Monday, December 17, 2007

Some Holiday Reading....

My great husband just nabbed this for me at one of the university libraries...

It has quite the hefty price tag, and I have been really wanting to read it, so I was glad to find we could borrow it.

For my fictional reading I am (slowly) reading this.....
I am quite enjoying it, except that I always fall asleep after a just a few pages. Which is great for my sleep, but means I am moving pretty slowly through it.

The older kids and I have begun to read The Striped Ships. I am glad that I began it with just the older ones. The first chapter was fairly graphic in one scene and I almost read right through it before I realised what it was describing.

The younger set if really enjoying the Father Christmas letters and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After our Harry Potter binge (still continuing for some family members) it has been so refreshing to pull out C.S. Lewis again. Today we read of Ramandu and his daughter: what beauty Lewis captures, what awe and majesty. Matt, my husband, had just stepped in when we were reading it and we were both captivated again....

I hope that this Advent and Christmas you find a corner of peace to enjoy a good read!

Any books on your bedside table begging to be opened?? (I have The Imitation of Christ that is calling me. On our other bedside is my husbands stack.... all of which would have my head reeling in minutes. His idea of bedtime reading is my idea of mental aerobics!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Great Read...

We have read this one a few times and always enjoyed it....

A Breath of Fresh Air....

Our Advent plans went a little astray over the last 10 days, but for a wonderful reason- my mom and dad were here for a great pre Christmas celebration.

Prior to their coming we had had a lot of -35 and under days. Not the days to tell the kids to go play outside. Well, by the time they had been here a couple days the weather broke. Hey -15 is not cold after the cold weather we had been having- it felt balmy. So we got OUTSIDE. EVERY. DAY. For four or five straight days.

Now, it is not like I do not appreciate creation. My husband has always joked that I should live outside (this is usually said at my grumpier times) since I am always so much happier. But with the onset of the cold winter, and lots of knitting projects and kids who were happily engaged in their pursuits I did not make it a priority. But it has been 'a breath of fresh air' (excuse the pun).

We now have a huge pile of snow awaiting excavating into a full fledged snow hut, large enough (hopefully) to spend a night in!

So...while some of our beautiful Advent plans may not have reached execution, it has been a lovely time, and we all feel in a better more gracious space!

Have a blessed Advent.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Advent Plans....the simple version

If I have learned one thing living here with my children it is that if I don't just plan simply than we are all overwhelmed. Sure I might have a few more suggestive ideas that I will strew but I have found that my kids have so many creative streaks of their own that it is best if I just plan lightly!

Through looking at our Advents past, and also talking with some dear friends, I have decided on a few things that I would like to work into these next few weeks. I was inspired by Willa to list my ideas here....

Advent Wreath
-we always have our advent wreath that I make anew each year. This year I thought that on Sunday evenings we could have an extra special time with baking and songs, and sometimes friends, around our wreath.

Jesse Tree
-We have never done this before so this will be our first year. The children LOVED making the different symbols to hang on the tree. We will do this with Papa at dinner.

Carols and the Messiah
-I want to work this into our morning read aloud time.

Spiritual Reading
-The Glorious Impossible
-St. Nicholas by Demi

Crafts and Baking
-One craft a week (Nativity pictures ala Hannah, popcorn and bead chains, paper chains, illuminated scripture)
-Gift making
-Bake together once a week (to have goodies for Sunday)

In our Morning Read Aloud Time
-I would like to read some Christmas poetry, continue memorising our Christina Rosetti poem, sing carols and have some great reading aloud sessions. All this doesn't have to happen every day, and it's usually best if it doesn't!

I would like our prayer time and read aloud time to be the focus of our mornings, after that we will do what fits until lunch (probably not much for us slow risers!). After lunch I would like to have rest time and/or tea time and do our crafts or baking. Lately we have been doing a neat art project on Friday and this would be great to continue with.

For myself, I am going to make my devotional life a priority. Using a couple prayer books I have here, I am going to spend some time in this area that I have been sadly neglecting.

Overall, I want this to be a time of peace, of living intentionally together and serving one another, and enjoying a time of a slower pace (which seems to go against the whole drive of the culture surrounding me!).

Have a blessed Advent...

'Exam' Reflection

Our first attempt at an exam week went off great! The children loved the change in routine (so did I) and the essays they wrote or narrated were excellent. Even my little Caleb narrated some great things and drew a wonderful Royal Garden.

I think next time I would try to have a little more variation in the types of requests I gave for narrations for the different subjects, probably even just focusing in on a few subjects as far as the essays and use discussion for the rest!

Overall, I think it was a great success (even in the midst of a 24hr bug sweeping through the house). We finished it off with a great read aloud session and a trip to the pool!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fairly silly....

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.

I don't think I would drink anyone under the table, although I do enjoy a thick Irish stout!

Exam Week (sort of CM style!)

The words test and exam don't have a lot of meaning in our household. We don't do any type of government testing here in Manitoba, and besides the occasional math review 'test' the kids haven't encountered these things much.

But I was inspired by Cindy here at her Exam Week for Dummies (ha!) and by Willa's great series of posts here.

So I decided we would have a VERY relaxed type 'exam' week here- to illustrate what the kids know, NOT what they don't know, and to also have them enjoy seeing some of the learning they have been doing. I also thought it would be a good change of pace for a few days.

So I woke up this morning after a really good sleep (no middle of the night Ultimate game until Tuesday...when will I learn?) and had a pretty good idea of what I would start the older two kids on, which would give me some time to write up ideas for each of our different study areas. Then of course, when the children woke up, my oldest has the stomach flu (I do not handle stomach flus well- weak stomach- so it is good we have rarely had them around here). So after settling him in his room with a good book on tape and a glass of gingerale, I decided to start Hannah off and also have a little informal 'exam' with my 7yo Caleb.

-tell me about a little scene from History you remember (blank look... then, oh yes, Ceaser crossing that river The Rubicon... yes, and the man came and took the trumpet and blew it and Ceaser knew he could go across the bridge!)
-addition facts... good job with these for my little math whiz!
-Who was your favorite character from A Door in the Wall? Tell me about a scene with him in it (he chose John-go-in-the-wynd)
-Draw me a picture from a book you have read or been read to (he chose the Imperial Garden!)
-Give me a line of your best handwriting for the first line of the Lord's prayer


-Write out as much of The Bath Song as you can remember (She did the whole thing!)
-draw or describe on paper one of the Winslow Homer paintings we studied
-please write out one of the parables we have read this term
-please draw me a scene from either The Door in the Wall, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, or Girl of the Limberlost
-list the character traits of either; Young Fu, Robin, Brother Luke, or Aeneas
-tell the story of one of this terms saints orally
-narrate, the best you can, either the coming of the Romans to Britain or the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps
-in your opinion, what are some of the rather grim details of the beginning of the Roman empire
-who was believed to have started the fire in Rome?
-a review test (I probably will skip this...Hannah is very proficient in Math)
-decline terra on paper
-decline servus on paper
-go through all the flashcards with mom
-oral translation exercise from the last section
-play me a song of your choice!!

We will do what we can today, then I will take some time to write up Ariel's list for him (for when he is feeling better!)

Note: I seem to be the one with the worst retention! I keep wondering what books we have read etc. this term.....

Friday, November 16, 2007

Marguerite Makes a Book

We enjoyed this book tonight, all four children and I, snuggling in bed under the big fluffy down comforter. I saw it mentioned on the Tapestry of Grace website and thought Aha, Hannah would love this. She even looks like the girl in the book!

I also knew that she would want to try and do what Marguerite was doing- make an illuminated script, with the homemade dyes and everything. Because I know Hannah. And Hannah is a hands, on crafty soul, who never sees a project that daunts her!

The illustrations in this book were gorgeous, and they held the attention of my 4 and 7 year old boys intently. The story also flowed with a good narrative, while adding in a generous dose of interesting knowledge about the making of dyes and manuscripts, not to mention that Medieval feel.

This book is also part of my quest to find great picture books that will capture the attention of my younger boys, while being something the older ones might enjoy as well. More of that idea of the building from the ground floor up idea I talked about here.

So I think next week may find us gathering some parsley, some saffron, some nice heavy old looking paper, and all the great things we will need to make some of our own illuminated pages. I think the kids might enjoy copying some of our Morning Prayer or a compline onto them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Snow on the Doorstep

We awoke this morning to a nice, slightly frigid, feeling in the air (I haven't changed our program on the furnace yet!). There was snow on the roofs, a light dusting on the ground, and on our newly finished herringbone walk way (finished at 6pm last night in the last balmy evening of the season!)

This morning found me snuggling lots on the couch with a cup of tea and my two smaller boys. I have found lately that Caleb, age 7, has had a VERY hard time focusing on his lessons. So yesterday I decided to devote the first part of our lesson time in the morning to him. So today we began again by him reading to me a short story from The Book of Virtues For Young People on the couch. After that we did an extensive flash card review of addition facts as we are waiting for his new Math U See book. Next we snuggled down on the couch again to a pick of Aaron's, The Elves and the Shoemaker, and the Tale of the Firebird. These both were great re tellings and we all enjoyed them. Then I set him free to play with Aaron. They were both content having this time with me..... After a time of play, I reeled him in for his Italics. He finished his half page in record time, which these days is unusual.

This alternating between play and his lessons I am finding is better for Caleb, and also for his little brother- Aaron was feeling quite lonely for his playmate when Caleb was engaged in his lessons more back to back. I am also enjoying reversing the usual trickle down style we have here- I am so used to reading and studying topics that engage my olders, realizing the youngers will enjoy the trickle down. But they haven't been enjoying it much. So I am reading more engaging picture book biographies, myths, folktales, and fairy tales to the younger ones, and then if they want to listen in on the Shakespeare and great reads from the Middle Ages than they are welcome!

Hope you are enjoying your early winter....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Planning Writing and the Progym.

I have been inspired by the thoughtful posts here by Willa to again to dig out some resources I have around the house and on line, as well as ordering this textbook from the library, and look at the progym again. The whole idea of the progym I find makes sense. If there was one thing I detested in school it was writing- period. I loved math, loved science, (could have loved history if it wasn't taught in such a dry and boring way), but could never stomach writing- having topics like 'what was the best thing you did last summer?' or 'write a story about a mouse' didn't help a lot.

So this concept of using various good models of literature- myths, fables, narratives, proverbs, and so on- and using exercises to work with them to develop a writer really sits with me. No blank page phobia there!

Because of my interest in these exercises I ordered Classical Writing Aesop about four years ago. I read it, reread it, tried it a little with my then resistant 9 year old, then ditched it.

Now, a few years later, and with kids that are not resistant to writing (hat tip to Julie over at Bravewriter), I feel like we are ready for this again. I had bought Homer (from the Classical Writing folks) last spring, but once again ditched it- the format doesn't work with me, makes me squirrley just looking at it! (But I know it works for lots of folks).

So our first step this week will be to work through this sample.

This will give me another week to plan. I am thinking of writing out a basic framework for the first few exercises (the forest), then plan the next three weeks writing assignments (the forest). In this time I hope to recieve the text and start to peruse it. I tried last night to get further into this planning, with the help of a large dose of dark chocolate and a not so hot cup of tea, but I got a little lost on the internet searching around (funny how that happens- too many good blogs out there). So I retired to bed with the Classical Writing Homer- it looks like it would be such a good book for one of those types of moms that love all that organization- but for me, it's back to the basement for Homer again!

The progynasmata... a good outline here.

Note: sorry about all the post edits... I need to proof a little more before I post!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Fun Math With Candy

What Math couldn't be fun if it involved candy? Maybe math with candy where the candy was strictly a manipulative and not to be eaten? Maybe math where your mother is a serious chocoholic and she might eat it all herself? (Note: I DID not do this!)

The morning after Halloween I announced to the the kids that for math that day we were going to sort our candy into 'types', count the number of each type, and then we would graph the results.

So I pulled out our current read aloud out, The Door in the Wall (wonderful book), and the kids started sorting. It was sort of crafty of me- I knew they would be obsessed with the candy the whole next morning anyway so why not incorporate it!

We ended up with three great bar graphs. I wish our camera was working so I could post Caleb's- he colored each bar all the different colors of that type of candy he received.

Yes, we have a rule that there is no candy before lunch. Yes, I am the only one who continues to slip past the rule!! (All that chocolate ......)

Poetry Friday

This is a poem that my two oldest have been using for copywork and dictation. We just can't seem to get enough of J.R.R. Tolkien's poetry lately. We have been so enjoying the compilation in this book, and the Alan Lee artwork is gorgeous.

Luthien Tinuviel
"The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her rainment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold.
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled
He walked alone and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening.

He heard there oft the flying sound
Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beachen leaves
In wintry woodland wavering.

He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.

When winter passed, she came again,
And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
Upon the grass untroubling.

Again she fled, but swift he came,
Tinuviel! Tinuviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinuviel
That in his arms lay glistening.

As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O'er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless."

J.R.R. Tolkien

Monday, October 22, 2007

Roman Apple Cake

Yes, we are studying Rome. No, I don't think this is related to Rome in any way I can figure out. Basically, we really love this recipe. It comes out of my ever faithful More With Less cookbook put out by the folks at the Mennonite Central Committee.

Roman Apple Cake

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine in mixing bowl:
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 /4 tsp. salt
3/8 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
Beat in:
2/3 cup margerine (I use Becel)
2 eggs
2/3 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups raw apples, chopped small (leave on skins)
Mix well. Pour into greased and floured 9x13" pan.
Cover with topping:
Crumble together:
1 Tbsp. melted margerine
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts or coconut (optional)
1/4 cups rolled oats.
Bake for 35-40 minutes.

I usually opt for the coconut as my kids are not too fond of nuts in things.


The Lovliness of Apples

'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'.

Yes, we have all heard this quote many, many times. And yes, apples are very nutritious. But there is so much more to an apple than that. Today alone we slipped some into the oatmeal (which decidedly among my children is a matter of personal preference), snacked on some whole and sliced, had some in the form of applesauce with the sausage, and I am going to try to fit in making an apple coffeecake for tomorrow's homeschool chess club! Yes, we do indeed love apples around here. (It is also about the ONLY semi-local fruit that you can pick up around here for more than half the year!)

If you love apples too, or if you have been trying to figure out just what to do with the abundance available right now, or are just on the lookout for a fresh new recipe or craft to enjoy with the children, here are some great ideas and recipes for you to enjoy. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!

A great place to start would be at Dawn's and her taste testing extravaganza in her post An apple by any other name. She also has inspiring thoughts and a wonderful poem (from one of her own crew to boot) here at Our Nice Red Rosy Apples, and great instructions for an 'apple tote' that you could store apples, or just about anything in A Quick and Crafty Apple Tote.

Elizabeth and her family had a wonderful Autumn day with apples being the focal point in this post. What could be more fun than a day with a couple friends, numerous friends for your kids, beautiful fall weather, and a ready-made snack?

Marianne and her children have made some beautiful watercolors that she shares with us at The Apple Bird - Watercolor. I had never seen this Brian Wildsmith book, and we are big fans!

This next post sounds like so much fun to me, honestly, it sounds amazing. The whole family out working together, learning together, and producing something for the table to boot! Check out the fun at the Grove.

Mary has a great list of books here along with instructions for an apple doll craft. This looks like a must do with my daughter. (By the way Mary, did you say snowing??)

Mary has a Unit Study posted over on her blog that centres on apples. For all you unit study folk, this looks like some fun. Even for me, it looks like some great reading!

I had to think hard on what recipe to share that would contain the ever useful and versatile apple. (I am not very crafty, and love to bake, so a recipe was my easy choice. ) I decided on this one, because it is so easy, isn't too sweet, and we eat it lots over here!

Last, but not least, Barbara (this previously said Marianne....sorry about that ) sent me what looks like a scrumptious recipe that I think will keep me up late tonight baking (and probably eating!). I am not very computer savvy and can't seem to link it so please head over to her blog and have a look around for the recipe (and to enjoy the beautiful photo that tops it!).

I hope you have enjoyed yourselves, and that this Autumn will afford you some time and peace to enjoy some of these great ideas!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Lovliness of Apples Fair... coming here next week!

We have had a lovely fall here, in the land of half year long winters. It looked as though it was going to skip out quickly with the cold snap in the first days of September. But it has hung on.

When the leaves begin to fall seems to be when I head into the cupboard for my baking pans and grab my cookbooks from off the shelves. We had 'tea time' so many times last month that my 4yo was heard telling anyone who would listen that now we have tea time twice a day.

My favorite recipes are often the ones which contain the ever faithful apple. If I was a better poet I think I could spin off a pretty nice sonnet right now, praising the lovely apple....

Instead, I think that I will let you know about the Loveliness of Apples Fair I will be hosting here next Tuesday. If you have an apple recipe you love, a craft, (or even a sonnet), or anything else that is apple related that you want to share, please send it on over here by Monday at 8am. You can leave it as a link in the comments section of this post!

See you next week!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Lovliness of Apples.... or lack thereof!

I am very sorry. The apple fair is not here today. I actually thought I wasn't hosting it, then life sort of took over and I haven't been online as much lately.

Hopefully it will still get up later in the week, either on another ladies blog or my own.

From one apple lover to another.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Goblin Slobber!!???

Theresa over at Lapaz homelearning has a great new unit up and running.
Since Harry Potter is on everyone's minds over here at our home (Mom, Dad, and Hannah reading them while son 12 swallowed them whole in the last month!), we decided that we were in for a Harry Potter unit study. First up is Goblin Slobber.....

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Tonight I was going to be doing a little planning... instead I am tucking in early with a cup of tea ( a bowl of cereal too!) and a good book.

But on the topic of planning, I read a great post today. I found it both simple and wide. I think tomorrow when I spend a some time in the evening planning and making up some goals for our year of learning, I will write up something similar but unique to my own family. Something that recognizes the large goals, and realities, so that they don't (or I don't!) get lost in the details.

Off to my book and my teacup...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Next 'First ' Day

I think the last few words of my 'first day' post were 'it was wonderful'. If I had to pick a key three words to begin this post with those would not be in the first 300 that would come to mind.

Honesty.... our little 'homelearning/studies etc. or whatever you wish to call it, does not always go smoothly. During math, even with Steve Demme, it can rarely go smoothly for days. But this is not the fault of my dear children- at least not most of the time. It is that old adage my friend Wendy likes to quote- 'if Mom's not happy, no ones happy'.

Our 'next day back' was not a smooth day. Maybe I was under the allusion that they would all be as smooth as that glorious 'first day back'- but hey, I have been at this for eight years now and knew it couldn't be that.

Whatever it was, it was.... and the next day was new. This adventure called 'living, loving, learning, and growing through it all' is not a sprint- it's a marathon. Not for the light of heart. But boy does it take heart. It is a humbling process, one that on those type of days I come to realize (again) can't be undertaken without grace.

Off to bed to try to be a little more rested for another day full of possibilities.....

Note to self: GET TO BED (too little sleep can often mean more of the above days!_

A neat post about 'next days' written by Karen at her wonderful blog.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The sorting hat says that I belong in Gryffindor!

