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!

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 6

Here we are, back to “A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 6.” If you missed the earlier parts to this series and would like to read them, look at my sidebar under Tags, and click on “A Day in the Life Series.”

It’s Around 4pm

As the afternoon closes, I’m generally cooking dinner and finishing things up.  My husband arrives home around 5pm, and I like the house to be ready for him.  I once read somewhere – I think in a Kimberly Hahn book – that if a wife truly loves her husband as Christ, the least thing she could do, would be to greet him when he comes home, at the door.  In other words, one must walk over to the door and actually greet him, as you would Christ.

And Now For a Little Harangue

I’ll pause here for a moment.  When I read that a few years ago, I was absolutely struck and convicted.  For I had been in the habit of not acknowledging my husband – of just continuing whatever I was doing, as if he didn’t matter.

Well, he does matter.  I married him after all, and he ought to come before the children and the household chores and all the rest.  I can put down the cooking spoon or the baby and walk over to the door, even if I don’t happen to like him at the moment because he was ten minutes late.  So what?  He is the head of our household, and sometimes, it’s just not about my feelings.

And it’s not always perfect either.  Our home is not some Norman Rockwell painting.  Yes, babies are sometimes crying and boys are wrestling and girls are whining.  Whatever.  My husband still ought to come first, and I ought to greet him.

Sometimes this moment can be really fun, by the way.  Sometimes I like to surprise him with a martini in hand.  I can tell you, when I do something special like that, our evenings are always more fun.  For life is worth living, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen reminds us.

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Actually, these aren’t martinis.  The one on the left is a Rob Roy; the one one the right is a Brandy Alexander.

So, any of you wives out there, if you don’t already, I want to strongly encourage you to greet your husbands when they arrive home.  (Or, if you happen to be a stay-at-home husband, greet your wife when she comes home.)

5:15pm: Dinner Time

After I’ve greeted my husband, we sit down for dinner together as a family.  Fortunately, our schedule allows for this to happen almost every single night.  If it’s at all possible, I encourage all of you to do the same.  No technology allowed at the table, either.

We also prefer to eat dinner a little more formally than the other meals.  For example, the children attempt to set the table set properly.  You know, with forks on top of a cloth napkin on the left and spoons and knives on the right, etc.  And no, this is not always done well, depending on which child is setting…  We do have six messy children under the age of 12.  But I’ve noticed that manners improve when form improves.

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This is how the table looks every night.  Then the children sidle on over, and it gets messed up.

Also, if there is a salad to be served, I generally have that on the plates prior to the Table Prayer, so that we’re not passing around multiple dishes.  After the Table Prayer, we sit down and eat the said salad.  When everyone is finished with the salad, my husband commences dishing out the main entree.  Again, we have the same format, when everyone is finished, and if there happens to be something for dessert, it will be served then, and we enjoy it together.  The point is, we attempt to take our time.

By the way, we also strive to uphold two other rules:

  1. No talking with your mouth full.  (I’m especially bad at this one.)
  2. No using your fingers.  Ever.  Learn to use your knife to get that food on your fork.  (Unless it’s pizza or some other finger food being served.)

Lest this sounds too idyllic, let me remind you, that generally I have a baby or a toddler (or both) crying or throwing food or creating whatever mayhem they might.  Well, I’ve just made up my mind not to be deterred.  Table manners are worthwhile attempting.

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This one has absolutely no table manners.  But she sure is cute.

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 5

And we’re back to “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  If you missed the previous 4 parts and would like to catch up, look on my sidebar under “tags,” and click on “A Day in the Life Series.”

Part 5

Quiet Time, which I mentioned in Part 4, usually ends at around 1pm, as the children begin sneaking upstairs to see what I’m doing.  And so then, we begin the next part of our day.

1pm Outdoor Recess

As the four middle children have usually completed any necessary “book” work earlier, they now have a choice.  They may remain downstairs building their lego castles or reading their books, or they may venture back outside.  Most of the time, they scramble outside because my husband built them an ice skating rink.

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When I took this photo, it was 19 degrees, with a windchill of 4.  They’re crazy.

