Friday, December 20, 2013

In the Week Before Christmas

This week has been jam packed crazy around here. Knowing that we're taking next week off of our lessons, and having two half days this week, had the Cracker Jack's scatter brained beyond belief. 

The week started on the right track of course. Monday everyone was up and ready for school and our lessons were done quickly and correctly. We actually finished all of our lessons (excluding ECJ's Apalogia science) inside of an hour and a half! This left the whole afternoon free for them to all play outside! Which when you have a pile of snow bigger than you are in front of your front yard is really exciting. We live at the end of a pretty short street and the plow trucks push it all into the open area before the two track. I have to admit that the pile looked tempting even to me.

Peanut's negative space art.
YCJ's negative space art.
Tuesday came and went without any issues as well. We didn't finish our lessons as quickly as we had on Monday, but the kids were still outside and playing before the public kids got out of school for the day. 

Wednesday we had an appointment around thirty miles from our house early in the morning, so I'd scheduled a half day. We did grocery shopping while we were out and by the time we got home no one wanted to do our lessons. So, before dinner that night we broke out the dry erase boards from the dollar store and everyone practiced math and writing for awhile. It seems like if you add a dry erase board and markers suddenly these subjects you get fought on otherwise are now fun.

Everyone was excited for Thursday to come because Noni was coming over! Another half day was scheduled ahead of time because of this. Instead of doing Thursday's lessons we did Wednesday's though. I had originally thought we might get both days done but Noni came by a bit earlier than we'd thought she'd be able to originally. She came bearing gifts because she cannot spend Christmas day with us and must work Christmas Eve. Everyone received gifts that we'd really wanted (Yup, even Mom and Dad! We're not used to receiving gifts so we were just as thrilled as the children.): ECJ received a students guitar which he'd been asking for for the last two years and went over the moon, YCJ was gifted with more craft supplies and all the things to learn two new ways of stitching with yarn, Peanut absolutely loved her play dough machine, tools for Daddy and a surprise sewing kit for Mommy were the hits of the day. Of course other gifts were given as well from dolls and accessories to Lord of the Rings Lego kits. The house has rung with the sounds of children playing with new items since. After the gifts were unwrapped and played with a bit we went and saw the movie Frozen at our local theater. It was wonderful!

That leaves us with Friday. The last day before our week long break. Friday, oh sweet Friday how I usually love thee. Today you were a stinker. The children were distracted and chores took far longer than they should have. Peanut was able to finish out her lessons for the week but even with her it was a struggle because of her new toys. ECJ managed to do almost all of his work except for his Apalogia science lesson. But YCJ was a whole other story. She was distracted and allowed herself to get stressed out (seriously over nothing as I'd planned this week lesson light to begin with) and just could not focus. At four this afternoon Daddy called a halt to lessons for the day and informed the children of something new that we'll be doing*. (More on that in a minute.)

In PreK/K things are dashing along like a sled through snow. Daily things are becoming more K level than PreK. Peanut seems to just "get it" this year and I'm glad we decided to do nursery level work with her last year. With the new play dough gifts she'll be able to continue you hand strengthening and add in some arm work. I'll be writing a post after Christmas explaining why she needs this and what we do with her to help.

Third grade seems to be a different type of year for YCJ. Mommy has stepped back a bit and is refusing to read everything to this little eight year old girl. YCJ grumbles over this and though the lessons take a few minutes longer for her to read by herself she's still very glad that she "discovered" that she can read. Math still seems to be one of her stronger lessons, though for a child who would rather be creating art than anything else it seems odd to me. A math lesson can be flown through on most days without a single missed step or wrong problem. 

And, of course, ECJ in sixth grade is having no real issues. If he continues at this pace in his English lessons then he'll be finished before the end of March and we'll just go ahead and move him on to seventh grade English. Math doesn't seem to be too much of an issue either this year, though he's not flying through that as quickly as English (and we didn't really expect him to). He's still fighting reading Little Women and saying that Jo is still the only "good" character in the whole book. To quote him, "She even sold her hair, Mom! Her hair!"

Our advent lessons are going wonderfully! The children are still enjoying Advent Adventures by Holy Heroes and the readings and ornaments that we got from Confessions of a Homeschooler. The whole time both of these were about a day apart, whatever I read from the Bible was reinforced by what they saw on Holy Heroes. In the last few days they are merging closer together as we near the end of Advent. The children have noticed and talk about it during their afternoon play. The decade a day on Holy Heroes has also made Peanut interested in having her own rosary, so after the beginning of the year we'll be making a few rosaries out of beads and asking our priest to bless them for us.

We finished our Five Days of Christmas Carols that Homegrown Learners had given to her readers at the end of last month (I believe, it could have been the beginning of this month). We really enjoyed it and after much talk are seriously considering purchasing her SQUILT music appreciation curriculum within the next few months. 

As for our Christmas Around the World lessons that we were going to be doing ... Well, we got no further than Great Britain before we stopped. It was simply too much to add into our schedule this year. Perhaps we'll do better next year.

So, what is this "new"* thing that we'll be doing? The goal has always been to be finished with all lessons no later than four in the afternoon Monday through Friday. Most days and weeks this is exactly what happens. Sometimes, like today, it isn't. Beginning the week after Christmas the children will all have a "mailbox". Each day whatever hasn't been finished by four that afternoon will get put in the mailbox and cannot be touched until Saturday morning. I'll be making a sheet for each child to write down (yes, their responsibility) what they didn't finish on, and that sheet will be placed in their mailbox. The rules are that if you can't sit and do your work during the day that it's assigned then you can't do it until Saturday, no more working until late in the evenings and no finishing it the next day. Anything on the list not finished on Saturday by four P.M. will either be given a reduced grade (if started but not finished) or a zero if not done at all. It is essentially homework. 

We really didn't want to have a specific homework day or game plan when we first started homeschooling. But, when you're trying to teach a child and they simply will not do what they're being asked to do (not when they're not understanding the concept but simply refusing to do the work in a timely manner) then you have to do something. My children love their weekends that they have off and to put our foot down and say you will not have Saturday free if you do not finish your lessons really shocked the Cracker Jacks. There will no longer ever be school on Sundays, but if their lessons aren't finished they will have no extra privileges Sunday afternoons. In our house those privileges include, but are not limited to: extra TV time, free computer time where they're allowed to play games, going over to friends houses (this includes Saturday night sleepovers), riding bikes/skateboarding, and radio privileges. 

It was not the note I wanted to end on before our Christmas break. However, I can change my mindset to "We'll begin our break Saturday after four PM." and not feel badly. Boundaries have been set, a system will be in place by the week after Christmas, and children have been warned. If I had written this last night or first thing this morning I wouldn't have said anything until after this new homework idea had been in place for about a week. But, I sat down to write this at 4:30 this afternoon ... just minutes after the children were told about the new homework policy.

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas! I won't be doing a wrap-up next week (or indeed any posts next week at all) and won't see you all on a Friday again until January 3, 2014! Oh my! Another year is almost done and it's amazing how quickly it went! In less than two weeks it'll be 2014 and I'll be days away from having a 12 year old in the house!

Other posts from this week:
Week 3 of Advent Begins
Preparing for Christmas Menus
Staying Orange When Outside is White
Mosts Post of 2013
What We Are Doing the Week of Christmas
We've Finished Our Fall Bucket List!
A guest post (getting outdoors isn't so hard) for 1000 Hours Outside

Linking up with the following wonderful blogs today:
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Squishable Baby
Faithful Mom of Nine
Homegrown Learners
Great Peace Academy

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  1. I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed the 5 Days of Christmas Carols! I think you would find SQUILT to be easy for you (the parent) and enjoyable for the kids - at least that was my intent when I wrote it!

    Your week contained so much learning - I'm impressed with your organization of it all!

    Thanks for linking with Collage Friday!

    1. We absolutely LOVED the 5 days of Christmas Carols! I'm not exactly sure when we'll be purchasing SQUILT but it is on our list to buy next. And near the top of it, having bumped a few things down (that we'll be using next year).

      Thanks for saying it was organized. It really didn't feel that way at all!

  2. I used to be surprised that my math minded boy loves to draw and do art so voraciously until I came to realize that Art and Math are very closely connected in the brain processors. :) I think it sounds like you had a really great week. I will be interested to see how your Saturday "homework" schooling plan works out! I'll let you be the guinea and I'll maybe copy if it works well.
    Have a great week off Chrystal, I'll see you in 2014!
    Thanks for linking up "This Week..." at Great Peace Academy

    1. I'm interested to see how it works out too! We've schooled on weekends before but I don't really enjoy when we do and it's always when we get "behind" during the week. I'm hoping this cuts back on my stress and motivates them to work a bit harder. I'm also hoping that it cuts back on my scheduling a weekend school lesson because I'd much rather be making crafts or cooking with them than saying repeatedly, "Let's get this done please so we can move on to something else!"

      I'll see you in 2014! Merry Christmas!
      Thanks for having the link up!