"When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven" -- Saint Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized October 18, 2015 along with her husband St. Louis Martin.

Friday, July 24, 2015

2015-2016 School Year Planning: Part 3 (final installment--promise!:))

Ready for my great exciting discovery?  Turns out, it was only new to me.  I'm pretty sure I'm the last one to the party, but I think this is what I was looking for all along and just didn't know it.

It began sometime last year when my husband read this book and suggested we might consider educating in this way.  He made mention of a commonplace book.  I, not knowing what he was talking about, probably didn't jump at the idea...I might have strongly leaned toward continuing with the set curriculum plans we had in place for that year...I may have been a bit smug, even.  But, as tends to happen, the suggestion stuck in my head, so when I heard Auntie Leila say that she used notecards for her commonplace book...well, you know me and Auntie Leila. (You don't? Pearls of wisdom, I tell you, pearls.)  I suppose my husband has a right to be miffed.  I mean, he did suggest this well before I read Auntie Leila's suggestion.  Luckily, he knows nothing of this little coincidence.  At least not until he reads my blog.  Anyway, I'm happy to admit that, as usual, he was right.  I'm thinking that maybe, if I am willing to expand my comfort zone of how I home educate....maybe this could be really good.

What is this "Thomas Jefferson education", and this commonplace book of which we speak? (If you go read that above link you'll get the idea real quick).  Well, I haven't read the book.  But I sort of gather that it's like this: Thomas Jefferson read things, studied things, recorded what he had learned in a "commonplace book", and then met with a "tutor" to discuss thoughts and have questions asked of him.  Simple, really.  Sort of what naturally happens with home education, between parents and their children.  Especially if you're reading and studying together!

So, theory is great, but I needed very concrete notions of how this might look in the day-to-day if I was to take it on with my family.  Please recall that I have eight children ages 13 and under!

Well, someone else had nine (children), so I'm going full-circle here back to Elizabeth's first artice where she goes from the theory ("could it be a storybook year") to the practical (what that looks like day-to-day).  She writes:

For my fifth-grader, I have a good math text, Rosetta Stone, some art history, nature notebooks, and, at his request,Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. All the rest? Picture books.
Not that Elizabeth was thinking so much "Thomas Jefferson", but she's totally got the rhythm right for a big family: break the studies down into few, basic subjects: math, history, science, literature. Then, sticking to solid, basic texts or workbooks (Saxon math, CHC or Seton workbooks for things like language arts or phonics), doing as much learning using living books as we can.  (I have heard that this way of schooling is called "ecclectic" (I googled it once and sure enough- it's real)).

Spending less time following a set curriculum, I hope to open up more time for my students to read, study, and research on their own and record in their commonplace books.  After a set period of time (whether this is daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the subject) we will gather the commonplace books and look them over, ask and answer questions,  discuss ideas and ask them to share their thoughts.

This will go for math as well as for history, science, and literature.  I will give them a set block of time for each subject--to read and study, and then to write in their commonplace books.  I am also going to leave the last time block of the day for them to choose an area of interest to study--be it beekeeping or basketweaving (in my children's case it will more likely be WWII planes or the geography of Asia or Africa).  I am planning on setting aside one day each week for a trip to the library to gather such research books (probably Monday, otherwise Friday).  We are lucky enough to live within walking/biking distance of the library, so my kids should be free to supplement throughout the week if need be.  However, I'd like them to plan their studies ahead of time, so that the bulk of thier days will be actually spent studying, and not necessarily biking hither and yon during the school day.;)

I'm going to post this now, imperfect as my thoughts are, because you've all been waiting long enough!  As I start to make concrete purchases of curriculum, I'll try to share a bit more.

Do go follow Auntie Leila's link that I shared above, though--she'll convince you if I don't!  Here's the link again:


--ooh, and I heard from one reader that the Ambleside site left her overwhelmed.  Yes, it did me too the first few times through.  Well, Auntie Leila addresses that little problem in this post as well.  

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}


She started running just as I tried to get some pictures of her curls! 


The dog bed, chew toys, and my husband's shoe: I am glad I discovered this before my husband did.

