Saturday, August 3, 2019

The One with the Aftermath

It's been three weeks, y'all.

Three glorious weeks.

Three amazing, inspiring, freeing, enlightening, joy-filled weeks.

Three weeks ago, our family made the decision to leave Classical Conversations and take on our homeschooling journey solo this year.

{ Just as a reminder: We LOVED the people in our co-op. We just didn't agree with the business behind the co-op. Or the cost. Or the time commitment. Or... well, you probably get the idea. }

I honestly cannot even put into words the freedom that followed making this decision. Y'all, we had been fully committed 110% to homeschooling our children through high school with CC. Once we found the program, we jumped in with both feet and never looked back. Unfortunately, we didn't adequately look ahead, either.

I'm not going to take up an entire post to share the 101 reasons why CC is no longer the right fit for my family. Rather, I'd just like to joyfully share what we've been up to these past three weeks, and what we've put together for our school year!

Once we made our decision to leave CC, I immediately went into purge mode. This is the period of time, about a week, during which I sold off all CC-related program materials. For a company that touts "stick in the sand" as its principal educational methodology, y'all, I brought in almost $1,500 by selling all of my CC materials during purge mode. It would likely hurt my feelings to go back and determine how much I actually spent when I originally purchased all of those materials, so suffice it to say CC requires a whole heck of a lot more than a stick and some sand! πŸ’°πŸ’°πŸ’°πŸ˜‚

Immediately following purge mode, I blissfully entered a season of peaceful rest. This was the point at which I had all.the.freedom.in.the.world. to decide what and how our homeschool would work.

I began by having beautiful conversations with each of my children.

We discussed what THEY were interested in.

What THEY wanted to learn about.

What THEY found exciting and thrilling.

What THEY thought would be fun.

What THEY felt would bring them joy.

And then I started building our plans from there! No more shackles! Instead, we had uninhibited freedom to return to a love of learning! Together--as a family. The way we had intended to do this from the beginning. So much joy there, y'all!

I initially looked into the possibility of joining a local ScholΓ© group that meets in our area. I met with their director, who was amazing, and learned about their program. It was so wonderful! The costs were unbelievably reasonable, all of the parents worked together in a true co-op environment, the children had a restful pace of learning, and the curricula was simple and beautiful. They met once per week, with field trips scheduled every month, and it overall appeared to be a wonderful solution for my family.

However, after talking with my kids, we all agreed we were so unbelievably grateful for our newfound freedom that we didn't want to be tethered by a weekly community day. We wanted to embrace a relaxed schedule of doing whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it. Hubs and I discussed and prayed over the decision, and felt confirmation to continue on our own this year. πŸ’œ

Thus began the process of selecting curricula for my kiddos! It's been a joyful and exciting process for me! I've loved being able to choose materials that my children and I will love. Here's how it's shaping up (for those who are interested in the details):

// HISTORY

LO is excited about preparing to take the US History I CLEP exam in the spring, and we both felt it would be perfect to study American History as a family this year. I'm super stoked about this because we would have been studying Medieval History with our previous co-op, and none of my kids were very thrilled about that. I found this incredible program called America the Beautiful from Notgrass History.
What I love about America the Beautiful is that it combines American history, geography, and literature into one course! It combines the flexibility and richness of a unit study with the simplicity of a textbook-based approach to history. There are daily lessons to guide students chronologically through American history, highlighting key events, people, and places. And I love the corresponding literature book selections! And did I mention there is a cookbook that has recipes from all of the states to create and enjoy? This one is going to be great! Even though the course is designed for 5th - 8th grade, I plan to have Chase complete this course with LO, and will have E listen along to the readings and work on related coloring pages, activity sheets, etc. So ALL of us will be learning from ONE course TOGETHER. YAY!

// SCIENCE

When I asked LO what she wanted to study for science, she eagerly listed a plethora of interests! This didn't surprise me as my girl loves her some science! When gently forced to limit her choices to her top 3 or 4, she went with Astronomy, Minerals, Weather, and Oceans. That seemed super specific to me, but I was intent to find what she wanted. Imagine my surprise when I discovered General Science 1 from Master Books! It perfectly fit the bill!


One of the things that sold me on this program (besides the extremely reasonable price tag!) was the fact that the Teacher Guide included a weekly lesson schedule, the student worksheets, the quizzes and tests, and the answer key--all on ONE book. No separate workbooks or answer keys or added costs. EASY, y'all.

