Six Must Read Christmas Books

We schedule the entire month of December as our homeschool Christmas Break, but if we don’t have something planned, I find we get irritable and worn out.  So instead of loafing for an entire month we take a casual approach to school, join our library’s winter reading program, read a few Christmas favorites and don’t worry too much if we miss a day here and there.  This gives us plenty of time to craft, bake and visit neighbors without descending into total chaos.

Here are a few of the Christmas books I find myself recommending over and over!

The Glorious Impossible, by Madeline L’Engle tells the story of Christ as seen in Giotto’s frescoes from the Scrovengi Chapel.  We used it last year because it just happened that we were studying Giotto just when Christmas rolled around.  Easiest artist study ever! And we are re-reading this year as a way of keeping in the true spirit of Christmas.

Apple Tree Christmas, by Trinka Hakes Noble, tells the story of a young girl who has a hard time getting into the spirit of Christmas after losing something special to her.  We loved this one so much that we checked it out from the library for the whole month of December a few years running. Finally I started to feel bad about hoarding it and bought us our own copy.  Now we read it year round.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss.  Do I really need to say more?  We love the book, and the original movie too!  Just try not to recite along when you’re watching the movie.  I find the kids don’t appreciate it.

The Christmas Day Kitten, by James Herriot tells the heart warming story of how a kitten finds a home with an old lady and three hounds.  All of James Herriot’s stories give you a cozy feeling, and especially so when you’re snuggled up next to the fire with a cup of cocoa and your loved ones.

The Family Under The Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson is a story about a family who finds themselves homeless just as winter sets in.  They meet an old man who shows them the ropes of life on the streets, and helps them find a new kind of home.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson is the hilarious tale of the horrors that ensue when “the worst kids in the history of the world” decide they’d like to star in the town Christmas Pageant.

FYI these are NOT affiliate links, they’re just here for your convenience.

Even better, why not see if your local library has these titles in circulation?

Feel free to drop a book suggestion or two of your own in the comments!

Happy Reading!

So Which Curriculum Do You Use? (And Why I Have A Hard Time Answering)

If I scroll back through my messenger feed I have a minimum of one or two friends PER MONTH ask me about which curriculum we’re using for homeschool and how we like it.

And I kind of panic every time.

I should have a good answer by now, but I don’t.

Here’s the thing.

I had YEARS – really-  YEARS to figure out the direction of our homeschool. And, in addition to all that time, I had zero pressure, because my husband was dead-set against homeschooling, so I got to do all my reading, dreaming, and scheming in the pressure-free zone of believing it was all a beautiful daydream.

So when a friend who is in the early stages of toying with the idea of pulling her kids from public school pops the question, I know that I won’t be able to really explain what we’re doing in a way that won’t be completely overwhelming.  In fact, when my husband finally gave me the green light to homeschool, I was overwhelmed despite having gathered the information gradually over years.

So where to begin?

First you have to know that we follow a Charlotte Mason inspired philosophy, which means we don’t do much that looks like it would in a conventional classroom.

If I had to sum up the Charlotte Mason way of doing things I’d say it’s all about good habits, living books, narration, and nature. You can read more about the guiding principals here. Or read her original six-volumes on education here.

There is very little written work (at this stage…it will come later) and not much in the way of worksheets or workbooks. It’s hard to teach math without workbooks, and we’re using a workbook for our initial cursive practice.

Essentially we’re reading great living books, enjoying great music and art, and doing life together. Throw in a little math and plenty of nature time and you’ve got the gist of our days.

But how?

As I said before it’s a lot to take in all at once. The quickest way I can think of for a beginner to get the “How and Why” of this method is to watch Homeschool Made Simple by Carole Joy Seid. You can watch a preview and get a copy Here.

I’d still highly recommend reading the original Charlotte Mason volumes, but I would have had a very hard time figuring out how our day should look without the DVD.

After I figured out how to lay out our day, I had to decide which books to use.  There is no one “right” set of books to provide a CM education, and there are a lot of companies who would love you to purchase the books they’ve selected for you, from them.  That is one great way to go. But it wasn’t going to work with our budget.  There are also several businesses and individuals who will customize a plan for you for a fee.  But again, I’m cheap.