This little pup is lucky to still have a home.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015-2016 School Year Plans, Part 2

 Where We've Been and Where We're (thinking about) Going

Years ago I started following Elizabeth's History Path (yep, that's back at Serendipity).  I found that since my own mental timeline of history was shaky (i.e. had glaring holes left from my own education), it really helped me to follow a text like "Pioneers and Patriots" as a spine, and then pull in  Elizabeth's suggested books to flesh out the period of history with living books.

Following this book and Elizabeth's history path took us two school years. 
  For ancient civilizations, through Greeks and Romans to the Middle ages, I used "The Story of the World" series as a spine, which is ok as a "spine", but a) isn't Catholic, so isn't reliable for certain areas of history (i.e. the reformation) and b) as a text, it's inherently cursory in its historical overview.

  In more recent years, I have been happiest just using CHC or Seton's history books as my spine texts.  I really like Seton from about 3rd grade on and CHC has excellent history books for middle school (really from about 4th through 8th), very well produced and glossy pictures:). 

  After I find a good text to follow through a certain age of history, I'll pull from Bethlehem Books booklists (Seton carries these too), Mary Fabian Windeatt saint biographies (Seton carries these with a discount if you buy the whole series), the library, book sales, and any literature offered by Seton or Catholic Heritage Curriculum to round out our studies of a particular age in history.

For example?

Last year we finished our studies of the French Revolution and continued on through Napoleon and post-Napoleonic France towards the First World War (think "Les Miserables").  We read about saints of France (from John Vianney to Bernadette, Catherine Labore and then went back to her spiritual father Vincent de Paul).  We read "The Fair American" aloud together.  Watching "The Song of Bernadette", we noticed that it was Napoleon's successor, Louis Napoleon (or Napoleon III), whose pious Catholic wife Eugenie seeks to have her child cured at Lourdes and, obtaining the healing, has the baracades removed from the place of the apparitions.  It helped put the whole story into historical context, making everything more meaningful.

See how it works? So much fun.

We've had so much fun with history,  I wanted to expand this outward toward other subjects.

It was easy with Religion.  I'd read the Catechism, say, or use the Faith and Life series, but then fill in with all sorts of exciting stories of the saints and living out the Liturgical Year with feast day celebrations.  Remember Martinmas?

So wonderful.  Couldn't it ALL be this wonderful?  Well...my final installment is going to look towards something of an answer.  It's all a work in progress, our education.  Like, a life-long work in progress.  So, it's not like I've got anything figured out.  I just came across something really cool and exciting!  Hang on--I'm gonna post about that next. :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Recoup and Recover

(I'm not posting about our school plans just yet.  I've got a huge post almost ready, but I need a little more time before I share it here.)

It's almost a week since Galadriel's tonsilectomy, adenoidectomy, and ear tubes were put in.   A sincere thankyou to anyone who said a prayer!  Honestly, I was FAR more nervous than Galadriel ever was!

Galadriel will turn 9 at the end of next month, so she's still 8.  She sucked my thumb (yes, I wrote that correctly--those who know me will make me blush as they recall this oddity from her youth) until she was three.  She had an allergic reaction right before Bilbo was born that left her in hives from head to toe.  Miraculously, she has never had a reaction since (we did avoid pineapple for a few years)!  By the time Bilbo was three months old, they weighed the same weight: 20 pounds.  (Galadriel is only 21 months older than Bilbo).  She was a petite little flyweight.  I cannot tell you how I fretted over her health!

But she never was unhealthy.  And she grew strong (and sassy)!  She became my little gymnast.  She learned to be a little less sassy and a little more sweet.  A lot more sweet, actually...not that she doesn't have her moments.;)

One year ago she started snoring very loudly and we wondered about her adenoids.  We met with the ear, nose, throat doctor who asked about other symptoms and told us to observe for things like sleep apnea (which we never detected).  Then last winter poor Galadriel got a double ear infection, double perforated eardrums.

When we took her in for her one year follow up, the decision was clear and unanimous: it all had to go!  Plus ear tubes.  Her hearing was compromised due to fluid that couldn't drain.

