Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Things I'd Like to Write Longer Posts About

I feel like I have a blogging logjam.  I have lots of things I'd like to write about, but between  perfectionism and a full life, I'm finding it ridiculously hard to do it.  So, I'm at least writing a little, and perhaps this will help me to get going.

I decided to use Ambleside Online this year and we've just finished our first term.  I made a few substitutions and modifications, but I tried to stay as close to the proscribed plan as possible.  It has been a great choice, and I'm really glad we're doing it.  It has made my yearly and weekly planning so so so much easier, and our educational journey is stronger for it.   I really want to write a post about our substitutions, and what we've done to make the curriculum more Catholic.

I've also implemented a version of Celeste's naptime school (I got to meet Celeste and her children a couple weeks back - what a lovely experience and conversation!  She's the first CM homeschooler I've ever met in person, and the first non-family blogger. It was so nice to be with someone who gets what I do!).  I've broken up our morning time into several pieces to make it easier with the littles.  I'd like to say that there are no more time outs during morning prayer, but alas that is not the case.  But still, a fantastic change for our family.  Emma stays in with me in the morning and I work with her while the boys go out and play.  I think a longer post about what exactly this looks like - naptime school with a bigger range of ages - would be a good thing.

Another new thing for this year - Sabbath Schooling.  We are doing formal lessons for six weeks, then taking a week off.  That rest week (this week is one of them) is fantastic.  "Rest" is a bit of a misnomer though, as these weeks are very full too - but full of different sorts of activities.  On Monday we had term exams and Atrium, then went to Costco (I go every seven weeks, as it is over an hour away), getting home at 9:30.  I've also canned 10 quarts of applesauce, 8 cups of apple butter, cleaned and reorganized part of the pantry, did a huge stuff dump onto paper, planned and prepped for Monday's co-op meeting, set up all the Term 2 work for next week, installed a 47 tile Flor rug in our family room, and...  well, there's probably more, but that's the stuff I can remember right now.  Of course there's the laundry and the meals and the dishes.  Phew.  It is nice to see it written out because I've been feeling like I haven't gotten all that much done this week.  It is easy for me to focus on what I still need to do this week!

And another new thing - Mystie's interval planning.  Absolutely brilliant, and it goes along with the six weeks on, one week off thing so well.  [edited - I at first said 6 on, 6 off, which contradicts the 3rd point and is incorrect - we're doing 6 on, 1 off]

Ever since I read Jennifer Fulwiler's Family First Creative (her free ebook for pre-ordering her wonderful book) I've been wondering what my creative endeavor is - what fuels me?  And really, I don't know.  I finished that book feeling like there were a lot of great suggestions, but it made me realize that I can't quite even answer the question that it begins with - namely, what is it I even want to do?  And if I'm generally content managing my home and homeschooling and all that entails  and trying to do a good job of it, am I somehow selling myself short?  Do I need to be doing something more?  Should I be?  Do I have a responsibility to do more than this?


Awhile back I had a post about how I was breaking up my reading into categories and how wonderful that all was.  Well, I still think it is wonderful, but when I started also trying to read all my books as well as pre-read for Ambleside's Y3 and keep up with Y7 as well, everything just fell apart.  There are no where near enough hours in the day available for reading that I could keep up with a list like that.   Now I'm trying to find space to read three books of my own- something having to do with education, something faith based, and a general non-fiction book.  Right now those three books are Consider This, by Karen Glass, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly, and well, I just finished the The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and haven't figured out what my next non-fiction read will be.

I wrote recently about a little hike we did as a family, and I've also been wanting to write about a day trip we took about a month ago.  Can you guess where we went? 

As you can tell, the weather wasn't all that great, so we didn't get to see the Blue Angels fly much, but we still had a wonderful day.  We visited the Golden Gate Bridge, watched the ships sail into the Bay, walked down to Crissy Field, walked through the Palace of Fine Arts and then back up through the Presidio.  We walked over nine miles!  Justin, our three year old, was in a stroller most of the time, but even Nathan (6), who is not the most willing of walkers, persevered and did it.  It was a long day, but a wonderful excursion.  I'm hoping to do day trips to SF every few months, now that we've shown we can do it.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Family Hike

Obligatory Baby in the Ergo photo
Hiking with five children, ages 12, 8, 6, 3 and 10 months, is a daunting process.  However, my husband and I decided to make it a family priority, so we persevere. As with most things, we are getting better at it with practice.

We eat like hobbits on Sundays, eating a light first breakfast, attending the 8 am Mass, then coming home and cooking either sourdough pancakes or waffles.  This last Sunday Matt and I had planned a hike after our second breakfast.  The sky was dull and grey, and there was intermittent drizzle that sometimes threatened to turn into actual rain.  We looked at each other, wondering if we were really up to hiking with the kids in the rain.  I declared that I didn't want our family to be fair weather hikers and my intrepid husband agreed, donning his rain hat and jacket to go put our cheaper-than-upgrading-to-a-Suburban hitch mounted platform on the back of the Tahoe.

Ah, finally there and ready to go!

  Challenges ensued - a bolt had vibrated off our ancient hand-me-down jogging stroller, necessitating a scrounge for something that would suffice as a quick fix, the three year old's rain boots wouldn't fit with his warm socks and we discovered that somehow he only has sandals, church shoes and rain boots that fit right now, the six year old was determined to wear shorts no matter what - but despite the temporary setbacks, water bottles were filled, jackets were found, appropriate shoes were placed on feet and everyone eventually piled out to the car.

Isn't this the greatest drainage pipe you've ever seen?  I'm looking forward to hiking here when there's some runoff.

We decided to try a local canal trail so Matt could push Justin (3) in the jog stroller rather than carry him in the backpack.  I had Hannah (10 mo) in the Ergo, and since the trail was reasonably flat, we brought Nathan's (6) bike.  He loves his bike, and is a much happier person on hikes with the bike than on foot.  This also allows us to keep a faster pace, something that makes the older kids and parents happier too.
The brand new suspension bridge over Deer Creek.  It is nice and bouncy with some great views.

We had some rain on our way to the trail, and a little drizzle now and then as we hiked, but overall we did quite well, proving the Swedish proverb that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.  We only walked a little over two miles, but we decided that was sufficient for the day.  Justin and Nathan were starting to venture near the edge of whiny-ness, and it seemed best to turn around while spirits were still high.  And little by little, hike by hike, a family culture of being outdoors and hiking together is born and grows.

