Documentary Day: February Edition

The days of winter are short, but they can feel so long, especially when you’re home all day.  Sibling squabbles, sniffles & sleepless nights, long weeks of gray skies can start to wear on even the most enthusiastic of homeschool moms (and kids).   If this sounds like you and your family, I’ve got a solution for you: Documentary Day!

Documentary day started last winter, as a way for me to take a breath during the closed-in, kids-have-so-much-energy days. It was my way of pausing, while continuing to remain engaged in meaningful learning.  What started as a tool for surviving the winter months, became an anticipated space for connection with new ideas and each other.  Together, my kids and I were exploring the world without leaving our living room.   We had big, juicy conversations about history, science, art, and music.  By listening to my own needs and the needs of my family, we found treasure in learning together.

So now, each month, through every season, I look for documentaries to complement our studies and special events.  I keep a list of YouTube links handy so that all I have to do is open and click.  Or I reserve DVDs from our local library.  This small amount of planning allows us the freedom to use Documentary Day in a variety of ways. 

3 Ways to Use Documentary Day:

 

  1. Choose one day each week to watch a film.  For the month of February we’re choosing Friday evenings. 
     
  2. Choose a day or two a month.  We once binge-watched a whole series of wildlife documentaries.  At the time I wondered if it was a good idea to spend all afternoon two days in a row watching documentaries.  Our next trip to the library proved it was a fruitful choice.  As I watched my kids sit among stacks of animal books, I knew that they were truly learning.  Sparked by the images and information the documentaries provided, they were insatiable for weeks with all things wildlife.
     
  3. Keep your list handy for an S-O-S.  This can be a Save-Our-Sanity day or an honest-to-goodness sick day.  Either way, you’ll be glad you have a list of educational films to nourish the mind while the body rests.

February's Documentary List:

*Please use your own judgment about whether or not a film is appropriate for your family.  I have included documentaries of various maturity levels.  There are countless other documentaries that could be included.  If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear about it!  Please share it in the comments.


Black History Month:
Animated Hero Classics: Harriet Tubman
Up from Slavery
 This links to the trailer for the 7-part series.  I highly recommend previewing this before sharing it with your children.  It is definitely more appropriate for high school age.

Chocolate, in honor of Valentine’s Day (February 14):
The Dark Side of Chocolate: Stop the Modern Child Slavery - History Channel
How Stuff Works: Secrets of Chocolate - Discovery Channel

Great Backyard Bird Count (February 17-20):
Snowy Owl - National Geographic
Hummingbird - National Geographic

Presidents’ Day (February 20):
The Presidents 1789-1825 - History Channel, series
Animated Hero Classics: George Washington

Engineering Week (February 19-25):
Engineering an Empire: Ancient Greece - History Channel
Hoover Dam - National Geographic  

Artists:
Art Institute of Chicago - Sister Wendy series

Big Bundle of STEAM Giveaway!

Psst…come in close.  I have something to tell you.  I don’t want to say it too loudly, lest it sneak up on us even faster…but February is just around the corner. 

You know what I'm talking about.  That dreaded homeschool month where everyone wants to quit and order all new curriculum at the same time

Yep, February often stinks.  But it doesn’t have to!  Instead of trudging through February this year, I have a plan to shake things up!  I’ve stocked up on some amazing Usborne activity books for my littles and some STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) books for my oldest four. 

If you’re not familiar with Usborne books, You’re. Going. To. Love. Them. Really!  I mean it!  They are engaging and colorful and full of learning goodness. 

So  my friend and fellow blogging homeschool mama of 6, Bethany Ishee, and I decided to team up and bring you an amazing giveaway!  Together, we’re giving away the 4 STEAM-Inspired Usborne books below and a $50 Usborne gift certificate.  That’s a whole lot of fun in one giveaway.

Check out the books and enter below! 

Homeschool Encouragement: 21 Posts from Inspiring Moms

2017 has arrived!  Over the past few weeks, I've enjoyed looking back over the blogs of fellow homeschoolers, re-reading the posts that encouraged me throughout 2016.  Here, I've gathered together some of my favorites about Connecting with Our Kids, Encouragement for the Homeschool Mom, Self Care & Awesome Adulting, Creative Homeschooling and Sharing Poetry with Our Kids.  I hope you'll find a nugget of wisdom, a seed of inspiration as you prepare for the year ahead!  Happy New Year!

