A Glimpse into Neverlands

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I find that the best conversations and learning opportunities I have with my kids are while they’re freely doing their own thing and wanting to verbalize what’s going on in their mind, imagination, little worlds.  I cherish those little peeks into their puzzlers.

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I decided to start adapting that learning style to parts of our homeschool day.  Instead of sticking to a strict schedule with clock times written down, we now follow more of a routine, not necessarily tethered to a clock.

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Our day starts with a bit of scripture time (when I remember!  I’m getting better) and discussion followed by some keyboarding and math facts practice.  After that, the older kids go off their own way to complete independent school work while I spend around 1 and 1/2 hours with Matthew.  He’s the type of “get all my school done in one sitting so I can spend the rest of the day playing outside or with toys” type of kid.  He really does enjoy our little school time together though, and so do I.

We then break for snack and play time.  After play time, I start helping the older kids until lunch.  Lunch break is good and looooong!  The kids usually talk me into reading to them. We’re reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and my voice hasn’t given up yet!  After lunch, the big kids and I take about 2 more hours to finish up our work.

Since we’ve adapted this loose routine, I find the kids are much more thoughtful and not rushing through their work.  I also find that I’m more keen to let conversations veer a bit off track when one of the kids is processing some thought.  This especially happens during literature time, which is my favorite time to let minds wander!

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I love being visited by the littlest ones during the school day.  I’m able to sneak in a few (a lot) of books for those cuties.  Stella, Max and Matthew flitter in and out of the classroom, steal pencils, and cause general mayhem which usually leads to laughter, or sometimes fights and tears to be honest.

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This way of teaching the children always makes me feel like Mrs. Darling in the first chapter of Peter Pan.  She tidies up the kids minds as they are sleeping and puts things straight and in their proper places.  A bonus to tidying up the kids minds is that I get a small glimpse into their Neverlands.

St. Francis

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One of the many blessings of being Catholic is liturgical living.  Sunday was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. We had our dog, Annie, and our turtle, Hermione (Fr. Chuck’s first turtle to bless), blessed at our parish then went to a nearby bird sanctuary for a short hike. St. Francis, pray for us.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Cabin in the woods part 3

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Here we are at the beautiful Bear Lake.

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Believe it or not, the hiking paths here were pretty crowded.  However, the snow and ice gave everything a feeling of enormous stillness.  Everything was so soft and quiet.  I could have spent hours here, but poor Max and Matthew were finally done by this point.

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These three amassed a great collection of Junior Ranger badges on this vacation.

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Estes Park is such a cute little town.  The food is wonderful (and thanks to the anonymous couple that paid for our meal at Poppy’s Pizza!!!  We said a rosary for you, whoever you are!)

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Liam and Jack had mountain man training from Jason.

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Mirror selfies!  Stella was really sick for most of the trip.  She finally felt better the last few days but still begged for me to hold her the entire time.  I didn’t mind one bit!

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Matthew and Max honed their climbing skills.  This was a pretty steep hike and these tough little boys handled it!

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Over the ridge we found blue skies and gorgeous fields.

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One of the kids took a picture of “butt rock” because we’re classy.

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Qwirkle was our game of choice while waiting for dinner.

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If only the chipmunk knew what the BBQ pit was used for…

The repeated sentence on this trip was, “When we come back here…”, so I think the kids had a great time.  Even though it’s a lot of work for me and Jason to take so many little ones on a hiking vacation, we still had a great time too.  I am looking forward to the day when our hikes can last longer and over much harder terrain.  Soon!

Cabin in the woods part 1

Here are a TON of pictures from our vacation that was allll the way back in May.  We stayed at an off-the-grid (run by nothing but a couple of solar panels, no interenet, no phone, no tv…Heaven!) cabin in the middle of nowhere in Roosevelt National Forest.  So here’s how a family of 8 vacations! Enjoy.

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How sweet are Jack and Stella by the fire?!

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An elk visiting for breakfast.

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Yes, I bathed my baby in the kitchen sink!  One shower with 8 people, so I had to make do.

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Jason became our bearded mountain man.  It was super cold, so we had to keep the fire going all week.  Pa Ingalls would have been proud!

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The kids spent hours by the creek in front of the cabin.  They spent the time rock hunting, rock tossing, and building forts.

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This is a completely working outhouse.  Last school year, the kids learned that outhouses in Colonial Williamsburg were called necessaries. Max kept running to this outhouse saying, “I need the necessary!”

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This fog was carrying some huge snow clouds behind it.

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When it was too cold and snowy to be outside, the kids spent time drawing or writing comics.  Here is Matthew explaining to Matilda the robot he wants her to draw.

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This is Matilda’s robot creation.

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A hill rose up behind the cabin.  This is the “mountain” Liam told everyone he almost reached the peak of.

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Vacation reading: The Road, Pioneer Girl, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Reading The Road in the middle of nowhere with pitch black nights was not a good idea.  I was kinda scared!

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Jack creating a comic.