Said Gryffindor, "We'll teach all those with brave deeds to their name."

Students of Gryffindor are typically brave, daring, and chivalrous.
Famous members include Harry, Ron, Hermione, Albus Dumbledore (head of Hogwarts), and Minerva McGonagall (head of Gryffindor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Our First Day Back...

Back from where???
...back from those long days of summer. When the hours are endless and the outside is calling and so is the lake. When mealtimes are hazy, bedtimes late, and the days have more spontaneity than usual.

After quite a while with those glorious days we all start yearning for a little more rhythm and ordering of our days.

So this week has found dinner way more intentional and on the table at a reasonable time. The house has shaped up a lot, and mom has been in front of the computer etc. a lot less!

I also was very inspired by Dawn's pictures of her learning space. We have definitely been more fly by the seat of your pants the last year or so, and it felt so good this year to try to bring some more beauty and order into our space. I found it very energizing. In our dining room I started to fuss with the different things in that space: computer desk, bookshelf, craft shelf, craft table, keyboard, hedgehog, and 8 seater dining table (luckily it is a big dining room with high ceilings). I moved things here, I moved things there... and they all ended up where they started, except that the bookshelf and the piano swapped places. I added in a new desk ($4 garage sale) for myself and some nice baskets for the kids stuff. I also reorganised the books on the bookshelf in the living room, placing some on upstairs shelves and reordering categories (I worked at a library in high school and have a thing with organising books!). It felt so nice to come down this morning after I had put my heart and creativity into the space, and enjoy it so much!

So we started off our day.....
With nice chai with breakfast and a Psalm and a parable. Then I announced that it was a morning chore free day and the kids were mildly glad (they actually like helping out)- Caleb also proceeded to tell me that he doesn't do chores anyways (he usually slinks off and plays in some out of the way place nicely hoping (succesfully) that he won't be missed).

Then we gathered and said a prayer out of our Celtic Book of Daily Prayer.
Next it was onto a new read aloud- Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Everyone enjoyed this thoroughly. Then I read a chapter out of one of the world history texts on the Baldwin Project. All four children decided to draw, then cut out pictures out of old National Geographics to cover their copywork etc. books with. Boy, they looked awesome when they were done. On the theme of China, I read Aaron the Story of Ping (it just happened to be in the basket).

After this I put on some pizza dough for lunch... it was such a nice morning I wanted to make something special.

Next we did Latin. The two olders did review with me while Caleb requested the Prima Latina workbook and worked his way diligently through a lesson of maybe two. I handed him a page of Hannah's old Math-U-See and Ariel and Hannah started in on a review page in their Zeta math books. Oh Math- How I love thee! But Oh, how I am not the person to share you with others!!!
This is our sticky subject! The kids really like it, but it is when my double comes in - the one with the rolling eyes and pained look!

After this, and a few pieces of fruit, Ariel dove into his project, The Songs and Tribes of the Lord of the Rings. He is so into this project still- he started it late last Spring, worked on it over the summer, and today he created a blog to put it on! This is a first for us here.... at least in the formal project sense. I know that Theresa uses a sort of project based learning and her son really enjoys it. Hannah decided to do more dictation from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (she has hand written 17 pages now), and by this time I had pizza in the oven and was in the yard with Aaron pitching balls (he is completely into this these days).\

Dh came home for lunch which was a treat (and he also reminded me nicely that maybe Ar and I should take a break with the Math (we had gotten in a rut at that point.... sigh)). After lunch Ar was back on the project and the other kids were reading (Hannah is loving Harry Potter right now- I have never seen her read like this. This, and the first book, are the first books she has really dove into. She has read 30 hours already this week (equalling I am sure all last year!)).

The rest of the day was spent at the park with friends, resting around the back deck, cooking dinner, and now more reading.

It was an amazing day.... all days are not this smooth. This one was not free of kinks, disagreements, or hard moments. But it was a day spent together, one day out of many that we will have this year, one with rhythm and meaning. It was wonderful.......

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lesson Planning

The Loveliness of Lesson Planning fair is set to be held on August 20th. So I thought I would write up something about our plans for the upcoming season.

The last couple years have been more unschooly around here: focusing on the 3Rs plus Latin and a heap of good books. So this year I was pleasantly surprised when I felt a desire to plan a little more. In the past, in my beginning years, I would plan and plan and then not follow any of the plans. After that, a good break included, I have learned that for me simple is better. A plan that works around the framework of our days, something simple enough that adding or subtracting things are easy. Also, I think I will try to work with year long learning goals plus three week at a time plans (Ann, over at Mozart and Mudpies inspired me with this post I am going to try to maintain the studies we choose for those three weeks- not rigidly, rabbit trails/colds/etc. will always be well received, but I want to try out a more stable path for a few weeks at a time.

