Sunday, January 27, 2013

Justin's Birth Story

Bearing over at Bearing Blog recently posted about being prepared for precipitous labor and invited people to share their quick labor birth stories and tips.  I don't think I have any tips that she didn't already include in her excellent round-up of ideas, but I thought I would share what happened when our fourth was born.  (And be sure to click through and check out how Jenny describes her births - be prepared to be amazed - and perhaps a little jealous!)

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Exchange

Setting:  The kids have just been turned out for recess (postponing their math lesson - morning time started late and went long - again), and I head into the kitchen area to refill my mug while my husband, who works from home, is doing the same.

Me:  *sigh*
Matt:  What's wrong?
Me:  I'm just trying to shove too many things into too little time.
Matt:  You should sleep less and drink more coffee.
Me (laughing):  Yes, but you're just making it work for yourself - I'm dealing with children here too!
Matt:  Have you tried giving them coffee?
Me (laughing):  Um, no.  I don't think that's a good idea.
Matt:  Don't knock my solution if you haven't tried it!
Emma:  I'll give coffee a try!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fine Arts and Nature Fridays

I would love to belong to a Charlotte Mason coop like the Truth, Goodness, Beauty Community or this Charlotte Mason Nature Study Group.  However, while I've found a couple people who are vaguely interested, I haven't found anyone who looks at this and says, "yes, this is wonderful, this is exactly what I've been looking for!  Let's sit down and figure out how to make this happen!".  After feeling sorry for myself for awhile, I decided last spring that I would create my own coop.  For my family.  After all, just because we can't find anyone to join us shouldn't mean that would should deny ourselves the satisfaction and enjoyment we would derive from such an excellent endeavor.  We call it our Fine Arts and Nature Club and we've placed it under the patronage of Blessed John Paul the Second.

We started this last spring, right towards the end of our school year.  I put together a schedule that included Shakespeare, picture study, an art project, poetry, a nature walk with some nature journalling, composer study, some handicrafts time while listening to a read-aloud - in short, all the things you'd expect to see in a Charlotte Mason inspired Fine Arts and Nature coop.  Every Friday we would dive into all these beautiful and wonderful gifts and we all - from the four year old to this thirty-six year old mother - love it.  It is has a firm place in our school schedule, and it is a wonderful and enriching way to end the school week.

I find it interesting is to see how these Fine Arts and Nature Club Fridays bleed over into the rest of our week.  After awhile, we decided poetry just on Friday wasn't enough.  We wanted to listen to Longfellow's poetry as part of our morning time together too.  We started including more read-aloud and handicraft time during the week too, including some time listening to an audiobook together so I can craft too.  Knitting, crochet, and now pine needle basket making are daily events in our house, accompanied by good literature.  Our music studies have spilled over as well, although a little more fitfully.  By giving these good things a day of their own, they have filled and blessed that day and overflowed into the rest of our week, the rest of our lives.

As I was planning our Fine Arts and Nature Fridays for this term, I thought I would like to share what our schedule looks like, and also what actually ends up happening.  After all, in a house with busy and active children, those two things generally do not end up looking exactly alike, do they!

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The Plan:


Poetry and Recitation
Read from Hiawatha, then review memory-work
Composer Biography
Part of Handel from Story-Lives of Great Musicians (plus narration)
Picture Study
Winslow Homer
Sharpshooter Oil Painting  (I used the Art Authority app for this painting)  Picture study of the oil painting, then look at both, compare.  Discuss why the different versions exist.

Math Game
Snack and Shakespeare
Art and Music
Listen to Water Music
Angelus, then Lunch
Watch Great Composers and Their Music: George Frideric Handel (Discovery Education)

I usually would have my weekly meeting with Emma after lunch, then we would go on a nature walk and do some journalling.  However, we had a trip to the ice skating rink planned with our homeschooling group, so we did that instead!

So here's what our actual day looked like instead:

