{this moment}

July 2016 028_4_1

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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The End of Summer (part 2: June)

Due to the ease (and low cost!) of digital photography, I managed to take an insane amount of photos over the summer.  If you’d like to see the first part (summer birthdays), head here.  Otherwise, here are a few more highlights of our summer…

Father’s Day:  We always love a reason to celebrate Daxson and all the reasons the kids love him.  This year they worked for a few weeks on filling in this nifty little book that we found at Target (called Amazing Dad) and they had fun presenting it to him.  Of course his favorites were the grown-up treats and the kids’ favorites were the Star Wars books.  June 2016 001_1_1_1 June 2016 002_2_1 June 2016 003_3_1 June 2016 006_4_1 June 2016 008_5_1 June 2016 009_6_1 June 2016 010_7_1 June 2016 011_8_1 June 2016 012_9_1 June 2016 014_1_1 June 2016 015_2_1 June 2016 016_3_1 June 2016 017_4_1 June 2016 018_5_1 June 2016 019_6_1 June 2016 020_7_1 June 2016 021_8_1June is always full of graduations.  Lots of new beginnings and clipping wings.  This year was a milestone for me as my students that I taught ten years ago at IWA walked the graduation stage and while I wish them all good luck and joyful college days, the one graduate that took center stage in my mind was my godson, Jake, in Kingston, New York.  I still remember (with extreme clarity!) celebrating his 1st birthday the summer I lived with him and his parents.  It seems nearly impossible to imagine that he has crossed the adult threshold and will be navigating the world of college this year, dorms, responsibility and all!  As I couldn’t be there to celebrate the momentous occasion, I thoughtfully prepared a college prep package unlike any other.  I packaged up four books that I thought he should read along his college journey, marking when he should read each one and what advice I thought each offered.  Here’s a little peek into his package, the books I chose and the reasons why…June 2016 009_7_1 June 2016 008_6_1 June 2016 007_5_1 June 2016 006_4_1_1 June 2016 003_3_1_1 June 2016 002_2_1_1 June 2016 001_1_2_1June was the beginning of hot days, pool fun, and beach trips.  The pool started off on the patio, but as it began to lean with the slight incline, it became a bigger project.  Part of the yard was dug up, leveled and covered with crushed granite.  Now it rests quite happily in what used to be our grassy knoll, leveled, flat and full of nice, cool water.June 2016 002_1_1June 2016 017_1_1 June 2016 018_2_1 June 2016 019_3_1 June 2016 023_4_1_1 June 2016 024_5_1 June 2016 028_6_1_1 June 2016 033_7_1 June 2016 056_1_1 June 2016 059_2_1 June 2016 062_3_1 June 2016 063_4_1 June 2016 064_5_1 June 2016 065_6_1 June 2016 067_7_1 June 2016 068_8_1 June 2016 069_9_1 June 2016 071_1_1 June 2016 072_2_1 June 2016 074_3_1 June 2016 075_4_1 June 2016 077_5_1 June 2016 078_6_1 June 2016 079_7_1 June 2016 080_8_1 June 2016 082_9_1 June 2016 085_10_1 June 2016 087_11_1 June 2016 088_12_1 June 2016 089_13_1 June 2016 091_14_1 June 2016 092_15_1 June 2016 093_16_1