When I first found Ambleside Online, I took one look and decided it was way too intensive. I spent several months scouring book lists, and trying to build my own curriculum.  Then I realized that is essentially what Ambleside has already done for you, for FREE.  And they’ve selected mostly books that are available as free e-texts. The few books that aren’t available free, or that just don’t work for your family can be subbed out for something you can get from the library or something that better fits your family’s values.

So I modeled our daily routine around Homeschool Made Simple, and plugged in the book list and resources available at Ambleside Online.   Then I just picked a math curriculum (well actually we’ve tried a few, but that’s another post) and at the end of the day I feel like we’ve got our bases covered and a lifestyle we enjoy.

And we’re flexible.

We’re only on our second year of this homeschool journey.  Right now I can’t imagine anything I’d like better than doing things the CM way.  But this isn’t about me. It’s about doing what works best (not to be confused with what is easiest or most enjoyable) for my kids. There are things about the method and curriculum that we’ve tweaked to fit our family better, and there are things that we will probably need to change to suit changing needs in the future.  The beauty is that there are no CM police.  If we decided to drop classical music, or drawing from our curriculum, no one is going to come and stamp a big red F on my homeschool records.  We may not be CM purists, but we can still graduate thoughtful, intelligent persons from our home.

So there you have it.   

I hope this has given you an idea of what we’re up to over here.

Overall I’d say we’re happy with our curriculum and method choices so far, (except my tween misses her PS friends terribly. We’re working to mitigate that.) and I would consider us successful academically speaking.

If you want to delve into more into what our day looks like check out the following articles or feel free to comment here or catch up with me on facebook.

Our Charlotte Mason Summer

Teaching Multiple Ages, One Room Schoolhouse Style

 

Pinterest Fall Recipe Roundup

I don’t even actually know what season it is. I typically consider it fall up through Thanksgiving, but we awoke to three inches of snow and counting this morning. So I guess Winter has arrived on the Half Acre.

Whatever the weather is telling me, my tummy is telling me it’s time for all things seasoned and spiced.

Hearty stews, roasted fruit and vegetables, a fire on the hearth and a mug of something hot in my hand. Yes. This is fall.

Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite fall recipes from Pinterest. 

I hope this gets you on your way to enjoying a warm and tasty season!  To get a peek at the other fun things I’m pinning follow me on Pinterest.

Enjoy!

Dear Younger Mom. . .

I’ve become an older mom. Ugh. I didn’t see that coming!

I first realized I’d rounded the bend when I was reading a book by an even-older-than-me mom who reflected that she would love to sit and visit with young moms, but they seemed to find her reminiscence annoying. I was thinking I’d be thrilled to sit and visit with this particular seasoned mom and glean her wisdom when I realized that at nearly 40, I probably don’t exactly qualify as a young mom anymore!

How sad is that?

A few weeks later I ran across a discussion on a local moms Q&A forum and a younger mom suggested forming a separate group for moms under Twenty-Five because older moms can seem to be so judgmental toward young moms.

Having only just identified myself as an Older Mom, I was a bit defensive. Why wouldn’t you want me in your group?

I’m not that old!

And hey, I know some stuff.

I’ve got three kids under my belt!

But then again, I always hated when my mom or mother-in-law would take it upon herself to tell me how I was feeding my baby solids in the wrong order, or didn’t have her dressed warmly enough, or that in her day babies wore wool stockings up to their diapers.

Excuse me, Nosey Old Lady, you haven’t had a baby in thirty years. We have central heating, and I read ALL the books!

Continue Reading at Her View From Home

Five Baby Steps To Getting The Family Outdoors

We all know by now how important time spent in nature is for our health, and especially the health of our growing children. Not only is fresh air and exercise essential for healthy bodies, more and more studies are linking time in nature with mental and emotional health.

Unfortunately getting out is one of those things we often strongly believe in, and yet don’t quite manage to do. I know. The commute is killing your evenings, and soccer is eating up your Saturdays. You don‘t know where to go, and when you get there the kids melt down. Then there’s the mess when you get home.

