My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Learning a Thing or Two

The time has come for my annual year-end recap. This has become my tradition mostly because at about this time each year, I suddenly begin to wonder if we actually did anything all year. It is almost funny how it happened like clockwork. I spent the whole year feeling like I was actually staying on top of things. I went in with a better plan than ever before, and I stuck with my plan more consistently than in the past. And yet, when May rolled around, I suddenly panicked, thinking that we must have wasted the whole year. "The math book isn't done! The science book isn't done! Lucian's phonics book isn't done! I don't know if Audrey and Edith learned anything all year!"

So now I will take a step back, take a deep breath, and take a look at the photographs I took throughout the year. We did some amazing learning this year, and all of the kids made leaps forward! I am so proud of all of them, no matter how many pages are left in our math book.

This year was the first year I let myself buy a math curriculum and a science program. I realized that with the chaos of five kids, three of whom are preschool or younger, I was dropping the ball on lesson planning week after week after week. I noticed Max was feeling frustrated with math, and I finally decided I didn't have the time or tools to teach him what he needed. So we invested in Math-U-See, a hands-on math curriculum that speaks Max's language. Lucian too has been enjoying it, especially since there's enough of a workbook component to keep him interested. On top of that, we are still reading Life of Fred, a series of fun math stories that make math relevant to real life.

We completed the second volume of our beloved history book, Story of the World, which took us two whole years to get through! What an accomplishment that was. This was easily everyone's favorite subject this year, so I began a search for a science program that would have a similar feel, and I came across Sassafras Science. We have only had it for a couple of months, but I think it has filled in the science-shaped hole in our curriculum in just the right way. Our schooling works best when it revolves around stories, and Sassafras Science (while not the highest quality literature...) is an engaging story about a brother and sister who go on a science adventure. It comes along with experiment ideas, workbook pages and lots of extras to expand on the chapter if we choose.

I think the most helpful addition to our school schedule this year was the simple act of putting a list of goals on our chalkboard. There are so many things I want to do each day that I often suffer from decision paralysis. When I forced myself to choose the top five items that should get done and write them in a conspicuous place, it became much easier to motivate myself when I had an actual box to check in a place where everyone could see it!

Our daily goals are as follows. If we do three of these items, I feel as if our day was a success. If we do all five, I feel like we hit it out of the park!
1. Morning Prayer/School: When I start playing our School Song, the kids know it's time to gather. We begin with prayer and then I tell them the subject of the day. Usually this time is devoted to either math, science, or history, but on occasion we will bring something else in, like an art project or some poetry.
2. DEAR Time: Drop Everything And Read! It is exactly what it sounds like, and it is exactly as amazing as it sounds. As long as Blaise and Edith are napping...
3. 10 minute speed clean: I pick the room, we take a 'before' picture, we have a cleaning frenzy for 10 minutes, then we take an 'after' picture. If the pictures are different enough, they're done!
4. Read Aloud: If I could choose one list item to do, it would be this. We read aloud all the time. I realized just how much I read to the kids when I lost my voice for a week and had to figure out how to parent without being able to pick up a book. It was tough!
5. Assignment List: I write up a list of independent assignments for the boys each day, including subjects like handwriting, math worksheets, assigned reading, and active items like jumping on the trampoline or going outside to bike.

D.E.A.R. outside in the sun

On a good week, we get in probably 3 days of actual school. I have a hard time motivating myself to start in the morning, and I still have a baby and a toddler... so it seems like more often than not we just don't do any of the things we're supposed to do! And some days I find myself hiding behind the couch because four out of five kids are trying to yell at me about something.

But writing down our ideal helps me remember that we actually do a lot. I am proud of what we have accomplished this year! I hope you enjoy the photo recap of our most photogenic school moments of the year.
Halloween candy science experiments

Max drawing the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Natural Science

Stuffed Animal election

Pattern Practice (She did learn something this year!) 

Learning about illuminated manuscripts

Solar System Science

Lucian teaching Audrey to count

Moon Phase Oreos: always a favorite

Cave Painting


One of our favorite read-alouds of the year! 
We spent weeks conversing in Morse Code

Claymation craze!

Everyone loves playing the piano

Floating egg science

Many hours have been spent studying the world map in the dining room

Chemistry made a comeback around here
  Library cards! Having his own card turned Lucian into a voracious reader overnight!

And of course: reading.