Started late because it was a difficult morning - largely hair brushing angst with the 10 year old and a mom who is trying to do too many things in the morning and doesn’t want to give up any of them.
Poetry and Recitation
Read a short section from Hiawatha, then practiced memory-work as planned.
Composer Biography
Handel from Story-Lives of Great Musicians - this went well, and everyone enjoyed this read aloud.
The kids and I played with the plastic bat and ball.  They had fun hitting the ball while I attempted to pitch.  Boy, we are all so bad at it, but there was a lot of giggling and running around!
Picture Study
Winslow Homer
Sharpshooter Oil Painting
This went very well.  Gregory (7), before he even saw the picture, wanted to do a drawing narration of the painting.  We broke out the art supplies and did this for our art project instead.  Given the time, I quickly sliced some carrots, put out some peanut butter, and the kids snacked while they drew.  Just to add to the multi-tasking, I also played Water Music for them.  Emma decided to draw something inspired by the music instead of the Sharpshooter drawing, but I encouraged her to finish the Sharpshooter drawing then work on her water picture, as she was at least 3/4 of the way done already.
Math Game
Rummikub - we all enjoy this game and it is good practice for everyone in spotting patterns and strategy.  
After we finished the game, we decided to listen to the retelling of Shakespeare in the car (yay, Librivox) and I read some of The Shakespeare Stealer instead.  This is our squeeze in where ever we can read-aloud right now.  It doesn’t have an official place in the schedule, but we’re managing to find a few places to read it during the week.  We are all enjoying it a great deal!
Angelus, then Lunch
Watch Great Composers and Their Music: George Frideric Handel (Discovery Education)  
Out the door for ice skating!
We listened to Nesbit’s version of Much Ado About Nothing in the car, pausing every few minutes to narrate and untangle the plot.  I wish the reader had read a little more slowly!

So even though this was a morning where I whined to my husband, "can I please give up now?  How about boarding school?", the day was redeemed and made lovely by our rich and varied course of study.  Yes, the art project was replaced by our sharpshooter drawn narrations, but I think that was a reasonable substitution.  We still need to draw our character map for Much Ado About Nothing, but we'll do that next week and it'll serve as a good review.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The First Week Back

We started back to school on January 7th.  All in all, it was a decent week.  Our lessons were completed, meals were made, some housecleaning was accomplished.  New read alouds were started and old ones were picked up without feeling the gap hardly at all.  Narration is truly and amazing, simple, and effective tool for creating lasting memories!  I made a few small changes to our schedule, to give recitation a firm place in the morning and to order the early afternoon a little better.  I wanted to make sure we all had some time for quiet activity, our afternoon family read aloud, a little more reading practice for Gregory and a read aloud for the boys, and some time for a little more school work.

At this point, our afternoon schedule looks as follows:
1:00 pm - Quiet time - we listen to an audiobook (currently Heidi) and we do quiet play or handicrafts
1:20 pm - Family read aloud in US History.  We just started Across Five Aprils.
1:40 pm - Reading practice for Gregory (7), then I read to the boys.  Emma (10) does either Greek or Latin.
2:00 pm - Mon:  Faith and Life online (Emma), Play (Boys)  Tues:  Science - chemistry (mainly for Emma, but the boys often watch and join in)  Wed:  Programming with my husband (Emma), Science for the boys (We're working our way through A Drop of Water, doing most of the experiments)  Thurs:  Science (Emma),  Faith and Life online (Gregory)  Friday:  Weekly meeting (Emma), Play (boys)

We finish sometime between 2:30 and 3:00, and so far this is all going well.  What is not going well is, well, me.  I started exercising in the morning during our Christmas break, and during break that was great.  I was invigorated by the twenty minutes I was out there, running and walking, and I had figured out how to disappear for that amount of time and still have it work for rest of the family.  But then once I started school up again, I found that my body couldn't handle the exercise and the demands of my daily schedule.  My daily step count went from approximately 11,000 on Monday to 3,000 on Thursday, as I barely limped along, trying to get done the school work and the bare minimum around the house.  It was frustrating and disappointing, and I already miss the running.  But it is more important that I am functional through the rest of my day than for me to be out running for 20 minutes, as much as I like to run and would like to run in a 5K this spring.  But I think my hip and back pain is a strong sign that my body isn't capable of doing all that.  I am prone to hip pain, and I can add running (when combined to my regularly life) to the list of things that cause it, along with wearing pants (weird, I know), kneeling for more than a couple minutes, and carrying kids on my hip.  It makes me feel old, running into these physical limitations like this.  I keep whining in my mind, "but it isn't like I'm trying to train for a marathon!  It isn't like want to climb Mt. Everest! (or even Mt. Rainier!)  Why can't I do this?"  Yesterday I read Jennifer's recent post, and this part in particular helped me to think about the whole situation in a new light.  Here's the quote:
I’m not immune to the occasional pang of “I’m getting old!” thoughts that probably plague most citizens of our youth-obsessed society. MTV culture tries to paint aging — or illness, or disability, or any condition other than being young and healthy — as a great limiting of options. Alas, you can no longer [insert description of supposedly glamorous activity]. That’s for people who are [younger / healthier / prettier / wealthier] than you are. But the truth, which I understand with such great clarity after all I’ve been through in the past week, is that if your plans were not love-driven in the first place, then they were the kind of stupid, time-wasting plans that people shake their fists and rue through tears on their deathbeds; and if they were love-driven, then there are no worldly circumstances that could prevent you from executing them, even if the details change a bit.
And this made me think more about my goal.  Do I really want to run a 5K (or any other arbitrary distance in an organized event) or am I trying to build and maintain some level of physical fitness so I can enjoy the outdoors with my family?   Which one of those goals is love-driven, and which one is the stupid, time-wasting plan I'm likely to shake my fist at?  I think the answer is pretty obvious!

