Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lent Week 1

Since this is our first year as a family to observe Lent together, I'd like to keep a diary of sorts with pictures of the things we've done and remember our first experience through this season.

For the family, I opted to follow Rich & Rooted Passover. It's organized with three study days a week, a day of Prayer, a day of Alms (either giving money or acts of service), a day of feasting, and a day of worship.

We began on Ash Wednesday with our own little ceremony. We talked about the purpose of Lent being a time to remember that we are made from the dust, and we will return to dust. Thinking of the end of our life encourages us to contemplate what it means to live fully and well today.  We spent some time talking about what it means to live well and to live fully, a life more abundant, and what things might keep us from living that way, things that hold us back.  We all wrote those things down on a sheet of paper and burned them in a small bowl.  After that, we set up a "Provocation Station."  This is a place we will set small items as we study through Lent, reminders of the things we have learned about the life of Jesus. We can come here anytime and spend some time thinking about how we're doing at ridding our heart of those hindrances, remember Jesus's words, his trials in life, his sacrifice.  We set up a Wilderness Candle that reminds us of his 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, and how his light will always guide us through these times in our life.

On Thursday, we studied beauty: how Jesus takes these ashes and gives us beauty. Friday we volunteered with the International Rescue Committee for the afternoon and helped set up an apartment for an incoming refugee family.

Sunday, we feasted and worshipped together.  We made Capirotada, a traditional Mexican bread pudding.  The bread is soaked in a  syrup that is made with cinnamon sticks and cloves, which represent the cross and nails of the crucifixion, and the broken bread represents the broken body of Christ.

The Lent Project has been really good for me so far, and given me a lot to ponder and contemplate. I love the artwork, the music, and the poetry. It was especially exciting for me that one day there was a song in Latin, and thanks to studying it alongside my kids the past three years, I could actually understand the words to the song:

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.

Where there is love and care, there is God. 
We gathered as one in the love of Christ.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On Observing Lent

When our kids were small, we began the tradition of observing Advent as a family. Neither Paul nor I grew up observing Advent or Lent, or celebrated things like Ash Wednesday. But a mentor friend of mine had given me a set of Jesse Tree ornaments, and a devotional guide for the Advent season to go along with it, and we began to do this every year for our children.

As we've returned to the US and found ourselves most at home in a Presbyterian church, we have been introduced to the celebrations of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  These were very unknown things to us a year ago, and I will always remember vividly my first Ash Wednesday service last year!  This year, I wanted to be much more intentional to embrace this season of anticipation. I'm learning a lot about and hope to grow through it these next six weeks, as well as lead my kids to some self-flection.

Here are some resources we'll be using to help us navigate this season as newbies:

I found this article that is a great run down of the significance of Ash Wednesday and why to celebrate it:

Then I ran across this Lent Project by Biola University.  They put together daily devotionals with Scripture readings, complete with art and music to listen to. You can see some of the previous Lent Projects from years past on their website, and subscribe to get an email daily during Lent this year.

Lastly, I found this beautiful little book called Rich & Rooted Passover.  This is a guide for families, with Scripture to copy, hymns, small craft and art projects, and feasting recipes. As I've printed it this afternoon and look through it it looks lovely, and I'm really looking forward to going through it with my kids!

In addition to this, I'm fasting from social media. It has been such a time sucker and distraction in my life. I'm dying to get off of it, and this is the motivation I needed. I've never fasted for Lent before, and since I'm not in a place with my health to do any physical fasting, this is the next best thing. I'm really looking forward to slowing down and giving my soul room to contemplate and reflect over the next few weeks.

May the Lord bless you and keep you through this season!

Saturday, November 25, 2017


After all the food had been eaten and all the playing had been accomplished and all the dishes had been washed, Paul and I sat down in a quiet, lamplit home and gave our kids a few minutes to write a list of things they were thankful for.  Some of them chose to write a list based on the alphabet. Others went for a free-form list. :)

Here's what our kids are thankful for this year!

Luke, age 12
Holy Bible
Jazz music
Mom, Meryn
Nerf guns

Kiryn, age 11:
Good-lookin' Dad
Itch ointment
Nadia (pen pal)
Other People

Levi, age 7:
Great Grandma
Great Grandpa

Meryn, age 6:
Abby, my stuffy
Ice Cream
Jantz Cousins
Katie Rose, Kiryn
 Luke, Levi
Orange juice
Playing outside
Quiet bedroom
Wild Kratts
(mom's e)xcellent food
(She had help with a few of these! :)

So fun to see what they are thankful for! :) 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

End-of-Term Review and Reflections

Each year when we begin our studies, I always think I'd like to do weekly post on how we're spending our time and growing. But somehow, it seems kind of like measuring the kids' heights every single week. You do it so often its hard to see the growth. While I have managed to write about some specific things we've done so far this year, I'm going to try to do end-of-term reviews to see more significant growth. By looking back at 12 weeks of school work, maybe I'll see bigger strides of growth, more accomplished, and generally be more encouraged to keep on.