A tributary to Deer Creek, with some beautiful sculpted rocks and just a little bit of water.  Everyone wants to go back once the water starts flowing again in this area.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nature Notes: Spotted Owls and Black Raspberries

Last month we were privileged to see a spotted owl twice.  First Nathan (6), then Gregory (8), spotted the owl's movement out the window around dusk and we were able to watch the owl as he perched in a tree right next to our house.

On June 16th, we unfortunately found a decapitated owl chick on the ground near a large cedar.  In comparing it to photos online, we felt fairly confident that it was a spotted owl chick.  It was about 8" long (err, sans head) and had been dead awhile.  We speculated a great deal about what might have happened, and wondered mightily where the nest might be.  We also wondered if there might be another chick.

Last week, we were visited by this guy!  Nathan noticed him and and we were able to watch him fly to several different perching spots around our house and listen to him call out.  He was about 12" tall, and seemed about 2/3 the size of the adults we had seen last month.  He seemed quite interested in watching us, cocking his head and observing us quite closely. The owl chick's wings were fully feathered, but he was still covered with down on his body and head.  We probably got to watch him for about 30 minutes, before it became too dark to see him anymore.  We heard the same call for several nights after that, but have not heard it the last couple of nights.

We also have been picking black raspberries off our property in the last few days.  Last year we found a small section of berries that didn't look quite like blackberries, and were ripe several weeks before the blackberries should be ripe.  We did a little research, and found that they were black raspberries.  I had never heard of such a thing, but we thought they were quite tasty.

We watched for them eagerly this year, and as they started to ripen we realized they had spread and were all over the hill where we originally found them!  Last year we were only able to pick a tantalizing handful or so, but this year we've been able to pick enough to bring a cup or more back home.  Granted, it still isn't a huge amount by any means - we won't be making jam from them anytime soon! - but it was enough to snack on, add to our pancakes yesterday and have some in our oatmeal.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What We're Reading: June Edition

I'm still plugging away at my reading plan and enjoying it as well as finding it fruitful.  I am starting to look ahead at the upcoming school year and wondering how I should work in reading the kids' books.  Do I add some of those to my reading plan?  Do I block out additional time to read their books and maintain my own plan?  If so, where does that time come from?  In the spring I did a combination of both, adding books I thought looked particularly interesting to my reading plan, and making some time here and there to quickly read through other books.  It wasn't entirely satisfactory, but perhaps this is the best I can do.

My Current Reads
Bible:  Colossians - I think I've slowed down a bit on my Bible reading, although I'm still reading every day.  I tend to read half the book rather than the whole one in one sitting.  I've found the best time slot for this is immediately after I get up.  First I pray Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, then I read from my current book of the Bible.  It is about a 20 minute practice, and that way if Hannah wakes up when I wake up, it keeps me from falling back asleep with her as I nurse her.  I'm trying to establish a habit of reading from the Gospels before going to bed, but I'm not doing very well in this.

Fiction:  Still reading Waverley.  But I'm about 3/4 of the way through!

Poetry:  The New Morning: Poems by Alfred Noyes.  This poet came to my attention when Emma and I were talking about The Highwayman and I looked up more information about it.  I particularly enjoyed his WWI poems, and some of this sea poems.  I'm in the miscellaneous section of poems at the moment and finding them somewhat a mixed bag. (perhaps that's appropriate?)

Spiritual Reading:  I finished reading The Autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Which seems to be written by someone else, based on what St. Ignatius told him at different times.  Doesn't that make it a biography rather than an autobiography?  Anyway...) from which, frankly, I expected more.  Perhaps it wasn't a particularly good translation?  The language seemed rather simple and rough in placed.  I've moved onto The Little Oratory, by David Clayton and Leila Lawler.  I haven't gotten very far in yet, but I've been looking forward to reading the book ever since I heard about it.

General Non-Fiction:  I finished Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest and thought it was an excellent book on homeschooling.  There were so many good reminders in it about what we're really doing in raising our children, and why.  I also liked that it is fairly method neutral.  There's so much there for Christian homeschoolers of any stripe.  And the audio companion was fantastic - the Andrew Kern talk alone was well worth the cost!

On Jessica's recommendation, I picked up Outliers from the library.  I'm really enjoying it.  I have such a weak spot for sociology/psychology sorts of books.  I find it fascinating to probe the interesting things people do, and how people make decisions and how different factors influence people's lives and decision making.  I'm reminded of a quote I read in Charlotte Mason's Vol. 3 last night:
‘Open, Sesame.’—I think we should have a great educational revolution once we ceased to regard ourselves as assortments of so-called faculties, and realised ourselves as persons whose great business it is to get in touch with other persons of all sorts and condition; of all countries and climes, of all times, past and present. History would become entrancing, literature a magic mirror for the discovery of other minds, the study of sociology a duty and a delight.
Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series Volume 3 - School Education (Kindle Locations 2620-2623).  . Kindle Edition. 
 Self-Education:  I finished Abolition of Man (hooray!) and I've started Beauty in the Word.  There's so much there that dovetails with the CM volume I'm reading right now, that I sometimes have trouble remembering which book I read it in.

Chesterton:  I finished Manalive, and decided to take a little break from Chesterton.  He has such a distinctive writing style and I feel like I was getting oversaturated and a little numb to it.  I think I'll appreciate him more if I alternate his books with something else.  I have a couple of science books I've borrowed, started, but not finished and I'm going to read those in this spot too.  To that end, I picked Darwin's Black Box back up.

History:  I finished a book The Shadow of His Wings, which was a fantastic story from a German seminarian who was drafted into the German Army, served some time in the SS, and ends up being ordained while he is imprisoned in a British POW camp.  It is a fantastic and incredible read.  I enjoyed regaling the family with stories from it during dinner.  Next I picked up from the Emma's pile, True Stories of World War II, which had some great short stories in it, showing a variety of viewpoints into the war - everything from female pilots in the Soviet Union, snipers in Stalingrad, the Manhattan Project, D-Day, to English spies in France.  A great little collection of stories to give a feel for the vast of swath of different experiences in the war.  I haven't figured out what to read next in this category.  I'm thinking I should probably start in on some of the kids' school stuff, but haven't picked up anything yet.

