A New Step

January 8, 2018

A New Step

Saturday afternoon we got Christina back from her week-long Civil Air Patrol encampment.

Today, Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Lucas are doing school at a stone table on the beautiful grounds of our state college waiting for Christina and Rebeccah to finish with their first class.

My younglings are growing up too quickly for me!

The sweet lady in the college bookstore was very helpful and encouraging.  She handed the girls a copy of the eleventh edition of their Biology… I have the seventh at home (from when I went here only a few years ago).  Honestly, I’m so excited for the girls in this next step.  (But I won’t say that to them; I try to make this as normal as possible.  We’ve treated every step in their educational journey as simply another textbook to study.)  I’m very thankful for the awesome opportunities available to students in our county.  (This is a big difference from growing up when home schooling was illegal!)

I’m remembering them at the preschool level (Lucas: counting pinecones and creating stickmen from oak leaves and pine sticks), kindergarten level (Jillian: reading and doing her math problems), and working through book steps like Jaquline and Kimberly. (I “stair-step” arithmetic and language arts in a progression they move through and they get to pick one, two, or three “study books” from history, science, and other subjects.) Then they get through independent learning in preparation for college or vocation. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, various social studies, upper level literature studies, etc.)  Now, Christina and Rebeccah are at the next step: dual enrollment (college credit classes!).

The nostalgic part of me wants time to slow down.

The logical part of me is thoroughly enjoying each new step each one of my children take.  I love the baby stage, but I get excited when the baby steps up to dress and feed themselves.  I love the learning-independence toddler stage, but I love it when they discover reading!  I love the everything-is-new discovery stage, (I try to keep that going as long as I can) but that is too quickly followed by the totally-independent-learning stage.  Yes, I get a little sad when they complete their lesson goals without my help, but I am proud and excited as they jump ahead of my goals by making and achieving their own personal goals.

I see the goal of my “teaching” job as helping my students learn how to teach themselves.  This means inspiring a lifelong love of learning, challenging them to reach higher and higher personal goals, and instilling core principles like academic integrity and determination.

I’m sure they will do well.  They love to learn and are thriving in their “adult” environment where their fellow students are all serious about their work.  I have to smile because I feel like I’ve accomplished my teaching goal – at least for these students – they are fully independent learners with their eyes on future careers and their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

Of course, I will never truly stop teaching.  I’ll be asking, “so, how was school?” even when they call me from their university in years to come.  That thought makes me smile again.

“Jaquline,” says Kimberly, “why aren’t you writing?”

Jaquline is sitting at the stone picnic table, her paperwork on a clipboard, smiling and staring at the sky.  She sighs and says dreamily, “I’m doing my school at college!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Small Choices

December 21, 2017

Small Choices

One of the principles I stress as a teacher and parent is personal responsibility.

For me, this means trying to teach that each action, each choice, has either positive or negative consequences.  I also try to teach the importance of following our moral principles when making even the smallest of decisions because even small decisions direct our lives.

When we read fiction (or play strategy board games, watch movies, play role-play story-line video games, etc) it is easier to see the “big picture” of each small decision (when reading or watching a movie, I often yell at the characters when they make a stupid decision and I know it will cause problems – this entertains my children).   I love games like chess, cathedral, Settlers of Catan, and Risk because they teach us to look ahead, plan our strategy, and make small decisions (moves, location of settlements, or deployment of men) to affect the goal (winning the game).

In real life, whatever our age, we often miss the “bigger importance” of an event as we live it.  It is only through reflection (as in the Bible, Mary “ponders in her heart”) that we see our experience in its proper place in the tapestry of our lives.  We sometimes catch a glimpse of the awesome scope of a seemingly simple event in retrospect (a large purchase decision, joining a sport, a move, competing in an event, a new job).  Occasionally, we realize our decision is massive at the time (picking out a pet, choosing a spouse, deciding to start a family).

As young people, we seldom see our “small” choices as momentous.  We don’t often see our choice of high school classes, friends, or activities to be important.  In truth, classes generally pique interests, aim career paths, and influence our college choices.  Friends shape our personality!  Activities often lead us to long term relationships, future business and personal connections, and help shape our character.