The Plan

Faith Studies- these are just part of our life here and my husband has an aversion to having them including on any daily to do list.
*I read the Bible to all the kids at breakfast and Ariel reads his after on his own
*A few times a week I aim for our Morning Prayer from our Celtic Prayer Book
*Once a week I want to talk to them, or read them, something from one of the adult books I am reading. Last year it was Imitation of Christ.
*continue on with memorising the Sermon on the Mount

  • Latin
*Latina Christiana 2 or Latin for Children B (any faves out there??) for Ariel and Hannah

  • Math
*Singapore 1b for Caleb- our first year with Singapore (Mom needs a MUS break!)
*Math U See Zeta for Ariel and Hannah (they are a 1/3 of the way through the book)
*short focused lessons

  • Writing
*We will aim for dictation 1-2 times a week with Ariel and Hannah
*Ariel will continue to do written narrations a couple of times a week
*Hannah will start to journal and do the occasional written narration
*Caleb will continue doing copywork
*We love Bravewriter and will use some of those ideas as well as some of the exercises from Write with the Best
*Need to work on Ar's handwriting, so he will write his narrations more this year (instead of typed)

  • Grammar
*......not sure. In the past we have skipped it entirely. Then we started Latin and I figured that was enough. However, I think we will do some orally (for Ariel and Hannah) from Intermediate Language Lessons since I own it anyways, and I figure I can do both children together.

  • History
*we will continue on with our study of Rome
*The Aeneid by Church
Famous Men of Rome,
The Bronze Bow
Outcast and many more books I am sure
*Ariel is 2/3 of the way through The Story of Rome by Macgregor and he will finish this and then I will find a new read for him- possible How the Irish Saved Civilisation
*onto the Middle Ages when this ends (Hannah has been begging for Otto of the Silver Hand again - a wonderful book)
*some studies of the Celts as they enter into the above studies (our children love all things Celtic)
*A modern history biography- possibly Dietrich Bonhoeffer
*50 Famous Stories Retold for Caleb and Aaron
*this year we will try to add a little geography in by printing off some of our blackline maps, and also using our timeline (this will require me to take the time to do this)

  • Nature Studies, Poetry, Science, Art and Music
*I rotate the above things (actually, we more go in spurts)
*we are in the middle of Tennyson's Lancelot and Elaine and will continue to read this
*Hannah wants to study Monet
*Papa teaches the kids art with the Mona Brooks great book Drawing With Children
*I am teaching Hannah the piano, Ariel is continuing with his Irish Whistle, and Caleb is set to begin the fiddle (Hannah also is doing Irish dancing... we are looking at a possible future trio!)
*We hopefully will use our Nature Journals more (famous last words..)
*We are reading the Storybook of Science by Fabre- I am also going to try to do a few labs (more famous last words from a professed bookie!)

  • Literature
*we read reams of books here- always have a bundle of read alouds on the go. Almost all of them from the library (except the bundle coming from a gift card from our good friends). Yesterday I went to the Newberry Award list online and ordered the ones we haven't read from our library....
Some of them are..
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
The Singing Tree
The Westing Game
Secret of the Andes
I will skillfully hide the ones that really stand out as good read alouds from our book gobbler (aka Ariel) so they can be a fresh read for all of us!!
*Viking Tales and In God's Garden (from Yesterday's Classics) are in the mail for Caleb and Hannah to read, as well as Beric the Briton for Ariel

  • Good Meals

*I have my favourite cookbooks out and am looking through them with the kids for some good meals for our two week rotations. I find that advanced planning saves us money and we eat alot healthier too.

  • Room to grow and time to think

*Last, but definitely not least. This is one of my top reasons for homeschooling. I like to have many afternoons at home or with friends, living a full life together, or in solitude.

  • Aaron

On the 4real forums there are so many neat Montessori ideas. I want to set up a nook for Aaron, my 4 year old, with some neat things for him to do. He has to be tops on my plans otherwise he can feel a little left out in the shuffle, and I know the craft table I set up especially for him last spring thrilled him!!

Happy Planning!!

More Habits.....

Today we worked together on the dishes, and yesterday we had a great 'pre-company' cleaning session.

We go in definite seasons of chores, but most days some type of chore is being done by most kids (although the littles are great escapee artists at this time of the day).

I really enjoyed this post on Danielle Bean's about chores. We have no large blown system here- I often post our routines on the fridge, but I think I am about the only one who looks at them. The children for the most part get reminded for a time and then it becomes more second nature (let that read, it gets so that mom doesn't need to remind them quite so much!).

