Summer Mode

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


We have already been out of school for two weeks, which for my family means we've embraced the end-of-the-year crash (read: lying around in pajamas and binging on movies for several days) and moved past it, to the stage where I write progress reports and we clean out backpacks, re-organize closets, and compile enormous binders full of a year's worth of school work for each child. That binder project makes me SO emotional every year, and this time I made it worse by watching Anne With an E while I worked on it. This may be why I'm still not sure how I feel about Anne With an E. Maybe. Maybe it's just weird. I haven't made it past the third episode yet, so who knows.

Regardless, we are now officially in Summer Mode here, although that looks a bit different this year. I usually am pretty vigilant about keeping our summers relaxed and unscheduled, because that is my TIME to be HOME WITH MY BABIEEEESSSS and I really crave the balance of that after a busy  school year. This time, though, we have so many opportunities to do cool things away from home that I had to let go of that a little. Right now the two older girls are doing a musical theatre camp at Theatre3 in Dallas. It's a long enough drive that I'm shuffling the two younger kiddos between Aaron, GiGi and my mom, and just staying in Dallas while they are in rehearsals. Then we go home and race to the pool, most days, and then have dinner, practice lines and choreography, and read a chapter of Harry Potter before bed. I keep consoling myself that it's only three additional weeks of being away from Phoebe and Tristan during the day, because, you know, Mama Guilt. (Which honestly, is worse because I'm getting four solid hours to myself each day, getting work done and drinking Starbucks in peace. It's  heavenly, so I automatically feel guilty!) This is an AMAZING experience for Avalon and Lainey, though. I can't even say how much I am loving it for them!

Because they are doing this and later they'd be doing summer camp at Flint, I decided not to buy Summer Bridge workbooks  this year. I still totally recommend them, though. They have nice short daily lessons and help keep skills sharp, especially if a child has made a lot of goains over the school year and needs them to be reinforced. If you aren't going to do our summer camps at Flint you should definitely get one...but the camps are better! Take a look at this lineup and you'll see why I conceded some of my stay-at-home time:

June 26-29 Cheer Camp
July 5-8 Drama Camp Treasure Island
July 10-14 Frontier Camp
July 17-21 Astronomy Camp
July 24-28 Construction Camp
July 31-August 4 Flight Camp

I mean, how can you pass on those? They all sound amazing! Fortunately we don't start school until after Labor Day, so I'll have a nice solid block of time in August to unschedule my children. You know, turn off the screens and make (I mean, encourage! No, LET! Haha.) them entertain themselves for most of the day.  And mix it up with fun projects and little adventures. I asked the girls to make their own bucket lists for the summer, and we've already managed a few of the items. Meanwhile we are doing as much unscheduling as possible on the weekends. Ideals, meet reality. Now be friends! BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!

Ultimately I think we're sticking to the real goals I have for summer...we are spending lots of time together, lots of time swimming and playing outside, and lots of time having new experiences. It's pretty wonderful! 

For myself I have a lot of projects at/for the school that I want to make headway on...curriculum stuff and a school philosophy guide, lots of structural organization, tons of planning, and more FAQ posts on this blog. My other goal is to take a lot of naps, because I'm seriously behind on rest and sanity, and naps are beautiful things. 

Seriously, they might be the number one most wonderful part of a day. Mmmmm, naps.

Flint Life Lately

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Some snippets of what we've been up to lately...

The grammar school had their Field Day this past week, and it involved those inflatable bubble suit things so you know it was awesome! 

Our wonderful PTF must be totally worn out, since in addition to organizing and putting the Field Day together, they celebrated Teacher Appreciation in a BIG way all week long. There was a waffle bar, y'all. And flowers and candies and sweet notes and a great big lunch. We felt all kinds of appreciated!

I'm treating most of my literature classes to gentler books to finish the year...we've been very rigorous and dug into things like Beowulf, The Once and Future King, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist and Robin Hood all year, and now with their brains all worn out and summer vacation on the horizon, I decided it was time to read something just for fun. I love the classics and we enjoy diving into them as a class, but it's no good to lose sight of the joy of reading. So now we're reading Harry Potter books and The Blue Castle by L.M. MontgomeryBecause I have never met or made a syllabus that I won't completely wreck! I don't set out to, but how can you possibly know in advance the pace and interest and needs of each class (and expect them all to be exactly the same!) in August? You can't, so no matter how hard I work to craft the perfect syllabus each year, we all know it is doomed for the recycle bin by late October.

