Monday, September 6, 2010

(Don't go) Back to School

Tomorrow, Tuesday, the kids are starting their school work in earnest again. We didn't really take a "summer break" this year, because I was out of commission with morning sickness for almost three months right before the summer heat started. Not only did we still have school work to get caught up with from that, but the temperatures outside were also too hot to spend any substantial time outdoors. Hence, it was necessary to do some work all summer long - maybe an hour or so every day - to finish up on last year's work and combat cabin fever.

New this year, I now "officially" have four students. Or rather, I am teaching four classes. Solomon, who is turning 9 later this month, is starting 5th grade, Isaac (7) 3rd grade, John (5) 1st grade, and Miriam (3) is starting K4.

Solomon and Isaac can do much of their work independently, as long as I lay out their daily work for them. I have written the weekly lesson plans for the next 11 weeks, which is right up until the week of Thanksgiving, at which point we will take a "baby break" until after New Year's. Baby #6 is due in early December, so this will allow us to enjoy the holiday season, as well as adjust to being a family of eight, before jumping back into school. The lesson plans tell the kids exactly which pages to be done with in which of their books by the end of each week. To motivate them, they get to stay up and extra half hour or so on days when they finished all their work, and they also get extra allowance money on Saturday if all their work for the week is done.

Last year, we did school work four days a week, plus one day for field trips and other projects. This year, I am going back to doing work five days a week, plus one day off for field trips etc. However, it is not set in stone which day we take off, we are basically just planning on doing five days of school sometime between Monday and Saturday. I have found that plenty of stuff comes up throughout the school year to put us behind on our self-imposed schedule, so trying to stay ahead of the game seems like a good idea, especially with the impending birth.

I need to do a separate post on this year's curriculum choices, but that would take too long to go into today. Basically, all kids do Math and English studies on their own grade levels, and work/learn together on all other subjects. That approach worked great last year, and saved me much time, as well as my sanity.

John still needs me to work with him one-on-one on many of his assignments, but I think once he completely masters reading, that will greatly improve. My big goal for him is to be able to read completely by the end of this school year.

Miriam is just starting out, so her main goals this year are to learn the sounds of all the letters and to start blending them, as well as some basic math concepts such as counting, writing numbers, shapes, sorting, etc. Most of her work will consist of very hands-on learning games and activities, and lots of crafts and free play. I plan on working with her first every morning while the older ones do their morning chores and get tutored by their Dad for a half hour. That way, she will be tired of "school" and play happily with Becky, rather than trying to get my attention while I need to work with the older kids.

In honor of John "graduating" from Kindergarten, and Miriam starting K4, we had a little party at church.

During the service. Don't they all look like they are listening so intently??

John getting his "diploma". Miriam was so excited she ran up with him.

We had cupcakes and cake after the service. The decorations on the cupcakes are supposed to resemble math books, calculators, and apples.

In Germany, there is a tradition to give children starting first grade a big, decorated paper cone that is filled with candies, school supplies, and other goodies to soften the blow of having to start school. This year was John's turn. As to not make the other kids feel left out, I also always make them small cones as a consolation prize.

Since John loves fire trucks, I decorated his cone in that theme. After I finished working on it late one night, I hid it in my husband's car, who was going to take it down to his office at the church building the next morning. Only problem was, my husband kept getting held up that morning, and didn't actually make it to the office until midday. By that time, the temperatures in the car were so high, that the heat melted the glue from my glue gun, which is what I had used to attach all the decorations to the cone, and they all came off! My husband was able to fix most of it, but not the cool fire hose that was running along the top of the cone, or the one that I had mounted to the fire truck. Ah well, John will never know. This is what it looked like before the Phoenix sun destroyed my hard work. Thankfully, there was no chocolate-based candy in the cone that could have gotten ruined.

As I said, the German tradition is to give this cone to children starting first grade. However, here in America, kids start learning a year or two earlier than that, when they start Kindergarten, whereas kindergarten in Germany is really just day care, with no academic work whatsoever. It seemed that for our family, it would make more sense to adjust the tradition to start giving the big cone to the child who is starting K4. So this year, Miriam also got the big dog, but she will now only get the little one when she starts 1st grade.

Solomon, Isaac, and Becky each got a small consolation cone.

They were far too excited and eager to open their prizes to want to pose for pictures.