To this end, I've decided to try something new.  I'm still going to go out when I was running, but this time I'll walk and I'll invite anyone in the family to join me.  I expect some mornings I won't have much company, but I think on others I will have lots.  And I think on those mornings I won't go as far or as fast, but that's ok too.  We'll be together, our bodies will be moving, and we'll get the chance to experience the frosty mornings together.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make a bunch of  fleece neck warmers!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Accepting Hospitality

I had the opportunity to be in Adoration for two whole hours today.  Two hours!  And I almost passed it up, because I was hesitant to accept someone's hospitality.

I was invited by a very kind woman to enjoy Jesus' presence for two hours this morning, and she was even offered to take care of the children so the mothers could be with Jesus, undistracted.  My eldest is almost eleven, and I have never done something like this before.  Never!  My older kids have been left for a class, or at a friend's house occasionally, but I've never left any of them in any sort of childcare.  And you know what?  They did just fine.  All of them, even the 15 month old.  Sure, he stayed pretty close to his big sister, but they all had a good time and everyone enjoyed the experience.  And thanks to this good woman's hospitality, I got to sit, undistracted, at Adoration and I got to go to Confession as well.  And to think I almost passed up this opportunity because it was out of my comfort zone, because I was afraid to leave my kids in someone else's (quite capable!) hands.

Hospitality requires an openness to others, an openness that works in both directions.  And both directions require humility and a willingness to serve and be served.   I have to have the humility to see that I am not so indispensable to my children that I can't leave them every once in awhile for a couple hours.  And I have to have the humility to be willing to invite people into my house and my life, even if it isn't perfectly clean, decorated, and ordered.  Even if my toilet is stained from our iron rich water and sometimes scares small children (true story!) and my house is unfinished.  Even if I get distracted and forget to offer people things, or I struggle in trying to make conversation or keep one going, especially as I try to put the finishing touches on things and get food served.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hospitality in 2013

I have a few friends who, each year, choose a new virtue to highlight and work on in the year ahead.  I first heard about this last year, but couldn't decide on anything in particular.  Really, I was so overwhelmed the only virtue I could come up with was survival.  OK, so it isn't exactly a virtue, but it is about all I could hope to work on at the beginning of 2012.  Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter, had a wonderful New Year's Resolution post that was perfect for me last year.  But this year, I think I am ready to think about a little more than meals and laundry.

As I thought about various virtues, I quickly realized that hospitality is the virtue I should work on this year.  I am not a natural entertainer.  I do not easily invite people into my home.  Inviting people over used to be a huge, scary thing for me, likely to send me into torrents of anxiety at the merest thought.  Thanks to the gentle urgings of my husband, who likes to have people over, I've managed to move beyond paralyzing fear, but it still isn't something that comes easily for me.  I'd like to reach a point where having people over is an easy and natural thing to do, and I think this is achievable.  To that end, I'm making a promise to myself to develop in this virtue by actually having people over, frequently and regularly.  And, being who I am, I'm planning on doing some reading about the subject too.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Reading List

I always enjoy looking through other people's reading lists, so I thought I would share my own.

This list includes those I read aloud, pre-read for the kids, read because my daughter wanted me to, as well as those I read for my own edification and enjoyment.  It does not include books where I only read a portion of the book, including my Bible reading.  I also neglected to record the audiobooks I listened to with the kids, so that is not included.  I don't really listen to audiobooks on my own - the opportunities to do so are so limited I mainly stick with talks from Lighthouse Catholic Media.

66 books total
32 are ebooks
19 were read aloud
19 are in the public domain
2 NaNoWriMo novels (and I'm currently reading one more)

Because I can't seem to decide on a favorite, I'm going to give the top two in a few categories.

Read-aloud:  Tough one -I'm going to go with Tree Wagon and The City of the Golden House.  We read a lot of really good books together in 2012!

Favorite Fiction:  Heir of Redclyffe and Barchester Towers

Favorite Non-Fiction:  The Fire Within and The Creative Habit

Least Favorite book:  Dear America, Diary of Emma Simpson (This was the first book I've read of this series and I wasn't impressed at all. What a waste of paper.  The other book I read from this series was a bit better, but still...  there's so many better books out there!) and since I'm naming two in each category, I'll include Organized Simplicity as well.  I slogged through the book, mostly just to finish it.  I think it is written for someone who is in a different place than I am, and maybe if I was in that place I would have liked it more.  As it was, it felt dull, repetitive, and not particularly applicable in many places.  I am glad I didn't pay anything for it...