My kiddos and I will explore oceans, astronomy, weather, and minerals and discover fascinating facts, incredible wonders, captivating creatures, and God’s glory on display throughout creation! This course is designed for 7th - 12th grades, but we plan to use it with the whole family, adjusting as needed for Chase and E.

// SPANISH

Our family is thrilled to switch things up this year and move on from Latin to Spanish! I did a lot of research to find a program that wasn't workbook-driven, was designed for children, would work well for kids of various ages, and be fun and engaging at an easy pace. That's a lot to ask for! Thankfully, all signs pointed to La Clase Divertida!


I was concerned that the video samples look like they were filmed in 1987, but I looked past that and enjoyed how engaging it was for the room full of students. There are a lot of great activities that go along with the program, and I can't wait for us to go through this program together!

// ENGLISH

This is one area where my kiddos will receive individual instruction while working through resources I selected specifically for their reading and writing levels. I chose BJU Press materials for LO and Chase, so there will be some helpful similarities and continuity within the two programs.

Chase will be using English 4 Writing & Grammar. This will be his first year using an official writing program, and I'm super thrilled at what we will cover! Parts of speech and sentence structures are examined in detail to help him gain a mastery of grammar. The writing process is explained step-by-step to be implemented in a variety of writing assignments, including a personal narrative, a research report, and a business letter. I just love this! πŸ’™

Choosing a level for LO was a bit more involved. Luckily, I was at the BJU Educators Marketplace down the street from the BJU campus, and could flip through the various grade levels. This was SUCH a blessing, because I'm not sure we would've ended up with what we did had I not had the opportunity to flip through the pages of the books.

I started with Writing & Grammar 7, looked through the table of contents, and started flipping through the pages. Everything I read, she already knew. So I grabbed Writing & Grammar 8. SAME. Then I went for Writing & Grammar 9.
Near the end of Chapter 1, after discussing the four kinds of sentences, subjects and predicates, basic sentence patterns, and fragments, they introduced and discussed comma splices and fused sentences. Eureka! These were concepts I was certain she was not familiar with. So I landed on 9th grade English for LO. She couldn't be more thrilled to finally learn something new after spending the past 3 years going over the same information she had pretty much mastered the first year.

For E, I'm going to use Language Smarts Level B from The Critical Thinking Co. It's a single workbook that is a full Language Arts curriculum. E still isn't reading independently, so we've been spending lots of time working on letters and sounds, as well as reading simple words. We'll use this comprehensive workbook to teach reading, writing, grammar, and punctuation skills and concepts that students are expected to know in first grade. E will also develop critical thinking, vocabulary, and several other skills and concepts normally taught in second grade. I'm excited to see how his reading and writing skills look at the end of the year after completing this workbook!


// MATH

This is another area where my kiddos will receive individual instruction. LO's curriculum is still a big question mark at this point. We've jumped around a bit over the past 5 years from Singapore to Saxon to Teaching Textbooks, back to Saxon, and back to Teaching Textbooks. I'm afraid our inability to find a suitable math program for her has left her with significant gaps. I'm currently looking for a mastery-based math program for her. I'll have her take a placement test when I find the right curriculum, but I wouldn't be surprised if we'll go back a level or two in order to ensure she has a solid understanding of the basics.

Chase is still killing it with Teaching Textbooks 5, so we're going to continue with it. I LOVE that it's all online and I don't have to do any grading! It's a very hands-off program, which is working wonderfully for him (and me!).

For E, I have decided to try Master Books' Math Lessons for a Living Education: Level 1. This story-based approach invites students to participate in the story, make mathematical connections, explore the world around them, and realize the value of math in their own lives. I'm excited to start our first real math program together! E really loves numbers and has done well with learning his skip counting, so this ought to be a fun adventure for us!

Of course there are several additional programs I'll be using this year for spelling, accounting, typing, coding, piano, etc. And I'm also thrilled to already have several field trips lined up for the fall semester. Everything is falling into place, and I couldn't be more grateful that God has led us here. All of us are incredibly excited to get into the full routine of our school year!

Friday, July 26, 2019

LO's 12th Birthday

We had such a wonderful day celebrating our sweet girl's 12th birthday today!

LO was adamant about NOT wanting a birthday party this year. She's turning into such a pre-teen, amiright? She didn't want all kinds of attention on her with people singing and what-not, so I agreed that we wouldn't put together any sort of party. Just a fun, relaxing week of family time!

