Home Education Feed

Little Bear's First Autumn Hike πŸ’›

IMG_6318

Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80Β°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

IMG_6342

IMG_6361

IMG_6385

IMG_6377

IMG_6336

IMG_6418

IMG_6422

IMG_6366

IMG_6371

IMG_6454

IMG_6441

IMG_6471

IMG_6286

What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

"If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too."

 πŸ’›

More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Earlybird's Visual Learning

My goodness but I've been working on this draft for some time now ... and yet for some reason I just can't seem to wrap it up! Well, here we go anyway ... I hope you enjoy! :)

IMG_4256

So here at last is Earlybird's "learning line," something I mentioned last month on Instagram and promised to show in more detail here at the blog ...

This learning line is basically a simple, visual catalog of information - consisting of sheets stored in page protectors. We've had some good success with this the past few weeks, so I snapped some pictures to share here in case this might work well for someone else's child ... :)

But first, a bit of background ...

Our 14 yo Earlybird has autism and teaching him in a way that is both engaging and meaningful has been a real challenge for us as a home-educating family. We are always looking for ways to make learning enjoyable for EB, while taking into account his varying special needs. He can't really handle long lessons or a lot of one-on-one, intense instruction so I like to "sneak in" the ideas and concepts we're working on and then revisit them to assess how things are sinking in. (EB is developmentally delayed but has a fantastic memory and a bright inquisitive mind. Some subjects (like science) he readily absorbs like a sponge, while others (for example, math) he really struggles with.) My first thought was that we'd just sit down together with a binder full of the sheets shown above, but EB can be funny about this kind of activity. I could envision myself saying, "Hey, EB, how about we sit down over here and look through your lesson pages together?" To which EB would most likely say, "Um, no thanks." Or maybe even something like "Noooo, I don't wanna ... noooo!"

(Insert door slam here.)

Compliance and flexibility are things we work on every day with EB's (amazing) behavioral therapist - and we're making progress, certainly - but as you can imagine, this kind of attitude doesn't really lend itself to easygoing homeschooling moments. It's actually quite disruptive and really messes with the lesson plans!

Hence our ongoing efforts to find methods that are appealing to EB while also training him to be more accepting of requests and responsibilities. (This is also why I tend to make EB's lesson plans with a rather wide-range vision. I sketch out some general topics and themes for a month, then write up weekly goals which get plugged into the days of the week as they work best.

My October notes read like this: Explorers, New England geography/geology, Americana artists - Moses/Wysocki, music of Harry Potter (composer John Williams), autumn weather/frost, woods/leaves, soil, migration, St. Francis, All Hallow's Eve

Side note - it is really difficult for EB to sit and listen to someone read aloud to him (re ~ sensory issues) and while he can read on his own, he doesn't have a lot of stamina for it. So in come audiobooks! Funnily enough, I've never been a big fan of audiobooks myself - preferring paper as I do - but they have been a real lifesaver! And so incredibly enjoyable. I play all kinds of literature while we drive around, bringing Crackerjack to his "out of home" classes or the soccer field or on errands, etc. It seems we're in the car every day for something or another these days! So I just casually press "play" and when EB asks me to switch back to "the news" (he loves news radio, lol) I say something like, "Oh we'll go back to that in a minute, let's just find out what happens next ..."  We just finished Peter Pan, and have now begun Harry Potter ... I am so excited to revisit this with Earlybird! It's his first time, but one of many re-reads for me!

Ok, so enough of my chatter, here are some pictures of our "learning line" - and this also gives you a little sneak peek into how the learning room is coming along (Slowly, but surely! And a full tour to come soon ... )

IMG_4273

So the line stretches across the entire back wall of the sunroom learning room. Bill just used "Command" hooks and a length of kitchen twine for this project. Other supplies include sheet protectors, post-it notes and small wooden clothespins. The current books are on the windowsills for now but eventually - once Bill builds me some book ledges! - they will be displayed on the walls. Both the books and the sheets reflect current learning topics ...

IMG_4276

Some of the things I have hanging in the sheet protectors:

  • a map of the US slowly being colored in as we cover each state
  • a state bird and flower coloring page (we're starting in New England)
  • a photocopy of a colorful state map, corresponding with the state bird/flower page
  • some Peace Day print-outs
  • a corn plant with diagram labels
  • a map of where corn is grown in the US
  • some index cards with landform vocabulary terms - these are specific to New England (EB was asked to look them up and record the word on each card)
  • the weekly forecast
  • September's poem

I've since added a compilation of seed-dispersal facts and a Charles Wysocki art book page (with New England theme) as well as some coloring pages and crafts made by Little Bear at his library Storytime.

To some of these pages I might add post-it notes with questions such as:

  • According to this map, which area of the US grows the most corn?
  • What is the capital of Massachusetts?
  • What are three adjectives that describe September?
  • What day this week looks to have the best weather?
  • What Native American tribes were found in Massachusetts? Check the Giant US Discovery Atlas

Some of these pages are photocopied from workbooks, text books, library books and other resources. Some things are found online as images or printables. (How did we ever home school before Pinterest?) The index cards are in sheet protectors with divided pockets. Currently I'm just filing the sheet protectors in a binder as is, retiring last week's pages over the weekend and hanging fresh sheets before the new week begins.

(Ok, let me rephrase that - I'm actually placing all those pages in a basket until I find a binder I like for this purpose! I need a large one, but the rings need to work very smoothly for Earlybird.)

The "learning line" is something EB uses with his therapist as well. They've been working his homeschooling into their daily sessions and it has been a tremendous help! I think Earlybird likes this approach because it's visually appealing and he feels proud to see some of his work hanging up in this way. I've heard him show visitors his learning line and he'll comment on it sometimes to me throughout the day. It's a way of keeping his lessons front and center - but with a relatively low-key approach. Some items stay up longer than a week if I feel they need to "sink in" a little longer.

Note: these pictures were taken last month ... here is a peek at the line this week!

LL october 2

LL october 1

So there's a look at one of the ways I incorporate "visual" learning into Earlybird's week. I hope you enjoyed this peek into our learning room, and as I mentioned above, a full tour will be coming up soon!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...

See you here again very soon!


Planning a New Year + a Peek at My Lesson Planner!

Seasonal homeschooling 2

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

These are heady days, aren't they? I just LOVE this time of year ... it's so full of promise and preparation. We're still enjoying the nice weather of late summer (warm, breezy, dry) but autumn is truly just around the corner so it's perfectly respectable to start planning ahead. (Great fun for those of us who love autumn and planning!) And while we're still in "vacation" mode here, it's definitely time to get our new year in order - plans, resources, learning space, official approval and all that. Part of that rhythm for me involves pulling together a lesson planner of some sort - a tool to help me iron out the year ahead. I'm very much an eclectic homeschooler, but I draw much inspiration from the Charlotte Mason and Waldorf styles of learning. Some years have leaned more one way than the other, but I am always better off with a PLAN of some sort in place.

So I thought today I'd give you a peek at the planner I've created - even though it's still under construction! This year I'm homeschooling a 17 year old, a 14 year old (with special needs) and a 3 year old who simply will not be left out of anything, lol. (Our 21 year old is a senior in college, so for the most part, he's out of my loop!)

Ok, here is the cover of my planner:

IMG_2437

It just makes me so happy ...

I started with a plain, one-subject, spiral-bound notebook I really like and covered it with a vintage alphabet scrapbook paper. (You can see the print in closer detail in my blog banner above.) I adhered the paper to the front of the notebook with some yellow washi tape and added a fun sticker on top. "Capture the Joy" sounds about right for a homeschooling motto!

Inside the planner it's a rather humble affair ... I just used a pencil and ruler to create the pages I needed for planning. Inside the front pocket I keep a printout of the ed. plan I sent into the school system. After a title page I have a "Contact/Correspondence" log. Here is where I mark down when I send stuff into the superintendent and when I hear back. I also note our HSLDA renewal activity.