June also included a weekly trip to the pet store as Joey received a Fat-Tailed African Gecko for his birthday.  It was a gift from Auntie Romy and Uncle Lister (which Dax and I ironically suggested) and Joey was THRILLED…for the first few weeks.  Then he realized that not only was his little friend nocturnal, but he had been given the most shy lizard ever.  The poor little guy (named Joey Jr.) was frightened to death of us.  He only came out of his hidey hole when it was completely dark and no one was around (we know this because Dax and I tried, unsuccessfully, to watch him catch crickets in the quiet of the night but as soon as he sensed our presence, even in the dark!, he scampered back to his hiding spot).  After a few weeks of catching wily crickets and scooping poop, Joey seemed less enchanted with his new friend, although he never complained about the work, only about the fact that his pet was a bit un-interactive.  Daxson seemed a bit overwhelmed with the lizard (even though he wasn’t the one carting the kids to the pet store to stock up on crickets nor was he in charge of scooping poop); he didn’t like the smell and he hated the lack of action (plus Dax has a thing against caged animals).  Daxson casually mentioned that a dog would have been a bit more entertaining and that was all it took to plant the seed.  I’m pretty sure Dax didn’t actually want to replace the lizard with a dog; it was more of a nudge to see the futility of owning a lizard, but Joey outsmarted him.  Joey insisted that if he were to return the lizard (because apparently you can do that at PetCo), it was on the condition that he could research dog breeds and use the money from the aquarium and lizard to get himself a dog.  Desperate to be rid of the lizard, Dax agreed.  So guess what…Joey is spending his free-time researching dog breeds.  I’m pretty sure he won’t let this go, so I see a dog in our very near future. So while he may have returned the original gift, Joey is extremely thankful to Auntie Romy and Uncle Lister, as they have managed to open the door to getting a dog (a door which was firmly shut until the lizard came along).  Funny how when faced with one thing (such as a lizard), something else suddenly seems much lovelier than it ever originally did (like owning a dog).

And while Joey Jr. was cute, no one seems to miss him much (oh wait, what was there to miss…we never got to see him while he was here!).  Our advice:  either get a leopard spotted gecko (like my nephew has which is cute and social) or skip the lizard and find a more interactive pet when you’ve got four overly enthusiastic pet loving kids.  On the plus side, all of the kids enjoyed our trips to the pet store…pretty sure they’re all in love with the hamsters just like I was as a kid!June 2016 041_1_1 June 2016 002_2_2_1 June 2016 001_1_3_1 June 2016 012_3_1 June 2016 011_2_1 June 2016 009_1_1_1Other random June highlights:  June is fig month and while we still enjoyed the fruits of Larry’s labor, we actually managed to grow enough figs ourselves this year to enjoy, William was sent to the gastroenterologist (where he got to observe some fun construction while waiting to be seen) to sort out his gastro issues (with success), William and Andrew declared their love for the little girls that live behind us and the kids enjoyed a little target practice with Grandpa Larry and Dax.  June 2016 006_1_1_1 June 2016 005_3_1 June 2016 003_1_1_1 June 2016 006_2_1 June 2016 007_4_1 June 2016 004_1_1_1 June 2016 005_2_1 June 2016 027_5_1_1 June 2016 029_6_1 June 2016 030_7_1




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Outside my window…the mosquitoes are back.

I am remembering…our recent visit to Austin.  Leslie is turning 40 this next month so we spent the weekend celebrating youth and beauty while it still lasts (which for Leslie will probably be her entire life…the beauty part, at least.  I suppose youth is a relative term).August 2016 055_1_1 August 2016 058_2_1 August 2016 059_3_1 August 2016 060_4_1 August 2016 061_5_1 August 2016 062_6_1 August 2016 063_7_1 August 2016 064_8_1 August 2016 065_9_1 August 2016 066_10_1 August 2016 067_11_1 August 2016 072_12_1 August 2016 074_1_1 August 2016 075_2_1 August 2016 076_3_1 August 2016 077_4_1 August 2016 078_5_1 August 2016 079_6_1 August 2016 081_8_1 August 2016 082_9_1

I am thankful for…Audible on car trips.

I am wishing…for cooler weather so we can get back to camping.  We stopped by Palmetto State Park on the way home this weekend and while we enjoyed the hike along the trail, I’m pretty sure I might have melted in that heat and humidity if we’d stayed much longer.  Yep, I’m a certified wimp.August 2016 102_1_1 August 2016 103_2_1 August 2016 104_3_1 August 2016 105_4_1 August 2016 110_5_1 August 2016 114_6_1 August 2016 115_7_1 August 2016 122_8_1 August 2016 124_9_1 August 2016 126_10_1

I am listening…to the boys as they build a Lego set to recreate the movie 3 Ninjas (flashback to the dollar theater circa 1992 with Missy and Leslie).August 2016 009_1_1 August 2016 010_2_1

I am wondering…why Joey and William practically sit on top of each other to do their school work…they do realize there is an entire house to spread out in, right?  August 2016 005_3_1

