All that to say, my preparation has paid off and I am so pleased that I put the time and effort into scheduling and organizing when I had the opportunity over our six week spring/summer break.  There is something serene about the state of perfection the school room possesses before the very first day of class.  The notebooks are filled with fresh reams of lined paper.  The pencils are sharpened and neatly stored with beautifully unmarred pink erasers.  The markers are new and color coordinated.  All our school books are lined in a row and my schedules are printed out.  Even as a child, I loved the sense of anticipation for the new school year.  However, as one who can get a little carried away with preparation I found myself actually longing for the relief that comes from just plunging in – making the jump into the deep waters of the new academic year, letting the splashes fall where they may.  Reams of lined paper are meant to be filled with the sloppy scrawl of my four year old as she learns her letters one by one, or the newly acquired overly-curly cursive my second graders are learning.  The markers are supposed to get disorganized in the excitement of labeling the parts of a flower and coloring pictures of “C” objects.  In our house, if the school room is perfect then nothing is getting done.

I had a schedule set up for all of our subjects, dividing them into Mon-Wed-Fri blocks and Tue-Thu blocks since there is no way Iwanted to cram everything into every day.  That has worked out very well and I have had to change little since we started by using the kind of block schedule that allows for subjects that take the same amount \ of time to be inserted in corresponding blocks.  At this age, we hardly need to do science or geography every single day, but we can get a lot more done weekly if we spend an hour on either one each day.  Once again, Homeschool Trackers is a lifesaver and automatically inserts everything into the calendar for me.  So far, we’ve been able to get through every school day with enough hours and before the glazed-over look of disinterest overpowers the fun of learning.

Since we will be reading so many books this year, I want to start to document some of the highlights of what we are studying so we can look back and remember them later.

Writing is not so scary after all:
The subject that had me the most anxious was Student Writing Intensive by IEW.  I knew the girls could understand some of the concepts, but I didn’t want to force them too early into “composition mode” as I didn’t want to rob them of the joy they have in writing stories with no structure .  I would much rather have them coming up to me to ask if they can go outside and sit on the swing set or in the grass to “be alone and write” than make them despise the whole process by being too rigid with my requirements.  However, both of them (and I) have absolutely loved the key word outlines.  Their reading comprehension has skyrocketed with this simple technique, and their writing is improving as well.  They are already doing the first dress-ups – who/which clauses (hah…hearing my five-year-old tell me that she wants to “do a who/which clause with this sentence since it would fit” is hilarious).  We use IEW’s simple source texts, and to date we have learned more about sea snakes, tarantulas, and pill bugs than I preferred to know in my whole lifetime.  The more comfortable they get with key word outlines, the easier the process of composition will be as I begin to require more of them.

Gaining a heart for the world:
We are using Sonlight’s Core B curriculum and I have to say that I am really impressed with their missions-based perspective. We’ve been reading about several major world religions along with our cultural studies, and it is giving the girls a heart to pray for unreached people.  Comparing the gospel of Yeshua to Buddhism and Hinduism is a real eye-opener.  Seeing the message of hope held up next to a message of trying to do enough good works to escape the horrors of this world has put in all of us an attitude of thanksgiving.  I want the children to understand enough about other belief systems to see how Jesus truly is the Light to the World.  We do not often consider the freedom He offers us until we see clearly what the “untouchables” in India face every day.  I want my girls to have a heart for the nations and I cannot wait for the day we are able to go on a mission trip together.  I delved into Missionary Stories With the Millers albeit with a bit of a heavy heart.  While martyrdom is an unavoidable part of the church, I do not relish forcing the girls to wrestle with very tough questions.  I might edit some of the heavier material, but I am not yet sure that I want to because for every story of death for the sake of the gospel, there are ten more stories of God’s miraculous faithfulness and mercy.  Young children in many places learn from a very young age that they may very well lose their lives because of the God they serve, so I believe the same God Who boosts their precious hearts of faith can gird up my daughters as they read about those children.  It’s going to be a delicate balance.

A heart-warming story about a spider and Lot’s daughters have a “great idea”:  
Charlotte’s Web is much more enjoyable this time around.  I read it to the girls when they were younger, but this time they are beginning to understand the subtle messages throughout the book.  The concept of believing something just because someone who is influential says it is so is a poignant topic in an election year.  But I digress.  The girls have moved beyond Bible story books and have each received a real Bible from Mom and Dad.  Since NASB is quite out of reach for them, we settled on the NIrV for the girls.  It is the perfect fit – just challenging enough for their reading level yet easily understandable.  I wanted some more meat added to the Bible curriculum that Sonlight offers, so we are going through Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History as well.  It is meant for a variety of age groups so we will be able to go through it again and again.  This year, we are only reading and discussing some of the more simple topics.   I seriously have to take myself out of censored-Bible-storybook mode because Genesis is not really child-friendly if you’re reading straight through.  The NIrV didn’t exactly edit out that excerpt about Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and then getting pregnant by him while being holed up in some mountain cave.  It is a relevant Bible translation after all.  Selah had the strangest look on her face.  “Mommy, that’s not good, right?”  “No, honey, Torah says we shouldn’t do that.”  And that is where we left it.