

If I had discovered Ella Frances Lynch before Charlotte Mason, our home education probably would have been based on her methods. As the size of our family grows, and my responsibilities increase, I think Lynch’s methods will be easier than Mason’s to incorporate in our family. Mason’s approach (for educating a child older than 6) was to make her private school methods available to parents/governesses who needed to use them in a home setting, something like a correspondence school. Lynch’s writings are directly to the mother and make the education of young children (up to age 10) simply an extension of the parenting which has been ongoing since babyhood. Charlotte Mason has a much larger following in the homeschool world, and there are people discussing and explaining her philosophies, so her methods are easier to implement in some ways. There are books, blogs, websites, and curricula based on Mason’s philosophy of education. There are at least two books (Bookless Lessons for the Teacher-Mother and Educating the Child at Home) and several newspapers and magazine articles written by Ella Frances Lynch (there are some links on the Well Trained Mind forums). Within those two books, she gives very detailed directions starting at age 3, maybe earlier, as far as discipline and habits and education. Charlotte Mason assumed an audience who were already familiar with the current methods of teaching. In 1916, everyone seemed to know how to do an object lesson and why it should be done, and Mason doesn’t really explain how to do it. As an educator in 2016, I have no idea how to conduct a traditional object lesson, but Lynch goes into great detail as to the whys and hows. She assumes the mother is starting from scratch and builds her methods using articles already at hand, and methods which could be used anywhere and at any time.  And I love how she is very clear about the goals of education, and very practical in how to attain them.

Lynch and Mason share many similarities. A goal of educating the whole child, morally, mentally, physically, socially. An emphasis on nature study, short lessons, good habits, early math using concrete objects, learning useful skills, and reading good literature. A belief that a loving mother is capable of educating her own children. However, Lynch was an American, and seemed more aware of the day-t0-day responsibilities of mothers (especially mothers with large families, limited means, and no help in the form of cooks and nannies). She wrote for popular magazines and newspaper columns, so her writing is much more concise and practical than Mason’s six flowery volumes. Charlotte Mason seems to have a bit of a cultish following these days. There are people who are very concerned about studying her works and divining “what she really meant”. But you don’t have to dissect Ella Frances Lynch; she just tells you exactly what she means! She was Catholic, while Mason was Anglican, and she is more directive in how to oversee a child’s spiritual and moral development, and puts the responsibility in the parents’ hands. Both women were educators; neither of them had their own children. How ironic 🙂 Charlotte Mason’s ideal mother takes a 20 minute ride out into the country where she sits on a blanket while her children play and explore for 4-6 hours, and teaches them observation skills part of that time by describing the landscape around them. Ella Frances Lynch’s ideal mother supervises her toddler peeling potatoes in the kitchen with her, while the other children are counting forks or reciting lines from a poem (the mother has just refreshed her memory on the meaning of several archaic words in said poem). Guess which mother I resemble most days???

Lynch ideas that resonate with me:

  • The mother is the best teacher for a young child. She loves him, cares for him, knows more than him, and is just as or more competent than the best available teacher. A child is better being with his mother until age 7 or 8 (or later). Lynch emphasizes mother-education: brushing up on vocabulary and scientific knowledge so you can pass it on to your children, memorizing poetry so you can teach them to recite, forming your own faith so you can instruct your own children in religion and morality.
  • Poetry is the language of childhood. Poetry is the cornerstone of a child’s education. This idea seemed odd to me, but after reading her reasons, it is very attractive. I really like the idea of using a beautiful epic poem, and expanding to nature study, language study, history, geography, oration, and recitation. I probably wouldn’t pick Longfellow’s Hiawatha, though. 🙂
  • Memorization and observation are the main skills for a young child to develop. She has detailed instructions for object study, listening and answering, memorization.
  • The goal of education is to develop a child who is more or less able to self-educate around age 10-12, and who is ready for a lifetime working in his or her calling, whatever it may be. Lynch mentions different “tracks” depending on whether the child is headed for a trade or for higher education.
  • School reform. Educating the Child at Home contains a lot of great ideas for public school reform. Lynch worked hard at this; maybe the Department of Education should take a strong dose of her ideas again.

