December was a really hard month in homeschooling, as you might have gathered from my posts.Too much excitement, not enough work school getting done, and Mom in a miserable mood. To truly finish it off with a bang, my oldest daughter had an emergency appendectomy on New Year's Eve. But January has been full of blessed ordinariness, lots of reading, and renewed excitement about homeschooling.
One thing that has made such a difference is that we now have a better routine for the day. At the beginning of the month, I sat the kids down and asked them what they wanted to get out of our days. Mabel suggested, read more books! Ella wanted to learn to ice-skating. I began to tell them about some of the things I was interested in. I recently purchased a new writer's curriculum called Brave Writer. I'm only a few chapters in, but the kids were so excited when I mentioned some of her ideas like Poetry Teatimes and narrating stories to me while I write them down.
I explained to the kids that in order to fit all this fun new stuff in, we'd have to plan out our days better. We all went up to the computer and made a handy new picture schedule with Microsoft word. You won't believe the difference this has made. They are getting ready in the morning earlier (with only a little bit of prompting), helping me with morning chores like unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry. We've been able to do our Five in a Row, read-aloud during snack each day, have some physical activity, and in the afternoon individual lessons,quiet time, and tidying up. We've also designated one special thing per day: Monday is Music, Tuesday: Art, Wednesday: Writing, Thursday: Poetry Tea Time, and Friday: cleaning (the kids actually suggested that!) I have never been a routine person before, but I am starting to be a believer.
January is also such a great month for reading. Brent and I both have a stack of new books we are working through from Christmas. The older girls are starting to read more on their own! So here were some of our favorites in January.
Disclaimer: I really wanted to love this book even before I read it because I love the author's website Story Warren: Allies in Imagination so much. If you haven't heard of Story Warren before and are a parent looking for ways to inspire your kids in faith, imagination, and reading, you should check it out. The author S. D. Smith is also from West Virginia, so even more reason to hope for the best because West Virginians are awesome.
The good news is that I loved the book. The Green Ember is a fantasy book about Heather and Picket, rabbit brother and sister. When their family home is attacked and their parents taken captive, they escape and find a new home with a group of rabbits who aim to bring back The Mended Wood that has been destroyed. The characters have a lot of depth and I totally identified with their pursuit to find their purpose in the world. The book is also firmly rooted in hope. It made me think of a line from Katherine Paterson's essay Hope and Happy Endings. "Hope for us cannot simply be wishful thinking, nor can it be only the desire to grow up to and take control of our own lives. Hope is a yearning rooted in reality that pulls us toward the radical biblical vision of the world remade." This book does exactly that, but even if you don't want to go that deep with it, it is still an awesome adventure story you and your kids will love. I hope there will be a sequel.
I got a new-to-me L.M. Montgomery book for Christmas: Jane of Lantern Hill. It's a little more modern than the Anne books, about a girl who discovers that the father she thought was dead, is alive. When he asks her to visit him on PEI for the summer, she comes alive. After life with her domineering grandmother, she finds that she loves being useful and able to care for other people and animals. My favorite scene was when her father introduces her to the wonder of the stories in history and the Bible. She has always been forced to read these books, and suddenly with his interest and love, she finds that she actually wants to read.
Brent's favorite book of late (I also really loved it.) was Jennifer Fulweiller's spiritual memoir Something Other Than God. Some blog writers' books just read as a collection of blog posts, but Fullweiller's story of her journey from atheism to Catholism was beautifully written. She takes you through each step of her journey of faith without jumping to the end and writing backwards, so that you actually get to grapple with each question she has. She's also quite funny, which is a bonus.
Did I mention the girls are reading?
Ella has always been such an auditory learner that she hasn't had a lot of drive to read books on her own. Recently I found her secretly reading Ramona the Pest at quiet time. Now she's finished that and moved on to Beezus and Ramona. I remember reading the whole series in third grade. Sweet to see her enjoying them now.