when we get up

A while back I began to realize that the school morning went much smoother if we started on the couch reading a few picture books. The smooth factor is raised even higher if we let Lenna be the one to choose most of these. She’s content to call it her “school” and leaves us (mostly) in peace for the rest of them time. Over time, I started adding in a brief bible time, included a song or two, said our ABCs (again, to include Lenna), and counted by 5s or 10s (or did something else math related) before we started in on more formal writing or history or math. I loved this time. The kids loved this time. I wanted to do more but wasn’t quite sure what “more” looked like. I was fortunate to be able to visit a friend and get more ideas from her. She told me about the poetry her kids memorized and how she started off her school mornings.

And then I came across the Circe Institute blog and one of their contributors, Cindy Rollins. She has a blog dedicated to Morning Time. And what is Morning Time? She writes:

Approximately 20 years ago as a result of my early home school adventures and the reading of For the Children’s Sake (Susan Schaeffer Macaulay) followed by The Original Home school Series by Charlotte Mason, I began a morning meeting with my children as a way to incorporate subjects that were important to me but easily lost in the shuffle of conventional schooling.

Over the years I continued to add to this time so that it eventually made up about 2 hours of our morning. As my older boys graduated and flew away they often returned and encouraged me that the most important things they had learned while growing up had been in MT. MT became our daily family colloquy. It was a way to bring all my educational philosophies to the table. It was a way to incorporate poetic knowledge into the hearts of my children. It was a way to share my faith and even preach a sermon every single day.

I loved this. It’s what I was looking for. The part about incorporating subjects that were important but easily lost in the shuffle of life and the rest of schooling really hit home: poetry, Shakespeare (here is a great article Cindy Rollins wrote about teaching Shakespeare to children), fables and fairy tales, music, random facts and history bits, prayers and creeds and catechisms. Check out the blog. She has lists and schedules and books and many ideas about how to develop your own Morning Time routine and what to include. I’ve also appreciated this blog’s (Permanent Things) description of what their Morning Colloquy looks like.

No morning looks quite the same, but it usually takes about a half hour to 45 minutes. I can see it getting longer as the kids get older. Life happens and some days Morning Time doesn’t find its way into our routine. But the kids are actually sad when it doesn’t happen. I get a cheap thrill from that. Ha.

Here’s a bit of what our Morning Time includes right now. We don’t do each thing everyday but I try to touch on most of it:

Memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed
Reading a fable or a fairy tale and then discussing it for a bit
Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Children
Learning an old United States song I learned as a kid
Going over some of the more basic civics questions found here.
A lesson (we focus on one for the whole week) from Get Widsom!
Reviewing our monthly bible memory passage from church
Math memory work
Poetry review and memorization (currently learning Sea Fever by John Masefield)
Learning the first couple verses of a new hymn each week
Reading a few Lenna selected picture books

top five :: school time

I could easily list the Top 5 books we like or my Top 5 curriculum choices of the moment. But since the kids themselves are an integral part to this whole homeschooling thing (ha), I figured it would be good to consult them and ask what they enjoyed about school. Here is the blended list of all our opinions:

1 :: Sonlight’s Read-Alouds. This is our third year using Sonlight’s suggested read-alouds. It’s basically just an age appropriate list of novels to read to the kids, but the kids have loved almost every book. Many book lists include books that kids read to themselves, but I love that with Sonlight’s suggested books, they are being exposed to stories and language that are more advanced but still not too over-their-heads.

2 :: I love geography. I love maps and globes and random facts about countries. My kids enjoy it, too, but they especially love it when it’s taught using Little Passport’s Sam and Sophia. Each month they get a package in the mail with contents about a specific country from travelers Sam and Sophia. They get stickers for their world map and little suitcase that comes with the initial package, a country sticker for their passport, a letter from Sam and Sophia, a postcard or picture, and a little souvenir. It’s simple but quite effective for my kids, and they love (LOVE) anything that combines mail, stickers, and postcards.

3 :: Writing With Ease. I’ll be honest. This choice for the Top 5 is more mine than Elisha’s, but this writing curriculum is one of those things that clicked for both of us. He enjoys writing (in small amounts), and I wanted something that combined copywork and narration and dictation using real books. This is a great fit for us right now. The amount of writing is not overwhelming, he’s not forced to come up with his own words or ideas, yet, and each week focuses on a different fairy tale or novel. To read a great intro to the philosophy behind this kind of writing, click here and scroll down to the Writing With Ease Instructor Text PDF sample.

4 :: SAINTS. This is essentially p.e. for homeschool kids. And they absolutely love it. And I absolutely love it. I drop the kids off once a week for three hours of everything from archery to capture the flag to dodgeball.

