Praying for Our Nation, 14 Years Later

Today during school, I taught my girls about 9/11 for the first time.

Our lesson started quite naturally after we said the Pledge of Allegiance. Lass asked if the Pledge is a prayer.

“No,” I said. “It’s something we say in the USA to show that we love and are loyal to our country. We say it to show that we believe our country is the best place to live and that we will take care of it.”

That provided a fairly natural segue into our discussion of the events of September 11, 14 years ago.

I told them about the twin towers and how incredibly tall they were. I showed them pictures. We talked about the airplanes and the men who made them hit the buildings. I told them about the Pentagon and the people who fought back on the fourth plane to keep it from hitting another building.


I was pretty nervous about having this conversation with them. I didn’t want to scare them. But I thought they were old enough for a basic description of the events of 9/11. I wanted them to begin to understand patriotism. I wanted them to see that people sometimes do evil things, but that good and God are still more powerful.

I’m glad I talked about it with them. They didn’t seem scared. They were very curious about the men who had taken over the planes. They wanted to know why they did it. We talked about how some people can do very terrible things if they let hate take over their hearts, and that that’s what those men did. They hated our country, and so they did something horrifying. We talked about how we should pray for them and for people like them.

As we were having this conversation, I was dismayed to find that my conviction faltered a little bit on some of my patriotic comments. I felt a little false even. My love for our great nation is still deep and strong and true, but right now I really don’t like Her very much sometimes. I hate to type this, but I feel like my own patriotism has waned of late.

I’m shocked and saddened and angered by so many things I see going on in our country. Things like how people don’t seem to care one bit about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts and that our president hasn’t even watched the videos showing evidence of it. Things like people being sued and losing their businesses and even being jailed for following their beliefs.

I get this sense of impotent rage, alternating with helplessness, because I feel like so many things are wrong here in our country, but I don’t feel like I can do anything about it.

Today, when I talked with my girls about 9/11, I wrapped up our conversation with the story of St. Paul’s Chapel. I just learned about this church today. I told my girls about its rich history and the fact that it is right next to where the towers stood, and yet when they fell, not even one window of the chapel was broken. I told them about how it was used as a place for rescue and recovery workers to rest and find some comfort during the hours and days following the tragedy.

We talked about how God must have protected that Church, and how He is so much stronger than any bad things people do.

I ended by telling the girls that, even though those men attacked our country and did something that hurt us very much, we were not broken or ruined by it, and in fact we came together to help and serve each other even more after that happened.

During the course of the lesson with my girls, and in my reflections on it and my own feelings afterwards, I managed to realize that no matter what laws are made, no matter what trash is spewed all over Facebook and TV, no matter how things may seem to be wrong in this country, it is still the country that I love, and I would not want to live anywhere else.

On this date 14 years ago, our nation came together in such a remarkable way. The attack on our country only served to make us stronger and to reinforce within our hearts what our we stand for. The men who flew those planes that day hated us, and they hated the religious beliefs that the majority in our country hold. It seems this is not very different from some of the issues we are facing today, except now we are attacking each other.

I told my girls that we can pray for the men who hurt our nation fourteen years ago and others like them. We will also be praying for a return to American strength and unity, for an end to divisiveness and hatefulness and persecution of those who think or act or believe differently than we do.

Let us never forget 9/11.

The First Week – A Homeschool High

I promise I will go back to blogging about stuff other than homeschooling very soon, but this week, it has pretty much been all-homeschool-all-the-time in my brain, so I’m needing to tell everyone how we did. Ready?


Ahem. We crushed it.

The week was fantastic.

The curriculum was very easy to follow and implement.

The girls loved the workbox system.


They are crazy about the Star Wars workbooks that I work into their workboxes in between their “real” work.

(When proofreading, I realized how many times I used the word “work” in that ^^ sentence. I started to edit, but then decided I enjoy the fact that it is used four times in there, with four different meanings. I’m leaving it.)

We did a science experiment.

We did an art project.



I let my kids use Sharpies, and we all made it out unscathed (including our clothes and furniture).


We learned about Mother Teresa (her feast day is tomorrow).

Miss developed an intense interest in Japan.

We read and discussed the Gospel for this Sunday, as well as most of them from the Mass readings for the week.