Next comes an academic year at a glance "attendance" calendar:

IMG_2422

I shaded in the days we would be on vacation (blue) and actively homeschooling (yellow). Green shading indicates a weekend. This helped me determine how many hours per week we need to count towards the 990 total for the year. Also, I can see where it makes sense to take time off and when we can (hopefully)wrap up for the year.

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

On the left side of the schedule I have the Monday date and seasonal theme; on the right hand side I have written down any events of note. This chart runs from 9/5/2016 - 8/28/2017. (I'll share these seasonal themes in my next post.)

The next several pages are devoted to organizing our weekly rhythm (when we're home and when we're out each day, where to fit in which subjects) as well as a breakdown of goals and ideas for each of my boys. Crackerjack's page includes space for college planning, while Earlybird's allows for ABA goals and Little Bear's is just all about how I'd like his preschool years to look. β€οΈ

Then comes a list of all the subject areas I want to include this year (for example - poem of the month, artist of the month, a monthly field trip, weekly nature study and art project, etc.).

Next I break down the months of the year with notes in all areas - another hand-drawn chart with lots of tiny writing!

Seasonal homeschooling 3

It's hard to see here, but the circled letter denotes the month. On the far left I've listed the seasonal themes that fall within that month. Then comes two blocks for things like audiobook, history topic, science topics, artist(s), music focus, geography region, field trip idea, habit to work on ... etc.! And then finally on the far right I've written down the events of note in that month. These are days that will figure into our homeschooling in some way.

After this two-page spread comes a list of back-to-school supplies and traditions. (I'm working off a rather large checklist I wrote a few years ago. You can see that list in a newsletter here if you're interested. The list is on the last two pages.)

Now comes the monthly sections! First up of course is September ...

IMG_2424

Ok, so I get a little silly with my notebooks, I will happily admit. I love organization and tidy details, but I need to have a page for doodles and brainstorms! This is a portion of my favorite September poem and all around the edge of this page I've written out things I love about the month: apples, fresh pencils, goldenrod, grasshoppers, green tomatoes, alphabet soup, sweatshirts, spiderwebs, crisp mornings, cricket song, the harvest moon ... a kind of love letter to the month ahead. This might not be "standard" in a typical teacher's planner, but I love to include this kind of inspiration in mine!

After the title page I have a monthly planning page for September with notes on the left and a calendar on the right.

IMG_2425

I use post-its here because I like how they allow me to organize ideas in a flexible and visual way. Each note represents a particular area of September planning: field trip, nature themes, nature study, science, geography, events of note, social studies, math, faith focus, music, crafts, good habit, literature, bird and badge of the month, and "teas" which are basically monthly sit-downs with special food and a seasonal celebration of some sort.

The calendar (as with pretty much everything else in this planner!) is hand-drawn and embellished with a little seasonal washi tape, sticker and doodle. I'll add some quotes and notes here, too.

And now for the nitty-gritty - the weekly lesson planning section!

IMG_2427

IMG_2428

I apologize if this is way too much detail, but that's just how I roll, lol! As longtime readers know well ... ;)

On the left side of the weekly spread is another post-it brainstorming page similar to the one in the monthly section. I've also listed the theme for the week (sunflowers this week) and any days of note. I have not yet decided if I will continue to use post-it notes here (which are fun and convenient but might bulk up my planner) or if I'll commit to a hand-drawn grid for planning. Meanwhile, on the right-hand page I have a chart where I can sketch out daily details for each of my three students. There are rows for Monday through Friday and then a large row for the weekend at the bottom. We don't typically do academic work on the weekends, but there is usually homework for my 17yo as well as seasonal, family activities to enjoy.

(Note: I'm still working on our week's rhythm - which days we do what subjects/activities. Our weeks are mostly shaped by Crackerjack's outside classes and Earlybird's therapy schedule. It's a little different this year so I'm re-thinking things a bit. Some subjects, like reading and math, are done daily - but we do need to find the best time of day for those lessons. Mornings would be ideal, mentally speaking, but with CJ going to classes some days and EB working with his therapist everyday, a lot of our activity takes place in the after-lunch hours. That said, EB's therapists are working more of his home education into his sessions, and I'm really excited for this support! Another reason to be really organized and detailed with my weekly lesson plans!)

By establishing a consistent framework (science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, social studies M-W-F, etc.), it is easier to plug activities into the chart. I'm still tweaking all of this - because as long as I've been doing this, it changes every year! - but will share more when I can. :)

Sometimes, for whatever reason, plans must change or be abandoned, and I've come to accept this is just the nature of homeschooling and life with kids. (Particularly one with autism!) Plans provide wonderful guidance, but they don't absolutely guarantee all the boxes will be checked off at the end of the week ...

But I never feel a minute of planning is wasted. Planning gives me a leg up on whatever our week brings our way. I've learned not to dwell in disappointment when things don't go "as planned." There is still beauty and value in creating plans that pan out in a way I didn't originally foresee. Sometimes I carry things over into the next week. Sometimes I save things for next year. Missed lessons are sometimes caught up with in a flurry. For the most part, I find it all shakes out in the end ...

If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too.

 πŸŽ

OK, I'm going to sign off now because I'm getting a little rambly and clearly I could just go on and on here ... I will share my 52 seasonal themes in my next post. For those of you who remember I'm working on a book (and yes I am still working on it!) these themes are my book's outline. So this will be a little sneak peek, if you will. :)

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

So I hope you all enjoy your  week and what's left of this summer season ... thanks so much for stopping by!

I will see you here again very soon ...


The planning process is underway ... 😊

Ed reports 1

Hello, my friends! I hope your week is going well. I am popping in tonight to say "hi!" and share a few pictures. :)

So, I am currently knee-deep in my "ed. planning," and by that I mean, I am sifting through piles and piles of notes and folders and calendars etc. so that I might recall and record just what it was we did during the previous academic year. In my state (Massachusetts), we homeschoolers may choose from one of four evaluation methods - standardized testing, a portfolio of work samples, periodic progress reports or one year-end report - and our family chooses the last option on that list. We always have done so, because it's something I do for myself anyway, and it's just as easy to send a copy to the school system.

Anyhoo, every year, as I dive into the deluge - with a certain amount of angst, as I wonder if we did anything at all - I say I will be more organized about my record-keeping (and lesson-saving) going forward ... Next year I will be SO careful with my notes, I swear! Next year I will save EVERYthing and it will ALL be in one place ...

And yet this year (like most years before it), I found myself rooting through the house, sorting through in-baskets and file folders and notebooks and tote bags and backpacks and calendars and ... oh yeah, that homemade lesson planner I used for all of September, 2015.

Ahem.

But it's all going to be fine, truly - I know this in my heart. Like every one of the 15 years before this, we do actually do stuff, and I do end up finding All the Things - because thankfully I never throw anything away - and as of Sunday night, I have written up some pretty darn good reports (if I may say so myself). Renewed our HSLDA membership and started in on the next phase of my ed. planning ...

Aka - the fun part! Figuring out next year! :)

Now, because I am a visual learner/do-er, I like to lay out potential resources and then group things in piles. So this is what's going on in the dining room right now ...

 Ed plans 2

Ed plans 3

Ed plans 4

πŸ“– ❀️ πŸ“– ❀️ πŸ“– ❀️ πŸ“– ❀️

Most of these books have been used and loved before - some of them going way back to Bookworm's time - and I'm really looking forward to revisiting them. As you can probably guess from the assortment above, this year we are concentrating on early American history - Colonial America and New England seafaring history in particular - American artists, the US government, biology for the high schooler and something I'm calling, "seasonal science" for the younger boys. :)

Once I've written out the plans for each of the boys (what we'll cover and what we'll use), I will be ready to send the whole package off to the Superintendent. Hopefully by the end of the week!

