The Road Ahead: Curriculum for 2016-17 Year

20160815_080425 (640x480)Choosing curriculum is time-consuming, sometimes fun and always hard. I usually end up doubting myself and wondering if something would work better. This year was a little different . I didn’t have the big “What have I done?” moment this time around and feel happy with the choices the kids and I made together. I guess that is the difference this year…the kids helped pick their books. Grade level gets harder to pinpoint each year too. The longer we homeschool the wonkier our grade levels turn out and I’m not sure the distinction is necessary in home education. But for those who need to know– Oldest is in seventh and Sparkles is in fifth. The younger two are straddling grade levels with Middle Boy a fourth-ish fifth grader and Littlest a Kinder-first grader.

BFB guides

BFB guides

Naturally, we chose to stick with Beautiful Feet Books for our history, literature selections and writing projects. We love BFB and the family behind the company. The guides and the books always lead to “big juicy conversations” (a Brave Writer term). We may be discussing history but we also talk about choices, morals, character, religion, politics and the struggles within human nature. The guides and the chosen books always inspire me to come up with projects. I build plenty of margin space for these history inspired

lots of BFB books

lots of BFB books

projects into the yearly calendar. Littlest will use Primary Early American History and the middle two will work through Intermediate Early American History. Oldest is using Early American and World History and next summer the older three will study through the Western Expansion guide. Littlest will take a couple of years to complete the primary guides for American History and Character.

some of our history projects for this year

some of our history projects for this year

Language Arts was absolute drudgery last year. This year they will all begin IEW’s Fix It for grammar. The kids all approved of this curriculum and since we started at the beginning we could fly through the first few books…if we wanted to. But we do not and there really isn’t a need to do so. On occasion we’ll pick up an Arrow or Boomerang from Brave Writer during the year for fun and a little

first day of school

first day of school

change of pace. We’ll continue with Poetry Tea Time and freewriting from Brave Writer as well and I plan to enroll them in another online class in January. This year Littlest joined in with the freewriting topics by dictating his thoughts to me. He loves to see his own words on paper. The older three are continuing the poetry and composition courses from Blackbird and Company. Littlest is using Foundations from Logic of English to learn to read. I could not be happier with this curriculum for reading instruction. The crew is also working through MENSA’s Year of Living Poetically. This was started last month and they are already memorizing their second poem.

first day candy bars

first day candy bars

Everyone has their own math. Littlest is still working through MUS’s Primer. He also has geo boards, tangrams and other geometric manipulatives to keep his hands busy during read aloud time. Middle Boy is using Christian Light Education and supplementing with Beast Academy. Sparkles is using Math Mammoth and Oldest is finishing up Christian Light Education sixth grade math. He is ready for pre-algebra and is trying to decide between MUS or Math Mammoth. I’m considering Math Without Boarders for the high school years. Everyone will need a new level of math by December.

20160815_183139 (640x480)I had a hard time finding science curriculum. I just wasn’t happy with most of the available selections. I do like Dr. Wile and ended up sticking with his books. The younger crew love his elementary science books and Oldest started with General Science. We’ll also watch a ton of science documentaries and I plan to get Curiosity Stream on ROKU too.

For Christian studies we are working through Pilgrim’s Progress but I haven’t decided what we should do after we finish toward the end of September…

20160815_183000 (640x480)We added art and music appreciation studies from Simply Charlotte Mason. We’re listening to Bach and studying the art work of Botticelli, Giotto and Van Gogh. We’re still working through Barry Stebbing’s Nature Drawing and Journaling course but will finish it up soon and move onto ArtAchieve.



At certain points during the year we will set all academics aside and work through projects together. Oldest is going to make a stop motion movie and possibly move on to robotics afterward. Middle Boy found a Minecraft STEM and art project book that he plans to use and Sparkles is going to learn to sew. Our group project is knitting and we will all be making hats, scarves and socks this year. I’ve



been on YouTube learning all of the various knitting stitches by making coffee cozies. That way I’ll already have a clue when the kids pick up knitting needles for the first time.

Everyone will work on their keyboarding skills and Littlest will be introduced to the computer. The older three are still taking piano lessons and Littlest is showing a bit of interest in learning piano too. He’s working on a little song right now and trying to remember the location of middle C. Once he does that he’ll be way ahead of me…

That’s our year in a nutshell. I’ve left white space in our schedule for bunny trails and whispered moments of inspiration from the homeschooling muses.


Reflective Moments on Compassion: The Brave Writer Retreat


the squares

the squares

Ruckkehrunruhe. n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.      —The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (John Koenig)

Julie greeting her people

Julie greeting her people

Eunoia is a noun and a word I very rarely use. The word means beautiful thinking or a well mind. Eunoia (yoo’-noy-ah) is the state I find myself in after the retreat with a slight fear of ruckkehrunruhe. Okay, I do know that The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is totally made up but I have experienced many of these feelings and I think they should be adopted into our everyday usage. Just sayin’.

