Giveaway time!


Hurricane Matthew definitely made things interesting the last few days. Amazingly though, I am still on schedule to launch my print collection on Friday! I’m so excited. I want to share with you, dear readers, who have been with me through thick and thin. I’ll be giving away this print to one lucky reader- simply comment below to enter. It feels utterly crazy and wonderful and frightening and ludicrous and a million other things to launch this into the world. I don’t think I would ever have had the bravery to begin at all without you, dear readers. This launch is as much yours as it is mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart! The giveaway will close on Friday, Oct 14, at 9 am EST. Good luck!

Art Friday: Coming Soon!


I’ve been receiving a lot of questions, and I am excited and a bit scared to announce that I will be selling prints of some of my recent artwork. The Plumfield Collection will launch next Friday, October 15th, and there will be a fun giveaway next week, so stay tuned!

I am so pleased with this collection. Sketching and painting these brought me such happiness and peace, and I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I did making them. As I am working to prepare these for print, I am filled with wonder. I had no idea that these were all tucked away in my soul, waiting for a ray of sunshine. The path to this launch may seem very straightforward to the rest of you, but to me, I would not have imagined that I would be offering this. I had no idea! I am as pleased and excited as you are. The name, of course, is pulled from the delightful Little Men, which we were listening to on audio book during many of my painting sessions. It just seemed fitting to name the collection so. I think Aunt Jo would enjoy these small offerings.

Speaking of wonder, Kort has a wonderful series going this month called The Wonder Project. I was so inspired by her fall leaf mandala the other day that I think I want to try something similar in paint, soon!

Digging deep…

pumpkinwindow newstrategies solarium rocketboys

We have settled into the new school year in earnest the last few weeks, settled down to a strong, gentle rhythm of days. It really feels lovely. The children seem to calm and settle and dig in deeper with each passing week in a way I would not have imagined possible when we began homeschooling again last year. Yet it is here, a blessing giving dividends. I see their trust in themselves and their own innate learning grow as they realize that the world is truly at their door and they have only to explore it. We have a set course of study, of course, but already in a short month’s time they have covered vast swaths of things borne out of their own questions that I could neither have imagined or foreseen when I sat down to plan out the fall term a month ago. The best sort of explorations.

I have seen the fruit of my focus on mastery come to fruition as we began to dig in this year. Such immense improvements in reading and writing across the board with all of my students. Three, almost four students (another month or so!) can work independently and easily now across their subjects, which means I return to my desired role with my older students- guide, companion, tutor.

Our curriculum across the board consists of a mix of Memoria Press (Latin, Composition: Fable, and Ellianna’s kindergarten curriculum), Ambleside Online (all of our literature selections this year), Story of the World, Modern Era (Well Trained Mind Press), and an eclectic mix of math depending on the child (Math U See, Rod and Staff, and Math Mammoth- Ben is using the Prentice Hall Classics as recommended by Memoria Press) and Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Grammar lessons are pulled either from our Shakespeare memorization for the month or from Ambleside Online copywork. The younger children copy whatever it is for the day; the older children work with me to diagram the sentence and copy it into their notebook. (All told, about a 10 or 15 minute lesson in sum). I had barely begun to do this exercise before attending the Circe workshop last year, but was encouraged by all that was said to continue it, and it is this short grammar lesson each day that I do solidly believe has made the largest difference in their reading and writing mastery. We use Maria Montessori’s approach for grammar- we label each word with the appropriate symbol, and borrowing from IEW, we underline any tell-tale endings that suggest a verb (-ing), adjective (-ly, -ness) and so on. Even Ellianna can quickly identify such things as pronouns and articles now, and it has been painless for all. To them it is a game- they race each other to pick the correct symbol first.

Lorelei and I have been trying something new with her spelling words, which she laughingly refers to as her “one weakness” (ala Dorcas Lane in Lark Rise to Candleford, although when Dorcas says it, she’s usually referring to things like chocolate or match-making). Lorelei’s reading has vastly improved in a year’s time but her dyslexia most makes itself known when it comes to spelling. What a struggle it is. Anyways, though we have been using All About Spelling for quite some time, we added some new tweaks this year and so far, we are both impressed with the results. First, I have her write her spelling words three times using colored pencils. Blue for beginning sounds, purple for consonant teams, red for vowels, orange for vowel teams, green for ending sounds.  The next day she finds all the bannanagram letters for her words. The third day, she pulls out those same letters and marks them with little plastic game markers that correspond to the same letters. The fourth day, she writes a sentence with each word. The fifth, we review. So far we’ve had a hundred percent retention, which is a vast improvement. Prior to this, she’d retain about a third of ten words. As she enjoys it and it seems to be working well, we’ll continue to do it until (and if) we need to change it up. I can see her confidence growing in her other writing, too, which is the most important thing for me. She no longer thinks “I can’t do this”. She is getting quite courageous in her written narrations, and tears no longer come when she can’t spell a word she wants- I watch her use all sorts of strategies now to guess, (often getting it right!), and she will come to me when she needs help instead of getting discouraged.