In the meantime, I'm filling out a brand new homemade lesson planner ... WHICH I am resolving to make FULL use of this year. Now, I have given you peeks of this planner at my Facebook page (and in the banner above) but I will do a more thorough post on the ins and outs in a future post. It's basically a plain, spiral-bound planner that I transformed into a homeschool planner with pencil and ruler. Not too fancy, but - with proper and consistent usage - most efficient.

(Update: Here's a tour of my mostly finished planner!)

Hopefully, anyway. My planner problem seems to be twofold - jumping from one "tool" to another (giving up too soon on something that isn't quite working) and not creating serious, committed time in the family schedule each week for lesson management. Time to review and record what was and plan and prepare what will be.

"Tools and Time" - a great title of a future post!

But speaking of Facebook, a reader, Patricia, asked if I could share my weekly themes (seasonal and liturgical) and I would be happy to ... in fact, I just finished the week-by-week chart in my lesson planner today! I may even try to make it a spreadsheet of some sort, so you could print it out and add your own events and notes. That MAY be getting way ahead of myself, but we shall see!

In the meantime I'm getting back to "work," and as always I thank you all for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!

 


It's Homeschool Planning Time!

File crate 1

Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend!

So it's that time of year again - time for me to put on my homeschool-mom-thinking-cap and see "what's what." First up, I need to write reports for the school system (how we did last year, what we're doing next) and then comes the fun part - planning out the nitty-gritty of our new year! I'm actually a little behind on this (thanks, in part, to that recent computer crash) but I AM NOT panicking. Nope, I am not. Not at all. Or at least, not very much - mostly because I'm really too busy to worry about it!

(Plus, this is my 16th time "at bat," so to speak, so it really shouldn't take me too long to get these reports done ... once I sit down and just do them!)

Now, like many of you, I have a ritual I like to follow when I work on a project - for ed. planning it includes (but is not limited to): a quiet space, open windows, no children, several cups of tea and LOTS of office supplies. But one of my favorite activities is when I get to spruce up my file crate for a new year! Above you see the crate itself with a calendar hanging on its front and a couple of planners stuck in the back. In front of the crate are two piles of folders - last year's on the left (which will be read through as I write the reports) and new ones for the coming year on the right.

Now, before anyone asks - no I don't reuse my file crate folders - at least, not for this purpose. I do, however, recycle them in other ways. I like (and need) my weekly file folders to be crisp and sturdy and strong ... a year's worth of use leaves them a bit battered. 

File crate 3

Let's just say, they get handled a lot!

There are a lot of stylized file folders out there now that you might use with a file crate system. File folders are kind of a "hot" product these days and some are so very pretty ... I am always tempted ... but unfortunately, since I need one for each week of the year (52 total) the price, for me, would just be too much. I do like to "pretty" my plain folders up a bit if I can - with labels and washi tape, etc. As you can see I am going with primary colors this year as opposed to the soft brown of last year's. These are actually folders I found a while back at Staples when they were marked WAY down - so I bought several packs - you know, just in case. (I'm weak like that when it comes to office supplies ... my motto being, buy first, ask questions later!)

Anyhoo, look how neat they are inside!

File crate 2

So inside each folder there are pockets that allow you to separate folder contents by type. How cool is this?! I LOVE this idea and I really hope it works out. I keep a lot of things in my folders and it's a bit jumble-y, I must admit. (Lesson print-outs, recipes, receipts, craft ideas, invoices, reminder cards, greeting cards, invitations, etc.) I sometimes use a paper clip to hold things together (or various color-coded clips) but then there's that annoying bump from the clip(s) ... yes, I really am that persnickety about my file folders, lol!

I will have to do a follow-up post about what the folders look like when full - and how I use them as part of my weekly planning. I'm still ironing out a few details and fleshing out a few new ideas ... so more on my file folder system in the near future!

Before I go though, I want to share a couple of photos of our next project ...

Learning room 1

Learning room 2

Learning room 3

So yes, this is the sunroom, which I know a lot of you have seen in previous posts, and you're thinking, "What is she on about here?" But here's the thing .... I've finally decided to make it our ... HOMESCHOOL ROOM! :)

We've lived here in this house for three years now, and I just couldn't quite decide where to "set up shop," for homeschooling. I kind of wanted to see how we'd end up using the different rooms and where it would make sense to commit shelves and wall space to educational pursuits. This sunroom has been fabulous when we're entertaining - we often set up buffets and dining tables here - but otherwise it's usually a catch-all playroom of sorts. I recently cleaned it out, top to bottom and decided this really would make a great spot for homeschooling ... there's lots of room and natural light. Not a ton of wall space, but enough. And it's situated right off the family room so it's pretty convenient. The one drawback is, it's only a three-season room (i.e. it gets COLD in the winter) so we'll have to figure something out on that front. 

But I'm excited! I'm really looking forward to getting this room all organized and arranged. I have Bill lined up to make some shelves for me and I'm trying to envision the learning areas I'd like to make available to my younger boys. On the other side of the picture window in that last picture is my new desk, by the way ... and that will be another post for the future! :)

***

Well, my friends - I'd best be off now. This was supposed to be a "quick" post but you know how I can get. I do hope you all enjoy your weekend, and as always, I thank you sincerely, for stopping by to read. Thanks, too, for all the chicken advice! The girls are doing well ... they seem much more settled now and goodness are they dears! I will post a bit about them in an upcoming post as well.

So have a good evening, everyone! Don't forget to look up at that beautiful night sky tonight (or early tomorrow) and watch for those Perseids, so spectacular this year. I myself am just hoping to stay up late enough to watch The Great British Baking Show season finale!

(Anyone else watching? Who are you rooting for then?)

β˜„οΈβ˜„οΈβ˜„οΈ

See you all here again very soon ....


Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

St. johns wort 1

Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

Sun plaque 2

I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

Herb basket

In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

Rose hips 1

I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

Rosewater 1

Doesn't that look pretty? 

Rose water 2

Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

Astilbe 1

These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

Spirea 1

This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...

Dianthus

These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

Fox in yard 1

Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

Faerie flower

This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

Foxgloves 1

I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

4th of july morning

The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

Happy birthday dad

We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

Fall at michaels

Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

β€œLive in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!


Friday Bits and Bobs

Flowers in vases

Happy Friday, my friends! Popping in early to share a few links with you all ... :)

Now, are you looking for some meatless menu planning inspiration today? Here are a couple of older posts of mine with lots of great reader suggestions in the comments:

Meatless Menus? (2011)

Lenten Meal Planning (2015)

And here is a wonderful post from my friend Meredith, "Meatless Meals for Lent." Lots of links and ideas there! And also not to be missed is this post - "Five Meatless Dinners" from my friend, Chris! There's a Lenten link-up at the end of that post with even more meatless ideas!

Here's another spot for Lenten meal inspiration, Leaflet Missal's post, "8 Delicious Lenten Recipes for Meatless Fridays." I can't wait to try the hot cross buns on Good Friday, and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake on Passion Sunday!

Speaking of Leaflet Missal, here are "7 Ideas for Celebrating Lent Your Way" - filled with simple Lenten suggestions - and one of them was mine! I was so honored to be asked to participate in that article. :)

And here's a wonderful, witty and thoughtful post from my friend Karen called, "Five Reasons Lent is Hard on INFJs"- I read this with much interest, as I happen to be an INFJ too! (What is an INFJ you might wonder? Click over to Karen's and find out!) So much of her post had me chuckling and nodding my head ... 

And leaping away from Lent for a minute, there's another post I've been meaning to share with you all for some time, especially because recently someone asked me about my "mid-year review" and how I go about it. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite behind this year! I am hoping to work on this important project this weekend - a wee bit past the mid-year mark, ahem - but here's an old post of mine describing my process ... BUT! Even better, here's a fantastic post from my friend Mary Ellen about her mid-year review AND there are printables!

