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

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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
Basket

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.

 

Sunday Journal: Christmas Reflections, Slobbery Kisses, and Houdini

20151223_094152 (480x640)Christmas is now past. Tomorrow the tree and decorations will slowly make their way to storage for another year. The house will feel empty and cold with all the cheerful and bright baubles hidden away. My heart wasn’t where it should be. Not this year. Maybe because the kids have been sick…or exhaustion from the move…or isolation from the Christian community.

my boys playing on the monastery grounds

my boys playing on the monastery grounds

Last week we visited the nuns and I was glad to see them again. I’ll get to see them more often now that we live closer. The boys played on the grounds outside while Sparkles and I did most of the visiting. My husband actually got to enter the cloister! One of the printers was broken and since he is an engineer…he can fix anything. He also used to work for a printer company. Anyway, I thought it was neat he saw a part of the cloister. Every time I visit with my dear sisters

Grandma opening her gifts

Grandma opening her gifts

they tell me that my husband was an answer to their prayers for me. I always leave feeling so…loved.

My mother came by for a couple of days earlier this week. She and the kids exchanged gifts. I helped the kids cajole her into playing video games with them. We barely spoke to one another. I didn’t let her stress me out this time. When she criticized me I just

game time with Grandma

game time with Grandma

turned and walked out of the room. I really do not have to sit in silence and take her heartless words. I only told her once that I wasn’t going to listen when she talked to me like that. The rest of the time I just walked away. This was the calmest visit ever…because I chose not to be her dumping ground.

We enjoyed our own rather quiet family time together on Christmas Eve. The kids opened their gifts from each other. Our main gift for the family this year was a

opening the family gift

opening the family gift

membership to the Cincinnati Zoo which is less than two hours away. I am looking forward to many fun zoo trips this year. My husband and I decided last year that we want to give our kids the gift of experiences over materialism. We want them to have wonderful family memories to look back on someday…when we are gone. More than anything I want my crew to know just how truly loved and deeply loveable they are to us. I didn’t get that as a kid.

opening stockings

opening stockings

On Christmas morning the kids checked their stocking to see what Santa left for them. I think only Littlest actually believes in Santa now. We only have a couple of years left for believing in Christmas magic. I’ll be melancholic when Littlest quits believing.

nap during Christmas day travels

nap during Christmas day travels

Later, we left for Western Kentucky to spend the day with my husband’s family. I enjoyed watching all of the children open their gifts. The baby of the family is really cute and he gave me a slobbery kiss from my jaw all the way to my brow! TWICE! The mother was apologetic but she really didn’t need to bother. That moment was likely the sweetest and most loving moment we will ever share together. He’ll only see me on holidays once or twice a year. I’ll be a stranger. This year strangers are loveable people worthy of slobbery kisses…but not ever again.

Mr. Slobbery Kisses

Mr. Slobbery Kisses

The next morning we rushed to Suzann’s home for breakfast. She made us a wonderful feast of ham, sausage, fried potatoes, biscuits, eggs, jams, jellies, juice and coffee. The kids played with her grandson and watched television with her husband. We all talked, laughed, exchanged gifts and loved each other. Awesome morning! We left her home with a new family member…Boots the cat.

Sparkles and Boots the Houdini Cat

Sparkles and Boots the Houdini Cat

Boots road in the front seat in a pet carrier all the way from Western Kentucky. About four hours. She is an awesome passenger. Very calm. Sparkles is over-the-moon to have her own pet!!

Today, Boots gave us quite a scare. We couldn’t find her anywhere and were convinced that she had somehow escaped outside. My husband tore the house apart looking for her. I tore the house apart. The kids searched diligently for her. My husband walked through the neighbor in the pouring rain for her (okay, really he walked in the pouring rain for Sparkles). Sparkles

Sparkles and Christmas outfit...because it was too warm for Christmas sweaters

Sparkles and Christmas outfit…because it was too warm for Christmas sweaters

cried her heart out. We were a heart-broken family. We were never ever going to own a pet again. NEVER! By the time we put our sorrowful children to bed the cat had been missing for about eight hours. I was sitting at this computer trying to write this post. But I couldn’t. I was so angry…I was pissed-off at God for breaking my daughter’s heart. I knew she was in her bed crying and I couldn’t bring that cat back. So I blamed God. I let Him have it!!! And when I ran out of words and sat here crying, my daughter let out a scream of delight.