Charlotte Mason:  I'm still moving along in Vol. 3.  I love coming across quotes I've seen in blog posts in their native habitat, so to speak.  The context enriches them and makes me appreciate her writings all the more.

Emma (Age 12) Current Reads
Emma picked up a few Dr. Dolittle books and the Betsy-Tacy books at the library in the middle of the month and has been working her way through them.  I also let her read The Shadow of His Wings, which we enjoyed discussing.  There's so many amazing stories in his life!

Gregory (Age 8) Current Reads
Gregory has been reading the Dr. Dolittle books as soon as Emma is finished with them.  He also read They Flew to Glory, a non-fiction book about WWI and the Americans who flew for the French before the US was involved in the war.  He's also been reading the  Sister Philomena series by Dianne Ahern.
Nathan (Age 6) and Justin (Age 2) Current Reads
I've been trying to introduce the boys to some of the books on the bookshelves that they haven't heard for awhile (or at all), thinking that perhaps they might find some new favorites.  I am getting a little tired of reading the snowman books over and over, can you tell?  I really want to try some of the folksong books Celeste has been blogging about, but I haven't gotten any of them together yet.  Maybe this week?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What We're Reading: End of May Edition

I am even more enamored with my reading plan now than I was at the beginning of the month.  I'm in week twelve and I love how reading in this fashion slows me down, helps me to make more connections between the books I read, helps me to remember what I read better, and helps me to think more deeply about my reading.  I highly recommend it to anyone who reads for reasons other than passing the time or momentary amusement.

My Current Reads

Bible:  1 Thessalonians - I'm on the 18th time through and still enjoying how the Bible seeps into me through this focused re-reading.

Fiction:  Waverly - I'm at a strange part of this book where the story of Waverly has broken off, and there is a series of short partial stories about unconnected characters at different points in time.  I'm quite perplexed, and I don't see these chapters in the Gutenberg version of the book.  It started just after Chapter VI in the second part in the Amazon version of the book.  I skipped way ahead and found that the book does return to the Waverly narrative, but I can't figure out why these fragments are included in the book I'm reading!

Poetry:  First Fig and Other Fruits - I have a great affection for Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry.  I'm not entirely sure I can describe why.  I should probably be moving on to reading some of the poetry we'll read next school year, but I think I'll let myself finish this volume first.

Spiritual Reading:  Learning the Virtues by Fr. Romano Guardini - I'm almost done with this one, and while I think it has bore fruit, I wouldn't particularly recommend it.  I certainly wouldn't consider it and essential read for the spiritual life.  I did enjoy how his chapter on recollection felt like it belonged in Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page.  I love connections like that!

General Non-fiction:  I finished The Willpower Instinct and I've moved to Teaching from Rest.  The Willpower Instinct was worth reading and it is a book that I wish I could recommend to other people.  I haven't, namely for two reasons.  I really don't like how she frames much of her research and how she develops her narrative through the book.  However, the research is fascinating and her willpower challenges are helpful and useful.  My other problem is:  how do you recommend a book about willpower to someone without sounding a little mean?  I can't just go up to someone and say, "oh, I've noticed you seem a little deficient in willpower, and some of these studies and examples reminded me of you, so I really think you would benefit from this book."

Sarah MacKenzie's Teaching from Rest is fantastic, as is the first of the four audio talks.  I'm looking forward to listening to them all and finishing the book, but I'm also trying not to gorge.  One of the things I also appreciate about it is that it is a book that any Christian homeschooler can read and learn and grow from, no matter what her homeschool looks like.  It isn't just for classical homeschoolers or Charlotte Mason homeschoolers or homeschoolers of any other stripe.  If you believe in God and you homeschool, this book is for you and I think you will benefit from it.

Self-education:  Abolition of Man

Chesterton:  I finished Trees of Pride (I particularly liked the twist at the end) and now I'm reading Manalive.

History:  The Shadow of His Wings - I abandoned Killing Jesus; the writing was just too horrible to continue.  I switched over to The Shadow of His Wings, a book Jen Fulwiler recommended on her blog awhile back.  It is absolutely fascinating, and full of amazing anecdotes.  It is the story of a German seminarian who is drafted into the German army in WWII, and how he remains firm in his faith and leads others to faith despite being in the SS and surrounded by Nazis.

Charlotte Mason:  Volume 3, School Education - I'm enjoying all the connections between the first part of this book and Abolition of Man.  Mason and Lewis are seeing many of the same problems, and for the same reasons.  As I read both of these I feel like I'm sitting in on a discussion about authority  between two great minds.

Other Reading:  I also read Jennifer Fulwiler's Something Other Than God.  I really enjoyed this book.  As an atheist convert myself, it was a great reminder of both how I got to be a faithful Catholic, and how glad I am to be here.  It was also very well written, and not your typical blog to book deal sort of book at all.  I'm glad I snuck a little time in on Saturday nights when I had finished my other reading to go ahead and read it.

Emma's (Age 12) Current Reads
Emma is currently reading A Tale of Two Cities and loving it.  It makes my heart glad to see her pick up Dickens on her own and enjoy it.  She's also been working through the Letzenstein Series from Bethlehem Books.  A few of her re-reads include Laddie:  A True Blue Story and The Brothers Lionheart ("Mom, I just love this book!")  In her school reading she recently finished The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and is now reading Animal Farm (along with a number of other books, of course)

Gregory's (Age 8) Current Reads
Gregory recently finished The Telmaj, a sci-fi book written by a homeschooling mother. She's a good writer and a good storyteller and Emma and I have read and enjoyed it too.  He's currently reading the second book, A Smijj of Adventure.  Emma has read that one too, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Nathan (Age 5) and Justin (Age 2)
Justin is still enamored with Snowmen at Work and Snowmen at Night.  I read one or both of these books almost daily.  Another favorite is Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?  The other day he came up to me clutching it and said, "Mommy, me love this book!"  Nathan's really enjoying a couple of our family read-alouds, The Winged Watchman and Enemy Brothers.  I'm reading him picture books too, but not as many as Justin.  Nathan has a tendency to ask me to read to him when everyone else is engaged in something and no one wants to play with him, and I'm either in the midsts of something I can't abruptly drop, or about to start making dinner.  Nathan has become my dinner making buddy as of late though, and is getting quite helpful in the kitchen.

