Birthdays…obvious and sweet

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One and eleven.  We teased the boys saying that combined they are the age Bilbo was when he left the Shire for good…111.

Our sweet Henry is one.  We had a quiet little celebration with just the siblings and his wonderful Godmother and her daughter stopped by for a visit.  This past year with Henry has been one of such joy.  He really is such a kind baby.  I know that’s not a typical adjective that goes with baby.  Usually one uses such words as cute, silly, or cranky.  Kind is, however, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Henry.  His hugs and kisses are given freely and often, and anytime one of the other children is crying, Henry crawls right over to them and pats their back.  I’ve never seen a baby so young do such a thing.  I bet the Blessed Mother smiled so big the day Henry was born.

If kids can have “emotional twins” then Henry is Jack’s.  Jack is so thoughtful and empathetic.  I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming and can’t wait to see him grow (well, I can wait just a bit).

Jack will be eleven next week, but we celebrated early before his friends left town for the holiday.  Jack’s strange but awesome sense of humor is well known around our home.  Often he’ll run away from me while saying “Running away sounds, running away sounds.” And no question is returned without wit or sarcasm.  He’s a Ravenclaw for sure.  To return the humor, I threw him a party with the theme “obvious.”  It was a big hit!  Who knew something so simple would bring so much laughter.  Happy birthday, Jack!  May laughter ever flow from your smile.

School Year in Review

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The school year is done!!!!  Before I barrel into next year, I thought I’d share a quick list of what worked and what didn’t work for us this year.  I’m so glad to say that after 7 years of homeschooling, most of the books we used this year treated us well. I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.  ***This post contains affiliate links.***

What worked

  1. All About Spelling and All About Reading  This is one of the few programs we’ve used all the years I’ve been homeschooling.  Liam and Jack completed level 5 of spelling.  Matilda completed level 4 of reading (the last one!) and level 3 of spelling. Matthew completed level 2 of reading and level 1 of spelling.  Max completed level 1 of reading and started level 1 of spelling.  He’s now begging to do it all summer so he can pass up Matthew. 🙂
  2. RC History  We are halfway through Volume 2 (the arrival of the King-early medieval).  The only reason we didn’t complete this yet is because the older boys had an intense extracurricular this year.  We’re finishing it up this summer, but the kids don’t mind one bit!  The literature selection is fantastic for this volume.  Liam is working on the logic level, Jack and Matilda are working on the grammar level, and Matthew and Max are working on beginner.  We have some fun projects lined up for the summer!
  3. Saxon Math I think this is the first year no one cried about math…well Matthew did a little. ha!  Liam completed the 6th grade book and Jack completed the 5th grade one. Both boys are taking pre algebra next year. More on that later.  Matilda finished the 4th grade book, and Matthew completed the 2nd grade one.  For summer maintenance, they will be doing Times Tales and Khan Academy.
  4. Elemental Science This was new to us and I loved it!!!  Matthew and Max worked on  Grammar Stage Biology.  The demonstrations were super easy for them to set up and we had most things on hand.  The best part is the boys retained quite a bit of information!  My goal was just to expose them to new things, but they completely surpassed that!  I loved it so much that the older kids are doing Logic Stage Biology next year.
  5. IEW writing and Fix-It Grammar This was another new program for us.  We’ll definitely be using this again.  The three older kids worked through the first Fix-It Grammar book, The Nose Tree.  For composition, Liam and Jack used Following Narnia Vol 1: The Lion’s Song.  Guys, they LOVED this.  I’ve never seen two boys so eager to write before in my life!  And the worked they produced, oh my goodness!  Matilda loved hers as well, and I loved that she kept wanting to rewrite each story and illustrate it.  Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales was the book she used.
  6. Read-Aloud Revival  This isn’t necessarily a curriculum, but I finally got a membership.  We use this to “attend” live author seminars and various lectures about poetry and other things.  Seeing the kids learn about their favorite writers’ processes has been extremely fun.  Now when we read certain picture books or novels, the discussions the kids have has taken on a whole new level.
  7. Finally, our wonderful enrichment program worked well for us yet again.  The kids attend once a week to take such classes as Latin, art, jujitsu, etc.  They also attend Mass with their friends.  Little ones worshipping together, this is what homeschooling is all about!

