Homeschooling

A New Academic Year & A New Schedule

It’s the start of another school year for us, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

This year, however, we have a more complicated schedule as three of our children are being homeschooled (The Eldest, Child #4, and Child #5), two of our children are attending a Catholic Montessori grade school (The Twins), and the other two (Child #6 and the Baby) are just. plain. busy.

So, how do I manage it all?

With a good schedule and a lot of grace.  (And coffee, of course.)

Our New Schedule

Some of you may be curious as to how my day now looks, so I’ll break it down.*  Maybe you’ll glean an idea or two that might work for you.  Maybe not.  All families are different and have different needs, after all.

6:00am

Wake-up!  My husband and I still pray the Morning Office and end with about twenty or so minutes of silent prayer.  The three oldest children set their watch alarms and join us at 6:30 for a few minutes of their own silent prayer.  This time ends at 6:40 when the coffee maker beeps to signal that it’s ready for us, at which point I run for the kitchen and thankfully pour myself a big mug full.

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My lovely coffee pot with my favorite chipped mug.  My mother gave it to me.

6:40am

The older children commence Early Morning School, which consists of math facts, Latin, or handwriting.  The Eldest, however, does Saxon Math with my husband.

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The Twins working on a little Math and Latin this morning.

The only thing different about this time is that the two children attending the Montessori school must practice their piano in the morning, after their school work.  They only put in fifteen minutes each, but this is important because after being confined in school all day, who would want to sit down at a piano when getting home later on?  Not these boys.

While the older children are working on things that do not require my help, I sneak in a few minutes of computer time and then get ready for the day.

7:45am

My husband and The Twins leave.  The rest of us eat breakfast and commence Morning Time.  This looks pretty much the same as it did last winter.  While the children eat breakfast, I read the Mass readings and then we recite our poetry.

Right now The Eldest is back to working on a Shakespearian soliloquy, Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be.”  We had started this one earlier in the year, but had to take a break to memorize The Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron for a program she’s involved with called. Catholic Schoolhouse.

Catholic Schoolhouse is a group of students who meet once a week and do some really awesome stuff.  (How’s that for an explanation?)

The little children are working on the Ten Commandments and the 46 books of the Old Testament.  A few years ago I came up with a jingle for it, to the tune of Jingle Bells.  It’s linked it below.  (It’s certainly not professional, as I simply sat down one day and recorded with talking babies and banging toddlers in the background.)  Feel free to use it, if it’s helpful.

 

You’ll notice that the first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are missing.  That’s because the children already know them in order, as the law books.  You might also notice that I moved 1 & 2 Maccabees to follow the history books.  I wanted to impress upon the children the 4 kinds of books in the Old Testament: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophetic.  As a former teacher of the Old Testament, I found it helpful to be able to distinguish between the different kinds of writing.  All the other books are in order, however.

9:00am

After breakfast clean-up and piano, it’s time for Mid-Morning Prayer.  I moved this time up a bit, because it seemed to flow a little better with the baby’s schedule.  Remember, during all this busyness, I’m somehow nursing and caring for a baby and a 2-year-old.

During this time, we’re singing two hymns and learning a new prayer penned by St. Therese.  We finish this time together with a review of all our Latin vocabulary.

9:30am

The Eldest works on her Latin from Classical Academic Press.  Child #4 does Math and Spelling.  Child #5 sits down with me, and we learn to read.

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Who doesn’t love kindergarten?  Lots of coloring and learning of sounds.  I use Seton for phonics and Bob Books for fun.

11:00am

Lunch time!  This year I have to have a longer stretch of time here because The Eldest participates in an online class on writing through Schole Academy twice a week, which happens to be during lunch.  But this class has been wonderful for two reasons:  1.  She loves it, and  2.  I don’t have to do a single thing for writing and rhetoric anymore.

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Here she is, “attending” class, with her headphones on, to block out all the background noise.

During lunch we still listen to audio books from Audible.  Currently we’re enjoying Tan’s The Story of Civilization Volume 1, as we’re studying the Ancient World in history.

