Did I ever tell you…

About the time we went to Old Sturbridge Village?

002“A History Lesson You’ll Never Forget.”  Have truer words ever been spoken?

Seriously, it was awesome.  if you ever find yourself in the area (easy day trip from Boston, Worcester, Springfield, or Hartford) get thee to the Village!  We went during Homeschool days and it was great fun.  We got there when it opened and for at least 2 hours there were no other school tours going on.  Just big van families galore.  Inside, the reenactors are all friendly, knowledgeable and happy to answer your burning questions.  If you have kids who like to know everything about everything OR if you are like me (ahem, super nerdy)  and have a million questions about spinning wool into yarn or apprenticeships or blacksmithing, they will patiently answer your every question!

He's shearing it, not killing it!  I promise!
He’s shearing it, not killing it! I promise!
Shooting real musket balls into the woods.  No Redcoats were harmed during this demonstration.
Shooting real musket balls into the woods. No Redcoats were harmed during this demonstration.

022And if you get bored and you have indulgent grandparents, there’s always the gift shop where you can find all manner of bonnets that you MUST HAVE and will never again wear.  AND penny candy!!  Hooray for penny candy!  And fudge!  And stuff stuff stuff!!

I think i loved it more than the kids, but I’m really okay with that.


It’s that time again

[I apologize for the spotty formatting in this post.  I’d like to send this off but due to a certain 2 year old, I don’t have the brain to fix it]

Reporting live from my living room – It’s day one of our second week of a High Tide period in the cycle of our homeschool. We’re coming off of a period of pure, unadulterated vacation.  We did whatever we wanted pretty much without limits.  And for the kids?  That pretty much meant Minecraft.  BUT – I took deep breaths this year and saw it as just a part of our lives and not our WHOLE lives.  We also watched some pretty awesome movies with the older (10 and 9) kids.  From classics, like E.T., to brand new blockbusters like Ant Man.   There were day trips to the beach and to the water park and to the Lego Museum. Good times were had.  Memories were made.  And I think we’re all ready to switch back on that portion of our brains that deals with “academics.”

So what’s on tap for this High Tide?  I’m using Spiral Notebooks to track assignments on a weekly basis for my 4th and 5th graders this year and so far it’s working out.  Some days are more work oriented than others and that is fine.  The older two need to learn to manage their time.

For those interested, these are the books we’re using for the month one of our little Homeschool (some will only last the month, some with last 6 months)

5th Grade:

History Spine

This is an independent reading assignment.  It’s going slower than I anticipated BUT my goal this year is NOT to push this kid.  His performance anxiety gets in the way and he desperately needs a year of academic success.

This is religion at the moment.  He will also do the 5th grade Faith and Life book in CCD at our Church starting in September.  We’ll be done with this book pretty quickly, so I’m thinking some Saint biographies after this.

Science is his thing and this book so far is a success.  There are 5, I think, in the series, so we will keep moving on until he wants to quit.

Learn Math Fast Volume 1 will fill in some gaps and get us ready for harder work with fractions and decimals.  He’s a numbers guy and can do all these processes in his head – but he hates getting it all down on paper, so this is my compromise.

We are also working on Typing and his dad is starting him on Ancient Greek.  You will notice a lack of Language Arts.  This is deliberate.  We’re going to start with his strengths and gradually work on weaknesses as the year progresses.

4th Grade:

aka The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas

Until this year we have done combined History.  But the book my 5th grader is using is beyond my 4th grader, and my 2nd grader isn’t quite up to this one.  So, finally, we divide.  This is a fairly easy read for my 9 year old, but she will enjoy it.  It will likely only last half the year, though, so I’m on the lookout for something else as well.

She will also be in the 4th grade Faith and Life book when CCD begins.  This is going to be the first independent read in a Marian year for her, I think.

Language Arts alternating weeks with Voyages in English 4

I’m told she wants to be a doctor.

So many links.  I think I’ll post 2nd grade later.  The above are reading various and sundry literature selections as well.  I’ll document them separately too.

