Summer Feed

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!


Welcome, High Summer!

Vintage sunflowerGood Monday morning, my friends! I hope you are all having a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Today in my seasonal calendar we are leaving Spring behind and diving deep into Summer - and what a morning it is: sunny and warm, with the garden all aglow and a-buzz. How I love this glorious time of year! For the next nine weeks I hope to weave as much summer joy as I can into our family life ... little traditions, easy activities and simple observations. To that end, I have assigned each week a theme, and created a new set of planning sheets - which you are welcome to use if you wish!

Below are links to the PDFs of these sheets - please let me know if you have any trouble opening them.

High Summer Planning Sheets (7/4-9/3)

Home Learning this Week (High Summer)

(Note: all images were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use.)

I will do a follow up post later this week to show you how I'm using these sheets in my daily/weekly planning - and expand a bit on the themes - but for now, I hope you enjoy ... and I hope you are all enjoying a lovely start to your Summer!

🌞

p.s. If you'd like to see my previous seasonal planning sheets, you can visit my printables archive. So far there are sheets for Deep Winter, Early Spring, Late Spring and now, High Summer. :)


A Craft to Celebrate the Summer Sun!

Solstice branch 2

Hello everyone, and Happy Wednesday! 

I wanted to share a project I worked on yesterday, in celebration of the Summer Solstice and all the plentiful sunshine we've been enjoying here in New England. But I can't take credit for this idea ... I found bits and pieces of it on Pinterest while filling up my Late Spring Planning Board. (Gosh, I love Pinterest. What did we ever do before Pinterest?!)

Now, as I've mentioned before, I like to assign seasonal themes to each week of the year. This gives me a chance to weave some seasonal awareness into our busy family life ... because otherwise time just flies by and I find myself thinking, where on earth did that season go? It's all too easy to miss out on the little joys that make each season so special! So this week we are taking note of the Summer Solstice and the brilliant Summer sun. Working off a brainstorm list and an established weekly rhythm, I have activities planned for nature, crafts, food, reading, learning and family togetherness. Some of the ideas will appeal to the younger boys and some will hopefully be enjoyed by us all ...

And some ideas are meant just for me! :)

For example, yesterday I made a decoration for our bright and shiny kitchen window where we all gather to eat and watch the wildlife in our yard. I could have involved the boys but they were busy and content to just observe and take comfort in watching mama work quietly while they went about their day. That said, it's really a very easy project and definitely doable with children of all ages. Materials include branches (one big and several smaller, similarly sized), colorful yarn and embroidery thread, a glue gun and oranges.

Solstice branch 1

(Not to say I didn't have some help ...)

On Monday (nature day), Little Bear helped me gather branches from the yard. We had some stormy weather the other night and it brought down a lot of twigs and branches. LB loves nothing better than driving that wheelbarrow around our yard, picking up leaves and sticks and rocks and whatnot. The ones we found came from our favorite oak tree that lines the drive, and some of the branches will be used in a "bonfire" (fire pit) later this week, while several were deemed perfect for my craft.

Solstice branch 6

On Tuesday morning, I sliced up an orange and placed those slices on a cookie sheet fitted with a cooling rack. The sheet went into a 200Β° oven for 2-3 hours. Once the orange slices (now dry) were cool, I threaded them onto golden embroidery floss and set them aside. Meanwhile, I took the largest branch we found and hung it in the window (by loops of yarn attached to the ends of the branch and small hooks hung just inside the window frame). I had the older (taller than me!) boys help me hang the orange slices from that branch ...

Solstice branch 4

I love how they catch the light and look like little suns themselves!

 Later in the afternoon, while the younger boys played nearby, I made up a few God's Eyes, a craft which has always reminded me of the sun, with its colorful center and radiating arms. From what I understand, a God's Eye (or, Ojo de Dios) is of Mexican origin and is made as a blessing, often for children. I like to make them for the Christmas tree, roundabouts the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and though I've previously made them using popsicle sticks, this time out I chose to use natural twigs. I formed the twigs into cross shapes, attaching them at the center with my glue gun and then wove my designs in sunny-colored yarn. There are many directions to be found online for making this craft - and while I'm not skilled in fiber craft, this is so simple and satisfying!

Solstice branch 5

Finally, I attached the three God's Eyes to the branch and our Summer Window was set ...

Solstice branch 3

This window faces south so it gets plenty of light ... I love how this looks here!

Today, Wednesday (modeling day), we are making a salt-dough sun plaque for the garden. Or I should say we might ... if we have time! It's also Bookworm's (21st!) birthday so there's a lot going on, including a special dinner for the birthday boy! If we don't get to making our sun shape today, we'll try to work on it tomorrow ... 

