Middle Ages Feed

By George, it was St. George!

His feast day, I mean! Though I will be the first to admit, our day did not come off exactly as planned. It was just too balmy a day ~ we were completely distracted!! And tea - hot English tea? Not when the temps. soared to 85 degrees!

Yes, this summer-like weather has us all knocked for a loop! Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It was just a bit of, ahem, a challenge keeping our focus on lessons with a warm gusty wind blowing through the house, the birds singing like crazy and flying past the windows with nesting material in their beaks. But! We did do a few things, and I'd like to share them with you.


Above is pictured our St. George display. In the background we have books on England, dragons and our Catholic Mosaic book of the week, St. George and the Dragon. Also, on the far right is the wooden framed picture of a St. George holy card. Bookworm made one like this for St. Thomas Aquinas (his patron) and CJ will paint this one in a similar way (red, I'm sure). We didn't get around to finishing this project.

Some coloring pages are taped up on the window (again, partly finished). The boys worked on these (taken from this coloring book) as I read aloud. We didn't get to the narrations or copywork, but we did answer the CM discussion questions, and as always, thoroughly enjoyed the story, as well as a brief debate on the possible "science" of dragons.

On the tabletop we have our dragon's cave in which is posed a dragon and knight, locked in fierce battle. To the right you see some British specialties for the tea we've postponed till Thursday and a floating red rose candle. The rose is England's national flower and one of the symbols connected with St. George. It's hard to tell in this shot, but the table is set with a white cloth and we have a red ribbon set down, making a cross in the middle - just like the Red Cross Knight's flag. A silk red rose lent a nice touch, too. (I got the idea for this table setting in A Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle.)

And in the foreground, as you might have guessed, is the slain dragon, along with the mighty (cardboard) sword. We thought we had him taken care of last fall, when CJ, dressed as St. George, posed with his conquest:


The boys were going to stage a reenactment, but it was far too hot for costumes!

As for teatime? Well, I did partake, just a bit. After Bill got home and took all the boys outside for a while, I sat down for a spell and relaxed. Flowers, tea, "biscuits," a wonderful read ~ and I had my own little British moment.


I have to mention, the tea I sipped was not actually British, but a new variety I found at the natural foods store: Vanilla Rose Decaf. With a touch of sugar and a splash of milk, it was delicious and soothing. (I think it would be great iced!) And the candle? Also found at that same store, it's scent ~ "Hope" ~ is a combination of ... vanilla and rose! I had it lit by the breezy window as the boys played outside. Just lovely.

Well, another warm day is dawning here. We'll take advantage of it before a cool rainy period moves in later in the week. Today we'll be working on math, langauge arts and science (volcanoes) and we'll take a tour of the yard for a bit of nature study. Also, later this afternoon CJ and I will be making his First Holy Cummunion banner at CCD. We'll take pictures, of course (once my batteries recharge)!

Well, my friends, have a beautiful day. Take time to smell those new flowers and open your windows wide to the sunshine and fresh air!

Back to the Learning Board!

It's been a while since I've had the weekly lessons board up and running! At long last it feels like we're back on track.


As you can probably tell, we're studying the earth this week. I must point out a few other things, beginning in the upper lefthand corner:

  • Porcupines - we're just kind of interested in them right now. Fisher cats are making a splash in the local headlines and they are the only predator that can successfully hunt the porcupine. We realized how little we know about porcupines (I'm not sure we want to know about fishers) so we dug up some information - from Big Backyard magazine and The Beginning Naturalist, to start.
  • An invitation to a friend's birthday party.
  • A coloring page of Henry V and his sword (our history topic this week).
  • Some photocopied bits and pieces from various history resources (in addition to Henry V, we also are reading about Joan of Arc).
  • Magic School Bus Inside the Earth, the picture book (we also have the CD-ROM somewhere around here).
  • My grandmother's pie crust recipe (kind of a long story involved here, something to do with Earth Day - more on that later).
  • The map with the stars is a project I "borrowed" from Suzanne. The stars show all the 4Real children who are making their First Holy Communion this spring! Isn't it a lovely idea for these children to pray for one another as their big days approach? CJ was so happy to apply each and every star, and it was a great geography lesson to boot!
    • If you have a child making FHC soon and would like to leave his or her name and home state in my comments, please do and we will add you to our map - and our prayers!
  • Finally the Earth book we're using - DK Eye Wonder: Earth, in conjunction with a science encyclopedia for meatier info., and a chart of the earth's layers.
  • Oh! And there's our Earth Day reminder, smack dab in the middle of the board. (It's this Sunday, by the way.)

A few more pictures from today:


Coloring and labeling cut-away earth diagrams. The apple was for illustration - and morning snack. :) (That's Koala Krisp in the mugs in case you were wondering.)


A favorite picture book, timely for this study and this week. The apple peels were brought directly to our compost bucket beneath the sink. (We'll talk more about compost and soil later in the week.)


To make the earth chart, I cut up strips of construction paper (with a little help from my friend there) and then the boys helped me arrange them in the appropriate order:


As you can see, the earth's layers are represented by varying colors. They are surrounded by pale blue atmosphere and, further out, by starry black space.

So now that the board's all set, it's on with the work! Have a great night, everyone. See you in the a.m. - or sometime roundabouts. :)

Back to Business!

After a long and happy Easter break, we are back at lessons today. I'm so ready! I think the boys are too. Our learning room no longer resembles a small restaurant - this morning it's back to all business! (Well, except for the part where we watch the Red Sox home opener this afternoon!)