Anyway, it was a ton of work, but it's always so much fun for the kids. Thankfully, we only add a new "student" every other year, so next year I won't have to make any.

As a last fun summer activity, the four oldest kids and my husband camped out in the backyard from last night to today. We had a yummy BBQ first, then he told them lots of funny and exciting stories from his childhood, work mishaps, etc. as they were going to sleep in the tent. By then, John and Miriam decided they'd rather sleep in the house after all.

Today, we are again having a BBQ, and just enjoying a quiet and relaxing day. As we will have to become more consistent about getting up "early" again every day (me at 6, kids by 7 am), I will really need to get in the habit of going to bed on time in order to get at least seven hours of sleep. Being pregnant, I simply cannot get by on less than that, but really I need closer to eight hours.

I cannot believe how fast the kids are growing up. It seems like just yesterday that I started teaching Solomon, and that was six years ago. Where did my baby go??!? He is still just as sweet as he was then, just a lot more mature and smart. It's kind of sad, and kind of exciting.

I am so glad that our kids do not go to school. I cannot imagine not seeing them at all between 7 am and 4 pm, five days a week. As it is, I feel like their childhood is going by much too fast. Homeschooling is anything but easy, and it certainly isn't always fun. But the good days keep us going through the more challenging ones, and the precious moments make it all worthwhile.

Hope you all have a great new year of learning with your children!


  1. The paper cones are a neat tradition. I want one!

    It is a small detail, but public school, at least where we live, is 6 3/4 hours per day, and not 9 hours.

    When I sent my older daughter to school, I volunteered one day per week in her classroom, helped with field trips and parties, and stopped in to eat lunch with her in the cafeteria--or took her out to eat-- from time to time. I really loved getting to know her classmates and teacher, reading with students, helping with schoolwork, etc.

    A bonus of the public school day was the uninterrupted 1:1 time I got with her toddler sibling.

    I think homeschooling is a wonderful choice, and we really considered it for our own family, but ultimately decided to try public school. It has worked well because I have chosen to be very involved--everyone is happy!

  2. Those cones are way too cute. Makes me want to make some. Your kids are totally darling. The baked goods looked great too.

    It was very nice to meet some of your church members yesterday.

  3. That's cool. I wish I'd gotten a cone when I started school! :)

  4. You are such a good mother, your children are very fortunate.
    You seem to appreciate the present, rather than dwelling on the past or reaching for the future. So many mothers seem to either wax poetic about when their children were babies, or dream ahead to the days when the children are older.
    Your ability to enjoy your children in the present is a joy.

  5. What is K4? Here (WA) students start Kindergarten when they are 5. In AZ do they start when they are 4?

  6. Thank you all for the kind comments and compliments on the cones.


    I think school in Tempe runs from 8 am to sometime after 3 (not exactly sure of the times), I was referring to when the bus picks up and drops off on my street. I think the kids here must be the first to get picked up and the last to get dropped off!

    That's great that you get to be so involved in your daughter's school!


    K4 is kindergarten for 4-year olds. Then K5, then first grade. I think elsewhere that may be called Pre-K? Not sure.

  7. How cute! That cone is nearly as big as her! He is beaming with his cone too! I will echo the others, your kids are lucky to have such a great mother.

  8. It's always a blessing & an amazing opportunity when parents have the choice to teach their children at home. Sadly, not many parents have the possibilities to decide for this option.
    But American kids are especially fortunate because in other countries, attendance in public schools is compulsory.

  9. Wow, I never thought you'd be the type to give all the kids a gift just because one is getting one. Kind of takes the fun out of it. My parents raised us right that sometimes someone would get something that the other didn't get. What you are raising is kids that will think they are entitled to a prize because someone else got one too.

    Also, Kindergarten graduation/party thing? How much more pathetic can you get? Wait till they've had a real accomplishment (like finishing high school) and then give them a graduation/party/diploma whatever. A kindergarten one means nothing.

    I usually only comment when I agree so as not to drag you down, but this is one of the most pathetic posts I've ever seen on here and with all the stuff you do great it surprises me that you fell for this kind of crap.

  10. Katy-Anne, I have long felt that Mrs. Anderson seems to "worship" her kids; it is her parenting style and not my place to criticize it, though I raise my children more realistically and disciplined. Discipline does not universally refer to punishment, but rather self-restraint that can be achieved by anything from consistent mealtimes and bedtimes, rules and consequences, exercise and good diet, and character qualities such as contentment.

