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

Henry Edmund

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Wee Henry Edmund joined us on June 27th at 7am weighing 7lbs 13oz.

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He’s already been hugged countless times.

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He’s already been held countless times.

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And those sweet cheeks have already been kissed countless times.

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We’re working on the napping countless times.

Information about his namesakes can be found here and here.

Lazy Days of Summer

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When you homeschool it’s so easy to continue schooling throughout the summer even though you’ve technically covered all the course material for the school year.

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This summer started out no differently for us.  I fully intended to have the kids do copywork, math, and a bit of poetry over the summer.  And of course reading.

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So far, it’s not quite working out that way.  With all the rain we’ve had in Houston, there is an explosion in the toad population in our yard.  So the kids bolt out of the door every morning after breakfast to see how many they can catch before lunch.  Our oranges are growing well, so the kids check on them daily as well.

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The blueberries are being eaten straight off the bush by the children and sometimes the birds.

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There are plenty of flowers to be smelled and picked.  The kids keep planting more (with awesome seed bombs from Seedle) with the hope of luring more bees and butterflies to the yard.

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And of course they’re doing all this barefoot, because why not?

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This little gal (along with her mullet haircut) is becoming a pro at catching baby toads.

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And there’s always a game of freeze tag going on in the cul de sac.

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So while we aren’t doing any school work (except reading…a lot), I’m pretty sure the kids are getting a stellar education anyway.

How to Camp with Kids

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  1.  Sit back in your camp chairs while the kids pitch the tent.

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2. Lure the kids into the woods by telling them they’re going on a fun hiking trip with Daddy.

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3. Lead them deep in the woods (don’t bring any bread crumbs!) then run away as fast as you can.  Unfortunately, these trails were well marked, so the kids eventually found us again.

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4.  Allow the kids to play in the flesh-eating bacteria laden creek.  But don’t fret too much if they fall in because you can…

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5. …air dry the kids in tree branches.

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6.  Let them catch all the butterflies they like.  Then tell them the butterflies are venomous so you can sit back and laugh at the look of horror on your children’s faces.

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7.  Finally, tuck them in.  But before you do, tell scary stories using creepy shadow puppets on the tent wall.  Nighty night kids!

 

All About Learning Press

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I’m sure I’m not the only homeschooling mom who has changed curriculum more than once trying to find that perfect fit.  There is, however, one program that has been with us since the beginning…All About Learning Press.  I first found out about this wonderful program when Liam, my oldest, was in 1st grade.  He hated, hated workbooks, so I needed to find some way to teach him phonics and spelling that would keep his attention.  5 years later, and he still loves sitting down with me for spelling lessons!  To be honest, I’ve also learned more phonics rules and spelling tricks than I ever learned in elementary school.

For this school year, we just finished up All About Spelling (AAS) level 4 for the 5th and 4th graders, AAS level 2 for the 2nd grader, All About Reading (AAR) level 3 for the 2nd grader, AAR level 1 for the kindergartener, and AAR pre-reading for the 4 year old.  Now on to a little description of the different components…

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First, I keep all the teacher’s manuals, student workbooks, and readers in one spot for easy access.  Some days I prepare ahead, but honestly most days I don’t have time to do so.  The teacher’s manuals are scripted and very easy to follow, so not much extra preparation is needed.  That is a HUGE help for me!

The readers for AAR have great stories!  They’re fun for me to listen to and really help the kids with inflection, etc.  And the activities with each story cover reading comprehension, which I love.

Another bonus is that only the activity books are consumable.  While the start up cost of this AAR and AAS may look daunting, it really gets cheaper as the years go by.

For instance, next school year I will purchase AAS level 5, but since I’ve already taught levels 1-4, I don’t have to purchase anything new for my children who are doing those levels. AAR is similar as well.  Next year Matthew will be doing AAR level 2.  I purchased that last year when Matilda was doing it, so the only thing I need to purchase for Matthew this year is his activity book.  Enough about cost, let’s get to the learning aspect!

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The All About Spelling Student Packets come with word cards, phonics cards, sound cards, and key cards.  The key cards are my favorite!  These cards contain different phonics rules that I use with my kids like flashcards.  The kids really have fun reviewing these. All About Reading comes with phonics cards and word cards.  Having to use phonics cards with both AAR and AAS is a big help with having those sounds stick in the kids’ brains!  A teacher at our enrichment program even commented how Matilda really knows her phonics.  I store all of our cards in handy little boxes that you can purchase from All About Learning Press.  These are super sturdy and Liam’s is still kicking after 5 years.

