Friday, July 31, 2020

2020-2021 Morning Time Plans

I'm planning on listing out our school plans for this year soon, but thought I'd do a separate post just for our Morning Time.  If you are new to homeschooling, there are many places where you can learn more about the why's and how's.  My favorite resources for getting started with Morning Time are:

Over the years, our Morning Time has gone through various format changes, time changes, and location changes.  This year, we are doing Morning Time at the dining room table, usually three times per week.  We began the year (we are currently finishing week 3) doing it during Cricket's and Bear's afternoon naptimes, but found, for this year anyway, during Cricket's morning nap is better and Bear joins us.  So currently Morning Time starts at 9am, and I call the kids in from outside recess with a song (Little Boy Heart Alive).

Our Morning Time schedule looks like this:

Memory Work Binders (15 minutes)
Activity Loop (30 minutes)
Skill Drills (15 minutes)
Group Subjects (30-45 minutes)

This is quite a bit of content, and Morning Time can last us anywhere from 1.5-2 hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Thursdays we do not do Memory Work or Activity Loop (and sometimes not Drills either) but still do group subjects, so it often only lasts 30-45 minutes.  However, because we are doing so much together, it lightens the individual study work.

Memory Work Binders

Inside our binders is all of our memory work for the year.  Each term (a term for us is 5-6 weeks and we have six of them) gets a focus and then we move the tab and move on.  I don't require word for word memory for anything, but I do encourage it (with chocolate chips as bribes rewards now and then).  I find this method encourages memory though and works so much better for us then the drilling and repeating method.  It's also more fun.  Each child also has a quality coloring book or drawing book that they are working through when others are doing their individual poems.  Our tabs are divided into Hymns, Folk Songs, Poetry, Bible, Catechism, Latin/Spanish, History/Geography, and Science.

Hymns - We have been using Traditional Catholic Living's Hymn Study.  We are doing the Year 3 hymns this year.

Folk Songs - We use Ambleside's Folk Song suggestions and are doing the 2019-2020 list.

Poetry - Each child has their own selections of poetry to memorize.  I use Mother of Divine Grace's suggestion, along with one or two poems of their own choosing from the poet they are studying this year (more on that when I do the post on our individual work plans.

Bible - This has changed over the years.  One year we did whole sections of the Gospels.  Another year we did Psalms.  This year we are doing the memory verses from Our 24 Family Ways (which is our current morning prayer devotional) along with memorizing the Theological and Cardinal Virtues and definitions.

Catechism - We use the questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism 1 and I've divided it into thirds.  This year we have a 2nd grader and 4th grader, so we are memorizing the first and last thirds.  We do a chapter from the first third and a chapter from the last third and move on every couple of weeks.

Latin/Spanish - We are memorizing various Latin prayers and mottos this year.  For Spanish we are using the songs from Learning Spanish with Grace as memory work.

History/Geography - We are still working through the Greek and Roman history timeline from last year, and when we are done with that we will move on to the Ancient timeline.  I've taken various geography facts from Designing Your Own Classical Catholic Curriculum and Living Memory and we just work our way through that.

Science - We are working our way through various science facts from Living Memory.

Activity Loop

During our Activity Loop, we loop our way through various subjects each term.

Folk Dancing - This year we are learning Country Line Dancing using Brooke and Company Volume 1 DVD.  I have a dream of planning a folk dance with our homeschool group, but I haven't managed to do that just yet.  In the meantime we are learning the dances together and it is so much fun.

Nature Journaling - Each week the kids do their own nature journaling, but once per term we take a week to work through the lessons in Nature Drawing and Journaling.

Artist Study - We are studying the works of Da Vinci using Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolios.  We study one picture per term.  After studying the picture we display it on top of our piano for the rest of the term.

Composer Study - This year we are studying Chopin.  We listened to the Music Masters CD for the story of his life and I picked six of his works to listen to throughout the year.  We focus on one work during Chopin week and then I play it at various times throughout that term.

Art - We love Meet the Master's for art so much!  This year we are working through Track D.  In past years we have created some very fun works.

Geography - We are continuing working through Mapping the World with Art from last year.  One chapter per term.

Skill Drills

Spelling - My three oldest are using Spelling You See C all together (we have a couple of poor spellers and one excellent speller, so they are all in the same level).  