When I write stories, I try to hint at the importance of personal decisions.  In Pirate Child, one simple decision by Darren (his decision to treat his “charge” as he would his younger brother) affects Ethan’s entire life.  In Web of Deception, Chloe’s decision to aid and follow Jordan leads to her discovery of her destiny.  In Story From the Inn, Rachel’s choice to help instead of complain (although, it wouldn’t have been in her culture or personality to complain) leads her to being present at a baby’s birth.

Small choices shape our lives.  Sometimes, they help shape the lives of others.  Choose wisely.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Silver Springs

November 10, 2017

The Real Florida

What comes to your mind when you think of Florida?  Sunny beaches, theme parks, high priced T-shirts, Publix supermarkets?

How about alligators, turtles, cypress trees with diameters of fifteen feet, shimmering sunlight streaming through dissolved limestone particles in gushing spring water to give a silver blue tint to the crystal clear water?

This is Silver Springs

As the sign says (it’s the Florida State Parks logo) “the Real Florida!”

History is alive with the mementos of past years when numerous television shows and movies were made in the beautiful surroundings.

Tourists were riding on glass bottom boats in the 1870s – and if you want to feel like you are swimming with the critters without braving the cold springs water, you have to take the glass bottom boat ride!  (And you are safe too; the alligators, turtles, and snakes are outside the boat and your windows have bars!)

The Captain will say “this is 81 feet deep,” and you stare down at magical swirling waters pushing fish up in rising natural roller coasters.  (You can hear them squealing “weeeeeee” as they spiral up from the bottom with their tails wagging behind them.)

If you want to get even closer to the water wildlife, rent a canoe or kayak!  In one of these sleek craft, you can paddle down the beautiful river and feel like you are part of the unscathed beauty of nature.

There is a boardwalk through the swamp where you can get close to the huge trees and look down into the water.  Amazing birds are easy to hear but hard to catch on camera when your assistants are pretending the boardwalk is a drum for feet!

On the magnificent nature walks, you will see gigantic ancient trees and could possibly run into the wild monkey troupe!

(Or you may have your own wannabe monkey riding on you.)

Some of these trees have fallen and create amazing obstacle courses for the more adventurous in your group.  (You can play “don’t step on the ground” and jump from fallen log to fallen log – just be very careful not to fall off!)

Or you can sit at the top of a leaning stump where no one can reach you.  (Unless you are surrounded by wannabe monkeys who race to see who can reach you first!)

The cost to get in is only $2 a person!  It is extra to ride the glass bottom boats or rent a canoe.  This wild, historic destination is a perfect setting for a wedding among the wild flowers and rustic wooden arbor.  Research this gem at www.SilverSprings.com and check out the Real Florida any day of the year!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Home School Organization

November 2, 2017

Home School Organization

So I’m one of these crazy people who can’t stand anything to be out of order.  I use to freak out trying to keep the house looking like a picture in a magazine…

This was until God smashed me with the realization that while life is in my house, it will never be perfectly clean.  (Note to self: NEVER be PERFECT!)

We also homeschool.  This means in addition to the normal kid toys, clothes, and assorted paraphernalia, we also have a stupendous collection of schoolwork items.  This all has to stay organized.  (Organization has paid off repeatedly as the girls move into high school level courses and dual enrollment.)  So I looked for an easy way to keep organized.

My first step at this organization was the purchase of three letter envelope sized Boxes upon which I wrote “Christina’s Schoolbooks,” “Rebeccah’s Schoolbooks,” and “Kimberly’s Schoolbooks.”

These boxes hold all current textbooks, notebooks, and school “tools” (pencils, pens, crayons, etc.) for that student.  I only had one “student” at the time, but the littler girls felt big to have their crayons, art supplies, and activity books in a “school box” too.  They also aren’t too heavy for a 5-year-old to tote around.

The students are responsible for their box and keeping their books and supplies in good order.  (Mom “issues” normal supplies like notebooks, primary crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, mathematical instruments, and books.  Usually, they like to buy their own “extras” like markers, colored pencils, or work pens inscribed with their name.)  This helps with responsibility.

Bingo!  I scored a short, sturdy wooden bookshelf that held my boxes perfectly!  **One (Jaquline’s) is missing in the picture, but that’s because she was using it!**

This allowed me to add the next 2 boxes (they were only 1 and 3, but Jaquline kept asking about her school box) and a third set for notebooks, charts & flashcards, and shared coloring & art books.  (Granted, we have a full-size bookshelf with art supplies and games and three full-size bookshelves with the supplemental school books – mostly history, science, technology, readers, and encyclopedias.)