The table and chairs have been wiped down, the book display has been refreshed, the tote bags hauled back out to their stations - even the bulletin board is renewed!

Here's how the learning room looks early this morning:


Sorry for all the glare - this room is full of windows and gets a lot of light!


Above you see what we did with the Alleluia letters - we made a golden banner! It will hang over our learning/dining table the whole Easter season. (I used a hot glue gun to adhere the letters to the ribbon, but notice the dangly last letter? The hot glue ran out at that point, lol!)


Our prayer corner has some leftover Easter roses, our crucifix, a candle and a holy card. This coming Sunday's gospel theme is peace, and we will be discussing the dove, as a symbol of both peace and the Holy Spirit. 


Our weekly bulletin board has just one item so far, a representation of April's devotion, The Blessed Sacrament. This will tie in nicely with our final preparations for CJ's First Holy Communion. (The craft is a small construction paper circle with a red cross drawn on it, set against a golden doiley.) I will fill in the rest of the board later today.

And here's a look at our next week (or two). There's a lot here, so surely some of it will spread into next week:


  • Saxon Math 7/6 (BW) - daily lesson
  • Seton Math 2 (CJ) - daily assigned pages
  • Little Folks Number Practice (EB)
    • Math-related board books


  • BW
  • CJ
    • Language of God A
    • My Catholic Speller A
    • Devotional Stories for Little Folks
    • Basket of early readers
  • EB
    • Speech at home and therapy
    • Book basket this week (new selections)
      • Work on attention
    • Little Folks Letter Practice
    • Alphabet flash cards


  • Story of the World 2: Chapter 26 "France and England at War"
    • Read, narrate and answer review questions.
    • Mapwork
    • Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid (read aloud; on order)
    • Find out when Saint Joan's Feast Day is ...
    • Make a holy card from an online image, preferably something medieval.
    • I might preview this movie from the library.
  • Check out Monticello website on Friday, Thomas Jefferson's birthday.
    • Contemplate: "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Science/Nature Study:

  • Watch PBS documentary on plight of ocean animals.
  • Discuss environmental messages in Happy Feet.
  • Begin new element for April: dirt (earth/soil)
    • What is the earth crust made up of?
    • What happens under the earth - by nature and man?
      • Dig and look!
      • Watch road construction on our street (how timely!).
    • Check on our compost pile; read about composting.
  • Look for deer tracks in mud behind fence.


  • Thursday Tea: Peace be with You!
    • Read Sunday's gospel (Jn 20:19-31)
    • Bake peace cookies (almond sugar cookies, cut into dove shapes)
    • Make a "peace be with you" banner
    • Do a dove coloring page
    • Review sign of peace protocol - practice at dinner as a family.
    • Discuss the dove as symbol for peace and the holy spirit
  • Prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday (special red & white dinner)
  • April devotion: The Blessed Sacrament

Other Stuff:

  • CJ's first soccer game (ever!)
  • BW's Tweens Activity Night
  • Red Sox home opener!
  • My long-awaited haircut :)

Off to get started, now ... enjoy this beautiful spring day, everyone!

Morning on the Farm


Today is National Agriculture Day!

It would be a fine day to visit our local farm and check in on the animals we have not seen in so many months ~ except that it's only 21 degrees! We could make a quick trip to the market and look for locally grown or raised products. I've been meaning to ask the store manager about this ~ supporting our local farms is ever more important these days!

Or, we may just stay in out of the cold and explore farm life at home! We've always wanted to have a little pocket farm, and even though our yard is not nearly big enough for even "pocket" status, we can pretend ... how fun would it be to brainstorm a name for an imaginary farm? Have you ever done that with your children? Even sketched out on paper what you would grow and raise?

We can talk about what farmers do in the early spring. Well, we just learned about how they tap their sugar maples. (Notice our tree above has a small tin bucket hanging from a limb.) They also start seedlings indoors (we can do that) and repair machinery (we've got some toy tractors around here, including a large antique tractor my grandfather painted for Bookworm when he was just a wee one). Lambing is just around the corner, too. Time to start thinking about wool crafts, perhaps?

We can also talk about what we eat today. How many things came from the farm? It would be a fun and educational activity to brainstorm all the things we use in our everyday life - food, wool, candles, honey - that come from our national farms! Do you know what agricultural products are produced in your state?

Here's a short list to get you started. What do we get from:

  • dairy cows
  • beef cattle
  • sheep
  • pigs
  • goats
  • chickens
  • horses
  • turkey
  • ducks/geese
  • rabbits
  • bees
  • gardens
  • orchards

Am I forgetting anything? :)

Here at home we will be reading our farm books today and most likely playing with our farm set (pictured at top). We have a wonderful book called A Farm through Time, which shows the history of an English farm from medieval times through present day. That would be a very fine history lesson today all on its own! I also have a coloring book of the middle ages that shows many scenes from feudal life. Gee, I love it when our lessons plan themselves! :)

A few other favorite farm picture books:

Farm machinery is big with my boys as well. Earlybird is particularly obsessed with fond of tractors right now. We have a show on our Tivo list recorded off The RFD Network that is literally just a parade of old-fashioned tractors. He could watch it for hours! Instead of that, though, for quiet time today we might watch Babe, an old farm favorite. :)

Finally, I put up an old photo album from last year's first farm trip of the season! It was fun to look through it and see how the boys have grown (and my hair, lol!).

Have a grand day, my friends ... and Happy First Day of Spring!

