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.

 

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

 

 

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.

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.