Math Drill - We do our timed math speed drills during this time.  Fritter no longer has math speed drills (much to his relief!), so he usually works on his drawing while he waits, or he is excused from Morning Time at this time if he is not participating in that particular group subject that is coming next.

Group Subjects

Spanish - As mentioned above, we are working through Learn Spanish with Grace.  We are moving pretty slowly, one page or activity once per week.  This includes Ladybug, Sunflower, and Froggy (Bear if he has stuck around this long).

History - We are loving Story of Civilization - The Ancients.  We do one chapter per week.  Monday I read the chapter aloud while the children color the page in their workbooks.  Tuesday we do oral narrations and review questions (and then for independent work the older kids do a written narration in their history notebooks).  Wednesday we watch the videos and do any map activity in our workbooks.  Thursday we work on our Book of Centuries and timelines.  Fridays we (sometimes) do a suggested activity.  All of the children participate.  The school age kids also have independent books to read that correspond with a particular time period (maybe I'll include the list in another post).  You can see my full review of this program here.

We keep our notes for the week on our family message board.  It also includes helpful bible verses, an extra chores list for children that need them, and a shopping list. :)

Science - We are continue with our Apologia study.  This year we are studying the Human Body using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology.  Ladybug and Sunflower have the Notebooking Journal and Froggy has the Junior Notebooking Journal (although as a young second grader, some of the activities are too much for him, so I just have him skip those).  We do two lessons per week and they do the notebooking activities on their own.  We do include some of the experiments (if they are simple), but not all.

Citizenship - We are studying two Lives from Plutarch (Aristides and Themistocles) and two Apostles (St. Peter and St. Andrew) using Pope Benedict's beautifully illustrated book The Apostles.  We read through the story slowly, once per week, a little at a time and then do an oral narration.  When we have completed each life, we will do written narrations and add them to our timelines.  Everyone is included for this subject.

Geography - Sunflower and Froggy are studying Minn of the Mississippi, including map and notebooking activities from Beautiful Feet Books.

We are really loving our Morning Time this year.  One reason we homeschool is to build close family relationships, and Morning Time is one of the tools we use to do just that!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Boys' Room Redo Plus A Big Win

 If you follow me on Instagram, you already have seen the big overhaul we did to the boys room. 

The three little boys live in a big addition that was added on to the house before we bought it.  I think it was meant for a game room, because it does not have a closet, and it has a door leading to the backyard (we've blocked the door off). This room has needed love for a very long time.  We never painted it when we moved in 11 years ago, and so the walls still had the same flat white paint that cannot be cleaned.  Flat white paint + little boys = big mess.

Here are the before pictures.  I started to take books out of the shelves before realizing I should take a picture first.

In process.  This was a very big project!

Years ago, I painted these little butterflies on the wall in here, because Ladybug was in this room and I wanted to do something to make it pretty.  I couldn't bring myself to paint over them, so the boys get to have butterflies on their wall.  :)

I can't quite bring myself to say we have too many books.  But I got close during this project. :)

And here is the after.  One side of the room for sleeping and dressing and the other side is for playing.

Notice in this picture on the far wall the stacks of things on top of the filing cabinet?  I left them there because they were all pictures the kids had done that needed put away, but I didn't have any energy left to do it then.  It really was it's own project.

I don't have a close up of the before over here, because I didn't really plan to do this today.  But I managed to find some extra time (you know, just lying around as it does) and so I tackled it.  It may not look like much, but this is a huge win for me.

These three binders are all that remain of the "to be dealt with" pile.  The pink binder is from Ladybug's days in Little Flowers and she really wants to keep the pages.  The blue and green binders are Fritter's and Ladybug's Book of Centuries up through 5th grade.  In 6th grade my kids transition to a composition book for their BOC's.  My thought is that I will get these all spiral bound so they can be flipped through now and them.

We have had this filing cabinet lying around since early in our marriage.  I've used it for various things but for the past couple of years it has just been taking up room.  Meanwhile, I had been keeping all of the kids pictures they make in binders that took up precious book shelf space (and it's obvious I really need that space!).  Today I repurposed the top drawer for the kids things, and checked a big to-do off my list.

Each kid has a set of hanging folders that are separated as PK-K, 1st-2nd, 3rd-4th, 5th-6th, 7th-8th, and high school.

And now I have a real space to keep treasures such as this from my Ladybug from years ago.

I also have a spot to keep the kids' completed narration notebooks.  There's so much good work in these, I couldn't possibly throw them away.