I could, and probably should, make these posts shorter...  but not only do I love to read, I love to think and reflect on what we're reading too.  And I know I'll enjoy looking back on this post a lot more if I'm long winded.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Facts and Materialism (oh, and a few bears too)

I hate to post two Weekends with Chestertons in a row, but in trying to prioritize my written narrations for my reading, commonplace journalling, my preparation for my children's education, posting pictures on our family blog, and, well, sleep, I find time to sit and write for this space in very short supply.

So, with that excuse, I offer this quote:
All his life up to that moment he had been most honestly certain that materialism was a fact. But he was unlike the writers in the magazines precisely in this-- that he preferred a fact even to materialism. ~The Ball and the Cross
I remember reaching this point myself as I journeyed towards Christianity and considered the miracles I was reading about, both the Biblical ones and the more recent ones.  Why was I more willing to believe, "oh, the doctors made a mistake" or "oh, they can't possibly be telling the truth" than that perhaps something truly extraordinary had taken place?

And look who came back!

We scared them away when they tried to get into the garden again.  After all, we don't want them to think they own the place!  It is amazing to watch them wander around though.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Decadent Weakness

The father believed in civilization, in the storied tower we have erected to affront nature; that is, the father believed in Man. The daughter believed in God; and was even stronger. They neither of them believed in themselves; for that is a decadent weakness.           ~The Ball and the Cross

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What We're Reading: Beginning of May Edition

I enjoy reading other people's posts about what is being read in their families, and I thought I'd try to do this once a month or so as well.

About two months ago, I decided to start a reading plan of sorts for myself.  I was tired of having a long list of books I was trying to read, and I was frustrated when I realized that while I am always reading good and worthwhile books, I wasn't always getting to books I really felt I should read.

I decided to resolve the following:

  • Create a list of categories of books, and to either read the book through or decide definitively not to finish a book before moving onto another book in that category
  • Read twice from each category each week
  • In each session, to read in each category for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 30
  • To review and update my commonplace book twice a week
  • To write notes about my reading in several categories 
  • To participate in Weekends with Chesterton (which I'm obviously not doing well on as of late!)

So far this has gone well for me.  I have a note in Evernote to track my reading each week and I'm enjoying continuing to make progress through a variety of books.  I'm thinking about the books more as I'm not gulping them down over a short period of time, and my commonplace is filling with interesting and thought provoking quotes.  It has also encouraged me to stick with a book if I get to a point where I feel the book is dragging, rather than consigning it to the "oh, I'll get back to it later" pile where it seldom gets picked up again.

So, with that explanation out of the way, here's my current list of categories and what I'm reading in each.

Bible:  2 Timothy - I'm following this plan, which encourages the reader to read through each book twenty times before moving to the next.  I doubt Charlotte Mason would approve but I'm finding it an interesting discipline as I feel like it is allowing me to get a good feel for the themes and rhythms of each book I'm reading.
Fiction:  Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott
Poetry:  I recently finished Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti and now I'm reading First Fig and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Spiritual Reading:  Learning the Virtues by Romano Guardini
General Non-fiction:  The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. - The research is fascinating, the willpower challenges are useful and helpful, but the way the book is written is occasionally obnoxious.
Self-education:  The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis - This category is for all those books I see referenced and quoted, but haven't actually read.
Chesterton:  I finished The Ball and The Cross last week, and I'm going to start The Trees of Pride next.  I like reading obscure Chesterton.
History:  I recently finished A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander (a great WWII story largely about a German fighter pilot) and now I'm reading Killing Jesus, which was lent to me.  The tone of the book leaves a lot to be desired, and I think the book is poorly edited.  Every time I read it I find myself annoyed, which probably means I should stop.
Charlotte Mason:  The Living Page - The book discussion for this book was cancelled by request of the author, so I won't be posting on it anymore.  It is an excellent book, however, and it has helped me grow in my understanding of Mason's methods and of my role in my children's education.

Emma (age 12):
April was largely a re-reading month for Emma.  She re-read several of the later Anne books, the Mitchells series, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Right now she's reading The Secret Garden.

Gregory (age 8):
Gregory has been enjoying the Tales of the RAF series about a boy who lives near an airfield in England during WWII.  He recently finished On the Edge of the Fjord and he's currently reading The Story of D-Day by Bruce Bliven.

Nathan (age 5) and Justin (age 2):
My two non-independent readers are bringing me a motley collection of books from around the house.  Nathan doesn't tend to find favorites that we read over and over, but Justin is currently enamored with several books.  Right now I'm frequently reading The Best Place to Read, several Eric Carle books, and Snowmen books (Snowmen at Work, Snowmen at Night).  He also has a soft spot for Otis, and I haven't had the heart to put away An Otis Christmas because he's so attached to it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Impromptu Nature Study (or, bears!)

(Note:  There's an update at the bottom)

This morning my husband spotted these tracks on the road just up from our house.

Do you recognize those?

And then while we were finishing dinner, my husband happened to look out the window and spotted this guy!

 And if you look closely you can see two in this picture...

And if you look very closely you can see three in this picture...  There was actually a mother and three cubs, but we couldn't get them all in one photo.

Pretty remarkable, don't you think?

Ah, the wonders of life in the country!  And also the reason why we no longer keep chickens.  Did you know that bears eat chickens?  And they are just about impossible to keep out of anything, once they decide they want into it.  Thankfully the bears around here are bashful enough not to try to go into houses, and we no longer have much of anything outside they are all that interested in getting into.

Updated to add:  My two year old spotted them again this morning, when looking out an upstairs window.  They saw all four again, but only briefly.  Yesterday evening, we took a tour around the garden and noticed they had knocked down part of the nylon fencing, loosened a post, and torn open our green cone.  The top on that is broken, but the fence was easily tacked back up.  The post will need a little more work, but should be mendable.  They didn't try to get into the garden today, so we think they didn't get much out of the green cone.

Homeschool Planning Thoughts on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel

At some point in the last school year I came across a suggestion to pray the Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel before beginning to plan the next homeschool year.  The timing is excellent, as this feast day falls nicely in the mid-spring.  If I start to plan too early, I neglect the current year in my efforts to figure out the following year.  Too late and I rush through the planning process, ending up with a poorly considered or only partially fleshed out plan.  And to spend nine days in prayer before beginning such an undertaking is certainly an appropriate and helpful undertaking.

