Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Help Me Out Here

Evern since I was back up on my feet after giving birth, we've had something going every weekend, which I think is unfair since I've purposefully avoided putting my children in organized sports to avoid that very thing. However, this weekend we're happy to be busy: Isabel is making her first communion on Saturday. This is a joyous time, a blessed time, a time of last-minute shoe buying and veil altering and dry cleaning and cake baking. If posting has seemed light (seemed! ha ha!) recently, and continues to seem light, this is why. Please remember Isabel in your prayers on Saturday!

And speaking of food prep: one of our houseguests this weekend has diabetes and needs to eat carefully. We've been to the library today to stock up on Diabetes for Dummies and diabetic cookbooks, but I thought our limited research time would be more productively farmed out to you, o readers. If you are diabetic or make food for someone who is, what would you like to eat, especially if someone else was doing the cooking? Help me out here.


We're coming to the spiritual culmination of our school year with the first communion, and I can say that despite all my scholastic failures this year (and friends, they are legion), the one thing I have done faithfully is Bible study. Every morning (or early afternoon) we read the daily readings and discuss them, trying to see how the Psalm connects to the first reading and pulling out threads of the Gospel reading. Today's main topic: in the first reading from Acts, Stephen's face is like that of an angel. What does the face of an angel look like? They don't even have bodies, so how can they have faces? When angels have appeared elsewhere in the Bible, how are they described? A favorite angel appearance: when the angel rolls the stone away from the tomb and sits on it.

I suppose I ought to write about what we do each day so that I feel like we're really doing things, but frankly, this has been a trying year for us and I'm ashamed of how little study we've gotten through. Once upon a time, I was a confident homeschooler, effective, proud, evangelical. Now I've been doing it for years, and I'm lost. I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. Once upon a time, when I had fewer and younger children, I thought we would be classical homeschoolers. This year, we've unschooled. We've done stuff: schola, organ lessons, embroidery, crochet, interminable dance lessons, baby prep, baby care, baby changing, cooking, Act 3 Scene 2 of As You Like It, a third go-round of Little House in the Big Woods for the small ones who haven't heard it yet. Good stuff, and there's more where that came from. And yet, I can't shake this sneaking feeling that education should involve some academics. We've been weak on the academics this year. Started Latin in the fall: currently on lesson 9 of 30. Not halfway through the spelling books. Haven't read history in weeks. Grammar? Written work? I don't remember the last time. Handwriting? Are you serious?

Math has been more productive, mainly because while I was pregnant we switched to using Khan Academy's free online program, and the kids have clicked with learning math that way. And although I sit with the kids and tutor them, the website does the rest, down to using past results to customizing review mastery challenges. Plus, the kids know instantly if they've gotten something wrong, and there are hints and tutorials and little avatars you change as you rack up points through working. And I don't have to plan it.

Oh, planning. Over Lent I came to the resolution that we need to try something new. I need someone else to do the planning for me. I need a packaged curriculum, in part or in whole. All these years I've resisted running on someone else's schedule, but now I'm running on no one's schedule. And my older ones, at least really need a checklist of What to Do Today: one so that she can just do it and be finished, the other because otherwise she won't do anything at all.

So, now I need recommendations. O readers, what has worked for you? What do you recommend or deprecate? What keeps you accountable? Help me out here.


Lisa S said...

on diabetic cooking or anyone who eats a carb-aware diet - my opinion, meat, veggies, food where you can see what is in it and not guess at carbs in case you have to figure insulin - that kind of thing. casseroles with guessing would be less friendly, in my opinion.

Hang in there on the schooling- I'm sure everyone is learning more than you know and more of what is important.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever read at SFF.NET? Jennifer Busick over there has some great ideas re homeschooling, and she also works with various challenges. (She, too, feels that this year was a non-starter, and has interesting thoughts about how to tackle the issue.)

Her newsgroup is Jenbusick

Bernadette said...

I actually am diabetic, and I think what helps me most is meals where things are separate so I can serve myself what I need without having to pick stuff apart. So lasagna is a little challenging, because the carb and protein are all together, so I'm never sure whether I can get enough protein without eating too much carb. But pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs and salad is awesome, because I can give myself a moderate amount of pasta, enough sauce and meatballs, and a lot of salad, and I can feel more secure about what I'm eating.

I also sometimes feel like I eat more protein than others do, though I think that gets emphasized when you're working with restricted carb diets. Protein helps you feel full longer, and can help the blood sugars to level out.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Having lots of vegetables is helpful. Otherwise I'd echo what the others have said, especially in regard to casseroles -- they are usually carb heavy and hard to figure out. Having supplemental protein available -- such as hardboiled eggs or cottage cheese or greek yogurt or cheese -- for a carb heavy meal is also helpful.

J.C. said...