And that’s enough for today!

 

 

*Care to see how my day looked last winter?  Click on “A Day in the Life Series” in my tag cloud on the right.

 

Homeschooling

A New Year of Poetry: Bearing My Fardels with a Bodkin

Now that we’re traveling into week 3 of school, I’m just starting to get a rhythm down.  I think in a week or so, I’ll post my new schedule for those of you who are curious.

But onto a specific question, what are we memorizing?

We began the year with Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”  That should give you a good look into the state of my life right now.  (Oh the agonies of buying and selling a house.  I wish it upon no one.)

I chose this Psalm to begin the year with because a.) the children already know it, b.) the children really like it, and c.) I think it’s important to start the year off with something easy and familiar.

After two weeks of that, we have moved on, however.  My eldest is now memorizing Hamlet’s famous To Be or Not To Be soliloquy.  It’s probably a little morbid for an 11-year-old, but the language is beautiful.  We had to look up a few words like quietus and bodkin and fardels*, but in all, we’ve really been enjoying it, even if we don’t understand everything Shakespeare is trying to say.  That’ll just have to come later.

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Here’s the first part.  On the next page, it goes on for another 29 lines.  I’m glad Hamlet’s conscience wins out in this speech…

The little children have returned to my favorite piece of poetry for the fall: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Autumn Fires.  It is the cutest little poem.  If you have small children, I recommend this one every single fall.  Rake yourself a big pile of leaves, play in it, then have a big bonfire and belt out Stevenson.  Here’s the ending of that little poem:

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

 

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Here are two books you might consider owning.  A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
*Quietus, bodkin, fardels – death, dagger, burden
Homeschooling

The Story of Civilization

Tan Publishing just released volume 3 of their Story of Civilization series.  Are you familiar with it?  No?  You’re missing out!  Mine just came in the mail a day or two ago.

Click HERE for volume 3 at Tan, The Making of the Modern World.

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Love their pictures.

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Own All 3 Volumes

  1. This history requires no work from me.  It’s so good, I just put the audio version from Audible* on, and the children fight over who gets to read ahead in the “textbook.”
  2. In this series, the Catholic Church isn’t ignored or misrepresented.  This is a miracle.
  3. The guy in the audio version does voices.  And he’s good at it.
  4. I wish I grew up listening to this history.  (Or reading it.)  My children are spoiled.
  5. In addition to the book with sweet pictures, I buy the Timeline.  I don’t do anything with it, other than tack it on my wall.  The children then reference it when they want.  And I feel proud because I decorated my home.
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The timeline isn’t too big, which makes it manageable.  The pictures correspond to the ones in the book.
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Close-up of the timeline.  Sorry about the quality of this photo.  It’s early in the morning, and my cup of coffee isn’t finished yet.

6.  I have a friend who buys the activity book.  She says, “I love the activity book.”
7.  My husband thinks it’s so great that he listens to it in his car to and from work.
8.  There isn’t any other history book like it.
9.  Did I mention that the Catholic Church isn’t ignored or misrepresented?  Miracle.
10.  The other two volumes are awesome too.  You should own all of them.

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Volumes 1 & 2   (Volume 4 is scheduled to come out next year and will be American History.)
*I would buy the CDs from Tan Publishing, but I’m afraid I’d lose them all.  It’s a far better option for me to own it on Audible.  Although, Audible doesn’t have volume 3 yet.  I’m hoping in the next week or two, however, they will.
Homeschooling

My Hydra-Yucca-Plant: A Tragedy

This summer we’ve been studying biology and botany.  Well, sort of.

You see, I have a yucca plant that won’t die.  In fact, it only multiplies.  So my husband and the children have been experimenting with different Killing Methods.

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Here it is.  Thriving.

Ever since we moved out here, in the country, we’ve had a yucca plant problem.  The previous owners of our place willingly (and stupidly) planted this horrible, indestructible thing.  So the first and second year we just hacked the thing off at the ground, naively hoping it would disappear in the spring.  And it did no such thing.