In my prayer last year, I felt like I was hearing (for lack of a better word - really, how do you describe that inner sense that you're receiving an answer to prayer, an answer that is not in words or voice, but still is coming from outside yourself, and is something you can accept or disregard through the agency of free will? Anyway...) that I shouldn't feel that I had to create my own booklist. It was not only acceptable, but in fact beneficial, for me to largely use someone else's booklist and curriculum.  I was so relieved!  No longer did I feel like I had to figure it all out myself, reviewing and planning every last book.  I decided I'd use Mater Amabilis for many areas, Connecting with History for World History, Time Travelers for US History, Classically Catholic Memory for memorywork, Montessori 3 part cards for some of the science concepts, weekly enrichment classes at a local charter...  Yes, you can laugh now.  Anyone else catch how I pluralized "booklist" and "curriculum"?  Do you like how I took a clear answer and by changing one small but critical piece, managed to completely destroy the meaning of it?

I spent some time yesterday looking over my plans for the school year and writing up my thoughts on the various materials and pieces I tried to use.  As I reviewed everything, I kept thinking, "who was this crazy woman who planned our school year, and why on earth did I let her do it?"

Thankfully, many of the pieces I abandoned after the birth of my daughter in late November.  I felt guilty about this, but I justified it by thinking I would pick them up in the spring for the third term.  However, as I moved through our new pared down schedule, I began to realize that what we were doing was sufficient in many ways.  As I read Sarah's series on Teaching from a State of Rest and Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page, I was reminded of the beauty, wisdom, and simplicity of Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education.   I remembered that several years ago I set out to be a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, not a CM-inspired, neo-classical, occasionally and vaguely Montessori-ish homeschooler.  Yes, that path might work for another family, but it wasn't the path I wanted to follow in my family.  I came across this quote and I saw more of myself in it than I care to admit.  Thankfully narration has never gone by the wayside, but still it was a little too close for comfort.
How many parents come to Miss Mason's work super excited about it all...but then soon they're creating unit studies to go with Our Island Story (forgetting narration entirely), having their child memorize chronological lists of artists and composers (forgetting music and art appreciation entirely) and keeping their children so busy with timeline cards and even living books that they rarely have time for free play outdoors or a simple nature walk? We are free to be as CM-ish as we want, more so or less so depending on our family's needs--there are lots of different ways to homeschool!  But if we expect the results Miss Mason promises, we should attempt to understand both her methods and the principles behind them.  ~  Celeste, Joyous Lessons
I also realized, in reading The Living Page, how little opportunity I was giving my children to do the work necessary to learn and understand the variety of subjects and ideas that I was placing before them.  They were becoming people (much like myself, unfortunately) who could speak vaguely about a variety of subjects but who were not doing the hard work associated with detailed comprehension.  I'm not expecting a high level of expertise - I am fully aware that I am working with children - but there is more they could assimilate and comprehend, if given the tools and opportunity to do so.

In reading Sir Walter Scott's Waverly, I came across a quote that neatly spelled out my concerns.
Alas! while he was thus permitted to read only for the gratification of his amusement, he foresaw not that he was losing for ever the opportunity of acquiring habits of firm and assiduous application, of gaining the art of controlling, directing, and concentrating the powers of his mind for earnest investigation—an art far more essential than even that intimate acquaintance with classical learning which is the primary object of study.
I intend to make these two quotes, particularly that last sentence of Celeste's, my leading thoughts as I consider and prepare for the next school year.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Joshua Tree

At the beginning of the month, my family had the opportunity to go camping at Joshua Tree National Park with a group of people.  We went back and forth about whether it should be a family trip or not, finally deciding to make the 1100 mile round trip with everyone.  The children travelled very well, and we enjoyed listening to Swallowdale on the way down and Peter Duck on the way back up.  We are all very good travelers when we have a great audiobook!

Joshua Tree was windy, cold, and absolutely gorgeous.  I have not spent much time in the desert before, and this was a challenging, but rewarding introduction.  I thought I would share some pictures from our trip so that while the pictures don't do the place justice, you all could get at least a little glimpse.

Now that I'm mostly caught up from being gone (and largely recovered from fatigue and dehydration!) I'm hoping to restart my various intellectual pursuits this week and finish Chapter 4 of A Living Page.  I hope to post on that sometime Easter week.

The rocks next to our camp were great for scrambling.  The kids had so much fun exploring and climbing.  You can also see part of a Joshua Tree on the left of the photo.

The Yucca look something like the Joshua Trees, but they don't grow as tall and they have something like white strings that peel off their edges.

A close up of the Yucca bloom.

A Joshua Tree in bloom.  Experts think that the when the growing tip of the Joshua Tree is damaged by frost, it is stimulated to bloom and then branch.  So by looking at a Joshua Tree and seeing how much it has branched, you have a good idea of how many times it has bloomed.

Headstone Monument Rock.  My husband climbed part of this!  Joshua Tree is known for its amazing and bizarre rock formations, favorites for both photographers and rock climbers.

It is was wonderful to be here in the spring so we could see all sorts of flowers in bloom.

I believe this is a pencil cactus.  It certainly looks formidable, doesn't it.

A rock formation on the Geology Tour Drive in the north part of the park.  I took the younger kids on that while my husband and the older kids climbed.  The cold and the wind was just too much for the little guys.

Joshua Trees and a view of a distant, snow capped peak.

The growing tip of a Teddy Bear Cholla (pronounced choy-ya)  

These things were quite fierce looking. They largely reproduce when a piece breaks off, which rolls to other areas, roots, and grows into a new plant.  There are pack rats that will gather these pieces and bring them to their nest, which they use as a sort of barbed wire around their entrances.  Somehow they are able to move around them and carry them without getting too injured, and they offer protection against the coyotes and other predators that would like to dig up their middens and eat the rats.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Living Page: The Grand Invitation

I'm joining Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles again for her fifth discussion of The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater.  My other posts are here.