We memorized a Bible verse (Psalm 1:1). They did much better at this than I did. Even Sis has it down.

It was so fun.

We even named our little school after our patron saints. I had the idea the night before our first day that I was going to ask the girls to choose a patron saint for our school for the year. I worried a bit that introducing this might be a big disaster. I suspected they would fight over which saint we should choose. To my surprise, they came to an agreement almost immediately. When I first asked whom we should choose, Sis said, “Saint Joseph.” Miss said, “That’s exactly what I was just going to say!” Lass said, “Mary.” I said, “How about the Holy Family?” They said, “Yeah!”

So we are now Holy Family Academy.

I’m kind of feeling like Super Homeschool Mom. I’m having an “I need a cape” moment (these are few and far between, so I’m making the most of it).


Of course, it wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. There were a few tense moments. Even a few tears, because Lass has a hard time understanding that she isn’t supposed to do things perfectly when she is learning them, like cutting an oval shape. I repeated many times things like: “You don’t have to be perfect, you’re just learning,” and “It takes practice to get good at new skills,” and “In our school it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.” And so on and so on. She still had a meltdown over the fact that her ovals were a bit angular.


I also need to streamline my process for prepping the next day’s work in the evenings and filling the girls’ workboxes. I think I spent at least an hour each night doing this, and that’s just not sustainable. I’m working on making it smoother, doing some of the prep work for the next day as the girls are finishing up their current day activities, and finding other ways to be more efficient. I’m hoping this will get faster as I get more familiar with the curriculum and once we are in a more user-friendly space after we move.

And speaking of user-friendly spaces, I learned that, although I really like having individual desks for the girls, I also like having the big table in the middle to use when we’re doing work together at the start of the day and when we do experiments and art projects. So we’ll probably be making room for the big table in our school room (we inherited a new dining room table from my in-laws).


So much packed into the first week.

Do you want to know my favorite part about the whole thing? I could watch my girls growing closer to each other through our work together and their helping each other.


I know that sounds crazy after just one week, but I swear they’re kinder to and closer to each other today than they were last Friday. They’re complimenting each other, they’re helping each other, they’re playing Star Wars together so nicely!

I’m feeling more connected with them too.

The house is a mess and my meal planning has gone to heck, but today it all feels so worth it.

First Day of School – Our Homeschool Plan

Today is the first day of school! I am really excited for this year, and so are my kids. Here’s what we have planned:

I am doing Sonlight first grade for Miss (Core B). I am always drawn to a literature-based rather than textbook/workbook-based curriculum, and that’s what I love about Sonlight. So far I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time organizing and figuring out my plan for exactly how to implement it, but I suspect that’s because I’ve added a bunch of stuff to it and decided to try to use workboxes for much of our school assignments.

Basically, I’ve come up with a plan in which we all do our religion, calendar, history, poetry, art appreciation, and reading for science together, first thing. Then the girls will go to their desks and start going through their workboxes. I have all of Miss’s math, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and worksheet questions in her workbox drawers, along with a few other fun activities (Hot Dots, Star Wars readers and workbooks, saints activity pages, etc.).


The girls will be instructed to go through their boxes one drawer at a time, starting at the top. They can’t open drawers further down until they finish the one they’re on. When they finish each drawer, they move the magnet on the bar from the left to the right and go to the next one. I think (hope!) they will find this fun and make the school day more exciting and interesting for them.


I think this will work really well for Miss, because she can read the instructions I write down for her in each drawer. I suspect it will be a little bit harder, especially at first, to get Lass and Sis going with this system, but I’ll give it a try anyway. At least at first, they have fewer drawers filled, so we’ll see how it goes.

After they get through their workboxes, I’ll read the day’s read aloud to them over lunch (our first one for the year is Charlotte’s Web). And that will be it, except they have extracurriculars some days in the afternoons (piano, gym, choir, art).

For Miss, the additions I chose to the Sonlight core (history, language arts, religion, science) are Horizons Math and Handwriting Without Tears. I’m already planning to switch her handwriting book though, to Writing Our Catholic Faith, which I just discovered yesterday and absolutely love! I’m also going to supplement her reading work by continuing with her All About Reading Level 2 (AAR) curriculum that we didn’t finish last year. The level of the readers that come with the first grade package from Sonlight is far too easy. I’m going to have her read them anyway, because they go along with her spelling words, but she can do the whole week of Sonlight readers in one day, and the rest of the week I’ll fill in with lessons from AAR.