    When I was a child, for years my maternal grandparents would give out prizes and gifts to everyone whenever one child was being honored, especially birthdays. I can attest to the fact that as a child, I and my siblings all agreed we'd rather let the birthday girl or boy celebrate individually on their day and we'd each be honored in turn on our days.

    The above post just confirms my theory that Mrs. Anderson seems very indulgent of her children, and I often sadly reflect that she seems to "worship" them and extend them a great deal of entitlement thinking. However, reading this blog permits me to see but a slice of her life, not enough perhaps to judge, and even so, the kids may turn out all right someday. I think Mrs. Anderson truly loves her children and, in a reaction to the bad experiences she had as a child with her mother, she channels her intense love for her children into ways that seem very above and beyond what most kids need. I do hope the very best for them and I hope the kids aren't as spoiled as they seem on here. I bet they probably aren't. :)

    Hope that helps explain stuff! And FTR, I "disagree" with the spirit of this post, too, but I will answer to God for how I raised my children only, as Mrs. Anderson and her husband will answer for how they raised theirs.

    In Christ's love,
    Mrs. E.

  11. @Katy-Anne:

    Just because someone gives the other kids a little present when the others get more isn't really raising entitled little monster. When I was a child and went to a birthday party, you would get little snacks and small toys when you went. I don't know if that's common in America, though. A present is a nice thing to get.

    What a nice idea! I like the cones! They're very pretty and sound like much fun.

  12. Katy-Anne,

    thank you for sharing your concerns. I do see your point about not giving all the kids a gift just because one of them gets one, which is why for example we don't give consolation gifts to other siblings on birthdays. However, all the kids ARE going back to school this year (with the exception of Becky), so some school supplies and treats seamed in order for them all. Most families make a special event about starting school again in the fall, and they include the whole family. I'm pretty sure that the public school where your husband teaches allows treats for ALL students in class when it is only ONE child's birthday. It's normal, and polite.

    Why you would think that giving something to everyone "takes the fun out of it" I do, however, not understand. Do you enjoy things more when you are the only one receiving them? Does it take away from what you got if someone else gets the same, or something much less, but of the same sort?

    Doesn't the Bible say in Matt. 20:14,15: "Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"

    Did I take from John or Miriam to give unto the other kids? No. But even if I had, doesn't the Bible also say that it is more blessed to give than to receive? I for one was blessed by giving something to everyone.

    Also, the party was a (Don't go) Back to School party (as the blog title suggests), not a graduation ceremony. John was given a kindergarten diploma at the same time exactly because I didn't want to make a separate event out of it. While you may not think that finishing K is a big feat (and neither do I), it IS to a 5-year old. I also don't think learning to walk, using the bathroom, or losing a tooth are a big deal, but to kids they are important milestones.

    Of course, you are more than entitled to your opinion on this matter, and I would not call your conclusion "crap" just because I chose to do it differently. It's hardly a question of right and wrong.

    I am surprised that you would be disparaging of completing K though, since you have many times mentioned the developmental issues that some of your children are struggling with. In fact, if I recall, they require special educational approaches that are beyond your scope. I am quite certain that you will likewise want to celebrate the day that your children overcome their struggles and learn to read, for instance. Just because my children do not face such issues doesn't mean I don't rejoice in their advances.

  13. Mrs. E.,

    as you correctly point out, you really have no indication of my parenting style, or the discipline involved in it. You do, in fact, only see a small part of our life.

    However, I think "worship" is a strong word to use even so. Do I pray to my children? Do I worship them in song? Obviously not. Showing love and affection is not "worship".

    I have many times seen parents who think that withholding affection or material gifts is a substitute for being strict with their children other times when there is a need to be. You see this in disciplinary approaches such as time-outs, grounding, or loss of privileges such as TV time or dessert, none of which we employ or consider biblical. I am not saying this is the case with you as I don't know the first thing about your family.