I think she was so excited to hear, and so tempted by the promise of unlimited popsicles, that she wasn't afraid.  It was hard for me to wait during the surgery.  To wait for the doctor to come and tell me it was over and that it had all gone smoothly.  I think it took 30 minutes--it was fast. 

 It has been a long, hard week of up and down recovery.  Some days have been nothing but movies and popsicles.  An afternoon outside playing gently with friends might leave her worn out and hurting.  But day by day she is healing.  I can't tell you how happy I am when she is feeling better and starts smiling and making her silly jokes again.

 On Monday Arwen left for camp for a week!  My guess (and hope!) is that she's having a wonderful time.

I, however, am ready to go pick her up (she'd kill me:))!  I'm hopelessly attached to my children.

All in all, it's been quite the week.  I'll be very happy to finish out this summer with Arwen back home and Galadriel back to playing.  So, those thoughts about the upcoming school year...are just not that inspiring to me right now.   Soon, though. Soon.:)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

School Plans 2015-2016

[I have decided to break this post into more than one post...because it sort of became...too long].

Part 1: the dilemma

Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 

                                                                            ― L.M. Montgomery
(I am applying this quote to the new school year.)

I mentioned before that I've been working on my homeschooling plans for the next school year.  For me, "working on plans" is much less sitting down with an excel spreadsheet and much more waiting; thinking, praying, and just waiting for something to strike me (like inspiration from the Holy Spirit).

July is slipping through my fingers and the sales offered by the homeschooling curriculum sites are coming and going fast enough to make my head spin.  All kinds of thoughts have been percolating in my brain and it is time for me to get concrete.

Last night I started digging.

I turned to things that I remembered having read once.  I turned to old friends, old sources of wisdom and inspiration to try to get my juices flowing.  I came upon this over at In the Heart of my Home
which begins with this:

Late last summer, as I was gathering my thoughts on curriculum and trying to plan the year, I hit a wall. Actually, I was probably already flat up against the wall, but the time of year compelled me to do what I'd always done, so I pressed on. But I didn't want to plan. And I wasn't enthused about all the things that had previously sparked so much creative energy. 

I read on.  (from "Could it be a storybook year?")

For over twenty years, I have been inspired by the art and the literature of picture books. I've thrown my whole heart into creating with books, whether it was bulletin boards in a classroom or fullblown unit studies for many ages. Literature-based learning was where I invested most of my creative energy. Some people love their cameras, some their paints, others their yarn or fabric. For me, it was always those beautiful books and the endless possiblities of things we could do with them.

That got me thinking about storybooks and then about literature in general.  If we needed beautiful books, I needed to track down good recommendations.  I started with Elizabeth Foss' Serendipity lists here and then looked at Ambleside's lists here.

Here's a peek at Ambleside's list for K-1 (just to get your creative juices flowing).  If you look for these on Amazon, you can probably find 10 of them for sale for $0.01 each.  I'm not sure what condition these will arrive in, but I'll let you know.  I ordered a bunch.

Marcia Brown
Ruth Brown
Jeff Brumbeau
Eve Bunting
Eric Carle
Kay Chorao
Joyce Dunbar
Marie Hall Ets
Candace Fleming
Denise Fleming

Mem Fox
Don Freeman
Nancy Price Graff
John Graham
Hardie Gramatky
Donald Hall
M.C. Hellendorfer
James Herriot
Angela Hunt
Karla Kuskin
Munroe Leaf
Jonathan London
Page McBrier
Edna Miller

A. A. Milne

Martha Sanders
Brinton Turkel
Susan Wojciechowski
Stone Soup
The Picnic
The Quilt Maker’s Gift
Flower Garden
House for Hermit Crab
Cathedral Mouse
Ten Little Mice
In the Forest
Gabriella’s Song
In the Small, Small Pond
In the Tall, Tall Grass
Time for Bed
A Rainbow of My Own
In the Hush of the Evening
I Love You, Mouse
Little Toot
Oxcart Man
Gather Up, Gather In
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
The Tale of the Three Trees
James and the Rain
The Story of Ferdinand
Red Wolf Country
Beatrice’s Goat
Jumping Bean
Mousekin’s Christmas Eve
Mousekin’s Frosty Friend
Mousekin’s Golden House
Mousekin’s Thanksgiving
Mousekin’s Woodland Sleepers
Patches Finds a New Home
Now We Are Six
The House at Pooh Corner*
When We Were Very Young
Alexander and the Magic Mouse
Thy Friend, Obadiah
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

My brain being the unsystematic boom-and-bust type of brain it is, immediately began expanding this notion upward to my older grade-school aged children who would need more than picture books (even if I know they'll read (or re-read) those too!)

