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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.

My Own Very Merry Christmas

I’ve taken a very long Christmas break. Not from homeschooling, never that. From being KT.

And I don’t mind.

I’ve focused on my Littles this past month and it has been amazing. Stellar.

We only have a 3-week school session between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and every year we do something fun for those three weeks. We chuck the regular schedule and learn about one thing for that session. The first year it was Christmas Around the World. The next it was Victorian Christmas. Last year we learned about… Dinosaurs (I ran out of ideas for the Christmas theme). This year, we had the joy of learning all about pirates. I ordered four new books from Amazon and we pored over them every day, learning about Henry Morgan, Anne Bonny, Black Bart, and Blackbeard. We sailed the Seven Seas while making a Pirate Scrapbook full of biographies and ship vocabulary. We practiced our yearly Christmas play—A Pirate’s Christmas. We simply had fun.

I don’t want my kids to look back and wish they’d had the opportunity to do school plays. I don’t want them going out into the world without any experience in public speaking. So every year when my extended family gets together for Christmas, Middle and Little do a play, complete with props, lines, costumes, and Christmas songs.

It is hard to find plays for just two kids. Usually I end up writing them or adapting bigger plays for just two characters. A Pirate’s Christmas was our most involved play yet, with lots of lines for both boys. The basic plot was two pirates aboard a ship fearing they wouldn’t get to celebrate Christmas because their captain didn’t believe in celebrating. When they got the news that Cap’n would be ashore for five days at Christmas time, they decorated the ship (while singing Need a Little Christmas) and made gifts for each other. When the time came to exchange gifts, they discovered that each had made a small gift for Cap’n, because, as one said, “Christmas is a time for everyone. It’s the one time of year when we should all get to be happy.” The lesson, of course, is that giving is a joy and we shouldn’t shun it just because someone is mean or doesn’t have the Christmas spirit. It was a hit on Christmas Eve. The Littles did a beautiful job.

Giving. What fun. I also never want my Littles to look back and think their mama was too busy to give them her time, especially during Christmas. So if I have to leave off being KT for a while, I’m all for it. They’re still talking about what a fun unit Pirates was and how much fun they had putting on the play. Will they remember it specifically in 10 years? Maybe not. But they’ll remember their mama was always willing to put aside her time for them, to put them first before all others, and to have fun with them while there was fun to be had.

Now that I’m back, check out my new page, YA Book Reviews. I’ll be adding more reviews as time permits. I hope you take some of my suggestions and get your own littles reading.

Now what about you? What did you give this Christmas that you’re grateful for?

Love wins,

KT

P.S. We used the following books for the pirates unit:

Pirates by John Matthews

Pirates Most Wanted by John Matthewes

DK Eyewitness Pirates

Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter’s Companion by Captain William Lubber and Dugald A. Steer

Each was brilliant, fun, and full of information.

 

Oliver’s New Twist

dickens dictionary outside                               dickens dictionary inside

I have extolled the virtues of reading aloud with our children several times in the last couple months. I have even mentioned that the Littles and I are reading Oliver Twist together this year. But today I found yet another reason having a read-aloud class is beneficial.

I fell in love with Charles Dickens when I first read Great Expectations at about the same age as Middle. I remember discovering the decades-old hardcover in the middle school library, but I don’t remember what in me made me decide to pick it up and check it out. I think, at the time, I was fascinated by the old cloth and thread binding of such books. I didn’t know what Great Expectations was about and if I had heard of Dickens before it was through seeing different versions of A Christmas Carol on film.  Even so, from the moment I opened the first page, I was hooked.  Ensconced.  Enraptured.  I have read a Dickens novel every year since, at Christmastime, which seems like a fitting time to dive into the world of mid-1800s England and lose myself among such brilliantly written pages.  I know more about the British government and the plight of the poor and Victorian England than I really need to.  And I never tire of it.   And reading Dickens is always like slipping into a warm blanket with an even warmer cup of coffee.

So I wanted my Littles to know that feeling.  Last year, when they were in 3rd & 5th grade, we read A Christmas Carol and made the dictionary pictured above (it is actually quite long, because if there’s one basic thing any reader can take away from Dickens, it is one kick-butt vocabulary).  They understood it! and enjoyed it so much that I decided to read my Christmas Dickens with them from now on.  Oliver Twist has 50-plus chapters, and since we read a chapter a day, we had to start early to make sure we were reading it for Christmas.  We’ve now been reading for 4 weeks—finished chapter 20 today—and the Dickens Dictionary has grown exponentially in that time.  But today—oh, I do love when something new comes from reading literature—Middle was reading aloud (they alternate pages) and he read this line:

The latter recognition was uttered with just enough embarrassment to imply a doubt of its reception..;

Except he read imply like it rhymed with simply.  A reasonable mistake.   I was thrown back to the years (about 10 of them, to my reckoning) after I first read the word vehement.  Probably in a Dickens novel when I was close to Middle’s age.  I pronounced it vee-hem-ent rather than ve-a-ment.  For 10 years.  At least.  And when someone corrected me, he did it in front of a crowd of people.  He thought I had called him a behemoth.  It was super embarrassing.  So immediately upon hearing Middle’s mispronunciation, I gave him a gentle smile and kindly told him how to pronounce imply.  And tucked it into the teacher file in my head to watch for such easily mispronounced words and make sure both Littles know how to say them right.  To save them any embarrassment in their twenties.