Connecting with Our Kids

Why Focus on Building Relationships in our Homeschool by Jessica @ Intentional in Life

Curious Over Furious by Heather @ wellermomma blog

Educating the Tortoise and the Hare by Amanda @ Raising daVinci

 

Encouragement for the Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling Translated featured here at Nurtured Roots

Quitting is the Greatest Victory featured here at Nurtured Roots


Comparison - Thief of Joy and Happiness by Nadine @ Up Above the Rowan Tree

Tackling Mommy Guilt by Mary @ Not Before 7

Homeschooling Mama, Do You Need Some Encouragement? by Dachelle @ Hide the Chocolate
 

Creative Homeschooling

Better Learning through Board Gaming by Lynna @ Homeschooling Without Training Wheels

The Unique Power of the Homeschool Parent: Innovation by Mary @ Not Before 7

Day in the Life of a Working Homeschool Mom by Amanda @ Raising daVinci

Creating a Home-Centered Homeschool Room by Melissa @ Soaring Arrows



Why I've Flipped Our Homeschool Routine by Nadine @ Up Above the Rowan Tree

Brown Paper Packages by Jenny @ Where Life is Real
 

Sharing Poetry
with our Kids

100 Poetry Books for Kids by Lynna @ Homeschooling without Training Wheels

Tips for Reading Poetry by Jenny @ Where Life is Real


The Endearing Art of Poetry Tea Time by Melissa @ Soaring Arrows
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway & Christmas Copywork for the Whole Family!

What are your homeschooling plans for December?  Do you incorporate the holidays into your "schoolwork"?  Or do you add holiday activities on top of your regular work?  After years of homeschooling, I've learned that to truly enjoy the season, our family needs to keep things simple in our homeschool.  Instead of adding on our Christmas books and crafts and Christmas card writing to our already busy days, we weave our days around these. 

( This post contains affiliate links.  by purchasing through these links, nurtured roots receives compensation at no cost to you.  thanks for your support.)

(This post contains affiliate links.  by purchasing through these links, nurtured roots receives compensation at no cost to you.  thanks for your support.)


A couple weeks ago, I shared my free-write prompts for the holidays.   To round out our language arts study for the month, I've created Christmas Copywork.  It is based on the books Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  We'll also be using the Brave Writer Boomerang Guide for A Christmas Carol.  With these three books, everyone in our family will have festive copywork to complete throughout the month of December. 

The links to download 25 Fun & Festive Free-write Prompts and Christmas Copywork for the Whole Family is at the bottom of this page.

If you want to know more about copywork and dictation, pop over to bravewriter.com and check out the webinar devoted to the topic.

Here's a list of what is covered for each book:

Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia:
pronouns, spelling pattern /ed/, using question marks

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever:
apostrophes & contractions, dialogue, spelling compound words, semicolons, compound sentences, using dashes

A Christmas Carol:
Head over to the Brave Writer store to read more about the guide for this book.

A now for the giveaway! 
Enter to win a copy of each of the books listed above and simplify your homeschool plans for December.

Click on the images below to download your free PDFs.

Subscribe here for updates and more free resources for your homeschool.

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S.T.E.A.M. Inspired Stocking Stuffers for Teens

Need an engaging gift for your teen?  Inspired by the fun of S.T.E.A.M.  (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math), this is a list that you and your teen will love. There's something for everyone, and something for every budget.  Happy Holidays!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

IQ Twist : Starting with simple puzzles and advancing to complex challenges, this game will sharpen your mind and visual skills.

IQ Twist: Starting with simple puzzles and advancing to complex challenges, this game will sharpen your mind and visual skills.

Qwixx :  A game of probability and luck, and as the name suggests, it's quick!  And Fun!

Qwixx:  A game of probability and luck, and as the name suggests, it's quick!  And Fun!

Sumoko :  This crossword style number game has 5 ways to play and is perfect for the math-loving teen on your list.  And it may just convince your not-so-math-loving list members that numbers can be fun!

