How We Document Our Homeschool Year

Our homeschool year has come to include summer since camps and vacations provide such great opportunities for learning, so it is just now that I've been able to print out some final pictures and wrap up our homeschool records from last year. What a beautiful feeling of completeness! Homeschooling can often feel messy and overwhelming, so having a concise and organized record-keeping system can help create some order in the chaos. I've had a lot of questions and interest in my homeschool records from friends, so I thought I'd put together a post about it. My records for last year consisted of a few main elements:

  1. Main Overview Binder: Here is where you get the best sense of the whole year. The binder is divided into seven areas: Rhythm, Language Arts, Math, Nature, Art & Craft, Festivals, and Circle.
  2. Student Work Binder: This is where all student work is kept that was not selected to be included in the Main Overview Binder.
  3. Main Lesson Books: This is where most of Fiona's Main Lesson work from our First Grade Christopherus Curriculum lives. She has a Language Arts, Math, and Form Drawing book.
  4. Curriculum Binder: (Not Pictured) This serves as a record as well as it holds many of the projects and lessons for the year and I take notes and date things throughout.
  5. Mama's Planner: A general record of how we spent our days.
  6. Portfolio: (Not Pictured) Each child has a portfolio that holds any projects that don't fit in a binder.

Rhythm is the anchor that holds it all together, so it felt important to start our Main Overview Binder by giving rhythm its own section. This section includes our weekly family rhythm (above left) and the rhythm for homeschool mornings with my parents (above right). It then includes a photo sheet of each learning space in which the girls spend time: Home, Neighborhood, Parks, World House (the homeschool co-op we were in last year), and Mimi and Granddad's House. A huge part of homeschooling for us is creating and spending time in spaces that facilitate natural learning, so highlighting how we achieve that is important. Below, you see a spread that highlights a few learning spaces in our home.

Next in our Main Overview Binder, we get into the subjects: Language Arts, Math, Nature, Art & Craft, Festivals, and Circle. Each subject section starts with a sheet that gives a basic explanation for how that subject was handled.

Above, you see the beginning of the Art & Craft section. On the left, there is an overview of when and how we handle this subject and a list of select resources and projects. To the right, you see the first photo sheet that documents our time making painting boards. The little caption in the upper right says:

PAINTING BOARDS
cut, sanded, decorated, and sealed by hand
AUGUST 2015

My goal was to have at least one photo sheet (front and back) for each month in each subject. I was easily able to achieve that. The goal is to get an overview, not to document every moment of every day.

Each section also includes examples of best student work and informational flyers in clear sheet protectors for any classes taken or events attended in that subject. Below, you see select pages featuring Nature School photographs, the Michaelmas Festival of Courage photographs and flyer, and some examples of Fiona's Language Arts work.

The Student Work Binder, seen on top in the picture above, is just what it sounds like. It houses all the work that wasn't featured in the Main Overview Binder. It is also divided into subjects. Below, you see Fiona's Main Lesson Books.

IMG_2658.jpg

I hope this post will be of help to some of you as you start to document the upcoming year. I am excited to get started on our binders for this year soon. I'm sure our system will grow and evolve as we do, but I think we're off to a great start!

I'd love to hear about how other homeschoolers document their year. Do you have a system or resource to share? And let me know if you have any questions!

Oh, Graphite.

I have always been in my head. I feel like one of my greatest obstacles to becoming a functioning adult–who cleans and cooks and tends to children–has been to fully inhabit the earth, come into my body, be mindful. The easiest place to slip into is thought. But the ability to reason that I have put so much faith in all these years has little to say about drawing. Why do I draw? I don't know; because I want to. What do I like to draw? Images that portray a certain idea or concept? No, not really. I like to draw what I see, mostly faces, sometimes with bodies. To be honest, I have no reason for drawing other than I feel compelled to. I am not making a statement, other than love, I suppose. All I can really come up with is that human beings have been making marks on surfaces for a very long time. And I am no different.

I've updated my Fine Arts page if you'd like to take a look.

a birthday picnic, some reflections, and a dream

I turn thirty-three years old tomorrow. Thirty-three? That doesn't seem right. It's funny how we construct identities for ourselves. Identities that have to do with age are especially foolish. Time marches on, we all know this. But somehow I have, for the last seven years, identified as a young mom. Partly because Sheldon is 16 years older than me and partly because when I had Fiona at 25, I was the first of my close friends to start a family. But thirty-three is solidly planted in the thirties, and the thirties are solidly planted in the middle of life, and one stepson and three daughters in, I am solidly planted in parenthood. I am here and this is the life I've made for myself. Many of my biggest decisions–who to marry, how many children to have-have been made. This feels good, but also different. All these years, I have somehow continued to feel new to the world, but I don't feel new anymore. I feel capable and experienced and beaten and bruised and wise and aware and very much of this world.

But at thirty-three, there are still thousands of choices left to make and dreams to be had. After eleven years in our beloved Fell's Point with Sheldon and fifteen years total in the city, we are moving back to the woods and fireflies and open spaces of my childhood. We haven't found the perfect home yet, but we will, and it will have trees to climb and a little creek and a rope swing. It will have a kitchen window overlooking a garden and a few chickens. The next phase of our lives will be spent building our own homestead, trying to live a more sustainable life, and rediscovering our place in the natural world. I'm guessing I'll feel new again in no time.

