Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nature Study Outing :: A Tale of Two Hikes

As I've mentioned before, I am thankful for our nature study group, not only because it includes a BIG group of enthusiastic kids of various ages and interests, but also because it includes a group of eager and thoughtful moms.

Our usual schedule is a Friday morning group nature outing together.  But one week, we decided to go back the next morning to the same spot and do a moms-only hike!  It was so much fun to explore without the kids around.

This outing was at a county park that begins at a field and ventures up into the foothills on a 4-mile loop that circles back down to the field at the end.  With the kids, we made it an out-and-back of about a mile, with lots of stops for climbing and exploring.  With the moms, we did the whole loop...with lots of stops for climbing and exploring. ;)

Friday morning, with the kids:

xavier said, "it's the tree in the trail!!" :)

a very moody-weather day: cold, windy, alternating between bright and dark

vetch leaves -- no flowers yet

part of the group


And from the moms' hike, early the next morning in the same county park:

the first miner's lettce blooms!

taken by my friend Malgosia

taken by my friend Malgosia
love these ladies <3
The star of both outings was the fungi, which were present in all kinds of awesome forms and made their way into my nature journal...

Once the nearly-incessant rain clears, I'm going to put out the call for another moms' hike -- I think we need to make it at least a quarterly event.  If you haven't done one with your group yet, give it a try!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Keeping Company :: Feburary 2017

Welcome to the link-up for February!

Starting the Discussion

My mind is preoccupied with preparations for CM West :: Conference in the Redwoods, starting later this week.  I haven't had much time for anything "extra" in my days -- for a few weeks it has felt like I'm only getting the bare minimum accomplished.  Thankfully, my "bare minimum" includes my weekly keeping habits.  I have found those to be so essential to my days that I cannot leave them out!  These busy times are when I'm especially grateful to have them there on my weekly checklist, staring at me and reminding me to engage and rest in leisure.  When I am busiest, most likely to give them up, is when I need them most.

I came across this quote from John Muir in one of our Term 3 biographies that struck me as exactly what I was seeing in my own life for the past couple weeks:

He's talking about the busy-ness of city life, but I think the same can apply to busy-ness in our everyday schedule, wherever we live and however good the project is we're working on.

So I have been working on my commonplace, my history keeping, and my nature journaling this past week.  In fact, on Saturday, when I "should have" been working on my woefully-unfinished talk, I spent an hour nature journaling a fungusy, licheny (totally words!) log:

That isn't to say my "post-conference checklist" isn't way, way longer than it should be.  I have been throwing tasks onto that list for months and at this point, it's positively unruly! Mid-February life will look quite a bit different than it does now.  But with the ebbs and tides it is nice to have some bits that stay constant. :)

From Last Month

Lovely thoughts shared in last month's collection to kick off our new year...

My Peace in the Puzzle has a wonderful idea for fitting in pre-reading AND personal devotions by combining the two.  For those of you who read my pre-reading post and are pondering how to "fit it in," consider whether her suggestion would help.  And we get a nice cozy peek into her commonplace book as well!

I am in awe over Melissa's chapter-by-chapter written narrations of Oliver Twist!  Head over to see her thoughts on the book as well as her children's.  She also treats us to an idea-packed passage from The Golden Days of Greece.

Carol's family are noticing garden spiders and eggplant in their nature journals this month.

It's beginning to look a lot like spring over on Instagram!

accidentalstars - adventureadaycm - sproutnchic
freelylearned - aolander - mariasugiyopranoto
sarahjokim - theycallmemommy618 - h5manriquez

lylyfreshty - raisinglittleshoots - tribecham
5mindailydrawingchallenge - ruthjtd - teriannm13 - convincedofwonders
athena_amidstthereeds - viajoy.baboopri.2- hudson2975squids7 - windymorning_3

jeffsjessie - amy_crossingthebrandywine - theycallmemommy618
thanks33 - magistramama - kaypelham
angelaboord - learninghowtolivecm - laurke2

mariasugiyopranoto - littledrops5 - frannieruth19

A few more special shares I want to highlight:

Dawn has been writing about her pre-reading and planning, and I just love the little keeping checklist she's adding to her kids' daily task sheets (over on the right).  She uses a list for her own pre-reading as well.  And she and her kids share their personal keeping with each other at their weekly meetings together, just like we do!

Mariah has a couple unique items to share this month, including her daughter's start to an Enquire Within notebook (a less-popular notebook kept in CM's schools)...


...and the reading notes sheet she made for her children.  My kids keep these kinds of notes on the back of their weekly checklist, but I love how she formatted this and think it would be particularly helpful for kids that have a hard time focusing or kids that are just getting started with managing their own weekly keeping habits.