Wildflowers and Marbles

I sometimes feel like I am already locked into an educational path in our family, that we've gone so far down this road that there's no deviating, no altering our course.  After all, I'm in my eighth year of this home education journey, and I have one child who is solidly on her way in her education.  But I also have four more, ages 8, 5, 2, and 4 months old.  I have two children who aren't even school age yet, and two who have barely begun!  I may have some time and experience under my belt, but I also have a lot more time to get even better.
The practice of using these books is begun and buttressed by the atmosphere, discipline, and the life of the school and teacher, but their content is clearly driven by the child and comprises a highly personalized journey and retelling.  ~Bestvater, p. 63
There is still so much time available to improve our atmosphere, discipline, and life. And even if all my children were much older, there would still be time to build, grow and learn.  In reading this section, I was reminded of a blog post Cindy Rollins wrote at CIRCE last month.
I suppose I was worried that the book would make me feel guilty.  We had, after all, failed at keeping a Book of the Centuries.  My children had not made a Book of Firsts or a Bible Notebook, but as I read the book I began to see the very thing I so often promote: the idea that we are working on something for the long haul--the very long haul--an entire lifetime.  If I start something with a twelve-year-old, something educational in the truest sense of the word, then he has his entire life to complete it. No, not to complete it: to enjoy it.  Even at fifty-something I can begin my own Book of the Centuries, just as last year I finally started my own nature notebook.
So long as I am still alive there is time for me to build, grow, and learn -- and this is vitally important work for me as a human being and a child of God.
Teachers learning Mason's methods today could not do better than to keep these notebooks for themselves; the notebooks constrain us to transformation over information.  We learn to ask different questions:  "What are you thinking?"  "Are you satisfied with your work?"  "Is there anything you'd like to add?" "You seem to have a problem; do you want to talk about it?" "Do you want some help?" and sometimes even, "I need to ask you for more."  ~Bestvater, p. 65
I was heartened and encouraged when I considered Bestvater's words about a blank page and the life in my homeschool.  I realized how much of the above quote describes much of what already happens in my family.  I have always largely eschewed workbooks and pre-formatted, fill-in-the-blank sort of work as well as required frequent narration, and because of this I believe my children have no hesitancy about the blank page.  Emma, my oldest, can create Shakespeare maps, write poems, draw maps, and write detailed narrations with excellent vocabulary and sentence structure without any hesitation or fear.  Gregory (8), while certainly not as far along, shows ample signs that he's heading down this same path.  Emma recently completed a "History of the Swords of Eol", a rich and detailed piece of writing born out of her love for Tolkein's Silmarillion.  This wasn't an assignment, beyond being told to spend some time writing, but she wrote it, revised it carefully, and presented it to me.  Clearly there are things that are going very well in my homeschool.

Bestvater ends the chapter by saying, "If a person can only be built up from within, what else but the freedom of blank page transmits that confidence? Is it too much to say a child's growth and transformation demand these open-ended postures, that Mason's forms of vitality are an imperative to true education and the Grand Invitation?" (p. 67)  After coming this far, I can't but agree with her.  And more so, I'm happy to agree with her.  I can finally stop feeling guilty because I don't use all the various pre-formatted, prepackaged notebook pages out there, and instead offer my children nothing but the blank page and verbal guidance of expectations for their writing and creating.  By offering them nothing but this, I am apparently offering them everything.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Accumulation of Authority

"No; there are only two things that really progress; and they both accept accumulations of authority. They may be progressing uphill and down; they may be growing steadily better or steadily worse; but they have steadily increased in certain definable matters; they have steadily advanced in a certain definable direction; they are the only two things, it seems, that ever can progress. The first is strictly physical science. The second is the Catholic Church." - The Ball and the Cross, G.K. Chesterton

This is a quote I've seen several times before, and it was exciting to run across it in the course of reading.  It was also nice to realize that by seeing this quote out context, I wasn't misunderstanding it.  As I consider Sarah's article about reading Chesterton over on CIRCE, I have moments of doubt about these Weekends with Chesterton.  Am I contributing to the misunderstanding of Chesterton by excerpting quotes and sharing them here?  I'm not considering Chesterton out of context, as I come by these quotes honestly, that is through encountering them in the course of my reading.  In the article Sarah is talking about the short quips that float around (sometimes garbled), which is why I try to except longer quotes and more complete thoughts.  I think that mitigates the risk of misunderstanding, but sometimes I wonder!

For more, please go visit Mary at Better than Eden, who is hosting this week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Living Page: Time Tools

Wildflowers and Marbles

I spent some time with Bestvater’s The Living Page early last week reading through her history notebook findings.  It was hard not to think, “great, something else I’m doing wrong!”  Last week was a tough week in my household, with everyone but the baby coming down with a horrible stomach bug, and I'm sure that contributed to my impression of the section.  But I want consider what I've read with an open mind, especially in light of a quote I read at about the same time from Sir Walter Scott's Waverley.

“Alas! while he was thus permitted to read only for the gratification of his amusement, he foresaw not that he was losing for ever the opportunity of acquiring habits of firm and assiduous application, of gaining the art of controlling, directing, and concentrating the powers of his mind for earnest investigation—an art far more essential than even that intimate acquaintance with classical learning which is the primary object of study.”  Waverley, Sir Walter Scott

If I or my children are just reading and not doing the work associated with reading -- narration, mapwork, common placing, history notebooks -- then we are reading for the “gratification of [our] amusement” and we shortchanging our ability to make connections in our readings and we are not gaining the mastery of the mind that Scott writes about.  I’m afraid my education has been fraught with this, and that I'm allowing this to happen in my children's education as well due to my lack of diligence in the application of some of these tools and techniques.

All this being said, I thought I would write a bit about what I'm considering doing with the time tools mentioned in this section and what I'm considering using in my home.  Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles did a wonderful job summarizing the tools, so I'm not going to spend much time on what they are.

The Child's Own History Chart

I am considering doing something like this with Nathan (5) next year.  I'd like to do a chart counting backwards as described, but I would also like to create a one page chart with him moving forwards in time as well, perhaps over the course of a year.  I was thinking that each month we could record one or two memorable things we did and then review the previous months' activities to help build an awareness of the scale of time.  In the history chart, I don't really understand how it develops over time - as the child grows older, is he supposed to remember or become aware of more events in his past than he would initially know?  And I'm not sure that this would work as a wall hanging in my home.  For some reason, things that get hung on the wall are largely overlooked.  I don't have that much hanging on the walls, but what there is seems to be immediately forgotten.  We seem to do better with materials that are pulled out, reviewed and used, then put away than with things left out all the time.