Thanks to my Mama for the birthday picnic!

A New Beginning

A new homeschooling year has begun, and with it, a resurgence in my desire to align my goals with my actions, my knowledge and ideas with my lifestyle. I haven't posted much here in years. In that time, I have turned inward. I have done a lot of work on myself and made quiet, sometimes winding, incremental changes in the way our family lives, eats, moves, and learns. We have come a long way, and have a long way to go. I'd like to return to this space to write again about our journey, both to share knowledge and to stay inspired. Where should I begin?

It seems there is so much to say and so many gaps to fill, so let's start with something simple: Our homeschool schedule for Fall! Every homeschooling parent will tell you about the huge expenditure of mental energy that goes into creating the year's schedule. What classes to take where, what gatherings to attend and with whom, when to simply stay home... It's a 15,000 piece puzzle that takes an exorbitant amount of time and thought to fit together. This is what I came up with, with each day having a morning and afternoon focus:

Monday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Homeschool Friends Gathering
Tuesday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Nature School at Irvine
Wednesday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Speech Lessons
Thursday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Nature School at Irvine
Friday: Life & Lessons with Mimi & Granddad :: Afternoon at Home
Saturday: Gymnastics :: Life & Lessons with Daddy
Sunday: Life & Lessons with Mimi & Granddad :: Family Adventure

I hope we've found a good balance between academic lessons, nature time, quiet time, family and friend time, movement time, etc. Time will tell! I hope to break down each component of our rhythm and talk about some overarching philosophies in future posts. I hope you'll follow along!

So that's it for today. Thanks for being here!

Winter Sketchbook & News

Dreamer

Dreamer

Girl Gang

Girl Gang

Nursing Mama

Nursing Mama

The Queen

The Queen

Catching Fireflies

Catching Fireflies

In the last few weeks, I've made some major changes to my business, the biggest being my choice to retire House Love portraits. It was a difficult choice, considering their success and the still-growing wait list. I have been spending the majority of my work time on them for three years now. It's been a wonderful adventure, creating these darling little portraits that mean so much to their recipients (and being featured in a bunch of magazines and blogs along the way), but I am ready to move forward. For those of you who have gift certificates, no need to worry! I will be honoring gift certificates for years to come!

I know this shift is what is needed to allow more time for mothering, homeschooling, homemaking and moving forward with my art. I am ready to spend more time on my non-custom prints and on making more art with my hands (drawing and painting, oh how I've missed you!). I have so many ideas flying around in my head all the time (a blessing and a curse!), and I need to choose wisely how I use my limited work time. 

The above sketches are the result of a commitment I made to myself a couple weeks ago to keep a daily sketchbook. While I haven't been able to squeeze in a drawing every day, I am pleased that I have stuck with it and wanted to share the sketches here. I really do love drawing and want to make more time for it. I'll be posting here every week or two with new drawings and would love if you all followed along!

Silent Auction benefiting charity:water

IMG_9110_2.jpg

Hello All! Just a quick note today. If you have been considering purchasing any prints from the Transportation Series, I've donated the above three to a silent auction run by a friend's son, Nathaniel Drexler, to benefit charity:water. Consider buying the prints from Nathaniel's silent auction and do some good with your purchase! (And check out his other offerings while you're there!) Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

10 Tips for a Mindful Home :: A New Art Print!

I am so excited to introduce a new print I've been working on. I have loved Karen Maezen Miller's work since becoming a mother and have held many of her words close to my heart as I've navigated motherhood (and personhood, for that matter). When she put out a call for an artist to create a print of her 10 Tips for a Mindful Home, I was quick to raise my hand. I am honored I was chosen and hope I did her words justice.

As I worked on the illustration, standing at my desk (a.k.a. the kids' art chest in the kitchen, which happens to be the perfect height!) with Greta sleeping in the sling, I listened to the audiobook of Momma Zen. It felt like a gift to myself to let Maezen's voice comfort me during this exhausting and beautiful time of life caring for young children. I think this print will always symbolize this time for me. If you purchase the print, I hope it can come to mean something to you, as well.

Hang the print in your kitchen or living room. Hang it in your bedroom to see upon waking. Hang it anywhere you need a gentle reminder. Keeping a mindful home is simple (but not easy).

You can see Maezen's own blog post about the print here. (And I have to say, seeing my work on her blog is so amazing! Wow!)

Thank you again to Maezen. It was an honor!

A bit more about Karen Maezen Miller: Maezen is a Zen Buddhist priest and author. Her latest book is Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden. She also wrote Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life and Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. Visit her online at www.karenmaezenmiller.com .

Grateful

Grateful2014.jpg

I could easily spend the rest of the evening (or the rest of my life, really) finding the right words to express the gratitude in my heart—for a present, supportive and loving family, for nourishing food on our table, for the gift of spending every hour of my life with people I love—but I am short on time in the most beautiful way I can imagine. I have a baby downstairs who needs nursing, children who need feeding, and a home that needs tending, so a simple Thank You will have to do. A thousand times, Thank You.

Grateful2014_2.jpg

I hope you all had a peaceful Thanksgiving with the ones you love.