Sunday, December 2, 2018

On This First Sunday of Advent (some of our traditions)


Our family has really been needing the discipline and prayer that Advent brings.  After a period of sickness plus some other things that have come our way recently we ended up in a rut here at home.  Too little prayer, too many screens, too many outside obligations...it all adds up to burn out and disconnectedness.  The beautiful thing for our family (obviously not just our family, all you have to do is look at any number of blogs to know that we are far from doing as much as many others do) is we have slowly added traditions throughout the years and now our children really look forward to these things as well.  Here are a few of the things we will be doing to focus our attention on the birth of Christ.

~Books~

We have slowly added to our collection of Advent and Christmas books throughout the years.  Our children always get books for the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6th) and I tend to collect them through the year as I find them used or on sale.  We read one picture book a night, and this year I've upped our game with wrapping the ones we'll read during Advent and using Jessica's labels.  We are also reading Jotham's Journey during Morning Time.








~Prayer~

We considered hanging our Advent wreath this year from the ceiling as is traditional, but decided we like it on the table better.  We light one candle for each of the four weeks of Advent during dinner time.  We use an opening prayer and sing the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel until the O Antiphons start on December 17th.  We then sing the appropriate verse.  After dinner we pray the St. Andrews Christmas Novena.



~Nativities~

We have several Nativities throughout the house (actually I missed taking pictures of two others).  Our main Nativity is on our hutch by the dining table.  This is not one the children touch, other than the older ones helping to place figures when appropriate.


We also have the Playmobil Nativity set that has already been gotten into set up.


And then there is the peg doll set that I painted a few years ago.  All the pieces are out for both of these as little hands like to play out the sacred story.


~Jesse Tree~

Several years ago we participated in a Jesse Tree swap.  And then I found a little tree that a homeschool boy had made and was selling at a local craft sale.  So I used the calendar that I had made (before we had the one my husbands family's handed down to us) for little slips of paper with the appropriate ornament and bible readings.  We also did an O Antiphon swap so I've included those as well.




~Other Traditions~

I have a Christmas House tree stand that was from my mom's family that I am hoping I can find time to refinish this year.  We'll see if I'm able to find the time.  We always work on handicrafts this time of year and try to handmake many of our gifts.  I'm currently crocheting two projects (a small one and a big one) and have several more in mind.  Each of the kids are working on projects for each other, and are making other plans.

Using the link from Leila, we are listening to and learning more traditional Advent hymns this year, but for practice for showcasing talents at Christmastime, they are also working on Christmas hymns on their instruments.  Practice makes perfect!  One child in particular has really been working hard to show off her piano work, even if it's just to mom and dad.

Normally we take this time off from school, since we already have so many other things going on (all of which include learning!) but because we took time off while I was sick we must keep plugging away at our work as well.  Again, discipline.

Advent is a penitential season (which is why the vestments are violet!) and so we have decided to give up complaining this season in favor of gratitude.  And the children are not the only ones who need this penance!

On this note, we set up a small manger under the tree (I'm currently in the process of getting a big boy to make me a new one, thus no pictures yet) and as the children (or even mom and dad) make sacrifices they put in a piece of yarn straw to make the bed as soft as possible for the baby Jesus.

There are other, smaller things we do during Advent (baking, volunteering, etc.) that I haven't talked about, but here on this First Sunday of Advent we've got a good start.  What are some of your family traditions during the Advent Season?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Counting My Blessings (and an announcement!)

Much has changed since I last posted.  As it typically does.  Change happens and we must either fight it (and still it comes) or go with it and try to thrive.

We are expecting a new baby sometime next June.  Very exciting!  It has been awhile since we've had a newborn in the house.  The soft, fuzzy heads of newborns are among my favorite things.  And the kids are of course absolutely thrilled.  We all are.

And yet, even wonderful news like a new baby coming means change. Currently that looks like morning (all day, especially evening) sickness and major fatigue for me, and more work for the rest of the family.  After a big chat with my dear husband yesterday, we have decided to move our school year around a little, as well as some other things, in order to make things a bit more manageable.  Instead of a great, long Christmas break, we are having a great, long fall break.  We'll catch up with whatever school we missed when we planned our original break (we always take all of December off, and we have a shorter summer break, this year we'll just not have a Christmas break).  In place of school work, the older four children have taken on more chores to help keep our ship upright.  A change is as good as a break, right?  That's what they say.