Lesson Planning: Post Two

(Sorry, for the long delay in posting - I meant to post this yesterday but I seem to have come down with a little bug. If you would, please say a prayer the boys don't get it!)

Here is what my plan looks like this week. *Quick disclaimer - please keep in mind, this is a "wish list" - something to shoot for. We almost never (ever) get it all done.*

Before I launch into the details, I just want to say that I write out a page like this for most weeks. (And, yes, I do write it out with pencil and paper - very archaic, I'm afraid!) I am sure there is a much spiffier, more efficient way to do this, but this way just works well with my brain. :)

I also use my month-at-a-glance calendar to keep track of when we are out of the house and when we are home, as well as what special events/feasts we are celebrating. If I have my folder, my calendar and my journal on my counter at all times, along with a well-sharpened pencil, I feel some semblance of control over our week (however imaginary it might be, lol!).

Speaking of calendars, just this past weekend I had a bit of a calendar epiphany. I realized I was trying to keep too many calendars up and running! I have now commited to just one 14-month-at-a-glance, spiral-bound, lie-flat, portable, not-at-all-fancy-but-suits-my-needs kind of calendar. I've been filling it in with colored pencils (liturgcally speaking) and I am feeling "ok" about it. It's not all that pretty, but it is practical - more on that later.

Monday, January 29th - Sunday, February 4th, 2007

Of note: Speech therapy, CCD, Heritage Day-Bake Sale with homeschool group, van going into shop, Homeschool Book Group, co-op meeting here *or* at Valentine-making workshop, feast days (St. Brigid, Candlemas, St. Blaise), spring soccer sign-ups, February begins!

  • Note: This is an unusually busy week for us. I am of the mind that to home educate you actually have to be home. But sometimes activities pile into one week, and we balance our lessons out over the following weeks.

Math: Daily (more or less) Saxon math lessons for Bookworm (7/6) and Crackerjack (2); Little Folks' Number Practice/number drawing/counting books with Earlybird

  • We try to do math first thing in the morning. BW is quite independent while CJ needs me to work with him. EB joins us at the table to draw numbers and shapes, or work in his LFNP; sometimes I have BW help CJ if I get busy with EB.

Langauge Arts: Lingua Mater (BW), Language of God A and Little Stories for Little Folks (CJ), Little Folks' Letter Practice (EB), penmanship practice, vocabulary from Catholic Mosaic and Magnifikid, lots of reading, Homeschool Book Group (older boys) 

  • We do some kind of language arts every day, but what we do varies day to day. Some days we just read a lot. :)
  • Bookworm works in LM twice a week, but CJ works in LOGA every day.
  • Bookworm is practicing cursive writing, something we kind of glossed over these past few years. This year he really likes it and it's clicking.
  • Crackerjack is improving his printing. His capital letters are great; his lower case letters need some work.
  • Bookworm is always reading at least one novel. This week it is St. Thomas Aquinas and The Preaching Beggars, as well as Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony (for Book Group).
  • Crackerjack and I read all kinds of books aloud - picture and chapter variety. This week we are reading Mr. Popper's Penguins (for Book Group) and Days of the Blackbird.
    • Do you know the Tomie dePaola book mentioned above? It is an Italian folktale based on the "coldest days of the year" - January 29-30-31. We'll be reading it this week, in conjunction with our bake sale for a local oil heat fund.
  • EB is working on sitting longer for read-alouds and giving narrations as best he can. He loves to draw letters (and trains).

History: Begin Crusades unit: Read and review SOTW Chapter 18: "The Age of the Crusades," do mapwork, Begin "History of the Sword" notebook (using Coloring Book by the same name).

  • We do history M-W-F for the most part. This is not a hard and fast rule by any means. For example, the History of the Sword coloring book arrived in the mail today and Crackerjack is insisting we begin our notebook tomorrow!
  • We generally try to cover one chapter of SOTW a week, doing the review questions, mapwork and some of the activities. I also try to choose some of the suggested literature from the library. Some chapters, such as this current one, take longer to cover.
  • Books on request at library:
  • On order:
  • I would like to take a look at how the custom of praying the Stations of the Cross began during pilgrimages at this time to the Holy Land.
  • We'll make our own Pilgrim's badges (quick craft from SOTW).
  • In light of Candlemas on Friday, we will talk about fire in medieval society - how was it used? What was its importance?
  • Begin Sword notebooks, as mentioned above.
    • Plan trip to armory museum; look back at castle trip photos.
    • Use tiny "party swords" for cupcakes on Friday; connect with Simeon's words to Mary.

Nature Study: Continue observations. Read chapter 5 , "Woodpeckers" in The Beginning Naturalist. Saturday walk with Daddy - look for "woodpecker trees."

  • Nature study is ongoing, but we try to do some kind of formal reading or discussing or notebooking on Mondays.
  • We are reading one chapter a week in The Beginning Naturalist; the chapters tie in to the seasons.
  • It is such a busy week, I don't expect to do so much nature study. We did spend quite a bit of time watching the windows for woodpeckers (and saw three within an hour).
  • We found a neat birdfeeder project in The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible; we will ask Daddy to oversee the planning and construction.
  • I would like to try to find snowdrops ("Candlemas Bells") at a local nursery, or order them online. At the very least, I want to find information on growing them (they may be a bulb that needs to be planted in the fall).

Science: Explore the element of fire (within reason, of course). Read about heat and light in various science books we own.

