Greetings from the Winter Wonderland that is Long Island! (Some of you may understandably have more colorful descriptors for what's happening outside your window...) While we are back at our beloved brick and mortar hybrid and virtual schools, it's still a strong homebody culture here at the Pond House... especially with all the winter weather. It's not just the cold, it's the dampness of the cold here that I can't seem to get used to, even after living out here for almost a decade... Here's hoping for an early spring! (Essie understandably disagrees, as her dear father took advantage of the twenty inches of snow to make her an epic sledding slope ;-).
Regardless of whether or not you live on an island in the Northeast getting pummeled by a blizzard, it seems everyone on Planet Homeschool is talking about the winter burnout. I totally get it. If it is any consolation to those wanting a more confident posture about God calling them to do this, please know professional educators with decades of experience working with diverse student needs in institutional settings grapple with the exact same things. I think a lot of it is exacerbated by the weather, no longer marinating in the glow of the holidays. After months of hard work by all involved, there is a simple need to recharge, switch gears, turn things on their head, and think outside the box. It's okay to need these things. Kids do, too, by the way! So, without compromising your values and expectations, this may be the most important time to be a little kinder, gentler, and more patient with yourself and others and in doing so, encourage a time to rest, recharge, and reflect.
One of my favorite ways to reinvigorate the current school year is to plan for the year ahead. If this sounds a little odd, bear with me: with a cup of tea in hand, and no stress of having all the answers right away, I like to engage in a little of what I call "leisurely pre-crastination". (Pre-crastination has a bad rap, and understandably so, but I add "leisurely" to it because those are the only terms under which I will engage in pre-crastination).
What does that look like? In January and February, I pour over curricula catalogs, reflect on what is going well and what needs to change, pray, drink tea, and even draft some ideas for next year, plugging things into my pre-existing templates I created to meet our state's documentation requirements. I'll be doing a video series on "leisurely pre-crastination" at some point soon, because I think it is a valuable tool. Even though I am happy continuing with the curricula providers I have been using, I do tweak things a bit each next year.
As I do my next-year prep slowly, bit by bit, without pressure, I find it helps me remember why I picked what I picked for this year, maybe switch a few things up, add a few little supplemental materials for variety, and adjust my trajectory to accommodate for any choices I've made for next year's school plan. Since I'm excited about the new curricula I'm ordering, it helps me remain focused on how this year's targets can set us up for the next. I also work out how to allocate my budget for homeschooling supplies, (because it is really easy to get carried away).
Also, I don't want to leave this bit out: I shop my bookcase and supplies cabinet. Just like the minimalists who "shop their closet" to be grateful for what they have and build new creative wardrobe ideas, I find that when I shop my bookcase and supplies cabinet, I forget about things I purchased that got pushed to the back that might help us in our goals.
All of these things invigorate the current year, because as I get psyched about what has been picked out for next year, it influences my buy-in for this year.
I hope this is helpful to you, and that it might give you some new ideas for how to stay cozy and make the most out of this mid-year lull (be it weather-induced or not). Until next time, stay safe, especially those of you braving the storm in the Northeast!
Oh, the things you can laminate... A little touch of the farm from warmer days sits cheerfully in a windowsill.
Here is our first in a series of reviews on books from The Good and the Beautiful Library! Some of the books in their library are reprints of classic literature (with an emphasis on the golden age of children’s chapter books from the 1920’s-1960’s), while others are contemporary works by writers who create wholesome and appealing characters and stories. We have been truly blessed by our literary adventures with TGATB! (Opinions of Essie are marked with “S”, while Mom is “K”).
Treehouse Town, Books I & II by Jenni Phillips
Treehouse Town Parts of Speech Game
S- I like the book because there are a few really good mysteries, especially the light in the woods. The characters were cute, and they loved to explore new treehouses. The characters were kind, got along well, and never fought with each other. I would like it if the books were even longer, that way I could read so much more about the characters. I like to re-read the books and pretend to make adventures with the friends. The artwork was pretty.
The Treehouse Town game was fun. I got better at nouns and verbs and adjectives.
K- Treehouse Town is filled with mysteries, friendship, and a celebration of creativity in the most Christian sense—using one’s God-given gifts to “pay it forward”. The illustrations are simply stunning. I have watched my daughter read and re-read these books many times. It was so nice to read a story which featured characters who were all homeschooled. The game was a perfect introduction to parts of speech and certainly made these concepts stick!
