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Newby Workshops

Dear Friends,

Just a quick post to let you know that I have <finally> set a couple of dates for this year’s Newby Workshops!  They will be held on Thursday, July 21st and Tuesday, August 9th from 7:30 to 9:30 pm in my home in Bradford.

If you are new to the homeschool world or are considering this crazy lifestyle, please feel welcome to visit in my home on one of these dates!  This is a workshop that I have presented at homeschooling conferences but that I love to be able to share in my home even more as we will have a limited size (only 15 spaces available – sign up soon!) and will have two hours rather than one.  There will be a big pot of tea and my daughters are likely to come up with some yummy treats to share. 

Though we will try to look over some of the most common questions and concerns that new homeschoolers have in a sturctured way, there will be lots of time to discuss those questions that are foremost on your mind about this way of educating.  My plan is more for an open forum than for a lecture. 

Some of the things that we will discuss:

Yikes!  Can I do this?!?
Where can I go for support?
What are the legal implications?
Do I have to contact my local school board?
What about curriculum?
What is a “normal” homeschooling day like?
What about socialization!?!

Expect some yummy hand outs too!    

Please share this invitation with friends and family who are new to homeschooling or who are considering it.  You are also welcome to forward this information to your church group or homeschool group.  I look forward to meeting many of you in my living room this summer!



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What is Normal?

Dear Friends,
Often times I have friends (old and new) come to me with questions about homeschooling.  Some of you are new to homeschooling, so are thinking about it (or thinking how strange it is), some have been schooling at home for a while but want insight on how others are doing.  From time to time I will post my answers to these common and (and sometimes uncommon) questions that I have grappled with.
My answers are not the end all and be all.  I hope to dabble them with the truth but the only truth that I can guarantee is from the scripture itself.  Everything else is just my musings on what happens in our cozy little spot Under the Maple Tree.
Recently a friend wrote, “Hey Cori, would you be able to give me a run down of your average day.  I am interested in the practical aspects of how Charlotte Mason’s philosophy gets put into practice?” 
Ha ha ha!  What is a “normal” day!?!  I have been asking myself that a lot lately in light of our crazy renovations!
I hesitate to share our current schedule – as it is so different now that I am eight years into this career and am schooling three girls in three different grades and tending to a demanding toddler – but present day is what you will get.  It is a very different day than when we first started to homeschool and there was just one very young student and a toddler. 
Also I can tell you what I plan for most days to look like but there really doesn’t seem to be a “normal” day for us.  There is always a hitch, a headache, spilled milk, an attitude that needs to be addressed, an unexpected visitor.  Lately it has been renovations that have thrown us off.  And really, if I am rightly looking at education the day does need to bend around these things.  It is just as important that I teach my kids to clean up their messes, to love their sisters, to overcome attitudes, to work hard despite the excuses.
Our “average” day then might have many of these elements:
7:00-7:30 Get up (I don’t let the kids get up before 7 as they disrupt other tired people; They do need to be up by 7:30 as there is much to do in the day and there isn’t time for dawdling – though sometimes lately I am known to be the dawdler) 
7:30-8:00 Personal chores.  (make bed, tidy room, get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth) See Working Together.
8:00-8:30 Breakfast
*8:30-9:30 Corporate chores (things like watering the plants, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, etc.) Also see Working Together.
*9:30-12:00 Table time (our table time includes things like language arts, math, nature notebook, copywork and spelling, etc.)
*12:00-1:00 Couch time (this is our time for Bible reading and other readings like geography, history and science, literature and poetry) Realistically, we get to this component one to three times per week.
* I used to be pretty set on this schedule but lately have mixed up these three main elements of our days according to our needs.  i.e. – If we haven’t had couch time for a couple of days then that might come right after breakfast or if we have an appointment early in the day then we might skip to language arts at the table first.
1:00-2:00 Lunch (The girls are starting to take turns at preparing a meal or two on their own – or with my help – each week!)
2:00-3:00 Quiet time (This is non-negotiable.  If I want to give my kids my best everyday I need to get some down time.  Remember most people spend 8-10 hours away from their whole family everyday, an hour of downtime is not a rejection of our kids and their needs.  Besides it helps the kids to be able to learn to quietly entertain themselves, to enjoy quiet reading time, to keep out of trouble without eyes constantly on them.  It also gives them time to pursue some of those passions that life is sometimes too noisy and busy for: painting, crocheting, creating, building)
3:00-6:00 Play time (mostly outdoors), time for mommy to do some work, finish my chores, read, prepare dinner, etc.
6:00-7:00 Dinner and clean up
7:00-8:00 Play, get ready for bed, baths, etc.
8:00 Little girls to bed
8:30 – 9:00 Oldest daughter to bed….
Sleep and then start again.
I hope that gives you a bit of an insight into our “Charlotte Masonish” day.  You will notice that I didn’t just stop at the academic learning time as I really do think that times like chores, outdoor play and quiet time are an integral part of our learning time.


