Have you ever had that perfect week?  You know , the perfect week where you get up on Monday and the kids are happy, smiling, obeying, and are really excited to do school?  And everything you planned goes smoothly and you have lots of extra time to get other things done in the afternoon and then ALL of the days in the week go exactly that same way??

Yeah.

Me neither.

And it's been so frustrating.  There's always appointments, grocery shopping, aches and pains and 4 hour sleep nights that leave you moving slower than molasses in January and it's everything you can do just to make breakfast and not forget what you are doing and keep your sanity somewhat intact.

So at least for the time being, I've adopted the 5 day plan.  It beats the frustration of planning my Monday through Friday schedule and missing Tuesday and Wednesday  and not knowing how to make up for the lost time on Thursday and Friday.

We start on Day One.  And the next day, that we have 'school' is day two, whether it's the following day, three days later or a week later.

Here's my plan-  which STILL needs modifications.  you'll notice I completely forgot to write American History on the schedule.  So I'll need to add that to my computer copy and print it out again soon.

 

I actually haven't gotten through the whole cycle yet.  Day 4 is next.  We had co-op this week- an 8 week co-op on nature studies.  We are loving it but on co-op day we don't do our normal academics. My husband and I were also gone for a day and a half to see the talented Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in Pittsburgh, so there was no school to be held those days.

If you use a Charlotte Mason method, is your schedule similar?

Does anyone else use a 5 day cycle/looping?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of Nature Study going on!

I’m not sure where to start! Let’s see…. I’m on homeschool journey year 12? Yes, I think that’s right.  I'm a homeschool mom and boy do I love my job!

My two oldest have graduated. They got the NEW homeschool Mom (new to homeschooling) who thought homeschool had to look like public school at home and worried too much about proving the ‘naysayers’ wrong… poor them. But I did the best I could under the circumstances I had and no one can say I did a bad job.

This one, the youngest, has the wiser more experienced Mom who doesn’t much care what the homeschooling looks like to others (I could stand to make improvement on this in other aspects of my life) and really does not want it to look like ANYTHING the public school does 😉

So what do we do? Well, the only term I can come up with that might apply would be ‘relaxed Charlotte Mason’ homeschooling. I love most of Charlotte’s ideas. I love the use of living books, building habits, narration, and I love , love , LOVE nature study!

But I’m also realizing a strict schedule and making a child do something or learn something they don’t feel like doing that day, or isn’t ready for developmentally or has a total lack of interest in, really isn’t education.  It isn’t going to work. Neither is driving myself crazy trying to ‘do it all’. That doesn’t make a good mom. Well, it doesn’t make me a bad mom. But it’s not the best I can be or remembering that my child is a person the way Charlotte intended us to keep in mind either.

This doesn’t mean I don’t use a schedule. I do. I just don’t flip anymore (too much) if it doesn’t go as planned. For example, we haven’t sat down to our ‘scheduled academic time’ for two weeks. Does it bother me? A little…   But does that mean that school hasn’t happened? No. Not at all. School happens every day- whether it’s the ‘scheduled’ stuff or not.

That’s my thoughts today. I’ll be writing more about our love of the Charlotte Mason method. In the meantime, here’s a little ‘picture study’ of the places we’ve been, the things we’ve done and the great time we’ve had.

Our trip to the New England states began with a few days in Greenville Maine and Acadia looking for moose and completing his first Junior Ranger badge for a state park. Sadly, I can not find the photos on my computer... but here's a shot of Plymouth which we also thoroughly enjoyed.....though we enjoyed the nature in Maine a little more. The people at the plantation really played their parts. Here my son asks, "What did you eat for snacks?" "Snacks? What is snacks?" was the response!

 

 

Marshal Point Lighthouse
Our trip along the coast included watching boats in the water, Acadia National Park, the little one's first lobster meal and lighthouses.

 

 

 

We've caught on to the hide a rock (kindness) project. It was fun hiding rocks in all the states we visited on our way home from Maine!
We went tagging Monarch Butterflies at Sinnemahoning State Park in PA!
YAY! We finally got to hear the bugle of a bull elk during the rut season.

 

2

Cheers to New Beginnings...

I have been planning for weeks, well maybe months, to get back to blogging. Being away has been a torment to my mind and heart as writing is such a natural part of my being and helps bring peace to my heart as I discovered the love in fifth grade.