{It's always good to make plans and follow a rhythm, but as in all things, flexibility is key!}

Before I go, here are some of the books we're reading this week:

Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven

The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow

Summer by Gerda Muller

The Longest Day by Wendy Pfeffer

The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson

It's a lovely week - the Solstice, the Full Strawberry Moon, Bookworm's birthday and Midsummer Eve/Day - aka, the Nativity of St. John. So many things are blooming in our yard - I gathered a bunch of flowers to dry over my kitchen sink for future crafts ...

Summer flowers 1

🌞

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you are all doing well and that your week is being kind to you. Happy Summer to all and see you here again very soon ...


A Fresh Start: Late Spring Planning Sheets (Printables!)

Fresh start button small
Well, with not a second to spare, here at long last are my Late Spring Planning Sheets! I'm very sorry I took so long in getting these to you ... there are nine weeks in the season of "Late Spring" (May and June) and they begin on this very Monday!

Still, I hope you find them fun to read, and perhaps helpful. As with my Deep Winter sheets and Early Spring sheets, you're welcome to print them out for your own personal use. The PDFs below include my own Late Spring Overview as well as a clean copy for you to use ... the home learning planning sheet (in seasonal colors) ... and then planning sheets for each week of the Late Spring season (5/2-7/3).

("High Summer" will begin on Monday, July 4th ... and I will aim to make those available well before June's end!)

So! Without further ado, here are those PDFs ... followed by some notes on how I'm using them. 

Late Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Late Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week

Late Spring Planning Sheets (5/2-7/3)

***

Now, for a few notes ...

My "Late Spring Overview" probably looks pretty ambitious, but it certainly is not set in stone. These are simply ideas I have for each week - and I'm full of ideas! - but not all come to fruition. Still, I enjoy setting these weekly themes because they encourage me to weave some seasonal blessings into our family's everyday life. Sometimes themes get postponed or continued, and that's ok! Because life happens as it happens, not always according to my own "seasonal plan!" I also use this outline as a prompt for future posts and/or chapters in my (still-in-the-works-but-slow-going) book. :)

I use the "Home Learning This Week" sheet for organizing lessons and goals for my younger three boys. (My oldest is a junior in college!) On the lefthand side I jot down activities mostly geared towards Little Bear and Earlybird, according to each day's rhythm:

Monday - nature play/walk

Tuesday - draw/color/puppet play

Wednesday - model with dough, listen to stories/verse

Thursday - craft project/paint, listen to music

Friday - bake at home/ field trip

Weekend - family time/faith-based activity

On the righthand side of this sheet I list specific academic goals for each of my boys - Crackerjack (10th grade), Earlybird (special needs 6th grade) and, eventually, Little Bear (who will be three at the end of the month).

And as for the "Weekly Planning Sheets" themselves, well, I use them for creating an overview of domestic and seasonal plans (natural and liturgical) and I'm still working on where I want to store them. In the past I have stapled them to my file crate folders, but currently I'm keeping them in a section of my home keeping binder, along with a (hand-drawn) weekly agenda. I use a small binder clip to make it easy to flip back and forth between the weekly planning and my daily journal page. For detailing my day - the nitty-gritty, must-do, right-now kind of stuff - I use a "Day Designer" which features a separate page for each day. And as I JUST received my brand new DD last week ... I will do a tour of it soon and talk more about how I use all these tools together. :)

But I'll wrap up for now since the day is nearing lunchtime and I have hungry kids all around me! I hope you enjoyed seeing and hearing about my planning sheets ... and please let me know if you have any trouble opening these documents. As I've stated before, the images I've used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use ...

So enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends ... and see you here again sometime soon!


Weekend Pics: Goodbye August!

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend! :)

Well, here we are at August's back gate ... tomorrow we step onto September's path! I can hardly believe it, as it feels quite summery here! Lots of heat and humidity - we'll be over 90 later today! I am still working on a few "meatier" blog posts but since life continues to be hectic, and writing time scarce, here are a few pics from the weekend. :)

New bookcase

Nothing like a "new" bookcase in the dining room to make your homeschooling heart go a-flutter! I love organizing bookshelves ... and boy, do the cats love to help! Actually, this is an old bookcase (originally Bill's Grammie's) but it's been in storage since we moved here. I have resisted putting a bookcase in the dining room - I finally have myself an actual dining room and I didn't want to turn it over to homeschooling! - BUT. This is where we keep our homeschooling stuff - usually spread all over the table - and we don't actually use the room for family meals, aside from large gatherings like Thanksgiving. So it just makes sense. I will do my best to keep things "presentable," lol. I am thinking the top of this bookcase could serve as a display shelf for our weekly seasonal themes.

Summer dinner table still life

I just snapped this picture last night as I sat around the kitchen table with my family - our last quiet family supper before the school year gets into swing. I just loved how this all looked - the colors, texture and overall coziness ... :)

Cornfield 3

Here's that cornfield I mentioned in my previous post ... we did swing by this weekend to take a look. Boy was that corn tall and majestic! I love how it sounds as it rustles in the breeze - even if those breezes are hard to come by in this hazy summer weather!

September page 2

And finally, here is some lovely September scrapbooking paper ... goodness, those apples look perfect, don't they? I bought myself a whole new pad of that vintage, seasonal paper I showed you back in January. I am so in love with it and was very happy to see it back in stock at my favorite paper shop. Amazon has it too - here is a link if you're interested. :)

Well my friends, I'd best be off - I've a lot on my docket today! But I wanted to pop in and say hello and share these little snippets of my weekend with you. I hope you are all doing well and getting your week off to a good start! Thanks for stopping by ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

Corn 1
(Plus a bit of book news at the end!)

Happy Wednesday, my friends! Sorry I've been a bit out of touch lately ... we've had a lot going on here at the house these days!

We're gearing up for a new year of home learning, and we're getting Bookworm ready for his move back to BC, and we're starting Earlybird on a new, daily, home-based, fairly intensive, behavioral therapy. All very good things, but all things requiring a lot of time, energy and attention. (And did I mention, energy?) Also, as August winds down, we're trying to squeeze the very last drops of goodness out of this fast-fleeing season ... we'll have warm weather here for several more weeks, but for all intents and purposes, Summer pretty much ends after Labor Day.

So I thought I would share some of my notes for this week with you all! As I have mentioned before, I enjoy shaping my family's year by assigning seasonal themes to each week. This helps me weave in all the little comforts and joys of the season I might otherwise overlook. And though I really get into planning these themes out with all kinds of details, I try not to set my expectations too high. Because real life often runs over my plans, and a particular "theme" might not get explored very much ... so some years we might manage something small (a special recipe, perhaps) while other years we might go all out and really work that theme into our homeschooling and home life! Either way, I think it's always good to have a plan. And to be aware ... I think as seasons pass, the beautiful rhythm of the year truly wraps itself around my family however much attention we pay it. That is my end goal! :)

Anyhoo, this current week is devoted to the very timely topic of CORN. In New England (and I suspect, across much of the country) corn is in its peak season these days. Corn-on-the-cob is just heavenly right now - partaking daily is not out of the question - and cornstalks will factor into our home decorations in the coming weeks ...

But enough gabbing on my part! Here are some of my thoughts:

The Full Green Corn Moon will rise on Saturday, August 29th @ 2:35 p.m., and it's a Supermoon this month! We'll have to be sure to look for it after dark and plan a special farmstand supper - starring corn, of course! - for that night. 

🌽

We'll visit a local corn field ... we drive by it often and always marvel at its size. This time we'll stop the car and get out - observe the field, its sounds and smells. What wildlife is flying overhead or scurrying underfoot? What do we hear? (Is that the corn making that sound?) What can we smell? (Vegetation, earth?) How does the air feel right now? (Hot, humid?) Now, we won't touch these stalks because we don't have permission, but we might visit a local farm and ask to do just that. I'll see what our schedule allows and how much interest has been piqued. Before we go, we'll take pictures of the cornfield from various angles. 

🌽

We'll visit our favorite farmstand and buy plenty of ears of fresh corn. We'll ask where the corn comes from and how many ears they sell each day. We'll buy some to eat and some to use for exploration/activities ...

At home, we'll pile some ears on the table and take out our colored pencils and sketch pad: "Still Life with Corn!"

🌽

We''ll enjoy some nice books from the library all about corn:

Corn book 2

The Life and Times of Corn

Corn book 1

Corn

Corn book 3

Corn is Maize

Corn book 4

The Popcorn Book

Corn book 5

Raccoons and Ripe Corn

(These might be in a basket or set up as a display on a nature shelf.)

🌽

We'll play some pretty lullabies ... and discuss how/why corn was so important to Native Americans

Corn music

Under the Green Corn Moon (Native American Lullabies)

For craft day we'll make a corn husk candle - a small glass votive surrounded by corn husks with a tiny beeswax tealight tucked inside. That will look nice on our table! (We could also try making this or this ...)

Or we could try making a corn husk doll (and research the history behind it) ...

We will pop popcorn for snack ... and we might even make marshmallow popcorn bars for a tasty treat!

We might do a taste test: boiled corn vs. grilled corn. 

On baking day we will make a pan of corn bread, and serve it with honey butter.

🌽

We'll learn a poem called "A Green Cornfield" by Christina Georgina Rossetti. We'll add that poem to our nature journal, along with our pictures/sketches.