This week we are taking the week off of school, so I had planned into the week to have a day of reflection, and to walk through the Simply Convivial Homeschool Audit. That's what I'm doing today, so here's a review of the past 12 weeks of our learning!

Morning Time

We have read a lot.  We have two stacks of books: completed, and in progress. 
This is our completed stack. The kids have read these to themselves, with the exception of Of Courage Undaunted. That was a read-aloud our first six weeks. 

This is our in-progress stack.  Some we just began (like Queen Victoria and John Audubon). Others we're almost finished with (like Lord of the Rings and The Great Little Madison, and an un-pictured eBook, The Swiss Family Robinson), and others we'll be reading slowly all year (like Hearts and Hands, Easy French Reader, Abraham Lincoln's World, Story of the Great Republic, and the atlas of physiology). 

Most of our reading happens during our Morning Time.  The past twelve weeks in Morning Time, the kids have: 
-heard daily Bible readings
-learned two new hymns by heart
-listened to multiple pieces of music by Vivaldi
-read Building Poems by Michael Clay Thompson and written their own poems with what they've learned
-carefully looked at and learned to identify six paintings by Botticelli
-learned about phrases (prepositional, appositive, verbals) in grammar 
-memorized I Corinthians 13
-listened to the entire Twelfth Night play by Shakespeare

Some of Luke's poetry writing. He was given a meter and rhyme scheme and a theme. 

My Morning Time planning sheet, well-used and filled up with all that we've put nurtured our souls with together. 

Sometimes, the younger ones need things to keep them busy and hopefully quiet during Morning Time. This is a picture of one of the ways we did that. :) 

Everyone hard at work on grammar during Morning Time. 

I look back on this and can say I'm very satisfied with the ground we've covered here. :) If I will keep consistently working my plan, I will remain very satisfied with our how days are getting started and the thing we're filling our minds and hearts with together. 

Upper Grammar Kids
My older two kids have been growing in their independence this year. They are expected to read more independently, manage their time more independently, make decisions about how and where and what to work on.  Their checklists are working well.  Here's some samples from their Commonplace books and Nature journals. 

Kiryn's Commonplace. Latin to English translation of questions and answers to a Latin story she read on the left. Rough draft of one of her essays on the right. 

Kiryn is my creative kid. This is her Latin practice, complete with doodling, and an upside down monkey hanging from the top of the page. :)

The kids have been studying the human body. We've worked through several of the systems, and I've had them draw and label each one as they've learned it. I couldn't find Kiryn's skeletal or respiratory systems, because they were drawn on loose paper (instead of in her nature notebook, where they ought to have been done).  So this brain is all I have of hers so far this year. :(

We've been working on taking notes as they read history, and building their Timelines off of the notes they take.  This is a sample of Kiryn's history note-taking, with some Dictation at the top. 

Luke's Commonplace book. He has been working on outlining. Here is an outline of the story of Benedict Arnold. 

Sample of Luke's history note-taking. 

Kiryn's nature journal. We found one of these caterpillars in the garden and have kept him. He cocooned within a few days, but it looks like he's going to over-winter, because he's still in there. :) 

Luke's Nature Journal. This is his free-hand drawing and labeling of the skeletal system. 

Luke's Respiratory System and Brain drawings. 

Looking back through their work has been so encouraging to me! We are really learning things, and getting to know God and His ways in the process. We are growing in knowledge and virtue together. Thank you, Lord!

Lower Grammar Kids
My lower grammar kids have also been hard at work.  We've read a lot together: 

Our completed book stack from the past 12 weeks. (Except Just So Stories. We just have another chapter or two in that!)

Here are sample of their work.  Meryn is still learning to form letters and is just beginning to do some basic sentence copy-work, so she doesn't have too much written work to show yet. :) 

Levi's reproductions of art he's been looking at. He's studied Winslow Homer, Jean-Francois Millet, and Van Gogh this year so far. 

I love this. He loved this painting so much he asked for a poster of it, which we got and hung over his bed. 

Levi's also been learning just a bit about major stars and constellations and learning to draw them. 

Levi's nature journal. Here is an entry about a golden finch. He drew this from a picture in a book, and wrote down what he remembered reading about it. It was from a story/fable, not a scientific reading. :) 

Meryn's drawing and oral narration from the same story. She dictated to me and I wrote what she said. 