I arrived a scared bundle of nerves. Could I really just be myself amongst these women? I’ve felt rejected by other groups before. I 20160713_205413 (640x456)usually just do not fit; like a misplaced puzzle piece longing to find the box of home I belong to. As a family we have completely given up on homeschool groups. Many are just so clickish and refuse to accept others (I’m always an other) or we just do not love Jesus in the same manner as the group. By that, I mean my hair isn’t long enough, my skirts are not long enough (God forbid, I actually wear jeans!!!), I value 20160713_190013 (640x480)individuality over obedience, and I just refuse to be “evangelical”. I had a long conversation one night with Adam about that very subject. He worked the night shift at the hotel I stayed at for the retreat and was homeschooled through tenth grade. He shared his story with me and had some interesting insights into the emotional and social needs of homeschooled kids who do not 20160715_080458 (480x640)fit the surrounding social group. Chatting with him for a couple of evenings (or early-early in the morning) was just as eye-opening as the retreat conferences. I’ll likely never meet Adam again but I am glad we momentarily connected in life.

However, I must confess the Brave Writer Moms welcomed me with open arms and I totally love them all. I found my peeps, my tribe…the box of puzzle pieces I “fit” with comfortably. These ladies totally understood why I was proud of my Littlest when he

an evening of laughter and connection

an evening of laughter and connection

was removed from his homeschool co-op class! Nobody made me feel judged…just accepted. We all felt that same sense of freedom and connection with each other…well…that is my impression anyway. Julie built this Brave community and infused us with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Julie claims she is not an artist but I must disagree. Her medium is composed of hearts and 20160715_075610 (480x640)souls and she wove a beautiful, brave community of mothers (and their families) together. There is only one other place on this earth I have ever felt safer and that is in the comforting arms of my husband.

We all cried together and we laughed together. I have not laughed so unself-consciously in years. I wept bitter but cleansing tears. I’ve messed up as a mother sometimes…but I left the retreat with the knowledge that I can embrace my faults, share my fears, hug my kids and move on to better days. I have the tools and knowledge I need to be an 20160714_140031 (480x640)intentional mother and educator. I left the retreat content, calm…maybe slightly emotionally high, and ready…ready to fall in love with my family all over again. To observe my sweet children and be the mother they really need and not the image of motherhood I think is required.

I was so privileged to meet my hero Stephanie (Homeschool Alliance coach). If I can be half the awesomeness she is then I will be so happy! I just want to sit at her feet and soak up her wisdom…a wisdom that at times seemed to 20160714_092522 (480x640)be hard-earned. She could have let bitterness overtake her but she chose to remain open and honest- cultivating a peacemaker’s heart. That is my impression of her. She also taught me that I can home educate my kids through highschool…the idea isn’t so scary anymore. Alex taught me that we can just appreciate nature. I do not have to know the name of every plant and creature to do nature studies with my crew. Nature study isn’t as complicated as I’ve made it out to be…we can go on scavenger hunts, watch clouds 20160714_153133 (480x640)and draw in our journals and it is enough. Melissa taught me that I do not have to prescribe to any particular educational philosophy. I can borrow unapologetically what my family requires from each method and adapt as our needs ebb and flow. What matters the most is our relationships to one another.

Julie taught with her tears, laughter and open vulnerable heart. She explained how to bring the Charlotte Mason philosophy into our century. “Charlotte is awesome”, she said “but not more awesome than YOU!” She shared with us the importance and sacredness of home…and compassion. I think she could write a 20160715_120434 (480x640)book on the importance of compassion in everyday relationships…with our spouse, kids and even ourselves. Our home atmosphere matters far more than the curriculum we use. If our homes are safe places to be creative, take risks, receive compassion, communicate openly and respond with consistent intention then, we’ve created an atmosphere where learning takes place continuously. Letting all of this knowledge flow from my mind to my heart is gonna take a little time…maybe more than a little.

20160714_082145 (480x640)The place for the retreat was lovely. I tried to arrive early each morning to walk the Franciscan community’s grounds. The flowers and sculptures were beautiful. The place felt sacred even though it was in the middle of a large city. I spent part of one of my morning strolls chatting with Sister Karen. I met her returning from the outdoor Way of the Cross Stations and walked her to the chapel for prayers. She explained the history of their community, grounds and gardens. Later, I walked up to the sister’s cemetery and read 20160714_081959 (480x640)some of the names and dates on the stones. Every stone represented the life and dedicated service of a precious person. Women who consciously set out to make the world a better place. I thought about my own time in the monastery and what those years mean to me. I realized just how much strength I’ve drawn from my time in the cloister. I thought about my young and naïve thoughts on being a “bride of Christ” and realizing the truth is actually being a bride of humanity. A calling that I still feel sometimes and that manifests itself in compassion. My life made some sort of connecting loop in the sister’s cemetery (Oh, the tears!)). I am still called to a life of compassion…