My ideas for this year are more of a continuation of last years chores-
*for breakfast I like to do the tidying up, but I thought I would try placing Hannah in charge of clearing, stacking the dishes, and wiping the table. Then at lunch I could wash both meals dishes while Hannah dries and the two little boys clear and wipe. That leaves dinner, which Ariel and I have gotten into the habit of doing together- it is our together time to talk, and we are also a fast duo to boot!
*Friday room cleaning worked two years ago so I will try to implement it this year including training the littles
*The other jobs would be -the animals
So I will see how I will parcel these out. For us Laundry is a 1-2 load a day job, which Hannah has been on for the past couple years. Ariel has always done floors, but is more interested in bathrooms this year (if you could call it that). I am also thinking of having the two older ones do their own laundry twice a week together- alternating who takes care of the washing, hanging, folding. Laundry is an area we have tried many things, but it always boils back to one communal laundry hamper, and an early morning wash followed closely by a morning hanging (the laundry that is). One thing that has helped with volume is to hang only gently worn things on the boys beds to be worn the next day: the rule is that new undies and socks are daily, the other things can go as long as they are reasonable.

After a great summer I am quite excited about all of this....

Habit #2- The Computer, or lack of

Mom needs to be face to face with the computer alot less.
I always have my arsenal of excuses, and many are very resonable: our connection is very slow right now, I use/grow/glean so much from the ieas and information on various blogs ie., the 4real forum etc. not to mention the support. But a post I read a few days ago (sorry about my links, I still have to work on them) really convicted me, as did my 4 year olds comment yesterday, "Mom, you are always on the computer!"

Even though this is an overstatement, it still cut to the heart.

The Process:
*The past couple days I have done more of my computer time at night, or when the children are visibly happy and contented.
*I do get up from the computer, even during a blog post, to get drinks etc. for littles- the days of pouring soymilk beside the moniter are over!
*Going simple with my reading choices... not getting sucked in
*Waiting till the house is orderly ( a post of Elizabeth's I read last year inspired me this way)
*Living fully in real time!

How do you work your screen time?

Habits....part 2

Habits... hmmmmm. Lets see. I wrote the first part of this post before we left for a three week trip to my parents, to endless days with beach, lake, and friends. So habits? well, lets just say we are starting to look at them now.

Habit #1
The first habit that I feel we need to work on is (drum roll please): MOM needs to get out of bed in the morning. Not that I don't get out of bed now, but for the past (ahem) three years or so I have been a definite night hawk and have gotten into the habit of being pulled gently nudged out of bed by my starving seven year old (the rest of the kids aren't hungry till they have been up for a while). How hard can this be you may be thinking? Well, for me, a mom of four great children, who spends most of her time with them, I really enjoy those hours after the kids are tucked away and I tend to get onto a really awake cycle and then don't go to bed until much too late. But with older children I find to get that time I am staying up even later. So I realised I have to switch things around, to find those quiet early morning hours, the ones I used to so enjoy in my breastfeeding days.

So how is this habit going so far?? Out of the past three mornings I have tried I am 1 in 3 (and the one was a mere 7:45). But slow and steady wins the race. So I am going to aim for 7:30 tomorrow and up it by 10 minutes each day until I am at 6.

If only my chocolate habit could be so easy....

How do you handle mornings? Sleep late, up at dawn, up with kids? For my benefit, how do you do the early mornings??

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Habits- the wonderful things that bring peace to family life, and happiness to the mother. But lo, it is the mom that often needs to be working on those habits!!

I have noticed lately, and for a long time, that I am not a follower: not a list follower, routine follower, fashion follower, etc (ask my parents, actually, maybe don't). But I so need to set some routines down. Not that we don't have any routines, we do. They are a little harder to see in the summer, but they are there. But oh it seems so easy for me to just go on about my days in the summer, and forget those 'pegs' to our days- to get busy with this or that project and let the day slip away. I have realised that some of this is what I love about summer- but by about the third week of this low tide time we all crave for a few more routines- enough to pull us together.

In the realising of this need for routines in the 'low tide' times it has been a bit of a rocky path- me lamenting about the lack of responsibility of my flock, lamenting (nice way of saying complaining) about the house work all falling to me, lamenting about the sibling get the point. Then I got a good sleep- it is amazing what that can do for your mind!! I felt refreshed and ready to see everything in a better light- yes, we have let some things slide- but changes can be made. We read the Bible at breakfast than the kids did some chores. At lunch I pulled out the poetry books and then I even think I got dinner on the table before 7! Boy I felt better, and so did we all I think.

I don't know if this is making much sense, but to me it is helpful to look at these different seasons and to accept them as this: seasons. There are times when things flow more, when spending hours reading makes more sense (like when it is -45 out). This is all part and parcel of the ebb and flow of our days here. At times I have not accepted this as I should, thinking all the chores/routines/musical practices/reading times etc. all have to be nicely humming all the time instead of seeing the ebbing and flowing. Writing this post has helped though, and I am feeling much more at home and positive about it again!!

But what about the title 'Habits'. How is this post all coming around to that?? I am not totally sure, all I know is that those pegs, those parts of our days which we count on and come together around, bring a nice routine that lends itself to the formation of the aforesaid 'Habits'.

So.... the next post will continue (hopefully more directly) with Habits.