Since this list is already reaching War and Peace length proportions, I’ll just give a quick what didn’t work.  Mystery Science (a little too simple for my kids to stay engaged), TOPS Science (a little too hard for my kids to stay engaged.), and Spectrum Geography workbooks (a little too much social studies and too little map work).

I already have my book list for next year, and I’m elated.  But first, summer.

 

Jack’s Tragedy

We’re winding down the school year, but I had my older boys eek out one more small essay for me.  Both Jack and Liam used the same source text, yet they both produced very different writings.  I loved them both, however Jack’s paper kinda made me tear up.  I thought I’d share

To give a little introduction, we were talking about CS Lewis’s character Diggory in the Magician’s Nephew.  Lewis drew inspiration from his own relationship with his mother to form Diggory’s relationship with his mother in the story.  For those who don’t know, CS Lewis was known as Jack amongst his circle of friends.

Jack’s Tragedy

by Jack (age 10)

Jack loved his mother, yet her life came to a tragic end.  Jack enjoyed when his mother spent time with him learning and having fun.  Her name was Flora Lewis, and she spent much of her time with Jack and his brother, Warnie, reading to them and teaching them how to draw.  Both Flora and the boys were exceptionally intelligent and imaginative.  In time, Warnie was sent to boarding school because he became of age, so Jack and his mother grew very close having fun and learning Latin.  Later, when Jack was still very young, Flora became ill and was confined to her bed.  Only six month later, Flora passed away, and Jack, who was heartbroken at the loss of his mother, became deeply depressed.  He would later find comfort in retreating to his attic and thinking of all the fun he had with his mother.  Later, in his days as a writer, he would reflect upon Flora, who had directed him to the world of literature and set him on his path to take part in it.

**For those homeschoolers who follow me, we use IEW.  This particular piece came from the theme writing book Following Narnia Vol. 1: The Lion’s Song. (affiliate link)**

Catholicism From a Cry Room Window

There I was again, watching daily Mass through the sound proof window that separated the very audible babies from the rest of the quiet congregation.  This particular Mass I had only my littlest 3 with me.  My older three kids were quietly sitting with their friends in the front pews while my friend, Jean, graciously asked my middle child to sit with her.  Slightly easier Mass, yes, but I was still spiraling down into a pity party as Henry was yanking my hair while I was nursing him, and Stella was crying because I wouldn’t let her sit in the window sill so she could realize her dreams of smudging tiny fingerprints all over the stained glass.  Each time Fr. Hough started to speak, Max asked me a question such as, “How high can Charlotte Bronte jump?”

I was just at my “Ugh, will I ever get to listen to another Mass again?!” moment when one of the cry room citizens (not one of mine) started screaming.  This kid was tired and done and letting everyone know about it.  At first, I thought nothing of this.  I didn’t dare turn my head to look at this poor child’s mother lest she think I was judging her by his behavior.  I’ve been that mom.  I knew what she was feeling.  Or at least I thought.  I finally did a sidelong glance, and what I saw filled me with such calm and just absolute love for my friend.  She was holding her screaming baby, yet with closed eyes, she was saying the prayers of the faithful with such sincerity one would have thought she was sitting alone quietly with only Jesus in the room.

Any pity I had on myself disappeared that second.  Of course she wasn’t just sitting alone with Jesus, she was holding Jesus, and he was screaming.  I was holding Jesus.  He was yanking my hair, crying about not touching stained glass, asking me about the Bronte sisters’ athletic skills.  I began immediately to offer it up, offer it all up.  I sat there and offered up the past 12 years of baby and toddler wrangling during Mass.  I offered up all the pacing done in the narthex, all the missed Easter Vigils because the kids just can’t sit that long that late at night, and all the potty breaks just as communion is beginning.

I know that eventually the babies will grow.  I’ll be able to sit through an entire Mass…and participate in all of it.  I’ll have different pains and hardships to offer up.  But for now I’ll be here,  looking on through the cry room window.  And that’s ok, because Jesus is in here with me too.