I have added a specifically Catholic Faith and Life series to supplement the religion portion of Sonlight, and we’ll be doing lots of reading about saints and feast days. I also got Miss a Good News planner so we can learn about the coming Sunday’s Mass readings and she can keep track of her activities each week. We’ll be using Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection for art appreciation and a DVD art course done by some nuns, which ties art with our Catholic faith and history (I can’t find the link for this anymore).

And that’s about it for Miss in 1st grade.

I’ve decided to start Lass in Kindergarten. She’ll do all the Sonlight curriculum with her sister (as will Sis) for the start of her day, and then her workboxes will have some math worksheets from Seton’s Math K for Young Catholics, some BOB books, her AAR Level 1 curriculum (which she will bring to me to do with her), Writing Our Catholic Faith for handwriting, and other fun activities similar to those in Miss’s boxes. She’ll also be using her sister’s first grade readers, which are more in line with her reading level than Miss’s.

Sis will be doing the pre-reading level of AAR (if I can ever find it in one of the boxes I packed away!) a few coloring pages, and various other fun activities.

I’ve got to go put some first-day-of-school cinnamon rolls in the oven and wake up my kids. Wish me luck!

Homeschool and Changes and Sacrifice

We are on the verge of beginning another school year at home, and this one feels like it is coming at me with many, many changes. I’m finding this both exciting and uncomfortable at the same time. I have hemmed and hawed about what day to pick to actually start school, and have finally decided on next Monday as the official first day, with a few small activities this week to get into the swing of things. We even took our first field trip today.



It’s been a little tricky getting things ready to start, because one big change is that we will eventually be in a new school room, and for the time being we are in a state of transition. Our new home was supposed to be finished around now, but is now not going to be done until October. Our old school room got all packed and put away when we put our house on the market, so I’m pulling out a lot of things from storage, and I’m having a hard time finding stuff, because when I packed it away I thought I would just be getting everything out in our new house around now, and not needing to find specific things in poorly marked boxes.


Since we’re going to be changing things around a lot when we move, I decided to go ahead and make a shift from an obviously preschool-like homeschool room to a room that will grow with us. This means individual desks for each of the girls (the little table we were using just wasn’t cutting it anymore), a bigger, free-standing white board, and workbox tray carts (which still haven’t been put together because the company sent me the wrong size). For right now, everything is being crammed into our former-school-room-turned-back-to-dining-room-and-now-partial-homeschool-room-again room.


I’m excited about the new way our school will be set up, if not completely happy with it’s current configuration.

The other big change is that Miss isn’t going to be going part time to our local Catholic school anymore. I love that we tried the hybrid homeschool model (I think Michele, who is trying it this year, coined the term), but it just wasn’t going to work for us this year.

There were many things I liked about having Miss in a regular school last year, and some things I didn’t. The main reasons we aren’t doing it again this year are that 1) having Miss at another school part time was disrupting the flow of my homeschool schedule; 2) it’s going to be a bit too far to drive after we move; and 3) she really didn’t want to go again. She said that regular school “takes too long,” which makes sense since we can get all of our homeschool work done for the day in a couple of hours, versus her being at school all day.

And in the same way that having Miss at school for one full day a week was disrupting our homeschool schedule, so were a few other things that I have had to move around or cut out. We aren’t doing any out-of-the-home lessons in the morning anymore. Piano got moved to the afternoon, and we will be starting a homeschool gym class two days a week at the YMCA and have homeschool choir and art classes once per week with some local families as well, all in the afternoon. This is hard for me, because I’ve always counted on having some time in the afternoons to get things done while the girls were resting and/or napping. Sis is going to be missing her nap more often, and I will be missing it too.

But the hardest thing about this change is that I have had to give up my bi-weekly Monday morning Catholic Bible study with my friends. It has been such a great experience for learning and building community with some wonderful ladies, but it just doesn’t fit with our plans this year. I probably could have made it work, but I feel pretty strongly that I want to get the girls into a routine of Monday through Thursday school time in the mornings. Fridays will be for some school things and extra projects, for field trips, or for a make-up day if we take a field trip or have something else during the week. In order to be consistent with this schedule, the Bible study had to go.