Ok, final link! (I think!) My friend Shirley Ann has updated her blog, Under an English Sky, and you must pop over and take a look. It is just lovely and always filled with great ideas, pretty crafts and lovely tours of England. She has a new series called "The Crockpot Chronicles" and her first recipe is perfect for Lent! I will be avidly following this series as I LOVE using my crockpot at this time of year.

(Speaking of crockpots ... I made this yesterday and it was so delicious. Next time we'll have some some crusty bread to sop up the soupiness, but it paired very nicely with rice pilaf. I just adore artichokes!)

Well I lied, lol - this will be my final link! Have you noticed my new nest button over on the lefthand sidebar? I have started a separate blog called Our Family Field Guide where I am storing nature notes and pictures. I won't be posting quite every day, but hopefully often enough to capture that "rhythm of the year" I find so fascinating and nurturing. I recently found this quote and it struck such a chord with me ...

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature." ~ Rachel Carson

Yes. :)

So I hope you'll stop by once in a while and see what we're up to, what we're discovering in this beautiful world all around us. β€

Well my friends I will let you go at last - but I hope you all enjoy this day and I thank you for spending a bit of it here. This weekend I have a couple of Book Party posts in queue - and I can't wait to share them! (Would love to hear from you, too!)

See you here again very soon ...


Book Party: Dawn's Books & Nooks

Vintage books

Hello again, my friends! It's time for another Book Party post! I've had such fun reading all the posts so far, and today I'm excited to share a few of my own book-filled nooks ... :)

*❀*

Like many of you, I have books all over my house - beside my bed, in the kids' rooms, on the family room shelves, stored away in basement bins - but the best reading spots can be found in the library. Now, one might call this a living room, or even a parlor, but we are optimistically coining it "the library" because we hope to have lots and lots books stored in here one day! And by "stored" I mean - arranged in a way that is well organized and inviting. I want this to be a room that celebrates books and encourages hours spent in joyful reading, whatever the season or time of day. This room is on the west side of the house so it gets fair natural light (as well as a nice view of the sun setting behind the woods), but good lamps and overhead lighting are important! As, of course, is comfortable seating ...

SO here we go!

Book party dawn 1

These are the two larger bookcases in the room and they are situated to the left of my writing desk. They belonged to my husband's dear grandmother and we have beautiful glass doors for the front of each - something for the future when our littlest is no longer little! The one on the left holds books we use for homeschooling: history/geography, science/nature study, myths/legends, picture books and classic literature, poetry/fingerplays and some of my general homeschooling resources (Charlotte Mason and Waldorf, for the most part).

A closer look at the shelves (which, it should be noted, were neatened specifically for the purposes of this post):

Book party dawn 21

Book party dawn 22

Book party dawn 23

Book party dawn 24

The bookcase on the right is known as "Mama's," and holds books about homekeeping, seasons, crafts, nature, New England, Tasha Tudor, gardens, vintage style and, well ... many of my favorite things! My novels, however, live elsewhere: (most) in storage and (some) in a basket at the foot of our bed.

A closer look at these shelves:

Book party dawn 13 (1)

Book party dawn 14

Book party dawn 15

Book party dawn 16

The bottom shelf holds my most current issues of Martha Stewart Living (I have all of them actually, going back to her premiere in 1990!) as well as an assortment of favorite magazines I'm keeping (rather than clipping).

Book party dawn 2

I have to share a couple of pictures of the "nest I built" under the south-facing window. The foundation is a rather large beanbag type of chair that is actually meant for the family room (where the tv is) but for various reasons we moved it out here. The gray suede-like cover was not a good fit for this room so I covered it with a beloved afghan in the coziest of colors. To make it even more enticing, I placed a pillow and a couple of Little Bear's soft toys here as well. Crawling into this nest - which easily fits two of us - is a joy! All the books are at our disposal, and there is such nice light ...

Book party dawn 17

This is not the most flattering of pictures, lol - but I had to share it. It was snapped this morning by my Crackerjack, as I read to Little Bear in our nest. It's such a snuggly space ... β€

Now, in the center of the room, on the coffee table, I have my personal reading basket:

Book party dawn 3

I've always had a reading basket for current magazines and books I'm trying to spend time with ... if not everyday, then at least a few times a week when I find a little downtime. On Sundays I clean it out a bit and refresh the selections if necessary. Not shown is the book I'm reading in bite-size pieces each night before falling asleep - the one I wrote all about in this post. That book I keep on my bedside table.

Now here is our Catholic bookcase on the other wall ...

Book party dawn 4

The bottom shelf is for display, set behind these lovely sheers which I change up according to season (purple for Lent at present). The two bookshelves above contain my liturgical resources - the very top shelf contains books for grown up use, while the next shelf down holds books for the younger children. To the right of the tiny tote bag are the story books that we use throughout the year (after year) - for feast days and such. I try to keep them organized by date.

Now, below you see Little Bear's main book basket - which is now at the perfect height that he may peruse and decide which book he'd like read. Most often these days it's a book about trucks. :)

Book party dawn 5

There are even more books on the other side of the chair!

Book party dawn 18

In the smaller basket in front of the curtain I have our various field guides. The larger basket under the table holds oversized picture books. And the very small basket near my mug has LB's most requested reads. :)

Book party dawn 8

(Different day, different mug!)

On the opposite wall from "my" chair is the fireplace, and in front of it we have our nature puppet collection, our peace basket (slowly filling up) and the seasonal board books basket. 

Book party dawn 7

Tucked behind the loveseat is the larger seasonal book basket ... these are titles for January through March. I use these books with our weekly seasonal themes, pulling out what I need when I do my weekly planning ...

Book party dawn 6

Fyi this week's theme is "windowsill gardens" and the books I'm using, Linnea's Windowsill Garden and Linnea's Almanac, are actually not in our basket - but on request from the library! :)

We've collected a lot of wonderful books through the years and I find it very helpful to organize them, as much as possible, by season. Off-season baskets are kept downstairs in the basement. Books are often set up on display in the front windowsill, or perhaps on the top of a table ... 

Book party dawn 12

Book party dawn 20

Oh, and before I go, here are my cookbooks - kept in the kitchen!

Book party dawn 11

I keep my favorites here, and I will confess, I often read them more for pleasure than practice! (I use Pinterest for recipes nowadays.) There are more cookbooks in storage downstairs ... in fact, there are quite a lot of books still in storage downstairs! It will be three years since we moved here this June and it really is getting ridiculous that we still have boxes to unpack!

*❀*

Well, my friends, as usual I've gone on longer than I intended, but I hope you enjoyed seeing all (or most) of my books in their special nooks today! I would love to see yours - to hear about where you keep your books, how you encourage your family to read and make time for reading yourself! If you'd like to join our Book Party, please send me your thoughts/pics at ...

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I'll pick one of the party guests to win a little Pre-Spring Giveaway (just a package of goodies I'm putting together). I'll draw a name randomly and announce a winner on Tuesday, March 1st ... So there is plenty of time left to join in our Book Party. I do hope to hear from you!

But for now, thanks so much for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your day ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday ~ Living Joyfully with Books

Vintage books

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."

~ Kate DiCamillo

So important is "atmosphere" when we encourage children to read ...  and not just to read, but to be readers! How do we, as busy (often overwhelmed) parents, do this when we ourselves might struggle with the concept? I adore reading, but the fact of the matter is, I find it a challenge to fit in these days. Partly because I'm pretty busy and partly because I don't always manage my time wisely. Hello Facebook, I'm looking at you! Also, I will admit, in this age of computers and sound bites, sometimes I have to re-train my mind to slow down and concentrate. Reading a book - as opposed to a magazine or web post - often demands greater focus, something I don't always have at my disposal. And yet, still ... I surround myself with books - of all sizes and shapes - and hope that the time (and brainpower) will present itself so that occasionally I might indulge. And that's how I see it - as an indulgence, a gift!

