A Peek Inside Our Homeschool Day – 2017 Version

Last year, I wrote a post about a day in our homeschooling life. I just went back and reread it, and it was fun to look back on where we were a year ago. Things are a little different this year. Different curriculum, different daily system, a new baby, etc. So here’s the 2017 version of our homeschool day-in-the-life, containing what we did on a pretty typical Tuesday earlier this week.

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5:30 – My alarm goes off. I press snooze twice. One of my Lenten commitments is to begin getting up early again. I used to be a faithful 5:30-am-riser, until I got pregnant with Bubba, and I haven’t done well with this since. But Lent is a good time to begin or renew fruitful practices, so I’m back to getting up early.

6-ish – I’m downstairs getting coffee and I hear Bubba starting to stir. He’s just chattering a bit, so I let him stay in his crib, and I start my prayers.

6:15 – Bubba is getting loud and fussy, so I go up to get him. I finish my prayers while nursing him and then put him in his playpen so I can pray the rosary and do my Lenten journal.

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7:00 – By this time, Lass and Sis are up. I chat with them and play with Bubba for a bit.

7:45 – My husband has left for work and Miss is up now. I put Bubba in his high chair with some Cheerios and have the girls start to get themselves some cereal while I make strawberry smoothies for them and myself (from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook). We all sit down to eat (drink) and I read Jan Brett’s “The Turnip” over breakfast. We are going on a field trip on Friday to a Jan Brett exhibit at a local museum, so I’m reading lots of her stuff this week.

8:20 – Breakfast is done. I start to clean up and get a phone call from a friend. We chat for a bit while the girls go upstairs to get ready for the day. Their morning routine is still the same as last year – get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair (or have me help them do hair), make bed, clean room.

8:45 – I’m off the phone and putting a French braid in Sis’s hair at her request.

9:00 – This is our goal start time for school. I put on our “get-thyself-to-the-schoolroom-pronto” song for the morning, which today is “I Wanna Dance in the Dark” (by Rhianna, I think??). We all dance around for the duration of the song, and land in the schoolroom by its end. Bubba goes into his jumper and we start with the beginning of our morning time routine which consists of singing the Doxology, selecting an old Christmas card from a big box of them we have received over the past several years, saying prayers, including an intention for the family or person the Christmas card is from, finishing with the Anima Christi (I love this prayer!), and then doing the Pledge of Allegiance. We do a super quick calendar time in which one of the girls comes to our calendar, says the date in full, leads her sisters in saying the date all together, and then another girl observes the weather for the day. Then we move to our memory work, which right now is John 3:16-18. This is a pretty standard start to our morning time every day.

9:10-ish – We move into the next part of our morning time, which can vary. Right now we’re using the Lenten Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill, with a few added items that we like to use as well. A brand new addition to morning time is Bedtime Math. I read an entry in the book and each of the girls answers a question (there are three levels of question which are pretty well matched to the levels of the girls’ learning). We quickly review the latin we are learning this week. I put on our Song School Latin CD (another new addition to the routine) and we sing and dance to help us memorize how to say “What is your name?” and “My name is…” in latin. We do our map work relating to the history chapter we listened to in the car on Monday.

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9:20 – Bubba is getting fussy and tired, so I have the girls go to their desks to begin their individual work while I take him upstairs to put him down for a nap. Interrupting morning time to put him down for a nap is pretty common, so they’re used to this.

9:30 – We are back at the table to continue with morning time. We read Proverbs 31 and talk about the virtue of orderliness, we listen to and try to sing along with the current hymn we’re working on “Lord, Who Through These Forty Days,” we read a fairy tale (The Princess and the Pea), and we do music appreciation. On Monday we read the poem “The Donkey” by G.K. Chesterton, and we’re studying Entry Into Jerusalem by Fra Angelico for picture study, so we also read some picture books with a donkey theme (“The Donkey of Gallipoli” and “Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday,” which is actually about a camel, but kind of fits with the theme anyway) and then read a chapter from our current read-aloud “Girl in a Cage.” The girls do narration for the chapter and then morning time is over for the day.

10:25 – The girls are back to their desks doing their individual work. Instead of the workbox system we used last year, I’m now using notebooks to indicate to them what they need to complete each day. Their work is still in the rolling carts with drawers labeled by subject, but they can do their assignments in whichever order they choose, and they just check them off as they go.

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In her notebook that day, Miss had a spelling test, a math test, and the conclusion of a report on Madagascar. She has been working through the beatitudes for her copywork, but Tuesday she was excited because I let her also choose a page out of a Draw Write Now book for drawing and additional copywork. She had to read through and talk with me about the sections in two of her religion books about the last supper and the institution of the Eucharist and the part of Mass when the consecration occurs (She knows all these things, but we are spending some time talking about it more in depth in preparation for her First Holy Communion in April). She also had piano practice, a lesson from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (FLL), and a chapter to read in her current assigned book (which she usually reads  at bedtime).