I am watching…for strange things to come out of my dryer.  This one appeared last week courtesy of William’s pocket (William said the little guy had already died when he pocketed him so my conscience is clear as far as that goes).  August 2016 017_1_1

I am reflecting…on Katie’s ingenuity.  She forgot to pack her baby carrier when we went to Austin, so she used her dress as a carrier.  It worked almost too well…now I noticed all of her shirts are getting stretched out at the top.  (I was extremely happy when she rediscovered the joy of pushing the baby in the stroller!)August 2016 037_1_1 August 2016 040_2_1 August 2016 046_3_1 August 2016 094_4_1 August 2016 095_5_1

In the schoolroom…trying to motivate the boys to finish up their comic books for the book contest this year.  We finally got to take our first nature walk of the school year last week (it’s been so unbearably hot).  The kids filled their nature books with all kinds of observations.  August 2016 003_1_1 August 2016 004_2_1 August 2016 007_3_1 August 2016 009_4_1 August 2016 010_5_1 August 2016 011_6_1 August 2016 012_7_1 August 2016 013_8_1 August 2016 014_9_1 August 2016 015_10_1 August 2016 016_11_1

Around the house…paying bills, reconciling accounts, balancing everything to the penny (cause in my nerdy book, that’s just plain fun).

In the kitchen…gluten and dairy free lasagna.  It was really good and so creamy…if I had not baked it myself, I would have sworn there was cheese and wheat in it.

I am wearing…black shorts and a pink tank top.

We are preparing for…William’s surgery next week.  He had surgery 6 years ago on September 1st.  His lucky day this year?  September 1st.  Weird how life works that way.

Someday I am going to miss…getting caught in the rain in Goliad on a hiking trail with four little children who think getting caught in the rain is exciting and fun.  (But I won’t miss getting caught in the rain with a husband who does not think getting caught in the rain is exciting and fun.)

I am readingThe Count of Monte Cristo and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

One of my favorite things…this guy.  August 2016 099_1_1

A peek into my dayAugust 2016 024_1_1

Please visit The Simple Woman’s Daybook for more daybook entries.





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The End of Summer (part 1)

It doesn’t feel like the end of summer.  In fact, today it feels like an oven outside.  The kids plan to grab their swimsuits and flap around in the pool for a bit this afternoon, so I suppose summer isn’t officially over (and it won’t be in South Texas for quite some time), but the carefree days of being lazy and lounging in the shade of the trees and playing Legos for hours on end are over for awhile as we continue to move along in our new school year.

I thought it would be lovely to share some summer highlights here (so that when the boredom of routine creeps in at some point, we can look back and dream of summer days yet to come), however due to the ridiculous number of photos I took this summer, I’ll be kind and divide this post into parts.  ; )  You’re welcome.

Birthdays:  We kicked off our end of the school year with Katie’s 3rd birthday, 11 days later we celebrated Joey’s 9th birthday Star Wars style, and 11 days after that we celebrated a sweet little 5th birthday for Andrew.

Katie’s birthday included a visit from Granny and Pappy (with a quick trip to the mall with Granny for some new shoes and cute summer clothes) plus a whole lot of pink, some doll play and new make-up (the boys were just as enamored with the pretend make-up kit as Katie was…don’t let them deny it).Katlyn's 3rd birthday 072_1_1

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Katlyn's 3rd birthday 024_2_1


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Joey’s birthday was celebrated with a Star Wars party.  We used quite a few of the ideas from here and tweaked a few and ended up with an awesome party.  The party was set-up as a Jedi Training Course where each padwan had a checklist of tasks to complete in order to earn his Jedi vest.

