Archive for the ‘homeschooling’ Category

I’m grappling with an idea here. You know, in marriage counseling, we talk about expectations. And how you have them even if you don’t know it, and they can be the source of conflicts when they are thwarted.

So I think from that context, I’ve kind of thought that expectations were kind of negative.

So transition that into home schooling. I had a lot of expectations or assumptions about what this should be like. And I’ve felt a lot of dissatisfaction and guilt that my expectations are not being met.

Now, what I’m seeing is that some expectations I should let go of or modify. But other expectations I should keep working towards.

The other night, I sat down with Vitaliy because I’m at a point where I think God is leading me toward modifying this area that has left me less-than-satisfied for a long time.

So, together we made a list of my expecations (what I thought it would be like and imagined doing together), then I stated the reality, and then later I worked back through the list to state why it was that way (the disconnect between my desires and my reality) and analyzing if I just needed to change my expectations or … gasp, work toward fulfilling them.

For example, I have this expectation that we need to have a literature-based approach to education. Well, right now, it’s all textbooks (with our year of video school). And you know, textbooks are not as terrible as I’d like to think.

So, I think I will modify this expectation. Some subjects (like Math and English (grammar), I will probably stick with textbooks. But I want to explore how to make other areas (like history and reading) more literature based. The deal is, what I make literature-based usually requires more of my personal involvement, and I need to be ready for that. (Though as the girls get older, they’ll be able to do more of their own reading.)

One expectation that I had also, was that we should be doing a lot of music and art (and generally creative things). This has not been happening. HOWEVER, I think it’s something that should be happening.


Now, one reason I think God is bringing this around now, is that we’re experimenting with hiring someone to help me at home with the little kids so I can stay freed up to keep up with Skyla and Vika’s school work.

This week, we’ve hired Vitaliy’s mom. The grandma. She’s pretty perfect. It’s affordable for us, a good salary for her, and she stays with us the whole time (she travels in from the village and lives with us for 3-4 days, then goes home).

And she’s good with kids, good with fixing food, and good with just seeing what needs to be done and doing it. I’ve been able to do more than run between rooms, washing dishes perpetually, and try to figure out what we’re going to eat periodically. I’ve been able to sit, be available, watch what they’re learning, let go of some things, be close. …. It’s been awesome.


So, I’d like to work on those expectations that should be realized. We did art and music today. It was awesome. We made paint like they used to in older times using egg yolk as a base. Then we added it with music and listened to / watched Peter & the Wolf (awesome orchestral rendition with the conductor telling the story as they go along), and we painted pictures of the characters that I’d printed out for us. I painted too. With our egg yolk-ground chalk paints. It was pretty cool!


Another example: I’ve been bugged that I’m not reading aloud to the kids. This is important. So the last few days, I’ve been reading aloud, even if it’s just a page. But it’s getting to be longer portions. (Yesterday I read them Jan Karon’s little book about the snowman contest in Mitford.) And today we started a novel attached to their school work.

So. Lesson of the Time: Not all expectations are bad. Some should be kept and worked on fulfilling.



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Video home school

Knock me down with a feather.

(I will preface this by saying that this way of home schooling is not right for everyone, nor is it some ideal that somehow magically will work out the same effects in your home as it has in mine.)

Deep breath.

Home schooling: I’m all about Charlotte Mason and … I had lovely visions of peering at wildflowers in meadows and hours of reading aloud. My children gleefully imbibing generally wonderful things.

Does Reality have to come along every time?

I fall asleep reading aloud. One child hates (capital-H Hates) “school” and cannot spell to save her life (though she excels at other, very important life skills). My other child walks the streets reading books. She is bankrupting me because I pay them paltry sums for reading in order to encourage my I-hate-reading daughter to read (and that works, too).

I don’t know. Home schooling nothing like I imagined it. There have been brief moments where it is like I imagined it. But the bulk of it has puzzled me. I just haven’t enjoyed a lot of it either.

So, you know. I think I’ve kind of committed a bit of home school blasphemy by trying out video school. Like, lessons every day and textbooks, and teachers. The purist-idealist in me has cringed a thousand times.

I wanted to try it for one year. I need to get my kids caught up academically. I dislike the “teaching” part of home schooling (hello?), and the parts I disliked were sapping all my fun and energy for doing things I wanted and liked doing as a home schooling mom.