The List:
Keeping House:  The Litany of Everyday Life (finished 1/28/12)  ebook
The Three Musketeers (fin 3/25)  ebook, public domain
Among the Night People (f 4/20)  ebook, public domain, read aloud
George Washington's Socks (finished 1/15/12)  read aloud
The Bronze Bow (started 2011, finished 2/22)  read aloud
Downright Dency (started 2011, finished 1/10/12)  read aloud
Kat Finds A Friend (read 1/2/12)  ebook, read aloud
Enemy Brothers (finished 1/4/12)  read aloud
When Children Love to Learn (started 2011, finished 1/4/12)  ebook
The Creative Habit (f 4/14)  ebook
The Borrowers Afloat (1/16/12 - 2/8/12)  read aloud
Troll Valley (1/28/12)  ebook
The Borrowers Avenged (f 4/28)  read aloud
Tremendous Trifles (fin 3/1)  ebook, public domain
Saint John Bosco (f 6/6)  read aloud
Stories of Great Musicians (finished 2/22)  ebook
The Man Who Never Died (f 3/2)  read aloud
Sacajawea (f 3/7)  
The Captain's Dog (f 3/5)  read aloud
Undaunted Courage (f 4/10)
The City of the Golden House (f 4/3)  read aloud
Grammar-Land (f 3/16)  ebook, public domain
Organized Simplicity (12/12)  ebook
Haystack Full of Needles (f 3/25)  
The Emerald Story Book (f 5/26)  ebook, public domain
The Fire Within (f 11/25)  ebook
The Wonder Book of Chemistry (f 6/09)  ebook, public domain
White Isle (6/7)  read aloud
Tree Wagon (6/2)  read aloud
Mother Cary's Chickens (f 4/26)  ebook, public domain
The Heir of Redclyffe (f 5/21)  ebook, public domain
Little People Who Became Great (f 5/6)  ebook, public domain
Twelfth Night (f 5/14)  ebook, public domain
Brother Astronomer (6/6)  
Joy in the Ordinary (f 5/23)  ebook
Toward a Philosophy of Education (f 5/25 -started in 2011)  ebook, public domain
Cautionary Tales for Children (f 6/10)  ebook, public domain
Stories of the Saints by Candlelight (6/13)  ebook, public domain
The Story Girl (7/12)  ebook, public domain
Judith Lankester (f 7/1 and 12/12)  ebook, read aloud
Counting on Grace (6/28)  
Mystery of the Periodic Table (7/3)  ebook
The Betrothed (8/24)  ebook, public domain
Dear America Diary of Emma Simpson (Civil War) (7/8)  
Dear America Diary of Libby West (Transcontinental Railroad) (7/10)
The Cottage at Bantry Bay (7/15)
Francie on the Run (7/18)
Rifles for Watie (7/31)
Pegeen (7/25)
Montessori Today (8/15)
Nine Tailors (8/10)
Montessori in the Classroom (8/25)
Clouds of Witness (9/8)
Tales of Telmaj (9/15) ebook
Saint Helena and the True Cross (10/3)  read aloud
We Were There at the Opening of the Erie Canal (10/1)  read aloud
Unnatural Death (10/3)
The Life of a Spider (10/7)  ebook, public domain
Young Brahms (11/13)  read aloud
The Warden (11/24)  ebook, public domain
The Queen Bee and Other Nature Stories (11/27)  ebook, public domain, read aloud
If You Can Get It (9/10)  NaNoWriMo novel that was posted online as it was written
Shadows Falling (11/28)  NaNoWriMo novel that was posted online as it was written
Barchester Towers (12/8)  ebook, public domain
Augustine Came to Kent (12/4)  read aloud
Having Decided to Stay (12/22)  ebook

A Las Posadas Activity for a Homeschool Group

A few days before Christmas I led a Las Posadas inspired activity for my homeschool group.  I wanted to review the Christmas story with the children in a interactive way.  We had some limitations - not a lot of space, and a very good chance of rain that day - and I wanted to do something that would involve all but the littlest of the 30 or so children who would be present.  I found a Las Posadas skit and made a lot of modifications.  I thought I would share what we did (as unseasonable as it might be at this point!) in hopes that it might be useful to someone next year.

Simple costumes for Mary and Joseph
Blank paper and markers or crayons
A small box or basket to use as a manger and a swaddled doll
Some stuffed farm animals
Simple scripts for Mary, Joseph and the Innkeepers (see end of this post)