Friday Favorites: February Edition

In spite of my best intentions and no end of ideas for blogging, I somehow have not managed to blog all month! Can I blame it on the fact that I was babysitting full time until this past week, and then had a sick kiddo to care for? We will go with that… Anyway, I am happy to say that Little Miss and Little J are both taking a nap right now, the laundry is going, and the dishes are clean; so I truly have some time to do a bit of writing! I was thinking last night it would be fun to go with the Friday Favorites theme, and one of my favorite things to do, as I have shared in the past, is listening to podcasts!

The last time I listed podcasts I was enjoying, they were all knitting related. Right now, though, I pretty much only listen to podcasts that have to do with homeschooling, mothering, and self-education. So, without further ado, here are my current top ten (coincidentally, and in no particular order) favorite podcasts….

  
1. Read Aloud Revival with Sarah MacKenzie: if you love reading aloud to your children, or if you wish you did and need some inspiration, this is the podcast for you! Sarah’s bubbly personality is totally infectious, and she always has interesting guests on discussing some aspect of forming a “family culture around books.”

  
2. The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast with Pam Barnhill: This is just one of Pam’s great podcasts. She interviews homeschool moms and gives a “snapshot” of their style of home education, talking about everything from daily routines, special needs kids, and families both small and large. It is just an all around encouraging podcast for us homeschooling mommas!

 

3. Your Morning Basket is Pam’s second podcast, and it is another very encouraging, inspirational listen. In these episodes, Pam and her guests discuss how they use some form of “Morning Time” to bring their families together to share the riches during their homeschool days. She always features a fun, practical downloadable freebie for each episode, too. Who doesn’t love freebies!?

  
4. At Home with Sally, hosted by Sally Clarkson and Kristen Kill: Whenever this podcast comes up with a new episode, I cannot wait to sit down with a cuppa and get ready to listen in on Sally and Kristen’s conversation. Anybody who is familiar with Sally’s ministry to moms will know that her heart is to inspire, encourage and challenge women to live fully into their roles as wives, mothers and homemakers in order to disciple those in their spheres of influence. Kristen’s own sweet spirit also comes through on each podcast, and together, their talks remind me what is really important at this stage of my life.

  
5. Schole Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Mystie Winkler and Pam Barnhill: This new podcast hosted mostly by Brandy, with Mystie and Pam cohosting various episodes. The discussion centers on different aspects of fostering “schole” in our lives and homeschools. The concept of schole, as I interpret it anyway, centers around a return to restful learning and an atmosphere that encourages deep thought, wonder, good discussions and focussing on what is truly important. I have enjoyed all their topics so far and look forward to hearing more in the future!

  
6. CiRCE Institute Podcast Network: Speaking of schole, this collection of podcasts from the CiRCE Institute is one way I am  trying to foster a bit of restful learning in my own life. Their are several sub-categories within the podcast network, and the two I listen to without fail are The Mason Jar, hosted by David Kern and Cindy Rollins, and A Perpetual Feast with Andrew Kern and Wes Callihan. On The Mason Jar, Cindy and David discuss classical education using the Charlotte Mason method, often answering listener questions or having a special guest on a specific topic. Cindy’s defence of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy as a classical approach was what really caught my attention to begin looking into CM as an option for our homeschool, something I hope to write about another time. A Perpetual Feast is a totally different sort of podcast, one that both challenges and feeds my intellect. In other words, listening to Kern and Callihan talk about Homer leaves me feeling both dumber and smarter all at the same time. I love it! (But I may be an odd duck, so don’t blame me if you listen and it does nothing for you!)

  
7. The Masterpiece Mom with Amanda Bacon and Anne-Renee Gumley: I just recently started listening to these ladies, but they had me at the first episode I heard! Two Christian wives and moms talking about real life, how to be more grace-filled in the midst of busy, chaotic days…it is definitely what I need right now!

  
8. The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenrider: This is another relatively new podcast for me, but one I have been enjoying so far. Tsh has such a variety or interesting guests discussing a wide range of topics, but every one has an inspiring story to tell, whatever their walk of life. 

  
9. A Delectable Education with Emily Kiser, Liz Cotrill and Nicole Williams: Another podcast I just recently added to my playlist, A Delectable Education is all about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. If you are new to CM and want to know more, this is a good podcast to get your feet wet!

  

10. What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel: New to me and new to the podcast world, What Should I Read Next? will likely be popular with the booklovers out there. I will admit that I am not an avid reader personally, not because I do not want to be, but more because I just have not formed the habit and do not have a wide library at my disposal. But I enjoy listening to people talking about books, and maybe some of their bookish habits will rub off on me in the meantime!

Christmas in our Homeschool 2015

Just when the kids in traditional school are getting all excited about having a break from classes and lessons, here I am in our homeschool getting all excited about the extra fun learning activities we can do this time of year! Our Classical Conversations group has the rest of the year off and will start back up in January, so we have one more day at home for the next few weeks. That always makes this introverted, homebody of a mom happy! It means we can relax a little on our memory work, reviewing a little here and there while we take a break from learning new material. It also means we have more time for our other lessons and activities.

I recently joined a new facebook group that stemmed out of the Periscope videos by Julie Bogart of BraveWriter.com. It is primarily a group of homeschool moms seeking to support one another and share encouragement and resources. One of the other members challenged some of us to do daily Scopes on different topics throughout the past week. (If you do not know what Periscope is, essentially, it is live video with chat. I don’t want to go too far off topic, so I won’t go into it any more than that today.) I really wanted to scope Friday because she asked what we were doing in our homeschool for December. My day just was not condusive to that, however, so I decided to blog about it instead!