Sumoko:  This crossword style number game has 5 ways to play and is perfect for the math-loving teen on your list.  And it may just convince your not-so-math-loving list members that numbers can be fun!

Patterns of the Universe :  Coloring is for everyone!  Especially when it involves intricate patterns.  This book shows that math and beauty do go together.

Patterns of the Universe:  Coloring is for everyone!  Especially when it involves intricate patterns.  This book shows that math and beauty do go together.

Fibonacci in Nature : Explore the Fibonacci spiral as it's found in nature.  And allow the inner artist to create!

Fibonacci in Nature: Explore the Fibonacci spiral as it's found in nature.  And allow the inner artist to create!

Prismacolor Colored Pencils :  Nothing beats the vibrance and smoothness of these colored pencils.  Trust me.  Your teen will love them.  Actually, ANYONE on your list will love them!

Prismacolor Colored Pencils:  Nothing beats the vibrance and smoothness of these colored pencils.  Trust me.  Your teen will love them.  Actually, ANYONE on your list will love them!

Moleskine Sketchbook :  A blank book is so full of possibilities!  Art sketches, engineering ideas, writing, there's wrong way to fill a moleskine!  Add in some Prismacolors and your teen has the tools to share the amazing things they create in their minds!

Moleskine Sketchbook:  A blank book is so full of possibilities!  Art sketches, engineering ideas, writing, there's wrong way to fill a moleskine!  Add in some Prismacolors and your teen has the tools to share the amazing things they create in their minds!

Quadcopters  for all!  Need I say more ? :-)

Quadcopters for all! 
Need I say more ? :-)

Metal Earth : These aren't your average models.  Made of metal and small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, there are models for fans of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Dr. Who, musical instruments, space exploration and many, many more!

Metal Earth: These aren't your average models.  Made of metal and small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, there are models for fans of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Dr. Who, musical instruments, space exploration and many, many more!

Set : Can you make a set?  Do it quick before another player snatches it up!

Set: Can you make a set?  Do it quick before another player snatches it up!

Origami Kit : This mini kit is a great intro to origami.  With an instruction book, paper and DVD, your teen will be creating mathematical art immediately.

Origami Kit: This mini kit is a great intro to origami.  With an instruction book, paper and DVD, your teen will be creating mathematical art immediately.

Math Poet : Who says you can't play with math and words at the same time?  This little box of magnets just may change how you see math.

Math Poet: Who says you can't play with math and words at the same time?  This little box of magnets just may change how you see math.

Binary t-shirt :  Is your teen a computer programmer with a sense of humor?  Then this shirt is for them! 

Binary t-shirt:  Is your teen a computer programmer with a sense of humor?  Then this shirt is for them! 

Make: Electronics .  The Make series of books offers in-depth user-friendly project instructions for a variety of topics. This one about electronics pairs well with a beginning soldering kit.

Make: Electronics.  The Make series of books offers in-depth user-friendly project instructions for a variety of topics. This one about electronics pairs well with a beginning soldering kit.

Elenco Learn to Solder Kit : Many electronics' projects involve soldering and this kit is the perfect place to start.  Pair it with the Make: Electronics book and your teen will gain valuable knowledge and skills with electronics.

Elenco Learn to Solder Kit: Many electronics' projects involve soldering and this kit is the perfect place to start.  Pair it with the Make: Electronics book and your teen will gain valuable knowledge and skills with electronics.

Thanks for stopping by Nurtured Roots.  I hope you found something inspiring.  Have a happy holiday season!

Fun & Festive Free-Write Prompts

Need a simple and fun way to sneak some writing into the busy days of December?  I've got you covered!  Below you will find 25 free-write prompts for the holiday season and winter.  Here's how to get started:

1. Download the PDF at the bottom of this page.
2. Print & cut the prompts apart.
3. Pop them into a jar or basket.
4. Grab a notebook & pencil.
5. Reach in and select a prompt.  No peeking!
6. Set the timer.  (You choose the length of time.)
7. Start writing.

It's that simple!  There's no need to worry about perfect spelling and mechanics right now.  The goal is to get the creative juices flowing and to have fun! 