The blogging though, seems to come and go. Time is always an issue. But I guess that’s to be expected when one is a wife and homeschool mom. Hopefully, I’ve gotten to the point of getting a better handle on things and can balance everything a little better now. But life does have its ups and downs so we shall see.

I have decided to narrow my focus a bit. Most of my focus will be on homeschooling. I have really changed gears over the last couple of years in my approach.  I’d love to share what we are doing in our days and my thoughts on education. And since homeschooling is an everyday experience, not just 180 single days, it stands to show that there’s a lot to write about.

And of course, there’s our faith. Our faith is as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe. It is the air we breathe. And I want to share that truth with you.

And my last focus will be on health. Health obtained by food, physical and spiritual nourishment as God provided to us. My family has changed so much over the last 12 or more years.   A lot of that has been through God’s provisions,  bringing us to sources that have educated us about our food and nutrition. I wish to share that with you as well.

In the past I have done book reviews, written about writing and other subjects. I’m sure over time I’ll touch upon those subjects but they are taking a backseat for now. I’ll still be reading of course.   And hopefully I'll get back to the manuscripts, but for now the blogging will be my main writing and I’ll weave the reading into my homeschool posts.

I actually considered wiping out all of my past posts and starting fresh... new beginnings and all.  But I guess that doesn’t necessarily serve a purpose other than wiping the slate clean for a symbolic gesture of starting over.  Of course it would also erase the past work I’ve put into this. So at least for now I’ll let it stand. I might go back and delete or edit some posts that I don’t feel apply to where I stand in life now, but for the time being,  I’ll focus on "New Beginnings."

I hope my past readers have hung in there and will send me a note as to how they are doing and what they are looking forward to seeing from me. And I hope some new readers will stop by and decide to hang out for a while and share with us too. I love you dear readers!

 

Time flies when you are having fun!

Well, okay, maybe it hasn't all been fun....in fact, it HASN'T been....  but on the homeschooling front, things are going pretty smooth.  But the thing is, that doesn't mean we are doing ALL of our lessons on ALL of our "school days" or that we've completed some textbook or that he writes 'perfectly' or that we spend every morning in prayer and devotion.

Things are going pretty smooth means I have changed my attitude on what 'school' needs to be, what learning is and it means that learning IS happening!

We saw one of the last circus performances. This was the first time I ever witnessed any 'shyness' in my son. It was actually good to see!
What's he doing you ask? Selling water of course! For FREE! HAHAHA!!!! Gotta love this kid! Oh, yes, of course I 'bought' some!

Here's a 'photo shoot' of some learning that has taken place over the last couple of weeks:

 

 

 

A lovely discovery outside while playing at a friend's house!
We helped a neighbor care for her chickens last fall. This spring we get to watch the new chicks as they grow!
This was the youngest boy's first trip to Niagara Falls and another country! We had a good time up in Niagara, Toronto, and nearby areas.

This icon is on my computer desktop.  Oddly it's one of my absolute favorites and yet we don't have one for our walls.  So every year I add it to the desk top and it stays there for quite a long time.  A visual reminder of what this week and what our faith is about.

So it's Holy Week already.  Wow-  and I thought Lent was hard.  Today has been full of difficult challenges- emotionally and physically,  but I keep looking forward-  knowing the resurrection is coming- knowing there is light at the end of these dark tunnels and God can pull us through anything.  But there are moments, difficult moments, in which it is very hard to keep the eye on the One Thing Needful.

 

This week will be a light week as far as homeschooling goes.  Really there are no lessons planned.  Just a pile of materials.

 

Though these will be our focus.

 

And all the days go like today even these may not be consumed in the entirety as I hoped.

But there is church services.  And there is Pascha.  What else is truly necessary?

Our Little Icon Wall in our dining room

 

 

A long time ago I used to do monthly updates here.  I kind of told what things I was doing in a month- a sort of update on our homeschool life, food life, my writing and book life, and more.  I'm not sure that I'll get back to that, but what I thought I would do since books are such a big part of my life (as should they be for all of us!) is share what I'm reading. So we'll see how this goes.  Maybe I'll make it a monthly thing.

