Thursday, August 3, 2017

Planning for 2017-2018 Year

Two years ago, I wrote about looking to the future and having a Road Map for your homeschool journey, thinking through goals and tools to achieve them, and having a big picture in mind. I also began being more intentional to plan over the summers so that my weeks and days would flow more smoothly. I found that time spent in the summer to be very well spent. I remember reading something from Brandy Vencel on Afterthoughts blog about the energy wasted by task-switching. I took away that its better for me to pull out all my books for history or science once over the summer and spend several hours planning out the whole year, than to pull those same books out every single Sunday afternoon or evening and spend a few minutes planning the next week.  So over the past couple of years, I have gradually created documents and tools to help me plan over the summer in ways that free me up to do more reading and thinking, rather than planning, during the school year.

This summer, my planner took on a life of its own. I happened to see a planner system called The Happy Planner, recommended on a general life planning website. I thought it was PERFECT for my school planning system, and it got my creative juices flowing. I had been using a weekly planning spreadsheet I'd created a couple of years ago really successfully, as well as some other random forms I'd downloaded online. This summer, though, I took on the project of making all my own matching forms, getting a Happy Planner, and putting together a whole system that will work for me all year (and be super cute while it does it's job).

Doesn't that just make you happy too? :)

Here's a quick look at my planner and how it works. I drew a lot of inspiration from Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill, Mystie Winckler's copious posts on planning and organizing, and several free downloadable planners. But no one system worked just perfectly for me, so I had to get to tweaking.  This is what I came up with! :)

First tab is for Calendar:
I have a year at a glance, where I circle the days we spend doing a full day of school, to keep a record of that for our states requirements. Then I have one page for each month where I can record field trips, service projects, special activities, co-op days.  I also have a quote on each page from my reading journal/commonplace book that makes me smile. :)

Next tab is my reference and notes section:

First up is my Morning Time Master Plan. I use an excellent book called Living Memory by Andrew Campbell to make my morning time plans simple each year.  I spend an hour or two choosing what we'll read from the Bible, what hymns we'll learn, what Shakespeare plays and Plutarch lives we'll read, what books we'll read aloud, what composers and artists we'll get to know, and also what Scripture, poetry, and historically important things we'll memorize together. That all goes on this master sheet, so when its time to plan morning time for the week/term, I just refer to this and see where we are. I have a Morning Time planning sheet by term I'll show you in a bit...

Next in Notes are things for reference: a list to keep track of books read for each child, and a scrapbook style page for recording memories, keeping photos, anything like that. Because the way the Happy Planner works, I can print as many of these as I need, fill them up, and add them whenever. :)

Last in the Reference section is a Goals worksheet. My older two kids and I will work through this the first week of school and come up with a few goals of things they'd like to accomplish this year. I used the basic idea of Pam Barnhill's Goal worksheet, but customized it for our subjects and areas I'd like them to think through, and added a place to ad Action Steps:

I have six tabs of six week terms, and at the front of each term is a weekly prep checklist. I have six weeks of checklists on one page. This is just a place for me to look each weekend as I plan at the things I know I regularly need to do that I often overlook or get too busy to do, but which are very, very important. I need the reminder front and center.

Next are my Morning Time checklist.  It is where I record the specifics of what we're doing each week and check off the days of the week that we read, sang, looked at these things. I pull from the Morning Time master to fill this in for the week. Disclaimer, I do NOT expect all those boxes to be checked. :)  We will not do all of this everyday.

Next up is the weekly assignment spreads. This is my command central. It shows me everyone's assignments for the whole week in every subject. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to fill this out every weekend, because the names, subjects, and blocks are already there. This sis what I needed: something with the form already in place. I did not want to have to write students names and subjects in every week. My time is too precious for that. :)

The math and language sections are pretty easy to just fill in page and chapter numbers.  Science and Humanities is a little more complex since I'm pulling together lots of different resources. So I have Big Picture planning sheets at the back of my planner I refer to to fill these in. More on that later.