 

This is the first year we’ve ever attempted building an ice skating rink, and honestly, I don’t know how we survived without one.  It has supplied hours and hours of fun.  And only one minor accident–Child #3 whacked his head on the ice, resulting in a large bump, which turned into one giant, yellow-brownish bruise.  Nothing serious, just a wound to brag about.

1pm is also Afternoon School

So, while the middle children skip and slide around outside and Child #6 naps, the Eldest gets a little one-on-one time with Mom.  We work on grammar and writing.  And of course, we use Classical Academic Press’s Well-Ordered Language series and their Writing and Rhetoric series, as you can see in the photo below.

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She likes Well-Ordered Language the best, because, “it doesn’t take me as long to finish!”  Naturally.

I usually need to sit with her for about twenty minutes, and then I move on to a few domestic tasks while she completes her work.  For example, I generally switch out and fold laundry and begin any prep work for supper.

I like to keep our afternoons light and flexible, however, because this is when I schedule activities and appointments.  For example, on Tuesdays, the older children attend choir practice.  On Thursdays, they have piano lessons.  Sometimes we attend PE sessions with a larger group of homeschoolers.  Sometimes we invite other families over to visit.

4pm Getting Ready for Supper

The end of the afternoon requires more work dedicated to supper, of course.  (Eating.  It’s just a never-ending task!)  All the children help with setting the table, and sometimes the older ones do some chopping or other minor prep work.

And that’s all for today!  See you next time.

Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

 

Bishop David D. Kagan’s Latest Pastoral Letter

Bp. Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese has issued a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, which can be found on the diocesan website.  (Click HERE for it.)

I was asked if I might offer my thoughts on his letter, which is divided into a Preface, Introduction, Parts 1,2, & 3, and a Conclusion.  I will comment, but am limiting myself to Part 1, as this is the section most of you are interested in.

If you haven’t read the entire letter yet, it would be helpful to do so first.

TeachThemPastoralLetter

Part One: Catholic ‘Home Schooling’

The first six paragraphs of Part One speak of the historicity of the homeschool movement in the Bismarck Diocese.  There is nothing shocking here.  In fact, he has some kind and truthful things to say about it all.

The last 4 paragraphs, however, get a little interesting, as Bp. Kagan details what he perceives as 4 weaknesses of homeschooling.

Bp. Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

1. Bp. Kagan begins with, “First, given the excellence of our own Catholic schools the real necessity for Catholic families to home school in my judgment is not as necessary as it may have been years ago.”

In other words, he thinks that years ago, one may have had a good reason to homeschool, based on the condition of Catholic schools at that time, but now, however, Catholic schools are better.  So, it’s not “as” necessary, in his opinion.

What’s really going here, in any case, is that some people truly don’t understand why one might choose to homeschool, and so sometimes it’s assumed that homeschoolers are against Catholic, diocesan schools.  But all the homeschoolers I know are actually glad that these schools exist.  For they do provide an important mission in the daily life of the Church.  They are a good thing after all.  We want them to succeed.

However, most of us have discerned as parents that homeschooling is the best option for our particular families, for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe we have a child with a learning disorder.  Maybe we enjoy traveling and the flexibility homeschooling provides.  Maybe we think it is important for our families to be together.

Personally for our family, and among other reasons, it primarily comes down to our philosophy of education.  We are attempting a traditional, classical approach to education, which is just not an option here in this diocese.  And we have access to excellent curriculums and online classes.

For example, I’ve often spoken of Classical Academic Press, which we’ve found to exemplify this philosophy.  If anyone is curious about what we’re attempting to do, click HERE for a short philosophy of classical education and how it differs from what is typically available in diocesan schools.

If you want more, I’d suggest reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education and Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.

2.  Bp. Kagan goes on with his weaknesses to say, “Second, there is a real advantage for children at an early age to see and learn from other Catholic adults and children their own age what they have already seen and learned from their parents.”

In this second point, he argues that it is necessary for children to be around other people’s children and parents in order to learn properly and be well-rounded.