This filing cabinet was painted the same time the butterflies on the walls were, and makes an ugly piece of furniture a little prettier.

It may not seem like much, but it's a big win for me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

For the New Homeschooling Parent

My husband was recently asked by a coworker for his thoughts on how to homeschool their third grader since school re-openings are so much up in the air.  I thought I would post my response and recommendations to them here, in case it helps anyone.  Note that since their religion is unknown, I kept my recommendations mostly secular.  If a family desires to include religion as a subject (as we do in a Catholic homeschool) a quick google search would most likely lead them to something helpful.  I will post our school plans soon (we are in our first week of school) and perhaps that will be helpful to some as well.  Also note that these are ideas to get someone started who has never homeschooled before.  If a person really wanted to dig deeper and become a long term homeschooler, I would direct them towards Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online.

And the very first step anyone should do is check out the Home School Legal Defense Agency to find out the homeschooling laws in their state.  It is also a good idea to become a member of HSLDA for added protection.


Here are my thoughts and ideas for homeschooling a 3rd grader. I've included links to the books I recommend.  Note that there are MANY options for each subject.  Cathy Duffy Reviews is a good place to read about different curriculum choices.

Here are two common texts.

Language Arts
A combined writing and grammar book at this level is helpful.

It doesn't cover spelling, so a separate book is needed there.  Spelling You See is a very good one and easy to use.

Many people really like the Spalding Method, so here is a program for homeschoolers.

A good list of books for both reading aloud and for independent reading can be found in a lot of places.  A good place to start is the 1000 good books list.

Memoria Press has the best handwriting books

History and Geography
It really depends on how and what they want to teach.  A simple thing would be American History using Stories From Great Americans for Little Americans

Well Trained Mind uses Story of the World

There are lists upon lists of historical fiction that can be added in to bring history to life.  A quick Google search can bring up many ideas.

Maps Charts and Graphs are very thorough Geography workbooks that are easy to teach.

At this age it's best to keep it simple.  Keeping around experiment books and doing them with the kids is fun (and messy :) ).

A guide to understanding the world around them is very good, and Memoria Press has several options

The other option is the classic science textbook (just not as much fun) Harcourt Science

There are many curriculum places where a parent can purchase an entire boxed curriculum as well if that seems easier.  

Now comes the meat of homeschooling.  A good routine goes a long way, balancing sedentary activities with physical movement.  A quiet rest time in the middle of the day where everyone settles down with a book, alone is key.  This gives the parent/teacher a rest as well, and a chance to get their own things done.

Including the kids in housework makes everyone part of a team. Even a 4 year old can make their bed and put their dish in the sink. 

Time spent outside everyday is very important. 

Most curriculums are built around a 4 day school week, with one day off for errands or playdates or park days or other fun. If the school work starts at 9am (after house chores are done), then a third grader will most likely be done with school by lunchtime. Afternoons are kept free for play, free reading, chores, music lessons and practice, service oriented work, board games, and any hobby type things the child is interested in doing. Getting them to work with their hands is important. Even the uncrafty parent can encourage this. Soap carving is simple and fun and could lead into wood carving. Crochet, sewing, embroidery, gardening, leather working are all things kids this age can try. Encouraging them to make things that are useful and beautiful instead of just crazy glittery is helpful for everyone. (Although sometimes there can be a place for those sorts of crafts.) For older kids there is Craftsman Crate.

In general, live life with your kids. Bring them into whatever you are doing and they will be learning. You may find after a bit that your family life becomes closer and you have more satisfying relationships.  This is a little talked about, but very wonderful, reality.

I hope something here helps.  Reach out to a local veteran homeschooler as a mentor.  Most are willing to help if asked.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Independence Day

My country 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died
Land of the Pilgrims' pride
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring.

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free
Thy name I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
Thy woods and templed hills
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song.
Let mortal tongues awake
Let all that breathe partake
Let rocks their silence break
The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God, to thee,
Author of liberty
To thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.

~"America" by Samuel Francis Smith

An Engagement Story

How We Met is here.

A Dating Story is here.

November 20, 2004.  We were celebrating our one year dating anniversary.  The plan was to drive down to the Denver Museum of Natural History and have dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, Panzano's.  We both had dressed up for the occasion (he wore his Navy Peacoat), so we looked all fancy going through the museum. 