I revisited this list for children's books and then this post for the older children over at the beautiful blog Wildflowers and Marbles.  I might have made a few more purchases.

[A funny aside: the other night I mentioned to my husband that I had begun planning for the new school year and buying a few things on Amazon.  "Yes," he said, "I noticed the cart on Amazon had fifty things in it!"  heh heh...just browsing...]

I'm going to break here to give you a chance to follow some of those links and get your ideas going too.  In my next post I'll add the second set of thoughts that went into my schoolyear planning.

***I'm adding something because I forgot: Run over to Amongst Lovely Things and read a whole bunch on forming your children's moral imagination! (lots of book recommendations there!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's Wednesday...

I know I've been bugging you all about this, but I just think it's such an awesome opportunity to get some Bible in our homes!  It's so important for our children, and so very helpful to me as a mother to have this FREE beauty (art) and wisdom (Word of God) available each week this summer.
Vine of Plenty | The Summer of Psalms Project
Did I mention that I'm going to be so sad when it's over?  I don't want to miss a single print.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

thank you, Galadriel and Arwen--wildflowers--wait...what's that...


Thank you, Eowyn...very interesting aesthetic touch...#don'tleaveyour1-year-oldaloneinthekitchen

Monday, July 13, 2015

Midsummer Daybook

Outside my window:  Warm and muggy.  It rained last night.  I let the dog out in the rain this morning, but it looks like it's stopped now.  I don't mind the rain in the least!  My flowers are very happy (I'll get Arwen to find us some new pretty pictures soon!)

Plans for the week:  dentist appointments.  Every mother with children knows that getting through the annual check-ups is a huge victory.  I've got two this morning, had one last week, and a couple more later this week.   Check!

So excited:  I should have shared this a long time ago because Arwen first did this--and completed a full nine months of prayer, twice!!:  spiritually adopting a baby who is at risk of abortion.  Well, she's got us all doing it now.  My baby is "Philomena Grace".  Aragorn chose "Vincent Anthony" for his baby, and Gimli chose "Andrew Philip".  Arwen wants me to add that her current baby is "Emma Cecilia."  We will pray this prayer every day for nine months:

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much!
I beg you to spare the life of _________, the unborn baby
that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion. Amen.

Somehow, choosing a name makes it seem so personal, and is an awesome way to do something very powerful and concrete for the Pro-Life movement.  If you are doing this, or have done it, share your baby's name with us in the comments!

**Arwen just informed me that this was Fulton Sheen's prayer!  I'm probably the last person to know about this.

Pets...pets...My mom asked me if the bunnies were taking backseat now that the puppy is here.

The thing is, bunnies are very different pets than dogs.  They're messier (think Timothy Hay and bedding), but they're outside.

They are also quieter.  Silent, really.  And oh-so-fluffaliciously cute!

love me!
So, no, they're not being neglected.  At least not while the weather is nice and we're out back anyway.

We still love our bunnies. :)

No. No this is not a picture of "the curls". This is all about the bunnies. What's that? You WANT to see the curls? Well, ok.

Curls interlude:

And now, back to the bunnies:

Thankful: Galadriel received the Annointing of the Sick this past Sunday in preparation for her surgery.  I know it is not super high-risk, but she will be put out, and there are risks involved.  I am just so very grateful to our wonderful pastor for being so willing to accomodate us in giving us the Sacraments at a moments notice--again.  Did I ever mention that I called him from the hospital on Friday to schedule a Baptism on Saturday night because I wanted Eowyn to be baptised on the Feast of Christ the King?  No? Well, I did. And my sainted mother hosted a dinner party afterward for us--and our wonderful Godparents (who also humored us by wisking their six children to the event as well!)  ...be glad if you only know me here on the blog.  I don't think I'm an easy friend to have in real life.  heh heh

Procrastinating: I am going to plan our upcoming school year one of these days...soon! And I'd love to share about those plans soon. Soon. I'm going to.  I just have to do it.  I want to.  I mean, I love school...it's just...that...well, it's summer!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

{PFHR} July in pictures




romping on the sidelines of another baseball game

The first of Arwen's seven medals, won during our town's festivities on the 4th of July: 2nd place for the 5K "Fun Run"!  And for those who were wondering--she tied for first in the bike decoration contest!!