Table of History

Building off my observation that leaving things out does not make my children more aware of them, I think that Celeste's simple binder timeline would be a wonderful way to implement this idea with Gregory (8).  Although I see in the end notes that the piece of paper should be Cartridge paper ("a tough, unbleached paper used for endpapers, linings, and shotgun shells from whence it takes its name.  ...  Sheets of Cartridge paper sold today come in various sizes; one such standard is approximately 23"
 x 33".  For our purposes, it is enough to imagine a largish piece of stiff paper.") I'm still not convinced that this is the right tool for our family because I am not sure it will be noticed and used if hanging on the wall.  But I also take the point that to be able to see all of it at once is extremely valuable, especially if what we are trying to build is a "graphic panorama" in the child's mind so he "will see events in their time-order".  Obviously I need to consider this one further!

Stream of History, History Charts, Map of Centuries and Century Charts

This sounds like the big brother of the Table of History, where events and people are organized by decade rather than centuries, but still only the most important dates are placed.  This time tool has to be displayed, otherwise it ends up almost duplicating the Book of Centuries and becomes far less useful.  The suggested scale is one yard equals 3000 years.  The History Charts seem to go hand in hand with the large Stream of History, giving the student a place to give all the details of a person's life or major event, without pouring too much detail into the Stream of History or Book of Centuries.  The Century Chart then is a graphic representation of much of the same material in the Stream of History, giving the student a symbolic "at a glance" view of a century, highlighting just the most important event of a year.   The Map of Centuries looks like a very useful quick glance as well, but rather than looking at events in a given century, it helps the student to see the most important theme in each century.  Emma (12) saw me looking Jen's map and is already excited about it.

There are a lot of different pieces here!  I take the point when Bestvater says, "Likely any timeline is better than no timeline, but if Mason and the P.N.E.U. gave careful thought to scaffolding the child's growing time sense, are not some important principles at stake if we depart for the sake of convenience or personal preference for a less considered activity?"  And truly, this thought does give me pause.  But all these charts start to strike me as busywork - adding entries to the Stream of History on the wall, adding entries to a close up Time Chart, adding a symbols to the Century Chart, and adding entries to the Book of Centuries.  I can see how they all have their purposes, but does it become cumbersome to be adding perhaps the same thing to four separate places?

Book of Centuries

Last, but not least, is the Book of Centuries.  This is the Charlotte Mason educational tool everyone thinks they are familiar with, but yet it seems we've gotten it wrong.  "The Book of Centuries is like a rope hammock:  there are just enough points of contact to hold you up, but a lot of space too.  This notebook is a visual touchpoint for the child, the century at a glance, personalized."  There is a strong graphical emphasis in this work too, half the book is given over for sketches and drawings of artifacts from the given time period.  "This careful tracking and drawing of artifacts represents a practical outworking of Mason's pedagogy of books and things, left and right-brain education in balance.  In the careful looking and drawing the child forms relationships in a different way than he does with the story or biography."  Rather than a horizontal timeline in a binder, it is a collection of organized notes and drawings.

I think this form of the Book of Centuries will be more attractive to Emma (12) and this is probably the piece I'm most looking forward to introducing to her.

Calendar of Events

Ah, the last one!  I don't have a student old enough for this one yet, but I love Jen's idea of making this a shared iCal calendar.  It encourages entries to be brief but yet doesn't arbitrarily limit how long they can be.  It also makes it easy to include a link for more information.  I will definitely have to do this when Emma gets old enough to use this particular time tool.


Overall, there is a huge amount to think about here, and the potential for a lot of new tools as well.  I can see the benefits and reasons for all of the tools, but I'm concerned about overwhelming Emma as well as myself.  One major disadvantage to having my first and second children four years apart is that I think at time Emma sees the practices and tools in a more negative light because no one else in the house is using them.  Really, what needs to happen is that I need to use these tools too, I need to have my own versions of these things.  And it isn't that I object to this, after all, I can see their value and use...  but I need to build my own habits and set aside the time to use them regularly.  I know from experience that the best way to have Emma be interested and willing to use these tools is if I use them too.  AFter all, don't we all enjoy learning more when we have someone else who is working and collaborating right alongside?  Isn't that why I'm participating in this online discussion about Bestvater's book?

In the rest of the school year, I'm planning on creating a close-up timeline for WWII (our current historical study) with all the kids.  I think I am going to hold off on the other tools until the beginning of the next school year, setting them up with the children over the summer but not making a concentrated effort to put them into practice until August.  I think that will help give me some time to sort through what I need to prepare, figure out where things will go, and what to purchase.  It will also give me some time to work through the rest of The Living Page!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Free-thought

Free-thought may be suggestive, it may be inspiriting, it may have as much as you please of the merits that come from vivacity and variety. But there is one thing Free-thought can never be by any possibility--Free-thought can never be progressive. It can never be progressive because it will accept nothing from the past; it begins every time again from the beginning; and it goes every time in a different direction.
The Ball and the Cross, G.K. Chesterton

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Living Page: The First Three Weeks

When I first heard about Laurie Bestvater's new book, The Living Page, I wasn't sure I wanted to read it.  I was fairly certain I would end up feeling guilty about all the notebooking I should be doing but wasn't.  However, I wasn't taking into account my pregnancy and how that changes my ability to think well and consider new things.  I tend to just react, not ponder and grow in my practices.  I wish I could figure out how to maintain my higher brain functions and be pregnant, but after five tries I'm fairly convinced that it isn't something I can do.  Thankfully my pregnancy induced intellectual stupor seems to be wearing off, and this is coinciding nicely with Jen's discussion of The Living Page.

Wildflowers and Marbles

I am rather behind, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about the first three weeks.  First of all, I am finding this book extremely encouraging.  Second, this book, along with Celeste's thoughts on digital keeping, have helped me realize how much keeping I do already.  I do keep a physical commonplace book (although it hibernated during my pregnancy) which I was drawn to pick up again about six weeks after my daughter's birth.  I also keep a private website where I post pictures of the family and commentary about our doings for friends and family (and if you are friends or family and don't have the URL, email me and I'll pass it along!) and again, now that I'm no longer pregnant that is getting updated fairly regularly as well.  I also write in Day One several times a week, the only keeping I managed to continue through my pregnancy.  Day One is a place where I write about the doings of the day, as well as about what I'm reading, pondering, and considering.  I also keep reading logs for myself and my two older children.