Have a writer who isn't quite ready to write alone.  No worries!  Have her share her thoughts aloud while you write them down.  You'll be spending valuable time together and she'll see that what she has to say matters.  Together, you'll be paving the way to a connected writing relationship.  Win! Win! Win!

The prompts are also listed below in case you'd prefer not to print!

1. Colors are often used to describe Christmas.  Choose one color, any color, describe what a Christmas of that color would look like.

2. Imagine you just built a snowman.  Write a story about what you would do with your snowman.

3. Choose a holiday treat to eat.  Using your senses, write about what you ate.  What did it taste like?  Smell like?  Feel like in your mouth? 

4. Make a list of 10 holiday nouns.  Then make a list of 8 descriptive words.  Put your lists side by side and make phrases with them.  Then choose one phrase and write about it.

5. Choose a letter and think of a word for each of the following categories.  Using the words create some tongue twisters.
Noun
Animal
Girl’s name
Describing word
Food
Verb
Boy’s name
Place
Clothing
Emotion

6.  Imagine you just opened the best gift ever.  Describe how you feel.  What was in the package?  Give as many details as you can.

7.  Go back to one of your free-writes from this month.  Choose one sentence that you think is really well-written.  Put that at the top of a clean sheet of paper and start writing.

8. A blind person wants to know what your house looks like when it is decorated for the holidays.  Describe it to them with lots of detail.

9.  If I could give my ________________, just one gift, it would be __________.  Describe that gift, how you feel when you give it and how the person reacts when it is opened.

10.  Find one of your favorite holiday stories (or any story you have handy).  Copy the last sentence onto a clean sheet of paper.  Use that as the beginning of a new story.

11.  Imagine that the trees are talking to each other at this time of year.  Write a conversation between them.  What are they saying?

12.  What is something you love to do at the holidays?  Write about it.

13.  Imagine that you live in a gingerbread house.  What would it be made of?  What kinds of treats would decorate it?  What would you do if you lived inside?

14.  Try this word game with a sibling, parent or friend.  Start with a holiday word like “Joyful.”  The next person thinks of a word that starts with the last letter of the word.  So, in this case “l” would start the word so you may choose “lights” as your word.  Keep going back and forth until you have at least 20 words.  Make sure you write them down as you go.  Now choose one of the words from the list and use it to inspire a story or poem.

15. Make an advertisement for snowballs.

16. Write directions for how to build a snowman.  Number the steps.
 
17. Spend some time watching the birds outside your window.  Write about what they are doing this time of year.

18.  Imagine racing down a hill on a sled.  Write about the experience.

19. “Oh the weather outside is frightful…”  Write about the frightful weather. 

20. Write a secret note to someone in your house.  Leave it somewhere for them to find. 

21. You just made friends with a gingerbread person.  What will you do together?

22. Look through magazines and catalogs to find a photo that reminds you of the holidays.  Cut it out and use it for your free-write.

23.  Make a holiday card for someone.  Decorate the front, write a note on the inside and pop it in the mail.  Better yet, deliver it in person, if you can.

24.  Choose a holiday word and use it to write an acrostic poem.  Write the word vertically on the left side of your paper.  Write a word or phrase beginning with each letter of your word.  They should describe your chosen word.

25. Fold your paper so that when you open it up you have 4 sections.  In each section, write one of these words at the top.  Lights, Cozy, Sweet, Family.  Then, set your timer for 3 minutes.  Jot down words and phrases that come to mind for one of these categories.  Repeat for each section.  Then file this away until the next time you free-write.  When you come back to it, re-read what you wrote and see what stands out.  Choose a word, a phrase, an entire category, or any combination and use it for the topic of your free-write.


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Poetry Tea Time: Thanksgiving Recipe

“Giving thanks    giving thanks
for rain and rainbows
sun and sunsets
cats and catbirds
larks and larkspur…”

by Eve Merriam

Thanksgiving is a natural time to pause and reflect on the blessings in our lives, and poetry tea time lends itself beautifully to celebrating our thankfulness.  Just a quick search on amazon for “Thanksgiving poems” yields 2,822 results!  Why is that?  Because thankfulness is something we can all get behind.  I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t agree that we should be grateful for what we have, and that fostering a sense of gratitude in our children is an important part of raising them.  The poetic nature of gratitude, the sometimes elusive emotion that can not always be translated into words finds a home in poetry where phrases and metaphor abound.  So here’s a recipe for Thanksgiving poetry tea time! 