Wait, what?? And what’s working

So, right after I published my last post, I broke my hand.  Yeah.  Slammed it in the sliding van door.  By the time I recovered, we were firmly in a down cycle where I’m sure some learning was taking place, but no one wanted to record it.  And then Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas happened.  And then it was a New Year.  And did I mention I’m in a play?  So there’s that.  But this last week gave us some GREAT getting back into “formal work” (or what passes for formal work around here) moments.  I like the kids to read and write with purpose every day but it can be a pain convincing them to find something enjoyable, yet worthwhile to do that accomplishes that task.  BUT I had an inspiration that is paying off – my eldest daughter has been on a bit of a poetry kick these days, so I suggested she make a poetry book by copying all her favorite poems into a notebook.  She can illustrate them or not as she likes.  And it was a hit not only with her, but with her older brother (who hates EVERYTHING if it even smells a little like school!) so a BIG WIN around here.

Here’s a rundown of what is working for us:

1. Sneaky Copywork (i.e. poetry books).  We have learned things such as, every line of a poem starts with a capital letter.  And we learned the exception to the rule (if it’s the same line and goes over onto another line it is not capitalized).  Punctuation is getting a second look and spelling is improving!!  After copying “The New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day” aka Over the river, and through the woods…. Rebecca has mastered the spelling of “through” and many other words as well.

2. History. We are listening to a great Librivox recording of “This Country of Ours” by H.E. Marshall.  Although we started out this year with World History (The World’s Story by Elizabeth O’Neill), I decided that this is the year we are going to do some great New England historical sites (Sturbridge Village, Plymouth Plantation, and the Freedom Trail) so American History it is!!  Plus, we LOVE doing our learning in the car via audio book so this is a great fit for us.

3. Math. As much as I enjoy Life of Fred, the kiddos were lacking in some good practice and being that they are a bit behind in Math skills, I’ve started back with Math Mammoth.  Both older kids are working a grade level behind, but I’m not doing the books as written.  I’m skipping around to hit the things we need practice on (Carrying and borrowing or whatever it’s called now) and so far it is working.

4. Everything else.  As always, we learn about whatever strikes our fancy and have as many good discussions as possible.  We’re learning piano and doing some handiwork.  On Fridays we are doing a sort of co-op enrichment day that includes art and phys-ed and the all important SOCIALIZATION.  As an added benefit (to ME) I am leading a middle school/early high school reading group.  Last semester we read a ton of middle grade books and discussed the pants off them and it was a good time.  This semester we are reading through Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  So far the kids are enjoying it!!  We will put on a small play for the siblings and moms at the end of our time together.  The older kids are reading a good amount.  Rebecca is enjoying Noel Streatfeild’s Shoes books and Jack is reading the the Ranger’s Apprentice series.  I’m looking forward to the culmination of my play so that I can start doing a bit more reading myself.

Linking up with Melanie’s Guilt Free Learning Notes and hoping that means I’m back in the swing of things with blogging!!

Thanks for visiting and here’s a cute kid picture for your trouble:

cute Gus

Learning notes from Sept 8 – Sept 12

As I hope to keep linking up with Melanie at Wine-Dark Sea, I’ll add some background to our family.  Jack, our eldest, is 9.5 and (technically) in 4th grade.  Rebecca, daughter the first, is 8 and an ADHD Tigger of delight.  She is (technically) in 3rd grade.  Helen, daughter the second, is 6 and home for her first year of homeschool (1st grade).  It has been an adjustment adding her to our mix.  Jude, second son, is 4 and in a Montessori pre-school 5 days a week.  He has three full days and three half days and before anyone objects, he LOVES it and actually does better with the full days because they make them lie down for a rest period so he isn’t strung out coming home.  Our youngest, Gus, is 14 months.  He has Benign Congenital Hypotonia and has both gross and fine motor delay that we are working on with Early Intervention PT.  His schedule trumps ours for the moment.