  • I try to schedule any science lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • Conduct simple experiments from this book:
    • "Make a Fire Extinguisher"
    • "Candle Race"
  • Show Daddy the chapter on "Playing with Fire" in Earth, Water, Fire and Air: Playful Explorations in the Four Elements; he and the boys can decide which project to try. (There are some neat candle experiments.)
  • Read current Ranger Rick (BW), Big Backyard (CJ) and Zootles (EB).

Religion: Catholic Mosaic (Brigid's Cloak), CatholicMom.com's Mass worksheets, CCD books - go over current chapters (attend CJ's class), celebrate feasts of the week, liturgical tea on Thursday (Irish theme), one chapter from A Life of Our Lord for Children, CJ and BW choose new prayers to learn this week.

  • Today we read Love Is ... recalling Sunday's second reading (Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 13:4-13)
  • We have been setting the timer to watch EWTN's children's programming at 4; I call this Mama's Quiet Hour. :)
  • Our history lessons this week on the Crusades are offering us many opportunities to discuss our beliefs and religion.
  • Feast Days:
    • At our Thursday tea in honor of St. Brigid, we'll serve Irish cheddar, Irish decaf., and Brigid's Bread. Following CM suggestions, we'll make a page for our family faith notebook using blue paper, star stickers and a printed image of St. Brigid.
    • For Candlemas on Friday, we'll choose some of the activities I mentioned in this post.
    • For St. Blaise on Saturday, we might try making herbal candy, using a recipe in China Bayle's Book of Days. (I bought the ingredients and candy thermometer ...)
  • By Thursday we will begin preparing for Mass by reading Sunday's Gospel in Magnifikid. (Luke 5:1-11) Discuss meaning of phrase "catchers of men." The boys will do this coloring page, as I read aloud.
  • Bookworm's patron saint is St. Thomas Aquinas - his feast day was yesterday. He is reading the Vision book as previously mentioned, and making a frame for his holy card.

Music: Listen to The Kids Classical Hour on radio, Saturday morning.

Art: Put up new art print on February 1st, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt  (We use CHC's Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection).

Remember - this is a wish list! It looks like a lot, but we only do what we can every day. We strive to do math, language and religion each day. History and science at least twice a week, and art and music if we can.

I was going to post about our weekly household routine (i.e. bedrooms on Monday, bathrooms on Tuesday - that kind of thing) but once again, this post has gotten very long and I am running out of steam. So I will try to post more soon!

I hope you are keeping well and warm. :)

The Loveliness of Candlemas

On Candlemas, we honor the feast of The Presentation of the Lord ... Lives_of_loveliness_logo_200612_4

Hearing Simeon's Canticle ...

"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation for Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-33)

And continuing a Catholic tradition of candles ...

"Centuries later, and for generations to come, candles will be blessed and lit in abundance on this day to celebrate the Light from Light." (A Catholic Home)

There are so many lovely traditions to Candlemas, it's hard to know just where to start! We won't be celebrating till Friday, but in honor of Suzanne's Loveliness Fair this Monday, I would like to share the ideas I've come across here and there, with you now. And then, later on Friday, I will share pictures and tales from our day. :)

Certainly, I would never be able to incorporate all these activities into one feast day! But I do love to research liturgical ideas - I find it fascinating and the more ideas to choose from, the more interesting our celebration will be!

First, let me share a few links:

1. Candlemas is explained fully at:

2. And a thread from last year at 4Real is full of excellent ideas.

More things we could do:

3. Read from the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40, about the Presentation of Our Lord. Reflect on it as the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, and read this story in our Children's Bible as well.

4. Follow directions in Art 1 for Young Catholics to make a shadowbox production of the Presentation, using a candle and shoe box. 

5. Roll beeswax candles - if the package gets here in time. (Why do I always leave things to the last minute?) Bundle them together and tie up with raffia to bring them to Sunday Mass ...

6. And ask Father to bless our candles for us.

7. Learn about fire (heat, light) this week for science (as an element of earth) and history (how medieval society used fire).

8. Learn about snowdrops, or Candlemas Bells, as they were called by medieval monks due to their blooming around this feast:

"In the early sixteenth century the monks at Melrose Abbey in Scotland, dedicated to Mary, believed that the snowdrop, which grew in the Mary garden there, bloomed on February 2 in memory of the Virgin Mary presenting her child Jesus to the temple ... The pure white flower became an emblem of Our Lady's purity." (Mary's Flowers)

For more information, there is a wonderful page here. How I wish I had them growing in our garden! (Next year for sure.)

9. Read The Story of the Snow Children and enjoy the beautiful illustrations ~ each page is bordered with snowdrops - use them to sketch! Read "The Song of the Snowdrop Fairy" in The Flower Fairies of Winter.

10. Maybeee make a tiny snowdrop fairy doll for the nature table (again, waiting on that package!) with white and green woolen felt.

11. As we are beginning our study of the "History of the Sword" this week, both Simeon's prophecy and the leaves of the snowdrop will be tied in:

"The leaves of the plant resemble miniature versions of iris "sword" foliage, an association with the sorrowful prophecy of Simon: "and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Mary Gardens)

12. Learn and recite this English proverb:

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again."

13. Enter the above saying into our nature notebooks, along with the weather conditions of the day and the Groundhog's prediction!

14. Decorate pillar candles with dried flowers and herbs (found at craft stores) ~ apply them with melted beeswax.

15. According to longstanding tradition, it was customary for the lady of the house to check on the household candle supply today. We will do the same - the boys will help me tally what we have and we'll make up a list of what we need.

