Their Brilliant Idea
The most formative change for our school year...
The single most formative move for our school year this year has been the spiral-bound notebook. Here’s the idea: give each child a spiral-bound notebook and each day write all the of assignments for their day in it. That’s it! The most formative change we’ve made this year, right there.
Writing everything down for each child, including chores, seems to turn the whole list into a systematic to-do for them. They can pick the order they want to do things in. They begin the day with a scope of the amount of things we need to do. Some day are truly weird days and it is hard to convey that over breakfast; but the list does the trick. And—this is key—I don’t have to remember to tell them anything. I can put things on there like “pack for gymnastics tomorrow,” or, “put away all your things on the kitchen counter.” I don’t have to spend any energy announcing what I think they should do. I don’t initiate any bad energy by announcing their work in a grumpy voice.
Writing their lists in the morning has helped me prioritize what truly should be done today. They delight in checking off all the things. And—if I forget to put something on there, too bad, it’s getting done tomorrow instead.
Here’s a sample of what the 10yr old’s might look like for a day:
Two pages from the handwriting book
Ten minutes of typing lessons
Twenty minutes on duolingo
Latin class (I put even obvious things on there so they can be checked off—fun!)
Thirty minutes helping tidy the house and/or dishwasher emptying
Rough draft of paragraph for essentials
Read aloud with Mom
And here’s what the 8yr old’s might look like:
Two pages from the handwriting book
Ten minutes of typing
Reading aloud with Mom
Thirty minutes helping tidy the house and/or dishwasher emptying.
I first read this idea on Read Aloud Revival’s blog. She wrote enthusiastically about how well it worked for her, and now I’m echoing the same sentiment. So, try it!
Who Was Compilations
I have written before about my affection for the self-published world in homeschooling, in which spirit young intrepid homeschoolers have formed their own publishing houses to revive out-of-print classics, or have printed their own curriculum in spiral bound simplicity. The devotedly frugal Ambleside Online has home educators scouring books that have fallen out of print and are now available in the Creative Commons and can be printed off at will, at home.
And there are the curriculum-builders, for whom a batch of spiral bound volumes is a simplest medium for their message. Even in the age of internet this approach continues. The Good and the Beautiful offer lovely full-color spiral-bound curriculums, but they are also happy to sell you the .pdf at dramatically reduced prices.
I was reminded of this bootstrap approach when I discovered someone selling collections of the Who Was series based around certain themes. We are in a serious Who Was stage right now, it seems the series can do no wrong. The books work as read-alouds and read-on-your-owns, highlighting the many many fascinating people that you always wished you knew more about! I particularly enjoy the timelines of other relevant events that they include alongside the subject’s timeline. History in context—so important. They seem to be written in the joyful spirit of the old truism: truth is more wonderful than fiction.
The number of books available have really multiplied! There are over 180 titles available now (that’s a link to all of them on Penguin’s site). I’ve been trolling the three different libraries we belong to request as many as possible in succession. But I’m very tempted by the bulk collections as well! Applause to the clever entrepreneur compiling collections.
Learning Focus: Mountains 🏔
Taking inspiration from life, this last month we've been learning about the world's mountains. The inspiration was my dad and brother's recent venture to climb Vinson Massif in Antartica. After following along via occasional satellite text, we printed off photos from their trip to put together small presentations for their Classical Conversations classes. We watched the documentary 14 Peaks together (available on Netflix). We talked about mountains being lower and higher than the famous Eight-Thousander designation (good discussion of meters vs. miles can be had here). We've been watching Eva's wonderful Youtube videos about traveling in Antartica.
And we used this simple color-coded map that I’ve attached below for you, to place each continent's highest mountain on the right spot and review their names. (I didn’t make this, I found it online with no creator attribution.) Enjoy!
🧹 First Job
Speaking of entrepreneurs, our ten-year-old has been asking for a job for a long time. “Why don’t businesses post what age they are hiring?” she asked me on a regular basis. “I don’t know,” was my response. I didn’t, actually—what was the minimum age of employment for a business? Finally, I responded to a chef’s plea for high schoolers to wash dishes that was emailed out to a local listserve. —Could a ten year old work in his kitchen? —No, he responded. The minimum age was fourteen.
Hence why so many of us go into babysitting and lawn cutting first, the great off-the-grid working opportunities of your early teen years. Eventually though we heard of weekly cleaning opportunity that welcomed a young applicant and only needed one hour a week. Success! Getting her there and making sure it happens does demand some organization on my part, but the pay-offs are big: learning to keep track of and report her hours, opening a bank account, learning about saving and tithing off of each paycheck, learning about banks devious practices to take your money (overdraft fees!), pride in work, and so on.
I’m so glad she shared that goal with us, and I’m so glad we found a way to accomplish it.
And a Quote for You
Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing these deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it’s essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you
*Opening image of a tshirt from the brand sporty & rich.