There are two ways to look at this.  One, Bp. Kagan could be promoting the whole “anti-social” argument that most homeschoolers face all the time, which says that because our children learn at home, we’re necessarily socially awkward.

This just isn’t true, however, and studies would prove otherwise.  For statistics and a great article on homeschooling and socialization from the Washington Times, click HERE.

Secondly, and if you read his statement closely, most homeschoolers would actually agree with Bp. Kagan here.  It’s just that he’s probably unaware of all the activities that many of us are involved in.  For example, many families are in rosary groups, wherein entire families gather together to pray the rosary weekly and then have fellowship.  Many of us are involved in PE programs.  Many homeschool families gather together to do projects, sports, music, whatever.

The point is, most of us don’t sit at home with our doors locked, shaking in fear lest our children interact with other children or adults.  Rather, we enjoy being around other Catholic families and in fact make it a priority.

3.  His third weakness states, “…the more Catholic families desire that faithful and robust Catholic education for their children and make use of our Catholic schools, the stronger the Catholic culture of our schools and parishes become.”

In other words, Bp. Kagan wants our children in the Catholic schools because then the schools would be stronger.  I’ve heard this argument many times, and maybe we ought to just consider it a compliment.  He must think we’d have something positive to offer the schools after all.

I would point out, however, that our children would not be who they are without the formation they have had at home.

As far as parishes go, all the homeschool families I know are very active in varying parish ministries.  In fact, I can’t think of a single homeschool family that isn’t involved in their parish life.

4.  Bp. Kagan concludes his discussion of “home school weaknesses” with a note on other people’s perception of us.  He says, “Often enough I have heard from other Catholic parents and even some priests that families who home school do so because they think our Catholic schools are not Catholic enough when it comes to the teaching of religion…I do not know how widespread this perception may be but it does not serve well those who have chosen homeschooling for their children.”

It would seem that he’s accusing us of being guilty of how other people perceive us.  But I’m not sure we can help what others may or may not think of us, especially if they are unwilling to dialogue with us.

I can’t help it if people want to assume I’m a Catholic school detractor.  I can only say, I’m not.

Conclusion

In the end, maybe we ought to invite Bp. Kagan to come have a look at our “schools?”  This might help shed some light on the modern homeschool movement.  In particular, it might be helpful if he understands that most of us are not rejecting Catholic, diocesan schools, but rather are choosing another form of an authentically Catholic education.

An Open Invitation to Bishop Kagan

Bp. Kagan, we first of all thank you for your dedication to our diocese.  Please know that you are always in our prayers, and our family welcomes you to visit our home and our school any time.

 

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 4

Let me remind you once again, that this is just what works for our family.  Your routine will of course be different, as your family needs are different!  And so, here is Part 4.

11:15am Lunch

While I’m reheating yesterday’s beef enchiladas or some other such appetizing dish, the children are setting the table.  Then it’s time for lunch, which begins with the Angelus and Meal Prayer.

While we eat, we listen to audio books from Audible, because on most days I just want to zone out.  (The children are forever asking me questions all. day. long. and my brain needs a rest.)  Recently, we finished Ralph Moody’s 3rd book, The Home Ranch, in his Little Britches series.  Now we’re listening to The Return of the King.  (Both of these are excellent books, by the way, if you’re looking for a good read aloud.)

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This picture has nothing to do with this post.  Who teaches this kid how to spell anyway?

11:45am Cleanup and Read Aloud

When we’ve finished lunch, each child clears away his or her dishes and has another chore to do.  For example, the Eldest wipes the table, Child #2 sweeps the floor, Child #3 hand washes any dishes that cannot go in the dishwasher, and Child #4 dries.

At this point, I read aloud.  Generally I chose something we’re reading for history, as I prefer to do history as a group.  We just finished reading Knights of Art, which detailed the lives of the Italian Renaissance painters, and today we began Saint Francis of the Seven Seas by Albert Nevins.

12:15pm Blessed Quiet Time

I usually read to the children until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.  You know, for like 15 minutes.  Then it’s that blessed time called Quiet Time, wherein all children are herded to the basement for about an hour.  They are forbidden to come upstairs during this time, unless of course something serious happens, in which case there had better be blood to prove its gravity.