 The earth was green, the sky was blue:
I saw and heard one sunny morn
A skylark hang between the two,
A singing speck above the corn;

A stage below, in gay accord,
White butterflies danced on the wing,
And still the singing skylark soared,
And silent sank and soared to sing.

The cornfield stretched a tender green
To right and left beside my walks;
I knew he had a nest unseen
Somewhere among the million stalks.

And as I paused to hear his song
While swift the sunny moments slid,
Perhaps his mate sat listening long,
And listened longer than I did.

🌽 

We'll consider "Kansas Corn Field," a painting by artist John Steuart Curry in 1933:

Corn 2

***

I also have notes for some Indian Corn activities but I'm not sure if I can get it at the nursery yet. Also, those might wait for a later week in the fall. This week is really more about fresh, or green, corn. :)

So there, in a nutshell (or a kernel!) are my simple ideas for celebrating the goodness of corn during this last week of August. Remember - they're all just possibilities! I can't imagine fitting them all in in any one given year.

How do you enjoy corn at this time of year? Perhaps you grow it yourself or have a favorite recipe ... let me know in the comments below! In the meantime, and before I go, I wanted to mention my book briefly, because I've had a few people ask recently about how my progress is going ...

So, I have been working on it this summer - here and there, not as often as I'd like! - but it took me a while to get going because I wasn't entirely sure WHAT I wanted to write about. I have a few subjects I enjoy very much and there are a few topics people ask about more than others ... well, I finally found my focus! And that enabled me to get rolling ...

I am going to do a book about the file crate system - describing how I do it (and why) and the basics of setting a system up for yourself. That will be the first half of the book ... the second half will focus on seasonal learning (and living) ... and how I use my FCS to manage my family's year. So my hope is to have an outline of 52 (weekly) *seasonal* themes to present  along with activities and books and observations. And tips for using the folders to make it all happen! (Or most of it ... some of it ... well, you get the picture!)

Sometimes when I describe this it all sounds so straight forward and simple - these are my two favorite topics, after all! It seems like the two sides of the equation should work well together ... I need the folders to make the plans happen! But it's possible I may need to separate the two topics ... goodness knows I can get wordy!

(Case in point, this post.)

I will most likely be self-publishing so I'll need to do a WHOLE lot of research into that. I have my eye on a neat contraption that will allow me to bind things at home ... and I am looking into permission for using things like scrapbook papers and poems, illustrations, etc. 

Much to do, much to do! But I'm excited ... so I wanted to update you all .. and I will of course keep you all posted. For the time being, if you have a prayer to spare, or good energy to send, I would be grateful ... I'm desperately trying to find the time in my new schedule to just ... get 'er done!

 :)

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


Thoughtful Thursday: August Gardens

August garden 1

"There is no lack of produce in August gardens, the best of which is saved for the fairs and reunions. Jars of golden mustard pickles and crisp green cucumber slices wait in rows in the cool cellar. String beans and corn relish are counted by the dozens of jars. Jams and jellies in sparkling colors await such special occasions. Herbs are hanging from the rafters in the warm, dry shed, soon to be pulverized for winter's use, but green herbs are plentiful in the garden for fresh salads: lettuce, parsley, tarragon and chives, savory, thyme and chervil. There is no lack of garden stuff for family reunions, no indeed. Even the tomatoes are ripe, the better to flavor a casserole of summer vegetables."

From The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac by Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor) - one of my FAVORITE resources for seasonal planning. I have all those pulled out right now, in a lovely stack in my workspace ... :)

Speaking of tomatoes and casseroles of summer vegetables - here's a recipe I pinned this morning and can't wait to try ... sounds delicious! :)

And here's a bit more from the August chapter, if I may share ...

"Summer falters. Mornings taste of autumn; evenings close in earlier, quietly, no longer filled with melodies of garden birds. Only the thrush may still be heard singing, or a robin calling. A cricket chirps at the door-rock and cicadas forecast first frost ("six weeks from the first song of the cicada"). Swallows gather on telephone wires and sweep through the late summer air to gather such feasts as they may. Elderberries and blueberries are dead ripe. Goldenrod lifts its fringed blossoms over the stone walls. Butterflies hover over the hollows and ditches where joe-pye weed blooms in soft purple drifts. In years gone by, to cure fevers tea was made from joe-pye weed and its sister plant, the white boneset. In the woods' damp shady places, Indian pipe rises in its ghostly white and we stoop to examine it in wonder and delight ... "

(Remember when I showed you our Indian Pipe growing by the mailbox?)

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are all having a nice week. It's flying by is it not? Thursday already ... I am taking pictures right this minute (or in just a few) of my daybook's Thursday-Friday page so I can share how I'm using it. Really having fun setting up my lesson planner for the new year, too ... there's so much promise at this time of year!

Thanks for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

*image from Let's Grow a Garden by Gyo Fujikawa


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!