See, having a well-read mind automatically brings a great vocabulary into one’s life.  Being well-spoken is something we have to learn.

What about you?  Have you come across a new learning tool when reading aloud with your little ones?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Love wins,

KT

Lessons Out of Nowhere

A couple of years ago, the Littles and I did an in-depth course in astronomy. I am constantly amazed by the things I still have to learn, and that course changed the way I look at stars on clear nights forever. One of the coolest things we found during the class was www.earthsky.org. The site has a wealth of information on it, as well as amazing pics and videos to educate about both the Earth and the heavens above us. We signed up to receive their email updates and I still read them religiously every time I get one.

Today’s lead story was about rumors floating around (apparently pretty thickly) that this December is going to bring 3-6 days of total darkness on earth due to a solar storm that was going to kick up some pretty thick dust and debris of its own. The rumor racing around the internet claims that NASA had officially predicted the storm.

Obviously, something that big would be reported more than just in your junk email or facebook page, let alone on some of the hokey websites floating around out there, just waiting to snag you in their black holes of lies and near-truths. Why some people always assume that a thing is true just because it’s in the media is beyond me.

But there are some good learning opportunities here.   For one thing, this rumor and earthsky’s article debunking it present a chance to talk to your kids about the importance of internet safety, which websites they can visit and trust, and how to debunk such rumors themselves (a little research is usually a quick fix. I can’t tell you how much I prayed that actor Paul Walker’s death was an internet rumor).

This also provides a chance for us to teach our kids the truth about the media they are barraged with constantly in this age. How often the media focuses on bad things to stir up excitement and get ratings or readers. How sometimes the media focuses on one story to keep our minds off something else. How media is run by conglomerates that sometimes have their own self-interests at heart. How some venues are leftist or rightist and some are just extreme. How anyone can start an internet page and we should pay attention to the source of our information. And how as responsible citizens of a free country, we should do their best to find out every side of a story before forming an opinion.

I’ll talk to the Littles about both of these things after we share a good laugh over the latest apocalypse. Of course, they would be more interested if zombies were involved.

If you can think of another lesson to be learned from these hoaxes and internet rumors, please let me know what you come up with. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Love wins,

KT

Priorities… Schmiorities?

When I started this blog it was my intent (and, believe it or not, still is) to make it a priority in my life. It is meant to be a jumping-off point for bigger things. But, like all homeschool moms, I tend to get bogged down at the beginning of the school year. All my careful planning over the summer gets tested. Some things work. Some are GLARING fails. I have to scramble around to make sure our classes are following my vision while making sure the Littles are staying engaged and even entertained so they’re actually learning something. This year I discovered our intended art history book was more technical than my original skimming of it implied and neither artistic nor historical enough. So I am using it as a jumping off point to COMPLETELY PLAN our art history class each week instead of following the notes in my teacher planner. Umm… my friends and husband will tell you I have enough to do without stressing about that week to week.

I am a Mama who envisions grand things for her children’s futures. My homeschool is not for the faint-hearted. And sometimes, I just want to be faint-hearted. Because the slightest deviation from the fastidiously planned school day can send me into a tailspin of worry and guilt. Am I doing enough? Are they learning enough? Have I got them far enough ahead of the curve that we can afford to lose this one day of math? Am I cheating them because a doctor’s appointment or other priority made us cut the day short? How will we make it up if we get a chapter behind in Oliver Twist? When will we find the time?

Any homeschooling mama will tell you these are common worries. Some of my colleagues even laugh at me for them. “Your kids are happy and healthy,” they say. “So long as you treat every experience as a learning experience, you are schooling them.”

I tell myself that. I don’t listen.

So actually making time to do something for myself (i.e. this blog, Zumba class, a trip to the grocery store ALONE), hasn’t been a priority for me for four years. And I don’t see it being a priority until Littlest is graduated and off to college. I can’t even picture any of those things ever being more important than sitting down to plan art class.

With that in mind, I’m making myself a promise. Because this blog and its promise are important to me. I’m going to sit down with my family and discuss a way to make this one thing one of my priorities. Because if I don’t teach my kids to take their commitments (even those they make to themselves) seriously, why bother teaching them at all?

What do you think? What’s one thing in your life you would love to make a priority just for you?

Love wins,

KT