I had all those same issues keeping us from getting out as often as we knew we should. Finally I had to decide that getting outside was as essential as food and water and build bridges over the hurdles keeping us from making it happen.

1. Clear Time

We are in a over-scheduled season at the moment and it is making outdoor time harder to accomplish. For future planning purposes I intend to keep each kid to one activity at a time, and be very selective about my volunteer time. But for now one thing I’ve done to get us out is to make a morning walk part of our homeschool checklist. That way even if we can’t clear time later in the day, we’ve had some fresh air and a bit of nature first thing after morning chores. It’s not quite enough time for my taste, but it’s better than an hour in front of a screen any day.

2. Gear Up

As the old saying goes, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. Last winter I gave up trying to squeeze into my old snow gear and finally bought the right size. Suddenly taking the kids out sledding didn’t seem like such a chore. Having the right gear for whatever Mother Nature throws at you will keep you comfortable and enjoying your outdoor time much longer. At a minimum you’ll want to dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and a carry a backpack for snacks, water and a first aid kit.

When it comes to sporting goods, I’d recommend renting gear for your first season so that you can decide whether the new activity is going to stick before you shell out your hard-earned money.

3. Pair Up

If you don’t live in an area with easily accessible open spaces it may be that you are uncomfortable getting out because you are unsure where to go, and when you do get out you are on unfamiliar turf. It can be helpful to find an outdoorsy friend to show you the ropes until you get your legs under you. Another option is to join a nature study group or an outdoor education club such as Scouts or Camp Fire. If there is cell coverage where you venture, bringing a phone can also give you a sense of security.

4. Start Small

If you’re new to getting outdoors with the family you won’t want to jump right in with a full-on hike in the woods. Instead find an out-of-the-way corner in a nearby park, and ease into the dirt, bugs, and weather with short initial visits. As you get more comfortable being outdoors you can try a short jaunt to a good picnic spot, and then a day hike before taking on longer treks, or over-nighters.

5. Just Be

When you’re decompressing from a hyper-scheduled lifestyle it can feel like you should be doing something at all times. For that reason it may be good to have a scavenger hunt or a nature journal with you for your first few visits to the woods, especially if you are bringing children who are accustomed to fully regimented days. But part of nature’s wonder is the peace it can bring when you are able to let go and just be. Eventually you’ll find yourself ditching the crutches and letting your senses fully engage with the sights, smells and sounds surrounding you, while the kids get engrossed in watching bugs or clouds.

Getting out isn’t always easy, but I’m more and more convinced its absolutely essential. Taking these baby-steps will get you on the path to more time outdoors and all the good it can do for your mind, body and spirit.

For those who already regularly get out, what baby steps would you add?

To The Twenty-Something In A Thong Bikini

Free Stock Photos for Blogs at picxclicx

Hi there. I’m a homeschool mom. I haven’t quite gone over to the denim jumper side, but I’m pretty modest. I think it’s more a mom thing than a homeschool mom thing. I only bring up clothes because I took my kids to the water park the other day to commemorate the end of summer, and take advantage of the short lines, since public school started backup. While we were there I noticed my kids snickering at something, and following their gaze I saw you. I saw a lot of you.

Oh. My. Gosh. Becky!

I have to admit my first instinct was to put on my McJudgy britches and look down my nose at your complete lack of modesty, or at least join my children in giggling at your naked buttocks. And I also have to admit that if you had been Brazilian Butt Lift perfect, or airbrushed clean of any hint of cellulite, I probably wouldn’t have resisted the urge to scoff at you. That is a failure of my character, and I’m working on it.

But you weren’t bikini model perfect. Don’t get me wrong. You have a better body than my mirror has seen in the last decade. Still, I could tell you don’t deny yourself the occasional carbohydrate. Maybe your desk job has taken a little toll on your figure. But there you were. Wearing whatever-the-heck you wanted, and not worrying about a few extra pounds. You were laughing and splashing with your friends. I even saw you eat ice cream, and you didn’t seem worried about it.

You were so confident!