It’s been a week. We’ve done more school this week than we have in a long time. Wow.

Video school is not perfect, it has it’s downsides. But I’m still rolling around in and enjoying the upsides.

  1. I spend almost all day interacting with my girls now. I actually feel like we’re becoming interconnected in relational ways that I have desired for a long time. They’re not just watching videos alone in a room (they are both in fourth grade). I’m right there, watching most of it with them, getting their papers organized, re-stating things, doing assignments together. It gives us a lot to talk about and shared experiences.
  2. Teachers are so creative! And I do the fun extras! that I love! In the first week, we’ve made pull-apart bread (science), made origami frogs (Exodus plagues), and we’re doing a reading contest.
  3. They are being challenged academically in ways I do not have the fortitude, discipline, or energy to do. For example, each one actually wrote journal entries. Journal entries, people.
  4. They are getting along better–their time is filled and in constructive ways.
  5. They are being exposed to people (teachers) who value education, intellect, and thinking skills–we don’t have people in our lives here giving them that inspiration, direction, and encouragement.

Pull-apart bread:


Andre saw their reading contest charts and wanted his own, so he’s developing more, too! It’s the first time he ever tried coloring in the lines 🙂


Origami frog.



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I pay the girls for reading– they need ways to earn money, and I need ways for them to earn money, and I think reading is worth money.

So they’re hoping daddy will take them to the huge indoor waterpark after they’ve each earned 140 greeven (or 95 greeven for Tuesdays).

These two books are in their early American history course.

Nice to have quiet and know they are reading!

IMG_5628 IMG_5629



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I was noticing today that I like having my kids home with me. Today there was this moment when Andre was working on his computer, and the girls were listening to Herb Fairy stories in their room.

Perhaps it was all quiet and I enjoyed that–all of us doing things quietly.

It lasted all of one minute, and it was a nice reminder that I like having them here.


the girls declined to be photographed

the girls declined to be photographed

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homeschooling today

So, for my records, I want to talk about what our homeschooling looks like these days.

  • Reading Leading Little Ones to God and AWANA
  • Grammar 3 workbook
  • Spelling Power (daily)
  • Math 4 (just started)
  • Multiplication flashcards (they still need to study the 7s, 8s, and 9s, but we’re over the hump here)
  • Typing lessons/blogging
  • Self reading
  • Me reading aloud
  • Character class
  • Health class
  • Early American history
  • Reading aloud with me
  • They also do Russian grammar and self reading in Russian. And some art with Vitaliy.

I’m thinking of doing our group classes in the evening. I tried it tonight, and that was a good time for me and them. It’s just a lot in the mornings, and then they play, and evening is a nice time for history, character, group reading. Glad I can do that.


Character class—reading Psalm 23 and discussing what a shepherd does:


Reading Leif the Lucky— here are some pictures they colored.


I like these art notebooks that we use with the Oak Meadow curriculum–I’m just having them put all their work on these pages.

As we were reading Psalm 23, I was touched by the phrase “He restores my soul.” And I realized how often I need that–I get upset, tired, whatever, and those green pastures and quiet waters are inside me and restore me–His presence.

Nice to pause and write out these details that fill our days.



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It’s nice to look forward a new year, anticipate changes, improvements, remind oneself that struggles and sadness will also come, too.

I’ve been thinking about the process of making goals. I usually make a list of self-improvement projects. But really, I’ve come to see that for me, setting/achieving a goal requires that I align my life to that end. Like rearranging my house furniture so that change becomes implement-able. So I’m limiting my list and looking at necessary specifics in this way now.

I’m also not driven by the 1-year thing. Changes come and go. Some I ‘try on’ and it’s not time or doesn’t fit at all to my life. Some changes come in June or October and not on January 1. Great! God’s mercies are new every morning, not just every year, and aren’t we all glad about that.

So my trial changes/goals for 2015:

1. In my Bible reading, which is only a part of my relationship with God, I want to stay in the Psalms for a while this year. I also want to make it easier for me to reach out and read my Bible and be more consistent in reading daily. My current Bible is over 20 yrs old, in a case with lots of papers and pens, so it’s hard to just open. And I’m going to give up my sit-down-and-read/study for a while. I’m breastfeeding and co-sleeping, and I need to be able to stay in bed in early morning hours to serve my littlest kids in that way. Or take and read while doing any feeding.