The grammar school students are reading The Whipping Boy and Mary Poppins, and the pre-k lovies are learning fairy tales. Phoebe startled me at dinner the other night when she hid her fork and kept asking us where it was. "It's under your arm." I said. "THE DEVIL TOLD YOU THAT! THE DEVIL TOLD YOU THAT!" She shrieked. I was a little alarmed until I remembered that they had been reading Rumplestiltskin.

It feels like walking through a garden when you go down to the end of the grammar school these days, just look how gorgeous:

The other bit of the grammar school hallway is not so bucolic, but still very fascinating, all life-size charts of students' bodies and internal organs.

Practice has started for summer-league basketball and Tristan is obsessed. He won't just play with an extra ball on the sidelines like the other Hallford babies did when we would hang out at practice after school, no. He WILL race into the middle of everything the instant his feet touch the ground. Lord help us both when actual games start! I'm just going to foolishly hope that he gets a tiny bit more least before football season.

A great big chunk of our upper school kids were just in a Theatre Three production. Aaron and I were able to go see one of the performances at it was wonderful! I love the way our drama program draws so many kids into loving and participating in theatre outside of the school. 

We're all in that weird phase of trying to focus on end-of-the-year business, but getting distracted by plans and ideas for next year...and this summer! Flint is having a series of week-long summer camps that are going to be AMAZING. But I do feel like my head is going in dozen directions at once! I can't even prioritize at this point, just dig into the first task that occurs to me and hope for the best.

Charlotte Mason Reflections: Out-of-Door Life

Thursday, April 27, 2017

At Flint we've been taking advantage of the gorgeous Texas spring weather and taking our classes outside as much possible lately. Because, you know, any day now it's going to be approximately one thousand degrees out and we'll all be hiding inside with the AC until late September. 

And ALSO because it's a key aspect of Charlotte Mason philosophy to take the children outdoors as much as you can. In Home Education she wrote:

"For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a cabbage runs to seed; and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself. They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air are inclined to make a new rule of life, "Never be within doors when you can rightly be without."...

For the rest of us, and the most of us, who live in towns or the suburb of towns, that is included in the larger question- How much time daily in the open air should the children have? and how is it possible to secure this for them? In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone- body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus amongst happy influences which incline them to be good."

She wrote that in 1906, y'all, but so much of it sounds like it was written about children today. I imagine that we are at least a teensy bit more overwrought nowdays, yet we are so much more likely to keep our kids indoors practically 24-7. We have reasons, too, lots of really great ones! Apparently they had reasons a hundred years ago, because CM goes on later in the chapter to write that she is not speaking about what is convenient but what is ideal, and she knows that once a mother is convinced that something is beneficial to her child she will move mountains to get it for them. Which, yes. Kill shot! The woman knew how to make a point and she definitely knew her audience.

Also, she knew what she was talking about, since SO MUCH research is coming out about the importance of being outdoors for our mental and physical health. She didn't have scientific research to back her up then, just her dead-on observations and reflections. 

So. If you're looking for us these days the best bet will be to check the playground, or the garden, or the gazebo, or a park, or a strawberry farm, or...

FAQ: No School on Fridays?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Q: You really have no school on Fridays!?!? What do working parents do with their kids on Friday? What about the number of days the state requires?

A: Yes really! The four-day week is one of the first unusual things that stands out to people when they're looking at Flint Academy. It's a big selling point for cranky high school students and worn out teachers, let me tell you!

As far as childcare for working parents, it hasn't been too much of a problem. In the past we have offered a Friday option but every time we've tried it...only one or two people have signed up. For a lot of our younger students with working parents, Fridays have become grandparent days, which is awesome. When that isn't a possibility, lots of families have worked out childcare with one another, trading Friday work hours for a Saturday night date, for example. I really think that part of the reason childcare hasn't been much of an issue is because (and I will say this with my dying breath) this is a village! We are all here for each other, all the time. 

Also, the State of Texas doesn't mandate a set number of school days per year for private schools. The State of Texas doesn't mandate much at all for private schools (other than we have to teach Texas history, which is hardly a burden - who wouldn't want to learn about Texas history?) because the State of Texas is awesome like that.

Schools all over the U.S. are starting to explore the idea of a four day week, and they're finding out what we already knew - it's crazy effective. I found dozens of articles and studies on the trend with just a quick little Google search, here's a few if you're curious: New York Magazine Huffington Post Georgia State University the AASA US News 

The biggest benefit to the students is that they have time to just be, something that children aren't getting nearly enough of. They get to recharge, run around, play, maybe even get dirty. Hopefully they even get the chance to be really and deeply bored, since it is basically impossible to develop any imagination if you never experience boredom. If you let it be, "I'm bored" is the first step to something magical happening. On a totally different note, older students have more time available to get a part-time job and learn equally magical things like responsibility and work ethic and Finishing High School is Important Because I Don't Want to Do This Kind of Job Forever.
Plus, if you want to go someplace cool like the aquarium or Six Flags or a movie? There are WAY less crowds on a Friday morning.  

You also end up with teachers who are better rested and balanced, who get a chance to miss their students over the weekend, and who have had time to come up with amazing lesson plans. In their pajamas. Like rock stars. Never underestimate the power of a teacher who has been able to do laundry, take their kid to the dentist, clean the house, cut out five thousand folder activity pieces while binging on Netflix, and talk to their spouse. Come Monday morning? That teacher is fully prepared to change the WORLD one student at a time. I'm going to post specifically about individualization later, but I will say here that individualization at Flint means that most of the amazing lesson plans that we have time to write on Fridays are per student. As in, a different plan for each child. Each day. Each subject. You can see how that would be a little time consuming.

And just as the teachers are ready to bring it, so are the students. They aren't dragging and despondent, looking ahead to an endless week of drudgery. Well, we're pretty light on drudgery anyhow, but it's also psychological. Just knowing that they get Friday off helps the students work hard all week long, without collapsing into useless puddles of goo by lunchtime at the end of the week. It also really cuts down on absences and sick days, for students and teachers both, which gives us a much more seamless education overall. At Flint we value quality over quantity all day long forever. Read two good books thoroughly instead of skimming over fifteen. Learn everything you can about a few historical events (or scientific and mathematical concepts! Or art techniques! Or basketball fundamentals!) rather than zooming through a whirlwind overview.  Work hard and learn deeply for four days instead of superficially for five. That's our hill and we will die on it.

(Metaphorically. No one is going to die. Unless you try to make us take standardized tests, in which case I can't be held responsible for your safety.)

As someone who is both a parent and a teacher, I can tell you from both perspectives how wonderful the four-day school week is. My chicks are young still, but I can tell you they have never yet been burned out at the end of the week, or "sick" on Monday morning. The complaint I get from them is on Thursday afternoon when they realize it's going to be three whole days before they GET to go to school. I love that! And I get to pretend I'm a stay-at-home mom on Fridays, which does amazing things for my sanity. We run errands and have doctor appointments, and do chores, sure, but we also do fun little day trips or spend hours playing with craft supplies. That time with my babies is what I need more than anything else. We are crazy busy and life is totally chaotic so much of the time... I don't think I'm exaggerating (much. I'm always exaggerating a little) when I say that those Fridays off keep us from falling apart. 

There are SO MANY more reasons that Flint's four-day week is a brilliant idea. I think that one of my classes did an ANI chart on this, actually...I wonder if I can dig it up? Probably not because I love throwing things away. But hopefully this helps explain the general philosophy behind it, at least. Next question?

Our School? Odd?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Where on earth did you get an idea like that?

Sometimes I forget that our school requires a little explanation. I mean, Aaron and I have been raising our family in this crazy village since forever, so lots of things seem perfectly mundane that I realize actually seem kind of bizarre to visitors and new families. We seem to have collected a lot of newcomers lately (Hi! You clearly have wonderful taste and excellent decision-making skills, you gorgeous things!) and also a lot of new people checking the school out for next year (It's amazing I promise, get over here, you!) and communicating the heart of the school, what we're doing and why and how, was really one of the main purposes of this blog. Which I am hereby reviving because there is NO WAY to truly understand Flint Academy in the course of one little school tour. Especially since we rarely can manage to all behave for a tour. Weirdest Thing My Class Was Doing When a Tour Came By But I SWEAR It Was Part of My Lesson is practically a competitve sport among the teachers. I can only assume from anecdotal evidence that some form of this competition exists for the students and animals as well. Ahem. My POINT is that you can get a little sample (enough to send you running for the hills, or, if you are really cool, intrigue and fascinate you) but there is no way to understand it all in that little amount of time. 

So step right up, loves. That picture up there, for example, is one of the upper school students relaxing backstage before his grand finale in our recent grammar school production of Sleeping Beauty. And here is one of the five thousand selfies that I find on my phone when I leave it lying on my desk unsupervised.