We've loved and always used Mother of Divine Grace. I wrote a short but detailed review on the curriculum a while back. I would be happy to e-mail it to you; it's probably a bit much for the combox. Let me know. Quickly though, there are a few things that might appeal to you: it's classical Catholic, has syllabi and lesson planners for each grade (checking off bit), 32 weeks (we do it year round). I think it is a curriculum that works particularly well for avid readers (as I'm sure the little Darwins take after their parents), not necessarily because of what is required in the curriculum, but what's not. It doesn't have this intense busy work approach to language arts, writing or grammar. It seems to have a long range approach to these subjects by relying on high quality literature and Latin study in grade school to develop the skills necessary for excellent writers down the line in high school. You naturally seem to immerse your children in great literature, excellent vocabulary, and syntax and critical thinking. MODG might be a good fit. As far as accountability, my accountability has come from the initial decision not to deviate from the curriculum. Of course, ruthless check marking is probably not at all a helpful concept to a creative intellectual like yourself! My husband and I knew exactly what kind of education we wanted for our children, but translating that vision into grade specifics and daily tasks was above my capabilities, especially after I realized that homeschooling is only one many daily duties...

Jennifer Fitz said...

Dittoing on the food: Meat & 3, condiments / sauces on the side, served buffet style. Lets you put together exactly the proportions you want. Have at least one not-starchy not-sweet item in the sides - think green vegetables.

re: checklist: I went with Kolbe for that reason. We do it about 60-80%, and substitute from there. For the littles, I went heavy on CHC and other workbooks, and the workbook is good because you finish it and then the year is over.

Barb said...

Beth did great with Mother of Divine Grace and Michael did well with it through grade school. John was a slower reader so I would read some of the books to him and he did better with Catholic Heritage Curriculum; I would have used it with him when he was younger if it had been available. (Michael was in a co-op for high school so that was a different experience.)

Julia said...

Okay, but I am lazy. I make up for it (I hope) with occasional spurts of creative activity that take us into good realms of homeschooling.

What helps me is to have a school spine. For many years that spine was Sonlight (replacing their religion-oriented readers with biographies of the saints), though only once did I attempt to actually follow their schedule. We bought the books and read them more-or-less in order, and I added in some craft projects and food and costumes, and assigned real essay topics to the older kids.

My idea of a list is a weekly printout that has subjects to do each day; the assignments are based on quantity (read for 20 minutes, do 3 pages of math, write three paragraphs). The advantage of a weekly list is that I begrudgingly do science and art and all the etceteras because... they are on the list. So if Tuesday is art, then I know on Monday that I need to get ready. Or at least Tuesday early in the morning.

A lot of this falls in the "know thyself" category. I generally choose one or two subject areas that are of interest to me, and actively teach them. The rest of the subjects I either farm out to someone who can teach with enthusiasm or else relegate to a text or workbook or... something.

When life is chaotic my mandate for school is pretty much, "Read something, write something, do some math." And then I tell them to find out something new, and produce something new.

mrsdarwin said...

These are some great ideas, on both fronts. Thanks so much, all. Sartorias, thanks for the reading suggestion -- I really need to hear from other people who've had a hard year and have good ideas for going forward.

B., I didn't know! I hope we didn't feed you the wrong stuff last time you were here.

J.C., I would be very glad to read your review of MODG. Our email is One of the reasons I've been hesitant to go with a curriculum is that I'm an inveterate swapper-out of recommended books, but I'm willing to try anything for a year.

Jennifer Fitz, didn't you write a review of Kolbe a while ago?

Julia, I did have a minimalist routine which was math, spelling, and reading -- all things I didn't have to supervise, and the most easily quantifiable. Spelling is really the least valuable of these, but it was pages in a workbook, which made it easy, and people don't generally fight me on reading. I have to sit on writers, unless they're writing stories about spy dogs. Then nothing else gets done. But even the minimalist routine has suffered lately, and I really think it's because of lack of planning and having a list for the kids to check. Also, I had forgotten how demanding even happy infants are. Less gets done.

Meredith said...

Just wanted to add that you can skip buying a special "diabetic dessert" like cookies; even though they're technically sugar free, they're usually still loaded with carbs. A good alternative is a bowl of berries (lowest carb of all fruits) plus a sugar free whipped cream. I often pair this with a pound cake or chocolate pie so that people can pick and choose, just as the other commenters shared about the meat plus green vegetable menu. For Easter we did a crustless quiche with leeks, spiral ham, asparagus, roasted red potatoes, and berries.

Prayers for a wonderful celebration for your family! And yes, we lost the white slippers and had a last minute run to Payless too!

lissla lissar said...

I second the bowl of berries. Are we talking about Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes? I don't know a whole lot about Type 2, but I'd think in general the easier it is to quantify the foods containers carbs, the easier it will be for your guest. A lot of non-sweet vegetables are carb free, and so are cheese and meat (more or less). Fat and protein help slow the release of carbohydrate, which prevents blood sugar spikes.

entropy said...

On Khan Academy, do you have different accounts for each of your kids? I was hoping I could make separate users for one account but it doesn't look like I can.

mrsdarwin said...

Entropy, each kid has a separate account for which I know the password. I have a parent account from which I can monitor their progress and assign different topics, though I feel like the recommended topics have been on target. My problem is that I'm more likely to forget my password than theirs, so I often just log into their accounts to see their progress.