 

Set the Table:
Any table setting will work for poetry tea time but if you want something different, create a vase of balloons taped to sticks.  One for each child.  Inside each balloon, add a piece of paper that tells why you are thankful for that child.

 

 

The Books:
Thanksgiving Poems Selected by Myra Cohn Livingston
The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
Merrily Comes in Our Harvest: Poems for Thanksgiving by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Thanksgiving Day at our House: Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlstrom
It’s Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky
Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving by Katherine Paterson
This is the Feast by Diane ZuHone Shore
Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Francis Child


The Art Activity:

I'll be offering my kids two art options.  The first is the corn cob mixed media project.  It will be a perfect fit for my younger set.  The second is the "thankful tree,"  a beautiful combination of writing and art.  Click on either image to get to the directions.

 

The Poem Writing: 

Keep it simple.  Have each child write an acrostic for THANKSGIVING, listing for each letter things for which they are grateful.  These could be added to the artwork above.  Get creative. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Exploring Literary Devices with Owl Moon

Picture books are my all-time favorite teaching tool, especially when working with multiple ages.  A well-written picture book is a whole pouch of seeds waiting to be planted.  For your visual learner, pictures cover pages from edge to edge.  For your auditory learner, a feast of well-chosen words awaits.  And picture books cover a rainbow of topics and genres, so you’re sure to find something to spark the interest of your kids. 

Perhaps my favorite use of picture books is to inspire writing because.....

  1. Picture books are short.  We want to make the most of our time during busy homeschool days, and since picture books can be read in one sitting, they’re perfect for the job.  We can read the book through once, typically in 10 minutes or less, and then re-read sections we want to highlight as we guide our emerging writers to explore various techniques.
  2. Picture books authors have to choose words with care.  When an author is limited to about 32 pages, she has to select her words really, really carefully.  Otherwise, the young readers and listeners on our laps will be asleep before we get to the last page. The same is true with “older” pre-teen and teen readers.  A picture book for the purpose of teaching writing, must be engaging enough to hold the interest of everyone.  After all, it was C.S. Lewis who said, “A children’s story that is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story.”
  3. Picture books are written with younger readers in mind, but that doesn't mean older readers won't learn anything from them.  What it does mean is that they make ample use of literary techniques such as descriptive language, similes and metaphors, and voice.   Picture book authors have a gift for serving up bite-sized portions of amazing language and vocabulary.  Just enough that we feel satiated but not overwhelmed. 

One of my favorite books to use is Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.  It’s chock-full of vivid writing and literary devices & tools with which we want our children to make friends.  I’ve outlined three that are easily spotted in Owl Moon, including examples from the text.  Because good writing weaves literary elements together, these overlap, but that's the beauty of this book!

Here's a list of literary devices I want to make sure my kids know before they leave home.

Here's a list of literary devices I want to make sure my kids know before they leave home.

Simile & Metaphor
Well placed similes and metaphors blend seamlessly into the writing to compare something, possibly unfamiliar, to something familiar.  To create a picture for the reader, to bring the reader into the emotion of the story.  Similes and metaphors are powerful tools when used well.  It’s often the difference between showing the reader what is happening, rather than just telling them.

  • The trees stood still as giant statues.
  • Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.
  • And when their voices faded away it was as quiet as a dream.
  • The moon made his face into a silver mask.
  • Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow.

I like to play a game with my kids when we’re exploring similes and metaphors.  We find similes and metaphors in the text (showing) and then rephrase it so that it is no longer showing, but telling.  Here are some examples from the text that "show" and my "tell" is in italics.

  • The trees stood still as giant statues.  The trees were tall.
  • Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.  We could hear the train whistle blowing.
  • And when their voices faded away it was as quiet as a dream.  When their voices were quiet, it was silent.
  • The moon made his face into a silver mask.  His face looked shiny in the moonlight.
  • Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow.  The owl flew off the branch.