Here we are connecting with works of art:

And here we decided to take literature class outdoors:

But also we love to dance:

This...this is...a cheese party. That the eighth graders decided very randomly to have. Actually, I still need this one explained to me?

Here's that baby that keeps trying to crash high school classes. You are fooling NO ONE, baby!

And this is the cutest cheer squad EVER:

I could keep doing this all day because I take an unreasonable amount of pictures, but what I really would like is a little guidance from YOU. I really don't know where to start, so I keep not writing anything. If you've been at Flint Academy for a while, what are some aspects of the school that you think need explaining? Things that confused you at first, or even things that still confuse you. And if you are new or prospective, what are you most curious about? Let me know and I'll explain it to the very best of my ability. Aaaaand GO!

Back to the Blog

Monday, January 9, 2017

The first week of the spring semester is officially in the books and I just realized I haven't updated this blog since early November. Oops! Holidays, y'all. Holidays. Ours were amazing. The Fall semester seemed to fly by and I really loved having the break time to rest and reflect. In between the fun and festivities I managed to get quite a few days of Total Hermit Mode, which is just exactly what my little introverted soul needed. 

There is (apparently) no blogging in Total Hermit Mode, though, so here is a quick little recap of all the posts I would have posted if I had bothered posting posts:

We finished reading Pride and Prejudice and had a Lit party!
(No, see, that's funny because it could be short for literature and it could be lit like how the kids say reallyreallyreally fun, and it was BOTH so...nevermind, forget it. It's hard being bilingual, I tell you)

Basketball season started up! Aaron has taken a second full time job, away from the school, in addition to being athletic director/head coach at Flint and now he is soooooo busy! All these years of being a coach's wife, I never realized how much time together we still managed to have by working at the same place during the day. This is a whole other level of missing each other!

The entire upper school volunteered at Mission Arlington for most of their Christmas party day (because who are we trying to fool, we never try to do regular lessons on the last day of the semester) and hauled a million boxes of food in the freezing cold.
THEN we had a gift exchange party with cookies and hot chocolate and pizza back at the school.

The girls had their winter dance recital - Phoebe finally got to be in a recital! She loved it! In spite of my slow transformation into a hermit crab and Aaron's insane schedule we still managed to do plenty of Christmas stuff...decorating gingerbread houses, driving through Interlochen to see the lights, making cookies, spending time with extended family, watching ALL THE CHRISTMAS MOVIES, etc. 

And it was Tristan's first Christmas!

Aaron and I celebrated our TENTH anniversary, which sounds crazy like maybe we should be grownups or something? I'm not so sure that's happening. If anything we are less mature and act more like newlyweds now than we did ten years ago. 

We had our New Years fun, like always, because you will never convince me that New Year's Eve isn't a little magical and I love it. Also, I resolved to say No a whole bunch in the coming year, which includes saying it to myself. So far I have almost exclusively said it to myself, but I'm starting to say it to real people too.
(Wait. I'm a real person? But that still seems accurate?)

As much as we loved Christmas break, we loved going back to school last week, too. The kids were beyond excited to see their friends again, and I had really missed my teenagers. They're crazy and ridiculous and oh how I love them! We spent the week writing essays and having book club meetings about the novels we all read over the break. I've managed to make it through my whole life avoiding Lord of the Flies, but I had to read it last month because they wanted it for book club. If nothing else proves my love for my students, THAT should! Today we're starting new books - Oliver Twist in my junior/senior class and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in my other classes. Except for my eighth graders, we're still working on the last few chapters of The Prince and the Pauper.

I started work on the costumes for the grammar school play (Sleeping Beauty!) and it snowed a tiny bit and traffic got crazy so we had to reschedule a basketball game. We had a big cozy fire and watched movies and snuggled instead, so it was hard to pretend I was disappointed. 

Between Aaron's work schedule (I'm not always mama enough to take all the kids by myself, although I'm braver about attempting it if I have one of the boys with me) and all of these holidays landing on Sundays, I don't think we had been to church for an entire month. Going back yesterday felt like coming home! 

And now we're all caught up, and if we're Facebook friends I'm sorry, you already knew nearly all of this stuff, because this was essentially my timeline for the past month or so, just with slightly less words and more pictures. Wouldn't it have been nice of me to say that at the BEGINNING of this post so you didn't have to slog through all of that? It would have. But I didn't. I'm just the worst.
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