Sarah’s School Work, Fall 2014

Sarah is in Kindergarten this year!  In some ways she seems past this stage, in that she’s quite articulate and good at many things, but in other ways she’s still pint-sized, as evidenced by the fact that she went to church in a size 3T dress this Sunday and I didn’t notice anything amiss.

In addition to the subjects we cover with the other kids, Sarah’s individual school work includes:

Math

Last year Sarah got through half of Saxon 1, so this year I am pulling back in pace a bit and just having her do one page of the second half of Saxon 1.  At this pace, she will still be part way through Saxon 2 by the end of Kindergarten so I don’t see any reason to rush around.  Doing one page a day still helps her practice writing her numbers and gives her time to get really good at addition and subtraction facts.

Reading

Sarah is still convinced she can’t read, which is perplexing since she’s 139 lessons in to the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and is reading even complicated phonemes like -aigh.  But because she can’t pick up any old chapter book and read it, like Hannah and Jack can, she thinks she can’t read.  Curiously, she also thinks she can’t ride her bicycle, although she actually can and has repeatedly done so in front of numerous witnesses.  So at any rate, in addition to her reading lesson, she also reads me a short book like a Bob book reader or one of Eliza’s board books, or something like that, because maybe if she reads an actual book daily, eventually it will sink in that she is in fact reading.  In spite of her assertion that she can’t read, Sarah still reports that reading is her favorite subject, so I guess that’s good.

Spelling

Sarah couldn’t understand why she didn’t have a spelling book like the others, so I went ahead and started her in All About Spelling 1.  I was not too surprised that she immediately grasped the concept of building words by sound, but I was surprised that she enjoyed it so much that she begs to be allowed to do more spelling every day. I actually have to cut her off after she does a week’s worth in about 10 minutes.  So although we’ve only completed five weeks of school, she’s already well over 2/3 of the way through the book and showing no signs of slowing down.  I figure at some point we will get to something that takes more effort and then we’ll slow down to a normal pace, but at this point she’s enjoying it so what the heck.

Grammar

I said I wouldn’t do it but I’m going through First Language Lessons 1 with Sarah again.  I was going to skip it, but she wouldn’t have it and I thought maybe we’d rehash level 1 another time for review before going to level 2.  It can’t hurt, right?

Handwriting

I just have Sarah doing copywork for handwriting.  Since she copies the same length passage that her older siblings do, and her spelling also includes dictation, I feel like that is sufficient.

How long does this take?

Truly, Sarah is the most diligent worker in the house.  She never complains about her work, but just cheerfully does her assignments.  It takes her about 10 minutes to do her copywork, and then about 30-40 minutes for Office Time (her one-on-one teaching time).  Usually she gets all of her work done with me.  Then the subjects we do with the other kids take one-and-a-half to two hours, so total she’s probably doing about two-and-a-half to three hours of school a day, not counting extra reading time and bedtime read-alouds.  That seems reasonable for her age.  Other than school work she does a lot of dressing up and playing make-believe games with her ponies and castle and dolls, and singing at the top of her lungs.

It’s interesting to think about the differences between Sarah’s Kindergarten year and Hannah’s.  In many ways, I’m doing way more with Sarah than I knew I could even attempt with Hannah, but in other ways, I’m way more laid back.  You learn things along the way I suppose.

 

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Jack’s School Work, Fall 2014

This is Jack shortly after we picked up his new cello. The boy has been asking to take cello lessons since he was three, so we finally gave in.  He’s really psyched and we’re hopeful that his enthusiasm will translate into happy practicing!

Jack is in second grade this year and is very smart and capable, but we are having to do some heavy lifting on attitude and diligence.  From what I’ve read, this is a common issue with seven-year-old boys and I am researching like mad on the topic.  Book recommendations welcome!  In spite of that, it’s often really a joy to teach Jack, because his mind is so incredibly interesting.  He asks wildly insightful questions and sees connections in unusual ways that keep me entertained and on my toes.  In addition to the subjects we do together with the other kids, here is the run down on Jack’s individual work:

Math

Jack is kind of a ninja at math when he is in the mood, so he is having no trouble in Saxon 3. However, he does have trouble understanding why he should show his work when he can easily do it in  his head or out loud, so sometimes there is a battle over completing the three page lesson each day  (one page teaching, one page practice, one page of math facts). I remember Hannah having this problem too and she turned the corner eventually, so I’m hopeful Jack will too.