My only recommendations for improvement would be that I think TGATB should consider expanding the Treehouse Town universe with additional volumes and also making paper dolls available for imaginative play (complete with paper treehouses, of course ;-). We didn't want the adventures to end with Book II! Here's hoping for future volumes of Treehouse Town stories...
Luke & Lily of the Lighthouse, Books I & II by Maggie Felsch
Luke & Lily Compound Words Game
S- I enjoyed how they made adventures. Lily had to be patient with her pumpkins. She is good at sharing, and she got happy when she shared. Luke treats his sister kindly when something bad happens. He helped his sister when he went on an adventure. The artwork was cute.
The Lighthouse game was nice. I learned how to spell some words.
K- It was so nice to see stories with siblings having such a positive relationship with one another and to see children navigating challenges in an admirable way. The gentle little world of the lighthouse was captured well in the charming simplicity of the illustrations.
The Lighthouse memory game was fun; my daughter was comfortably reading the level 2 TGATB books by the time we got Luke & Lily, but it was still much enjoyed. While she could read the compound words, piecing them together with their matching card strengthened existing spelling and phonics skills.
How did we incorporate the sets of books and games into our day?
My daughter would read a chapter or two out loud to me at a time, and then we would play a few rounds of the corresponding game. At that pace, it took us a few weeks to get through both books, and so the skills presented in the games got plenty of reinforcement on each reading day. (We generally did this during a down time in the afternoon).
Happy New Year, Long Island! My sincerest hope is that this blog post finds you in good health. Other than Mass and a few local (mainly outdoor) activities, we are keeping it low-key and really focusing on making the most of our stay-at-home life these days.
In addition to the obvious joy first and foremost --Christmas-- we have been enjoying the unusually slow transition out of fall. We decided to take advantage of Amber Waves' winter CSA box extension, and our first couple of December trips were decidedly autumnal. Many of the leaves were still on the trees earlier in the month, and they were simply a joy to behold. We signed up for an outdoor children's class, while was a delight: a handmade rosemary and pine wreath, under the direction of Farmer Kristen. S loved every second of the class!
The farm really took on a fun twist with decorated tractors and a marketplace. I wish we could have caught the tractors at nighttime!
As we moved into mid-December, the warmer weather surprised me; when we got out to Amagansett one day, I saw cherry trees in bloom. Far afield while en route to our brick-and-mortar co-op, I happened to catch a glimpse of a few forsythia blossoms emerging along the side of the road. It got me thinking... could I force Forsythia blooms inside? I never did it this early in the year, but since I forgot to ask the landscaper to trim them back this fall, our lengthy hedge had plenty of odd branches to spare. It wasn't a high priority as we moved into Christmas, but the past few days with temperatures in the fifties and ample free time finally gave me the motivation I needed. I brought a couple dozen branches inside, scored the bottoms with a utility knife for ease in cutting, and then split them up the middle with my shears. The obliging vintage Pyrex container from my mom's days in the lab almost fifty years ago seemed a fitting vase. All in all, it probably took about an hour. Will it work? That remains to be seen...
In other efforts at bringing nature inside our home, this week we will be doing a pinecone experiment I found amongst our collection of materials from East Hampton's Playful Learning (43 Pantigo Road, 631-899-4574). The product of veteran educator Mariah Bruehl's flourishing creative vision, Playful Learning boasts a studio learning center which features in-person enrichment classes for young children, as well as an online printable membership especially geared to homeschoolers. Materials are secular, wholesome, and a good fit developmentally for the junior kindergarten through mid-elementary set. We haven't taken the classes at the East Hampton studio, but we certainly benefitted from the robust offerings made available through the online membership. My favorite units have been the science/nature-themed ones, especially those with a focus on L.I.'s own flora and fauna. I really appreciate how fine motor, phonics and spelling skills are gently incorporated into the lesson units. The materials have certainly complimented our main curricula nicely, bringing about present-tense moments of joyful science exploration. Does all of a pumpkin float? I won't spoil that surprise, but if you'd like to learn more about Playful Learning, you can explore all that they have to offer at www.playfullearning.net
In this spiritually joyful but otherwise dormant season for those of us who live in the Northeast, what little ways do you enjoy bringing some of nature's beauty into your home?
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