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

Look what he learned while I was away

Look what he learned while I was away

Sunday Journal: Baseball, Butter and Brave Writer

DSC02645 (640x480)The week went by too quickly…mostly because of the long weekend. The big event for me this week was going to my very first baseball game to see the Lexington Legends. I do not know much about the game but my husband filled me in on the basics. So, I wasn’t too lost. I may have called one of the “runs” a “touchdown” but otherwise managed to follow along. I only know DSC02691 (640x480)football and a smattering of NASCAR at this point in my life…and I’m okay with that. Anyway, I expected to be kinda bored but it was actually really fun. I doubt that I could ever sit through a game on television but going to a game “in the moment” is certainly doable.

20160710_210236 (480x640)Did you know hot butter will ruin laminate floors? I discovered that fact painfully this week. I melted some butter in a pan and for some reason it suddenly exploded! I’ve been cooking since I could push a chair to the stove and nothing like that has ever happened to me before. My counters, stove, cabinets and floor were covered in hot butter…and so was I. Hot butter hurts! The mess was truly spectacular and it impressed the boys.

20160710_204321 (480x640)Later this week I will leave for the Brave Writer Retreat. I get to hang out with a bunch of homeschool moms for some relaxation, fun and educational lectures. Melissa Wiley (author of The Prairie Thief and other children’s books as well as a homeschooler) will be a speaker along with Julie Bogart of Brave Writer. I am looking forward to the trip and the adventure of the experience. A little piece of me is a bit freaked out. Some of the planned activities are way outside of my comfort zone and I am such an introvert. I enjoy other humans but sometimes people and their noisiness can be very overwhelming.

20160710_203004 (480x640)Brave is my word this year…that one aspiration I chose for myself this year. I am not brave. I am terrified mostly…especially outside of my home. Every time my husband goes to work I fear that I will never see him again. When he leaves on a trip without me I am afraid…I worry. I consider my excessive ability to worry and imagine every possible disaster scenario a sin…a personal failing of massive ineptitude. Sometimes my fears are paralyzing. I want to hold my family tightly and never let them go…if I gave in to my 20160708_210931 (480x640)natural inclinations I would smother them. I likely suffer from some form of anxiety. For the most part I keep that part of myself well hidden from everyone else. But I am constantly aware…and constantly worry about passing on my faults to my children…or hurting them emotionally somehow. I see pieces of this in my daughter sometimes and it hurts…hurts.

When I chose to be brave this year the retreat is the first thing I signed up for…I am afraid to leave my family. I am not worried DSC02710 (640x480)about my husband’s ability to care for them. He is a perfect father…a perfect husband. I fail him all the time but he never fails to protect or calm me. Many times I feel that he would be happier without me. I feel that his life would be better without me. I know that isn’t true because he has told me so. I know that it is my personal daemons that say such things to me.

20160710_201053 (480x640)My daemons keep me caged…or they have. I’ve spent my life trying to ignore them or run away. I chose to face them this year and quit running away. I am embracing my faults, my sins…I worry too much, I am overly anxious in a crazy way, like really crazy…I am afraid all the time. Since I chose to be brave this year…I chose to accept my daemons, to embrace them as they have held me all these years. At this point in my life, I can honestly look my kids and husband in the eye as say…I haven’t done everything right and I accept that I may have hurt you but…I love you and I did better toward you than I ever received from my own roots. I have honestly strived to be better than my raising. And that striving is brave.

This Week in Books

this week's selections

this week’s selections

The heart and soul of our homeschool is literature and poetry. We spend two hours every morning immersed in books followed by another half hour of free-read time. We also devote one afternoon a week to the study and appreciation of poetry.

We devour books.

I’ve received a steady trickle of requests since I started sharing our weekly read-alouds on Instagram a few months ago. Some people want to know how I get my kids to sit still and listen. Others want to know how our books are chosen or if the children like them. Do we quit books that are horrible? (We haven’t found one that bad just yet…close though.) Do the children give oral or written narrations? Book reports? How do I know they comprehend the material? Are they even listening?

20160205_074520 (480x640)No, I do not make the kids sit still during our morning time. They usually curl up with a pillow and favorite blanket but will also play with the cat. Our kitty uses read-aloud time to pounce on the children and play. She also will drag her favorite string over and beg quite vocally until someone plays with her. The five-year old has also been known to pounce on someone hoping for a pillow fight…homeschool life y’all!

Nearly all of the books we read aloud have corresponding work during our table time so it becomes really obvious if someone did not pay attention. Discussion follows everything we read. I also started pointing out interesting word choices or phrases to the kids while reading aloud. They are starting to do the same as well and I enjoy hearing words and phrases that stand out to them.

they get cozy during read aloud time

they get cozy during read aloud time

We begin our read aloud time in the morning right after breakfast. Seriously, who wants to tackle scientific laws, mathematical equations or, worst of all–grammar at eight in the morning? Well, I’m sure someone reading does but not this family. I have a basket near the fireplace that holds all of our read-aloud books for the week. I usually prep the books and magazines we will go through sometime on Sunday.

We begin with our Beautiful Feet Books history selection. I generally read all of these books aloud as well as any extra recommendations within the guide. The guide usually has some questions for us to discuss and other assignments that kids will work on during our table time. Our next book is from the Brave Writer Arrow selections. These books are part of our grammar

first part of extra-curricular book haul

first part of extra-curricular book haul

curriculum and also have a simple literary element based writing assignment. I choose ten books each school year and we take about four weeks to go through each book. We all take turns reading theses books aloud. I keep a pad near by and write down any words they have trouble pronouncing for vocabulary work. I also instruct them on reading aloud clearly and with grammatical correctness for their listeners. No mumbling or rushing through!

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

I try to round out the rest of our books with rotations from science, art, natural history, geography, Shakespeare or whatever we currently find interesting. At the moment we are reading about the America’s before the arrival of Columbus and Native American’s local to Kentucky for the beginning of our national and state histories.

Our books this week:

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly is from our Beautiful Feet Books curriculum. We are only the first few chapters in but it is excellent! The kids always beg to read just one more chapter…

Redwall by Brian Jacques is a Brave Writer Arrow title. This book bores me to tears…so predictable I can hardly stand it. This is the first Arrow selection we did not like. So far the rest of the books have been enjoyable. One more week and we will finish this book…

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 by Charles C. Mann. This is a spine book for our Native American/Early American History/State History studies. Our history curriculum begins the study of American history with Vikings and Columbus but I believe it is important to study the culture and civilizations that already existed prior to the arrival of Europeans. Anyway, this book is fascinating and we all enjoy it. I will likely look for the adult version of this book for my own reading.

The Legend of Blue Jacket, The Cherokees: A First Americans Book, In a sacred Manner I Live and Myths and Civilization of the Native Americans all go with our unit study. I’m just going through the shelf at the library and picking these as I go.

Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour by Keiron Pim and Jack Horner is pretty good if you love dinosaurs. I don’t but Middle Boy finds them fascinating. We read about one dinosaur a day and we’ll be reading it for a long while.

Your Visit to the Louvre My husband brought this book back from his visit to the museum years before he met me! We look through a two page spread each day and I give the kids a freewrite assignment out of it on occasion. This is a very informal art appreciation…

National Geographic and Archeology are magazines that we enjoy reading together. I usually just read one or two main articles from the magazines and the kids will finish reading them on their own. My mom usually brings us these magazines from yard sales and sometimes the library has a stack of free magazines. We like the variety of subjects and historical tidbits found in these.

books for this session

books for this session

Once our Native American studies are concluded we will begin reading about math. I’m putting together a little overview of the history of mathematics as well as some literature that includes solving math and puzzles. I noticed last year that my kids interest in science increased when we went through a literature based history of science. They were inspired by the stories of the scientists. I saw the same thing happen this winter when we studied Shakespeare through literature. They fell in love with Shakespeare and were then eager to study and watch a play. I hope to light a little spark for math. My kids love read aloud time and I have found it to be the easiest way to introduce them to some topics that they may not explore on their own.

Here is a great read from the Beautiful Feet Books’ blog on How Stories Create Us.

Rave: Brave Writer Online

logoRave means an extremely enthusiastic recommendation or appraisal of someone or something. Other words for rave include very enthusiastic, highly favorable, rapturous, glowing and ecstatic. I’m writing to rave about our recent online class from Brave Writer and our compassionate and insightful instructor Ms. April.

We spent the month of January in the Just So Stories online family class. The goal of the course was for each child to write a little tale based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Ms. April gave us assignments and guided the kids in crafting their very own Kiplingesque short story. Our instructor proved not only to be a writing instructor to my kids but also a coach for me. Observing her interactions with my crew I learned how to walk my own children through the writing process.

thumb-just-so-storiesThe first week of the course I worked with the kids to help them pick the animal they would write about. We gathered encyclopedias and books to read. We watched documentaries and BBC Earth snippets on YouTube to learn all about each of their chosen creatures. We discussed various ideas together and the kids spent a few days just freewriting on their animals. We played with words and really enjoyed our time together. Taking cues from Ms. April and The Writer’s Jungle I stepped away from my usual role as critic and grammar nut and embraced being their supportive coach. My Children responded to the Brave Writer way with enthusiasm and surprised me with their creative, funny and sweet stories. We turned in a few rough drafts and Ms. April gave gentle suggestions and lots of enthusiastic encouragement.