Now I have never been one to let my weight dictate how much fun I’m going to have. Life is too short for that. So I’ll jiggle my thighs all around the water park, plop down in the wading pool with my two year old, and eat the damn ice cream too. But I do think it bears mentioning that I do this while brushing aside worries about how I look and wearing a bathing suit that is basically a dress with a built in girdle.

Physically that bathing suit is not what I would call comfort wear. It actually feels a bit like steel-plated armor. But it is emotionally comfortable. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

I remember being you.

I remember a trip to Hawaii, in my late twenties. We didn’t have kids yet, but I had put on weight and certainly wasn’t an airbrushed looking 19 year old anymore. But I wasn’t going to go to Hawaii and NOT wear a bikini! In fact I bought two new ones just for the trip. I wore them pretty much the whole time. I climbed up a waterfall confident of my body in a stringy blue slingshot I called a bathing suit.

Where is that girl? I haven’t seen, or even thought about her in ages.

She got buried in mundane tasks, and heavy decisions, and big ol’ cotton granny panties.

You reminded me of her.

Of myself.

A self I need to find again.

So I want to thank you. Thank you for reminding me that, while I’m doing okay in the fun department, I need to be a little kinder to myself in the confidence department.

Motherhood has changed my modesty settings. I’ll probably never wear a bikini again. But I am definitely going to loosen the ratchet straps on the girdle of my soul.

All because you wore a thong bikini to the water park.

The Prayer That Changed My Life

When each of my first two babies (not babies anymore, but my babies still) was new, in those sleepless, bleary-eyed first months I would lay awake at night, listening to my husband snore, and eyeing the baby monitor, suspicious of it’s silence.  Exhausted, barely managing to breastfeed, self-feed, and generally function as a human, I would lay awake and pray the same prayer every night, over and over and over.  Read More at Her View From Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool expenses 2017/2018

This is less a blog post than a list I’m keeping for my own information. But it may be useful as encouragement for those of you who either want to homeschool and think it will be too expensive, or are homeschooling and wondering where all the money is going.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, thanks to hardworking homeschool parents who have gone before (such as the lovely Ambleside Online advisary) and are willing to share what they have pulled together and make it available FREE online for you and I.

As I make purchases I’ll add them here and tally it all up when we finish next spring.

I haven’t included the cost of any materials we are carrying over from last year. There are quite a few, and I don’t want to do the math. As each expense comes up I’ll just count it to the year we bought it.

I also won’t include any activities or services we would have paid for even if they had been in public school. So while gymnastics, internet, and the reading tutor definitely count toward their education, I don’t consider them homeschool-specific expenses.

2017-2018

Art Study Prints…………………………….$7.72
Joan of Arc, Diane Stanley…………….$6.00
Handbook of Nature Study…………..$24.8
AO Year 2 Poetry Anthology…………$2.99

Big Spender!!  Let’s see how much damage I can do buying spiral notebooks at the back to school sales!

How I Plan For A Year Of Homeschool

Oleanders and Books, Vincent Van Gogh Image courtesy of Wiki Art

Can you believe it’s already July? I can. I’m about done with Summer to be honest.

We finished our 16/17 school year way back in May, and the lack of structure is starting to get to me. Thank goodness I plan to start us back to school August 1.

I originally intended to do a modified year-round schedule wherein we would school six weeks on/one week off and take the entire month of July as well as six-ish weeks off from Thanksgiving to the New Year. But since the girls were itching to start school early last year, and then we also forgot to take a couple of our scheduled weeks off (which I think speaks volumes about this lifestyle…we forgot to take a break from school…more than once…chew on that a minute)  we finished early this spring, which led to us having extra weeks off in early summer. (Although we’re still doing reading and Math…shhh, don’t tell the kids it counts as school…suckers!) It hasn’t been as structured as I need for my sanity though, so I think it’s time to ease us back into a Charlotte Mason Summer schedule, and then start back to AO in full force August 1.

That means it’s time for Mama to start planning and get some ducks in a row.