First they had to escape from the Death Star, which was an obstacle course that included navigating through storm trooper laser fire (red string strung up around the playset), wading through the trash pit (the pool filled with recycled trash), shooting down the tie fighter (using rubber bands to shoot at a poster of the tie fighter), bowling down storm troopers (literally bowling), and bombing the death star (tossing a ball into a bucket).  June 2016 006_1_1 June 2016 007_2_1 June 2016 018_3_1 June 2016 019_4_1 June 2016 020_1_1 June 2016 021_2_1 June 2016 022_3_1 June 2016 023_4_1 June 2016 026_5_1 June 2016 027_6_1

After that, they had to Build a Droid using cut-out pieces and glue sticks.  June 2016 009_1_1 June 2016 024_2_1 June 2016 028_5_1 June 2016 029_4_1 June 2016 033_3_1 June 2016 046_7_1 June 2016 048_6_1

Then they were off to complete Light Saber Training (pool noodles decorated with duct tape).  June 2016 004_1_1 June 2016 035_2_1 June 2016 037_3_1 June 2016 045_4_1

Next was the Design a Starfighter station where each padwan had to use Perler beads to build their own starfighter.  June 2016 003_1_1 June 2016 017_2_1 June 2016 030_3_1 June 2016 032_4_1 June 2016 047_5_1

After building a starfighter, the padwans headed off to Fight in the Jedi Bubble Wars.June 2016 038_1_1 June 2016 039_2_1 June 2016 040_3_1 June 2016 041_4_1 June 2016 042_5_1 June 2016 043_6_1 June 2016 044_7_1

Finally, each padwan was expected to head over to the Intergalactic Photo Booth where after having his/her photo taken, they received their official Jedi vest.  Clearly the photo booth was quite a bit of fun…even for the adults!June 2016 001_1_1 June 2016 010_4_1 June 2016 011_5_1 June 2016 034_2_1 June 2016 036_3_1 June 2016 050_6_1 June 2016 057_7_1 June 2016 070_1_1 June 2016 071_2_1 June 2016 072_3_1 June 2016 073_4_1 June 2016 083_5_1 June 2016 084_6_1 June 2016 085_7_1 June 2016 086_8_1 June 2016 087_9_1 June 2016 091_10_1Having each received their Jedi vest, the Jedis engaged in a light saber duel (although I’m not sure if duel actually means only two people fighting but Joey insisted that this was the correct way to describe the chaos that took place…Uncle Dustin would probably describe it more as a mob attack).June 2016 049_1_1 June 2016 051_2_1 June 2016 052_4_1 June 2016 053_3_1 June 2016 054_5_1 June 2016 060_6_1 June 2016 061_7_1The Jedis joined together for one last mission (of which I have no pictures!) where they had to follow a trivia question scavenger hunt in search of the Kylo Ren candle.  Once they found it, they were able to refuel with cupcakes and Vader-Ade (lemonade).  June 2016 063_1_1 June 2016 064_2_1 June 2016 065_3_1 June 2016 066_4_1 June 2016 067_5_1 June 2016 069_6_1Exhausted from their training and missions, they settled in to watch Joey open his gifts.  June 2016 074_1_1 June 2016 075_2_1 June 2016 076_3_1 June 2016 077_4_1 June 2016 078_5_1 June 2016 079_6_1Andrew’s birthday included lots of Legos, safari equipment and cupcakes along with an afternoon of playing with Walker and Gavin followed by a hot dog dinner (his favorite!) and movie night (he chose a new movie he received for his birthday, The Peanuts Movie).  June 2016 022_1_1 June 2016 023_2_1 June 2016 024_3_1 June 2016 026_4_1 June 2016 027_5_1 June 2016 028_6_1 June 2016 029_7_1 June 2016 032_9_1 June 2016 033_8_1 June 2016 034_1_1 June 2016 035_2_1_1 June 2016 036_3_1_1 June 2016 037_4_1 June 2016 040_5_1 June 2016 047_6_1 June 2016 048_7_1 June 2016 049_8_1 June 2016 051_9_1 June 2016 052_12_1 June 2016 053_11_1 June 2016 054_10_1




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Outside my window…little people are basking in the rain…it’s been awhile since we’ve seen any (yep, they are totally dancing to the music of falling rain here).August 2016 030_2_1

I am remembering…3 years ago.  Katie was a few months old, I sent Daxson off to Alaska for a bit of a baby breather (it’s tough dealing with 3 wild boys, a newborn baby and a wife on extended bedrest) and I took the kids and we headed to Austin to meet up with Grandma and Grandpa Morgan who flew in from Raleigh.  So glad we had the opportunity to visit and grateful that my kids got to actually meet the folks from many of my summer stories.

