Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A new school year

The adventure of school is underway. Kindergarten for Gwennan; preschool for Afton. Their enthusiasm is more than I ever hoped for. Gwennan is eager to practice. My fears for getting the school year kicked off well are assuaged. 

Paper doll from the book study

Practicing numbers on the sidewalk

Nature study

 This post could be a montage and make us look like a super-schooling family. That would not be a fair depiction. We started school a month ago. Do not be intimidated - I feel accomplished if I plan one interesting event a week.

Here’s what we’ve done:

Homemade worksheets.

Printed off worksheets.

More homemade worksheets.

Because school is work. The year started out rote and routine. Page after page of copy work and math skills, reviewing the alphabet and numbers, correcting mistakes in letter formation, introducing diphthongs and silent e. Setting a foundation for the three R’s.

Our first year homeschooling, we started the year hatching butterflies from cocoons. It was a perfect unit study, tying in the letter B with hands-on science and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Charlotte Mason couldn’t have done any better. After that first week, our expectation for school was sky high. I couldn’t keep up with the energy or excitement. The year faded into monotony that soon felt like failure after the hype of the first week. That’s why we started out with the difficult daily grind. The new school year momentum carried us through building the practice of school. Now that we’re in a good habit, we’ve introduced the fun stuff.

1. Nature study
We took a day at the park to examine different leaves, count lobes, identify veins, take rubbings. By sorting pinecones, sweet gum balls, and acorns, we explored odd and even sets. Our fearless kindergartener led us on a Milne-esque “expotition.”

2. Book study - Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’ve anticipated sharing this book with Gwennan since the doctor told me she was a girl. Reading the Ingalls’ story as a family is one of my favorite childhood memories. Every afternoon, we cuddle up after lunch and dive into a new chapter, only to have them beg to hear two. The new favorite game at our house: lock Abby (cast as Jack) in the room, huddle in the bed, and squeal over the wolves outside the “cabin.” So far, it’s been everything I hoped for. 

Funny side story: We were practicing predictions during the Christmas chapter. I asked the girls how many presents they thought Mary and Laura would receive: lots and lots or just a couple. Gwennan voted just a couple. When I asked why, she reasoned that they lived way out in the big woods without other people, so there wasn’t a Target.

3. Missionary social studies
Each week (starting yesterday), we learn the story of a missionary, where they came from, where they traveled to, who they helped, and most importantly, why they helped. We investigate the culture they moved to, including food from that region (as Tim pointed out, I never pass up an opportunity for curry or any other unusual fare).
Amy Carmichael was our first subject. A single woman who became a mother to thousands of abused children. Such an amazing testimony. Her story is told briefly here. Elisabeth Elliot (who will be a subject later in the year) might be her greatest champion and wrote a beautiful article about her mission and writing here.

I can’t believe how this year has started. Where I feared stubborn refusal from students and blustering impatience from teacher, school has been none of those things. If I expected things to go so poorly, why did I ever agree to homeschool? My own experience. I remember neglecting my work, hiding skipped homework, fighting with my mom. some. More I recall amazing field trips, extra time on more interesting subjects, weekly trips to the library, hours reading what I loved, extra time with my mom and sisters, extra time playing, moving school outside on days too lovely to stay inside. Flexibility and time. What I want for my kids too. And so far, exactly what we have.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Westward, HO!

"Where did you go," you might be wondering. A lot of nowhere, a lot of busy beeing around the house. But not all nowhere. A few very big somewheres starting with California.

We have lovely friends in California, stationed there through the Air Force. When they began making plans to see each other, they invited us along. With the Ellis clan, we boasted 9 children {the oldest was 5 yo} and 6 excited, tired parents for a week of hiking, playing, biking, and touristing:
Wandering down the Monterrey Wharf in borrowed clothes

Beautiful girls searching for sea lions and otters

Sunset on the bay

What?! An Ellis family photo - only because we were reminded to take one

The redwoods at Big Sur

The best part - these wonderful ladies

Bubba on the beach
I might have taught this warrior girl to shoot at seagulls. She shot one!

Expectant faces watch for the wave to fall at the Monterrey Aquarium

Ecstasy with every wave

Our trip to California was one of the most rejuvenating experiences of my life, right up there with our honeymoon. We got away from daily pressures without any true agenda other than to spend time with people we love.