Latin

Since I’m tackling Latin as an individual subject this year, Jack is going it alone in Prima Latina and having no trouble at all.  We’re just doing one chapter per week and he’s heard all of the vocabulary in years past, so the only new thing is that he’s having to write answers down this year, but that’s no problem.  He’s getting 100% on end-of-week tests and likes to sing the prayers as songs (which they sort of are–one is essentially Holy, Holy, Holy in Latin, and another is the Gloria Patri, etc).

Cursive

Having asked to learn cursive last year, Jack is doing New American Cursive II this year.  Some of the gleam has worn off now that he knows how the letters go, but practice makes perfect.

Spelling

Unlike his older sister, Jack is an intuitive speller, so All About Spelling 3 is helping him understand the rules behind how we spell and it’s not hard for him.  The only stumbling block here is the dictation–to reinforce the spelling rules the book has the teacher read a sentence containing words from that rule and then the student writes it down.  The method is good, but Jack balks at having so much writing.  To finish the week he has to do three sentences per day, which isn’t really that much, but sometimes there is foot dragging.  When he is focused, though, spelling is a cinch.  I’m hoping the kinks work themselves out as we go along.  Meanwhile, I work on being calm and cheerful. :)

Language Arts

For grammar and writing we’re using First Language Lessons 3 and Writing With Ease 3.  Jack loves these and he really, really likes diagramming.  Boy after my own heart.

Reading

I still have Jack practice reading out loud most days.  He reads well, but it’s good to practice inflection and he has a tendency to skim over words when he’s not sure how they are pronounced.  He is reading The Fellowship of the Ring (having really enjoyed The Hobbit this summer when we read it aloud–he likes fantasy/adventure) and also some books about heroes of the Wild West and various other chapter books he picks up around the house or from the library stack.  He doesn’t read as much as Hannah does, but he enjoys reading and is keen to get in on book clubbing with me whenever we get to it.

How long does this take?

For Jack, this question is so variable!  He spends about 15-20 minutes on cursive and copywork at the table with the girls, then on a good day he can get his Office Time (one-on-one teaching time with me) done in about 30 minutes.  On a bad day his Office Time can take over an hour.  Then he spends maybe another half an hour on the assignments I give him in Office Time unless he gets distracted and starts playing Legos or building forts, in which case he might still be doing assignments in the afternoon when he would rather be outside playing.  Added together with the subjects we do together with the girls, which takes about one-and-a-half to two hours, I’d say Jack spends between three and five hours on school work per day, not including his personal reading time or our evening read-aloud time.

I don’t mean to overstate the difficulties of school here, Jack is really a very pleasant and happy boy generally speaking, and I do enjoy teaching him.  I think our struggles are mostly related to his developmental stage and I trust we will see improvement sooner or later!

 

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Hannah’s School Work, Fall 2014

Hannah is in third grade this year and seems to have really turned a corner with school work. She’s always been a good student, but this year she’s much more able to handle her workload without dilly-dallying or complaining about how much writing she has to do.  I have told her several times already what a complete joy it is to have Office Time with her–that’s our individual instruction time–this year.  In addition to the subjects we cover together with the other kids, this is what Hannah’s individual work looks like:

Math

After a brief review, we launched into Saxon 5/4. This is the first Saxon level that is a textbook rather than a consumable style, so I think a big step is that Hannah is writing out all of her problem sets in a notebook rather than just putting in the answers.  She’s learning lessons in neatness and checking her work, which is important for later math levels so good to learn it now!  I’m surprised to note that 5/4 spirals more slowly than the end of Saxon 3 did, but it’s an easy win for Hannah since we labored over intense long division this summer so going back to easier review is a relief for us both. I wasn’t sure about this progression–it seemed strange to put her directly in 5/4 as a third grader–but now I’m much more confident that it was the right decision.  There is an option to take a segue from Saxon 3 to a few intermediate levels, but I am glad we didn’t bother with that.