While Daxson was exploring Alaska…

august austin 2013c 021_2_1 august austin 2013c 028_1_1 august austin 2013c 029_3_1 august austin 2013c 030_2_1 august austin 2013c 039_4_1 august austin 2013c 041_5_1 august austin 2013c 042_1_1We visited, played, created (and probably destroyed a thing or two while we were at it).  Grandpa Morgan helped the kids paint and decorate pots and plant beautiful things for Granny for her upcoming birthday.  august austin 2013c 055_1_1 august austin 2013c 056_2_1 august austin 2013c 059_3_1 austin august 2013 007_1_1 austin august 2013b 072_2_1 austin august 2013b 075_3_1 austin august 2013b 076_4_1 austin august 2013b 084_1_1 austin august 2013b 092_1_1Then Daxson joined us for our last weekend there and we celebrated both his birthday and Granny’s (Daxson’s birthday is the day after Granny’s).  austin august 2013 019_1_1 austin august 2013 026_2_1 austin august 2013 029_3_1 austin august 2013 037_1_1 austin august 2013 041_5_1 austin august 2013 054_4_1 austin august 2013 058_2_1 austin august 2013 059_3_1

I am thankful for…these smiles.August 2016 001_1_1

I am watchingJustified with Daxson occasionally.  When I watch it, I wish I watched it every night and kept up with it, but when I don’t watch it, I get so much reading done.

I am listening…to Schoolhouse Rocks (yep, I’m sneaking in this blog while they’re singing Conjunction Junction).

I am wondering…how Andrew has so much energy.  Really, it’s insane.

I am laughing…about this.  Last week Katie insisted that it was going to rain and she needed to dress both herself and Joey.  Not really sure how these outfits were appropriate for the rain, but Joey was a good sport and we both got a good laugh out of Katie’s creativity.August 2016 094_1_1

I am reflecting…on this and thinking I’m in trouble since I’m the Queen of Inconsistency…”To be this the teacher needs a constant self-control; to be himself disciplined; to be himself a representative of law, with even and consistent action, so that it will always be known what he will be, and say, and do. He will be consistent; unvarying, even as the law is unvarying; he will not overlook a breach of the law one day, and take notice of it severely another; neither will he speak and act as if the disobedience were against himself – he will try to concentrate the child’s attention upon the law, and make the child feel that the law has been broken, and that the law must be obeyed; that no breach of the law must be overlooked; that the law must be obeyed everywhere, at all times, and by all.” from Parents’ Review Article: Rev. Canon Parker’s ‘Discipline Part II’

In the schoolroom…the school year has gotten off to a good start (with all the usual bumps along the way, like the whiny child, the crying child, the uncooperative child, the disobedient child…you know, the usual array of drama in a room full of kids).  We’re enjoying all the read-alouds and math the Charlotte Mason way.  August 2016 055_1_1 August 2016 072_2_1

Around the house…the Legos are organized, the books are shelved, the schoolroom is still in pristine condition.  It’ll all be a mess again soon, I’m sure.

In the kitchen…we just finished up the delicious Salmon burgers from this weekend.  They really are super yummy (one of the few meals that everyone eats around here without complaining)…add a little lettuce, tomato and pickle with some tartar sauce.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

I am wearing…a skirt Mom made me with a sky blue shirt.  Nothing fancy, but my goodness, I’ve received many compliments from all of my kids today.  Must be the bright blue on the dreary day.

We are preparing for…William’s surgery.  He has an inguinal hernia with a hydrocele (who knows what caused it, but guessing his quest to be Rocky didn’t help matters).  Waiting for our appointment, praying for no more ER visits.  And asking extra prayers for what will prove to be a challenging recovery (have you ever seen this kid…he’s constantly climbing, jumping, moving…should be interesting).August 2016 053_1_1

Someday I am going to miss…their eagerness to climb on our lap and crowd around us to listen to a story.

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I am readingTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (for book club) and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins…really, I’m not quite sure why I quit after the 2nd book.  Now I’m struggling to remember what happened last.  Take my advice: if a book is part of a trilogy, you really should read all three in a timely manner. 