Once I have everyone's assignments on this command central spreadsheet for the week, I fill out my older kids Independent Work checklists.  This is the work they are expected to do on their own in the mornings.  We start with morning time, and then the older two take their checklists and planners and books and work independently for an hour and a half. During this time, I do 1st and 2nd grade with my younger two, math, language arts, read aloud, science. This usually takes us up to lunch time. In the afternoon, I go over the independent work with the big kids, and we do science and humanities together.  Here's their independent checklists:

After my six tabs with these weekly spreadsheets and checklists, I have a tab for each subject as a reference section.  This is where I keep my big picture planning.  This is what is most time-consuming about my summer planning, but it pays off royally through they year. For humanities, I'm making book choices, scheduling literature, choosing geography assignments, and hands-on projects...for the whole year. I map it out on a spreadsheet like this, and then each week, I just have to look at the week we're on and the assigned readings and projects. I normally use a laid out science curriculum, but this year I'm pulling together several different unrelated resources to study human anatomy, so I did the same thing for science: listed my resources at the top, matched up the chapters with each other based on the subject/topic, and chose projects/experiments and activities. Here's a look at my big picture sheets: 

I love these sheets, because they allow me to quickly survey the books we need for an entire unit, and how many weeks we're spending with each book. So if we have a busier than usual week, I can look ahead and say, "Ok, we have this book for three weeks, so we can catch up." or whatever the case may be. This is the "big picture" or birds' eye view of the unit and year that is so helpful in seeing where we're going!

Now that I have all these forms made, they will be super easy to adapt and print each year, and just replace in my planner. They'll also serve as a great record of what we've done and accomplished each year. I have really enjoyed making this this summer, and every time I look at it, I know I will be thanking myself on Sunday evenings all year long. :) I'm also thinking of putting these up for download somewhere for a low price. I'd love your thoughts on what you see here!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Preedy Academy: Year in Review, and Year in Preview

I have largely abandoned my homeschooling posts, obviously. This is because I have learned that I don't know enough to be writing about what I'm doing. I am still such a learner and this year has been no exception. We did accomplish most of what I set out and planned for us to do last year. But not exactly in the way I thought it would. With buying a house and renovating it in six weeks in the middle of the year, our spring semester got a little jumbled, and we had some shifting for the better.

The best part of this year was my own self-education that has happened.  Our small co-op here decided to join up with the new Schole Group Network, and as a result, we were given access to I took several courses on there this past year: Teaching From Rest, The Liberal Arts Tradition, Latin for Teachers, and The Eight Essential Principles of Classical Pedagogy, among others started but not yet finished. I learned so much from those classes! This year, somehow, I've also read:

-Orthodoxy by Chesterton
 -The Liberal Arts Tradition by Clark and Jain
-Desiring the Kingdom by Smith
-Plato: The Great Philosopher-Educator by David Diener
-Towards a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason
-Home Education by Charlotte Mason
-Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason
-School Education by Charlotte Mason
(I got really interested in whether Charlotte Mason's ideas were in sync with the main ideas of classical education, and found her whole pink six volume set for $10 at a sale. So I'm reading through them... two more to go!)

I was also so blessed to go to a Great Homeschool Convention in February and get to hear Sarah Mackenzie, Dr. Christopher Perrin, and Andrew Kern in person and have real live conversations with them! It was just amazing!

I feel like I have grown leaps and bounds. I've had so many questions answered, and many more created. My imagination has been stirred, and I've been inspired to keep pursuing virtue through learning to love truth, goodness, and beauty together as a family.

So last year, this was our plan, with what we didn't accomplish in full or decided to drop, crossed out:

-Westminster Shorter Catechism, last 36 questions, with devotions from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (we did the first 24 questions instead)
-Reading Psalms, Proverbs, Matthew
-Twelfth Night from Shakespeare
-Music of the Hemispheres by Michael Clay Thompson
-Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolios (Botticelli, Rembrandt)
-SQUILT for music appreciation and composer study

-Memory Binders: Shakespeare monologues, Psalm 139 and a couple other passages, three hymns, traditional prayers and liturgical readings, and poetry selections