And last but not least: how about some keeping not on paper, but in wood?  Lucy's son is starting a carved bird!  Sounds like 3-D nature journaling. :)

And now it's your turn!

The Link-Up

:: For bloggers: Click on the "Add my link" button below, and it will prompt you to include the information for your post.  Once you submit it, your link will be added to the list, and others will be able to click over and read what you have shared.
:: For Instagrammers: Tag related photos with #KeepingCompanyCM.

:: Remember to link to a specific post and not to your blog's homepage. 
:: Any posts about CM-style Keeping are welcome!  The prompt is optional.  Your post can be as simple as a photo of your commonplace book or your kids drawing.
:: Feel free to add more than one post.  The link-up will be open for a month, so you can come back and add more if you are so inclined.
:: You can grab the button over there on the sidebar if you'd like to add it to your post or site.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

{From My Commonplace} :: For the First Day of February

These are vocation-altering, purpose-giving, perspective-changing words.  Read and ponder and let them change the way you view those February doldrums.

"What Aslang complained about till she positively shrieked -- that housework was so monotonous: no sooner had she prepared a meal than it was eaten up, and then it was soon time to think of another, and when one had washed up and put things away, one knew that in a couple hours' time one would have to take them out again and let the others dirty them, and the rooms had to be done and the beds made every day simply in order that folks should get into them again at night.  There was something in that, of course. But she herself thought one might also look at it in this way: that it was the good happy moments when one had finished one's work that recurred -- when she had finished the morning's work and put the rooms in order, when for instance she had got the stove to burn nicely, with the window still open so that she felt the fresh draught of air through the room -- or when supper was laid in the kitchen with something out of the ordinary and she could call the boys in.  Getting a thing off her hands she had always liked."

 -- from Sigrid Undset's Ida Elizabeth (emphasis mine, because it's just too good)

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Weekly Planning + Pre-Reading Session

In this fall's scheduling post I mentioned our Weekly Meeting and my Weekly Planning Session. These are the two cornerstones toward my goal of keeping our homeschool humming along, the parts of my schedule that keep me on track, prepared, and checked in with my students.  I've given some sneak peeks over on Instagram but here will be a detailed look at how I organize things for my Year 5 kids and my Form I students.  What I share here isn't specific to any particular year, though -- it's just some principles for how to order your homeschool week that could be applied to any situation.

I'm going to start with my Weekly Planning Session, and I'll cover the Weekly Meeting in my next post.  Get ready for a bunch of nitty-gritty homeschool talk!

First, let's look again at that sheet I print out weekly for my planning:

I'm going to focus on the top section there: my list of tasks for the Weekly Planning Session.

You could easily keep these kinds of lists in Evernote or another digital form and access with your computer or tablet -- it certainly doesn't have to be printed.  I like manually checking off and writing my notes in pen, but I fully acknowledge it's not the most efficient tool.  It's just most efficient for me because I like it best, which means it actually gets done. (Know thyself and all that!)

The point is to have a list of things you need to do during your weekly planning session.  For me, that's pre-reading and some legwork for our more hands-on activities.  This list will vary depending on how many students you have, how independent they are, how you teach your other subjects, and how much you like to plan day-to-day.  I don't like to play day-to-day at all -- my life on the daily level is far more unpredictable, so if things don't get done during this session, chances are they won't get done at all that week.  So I make it a priority to be consistent.

When I have handle my weekly planning also doesn't matter, though I prefer some time during the weekend: usually late Saturday mornings, but sometimes Friday nights if we have plans all day Saturday. I sit down with this list, my agenda and school folder, a favorite beverage, and my laptop in the dining room next to our school bookshelves.  I spend about 1.5-2 hours (with lots of interruptions from small people, though my husband runs interference too!) checking off the items on this list.

This list dictates how I spend those hours.  Here's is a step-by-step of my process:

:: The bulk of  my time is spent reading through all the independent reading my Year 5 kids will do that week.  I started pre-reading consistently a couple years ago, and it has made all the difference in how I feel about my role as a teacher.  I go into each week feeling prepared and ready, and I am able to engage with my students much more effectively.  I also am getting so much personally out of the books -- I definitely count it as part of refreshing Mother Culture.

I know not everyone has the time to pre-read, but even if you can just manage it for a book or two, it's worth the effort!  Perhaps you could pick the hardest book, or the book you're least familiar with...or the book you most want to read! ;)  Also, if you're having trouble fitting it in, a week-by-week approach might not be best for you.  As students get older, their reading load increases, and it's not possible to read it all in a couple hours on a Saturday -- the mom of a teen student might want to pre-read a couple books daily, in a morning quiet time or before bed.  Perhaps summertime works best for you, and you keep your notes by book rather than by week.  Maybe you choose a couple books to read and a couple to listen to on audio and skip the note-taking, just aiming for listening and narrating to yourself as you go along.  You can homeschool without pre-reading, but I think you'll find that every little bit bears fruit.  Consider brainstorming how to make it happen in your home.  I guarantee you'll be glad you did!