The third year, my husband got the spade out and violently slashed at the roots and wrenched out big hunks of that deplorable plant.  I was quite hopeful that it would be gone.

Alas.  My hopes were in vain.  The thing only multiplied; thus receiving it’s new name The Hydra.  (You are familiar with Hercules and the Hydra Dragon?  You cut off one head and several more appear.  Unbelievable.)  This Hydra-Yucca-Plant is threatening to take over my whole garden.

Last summer, I gave the 8-year-old twins a tank of extra-strong, undiluted Round-Up and a sprayer.  Their job was to kill it.  Hence, botany as summer school – good idea, right?

Well, the twins failed and through no fault of their own.  It just kept popping up all over the place.

This summer the twins have been giving me reports on It.  “Hey Mom, do you want us to pull Those Plants out?  Or should we get the Round-Up?”  And, “Mom, there’s more of ’em!”    And finally, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe it, but now they’re popping up on the other side of those railroad ties!”

And so, I give up.  This year, the Hydra-Yucca-Plant gets to live.  It’s a tragedy.

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Here it is in another spot.

The picture below is a full-grown yucca plant in the wild, where it belongs.

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This picture was not taken by me.  It was taken by Forest and Kim Starr.

P.S.  This is such an ugly plant.  It belongs only in deserts.  It’s pretty much like a worthless cactus anyway, with it sharp spears.  And ugliness.  No offense to anyone out there who actually likes these indestructible things.  For I suppose they do offer a little green to an otherwise brown landscape.

Homeschooling

Summer School

We never actually quit doing school; we go all year round.  Why?

  1. The children get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives them something to do.
  2. I get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives me something to do.
  3. It’s fun to learn new things with zero pressure.
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These two love Summer School.  They just show up and look cute.

What do we do for Summer School?

There are a few things that never go away, no matter what the season, which I call Early Morning School, Morning Time, Piano, and Mid-Morning Prayer Time.  These things work well for our family and provide a nice structure to the day.  That’s not to say that we can’t break from them if something comes up, but rather, they are there to guide us.

Early Morning School is that time before breakfast wherein the children will just pick on each other if there’s nothing to do.  So the night before, I lay out a math facts sheet and a handwriting sheet for my 2nd and 4th graders.  My 6th grader gets a math facts sheet and then works on her typing skills.  None of these things require my assistance, which is good, because I’m usually nursing a baby and drinking my coffee.

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Here’s the cursive handwriting book my 4th graders are using.  It’s got lovely photos.  It’s Seton.

Morning Time is that time during breakfast when I read the Mass readings aloud and then we recite our poetry.  I’ve said it before, but I like doing these two things at the breakfast table because the children are more likely to listen as food is in their mouths.  Right now we’re working on Paul Revere’s Ride.  We do it every summer, leading up to the 4th of July, when we’re feeling very patriotic.

Piano also never ends in the summer.  We keep right on with lessons.  The four older children must play through each of their songs at least 3 times after breakfast.  I tried once making them play for a certain amount of time, say twenty minutes a day, but found we were terrible at keeping track of time.  But for whatever reason, playing a song three times was easier to do.  (And I find that the ones who like playing piano will continue to play on.)

Mid-Morning Prayer Time happens sometime in the morning when I call everyone together, and we sing a hymn and offer a prayer for our intentions.

All of these things are further detailed in my Day in the Life Series, which you can find on my sidebar under “tags,” if you’re curious.

The only other thing that I’m consciously doing for school in the summer is grammar with my three boys.  We are using Classical Academic Press’s Well-Ordered Language series.  This takes about twenty minutes, then we’re done for the day.  I don’t have anything “scheduled” for the afternoons.  After all, one must have time to splash around in a kiddie pool and climb trees.

Any questions?  Just ask.

Homeschooling

A Weekend Get-Away at UST

After the recent stress of trying to sell our home, my husband and I thought a little weekend get-away would be the ticket.  Now I’d like to say that this “get-away” involved fine dining and elegant lodgings, but that would be a lie.  Being the practical parents that we are, we “got away” to attend the annual Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference being held at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

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This is my husband.  He’s excited to be driving with only me and the baby in the vehicle.  A quiet ride, really.