Upper Grammar:
-Latin for Children Primer B
-Writing & Rhetoric Books 4-5
-Reasoning & Reading book 1 (only half, we'll spread this out over two years)
-All About Spelling Level 6 (only half, also will spread this out over two years)
-Grammar Town and Grammar Voyage (MCT Language Arts)
-New American Cursive Book 3
(NOTE!: We will not be doing all of this everyday. We will have 3 elements of LA everyday: Latin, Writing, and the others on a loop or by term)

1st grader:
-All About Spelling Level 1
-Copy work for handwriting (and we moved into Cottage Press Primer 1 in the spring)
-Veritas Press Readers
-Christian Liberty Nature readers
-Narration practice
-Song School Latin 1
-Ambleside Online read aloud selections (we focused on Tapestry books instead)
(Again, not all of this everyday)

-All About Reading Level 1 (phonics)
-Handwriting Without Tears Book 1
-Read Alouds from AO Year 0

-MUS (Zeta, Epsilon, Beta, Primer/Alpha)
-Select MEP Pages for puzzle and play with math from Year 4/Year 1(it was just too much. MUS was enough). 

Upper Grammar:
-Berean Builders for Historical Science Science in the Ancient World/Science in the Age of Reason, one lesson per week(we did an occasional lesson, definitely not one per week. Maybe 20 this year?) 
-Memoria Press Book of Astronomy: supplemented with Storyland of the Stars, Find the Constellations as read alouds and lots of star gazing.
-Elementary Geography as a read aloud
-Memoria Press Geography II
(AGAIN: Not doing all of this everyday. Rotating in and out.)

Lower grammar:
-Exploration Earth Animal supplement (copywork, animal study and classification)
-Burgess Animal Book of Nature Lore

-Working on continents

-Tapestry of Grace Year 2: Upper Grammar level for older two kids, Lower Grammar read aloud only for little kids
-AO Year 4 independent reads for Upper Grammar kids
-L: He will begin cello in the public school orchestra, and piano lessons
-K: She will continue with violin at home and piano lessons

As you can see, I over-planned. We didn't get through or even to everything on this list, but I'm very satisfied with what we did accomplish. And I learned an important lesson. It's good to have lots of ideas. Its not good to expect it all of your kids. Also, a shorter book list that I can keep up with is better than a long one that is so intimidating we just don't do any of it. :) 

Next year, we are basically keeping the same path in place. Just taking the next steps in Latin for Children, Writing & Rhetoric, All About Spelling, and Reasoning & Reading for the older kids, as well as moving on to Grammar Voyage and Building Poems by MCT. (Nota bene: I adore MCT grammar and poetics). Little ones will continue with phonics, handwriting, and Levi in Cottage Press Primer 1 and reading his McGuffey reader, Meryn with the Veritas Press readers. Everyone's moving up a level in math. Same with science: moving on to Geography 3 by Memoria Press for the older two, and doing an Anatomy study all year together. 

Little new things we're trying: 
-Anatomy: Memoria Press didn't have anything on this, and we were all interested in studying the human body. So we're using Sassafrass as a spine and jumping off point. I also have Body by Design and an Anatomy coloring book for the older kids, and we'll learn the Lyrical Life Science songs on each body system for fun. :)  I have some fun body books and games for the little kids, and we'll also be reading through a set of Childcraft books I got at a library sale, all about our world. :)

-The Art of Problem Solving math: we're going to give this a whirl. Just for my pre-algebra student, Luke. I happened upon it while doing some looking at on-line pre-algebra classes. I'd never heard of it, but it looks like a really fun and interesting approach, so we'll try it. But I went ahead and bought the MUS Pre-Algebra materials to have on hand in case its a total bomb. :) 

-French for Children A: Yes! We are ready to begin another new language! I'm really looking forward to learning French together. :) (Older kids only... littles are just beginning Song School Latin). We are doing both Latin Primer C, and French Primer A at half pace, so over the next two years, we'll cover both books, but only one new chapter a week, alternating between Latin and French. This way we are continuously studying both languages and making progress and keeping it fresh, but not being overwhelmed. (At least I hope that's how it goes!) :)