My children are young and have so much free time - as they should! I want them to relish this freedom and choose their passions wisely and cultivate reading habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives ...

So, I say we start with atmosphere. Here are a few of my ideas:

 β€ Have your books all about - in tidy piles or pretty baskets if it makes you feel better (it does, me) - but the point is, show that books are important. However often they are opened, they deserve to be part of the family circle. I like to set them up in displays, even - especially picture books that tie in with a current season or subject.

❀ Make trips to the library - with and without the children - and get involved at the your local branch! Participate in talks or clubs or perhaps volunteer when you can to offer help where they need it.

❀ Talk about the books you're reading or long to read, and peruse reviews in the Sunday paper. I'm forever clipping (and pinning) books I'd like to catch up with someday. Also, I just subscribed to a really neat service called "Wowbrary" which sends me a list of new releases at my library each week.

❀ Now, it goes without saying that an occasional trip to the bookstore is a real treat for the whole family - especially when a bit of pin money has been put aside for the occasion. We have a Barnes & Noble not far from here and I love to take the boys a few times a year - usually after birthdays or holidays when they've received gift cards. We splurge on a special coffee and bakery treat and just soak in all the mutual book adoration around us.

❀ It's nice to have a special time of day perhaps just before or after supper, when everyone brings what they're reading to a common area to just read together. This very often coincides with tea-time for me. Nothing says let's read! to a toddler like a mama sitting down with hot tea ;) This might not be possible everyday, but perhaps once a week can be managed? What afternoons/evenings are quiet for your family? I'm thinking of setting up a dedicated puzzle/game table in our library ... because quiet pastimes like this make a nice complement to reading.

❀ If you have a true TON of books (like we do), cycle titles in and out of circulation from time to time. It's amazing how interesting a long-stored book looks upon its return to the family shelves! You could set up a "pretend" library with a homemade library card system. You might punch "borrowing" cards and offer rewards for so many books read, while reviews (which earn extra points, natch) can be kept in a notebook with foil stars. And of course, it goes without saying, as soon as the children are "of age" a very big deal should be made about getting that first library card! We even made Earlybird a special felt pouch for his own many years ago.

❀ Subscribe to magazines and keep them somewhere easy to reach. I myself have QUITE the pile of periodicals stacked beside my reading chair, but I encourage the boys to choose a title or two of their own. Little Bear has a subscription to Babybug and Earlybird enjoys Highlights while the older boys - who used to love Legos and Star Wars - have moved on to Time and Entertainment Weekly. I have posted before about my own obsession with affinity for magazines!

❀ Take books with you in the car, to the beach or even the yard. I've laid a blanket right in the middle of the lawn and read aloud as if they were all sitting beside me and not just swinging on swings, or tossing balls or digging in the dirt. I know they can hear me - and they might even come close enough to listen, especially if I have snacks. :)

It's trendy these days to "simplify" but it's nearly impossible for me to declutter our books. We've been collecting them (one might say, amassing them) for many years and they've played such a big a part in our children's lives. And now that we have our Little Bear, why, it makes no sense whatsoever to start culling this vast collection! We'll need ALL those books again - I'm sure of it! (Or that's what I told Bill who is, in this case anyway, definitely more "on trend" than I.) But boy, am I rubbing my hands over the favorites we'll get to revisit ...

I do try, however, to use the library as much as possible because it does cut down on the volume of books filling our house and also, of course, it saves us money. As a homeschooler, the inter-library loan system is a blessing! I make use of it each week and I have been told, we are our library's best customers ... ;)

Well, we're preparing for our weekly trip to the library just now, in fact - I'm rounding up books and videos etc. and adding them to the big tote in the foyer.

Tote bag of books in foyer 2

We don't have a set day for our library run, but our library bag stays packed with things to return and I keep an eye on due dates. It's fun just to browse the library of course, but sometimes give the boys an "assignment" to find a particular type of book. For instance, I asked Crackerjack to pick out a picture book he'd like to read aloud to Little Bear, and I asked Earlybird to take out a book that is not about planets. ;) I myself am going to pick up the selection for next month's book group, and ask how long Bill's request will take to come in. And on the way to and from - as whenever we get in our car - we'll listen to our current read-aloud which is a perfect pick for this time of year! When we're deep in winter but longing for spring ...

So, how about a little conversation about how we store and organize our books? I think that will best be saved for a separate post, but it is something I'd very much like to talk about. Would you be wiling to share your thoughts (and perhaps pictures) of how you live with books at your home? I'll be taking pictures myself and we'll throw a little book party in a week or two. Does that sound like fun? :)

But, while we're on the subject of books, I'd like to address one of the pictures in yesterday's post ... I left a few of you wondering!

One womans year 5

The book I am currently reading - a chapter every night before I go to bed - is called, One Woman's Year and oh, is this book just my cup of tea! Just the kind of book I wish I had (or maybe could) write myself.

One womans year 2

The funny thing is - I bought this last June and didn't get around to reading it till just now! (See first paragraph of this post - its all about finding the time!) OWY was written in 1953 by an English wife and mother recounting her domestic "observations" throughout the months of the year. Every month has its best and least liked chore, a local excursion, a recipe or two, and an anthology, which is to say, a selection of fine reading. Here are a few pictures to give you a better idea:

One womans year 9

One womans year 6

One womans year 7

One womans year 3

The illustrations, as you can see, are lovely and Mrs. Currey's sense of dry, Birtish humor is just wonderful! I don't know how to suggest finding a copy - they are quite expensive through Amazon it appears - but perhaps try your local library or look (and ask) around at vintage bookshops or maybe try good ol' Google. In fact, it was while trying out that last option myself that I found a very nice article about the book published in the Yorkshire Post last year: "Diary of a 1950s Housewife."

Well my friends, I have truly kept you here long enough, so I will wrap up now and thank you very kindly for stopping by and reading. Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on sharing the joy of books with your family, and keep in mind my upcoming post about book storage and organization! I would love to make it a joint effort, so as always, I am hoping for emails and photos!

You may send me correspondence at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

Have a nice evening, everyone ... and I will see you all here again very soon!

❀


Tuesday Tidbits: Frost, Frosting & Wintry Fun!

Frosty sunrise window

Happy (frosty) Tuesday, everyone! :)

I have just a few quick things to share today ... but first! What is the weather like where you are right now? It is SUPER cold here in my neck of the woods - in fact, I don't think we'll see 20Β°! Theres snow on the ground (a few inches) and plenty more on the way this weekend ... but such is January in New England!

Now, a few of you asked about my birthday cake frosting - it is a favorite in my family and one my mum is expert at making! It's called "penuche frosting" and it is buttery and sweet and fudgey in texture ... here it is if you'd like to try it sometime:

Penuche Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
hot water

Melt butter - add brown sugar. Bring to boil. Lower heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk and bring to boil. Cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat.

Add hot water if too thick.

❀

Also, while I'm here I wanted to mention - for those of you on Pinterest - that I have a few new boards set up. These are each specific to my seasonal planning and I'm using them for links to go along with ideas, activities and special days coming up. So here is the January-February board if you'd like to take a peek. :)

2016 Planner: January & February Links

If you are not on Pinterest, I can do a post with links sometime if that would be helpful. I just added some wolf coloring pages this morning in light of the Full Wolf Moon coming up this weekend! :)

Snowflake lesson 1

This week our seasonal theme is "snowflakes," and I have some fun things planned for the boys - the bigs and the littles! Something I'm working on this week, too - and I meant to mention this during the planning chat last weekend - is the concept of craft bins for seasonal planning and organization. Someone asked me not too long ago (and forgive me for not remembering who) how I keep the craft materials and other resources for the week organized ... and believe me, it's a challenge! I haven't really tackled the craft bins we moved from the old house - nor the craft storage here in the new house! My thought is to have bins for the seasons though - and as I plan and prepare for certain projects I will add those items we'll need to those bins. There should be six bins in all once I'm organized, and you can be sure I will post about them once they're established!