But while I’ve had to give up this one social activity, I’m trying to add in some others. Knowing that we won’t have any outside-the-home school this year, I’ve really been trying to establish relationships with other homeschooling families so that my girls can develop friendships with kids they will be able to see frequently. I am excited for their gym, choir, and art classes to start so they can begin forging new friendships and building on the ones we have already begun with some new families.

I know I need to do this, and it’s fun and exciting to meet new people (as uncomfortable as it can be for my introverted self to take the first step). But it’s hard to know that they won’t be able to see their old friends, who all go to school full time, quite as often. We can’t do weekly morning play dates with Super Friend’s kids anymore, for example. Her two oldest are in school every day now, and my family needs the school time in the mornings.


I feel kind of sad and anxious about these kinds of changes. I remember reading a blog post once in which the author claimed that homeschool moms have to give up their friendships with their non-homeschooling mom friends, because that’s what you have to do to put your children’s home education first. I don’t agree with this. At all. And I have no intention of blowing off my friendships or those that my girls have with kids who go to school. We will find other times to get together. But it still feels a little lonely to know that the easy days of morning coffee play dates with friends are over (at least until next summer).

So that’s where I am right now – on the verge of diving into a new year, excited and fearful about all the changes this will bring for us, and hopeful that I will be able to balance all the things to teach my children well with consistency, help them to develop new friendships, and manage to keep our old friendships going strong.


Getting Ready for School – 7QT

I’m having mixed feelings about the fact that it’s nearly the end of August. I can’t believe summer is almost over and I’m sad to see it go, but I’m also really excited about our curriculum this year and eager to get started on the school year. And I’m looking forward to fall, which is my favorite season and would be the best thing ever in my opinion, except that it’s always followed by winter.

Anyway, I’ll do a post next week about our plans for the school year, but here’s what we’ve been doing lately to get ready for it.

1. Reviewing curriculum.

Since our house was on the market, I have kept all of my homeschool stuff packed away, and I just recently got everything out. The girls went out to play in the rain the other day, so I set myself up with my huge binder of stuff and started figuring out what I’m supposed to do with it. Probably a good idea.



2. Getting supplies.

Since we homeschool, we don’t have big lists of things to get for the school year, but with back-to-school stuff on sale right now, we went ahead and got some fresh crayons and notebooks. Everyone loves fresh crayons. And back-to-school is always a good time to stock up on new socks and undies too.


3. Getting haircuts.

I guess I just like to make a bit of a production about starting school again, even though we’re doing it in our dining room. So I took the girls to get them back-to-school haircuts. They posed for a before picture:


And here’s the after:


They really wanted me to take an “after” photo of them facing the wall too:


4. Trying to check out a homeschool gym class.


There is a local homeschool group that meets on Wednesdays at a nearby park for gym. I have never taken the girls because it’s right in the middle of nap time. But now that Sis is the only one who naps regularly, and I’m trying to decide what we’re going to do for gym class this year, I wanted to take them to check it out last week.


I had the time wrong at first, so we were there an hour and a half early. Then when we the correct time finally rolled around and still no one was there, I called the woman in charge, who told me it had been cancelled that day. She said it was on for this week, but then we had an inspection scheduled for our house on Thursday, and Wednesday afternoon came and went with me completely forgetting to take them. Sooo, next week.

5. Putting stuff together.

When our house is done (hopefully in October) we will have a new school room. I decided I did not like having one table for all the girls to use for their work, so I got them individual desks that need to be put together. I also got a new standing white board and some craft organizing trays for workboxes. I haven’t actually started putting anything together yet, but I did get one desk out of the box, only to put it right back in when I learned of the inspection happening this week. It will happen before we start school.

6. Enjoying the last few days of summer.




Most of my girls’ friends will be starting back to Catholic school on Tuesday, so we’re trying to enjoy as much of the last few days of summer, especially with them, as we can.


7. Preparing myself mentally.


Not actually with beer, though that’s nice too (and doesn’t that picture just look like a little slice of happiness for a summer day?)