This morning began with our gold standard: birthday pancakes! Miss Thang is old enough to handle the fire stuff herself now, thankyouverymuch, but not so old that she can't pull off wearing adorable bunny pajamas. πŸ˜‚


Seriously. Twelve. 1-2. I desperately tried convincing her to go with turning "11 v2.0" but she was pretty set on 12. #sigh


My gorgeous girl! In case you weren't aware, girlfriend got herself some braces 2 weeks ago today, actually. Only 30-something months to go...


Make a wish, sweet girl!


So many candles, y'all! 


After breakfast, we went to her violin lesson, then home for some Minecraft fun. After that, the family hit the road and grabbed lunch at Culver's (this should not come as a shock to those of you who know us well). After lunch, we headed downtown to The Children's Museum of the Upstate! One annual family pass later, and we're in! We had a bunch of family fun! It was Squish's first time at the museum, so he had a really great time checking the place out.

Back at home, we enjoyed MY favorite time of every day: quiet time! Squish went down for a nap and the big 3 went to their rooms for quiet time. This gave me a chance to get things ready for our evening.

The birthday girl requested steak, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans for dinner. And rather than cake, she actually asked for a chocolate chip pie! That's her daddy's favorite dessert, so it didn't surprise me too much that she wanted the same. But the BIG SHOCKER for all of us??

DADDY MADE THE CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE.

Whaaaaaaat????! I'm pretty sure this may have been the first time my husband has ever baked a dessert in almost 14 years of marriage. Way to go, hubs!!!

After dinner, it was time for gifts!

The stash!


She's a little bit excited. πŸ˜‰


My sweet girl LOOOOOOVVVVVVEESSSS crafting! All things crafty!! She asked for Amazon gift cards because she planned to buy more crafting supplies. I went ahead and hooked her up with a few things.


A book. This is her opening a book. She was super thrilled just at the mere fact it was a book. She didn't even know which book it was at this point. There's just so much excitement here!




She loved this bookThe U.S. Constitution and Other Key American Writings. Yes. You read that right.


She's especially excited about this one because she's studying for the US History I CLEP exam, and this is just right up her alley!




A new violin book!


What could it be?? She's so excited!!


She's SOOOOOOO excited!!!


Literally. Have you ever seen someone so stoked about some canvases? This was like $7 for 5 canvases, and it may have ben her most favorite gift! LOL!


Hmmm... maybe THIS one was her favorite! hahahahaha!


She loves creating things, and this modeling clay is her favorite.


We were so grateful to have my mama stop by to bring LO her birthday gift tonight. πŸ’–


Almost done with the gifts... 


Oh how exciting! A ukulele book! But she doesn't have a ukulele!


Or does she?? LOL!


Super random, but an impromptu hug occurred between these two and I had to document it. This NEVER happens, and it warmed my mama heart like crazy to see it!


Time for birthday pie!


Back to work, sweet birthday girl! That's a LOT of candles!






She approved! Daddy did an amazing job on the chocolate chip pie!


This guy loved his pie and ice cream. But apparently watching Elmo on TV was more important than paying me the slightest bit of attention.


This little bro loved his pie, too!


Oh! And this one, too! Sweet smiley boy!


Back to the uke! She flipped through a few pages in this book and started playing a bunch of songs... after she tuned it first, of course! Good girl!


Happy 12th Birthday, sweet girl!

Your mama loves you bunches!
πŸ’Ÿ

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The One with the Unexpected Turn of Events

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted as saying, “change is the only constant in life.”

Well, let me tell you, friends: we just experienced a MAJOR change over this past weekend. Let me hit you with some back story.

We first made the decision to homeschool back in June 2014. We started homeschooling when LO was entering 2nd grade. Well, technically, we started earlier than that -- not by choice (refer to #3 in that link). Our first year was good, but I felt we were lacking both community and accountability.

Enter Classical Conversations!

I once wrote a very detailed post about CC and what it offers. In summary? A lot. It offers a lot! We were sold on the incredible program and had every intention of taking our kids through high school with Classical Conversations.

We attended our very first day of community in September of 2015. How cute are these tiny (slightly blurry) littles?


However, our plans came to an incredibly unexpected and screeching halt over the weekend.

Late last Saturday night, hubs and I made the decision to leave Classical Conversations.

((insert GASP! here))

It's really strange because it wasn't like "some big thing happened" that suddenly changed our minds. Rather, it was simply a focused reflection over the past several months, coupled with an intentional deep dive of how the next 16(ish) years would unfold. For our family, what we gleaned was unsettling to say the least.