5 :: Spotify. This might seem like a random choice, but our days are filled with music. Most mornings start off with something along the lines of classical music. They have their own preferences and requests for when they are drawing or having snacks. If we are talking about a certain song or instrument, it’s a great resource for tracking down specific music. And the Jim Weiss story productions are listened to almost daily.

And to end, my boys make up stories all the time. Sometimes they make sense and other times they are random and creative thoughts. The little boy who narrates this video by a film student would fit in quite well around here.

(via The Wine Dark Sea)

november fourteenth

i love it when i remember a holiday at least a few weeks before it happens. this means that we can actually find some quality library books about that holiday before the shelves are cleared out and only the dregs are left. and it means we have time to talk about it, craft about it, and eat about it before it passes, too.

i sort of failed in the thanksgiving department for the last two years, so today i tried to make up for it by whipping out all the thanksgiving books, printing off coloring pages, baking turkey-shaped cookies, and serving up egg nog to a table full of egg nog-loving children.

but i think i still have work to do. my two years of thanksgiving slacking have left one boy still wanting to call the holiday in november easter and the other boy trying to remember either the word cornucopia or phrase horn of plenty and instead jumbling the two so i get a good laugh.

today

i voted.

i made the strangest breakfast.  it should have been relatively simple – a skillet pancake with peaches and berries.  food&wine calls it kaiserschmarrn with peaches.  you pour a batter into a hot skillet, cover, and cook until set.  then you flip it, cook it a bit more, break up the pancake into pieces with a spatula and there you go.  mine didn’t flip so pretty or look so pretty at the end once it was all cut up/mushed up.  i’ll bet you food&wine realized it was a bust but it was too close to printing so they just went ahead and made the cutting it up part a part of the recipe and then gave it a german name to distract us (whew).  it did taste pretty good, though, and tonight before bed elisha asked for “that special pancake” for breakfast tomorrow.

i came to the realization that PInterest totally overwhelms me.

a couple of people called lenna a boy.  they were both truly mortified when i corrected them.

i sat down with graph paper and gardening books to continue to help omar plot out our garden.  there will be no zucchini and no radishes.  we were in agreement on that.  there will be beets and bok choy and perhaps a small section for a cutting garden??

it became obvious that we need to get the ball rolling with some school.  like next week.  the heat plus the rain has kept us indoors more than i thought it would.  i think the boys have a bet going between them to see who can hit mama “accidentally” the most with flying bouncing balls.  i think i’ll declare our winters down here “summer vacation” and leave the schooling for crazy hot months. elisha also told me he was having trouble with his numbers and needed “to work on that” (cute).  so we will.

i finished Austenland.  what i thought would be a light and quick summer read recommended by someone who loves austen turned out to be quite the eye-rolling experience (if the book had the same cover as the one i linked to i might have walked away then and there).  i’m not cut out for chick lit.  i only want to see the word scrumptious used when it’s involving food, and even then it’s not my favorite. that genre is fascinating, though.

a new routine

we get up in the morning and do those morning things:  breakfast, “school” (i was hesitant to call it that because it is basically sitting and reading a few books together for all of 20 minutes but they love calling it school, even though i’m not sure they really know what school is.), swim lessons, and then the basket appears.

i love the basket.  the boys love the basket.  it holds jars of crayons, crayon rocks, and colored pencils.  there are stacks of paper, scissors, stickers, and watercolors.  and it stays on the table all day.

i was tired of fighting the “we want to color!” cries that happened throughout the day when i knew those sessions were only going to last for 7 minutes – tops.  simply the idea of having to find all the crayons, paper, pencils and haul them out only to put it all away in a few minutes made me exhausted.  now the basket stays and keeps things relatively contained.  it’s been fun to see them draw something for a bit, go off and play, then come back and add more to their pictures.  asher mainly scribbles and has a fascination with black.  elisha develops intricate stories to accompany his pictures.  and he insists that i stare at the picture during the entire telling of his stories.  his long, long stories.

and the daily, all-day art sessions have made me fall in love with my once despised laminate top on my dining table.  no freaking out at kid drawing on table top necessary.  just windex it.

a boy, some bread, and a bag

i’ve mentioned here before that i feel i transform into “ms. sunday school teacher” when i try to weave scripture into my words when i’m talking to my boys. i think i’m getting over that.  practice has made it less awkward.  but now i cringe when i realize i almost always use scripture when disciplining/correcting them. great.  i don’t think they’re connecting joy with what i’m teaching them.  i started rereading lou priolo’s “teach them diligently.”  one of his overarching themes is teaching scriptures in the milieu (life’s surroundings and circumstances).  this is pretty much the opposite of what i’ve been doing.  i’ve been reacting rather than being proactive in teaching and leading through scripture in all aspects of our days.  i love his use of the illustration of annie sullivan teaching helen keller her first word, “water,” while running her hands through it.  