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Letter tiles!  This is our favorite part!  Each lesson in AAR and AAS has the children working with letter tiles.  In spelling, we go over a concept, then I have the kids spell words using that concept with the tiles.  This tactile lesson really helps them remember rules about dividing syllables, identifying types of syllables, identifying letter “teams”, and much more.  Teaching reading with the tiles is easy and fun as well.  My tiles are currently on an oil drip pan, yes the kind used in cars.  But I need to get a larger one to have more work space in the center.  I may upgrade to this larger one.

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And finally sticker charts!  So simple, yet so effective!  This also helps me remember what lesson each of my children are on.:)  Each level in AAR and AAS comes with themed stickers or you can use whatever you have on hand.  You can also download the charts straight from All About Learning Press.  Today my big boys finished level 4 of AAS.  Even though they’re preteens, they were super proud to put that final sticker on their chart!

How do I teach 5 kids all of these lessons without getting overwhelmed?  First, we do spelling only on Fridays.  Each lesson takes about 20 minutes max.  I do verbally quiz them through the week, sometimes even at the dinner table, to see what rules they can remember or how to spell a particular word. Also, to save me some time, Liam and Jack do spelling lessons together.

Reading is done twice a week.  My 4th and 5th graders are above AAR reading levels, so they don’t do it.  I use it only for 3rd grade and down.  Again these lessons are only about 20 minutes, including the fun activities that go with each one.

So between spelling and reading for 5 children, I spend about 2 1/2 hours total per week teaching.  While that seems like a short time for teaching reading and spelling, this program is really effective.  All of my children are strong readers and spellers, and I really owe it to All About Learning Press!

*This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting our family!*

Matilda’s First Communion

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Saturday was her big day!  After preparing all year (all her life really), Matilda received Jesus for the first time.  She kept saying, “I can’t believe I can take the Eucharist now!”  Then she asked if we can go to daily Mass this week.

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And of course we celebrated after with a party and lots of food!

“This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago, is present today in the Eucharist.” -St. Pope John Paul II

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And I tried oh so hard to finish her Icon before her Saturday, but I’m kinda a busy lady and didn’t get it done.  One day soon though!

*For those asking about her dress, I didn’t get a lot of pictures because of the hustle and bustle of the day and the rain.  I’ll take more later.  I made the dress using an Oliver + S Pattern, the Fairy Tale Dress with tulip capped sleeves.  I would have liked to use a different pattern like Garden Party from Oliver + S or Olivine from Clever Charlotte, but I let Matilda pick everything.  She did a great job I think!  The silk sash really made the dress!

 

Clothes for Henry

*Warning: This is a sewing post.  If you don’t sew or don’t care about sewing, back slowly away from this blog post.*

A couple of years ago, I gave away all, and I mean all, our newborn through 12 month old baby boy clothes.  I thought after 6 kids, we were done.  Well God had other plans!  And of course, kid #7 is a boy.  I’m not so sure he’d like all of his baby pictures to be him in hand-me-down girl clothes.

I began shopping around online for cute, organic knit baby clothes.  I found plenty.  But none of them got along with our clothing budget.:) I then started shopping for organic knit fabric.  Oh my goodness there are sooooo many cute prints out there, and all very affordable!

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I found quite a few prints at Fabricworm.  The Birch Organic knits are so soft…perfect for baby pants!  The pattern I used is from Brindille & Twig.  This was my first foray into sewing with knit.  I don’t have a serger (but will one day darnit!) but was surprised to find that the stretch stitch on my Pfaff machine worked wonderfully.  I’m kicking myself for not sewing with knit earlier!

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It took me a few tries to get good at sewing the pants.  I made another set at a bigger size (not pictured) that came out much better than my first set.  I love how the pants turned out!  They took me about 15 minutes to sew and look like they will fit over cloth diapers just fine.  I even made a couple of pairs for Stella (and fit her big ol’ cloth diapers)!  I’m sure they’ll end up on instagram at some point soon.  The pants pair well with solid color onesies or t-shirts.  Or maybe I can be adventurous and sew up some onesies!