So here are their stories along with a few of Ms. April’s comments:

Oldest needed very little help writing his story. He knew exactly what he wanted to write about and the basic events of his story from the first week. To my astonishment he even spent time as Sparkles’ scribe when she got frustrated and tearful. Below is Oldest’s story.

How Lawe’s Parotia Got Its Dance

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, before Papa went to New Guinea in the Tar Lands of Indonesia on an island in the wettest of wet seas where the pretty birds fly there was a bird of glamorous colors unseen.  He possessed feathers of a pinkish greenish sort and a purplish yellowish type which made all gasp at the site of him. And his blueish orange-ish feathers made other beautiful bird look plain beside him. But his splendorous beauty made him vain. He continuously bragged of himself and loved himself so much he gazed at his own reflection at every opportunity. He refused to marry until he found a bird as beautiful as him.

He was very splendid and supremely superior in his looks. Surely, none could be surprised that the lady birds swooned at his feet deeply in love. He never had to do anything for attention and enjoyed ruining other birds’ performances. For instance, one time Mr. Nightingale sang a song of love and the bird of glamorous colors unseen interrupted his melody with a horrifying shriek. Once the females saw him they forgot the beautiful song of love and turned their attention to the bird with glamorous colors unseen.

What could the other birds do that was better than their rival? As anger swelled in their hardy-hearts they planned the downfall of the vain bird with glamorous colors unseen. All of them gathered together to plan how to make the Tar Lands fair.

The extravagant bird was washing his feathers of glamorous colors unseen. He looked at himself and wondered if anyone was a beautiful. He wanted none to be as splendorous as just one of his superior feathers. He failed to hear a rustle in the bushes behind him because he was gazing at his reflection in a mirror-like puddle of water. He turned to see an angry mob of birds running and jumping over tar pits in his direction. They tackled him and dragged him to a tar pit. He pushed and shoved but could not escape. Then he was pushed in and covered in tar. The other birds left him.

The tar was a gloopy disastrous messy mess. It stuck to his feathers of glamorous colors unseen. When he attempted to wipe it off he smeared it over the remaining feathers. Now only a few of his feathers remained clean. Depression struck the bird with glamorous colors unseen because most of his feathers turned a boring grey. Over time he learned to dance for the lady birds and to clean their perches and decorate his dance floor with bright red berries. Finally he found a female bird as pretty as he was but not as he once was.

Note: I changed my children’s name in Ms. April’s comments to the names I use for them on the blog.

Ms. April: My goodness, Oldest. You have crafted a most magnificent piece! Not only did you “complete the assignment” – you embraced it, owned it and nailed it. It’s time for me to do my Happy Dance and (while I’m still your instructor-of-sorts!) give you one final assignment: CELEBRATE all of this Goodness…pop some corn and read your stories aloud for Dad and any lucky friends and neighbors. It’s share-worthy. Be proud. Congratulations! 🙂

Sparkles had the hardest time writing her story. She wanted to write about tiger’s but she loves them so much she just couldn’t write anything bad about them. After obtaining permission from the instructor Sparkles was allowed to write a positive tiger story.

How the Tiger Got Its King Mark

Once upon a time, O Little Friend, when wise dragons walked the earth in the Crystal Mountains of China, kind Tiger waited and waited for Tigress. He remembered running through the leafy green forest nestled between the sparkling crystal mountains with their tops in the clouds. He had hunted his prey, a dear of the forest and drug it back to the cavernous cave. Hungrily he began to eat.

While enjoying his meal he heard Tigress and her mewling cubs. When he heard the hungry kits he knew the hunt had not gone well for Tigress. Stepping back from his meal Tiger dragged the carcass to Tigress and her mewling cubs to and let them eat the deer. The other forest animals in trees and glades nearby watching in amusement asked, “Why did you let Tigress and her cubs have your meal?”

“Because I choose to care for my friends,” answered Tiger kindly.

“Ha, ha, ha!” the animals laughed. “You should take care of yourself first. Or make her hunt for you like the lion.” The animals chuckled to themselves as they left to find their own dinners.

Tiger padded softly away ignoring their jibes. Spotting a weepy baby bunny he asked, “What is wrong?”

“I am lost!” wailed the little bunny.

“Follow me. I know the way to the Burrows,” Tiger said gently. Tiger led the way and soon the baby bunny was reunited with his mother in the Burrows.

Again the other forest animals in trees and glades nearby shouted, “Ha! Ha! Ha! You wasted your time on a snackling! Why would you help the little bunny?”

“Because I choose to care for the lost,” replied Tiger.