Why did Helen leave that flower-covered well-house with a whole new attitude about life in general and learning in particular?  It was because she understood for the first time that what her mentor was trying to teach her had to do with life.  When she realized that the truth she was learning on one hand had to do with the things she was experiencing on the other hand, she became excited…she saw the relevancy of what she was learning to what she was experiencing.

relevancy.  love that word.  my poor boys probably thing the majority of the bible is only relevant to correcting yelling, sharing (or the lack of), pinching, and the occasional melt down.  working on it… 

and in the midst of my self-made parenting drama, i’ve got oven drama.  if you’re in the market for a new range and think that gas stovetop will make up for the lousy gas oven – walk away.  i’d take my slow as can be electric range for an electric oven any day.  the oven casualty count for the past 5 days is 2 recipes with a third rescued just before disaster.  evidently, if you put two cookie sheets in the oven and the temp is over 400, the oven gets overwhelmed and shoots up to 600 degrees.  that’s right.  six. hundred. degrees.  so long roasted potato salad and batch of granola.  the banana bread was salvaged, though.

no sewing drama.  there’s not actually been much sewing.  but i finally used my purl soho gift certificate so this anna maria horner fabric will soon be made into a birdie sling.  and if it goes off without a hitch, i’m hoping to splurge on some echino fabric and make up another one similar to this.  love it.

one of those

a recycled but loved photo

it was one of those weeks where mothering and parenting seemed beyond me.  i felt out of step at most moments.  my mind has been on moving and the excitement of a house and a yard.  i took the boys to a friend’s house and saw their little garden coming along.  i’m eager to start something with the boys, even it if is just some herbs.  

i read sally clarkson’s the mission of motherhood a ways back and have mostly positive things to say about it.  i was flipping through the pages this morning and came across this passage:

Children do not accidentally become mature adults of strong character, great faith, gracious relational skills, effective leadership qualities, and sharp intellects.  God’s design includes the presence of a hands-on gardener, a mother to tend and cultivate their hearts, souls, minds, and relationships.  As a garden cannot flourish without a gardener, neither can a child reach his or her potential without someone committed to careful cultivation.  Just as a garden without a gardener will eventually go to seed and be covered over with weeds and debris, a child whose growth is unsupervised or left to chance will likely grow wild and undisciplined or stunted and unfruitful.  p142

i do realize that it is not just mothers who are cultivators but fathers and other family and friends and your community.  but i approached the passage as an often weary mother of two who feels like much of her parenting can be reacting rather than cultivating.

nicole quoted an interesting passage from maria montessori on a child’s independence that has had me thinking the past few days.  i mentioned to her that finding the balance between guiding and coddling your young child is often difficult.  the gardening analogy is helping, i think.  over-tending, over-watering is as detrimental as letting it run wild.    

so perhaps mothering as gardener will help reorient my crazy self over the next few days.  

on patience

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this is a boy with a passion for all things except patience.  and i am a mama who is learning to be patient with a boy who lacks said patience.  he wants to follow me. to do what i do.  but it often ends with tears and perhaps a bit of arm flailing. case in point:  laundry.

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a song always comes to mind when we get to this point.  a sweet old nursery rhyme of patience?  no.  a lovely hymn with a rousing tune?  no.  it’s the “be patient” song from an old agapeland children’s music album – music machine. herbert the snail’s droning voice comes to mind as i sing to elisha to “be patient, because god is patient, too…”  i don’t think he likes it very much.  he just kind of stares at me.  that’s ok, though, it’s not my favorite either.  it’s a challenge at times to teach him biblical concepts without hearing myself sound moralistic.  i know, i know, he’s one.  but i’m not, and i can hear myself.  i was racking my brain to think of a biblical story that i could tell him that modeled patience – one that i didn’t have to pull out of context to prove my point.  (um, again, i know he’s only one but i figure i might as well work some of this stuff out out loud before he can fully understand me.)  we’ve been reading him sally lloyd-jones’ the jesus storybook bible and the story of jacob, rachel, and leah came to mind.  it didn’t work out so well, though, when i tried to articulate it. it sort of came out like, “elisha, be patient and work hard like jacob and you, too, can get your rachel in addition to leah.”  so not what i was going for.  it ended up sounding twisted and moralistic.  back to the music machine

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i could tell he was trying really hard during cookie baking.  to be patient, that is. he borderline panicked when the cookie dough went out of sight (fridge to cool and oven to bake).  but held himself together fairly well.  and enjoyed the cookies immensely.  so did i.  i’m pretty handy in the kitchen but cookies are a joke with me.  i can seemingly make any dough end up a warm pile of goo.  not these, though, they were excellent.  thank you, orangette.  i like to think that my patience and perseverance through years of failed cookies won me this. almost cookie perfection.

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