Thursday, July 24, 2014

Getting Ready for the Next School Year: Year at a Glance

Over at Scholé Sisters, the talk of truth, beauty, and goodness is generating some mental fodder for this lady. Maybe its the third trimester awakenings at 3 am or the lack of overall space that is forcing me up to write this post. I prefer to think that it's inspiration from the ideas being talked about.

Last year, we hit the doldrums hard in February and March; I attribute that to the large piles of snow that just kept coming and coming and coming (well, you get the idea) and also to the lack of beauty as my children saw it. I find a distinct comfort in the recitation of facts, of time lines, and maps surrounding me. I draw mental refreshment from a large stack of research about a random topic of interest. However, my chickadees at 5, 4, and a year don't. They love variety, color, and freshness. And honestly, in the dead of winter with constant sub zero temperatures doesn't everyone!

In the blog post, Beauty as Home, Brandy Vencel talks about how important and how simple beauty can be in everyday life. The flower arrangement given by a friend, the smell of a tea snack baking away, the touch of dog-eared books under fingertips are some of the beautiful that I want my children to grow to love. I want their memories to be filled with those and many more sensory perceptions when they leave my house.

Our schedule this year will hopefully allow us to do that. I want to give the chickadees time to absorb their surroundings but have time to work academically as well. Last year, we loosely used trimesters and a summer term to keep us organized. What I like about trimesters is that 13 weeks allow me to have enough planned, prepped, and organized that a rhythm can play out. Once a trimester is done, I can re-evaluate where we are and where we are going. I plan on ten to twelve weeks of school work at time and the rest of the time is to be used as sick days, field trips, etc. (you know that margin time!).

Inside of my trimesters, I have two loops (A and B) which play out in six week increments. Since I failed miserably at getting in all of my extras, I figured I would use the looping system Sarah mentions over at Amongst Lovely Things. I mention at the bottom of my last homeschooling post the subjects I wanted to focus on this year.

Our Current Year

Friday, July 18, 2014

Books for the Wicker

Over the past three summers, I have found some really interesting reads. Some I have kept for the fall and others were devoured as soon as they hit the doorstep. My recent find was Euphoria by Lily King. Amazon sent me an email that featured this novel by King. I found a copy in a quaint book shop in Bar Harbor while we were on our proper holiday.

It is a short read of only 256 pages centered around three cultural anthropologists in the 1930's. The author was heavily inspired by my favorite, Margaret Mead, and her associates like Franz Boaz and Ruth Benedict. This book brought me back to why I chose anthropology and the rush of discovering a new way to live. The ending is sad and tragic but I feel like the author was really telling the reader about consequences, life, and the choices we make. Morality is something that did lack in the book with an affair and other ethical breeches; however consequences abounded. I could almost feel the humidity of Papua New Guinea. I could almost feel the pain of the man left alone at the end to face his own mortality and past decisions.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Life-Novel-Trilogy/dp/0670025593/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405729108&sr=8-1&keywords=book+of+life
The Book of Life is a pure frivolous read about magic, adventure, and lots of swashbuckling. There is some fun genealogy thrown in as well as historical facts. I have not dived into the book as it is the last in the series, and I always hate the ending of a fun adventure. A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the series starting out slow but really developing the characters for a long detail rich story line. The characters are stock enough to be relatable  but quirky enough to feel original. Plus, the sex is inside a marriage (in the second book, Shadow of Night) thanks to some clever plotting, and integrity is something that tends to be upheld as well as family loyalty. Like I mentioned, it's a fun read with no addition to your moral compass but the writing is properly adult which is nice since juvenile/pre-adult style is not really my fancy.

Other authors I have enjoyed for summer fun reading are:

Arturo Perez-Reverte ( The Club Dumas, The Seville Communion)

Jon Steele (The Watchers and Angel City)

C. J. Sansom (Matthew Shardlake novels)

Danielle Trussoni (Angelology and Angelopolis)



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Getting Ready for the Next School Year:: Curriculum Choices

My newly organized homeschool closet
with each student dedicated a shelf.
 This year has been full of great resources to inspire, assist, and reassure the homeschooling mother! Teaching from A State of Rest challenged me to re-evaluate my family’s priorities. Last year, I overloaded myself with too many subjects for one day. I was not allowing the good, the beautiful, or the true to shine through our work. We were just hitting the books with minimal joy. This year I am using several of the techniques Sarah talks about to add more beauty and more variety without losing my mind. Teaching also gave me the confidence to see where I was strongest. Once I have a plan, I tend to stick with that plan. However, I now can plan to be flexible or build in margin for the day, week, month, or even the trimester without too much guilt!

In Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill of Everyday Snapshots, I found that sound board on which to bounce my ideas thanks to the great many pages she designed. I also found myself getting specific on my long-term goals for our homeschool.  Finally, sitting down to create a mission statement that quantified our family’s priorities was a huge accomplishment. My husband, Jeff, and I were close in our wants, desires, and point of view which was a nice realization as well. Pam’s templates were wonderful tools to inspire some change to our schedule; the visualization assisted my brain into seeing how important a routine is balanced with a time based schedule.