Then, we reverse it.  I give them a simple sentence such as, “I ate ice cream.”  And they rewrite it to be more descriptive by including similes and metaphors.

  • The ice cream dribbled down my arm like raindrops plopping from the sky.
  • I licked the ice cream round and round the cone like a merry-go-round, faster and faster until I caught every last dripping drop.
  • I bit the bottom off my cone and it was a faucet, dripping strawberry ice cream into my open mouth.

Descriptive language
Descriptive language covers a large area of writing because really, doesn’t all good writing rely on the perfect description?!  Here are just a few examples I pulled from Owl Moon.  Once you read the book, you’ll see that every line, every phrase is full of beautiful description.

  • Our feet crunched over the crisp snow and little gray footprints followed us.
  • The shadows were the blackest things I had ever seen.  They stained the white snow.
  • My mouth felt furry, for the scarf over it was wet and warm.

Now it’s your turn.  Play charades where the only answers are strong verbs.  Are you galloping, shuffling, sauntering, trudging, sipping, gulping, teetering?  Or pull out a magazine and leaf through it.  Find a picture of a scene or something that interests you.  Describe it using strong verbs and adjectives. 

Setting
In Owl Moon, Jane Yolen is consistently bringing us back to the setting. She gives us details right from the beginning that show us what a cold, bright, clear winter evening it is.  Go on a scavenger hunt through the book to find these.

Your turn.  Go outside and find a comfortable place to sit.  Describe the setting in such a way that your reader will feel like he is there.  Keep in mind all the ways you take in your surrounding, through your senses.

lookuptree.jpg

So, grab a copy of Owl Moon and jump in.  Choose one literary device.  Define it.  Find it.  Try your hand at it.   Most of all, have fun with it. 

To download a printable pdf of how to use Owl Moon to explore literary devices, click on the image below.

A Bouquet of Leaves & Poetry: One Solution for Slowing Time & Savoring Autumn

Do you feel like you’re in a race to fit everything into your day?  Do you sometimes sacrifice connection with those you love as you sprint toward the elusive finish line?  And do you find your ability to savor all that Autumn has to offer gets lost too?  If you answered YES! YES! YES! Rest assured you’re in good company with so many other hard-working mamas.  But even better, I have a solution for you.  It’s my favorite remedy for fast-flying days. . . .
poetry tea time. 

Poetry Tea Time has become our family’s respite in the midst of the busy seasons.  Sometimes it just looks like a stack of poetry books and a plate of cookies, and it’s beautiful.  At other times, when I’m feeling a little more inspired, there’s a sort of magic that settles upon our teatime and it’s beyond beautiful!!  Either way, I try to remember that connection is the focus.  And let’s be honest, whenever we focus on connection, there is beauty.

Last week’s teatime was a magical one.  Fall had finally settled into the trees outside our door and the crisp air beckoned us to walk long trails.  As little hands will do, they gathered bouquets of leaves, and of course, these leaves made their way to our kitchen table.  That’s when inspiration found me, and boy, was she was a gracious visitor!  (I have learned to open the door as soon as she knocks because you never know how long she’ll be staying.) 

So the next morning, the scent of apple crisp greeted six sleepy-heads as they woke.  One by one, they joined me in the kitchen.  They knew what was up.  One plucked the poetry books from their shelf, being sure to put the seasonal ones on top.  Another set the plates and cups.  A third rummaged around to find the battery-operated candles we keep on hand for special occasions.  (Someday, everyone will be old enough for authentic flames but for now, these work quite well.)  The rest simply lingered watching birds at the feeder, checking on the monarch chrysalis at the center of the table, the little ones making a line of their treasured leaves across the table.  All of us soaking in the warmth of the moment. It was one of those moments that you want to live in forever, when time actually feels soothingly slow.  I was afraid my words would break the magic and so I welcomed Robert Frost to begin.

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.


One by one, poems were found like lost treasures and favorite friends.  We read and ate and conversed and spilled some milk.  It was magical.