I just knew somehow that he was going to ask me that day, but when it wasn't happening, I thought maybe I was wrong.  Needless to say, I didn't pay much attention to the museum, and he seemed very distracted. 

We got to a part of the museum that overlooks a lake and he suggested we go outside for a walk.  The ground was covered in fresh snow, the lake was not yet frozen over, and then a flock of geese landed in the lake.  It was like a movie.  I turned to look at him and he had turned an ashy grey color and I thought he was going to be sick.  Instead he fumbled in his coat pocket for a ring, got down on one knee and said, "Candice (my full name here), will you marry me?"  I could only manage to squeak out "Mmm-hmmm!" 

We walked back to his car (what was a museum after this experience?!) and sat in the museum parking garage and talked over our plans.  And then he tuned to me and said, "You still haven't said yes."  "Yes!  Yes!  Of course I'll marry you!"  I said, probably very red faced. 

We drove to Panzano's for dinner, but neither of us really tasted our food, so instead of hanging around Denver, we decided to start the 2.5 hour drive home.  The snow was really starting to come down and the highway was slick.  And then we hit a couch.  Yes, a couch, just like the one I'm currently sitting on.  It was just sitting in the middle of the highway and thankfully had been hit before, because otherwise it probably would have been bad for us.  But as it was, we just went right through it. 

The road was closed to take the direct route home, so we decided to try going through another way which would take us over a mountain pass.  Of course, once there we found that was closed as well (this was before smart phones).  So we ended up on my aunt's door step to ask her if she would take us in for the night until the road hopefully opened in the morning.  This is not what either of us wanted to do, but we had no choice.  Honestly, we both just wanted to get away from each other so we could process the fact that we were going to be spending our lives together.  :)

It was at this point that everything really clicked and all the struggles and worries and hardships of our dating time was over.  We were meant for each other.

A Dating Story

I realized recently that I never did finish up with the Friday Introduction: A Love Story.  I did post over on Instagram, but not here.

How We Met is here.

Picking up where we left off...

When we started dating I knew he was the one I wanted to marry.  If he'd have asked me right then, the night we stated dating, I would have said yes.  But he is more practical than that.  He knew we should probably spend more time together (and of course he was right).  And we did.  Every moment we could, we were together.  It helped that we had classes together, of course.  We spent much of our time just being with each other.  Talking, learning, growing together, being silly (as is the case with these cheese puffs, a gag gift from my aunt). 

He was going though a reversion, and so we started to go to Mass together at Wyoming's beautiful little cathedral.  We went to University football games and basketball games.  He took me home to meet his parents.  He had such a love for his home, for his state.  I had only ever wanted to get out, get away.  But now I was seeing my home state for the beautiful place it was. 

It was time for me to graduate from community college and go to university.  I had thought about going to Florida.  He was going to Wyoming.  I finally began to understand and love my state and decided on Wyoming, partially to be with him, but partially because it just made sense.  I was an engineering major and Wyoming has a good program (and you can't beat instate tuition). 

So the summer of 2004, we both headed to the University.  We took summer classes to get a head start, and because we were majoring in different engineering disciplines (he was mechanical, I was structural), it would be the last time we would have classes together. 

That first night in my little apartment was the loneliest of my life.  His dad was helping him move over to his apartment, and they were spending the evening together.  My stuff was dropped off at my apartment with little more than a farewell, and just like that I was alone and away from my family for the first time.  But I was determined that I was going to make it.  I had to do this for me, and not just because of the cute guy I had fallen in love with. 

We started going to Mass at the cutest little Catholic church in town, and I started in their RCIA program.  I finally settled into a routine of sorts, and eventually a good friend of mine from home came to university and we got an apartment together.  Not that I was there much.  But it eased some of the loneliness. 

And then the moment I had dreaded came.  He felt we needed a break.  He needed to figure some things out.  It was only a week, but it was the longest week of my life.  I shouldn't have worried, he was spending his time in prayer, discerning if I was the one.  I spent the time studying for my classes and leaning on God.  I had to prove to myself that I was there doing what I needed to do for me, and not for him.  That I was learning about the faith and becoming Catholic because I wanted to and not for him.  That I was at University doing what I needed to do.  Looking back, that time was a blessing, but it took me years to see it.  And when the week was over, I knew and he knew that we had gone through a test of sorts and passed.  And I also knew, somehow that it was only a matter of time before we were engaged. 

More next time.