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I also made a few one piece outfits for the little man.  Jason hates one pieces with snaps, especially in the middle of the night while he’s changing diapers.  I happened to have an old Ottobre magazine (I really need to renew my subscription to this wonderful magazine!!).  This particular pattern was from the spring 2011 issue.  I made one change and sewed in a strip of fabric behind the zipper so that none of the zipper rubs against the baby’s skin.

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The fabric I used to bind the neck, arm, and leg holes stretched a bit more than I would have liked.  Again, this is all because I’m very, very new at sewing with knits!  Henry will just have to deal with bell bottoms for a bit.

And I still have plenty of knit fabric left to make more pants for the growing baby!  Now I just have to break out my knitting needles and make a few cardigans for the fall/winter and he’ll be all set.

 

A Few Birthdays and a Farm

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Being very pregnant during “birthday season” around here can be a tad trying.  So this year wasn’t huge themed Pinterest Perfect Parties, but small and sweet celebrations.  First up, little Max turned 4.  He was very excited and told everyone that he spoke to that he’s not3anymorethankyouverymuch!  Max is such a sweet, empathetic child.  He always makes sure to ask me how my day was or how I’m feeling.  It’s really very sweet.

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Matilda turned 8!!!  Yes, the cake doesn’t look the best, but oh my word did it taste goooood!  Matilda requested a sleepover party.  I never knew 7 and 8 year old girls could be so loud!  My suggestion is to invest in good ear plugs for any future sleepovers you may have.:) Matilda is growing into a little proficient chef.  She loves helping to bake and cook and has a few solo things that she can do now.  I love watching the kids find their passions.

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Matthew turned 6.  His aging seems to go more quickly than all the others for some reason.  He’s no longer the bouncing everywhere toddler, but a (mostly) calm kid who devours books.  He’s almost ready for chapter books, which amazes me since he only started really reading last September.

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The day before Matthew’s birthday, we went on a field trip with a little Charlotte Mason homeschool co-op we attend.  I think Stella wanted to take all of the animals home.  I mean, look at this piglet!!

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A few of the kids tried their hands at milking a cow.  I didn’t.

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We also got to feed calfs.  I think it was a sweet little birthday celebration for Matthew.  It was nice to be out in the sunshine with all the animals.  Plus we got to buy some raw milk and made mozzarella cheese with it when we got home.  Best cheese evah!!

That’s it for birthday round ups!  The next group of birthdays comes in July with Jack, Stella, and Henry will finally be here!!!!!!

Humble Dwelling Rosaries

I like to make things…a lot.  Over the years I’ve taught myself how to knit (it’s the gateway craft), sew, quilt, and paint.  I’ve recently added a new skill to that list.  Rosary making!

 

Let me give a little backstory about how I started doing the very fulfilling craft.

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It’s a tradition for us to get a special rosary for each kid as they make their First Communion.  We’ve done this with two children so far.  With Liam and Jack I searched far and wide and found these beautiful clay rosaries that they love.  I’ve written about them before.  Sadly, since these rosaries are no longer being made, I was at a loss.  Matilda’s First Communion is this year, and I couldn’t find a rosary that I thought would be perfect for her.

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Matilda suggested that I make her one.  So we scoured bead websites, watched multiple videos, and I went for it.  I failed…a lot.  My first few rosaries were, well, ugly to say the least.  But I kept trying and kept getting better.  I learned where the good rosary parts are sold and what my style is.  I found that I really enjoyed the process.  And by enjoy, I mean I can’t stop.  Rosary making is such a relaxing process for me.  Selecting beads, finding really well made crucifixes, unrolling spools and spools of wire, I love it all!

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I ended up with a large number of rosaries, so Humble Dwelling Handcrafted Rosaries was born!  All because of a suggestion by my 8 year old daughter.

I try to use the best rosary parts I can find.  Most of my beads are fair trade and eco friendly, meaning they are obtained using a process that respects people and the earth.  A fair price is paid to all of the craftspeople, vendors, and co-ops that these beads are purchased from.

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There is an “heirloom” section in my shop as well.  These rosaries are made with crucifixes and centerpieces that are pure bronze.  Each bronze piece is hand cast using antique molds.  The chain is pure copper that has a patina to match the bronze parts.  These rosaries are made to be kept within families for generations.

So please stop by Humble Dwelling and have a look around!  I add new items every one or two weeks, so check back often!