Latin

We’re doing a big review of Prima Latina, mostly for spelling purposes (if there was an award for spending the most possible time in one Latin book, our family would probably win it for our multi-year journey through this one!) and then we’ll move into Latina Christiana at long last.  I’m finding that it works much better for me to tackle Latin individually with each child rather than attempting it as a group subject.

Spelling

Spelling has long been a thorn in Hannah’s side, and I’ve tried so many programs with such limited success.  Usually, she’d get a perfect score on a weekly spelling test and then promptly spell the same words incorrectly in her other writing.  This year, I pulled her back into All About Spelling 2, in hopes of helping her to understand the rules behind spelling since that curriculum worked so well with Jack last year.  Then the heavens parted and an angelic chorus sang “AAAAAHHHHHleluia” because oh my word she is finally getting it!  For some reason this fall spelling is clicking for Hannah.  I think she’s just at an age where she ADORES things that are mysteries or puzzles and AAS is helping her see the rules and reasons behind spelling correctly.  She’s taking the lessons at a rate of 2-3 per week (rather than 1 per week as you’d do normally) so I think she will be on track by the end of this term.  What a relief for us both.

Handwriting

I have Hannah doing her copywork in cursive every day, and also using Copybook Cursive from Memoria Press for additional practice.  It’s sort of overkill, but we have the book on hand.

Language Arts

After much research, I got Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts set and started it with Hannah.  We ADORE this method.  The books integrate grammar, word roots, poetry analysis, and writing in an idea- and story-based way that really makes sense and emphasizes beauty and understanding at a deep level.  I got Level 1, which is used for gifted 3rd graders or 4th graders.  At first I wondered why, because I think at some level Hannah could have done this stuff in 1st grade, but I’m glad I waited because I think her 3rd grade love of figuring out how things work and seeing patterns is helping make this a breeze.  She’s finished Grammar Island and almost half of Building Language and Language of the Hemispheres already, and is doing a sentence analysis from Practice Island every day.  These books dovetail nicely with First Language Lessons, so she is finishing up some of the last diagramming lessons from FLL 3 and will move into FLL 4 as soon as we receive our copy.  I won’t lie–this is a lot of language arts.  But Hannah really enjoys it, so I don’t mind that she spends several hours a day on it.  In fact, on days when we’ve been rushed and I’ve tried to skip some of this, she begs to do it anyway.

Reading

Reading is Hannah’s favorite thing.  She reads voraciously and since I can’t keep up with her anymore, I try to read a few things she’s reading in the interest of discussion, but other than that I rely heavily on classic book lists I find in a variety of places.  Since she reads so much and way beyond her grade level I don’t bother counting reading as school work anymore–it’s just part of her life, which is how it should be!  However, I’m doing some research on how to shape literature discussions so that we can pick our mother-daughter book club back up in a way that helps her learn literary analysis and how to be a thoughtful and discerning reader.  Recently Hannah told me that she feels the need to read War and Peace.  I said yes, you really should read War and Peace, but perhaps not this year.  :)

How long does this take?

Going over her math lesson and doing some mental math work together, Latin, spelling, and language arts in Office Time takes about an hour.  She does her copywork and handwriting at the table with everyone else generally for about 15-20 minutes, and the work I assign her in Office Time takes her about two to three hours if she’s diligent.  Then the reading we do for our together subjects takes about one and a half to two hours, not including bedtime reading.  All told I’d say Hannah spends five to six hours a day on school work.  Usually we start by 8:30 and she works until lunch, then finishes her work during afternoon rest time.  Sometimes she’s still doing work at 8:30 at night, but that’s her choice.  I have no idea how much additional time she spends reading, but it’s a lot.