Later, Rebeccah decided we needed a “non-reader” system on our boxes so we added “pictures” to the labels.  She likes everything organized too.

I created a book I call the School Planner.  (Rebeccah calls it “The One Book” as in “The book to rule all school!”) **Deceptively plain, isn’t it?**

It has everything school related in a very easy, homeschool-mom-friendly format.  (This means I can quickly enter information and file papers within my 10 or 15 minute time crunch.  I love organization, but hate spending time on it.)  One file drawer turned into the workbook paper file with one file for each student’s work by school year.  They look like steps and Kimberly has called them “the steps to college.”

Our School Shelf still holds everything current for 6 students (okay, Lucas isn’t a student yet, but he does have a backpack, crayons, and two coloring books in his school box).  Our School Planner sits on top of the School Shelf, and two sturdy boxes (perfect size to keep the workbooks snug and dust-free) sit on the other side against the wall holding all of the “next-ups.” (Core curriculum workbooks to be used by the next student.)

Our School Planner is organized by student in 4-week snapshots on each page.

On these pages, I keep a running list of reading books completed, courses completed and their GPA & weight (for high school-level), extra-curricular projects completed, and educational extras like field trips, community service, or practical learning.  The first page in my planner is my “base grade level guide” (texts I expect each student to pass at said grade level).

At the end of each school year (for us, the last Friday before our annual evaluation), I spend about an hour or two and compile all this raw data into a concise one or two page “report” I call a school year summary.

I attach a reading book list (gathered from the same data!) and if any high school level courses were completed, I add them into the student’s high school transcript.

For portfolio evaluations, I just grab the School Planner (reports go in the front in age order) and the file folder for each student for that year.  It’s easy and keeps me mostly stress free.  After evaluations, I rubber-band the School Planner pages together and set them in the file drawer with the previous years, print out the new pages with the changed dates and continue… the story of each school year in less than 1.5 inches of paper. The copy of their evaluation report (the copy of the official report on file with St Johns’ County) goes in a file folder with their name on it.  This has all evaluations and communications from the school district.  (This was a life-saver when the county changed computer systems!) **Lucas’ folder doesn’t have his name on it yet because they get to pick their colors**

Everything important with our school is in one long file drawer and one shelf.  This makes school time fun and easy – and organized!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Birthday Day Off

October 26, 2017

Birthday Day Off

We are a homeschool family.   Sometimes this means we goof off and play games on birthdays instead of do bookwork.  But consider how much learning is crammed into everyday life!

Money skills: Today’s practicum included working and saving (racing around to do enough chores to raise the difference from their savings to whatever toy they wanted to buy for birthday sister), budgeting (oops, that pony figure is outside of my budget!),figuring tax, and checking change received.

Math and Science Lab: This included addition (1 cup milk + 1 cup milk = 2 cups milk), subtraction (Lucas dropped an egg!), fractions (1/2 cup sugar, please?), chemistry (solution versus compound, various states of matter, and a lengthy comical discussion of how the ingredients became a cake!), and even biology (answering our first-grader’s question of “does the sun help grow sugar?”).  Finally, our “home economics laboratory” produced a gluten-free chocolate cake with buttercream icing as requested.

They brought home the “best addition” to the cake – a miniature model of the Millennium Falcon, birthday girl’s favorite Star Wars ship.   (It’s her dream to have the Millennium Falcon Lego set – oddly enough, same one Mom wanted as a teen!)  We perched this on a good spot.

Language and Creative Writing: (each student wrote and colored a birthday card for Rebeccah).

Pyrotechnics and Fire Safety followed.  (This is otherwise known as lighting candles and hearing Mom’s 275th lecture on keeping hair away from flame!)

Music: (where everyone tries to get “…and many more” in the lowest baritone possible and the kazoos attempt to play some tune!)

Now for the guinea pigs to taste the experimental laboratory creation!  (A+ everyone lived!)  Creativity flowed during Art – the party hats turned into eye patches, unicorn horns, and noses.

Sometimes life takes over our classwork.  That’s okay.  We get a lot of practical work done on “days off!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart