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KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

An Homage to Husbands

Sometimes, at the end of an especially busy day, after I’ve taught lessons and cleaned house, posted to my blog or checked out all the wonderful blogs I follow for homeschool advice, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner, squeezed in a 45-minute workout in the morning (and, three days a week, an hour for Zumba class), kissed my husband as many times as I can, fed all the farm animals–twice–worked on whatever new thing I’ve planned for school, and right now, made some more plans for the homeschool seminar I’ll be giving in March, and done whatever errands I needed to do (whew!  is that all?), I lay in bed and think, “Wait.  Did I play with my kids today?  Did I have a real conversation with them that didn’t involve Etruscan art or the difference between the Spanish verbs ser and estar?”

I bet you have those moments.  Even worse for a mama who has to fit all that in while working.  Cristina at A Homeschool Mom wrote a post a couple months ago called Am I Fun? which I have referred to before when I was having one of these moments.  It prompted me to take the day off and just have a fun day with my Littles.  But sometimes, we don’t have time to take a day off.  Some days I look around my house in the evening and think, “Ah, heck.  I forgot to clean the house today.”  How can you Forget to clean your house?!

At least I didn’t forget to make dinner.

Though sometimes I do forget to eat until dinner.  I feed everybody else, but if I’m elbow-deep in some project or chore I’ll think, “Oh, I’ll get to mine later.”  Later being dinner.  Because we have a strict rule about family dinners, so I Have To put aside whatever else needs done and sit down with my fabulous family.  Which is good.  Because while sometimes I’m too exhausted to take part, at least I get to watch the Littles laugh and talk with their dad.  I try not to think about the work I have to do once we leave the table and just focus on that moment, but sometimes it’s hard.

Thank the stars I have my sweet husband.

Sometimes when I get home from Zumba, dinner is ready and waiting for me.  Sometimes, even though he works very hard all day, he does a load of laundry or picks up the clutter or–and this might be the best–runs the errands.  Better than all that, he truly appreciates all I do to keep our house going.  He thanks me.  He notices when I do something new.  He compliments me.

He tells me I am beautiful every day.  After nearly 12 years of marriage, he still does that.

Whether I believe that I am or not, I believe that he thinks so.  It matters.

But what matters most is the way he picks up, every day, where I left off with the Littles.  He asks them what they learned at school.  He gets in the floor and plays games with them, even when he’s so worn out all he wants to do is veg in the recliner in front of one of his History Channel shows.  He talks to them like they’re human beings because we have agreed from the beginning not to treat them like they’re too young (or, Heaven forbid, too dumb) to understand Anything he has to say.  He listens.  He listens with his whole being.  When they are talking to him, you can see his body listening by its stillness, the way he leans toward them with every part.  He appreciates them.  He notices when they do something new.  He compliments them.

So on those nights when I worry that I dropped the ball on just Being With my Littles, I can drift off to sleep with a smile.  They probably didn’t notice.  They were too busy playing with Dad.

If you have a partner like that, who supports your family with quiet strength and holds all of you up even when things are hectic, kiss him bunches today.  Let him know how much he means to you.  Because he needs those things, too, all those things he gives to you.

Love (Definitely) wins,

KT

Missing Out on Mythology

While perusing my many homeschool sources the other day, I read an article that disturbed me.  The author was listing some books she was using in her homeschool and she wrote that she had left one out (she didn’t mention the title) because it was a mythology book that wasn’t Christian-friendly.

I admit, I was a bit confused by this.  What book on mythology could possibly be Christian-friendly? was my first thought.  By definition, mythology books aren’t about Christianity.  They’re about the myths of other religions.  And at one time, the stories in them were considered as factual as we consider the Bible.  I understand completely that some parents might choose to leave certain things out of their curriculum because they are at odds with the family religion. What I don’tgreek arch understand is leaving out such a big chunk of human history because people no longer believe in it.  How is it possible to learn about Greek architecture without learning who all those statues and temples and relief sculptures represent?  How do we learn about Roman sculpture without learning about the religion that often inspired it?