As I mentioned, I am really delighting in teaching Hannah this year.  It will be interesting to see how the year turns out!

 

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Subjects We Do Together

Each of the children has individual teaching time with me (we call it Office Time because it takes place in my office) but we also do several subjects together.

Copywork

We usually begin the day with copywork. Each child copies the same passage (usually one of the review poems from our memory work binder, a stanza of the hymn we’re learning, or a piece of poetry we’re working on memorizing), but at his or her level.  Sarah prints, Jack prints but in smaller letters, and Hannah writes in cursive.  Copywork counts for Sarah’s handwriting as well, but Jack and Hannah each have additional cursive handwriting practice.

Bible

Each morning, we review five catechism questions and answers, and read one section from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism–basically these work through the scripture proofs for each question with one question per week.  We also sing one hymn we’re learning and one for review.  Or maybe two.  Or maybe we sing every hymn we know.  It varies. At bedtime we have worship and read a chapter or section from the Bible (we’re in Acts at the moment), work on our Bible memory chapter (Philippians 2 now), sing a Psalm or hymn, since the Doxology and Gloria Patri, and talk about any topics that come up.

History

We’ve been working through Tapestry of Grace Year 3, reading all of the Lower Grammar and most of the Upper Grammar assignments (and supplemental assignments) out loud.  We like to read together, and I’ve been feeling confirmed lately in our choice to do this, thanks to reviewing some research on the benefits of hearing texts read aloud.  Anyway, what this looks like in practice is that often I read from several chapter books while the children are working on handwriting or doing an art project or eating breakfast or lunch, or we sit on the couch and read all bunched up together.  Usually both, at different times of day. We have several books and chapter books going at once, and it’s delightful when the kids make connections between subjects and topics this way!  We’re also going through the US Presidents song once or twice a week.

Literature

We’re reading the Tapestry of Grace Year 3 Lower Grammar and Upper Grammar literature selections together, plus our daily dose of Aesop, Mother Goose, poetry, at least a few picture books unrelated to school work, at least a few board books for Eliza, and we’re also studying Hamlet this term. The moment when my children intelligently discussed the question, “Should Hamlet have avenged his father?” was a high point in my life thus far.  Because really, what young kid has NOT wanted to get revenge at some point? This is an issue between siblings at times in our house, and so they are really tracking with Hamlet’s dilemmas and I am loving it.  More details on our Hamlet study to come!  We’re also working on some poetry memory and memorizing a few short pieces from Hamlet.  At bedtime we read aloud a few chapters from a book unrelated to our school reading.

Science

We’re doing Apologia Astronomy again this year because the topic is cool and I didn’t think the kids would remember it from a few years ago.  I was wrong.  But I think there is value to going over it again and they are really into the topic, especially Jack who would like his own telescope.  I like the book we’re using for its conversational tone.

Art

We’re reading about Benjamin West together, but I wasn’t successful in my attempt to get prints of his paintings so we haven’t done a proper artist study yet this fall.  I’m hopeful that the other artists I selected for study this year will be better for real picture study.  The kids have done a couple of art projects from Deep Space Sparkle (this one was a hit) and my mother-in-law plans to give them drawing lessons intermittently from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Music

Our composer this term is Beethoven.  We love him.  We’re listening to his works every day, and have greatly enjoyed The Story of Beethoven in Words and Music from the Music Masters series.  I really recommend Music Masters if you want to get the basic story of a composer’s life and influences plus an exposure to their major works.  Jack is beginning cello lessons this fall, and Hannah is back to piano lessons.

Spanish

I bought PowerGlide Spanish but to be perfectly honest we have had a hard time getting to it most days.  I like that the program is intuitive and story-based, but it’s just hard to find the time to fit it in.  I’m thinking this over.

Geography

We do the map work from Tapestry of Grace together and go over the Classical Conversations states and capitals song a couple of times a week, or at least as much of it as I can remember, which is only through Baton Rouge, LA.  I need to load the song back into my phone.  We’ve also reviewed the continents a couple of times.