-Simplified history: I've been toying around with this for a couple of years, and have finally decided this is the way to go. The older two kids have 4-5 books for the year that cover the time period as spine type books. They will rotate readings from these books all year long. Then for each 9 weeks of history topics, I have a handful of other books that they pick 2-3 to read based on what's most interesting to them, what they want to know more about.  Each week I ask them to give me one written narration about their history reading. It can be a journal type entry of what was interesting, a biographical paragraph or short essay on a person they read about, a first person fictional account as if they were living in the story. Anything they'd like. This has been a much better approach for us that is manageable. We were getting overwhelmed with all the books and not getting to many if any of them because of the looming pile. I also try to be familiar with or have read all the books they will be reading over the year and these shorter piles makes that a lot easier. :)  I'm finding that reading fewer excellent books more slowly is giving us more room for thinking, contemplating them, discussing them.  For the little kids, we have a small stack of historical non-fiction/picture books, and literature, about one small book a week. Other than that, we are focusing on My Book House volumes 2-4 this coming year. I will also read aloud a short chapter several times a week from The Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber for everyone to keep the story of history going for all of us together. 

That's my plan! I feel like its simplified from last year, and it has to be. I learned about my limitations last year as I added my fourth student to the mix. It's hard to spread yourself out between kids learning Latin and reading super fun books and a budding reader and teaching letters, the moving on to long division and decimals, then back to basic place value. So much task-switching. :)  I learned what works for us and what we can reasonably accomplish, and, more importantly, what I need to trust my older kids to be responsible for on their own. This brought peace and a very Schole (leisurely learning from a state of rest as opposed to hurried anxiety) feel to our days. 

Blessings to you as you prepare for and begin your year!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From the Top Down

Often over the last two months, I've wondered what it would feel like to sit down to close on a house and feel a sense of accomplishment and finality. Because at ours, it was like someone just handed us a permission slip to start working. :)  When we closed, there was not much anticipation of moving, settling, nesting. It was all plans for what to get started on first.

Through the closing process, I had found a contractor that I really gelled with and trusted, though for no apparent reason. :)  I just liked him because his bid was incredibly detailed on a massive spreadsheet with prices, taxes, product names and everything. I knew we would get along. So once I had seen what all each project would cost, we were able to narrow down what we could do ourselves and what we needed the professional to do.  Let's start with the top floor.

Upstairs has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms are larger than average, and one is a pretty normal size. :) There wasn't much that needed to be done in the bedrooms aside from new paint and finishing the windows.  The carpet was in fine shape, but needed to be stretched and cleaned.  Our contractor did the shower tiling, installed a new window in the only window in the whole house that was not replaced to match the rest, and sanded down the master bath ceiling.  Otherwise, we did the rest up here ourselves.

The bathrooms were another story.  The main hall bath had no flooring and was down to the studs around the shower. The master bath technically was usable, but the shower hadn't been cleaned in I don't know how long and was disgusting.  The floor was pretty bad, and the vanity was not an ideal master bath vanity.  So I basically wanted to gut it (but leave the standing shower and nice glass doors if they could be cleaned up).  The first thing I did when we got the keys was come and clean that shower to see if it was salvageable.

Guess what??

It was totally salvageable! It looked nearly brand new after a good scrubbing! :)  We also ripped up the old linoleum, put down new, and got a new vanity and paint.  Here's the before and afters

And, after: 

One thing that was a major chore was the ceiling in this bathroom. It was like a stucco that was horribly inconsistent that I could not chisel off. I ended up having our contractor, David, sand it all down flat so we could paint the ceiling. Ew. That was a chore and left a huge mess! But, glad we did it. :)

For the kids bathroom, we changed everything but the cabinet and the toilet. New vanity top, new shower, new window trim, new paint, new floor!


If you followed along on Facebook you saw some of the baby steps in this bathroom, but here's the final product, After!

One thing I was sure of was that I did not want grout in the bathroom floors. We chose a vinyl sheet for our bathroom and the laundry room, and went with slightly nicer vinyl tiles for the kids bathroom. I'm pleased with both of them!