Just as important, we shouldn’t keep our children from knowing these amazing stories.  The reason they have been passed down through hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years are the same as for any good story.  They touch us, they teach us about human nature and human existence, they make us remember we are not alone.  Mythology is a rich part of our past.  Without it, to what can we compare Christianity or any modern religion?  When we don’t know where we have been, our path to where we are going is harder to navigate.  I have said this many times about all types of history, and really, at this point, that’s all mythology is.  History.  It doesn’t have to have a Christian bent.  It just has to teach us something.

I hope you, my dear readers, are secure enough in your beliefs to acknowledge that mythology does indeed have something to teach your children.  Otherwise, they are going to miss out on a lot of really engaging stories that will give you a starting point to teach them so many different things.  I mean, where else will you get the opportunity to say, “This is not what we believe, and here’s why,” without sounding like your arguing Against something instead For something?

Plus, it makesgreen myth teaching about the Greeks and Romans (and even the Celts) so much more fun.  Not for you.  For your littles.  Who just might learn a lesson better from a story than in any other way.

What are your thoughts on teaching mythology in your homeschool?  If you don’t do so for religious reasons, I would love to hear your rationale.  If you do, regardless of your belief system, let me know what made you decide to include it.  Either way, I will continue to include mythology in the Lit Mama Homeschool curricula.  Remember, the world wouldn’t be the same without it.

Love wins,

KT

How Do You Homeschool?

In a few weeks, I am going to be hosting a seminar on homeschooling.  I’m super-excited for the opportunity (on the one hand, it makes me feel like a bit of an expert; on the other hand, it makes me afraid I am anything BUT an expert).  I have been keeping notes for months now on what I want to speak about.  I think I’ll mostly be talking to people who are considering homeschool, have recently begun to homeschool, and maybe even some people who just want to know more about it.  I want to tell them everything I can that will help them see the benefits of homeschool, the way homeschool has changed over the decades, and how to go about providing this amazing service to their children.

monthly homeschool schedule

It’s had me thinking a LOT about scheduling and how different families approach homeschooling.  We have friends who do it many different ways.  Our closest homeschooling neighbors order from curriculum providers such a A Beka, throwing some unit studies and hands-on stuff in.  The next closest family uses a Waldorf approach and attends a local co-op on a regular basis.  Most of the people I know personally who homeschool do something similar to those families.  I follow the blogs of some moms who take things one subject at a time–for instance, doing science for 6 weeks, then history, then literature, etc.  Some people unschool.  Some people are crazy enough to do something like I do. hehe  Certifiable.

If you’ve read my ‘About’ page, you know I have history in library and education.  In fact, I was working at one of the local elementary schools when I decided to homeschool.  I went to public school.  My experience with school is scheduled with many subjects thrown in.  Just like any ol’ public school.  So I schedule, schedule, schedule.  It’s a blast, but since I tend to write my own curricula and study guides and unit studies, I am always working.  I’ve talked about my schedule a few times here, but I thought it might help me get things straight for the seminar to explain the way I homeschool.

I’m a firm believer that some type of English and math must be practiced every day.  It doesn’t have to be difficult, just practicing and building on what has been learned before.  For math, I believe there is no better way to learn, which (since math is as far away from my strong point as I am from the Himalayas) is why I stick with Saxon books.  The boys do a chapter every day.  Math is as easy for them as constructing a sentence is for me, so it works.  Right now for writing we are working from a wonderful ebook by Sharon Watson on compare-and-contrast writing that is teaching the boys how to make persuasive arguments through comparisons.  We used a grammar book last semester to go over the basics and now are doing worksheets every morning to practice the rules.  The free everyday edit worksheets at  Education World are super for practicing all types of grammar.  We do one of those a day, every day.  They’re so fun–kind of like looking for the mistakes in a picture, but with words.  The rest of our schedule looks like this:

8:00-8:30 English Math English Math English
8:30-9:00 Math English Math English Math
9:00-10:00 Reading Reading Reading Reading Reading
10:00-10:30 Writing Chemistry Writing Art History Writing
10:30- Geography Chemistry Geography Art History Spanish
12:00 Geography Chemistry Geography Art History Music

Usually, school lasts till closer to 1.  I have a schedule to follow, but it’s more to make sure we’re doing everything I want to accomplish than trying to hurry through the material.  We have a tendency, even during math, to hop onto paths that lead to politics or world issues and follow them until we’re talked out.  Some chapters in reading take longer than others, and some activities in our long classes make us run over.  This is the first year I’ve tried doing longer classes on alternate days.  Last year we did every class every day, just like a public middle or high school.  I’ve said all along that if (God forbid) my Littles ever have to go back to public school, they will be a grade or two ahead if I can help it and they won’t suffer too much shock at the schedules.