Meals are...whatever I can get on the table.  Some nights that looks like PB&J, tonight is frozen lasagna (assuming I can peal myself off the couch to get it in the oven).  The older two are in charge of breakfast and lunch for the younger kids.  This is a new experience, having big kids during a first trimester.  It's challenging and wonderful all at the same time.  I keep saying (mostly to remind myself not to feel guilty for all the extra work everyone has taken on) that we all sacrifice for a new baby.  And soon enough we'll get the reward of holding that sweet baby.

I honestly don't know how I would manage without my family.  Everyone has really stepped up and done more than their fair share.  And even with that it still feels like we are drowning a bit (we are if you look at the amount of laundry that needs washed and folded and put away!)

And can I brag about my dear husband for just a minute?  Saturday was his 40th birthday.  A big deal, and I had big plans.  I wanted to throw him a great big surprise party!  I wanted to make his favorite things to eat!  I wanted to really celebrate this special day, because my husband?  He's amazing.  Alas, being sick prevented all of that from happening.  Instead, he took Fritter and Froggy on a campout with friends (he didn't want the boys to miss out).  His birthday dinner was sandwiches and his "cake" was a berry milkshake (he insisted on both counts, and made the milkshake himself).  Why?  To make things easier on me.  Because he knows how crummy I feel.  I don't deserve such a man as my husband, and yet God has blessed me with him and all these wonderful little people.

I'm counting my blessings today, to be sure.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Making Schedule Adjustments

We have survived our first week of school!   And only three apples have been swiped and abandoned (guess what they got with their lunch today?).
Teddy's says "Play All Day School"

The plunder
Today we completed the week with a Weekly Meeting.  I used this form courtesy of Jen MacKintosh, and I also intend to use the Weekly Prep form tomorrow to prepare for the coming week.  The biggest thing that stood out while chatting with my older three scholars is that the little boys are a big distraction.  They really are.  They need constant supervision or they will hurt each other, themselves, or the house (or all three at once!)

We've tried different things this week, including having the two big kids alternate spending time with Froggy and Teddy, but it's not helped.  Maybe in a different season when they are not such puppy dogs!  And at some point the big kids really do need to focus on their own studies.  So I spent some time this evening brainstorming and going over the plan again and moved some things around.  (Use the link at the bottom of this post to see my previous plan.)

{Click to enlarge}


A few big changes were made. I made our Morning Time (Circle Time on the chart, I use both terms interchangeably) more for the reading and our afternoon Tea Time is where we will do our Memory Work Binders.  Also, instead of directing the big kids on what work they will do when, I gave them a big block of time for Independent Work.  It was not working trying to stay on top of the time slots (little boys, remember?).    I was also more realistic with myself.  I am NOT going to get up and go for a walk before I've had my coffee!  But, I don't mind getting up and doing my MuTu core.  So Mass and going for a good walk will alternate days.  I have that big block of Exercise Time that includes shower time, but I'm also going to be realistic here....probably not going to happen as much as I'd like.  Let's face it.  I'm wiped by 7.  But walking and my core are the most important pieces of this for me, so if I get that intensive workout in great.  If not, I'm not going to sweat it. :)

The whole reason this plan has changed is to figure out WTDWTLB (What To Do With The Little Boys).  So in the first block of time, the younger three will stay with me in the school room while the older two take their work to their rooms and close the door.  I will work with Froggy and Sunflower and then set the boys free for play time (preferably outside when it's not 500 degrees).  I'm going to have to suck it up and give up some of my afternoon quiet time so I can teach Ladybug and Fritter while the little boys are resting.  This is a bit dicey, because we are forcing out Froggy's naps due to night time sleep issues, so he is still up and a potential distraction, but it's the best I've got.

The biggest point of all of this is that you can't be afraid to tweak the schedule.  Take the time to build one.  Print it off.  Follow it as you can, see how it flows and then tweak it.  And relax.  If you are anything like me, you are probably not going to follow completely anyway.  But the schedule brings peace to those moments when you are not quite sure what you are supposed to be doing in a certain time, or how to best adjust when something is not working.