How about some Midsummer News?

Good Tuesday morning, my friends! I was working on my sidebars this morning, when I came across this fun little newsletter I wrote back in 2012 ...

Newsletters

 Some of you received one of these in the mail! :)

Whether you got one of those initial mailings or not, you can still read my newsletter by clicking on the nest icon over there on the righthand side of my blog (just below my Facebook feed) or just click on the link below:

Midsummer News, 2012

I thought I would share it with you all once again since it is very timely and chock-full of seasonal inspiration! (If I may say so myself ... ahem!I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it perhaps sparks some ideas for this time of year ...

I'm working on my Early Autumn notes just now ... so many notes! ... but I must remind myself to stop and savor the Summer before it passes ... time is a-flying as always!

Blessings on your day, my friends ... thanks for stopping by and see you here again very soon!

❀


Summery Pics & Nature Notes

Golden party flowers 2

 Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Ours was very nice - we spent Saturday at Bill's folks' golden anniversary party, and what a special day it was - perfect August weather and lots of family and friends, celebrating a happy, loving couple. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here at the blog but Bill's dad had a stroke last fall and has been recuperating ever since. It's been a very hard road for him - for Bill's mom, too - but he's come such a long way and is doing very well. We're all so happy he's home now and that they were able to celebrate this beautiful day together - they even renewed their vows on the front lawn and it was just a lovely ceremony ...

Anyhoo, the flowers above are from a beautiful arrangement my sister-in-law had delivered on behalf of all the "kids." My mother-in-law sent me home with a small portion and I just love looking at the pretty blooms sitting my kitchen window. The sweet pansy was a Sunday morning gift from Little Bear, a treasure found "for Mama" on a walk with Daddy. :)

Speaking of pretty flowers, here are some from my mother-in-law's garden ...

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She has quite the green thumb as you can see!

Also this weekend, I found these neat plastic page finders at Staples. (Ah, the siren's call of Staples at this time of year ...) I usually make my own out of scrapbooking paper, but these are quite sturdy and fit a 3-ring binder perfectly. I have one in my home keeping binder for marking my place in my domestic journal (my daily notes/clippings log) and another marks where I have current project plans. I also stick post-it notes to the page finder for various things ... but more on all this when I do my binder tour!

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And here's a very cool - kinda weird! - plant that grows in our woodland garden. It's called Indian Stovepipe, or Ghost Plant (or Corpse Plant, ew!) and it pops up from beneath the leaf litter in late Summer. It feeds on fungus in the soil below and does not use chlorophyl as most plants due, hence its lack of color ...

Indian stovepipe ghost plant

And this might be a little more "ew," but I find it fascinating, and so do my boys ...

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A beautiful snakeskin found in one of our stone walls ... there's a garter nest in there apparently. I love how complete the skin impression is! Can you see the tiny eye marks?

(Note: I must publicly apologize to my mother who, I know, is shuddering to see that snakeskin, and who, to this day, wonders where this bug-snake-dirt-and-rocks loving girl came from, lol. I've always loved nature, but it was all flowers and fluffy animals when I was young ... but you know, I grew up to be a mom to four boys - I had to get right down there and explore with them, and flowers don't intrigue them nearly as much as an exoskeleton or snakeskin! And I find I do love all of nature, and find it so fascinating - miraculous! - even the less "pretty" parts!)

Speaking of nature, don't forget The Perseids are coming this week! (Actually, they're already here, but peaking around 8/12-13.) This annual meteor shower brings beautiful shooting stars to the dark night sky ... read more about them here.

Well my friends, that's all I have time for right now ... but thanks so much for stopping by, and have yourselves a great day! I will see you here again very soon ... :)


Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

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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 ... :)

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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. :)

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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!

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


Friday Bits & Bobs ~ Summer Days

Happy-almost-Weekend, my friends!

I just have a few things to share with you today ... some pretty late summer images I thought you'd like to see. (Ack, did I say, "late" summer? Where has the time gone?)

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This is tickseed (Coreopsis) that is growing abundantly in our front yard. I adore all that yellow, and boy, the bees love it too!

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 More yellow - this is the August scrapbook page in my homemade weekly planner. Isn't it pretty? I think sunflowers are a perfect symbol of August ...

(And by the way, Tanya asked me recently how I am using/liking that planner and the honest answer is - to be expanded upon in a future post - I do love it, but I don't use it consistently. And that's partly my fault - and partly the fault of the planner's layout. Luckily I never filled all the pages out so I can re-work them from August forward. So I have been re-tooling the design because I need it to act more as a theme book and less of an agenda ... a place for sketching out ideas and activities (live-love-learn) but not necessarily appointments and household events. But more on all that soon!)