Monday – I probably should be logging this when it is fresher in my mind, but the ravages of old age will have to make way.  SO – we were “scheduled” to do Handwriting, History, Math, Religion and Poetry and we did Handwriting, History, Math and Religion.  *sigh* I so want to WANT to do poetry, but I always leave it for last when enthusiasm is flagging for schoolwork.  And….we never got to it.  I’m just not inspired to *do* poetry because…..confession time…..I don’t love poetry the way I should.  There.  I said it.  I like literature.  I like a rip roaring story.  I am not a fan of poetic imagery.  Details – Jack and Helen did a few pages of cursive.  Jack, after many years of hating writing has blossomed with cursive.  It looks lovely and he, joy of joys, isn’t complaining about it!  Success! Rebecca was having a very off day and chose not to participate in the majority of school this morning.  Helen read us the story of the Tortoise and the Hare (turtle and rabbit, lol) from her Little Angel Reader and we enjoyed discussing who the bad guy in the story really is (duh!  the turtle!  won on a technicality!) and coming up with our own morals (don’t presume victory).  In History we read about the Persian invasion of Greece and what steps Greece took and next time we will read about Persia strikes back. Math was another chapter in Life of Fred.  For Religion we are continuing to read in our text and read about God’s highest creation (angels and men).

Tuesday – Early Intervention was coming this day, so I was motivated to get us through some work in good time.  Handwriting, Math, Religion, Geography and Art.  I consider this the lightest day in our loop – it’s very easy to get through and technically leaves us time to do a fun art or music activity.  This didn’t materialize this time because of EI, but thanks to our loop schedule art won’t always fall on Tuesday.  Cursive work was done.  One letter per day is our current speed.  We read another chapter in Life of Fred for Math – everyone is enjoying it, but since it is mostly a review of concepts for Jack and Rebecca I’m not sure if I’m sold on it as our core curriculum yet.  In Religion we are slowly making our way through “Life of Our Lord for Children”, and finished up Chapter 2 reading about St. John and then the temptation in the desert.  For Geography we are using Memoria Press “Geography I, Text (Middle East, Europe, and North Africa)” as a read aloud for everyone and then Jack is writing the info in the workbook.  We read about the Middle East (how relevant….although I have chosen not to discuss current events with any of them at this time) and Jack labeled a map.  For Art, we paged through “Museum ABC” and chose our favorite pictures.  We all had a lot of fun with that.

Wednesday – ANOTHER EI meeting.  Taking. Over. My. Life.  It’s fine.  I’m extremely grateful we are getting Gus the help he needs and that it isn’t costing us a fortune.  But it’s days like this when I feel like homeschooling gets put on the back burner and I really have no choice but to utilize more screen time than I would like lest I have a dozen interruptions or fights to break up.  I did want to get school done today, so we ditched written work and breezed through our read alouds (which I consider the most important anyway).  Our loop scheduled us for Math, Religion, Science and Fable.  Math was Life of Fred – quick and easy and everyone engages.  For Religion we read a short bio of St. Juan Diego.  It was fun how quickly they realized they knew this story (we are NOT the best at Saint stories around here, so they were thrilled to actually recognize this one) and Rebecca found a copy of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe that we have sitting around.  Science this year we are reading “Archimedes and the Door of Science.”  It’s interesting and I’m loving how it is matching up with our current History reading AND with our Literature discussion (fables).  Last was our most interesting subject of the day – Fable.  Taking example from Andrew Kern, I am using Fable as a springboard for our introduction to literary discussion.  And other than that I’m pretty much making it up as I go along.  So today I read a basic version of The Ant and the Grasshopper (ant works, grasshopper fiddles, winter comes, ant lives, grasshopper dies).  We quickly discerned the lesson here and they thought they were done.  But then I threw in the curve ball – what if that isn’t REALLY the lesson?  What if I just read the story the wrong way?  And then I retold the story, but this time from a very sympathetic point of view toward the grasshopper (spends all summer entertaining the happy insects, constantly criticized by the ant, winter comes, all his fans abandon him and he is cruelly left to die on the ant’s doorstep).  I had one child (black and white thinker) who immediately condemned my version as “wrong”, one who bought into it immediately and one who was able to see the holes in both stories.  And then, just for fun and completely unplanned, I retold the story where the Ant was a meek and humble voice of reason and the Grasshopper a cruel bully.  In the end, the Grasshopper destroyed the Ant’s home and ate his food while the Ant perished.  They were amused, but weren’t into that one.  Everyone agreed that they liked the first story best.  I’m not sure if it was my less than stellar storytelling (although I don’t think it was….they were riveted) or the cut and dry moral at the end.  And if the second is true, I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I suppose children really do prefer the “easy lesson”?  OH – we also discussed the story of the Good Samaritan in relation to this story.