And the King will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Mt 25:40

 

 

Introducing…

…handmade jewelry from Humble Dwelling!  It all started with a simple question from a friend.  She asked if I made crucifixes.  Well, I still haven’t made a crucifix yet (working on it!), but I now have some beautiful solid bronze saint pendants, and cameos (with more coming soon…just waiting on molds and resin).  And of course, rosaries.

To celebrate, I’m offering free domestic shipping until Christmas.  Just visit the shop and enter the coupon code HUMBLEXMAS at checkout.

I’m often adding new items to the shop.  To keep up with what’s new, follow me on Instagram @humbledwellingelaine or like my Facebook page Facebook.com/humbledwelling  You can do both by clicking on the links in the right sidebar.

I’m Working on the Tree

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Today Max excitedly ran up to me and said, “Mommy, mommy!  I’m building a treehouse!  Do you want to see what I have so far?”

“Sure!” I said.

He opened his hand to reveal an acorn that he picked up on our walk earlier.

“I’m working on the tree.” he said.

**The picture is the most recent I have of Max, who is most firmly planted in his own world.

Our Homeschool Curriculum 2016-2017

Is it just me, or is it bizarre for anyone else to type 2016-2017?  We live in the future, so where are our flying cars and robot housekeepers?

Sci-fi aside, we’re two weeks into our school year already!  Since everyone wants to know what everyone else is using, here’s my annual list of homeschool goodies.  It looks daunting, but I lump together students as much as I can to keep my sanity.

6th Grade:

  1. MathSingapore Math 6A and 6B; Singapore Math Intensive Practice
  2. Grammar/Composition/Vocabulary/Poetry– Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Town Level
  3. Geography– The Story of David Livingstone; library books covering the Ambleside Online topics in geography grade 6; Spectrum Geography Grade 6; map work that coincides with history class
  4. Natural History/Science-Nature journaling; most of the books listed on Ambleside Online’s natural history and science 6th grade booklist. (I have him do oral narration after reading each chapter.) I’ll talk about experiments and lab work in a different post.
  5. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser cursive
  6. Latin-He takes Latin and our homeschool enrichment classes
  7. Religion-Following Christ from the Faith and Life series
  8. HistoryConnecting with History Volume 2
  9. ArtChild-size Masterpieces; art classes at homeschool enrichment
  10. Music-sacred choral singing at homeschool enrichment; At home we’re studying the music of St. Hildegard.
  11. Literature-The Wind in the Willows; The Black Cauldron; a book of his choosing
  12. SpellingAll About Spelling level 5

5th Grade:

  1. Math-Saxon 6/5
  2. Grammar/Composition/Vocabulary/Poetry-Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Town Level
  3. Geography-DK Eyewitness Books: Wonders of the World; topics from Ambleside Online’s 5th grade geography list; Spectrum Grade 5; map work in history class
  4. Natural History/Science-nature journaling; booklist from Ambleside Online (He’s loving Madam How and Lady Why right now!)
  5. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser cursive
  6. LatinLatina Christiana
  7. Religion-Credo: I Believe from the Faith and Life series
  8. HistoryConnecting with History Volume 2
  9. ArtChild-Size Masterpieces; art classes at homeschool enrichment
  10. Music-same as 6th grader
  11. Literature-The Wind in the Willows; The Bronze Bow; something of his choice
  12. SpellingAll About Spelling level 5

3rd Grade:

  1. Math-Saxon 5/4
  2. Grammar/Composition/Vocabulary/Poetry-Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Island Level
  3. GeographyPaddle to the Sea; Spectrum Geography Grade 3; map work with history
  4. Natural History/SciencePagoo; nature journaling; course at homeschool enrichment
  5. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser cursive
  6. LatinPrima Latina
  7. Religion-Our Life With Jesus from the Faith and Life series
  8. HistoryConnecting with History Volume 2
  9. ArtChild-Size Masterpieces; mosaics at homeschool enrichment
  10. Music-same as 6th and 5th graders
  11. Literature-Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh; Caddie Woodlawn; something of her choice (that is not Harry Potter for the billionth time)
  12. SpellingAll About Spelling level 3 (we’re halfway done, so we’ll switch to level 4 mid year)
  13. ReadingAll About Reading level 4