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Lass had a few pages of math in her Star Wars workbook, some work on her spelling list and a couple of handwriting exercises. She had piano practice, a lesson from FLL, and a reading lesson, which consisted of reading and discussing a story with me.

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Sis had two pages of math from a new Miquon math book, a page of handwriting and some practice on her handwriting slate, a few phonics pages, and some ABC practice in a new sticker book I got for her.

11:35 – Bubba wakes up while I’m doing Miss’s math test with her (Shiller math tests are administered by the teacher). I try to keep going to get through the test before getting him.

11:45 – We’re still working on the test, but the baby is getting mad, so I go get him and bring him down to nurse while I finish the math test with Miss.

11:55 – We’re finished with the math test. All the girls’ schoolwork is done except for Miss’s religion. We go and begin to make turnip pancakes for lunch (to go with our book from breakfast), and Miss and I read and discuss her religion pages while we grate turnips together.

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1:00 – We finally sit down to eat lunch.

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The turnip pancakes turned out great, except that they are far too salty. The girls and Bubba still eat some, so I’m feeling good about them having turnips for lunch. After they eat, I suggest to the girls that we should check the recipe again and see if we made a mistake of adding 2 Tbsp of salt instead of 2 tsp. I explain why this would be an easy mistake to make, but when we check, we find that we did read the recipe correctly, and it just called for too much salt. I discuss with them how it is possible to change a recipe if we make it and decide we don’t like something about it. Miss says next time we make these we should only add 1 Tbsp of salt.

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1:25 – The girls go outside to play. It is crazy windy here, and I’m fairly certain they are freezing, because they insisted on wearing their light jackets when I suggested their winter coats, but they seem to be having fun anyway. I start cleaning up the kitchen.

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2:05 – The kitchen is nearly clean, I have chicken in the oven for dinner, and I put Bubba down for his afternoon nap.

2:15 – The girls come inside. I send them to the basement to clean up their toys.

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I spend the next half hour or so kind of wandering about from task to task, getting distracted and having a hard time actually finishing anything. I’m cleaning the kitchen a bit more, getting distracted by our seeds on the counter and deciding to spray some water on them, cleaning a bit more, remembering that my vacuum isn’t working right and looking for the manual so I can figure out how to clean the filter, etc.

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I got a box with a few new books in it and I really, really want to sit down and start reading one of them, but I don’t.

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2:45 – This kitchen is finally clean. Bubba wakes up after taking a really crummy (short) nap. I bring him down and nurse him, which gives me a few minutes to read one of my books.

3:15- I go downstairs to exercise. My husband and I are working our way through the P90X3 workouts. I was never interested in going P90X because I do not care to spend an hour plus working out every day, but these workouts are only 30 minutes, and they’re mostly pretty fun so we’re enjoying them. The workout for Tuesday was my least favorite though (Agility X), so I have to really talk myself into doing it.

4:00 – My workout is done, the girls have had a snack, and I realize that I forgot to put tinfoil over the chicken that is slowly cooking in my oven. I figure it’s probably too late, but put some on it anyway. I take the girls downstairs for some gym time. We practice basketball skills (which is kind of comical if you know how much basketball “skill” I possess), and then we play dodgeball/pickle and line tag.

5:00 – We go back upstairs so I can finish making dinner.

5:30 – Dinner (the chicken turned out okay, in spite of my failure to cover it)

7:00-ish – Everyone has had a shower or bath, I’m getting Bubba ready for bed, we say family prayers.

7:45 – I’ve gotten the baby to bed and come down to have the girls head upstairs and get in bed. They have made lots of paper dolls and are melting down because Lass “lost” Jessie, who apparently is Miss’s favorite paper doll. There are many tears. I tell them I will find Jessie while they go upstair and finish getting ready for bed. I find the paper doll (of course) and take it upstairs to relieved/happy girls.

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8:10 – The girls are all tucked in and I come down to make myself a cup of coffee.

8:15 – I sit down with my coffee and one of the girls comes out and asks me to come up and snuggle with her.

8:25 – I again sit down with my coffee and my husband on the couch. We spend some time discussing and making a few purchases we have been putting off.

9:45 – Ben and I are done. He goes to bed. I get myself a snack and then go to bed too. I didn’t get my school prep done for the next day, but decide to finish it in the morning, and I’m pretty happy that I’ve managed to get myself into bed by a little after 10, which will make it a lot easier to get up at 5:30 the next day.

The End

Jamie of Simple Homeschool is doing a link up again this year, so if you’d like to see more “Day in the Life” posts from homeschoolers, go check it our here.

 

On Reading to My Baby

A couple of days ago, I had a moment of mom-panic. I realized in a rush, while looking at my son playing with the books I had placed in his playpen with him, that I had hardly read any books to him in his short life. He has books in his little area that he likes to chew on, but I had not sat down with him and actually cracked the cover to read said books to him.