    It is slightly ludicrous of you to assume that our mealtimes, bedtimes, and what other examples you gave are anything but structured, given the fact that I am about to add a sixth child to the family in 10 years of marriage, all of which live with us 24/7. Anything else than a structured approach would lead to complete chaos and insanity. Maybe you do not as many children to know this to be a self-deducing fact. As far as a good diet - our family eats a 100% organic diet with every single meal cooked from scratch. We NEVER allow artificial colors/flavors, sodas, and the other junk food that greatly contribute to kids being wild and out of control. I would say that any child who is grade levels ahead of their peers, plays an instrument, learn foreign languages, can memorize large parts of scripture, and can sit through 3 long church services every week silently has a lot more self-discipline than average children today. The above factors are all true for oldest three children, and the younger two are only "behind" them because of their young age, but well on track to achieve the same.

    I think kids' entitlement thinking today stems largely from peer pressure ("The other kids in school have this, so I need it, too.") and TV, which makes kids covet things they never knew even existed until the commercial came on, but suddenly they can't live without it. Our kids are exposed to neither.

    If you think that children can be "indulged" with too much love and affection, you are wrong. God loves us (his children) much more than I could ever love my husband or children. He wants to give us the desires of our heart, if we delight ourselves in Him. Just like God, I believe that in order to be balanced in one's parenting, the love and discipline both need to be taken to their full extent, rather than trying never to employ either (or only minimally).

    But then, you are entitled to your opinion, and I am sure that God gave you the children that you have because he thought they would best be parented by you, just as is the case with ours.

  14. Wow! Folks are upset over Zsuzsanna and her husband recognizing the completion of Kindergarten??? EVERY school I have ever known and/or been a part of (public and Christian) has a Kindergarten graduation! And I grew up in a military home and have been to a LOT of schools!

    Relax, ya'll!!

  15. What a fun tradition for your family! Your children look very happy :).

    You do inspire me to be a more 'fun' mom.


  16. The cone tradition is neat. I don't see how giving school supplies wrapped up in a paper cone is spoiling them : )

    We school year round so this time of the year isn't any different for us. But I still get my kids some new supplies this time of the year. Or maybe I should make my oldest use the same pencils into college : )

  17. Goodness, it seems like you can't get away from these negative nancy's, eh?

    Anyway, I thought it was very cute, sweet, and loving of you to do that. I miss the days when I was home schooled and I would wake up in the morning to my mom making pancakes and carrot juice (tastes much better than it sounds! lol). I think every child deserves to have a mom like that. It's the little things that my home schooling, stay-at-home mom would do for me and my siblings that I look back on and smile. God bless you for doing the same; your children will shine when they grow up because you took the extra mile. I can only hope to be as good of a mother as you and my mom are some day.

  18. Zsuzsanna,
    You are creative and lift up your children. I don't think you should be criticized for this. I respect your parenting abilities and learn so much from you. Your response to a comment in this post made me wonder how you discipline your children. I think that many of your readers would be interested to know more of your thoughts on godly discipline.

  19. Yikes! I was smiling and enjying your wonderful cone tradition. I lve the expressions on the children's faces. I was pondering how these sweet children will not fully realize your sacrifice in making these until they too are parents. What a good Momma you are. How sweet to mark the begining of your school year. With children they delight in little gifts. When else in life can school supplies be a present! What I love most is how you are passing down a part of your/their culture.

    I was sitting here being inspired as a Momma. Then, I read your comments.

    You are to be praised for not deleting every negative comment you get.

    I have never seen such bitter, angry comments on the post of any other Momma blogger. This is such an intense blog you have.

    Kayte-Ann's comments are so strong. Interstingly, she refers to herself on her profile as a "pacifist". To Kayte-Ann I would say,our hearts are revealed by our words and actions to others. I am shocked by these harsh comments.

    To accuse this lady of "worshipping" her children. This venom could only spew forth from a woman trying to in her own mind justify her own neglect of her children. This type f accusation reveals deep seated bitterness. WHy not, "rejoice with those who rejoice".

    As far as giving small gifts to the others. We do both with our eight children. Our children likewise love to give gifts.

    Zusanna, may I say, you came across slightly harsh to the person who has special needs children. Words can be more hurtful in print. Others will read these comments too. Personally, four of our eight children are developmentally delayed. They are our children by choice (adoption). Four others are advanced - if you ask the grandparents :-)

    For those of us who know Jesus, we do not need a reason to celebrate the gift of childhood. Children are all precious no matter what age-graded level of study they are in, no matter how many languages they speak (my two year old is learning her 3rd language), no matter how much better they sit in church (in our churches all children sit quietly for three hour services)... we need not compare ourselves with ourselves.