1st Grade

  1. Math-Saxon grade 2
  2. Grammar-slowly working through Emma Serl’s Primary Language Lessons just for fun
  3. GeographyPaddle to the Sea
  4. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser manuscript
  5. Religion-Our Heavenly Father from Faith and Life Series
  6. Science-nature journaling; The Burgess Bird Book for Children; lots of Magic School Bus books (with me updating information at times)
  7. Poetry-mostly Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. SpellingAll About Spelling level 1
  9. ReadingAll About Reading level 2
  10. Literature-We’re just having fun with this!  We’re reading Just So Stories, Charlotte’s Web, Aesop, The Hobbit, and tons more.  I also do little lap books on subjects like Johnny Appleseed or various Greek myths.

Pre-K Let me preface this by saying I normally don’t teach pre-k.  I think children learn plenty through play.  I don’t really get serious about school with a kid until they’re in 3rd grade.  I spend 1 hour a day tops with my k-2nd graders.  But my current pre-k kid begs and begs every day for school, so I relented a little. 🙂

  1. Math-Saxon Kindergarten
  2. ReadingAll About Reading level 1
  3. Art-drawing on my hallway wall when I’m not looking
  4. Science-getting muddy and asking approximately 1 billion questions a day
  5. Poetry-mostly Stevenson He memorized Whole Duty of Children, but does not heed it. 😉
  6. Spelling-asking me how to spell every word in the English language before I’ve even had my morning coffee

We also do a few other things such as read scripture, PE, handiworks (I usually let the kids pick what they want to learn), and I want to eventually start praying the little office.

To keep my brain from melting, I made one of the best homeschooling decisions in my life!  I now use Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  The older kids have Kindle Fires that they use to check off each assignment as they finish.  They can even see what their current grade is.  We all love it!

And that’s our homeschool this year in a nutshell…a very big, chaotic nutshell.  I could really use that robot housekeeper right about now.

**This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and make a purchase, my family earns a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting my family!**

All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition Review

IMG_9021**I was given All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition free of charge in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own.**

I’ve never really been one to mark “firsts”.  I don’t remember the dates of first steps, first solid foods, or first haircut.  The same cannot be said, however, for first story read.  That is a huge moment here at Casa Jones.  Well, Max, at 4 years old, read his first story after just a couple of lessons in All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition, All About Learning Press’ updated early reader program.

IMG_9022We are now 8 lessons in and Max already knows and is comfortable with the rhythm of this program.  The lessons alternate between learning phonics and reading stories.  Each lesson is fully scripted, so there is minimal prep time for the parent/teacher.  I did have to spend some time before starting lesson 1 prepping the flashcards and adding them to Max’s reading box, but that didn’t take much time at all.

The phonics lessons offer a gentle introduction of letter sounds and reading rules to our budding readers.  Phonics are introduced using flashcards then tiles.  Max loves using the magnetic tiles to blend words.  The tiles also make it easy for Max to identify the vowels (red tiles) vs. consonants (blue tiles).

There are a lot of tiles on my oil drip pan, but that is because my older kiddos are using more for upper levels All About Spelling and Reading.  Having this many tiles on the board doesn’t bother Max, but it may help struggling readers to have only one set of alphabet tiles.IMG_9024Each phonics lesson has fun, interactive activities to help the kids practice blending and to commit the phonics sounds to memory.  My kids all love the word flippers!  These lessons are short and sweet so the little ones don’t get overwhelmed.  This also allows me plenty of time to teach the other kids, especially since there is minimal prep time with each scripted lesson.  IMG_9027

The readers Run, Bug, Run, The Runt Pig, and Cobweb the Cat are full of cute stories that incorporate all phonics learned thus far.  I find that each story is just challenging enough to give Max confidence reading while stretching his abilities. Some lessons call for reading multiple stories, so I like to have Max read one story at a time throughout the day or even over a couple of days to avoid any frustration.  IMG_9028

Not only does each story have fun reading comprehension games, but the teacher’s manual has prompts so that I can guide Max to relating the stories to his own life and discuss any new vocabulary words.  There was one fun activity that taught Max how to read a sentence with a period then again with an exclamation mark.  I love teaching him how to read expressively at such an early stage!

