Wednesday Hodgepodge

1.What's something you wish you knew how to do, but feel like it's too late to learn? 

Hmmm...I'm not sure I think it's ever too late to learn anything. The problem is making the time for it. I would love to play the guitar better, but I simply do not have (or make) the time to work on it. I *could* spend hours a day practicing, but I would have to sacrifice something else. But as for being "too late"? That is the wonderful thing about life--you never have to stop learning! Nor should you!

2. Your least favorite thing to shop for? Why?

Groceries. I just do not like grocery shopping. I usually try to do it as quickly as possible and then I end up buying things like "light" sour cream and "diet" soda because I'm not paying close enough attention. I wish I had a quarter for every time I brought home a "light" product. *sigh*

3. How has the celebration of Thanksgiving today changed from when you were growing up?
Our Thanksgivings have gotten smaller (it's now usually just our immediate family and a few others), but I don't mind.

4. What's something that when other people see it, reminds them of you? Explain.
I *think* when people see a redhead it reminds them of me sometimes? I'm not sure. Since I'm a redhead people usually tell me I look like other redheads WHO I DO NOT ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE. We just both have red hair. :) (Ex. Julia Roberts, Martina McBride)

5. If you could guest star in a TV show, what would it be and why?
This is easy! Parks and Recreation, hands down! If you haven't watched that show, you HAVE to. It's hilarious. There are a few inappropriate things, but overall it's just good stuff.

6. Have you ever farmed or spent any time on a farm? Are there farm stands in your little corner of the world and do you make it a point to shop there? If so, what item do you particularly like to buy from a roadside stand or farm shop?
When I was 15 or 16(?) I spent a week working on a dairy farm to earn money for Bible camp. I actually enjoyed it...but that was probably because I only had to do it for a week. :)

We live near a town that has a wonderful Farmer's Market twice a week. In fact, in our county there are lots of great farm stands all over the place. I definitely do not shop at them as much as I should or would like to.

7. What's something you've experienced recently that made you feel a sense of awe or wonder?
This may sound silly, but we've been reading about the universe and space in school, and that never fails to bring about a sense of wonder in me. Our universe is crazy huge and I can hardly wrap my mind around it all. Can you even imagine how BIG OUR GOD IS if the universe that He made is bigger than we can measure??! Mind. Blown.

8.  Insert your own random thought here. 
My random thought... we are listening to Irish Christmas music on my phone via Amazon Prime Music and it is so pretty. :)

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Fits and Starts

One takes a whole life,--
sees what course it makes
Mainly, and not by fits and starts--
In spite of stoppage,--which impart
Fresh value to the general speed.
~Browning, The Cloud of Witness

(Reminds me of the post I wrote here.)

I've experienced some "fits and starts" lately, and I can choose to get discouraged or I can learn and allow them to bring "fresh value to my speed."

It *is* true that these fits and starts bring fresh value to our speed, isn't it? Or at least, they should. When the fog of a "fit" lifts, things become so clear. After this clearing, I can sprint for a while because the Lord is always faithful to remind me what the *real* goals are in this life.

The real goal in homeschooling--
The real goal in relationships--
The real goal in my "doings"--

--to glorify God! To know Christ and make Him known--to my children, in my relationships, in my "doings."

I love the idea that I can judge myself based on the "main course my whole life takes." I don't have to judge myself on the fits and starts. Am I, in general, seeking to live for Christ? Yes and yes!! Do I fail sometimes? Yes, but I am still headed in the right direction if I keep my eyes on the goal. There is much comfort in that.

This also reminds me of Pilgrim's Progress. (We're listening to this FREE audio version. We were having a bit of trouble with just reading the book, but listening to it has helped so much!) We're at the part in the book when Pliable has just led Christian astray. Thankfully, Evangelist comes along and reminds Christian to "keep his eyes on the light!"


In honor of Thanksgiving, here are a few things I'm thankful for:

  • our cozy, but messy, home. proof that we live here!
  • our family's health
  • never having to go without anything--food, heat, clothing, etc.
  • Christmas movies 
  • good, delicious books (we are almost finished with Understood Betsy *sigh* and we just started Wind in the Willows. eek!)
  • friends, in real life and online
  • homeschooling
  • a husband who makes almost our ENTIRE Thanksgiving dinner!
  • new jobs! (my husband FINALLY got a new job after 6-7 years of looking! Thank you, Lord!
  • oven pancakes for breakfast (thanks for the recipe, Angela! we eat it once a week!) 
  • knitted gifts 
  • rambunctious, sweet little boys
  • big sisters, learning and growing
  • and many, many more gifts...
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! :) God bless you and yours!


Please, Please Pray for Josie

It breaks my heart to write this.

Dear friends of ours have just had one of their children diagnosed with cancer.

She is 7 years old and her name is Josie. Would you please pray for her and her family? She has 6 siblings who love her dearly. Pray for absolute healing in Jesus' name!


Obscure Movies I've Seen and Love...Mostly

A thread on the AO Forum got me thinking about all of the obscure movies I've seen. Most of them I saw as a child/teen. But I still love'em today! Well, most of them.

Green Card (1991) - This is probably the least obscure of the group, but I've never met anyone in real life who's seen it. Have you? I love this movie.

It's about a woman (Andie MacDowell) who helps a friend out by marrying another man (Gerard Depardieu) so he can get his Green Card. This is *not* your ordinary RomCom. It's sweet and sad and wonderful. (and very tame by today's standards--if you can call them standards) Also? The soundtrack includes Enya. Need I say more?

Krull (1983) - This B movie combines bad 80s hair, terrible humor, atrocious special effects and even worse acting. Are you sold yet? Even so, it's still one of my favorites. Mr. N and I have seen it dozens of times. There's something strangely endearing about it. If you want a good laugh, this is your movie! Just for fun, here's the Amazon description:
In a fantasy adventure, set in a world peopled by creatures of myth and magic, a prince embarks on a quest to find the magical Glaive and then rescues his young bride. Colwyn (Ken Marshall) is the leader of a mythical sword-and-sorcery group in pursuit of "the Beast" that has kidnaped his fiance, Lyssa (Lysette Anthony).
Sounds pretty great, right?

White Dwarf (1995) - Does anyone else remember this Made for TV Movie? I loved this one. I'll admit, I haven't seen it since I was young, but I'd love to get my hands on it again! But since the VHS is almost $90 on Amazon, I'll be waiting a while to purchase it.

Crossing Delancey (1988) - This is another sweet romance. Without all the crap you get nowadays. (They just don't leave anything to the imagination anymore!) It's a story about a pickle-man who falls in love with his friend's granddaughter. It has a few strange moments, but that's what makes it sweet. And strange.

Harold and Maude (1971) - This is the only one on the list that I saw first as an adult. My dear friend was a HUGE Cat Stevens fan at the time and she found this movie, who's whole soundtrack was Cat Stevens! It *is* odd--an old, old, OLD woman and a very young man fall in love. Can't say it's one of my favorites, but I did see it!

The Night They Saved Christmas (1984) - Jaclyn Smith in a Christmas Sweater having hot cocoa with Santa Claus? Elves with mutton chops bigger than Texas? Enough said.

What obscure movies have you seen? Have you seen any from my list?


Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. Are you comfortable with silence? If you're home alone, do you like silence or do you need regular background noise? Do you seek out times and places to be silent? What's your favorite place to find silence/be silent?

I'm comfortable with silence, but it depends on what I'm doing on whether or not I want silence. In my morning Quiet Time, I *love* silence and need it! But during the day, if I'm busy cleaning or something, I almost always have music playing. Everything is better with music. :) 

And I don't *seek* out silence. I'm an extrovert through-and-through and I love being with my people! (and new people!) So, if I have the choice of a quiet evening at home or a night out (or in) with my friends (or family), I'll always choose the latter! 

2. October 28th is National Chocolate Day. Can't let that go by without a mention now, can we? Will you celebrate? How? Let's say you can have one of the following right this very minute...a cup of hot chocolate, a strawberry dipped in chocolate, a bowl of plain chocolate ice cream, or a slice of chocolate pie...what's  your pleasure?

I'm not a big chocolate eater. I much prefer candy--Nerds, Lemonheads, Skittles, etc. My choice of chocolate would be chocolate pie. 

3. How do you feel about blue jeans? Favorite thing in the world to wear or nope, don't own a single pair? How often do you wear blue jeans in a typical week? Do you own a blue jean jacket?

I love blue jeans--wear them everyday. (even on Sundays sometimes!) I *do* own a blue jean jacket, but I hardly ever wear it--since I always wear blue jeans, I'm never sure how to wear a jean jacket!?  I feel like J-Lo if I wear both...

4. Are you superstitious? If so, in what way?

I'm not superstitious at all. In fact, at work, I'll say, "I hope we're busy tonight." and someone will say,"Don't say that! Now we won't be!" Drives me nuts. Although I will say, that the Lord has been teaching me that there *are* more to our words than I realize. I'm a work in progress. :)

5. If you had to come up with a costume using only things you have on hand right now, what could you come up with?

Hmm... I have no idea. I would love a reason to dress up though! (we don't really celebrate Halloween. :) )

6. What scares you a little? What do you do when you feel scared?

I get a little scared when my husband takes all the back-roads to work in the winter. Seriously! One time last winter, he went in to work at 4am and GOT STUCK on a back road and instead of calling for help, he DUG HIMSELF OUT of several feet of snow--which took hours! When he got home, he was literally shivering and coughing up a storm. I was not happy. He's a stubborn man, that one. :) 

When I feel scared, I pray.

7. Perhaps today will be the day I _____________________.

Hopefully I'm able to get all of my grocery shopping done with 3 kids in tow. :)  


8. Insert your own random thought here:

One thing I love about homeschooling is that my girls now beg to play together since they don't get to in the mornings. :) 

Head to From This Side of the Pond for more Wednesday Hodgepodges! :)



A few thoughts I've been pondering lately...

It is as we have seen disastrous when child or man learns to think in a groove, and shivers like an unaccustomed bather on the steps of a new notion. This danger is perhaps averted by giving children as their daily diet the wise thoughts of great minds, and of many great minds; so that thy may gradually and unconsciously get the courage of their opinions. If we fail in this duty, so soon as the young people get their "liberty" they will run after the first fad that presents itself; try it for a while and then take up another to be discarded in its turn, and remain uncertain an ill-guided for the rest of their days.
-Mason, Vol. 6 (Towards a Philosophy of Education) p.104 (emphasis mine)
The particular section below was discussed (at great length!) at our latest CM Book Study. It's some interesting food for thought and I'd be interested in what all of you think. Here's the modern paraphrase which helped me tremendously.
When we perceive that God uses men and women, parents above all others, as vehicles for the transmission of his gifts, and that it is in the keeping of his law He is honoured––rather than in the attitude of the courtier waiting for exceptional favours––then we shall take the trouble to comprehend the law written not only upon tables of stone and rolls of parchment, but upon the fleshly tablets of the living organisms of the children; and, understanding the law, we shall see with thanksgiving and enlargement of heart in what natural ways God does indeed show mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep his commandments.
 But his commandment is exceeding broad; becomes broader year by year with every revelation of science; and we had need gird up the loins of our mind to keep pace with this current revelation. We shall be at pains, too, to keep ourselves in that attitude of expectant attention wherein we shall be enabled to perceive the unity and continuity of this revelation with that of the written word of God. For perhaps it is only as we are able to receive the two, and harmonise the two in a willing and obedient heart, that we shall enter on the heritage of glad and holy living which is the will of God for us. ... But, here as elsewhere, the promises and threatenings of Bible will bear the searching light of inductive methods. We may ask, Why should this be so?
- Mason, Vol 2. (Parents and Children) p.20-21 (emphasis mine)

 I love learning about and reading Mason's works!


The Dry Seasons

"We need Thee more than tongue can speak
'Mid foes that well might cast us down;
But thousands once as young and weak,
Have fought the fight and won the crown;
We ask the help that bore them through,
We trust the Faithful and the True
-  by Bright, taken from The Cloud of Witness p.503

I'm in a spiritual dry season right now. I feel like God is farther away than usual and my prayers are just hitting the ceiling. I feel like my desire for closeness with Him isn't where it needs to be (even though my head tells me to keep pressing on.)

My tendency is to think, "What am I doing wrong, God?" But speaking for myself presently, I know the Lord is revealing to me that I need these times of 'dryness.'

While I haven't felt as close to God as I'd like lately, He has still been faithful to show me the roots of some sin in my life and is allowing me time to work through them. You've heard the saying, "If we feel distant from God, then we're the ones that moved"? And mostly, I agree. But I wonder if sometimes the distance is needed and not necessarily a by-product of our bad choice; otherwise how would we see our need for Him? How would we learn to work through our junk (or Mud, as Jacque refers to it. Check out that podcast, you guys!!!!!) and push further into Christ, if there was never any distance there?

I was just reminded of Beth Moore teaching...she had 2 ladies stand on the stage, each of them holding one end of a rope. One lady represented God, the other represented Beth. She took the rope and cut it, signifying a time in her life when she felt that her relationship with God was severed. When she tied the rope back together, she was even closer to God than before!

Isn't that beautiful?

Again, I'm not here to say whether or not those times are God's doing or ours. Probably depends on the situation. Either way, it's just a chance for us to look more closely at ourselves, trust in God's faithfulness, and come out better and closer to Jesus on the other side.
"We ask the help that bore them through,
We trust the Faithful and the True!"


More About Why I Love Charlotte Mason's Philosophy

In this post, I talked about how un-complicated (and not highfalutin) a Charlotte Mason education is. But I wanted to reiterate that it *is* more about looking a painting (Artist Study) or listening to classical music (Composer Study).

I don't want to detract from the fact that a Charlotte Mason education is about the why and the how.

Some philosophies and methods that drew me to Charlotte Mason are:
  • Narration - telling back what is read in your own words (vs. testing and worksheets)
  • Copywork - to teach spelling and handwriting
  • Short lessons - in years 1-3 lessons range from only 10 to 30 minutes each!
  • LOTS of time outside - Mason recommend about 6+ hours outside everyday
  • using living books instead of textbooks
  • Giving your child a "feast" for the mind (LOTS of choices and subjects) and letting them take what they will
  • Starting with the idea that ALL good things come from God and that all of us are first and foremost His children. 
Charlotte Mason said, "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life." (Principle #5) So while it isn't an elitist education it is about more than looking at nice paintings and reading living books.

To me, it's about offering my children a generous education that applies to their whole selves (mind, body and soul). They take in a lot of great ideas and develop a love for learning, so when they've graduated high school (or college!), they don't put their books away and say, "Well! Now that I'm educated, I can start living!" 

There are much more eloquent people out there that can tell you more about Mason's philosophies; some of my favorites are:

If you feel like a CM education is too highfalutin for you, rest assured, it is not! It is about the Good, True and Beautiful, and those things are available to everyone! :) 


Our Circle Time Plans Fall 2015

WARNING: A{nother} very long post! I'm long-winded in real life, too, in case you're wondering.

Here's what our Circle Time (Morning Time) looks like right now. We are in Years 0 and 2 in Ambleside Online. Keep in mind, this is just how *we* do it. Yours probably looks a little different. And it's not to show off how much we do, because honestly, if other bloggers didn't share their ideas, we wouldn't have much of a Circle Time! I'm just sharing what we do to inspire and for my own records.

I'm using the binder system from Mystie Winckler at Simply Convivial. It's pretty much exactly like hers and is based on the Scripture Memory System at Simply Charlotte Mason. (THIS is the video of Mystie walking us through the binder. LOVE.)

I like doing it this way because I don't have to think about it. We just flip to that day's tab (Daily, Even or Odd and Day of the Week) and read through each thing (passage, poem, song, etc.).  It *is* a bit of a process to get the binders ready, but once they're set up, it's really not that much work to maintain them. Really!

A few notes about our Circle Time:
  • We do CT Monday through Friday. It's the one thing I try to do every day. Emphasis on "try."
  • To memorize all we do is read the passage out loud every day. That. is. all. Sometimes I will leave a word out then have the child fill in the blank. Sometimes we'll take turns reading a verse or line. I try to keep it somewhat interesting. :)
  • We are memorizing beautiful things--hymns, Bible passages, poems, etc. not facts, dates and *just* information. I think it's important to hide {beautiful} things in our hearts.
  • If one of us has something memorized, we'll ask the other person to read along while the other person recites it. Oldest loves it when I recite something from memory and she can "check" it! :)
  • We sing a song at the beginning, middle and end of CT. I did that on purpose; again, to keep things interesting. 
  • It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the kids memorize things! It takes me a little longer, however. cough.
  • Before Circle Time we've already read our Bible passage for the day and prayed at breakfast.

Here is our Memory Work:

  • Doxology - First, we sing this every morning and probably always will. I got the idea from Sarah Mackenzie after watching this Scope. I'd have to agree and say that it *does* fix our focus. :)
  • Calendar - the girls trace the date on our monthly calendar.

  • 24 Family Ways by the Clarksons - It's set up to do one Way per week and talk about it all week, but we do one Way every day or so. We'll just keep circling through them. Probably until Jesus comes back.
  • Hymn of the month - Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - We do one hymn a month and move on whether or not it's memorized. I just want my kids to be familiar with them. We review them all eventually anyway.
  • Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 
  • Passage - Psalm 23 - I've taken the advice of Cindy Rollins and instead of just memorizing Bible *verses* we memorize *passages*. The idea is that by memorizing a passage, you get more of the context. We might still do a verse here and there though.
  • Middlest's Poem (5yo) - "The Tickle Rhyme" taken from New Treasury of Children's Poetry by Joanna Cole
"What's that tickling my back?" said the wall.
"Me," said a small
Caterpillar. "I'm learning
To crawl."
  • Oldest's Poem (7yo)- "Butterfly, Butterfly" taken from The Year Around (we read everyone's poem together, but this way, we do age-appropriate poems for each child.)

  • 'Poet of our Term' poem - "The Lamb" by William Blake (see the beautiful engraving below by William Blake)

  • "I am, I can, I ought, I will" - we are working on the first part right now, "I am a child of God..." (This is a Charlotte Mason motto.)
  • Folksong of the month - Home on the Range
 I try to add a simple picture to each passage. :)

Even / Odd:
Once something is memorized, it moves to the Even, Odd or Day of the Week tab, then I add a new passage to our Daily Tab; about every 4-6 weeks. Presently, we don't have much in these tabs because we're just starting out.

  • Even: Family Way #1 - "We love and obey our Lord, Jesus Christ, with wholehearted devotion."
  • Odd: empty. I'll probably move Psalm 23 there soon.
  • Mon: The Lord's Prayer - Matthew 6:19-13 & Catechism Questions for Commandments 1 & 2
  • Tue: Ooey Gooey (Middles't last poem) & Questions for Commandments 3 & 4
  • Wed: Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne (Oldest's last poem) & Questions for Commandments 5 & 6
  • Thu: Questions for Commandments 7 & 8
  • Fri: Questions for Commandments 9 & 10

To clarify, if it's Tuesday, the 24th, we do the "Even" and "Tuesday" tabs.

That means we only do four more things that what's in our Daily tab each day, including the hymn and folksong at the end...

Hymns & Folksongs:
Lastly, we have "Hymn" and "Folksong" tabs where I put all of the hymns and folksongs we've ever learned. We review one of each per day. (again, Mystie's idea)

Circle Time Reading:
Then, if there's time (if not, we do it later in the day), we do our Circle Time reading.

We read them in a loop which means if we miss a day we just move on to the next book in line. We don't play "catch-up."

I'm hoping to add more readings to CT, but right now, with my kids being so young, I aim to keep it as short as possible without missing out on the good stuff!


So that's our Circle Time these days. I really, really love the binder system. I've been working on a plan like this one (video from Mystie. Again. That girl is so organized!) but I've dropped the ball on it. Maybe I'll have it done by the time school starts in the fall of 2016?

I know this might look complicated, but it's really not! I promise! It takes all of the guess work out of what to do when. And I love that it allows us to review all of the past things we've learned without having to think about it. (have I mentioned that I like not having to overthink it?)

It usually takes 45 minutes or so. And to be honest, the girls love doing it. There's something about having their own binders and flipping to the next "thing" that keeps them engaged. The only problem we really have is keeping Littlest busy and included. :)

I also love this Circle Time plan from Stacy at With Great Joy.

Another great resource is this talk from Brandy at Afterthoughts CT, Memorization and the Soul. If you're not sure why memorization is such a good thing, I suggest listening to that! :)

Thanks for letting me share my plans with you! But they are just that--plans. Things don't go as planned sometimes, but that's why I love the binders. If we miss something, it's easy to get back on track. 

Do you use binders in your Circle Time?


My Sabbath Week Plans and Our Life in Pictures

This is our 7th week of school; it's our "Sabbath Week." It's so nice to have a little break to get some things done. Of course, I usually don't get *that* much done, but we gotta shoot for the stars, right?

On my To Do list for this week:

- change and wash all bedding
- get together 2-3 baby shower games for shower on Sunday
- purge kids' toys
- organize homeschool stuff (since I really didn't get to it before school started.)
- organize and clean desk (home office area)
- organize "junk" drawer

I'm positive I won't get all of this done. In fact, I'll be happy if I can get two of them done. :)

Note: I started this post this morning and it is now almost 8pm. I have half of the bedding done. That's all. *cough*

Here is the latest from our family in pictures:

We live near a wonderful state park that we don't visit nearly enough. I took the kids out there last week and we found some treasures on the beach! I'm hoping to share our Nature Journal entries soon!

It's tough to get a picture with them all smiling at the same time. Aren't they cute, though?

Our treasures...

The seeds on the very left of the picture are oak seed pods! I've NEVER seen them before. The picture doesn't do them justice because they are a very bright neon green with red spots! Cool, eh?!

Our Tussock caterpillar has cocooned! (That's a verb, right?)

Can't wait to see what he'll look like!

And remember our White Lined Sphinx Caterpillar

...well, here she is! Also known as a Hummingbird Moth!! This was definitely the highlight of our  week! ;o)

In the following picture, she's flapping her wings SO FAST - like a hummingbird! We let her go because I felt bad keeping her. But what a wonderful find!

Here's Middlest holding the empty chrysalis. :)

Littlest "helping" with Circle Time... I love homeschooling. :) 

 Movie night. :)

 Have a great rest of the week! I'm hoping to get a few things done at home, so it might be quiet around here for a bit. See you on the other side!


Why We Love Charlotte Mason

I wanted to write a follow up to my Highfalutin Charlotte Masoners post because while I don't think it's complicated (pick a composer and listen to it), it isn't quite that simple. At least the philosophy behind it isn't.

Note: Take all of this with a grain of salt--I've only been homeschooling for TWO YEARS. ;o)

And it's the philosophy, the why behind it, that really speaks to me. In my own life, reading Charlotte Mason's works have affected more than just homeschooling. It's affected the way I parent and how *I* look at the world. Which is kind of amazing, if you think about it.

On top of that, Charlotte Mason knew children. She knew how they learned and how to reach them. She believed in giving them respect, beautiful and true ideas to "feast" on, and a love for learning. Most importantly, she believed in teaching them all of these things because of who they were (are) in Christ.

At first I was apprehensive, because as you may know, she actually didn't have any children of her own. But if you read her books you will soon see that she did know a thing or two about children. And she loved them.

So yes, a Charlotte Mason education doesn't have be complicated, but it is so much more than nature study and narration. :)

There are so many people who talk about her and her philosophies much better than I can. Go to my "Blog Roll" tab and check under the "Homeschooling" section for some of them!

For more on what Mason believed, this page at Ambleside Online is very helpful! And again, here are books to read for FREE at Ambleside Online.

PS This post by Nancy Kelly is fantastic - Love Affairs in Education or The Thing is the Thing

Read a sort of Part 3 here.


Highfalutin Charlotte Masoners

I love, love, love homeschooling using the Charlotte Mason method. And I feel like I've just scratched the surface into what that means!

But a CM homeschool can seem...a little stuffy or highfalutin (for my southern friends; that's a southern word, no?)
Littlest "helping" in Circle Time. *swoon*

I'm sometimes careful who I talk to and what I say about our homeschool because I never want to come across Holier Than Thou. But it's not easy to do that when you tell someone you're doing Composer Study with your 6 year old. (In my opinion, it shouldn't seem stuffy, but in this culture and time, it just does sometimes. And if I'm honest, if I'm surrounded by CM'ers, online or in real life, I sometimes feel like the odd man out. I didn't even go to college for crying out loud!)

Even so, a Charlotte Mason education IS attainable for EVERYONE. (Read: if I can do it, you can do it.)

Some things we do in our school week:
- Shakespeare
- Poetry
- Nature Study
- Composer Study
- Artist Study
- Literature readings

Sounds pretty lofty doesn't it? Let me break it down for you. *does running man dance*

-:- For Shakespeare, we read a couple of paragraphs from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare (or the Bruce Coville's Shakespeare books -- highly recommend those for 8 and under!). Then I might ask what my kids think of it. The end.

-:- For Composer Study, we listen to classical music by a composer once or twice a week. The end. 

-:- For Artist Study we look at a painting by a particular artist once or twice a week. We may talk about what we like and try to describe the painting to each other. The end. 

-:- Nature Study? We draw something we see in Nature. A pine-cone. Or a tree. Or a snowflake. Or a caterpillarThe end.

Of course, it's a leetle more complicated than that, but not much! We are just giving our children beautiful things to think about (Mason refers to it as a "feast") and letting them take from them what they will. The mom (or teacher) stays out of the way as much as possible.

Obviously it really helps to know the "Why" behind having your 6 year old listen to classical music in the car on the way to gymnastics. So I highly recommend reading Mason's books if you're interested. (read them HERE for free!)

But you can just start with one thing. It doesn't have to be complicated. Find an artist you like, print a picture and put it where your kids can see it. You don't even have to talk about it, except to say, "Monet painted that. Cool, eh?" Easy peasy.

We do Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic as well. But by offering more than just those things, we hope to grow an awareness of a bigger world than the one we see out our front porch, while appreciating the world we see out our front porch. More importantly, learning, no matter how it's done, is just giving us a glimpse of our Creator. 

For the record, we do not sit around with white gloves and hats on, sipping tea and eating crumpets whilst I wax eloquent about The Bard of Avon, dahling.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ahem. 

(have you seen this book, though?)

Quite honestly, if you were a fly on the wall in my house, it would probably look pretty similar to yours. It might be louder though.

We don't just listen to classical music (we love Josh Garrels), we don't sit around and stare at beautiful paintings all day (we watch movies like Big Hero 6), we don't only read great literature. (Tacky, anyone?)

But we do include those things because they are good and beautiful things. And they are a reflection of who God is. :)

This post from My Peace in the Puzzle spurred me to write this post. She's much more eloquent, so go read hers! From her post:

Yes, we do composer study, but again it’s not a bunch of memorizing of dates or places or events.  No tests.  No quizzes.  No worksheets.  We spend time just listening to and appreciating the music.  This year we are studying medieval history so our composer for this term is Hildegard of Bingen.  Now, calm down.  Don’t feel dumb if you’ve never heard of her.  I hadn’t either.

Of course, every mother chooses what is best for her family. I'm just telling you what we think is best for ours and hopefully, if any of you have thought me Too Big for My Britches for doing a CM homeschool, your thoughts have changed! :)

Read Why We Love Charlotte Mason (or Part 2) HERE.
And here is a sort of Part 3.


Paring Down

As I mentioned in my last post, I and some friends went to a small Charlotte Mason gathering in Rochester, MN Saturday. Nancy Kelly was the speaker and it was so encouraging! It was especially nice because it was quite small--I believe there were less than 20 ladies present. There was an extended Q & A time afterwards and we got to ask Nancy as many questions as we could! eeek! It. was. awesome.


After hearing Nancy speak about narrating, living books, schedules and the like, I've come to a few conclusions.

First, I need to pare down what we're doing in our school. (I've already made the adjustments to my Weekly Schedule which I'll try and post later.)

With my rambunctious, adorable 2 year old and a not-so-docile 5 year old, I just can't spend hours and hours homeschooling. And I don't have to. (at least not yet. :) I actually wasn't spending hours homeschooling. But it seemed like it because our school day is so broken up by my Lovable Interruptions. So for this stage in life, I have to pare down.

Second, my 7 year old knows more history than I did when I graduated high school. I'm not even exaggerating. (thanks to the wonderful book lists and curriculum at AO!) To worry that we're getting enough history in is just silly. (Read: I'm paring down.)

Thirdly, even if we only memorize *one* poem per school year, that will be TWELVE poems that my children have memorized. Now, of course, we'll memorize more than that, but *I* don't even have twelve poems memorized! So I can just go ahead and relax a little bit about how much we're doing. (Read: I'm paring down.)

And the fourth (but not last!) thing is that reading even 2 or 3 great living books at a time and narrating them is still a great education! We don't have to read (or narrate!) every single book that a curriculum says to or put pressure on ourselves to do It All. (Read: wait for it.... I'm paring down.)

Oldest is only in second grade. I need to keep reminding myself that we don't have to do All The Things. And going through a few great books and keeping the peace in our home is better than rushing through a ton of books which makes a Grumpy Mama. And Grumpy Mama is *not* conducive to the home atmosphere that I'd like in our home. Weird, eh?

Instead of starting with a list of 6-8 books to get through each day and then only reading 2 or 3 of them and feeling like we didn't accomplish all we "should" have, I'm going to have a goal of reading 2 or 3 books (TOTAL) a day and if we do them all--great! If there's time for more--great! If not, I'll still feel like we're moving forward. (Have you seen this great post by Nancy about being careful about the number and kind of books you choose?)

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life. (principle #5) It's not checking off the boxes, thankyouverymuch.

Which reminds me, that thing I said in my last post about switching from Teacher Mom to Mama Mom? Well, I don't think there's a difference. I think that our "school" day should flow seamlessly into the rest of our day and life. I'm not saying it *does* yet, but that's the goal.

Most of these things I realized and was reminded of after hearing Nancy speak. If you EVER get the chance to hear her talk about Charlotte Mason DO NOT PASS IT UP. :) (Even if you don't do a CM school--these things are applicable to all of us.) :)

I keep telling myself this is our homeschool journey and we are just starting. It's easy for me to want everything perfect RIGHT NOW. And it never will be! Our lives will always be changing and my family's needs will always be changing. I need to rely on the Holy Spirit to be the One who guides my decisions and attitudes and my *children's* decisions and attitudes!

Which reminds me, a while ago I read this quote on Nancy Kelly's blog and it really, really touched my heart. (it's at the very end of the post)

It really is about getting out of the way and allowing the Holy Spirit do the work in the hearts and minds of your children. ~Nancy Kelly

I then did what most people do - I immediately made it into a printable and hung it on my wall. Here it is if you'd like to print it off for *your* wall. (Please do not share without my permission. Thank you! And I have permission from Nancy to share it with you!)


Random Thoughts with Catie

Some thoughts I've been pondering lately...

-:- It occurred to me recently that, as a homeschooling mom, I have several roles in my children's lives. (thank you, Captain Obvious, right?) But when we're "in school" I'm their teacher and although I'm learning beside them, I'm also in authority over them in a way that I'm not as "just a mom." I feel like I either need to *change* that thinking, and meld my Teacher Self and Mother Self together OR figure out how to switch back and forth. I don't think it's necessarily fair that my kids have a Teacher Mom all. the. time. or Mother Mom during school. Does any of that make any sense to anyone else? :)

-:- My husband is trying to FIX HIS EYES. He's amazing. No, really. Once he sets his mind to do something, he DOES IT. Now, (even he'll admit) that list is short, mind you. *wink* But he WILL do it.

He's had glasses since middle school and today he told me that for the first time that he could remember, he could read a billboard without his glasses! Amazing! Here are a few books if you're interested: Improve Your Eyesight Naturally and Take Off Your Glasses and See.

-:- I've been chewing on liturgy lately. Like, for the past year or so. ;) It started when I was reading something about Jewish traditions (can't remember what it was) and I thought to myself, "I could use some more tradition and remembering in my life." I feel so rushed--in my relationship with the Lord and otherwise. I wonder if having a repetitive practice (what's the word for a personal liturgy??) would help me to focus more on Jesus and not myself.

I've been reading up on some liturgical faiths, and while I don't subscribe to all of their beliefs (we're evangelical), I *do* think there is *something* to having some "religious activities", if you will, in my life. I'm so distracted and busy; liturgy might allow me the opportunity to STOP and THINK about WHO I'm talking to and WHY, you know?

I've been thinking of how I can incorporate some things into our homeschool day without it becoming a burden or a means to "make us more holy." I'm not sure yet though. It might mean that we do communion at home or just say a prayer or two. We are already memorizing The Lord's Prayer, so that's a good start. :)

Of course, I would never, ever want it to replace my personal, real relationship with Jesus. The veil has been lifted! We can approach the throne of grace with confidence! I know the Lord will be faithful to show me what I need to do (maybe nothing!) if I truly am seeking Him.

It might just be something that *I* need right now and not necessarily for my children. I'm going to give it some more prayer and thought.

-:- I read this this morning in my Quiet Time from My Utmost:

[As Christians] Satan does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things --he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us through regeneration, namely, the possibility of being of value to God. 

Whoa. This really hit me this morning. How many of us struggle with our place with the Lord? If I really think about it, it isn't so much the sin that I feel guilty about although, that's part of it; it's the feeling that the Lord is continually mad at me, or worse, disappointed, that keeps me feeling distant from Him. Like it's a surprise to Him that I screw up. I'm pretty sure it's not. ;) And I know in my heart that He loves me no matter what.

It really helps me to think about how I feel about my children, when I imagine how the Lord feels about me. I love my children because they are my children. And I'm proud of them, simply because they are my children.

They don't have to do anything to make me love them or be proud of them. It's hard for me to imagine anyone feeling that way about ME, because *I* know who I am, but God loved us (me) first. (1 John 4:19)

And I'm so grateful.

What about you? What's been rolling around in your brain lately? 

PS I'm super excited!!! I and a few friends are going to a Charlotte Mason conference in Rochester, MN today!! WHOOPEE! We'll be gone all day and I'm SO looking forward to chatting with friends and learning more about the Charlotte Mason method! :) :) :) I'll try and write about it here. Although, usually when I say that I'll write about something on my blog it never happens. :/ But I will try!


Our 2015-2016 School Year Schedule

I have a hard time not being long-winded when it comes to writing about schedules (or anything, for that matter). So, please feel free to gloss over some of the minutia.

There will be a test at the end however.

I don't know how you are, but I am constantly tweaking things (to a fault), trying to make our school day more streamlined.

*hysterical laughter*

Well, it's good to have a plan anyway. ;o)

I actually tried this schedule last week...

...because I thought it looked simpler. And as much as I wanted it to work it just didn't. I really need to have everything in front of me or I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants.

So I went back to my original format. I'll show you our current schedule then I'll blather on explain it. My schedule is based on Ambleside Online's curriculum - Year 0 and Year 2.

(click on picture to enlarge)

To some of you, this might look like too much or a bit overwhelming, but I need every. little. thing. on my schedule so I don't forget anything. I have so many distractions these days! Cute distractions, to be sure, but distractions, nonetheless!  

You'll notice there are more spaces for readings than I need. That's because I'm learning to be more flexible. *wink* One day we might finish 1 or 2 readings, the next day we might be able to do 3. Or none!

Everything on my schedule is a guide. We don't actually do math for 20min, 5 times a week. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less. Usually less. Ahem. The times are there so I don't get way off track. And so I remember to actually do the thing.

The subjects in purple are the ones that Middlest (my 5 yo) does with us, if she wants to. She usually does. :) I'm not forcing anything with her at this point. She really wanted to do math (MEP Reception) and learn to read (I'm trying Teaching Reading with Bob Books with her), so that's what we're doing.

I'm also working on letter formation with Middlest because I learned the hard way, if you let your child write on their own for a few years, you'll have to re-teach how to write correctly. But again, I'm not forcing it. She wants to "do school", so I roll with it.

Here's what my schedule looks like at the start of the week:

I fill most of it in on Monday, but so much gets changed throughout the week. We just don't get to everything I want to. But it's ok. :)

What I like about doing it this way, is I can see everything at a glance. I even have a Weekly Schedule at the bottom so I know what days we have our Excelsior Guild (CM group) and other weekly commitments. I like having it all right there in front of me.

In the picture below you can see in my binder I have AO's Year 2 schedule next to my Weekly Schedule so I can just fill it in each week.

 Here's a close up of our Year 2 AO schedule. It's messy, eh? Such is life! :)

A few other notes:

-We've been doing most of our school during Littlest's naptime. It's just too hard to do it when he's awake. I try to get our Circle Time done (prayer, Bible reading, memory work and ONE reading) right after breakfast, but sometimes that gets cut short.

The problem with doing school after lunch is that Oldest isn't as "fresh" for school then, so it seems like it's more of a struggle for her. We're working on it, but there's not a lot I can do right now.

- I've tried to cut out a few things and not worry about squeezing all the books in. I've also added a few books (I'm working on a resource list post) so it probably ends up being the same workload as Ambleside Online suggests! But like I said, we do not get to all of it and I'm ok with it.

If you like my schedule, I'm more than happy to share a blank one with you! Just email me and let me know.

Here a few scheduling posts that have been helpful to me:

Afterthoughts - Creating Weekly Schedules for the Whole Year
Joyous Lessons - Our Weekly Checklist
Sabbath Mood Homeschool - I use her PUS planning sheet among other things and it's so helpful.
Simply Convivial (link is to Homeschool Planning page) - I {heart} Mystie's organizational advice. I've been trying to keep up with her on YouTube and Periscope as well as her blog, because she offers lots of practical advice! Here's her Morning Time planning page. LOVE.

I've also copied Mystie's Memory Work Binder (link to video) this year and it's working out well so far! I'm learning so much too!

Here are my 3 Cute Distractions searching for treasures on the railroad tracks. 