I am inspired…by this beautiful notebook.  Really, doesn’t it inspire you to fill it with beautiful thoughts?August 2016 033_1_1

One of my favorite things…spending the day at the beach with some of our favorite people.July 2016 053_1_1

A peek into my dayAugust 2016 061_1_1

Please visit The Simple Woman’s Daybook for more daybook entries.





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A Week of Gratitude (in pictures)

{A Week of Gratitude (in pictures)}:the chance to visually reflect on my daily blessings; an opportunity to let the good in my life soak deep in my memory; a moment to appreciate the happiness that surrounds me; a chance to acknowledge how incredibly beautiful this life really is

Sunday: Dinner with Yaya and Grandpa (plus some snazzy new clothes for Katie!)August 2016 064_1_1Monday: An opportunity to photograph these darling little faces (shh…it’s part of a surprise birthday gift for Dax)August 2016 047_1_1Tuesday: The chance to delve into Charlotte Mason’s beautiful writings with a group of lovely women July 2016 002_1_1Wednesday: A very special package that arrived in the mailAugust 2016 044_1_1Thursday: An art project that was all about the process NOT the productAugust 2016 005_1_1Friday: Math that no one complained aboutAugust 2016 064_1_1_1Saturday:  The opening ceremony for this year’s Texas Nature ChallengeAugust 2016 031_1_1



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Why I Homeschool

This article was first published in August 2014 in The Bend magazine. 

2016-08-08_1528I remember the first time my husband asked me to consider homeschooling. I balked. We didn’t even have kids yet and here he was asking me to home educate them! He had heard someone say that parents are the only ones who truly have the child’s best interest in mind. I mulled that over in my mind and while I believed he was right, I quickly dismissed the crazy notion of homeschooling. I was in my second year of teaching and, while the public and private school systems left much room for improvement, I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that I could provide better.

Then I had my first child. And I delighted in each new thing he learned. I saw joy in his eyes as he accomplished some new feat, conquered a difficult task, discovered something new. I wanted that joy of learning to last his whole life.

I realized that I didn’t want him to receive a job-focused, work-training public education. I didn’t want the better part of his day to be spent with people I hardly knew.  I wanted him to be more than a test score; more than a tuition check.  I wanted him to be treated and educated as an individual, not part of a group, where the average is catered to and there is no time for following rabbit trails.  I wanted him to be able to pray, anytime, anywhere.  I wanted him to get out in nature and revel in it, not sit indoors and read about it.  I wanted him to read living books written by people who love their subjects. I wanted to create a safe haven, in the midst of this fast-paced, competitive world we live in, where he could ask questions, make mistakes, and grow without the fear of bullying, peer pressure or subliminal messages from government agencies and teachers.  I wanted him to be hands-on, messy, involved.  I wanted moral training and character education to be ranked as important as science and history.  I wanted to immerse him in a day of learning…where the lines of school and life just naturally blur and blend.  I wanted him to feel that, in the words of the educator Charlotte Mason, “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  Above all, I wanted him to fall in love with learning.

I strive, daily, to instill a love of learning deep in each of my children’s souls and I see the fruits of my labor sprinkled generously throughout each day.  I look at my kids, cuddled up on the couch, reading together, the oldest helping the youngest and my heart is glad.  I watch as they make connections between history and science and faith.  I listen to spontaneous prayers and I witness their growth in character.  I am present to help them overcome their struggles and to celebrate their accomplishments, no matter how small.  I overhear their conversation and marvel at the idea that my children, ages 7 and younger, can make connections between Shakespeare’s work and their own lives and I know that what we’re doing is good.   That crazy idea my husband had years ago?  It works for us.

Please hop over to The Bend magazine to see it in its original beautiful print. 



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A Week of Gratitude (in pictures)

{A Week of Gratitude (in pictures)}:the chance to visually reflect on my daily blessings; an opportunity to let the good in my life soak deep in my memory; a moment to appreciate the happiness that surrounds me; a chance to acknowledge how incredibly beautiful this life really is

Sunday: A day of rest fun before the school year kicks off.

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Monday: First day of a new school year.