Boots was in her room, perfectly okay and purring like there was no tomorrow. I immediately loved and hated that cat. I’m still mad a God for putting us through that emotional turmoil.  My husband renamed the cat Houdini.

Julie receiving her gift from the community that loves her so much

Julie receiving her gift from the community that loves her so much

In the middle of all of this cat missing feline episode I got to participate in a wonderful event with the Bravescopes community. Julie Bogart from Brave Writer has given so much of herself freely to us in the homeschooling community. I feel like I should have continuing education credits added to my college transcript for all of the knowledge she has passed on to me. Some of the amazing ladies put together a funding site for Julie. The funding project was for a kayak (and necessary accessories) because it was something she has always wanted to do. I got to participate in this project and watch her reaction live on Periscope when we gave her this gift of love. Wow!

Honestly, I’m done in. Today was truly awful and wonderful. I hope tomorrow is boring. My heart is too full.

 

Re: Poetry Tea Passion

tea time

tea time

I have had a slew of questions over Poetry Tea Time the past couple of weeks! One friend even declared me to be “an inspiration.” Well, that might be stretching the truth quite a bit too far. I’m no inspiration but I am passionate about how I spend life with my kids. I have cried (and so have my children) over some of our home education experiences. Bitter, bitter tears. My days with my children are short and far too precious to spend slaving over public school style workbooks. No more!

Brave Writer Lifestyle 101

Brave Writer Lifestyle 101

Over the past few months I have been slowly adding elements of the Brave Writer Lifestyle into our home (not just our school). Poetry Teatime is just one of those many elements. Brave Writer is a writing curriculum (but so much more than a curriculum) created by Julie Bogart (this link will take you to her Katch page).  The company website is huge and overwhelming. I ran away screaming the first couple of times I landed there! My advice is to approach the program as you would fine wine or divine chocolate-sips and nibbles (with the kids tucked in bed!). Listening to a few of her scopes on Katch will be

Tea Time with Julie Bogart

Tea Time with Julie Bogart

enlightening and help you to navigate the website. I recommend Time for Tea and Poetry, In Defense of the Disillusioned, Brain Based Learning parts 1&2, Enchanted Homeschooling, and…everything on the page!

Anyway, on to my approach to Poetry Teatime…

My kids love our Poetry Teatime. Even Littlest will choose a book and poems for reading and listen to everyone else read poems. My oldest has even shared his own limerick and haikus with us! He has gone from hating poetry (thanks to workbooks) to creating his own poetry! This week he even set the table for tea time. Okay, to be honest he did use a curtain for the table-cloth but I am thrilled with his newfound enthusiasm.

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

Our teatime used to be around 2:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday. I would usually make a home-made treat of some sort and the kids would have something special to drink in the teapot (except for tea). We always use the teapot (except for during the move) and teacups. I do let Littlest choose between using a sippy cup or a tea cup…he’s been known to choose both at once!

So what’s in the teapot? Warm Maple Cinnamon Milk. My grandmother would make this treat on Christmas morning. Just warm some milk (but do not let it boil!). Add cinnamon and maple syrup to suit your own taste. Super easy! My grandmother never measured ingredients and I usually do not either. My teapot holds about eight cups. I estimate that I use about half a teaspoon of cinnamon and about three tablespoons of maple syrup.

 

Sparkles kept reading long after tea time was over

Sparkles kept reading long after tea time was over

This past Tuesday I moved our tea time to breakfast. I loved seeing their faces as they came into the kitchen! They were delighted! Sparkles helped me serve breakfast, Middle Boy tackled the dishes, Oldest set the table and Littlest bounced around underfoot. The morning was glorious! We piled our plates with pumpkin waffles, brown butter syrup, and sausage. Once everyone settled into place Oldest lit the candle and we ate together. This time Middle Boy started reading poetry aloud since he finished eating first. I used to have to call on them to share poetry but it just happens organically now. We share poems we like, that leave us puzzled or sad, make us laugh, and occasionally even dislike. Sometimes we discuss the poem and sometimes not. I even cry sometimes and then one of the kids will take over for me.