I promptly pulled him onto my lap and read Where is Baby’s Bellybutton?Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and The Ear Book to him. Then I took him up to his room to grab some more books.

My son is almost nine months old. Yesterday I read Goodnight Moon to him for the first time.

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Yes. You read that right. I was kind of horrified to realize my neglect of such an important thing.

We read aloud a lot here. Really. A. Lot.

Every day, I am reading aloud books to the girls for school. I sometimes read books over breakfast and/or lunch. We listen to audiobooks in the car. We have a family read aloud we do a chapter from almost every night before bed (currently working our way through the Chronicles of Narnia).

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My dear little boy has heard many, many books read aloud. But until yesterday, I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t sitting down and reading just to him, the sweet board books that I read over, and over, and over to his sisters. They are all neatly lined up on his shelf in his bedroom. I hadn’t read any of them with him. My girls have read him a few, but not me.

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I was recently feeling a little guilty because of thinking that my youngest daughter might be getting cheated a bit on picture books, since most of our read alouds these days are chapter books. We do still read picture books, just maybe not quite as much as we did when they were all littler, and none were quite ready for books like Redwall or Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

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So I’ve been trying to bring in some more picture books for her benefit.

But her baby brother, bless his little heart, has really been neglected as far as reading goes.

And of course, he wasn’t the only one missing out. When I picked up Goodnight Moon yesterday and sat down to rock him while reading it before his nap, I felt like I had come home to the sweetest, most comfortable place… That old book, as annoying as it sometimes got after the tenth time in one night, brings back so many precious memories. Of course, I can still recite it by heart. Of course I still have the same tempo and inflection to my voice that I used every time before. Of course he grabbed the pages and tried to eat them, and I still powered through to the end.

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“Goodnight noises everywhere.”

How many times have I read that? I had forgotten about the rip on the binding that makes the pages open funny on the “Goodnight Room” page. But I still knew every word and every illustration like the back of my hand. I think I could be eighty and still recite those favorite words.

And there are so many more favorite books that I haven’t read in years: I Love You Stinkyface. The Napping House. Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

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Reading to my babies was always one of my very favorite things to do. It still is.

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I have a lot of catching up to do.

Our Homeschool Plan – Halfway Through the Year

We are a little more than halfway through our homeschool year. In August, I wrote this post about my plans and excitement for the year. Here’s an update of how it’s going, what we’re still doing and what has changed:

Our day starts with morning time, usually. I have had to learn to be flexible about this, since Bubba doesn’t always go down for a nap at the same time every morning. If he’s awake and happy when we start school, he’ll play in his playpen area or in his jumper while we get started. But sometimes I have to tell the girls to go straight to their desk work while I put him down for a nap. And sometimes we start morning time, and then I send them to their desks halfway through so I can put him down… it all depends on him, and the girls do a great job of just rolling with it.

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Other than that, morning time does look pretty similar to what I planned it to be at the start of the year. We begin by singing a song together. We started the year working on the Gloria and some of the other songs we sing in Mass each week, just to make sure my girls have those down. Now we sing the Doxology. After our song we pray. A new thing we have started is to choose a Christmas card from a big box of them that I have saved for the past three or four years, and whomever the card belongs to, we pray for them during our morning prayer. The girls love this and it’s a great way to pray for lots of our family and friends by name, whom we might not think to pray for on a regular basis. Then we do the Pledge of Allegiance and a quick calendar time and our memory work, which has been highly varied this year but right now is a fairly lengthy Shakespeare passage and a Psalm. Then we move into our read alouds.

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^ The girls asked to be allowed to illustrate their Shakespeare passage (“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…”) while we listened to A Midsummer Night’s Dream ^

As I mentioned in the other post, I switched from Sonlight to Build Your Library for our main science/history/literature curriculum this year. I like BYL much better. I do all of the scheduled reading in the BYL plans with the girls during morning time each day. This usually consists of history (Story of the World or Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, or a fun book that focuses on something we’re reading about, like Knight: A Noble Guide for Young Squires or The Adventures of Marco Polo), science, which right now consists of the First Earth Encyclopedia and The Geography Book, and our literature read aloud, which is Girl in a Cage at the moment. At least once a week we read some poetry, and usually there is one day of the week when we include a fairy tale or a medieval legend. I also read aloud our chapter from Jesus Our Life and any other religious studies we are doing for the week during morning time.

One thing that I wasn’t sticking to very consistently is including nature study, Bedtime Math, art projects, and music appreciation each week. I have kept up poetry tea time every couple of weeks, but the other things have generally been forgotten or just bypassed for lack of time. For this reason, I added in the Winter Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill to help me stick to these things a bit more. This has been great, because now I have a lesson plan page in my binder prompting me to do a hymn/music appreciation and a picture study each week. We have art projects each week (though I’ve skipped one or two of them and one was a total flop) and nature study, too. Some of the nature study projects have been a bit tough because, even though they are winter nature study activities, they seem a little more like early winter activities than late winter, at least for our super cold climate. But we have gotten outside, in the snow, to do nature study, so that’s pretty awesome.