Goodreads

I keep track of a lot of what I read on Goodreads.  And you'll see I usually have a LOT on my list at a time.  I used to be worried that this was strange.....then I started reading about Charlotte Mason and her methods and realized I must have been Charlotte in another life.... lol!  Just kidding!  But really, her homeschool methods teach about taking just small bits at a time from a book and giving the child time to think it over and ponder, if you will, and let it all soak in.  And she would have them read from various books each day - history, literature, nature, poetry, etc.  Some books a few pages or chapter a day, some only once a week.  So pretty much I've been doing 'Charlotte Mason' with myself all along.

Find me on Goodreads  HERE.

What I'm Reading

Adrenal Fatigue:  The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson  -  This book is instrumental in understanding the reality of adrenal fatigue.  How one's health can be affected by stressors and the importance of how our food, environment and things we do to cope with stress are all important facets to adrenal health and all of this and more are discussed by Dr. Wilson.  It is written by an expert but also  it a way that is easily understood by the layman without talking down to the patient.  It is a good read thus far.

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Tikhon Shevkunov   This is quite the lengthy read and I've been working on it for some time.  I'm about halfway through.  There is a great number of stories in this work that you will find inspiring and occasionally humorous.  And you will certainly know that miracles do happen even today.

Thirty Steps to Heaven:  The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life by Vassillios Papavassilliou  I've actually referred to this book several times in recent posts.  I can't say enough about it.  I personally feel that even non-orthodox would benefit greatly from this book as it talks about all of the virtues we must all strive towards as Christians.

A Beginner's Guide to Prayer: The Orthodox Way to Draw Close to God by Michael Keiser   I started this book before Lent and actually wrote a few posts in regards to prayer before Lent.   Being that I've promised myself to read my bible readings and a few pages of Thirty Steps to Heaven each day before reading anything else and my consumption of adrenal fatigue and other health related selections, I haven't had a lot of time for this one but it remains in my morning devotion pile and will be included in my morning readings again soon!

Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home by Elissa D. Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker    This is the selection my husband and I are reading together.  Blueprints discusses how we are to involve our children in the life of the Church from birth onward both in the church and at home.

6 Secrets to a Lasting Love: Recapturing Your Dream Marriage by Gary Rosberg  I read another book by Rosberg recently and I really enjoyed his style of writing about very intimate personal issues in a non-threatening manner and with a Christian perspective.  I have found some very good guidance in this book.  I really think every couple should read marriage books throughout their lives- always keeping discussion of the marriage and the marriage itself front and center to their lives.  My husband and I aren't currently reading this one together but I do mark spots and read them to him for discussion along with other books we read together.

The Ancient Faith Prayer Book by Vassilious Papavassiliou -  you know I didn't even realize it was the same author as 30 Steps to Heaven until I was writing this out.  I'm enjoying using this prayer book.  I think it may move into one of my favorites.

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers, a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms by Annalisa Boyd  -  I read this book awhile back and even wrote a book review.  I just felt that while I often use this as a resource, it was time to read it through again.  Books like these always offer more every time

Delicious Blogging:  The Ingredients You Need To Create a Better Blog by Debi Stangeland  Debi is a book on my Kindle (I seldom use the kindle as I just can't resist a paper copy but it does come in handy ) some great ideas for bloggers, especially those starting out or with smaller blogs who want to have more success with finding readers and interacting with their public.

 

What I'm Reading With My Son

My son is 7. (Wow- that's the first time I've written that- he just turned 7 last week!).  He's techinically in first grade-  but I don't go by that.  We read what we think is fun and what I think he will be interested in or what I deem important.  I don't consider grade level.  It's more about age, interests and abilities.

Little Town on the Prairie (Little House #7) by Laura Ingalls Wilder  -  Actually, we just finished this one last night!  My son has been loving the Little House series.  And I still have my set from when I was young! We just started with them at the beginning of this school year.  Only one or two of them was on the Ambleside list for this year - a source I used last year and the beginning of this year.  But while I find their book lists as a handy guide, I find their style too restricting.  So while they only have a few of the books listed for this year-  I let my son's enjoyment and enthusiasm to read more lead us.  These books have lent so many lovely discussions.  We have also introduced the TV series-  we don't do a lot of TV here, but this is one series I encourage and enjoy right along with him.

The World's Worst Fairy Godmother by Bruce Coville   This is just a humerous story by one of my favorite children's authors. We are starting this tonight. I don't necessarily like all of Coville's books, but some of them have been favorites.  We recently read Jennifer Murdley's Toad.