Look for more on what each kid is doing for individual work in upcoming posts.

If you homeschool, what subjects do you work on together?

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Calm Schooling

I marvel that I can say this, and we are only three weeks in so I well know that things may change, but this year homeschooling has really been a joy.  We made a few changes that I think are contributing mightily to this happy fact.

We are protecting our mornings.

In previous years we have done co-ops and activities at least one morning a week.  I have also previously been willing to let my outside work take morning time–pushing school to afternoons or evenings or weekends as needed.  That worked in some ways, but I’ve come to realize–at least for my children–that we need a reliable structure.  Every morning we do our school routine.  The kids know what’s coming next.  I am not stressed about compressing work into times that aren’t optimal for attention spans.  On two occasions this fall I’ve had either the babysitter or a friend over for a morning, and while that might be ok as an every now and then thing, it really is not ideal.  I’m feeling confirmed in my conviction that we need to protect our mornings.  

We are not on anyone else’s timetable.

This is also the first year we have not used a co-op or outside group for any academic subjects.  I stopped doing Classical Conversations because the group’s focus is not similar enough to my convictions about education and I resented the push to learn material that wasn’t tied to our main studies.  Last year we were in a co-op with other families using Tapestry of Grace, and while it was awesome in many respects, in the end I felt harried by needing to stick to the week by week schedule.  I realized that I value the ability to take two weeks to cover a time period we like, or the freedom to compress two weeks together when there isn’t a lot of material on a topic or we read ahead.  I am no longer stressed out by being on a long wait list for books, and I feel better about the flexibility to dig deeper into topics of particular interest to the kids.

We moved to a term calendar.

This summer was too long (even the kids agree!), at least in part because I was SO burnt out from schooling without breaks last year.  We never took a fall break or a spring break,or a long weekend and our Christmas break was less than two weeks long.  This was really just my lack of planning, and my own inability to spot the burnout looming.  This year, I’ve scheduled our year in terms.  For the most part, we’ll do school for six weeks and then take one week off (with a slight exception in the fall to allow a break week over Thanksgiving).  We will be having school into June, and then taking the month of July off for our summer break.  I’m interested to see how it works, but so far it’s helping me feel restful and energetic about the year.

We are prioritizing truth and beauty.

I feel pretty strongly about academic rigor and expecting a lot out of my children.  At points this has led to my priorities getting out of whack.  Certainly I am not scaling back academics, but rather this year I’m committed to viewing them through the lens of truth and beauty.  My goal for their education is that academics help the kids to interact with ideas and see the truth and beauty in every subject.  We’re making time for artist study and composer study and copying excellent poetry for handwriting.  We’re working on habits and reading together even more than usual (which is saying something since we use literature-based curriculum!).

But mostly I think the change is in my attitude.  I’ve always loved homeschooling but, as with many worthwhile things, I haven’t always found joy in it moment by moment.   This year I’m determined to focus on the joyful moments, and I find that it’s giving our entire school day a more calm, relaxed, joyful atmosphere.

How do you promote calm, joyful days at your house?

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How the Heather Looks

How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children’s Books is my most favorite book of 2014 so far.  I absolutely adored it, and am grateful to my friend Heather of Blackberry Rambles for the recommendation.

The book chronicles a fabulous trip undertaken by an American family of four in the 1950s, in which they traveled around the UK finding locations of all of their favorite children’s literature.  I have LONG wanted to try something similar, visiting all of the spots I’ve read about all of my life, and it was pure pleasure to read about someone who had actually done so!  The book was very well written and researched, and helpful in reminding me of books I read in childhood but haven’t remembered to read to my own kids, plus many more I never read (sadly, many of which are out of print).  Apparently–although I’m not sure how you’d find this statistic–How the Heather Looks is the book most stolen by retiring librarians!  I can’t countenance theft, but I can understand why they do it.  I’d love to own a copy of this book myself.