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^ When we were outside, we found these perfect snow flakes in a rotten hollow in a piece of wood ^

Even though some things haven’t worked out the way I wanted them to, the girls seem to be enjoying these fun additions to our morning time (and I am too).

After we finish with the winter plans, I’m going to do a few weeks of nursery rhymes and fairy/folk tales. I have a huge stack of picture books and lots of fun activities ready to go to add this to our morning time next. After a few weeks of these, when spring has actually arrived, we’ll be using the new Spring Morning Time plans that I just purchased (which are on sale until Friday, if you’re interested).

As for our desk work, this has stayed pretty much the same as what I thought it would too. For Math, we do Shiller or IXL or work in the Star Wars math workbooks, or Life of Fred for Miss. I like Shiller, but find it to be lacking in some skills practice, so we supplement with the other things. I have recently added some math games from Math Geek Mama, which are a nice change of pace and fun for the girls. We have also started playing board games like Sum Swamp and Money Bags during school time as well.

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^ A little break to learn about tessellation with magnet blocks ^

For phonics/reading we still use All About Reading. I just love this reading curriculum. Miss is cruising through Level 3 and Lass is moving right along in Level 2. I recently started Sis on Level 1, and she is so excited and proud of herself that she is starting to read real words and whole stories. Miss has additional books assigned to her for daily reading. I assigned “Understood Betsy” as her first book, and she hated it (how is this true of my child??), so I let her pick her books now from a stack I have approved for “school reading” (she has tons more books she can, and does, read on her own in addition to these). Lass is starting to read chapter books, too.

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^ Sis’s first whole book she read ^

Language Arts is exactly what I thought it would be – First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for Miss and Lass, and an occasional page from Language of God for Little Folks for Miss. First Language Lessons has short lessons that I go through with them, and the Language of God book is a workbook that Miss can do to reinforce some of the FLL concepts we talk about.

The girls are doing their CHC spelling workbooks, but I haven’t added in any All About Spelling as I had intended to. I think All About Spelling is probably actually a better method, so I’m considering switching to it soon.

I changed up handwriting a bit. Miss is now using the Writing Our Catholic Faith Grade 2 cursive book, while still working on her printing with copy work. She is so excited to be doing cursive writing. Lass is still using the same Catholic Heritage Curriculum book, and Sis is mostly using the preschool version of Writing Our Catholic Faith.

We are still using the Faith and Life books for religion, and Miss has started working through the Little Catechism on the Eucharist and The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism to prepare for her First Holy Communion in April.

We made a few changes with extracurriculars this semester too. The girls are still doing piano and ice skating, but we have added gymnastics in again and dropped their homeschool gym class at the YMCA. This class was starting to feel like such a time suck, since the girls had it twice a week at an awkward time of the day for us. Now we are trying to do various gym time activities at home more, and I don’t think we’ll miss it.

Happily, since I chose curricula that I’m enjoying this year and have added in a few things to liven it up, I’m not feeling the February homeschool mom burnout right now that I hear lots of people talking about. I’m still enjoying (most of) our school days and love learning so much stuff with the girls every day (the more I homeschool, the more I realize how limited my own education was!).

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^ A recent field trip ^

A big change that I’m already starting to plan for for next year is that we will be joining our local Classical Conversations group. I have been intrigued by this for years, and have looked into it briefly a few times, but never too seriously. Recently, I spoke with a friend whose daughter is in the group, and she shared with me how much they enjoy it and benefit from it, and then I got an invitation to attend an open house. We went on Tuesday and it was so wonderful. The girls loved it and begged to go back. After looking into it a bit more and discussing it with my husband, I decided to go for it, and we will be adding this to our curriculum for next year, most Tuesday mornings. We are all pretty excited about this one.

You know there will be a full, overly-detailed post some time in the future about all the plans for next year, when I get to that point.

For now, we’re enjoying this year. For me, each day presents challenges that I’m trying to use as a way to grow in virtue as I push myself to do better for my kids, and I try to help them to think of it this way too. We are working on growing in faith and love in the small moments of each day, and we’re doing it together. That’s pretty cool.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and the fun things we have coming up.

 

From the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday, in honor of the March for Life, I started working with my girls on Pro Life Prints. We continued today. We talked about the sanctity of life, particularly the wonder and fragility of preborn babies and how we need to pray for their protection, all while doing artwork. Kids listen better when there’s paint involved, I think.

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I didn’t plan to talk to my girls about abortion. We have been praying for the March for Life and for an end to abortion during family prayers, but I don’t ever use the word “abortion,” and they are not familiar with the term or the concept. We simply pray for all unborn babies and their moms.