I read with a place to take notes next to me -- I keep my notes on the back of my Weekly Planning sheet so that I have all my notes handy during our Weekly Meeting (more on that another time).

I have a note-taking code to myself: I star items I want to look up or add to my own keeping (commonplace, century chart, maps) -- things like dates, favorite quotes, names, facts I'd like to check on.  I put a Q next to discussion questions I might like to pose to my kids either after their narration or during our Weekly Meeting.  At the end of the year, my plan is to scan these notes and pop them onto Evernote in my Year 5 notebook for the next time around.  This also allows them to be searchable for future reference.

:: Afterward, I  take a few minutes to look up the AO study guides for the books we're reading and my own notes about supplemental activities.  That includes both books I'll be reading aloud and ones they're working on independently, as well as assignments for my Form I students.  For Year 5, I check a list of some experiments we're doing alongside Christian Liberty Nature Reader (I'd pull the required materials), the Madam How Lady Why study guide (I highlight in Evernote any discussion points I want to raise), any photos I want to view for the Book of Marvels, and so on.  I also put a post-it on the illustrations I want to use alongside The Burgess Book of Animals for my Form I kids and check whethere Long's Home Geography has us doing any hands-on work this week.

:: Next I take a quick look at my term charts to see if there's anything of note this week so I can amend the weekly checklist. Often there are weeks in which a particular book isn't scheduled, and I like to update my weekly checklist to reflect that. (For example, here I crossed out Our Island Story for my Year 2 student and added D'Aulaires' Abraham Lincoln, which we'll be reading over the next few weeks.)

:: I also add any changing bits to my weekly checklist: art study, music study, nature journaling challenge, nature study plans.  As I add those, I check if there's anything that needs to be prepared: is the art print ready to go?  Are the mp3s I need on my phone or do I have a CD handy?  Do I need to read a section from the Handbook of Nature Study for our Friday get-together?  Is my audio recording for Shakespeare loaded onto my computer?  Did I need to request a book from the library?  And so on.  This is a great time to look over whether the items I need for weekly hands-on subjects are prepared so I'm not left scrambling during the school week.

:: I take a few moments to prepare our Italian materials for the week too.  Over the summer, I sorted my Italian bin into some fabulous colored poly folders so that I can access our new and review activities more easily.  Each week, I work from a review folder and our current folder.  As items get mastered, they move from the current folder into one my my review folders.  I cycle through my review folders by changing to a new one each week.  My current folder requires some weekly organizing: I look over the materials I have in there and decide what activities to plan for the week ahead.  Sometimes I make a checklist of goals for the week and sometimes I just pull a few things from the folder, but at least everything is there at my fingertips.  I also choose the week's Italian dictation and written assignment for my Year 5 kids.

:: Then: remember all those starred items in my notes?  Now is the time to handle those!  I do my own Year 5 keeping, adding entries to my Century Chart, commonplace book (I have one dedicated to "school readings"), and maps.

:: Then: the Q notes?  I choose a few of the not-to-miss questions I've pondered and write those on the front of my planning sheet so they're all ready to go for our Weekly Meeting.  I also note in the same box any to-dos of particular importance that I want make sure to cover then as well.  The notes in that box along with the list above it determine how I spend our Weekly Meeting time.

:: Last is some personal prep work: I do some weekly-review-style brainstorming and troubleshoot any problem areas in attitudes, schedule, or assignments.  I look through my calendar for the week and create my menu plan.  I make sure my tablet is charged for school readings and go through the week's paperwork in my folder and tray.  (More on those "landing spots" during my Weekly Meeting post too.)

Then I put everything away and go about the rest of my weekend, ready to start fresh on Monday!

I referred to our Weekly Meeting several times, and that will be coming up next time.  So if you have questions about that process, save them until I get a chance to flesh that out a bit more.  But if there was anything unclear about what I have written here, feel free to let me know in the comments and I'll try to elaborate. :)

And others have been chatting about Weekly Planning lately too!  Dawn shared snapshots of her planning sheet, which includes both a comprehensive list of to-dos and a focused note-taking page.  And Jen Mackintosh has some gorgeous free printables to get you planning in style as well.  I so appreciate these ladies sharing tips and tricks and am happy to add my own process to the conversation too.