Have you had to tweak your schedule recently?  Any other tips for homeschooling with toddlers/preschoolers/boys?!  Oh my!

You can see the other posts in my recent planning series linked here.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Average Day Plans PLUS Chore Charts *Updated

Update Notes:  As is usually the case, I have already updated the plans, plus included mom's routines.

Last time I showed you our Morning Time binders and plans.  Now I'm going to show you how we organize our day, and that includes chores.  These are years worth of work and tweaking and planning and learning and tweaking and tearing up and reworking.  What works in this season is NOT going to work in the next season, and what works for me will NOT work for you.  Trust me.  I learned that the hard way.  Also note: most days will not look like this.  A few will, many will be close, and plenty will not even be recognizable to this.

So why build a schedule or a routine?  Because as Eisenhower once said, "In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."  And let's face it.  We juggle a lot of hats.  Our days are a battle.  We battle to stay afloat from the chaos that threatens to drag us down.  So we make a plan, we work to stick to it, and we have (a bit) of peace at least knowing what comes next.

This average day chart I built from most of what I've done in the past, but this year added in what I learned from Brandy Vencel's planning posts.  Some of it may remind you of Flylady.  Some is similar to what I've learned from taking Mystie Winkler's Sweep & Smile course.  Some is learning from A Mother's Rule of Life (if you haven't read it, stop reading this post and read that book!)  Some is gleaned from the various websites, books, courses I have taken.  And much is just me doing my best to lay out a good plan for the school year.

So this first one is our Average Day Chart for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. (click to enlarge).  We are each color coded and I tried to account for how long their school takes (assuming they are not dawdling) so they have plenty of time.  If they do dawdle that have all that wonderful free time in the afternoon in which they can make up any work. ;) I work individually with the youngest first and move up.  Teddy is really the fly in the ointment here.  I still haven't fully worked out his plan, but I think it involves trading off with big kids and engaging toys.  And a playpen and baby gate.  Let's be real.


 And this is our average day chart for some Thursdays (I say some, because twice a month we have AHG in the afternoons, which isn't accounted for here).  Note that I do not have one for Fridays or weekends.  First because our Fridays are much simpler, so I don't need the big picture plan as much. Second, I've tried to schedule my husband, but it just comes across as me being bossy and doesn't really account for the fact that he is an adult.  So I just don't do it.



 The biggest thing that the average day charts do not show are the routines that happen within those times.  And this is the real key to my (hopeful) sanity.  Because even if our day gets off to a late start, we can pick up with these routines and (again, hopefully) sail.  Each school-aged child has their own "Chore Chart". They have been put into page protectors and put up on the walls of their rooms.  This is a little different from what I've done before.  Previously I've used Flylady's weekly zones and assigned chores that way.  Life is just too complicated now for me to keep up with that level of detail, so I have assigned each zone to a day and we'll tackle part of it.  Other chores can be used towards earning extra cash.  Cash is only given for things done above and beyond the norm.  I'm not going to pay my kids to do what they should be doing anyway.  But if they want to earn a few extra bucks, there is a path for that. (pardon the glare.  Click to enlarge.)




Next up is Mom's Routines and loops, which of course is different from the kids'.



We will test the new system Monday and adjust if we need to, but we have a good start here.  When craziness threatens to take over, we'll just turn back to our plan!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

2018-2019 Morning Time Plan PLUS Binders! (Bonus Tea Time Plans)

I've had a few requests to go through our Morning Time plans and our new Morning Time Binders.  The blog is probably the easiest way to do that with the added bonus that I can link to our resources (note that some links are amazon affiliate links).

 Here is my binder and the one that I will walk through here.  Each school age child (I'm teaching four this year!) has their own that is almost the same.  The only difference that I included their poems in their binder, not everyone else's.  My binder has everything for everyone.


The kids' binders are color coordinated, just like everything else around here!  They were also given the freedom to personalize their covers.




 The back covers have our opening prayers (click to enlarge).