Here's what I will freely say: For four years, we had, without a doubt, the BEST Classical Conversations community of families that ever existed in all of mankind. It's true! We loved our community, we had an incredible Director, the families were always loving, caring, and supportive of each other, and our children made wonderful friends there. If you're reading this and you're one of those families, please know how much we love you and how much we will miss you on Tuesdays! (But pretty please, can we still have play dates?)

At the end of the day, finances played a big role in our decision. When it was time to re-enroll back in February, we were shocked to see the application fees for our boys' programs increased 70%! That's a pretty significant hike! It was disappointing, but again, we felt committed that CC was THE homeschool plan for our family, so we paid it and applied for the 2019-2020 school year.

I'll be honest--a cloud of doubt began to circle around that time because I just couldn't understand why corporate fees would need to increase so significantly in one year. Especially when you're essentially dealing with single-income, Christian homeschooling families. But again -- committed to the program -- we jumped ahead with both feet, which, coincidentally, is the only way I know how to commit to things. 😜

So one day, fueled solely by curiosity, I decided to put together a spreadsheet outlining our homeschool plans to educate our 4 children through CC. It was kind of like this colorful example below, but it included each of our kids' names, as well as the tuition cost for each child, for each year, through 2035 thankyouverymuch!


I will add that the numbers I used in my spreadsheet were based solely on the CURRENT tuition costs for the programs (which, like any program, will likely increase over the next 16 years), and DID NOT include application, supply, or facility fees, or ANY of the additional curriculum or supplies we would need in order to successfully complete each year with our CC community.

Y'all, I won't disclose any numbers here (I'll encourage you to do it for yourself--it's quite enlightening!), but I will just say, without a doubt, that it was A LOT.

And I get it -- it's not as much as a private school education or whatever else... okay. But it's HOMESCHOOLING. Something the Lord has called us to do for our children. Something I am actually quite capable of doing on my own (with the Lord's direction) if desired. For free--or at the very least, much cheaper.

It was a LOT, y'all.

And it's not like all of that money would directly bless my amazing local community. Registration fees? Corporate. An appalling almost 25% of tuition (for Challenge programs)? Corporate. Why would I want to send our hard-earned money off to a corporation in the business of making money, while I would be the one doing all the heavy lifting of schooling my own children at home every day as well as directing a room full of students one day a week for 30 weeks?

I then quickly came to this realization, which is probably the second greatest factor in why we made the decision we did for our family:
There is no way, given our current circumstances, that we could afford to participate in a Classical Conversations community through high school for all 4 of our children UNLESS I TUTOR OR DIRECT A PROGRAM EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR.
This was both enlightening and devastating to me all in the very same instant.

I am certainly grateful that CC provides opportunities for parents to tutor or direct their programs.

But y'all. Would those opportunities happen to exist for me each and every year as I'd need them to?

Hmmm...

So what was the greatest factor in why we made the decision we made for our family? This thought/realization:

HOW MUCH OF ME ARE MY CHILDREN GOING TO LOSE AS A RESULT OF THE COMMITMENT I'VE MADE TO LEAD STUDENTS EVERY WEEK IN COMMUNITY?

At the elementary level, this really wouldn't be that significant.

But for leading programs for middle and high school students? It would, without a doubt, be several hours each week of my time focused on preparing lesson plans for discussion in class--rather than cuddling up with my kids to read stories, work through annoyingly difficult math problems, or go for nature walks.

Sure, there are lots of amazingly qualified moms and dads who welcome this responsibility each year. And I trust they are rock stars at it whose kids don't suffer as I anticipate mine would.

Did I mention I had planned to direct one of the middle school programs this year? It would be my first time directing. Normally I like to PREPARE! PREPARE! PREPARE! like 12,000 years ahead of time because I'm all kinds of OCD/Type A like that.

But June arrived and for some reason I wasn't jumping in with both feet.

Since my family started our homeschool year on June 3rd, I decided I would just put my focus on my kids for the month of June, making sure we were all in the swing of things with our supplemental curriculum, and wait until July to dive into my preparations to direct.

July then arrived. It was almost half over when I realized I hadn't yet buckled down and started the heavy workload of prep needed to effectively lead a class 12- and 13-year-olds in the classical studies of debate, exposition, grammar, logic, reasoning, and research.

What was going on???

The prior year, I had tutored a class of 4th-6th graders in our community and I vividly remember excitedly preparing and planning and laminating all.the.things. the summer beforehand in anticipation of a wonderful year.