Yesterday, however, when we were talking about protecting unborn babies, Miss said that one of her friends had told her that “the lady who also wanted to be president” thinks that it’s okay to kill unborn babies. Then she asked, “Mom, how could that even happen?”

This was not a discussion I wanted to have. But that’s really the question isn’t it? How could that even happen?

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My stance on discussing grown-up issues with my kids is that I will answer all questions truthfully, but in an age-appropriate way and only as much as they ask for. So I started by explaining that some people do not understand that preborn babies are precious and should be protected. Then I said that there are doctors who sometimes cause babies to be born too early. So early that they aren’t able to live outside their moms’ tummies.

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The girls didn’t ask much more about it, but a little bit later I did talk to them about how important it is for us to keep doing the things we do, like praying for babies and moms and giving to the local crisis pregnancy center, because we have to help moms and dads as part of helping babies. They seemed to like that idea. They asked me if I had needed help from a crisis pregnancy center when I was pregnant with them, and I told them I hadn’t, because I have their dad, who is so wonderful, and their grandparents, and aunts and uncles and lots of friends. So many people supporting me. I told them that some moms don’t have that and so they get scared. (We have talked about this to some degree before because they have many friends who are adopted and so we’ve addressed why their birth parents might not have been able to care for them, and what a brave and loving choice it was for them to allow someone more able to be the parents of their babies.)

I think it’s important to include the support for parents, particularly moms, in the discussion of why and how we are pro-life.

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Through doing this project and hearing a lot about the marches of the past week, I found myself thinking about the way that unplanned pregnancy is typically talked about in this culture. It got me thinking about how I want to teach my little part of the next generation about life and parenthood and unplanned pregnancy.

I don’t want them to ever see a new life as a tragedy or an inescapable problem. I don’t ever want them (or anyone) to think that if they do experience an unplanned pregnancy, that they have no choice but abortion. I have found that this small art project we’ve worked on for the past two days is one small way of opening up some age-appropriate discussion and starting to shape their thoughts on the topic.

Naturally, my husband and I will have discussions with our kids about making good choices, being responsible, and why it is better to wait until they are married to have children (that’s a whole ‘nother ball game that I won’t go into here!), but it will never include,”Your life will be ruined if you get pregnant (or get someone pregnant) before you’re married.” We have family members who have faced unplanned pregnancies and have chosen life, with beautiful results. They will know those stories.

For now, we will keep working on our Pro-Life Prints. We will keep talking about the miracle of new life and how to help protect it. We will keep talking about the beauty of God’s creation.

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I will continue to pray that we will all keep asking the question, “How can this even happen?” and working to make it stop.

Top Ten of 2016

Two posts in three days? It’s the end of the year and I’m on a roll! In other words, I don’t have to think of something to write about, because I do these same posts every year.

Today? The top ten posts of 2016. Yes, I did write more than ten posts, and while none of them were actually in the top ten most viewed posts this year (all those were older posts), I’ll still share with you the round up of the most popular posts that I wrote in the past year.

#10 A Little Update – 7QT

Nothing really exciting about this post. It was just something in a sea of nothing, so it got some love. And it had this picture:

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I love our family foot washing tradition on Holy Thursday.

It also had this one:

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That girl melts me.

#9 Baby Boy’s Birth

Because birth story!

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#8 Preparing

This was my first experience of pregnancy and L&D as a believer. It made the preparations for labor a little different and the mind-set different too. It made me smile (and get a tiny bit misty, if I’m honest), to look back at this one and read about my thoughts in the last days of what was most likely my last pregnancy.

#7 My Favorite Catholic Books – From Conversion and Beyond

In case you’re looking for some good spiritual reads for the new year.

#6 Down the Homeschool Rabbit Hole – 7QT

It was fun to look back at this one to see what my homeschool dreaming was in the summer. Halfway through the year, I have implemented some of the things I was hoping to, like SQUILT, but haven’t used other things yet, like the Shakespeare book (though that’s coming very soon!) and the KONOS units (also probably to be added soon since this post reminded me of it!).

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I’m still listening to Your Morning Basket as new episodes come out, and I think our morning time has definitely improved from last year so far, but I just grabbed Pam’s new Winter Morning Time Plans to kick it up a notch. I put 29 books on hold from our library yesterday!

#5 A Homeschool Day in the Life

This was another fun post to read from last spring. It reminded me that part of the reason I blog (and need to get back to doing it more regularly) is that it’s a way to keep a record of our lives.

I felt a tiny twinge of dread when I saw the picture of the read-alouds we used to do in our morning time (I have a name for it now!).

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I just really didn’t enjoy the majority of these books. It’s amazing how much better our days start out now that our reading is more enjoyable (and we start with music and singing).