And some that don’t:

  • Left-handedness is a fault, and children must be corrected to use their right hands. Eek! I will not be taking that advice for Kid Cuatro.
  • What does one do after a child reaches age 10? Lynch seemed to assume sending him off to school. But if I plan to oversee our children’s education through age 14 or later, she doesn’t cover that age in detail at all. I suppose the same philosophy continues, using more difficult material, but some concrete examples would have been nice.

So this is a brief comparison of Ella Frances Lynch and Charlotte Mason, after reading Bookless Lessons for the Mother Teacher and Educating the Child at Home by Lynch, and Volumes 1, 3, and 6 by Mason. And if anyone is considering Charlotte Mason, but is overwhelmed by reading her volumes, I suggest starting with Ella Frances Lynch instead.

Thinking Out Loud…Halfway Through 2016-2017

How are we doing this year? On track to finish at the end of May. We took a week off for my unexpected surgery and then spent 3 lovely weeks in Florida on vacation.

 

I’m glad we started in August last year; it gave me a mental buffer even though we weren’t expecting a baby this year…and recovering from abdominal surgery has been harder than recovering from a birth. On paper, our schedules are very balanced and doable. In reality, I am struggling with very long days for myself, generally 8:30 am to 9:30 pm without much/any margin. Kid Seis is Super Destructo Toddler–she can destroy our entire house in 3 minutes.  And send us all into hysterics watching her because she is so FUNNY!

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But she is very hard to keep up with, and it seems like someone else is always getting the short end of the stick. My elegant solution is to hand the stick to a different person every day 🙂 We are doing well covering the skill subjects and readings. It has worked well combining Kids Dos and Tres for several readings. They have a sweet relationship with each other, without the competitive element between Kid Uno and Kid Dos. We are doing great at spending 1+ hours outdoors daily, even though it’s been a COLD winter. img_20170119_123554738

DH takes the kids on an outing most Saturdays, which is fun for the kids and gives me some very appreciated. I’m starting to get into planning mode for next year; I always enjoy planning.

It’s all the “extras” that feel very rushed to me; I assign something to a kid, and then nag and say “hurry up and finish, we have so much other stuff to get done”. But really, I want them to dive into their art projects or handicrafts or outdoor exploration, and really spend some time enjoying it.  So that is something for me to improve over the next 18 weeks. I’ll have the 3 older kids doing the same thing every day, to see if it streamlines things a bit. So everyone does picture study one day, nature journals another day, sports another day, art project another day, handicraft another day…

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Also–the little kids. I want to grab a bunch of picture books, Five In A Row Style, and read them a couple times, and do a few activities that we are inspired to do. Kid Cuatro is a little academic. She spends hours drawing, and now writing, as long as she has a willing parent or sibling around to spell it for her. She doesn’t even listen anymore when we read her stories because she is too busy sounding out words on the page. She’s begging for reading lessons. And she’s not quite five yet! I think I’ll start reading lessons with her when Kid Tres finishes 100 EZ Lessons, probably in March. SONY DSCKid Cinco needs more cuddling, more stories, more playtime WITH me, and lots of music. He loves music! I bought a CD player to replace our broken one, and showed him how to use it so he can put on CDs by himself. SONY DSCThe little kids also need more art, and more board and card games through the rest of winter. Kid Dos has been dying for horseback riding lessons, so she and Kid Tres will start weekly lessons in March. Then we’ll have one day with music lessons, one day with horseback riding lessons, and three days with ballet classes. Plus house church, Sunday church, fitting in visits with friends, family outings,travel and hosting people, etc. It feels like so much. img_20161109_110652916

How can I streamline? Maybe clustering kid chores in 3-4 days per week, instead of every day. Maybe cutting out Bible with each individual older child, and just reading Egermeir’s as a group (DH has been reading the Bible with all of them at night). What about not scheduling drawing on nature journal days, and not scheduling handwriting on days when Kid Uno has lots of written narrations? Perhaps making math lessons a bit shorter. Maybe scheduling a few things which seem less “schoolish” for the weekends (music appreciation, handicrafts, longer readings like Robin Hood). Sometimes I could save a bit of work with older kids for after DH gets home in the evening and can watch the noisy little ones. Maybe having older kids help with the baby during the day while I take a turn with another one. And next year, I may try scheduling a 4 day week or an 11 week term, and see if that helps. Or maybe just drop all of my very detailed plans and unschool instead 😉img_20161230_111011926