16. Discuss the saying "Candlemas - Candle-less." Note sunrise and sunset time in the nature calendar.

17. Make tiny nature candles with melted candle stubs and walnut shells, gold cardstock and birthday candles. (Along the lines of the seashell candle we made here.)

18. Sing songs about light, and particularly, Our Light ~ This Little Light of Mine, for example.

19. Make a toilet-paper tube candle with construction paper and an image of Jesus. This would be good to do with EB who is still very young for most candle crafts.

20. According to tradition, take down every last bit of Christmas greenery on this day. The blessings tree will be put away till next year.

21. Dine by candles only at night. Share with Daddy all that we did and learned.

Whew - so many ideas - a few years' worth I'd say! Obviously too many to squeeze into one day. So I must ask myself, how do I want our Candlemas Day to unfold?

Well, that is the next step in the process ... tune in on Friday to find out! And please stop by Suzanne's on Monday for the Loveliness of Candlemas Fair. I'm sure my list of ideas will be even longer after I do!

It's National Pie Day!

So what did we do? Why, we baked ...


Chocolate-chip cookies of course!

These were for Crackerjack's CCD class. Last week CJ asked if I would ask if we could bring a snack this week. So I did, and the teachers said "Sure!" (Who says no to cookies?) Well, today, we rolled up our sleeves and baked up a batch! I took the recipe right off the Ghirardelli package, and boy, oh boy, were they good. No nuts, no raisins, no oats - just straight up chocolate-chip. The kids loved them and CJ felt like a star.

A few other pictures and notes from today (and yesterday) ...

~ We savored the snow. (It snowed! It snowed! It finally snowed!) It was the pretty, light and easy kind of snow, too. We took a whole bunch of bird pictures - I'll be putting them up at The Nature Corner tomorrow (maybe tonight if I have time).


~ We read about Japanese Samurai in Story of the World Volume II (chapter 17). My boys just cannot get over the fact that these mighty warriors would dance before battle. (I think it was actually just one general the book was referring to, but the image stuck.) The poetry and the gardens they could grasp, but the dancing just had them in stitches.

~ We watched Castle again, because we just love it so. Even EB enjoys it.

~ We tried to start The Trumpeter of Krakow but the tape player died.

~ We tried to start the van but the battery died. (Or something worse; we'll have to wait to hear what the car guys have to say.) Missed speech, but borrowed Nana's car to get  CJ to CCD.

~ We worked on an odd, but fun, writing assignment. It was National Answer Your Cat's Question Day (no I'm not kidding) yesterday. So what do you do on such a day? Well, if you have cats, as we do, you spend a few minutes staring them down, trying to determine what they are thinking. (Cats, if given the chance, could be the world's best poker players.) Then you spend a few more minutes coming up with a creative writing exercise in which you actually answer those questions.

~ We made a card for a seminarian we know who is making his Diaconate Ordination this weekend. Thanks to my friend Jenn, we were able to incorporate the symbol for Holy Orders into the card. Here's how it came out:


~ We read about St. Vincent, a deacon in the early Church, whose feast day it was (yesterday). We read from Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7, as was suggested in Saints and Feast Days. We reviewed the seven sacraments. We popped a photocopy of the card into our family faith notebook.

~ We talked about relics after seeing, and being blessed by, one at church on Sunday. Below is our replica of the relic of St. Agnes. (The actual sacramental was much smaller than this.) We read a bit about relics in Ann Ball's book and then made this project. We filed it in the notebook with a note about the experience.


~ We worked on penmanship a little extra hard today after discovering it is National Handwriting Day (and that would be because it is also John Hancock's birthday today, lol).

~ And I think we did some other stuff, but that is all I can think of right now! ;)

For future reference, we will keep in mind a few wonderful posts about National Pie Day that really are all about pies!

For now, Good night and God bless!

Blessings and Books: What We're Up To ...

Here's our bulletin board for this week:


Notice the letters at the top? :) I used those small flat wooden letters you find at the craft store (I'm a little addicted to them these days), painted them a pale blue and glittered them. Blessed. A nice word for the new year, don't you think? The frosty blue will be nice for the winter. I will change to a new word next season ...



  • "The Whole Duty of Children" by Robert Louis Stevenson (Crackerjack)
  • "The Kraken" by Lord Alfred Tennyson (Bookworm)
  • We'll also pore over this beautiful page of bird poems and illustrations, with particular focus paid to "The Chickadee" by Emerson.


History/Social Studies:


  • Twelfth Night (Bookworm)
  • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (as above)
  • Little Women (This will be the family read-aloud once King Arthur is finished -  we may not start till next week.)

Science & Nature Study:




Sorry this is a bit dark - it's so hard to capture candlelight. The paper craft was an idea from The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation. The holy card is a beautiful gift from a beautiful friend - someone I cannot think of without feeling the mantle of Mary wrapped around me. :) The candles are just wrapped with some lace ribbon. (Side note - these would be a really pretty decoration for a First Communion. There was some less-feminine white ribbon I might use for CJ's party this May.) And if we have time, I aim to make cupcakes such as Alice's or Elizabeth's today or tomorrow. 

Art Study:


  • Listen to the Kids Classical Hour on Saturday morning.
  • "We Three Kings" (sing and play)

Light, Color and Joy

I have been enjoying the blog kept by our Cardinal Sean O'Malley, and in tonight's post he shares photos of several beautiful stained glass windows belonging to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. At the Archdioscese's website I found a wonderful online tour of all the Cathedral's windows - including the stories behind them.