So, we loaded up everything: suitcase for our things, empty suitcase to fill with books from the conference, pack-n-play for the nursing baby, stroller, diapers, wipes, extra blankies, baby clothes, pacifiers…

On the six and half hour drive to St. Paul, we listened to Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell on Audible.  (If you need a good book, I strongly recommend it.)  We also drank a lot of coffee.  It was a great, uneventful drive.  I even closed my eyes a time or two, as there were no loud children in the back, only a sleeping baby.

Homeschool Conference at University of St. Thomas

As the conference was two days long, we stayed on campus in the dorms for the first night.  This was convenient for two reasons:  1. If the baby was crabby, one of us could take her back to the room for a nap.  2.  If one of us was crabby, we could take ourselves back to the room for a nap.

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Here I am with a friend, waiting for the doors to open.  I’m on the right and in my homeschooling uniform: jean skirt.  My husband was disappointed that it didn’t reach my ankles.  Ha!

The first day I bought a lot of used books.  The most exciting thing I found was my eldest daughter’s Saxon Math Curriculum for $20.  (Normally it’s around $100.)

Then I attended a blogger workshop where I met Sterling Jaquith, Jennifer Macintosh from Wildflowers and Marbles, and Kirby – all great bloggers.  In this workshop I learned:

  1. Instagram is very important if you’d like to grow your readership.  (I don’t even know what instagram is.)
  2. One should never type anything that would embarrass one’s children when they’re older.  (A good piece of advice.  Mea culpa.)
  3. And one should always back up your site in the event that it crashes, and it will.  (Yikes.  I better get my Web Master on that one.)

We didn’t attend any other talks the first night because we had to meet some good friends in South St. Paul and drink wine.

But the next day we did attend Dr. Ray Guarendi’s talks.  He’s hilarious.  Do yourself a favor and read all of his books and listen to him on the radio.  At one point, when Dr. Ray was telling about his son trying to cover up urine on his Sunday shirt by pulling up his pants over the spot, I thought the bleachers were going to collapse, as my husband was laughing so hard and shaking everyone around him.  I guess the story hit really close to home, as the saying goes.

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My children love Dr. Ray’s wonderful ideas for discipline, especially Black Out…

Later in the morning I made my way to the RC History table and purchased my books from Sonia for next year.  Sonia, by the way, is the brains behind this excellent program.

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Sonia.  Smart, smart woman.  I thought that if I took a photo with her, it might rub off on me.

Finally, it was time for lunch.  We met a couple of good friends at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul and had a good time catching up and laughing.  I also learned about sour beer.  Who knew such a thing existed?  And that it can be pink?  My goodness this was an educational weekend.

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Which drink is mine?
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This is my good friend.  She likes “sour” beer.

Well, after filling up the empty suitcase with lots of books, we departed from the conference and headed to St. Cloud for the night.

Why did we drive to St. Cloud?

  1. I’ve never been there.
  2. It would get us a little closer to home, for a shorter drive the next day.
  3. There was a Traditional Latin Mass being celebrated at St. John Cantius.

And that was that.  In all, it was a fun little get-away.

 

Homeschooling

Poetry Explained

I had a few worthy questions about poetry the other day, so I thought I’d do a little explaining.  But remember, this is just what works for our family.  Your family may look a lot differently than mine and thereby have different needs and desires.

Question #1:  How do you choose your poems?

I choose poems that I like, and you should too.  I think this is really important.  Your children will sniff it out immediately if you think a poem is dull or lame.  And you’ll hate teaching it.

For example, if all your friends’ kids are memorizing Shakespeare, but you don’t understand Shakespeare, and it makes you break out in hives just thinking about reading all that “foreign” language, then don’t do Shakespeare!  Quit stressing yourself out and pick something you do like and understand.

If you’ve never done poetry before, I recommend getting a book of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry.  He’s just plain fun, and I love reciting Autumn Fires while raking and burning leaves in the fall. And all my children love belting out The Swing while pumping their little legs back and forth on swings.