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What could be cozier than a cat curled up in your lap as you read a good book while a storm rages outside? Archie times his visits well - when the toddler is sound asleep for a good hour or more!

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The first morning glory blossom on our lamppost vine ... pretty in purple. Not sure what's going on with the leaves there, but something is finding them very tasty!

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One of those gorgeous grasshoppers I mentioned in an earlier post. Thy are such interesting creatures ... you'd never guess what they look like sitting still after you've seen them in flight.

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And finally, this is a "selfie" from the other day - my younger boys and I, sitting in the sunroom, watching as storms pass over. Earlybird, who as many of you know, is autistic, used to have a strong aversion to picture-taking ... but lately he's not only been open to it, he's even requested it!

Well, my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend ... I will be hammering out those ed. reports with intention to finish and mail them bright and early Monday morning. (Taking a brief break for a haircut! Boy-oh-boy do I need one ...) And once I have the reports out of the way I will focus on my new day-book and sharing with you all how I'm using it ... and big-picture, school year planning ... as well as my binders! Must talk about binders ...

I get so geared up to get organized at this time of year, don't you?

:)

See you here again very soon ...

p.s. Don't forget to look for the Full Blue Moon tonight!


Thoughtful Thursday ... Nature Study

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 "But it's not enough to merely exist," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

(Hans Christian Anderson)

I love how easy nature study can be ... especially in midsummer, when life all around us is bursting with color, sound and smell!

Over the past few days we've been noticing a pretty orange butterfly visiting our herb patch. We can see this spot easily from our kitchen window, along with several bird feeders and the woodsy woods beyond. It's a view I never tire of - and I'm grateful for it each time we sit at the table. Well, while I was watering my pots yesterday, I saw this handsome fella again - perched on a coneflower without a care in the world - and hastily drew the phone from my pocket to snap some pictures. Back inside I showed the family my photos and we started to discuss what kind of butterfly it could be ... not a Monarch surely, but a familiar orange and brown/black ...

A quick google search later (our field guide of choice these days) and a match was found - or so we think:

A Great Spangled Fritillary

It's our best guess!

I made a note in my daily domestic journal - which sits open on the kitchen counter - re ~ the name of the butterfly and the flower it was enjoying. Also under yesterday's date, I had notes about the weather (beautiful summer day! 80s and low humidity at last! brief showers late afternoon ...).  Looking back over those notes I see I also wrote about the blueberry breads I made - and the rhubarb we harvested (tons, because that plant is going crazy) and the grasshoppers that are active along the stone wall ...

Doesn't that all sound so summery ... ? :)

So it wasn't any major project or investigation - in fact, the boys were only marginally aware of my "butterfly moment" ... but they were aware. Nature, as always, was happening around them. It does its thing all the time, whether we pay it attention or not. And, I think, (hope), they couldn't help but absorb some of my curiosity and delight over this simple event. They've watched me embrace life this way this since they were little ...

Another time perhaps I would have stretched this experience into a more involved project ... a big butterfly study or craft or report. A formal journal entry with a poem or quote (like the one above) ... or even a butterfly walk through a local Audubon locale. And all those things are fantastic activities - but they do come with some planning and effort. I love planning those types of things, but honestly, what makes up the the bulk of our family's nature study is simply just being aware - tuning into the elements, the seasons, even our own senses. Remembering where we are in the year, and how it shapes our day. Becoming familiar with the flora and fauna in our own little corner of the world - the trees and plants and birds and bugs and the small furry things that run across our yard. I think that kind of "accidental" learning is equally meaningful when compared to formal studies. The things we know in our bones don't have to come come from books or documentaries or craft kits. They come from an awareness and understanding of the very world around us ... a kind of knowledge we carry with us wherever we go ... and however old we may be.

So whether a nature "event" is planned out and hands-on or simply exists in the background of our busy lives, I feel it matters. I think my boys - my computer-loving, sci-fi/fantasy, gamer boys - are growing up with a real feel for the seasons and an instinctive awareness of the nature around them. Sometimes we take the time to delve deeper, as we will do this academic year with organized outings and scheduled topics - but there will also be plenty of everyday, effortless moments ...

I'll make sure of it. :)

Meanwhile, as I mentioned previously, I am drafting a formal nature study program for the academic year ahead. It will involve multiple ages and abilities (toddler, special needs and high schooler) and it will follow an outline of monthly topics/habitats. I will be very happy to share my initial outline with you all here ... and I hope to have that for you (and myself!) sometime next month.

Well my friends, you all know I can go on and on when I get talking nature, but I'd best wrap up for now. I have a tired baby who's covered in dirt and grass and lunch stains and very much in need of a bath and a nap. He met a dragonfly this morning and was enthralled ... 

O with dragonfly

And his mama, naturally, was thrilled to watch that moment unfold ...