Aren't stained glass windows exquisite? I have such fond Stained_glass_windowmemories of watching the windows during Mass as a child - I loved seeing the colors come alive as the morning sun filtered through. I remember one Christmas morning the light was so bright, I was sure there were angels waiting outside. :)

One evening Mass last spring, I smiled to hear Bookworm remark on this very phenomenon, as he watched the western windows glow in the setting sun. He looked around our church, then turned to me and said:

"Mama, the whole church is lit up!"

And indeed, it was, but by more than the windows. It was lit from within by happy faces, beautiful music, wonderful smells and blessed anticipation.

A while ago I had an idea to begin a small notebook (or lapbook) about stained glass windows. Unfortunately we didn't get too far with it - but I am determined to revive this project again. It would be a perfect complement to our Middle Ages study this year.

I would like to start off by taking a few extra minutes each week to look at the windows in our church. Sometimes we take their beauty for granted  - just now at supper we tried to name as many as we could and it was a challenge! How nice it would be to linger a few minutes after Mass, to stop and admire one window a week and then learn more about the story behind it.

Before I get too far though, I will return to this wonderful thread at 4Real. When I first thought of this project last winter, I knew right where to turn for advice. As usual, all I had to do was ask, and these lovely ladies came to my aid with plenty of ideas and information. I think this will be a fun and meaningful project and I hope to begin it this Sunday. I'll keep you posted. :)

A few initial ideas:

It occured to me as I wrote this post, that in a small way, stained glass windows symbolize what my faith brings to my life - light, color and joy. I feel each of those blessings in so many ways and on so many levels ... but that's a post for another time. :)

In the meantime, God bless and Good Night!

Tea and a Field Trip on Michaelmas!

Usually we do "tea and a craft" on feast days ... and though we did have our tea, the craft part will have to wait for another time because today we whiled away the afternoon hours in a CASTLE!

As you can imagine, this field trip was right up our home-learning alley! We were joined today by our closest friends and fellow co-op-ers (new word alert!) at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Our group was led on a program called "Life in Medieval Society." (And HUGE thanks again, Wendy, for setting it all up!)

Now as you might expect, I took many, many, many pictures at the castle today - so I thought instead of posting them all here in this post, I would make up a photo album just for this field trip. It is parked over there on the right hand sidebar; its title, plainly enough, is Castle Field Trip. I will slowly be adding notes to this photo album, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy our pictures! :)

Before I move on, though, a quick note first about the Castle. To prepare for our field trip, we showed the kids an episode of Fetch with Ruff Ruffman (a new-ish PBS show kind of like Zoom) in which the contestants played out their game at none other than Hammond Castle! Of course their visit was set at night and the castle was all tricked out to appear haunted (we had to reassure a few of the younger ones that the castle was not really haunted nor in the least bit scary) but the neatest part was - the man in the show who acted as their tour guide - was the very same man who led us on our tour today! And he was very nice, very informative and more than a bit of a riot! :) (Some inside skinny - the Fetch episode was taped this past June over a period of two days and nights. The scene where the kids had to go down in the dungeon so badly scared one of the young girls they had to have her parents come to the castle to reassure her! The part where another girl drank from a soup bowl was completely ad-libbed (and regretted). And there was a terrible lightning storm right in the middle of filming!)

As for Michaelmas, well, I think this was a really fun way to honor this feast day! Any kind of festive activity is a great way to mark the special days on our liturgical calendar! Considering St. Michael's role as a protector and defender, knights and armor (particularly swords) really fit in with the day. Plus, the castle was surrounded by wild Michaelmas daisies (we were thrilled to discover) and the gift shop sold swords, dragons AND an archangel statue! (We bought a plastic sword and a small purple dragon; the angel statue was beautiful but out of our price range!)

We did manage to start our day off with a delicious blackberry tea. Because we had a busy afternoon planned, I decided to serve our tea at breakfastime. It began leisurely enough until it dawned on me we were starting Earlybird's Friday speech therapy today - beginning at 8:45 a.m. - and here I was just pouring tea at 7:30! So we ate up rather quickly but not before talking a bit about the archangels (Michael, Raphael and Gabriel) and saying a prayer to each of them. I also found a lovely prayer for this feast day in a book recommended by Elizabeth, called Let's Say Grace: Mealtime Prayers for Family Occasions Throughout the Year. My copy came just the other day, just in time to start our day with this beautiful blessing:

Holy God,

Your care for us is more than we can imagine, and your love touches us in so many ways. As once you sent your archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael to guide and protect your chosen ones, let them be our companions, to lead and watch over us. As we begin the season of autumn may we celebrate your presence in the beauty of nature, and be messengers of your love to all whom we meet.

Bless this meal we now share, and bless all we do in Jesus' name ~ Amen.

Now about that Michaelmas-blackberry connection. :) Well, legend has it that when the archangel Michael threw Lucifer out of heaven (on what would become Michaelmas), the devil landed in, of all places, a blackberry patch, where he promptly spat on the berries, rendering them inedible! So by long held tradition on Michaelmas you should eat your fill of blackberries before they're no good! This is a charming British custom, one I'm only too happy to incorporate into our feast day celebrating.

Now if I had my way, I would take my blackberries in the form of Rebecca's Michaelmas Blackberry pie, but for today we kept things a bit simpler.


This was our Michaelmas breakfast ~ Blackberry Harvest Yoplait (a rare treat for my boys who generally only see Stonyfield Vanilla), biscuits with thick blackberry jam, and mugs of Bigelow Berri-Good herbal tea, sweetened with honey (this is really good iced, btw - and has plenty of vitamin C to boot).