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Tuesday:  The arrival of the last few school items. August 2016 058_1_1Wednesday: Homemade apple cinnamon play-doh.

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Thursday: A beautifully led children’s book club meeting and a chance to meet new friends.

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Friday: A lesson on bees and the amazing honey making process from the Texas Honey Queen herself!August 2016 036_1_1Saturday:  A surprise visit from dear friends!August 2016 033_1_1_1



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{this moment}

August 2016 031_1_1

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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2016-2017 Plans

A new school year is almost upon us.  We begin our new adventure on August 1st and we’re all a bit excited.  Here’s a peek into our upcoming year…

Morning Time:

Morning Time is really only the first 30 minutes of our day (after that we start to lose the attention of the little ones).  We begin it at breakfast with our prayers and our read-alouds and then it transitions to morning time table work as I clean up the kitchen.  I hesitate to list all of our morning time activities because it looks like a massive load, but it really isn’t (some topics only take a few minutes to cover!).

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In the past we’ve always kept a family memory work notebook, but this year, in addition to that, I’ve also made Joey and William their own Morning Time notebooks.  Andrew and Katie each have a folder with a copy of the Good Morning Dear Jesus prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, their character chart and a hundreds number chart.  Andrew’s also has a copy of Charlotte Mason’s Formidable List of Attainments.

Joey and William’s books each contain a reading log and their daily “map”, as well as sections for memory work, hymns, art appreciation, music appreciation, drawing, map drill, physics, and bird study (our herb studies are recorded in our nature journals and their president studies will be recorded on a collection of Presidential “collector cards” that they’ll be making after each lesson).

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I was inspired by a friend in my local Charlotte Mason group to create a nature nook.  Our nook is on the top shelf of our manipulative/toy shelves, just under the window.  We hung the hummingbird feeder right outside the window and at some point we’ll replace our broken bird feeder.  I filled a bag with our nature study guides, magnifying glasses, binoculars, art supplies and clipboards.  It’s all in a bag so it’s portable…we can just grab it and head out the door.  We also have a small microscope and a treasure box for lucky nature finds (I think there are a few pressed flowers and sand-dollars in there right now).  July 2016 091_5_1 July 2016 023_2_1

Each child also has an individual bag with watercolors, colored pencils and a nature notebook.  Joey and William each have a nature notebook in there to use for their herb studies. (We’re continuing with our herbal studies using A Kid’s Herbal Book, Shanleya’s Quest, the Herbal Fairies over at learningherbs.com and the lovely Wildcraft! game.)  We’re waiting for these precious pocket pads to arrive for us to tote with us on our daily nature walks around the neighborhood.   July 2016 024_3_1 July 2016 025_4_1 This year we plan to participate in the Texas Nature Challenge again, which was full of nature study opportunities last year.

Math:  This year will be an adventure in Math.  We’re going a bit off-road.  We’ve tried multiple math programs and each of them has been a disaster.  For Joey, at least.  William has done well with Saxon, but I was at a turning point with him, debating about whether to move him into Saxon 3 Intermediate or Singapore.  In the end, the thought of spending so much more money on another math program was enough to send me desperately searching for a better answer.  After reading Richele Baburina’s Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching and watching the companion DVD, I am inspired to try Charlotte Mason’s methods so we’re all going to switch to CM style math using Ray’s Arithmetic and the Strayer-Upton math books.  For geometry, we’ll be using Paper Sloyd and for Outdoor Geography, we’ll be using Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography and Long’s Home Geography for Primary Grades.  Joey and William both have a spiral with grid paper for their work (although much of the younger years will be spent doing math orally).  We’re still continuing with Life of Fred (see my Morning Time list), Bedtime Math, and our math book basket, as well.

July 2016 035_1_1Paths of Exploration: 
I wanted to try a boxed curriculum this year for a little break from planning detailed plans each week.  After much searching, reading, and thinking, I finally decided on GeoMatter’s Paths of Exploration.  We’ll be covering American explorers this year.  It’s a CM style curriculum with daily copywork/dictation, readers, read-alouds, word study, geography, and writing lessons.  It incorporates nature studies and drawing lessons as well as practical life skills like cooking and navigation skills.