❀

Kitchen window poem

And finally, I had to share this pretty page from a book I have displayed at my writing desk right now. I think I've shared it before, but it's worth another look. It's such a lovely sketch - a mother having her tea and gazing out her kitchen window ... taking such joy in her "lot" in life, days spent at home with the children. The stanza below resonates with me so much ...

***

She has a kinship with the earth
Though busy in her own domain,
And comprehends its noble plan
From just a kitchen window pane.”
(Milly Walton)

❀

Well my friends, I will be off now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! It's a busy week of lessons, therapy and activity here ...  Bookworm's back to campus and our relaxing holiday routine is well and truly over. I'll be posting as I can, though - and there are lots of planning posts coming up! In my next post, I will show you my planning sheet "in action" so you can see how I'm using it for seasonal planning. And I am currently working on the next set of printables (Early Spring) as well as a big post about making time in your schedule to DO the planning! Giving all the WHAT a WHEN! I also have a couple of "cozy nests" posts in the works ... 

So I hope you'll stay tuned! Enjoy the rest of your day and I will see here again very soon ... :)


My Podcast with Pam!

Podcast

Good Tuesday morning, my friends! :)

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to share this with you today! And maybe a little nervous too. Well, I was nervous at first, but it was SUCH a fun experience and Pam made me feel so welcome and asked some great questions and as we talked I realized  - we're chatting away here like two old friends! (Who, you know, happen to have just met and live in opposite corners of the country!)

:)

So, what am I rambling on about you all must be wondering? Well, recently I was invited by Pamela Barnhill at Ed Snapshots to chat with her about homeschooling and my family and the file crate and nature study and ... well, all kinds of things! Now, I think I might have talked a little fast - maybe that's a New England thing, or maybe that was the nerves! - but I really had such a lovely time talking with Pam, who is a very gracious hostess. I felt so comfortable and cozy, all settled in with my big cup of tea and Pam on the phone ... I probably could have talked on and on! 

Anyhoo - here is a direct link to the podcast so you can check it out. (If I was tech-savvy I'd link up that neat image above but alas, I am not.) I hope you enjoy our conversation, and if you have a moment, please leave a comment (or question) for Pam or myself!

(Also, if you're new to Pam's Homeschool Podcast series at Ed Snapshots, I urge you to head on over and take a peek (or a listen)! I am just so honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful community ...)

 Well, enjoy the rest of your day, my friends! Thanks so much for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!


Monarchs on the Move!

Buterfly hatching 2

Well, we had quite a weekend here at our house! I hope yours was nice, too. :)

On Friday morning we discovered that two of our butterflies had hatched! And a third would follow a few hours later ... 

Butterfly hatching 1

... leaving us with two last chrysalises still green. As it was a cloudy, wet day, we decided to wait for the following day to release them ...

After some googling, and a Facebook query or two, we learned we could "feed" the newly born butterflies by placing some sugar-water-soaked cotton pads in the bottom of their container. I also placed a small bit of watermelon in there. I couldn't really tell if they imbibed or not - one of them did stand on the watermelon wedge for a time, lol.

Happily, Saturday was bright and warm so we brought our four fluttering friends outside and sent them on their merry way ...

Butterfly 3

Butterfly 6

Three of the four flew directly off into the wide blue yonder ... but one lingered for a few moments on my hand. It was amazing ...

Butterfly 2

Butterfly 4

And then he was off, too!

Our last chryalis hatched Saturday night, but as Sunday was another cool, damp day - and today (Monday) is cool and windy - we're fostering our butterfly a bit longer. We're hoping to release him tomorrow morning when it promises to be sunny and warm again. I just placed a fresh orange slice in the bottom of the container ... which, by the way, now resides on the top of our fridge. All that fluttering in the learning room bookcase eventually caught the attention of one of my rather curious cats ... I bet you can all guess who!

If you have not tried raising butterflies before, I highly recommend it! The kids were enthralled - as were Bill and I! We were set up rather nicely by a friend with years of experience (and a monarch-friendly backyard) and though there are kits available online, for the sake of the Monarch's survival it is best to keep the local gene pool ... well, local. Introducing kit butterflies to your local habitat could mess up genetic diversity and weaken the Monarch's resistance to disease. And they already have enough to contend with - what with climate change and pesticide poisoning, loss of habitat, etc. So keep an eye out for caterpillars next spring and summer! Fall is approaching quickly ... check your local nursery for native (locally raised) milkweed. Learn about Monarchs and what they need ... Nature depends on us to be informed and respectful! :)

Now, something I'd like to note ... remember that seasonal theme schedule I set up for my family? Well last week was to be "apple" week but understandably, it made more sense to learn about butterflies! So we focused our homeschooling attention on "monarchs and migration" instead of apples ... so there's an example of a theme that will go a bit under-noticed this year. That's not to say we won't still explore apples this fall in one or more ways ... there will be an orchard visit and apple picking, apple baking and lots of nice apple books in the seasons basket. I don't sweat it when themes don't happen as planned ... life has its own rhythm and that's the most meaningful schedule of all! :)

Well, I'd best be off for now ... but I thank you for stopping by and wish you all good week. I will be back again soon with a nice long post about my homeschooling planner. I'm plugging along on that project as time (and family) allows!

See you all here again soon ...


Our First Science Project of the New Year!

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

Popping in to say Good Morning, and let you know I am having some difficulty with my laptop at the moment ... the startup disk is "full," so for the time being I can't upload anything new - most importantly all those photos I took of my homemade lesson planner! So that particular (long-promised) post is still "in progress" ... though I think I may have found a way around the situation. So while I'm slogging through and deleting extraneous files from my laptop's photo storage (for example, the half dozen blurry pics of the woodchuck eating my hollyhocks), I'm also taking pics with my phone and saving them to my FB page ... where I can then grab them (theoretically) for posting! Lol, does any of that make sense?

Tech-savvy, I am not ... we'll see how this turns out!

For today though, I thought I'd show you this lovely surprise science project, a gift to us from my dear friend, Lisa ...

Chrysallis 1

Chrysallis 2

Chrysalis 3

If you're thinking these little jalapeΓ±o-pepper-looking-things are actually beautiful butterfly chrysalises ... well, you'd be right! 

Lisa has been raising Monarch butterflies for many years now, and this year she shared some with us! (The caterpillars had just made their cocoons the day before she brought them.) So we have five chrysalises in this container, and I am just marveling over how amazing they are! All vibrant and shiny and smooth with little glistening gold dots and seams ... tiny miracles, absolutely!

Now, do you know, in our 15 years of homeschooling, we've never once raised butterflies?! We've studied them, read about them, visited butterfly sanctuaries and watched butterflies (and caterpillars) in our yard but never have we actually observed their metamorphosis so intimately! Needless to say we're all excited - me, most especially! - and I will of course, keep you all posted ... they're about a week or so away from "hatching."

:)

Well my friends, I must be off - I have files to delete! - but I hope you all are enjoying your day and that your week is off to a nice start. See you here again very soon!


Homeschooling: Year 16!

Boys vintage 1

Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that, but - as Facebook reminded me yesterday - we began our homeschooling journey 15 years ago this month! Holy crow, that's a lot of years ... and boy did they go by really fast!

And so begins our 16th year ...

We are still getting used to a new daily routine here at home, with Earlybird's therapy taking place every morning for two hours, Monday through Friday. This is a Godsend, honestly, but I am realizing this means I need to tweak my daily routine (and expectations) a bit. EB's therapist is here from 10-12, and though I'm not directly involved, I need to be close by for support and sometimes, translation. Before he arrives, I'm scurrying about getting myself, the kids and the house ready ... and after he leaves I'm throwing together lunch and then getting Little Bear down for his nap. Next thing I know it's 4 p.m. - time to tidy up and make supper! So, I'm asking myself ... when do I clean? When do we homeschool? When do I get my older son to his classes and back? 