Here's the before and after pictures of the upstairs bedrooms!

These are the only two pictures we have of Meryn's room before its mini-makeover, but here's her room now!

It was painted with Valspar Brushed Lavender, carpet cleaned, replaced and window trimmed. 

This is the boys bedroom. It is one huge room, with double closets. In here, we painted Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray, with the dormer window walls painted Magnetic Gray, trimmed windows, cleaned carpet. 

And for the last room upstairs, the Master bedroom! As with the other bedrooms, all we did was paint, clean and stretch the carpets, and trim the windows, and in this room we added a light fixture. 

The only thing left to do upstairs is to figure out what to do for window coverings for the dormer window in our bedroom. I have two panels of curtains from India, the burgundy and gold ones hanging on the larger window, that I really love.  My options are to keep those and buy a roll down shade for the dormer, since there's hardly any wall on either side of i anyway.  Or simply get four matching panels. I'm leaning towards a shade that wouldn't cover the beautiful window frame.  What say you? :) 


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Watching and Waiting

Through the fall, I kept watching Zillow, but honestly, everything was now compared to what I thought the house from June could be.  (I mean, I had probably 15 pages of graph paper drawn out of floor plans, remodeling lists, and more... so much for having put it out of my mind, right?)  I kept trying to figure out a way to buy it for their opening bid and still be able to remodel it, but it just wasn't going to work.  I had peace and trust though, that God would lead us to a good house that would be a blessing to us for a long time.

Having done my research, I knew the house was in redemption until November 10th. So, my expectation was that it would get listed sometime in November, December, or January, for the asking price at the auction.  I had also figured that we'd need about $30,000 to remodel it and repair all the damage.

One Saturday morning in late October, we were all rushing around getting ready for the last of the soccer games for the season.  I heard my email ding, and quickly checked. It was an automated email from the bank announcing a new foreclosure listing in Derby.  It was THE house.  And I screamed out loud when I saw their listing price.  It was... you guessed it. $30,000 less than the opening bid at the auction. I could NOT believe it.  I sent it to my realtor immediately and sat in disbelief.  We set up a showing that afternoon as soon as we could, and we had a contractor ready to go to go with us to confirm  estimate on the remodel.

At 3 that afternoon, everyone gathered there.  My parents, realtors, contractor, everyone walked through it, taking our time. I remained convinced this was just a gift from a good God to us, and no one seemed to have any major reservations.   So we put a full price offer in.

But you know how big banks are.  They picked up all the offers that had come in over the weekend on Tuesday and looked at them.  They let us all know (I have no idea how many there were) there were multiple offers, and we had until Friday to give them our *best* offer.  Paul and I stewed on this, and thought, and prayed.  Should we play the game and try to outbid what we think others will offer by a few hundred dollars? Or do we offer as much as we can legitimately see paying given its condition and what we want to do?  I really, really wanted to do this.  There was something so redemptive about taking a house like this in a sad state and bringing life and beauty back to it. It's why Chip and Jo are so popular! :)  Plus, on the financial side, even with the remodel expenses, our investment would be well under the value of the house.  And our mortgage would be thousands less than if we bought a ready to go home in town.  On top of that, I will have gotten to pick out every last detail of it!  I was motivated. So we decided to give them our truly best offer.  We upped the ante a good bit.  And, we got the house. :)

But there were some unexpected hiccups along the way.  First, when they came to turn the water on so the house could be inspected, the water heater sprang a leak, and so the bank just decided to shut the water off and say no one could turn it on until after closing. This caused us to lose our first loan option: they would not loan for a house without water.  Thankfully, our realtor had connections and was able to get us in with a local bank that did in-house loans that was willing to take the risk.  So then we were back on track.  The inspection came back that it was a strong house with good bones, lots of life left in the heating/cooling, no major problems.  So that's another step down.  But, then the appraisal came in below our offer.  This could have been bad. The bank could have chosen to cancel the contract and re-list the house.  But, they decided to take the appraised value instead and keep moving forward.  This was great for us! :) It cut our buying price down a few thousand!  The last hurdle was with the loan.  The loan came through fine, but the PMI company (mortgage insurance) felt they were assuming too much risk in this situation.  We decided to plead our case.  I sent them my list of improvements and bids from contractors, proof that we had the funds to pay for them in cash, , and statements from inspectors cleaning up some questions they had.  We had to cancel our first closing date, but in the end, they decided to give us the go ahead, and we were able to close before the end of the year.