I’m trying to think through what my objectives are for the year. Obviously there’s the curriculum part, and my goals for each girl and what I want her to learn and accomplish. But I’ve also been working on really preparing myself to be more peaceful and have more fun in school this year. We started out great last year, but after a while things sort of started to drag on some days. We had a few awful moments when I got stubborn about just. getting. the lesson. done. instead of remembering that the happiness and growth and love of learning in my children is far more important than any lesson or curriculum or specific skill being taught.

This year I will remember that the most important thing for me to do every day is to help my children to find wonder and joy in learning, and to help them learn to learn. Beyond that, everything else is gravy.

I hope that you’re still enjoying the last few days of summer! I’m linking this one up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday. Head over there to see more!


Edel, Summer, ALL the Good Things – 7QT

Happy Fourth of July! Two posts in one day, so that I can join in with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday (it’s been a while!), and share all my love of summer to this point.


We had some fantastic 4th of July festivities with friends last night.


Wonderful friends, good food, good beer, and fireworks. Can’t beat that for a great American holiday celebration.




^ My husband playing chase with all the kids ^


I love our community of friends


Earlier in the week, we went strawberry picking. Summer in Wisconsin is glorious.



It really does make up for the long, cold winters. Well, almost.


Our house has been on the market for two weeks now and we’ve had two showings. I have been cleaning and polishing and pulling weeds so much, it’s really starting to get to me. Examples: last weekend, I got out of the car at the farmer’s market downtown, and I saw some weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks. I felt a strong urge to bend down and pull them, just for the thrill of getting the root. Then a couple of days ago, I noticed myself being careful not to leave fingerprints on my steering wheel while driving to the grocery store.

I really hope our house sells soon!


I’ve had some fun one-on-one time with my littlest girl while her sisters were at YMCA camp a week ago. She wanted to play princess and informed me that her name is “Annie,” (which is not her name). She was Princess Annie all day, until she decided she was Princess Baker Annie.


The Princess-Baker’s finished creation:


It’s not often I get to spend time with just my youngest girl. It was special.


Next week, I’m going to the Edel Gathering in Charleston! I had a blast there last year, and am looking forward to some much needed mommy-recharging time.


^ A selfie with Super Friend from last year ^

If you are coming to Edel, leave a comment and let me know. And please come up and introduce yourself! Even though I am really going to try to get past my introvertedness (word?) and meet new people, I probably won’t do a very good job of it to be honest, so help me out!


Speaking of introvertedness, I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to another homeschooling mom here in town. Although I really love our community of friends here (see above), all of the kids who are part of our friend group go to school. I’m realizing that I really do need to connect with more homeschooling families, so I called our parish to see if they have a homeschooling group. They don’t, but the woman I spoke to gave me the name of another homeschooling mom in our parish. That mom is a member of a (non-Catholic) homeschooling group I’m part of on FB, so I sent her a friend request, and then a message, and she told me there is a Catholic homeschooling group in our town, it just hasn’t been very active lately. She added me to the FB group, and I invited her to meet up at a park with the kids. It was so fun! We made all sorts of plans to revive the local group, and she gave me some good info on other homeschooling opportunities in town.

It might seem like a little thing, but I’m really excited about this for myself and for my kids (and for the record, I have nothing against hanging with non-Catholic homeschoolers, but there’s something really fun about discussing plans for an All Saint’s Day costume party and a May Crowning and such).


We are making a good, old-fashioned American feast for the 4th today. I have chicken brining, which I will fry this afternoon, my husband has his famous homemade baked beans cooking in the oven, I’ve got all the fixins ready to mix up some coleslaw, and lots of corn on the cob in my fridge. It’s going to be a great day.


Happy 4th of July!


For more Quick Takes, head over to Kelly’s link up!

Our Homeschool Curriculum for Next Year

Look what came in the mail the other day:


I decided to go with the full, packaged first grade curriculum from Sonlight. I mentioned before that I felt a little concerned about losing the fun and creative stuff I like to do with the girls if I bought an already planned/packaged curriculum. But, in my decision to go ahead with it, my rationale was that, by getting a program that has already laid out everything for me, I will actually have more time to come up with little extras and fun things to do with the girls, because I won’t be spending as much time planning my next week’s lessons.