#4 Three Girls and a Boy

People still comment on the gender make up of our offspring. All the time. It’s gotten so that I just expect it, and now feel almost surprised when someone doesn’t mention it.

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As the weeks roll by, my girls get more and more helpful, and Bubba gets more and more adorable. I’m still trying to savor all the things. Especially the milk-breath smell. Moms, you know what I’m talking about. Now that he’s eating some solids, I’m dreading when it’s gone!

#3 The Fruits of Lent

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It’s always good to read about Lent during other times in the liturgical year. It’s like a good little spiritual kick in the behind. I have been terrible about carving out time for prayer since Bubba arrived. I haven’t been getting up early anymore, which makes it really hard to have a specific time set aside every day. I’ve taken to doing a lot more on-the-go, in-the-moment prayer (including frequent offer-it-up prayers), which has its own benefits. But this post is also a good reminder that I really need to get back into the practice of early rising, now that the little man is (usually) sleeping through the night now.

#2 Thoughts on Pre-ultrasound Worry, and a Gender Reveal

Of course the gender-reveal post gets lots of traffic. I love the memory of the moment when we first saw that Bubba was a bubba.

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And of course:

#1 Our Rainbow Baby

This post still gives me chills and makes me almost cry. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

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2016 has been quite a year. There have been several painful losses and scary illnesses for family and friends. May was an especially difficult month, with grief over the loss of two loved ones piled on top of some intense, kind of shocking and very frightening health issues for two of our parents, crammed into approximately two weeks time, and compounded by the fact that, since I was nine months pregnant, my husband and I could not travel to be with either of our ill parents.

But then June came, and with it came this little Rainbow Baby miracle:

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A lot of people are cursing 2016. In many ways, it was a tough year. But man, that little bundle outshines every bit of sadness and fear.

It seems perfectly fitting that the Gospel reading for today is John 1:1-18, which includes the lines:

What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The darkness has not overcome it.

This reminds us that Jesus is The Light. No matter what hard things happened this year, the darkness cannot overcome The Light. It never will.

God’s promise endures.

Wishing you a beautiful and blessed 2017. Happy New Year!

2016 in 12 Photos

I have tried to do a few posts in the past month, and have obviously failed miserably, due to various technical difficulties.

However, I am bound and determined to get one more post in before 2016 ends. A photo post to link with Bobbi and share one photo for each month of this past year.

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JANUARY

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We found out our baby was a boy!

FEBRUARY

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Mama had a vacation. Florida. It was amazing.

MARCH

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I captured my hugeness. I still had over two months to go when I took this photo.

APRIL

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I just love this photo.

MAY

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With my girls on Mother’s Day

JUNE

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June 1. My sweet boy.

JULY

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Our boy’s big day.

AUGUST

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A sister sleepover for Lass’s birthday.

SEPTEMBER

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A field trip day. We drove 45 minutes to a farm for a field trip, only to find that they weren’t open. So then we drove another 30 minutes to this place (making a full circle around the lake near us). It turned out to be a fun day, and I’m glad we made the best of it. One of my favorite photos of the year.

OCTOBER

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We eventually made it to that farm. Officially the most chill baby ever.

NOVEMBER

15073317_10209049165358731_8721964428732703897_nMy big girl had her First Reconciliation. She said it was the best day ever.

She has already asked to go back again, and she enjoyed it the second time too.

DECEMBER

15747752_10209438267166033_5131299987971233937_nAfter Mass on Christmas morning. I was nervous about doing Mass Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve, but it turned out the church was not packed at all and we made it with plenty of time.

It has been a beautiful Christmas so far.

Here’s to trying to be a better blogger in 2017!

A Return to the Farm

You might remember that I used to blog at least a few times a year about a place called The Farm. I even have a topic category devoted to it. The Farm is my in-laws’ property where our family often spends vacation time. My husband hunts and fishes there. We used to have the big Labor Day party there. My husband and I spent much of our first year of dating there (it happened to be halfway between the place where I did my internship and where he did his transitional residency). We got married there.

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We love The Farm.

For the past year and a half or so, The Farm has been under serious construction, so the kids and I have not been able to visit. It’s been strange to be away for so long.

But finally, it’s done enough that we were able to go with my husband for his annual deer hunting trip. We loved being there again and did our best to make the most of it.

Two weeks, we were there. My kids played with cousins, met some new friends, went on treasure hunts, fished, and had fun with grandparents. Here are a few photos to document our return to the place we love:

The girls got to experience trick-or-treating with their cousins in Iowa the way my husband has always said is the “right” way. The kids there have to tell a joke in order to get their candy. It’s quite odd, but the kids loved it. Even my shy girls (Miss and Sis) had no trouble telling their jokes, and it was so fun to watch them ham it up a bit even.