So, to implement this change, I’m taking my current Bible out of my book bag and putting it beside my bed. I started my day by reading 5 psalms simply by doing this! I also didn’t turn on my tiny computer right away either. And I may need to get a less-bright bulb in my bedside lamp. I also have two Bibles coming to me from across the sea, so that I can keep one by my bed (and retire this older Bible) and one in the kitchen. Maybe find one for my purse. Just to pick up and read, and not feel the dire necessity of constantly journaling while Bible reading.

For prayer and memorization/meditation, I have some things going from last year, but I’m still thinking about how to re-see and re-do these areas if needed. I may make a new prayer notebook. Though I’ve been experimenting with hanging lists in the kitchen. The best this so far is just the Holy Spirit reminding me to pray for this person and that during the day.

I’m also asking God for the realization of His will for my year.

2. Homeschooling. My goal is to keep chugging along. (I have dreams of waking at 6am so I get up before the girls and have breakfast on the table and start our days that way, but it’s not going to happen for another 1-3 years, even longer if we have more babies.) Furniture adjustment: I’m going to buy the two folding tables we’ve been talking about for months, so we have more area to work.

I want the girls to master all the math facts this year and typing so we can transition more in to free writing and writing assignments.

I wrote out a general schedule for accomplishing the subjects we need to do together (history, character, reading aloud, music). Other subjects, the girls handle themselves without me (grammar, spelling, math, reading alone), and they are good about being consistent with few reminders. It’s when the three of us need to do a subject together that I usually become slowed-down or derail, so … I’m just working to keep schooling as my main energy output each day. That is most important here.

Considering banning movies for a year. Not sure about that. Oh, generally, I also want to encourage curiosity and the discipline of learning.

3. Church–I’m participating in the birthday ministry currently. Working to pray a lot for people in our church. And we’re involved in Harmony, the single’s ministry. We may try to move to Kiev so we can be more involved in church activities. That will be a big change. I have some ideas I’m sitting on for children’s ministry and moms group. I want to continue expressing love and encouragement through writing people (church is pretty active on vkontakte–like facebook–and I do a lot more “fellowship” there with people and it’s been great). Looking to develop closer relationships, but that is still at the spontaneous and prayer levels.

4. Midwifery studies. I need to make lifestyle changes here, too. So that access to my studies is simpler. I have a book I’m reading, for example, for an assignment, and I need to just have it easier to pull out and read and take notes. I want to use the folding tables for this too–so I can just sit down and study for a few minutes rather than having to go through a lot of effort to study. My goal is either to attend an Intensity week or to accomplish one submission this year.

5. Personal. I ‘m continuing on in focusing on weight loss. Since I’ve started in Oct, I’ve lost 15lbs and 48cm. Amazingly, I fell off exercising the last 2-3 weeks, but I haven’t gained any weight back, considering that I’ve been eating chocolate as though there were no tomorrow. I exercised again today, and my goal is 5 times a week (15 min), body brushing, taking alfalfa, drinking 3 liters of water/day, and I’m going to go back to not eating after 7pm, and see if this will be enough to induce faster loss. I don’t like dietary limitations as I feel like I don’t have many food options in my life as it is.

My next goal is to fit into this size-10 skirt for Valentine’s Day. I think I got this skirt some time between Vika (7yo) and Andre (2yo). I feel like I’m at a mental barrier in losing weight because I’ve reached my pre-4th-pregnancy weight, and I’m not seeing myself as thinner. It’s weird. I’m trying not to think a lot about this, but if it sticks around, I may do something strict for a week or two to get myself past this.



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The girls learn to spell only the words they missed on the test– the lesson starts with a little test, then they study (through 10 easy steps) the words they missed. Writing the word on the table with their fingers or in a medium is one of the ten study steps–so we did a plate of flour today:


Then they do some kind of sensory activity to study/play with those words–the program gives a bunch of suggestions. So today I told them to paint their words–one of the suggestions. So we got messy. It was cool 🙂

Vika’s word to study was “every.” (Then she wanted to do more, so she did “love” and “Sokols.”)


Andre saw the fun, and he came over to join in …


Skyla’s words were “seventh” and “when.”


Sheesh, what an easy way to feel “creative.”

I painted words with them, too, which I will post about next…

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