There are just so many moments in those six weeks where I saw God swing doors open and set up best case scenarios for us.  We were walking confidently into it with a perfect peace! (And, good thing I'm obsessive and already had copious Pinterest boards full of ideas and products so we could get started with the remodel ASAP! The contract required that we take occupancy within 60 days of closing!)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Discovery

When Paul and I got married, we really thought we'd never own a home.  We felt called to give our lives overseas for the kingdom of God, and felt like that would prevent us from ever buying and putting roots down somewhere.  But as is often the case, God has plans that don't necessarily go in a straight line like we imagine they will. When we'd been in India for seven years as a family, my body spazzed and I got so sick I lost over 40 pounds. Most of you know that story, but, it ended with our returning to the states quite unexpectedly.

Once we realized and surrendered that we were back to stay, we scrambled to figure out what we were going to do.  Paul ended up going to work with my dad, which was a really good fit for our family.  But, it meant that we wouldn't qualify for a home loan for two years.  I had figured out that now we were back, we'd be able to buy a house, and I was anxious to do that. But since I'd been waiting so long, and since I'd moved so many times, I had definite things in mind that I wanted. And living in a not-so-old suburb of a bigger city didn't provide those things. I wanted an old house, like at least a hundred years old. I wanted traditional charm and character, like colonial houses. I wanted a bedroom with a window nook set out on the roof.  Big trees. Columns. Big porch. Like houses built in the 20s and 30s.  Problem was: our town didn't start building neighborhoods until the 50's.  

I watched the market, stalked zillow. I saw what was available in our little town and for how much for two years.  It was hard for me to find something that I liked, let alone that I loved.  But one day last summer, in June, my mom mentioned that a friend of ours knew the house across the street from her would be for sale soon.  So I drove by.  I couldn't believe what I saw. I had seen this floor plan a few times before in town, and had thought it could work for us...
This is what I saw! Big tree! Big front porch! Dormer windows!!  It was also in a beautiful well kept neighborhood. A neighbor next door was out in his yard and I pulled over to ask him about it. It was vacant, and he asked if I wanted to go in and see it.  Of course I said sure! He let me in through the back door. 

I walked through it in about 15 minutes and really thought it could work for us. I came home and told Paul about it and made him go back with me (we let ourselves in the back that time!)  The problem was, it was being foreclosed on, so we had to wait on that process. 

Over the next few weeks, I drew out the floor plan, thought about how we'd remodel it, and how much we could afford to pay for it and still be able to afford to remodel it.  Because it was in terrible shape.  

This is the living room and dining room.  It had new windows, but they were unfinished. The dining room was missing the lower part of the wall and had no flooring. 

Kitchen: new sliding door, unfinished, subfloor, no base boards.

Kitchen. No backsplash or floor, desperately needed the cabinets to be cleaned/refinished, and new counters

Laundry room: totally gutted. 

Main bathroom: subfloors, 70s counter...

Main bathroom shower: nonexistent! There was some tile board there, but some down to the studs as well. 

Basement: it would need to be finished into a bedroom, with an escape window on that back wall, and an office if the house would work for us. Also, the siding was unfinished on the exterior and the driveway was missing the concrete in one large area. 

The good news is, the bedrooms and family room were in decent shape. 

Master bedroom

Second bedroom with double closets

Basement family room: all it needed was new carpet and paint

So, I did a bunch of research to find out that it was being auctioned in August.  At the auction no one made a bid and the bank ended up with the house. I also was able to find out their opening bid on the house, which is what I figured they would list it for. At that price, there was no way we'd be able to buy it *and* renovate it.  So I pretty much put it out of my head.  But, I did sign up to get the updates from the bank so I'd know when they listed it, which I thought would be in November. 
But, they surprised me big time!