Thursday – mmmmm……I woke up cranky.  The baby is teething (I hope – because if he’s not then maybe it’s his ears??) and not sleeping.  AND when Jude crawled into bed with us (while I was already wrangling an unhappy baby) he peed in my bed. Which he NEVER does.  But of course he did last night.  Because it was a night of horrors.  I told the kiddos we were blowing off school today and………………………………THEY WERE UPSET!!  *choirs of Angels sing*  Anyway, I didn’t do any read alouds, but on their own Jack and Helen both did Cursive and some written Math work.  Rebecca has been AWOL all week from school.  I’m not liking the trend, but I feel like she’s testing me to see if I will get crazy about it and I will NOT be pulled into a school-related power struggle with her.  She isn’t getting screen time or anything like that while not doing school (mostly doing crafts and free-reading…Little House books right now) so I’m going to give it some time.  Tomorrow we attempt Piano….take 2!!!!!  Scouts tonight.  Heaven help me I haven’t filled out their forms yet!  Interesting thing tonight that continues to bear fruit – driving to Scouts, I begged the children for a little “me time” (lol, yes, I take my me time in a car full of children) and I listened to a podcast from the CIRCE Institute called “On Igniting a Love of Learning in Your Students.”  Unbeknownst to me, my 9 year old was actually listening and later (Saturday) sat me down for a serious conversation where he explained that he hasn’t been applying himself to his schoolwork and he is ready now to be more attentive and participatory.  Um…wow. Thanks, Andrew Kern.  (fyi – I highly recommend the CIRCE Institute as a wonderful resource for doable classical learning in the home)

Friday – I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but the piano teacher flaked on us AGAIN.  Totally derailed the whole day.  We cleaned the house (because that’s what makes ME feel better) and watched blah tv (well, Netflix) and fortunately the baby took a nice nap.  No formal learning, though we had lessons in patience, disappointment, keeping your temper, forgiveness and Christian charity and stress management ;-).  Those are all just as important, right??

Learning Notes Sept 2 – 5

Linking up with Melanie at The Wine-Dark Sea!!


Sunset on a private beach?  Don't mind if I do!
Sunset on a private beach? Don’t mind if I do!

Monday – Home from vacation, lots to do and I was stuck sick in bed!  UGH!!!  How does an adult get Hand, Foot and Mouth disease???  And why o why did it hit me harder than it did the kids????  I was about to call it viral meningitis and call it a day until I woke up Tuesday feeling a bit more human.


Tuesday – With my throat sore as could be, my inclination to take on a morning of read-aloud was low.  We’re still not on a real routine and won’t be until Jude starts school on Thursday but even with that we managed to do a little Poetry reading (I even got Jack to read for us which is a REAL accomplishment!  And regardless of what HE says he is quite good at reading aloud), Handwriting (cursive books are IN and so far beloved) and Math and Phonics for Helen.  She is quite bright and takes to it easily, but she has very. little. stamina for any kind of focused work.  Instead of freaking out and pushing her (like I did Jack and Becca) I am taking deep breaths and proceeding at her pace.  For now.  We also talked a little about Labor Day tying back to an ongoing conversation we are having about paying a just wage, rights of workers to strike and how that plays out in differing environments.


Wednesday – My voice was finally back in action!  We started with Handwriting as a “warm up” to work and then moved on to Math.  I had more planned for today, but realized the kiddos all needed work on converting word problems into number sentences so we did that.  They each (FINALLY) managed a few problems on their own at their own levels (addition, subtraction, higher numbers and multiplication and division).  Even Jude got in on the fun and figured out a few easy addition sentences on his own!  Great Job, Jude!  With most of our time spent on Math this morning, I did a quick Religion review (we are using this text: http://www.olvs.org/ShopCart/InvDtl.aspx?InvId=17302&GrdId=&InvCatId= as a read aloud for all the at home kids this year) on the Blessed Trinity and we moved on to attributes of God (all-knowing, all-good, eternal, creator etc.).  I’m still not sure how much Helen is absorbing in this way, as she is bright but flighty.  Time will tell.