Question #2:  How do you teach a poem?

We always do our reciting at the breakfast table.  Usually I read the poem first and then let everyone else have a shot at it.  For the first couple of days, though, I have the children repeat after me, but they catch on quickly.  If you have five children memorizing the same poem, it really doesn’t take that long before everyone has it memorized.  Think about it.  That’s six times of hearing the same thing every morning.

We keep at it until the poem is well memorized or I’m sick of it.  Sometimes we work on a poem for a few weeks, sometimes for two months.

Question #3:  Are you always memorizing new poetry?

Yes and no.  There are certain poems that we always return to because they’re family favorites.  I already mentioned Autumn Fires.  We do this poem every fall because it’s what we’re living.  We’re really raking leaves and burning them.  And every winter we revisit Stevenson’s Wintertime and Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Evening.  In the spring, we always do Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I mentioned in a previous post.  The summer always brings us around to a more patriotic theme with Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence, which of course, is not actually poetry.

But again, throughout the year, we do whatever strikes me.  We also memorize passages of Scripture too.  (Now there’s an endless supply of good stuff!)

I also keep a running list of the poems that we’ve memorized over the years.  It’s fun to see what the children have done, but then also it’s good to review our favorite ones from time-to-time.

I hope that clears a few things up.  Just ask, if you have any more questions.

Homeschooling

Poetry with Hopkins & the Declaration of Independence

We’re done with “school.”  We’ve been done for awhile because we started the year extra early, like in July, because I wanted to be coasting when the baby came, which was in February.  (Click HERE for the post on her birth.  Whoa, what a story.)

But even though we’re finished with the big stuff – Math, Latin, Grammar, Writing – we’re not really done.  We never are.  I always liked to have something for the children to do otherwise they get bored.  And start fighting.

Poetry

Poetry is the one thing that never goes away.  We’re always memorizing something because it’s fun.  And it’s not hard, as we always do it at breakfast, and we all do the same piece.

Every spring we do Gerard Manley Hopkins.  He was an Anglican, but was received into the Catholic Church by none other than John Henry Newman in 1866.  Hopkins then became a Jesuit priest and spent the rest of his life teaching and writing poetry.  (He was a terrible teacher, by the way, but excellent at writing the most beautiful poetry.)

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Hopkins.  The Father of Sprung Rhythm.

We just finished up with Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur, Pied Beauty, and Spring.  If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and read them.  In fact, print them off, go stand outside in the warm sunshine and recite Pied Beauty aloud to any birds who might be listening.

Declaration of Independence

Now, however, we’re gearing up for summer and the 4th of July, when we revisit our patriotic poetry.  We’ll do Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence.  (Not the whole Declaration of Independence, just the first paragraph and a half of the second.)

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This short compilation has all the U.S. founding documents and a few important speeches that I hope to get to someday, like the Gettysburg Address.

If anyone is interested, I’ll write more about the rest of our Summer School later.

 

Homeschooling

Duck Day! 2018 Edition

The Ducks Are Flying Back

It’s just plain reassuring that someone wants to live in North Dakota, as all the birds and ducks are flying back.

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Look closely.  Two Canada Geese.  The geese are always the first to fly back.  I guess they’re faster than the ducks.

Last year in April, the children and I drove around and identified different ducks and water birds.  Because we had so much fun doing that and listening to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, we decided to do it again.  We call it our Duck Day.  Man, it’s great to be homeschooled and out in wild.

This year we saw mallards, shovelers, coots, and hooded mergansers.

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See the shovelers?  I don’t either.  That’s because they flew away before I could take the photo.  But, if you look closely, you can see the blue heron we scared away on the left.

We also saw swarms of black birds.  They reminded me of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book – the one wherein Pa’s corn is decimated by black clouds of these things.  Farmers up here also lament them, as they greatly diminish fields of sunflowers.

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This particular flock stopped all the traffic on the highway, which was just me.

For fun, I’ll post last year’s duck day results too because I have a lovely rant about Prokofiev.  See below.