Misty of Chicoteague by Marguerite Henry  We just started Misty.  While fictional, I chose to read it as part of our history type literature as it does talk about legendary history and the story behind the wild ponies of Asateague Island (where I spent my honeymoon incidentally).  I wanted to introduce him to the Marguerite Henry books and selected this one to see if he would like them.

Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who? The Story Behind Some of America's Patriotic Symbols by Teresa Bateman and John O'Brien     This is a charming little book to introduce youngsters to the symbols of our country including the Statue of Liberty, The Liberty Bell, The Lincoln Monument and more. I've chosen to use picture books for the most part in our American History studies thus far but am looking to start on some nice biographies soon.

What My Son is reading TO ME

Yes-  he has started reading to ME now.  This is his choice- his desire and I love it!

The Mystery at the Taj Mahal (India) by Carole Marsh    My sister got him about ten of this series for Christmas.  I selected to allow him to read them to himself at night while I sit and read in bed. He has read one on his own, is reading another and reads this one to me every now and then.

He also reads from his Children's Bible Reader to me on the way to our Schole class every Tuesday and at other times when I'm cleaning up the kitchen before we start our short lessons for the day.

 

So--  that pretty much sums up what I'm reading.

How about YOU?

 

 

I am eager to get back to doing book reviews again and have soooo many wonderful books to do!  But alas, I know I won't get around to doing too many very soon so picking one to start with was hard but not too hard because this book (the first we read in the series) was so utterly fantastic and my son and I both absolutely adored it-  so here we go!

Title of Book: Poppy  (Tales of Dimwood Forest)


Author:  Avi

Illustrator:  Brian Floca

Genre:  Fiction; adventure

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages:  176

Suggested Age Range:  8-12  but can certainly be a read a loud for a much younger age.  My son is 6 and has been enthralled by this series!

Why I Chose This Book:  This book came as a highly recommended read-aloud by Sarah Mackenzie.  I'm a big fan of Sarah's Read Aloud Revival and just about anything she's put out.  You can see some posts on her book Teaching From Rest here and here.

A Bit From The Back Cover:  At the very edge of Dimwood Forest stands an old charred oak.  A great horned owl, Mr. Ocax, waits there. With his piercing gaze, he surveys the lands he calls his own, watching for the creatures he considers his subjects. None dare disobey him, until the night a courageous deer mouse named Poppy, boldly defies him, only to find herself in terrible danger. To lead her family to a better life, will Poppy battle Mr. Ocax to the end?

My Review:  My son and I were quickly taken in by this fanciful tale about woodland creatures!  Poppy is a sweet, timid dormouse who suffers a great loss at the beginning of the story but, being protective of her family, gathers her courage to embark on a dangerous quest.  The story was simply irresistible.  The book is full of action and chances for discussion of how to handle various dilemmas.  Our favorite character was actually NOT Poppy, the heroine or the antagonist, Mr. Ocax, but the ever so funny Ereth, the porcupine!  He was a hoot!  My son just laughed and laughed at all of Ereth's antics and sayings.  It was so much fun to read a loud to him. The book not only held my son's attention captive and begging for more, but added to his desire to learn more about animals and add creativity to his drawings of such creatures!  If you love whimsical animal adventures, you will love this series.  I want to read it again!

Other Books by this Author:  Ragweed, Poppy and Ereth, Ereth's Birthday, Poppy and Rye, Poppy's Return (all from the Dimwood Forest series).  Crispin- The Cross of Lead (Newberry Award Winner), The Good Dog, Old Wolf, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and many others.

 

Today is the Feast Day of the Annunciation  -  the announcement made by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would have a child.

The Gospel Reading is Luke 1:25-38.

"And having come, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.'

Mary was blessed.  She was highly favored, Full of Grace!

She is, in fact, the most blessed woman who has ever lived because of her absolute and complete  willingness to receive God's grace .  As spoken by her son, the Theotokos, Mary, was blessed to "hear the word of God and keep it" (see Luke 11:28).  She was the first to say yes to Jesus!  Her response was of highest obedience to God.  She sets an example for us all.

Where the first woman, Eve, was disobedient to God, Mary is obedient.

This is an obedience to God we can all learn from.  And teach to others.  Especially our children.