And reading. 


Everywhere and anywhere to anyone


It melts my heart to see them enjoying this time together! 

If I had nothing else to show for it, the bonds the kids are building with each other around reading together is worth every moment of stress and struggle that comes with homeschooling. I wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Race is On

Lucian has been looking forward to this day for a year. The Abria 5K. Our child who wakes up asking to bike, spends the whole afternoon playing soccer, and goes to bed saying he still has enough energy to play an entire hockey game was READY to run a 5K and he knew it! He got everyone else excited about it too, so amazingly we were in our car on the way to the race by 7:30 this morning! I honestly can't think of the last time our whole family left the house that early, especially since Audrey has decided to sleep in until 8:00 most mornings, but today they were up and at 'em! (Well, most of them were...)

Somebody looks a little tired
We got to the race location and picked up our t-shirts

"I can't wait to start running!"

"I wish I was still in bed."
 Then we met up with my mom who had graciously agreed to hang out with Edith and Blaise while the rest of us attempted the run/walk.

As the race got started, our energy was high! Paul took off with the fast runners, and the three big kids and I started at a slow jog while my mom pushed the double stroller for a bit before turning back to get a treat for Edith and wait for us at the finish line.

For the first half mile or so, everything was great! Then Audrey decided she was too tired to go on. She started to drag her feet, fall behind, and pick dandelions. I saw Lucian and Max getting farther and farther ahead, but they kept checking back to see where I was, so I wasn't worried.

Then Max slowed down to a crawl and started to tell me how tired he was! Less than a mile in, Lucian was going strong (nearly out of sight) but it seemed the rest of us didn't stand a chance! So Max and I had a little pep talk and he decided to give it his all and catch up with his brother, and he was off! That left me with Audrey, still wandering at a snail's pace. I realized that if we continued like this, I had no chance of catching up with the boys so I hitched her onto my back and gave her a ride.

We eventually caught up to the boys at the turnaround point and found that they had made friends with some very nice run/walkers and were doing just fine. The last half of the race was a straight path along the river, so I let Lucian take off and see how fast he could finish. Max kept pushing onward, chatting with his new friends and alternating between jogging and walking. Audrey tried to walk a few more times but inevitably fizzled out after a few yards, so I would hike her back onto my back and off we'd go again.

I saw Lucian meet up with Paul way off in the distance, and he turned back so they could finish the race together. Lucian made it in about 45 minutes! I can about imagine how fast he would have gone if we hadn't held him back at the beginning!

Doesn't he look like he's in his element?
Go, Max, Go!

Aaaand bringing up the rear...
Audrey and I crossed the finish line in just under an hour. Not exactly how I was envisioning the race, but we did it! Maybe next year Lucian and I can run it together.... but he'd probably leave me in the dust! After the race, we celebrated with ice cream, and we got to watch one of our babysitters win women's first place! (She even beat Daddy, which put her on a pedestal in Lucian's book)

I am so proud of all of the kids, and my husband! They worked hard and pushed through a tough race for a good cause. Next year, watch out!

A Kaleidoscope of Color

Last Wednesday, my mom and I both had a free day so we decided to take the kids to the Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen. This was the kids' and my first visit, and we all fell in love! The tulips were blooming, the lilac garden smelled heavenly, and the weather was absolutely perfect. As we wandered the kitchen herb gardens, I imagined myself in Downton Abbey, and when we meandered past vine-covered trellises I told the kids I felt like Mary from the Secret Garden. It really was a magical place.

Not a posed photo op
This one either

Or this one!

One of the highlights of the day was a new installation of floral kaleidoscopes. They are exactly as amazing as they sound! We were able to look through kaleidoscopes into a rotating pot of flowers, each turn creating new and amazing color combinations.  They were scattered throughout the grounds, so each time we rounded a bend and saw one ahead, the kids would race to be the first to check out the new flowers.

We stayed for over four hours until finally the clouds began to drip on us and the kids started to realize they were a little tired. The weather could not have been timed better!... almost. We went inside for a treat and to buy a souvenir packet of seeds for each kid. But when we opened the door to walk to the car we realized that the sprinkling had turned to pouring! My wonderful mom went with the umbrella to pick up the car while we waited under an awning, then we all ran to the car and piled in, only a little soggy.

I can't wait to go back again, there is so much we didn't get to see! I think I have a new favorite Twin Cities attraction.