These first few sections of The Living Page also reminded me about the keeping I have tried to maintain, but haven't managed to do consistently.  For example, the nature notebook with the last entry of December 2012, the Calendar of Firsts that for two years has not made it past May, and a sketchbook of drawing exercises that hasn't seen an entry since September of 2013.  And the less we talk about the notebook with "Before 3000 B.C." written on the first page with nothing else following, the better I'll feel.  And then there's my daughter's Book of Centuries that hasn't seen an entry since the fall.  And the kids' nature notebooks that haven't seen entries since the spring of 2012.  I had hoped to encourage and inspire them to make their own nature notebook entries as I made my own, but it didn't work out that way!

Even with this deficiencies staring me in the face, I still am encouraged.  How could I not be, after reading words like these?
Mason has shown me that the notebooks can be forms of vitality, literally the shape and outline, the liturgy of the attentive life.  They nurture the science of relations and the art of mindfulness.  p. xv
What if the emphasis is meant to be on the formative process -- the growing person who feasts upon and then share the Great Ideas in creating the art, rather than the artifact or achievement itself?  p. 15
 Isn't it encouraging to think of notebooks being part of the formative process of growing person, a person who is learning to consider, ponder, and explore the great ideas of what it means to be a person and a child of God?

And because I do want to share something that has been part of our formative process this year, I want to share another quote and piece of work from my daughter's time in Atrium.  And while this focus on the product may seem to contradict the quote about the formative process, I think that they are harmonious because the beauty of the created work is part of the process and part of the meditation, which is certainly part of the formation of the person.
Beautiful script is also a value in itself; Sundays were often spent by P.N.E.U. students working on a beautiful rendition of a particular passage on fine paper. p. 30

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton

"Well, we won't quarrel about a word," said the other, pleasantly. "Why on earth not?" said MacIan, with a sudden asperity. "Why shouldn't we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren't important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn't any difference between them?

From The Ball and the Cross, by G.K. Chesterton

This quote reminds me of an online conversation that was a watershed moment for me in my understanding of language and truth.  A number of years ago, I watched an email exchange take place on a parenting email list where one person insisted she was a vegetarian even though she ate various meats not infrequently.  They went back and forth several times, until the so-called vegetarian stated that she was the one using the word, she could define it however she wanted to define it.  All of a sudden the absurdity and the absolute chaos implied by her statement hit me, and I found myself entertaining the previously ridiculous idea that there could be absolute knowledge in something that wasn't physically measurable.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nature Walk: Mosses and Lichens

I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what I'm looking at when I observe these lovely green mosses/lichens/whatever they are growing on the rocks and trees around me.  But I love how beautiful they are after a good rain, and I'm amazed by how they lie dormant through the hot dry summers only to unfold their delicate ferny tendrils when exposed to the winter rains.  

This creek is less than a half mile walk from our house.  Isn't it lovely?

 If you look closely, you can see pine needles hung like tinsel from the trees.

 Isn't it gorgeous?  We are so thankful to get to live here!

Chesterton on the Media

"Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, "Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe," or "Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet." They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all."  The Ball and the Cross (loc. 522)

I've been wanting to participate in this link-up for a few weeks now, and I'm so proud of myself for not only reading Chesterton this week, but having a quote to share and remembering to post it.  That's pretty good for me these days!  Thanks to Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things for hosting this!

Friday, February 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes

Is it possible to talk about reading the Odyssey - on my own, without any impetus other than my own enjoyment - without sounding either pretentious, snobbish, boring or like braggart?

I am really enjoying reading it and thinking about things like, "so why does Odysseus tell his nursemaid he'll make the observations and decisions about which serving maids are loyal, and then turn around a couple books later and ask her to rat out the trampy and disloyal ones?  What would it be like to be talking to your spouse who you hadn't seen for twenty years and either not realize it or not be able to reveal your identity?  Why does Laertes stay in retirement after Odysseus goes off to war?  Why doesn't he take more of a role in the government of Ithaca, especially since Penelope doesn't seem to have the power to do all that much?"  While I realize that it is probably impossible to either have an original thought about the Odyssey or to answer some of these questions, I have a lot of fun thinking about things like this when I'm awake in the middle of the night.  (Darn insomnia - I think Hannah sleeps better than I do most nights.)

So, what do you think.  Am I pretentious, a snob, or a braggart?  All three?  Or just boring?

Is it even worse that I'm thinking about reading the Odyssey in a different translation next?

I've adopted Sarah's loop scheduling idea for getting to some of the subjects that used to be part of our weekly coursework but hadn't been added back into the schedule post-baby.  It is working beautifully, and my planning side is pleased that we're actually doing this stuff and that there's a plan for doing it, and my post-partum self is so happy that I'm not trying to keep up the kind of schedule that would be required to do all these things in the course of a week.

Just for reference (and laughs?), here's my rotation list.

Science Experiment  (Happy Scientist Geology videos and experiments)
Shakespeare  (Merchant of Venice)
Faith Project (Bible verse calligraphy for Emma, CHC Sacraments program for Gregory)
Poetry & Artist Study (Christina Rossetti and Van Gogh)
Journey North Mystery Class  (our fifth year!)
Plutarch - Publicola (using the Ann White's guide)
Shakespeare  (in twice so we do it a little more often)
Nature Study & Music  (Beethoven)
Art Project  (I want to do a couple Van Gogh inspired projects - maybe this and this?)

Did you know that in order to get a Social Security number for Hannah I had to drive an hour each way to the Social Security office with Hannah, her insurance card, the PKU form, a letter from my midwife, her birth certificate, the request for the birth certificate form (which took a visit to a county office with the whole family and more paperwork), my ID, and the Social Security number request form?  All you women who give birth in the hospital have a distinct advantage when it comes to getting the government paperwork completed!

What makes it worse is that I took all of that except the PKU form and the insurance card (as I didn't need them to get a number for Justin) yesterday, waited an hour with Justin and Hannah in their waiting area, then was told I needed more documentation.  Ahh!!!  I asked my parents to take the kids this morning and went back with the additional paperwork and thankfully it was enough.  It was really nice to bring in some substitute teachers for the morning.  Perhaps I should do that more often!

Am I the only person who compulsively prices out what it would cost for me to attend the CIRCE conference?  Yeah, I thought so.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!