At the moment, I’m in the process of packing up everything in our school room and turning it back into a dining room in preparation for putting our house on the market.


So I didn’t take the time yet to unpack and go through everything in the boxes (though I really, really want to!!). But check out the few things that I did pull out.


Isn’t it beautiful? And even more wonderful:


This entire box is full of books. I nearly fainted. My husband is making fun of me for how excited I am over these materials, but look at all those books!! The colors and the feel and the smell of them. Okay. I’m a big nerd. Moving on.

The girls will do most of the science and social studies parts of this curriculum (and our religion and art curricula, below) all together. I have lots of materials that I can use to make the reading more challenging for Miss and to do phonics, reading, math, and handwriting with Lass, as well as a beginning phonics program for Sis (she always asks for something to do during school time).

And speaking of the religion component of our homeschool, another reason I hesitated to pull the trigger on purchasing this one, is that Sonlight is a Protestant Christian curriculum. This is great, because it includes lots of learning of Bible verses and includes important Christian history. And I thought about and decided that I’m okay with the likelihood that we will need to have some discussions about what this curriculum has to say about things like the Reformation, since I think it’s good for the girls to know that our Church has historically had some bad times and people, and that others have different ways of viewing things, and why we still believe that our Church is the right one for us.

BUT, though I kept coming back to this curriculum as the one I liked the best, and I decided I’m okay with the fact that it’s not specifically a Catholic curriculum, I wanted to make sure I was including the teachings of the Catholic Church and the beauty and history of our Faith in our school days. I wanted to Catholicize our curriculum, if you will. So I bought some extra materials with Catholic teachings, a character program, and a Catholic art program from Catholic Heritage Curricula.



This is actually two art programs, one for art appreciation and one for art appreciation/production. They both incorporate teachings of the Catholic faith, and I think they’re going to be really fun. For example, the girls will see many images of Mary from different cultures, and then be able to make their own crayon resist Mother Mary.

We haven’t even finished up this school year yet, and I’m already eager for next year!

An Adventure in Chicago

Last week my husband was bear hunting in Alaska.

So I took the girls to Chicago for a girls’ road trip/ultimate field trip extravaganza.


I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, so I’m not unfamiliar with big cities, but I had never been to Chicago. It’s been a long time since I lived in a large metropolitan area, and I was kind of nervous to take the girls by myself to a huge city I’m unfamiliar with, but I did it anyway. I planned the trip so that we would not have to drive much downtown, crossed my fingers that it would work the way I planned, and went for it.

It was perfect (if I do say so myself).


The main Chicago attraction I wanted to be sure to visit was the Shedd Aquarium. We were reading and talking about sea animals in school, and I knew my girls would just love an opportunity to see so many of them in person, so I pretty much planned the trip around that goal. I found a hotel that I thought would be within walking distance of the aquarium and that also had two-room suites for a reasonable price (because I wanted to be able to put my kids to bed and still have my own place to be awake; the lumpy pull-out was worth it). We drove down Wednesday after Miss finished school, battled the ridiculous traffic, pulled into the hotel’s valet parking garage (because driving and parking downtown was the biggest thing I was NOT willing to do), and began our adventure.

Our hotel was right across the street from Grant Park, and the girls loved the big statue we passed right away in the morning while walking to the aquarium.



I think they would have been happy just to play on and around it all morning, but we eventually did press on, and the Shedd was so worth the trip.







I could go on and on about all the things we saw, but I will just note that I just loved hearing things like, “WOW! Mom look!” and “This is so cool!” and “I think he likes me!” (while face to face with some creature through the glass of a tank), and all the giggling while looking at strange animals.

The highlights of the day, the things the girls begged to go back and do again, were seeing the sharks and touching the stingrays. We also really enjoyed the 4D Sea Monsters show, though it was kind of scary for them too. The aquatic show was a big dud. The girls kept asking when it was going to be over. I think because the aquarium folks spent a lot of time talking about how they train the animals rather than just allowing us to watch the animals in action. Meh.

When we left the aquarium, we were exhausted, but also wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. We stopped a few times on our walk back to the hotel for the girls to get out of the stroller and run around.