I have to share with you a lovely site from our autumn garden this morning. Remember a few days ago I mentioned that our Easter lily plant seemed on the verge of re-blooming, after spending the whole summer relegated to its pot, and left to its own devices parked by the front gate? Well, today it bloomed! And this lily - the symbol of purity and the archangel Gabriel - looked just lovely against all the autumn blossoms.


We also found what I like to call Michaelmas daisies blooming behind the back fence the other day. (Technically they may be New England asters - but they do bloom just around Michaelmas!)


And so begins a most busy and festive autumn feast season! There are so many upcoming special days to enjoy ~ The Guardian Angels (10/2), St. Francis of Assisi (10/4), Our Lady of the Rosary (10/7), All Hallow's Eve (10/31), All Saints Day (11/1), All Souls Day (11/2), Martinmas (11/11), Thanksgiving (11/24) ... and at long last the beautiful Advent season beginning the most holy and beautiful time of year, as well as the new Church year. There are just so many wonderful opportunities to embrace our faith and celebrate our traditions - such a rich tapestry of colors, flavors, stories and prayers to be woven!

As this day comes to a close, may I wish you all a most blessed Michaelmas and autumn season!

"This day, which comes as the nights grow longer and longer, is the Church's fearless welcome to the dark and the cold." (A Companion to the Calendar)

What We Did Today

Boy, you can tell I really scratched my head over the title to this one. Unfortunately, no snappy phrases came to mind in a timely fashion, so I went with the obvious ...

What we did today:

1. We made an autumn reading wreath.

Crackerjack and I were just finishing up his reading lesson this morning when we got to talking about the books he has been reading and all the books he will be reading some day soon. We always do his reading lessons on the couch, nestled in the corner by the open window. As the leaves sailed by on the breeze we came up with an idea to make a visual record of CJ's reading this fall - an autumn reading wreath:


The white pieces are made out of posterboard, the circle being the wreath base and the leaf a template for the colorful construction paper leaves that will eventually fill in the entire wreath frame. When we read a book together (aloud) it will go on a yellow, orange, or green leaf. Crackerjack's favorite color is red, so leaves of that color will be used for books he has read himself.

This is as far as we got. I will post a picture once we get it up and start adding leaves!

2. We learned about the Book of Kells.

We read in our history spine about how medieval monks helped to return Christianity and literacy to barbarian Europe. (Remember, we covered barbarians last week?) The Book of Kells is an example of an illuminated manuscript scribed by several Irish monks somewhere around the 8th century. It survives to this day, and we were able to go online and see pictures of pages as well as watch an informative video. The most surprising thing we learned? The Book is made entirely of animal skin - paper was not known at that time. Then there's the interesting fact that the Book was worked on only by daylight; fear of fire prohibited scribes from working by candle or (oil) lamplight. No wonder it took so long!

The Book of Kells (which is a representation of the four Gospels) was only briefly mentioned in our Usborne text, so we turned to online resources for more information. I found this site to be concise and thorough. (Though being mostly Irish myself I love this site anyway!)

We also chose pages from Color Your Own Book of Kells to work on today. There were many to choose from, but we went with the Lion symbolizing St. Mark for two reasons - 1. I thought the boys would like the lion figure and 2. this Sunday's Gospel is from Mark! After a few clues, the boys caught on and as they colored I read this Sunday's Readings and Gospel aloud from Bookworm's issue of Magnifikid.

Here are the boys' pages (Bookworm top, Crackerjack, bottom):



These will be filed into the history notebooks.

I had wanted to have Bookworm read Augustine Came to Kent, but my library doesn't have a copy. So instead, tomorrow we'll read Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola. We'll look at a two-page spread of the Maria Laach Abbey inside Great Buildings and peruse our Monastery Greetings catalog, too! (Completely off-topic but I think this Christmas soap made by Trappist nuns in Norway sounds - pardon the pun -heavenly!)

We also did math (natch) and we read through the Ranger Rick that came in the mail today. Crackerjack practiced printing, Earlybird colored (trains today) and Bookworm spent a lot of time working on his Mario story.

We ate marshmallows and looked at clouds as we talked about this coming Sunday's First Reading (Numbers 11:25-29). Crackerjack colored the weekly Scripture symbol and we finally began our Celebrating the Gospels banner. I find reading and talking about Sunday's liturgy a few days ahead helps the boys pay better attention and feel more included at Mass.

And on the homefront? Well, I did the dishes, but I didn't fold laundry. I filled the birdfeeders - with helpful little hands - and then vacuumed up the "extra help" afterward. I made notes for celebrating the angel days which begin tomorrow, but realized I forgot to order the spring bulbs. I didn't go grocery shopping as I had planned, but instead had dh pick up milk and a pizza. The dear man also brought me home apple turnovers, so you can guess what I'm doing as I type up this post. :)

And before I go to bed, I am going to go back and re-read Jennifer's beautiful post at As Cozy as Spring. Because it is perfect. It is just a simply perfect post and I am in perfect agreement - these days are all gifts. Every single one of them. Full or quiet, productive or not so productive - the point is we're here, we're together, and we're learning all the time.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring. :)

Good night and God bless!