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But What About Socialization!?!

Of course this is the most common comment that we get when people find out that we homeschool.  If it isn’t spoken, then it is often implied, “Oh! You home school!” the brow gives a slight crinkle and a momentary look of incredulity passes over those eyes that once shared camaraderie.
Sometimes I feel defiant, others resigned.  Mostly I smile and laugh and just explain that yes we do like spending time together and that we often spend far too much time playing with friends of all ages – after all, our schooling is done earlier than their child’s is and we don’t have homework in the evening.
I was thinking recently about how we started into this journey of homeschooling, how Mama thought it a good idea but Daddy was unsure.  So Mama, being the scholar that she was set up a research project, reading, weighing the pros and cons and presenting them to her man, trying to be objective.  Eventually this lead to a round of interviews with homeschoolers and public school teachers and parents who had made a variety of educational choices for their children.
The clincher for us?  One evening, over a dinner party with one of the subjects of our many case studies my hubby says, “So what about socialization?”  Gales of laughter from the other Papa.  “Do you really think that going to school ensures that kids will be well socialized?”  Light bulb!  We had this conversation in the temporal shadow of the horrific events of Columbine High School.  Of course, the events at Columbine weren’t typical of schools at all but what was typical?  Bullying, behavioural problems that plague the staff and leave many students heavily drugged, many students leaving the education system unprepared for life, cultural values being taught that often conflicted with our own family values.  No, we wouldn’t miss the socialization that schools promised.
So then I start to think… what exactly is socialization?  Is it being able to act properly in a social setting?  Having “social graces”?  Being able to interact with others in a “normal” way?  Is it spending lots of time with friends instead of just family?
Well, scholar Mama goes back to the dictionary.  “Webster’s College Dictionary says, socialization is a continuing process whereby an individual learns and assimilates the values and behaviour patterns appropriate to his or her culture and social position…..”
Hmm, maybe we need to question the need for socialization….  Do we want our kids to learn and to assimilate the values of our culture, a culture that values financial success over compassion, a culture that denies the involvement of the Creator in the cosmos?  Do I trust popular culture to tell my family the best way to act in a situation, to behave around others?  Maybe socialization isn’t a goal for our abundant life education after all.  Maybe we should be assimilating a different set of values.  Not values that come from the homeschooling lifestyle but values that come from living life according to the Word.  That’s countercultural.  Maybe we need to counter-socialize: to live a life that acts in light of eternity rather than in light of our cultures latest fads.
Do we need to homeschool in order to properly overcome the socialization monster?  No.  But it’s nice to be able to “socialize” during all that extra time that we have when school ends by lunch and the evenings are for relaxing instead of homework.
Wishing you a counter-social week.

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The Most Challenging Part of Homeschooling….