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^With all of the cousins except one on my husband’s side of the family^

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Two weeks is a long time, and we couldn’t skip school altogether, so I brought some of our work, which we did in the mornings. Then the girls spent the afternoons playing outside, fishing with their dad, and going on nature treasure hunts.

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^That is a bucket of dead leaves in water, which she said she was “bringing back to life”^

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We took a field trip to the big city to meet some other homeschooling friends (it’s nice to be practically the only kids in the park on a Friday afternoon).

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I have been friends with this lovely lady since I was pregnant with Miss and she was pregnant with her oldest, but we’ve never met in person before. It was so delightful to see her face and give her a hug. We had so much to talk about and the afternoon just flew by.

Our second weekend we had more cousin time (they came down to The Farm this time) including some big treasure hunts.

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^Bubba got pretty tired out after his first time in the woods^

My husband got two deer, one with a bow and one with a rifle.

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 ^The deer he shot with his bow^

And there was so much more. It was a wonderful two-week getaway to a special place.

I forgot a little how much more involved it is to travel with an infant, and we’re still trying to get back to normal now that we’re home, but it was all worth it to see the joy on my girls’ faces when they spent time with their cousins or fished with their dad all day.

We’re already looking forward to our next trip at Christmas time.

Four (AKA Wow, It’s a Blog Post!)

I know I haven’t blogged in a really long time. I’m just popping in to give a quick update on life with four.

I am in such baby heaven these days.

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Baby number four is awesome.

My girls are much older now than the last time I had a little baby, and it is so much easier to have four kids seven and under than it was to have three girls under four. My girls can do so many things for themselves that they couldn’t do when last I cared for an infant. They get themselves dressed. They can get their own breakfasts and brush their own teeth. Miss does her own hair.

I heard once that once your oldest child gets to be about six or seven years old, life suddenly becomes much easier. My oldest two are six and seven, and this is so true.

All the girls do so much to help out and love taking care of their brother.

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Miss and Lass clean bathrooms and vacuum stairs. Sis wipes baseboards and scrubs toilets. They feed the dogs and clean their rooms and put their laundry away.

And even when they aren’t doing something to actively help me, they’re usually downstairs playing with each other and not needing me at all. Which is awesome and sad at the same time, I suppose, but more awesome most of the time.

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As for Baby Boy, he just does his thing. He’s a happy baby and doesn’t fuss about being along for the ride when we’re out and about taking his sisters to various activities in the afternoons. School can be a bit tricky, but he usually naps for a at least a little while when we do school in the mornings.

He’s very easygoing.

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And a major thing that I’ve noticed this time around is that I’m a lot more easygoing about him too.

I don’t get uptight if he’s going to miss his afternoon nap. He really doesn’t have a set afternoon nap, because we are typically away from home 2-3 afternoons per week at least. It’s just the way things are so we roll with it.

I don’t worry about how often he’s eating, or how long it’s been between his feedings, or if he’s on a good eating/sleeping schedule (he’s not).

I also don’t stress that he isn’t sleeping through the night. All of my girls were much better sleepers than he is. They all slept through the night pretty consistently by this point in their babyhoods. Baby Boy has slept through the night a grand total of one time.

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And you know what? I kind of don’t really even care. Of course I’m tired, after waking up 1-3 times per night for the past 4.5 months, but I’m not terribly bothered by it. Recently I said to my husband, “Meh. He’ll sleep through the night one of these days.” And he will. And I’m about as concerned about it as that sounds.

I’m so thankful to have another little baby to snuggle and love on, I’m just trying to soak it up and not wish it away. One day last week he fell asleep while I was nursing him on the couch. Twice in one day. He did it again today. And each time I just stayed right where I was and let him sleep. And I watched him and marveled at him. I do that a lot.

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Life with four is so good.

In the Books

We started school this week. Three days in, and I’m going to say I’m thrilled with the changes I made and the direction we’re heading (you can check out our curriculum here if you’re inclined).

A few highlights:

Our first day of school special breakfast was chocolate waffles.

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The girls usually are still in pjs for breakfast, but they were excited and got dressed early for their first day.

I told them that at the beginning of each school day, I’ll put on a song for them, and they need to be at the school table ready to go by the time the song is over. They danced and hammed it up to the song I picked for the first morning, which was “Uptown Funk” (I couldn’t find “Happy” on my phone, which was what I wanted, but we managed to play that one Wednesday morning).

We started by singing the Gloria, praying, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then I asked them if they wanted to have a new name for our school this year (why not?) and had them come up with one. They chose “St. Therese Homeschool” (last year we were “Holy Family Academy”). They helped me make a list of our classroom rules, and we discussed the things they especially want to learn this year (archery was high on the list), and then we started into our morning time read alouds from our Build Your Library curriculum.

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The girls liked the new method we’re using with our workboxes. Instead of having them go through all of their drawers in order, I labeled the drawers and wrote in their new notebooks what they had to do for the day. Then they could do their assignments in whatever order they chose. We’re still working out some issues with this, as Sis and Lass have needed some help to decipher my pictures and words and abbreviations that tell them what to do. I think it’s going to work though, and cut down on my prep time each evening, too.