This has been a remarkably cool summer!  The evenings have gotten ridiculously cold.  I bring blankets, jackets, even winter coats to the baseball and softball games.

Even Reina curled up in a blanket and fell asleep!

I won't complain--if it gives me a chance at a cuddle!  Eowyn will be 20 months old on the 20th, and I'm not expecting another yet.  This is the first and far-and-away the longest break I've ever had between children.  How can my baby be not only walking and talking, but running and playing with the big kids?! Un Real.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Monday Daybook: Hazy July

Outside my window:  Hazy, humid, and warm.   It's quiet outside.   

I am listening to:  Shouts and booms from the basement.  Laughter.  We watched the Women's World Cup last night: the kids are playing soccer.  In their pajamas.  "SCORE!!!!"

pondering and pondering:
One positive that has come from the Supreme Court's decision is the opportunity to revisit, rethink, and reeducate ourselves as to what we believe about marriage and the family.  There is so much beauty to contemplate in the teachings of the Church.  I can't help but share a little here.

I thought htis article was especially helpful in making the distinction between what the Church sees as love verses what so many others mean by love:

The thing is, love does win. But I think that what's making the difference is that "love" means two different things here. For people using the hashtag, love means the amazing feeling you have when you find someone you want to spend your life with. For the Church, love means the cross. But, but, but...what about the love between couples married in the church, you say? Well, of course romantic love matters! The pursuing, relentless love of eros is an image of the way God wholeheartedly pursues us. But the eros only finds its fulfillment in caritas - a love willing to die in order to save the soul of another.

read the rest here

Chesterton makes a similar distinction in this article.  Our society is not alone: the Church's view of the sacramental union in marriage was contraversial, seen as an incredible or impossible ideal, from the beginning:

"But Christ in his view of marriage does not in the least suggest the conditions of Palestine of the first century. He does not suggest anything at all, except the sacramental view of marriage as developed long afterwards by the Catholic Church. It was quite as difficult for people then as for people now. It was much more puzzling to people then than to people now. Jews and Romans and Greeks did not believe, and did not even understand enough to disbelieve, the mystical idea that the man and the woman had become one sacramental substance. We may think it an incredible or impossible ideal; but we cannot think it any more incredible or impossible than they would have thought it. In other words, whatever else is true, it is not true that the controversy has been altered by time. Whatever else is true, it is emphatically not true that the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth were suitable to his time, but are no longer suitable to our time. Exactly how suitable they were to his time is perhaps suggested in the end of his story."

~G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man   (italics mine)

read the rest here

I am hoping: That my new "running partner" will start walking on a leash soon.  I've gotta get some hotdogs to lure her off of our front lawn.  I have the laziest dog in history!  
but she's so cute and sweet!

running parner? not so much. She's my "writing partner" as I type on the couch
 prayers please:  I know it's not that big of a deal, but Galadriel has to have her adenoids and tonsils out and tubes put in her ears.  I'm thankful this is the first time I've had to go through surgery with my children, and I'm thankful that it's nothing more serious, but I'm a mom, and I'm still worried.  Help me pray for a safe operation? Thanks!!  (It's scheduled for July 16th)

Looking ahead: a few plans:  my husband just signed my oldest two boys up for their first golf tournement.  Clubs are out again.  Aragorn is worried about keeping score correctly.  Gimli? He's sweating the collared shirt. :)

Last week of swimming lessons, last week of baseball/softball (before the tournement).  Oh I look forward to a break from organized anything for the rest of the summer!

Go, go, go!  It's Monday again at Vine of Plenty. Did I mention how much I love the psalms beautifying my house each week this summer?! What will I do when fall comes?