Will I teach my 6 year old about Mary's virginity?  No, not this year.  Will we have lots of lessons to  teach him about all the details of Mary's life and about the Betrothal between her and Joseph and teach him how Jesus was her only son and that Joseph's other children came from a previous marriage?  All of this in due time, but for a 6 year old?  My focus is on the most important aspect.  Mary said Yes!  She said Yes to God and that is what we all must do.  She is the greatest woman who ever lived because she accepted God's will with willingness.

Accepting God's will with willingness.

Isn't accepting God's will  what we all struggle with?

Isn't obedience what we all struggle with?

Isn't obedience what our children struggle with?

This feast day is a wonderful opportunity to teach our children the wonderful ways of obedience-  how obedience to God can change the world.

For more about why I think Mary is the Greatest Woman Who Ever lived, see my post from November, 2013.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy steadfast love...

 

We read over it daily.

We talk about the meaning of the words, the meaning of the prayer.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

 

I make him aware of his transgressions and, sure enough, he makes me aware of my own.  Not so much in our lessons, but in day to day life.  Those are the most important lessons of all.

Our children are tools to our salvation.  No one can point out to me my sinful ways or humble me quite as quickly as this little being.

Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

 

God gave us these children.  They teach us wisdom.  Oh but to have the open eyes of a child!  To see the glories they see-  and to see the truths that come so easily to them!

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

A constant prayer on my lips, in my heart...

 

Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy holy Sprit from me.

 

I need His ever presence.  I need the guidance of the spirit.  I must look to Him to restore my joy.  I must guide this young child to always seek His presence.

O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise

 

Oh and Lord close them when they need to be closed!

 

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit

Stay close to me Lord- through this Lenten season and all the seasons to come.  Help me to break this prideful spirit...help me to sacrifice and show Thy steadfast love and Thy abundant mercy to all as you have given freely to me.

Help me to teach these young ones the same.

Thank you to Basil Fritts of Flickr for the photo- slight adjustments were made.

 

 

 

 

An Apple a Day MIGHT keep the doctor away, among other vegetables and healthy meats and proteins, but too many will keep the doctor coming...  and we discussed this in our very quick lesson using google finds.

My son is not thrilled that he had to give up his habit of a small dish of organic ice-cream or a small  gluten-free ice-cream cone as his bedtime snack for Lent.  We give up dairy and all processed foods during our Whole30 which we do during Lent for fasting and health reasons.

However, he does like his apples.  Add a little peanut butter/almond butter (he claims he doesn't like almond butter but I mixed it half and half for two weeks without his knowledge...we are moving on to about 1/3 pb and 2/3 almond butter this week) and he's a happy kid.

So the other night he asked what  was good about apples. " Let's make that a project for tomorrow", I said.  "Write a note to remind us and we'll spend some time looking that up."  So with apple in hand we did just that yesterday.

We found some pretty cool videos and sites.

Fun Nutrition For Kids!  Fresh Apple vs. Fast Food Apple Pie

Apples: History & Nutrition

Fresh For Kids: Apple

Apples 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits   -  This one we breezed through-  and I made note of the link because I figured this will be a good base of vocabulary to start with as I begin teaching him REAL nutrition- not necessarily what you find in the public school health books (see below).  He knows about vitamins & minerals, sort of , so that's what we are starting with (apples are a good source of vitamin c and potassium).

 

Here's his summary of the most important things we learned.

-Apples have vitamin c - even more than an orange!

-There's a lot of good stuff in the skin so we should eat that.

-It's better to eat the apple than the pie.

-There's sugar in apples so don't eat too many.

I don't think that's too bad for a quick fun lesson 😉

 

 

And today, he forgot all about apples and went on to paint and ladybugs 🙂     Funny kid.

 

*****Just a side note:  I'm a little cautious about the sources I use.  So doing a cold google search was a little frustrating.  There's lots of stuff out there about the food pyramid and I do NOT encourage the use of the food pyramid at all.  I want him to know about the nutrients of foods, but also want him to learn that yes, fats are good, sugar - even in apples- isn't.  So we have to talk through what we learn.  We need to learn about the nutrients , but also about the things that counter the nutrients and how to balance it all out.  This was a good start.  Apples are good-  too many aren't. And we encourage the almond butter with it to add some protein and healthy fat to the treat 🙂