The Peace and Joy of Growing Things

It's summer, and the days are long and full. Summer always begins with a little bit of an adjustment here- later nights, later mornings and that getting used to a new routine.

When spring hit here, after a long winter, we entered more of a 'low tide time'- we couldn't get our hands, muscles, and our beings out of the yard and the developing garden. We had just moved into this house at the onset of the cold snowy winter and were so excited to DIG. Yes, we love to dig here.... and then watch the fruits of our labor grow.

Yesterday as I was working in our humble urban vegetable patch, Hannah, my 10yo, noticed not one but two large cucumbers. This was enough to send her into ecstasy for the day. The said cucumbers were sliced, salted, and devoured.

This warms my heart, makes me grin very wide, and relax. My spirit connects with the Father in his creation, it always has. So, it always leaves me with a wonderful peace to see my children communing with growing things, especially in this fast paced technological age. Actually, if I think of what I want for my children as they grow, what I consider the most important bricks in their formation/education, I would have to say that this connection with nature, whatever that would look like for each child, would be very near the top of the list, definitely in the top 5. I am sure many writers could say it much more eloquently than I could, so I will leave it to them.

Next up looks like the zucchini......

Monday, June 18, 2007

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

As summer approaches, spring calls, and we are outside more I always begin to reflect on last year, plan for what comes next and often read and read. This year it is a bit different though- in that I don't have a burning desire to purchase and plan. I definitely have been enjoying seeing what neat books are out there etc. but am more apt to go right onto the public library site from there and see if they have the said neat books. Part of this is the budget, lots I think is the fact that I have learned that while I love to plan and write out notes I never (yes never) follow them or even have the same sets of ideas as when summer hit. I guess this would be the learning curve, and oh it can be slow with me!! I think part of it is also the whole idea of simplifying- multum non multa.

As I add more kids into the mix, as new readers begin and old ones dive into more complicated studies I find that to keep (guard) the down time, the time where one can enjoy one's interests and think and play and cook dinner etc., I need to really look at what each child needs and what we need together: what juices us, what suits us, what do we need to work on as a family and individually, what can I personally handle (this is where the types of materials come in). By the end of this year I seemed to be able to streamline more, although there were days when I was sure that we needed alot more of X and Y and they were dutifully added, for that day.

So this year I am trying to find...
-used Henle Latin level 1
-some good titles for our history topics:
Middle Ages
A Modern era Biography (Ex. We read ones of Gandhi and Mother Theresa this year)
-a new (from our great used bookstore) Poetry Anthology
-a new calender for Fine Art (or set of prints)
-a globe and/or a good quality laminated map (we need a new one every year it seems!)
-someone who feels it is their life purpose to clean up lego for free (just joking,well maybe)

We generously used The Baldwin Project this year for many topics. It is amazing how much my children enjoy ants after hearing 'Uncle Paul' tell about it. We will use alot of titles as the year goes on I am sure.

I also want to study a Shakespeare play again: any favorites out there?? The children have still not had the chance to see one, so I hope to get a video and also to check out the outdoor Shakespeare theatre this summer.

Well, this is alot of posts for my first day of this new blog (my family blog and old blog are looking on enviously)

Declensions with Dog

The Peace of Wild Things

Here is a poem- a little early for Poetry Friday- but something I could have reflected on in the heat of a somewhat 'wild-day'. Wendell Berry is my all time favorite author, tied with Tolkien!!

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry


Spring here comes after 6 months of winter- yes, six months. We enjoyed our prairie winter this year: I love to knit and now we have three knitters in the family (the other one's read all the time).

With the arrival of spring came a new rhythm- sort of like a spring break that lasts all spring!!
Here is a favourite image of nicer weather....
by Emily Carr

An Introduction!!

As a bit of an introduction I feel as I should tell you something about us. We have been at this parenting thing for 12 years and have four beautiful children: 12yo, 6yo, and 4yo boys and one wonderful 10yo girl. We have lived in many different places, all in Canada, but are staying put here for a while on the prairies (though the mountains are always calling!!).

As far as homelearning, we have done many things: most fairly relaxed. Most frequently we have done things with a Charlotte Mason flavor. We love to study fine art, love books, thoroughly enjoy poetry, love books, drool over history, love books, all need the 'wild' out of doors for sustenance, and all enjoy math!!

We have tried so many of the approaches out there: classical, interest led, unschooling, CM , but always returned to a sort of relaxed/CM/Classical with loads of free time for hanging out and personal interests. This is what I've discovered I am most comfortable with, and gives enough structure with lots of personal breathing room. I cannot stick to a schedule, but we live by routines instead. A regular day here would involve a handful of things in the morning and then a late lunch followed by life- one of these regular days does not happen every day here!!

This has gotten long....
Have a Great Day

A New Start

I started a blog more than a year ago, but I fell to doing more blog reading than posting. Here's to a fresh start!! I am wanting to post weekly, which seems doable.
Have a great day and thanks for visiting,