Often times I have friends (old and new) come to me with questions about homeschooling.  Some of you are new to homeschooling, some are thinking about it (or thinking how strange it is), some have been schooling at home for a while but want insight on how others are doing.  From time to time I will post my answers to these common and (and sometimes uncommon) questions that I have grappled with.
My answers are not the end all and be all.  I hope to pepper them with the truth but the only truth that I can guarantee is from the scripture itself.  Everything else is just my musings on what happens in our cozy little spot Under the Maple Tree.
Recently a friend wrote, “What do you find to be the most challenging part of homeschooling Cori?  Would love to hear your thoughts on what you love and what is the most challenging part of your homeschooling experience.”
What a great question.  I had to think for a while about the answer to this one because I realize that there isn’t a right or wrong answer to these things.  My thoughts on the highs and lows of homeschooling might be the exact opposite to what someone else is feeling. 
I also had to stop and think, “Is this something that would bug me even if the kids were in school?”
So, my biggest pet peeves in our little homeschool are the sisterly squabbles, the sweaters left on the floor, the unheeded instructions. But all of these things aren’t as a result of homeschooling. They would be there even if the kids were in school. 
No, I think what wouldn’t be a problem if the kids were in school (but is because they aren’t :)) is the 24/7 lived in look. We live in every room of our house very intensely, something that my neighbors wouldn’t experience. They are up at 6:30 out the door to day care and school by 7:30 and they don’t get home until 5:30. Dinner, baths and at least one night out each week for activities for the kids and there isn’t nearly so much time for mess making.  We, on the other hand, have science experiments on the counter, maps on the walls, and math books on the coffee table. Sometimes, the lived in look wears on us all. 
On the other hand, my most favorite parts of homeschooling also have to do with time. Time with the kids, the chance to be there to see those “ah ha” moments – you know the moment when they learn something and go, “Hey, I get it!” The time to mold the day to fit our needs rather than everyone else’s.  (We sleep in on the mornings after the kids have been out late at Awana.)  I also love having the time to focus on working together, getting along, loving one another, enjoying one another.  I just enjoy having more time to enjoy the kids
I hope this gives you a bit of insight.  
I did the same thing when we were thinking about homeschooling, asked a lot of people questions, people on both ends of the educational spectrum. I would encourage you to do the same. Ask lots of people about their experiences but remember to stop and make the choice that is right for your family not the one that was made by others who you respect. My experiences homeschooling are merely reflective of life in our little corner of the world and will certainly differ from your experiences and so I wouldn’t want to convince you of one thing or another. 
Bless you, Friend, as you seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

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Work is a Blessing?!

As I take a break from our usual Saturday festivities of catching up, getting groceries, preparing for the week that lies ahead, I thought tonight I would share with you an excerpt from Working Together, the new book that will be released on March 28th from Maple Tree Publications.  This excerpt deals with the value of work….

[Here is] one of the greatest reasons to keep a good attitude about our work.  Work is a blessing not a curse.  Our God has said that He will provide all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).  God has no shortage of glory and so He came to give us life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10).  His desire is to bless us with all good things and certainly He has – after all, He has invited us to have an eternal relationship with Him.  What could be better than that?  But he also provides for us physically, not just spiritually.  He says that not even a bird would fall without His knowing it (Matthew 10:29); He is that involved in and aware of His creation. 

However, I’ve heard a cute little saying that goes like this, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw it in the nest.”   God is providing for our needs by making us able to work to obtain His blessings.  This doesn’t apply to the spiritual blessing of salvation but it does to the physical blessing of provision.  What a blessing it is to have the physical strength and ability to do basic tasks for ourselves.  Let’s not take that for granted.  It is only by the grace of God that I am able to rise in the morning and dress myself, brush my teeth and make my breakfast.  Let us honour God by doing all that we can to be physically self-sufficient, not a burden to others and in turn we can give Him glory through our work. 

There are also spinoffs to the blessing of physical provisions that God makes for us through our abilities.  There is the blessing of being satisfied with the fruits of our labours, of being content with what we have.  We can enjoy the results of our hard work and feel good, fulfilled.  We gain confidence and feel more ready to face challenges that lie ahead.  Beyond simple physical provision, hard work is a sure delivery vehicle for the abundant life that Jesus offers. 

An important example is that of Adam and Eve.  God instructed them how to work and to tend to the Garden of Eden before they sinned.  Working for a living is not part of the punishment that we endure because of our sinful natures.  It is a privilege to have the physical capability to earn money, to make things, to do things. 

So, when attitudes are faltering about cleaning time, remind your little people (and yourself) that God wasn’t obligated to give you hands and fingers that worked, muscles to lift with, feet that are able to help you move about, balance and stand.  He did not need to give you a brain that can learn and think but He has because He was providing for your needs to take care of yourself and others.

Wishing you my friends a satisfying day as we all busily scurry about doing the things that make for living.