Tiger thought and thought and thought with sadness about what the other animals said to him as he fell asleep.  When morning came Tiger went out for another hunt. The wise dragon from ancient times flew down from the Crystal Mountains and said with a thundering voice, “I saw your actions yesterday.” With that statement Tiger received his King Mark.

“Why would you give me this mark?” puzzled Tiger.

“I gave it to you because you watch over those in your care,” proclaimed the wise golden dragon.

Tiger returned to his cave. The other animals noticed his King Mark and bowed to their new king. Tiger, King of the Jungle.

Ms. April: Lovely. Simply lovely. Sparkles, your story is so full of tenderness and compassion. PLEASE keep writing and sharing your writer’s voice with all the world.  I hope you will share your story with a co-op or family or neighbors. It deserves to be heard. You have a kindness about you that others can “hear” through your words. Keep writing. Keep sharing that heart of yours. Beautiful work. 🙂

After reading the first draft Ms. April commented: Sparkles, you are a kind soul. This draft oozes with gentleness and compassion. Thank you for challenging your readers to always choose Kindness. You should be proud. This piece is lovely. Just lovely.

The last comment above made me cry. I was stunned (and a little convicted) by how much of my daughter’s personality our instructor pulled from the first draft. I am with my kids everyday and sometimes I forget just how vulnerable they are to my words…especially Sparkles. She takes everything to heart.

Middle Boy sharing his story

Middle Boy sharing his story

Middle Boy blew me away with his piece. He mostly worked on his own. Mostly, I served as a living thesaurus for him. I didn’t realize just how much this boy loves poetry until I read his opening paragraph.

 How the Octopus Got Its Beak

I’ll tell a tale my Little Buddy when fish were friends, all except one, in the big blue ocean. Octopus is mean, green and he cheats in games calling people names. He’s just so rude he takes all the food. That eight armed pecky party pooper! His name is Wully and he’s a big bully. He inks all over the food. He’s really not that nice. Someday he will pay the price.

“Hey, Fluffer Puffer fish! You are a gassy guy!” laughed Octopus making gassy sounds. Then he went on leaving Fluffer sad and humiliated. Then carelessly he swam away soaring and spinning.

Wully the octopus swam to the fish party where he met a jellyfish and called him “no-brainer.” It is rude to point they have no brain, even though it is true, because it makes them blue. Octopus spoils the rest of the party by stealing the food. Using his eight biting beaks he snatches and snaps the food from the partygoers. Then carelessly he swam away soaring and spinning.

He swam the way to the mazes of coral searching for gleaming glittering gold. He saw many colors of green, blue, orange and yellow. He found a cave in the rocky wreck of massive underwater avalanches and there he discovered gleaming glittering gold. He swam along listening to the bellowing bonging songs of whales soaring above him. He swam deeper into the cave soaring and spinning and found The Giant Magical Squid!

“I see how you have acted,” boomed the Squid when Octopus entered. “You have been bad too long” thundered the Squid.

“Who are you and where are you”, asked Octopus searching the cave.

“Above you.”

Octopus was speechless. The squid was huge…massive like a mountain. His eye was the size of a door and his head like a skyscraper.

“You will go through a change” said the massive squid.

The magic ink came charging at Octopus. In shame he went home. The punishment was so horrible and terrible. His many biting beaks were gone. His only mouth was on his rear end.  Then sorrowfully he swam home out of the maze ignoring the gold. He knew the others would scold. He was so full of spite, he wanted to fight and never picked on anyone again. And, that, my Little Buddy, is how the octopus got its beak.

Ms. April: You are a Kipling King, Middle Boy! This piece has it all…musical language, an animal with an unusual trait, a character flaw and the agent of change. Even better than allll of that, though, is the enthusiastic effort given to your writing. Your willingness to listen and apply feedback, to partner with your mom (and me!), and your flexibility with word play has been a treat to work with. Thank you for sharing your birthday month with us. Congratulations on a job Well Done.

Lulu publishing kits

Lulu publishing kits

As you can tell I am really proud of my kids and the hard work they put into their writing projects. Currently they are using Lulu to produce illustrated books. I can hardly wait for them to finish and get those books in my hands!

Brave Writer is all about supporting young writers and helping them find their own unique voice. I am so happy I gave this curriculum lifestyle a place in our home and school. My kids are finding their voice and the courage to share their individual viewpoints.

Legal note: This review is not sponsored and I received nothing in return. I am just so delighted with the experience and had to share.