Happy Planning! :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

{This and That} :: New Year's Edition

So.  That title.  It's not exactly New Year's anymore!  Ha.  But I titled and started writing this post the week of New Year's and I'm going to just finish it off and get it up.

It has been a quiet few months on the blog, and if you know me in person, you know why...

The nausea and fatigue that come with the first trimester weren't all that have kept me away from this space -- we had a solid month of illness here at our house, plus Advent preparations and Christmas celebrations that required what little energy I had to be focused on our family.

BUT our happy news has certainly been the major reason I have been absent, and I'm hoping that now that I'm almost at the halfway point in this pregnancy, I'll be back to my normal blogging self soon.  I've never been a high-volume blogger, but I do have so many topics I'd like to write about that it would be nice to be able to be in this space more often.

Baby is due at the very beginning of July, God willing.  Your prayers are much appreciated!

And the story behind the photo above: when we made the announcement to the kids around Thanksgiving, they were ecstatic -- especially the Middles.  Xavier and Bridget immediately ran to the table and started drawing pictures and writing little announcements, grabbed some tape, and hung them up all over the house.  And they haven't let me take them down!  So amidst our Christmas decorations are little pictures and signs.  It was the funniest reaction to a baby announcement we have ever had.


Another thing that has been keeping me busy is CM West :: Conference in the Redwoods!  It has been an exciting few weeks as Amber and I finish up what needs to be done before the event.  I've got a few requests for you:

:: First, if you're in the Western part of the country and want to keep abreast of future conference and retreat opportunities, head over to CM West to sign up for the mailing list and follow our Facebook page.  We're planning for the Bay Area and Seattle events to be annual, and other regional opportunities may pop up as well -- subscribing to CM West ensures you will get the registration announcements.

:: And second: I'll be giving a workshop on foreign language at this year's conference, and I'd like to crowdsource a bit. What most keeps you from studying a foreign language with your children?  What do you find most challenging?  What do you feel you least understand about the method?  I am in the "paring down to one hour" stage of my prep work and I'm hoping that your answers will help me focus my presentation.


For your reading/listening pleasure...

I enjoyed Sally's interview with Cindy Rollins on The Mason Jar a couple weeks ago.  If you haven't had a chance to listen, it's a good one!  Sally mentioned Dana Goioa's "Poetry as Enchantment," which thoughtfully considers of the musicality of poetry and how it appeals to human nature's best side.  Worth a listen and a read!

CMI published Karen Glass' rebuttal to some criticisms Consider This received from other Charlotte Mason educators.  I have been anticipating her response ever since I first read the blog posts countering Glass' book, which I felt misrepresented her arguments.  I am not invested in the CM-classical argument personally (I find it interesting philosophically but have no "dog in the fight") but I do not like to see statements get taken out of context to such an extent that good will is lost among the Charlotte Mason community.  If you're interested in reading more, please do click over and "consider this." :)

Keeping Company is now in its third year!  If you missed this month's round-up, head over and read and join.  I've been excited to see some new-to-me accounts pop up on Instagram, and I have really enjoyed the blog posts included so far too.


I just wanted to share a few snapshots from our Christmas festivities, a month late. ;)

We still have a week of Christmas left -- Candlemas is February 2nd and officially closes the Christmas season around here -- so I'll soon be sharing our Christmas crafting and the Christmas books gifted in our home, as usual!


It's exam week here, and I'm prepping for Term 3.  I picked up my prints at Kinkos last night (we're doing Winslow Homer) and downloaded The Story of Dvorak to load to my phone (thanks to a tip from my friend, Dawn).  That's two things down!  Here's what's left on my list:
:: select and print dictation passages (for Year 5 kids) and copywork (for Form I)
:: select and print memory work
:: plan Morning Basket
:: decide on mapwork for all grades
:: order my son's geometry book
:: prep our Italian materials for the term
:: refresh our bookshelves, binders, pencil boxes
Whew!  I'm hoping I'll get a couple hours on Saturday (in addition to the couple hours I need for pre-reading!) to finish that all off so we can start with a clean slate and prepared home on Monday.


Last night our local CM study group had a "resource share" and I brought a bag of random favorites to show the group.  Here's what I included:

Sloane's The Diary of an Early American Boy (his books are great to use for line drawings in Books of Centuries!)
foldable book stand (we have three and I probably need to get another)
two-pack of timers
Winston Grammar, basic level
The Backard Birdsong Guide (would make a great gift!)
Frixion pens (the kids use these for almost everything now)
and our new nature journaling sets, which I'll be sharing here soon in more detail!

A rather odd combination of items that I've mostly mentioned here on the blog at one point or another, but that's what popped into my bag while I was walking about my house right before the meeting! :)


Have a lovely week, friends!  I'll finally have my post about pre-reading up next.  See you then!