Overall, our school day is much shorter than it was last year, and the afternoons are almost solely devoted to their own explorations. The older children have been very fascinated by this election cycle, so they have been researching the processes as to how the President gets elected, how the electoral college works, how political parties are formed, conventions run, delegates chosen. They have demanded to watch all of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates so far. With my degree in History, I must say it is fascinating to be a listening bystander as they explore and watch this election. I have been careful not to make my own views known, and have watched all the goings on silently. Because they are currently studying World War II and its aftermath, so much of their running commentary on the election proceedings relates back to that era, as well as Ancient Greece and Rome (as Ben is studying the Illiad). Watching them make connections that I hadn’t even begun to think of prior to this is the best part! It is a case study of watching learning in action: watching them hang new learning on the rungs of what they already know- making connections, scaffolding knowledge. Such a beautiful thing.

I’ve had this quote of Laura’s pinned on my desk for a while now. It seems to sum up what I’m aiming for lately.

“This is why I believe that the most important thing you can do as a homeschooler is to ask yourself the hardest question of all: who do you want your children to be as people when they leave your home, and what benchmarks will you use to measure your progress on the way? It is simple to hope your children are kind, loving, inquisitive…it is harder to imagine what you can do to help them on the path of kindness, love, curiosity. I want my children to be confident, to believe in their worth as humans and as contributors to this world, to feel connected to place and people, to be interested both in learning new things and the connection between ideas, to feel capable. I want them to recognize and appreciate beauty, to be able to participate in wonder. I want them to be equipped to live a simple life of peaceful joy.”- @lbkrause

This a post in the continuing series, Wonder and Inquiry.


Elbow room…

laundry newmaster schoolroom iconastasis

We’ve never done a home renovation, though we consider ourselves near experts on the subject after watching years of HGTV, especially Fixer Upper, but I can tell you that the reason they tell you to live with a space for a while before you change it is because you really have no clue how a space flows until you live with it for awhile. I was thinking of this, and chuckling, a few weeks back when we basically re-arranged the whole house, right down to our iconastasis. Even the saints like a bit of elbow room, am I right?

We’ve lived in this house for three years or so, living in roughly the same way as we did when we moved in. Our schooling was done at the kitchen table. Our Master was on the third floor. The kids all shared rooms. The flow sort of worked, but what could we do? We’re renting. You know, all of those things you think about a situation when you’re looking at it head on.

But if you tilt your head to the side…

It was my big boys fault, really.

They are getting tall. Really tall. And big. They take up a lot of space, teenage boys. And the room they were in, plus their racked bunkbeds…well, they were starting to resemble Alice after she drank the cordial. There was not enough space for them, their beds, their desks. I swore if you looked in the windows you were going to see elbows and knees poking about with no room to move. Bless their hearts.

I started to wonder what would happen, and if, the beds would fit in the alcoves of the master bedroom. A germ of an idea was forming. James measured, and, sure enough,all four of the boys’ beds would tuck in just right. This would leave a huge space in the middle for all of the boys and their stuff, with plenty of room to spread out with legos and train set ups and a nearly six foot tall teenager could sprawl whichever direction he so chose with plenty of room to spare. We affectionately call it the boys’ dorm now. It always looks like a tornado has rolled through these days, but it’s great! I don’t see it unless I want to, and they like the autonomy.

That meant James and I moved into the big boys’ old room, which was a perfect cozy size for us with space for a bookshelf and a small seating area. The girls stayed where they were. A bonus room appeared- the little boys’ old bedroom. Could it be? Could we have a school-room/office space? Would all of our homeschooling bookshelves from downstairs fit? They fit so well they practically look like built-ins. My large old IKEA art desk, with trestle legs removed, and snazzy new blue metal legs attached became a perfect work table. Six smart new stools joined the fray, and we were in business! Our school window looks out over our crepe myrtle, and we often joke that we are headed to the tree house for school. They also like to call it the drawing room (i.e. the room in which they draw and create) which makes James and I laugh every time they ask if they can go to the drawing room, like we live in some mansion.

Our first floor (our dining room and living room) is now strictly for relaxation and meals, and it’s really lovely. I’ll admit, it’s nice to have a clean spot to look forward to some days when the second and third floors are trashed. We all appreciate the fact that we can leave projects out in the school room and not have to tuck them away every time we need to eat. There is a door. And it shuts. It’s revolutionary, people. School mess? What school mess? I don’t see anything, do you?

It has made our tall narrow house seem to double in size, this change. Everything makes sense now. What is interesting to me is that it used to take about a solid two hours of us all working together to clean the house from top to bottom- sweep the rooms, mopping, dusting, vaccuming, making/stripping beds, hitting the bathrooms, deep cleaning the kitchen. Nothing has really changed except for the new arrangement of the rooms, but somehow we can bless the house (as we call it) in about forty-five minutes, sometimes less. I don’t know if it is because the children’s things are more centralized now, easier to see, and therefore easier to pick up, or if the different arrangement of furniture makes it easier or what, but goodness gracious, yes, I’ll take it! This of course helps with everything else- leaving me to focus more on the children’s schooling and my own interests. More time? How’s that for a home renovation?

Who would have thought? I think those designer people might be on to something. I do wonder why I didn’t tilt my head sooner…the only thing we actually purchased for this whole house renovation was four table legs and six stools from IKEA- about $25. I bet Joanna Gaines couldn’t beat that budget!

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