Sunday Journal: Birthday Week and Zoo Expedition

We spent most of the week waiting for the weekend. Middle Boy’s birthday was on Monday but we didn’t celebrate until this weekend with a trip to Cincinnati. Middle Boy requested a trip to the Lego store. All of the kids had saved some of their Christmas money for this trip. I’m glad they enjoyed the shop but I do get a little bored waiting for them to decide which set to purchase. Afterwards we explored downtown and ate lunch at a pizza shop. While waiting for our pizza my husband and I people-watched out the window. We

Sparkles at pizza shop

Sparkles at pizza shop

noticed two individuals who appeared to be homeless. I wondered about their lives and what sort of decisions led to their current existence while my own children munched on their pizza…oblivious to the people passing by outside. During our short walk downtown we encountered another woman who was clearly drugged out of her mind.

walking through downtown

walking through downtown

Large cities like Cincinnati are both fascinating and horrifying all at once. Each large city has a unique stench. My husband assures me that some foreign cities he has visited are for more offensive to the nose. I know I am spoiled and sheltered and am grateful for the life my husband provides for us. I feel so uncomfortable in cities…they are crushing, smothering. There is another feeling but I cannot put a name to it. Maybe I just don’t want to name it.

Painted Dogs

Painted Dogs

We left downtown and headed for the zoo. For Christmas we got a membership to the zoo. I prefer family experiences over material things for Christmas gifts. This was our first trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. Several of the exhibits were closed but we still had a wonderful time together and I forgot the uneasy feelings that downtown impressed upon my thoughts. Sparkles loved all of the wild cats and gushed over the white tigers. My favorite animal was the African Painted Dog. I loved their wild spotty colors and big ears. Those wild dogs were fascinating and so restless, with massive square jaws, powerful and deadly. Death in a pack. Scary but beautiful.

Oldest by the creek

Oldest by the creek

Today we stayed home. We didn’t go to church. After a busy day out around so many people I wasn’t up to a morning at church. My sensitivity to people and excessive stimulus is getting a bit difficult to endure lately. Sometimes people are so exhausting. Please don’t get me wrong, I like being social. People are interesting. However, I need more solitude than before so that I can endure the onslaught on my senses the being social brings. Wednesday was the worst day for me. We went to our first homeschool co-op meeting. For the most part the kids had a great time. Middle Boy hated being rushed in his art class and I can’t blame him for that. How can rushing art be justified? I was a nervous wretch before

found Littlest sleeping in our bed

found Littlest sleeping in our bed

we arrived. I worked in the nursery and truly enjoyed the little children. Afterwards we went to the library and then to the grocery store. By the time we got home my hands were shaking. I wanted to cry and curl up in a ball somewhere in the dark. The strain on my heart physically hurt. I just wanted my husband to come home and hold me. I was too emotionally exhausted to got to church that evening and ended up napping.

I will not be running any errands after co-op. No, no.

Lego Store

Lego Store

The rest of the week was just fine. I received my next two reviews for the TOS Review Crew in the mail: The Dragon and the Raven and the Faith Builders Bible. You can look for those two reviews by the end of the month. So far being part of the Crew has been nice and not too overwhelming.

The folks from Beautiful Feet Books asked me to work with them at the convention again this year. I am looking forward to the work and helping a company I truly believe in. If you attend the GHC in Cincinnati this year then stop by and say hello. I’d love to meet you!

Littlest working on math exercises

Littlest working on math exercises

This kids finished their first online class through Brave Writer this week. I am so happy with the class and will share all about our experience later this week. I highly recommend any of the online writing courses through Brave Writer.

Other than my social anxiety issues our week was fabulous. One of my friends told me that my reactions are completely normal for individuals considered to be “highly sensitive”. Something I pan to look into this week.

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and Parent Teacher Meet-up.



Midyear Audaciousness

entertaining Boots during read aloud time

entertaining Boots during read aloud time

I know it is January and not midyear…it is however the middle of our school year.

Reworking our daily routine was one of the many changes I made to our homeschool during our recent eight week(!!!) break. We needed a moment to breathe after the move, for holiday traveling and due to a bit of stressful burnout for mom. I was approaching my breaking point. Sadly, that moment isn’t too far below the surface anymore. I’m not as mentally tough as I used to be. Maybe we can only take so much stress in life before the cracks start showing…I don’t really know.

The day on a page

The day on a page

Anyway, our new routine is full of margin giving me enough space to follow those creative moments and rabbit trails without the guilt of abandoning a schedule. I’d been trying to figure the schedule/routine puzzle out when my thoughts synthesized while watching Julie’s Bogart’s Morning Basket scope which occurred during our eight week break. By hour’s end a new enchanted vision emerged. A complete re-visioning of home education…a mindfulness of just how precious this time is with my kids and the desire to reclaim it from Prussian-Industrialized schooling.

Yeah, I had a moment…a really cool one.