And how about ... when do I blog? πŸ˜‰

So this new schedule will take some adjustment, but I know it is for the very best, not just for Earlybird, but for all of us. Autism is very much a family diagnosis, after all - it changes your life in ways you never expected. So ... I will work a new routine into our day and we will all adjust ... I am blessed to have many helping hands around me and I certainly plan to make use of them! 

Anyhoo ... today I just wanted to wish all my readers, and their families, a wonderful back-to-school season! Whether your kids are in traditional school or learn at home or even if you have no kids at all - enjoy this month of transition! A time for new supplies and fresh attitudes, as we let go of Summer's freedom and embrace the structure of Autumn ...

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear about your kids and if they are in school or homeschool or have perhaps flown the nest! Just to catch you all up to speed - my four boys are now 20, 16, 13 and 27 months! The oldest is in college (junior year!) and the rest are still homeschooled. Well, except for the toddler  ... who hasn't quite begun his homeschool career just yet *wink* ... though he sure does like to be in the thick of things!

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are enjoying your Wednesday, and that your September is off to a great start! Thank so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!

 πŸŽ


Wordy Wednesday*

*So named because this post was meant to be wordless but as usual, I can't help myself ...

Ww sun in stairwell

 The stairwell as I walk down to get a second cup of coffee - so pretty, I had to snap a pic! (My first cup was brought to me by Bill - he gets up with Earlybird, I stay in bed with Little Bear.) There are a few moments each day when the rising sun hits the east-facing windows just right and the house floods with morning light. I love this time of the day - a moment filled with quiet, light and promise.

Ww temp reading

 The weather app reading on my phone - it's been a scorching few days here in New England!

Ww red squirrels

 Two of our tiny red squirrels, enjoying seed I scattered on the deck in relative peace - usually they don't care to share!

Ww lesson plans file crate

A close-up of my file crate - love all those snappy folders! - with my homemade lesson planner stashed in back. I am trying to tweak the folders a bit to do more for me this year ...

Ww learning room

Getting things organized in the learning room ... for a day-after-Labor-Day start! I relish this time of year ... need to get maps up, bags organized, books arranged and supplies re-stocked!

Ww baby days

And my little fella. :) He found this "old" toy when we were downstairs at the laundry ... he trucked it upstairs, placed it up on the table, and got himself into a chair so he could play (work). I love how hard he's concentrating here ... :)

❀

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends! See you here again very soon!


Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

Happy august 1

Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!

Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.

(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)

So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)

And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)

*❀*

Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!

Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)

*❀*

All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!

Teach quote

(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)


My New Day Book! (post one)

Day designer 1

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

(I teased this pic on Facebook the other day, but wanted to share it here, too!)

So this is a new daily planner I bought at Target over the weekend because - well, first off - I'm absolutely weak when it comes to Target, especially in the planner aisle - but also, I have been feeling really out of control with my daily planning lately. I have so much "to control" each day - so much on my plate - and I use a lot of tools to keep track of it all - the cleaning, dinners, homeschooling, appointments, tasks, budgeting, writing, seasonal ideas, etc. So when I flipped through the Blue Sky Day Designer I found it quite tempting ...

I liked the colors, the font, the paper, the overall set up ... with my Target goggles firmly in place, I could envision it working for me, perfectly. Now, whether it proves to be perfect remains to be seen, but I am hoping to use this agenda (modeled after the Whitney English Day Designer) for as many areas of my planning as I can - maybe even a bit of journaling. There seems to be plenty of space to play with ...

(You know, I have been truly out of the loop when it comes to popular planners - so stuck on making my own, I guess - but apparently Erin Condren, Emily Ley, and Whitney English have really cornered the market when it comes to pretty/efficient planners! Pinterest is full of ideas on how to use them to your liking ... let me know if you're using any of these! )

Anyhoo, I am only just starting to use it - like, yesterday - but I will do a very thorough post in the near future about just how I am using it and how I am liking it and what I'm doing to make it work for me. (Going on the premise that it WILL work for me, lol.)

Note: It was $19.99 for those interested, which I don't think is a bad price at all for a daily planner, because that's a lot of pages! (It runs from July 2015 - June 2016.) And it's quite sturdy and portable, with metal coil binding and plastic covers. There were also other styles in this "Day Designer" line - very pretty florals and interesting shapes (including a horizontal weekly planner I found appealing). They're worth a look if you're in the market for a planner!

❀

In the meantime, I am valiantly trying to finish up the school reports this week ... the year-end progress reviews and next-year ed. plans I send in every August. I'm about halfway through and hope to be mailing things off next Monday. Once I get that major challenge out of the way I will be turning my attention to PLANNING and not just with this day planner but with the whole "school" year ahead. One thing I am realizing (and I do this every year but for some reason don't take myself seriously) is how very much I NEED to be much more organized with our home learning materials and records. Because once again it is nearly August and I am scrambling to remember what-all we actually did last year ... because I know we did stuff! We did a lot, if memory serves! But why didn't I take better notes??

So on top of this day book I am also re-organzing my homeschool binder and the way I plan and review our lessons each week and how I store materials, etc. Next Summer I want to be able to breeze through these reports - with less stress and time away from my family - because I have so much information to draw upon!

So more on all that very pretty soon ... :)

I hope you are all having a good week ... it's VBS week in our parish ... and hot as you-know-what in New England. Every day brings 90Β° and high humidity and afternoon storms ... but you know what? This is Summer! The dog days of Summer are here to stay it seems ... and I'm glad for it, to be honest.

So take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends, and please stay tuned ... I will be back here again to chat sometime soon!


More Q & A: homeschool planning?

Lesson planning 11

Continuing on with our Q&A series, a few ladies asked about my homeschool planning methods, so I thought I'd tackle that subject today. :)

From Leah:

How do/did you give your boys their assignments? Did they each have a planner or did you print out assignment sheets? Or, did they just do the "next thing" in the curriculum? How did you keep track of your side of it (read-alouds, projects, etc.) or is that part of that FCS cover sheet?

From Helena:

How/where do you plan out your homeschooling? I don't mean the outside classes you have scheduled, but the lessons you do at home.

From Tanya

Meant to ask you where you keep your home learning plans? Are they in your planner or do you have a specific place where you lay out what subjects you want to study and then specifically how you will study them? 

As you might expect, over the past 15 years of homeschooling, I've used all kinds of methods for managing home lessons - in planning them, assigning them, reviewing them, etc. I've used separate planners (both commercial and homemade) and I've worked the plans into my file folders, and/or my main planner. Each year was a bit different depending on what we were using for curriculum. What I can do here is tell you about what I do now ...

These days, Bookworm is at college and Crackerjack takes several outside-the-home classes (in small groups of homeschool peers). I don't have a hand in those assignments but I am in charge of overseeing his schedule and how he manages his workload. (We also decide together which classes mesh with our goals.) Math, Religion, and Geography/World Events are home-taught. (He is also enrolled in monthly Confirmation prep at our church.)

With Earlybird (who is developmentally delayed), I'm basically designing my own curriculum - using a few workbooks and a wide variety of educational materials. We rely on his interests and simple activities - immersing ourselves in (hopefully) memorable experiences that involve his head, hands and heart. It is child-led learning, but not too unschoolish, for lack of a better word - I need a real plan to work around, but I gave up scheduling assignments firmly a long time ago.

I usually do my lesson planning over the weekend, though I'm trying to work it into my Fridays instead. It would be much more efficient if I could. But whenever I do it, I begin in the dining room where I pretty much take over the whole table, lol. Holidays and Summer aside, it looks like this pretty much all year:

Lesson planning 12

I know not everyone can - or wants to - use their dining table in this way, but it works for me. I am a visual person so I like to have piles of books that are grouped by theme/lesson. It helps me focus and organize ideas. I keep even more books in nearby tote bags, including my own general "teacher" resources, as well as Crackerjack's books and notebooks ...