I'd love to hear about your school plans. How have you changed your planning over the years? I've found that having a wee one (2yo) makes for an interesting school day! I'm interested in any advice or encouragement.


I love you because...

This was a project we did in MOPS years ago. (It took me a year or two to actually use it.) It's just a picture frame with scrapbook paper behind it. I use a dry erase marker to write on it, "I love you because..." 

Honestly, it took me so long to use it because I though Mr. N wouldn't appreciate it or would think it was weird or cheesy or whatever. *I* kind of thought it was cheesy, to be honest.

I was wrong. 

One day, I pulled it out and wrote a reason "why I loved him." 

He didn't mention it. (He's not the most vocal person in the world.)

Within the next few weeks I would periodically write reasons I loved him on the glass. Then I stopped because I got busy and forgot. I also wasn't sure he noticed.

And guess what? Mr. N said something like, "Why did you stop writing on the picture frame?" 

Turns out, he was paying attention. He actually said he loved it.

I'll write things like, "I love you because... you helped clean up the kitchen." or "...you go to work everyday." or "...you're a great daddy." Or deeper things like, "...you're hot." 

This frame does 2 things for our marriage: it encourages my husband and it also requires me to be on the lookout for things I love about him. It causes me to focus on the good. Marriage is not easy; I don't have to tell you that. This season of life with Littles can shove our partners to the back burner. The squeaky wheel and all that.

This is a simple way to keep things light and fun and to remember why I love him. What little things do you do to keep things interesting? :) I'd love to hear!


Nature Study and a Peek Into Our Journals

One of my favorite things about using the Charlotte Mason philosophy for educating our children is it's instilling a love of learning in *me*. (my children, too, of course!) This is especially true of history and Nature Study. (We'll leave history for another time.)

I haven't always been interested in nature. I remember when I was young, my brother (5 years my junior) always wanted to watch nature shows on PBS. It drove me crazy. I thought it was the most boring thing to sit and watch a show about Kodiak Bears (that was one of his favorites that we had on VHS. We watched it. A lot. Not that I'm bitter.)

When our first child was born, I became a little more interested in the world around me. As a new mom, you see everything through your child's eyes and even tiny things become exciting! Look, a BIRD! Look Mama, a ROCK! 

Now that we're incorporating Nature Study into our daily life, I feel like creation is opening up to me like never before. My kids are excited about nature, too, because it's all they've known. And I think that's pretty great. :)

One thing I've noticed that comes from keeping a Nature Journal is it causes us to pay closer attention to the world around us. We're always on the lookout for things we can "put in our Nature Journals." Now, if we only drew in it as often as we intended!


A few weeks ago, Daddy was playing on the floor with the kids after work and lo and behold! he found this little guy in our living room! 

A Banded Tussock Caterpillar. Isn't he great? We put him in our little critter home and have been feeding 'Pirate' (the girls named him) elm, oak and maple leaves. He seems to be no respecter of leaves.

We're watching him closely for any signs of cocoon-making!

Did you know that some varieties of Tussock caterpillars actually can cause a rash if you touch them?? The one that we have doesn't--Daddy tested it out. ;)

Here he is munching on a leaf. See his two beady eyes?! (Amy, isn't that called a catch-light? ha!)

Not a week later, we found this little BIG guy girl (the girls named her 'Princess') on one of our daily walks. As previously mentioned, we all tend to be on the lookout for interesting things and on this day, I just happened to be looking down at the grass and spotted her. My finger is for scale but I didn't want to get too close, so it's not that accurate! ;o)

She is HUGE at about 3 inches long! I don't know what caterpillars are like where you live, but I have never seen one this big before. Ever. And see the big spike-thingy sticking out on her bum? WEIRD. 

It's a White-Lined Sphinx. Also known as a Hummingbird Moth. HOW COOL IS THAT?! 

We put her in a large jar and only a couple days later did she settle to the bottom to start her cocoon. Apparently, this kind of caterpillar burrows in the ground to make her cocoon.

I tried to get a good picture of the cocoon but this is the best I could do. It's at the very bottom of the jar in the middle of the picture.

Check out what she'll look like after she hatches! Isn't it beautiful? I. cannot. wait. 

And here are our journal entries: 

Oldest's of the Tussock (it reads "Banded Tussock Caterpillar"). So adorable.

Middlest's of the White-lined Sphinx caterpillar: (I die! So stinkin' sweet!)

And mine of 3 of the stages (I didn't do the larval stage). It was very relaxing to sit and draw this. :) I have to remember though, that the point of a Nature Journal is not necessarily just for beauty (although that can be part of it), it's primarily a science book. I should get better at labeling... 

I'm trying to journal a bit more in my Nature Journal. Instead of just drawing pictures of what we see, I'd like to tell a little story each time. How nice would it be for my grandchildren to find Grandma's Nature Journal someday? I want there to be a piece of "me" in it, too. Of course, I want the same for my children, so I'll have to model it.

You can see my Tussock drawing at the top of the next picture. :)

It took me a while to find the right shades of peach and brown for the wings. As a side note, I really need to invest in some good colored pencils. This box of random pencils from our local thrift store isn't cuttin' it.


Here are a few of my favorite Nature Journal posts:

Nelleke at Education is a Life - I love the idea of not over-complicating things.
Amy at ...these are a few of my favorite things... - They found a Tussock, too! :)
Angela at Wilhites Living Life - I can never believe how many cool critters they see on their walks!
Lisa at Olive Plants All Around My Table - Her daughter's drawings are so pretty.

OK! I'll let you hop on over to Joyous Lessons to see more beautiful Nature Journals and other Keepings.