I felt like Bodger was a kindred spirit, especially after I read how she had used actual maps to figure out if the Borrowers could have engaged in commerce with Lilliputians.  As much of my childhood imagination play revolved around little people of various sorts that I read about in books, it seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to map out.

Bodger’s children were 9 and nearly 3 at the time of their trip. She notes that at the outset people asked why they would undertake such a journey when their little girl was so young.  But the book really captures the joy that Lucie (the preschooler) and the whole family had as they explored the settings of their favorite books.  I could see turning to this book again and again for historical and setting context and book recommendations, and as a thoroughly enjoyable travel memoir.

After reading the book I googled Bodger and found, to my horror, that shortly after returning from the trip Lucie was diagnosed with a brain tumor, from which she died at the age of six.  During that time Bodger’s husband was diagnosed with schitzophrenia and left them, and thereafter her son was also diagnosed with schitzophrenia and ran away and got caught in the drug culture of the 1960s and was never part of her life again.  Bodger went on to start programs for at risk women and children using literature as therapy, wrote for the New York Times Book Review, and led initiatives for storytelling and literature for the rest of her life.  I was aghast to hear about how the family shattered, but felt so glad for Bodger that she had this document of a happy time, rather than just memories of illness and death and loss.  The book and my subsequent reading about the author struck me with a deepened sense of how important it is to cultivate joyful memories, and to really document those moments because they may be fleeting.  

In spite of the dark aftermath–which is not referenced or even foreshadowed in the book–I would wholeheartedly recommend How the Heather Looks to anyone who loves children’s literature (particularly of the British variety) or travel memoirs.

 

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Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

I read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Workbecause Elizabeth Foss raved about it, and I did find it interesting and helpful.  The book’s author researches marriages and relationships and so the book is very data-driven, but in a readable way.  The author debunks several commonly held ideas, shows how most marriage therapists are not as helpful as they could be, and suggests principles that couples can work on to make their marriages work.

One thing that stuck out to me in particular was the author’s assertion that you shouldn’t worry about solving your arguments, because, in fact, most marital arguments can’t be resolved.

I’ll pause to let that sink in.

According to the author’s research, many recurrent arguments are rooted in fundamental identity, upbringing, or personality differences that won’t go away. Instead of trying to change your spouse’s dreams and deeply held views on how things work, you should focus on respecting and honoring your spouse’s perspective so you can “declaw” the issue and figure out a way that each of you can be more flexible and stop the issue from being painful.

Overall, the tone of the book is very hopeful.  The author’s research shows that people can have very happy and fulfilling marriages even when they are very different, don’t have date nights, and disagree on things (contrary to what you may have heard).  You don’t need to be Cinderella and Prince Charming.  Having a happy and fulfilling marriage seems to come down more to how fond you are of each other, your refusal to allow contempt to enter your relationship, and your commitment to honor and respect one another even in your differences.

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this book to engaged couples or newlyweds, because you’d probably read it and think “yeah whatever these will never be issues for us.”  But if you’ve been married a while, you probably would at least get some good encouragement from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

 

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The Bookmarked Life #4

The Bookmarked Life is my take on catch-all posts–a record to help me remember this season of life.

Right now I’m:

…Considering

“Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles.” –Greg McKeown in Essentialism

I’m filing this under things that are easy to agree with, but harder to implement.

…Furnishing my mind

For some reason, my children believe that finding the bay leaf in the dinner is a stroke of luck.  The fortunate bay leaf finder must, naturally, make a wish.  You should see the joy on the face of the kid who snags the leaf.

It’s the little things in life, right?

…Learning about

I never took a class on poetry analysis, so I’ve always wondered if I was missing something.  I was!  Part of Hannah’s language arts this year (more on that soon, we are ADORING a new curriculum) involves close study of poetry, and I’m learning a ton.  To supplement, I also checked out a book for adults called How to Read a Poem and Fall In Love With Poetry and am finding out more about how to appreciate poetry more deeply.  Language is such a fascinating thing.