Thursday – Jude started back at school!  We had a great first day with our standard schedule in place.  The morning went pretty smoothly and we have adopted a new school motto,, “Take it slow and do it well.”  SO – I hit all my subjects today (Math, Handwriting, Religion, Science and Grammar) and scaled back when I sensed I was losing them.  I would have liked to move farther through the material, but if they are taking it in and absorbing it, how can I complain??  I’d rather they know one thing well than a few sketchy details here and there.  We practiced our cursive and math skills, read about the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, read about the world Archimedes lived in and gained some continuing insight about those crazy Ancient Greeks and learned about the Articles a, an, and the.  Jude seems to have had a good day at school – he came home cranky but that is par for the course around here.  Everyone is always tired by mid day.  We hoped to swim today, but there was just too much cranky fighting for me to want to try and get everyone going.  Better to have a calm afternoon because tonight is SCOUTS!  And tomorrow?  Our very first Piano lessons!!


Friday – Listen.  Can you hear the steam pouring out of my ears??  I bet you can.  And why, you ask?  Well, we stood outside a locked door for 40 minutes waiting for a piano teacher who never came.  Not a good first impression.  I’m not decided if it will be his last impression as well – I will wait to hear the “explanation.”  When we came home everyone was too annoyed and cranky to try and get any work done, so we are currently moping around the house.  Jack and I watched a cool physics video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10204436050561637 (not sure if this link will work or not) and now the girls are doing something crafty while Jack works on an extreme finger knitting project.  This thing is long beyond long.  In my learning news – I am trying out a subscription with Creativebug.com and am currently doing a line drawing course.  It is a lot of fun and easier than I imagined.  The kids are amazed at my artistic prowess (haha!) and I kind of am too.  I’m curious to try out some of the other tutorials there.


What’s working

1 – A schedule!  OH how I have railed against the idea of a schedule!  I am unpredictable!  I need space to create!  I can’t just do the same thing over and over again!  Pfft.  I did nothing.  I have been completely predictable and uncreative.  I need to CREATE space to create!  And that is what the schedule does.  No longer do I have to make decisions about what my kids may or may not do at any given moment.  They know!  Because it is (all together now!) On. The. Schedule.  Bah.  

2 – A well defined chore chart.  Hooray!  This one I love!!  Simple chores are getting done and I am not the only one doing them.  Hip Hip, Hooray!  Hip Hip, Hooray!  Hip, Hip, Hooray!

3 – Looping school subjects – there are things I want to hit every day (Math, Religion and Handwriting) but what to do when I can’t promise on History, Science, Geography, Grammar etc?  LOOP!  Oh, we did History last time?  Science it is!  Okay, it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s WORKING.

Still coming…..a post on the resources we’re drawing from this year!

Summer Lovin’

Because how can you not spend your whole summer loving up on this squishy bit of wonderful??  


The newest member of the clan!  Og, the great and powerful.  (well, Augustine)

Our summer has been worthily spent learning about babies.  They need calm and quiet. They have little toes begging to be kissed.  Their little heads must be supported.  Sometimes things must wait on their needs -and they have MANY needs.  But they come with just so much love that nothing else matters.

After a brutal pregnancy, things are stabilizing here and with that comes a resurgence of discipline and order* and reorganization of responsibilities and priorities.  I think we’re going to be working on habit formation for a bit, but that’s a-okay.  The sun is shining (most of the time) and life is (getting) calm and easy.  I’m thinking after some major clutter-clearing we shall break out a few structured academics and have a season of deliberate practice with the basics to get us back on track for the year (for me too!  I am practicing order and consistency).  

Plans for the end of summer/early fall:

Memoria Press English Grammar Recitation

Teaching Textbooks 3

Primary Language Lessons

Memoria Press Astronomy

Seton Spelling

Explode the Code Online

We also have some fun and educational art and music things set for the year.  I’m hoping to start swimming lessons for four kiddos this fall and of course Scouts starts up again soon.  

*Oh, sorry, you thought unschooling meant order and discipline were out the window?  Not in this house, my dear!

So….What are you doing for school??

Ha.  The age old question – or….you know, the question I get whenever I see someone who I know, a little or a lot, who doesn’t quite…get…homeschooling or how it’s done or why we do it or how I can possibly MANAGE since I have more than 1.5 children.  And my answer is generally, “…….um, well….we, you know, have a math program we do and uh, we read a lot….and work on writing and stuff.  Our History is audio mostly and the kids like that….”