Leo's daily reading practice basket.
Our goal is to get up to 30 minutes a day.
A change is coming this way for our little homeschool; Bella is wanting to start Kindergarten, so that leaves me with a first grader and a kindergartener. Not to mention a crazy toddler who loves to rip, shred, and pulverize paper of all varieties and a new baby debuting in September! We might be needing all that flexibility for a steep learning curve headed our way.
Back in March, I talked about focusing on solidifying skills and getting back to scholé, here is a list of our current picks for aiding in our learning:

Leo’s lovely list:

Core Subjects (math, reading, writing, etc.):

v  Saxon 1

v  Kumon Workbooks for added practice on Fridays if needed (we are using the first trimester to focus on addition drilling)

v  All About Spelling Level 1 (this is a re-start for us)

v  All About Reading Readers Lvl. 1 (books 1-3) and Set 2/sight words of the BOB books with worksheets for both here (he really enjoyed completing set 1 last year and specifically asked we do more); there are other readers like these from Neumann Press that I will be adding to the basket
 

v  story sequencing practice from PAL (IEW's program)
 
v  Classical Catholic Memory Alpha Year (Co-op classes as well twice a month)


Bella’s bountiful list:

Core Subjects:

v  Saxon K

v  IEW's PAL Writing and Reading

v  Kumon workbooks for extra practice if needed

v  Classical Catholic Memory Alpha Year (Co-op classes as well twice a month)

Loop Topics Include: art, science, literature units based off of Five in a Row, religion, music, history, and poetry. I am hoping to make our loop topics family based, so that everyone including my husband can join us.

'Tis the season for planning posts, so stay tuned!
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Our Weeping Mother

http://www.lasaletteofenfield.org/index.htm#SHRINE_NEWS

"La Salette is an invitation to the joy of a world reconciled to God. Virgin Mary weeps for by the conversion of sinners and the mercy of God, the smile back on the faces and the mountains are covered with wheat. "
Bishop Guy de Kerimel, Bishop of Grenoble-Vienne

On our return trip from Maine, we decided to stop off at the La Salette Shrine in Enfield, NH.We make it a family priority of visiting as many shrines as we can which I write about here. The shrine is set to close in 2015 due to a lack of personnel and a restructuring of the order attached to the Shrine.

The drive was lush to say the least; Lake Mascoma sits right across from the Shrine giving the pilgrim every chance to revel in God's creative ability. La Salette is build on an old Shaker stead which was then sold to the order. On the grounds, there is a cafeteria, a gift shop that has variety with books, statues, crucifixes, rosaries, etc., and this little side building that has nativity sets from around the world. We didn't get to visit that particular building since the amount of tiny wandering fingers was a disaster waiting to happen.

We did get to walk the entire shrine with the chickadees. There is a Rosary garden with a pond encircled with a large rosary made from stone roses to mark the beads. The next segment is a peace garden that was created in the 1980's centering around the conflict in Japan.

My favorite part was the Apparition Garden; it showcased some beautiful hand carved marble statues telling the tale of the apparition of the Weeping Mother to Melanie and Maximin. The overall peace the shrine offers is surprising in way. I didn't intend to fall in love with the Weeping Mother of La Salette. Yet her message is so close to my heart as a mother and as a person who struggles with sin. Her message speaks of keeping the Sabbath, daily prayer, and other societal ills; She weeps because of the pain it causes our Lord her son. The children, Melanie and Maximin, described the crucifix upon the Weeping Mother's breast as radiant with a hammer and pincers; the hammer representing our sins that hammered the nails into Christ on the cross while the pincers represent penance and prayer reconciling us to Christ.

The chickadees loved walking the Stations of the Cross that were marked by life size marble statues and a tomb at the end. In the middle is a set of pilgrim stairs which my husband completed with the two girls leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord with Our Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, and St. John at the feet of a dying Christ.

For more information about La Salette, I suggest this prayer book from Amazon which is available for e-readers.
 
Other Resources include:
 
    • This website offers images and information about the original shrine in France where she appeared. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Faith Folders, Rings and Games... OH MY!

Over Memorial Day weekend, I received an email from Lindy Meyer, the owner of Holy Learning (which used to be Faith Folders for Catholics). She was offering a product to try free of charge for an honest review of the product chosen; now, I had purchased several faith folders from Holy Learning over the years, so I was excited to branch out. I decided to try the Baltimore Catechism Ring (#1) with Leo for some religious prep.

Once Ms. Meyer sent me the file, I downloaded it, hit print, and started cutting/hole punching/laminating. It took me about an two hours to start to finish. I unfortunately did not print on card stock as I had run out. Silly me started this project at 11 o'clock at night. I also cut too close (probably out of sleep deprivation!) to the edges so I had to re-laminate some cards. Once completed, I ordered the cards and collected them onto the largest binder ring I had in my drawer (3 inches).

What I really liked about the cards was how Leo responded to the use of the cards. He was more inclined to see learning the questions as a game which in turn made it fun and easy to practice the information. It also kept the time learning shorter, so we could practice more times a day without burn out. Leo is still working on reading fluency, so he is not able to completely work alone yet; however, he still was intrigued enough to be found on the floor perusing through the cards for the pictures. I am confident that as he progresses in his reading, he will be able to independently use the cards for his own benefit and to aide his siblings in learning these valuable questions and answers.

Overall, there really is not a negative aspect to this product to me. The price is listed as 18.00 dollars, and honestly, I do not think that is unfair. When I think of the time it took to make the template, type, and format the information not to mention that once purchased you then can make multiple copies for home use (like one for each child), it is a completely fair price to pay.

Holy Learning is now offering faith games  in addition to their faith folders (which I love to make with my chickadees), faith rings, faith cards, and they also have an Adoration Guidebook (a great idea!). And Ms. Meyer is providing my readers (get excited you two!) with a coupon code for 15% off any order:
 
betweenthelinen
 
 
 
I also receive some store credit when you purchase from Holy Learning using the above coupon code. I would be grateful if you did, I am eyeing those faith games! Please leave a comment with your favorite product from Holy Learning! I would love to hear about it.