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And of course we have fantastic sticker charts!

So how does the second edition differ from the first?  Max is the third child to use All About Reading level 1 at our home.  I’m finding that the second edition has great improvements which gives me confidence that All About Learning Press will continue to improve each of their products.  There are four new lessons in this edition.  There are many new stories to give Max more reading practice and build his confidence.  This edition also had Max reading a story by the second lesson.  He was so, so proud!  So if you have the first edition from previous students and are wondering if you should purchase the second, I say it’s worth it for the extra stories and reading comprehension lessons alone!

One other great thing about All About Reading Level 1 is that it is self paced and has constant review.  Max is currently going through around 4 lessons a week, but he’ll easily be able to slow down if things get a little to challenging for him.  And I’m confident that by the time he completes the entire level, he’ll be able to read chapter books such as The Magic Treehouse series all by himself!

This is truly a program that can be used successfully with most students.  It is very thorough and leaves no gaps in teaching how to decode, blend, read with fluency, and much more.

 

The Calm After the Storm

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My wonderful husband took care of most of the crazy kids today so I could cloister myself in our classroom to prepare for our school year starting in 1.5 weeks!  I spent the bulk of the day rearranging things, filling garbage bags, and writing lesson plans.IMG_8885

I kept looking at the mess of a room with bare walls, and with toys strewn about on the subfloor that we’ll someday cover with hardwood.  I know we’ll hit the ground running and not stop until next summer.  Most people would call this the calm before the storm.IMG_8886

But for me this is the calm after the storm.  After a hurricane of a summer…very hard third trimester, new baby, new job for the husband with a lot of travel…this is my calm.  There is such peace preparing this room and arranging things just so. There is such peace knowing I’ll get to spend so much time learning and growing with my children for yet another school year.IMG_8888

These aren’t just lesson plans I’m writing.  They’re plans to snuggle up on the sofa while we soak up C.S. Lewis’ wonderful words.  They’re plans to take a walk down by the creek to see how many different birds we can identify then sketch in our journals. And most importantly, they’re plans to sometimes just be still and know.IMG_8887

I thank God everyday for the gift of homeschooling and the time I get to spend with these seven sweet, wonderful, mighty, and loving souls.

Jack

 

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Jack at his First Communion

Jack,

You turned 10 yesterday.  There’s so much you have taught me over the past 10 years.  First, you are such a pious young man.  Your devotion to Jesus is something many adults aspire to.  Your love for the Catholic church inspires me.  You even have a pope name picked out “just in case” you ever get elected…Pope Patrick.

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Warming up with Stella by the fire

You have such a tender spot in your heart for your younger siblings (most of the time).  I love that you always read to them, teach them things you think they may find interesting, give extra hugs and snuggles to the little ones, and that you set such a good example for them.  And it’s really been a joy to see the friendship you and your big brother are developing.

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Lumber Jack

You are always willing to try new things be it splitting wood, learning a new sport, learning a new language, strapping on a pair of running shoes to see how far you can go, even trying your hand at sewing.  Maybe we can work on trying new foods now. 🙂

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Turtle watching

I love your curiosity.  Your thirst for knowledge makes it a dream to teach you.  A few months ago, you watched a tiny bug crawl around for almost an hour, then you took notes and drew pictures about all you observed.  I watched you out the window with the biggest smile on my face.  I love your patience and attention to detail.

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10 candles!

When I asked you what you hoped to accomplish in your 10th year of life, you of course said you want to learn how to code Java so you can make Minecraft mods.  I have no doubt that you’ll do that.  But I know that you’ll also do so much more.  Can’t wait to see what this year brings for you!

-Love, Mom