The first page is our overall plan.  The numbers are minutes.  Why, yes I did sit down and do a pretend Monday Morning Time and time how long it took to go through each item.  I needed to make sure we could do it all in an hour.  Adding up the minutes equals 66, which is pretty close to an hour and includes lots of margin.


 After that are detailed weekly pages of the plan.  At the bottom of this page is the key to what my abbreviations mean.  




  • Science - This year we are studying Chemistry using Noeo's Chemistry 2 plus all the resources they recommend.
  • Poetry - We are following the poetry schedule laid out by Mother of Divine Grace plus each child will memorize one poem of their choice from the poet they are studying.
    • Fritter (Grade 6) - Robert Frost
    • Ladybug (Grade 4) - Emily Dickenson
    • Sunflower (Grade 2) - Christina Rossetti
    • Froggy (Grade K) - AA Milne



  • Bible - We are going to work on memorizing six Psalms this year: Psalm 23 (a review), Psalm 34, Psalm 100 (a review), Psalm 139, Psalm 51, Psalm 136.  Some of this was taken from recommendations from Catholic Icing.
  • Catechism - We have used the Mother of Divine Grace recommended schedule for memorizing parts of the Baltimore Catechism.  But I have found that keeping up with so many children each memorizing different parts to be impossible.  And now Fritter, as a sixth grader, is supposed to begin memorizing parts of Baltimore Catechism 2.  It's really unsustainable for us at this point to do that.  So instead, we are memorizing the first 14 chapters of BC 1, while still reading and discussing the parts that are recommended for their grade.  So Fritter will still get discussion of chapters from BC2, but will work on continuing to memorize BC1.  Each question and answer part of the chapter was typed out a put into the binders for ease of use.
  • Other Memory - Here we have memory work for History, Geography, and Science.  Some of this comes from various years of recommended work in Mother of Divine Grace and some from Living Memory. (Note: We are not memorizing all of the info on these pages at the same time.  We are just doing the portions where the little Post-It Flag is until we've got it and then we'll move on.  This is all just possibilities.  I put all of these pages here simply so you can see what types of information we may get to.)


  • History - We have used Connecting with History for several years and will be doing Volume 3 this year (High Medieval to Early Explorers) along with resources they recommend.
For Tea Time we are alternating Art and Music.
There you have it!  We will have one hour, three mornings a week, during breakfast and before Mass to go over the Morning Time material.  Tea Time will be after naps, also three times per week.  The hope is that this becomes the cornerstone of our homeschool day.  My goal is that if something has to be skipped due to....whatever, then we skip something other than this.  Morning Time, Mass, Tea Time.  This is what our homeschool day will turn on.  I need to be reminded of this when October and February hit!  Hopefully this cornerstone keeps burnout for us all at bay.  The focus here is on the good, the true, and the beautiful.  Soul food.

Tell me: are you doing a morning time or a tea time (or both!) with your students?  Do you have favorite resources?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Books Read in 2018

For Books Read in 2017 click here.

Continuing the theme of the books I have read, here are those completed in 2018.  Only those I actually finished are listed.  There are many more I started and continue reading off and on!  I will add to this list as the year goes by.  Note that these books lists are linked to over in the sidebar. -->

**These are amazon affiliate links.  I get a little kickback from any purchase made through those links.  That kickback helps fuel my reading habit!  :)

Books Finished in 2017 - Incomplete

I have kept a commonplace for quite some time now, but it was in my own disorganized way.  As I was reading I would jot down quotes that stood out to me, and list the title and author of the book.  My first commonplace was just a random collection of good thoughts from other people.  I did not even note the page, let alone have a spot to document the books finished.

When that commonplace was complete, half-way through last year, and it was time to start another one, I did things a little different.  I added a reading log to the back of the notebook, began using book darts to save the quotes I liked, and added the quotes when I was finished with the book.  So now all my quotes from the same book are together and they include the page number.

Now that I have a good list of books I have read, I thought I would share them here as well.  This list is incomplete because I only have info starting from September of 2017, as well as those read from the Well Read Mom (WRM) list.

*Note that these are only the books completed.   Several other books are not listed here because I did not finish them.

**These are amazon affiliate links.  I get a little kickback from any purchase made through those links.  That kickback helps fuel my reading habit!  :)