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The two biggest improvements so far have been letting them color quietly during read alouds and our math curriculum.

I always thought that the girls needed to just sit relatively quietly while I was reading aloud to them in order for them to be paying attention. It turns out, they actually pay better attention if I put a box of markers on the table and some mandala coloring books and let them color while they listen! Our new curriculum also sometimes has some related pages that they can color while they listen to history and science readings as well. We are all so much happier during read alouds suddenly!

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And our math curriculum this year is so much better. Last year’s math curricula for Miss and Lass were very strongly workbook-based. Miss hated doing her math each day and as soon as she pulled out her workbook would begin complaining about it. I knew I needed to get something different this year in order to avoid raising a bunch of math-haters. I researched a LOT of different math curricula, and I decided on Shiller Math, which is very hands-on. I have never been really into doing Montessori-method teaching, but this math curriculum is Montessori based, and we all love it so far.

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We finished up our first morning with sandwiches and malts for lunch, and then had an archery lesson before dinner.

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The rest of our short week (M-W, because we’re going out of town for The Labor Day Party) went well also. We had more archery and even did a little science experiment on Wednesday.

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With week one in the books, I’m feeling encouraged that our year is going to be even better than last year. In the past three days, during family prayers at bedtime, my kids have all said things about being thankful for school, and for archery, and for our science experiment.

Miss even said she was thankful for math.

That makes me one happy homeschooling mama.

A Summer Reading Adventure

Last week we finished our Read the World Summer Book Club. It was based on the book “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time” by Jamie Martin. We used a chapter a week to go through different areas of the world, selecting books to read and activities to do as we went.

Some weeks we were more into it than others. Some books were better than others and sparked more conversation and exploration. All of it was an exercise in learning about the wider world. Geography, language, customs, history. We talked about all of it through the stories told in the books we chose, all of which were recommended in Jamie’s book.

We began with gusto with Multicultural week, focusing on exploring lots of different cultures all over the world. We picked several books with this emphasis, and started out coloring each country that we read about on the map that was provided in one of Jamie’s first posts about the book club.

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After doing this for a few days, the girls lost interest in the maps, which we dropped, but not the stories.

We rolled right into the second week focused on Africa with books and movies from the library about Kenya and Mali and Madagascar. We read about cassava plants and how tapioca is made from the starch of these plants, so I got tapioca pudding for them to try. They didn’t like it (neither do I), but they found it “interesting,” for sure.

After Africa, we moved to the chapter on Europe. There were lots of books in the Europe section of Jamie’s book (and the Asia section) that we have read already, but there were still plenty to choose from that were new to us. One that my girls and I especially enjoyed was “Boxes for Katje.” I had grand plans to make something European for dinner one night that week, maybe from one of my French or Spanish cookbooks, but I flopped on that one.

Next up was North America. Jamie suggested lots of good books, but our favorite that we read was “Jingle Dancer,” about the Native American traditional dance performed in a dress with metal “jingles” on it. We ended up going down a YouTube rabbit hole after this book, watching video after video of jingle dancing and various other types of traditional Native American dance. It was absolutely fascinating, and the girls just kept begging for more.

Our zeal for the book club hit its low point during the Middle East week, when we only read one book from those I checked out of the library. We quickly rebounded with Asia week though. I don’t know what it is about reading books set in Asia, but we have always loved reading about this region of the world. From our old books, “The Story about Ping” and “A Pair of Red Clogs” to the many new ones we read during this week of the book club, we just really enjoy the richness of Asian culture as we experience it through picture books.

One of our favorites during this week was “Bee-bim Bop!” which included a recipe  that we promptly made together, and which led to the girls’ first experience with Korean food (including kimchee!!).

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The other favorite of the week was this:

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The original name of this book was Little Black Sambo, and my grandma used to read it to me when I was little. I didn’t realize this was the same story when I reserved it from the library, but inside the jacket it explained the original title. The memory of my Gram reading it came rushing back, and I was so excited. I can vividly remember the distinct voices she used for Little Black Sambo and the tigers. I tried to replicate them in my reading of the story, but I didn’t do it justice. My girls enjoyed it anyway, of course, and so did I.

The next week was Latin America week, during which I picked a couple of books set in Brazil and made a lame attempt at an Olympic connection, but because we don’t have TV and weren’t really able to watch much of the Olympics, it didn’t really resonate.

And finally, Australia, Oceania, Polar Regions, which we wrapped up last week. I found these two reading “Diary of a Wombat” in our swing set tower the other day.

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As I walked away after taking this photo, I heard them bust out in giggles over the silliness of the story. I love sharing special moments over books with my girls, and even more seeing them sharing the love of books with each other.