Then it was back to the hotel for a little break, some sea animal DVDs on my computer, and some room service dinner.



They took turns checking for stinky feet after our long day of walking and running around.

After dinner, we went out for another walk. I think one of the highlights of the whole trip was for the girls to see the various statues in and around Grant Park. We didn’t really walk very far, because they asked to get out and play on/around every statue and fountain we came across. I wanted to explore by walking and looking. They wanted to explore by touching and playing and imagining. We did some of both, but they were off the stroller and playing much more than they were on and being walked around. As it should be.


I had planned to take the girls to the Field Museum on Friday, but then one of my friends (who lived in Chicago years ago) suggested we check out the Lincoln Park Zoo instead. I debated a bit whether to change my original plan and take them to the zoo, but then a few different things lined up to make the decision easy for me. The hotel people told me I could only keep my car in their parking garage until noon after check out that day, the weather turned out to be beautiful, and the girls said they wanted to go to the zoo.

So to the zoo we went.


It was a little bit crazy in the morning because there were tons of school groups there and it was extremely crowded. But as the day went on it cleared out a bit. The girls were really tired, but we still had a great time.




It was a successful and extremely fun trip. We learned a lot and made many wonderful memories. I will definitely be taking them back again, and I’m already thinking about other fun road trips to take them on. A Little House on the Prairie trip comes to mind or maybe some cool museums in Minneapolis?

Homeschool Curriculum – Decisions, Decisions

Back in September, at the beginning of our school year, I wrote this post about how well our homeschooling was going. Of course it was the beginning of the year and all the things were new and we were having so much fun and doing so much cool stuff and going on so. many. field trips.


Things are still going fine, but I must admit, our homeschool year has lost some of its shine. We’ve gotten a bit more into some humdrum-ness and haven’t had a field trip in months (though I’m planning some big things to finish out the year). I mentioned in the September post that I wasn’t really loving our math curriculum, Math-U-See. I tried to make it work for several months after writing that, but I have at this point completely abandoned it. It just wasn’t for us, so I’m now piecing together other sources to round out Miss’s math knowledge for the rest of this year.

This year was pretty much my try-some-stuff-and-see-what-works year. Because it’s just kindergarten, and really I’m not even officially homeschooling yet, according to the powers that be, who don’t require me to register my child until she starts first grade.

But next year is first grade.

So now I’m at the point of trying to decide what worked from this year and what didn’t, what I want to keep and what I want to change. Obviously, we need a new math curriculum. I posted on Facebook a week or two ago that I was looking for suggestions, and I got some really great responses. I narrowed down the options to Horizons or Saxon.

I think.

While I was looking at Horizons and Saxon on the Sonlight website, I found myself checking out the full package curriculum they offer and thinking that maybe that would be a good option to try for next year. This is really odd to me, because last year I was feeling pretty strongly that I did not want to get a “curriculum in a box” and wanted to be able to be flexible and piece together the things I wanted to do and determine the time in which I wanted to do them.

But check this out:

It’s the Sonlight curriculum package for first grade. Doesn’t that just look beautiful?

It has pretty much everything I’d need for the whole year to do pretty much all the subjects I need to do. I’d need to add some Catholic learning to the religion part, but other than that, this is pretty complete.

But I’m still not sure, so I started looking around for some other ideas of complete curricula, like the Rainbow Curriculum package, Catholic Heritage Curricula, and even this distance education school, the Mother of Divine Grace School.

Now I’m just not sure what to do. I’m either going to scrap what we did last year and get one of these packaged curricula, or I’m going to keep the things we did from last year that worked well, like our reading curriculum All About Reading and the literature-based package we used that we loved, Five in a Row, and add in one of the two math options I mentioned above.

On the one hand, I think it might be really nice to have a packaged curriculum that covers all the subjects I need and lays everything out with a plan and schedule so I don’t miss any of the important stuff.

On the other hand, the creative side of me thinks I would really miss the time that I spend looking for fun things to do, coming up with unit studies on things my girls are interested in, picking field trips to match what we’re reading about, finding art and science projects on Pinterest, and so forth.