In any case, almost every day I lie down for about twenty minutes.  Then, I make myself a cup of steaming, hot tea.  I usually have Lord Bergamot Blend No. 55, from Steven Smith Teamaker, which my husband orders online.

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We prefer looseleaf.  But really, I’m just thankful for the caffeine, which is why I must have black tea.

Then, I head over to the computer to do a little work in peace, and if time allows, I read a book too.

Stay tuned for “A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 5.”

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living, Motherhood & Parenting

How to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections, & Other Nasty Stuff

Some of you may be wondering how it might be possible to survive sickness in your household and teach school all day?  Yes?  Then read on.

Since I am in the midst of caring for Barfing Children right now, I thought I’d offer a few tips of advice.  This is mostly to encourage myself and cheer on the rest of you, who may be suffering from this most taxing and exhausting dilemma.

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Crabby Baby.

8 Tips to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections & Other Nasty Stuff While Teaching School, Cooking for a Family, and Cleaning a House:

1.Don’t clean your house.  Or if you must, just make your bed and call it good.  Heck, your bed is probably still made from yesterday because you didn’t sleep in it anyway.  You were sitting in the rocking chair, holding a screaming baby all night.  I know it’s a big deal in this household to get a load of laundry done every day too, but I guess it won’t go anywhere, so that can be left alone.*  (See note below.)  The children can turn their clothes inside-out and wear them again, for the 3rd day in a row, unless of course there’s vomit on them…

2.  Put lipstick on.  This should go without saying.  Not only is lipstick fun, but it brightens everyone’s day.  Especially if you’re not in the habit of wearing it.  Your husband and children will wonder what came over you.  And when you look in the mirror, you will not notice the dark circles around your eyes, but will instead, be stunned by the awesomeness of Hot Pink Lips.  You might even laugh at yourself, which is good.

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Survival Gear.  Must Haves.

3.  Reduce school to a minimum.  This is a very good time to renew your subscription to Audible, purchase The Story of Civilization, and commence History Class.  When your children are finished with this, send the healthy ones outside for the remainder of the day for Nature Study.  If the healthy children do not want to do Nature Study, offer House-Cleaning 101, wherein all children scrub floors, walls, and toilets.

4.  Spend an extra amount of time styling your hair.  Why?  Because you’re sleep deprived and look like it.  There are statistics out there saying that if you look put-together, you will feel put-together.  Paul Harvey, the decades-long iconic radio broadcaster, used to wear a suit and tie every day for his program.  And his studio was in his house, where virtually no one saw him.  But he knew that his performance was always better if he dressed the part.  So, this morning, I dug out my curling iron and spent five extra minutes curling my hair.  Then, I sprayed it with lots of hair spray.  And yes, it made me feel better about not sleeping last night.

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Paul Harvey.  Great guy.  My dad was named after him, literally.

5.  Decide not to yell at your children.  You are going to have a demanding day.  Just face it.  If the baby was up all night crying, he’s going to be crabby and cry all day too.  So, your nerves are shot.  You will be seriously tempted to yell at your other children.  Just don’t do it.  This will take a tremendous amount of effort and a lot of prayer.  And in some cases, like mine, it will take a minor miracle.  See my post HERE on that one.

6.  Eat takeout or something frozen for supper. Eating Little Caesar’s Pizza every once in awhile won’t kill you.  In fact, it might save your sanity.  And I’ve found that those $4.98 rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club are handy too.  The best part is, they’re hot and ready to eat, and I’ve done nothing to prepare them.  Someone I know gave me that great bit of advice.  She also said to top it off with a bag of baby carrots and a bag of buns.  Smart, smart woman.

7.  Spend more time in prayer.  Why?  Because you’re sleep-deprived and well, crazy from holding a screaming baby all night.  All sleep-deprived, crazy people need a lot of prayer.  I know this from experience.  The tricky part is making time to do it.  I suggest leaving your house and spending an hour in silent Adoration.  Hire a babysitter, call grandma, ask your husband to take sick leave…anything.  This hour of Adoration may be the only time you will get to sleep, until the illnesses go away.  And yes, sleeping in Adoration still counts as prayer.