…Living the Good Life

I love sitting on the couch and reading to the kids as they are piled up trying to be sure they can see.  It is one of my most favorite things about life. Eliza is into everything, so we are firmly in the old how-to-keep-baby-from-ripping-books phase.  Yes, that post link is from 2010, back when I was so knowledgeable about motherhood.  :)

…Teaching

 

We started our school year!  A third grader, second grader, Kindergartener, and one active baby–so far it is working out well.  As usual, different stages means differences in our schooling, which I’ll post about eventually.

…Creating

One thing I really love is to have fresh flowers around.  Recently we were in North Carolina for my cousin’s wedding, and she had chosen to use wildflowers for the table arrangements.  My aunt did the flowers and sent me home with some she had left over.  I had so much fun arranging them for our school room table, the kitchen counter, the mantel, and my desk.  Another fun thing is rearranging every few days as things die or children bring new sprigs of Queen Anne’s Lace or weeds found ’round the neighborhood!

This week in a post-bedtime mad dash to the grocery store I happened to find FIVE packets of various flowers marked down to $1 each! So now our table, mantel, and my desk have a whole different look.  This particular grocery store has a fabulous tendency to mark flowers down when they are yet full of life–I don’t know why they do it, but I love them for it.

…Memorizing

Y’all I can NOT get the last section of Colossians 1 nailed down. I’m thinking I need to go back to the idea from the book I read and really focus on one verse per day.  I was trying to do larger sections and now I can’t keep the end straight.  At this rate it’s going to take me all year to get through the book, but I figure there is value to going over the text again and again!

…Seeking balance

I am keeping mornings for school, and moved my work time and our babysitter time to afternoons.  We have our fabulous babysitter for two long afternoons per week, and a dear family friend has been coming over to sit with the baby after nap times an additional afternoon a week as I’m trying to get through a lot of work.  It’s working out so much better to stick to a morning routine with school, and I’m trying to stay focused during work time so I can cram a full workload into a part-time schedule.  So far this still means I’m working at night after bedtime a lot and for much of the weekend, but I feel like we’re settling in and finding space.

…Building the habit

I promised to write more about the four habits I’m focusing on this Fall (order, focus, grace, duty).  The words I chose are broad.  It’s hard to write them on a checklist and confidently draw a line through it at the end of the day!  But they do remind me of tasks.  For example, order.  I like Gretchen Rubin’s line that “outer order contributes to inner calm” and find that to be true for me.  I tend to be more orderly in some areas than others–I don’t have trouble keeping my bedroom picked up, I keep my work files very organized, and I abhor and shun clutter in our main living spaces.  However, in other areas I have not been so orderly.  Some concrete ways I’m building a habit of order are:

  • Making a meal rotation for dinners and printing out recipes (many unusual ones for crockpots like crock pot chicken tikka masala and crockpot bulgogi, since our tastes don’t run to the cream-of-soup-type standbys, but I need the time savings in the kitchen right now) to keep together and ready rather than last minute rushing about with my laptop open on the counter.
  • Forcing myself to stick to an order of events with school work.  I am prone to spontaneity in the school day, but the kids like to know what’s coming when, so I’m sticking to the plan even though it pains me when it’s less efficient.  
  • Keeping all of my notes in one place. I have a love/hate relationship with sticky notes.  They can be super helpful, but I tend to write notes on them and then have them scattered all over the desk on every available surface, where they look messy and make me feel pulled in too many directions.  My new order habit is to keep all of my notes on one legal pad.  I divide it into three columns, and use it to collect all of my notes for the week. Usually I have to redo it halfway through the week so it isn’t messy, but that too helps me gather my thoughts.  

…Listening to

Podcasts.  I told my husband that I downloaded an app for podcasts and he looked at me like “where have you been for the past decade?”  That’s ok.  If you like podcasts, I recommend Read Aloud Revival – I’ve listened to all of the episodes while driving here and there and found them interesting and inspiring.

What are you bookmarking this week?