See you here again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday ~ on Summer's Bounty

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"If produce had a holiday, it would be August. All of August. There's just no better time to eat melons, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, and every other fruit and veggie you can pluck from your garden or pick up at a farmer's market ... Enjoy!"

(From Better Homes & Gardens, August 2012)

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I was flipping through my BH&G, waiting for the oven timer to ring, when I came across this quote and I thought it quite lovely ... and so true! I was just thinking about our neighborhood farm stand and what might be fresh there this weekend ... I'm itching to make zucchini bread, and perhaps some peach butter.

How do you take advantage of the bountiful produce at this time of year? Do you preserve it in some way or simply enjoy it fresh while you can? Perhaps you do a little of both?

I haven't done much preserving myself, though some years I put up several jars of my grandmother's picalilli. That's a Labor Day family tradition I would very much like to honor this year! 

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Anyhoo, while I'm here, two more things to share - a link and a recipe ...

From Simple Pleasures of the Garden by Susannah Seton, a recipe just perfect for this time of year:

Vegetable Gratin

2 1/2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium-size green bell pepper, diced

8 smallish summer squashes (such as crookneck, pattypan, ronde de Nice, or zucchini), about 2 lbs. total, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

kernels from 2 ears of corn

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

4 tbsp. fresh basil or thyme, or a combination of both

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup lowfat milk

3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a shallow gratin dish or other baking dish with 1/2 tbsp. of the butter. Place 1 tbsp. butter and the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper; saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Add the squash, corn, and salt and pepper; saute another 4 to 5 minutes, until the squash is nearly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, basil and/or thyme. Stir in the eggs, milk and vegetables.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a crust has formed and a knife inserted into the center comes out nearly clean. Dot with the remaining 1 tbsp. butter, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes longer, until the crust has browned slightly and the edges are bubbling and crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Serves 6.

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Doesn't that sound delicious?!

I will certainly be making this sometime very soon ... I will pick the basil and thyme from my deck and I'll get the rest of the produce at the farmstand down the street. And I'll see what I can find for local milk, eggs, butter and cheese ... I can't wait to try it!

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Also, here's a follow up to the local-food challenge article I posted about earlier this month:

"Shop-Local Challenge Trickier than I Thought"

{I'm really enjoying reading about her journey!}

Well, my friends, thanks for checking in and leaving your thoughts if you have a chance ... I hope you all have a pleasant night! 

See you here again very soon!


A Summer's Day by the Sea

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Not at the shore, exactly, but rather, above it - in the woods that run alongside it. Today we spent some time exploring the rugged beauty of our coastline and learning about quarries and the New England granite industry. I'd like to share some pictures from our day, if I may - we had such a nice time and the weather was so beautiful.

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Crackerjack was signed up for a geology class run by the state DCR (department of conservation and recreation), which is the oldest regional park system in the country. They always offer amazing programs and their rangers are just wonderful. This class, organized by my friend Kristen, was a follow-up to a geology class we took last month with our homeschool group, at yet another state park in the area. The earlier class was set deep in the woods (unraveling the history of the rocks found in our area) while this one took place alongside the sea and above the remains of an old quarry.

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So while CJ and I took the class, Bill (who took the day off from work) and Earlybird explored the park, while Bookworm visited with friends.

More pics ...

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In that last picture, our ranger, Megan, was demonstrating how to split granite. The kids were just enthralled ... you could hear a pin drop as she worked, because everyone was listening for the "crackle" that granite makes when it's stressed. But wouldn't you know it, just before she cracked that block open, my camera battery exhausted itself. (Quite literally - the message on the screen said, "battery exhausted." So unfortunately I didn't get a final picture of the split block!

(But I promise she did spit the block, and the block did crackle just before it gave way ... very exciting stuff, I must say!)

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It was a real treat to have Bill with us today - he drove us in the RV, so we really arrived in style. ;) It made the longish drive (made even longer by that darn summer traffic) a little more comfortable ... and having Dad with us made today's experience all the more fun and memorable - because all five us got to enjoy the beautiful weather and breathtaking views.

So I hope you all had a nice day, too. Thanks so much for stopping by and allowing me to share our Monday with you ... have a good night, and take care ... I will see you again sometime soon!

❀


Midsummer Beauty

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Yesterday was Midsummer's Day - also known as St. John's Day (the Birth of St. John). The weather was lovely and we spent a good bit of time outside ... I roamed the yard taking pictures of this and that. Above we have a tea rose blooming at sunset ... my pink and orange coneflower plants  ... an abandoned bird's nest ... the tiny bunny who calls our yard home ... and the Midsummer Eve moon - a milky crescent perched high in the western sky.