8.  Drink More Coffee.  It’s a given that this helps, right?

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O Brewer of Buzzes!  O Terror of Yawns!  How I love thee!

 

Bonus Tip

I’ve also heard that having a teenager helps too, because then she can babysit.  Well, I’m working on that one.  But I’m afraid it’s still going to be two more years until that one becomes a reality.

*Note:

I have a friend who got a day behind on laundry.  So the next day, she washed and dried multiple loads and then carried them to her bed.  She made a nice, heaping pile and then promptly forgot about them until bedtime.  Well, what to do then?  Spend six hours folding them?  No!  She smartly remembered her clean bathtub and quickly deposited them there and pulled the shower curtain shut until the following day.  Then she didn’t have to stare at it.  Just an idea.

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This is an actual picture of my friend’s Laundry Solution.  Smart Woman.

 

Know of anyone else experiencing Sick Children?  If so, share these tips with them?

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 3

In Part 2 I left off with Mid-Morning Prayer.  This is actually the second time during the morning when we all gather together, and so some might call it “Morning Time,” which would make for two Morning Times for our family.  Well, whatever you want to call it.  Here it is.

10am Mid-Morning Prayer

At around 10am, when the children are done with their school, which I mentioned in Part 2, and I’ve checked and graded it, I call them all to the living room for prayer.  We begin with a hymn, I ask for intentions, which are often very sweet, we pray a short prayer like the Memorare, and then we close with a hymn.  That’s it.

For example, during the Christmas season we sang Good King Wenceslaus, because it’s their favorite and also O Tannenbaum, because we’re German, and it’s fun to sing in a foreign language.  (Well, maybe we’re a bit pagan too?  A whole song glorifying a tree?  That’s not a hymn.)

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Child #5 drew this picture of our family singing.  I guess we’re missing a few people?  And who’s that angel supposed to be?  Her?  Ha!

Today we sang Good King Wenceslaus for both the opening and the closing because the boys love all those verses about kings and pages and fierce blizzards.  They’re obsessed.

Before I let them all run off to their next task, however, we do a review of everyone’s Latin vocabulary.  Sometimes we play Latin Around the World, but most days, I call out the English, and they shout back the Latin.  And yes, it’s shouting because they all want to be heard.  Sometimes this gets to be very loud and chaotic.

10:15am More School

At this point, the Eldest takes the two youngest children and disappears.  Glory be to God in the Highest.

Then I commence Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press with Child #2, #3, and #4.  They all ardently insist that this is their favorite school to do.

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The Eldest.  Her Latin is on the right.  The next 3 children all use Song School Latin on the left.  These are all from Classical Academic Press, which is the best place ever for curriculum.

When Latin is done, Child #4 disappears, and I help Child #2 and #3 with the remainder of their school for the day, which is usually Math and Grammar.

Then it is my favorite part of the morning:

10:45 am Outdoor Recess Time!

While the children are frolicking around outside, I fold the first load of laundry and put the second load in the dryer.  Then I start heating up leftovers for lunch.

And that’s enough for today.  Stay tuned for Part 4.

 

Book Review, Homeschooling, Motherhood & Parenting

Mere Motherhood: A Book Review

Are you exhausted?  Overwhelmed?  Feeling inadequate?  Did you yell* at your children today?

Have you ever heard of Cindy Rollins?  She recently wrote a book, and I think it’s the best thing that’s been written on homeschooling and motherhood in a good, long while.  I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t put a book down.  It took me about 24 hours to read.

And yes, I know I’m interrupting my series “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  Don’t worry, I’ll continue with Part 3 later this week.

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Cindy Rollins.  Queen of Morning Time.

Her book is called Mere Motherhood.