The trip out was a comedy of airline errors to be certain: cancelled flights, long delays with restless children in overcrowded airports with no gluten free food, lost bags, stomach virus (appropriately discharged on the airline kiosk). 24 hours round trip. If so many people didn’t experience the same thing every time they flew, I might think we were special. I haven’t sworn off flying, but I’m not jumping to get on another plane either.

But once we were there, seeing Emily and Keith and Mollie and Jeff and all their sweet little ones that I love like nieces and nephews... What a blessing! Even now, I can close my eyes and find myself standing in that open white kitchen with the windows and door flung wide to allow the cool breeze to flow through the house, taking my tension and frustrations with it. The yard with its rusty sand and spiny plants, all harboring their precious water against the long dry season. The living room couch covered with bare legs and open picture books and plastic dinosaurs.

The trip to Big Sur, driving along the sharp coast with breakers spraying above the rocks, the wind whipping hair and clothes. Red woods towering impossibly tall overhead, imposing and sheltering. Kids circling around us like a pack, excited, whining, bounding, all looking for lunch and bugs and the one perfect stick or rock or pinecone. All crouched down at the water’s edge, staring into the stream life below them. All filing over the fallen log bridge, holding momma’s hand and shuffling tiny tennis shoes to jump proudly at the end and stand tall while momma heads back across to help the next one in line. 

The hike with my besties. Getting to be free, strong mommas, skipping up the trail without the added weight of a child or two wrapped on and dragging against our hands. That conversation started the long, tearful talk over delicious food two nights later. The talk where we bore our souls and our fears and our frustrations with two of the only people alive that could hear all those deep ugly things we hate admitting to ourselves. They are those friends. Who know how angry I get, how messy my house is, how much I love and struggle with my husband, my God, my position, my life. And they are those friends who don’t let me wallow in the struggle, but pray for me, encourage me, and point me back to the will of God. Any plane ticket, any long day of flying, any hauling sick children across country was worth that conversation.

Afton thanks God for our trip to California and the plane ride and all of our friends every day still. What a blessing!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


In apology for my prolonged silence, I want to offer a simple present, a gift created by my 4 year old to convey the deepest of devotion. The most recent trend in our family texting. The word gift.

It goes something like this:

You are more beautiful than a herd of angry trolls.

You are the princess of God's holy robbers.

You are brighter than the eyes of ten thousands of giants.

You are stronger than enough baboons to fill a Costco.

Gwennan is serious as can be when delivering her love messages. She inhales in delight when she receives a word gift. She particularly loves word gift texts to and from her aunties who only surpass her mind-blowing comparisons.

My daughter is recognizing the power in her words. They are a tool to build people up as much as a box in bright paper can. And her choice in word gifts is as wonderful and random as the selections she makes at the dollar store {Daddy received TNMT mini frisbees and a whoopee cushion for his birthday; I can only imagine what's coming to me this weekend}.

I'd like to give you, my dear friends, a word gift of my own:

You are more lovely than the gilded edge of a garage sale picture frame.

I hope you spread the word gift love and have an awesome day!


P.S. #wordgift comments are always welcome here!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mustache cake

This glorious day that The Lord gave. It started rough but took a turn for the much better.

The unpacking you might expect...
The momma-ing you might expect...
Does anyone else get a tad protective of their Lego building projects? I was none to happy when an errant stroller went crashing through the carefully crafted bedroom. 

Trying to make headway with the mountain of laundry
when the forecast looks like this...
I'm not psychotically protective of the ozone layer. We don't have a dryer. We own one. We don't have an outlet (and maybe not even the breaker box) to power such a machine.

And finally the piece de resistance, Tim's birthday cake, 
I'm a week late. What can I say? I only found the cake plate last night.

This was the first year I proposed a grown up birthday cake for Tim. By grown up cake, I don't mean over 21; I mean the kind of cake that children declare yummy but not a birthday cake. No sprinkles, no frosting,  not 9" round. Only a grown up would request such a cake.

At least that's how my girls reacted.

G: We need to put Frozen characters on it!

M: For daddy?? (The poor man has endured that movie enough without it bedecking his cake)

G: Well, we don't have to put Hans on there.

M: This is for Daddy. Can we think of something more boy?

G: Then turtles! (TMNT, that is)

I'm not sure who shouted "mustache," (it sounds like Afton). It seemed like a more doable suggestion; thus the cake was baked and decorated. And my delightful day will come to a delicious end.

In case you are interested, the cake is based on a wonderful grown up lemon pound cake from Smitten Kitchen.


Related Posts with Thumbnails