The leaves that had been brought home like treasures were passed around.  Each person describing each leaf laid before him.  (I may have casually mentioned terms like adjective and verb.)  Together, we wrote these words and phrases onto the leaves, creating a poem that in its simplicity, captured Autumn.  It was magical. 

Autumn
Color collage
Speckled auburn dots
Tie dyed velvet red
Waxy,
Crinkly,
 Fluttering,
  Turning,
  Twisting in air
Like a perfect sunset
Full of red and orange
To light the sky with beauty
Autumn
 

Later on, I dipped those leaves into melted beeswax so that even as the trees outside turn to brown and the skies become covered with clouds, our leaves, our words joined together in poetry, will still look as though the sun is shining in them. 

Now, hanging in the kitchen, above the well-worn table that is filling with so many memories, is Autumn.  Our savored morning made visible, gently calling us back to sit a while longer.  Reminding us that time can slow if only we give it space to breathe.

Quitting is the Greatest Victory

You know the saying. “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Well, it’s wrong. Yep! Just plain wrong. Sure, there is something to be said for persevering and sweating your way to your goal. Hard work is commendable and often necessary. But what if quitting is just as admirable and essential? I think that it is. Here’s why.

At the end of the summer, I did what I have done at the end of every summer for as long as we have been homeschooling. I made plans. Lots and lots of plans. And schedules and checklists and booklists. I crafted a beautifully, synchronized symphony of chores, music lessons, sports, and learning activities for six kids. It was a masterpiece. All laid out on the paper.

Our “school year” began and, lo and behold, it worked. For three days. That’s it! Three days!

Don’t get me wrong. I tried for weeks to maintain the smooth flow of those first glorious days when every box was checked. But the truth is. I was tired. It takes an obscene amount of energy to do it ALL. And quite frankly, I’m not cut out to do it all. So, I quit!

Yep. After four weeks of trudging through four math lessons a day, four language arts lesson, history, geography, science, art, music, nursery rhymes, and salt dough making while overseeing countless other trivial details like meals and laundry, I just quit. Not the exasperated why-is-this-so-hard-quit. (Though I have done that before.) But the there-is-no-possible-way-to-do-it-all quit.

What’s the difference? Not much unless you experience a shift in perspective when you throw in the towel. And for me, that’s what happened. When I fully grasped that my approach to homeschooling wasn’t working, and even more humbly admitted that my approach didn’t reflect my view of learning or values about family, then and only then could I fully quit. Knowing that in quitting I was allowing myself the biggest victory I had ever experienced.

You see, in that moment, flooded with realization and crystal clear vision, I knew that continuing on in our old, familiarly uncomfortable patterns, shuffling kids through lessons without ever feeling fully connected, wasn’t working. It was actually doing more harm than good. My patience was stretched thinner than the threads of a spider web, and exasperation was my new tone of voice.

So it was time. Time to quit and walk away.

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Waving the flag of surrender was simultaneously liberating and terrifying. Self-doubt crept in from every side. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this. Why did you think you could homeschool all these kids? What were you thinking?

But fortunately, my more optimistic self stood up and shouted, “You can do this if you do it your way!”

What? What was that? My way? I would have to fashion my own mold? Clear my own path? Find my own homeschooling voice?

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For once I didn’t go searching books and blogs for answers, looking for someone else’s ideals to guide me. Instead, I looked into the eyes of my children and the heart of family. What I found was an absolute, all-out love affair with books and conversation. A deep trust of natural learning. And an even deeper desire for connectedness.

From here, from these pillars, I have begun to re-build. Now, instead of rushing through the checklists, we linger....reading for hours, playing games, memorizing math facts, building block towers and more importantly, nurturing relationships. The days still feel full to bursting and chaos flows freely as before, but I have found something that before felt like an elusive dream. Peace.

I have to laugh. I never thought that in quitting and throwing it all away, we would gain so much. Because, like most people, I believed that quitters never win. But not now. I’m proud to call myself a quitter. I quit seeking and looked within. I quit putting the opinions of others above the truth in my heart. I quit trying to meet the expectations I thought I were needed. As a family, we quit being anything other than what we are and what we may yet become. Us.

The best part is that you can find the same peace, your own greatest victory, if only you have the courage to quit.