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Other Studies:

The Homegrown PreschoolerKatie and Andrew will be following A Year of Playing Skillfully in addition to their math and phonics lessons.

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Sonlight Readers:  Joey will be using Sonlight Readers 4/5 and William will be using Sonlight Readers 3.  While I’m not a huge fan of comprehension questions and we rely mostly on narration, I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to read and keep up with each child.  It makes it hard to be sure they are comprehending well if I haven’t read what they are reading…so to train them in good narrations, we’ll be using the readers (Sonlight’s reading lists are always full of little gems!) along with the comprehension guides so that I can be sure they are properly narrating and comprehending.  Hopefully a year of good narration habits will build a foundation for next year so that we can choose our own book list.

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Rosetta Stone:  Joey shows an aptitude and an interest in learning a foreign language so he will be using the Spanish version of Rosetta Stone this year as an independent study.

Hoffman Academy:  Both Joey and William will continue their piano lessons with Hoffman Academy.

All About Spelling:  Joey is almost finished with Level 6 and he really wants to finish out the program so a few times a week, we’ll continue on our AAS journey.

IEW Geography Based Writing Lessons, Fix It Grammar Book 2, and Elementary Diagramming Worktext:  When I first told Joey we were going to switch and use Paths of Exploration for our grammar and writing lessons, he was devastated.  This kid loves language…everything about it from writing to diagramming sentences.  He asked if he could continue with his Fix It Grammar and some diagramming.  Who am I to say no to that?!  Also, when he and I saw the Geography Based Writing Lessons in the IEW catalog, we were excited to think of how well that would dovetail to the POE lessons, so we added it in.  If he finds himself overwhelmed, we’ll either drop his portion of the POE writing/grammar lessons or we’ll scale back on how quickly we’re covering the IEW lessons.

Cheerful Cursive and Typing Instructor for Kids:  William will be slowly working his way through the Cheerful Cursive book and he’ll also practice typing at least once a week.

Our Classroom:  Since October 2014, we have had our schoolroom out in the back with Daxson’s office, but it’s been a bit impractical.  It’s a small room out there and since we were all confined to that tiny space together, it was hard for the big kids to concentrate while the little ones had a hard time playing quietly for extended periods of time.  So I moved us back into the house.  The schoolroom took over the playroom, booting the toys to various other places such as the living room and bedrooms (and still a few shelves of toys remain in the schoolroom).  I tried my best to make our schoolroom look like just another room in the house, but doggone it, it’s just in my blood to make a schoolroom look like a schoolroom.  At least no one will be confused as to which room is which.

July 2016 042_1_1 July 2016 046_3_1 July 2016 043_2_1We squeezed one of the bookcases from the schoolroom into our dining room (and Alphie somehow made it out of the giveaway pile and onto the book shelf!), but ended up leaving the bookcase full of history and science books out in the office suite.  We moved a couch out there, so it makes a nice cozy spot to go hang out and read.

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It’s nice having a little table for the little ones to work at and when their attention wanders, they can play just around the corner in the living room without disturbing the big kids.  Also, Pappy provided a beautiful sensory table for Andrew and Katie and it’s just outside the schoolroom window.  Andrew is already in love with his table and the opportunities are endless.  Pappy even included a light box, which allows the light to shine through transparent items placed on top.  All beautifully constructed with precision and attention to detail.

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Schedules and checklists:  I work much better with a written plan as do the boys.  Last year we tried the spiral notebook method of keeping up with assignments, but the truth is, I rarely remembered to fill them out each evening and by the time school started, I was frantically scribbling away in their notebooks.  I’m much better at thinking about the week as a whole, so this year we’re going back to a checklist that I fill in at the beginning of the week.  Subjects that need to have their day’s work completed before moving on (such as math) will be filled in on a daily basis.  July 2016 031_1_1 July 2016 029_2_1 July 2016 054_3_1I tweak our schedules as we go to help them fit us more comfortably, so by the end of the first week, this may all change (already after filling in the boys’ schedules for the first week, I’ve realized they need a little tweaking).

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I also included a year-at-a-glance calendar for myself that highlights important feast days that we like to celebrate throughout the year.

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