Levi and Meryn playing math games together. They like to race to build the shapes. 

Levi having some quiet reading time to himself. 

Outside Activities
In addition to our home-based studies, we are part of a homeschool co-op.  This co-op meets every Friday. Twice a month we have class days together in Latin, Writing, History, and Fine Arts (and nature time for the younger kids). Twice a month we have Enrichment Days in which we do a service project, have a field trip, or have a nature day.  This has gone so amazingly well this year, and here are some scenes from the things we've done together, as well as just some family outings we've had! So many good memories here!

Family trip to see the solar eclipse!

Co-op: Lessons on Lewis & Clark and their adventures as naturalists who documented many new plant and animal species. Kids looked at L&C's journals, and had to go outside and find plant samples and make entries like Lewis & Clark did, giving detailed drawings and descriptions. 

Co-op: Field trip to Eagle Valley Raptor Center. This was an awesome field trip and the kids got up close and personal with some serious birds of prey!

Here, Meryn has just left a mouse in the fence for the vulture to come eat. 

Yes, that is a real bald eagle!

Kiryn working on Latin so happily and peacefully, I just had to capture it. :) 

Co-op: Service project at the Kansas Food Bank. We stocked shelves together for almost two hours and helped with milk, vienna sausages, pudding packs, and more!

Family field trip to the Bliss Bouldering Club to try our hand at rock climbing. Super fun!

Kiryn has really grown in her crafting skills this year. 

Co-op: Special Guest Speaker Vicki Dicks came and told our kids all about her great-great-grandfather, Chief Sequoyah, who wrote the Cherokee language. This was a special and memorable treat!

Co-op: Jacque teaching the kids about the Oregon Trail. Here they are measuring off exactly how large a wagon would have been and thinking about fitting everything a family owned or would need for that kind of journey into that amount of space. 

Co-op: Nature Day at Chaplin Nature Center. We love Mr. Shaun and the programs he puts together for the kids. This trip he took us on a 1 mile hike to investigate the different types of trees and teach the kids a bit about identification and parts of a tree. 

Home: Kiryn is really enjoying playing the violin. 

Co-op: Kids playing an Oregon Trail card game as we continue learning about the Oregon Trail. 

I am so so pleased with how our co-op is going and all the wonderful things we've experienced so far this year with our group! 

Planning Reflections
So this past summer, I spent a lot of time in planning and creating a planning system I thought would save me a lot of time. Has it worked? I'm glad to say that I am very happy with how my planner is working.  It does save me significant time each week to already have an idea of the broad strokes of the year in our major courses. I have been able to read widely in the free time I've had the past twelve weeks. I've read: 

-Norms and Nobility (half of it so far)
-Robinson Crusoe
-The Black Moon (A Poldark novel, light read)
-Consider This (half so far)
-Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen

I've also been able to complete two classes on Classical U (Essential Latin, and Teaching Math Classically), and get about halfway through another (How to Teach History with Wes Callihan). I've also been able to spend significant time researching and planning a long-range 7-12th grade brain storm for what our co-op could look like for those grades, since we have a group of kids moving into 7th grade next year. I don't think I'd have had the margin to do all this in the afternoons and on weekends if I hadn't planned well over the summer. It was time well-spent.  Here's a peek into how my planner is working for me: 

A filled-in Morning Time sheet.

My memory keeping page. Anything fun we do I try to write a little note here so we can look back at this and remember what we've done!

A complete week spread with assignments filled in and checked off, notes made, etc. (One day I had to call and schedule a chimney cleaning, so there are notes about that totally un-related to school.) :)

My co-op lesson plan sheets. These have worked really well for me to plan out how our classes will go each time we get together. 

It's been so encouraging for me to reflect back on the past twelve weeks! I still have some time to sit down and work through the questions in the homeschool audit and see if there are areas I could tweak and improve. I know we have areas that need improvement. One of my children is severely lacking in discipline and is always dragging their feet to get their reading work done.  One of my children is a bit hasty and rushes through their work, especially math.  I struggle to get up early enough to begin at a decent time, which ends up cutting the kids time too short to accomplish what I'd like for them to do.  I need to be more diligent and consistent in getting up and being ready to go by 8:30. When I'm slow in the morning and we don't get started till 9 (or 9:30, let's be honest), we inevitably cannot complete all I've set out to do in a day. The needs of the four different kids mixed with making lunch and the older two going and coming for their orchestra classes everyday leaves us with about 2.5-3 hours for school if I'm an hour late.  This is an area I've struggled with the past 3-4 weeks, and I know I need to improve in my diligence to give them the appropriate amount of time so our learning is not rushed and they feel their time matches the expected work.  So those are the things I'm looking to improve as begin a new term next week! :)