The problem with continuing with what we did last year, is that I feel like I might have been a little lax in the areas of social studies and science and art. We did some of these things, for sure, but I wasn’t really systematic about it. Five in a Row includes some activities for these subjects, but I don’t think it’s enough on its own as Miss gets older. So I guess if I stay with what I did last year, I’ll have to add in a science curriculum and a social studies curriculum and maybe art and religion (to improve what I’ve already been doing in those areas).


OR, I could just get a big fat package and be done with it.

What’s a mama to do?

Help me out here dear readers. I’d love to hear what you do, what works, what you love, and why.

Pretty please??

Kid-Made Stations of the Cross Box

Last year I made a Stations of the Cross box for my girls, inspired by the one Bonnie made and shared in this post.

The girls really enjoyed doing Stations last year using the box. It was fun for them to have something tangible to look at and touch while we read the book and prayers.

We had been doing it every Friday during this Lent too. They seemed to like doing the Stations and talking about them, just like last year. Last Saturday however, my kids’ love for doing the Stations went through the roof, and I had nothing to do with it.

Stations box

I wasn’t even home, but my oldest daughter decided she wanted to make her own Stations of the Cross box with the babysitter. All by herself, she came up with a way to make each of the items in the box or to substitute with something else if she couldn’t get or make what we had used before.

My babysitter texted me this picture while I was at the Catholic Women’s Conference on Saturday:


At first I had no idea what it was, but I thought for sure Lass had made it, because she has been into making small figures out of paper lately. I texted, “Is that Jesus?” The babysitter texted me back that yes, it was, and that Miss had made all the items and they had been sitting around doing the Stations.

Yes. My kids did the Stations of the Cross with my babysitter on Saturday, with no prompting from me. Twice. Then they requested to do it again when I got home. And we did it again before bed.

We’ve done it at bedtime every night since then, at their request.

How do we do it? We use both boxes (the one I made last year and the one Miss made) and take all the items out. We distribute the items among the girls, and each of them also gets a small pocket Stations book to follow along with the pictures. We use this book to read the prayers and the descriptions of the Stations (and BTW, what a rip off, Amazon, the book was $2 at our local Catholic store!). As we read about each station, the girls with the items relating to it put the items in the boxes. Some of the prayers we all say out loud together. That’s it.


Sometimes they ask questions about the Stations and we talk about what it must have been like for Jesus.

Sometimes they argue about who gets to put which item in which box. Whatever. We (or they) have read through the Stations 10 times since last Friday. (!!)

Miss used craft foam (my girls’ favorite) to make most of the items in her box. I love that she got creative with a few of the things she couldn’t duplicate from the box I made. She didn’t have a rosary, which is what I used to symbolize Mary, so she cut a piece of blue foam, knowing that blue is a color often associated with Mary. She didn’t have a rock, so she made Jesus and wrapped Him in tape to show that He was in the tomb. She could have easily gone upstairs and gotten her rosary from her room or outside and gotten a rock, but she chose to make all of the items instead (except the tissue).

The cross shapes aren’t perfect. The hand (symbolizing Simon helping Jesus) is missing a thumb. But she made it all by herself. And that has made her want to pray the Stations of the Cross and look at the items symbolizing each station every day. And because she’s the oldest, her sisters want to do it too.


I had thought I might make this a how-to-type post, but then I realized I really couldn’t. In this case, the complete independence of the project, and the creativity and satisfaction that resulted from the process, made it so much better than if I had set out all the materials and had a planned way for Miss to make each item.

Obviously, I think it would be great to give your kids the idea to do this along with some suggestions on how to make it happen (I wish I had thought of it!), but I don’t really have those suggestions other than to show you another photo of Miss’s finished product and say, “Let them go for it”:


By rows, top top bottom, left to right:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death (rope)
  2. Jesus takes up his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time (that’s supposed to be a BandAid, it has a 1 written on it)
  4. Jesus meets his mother
  5. Simon helps Jesus
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (they are crying, thus a tissue)
  9. Jesus falls for the third time
  10. The soldiers tear off Jesus’s clothes (that is a piece of paper folded and taped to represent a tunic)
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross (Miss said that this is the “Jesus outside the tomb”)
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb (Jesus wrapped in tape = “Jesus inside the tomb”)

All kept together in a nice shoebox she found in her closet.


If you try this with your kids, please let me know how it goes!