    Enjoy your children. Enjoy these precious moments. Thanks for inspiring me! I'm off to make, homeschool cupcakes. Always loking to make anyday and special day!

  20. Missionarymama, just because one is a pacifist doesn't mean we don't believe in speaking out against things that are wrong or just plain ridiculous, and this is just plain ridiculous. I usually leave supportive comments on here, but this post was so ridiculous that I said something this once.

    Children can, and will learn that they are entitled since they all get a gift for everything, and get "diplomas" for kindergarten when it means nothing.

    Why not hand out diplomas for learning to walk? Or talk? One of my disabled sons is non-verbal. It's just part of this mentality that we are supposed to reward kids for everything and nothing, instead of teaching them how to behave, and teaching them that life isn't "fair" and that sometimes one child will get something cool or special that another doesn't. It's called life, and I'm not going to censor life by giving "consolation gifts" to all my kids just because one kid got one.

  21. To Missionarymomma:

    You said, "To accuse this lady of 'worshipping' [sic] her children. This venom could only spew forth from a woman trying to in her own mind justify her own neglect of her children. This type f accusation reveals deep seated bitterness. WHy [sic] not, 'rejoice with those who rejoice'."

    I do not neglect my children. You have made a serious, false accusation against me. My comments were directed to Mrs. Anderson and she has responded to me in a satisfactory manner. I am assured that she loves her children but I am perfectly within my right to have an opinion about her parenting style, since she blogs for the world to see and seems to dare others to have a different opinion (no offense, Mrs. Anderson). You and she are welcome to have opinions about my parenting as well, but I take issue with the fact that you have already jumped to your conclusion while knowing nothing about me. Again, I do not neglect my children. You might be interested to know that I

    1. feed my children organic, made from scratch meals containing many ingredients either grown in my garden or taken in by my husband's hunting;
    2. plan to homeschool, as I was all my life;
    3. stay at home all day every day and would never seek a career;
    4. cloth diaper, which requires a tremendous commitment to cleanliness and orderliness; and
    5. do not watch/own TV.

    Maybe we are more alike in practice than you think, but my commitment to raising children that are not entitled and excessively spoiled stands.

    To Mrs. Anderson: I should not have commented on this post at all, nor should *I* have jumped to conclusions on whether or not your kids are entitled or spoiled. Though I have heard plenty of secondhand information to confirm that, I do not know you personally. I know my opinion matters not to you, but you seem a very capable mom and if there are reward points for simply *doing* and *being* as much as you are, you ought to receive high acclaim and have some kind of newspaper or magazine article written in your honor. :) I am not into crafting myself, which seems to be your forte, but have hoped to prove by my small list of accomplishments to missionarymomma above that she and you are not the only ones who care for their children. :) I don't normally "boast" on myself but the accusation that I neglect my children is false and I will call that out.

    Thank you for your blog, Mrs. Anderson. I have learned much from reading it. :)

    In Christ's love,
    Mrs. E.

  22. Mrs. E,

    if you are, in fact, assured of my love for my children, maybe you can rest in this verse:

    He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24

    Contrary to what our popular culture teaches, it is a LACK of love that produces undisciplined children, rather than TOO MUCH of it. The more a parent loves their child, the stricter standards will they have for that child.

    Parents drop their kids off at school, set them in front of a TV, don't take the time to train and discipline them etc. because they don't love them enough to invest that kind of time and effort.

    Are my kids perfect? No. Neither are any human beings.

  23. I read your blog, from way accross the pond in Sunny Scotland :). im not really religous nor im afraid do i home school. but when wee ones here finish nursery ( i think you call it kindergarten) we have a graduation type thing for them. Theres no harm in it and its really just for the kids. I love the way you parent your kids, i have 2, hopefully will be 3 soon, and wish i had some of your patience and drive


  24. I am 50% Italian(part Sicilian)- so if I buy my 6 children and 4 granddaughters cannolis I might be criticized or is that only because I homeschool(since 1985-this is my last year). Or would I only be criticized if I bake the cannolis myself but not if my son who works for a bottled-water company and delivers to a cannoli factory and is given them then gives them to me and I give them to my children and granddaughters. I'm serious- when is it indulgence and worship?

  25. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I disagree with 99% of what I read on your blog, but I'm always so impressed by your relationship with your children. They are blessed to have a mother who is so invested in them.

    It's sad, all the ways that women find to criticize each other instead of building each other up.


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