 

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Sabbath as Resistance

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now is an interesting take on Sabbath as a halt to acquisitiveness and anxious productivity.  The author uses the Exodus account of Israelites being freed from Pharaoh’s coercion and brought into a new model of living that sanctified a day of rest.  The parallels with modern life were thought-provoking–our tendency to get caught up in churning over the “bricks” we need to make or made incorrectly or failed to make reveals our lack of trust in God as our provider.

The book is not really comprehensive in its treatment of the topic of Sabbath, but I do think it has a lot of good points to consider.  It’s more concerned with the attitudes of our hearts than with questions like what exactly we should or shouldn’t do on a given day.

I didn’t agree with everything the author concluded, but found the book good to think over.  I’m figuring out how to balance a heavier work load this fall–which is good and I am grateful–and it’s very, very tempting to consider Sunday one more work day.  And even when I do forgo the work, it’s also tough to refrain from being distracted by my list of “bricks” for next week when I’m supposed to be focusing on a sermon.  So this book was a timely read for me, and if you’re interested in the topic I’d recommend it if you’re reading other books as well.

 

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Read Alouds from August

We did a lot of reading aloud in August, but didn’t complete many longer books so this makes for a short post.  However, we are currently in the midst of four books that we’ll finish soon and have several more on deck, so next month’s read aloud review will be a smorgasbord!

We all enjoyed The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy.  I liked the emphasis on kids making their own adventures, negotiating sibling relationships in an on-the-same-team sense, and the kids liked the characters and story.  My only complaints are that some of the adult characters seemed two-dimensional (nobody is really all oozy evil all the time–even in kid lit) and there were some scenes where the 12 year old girl thinks quite a lot about kissy stuff.  I elected to skip those parts, because it’s not the stage we’re in and I see no point in encouraging the idea that it’s cute to gush over or try to kiss boys as a preteen.  You may differ with me there, and it’s not that I don’t want to discuss those issues with my kids, just that I see no reason to bring them up prematurely or indicate that I think they ought to be thinking or acting that way.  It’s a complicated question, and one on which parents differ, I’ve found.  Anyway, there are other Penderwick books and we will probably read them to catch back up with the sisters and interesting boy.

In our poetry reading, we finished The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems.  To be honest, I didn’t love this one and probably won’t circle back to it.  Many of the poems were great, but several were ones I didn’t think were particularly important for children to know, more like the kind of thing that adults would want to study in the sense of not being particularly suited for children topically or appealing for reading aloud.  Also, I didn’t love the illustrations.  They seem like the sort of drawings young teenagers do before they realize that they need to learn some more technique.  They felt sort of off to me, and not excellent or unusual in style or composition.

I feel bad writing a harsh review of a book of poetry, especially when many of the selections were great, but it wasn’t exactly our cup of tea.

I saw Betsy and the Emperor recommended somewhere and so when we started studying Napoleon I checked it out for Hannah to read.  After she had read it a couple of times (she likes to re-read things) I read it.  Well.  At first the book does seem like the story of a spunky 14-year-old determined to befriend the 49-year-old exiled emperor (the story is historical fiction–there really was a Betsy on St. Helena).  However, in the course of the book Betsy makes out with a soldier, she observes through a window the wife of one of Napoleon’s friends get into bed with Napoleon, Napoleon reads aloud a newspaper speculation that he’s involved with Betsy romantically, Betsy is shut into a wine cellar and drinks an entire bottle of wine and is hungover the next day, and Betsy discovers her soldier amorously entangled with another girl.  Good grief!  Hannah is only eight!  I talked to her about the book and think most of this went over her head, although she opined that things must have been very different for 14-year-olds back then, because Betsy seems to have thought she was old enough to get married, and Hannah also thought the soldier was not very trustworthy.  Mostly Hannah wanted to talk about Napoleon’s exile and how it was different from his exile on Elba.  So that was good.

I read a lot of inappropriate stuff as a kid, and I guess it’s just one of those things when you have a kid who reads ahead of grade level and voraciously.  But still, she’s eight!  Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t recommend this book for elementary age kids.  Pretty interesting insight into Napoleon’s last exile though.

What did you read aloud this month?

 

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