Duck Day! 2017 Edition

A week or so ago, when the weather was terrible, I had had enough of school.  So that day was Duck Day.  Duck Day consisted of me driving around the county and drinking coffee, while the children identified local ducks – mostly mallards, blue-winged teals, shovelers, coots, and wood ducks.

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Wood Duck.  Not my photo, however.  This is by Richard Bartz, Munich.

To top that excitement off, we listened to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf from Maestro’s Classics because in it, a wolf eats a duck.  (That’s the best part of the story, by the way.)

Maestro’s Classics: Peter and the Wolf

Are you familiar with Maestro’s Classics for children?  While I’ve not listened to them all, I do enjoy them.  In addition to teaching a few elements of music theory and history, they help develop an ear for instruments.

To get to my point, however, I must summarize Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf for those of you unfamiliar with it.

It kicks off with Peter sneaking outside his garden walls to explore the prohibited meadow.  His grandfather, however, catches him, scolds him, and drags him back and locks the garden door because there are mean, nasty wolves out there.  Well, impetuous Peter just climbs the wall and hops on a tree branch, only to look down upon the meadow and see a big, bad wolf!  But Peter is prepared, for he lets down his rope and catches the wolf, much to the chagrin of the coming hunters who had intended to shoot it.  Peter is then rewarded with a great procession for his efforts, wherein he leads his wolf through the streets to a zoo, where the wolf is allowed to live.

And now for a little rant.

Well, this ending ticked me right off.  They rewarded Peter for his disobedience?  I’d have him fall off the tree branch and be eaten by the big, bad wolf.  Then, I’d have the hunters shoot the damn wolf.*

This ending got me thinking, I bet Prokofiev is an atheist.  Only an atheist would get the story that messed up.  And yes, sure enough, he was.

But even though is doesn’t end rightly, I still like this musical production for the reasons I stated above.  And my children got it anyway.  I asked my little 4-year-old what Peter’s consequence should have been for disobeying his grandfather, and she said, “He should be sent to bed for two days without lunch.”

*Yes, I said shoot the damn wolf.  Everyone knows that from time immemorial a wolf symbolizes evil.  And evil is to be damned, not put away in a zoo.

 

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 7

For those of you who are excited about the Birth Story for Baby #7, you’ll just have to wait a bit!  It’ll come soon enough.

In the meantime, if you’ve missed any parts of this series and would like to read them, look to the sidebar under “Tags,” and click on “A Day in the Life Series.”

So today we pick up with what happens after dinner.

6pm Dinner Cleanup

When everyone is finished eating, my husband leads us in a brief After Dinner Prayer, which goes as follows:

We give thee thanks for all thy benefits, Almighty God, who lives and reigns forever.  And may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.
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Here we are, almost done.

Then chaos generally ensues, as everyone clears his place at the table.  Ideally, my obedient little children would immediately place their plate, cup, and silverware in the dishwasher and begin their next cleanup task:  The Eldest washes, Child #2 dries, Child #3 sweeps the dining room and kitchen, Child #4 straightens up the back entryway, Child #5 throws the dirty napkins in the hamper, and Child #6 plays quietly on the couch with a doll.   And this whole process would take ten minutes.

Ha!  This whole process takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour because the children are so busy gabbing and laughing and wrestling and giggling.  You’d think they were all under the age of 12.  (Well, I guess they are.)

And during this loud, chaotic time, I generally hide in the laundry room and fold the last load of laundry for the day.  My husband, blessed saint that he is, corrects the Eldest’s math, which she must fix after washing the dishes, if she has any mistakes.

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This does not look like fun to me.

If time allows, my husband and I will sometimes enjoy an after dinner drink.  In the warmer months we amble on outside and sit on the deck.

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This is the deck.  There is no way I’m ambling out here any time soon.  Looks like we’ll amble on over to the couch instead!

When the children are finished with their after dinner chores, they usually have time to mess around for a bit until the next part of our evening, which is the Rosary.  Next time we’ll pick up with this and hopefully finish up the series.

Stay tuned for Part 8!