Today brings a gray and mild morning ... it feels nice, actually - the soft breeze coming through my window as I type up this post. Heavy rain will be arriving in a few hours - thunder and all - so we'll plan our day accordingly. How I enjoy having the freedom to do that. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends - I hope you have a wonderful day! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you again sometime soon!

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Let's Discuss: The Household on Hot Days

KG hot day

"It was hot and she did her housework early, then closed the windows and drew the shades as she had seen her mother do. When Joe came in from work, he remarked with satisfaction that their apartment was the coolest spot in town."

~ Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy's Wedding

Well it's going to be scorching here in New England today - again! I'm going out very early to do the food shopping and then we'll stay in, and try to stay cool. Thankfully, this heatwave will be brief, and we do have AC, so I really can't complain ... but I often think of my grandmother on days like these. She had such a knack for keeping her house cool, even on the hottest of days. My grandparents' house never had air conditioning ... they just relied on good air circulation, drawn shades and several well-placed fans. My brother and I often stayed overnight at my grandparents', especially during the summer, and I can't remember an unpleasant night's sleep. Gram's bedsheets were the coolest things you could imagine, smooth and so comforting ... with a light bedspread and a fan blowing, sleep was surprisingly easy to find.

So with respect to the upcoming season - which brings heat and humidity to much of the country (and world) - how do you "beat the heat" in your household? How do you keep your home and family comfortable on the hottest days of the year? Do you have air conditioning in your home or do you manage using other measures?

What are some of your "keep cool" methods?

Summer's upon us and I'm thinking about how we prepare and adjust ... for both the pleasures and challenges of the season. So if you have time, please leave me your thoughts!

And as always, I thank you ... and wish you a wonderful day!


Simple, Summery Fun

To celebrate the arrival of Summer, Earlybird and I worked on two simple, seasonal crafts today. The first thing we did was to make a pitcher of "Sun" Tea ...

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We set this on the deck as the heat began to build (it's a doozy of a day here - high's near 100!). We just filled a clear pitcher with plain water and added five tea bags ...

Then we let The Sun do its work!

And about four hours later ...

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We had fresh, naturally-brewed Sun Tea!

EB had no interest in trying the tea himself, though he did like smelling it, and he did enjoy helping me "doctor" it with ice, sugar and lemon.

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 I thought it was absolutely delicious!

Now, the other craft we worked on was a festive, fruity kitchen garland ...

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We (meaning me, weilding a serrated knife) sliced lemons and clementines into 1/4-inch thin rounds, and then threaded them with twine ...

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Then we strung them up above the kitchen sink to dry!

Don't they look pretty in the soft window light? I plan to hang some small bunches of herbs here (from our garden) as the summer goes along. I told EB that this fruit - so juicy and jewel-like right now - would dry out (preserve) as time went on. Of course, the fruit flies think they've died and gone to fruit fly heaven ... so we'll see what breaks first - my patience or their perseverence!

Earlybird and I also looked at the calendar and talked about the cycle of the year ... how we're just about mid-way through, and that at the opposite end of the year we'll arrive at the first day of winter. I suggested we save the (eventually) dried citrus rounds to use in a homemade holiday potpourri. We even marked it down on the calendar - a craft for the winter solstice - so he can see how time passes ...

And so we'll turn Summer's bounty into Winter's gifts. :)

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So a very Happy Summer to you all! I hope this new season brings your family much joy and contentment. Summer is notorious for flying by so enjoy it while you can!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you again very soon!


Talk About Tuesday: Summer Plans?

English-countryside

I'm wondering what your plans are for your children this summer ... Travel? Camp? Classes?

Whether you homeschool or not, do you make any formal plans for your kids' education/entertainment at this time of year? Or do you just take a breather and let learning (and living) happen as it happens?

I think we do a little of both ...

I truly savor the slower pace of summer ... I love seeing all that free space on my calendar! I appreciate the freedom to spend more time at home ... if we wish ... and I also enjoy the flexibility for family outings and road trips. But I also like to keep my kids' "wheels turning," if you know what I mean, especially when it comes to math and reading.

So this summer we will continue (mostly) daily math lessons, and I'll have a summer reading "project" set up for the younger boys. (I don't worry about Bookworm anymore - he's never not reading, lol.) I don't have a set book list in place yet - but I'm working on it - and I'll share it here just as soon as I can. :)

Senior-to-be Bookworm will also work through a formal science curriculum this summer, but for the younger two, "summer science" will be all about nature study ... gardening, too.

I've also made up a small list of "life skills" I'd like to work on this summer *as well as* a BIG list of summer pleasures I don't want us to miss ...

... tidepooling ... ice cream nights ... fireflies ... bike rides ... picnics ...

Etc.!

So what's up for your brood this summer? Will this summer be different from last?

Please leave me a comment if you have time!

And I'll see you again very soon ...

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