The first thing I do is set the dates for our school year.  I like printing free year at a glance calendars from Anny Studio for this.  I start at Thanksgiving and count back six weeks, then cross the 7th week off for a scheduled break.  Then I count back another six, cross one off and so on until I get to August 1.  Then I go to the New Year and count forward six weeks, cross one off etc. until I get to July.  Sometimes it works out to not quite six week intervals, but that’s okay as long as you get your 36 weeks in all.  (Or however many your state requires–find out here.)  We ended up with 37 scheduled last year, which gave us plenty of wiggle room.  Joy of homeschool in Washington State–we don’t have to report our schedule, so as long as it works out in the end I don’t worry too much about shifting dates, or taking time off as needed.

We follow Ambleside Online for our spine curriculum, so my next step is to print the book list and 36 week schedule for the year.  AO years don’t necessarily correlate with public school grades, so at this point I’ve chosen to keep my girls in the same year.  They still do Math and Language Arts at their own level.  More about that later.

Next I go over the book list and see what I need to buy.  Ambleside uses public domain books as much as possible.  Many are available free for Kindle, or as e-texts from Project Gutenberg, or audio books at Librivox.  They also provide alternative suggestions for the books that must be purchased.  Between what we already had on hand, and what I was able to get for Kindle, I will only need to purchase three books for the upcoming year!  I do prefer “real” books over ebooks, so I am always keeping my eyes open for quality hard copies of the Kindle books.

At this time I also take a look at Ambleside’s composer, hymns, folksongs, and artist studies for the upcoming year, so I can have prints made (public domain images can be printed on card stock by Walgreen’s or Office Depot very inexpensively) and create or find youtube and prime music playlists, and decide if I want to sub anything out.  I make note of these right on my 36 week schedule so that I don’t have to keep looking up what I’m supposed to be singing/looking at each term.

I feel like we floundered a bit with Math last year, mainly because I couldn’t decide on a curriculum.  I wanted something not too teacher intensive, like Teaching Textbooks, but the cheapo in me couldn’t spend the money for it.  We tried, Moby, and Kahn Academy (both free) but I didn’t feel like either of those was linear enough.  The girls would do their work each day, but the progress graph never seemed to change, so I was never sure if they were making any progress.  With a workbook, they bring it to me, we go over whatever might be incorrect and I can physically see where they are.  But I keep hearing such wonderful things about Khan Academy that I am giving it another trial for summer, just to rule out the possibility that the problem with it wasn’t my own lack of understanding on how it is set up.  This year I will likely get them some basic grade level workbooks and also use Khan Academy as a supplement/evaluation tool.

I’m also considering pre-planning this year’s copy work (This is the beginning of language arts in a Charlotte Mason style education) and scripture memorization, so that I don’t have to come up with those as we’re going along.  Last year we did it off the cuff, choosing whatever we liked best from what we were reading, or looking up inspirational quotes and scriptures.

Finally I plug everything into a Course of Study, to be sure I’ve got all my bases covered.  This wouldn’t really be necessary if one were to purchase a complete open and go curriculum, but since I’m pulling resources from several places, I like to lay it all out in one place so I can see how I’m meeting each of my states eleven required subjects.

Now all that’s left is daily and weekly planning.  For this I simply take 5 minutes each Sunday to look at the week ahead’s scheduled readings, as well as a look at any appointments etc.  I put a M, T, W, TH next to each reading selection, two or three each day. Again, I just scribble right on the 36 week schedule.  For Math we just do the next thing, so I don’t pre-plan that with the exception of giving errand days lighter workloads.  I leave Friday open for catch up, field trips, Nature walks etc.  This works well because the kids feel like we don’t have school on Friday, but I know that what we’re doing “counts”.  Once that’s done I just sit down each evening and write out a checklist including the next day’s chores, reading, math and copy work for each kid in her spiral notebook.  I leave these on the kitchen table with sharp pencils so they are ready to go first thing in the morning.  I really liked having most of the written work all in one place last year.  Minimal paper-clutter that way.  The notebook checklist also allows the kids to be largely self-directed in case I need to be out of the house or otherwise busy.  I wrote about our average day here.

That’s it!

Reading back through all that it sure seems like it would be easier to open a box and do the next page of the workbook, but that’s just not my style!  If I wanted to follow someone else’s plan to a T they’d be in public school.  😉

Are you doing any planning, dreaming or scheming for the upcoming school year?