 

our poetry breakfast

our poetry breakfast

We use a variety of poetry books. The kids love Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. We’ve read poetry from the Bible and the Tao Te Ching. Mother Goose and nursery rhymes. Jesse Stuart and Robert Frost. Song lyrics from the radio. I’ve even found poetry inspired by Doctor Who and Legos.

Once the kids started enjoying poetry I introduced Shakespeare into our poetry time. They were not sure they would like Shakespeare at first but since it was just once a week during tea time they were open to the idea. First, I read a short biography and then we started with Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb. Later, we re-watched the Doctor Who episode with 004 (640x480)Shakespeare. Now that they are hooked I moved Shakespeare to our daily read aloud time…and no one complained!

At the end of our freewrite cycle (which is every ten weeks) I’ll have the kids select a poem for copywork and art. They’ll spend about fifteen minutes a day writing out their chosen poem in their best handwriting. Once the writing is complete they spend the rest of the week illustrating the page. I usually play some calm classical music in the background. It helps them to focus quietly…and I can call it music appreciation too.

For now, this is what poetry tea time looks like in our home. I’m sure it will grow and change over seasons in this homeschooling journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking with Julie

this is how I cook with Julie

this is how I cook with Julie

I have a new obsession…Periscope.

I learned about Periscope from the Brave Writer Blog.  The amazing woman behind Brave Writer is Julie Bogart. I’m a total homeschool fangirl for Julie!!! Total fangirl!! I admit it, I own it. Not ashamed of it! (Full Disclosure: I am a total homeschool fangirl for Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books and Dr. J Wile’s science).

Julie and her entire approach to homeschooling has changed my life. She’s changed how I see homeschooling and more importantly my relationship with each of my children. Over the past six months I have slowly blended Brave Writer techniques into our homeschool. We adapt just one practice at a time. We’ve added Arrows to our read-aloud time together. This coming week we will add Friday Freewrites. We’ve talked about Poetry Tea-time and have poetry books chosen to share together. After Christmas our Poetry Tea-time will morph into Tea with Shakespeare. My kids are excited about writing, literature, poetry, Shakespeare and being together.

We just moved into a beautiful new home. The move was tough on the kids and us parents. This move and the reasons we moved cut and exposed our vulnerable souls. For the kids and I homeschooling became a peaceful oasis for us to escape the turmoil. The kids always asked for their Brave Writer Arrow first. We were reading the book Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes and working through the accompanying Arrow from Brave Writer. We chose spelling words, worked on French Dictation, cursive copywork and learned all about personification. We all cried over this book and fell deeper in love with homeschooling. Many times the only schooling we managed to fit in to our hectic days was our Arrow and Oldest’s book Robin Hood from Beautiful Feet Books Intermediate Medieval study. When the day comes that I no longer homeschool because my children are grown and gone…I will never be able to part with Ginger Pye and Robin Hood (worst ending ever!!!). Never ever. Those two books represent a terrible and beautiful time of growth and homeschooling maturity for me. I found my confidence and the courage to tell anyone where to go and what to kiss if they do not like the way I homeschool…the way I live…my family’s chosen lifestyle.

My newest obsession is Periscope. Several times a week I can listen to a few broadcasts and feel encouraged and equipped to live my enchanted homeschooling experience. Julie Bogart often broadcasts at 4:00 pm Eastern time. This is the time I begin cooking dinner. So I just prop my phone up on the stove and listen to her while I cook. I love that time. I love the feeling of connection with the rest of the homeschooling community. Sometimes I need to re-listen to the scopes later in the evening so I can write a few notes. All of the broadcasts can be found on Katch!

Here are the links to a few of my favorites:

Julie Bogart All of her scopes are worth the time!! My faves: You Are the Sky, Unschool Undefined and Party Like a Homeschooler

Life on PEI She does not have very many up yet but I like them all

Amongst Lovely Things Isn’t she just cute!!! I could listen to her all day. Love the Nitty Gritty on Spiral Notebooks

 

Do you know of a great Periscope to listen to? Please share!!!