Table time including Littlest now

Table time including Littlest now

I just want to add that turning away from public school styled curriculum wasn’t easy for me. I found the grade level schooling of Christian Light Education rather comforting and easy. I didn’t like the moans and dread it evoked from my children. But as I evaluated it during our break I came to realize that I didn’t like the rigidness or early, unnecessary independence built into the curriculum. I wanted our learning to be organic and together. I want to be my kids mother and educational coach not their taskmaster. I had to let go of my love and attachment to the public school (basically Prussian) model of education. Growing up as an abused kid the public school was my refuge away from my parents. I was holding on to that method out of love for those teachers who made public school at place of security and refuge for me. So I learned to let the public school model go over our break and embraced the absolute joy that my children do not need a place of refuge away from home.

Boots our new distraction

Boots our new distraction

God bless those teachers who loved me more than my own parents. Thank you Mrs. Skidmore, Mr. Worley, Mrs. Fisher and Mrs. Alsobrook. And I hope that every kid out there who has parents that suck have teachers like you in their lives.

This was our first week back to school in eight weeks. I have been a slave to the written lesson plans and self imposed schedules for four homeschool years. Out of the past four years this has been our best week of home education ever!!! EVER!

I took the basic outline of the day given by Julie in her scope and spliced in loop scheduling. That’s it. I do not have a lesson plan. Instead I write down what we are doing each day into my “lesson planner”. I know what we need to finish each school year. I know where we should be each nine week fifth (we do five sets of nine weeks).

Our new routine is broken down into three major portions of each day with three minor portions.

I. Wake and transition from sleep time begins around 7:00 in the morning. They have an entire hour to make breakfast, make their beds and get cleaned up for the day.

current Morning  Basket

current Morning

2. Morning Basket Time begins around 8:15: This is our read aloud time. We read our Brave Writer Arrow selection, Beautiful Feet Books selection, and from The Story of the World. Next is our Oral Loop time in which the kids take turn reading aloud. Only one child per day. Littlest is not reading aloud yet but will be by the end of the current school year. Following the Oral Loop is the Morning Basket Loop schedule. We only do two subjects at a time from the Morning Basket Loop. Once we finish those we move onto another subject. Right now we are exploring Shakespeare and Science. Once we finish these we will move to living math books, nature, character studies, biography, art and music. Then the loop repeats. (This is my kids favorite time of the school day and ha made all the difference in their attitude!)

On Wednesday morning we will skip the Morning Basket time due to Co-op. The crew with work on math, chores and have board game time until it is time to go to our local co-op.

Monty and Polly, my bunnies

Monty and Polly, my bunnies

3. Table Time begins around 10:00: We work on our copywork and dictation for the Brave Writer Arrows each day. We have a set daily schedule for these. On Monday through Wednesday they do their best handwriting for the copywork piece and I go over the grammar. On Thursday they do French Dictation (we are working toward full dictation) and on Friday they edit the copywork selection. I give them a handout of the selection with all of the punctuation removed. My crew looks forward to this every Friday! After copywork/dictation they move on to any history assignments. After which we loop The Writer’s Jungle, Language Arts, Vocabulary and Music Theory assignments from their piano teacher. (At the moment we are skipping The Writer’s Jungle and Language Arts assignment s for our online class of Just So Stories from Brave Writer.) We also do Freewrite assignments every Friday and these also have a set eight week schedule following the Brave Writer method.

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

Also, on Fridays the kids have to answer a set of questions from my husband. He wants a report on their week and he reads over their answers every Friday. If they do not take his questions seriously then they spend some time on Saturday morning writing out detailed paragraphs to each question.

Here are my husband’s four questions: Share something you learned this week. What would you like to learn more about? Share something you did not enjoy this week. What was wonderful about this week (does not have to be school related).

4. Math and protein snack around 11:30. The kids all now have individual math curriculums. Sparkles used Teaching Textbooks, Oldest is currently using Christian Light Education but is researching which algebra course he wants to begin in July, Middle Boy is loving Beast Academy. Each kiddo in a different math is extra work for me but perfect for them. I spend time with each child individually during the math hour. Each child also spends about twenty to thirty minutes on Khan Academy math. They all look forward to math because they get a yummy snack. Sometimes I make a special snack and other times they just get a cheese stick.

5. Lunch hour. Most days my husband comes home for lunch so our lunch hour varies depending on his schedule. I always hang out with my Sweetie when he is home so they can finish up their math, have lunch and a bit of free time.

6. Around 1:30 we get together for our Afternoon Loop. On Tuesday we have Poetry Tea Time. On Friday’s we enjoy board games. The other days of the week we loop through science, art, Latin and history projects. Guitar and piano practice begins as each child finishes up their work. By 3:00 the kiddos put away all schoolwork (if we are still working) and spend forty minutes or so on chores (I have a set schedule for these as well). Following chores are video gams while I enjoy a chai and some free-time to myself.

That is our basic day and it sounds far more complicated than the reality. The entire routine fits on one page that I show in the picture above. This was our first full week implementing the new routine. Our school week was wonderful and everything I dreamed it ever could be. Perfect and beautiful! I hope you find the a delightful balance for your day.