More on the Middle Ages

Just a week from tomorrow we begin our new learning year! As usual, I am still ironing out all the details. But, at least one subject is now neatly pressed and relatively wrinkle-free, thanks in part to a Sunday spent - by sun and candlelight if you will - working on our history plans! Naturally I am now going to tell you all about them. Hang on - this is a long one ... :)

As I mentioned a while back, I am using the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History as a spine for our studies this year. I just love this book and highly recommend it for anyone with children interested in history. Every page is filled with great graphics, interesting details, well written text AND internet links to support and expand upon the topic at hand. For instance, when we read about the Anglo-Saxons, we will follow the Usborne link to several interesting webpages, via which we can visit an Anglo Saxon village, see Anglo Saxon artifacts - even talk with an Anglo Saxon villager! All these sites are right there - it would take me hours to research such sites on my own. (And by the way, my new favorite Usborne resource is Donna Marie's Bookshop!)

The following plan may seem way too detail-oriented (or maybe not enough, depending on your style!), but it's convenient for me to have a general outline of topics to follow, especially when requesting library books and planning projects in advance. As always, there is lots of wiggle room. If, say, we are taken up by the story of Robin Hood (which I have a feeling we will) we can certainly stray from the plan and follow that path through the forest primeval for a while. ;)

The History Notebooks: The older two boys and I will each keep a binder in which we'll store our Middle Ages work. Inside we'll keep a timeline, mapwork, narrations, coloring pages, reports, projects and field trip descriptions.

Unscheduled additional topics: Arthurian legend, the liturgical year in medieval life, Marian devotion and gardens, saints of the middle ages, bookmaking, heraldry, weaponry, the legends and science of dragons ...

The Living Books: I'm still in the process of finding good living books to include, and figuring out what we'll read, when. Here are the titles I've found so far; some are for Bookworm, some are for Crackerjack and some will be family read-alouds. (Please leave a comment if you can recommend any resources!)

The Outline: Below is the general breakdown of our Middle Ages study as it will unfold this year. Generally, each numbered item (topic) will be covered within a week's time or so. There are 26 topics to cover within the 34 weeks (give or take) we call our "school year" - voila the wiggle room! After each topic I've listed the sub-topics we'll investigate and any books assigned to that week.


1. The Byzantine Empire ~ Constantinople, Emperor Justinian, Byzantine art - mosaics and icons, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Discoveries: Great Buildings

2. Return to Christianity ~ Irish monks, Augustine Came to Kent, Color Your Own Book of Kells, map of Barbarian kingdoms, A Street through Time

3. Anglo-Saxon England ~ village life, the Danes, thanes/churls/slaves, King Alfred

4. Charlemagne's Empire ~ King of the Franks, Charlemagne's 3 kingdoms

    4a. Holy Roman Empire ~ Otto the Great, Emperor Frederick

5. The Norman Conquests ~ Battle of Hastings, King William the Conqueror

    5a. The Hundred Years War ~ The Black Prince, St. Joan: the Girl Soldier, Henry V

6. Kings, Nobles & Peasants ~ medieval calendar, The Duke and the Peasant: Life in the Middle Ages, land, Magna Carta, Peasants' Revolt

7. Knights, Soldiers & War ~ defending a castle, becoming a knight, The Making of a Knight

8. Living in a Castle ~ Castle, hunting, falconry, The Sword in the Stone, pastimes, feasting, A Medieval Feast, tournaments

9. Living in a Village ~ farming system, A Farm through Time, village jobs, fairs, homes, fairs, Children and Games in the Middle Ages

10. Living in a Town ~ craftworkers, merchants, guilds, holy days, Medevial Towns, Trades and Travel

11. Traders & Towns ~ trade fairs, merchants, city-states, the Hanseatic league

12. Building a Cathedral ~ stained glass windows, Rose Windows & How to Make Them, Cathedral: The Story of its Construction


13. Going on a Pilgrimage ~ pilgrim routes and destinations, The Canterbury Tales

14. Monks & Monasteries ~ becoming a monk, layout, herbs and healing, manuscripts, A Medieval Alphabet to Illuminate, The Hidden Treasure of Glaston

15. Art in the Middle Ages ~ gargoyles, Gargolyles and Medieval Monsters Coloring Book, stained glass, statues, tapestries, Medieval Tapestries Coloring Book, altarpieces

16. The Crusades ~ map of Holy Land, the various Crusades, Saladin, Richard the Lion Heart

17. The Black Death ~ the origin and spread of the plague, Flagellant Brothers,

18. Criminals & Outlaws ~ public punishments, forest laws, Robin Hood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, archery, Medieval Law and Punishment

19. Kingdoms of the Celts ~ Prince Llywelyn the Great, Gruffydd, William Wallace, Battle of Bannockburn, Strongbow

20. The Rise of Burgundy ~ Dukes of Burgundy, Jan van Eyck, Flanders, Burgundian court, medieval clothing

21. The Wars of the Roses ~ House of Lancaster and House of York, Henry VI, rose symbols, Richard III, Battle of Bosworth Field, the Tudors

22. The Struggle for Spain ~ the Moors, al-Andalus, Cordoba, kingdom of Portugal, the Reconquista, El Cid

23. Explorers & Sailors ~ Marco Polo, Kublai Khan, China, Cheng Ho, junks

24. Artists of Italy ~ the Renaissance, patrons, Florence and the Medicis, classical architecture, Michelangelo, Botticelli

25. Ideas & Inventions ~ education, da Vinci, alchemists, Gutenberg, Machiavelli

26. Voyages of Discovery ~ Henry the Navigator, Dias, sea monsters, Columbus, Vespucci, Cabot, Vasco da Gama, maps


I'll come back to this post and update our resources and progress as we go, so check back if you'd like! I'll also make up a booklist on the sidebar to keep track of the books we are reading and when. :)