Top Ten Reasons Why This Book is Worth Reading:

  1. Even though Cindy did not enjoy being pregnant, and feared labor and delivery, she had nine children – 8 boys and 1 girl, plus a few miscarriages.  (Birth stories are never boring to read about.  Click HERE for my mother’s account of me.)
  2. No, Cindy is not a Catholic, but she greatly esteems Stratford Caldecott.  (This man was a genius.  You should read him too.)  And she quotes Mary Eberstadt and Josef Pieper and G.K. Chesterton.
  3. She loves the Bible.
  4. She thinks everyone ought to thank God for Catholic hospitals and their pro-life stance.
  5. Her boys blew stuff up.  And started fires.  And wrecked 7 cars.
  6. She thinks Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade is one of the best poems ever written, which it is.
  7. She admits that she’s made mistakes, like trying to live on a old decrepit farm, infested with rodents.
  8. All kinds of animals make an appearance in her memoir – rats, snakes, bats, mice, hawks…these things are also never boring to read about.
  9. She once wore jumpers, until her daughter pointed out that they’re not very fashionable.
  10. She takes on tough issues like puberty and spending too much time on electronic devices.  (Mea culpa.)
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If you need a good book, I highly recommend this one.

If you’d like more on Cindy Rollins, I’d recommend listening to her podcasts done with Pam Barnhill.  There are three of them: Episodes 1, 27, and 43.  They’re all great and can be found by clicking HERE or on Pam Barnhill’s website, which I’ve linked on my sidebar.  Once you’re there, click on Podcasts, then on Morning Basket.  Rollins also does podcasts for the Circe Institute, if you’re interested.

*If you yelled at your children, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Click HERE for a post on that.
Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 2

Hello Dear Readers!  Welcome to “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 2.”

But before we begin, remember that the following routine is just what works for our family.  Of course your routines and daily schedules will be different, as your families are different!

8:15 am Breakfast

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The Toast Master.  He makes the toast every morning.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again.  One of the best decisions we’ve made was to Eat Breakfast Like a Prison Camp.  It works well for us.  Everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning, except Saturdays and Sundays.  (Saturday is generally oatmeal, and Sunday is cold cereal, which the children think is the best thing ever.)  I like this arrangement because it’s not stressful.  There’s no complaining because the children know what to expect.

While the Toast Master is doing his thing, Child #4 sets the cups, Child #5 sets the napkins, and I am putting the first load of laundry in.  Then we’re ready for action.

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Mmm, peanut butter toast, again.

Morning Time

After Meal Prayer, I read the Mass readings of the day while the children eat.  This is the beginning of what some call “Morning Time.”  If you haven’t heard of it, check out Pam Barnhill on my sidebar and look for podcasts with Cindy Rollins.  Rollins is the Queen of Morning Time, and later this week I’ll post my review of her great book, Mere Motherhood.

I have chosen to use breakfast as our Morning Time for two reasons.  1.)  We are all naturally gathered together anyway.  And 2.)  The children have food in their mouths, so it’s generally quieter.

After I read the Mass readings, we do talk about them, but only briefly.  Then I eat my food, and we finish with our Poetry.  The children are always memorizing something, and most of the time, I have them all do the same thing.  We just finished John 1 for the Christmas season, and now we’ve moved onto “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.

After all the children have had a chance to recite, they put their dishes away, and we break up for the next part of the morning.

9:15am

At this point the children brush their teeth and take turns at the piano.  (Child #2 and Child #3 have usually finished their piano before breakfast.)  And I sweep the upstairs floors and switch out the laundry for a second load.

One-by-one, as they finish piano, they come back upstairs and begin Round Two of school.  The Eldest works on a Science workbook from Seton, a little history reading from RC History, and Latin from Classical Academic Press.  (Classical Academic Press, by the way, is now my favorite place for curriculum.  More on that later.)

Child #2 and Child #3 commence Spelling and Phonics from Seton.  Child #4 works on Math, also from Seton.  Child #5 “plays” with Child #6, which means, that Child #5 is supposed to keep the Toddler busy and distracted enough so that she’ll not destroy everything when my back is turned.

And during this time, I pull aside Child #3, my slow reader, and have him read to me.  Then Child #4 reads to me.

Then I pour myself a stiff drink* and get ready for Mid-Morning Prayer Time, which I’ll detail in Part 3 of “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  Stay tuned.

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*Just kidding about the stiff drink!