So a totally intelligent answer that inspires all around me to pull their kids out of school and start them on the homeschool path to success.  


I’m not an idiot – I swear.  And I am totally capable of teaching my children.  Why, just this weekend Jack learned all about exponents and practiced his multiplication facts by doing longhand problems like 6 to the 8th power (no, I don’t know how to make the little tiny number to denote exponents.  sorry.).  And Rebecca, all on her own, designed and created a functioning backpack out of duct tape that includes a special carrier for her new doll.  And Helen, without any prompting has decided that we need to practice reading every night and is using the 1st grade reader that Jack and Rebecca used previously.  And Jude is a menace that cannot be tamed.  HEY, I said I could TEACH, not that I could work MIRACLES!!

But that isn’t what people want to know, is it?  They want assurance that my children are learning precisely the same things that their public or privately schooled children are learning.  And either succeeding or failing in the same way they would be in a traditional school environment.  And there is a big part of me that wants to reassure them that YES!  ABSOLUTELY!  They TOTALLY are!  But the truth is, they aren’t.  Because we don’t approach learning that way here.  We could, but it would defeat the purpose of keeping them out of school.  We don’t WANT them to have that kind of education.  Trust me, there are many days where I would just love to give my kids a kiss and put them on the bus while waving good-bye.  I could have a moment of quiet (shhh, Jude!) and even bake a gluten-free cookie for their snack when they get home.  I really don’t need the stress that comes with having your child’s entire educational future resting on your shoulders.  Sometimes I wish I had never heard of homeschooling so that I could go through life believing that school is where my kids belong.  Period.  End of story.  I did hear about homeschooling, though.  And even before having children, even before I was married, I knew that it was the right thing for me and for my (potential) children.  

So, why?  What about homeschooling speaks to me and why do we “do school” the way we do?  The current educational model in 99% of schools today [not a real statistic] is designed to streamline the population into a hierarchy of sameness.    Leveled classes begin as early as late elementary school where promising students are put on a track of “accelerated” or advanced academics.  This arrangement of classes prepares* students to enter highly ranked Colleges and Universities in preparation for professional careers as Doctors, Lawyers and CEO’s.  Average students are encouraged to pursue moderate academic success in less challenging classes in preparation for careers as office workers, managers and high level vocational jobs.  Below average students are often placed in place-holding classes or shuttled off to vo-tech schools where academics are limited and practical skills are emphasized.  What is wrong with this?  Well, a lot.

For one, how are they determining what students fit what level?  In my experience, it was only all around high achieving students that were able to stay on the advanced track.  Where were the students whose language skills might not have been above average but who could solve math problems like nobody’s business?  Oh, right, they were in the “average” track.  Sorry – no advanced math for you.  And what happened to the late bloomers who, for whatever reason, didn’t achieve in elementary school but broke out in middle or high school?  Sorry.  You’ve already been tracked.  [Schools will argue that based on future results, they were right in their tracking systems.  I contend that their tracking systems created the future results.]

And two, how is this model of education working for us as a nation?  Not well.  Where are our innovators?  Where are our thinkers?  The true artists?  Creative people who create rather than regurgitate what they have already been spoon-fed?  They are not coming out of our current school system, that is certain.  I do not believe true success for our children lies in this path.  Our children need to look outside the current societal model to create the kind of future that will allow them to not only survive, but to thrive as adults.

What does that mean?  What is the educational model I follow?  One that plays on the strengths of each individual child, that encourages their God given talents and one that accommodates, but does not excuse, their weaknesses.  It is different for every child.  I cannot educate Rebecca the same way I educate Jack and what works for Helen will undoubtedly not work for Jude.  What I can do is strew their paths with greatness.  Ideas, art, literature worth reading, time to explore their own interests, exposure to the interests others have, conversation, big questions.  This is not going to happen with an out of the box curriculum.  I cannot tell you, “Oh we do Seton or Calvert or Sonlight.”  and if it makes you uncomfortable, then I am sorry.  But I am sorrier that it makes me uncomfortable.  I’m working on it, though.



*I question whether this actually prepares students to do anything other than compete, cheat, and become unwitting slaves to the system.  (I was one of those, by the way, so I should know.)