Here is my short list:
Jesse Tree devotions and decorations
Making GF cut out cookies/gingerbread cookies
Reading Christmas poems/stories
Watching the Nutcracker Ballet

As I posted earlier in the month, we are doing a Jesse Tree for Advent. This replaces our Bible lessons this month, and it is the first thing we do each day for school. Here is a poorly lit photo of the decorations we have up on our mini-tree so far!

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I think next week Little J and I will be making some Gluten-free cut-out cookies, probably gingerbread because those are just tastier than plain old sugar cookies. I have used this recipe from Gluten Free On a Shoestring before and liked the end result. I think J will enjoy decorating some Gingerbread men of his own, and maybe while they are baking we will read a version of the story of the Gingerbread Man. (That is about as unit-study-ish as we get around here, folks!) Since it is just our little family here for the holidays, I do not go all out on baking treats. We really do not need all that sugar anyway.

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On days when we do not feel much like doing book work, I plan to read some Christmas poetry and other holiday stories and such that I found in some children’s literature anthologies we have on our bookshelves. Just the other day we read an interesting story called “Christmas in the Piney Woods” by Charlie May Simon. It is set in the Arkansas woods and features a little girl who wishes for a baby doll for Christmas and gets a different surprise instead! I am wondering if it is an excerpt from a larger volume, but I have not taken the time to research that. We found the story in our set of Childcraft books (circa 1961) that my grandmother passed on to me. IMG_2519

Today I have been feeling poorly (just a chest cold combined with lack of sleep!), so Little J and I sat down and watched the Nutcracker Ballet together. I have only watched two variations in their entirity online, but my favorite is this one starring Mikhail Barishnakov and Gelsey Kirkland. It is just such a classic, and the dancing can’t be beat, even though it is missing a few of the dances! But this time I decided to share the New York Ballet’s version with him, since it has children dancing and a bit more narration. He seemed to enjoy it and was following along in the book we have that also tells the story of the ballet. Now he is coloring a nutcracker paper doll/puppet that I found as a free printable here, and when it is finished we will assemble it.

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So, there you have it–our homeschool plans for this December! I would love for you to leave a comment telling me one special activity you and your family will be doing this Christmas season!

Homeschooling at Lemon Lane: Preparation and Planning

It may be hard to believe, but Little J (who is getting less and less “little” all the time!) is now 4 1/2 years old! He is at that wonderful age of curiosity, creativity and craving to learn about everything. In the spring he started to show signs of being ready to begin learning to read, asking what certain words were when looking through picture books or asking how to spell things when practicing writing his letters, etc. At the time, I was a little preoccupied with the arrival of Miss A, so we just did a little work with letters and some sounding things out here and there, willy-nilly.

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Around the same time, we learned about a local group of homeschoolers doing something called Classical Conversations and decided to look into it as an option for J in the fall. (I don’t intend to go in depth with a post about Classical Conversations today, but I may sometime in the future once we have a bit more experience with it under our belts!) We also knew we would need a basic curriculum for phonics and reading, along with some math. As Christians, we also wanted a solid Bible curriculum to add to what J has already learned at church and through our casual Bible reading at home. For these core subjects, we settled on ABeka Book for this year. All these things may change in the coming years, but for this year we are combining a classical approach with some traditional curricula and will see how it goes!

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I have to say that at first I was very uncertain about my ability to be my child’s teacher. I will admit that I am not very organized or disciplined with my time management, and I also struggle at times with being patient and gracious. I did not originally even intend to start formal instruction with Little J until he was a bit older since he has a fall birthday. But his eagerness to learn combined with the opportunity to combine homeschooling with a community atmosphere convinced me that now is the time to begin. I still felt inadequate and intimidated by the responsibility of teaching Little J the basic skills that he will need the rest of his life. There is always that fear of failure, of not being enough, lurking somewhere in my mind and heart. I’m sure many of you can relate! As I started planning and preparing, though, my passion for learning and teaching resurfaced and bolstered me up. After a year long break from any kind of teaching or children’s ministry at church, I suddenly found a renewed sense of purpose while planning for this school year. I had forgotten how much I enjoy preparing lessons and teaching young children. It really does feel like an area in which God has gifted me, and now I am full of excitement for the coming year. I can hardly wait to see how God uses homeschooling to change our family and draw us closer to each other and to Him!

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I won’t make any promises, but I do hope to write more about our homeschooling journey as we go along. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to post in the comments, and I will try to answer as best I can!

Links for more info:
Classical Conversations
ABeka Book Homeschool
Galatians 5:22-23 printable

Maybe Monetssori

Now that Little J is two (hard to believe, I know!) I’ve been thinking about starting to do some more intentional learning activities with him. He has shown a lot of interest in color matching and naming, as well as counting things, so I know he would enjoy more of those types of activities. He also loves sensory play, especially pouring water and corn meal. I want to make a sensory tray with rice sometime, but I keep forgetting to buy some cheap white rice…we use brown for cooking, and I hate to waste it! 😉

Anyway, as I started looking around for ideas of simple things we could do at home, I found a lot of my online research leading me to Montessori homeschooling blogs. As a former teaching assistant in a fine arts preschool, I had some experience with using Montessori equipment in the classroom, but I had never considered all the possibilities of using montessori methods in the home. I love the concept of teaching little ones how to care for themselves more and have greater involvement in things like dressing and cooking and cleaning. But it will take some time and adjustment for me to set things up so that Little J can help do things like choose his clothes and set his place at the table. For now, I am content with just simplifying his play spaces a bit and making sure the toys he has available are more educational and Montessori friendly. Here is an example in our living room…this shelving unit used to have several photo albums and large books on the lower shelves, and I moved those out to make more room for Little J’s sorting and stacking toys. We don’t play in this room as much as others, though, so I am hoping to do some similar reorganizing in other areas of our home.