But the truth is, I am envious of those moms brave enough to tackle one class per six weeks.  I am envious of unschoolers who follow their kids’ leads.  I am even a little envious of moms who let some other curriculum writer do some of the work.  Slowly but surely I have been adding some of these elements to my eclectic way of doing things, but I have an abject fear of going off schedule.  Don’t ask me why.  I can’t explain it.  And when one of my peers calls and says, “Oh, we just couldn’t do it today.  We had such a busy weekend and were too exhausted for school,” or something like that, my mind starts literally gibbering with fear at the idea of Ever letting that happen.

Having said that, I would love to hear how you homeschool.  Or if your kids go to public school, how do you help them with homework?

By the time I become an expert at this, my Littles will be graduated.  But don’t tell the folks at the seminar.

Love wins,

KT

My Other Obsession

Have I ever told you about my complete enthrallment with binders?  For any type of paper organization, I am a binder girl.  With the help of a good three-hole punch, nothing ever gets lost.  I keep track of my blog with a binder.  I keep track of my diet with a binder.  I keep track of my bills in a binder.

As a homeschooling mama, I utilize binders in lots of ways.  It can get expensive, but I’ve found that in this instance, garage sales are my friend.  I can usually find them for about 25 cents.  I once picked up a whole box of binders (had about 20 in it) for $2.  That’s the cost of One in the store!  I can’t tell you how I happy-danced back to the car.  Here’s why:

chemistry binder front chemistry binder inside

   We use binders to keep track of our worksheets, to do notebooking and lapbooking, to write vocabulary words and take notes, for everything from science to writing to reading to history.  It’s like having the whole class in one convenient place.

When we begin each class, the Littles just pull out their binders and turn to the next blank page or worksheet.  They don’t lose any information to the bottomless pits that can become of their book boxes.  If we have to refer back to something for some reason, we can easily find it.  If I decide to test their memories with a quiz, they know where to look to study.

twist binder front

This is a pic of our Oliver Twist study guide binder.  The book is long and there is a lot to be gleaned from it, so the study guide is over 200 pages.  It’s packed with vocab and study questions and directions for activities, such as crafts, art projects, geography studies, and even some health and social studies projects.  It’s wonderful to just be able to open it to the next chapter and have it sitting in front of them while they read the book.

little twist binderOf course, we finished Oliver Twist today (a little early; we read three chapters.  None of us could wait till next week to read the end!), so this binder will be filed away with the others we’ve filled over the years, on a shelf in their bedroom where all that knowledge is at their fingertips and in their own handwriting!  That’s my favorite part about using a binder–once you’re done, everything you’ve learned stays protected in one ‘handy-dandy notebook.’ (A Blue’s Clues reference they are still somehow young enough to appreciate! haha)

I can’t sing the praises of binders for homeschool families enough.  If you’re like me and you love the use of worksheets AND notebooking AND lapbooking, you can keep it all in one convenient place.  We hole-punch construction paper for lapbooking and just add it to the binder.  A little different from the file folders we started out in, but actually neater, too.

If you can’t afford binders, or have a class that just doesn’t require all that space, the next best thing is a 3-prong folder.

art history binder insideYou know, those folders you can get at Walmart for 15 cents during the back-to-school sales.  We’re using this one for art history this year.  As you can see, we even use lapbook elements in the middle of our notes sometimes.

It took me about a year to realize I could incorporate my binder obsession into our homeschool, and another year until it became the way I keep Everything organized.  Even my school calendars and curriculum plans.  The only thing we don’t use binders for these days is math, which we do in plain old notebooks.  I wish I would have used binders sooner.  So I’m hoping you’ll like the idea and use it as well.  Because if I can help make things easier for you, then I’m a happy binder-lady.

Do you have a tool that seems obvious but that most people might not think about implementing?  If so, share it with me.  I like my life to be made easier too!

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  If you’re wondering about the little scraps of paper on the binders in the pics, well, they’re covering up a name of course!  They come off for school work. 🙂