Lesson planning 3

This table displays periodicals and seasonal books ... this is done mostly for me. :)

Lesson planning 21

I start the planning "process" by first making a hot cup of tea ... moving the cat off my chair ... retrieving a pencil from the toddler ... neatening the table ... and pruning those book piles. Some books go back to the library bag (or storage downstairs), once I've made note of them in our portfolio. Actually, "portfolio" is probably too formal a word for what I'm keeping right now, but at the end of the year I hope it applies!

Next, I open up my planner and fill in our agenda for the week ahead:

What classes/activities/appts. do we have?

What things do we need to turn in or remember to bring?

Are there library holds in or books due?

What days are of note? Will we work them into our home learning?

(This week we have - Grandma Barbara's birthday, National Chocolate Cake Day, St. Thomas Aquinas, National Carnation Day, Days of the Blackbird, St. Brigid's Day, February begins, Parish Breakfast, The Superbowl)

What's the weather looking like this week?

Anything special happening at Church?

I then have Crackerjack sit with me (or he stands beside me, eager to get back to whatever he was doing) while we go over his work for the week. His classes were a bit overwhelming last semester, so he came up with an idea to make himself an assignment board. I thought it was a great idea and left it entirely up to him to create and maintain. He found an old white board downstairs and unearthed a dry erase marker (which we mostly hide because EB does bad things with them) and set this up ...

Lesson planning 7

I transfer CJ's assignments to my own grid ...

Lesson planning 20

(As you can see, I didn't retrieve that pencil from the toddler quickly enough!)

 The top side of this sheet is for Crackerjack and the back side (seen below) is for Earlybird. I'd been writing these notes rather randomly, but have decided to keep formal weekly lesson planning in a new section of my journal binder. (One of the reasons I love doing these Q&A posts is it gets me to assess what I'm not doing well!) This is just a trimmed down piece of legal pad paper - I like how the yellow paper stands out.

(I will post more about this new journal section later this week, but here it is pictured below.)

Lesson planning 8

Also, the index card seen on CJ's  planning page is another "system" I've used from time-to-time: daily task cards. I'm giving it another go to see if I can get us back on a steady track. (The holidays kind of derailed us ...) These cards, as their name implies, are for assigning daily lessons and other tasks ...

Lesson planning 6

 I have a little plastic basket that fits index cards perfectly and I have one per day per child. Right now, though, I'm just using this system with Crackerjack. Each day Crackerjack gets a card that details what he needs to remember to do - like, put out trash, finalize art project, complete math lesson, fill birdfeeders, pray for a specific intention, etc. We have this neat little photo holder from Disney World and it holds the card of the day perfectly - CJ keeps it next to his computer in the living room. 

Ok, back to the planning ...

I then look through my in-basket, book piles and journal pages for things to record:

Videos watched - lately it's been Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Liberty's Kids, and Popular Mechanics for Kids.

Magazines read - Skywatch, Highlights, Trains, and The Baker's Catalog.

Books read/chapters listened to - currently we are reading Little House in the Big Woods and we are LOVING it. It's the perfect book to listen to at this time of year.

Any papers done, printed out, drawn/colored ...

Any things EB said or did that demonstrated a new skill or comprehension, independence, his sweet sense of humor, etc. I'm usually jotting those things down in my daily journal.

As I plan for Earlybird, I don't use a subject grid like I do for Crackerjack (though I'm trying to come up with a life skills goal sheet that would be a bit more formal). Rather, I brainstorm miscellaneous ideas for the week ahead ...

Lesson planning 22

Here's a closer look in case anyone is curious ... :) 

Lesson planning 18

Then each day I decide what might be a good fit for us (for him). I make sure my book requests are made at the library (it usually only takes a day or two to get them in) and I make note of any materials I need to pick up at the store. (Seems we'll be doing some baking this week!)

(Note, we've just learned a blizzard of "potentially historic" proportions is heading our way for Tuesday. So, first of all, YIKES - but second of all, this would be a perfect opportunity to look at the science of snowstorms and research record snows in New England ... so I've added these notes to my list.)

So it's not all that organized, and there's certainly no guarantee we'll get all of it (or even most of it) done ... but it's been working pretty well for us this year. I just need to remember to sit down periodically and revisit the overall goals I made for the year, and see which areas need attention. For instance, EB listens and comprehends literature quite well - if I have him "trapped" in the van, lol. At home, he's more "free-ranging" so I try to catch his attention when I can. He can be very resistant to seatwork so I struggle between making allowances for what are legitimate issues and pushing him a little ... do I make him get used to it or will it make him hate it even more?

That, however, is probably a post for another time: How do we work with our special needs children at home? How do we make learning enjoyable for children who struggle with rigidity and extreme sensory issues? And still make progress? Idea-sharing would be wonderful!

***

Well, ok then - I think I'd best wrap up or I'll never hit "post," lol. I am sure I left a lot unsaid - which seems crazy after this mammoth post, but I could have talked more about planning a year in advance (generally speaking), keeping track of progress (weekly/monthly) and other assessment/review methods ... mind you, just the way I've done it! Not as a "how to" guide by any stretch of the imagination. I may be a "veteran" homeschooler, but I'm still figuring things out as I go along!

Also, before I forget, I wanted to mention two other post ideas that were suggested to me by my friends Shirley Ann and Emma. I have these in queue as well ...

* How do we keep our Sundays special, for our families and ourselves?

* How do we find time and create space in our daily routine for quiet contemplation, personal prayer and spiritual goals?

*

Thank you you all so much for joining me today ... I'd love to hear about your lesson planning methods if you'd care to share. If you have a moment, please leave a comment below. :)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friends. If you're in the path of nasty weather - hold tight and stay safe! I'll see you here again very soon ...


Feeling Septemberish ...

"I guess I'm just feeling Septemberish," sighed Chester. "It's getting towards autumn now. And it's so pretty up in Connecticut. All the trees change color. The days get very clear - with a little smoke on the horizon from burning leaves. Pumpkins begin to come out."

~ Chester Cricket, A Cricket in Times Square

*πŸ‚*

This is a lovely quote from the audiobook we're listening to this month. I've read this book a few times before, but listening to it with Earlybird - in the van as we drive around town, running errands and/or bringing Crackerjack to and from his classes - I'm absorbing it on a whole different level. For one thing, we listen to it over and over again - and we backtrack, constantly. Which is perfectly ok and to be expected. Honestly I am just so thrilled that Earlybird is truly paying attention and enjoying it!

September's a fine month to learn about crickets - we hear them all around town and especially in our own back yard. A few things we've done ...

* Read library books about crickets and grasshoppers.

* Colored pictures for the science notebook.

* Listened to cricket vs. grasshopper song online.

* Mimicked cricket song with a comb and a stick.

* Added a dead grasshopper and field cricket to our nature shelf (found in the driveway). 

* Checked the temperature by counting cricket chirps.

* Read aloud a poem called, "Crickets."

* Hopped like a cricket along a number line.

* Befriended a real-live grasshopper ...

O and the grasshopper 1

:)

So it's been a busy month so far, but I'm happy to say, things have been pretty balanced. I'm doing a lot of advance planning and prep and that's helping a lot. I do feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things ... :)

(And p.s. the older boys are also doing well ... Bookworm is a sophomore in college and Crackerjack is a sophomore in (homeschool) high school. What that means for CJ is he takes some classes with other homeschoolers and does the rest of his studies at home. Small classes and independent study - the best of both worlds!)

So that's all for now, but I have several other posts in draft form ... I thank you for your patience as my blogging very sloooowly picks back up again. I hope you and your loved ones are having a great start to the "new year!" Have a great weekend, and ...

See you here again very soon ...