But that wasn't the case this time.

What was going on???

I had to look deep inside my heart to figure this out. I had to plead to the Lord for answers since I trusted He knew me better than I knew myself. I had to cry out for explanations for the massive confusion I was feeling!

I thought we had a plan! I thought you and I were on the same page, God! Why does this suddenly not seem right?

Lots of tears ensued. Lots of discussions with hubs. Lots of prayers and Scripture searching.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” - Psalm 32:8
It wasn't until last week that we started getting the feeling that perhaps God was telling us that CC may no longer be His plan for our family. And I begrudgingly began to accept that... with the expectation that He was referring to NEXT year. I mean, I had already enrolled my children for the fall, and had already committed to leading one of the programs this year. Obviously whatever God is trying to tell me only applies to NEXT year.

Or did it??

Now we're all caught up and it's (last) Saturday night. I said it without even realizing what I was saying:

What if we don't go back this year?

((gasp))

The thought had NEVER occurred to me until that very moment.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9
The first thoughts I had after making that statement were, "What would happen to the families enrolled in the program I was committed to direct? What would happen if they weren't able to find someone else to take it over? How could God possibly be calling me to make a decision that could potentially have a negative impact on families and friends I loved so dearly?"
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” - Jeremiah 29:11
Here's the thing: If I have to make a decision concerning what is best for my children vs. what is best for my (beloved) community, I will choose my children every.single.time.

Spoiler alert, y'all: God is BIGGER than you. He's GREATER than your circumstances. He's WORKING in ways beyond your four walls that you can't even imagine.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” - Deuteronomy 31:8 
At the end of the day--quite literally as I believe it was around 1:15 AM--hubs and I had resolved to leave Classical Conversations this year.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7 
Sunday morning we had an incredible day of worship (as usual!) at church, followed by lunch at Culver's (SHOCKER!). Once we were home after lunch, we sat the kids down to share the news with them. They really surprised us! I was concerned with how they'd react, but all of them were totally fine with the decision! Of course, they each mentioned how much they'd miss their friends, but ultimately they were excited to chart a new course together as a family.

After speaking with the kids, I made the phone calls I needed to make to officially resign my position as director, and leave our beloved CC community.

God has been faithful--as if there were ever any doubt--and has brought an incredibly awesome individual forward to take my place in directing the program I stepped away from. Isn't He the BEST, Jerry?? THE BEST!!

So where does that leave my family?

Umm... I'm not quite sure! I honestly have absolutely no idea which doors God will open for us this year. I am seeking His direction and have a few thoughts in mind. But at the end of the day, I am pressing through the fear, surrendering it all to the One who holds us in His loving hands.

Even now, I can look back and see how God was paving this path for us (without my knowledge or consent--the nerve!). haha! And I can't even describe the peace He has provided in this midst of this decision! It's difficult for people like me to not have all.the.things. planned out, but I know God is capable of bringing about so much good through this surrendered decision, and I am choosing to rest comfortably in His grace.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day // 2019

Happy Father's Day to hubs! We are so blessed! The kid and I love him so much and we are so grateful and thankful for how much he loves us!

We started our day by missing church because one of our sweet littles has been sick for two days with a fever and vomiting. No bueno! I am praying it doesn't spread to anyone else.


I made a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits for hubs' breakfast and we just hung out all morning... talking through budgets, home improvement projects, self-employment taxes--basically my husband's dream conversations all in one day! LOL! Leftovers were on the menu for lunch (I'm winning at this Father's Day stuff) and then it was time to open presents!

Hubs finally got a new phone! YAY! He's been stuck with my rose gold iPhone 6 for ages since I always take his upgrades. 😜 Now he's the owner of a shiny new black XR! We also got him a case because new iPhones are slippery, y'all! LOL!



Hubs opened a few more gifts and cards, then it was nap time for all!

The afternoon included more relaxing (especially for my sweet sicko, E), some Wii U Minecraft for the kids, and lesson planning for me. Hubs requested brats and corn on the cob for dinner, and it was delish!

For dessert, I made an Oreo ice cream cake. It looks much prettier here where I found it. But this is how it turned out. #pinterestfail 



The good thing is no one complained that it wasn't pretty, and it must've tasted good because everyone had seconds!

After dinner, it was time to play outside! Squish (and his non-sick siblings) loved playing with the new splash pad he got for his birthday.



I think it was a great day for hubs--and the rest of us! Happy Father's Day!