More pictures to come…

No More Teacher’s Dirty Looks…

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The school year is DONE! This was our family’s 5th year homeschooling, and I have to say it was, by far, hardest.  The end of last year was tough because I was very pregnant and we were trying to sell our house.  Because of moving and having a baby, I didn’t prepare as much during the summer as I should have for this school year.  I also, for some insane reason, decided to change curricula.  Let’s just say that next school year, we are running back to Kolbe Academy.

Here are are a few things I learned from this school year:

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.  The day doesn’t have to be scheduled down to 15 minute increments, but having math, lunch, etc at the same time every day really keeps the kids in a better mood.

2. The more positive I am, the more positive the kids are.  It’s hard, really hard sometimes to stay chipper all day.  This year Liam was in 4th, Jack was in 3rd, Matilda was in 1st/2nd, and Matthew was learning how to read.  On top of that I was caring for a toddler and a newborn.  There is always a lot going on here!!   But I found that the days where I found humor in everything and joked around with the kids all day were some of the most productive days we’ve had.  Don’t get me wrong, the kids complained a lot about doing school, but what kid doesn’t!  But I’m the one setting the attitude example, not the kids.

3. A messy house is ok.  Really, it is.  At the top of my list of things that stress me out is clutter.  But realistically, there will be clutter in my house.  We homeschool 6 kids, and that equals mess.  I can’t change that.  But what I can change is how I feel about it.  I read a great quote by Simcha Fisher that hit me in the heart. “Given the choice,  I will  almost always choose cleaning up a mess over keeping things under reasonable control.”  Yep.

I’ll be back with summer reading lists and activities and curriculum reviews!  Yay for summer!!

Slacker post!

We’ve been so busy with school/birthdays/moving/baby growing that I forgot about this poor ol’ blog.  So for the few readers (who are mostly my family) here are a few pictures for you…Image

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So we have pictures of Matthew turning 4, Max turning 2 and Matilda turning 6.  Whew! 

Thankfully, we’re wrapping up school for this year, but then we’re moving (just to a neighborhood closer to the city for those family members thinking it’s some cross country move. :))!!!  And the same weekend we’re moving, Jack is having his First Communion!!  So it’ll be busy here for the next 3 weeks.  I’ll try to remember to keep my camera out.  Meanwhile, I’m @elainemariej on Instagram, which is where I post most of our daily pictures, so follow me there!

eating at bag end, flying a space shuttle and pirate ship, and losing teeth

Hobbit Cafe
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IMG_5734 IMG_5735 IMG_5736 IMG_5741 IMG_5742I love reading the book Gooney Bird Greene to the kids.  We always giggle at Gooney Bird very confidently saying things like she “went to China on a flying carpet.”  Then we have a fun time trying to guess how her tale will unfold since she always tells the truth.

Sometimes we get a chance to make our own sort of Gooney Bird Greene story.  Such was the case on the first windy weekend in March.  We decided to eat at Bag End (technically the Hobbit Hole Cafe) then top that off by flying a space shuttle and a pirate ship.

IMG_5772 IMG_5771 IMG_5769 IMG_5764 IMG_5761 IMG_5759 IMG_5756 IMG_5750 IMG_5749 IMG_5748OK, so our kites didn’t get too high off the ground.  The trees were blocking the good wind.  Our intention was to go to the top of the hill at Miller Outdoor Theater, but it was closed for repair. bummer  The park across the street was wonderful anyway.

IMG_5785IMG_5789And on losing teeth (which has nothing to do with the rest of the post but I’ll put it here anyway since it’s my blog and I can do what I want!)…we don’t do the tooth fairy around these parts.  The kids don’t shy away from asking me to leave goodies in place of their lost teeth though.  So I came up with a little educational teething activity.  I printed out a simple teeth chart on cardstock so that the kids can cross out each tooth they lose.  I folded the bottom bit up so I have a little place to place the loot.  It’s been a big hit!

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IMG_5687 IMG_5701 IMG_5708 IMG_5721IMG_5679 IMG_5680Our littlest turned 1.  1 is a small number, but being the smallest, he gets the biggest number of kisses and hugs each day.  The older 4 can’t go 5 minutes without loving on this little cutie.  Happy birthday wee Max.  We love you!

7th Heaven

I was at a church function recently with all the kids, and as usual, I got the looks and questions that come with having a large family.  I found this amusing because one, it was a Catholic function (aren’t we known for having lots of tots?) and two, for some reason, I don’t consider a family with 5 kids large.  I think it’s definitely about the cross the threshold into largeness, but not quite there yet.  Maybe this is because I’m the youngest of 5 and just find it normal.

Because of the numerous questions and comments I get on an almost daily basis, I thought it would be fun to do a little faq about not having a “one and done” lifestyle.  Here we go…

1. You look like you have your hands full!  Every single time I go to the grocery store, I get this one.  Not kidding.  Every single time.

Like my friend Elizabeth says, “It’s better than having them empty!”

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2. How does each kid get enough attention or love?

Not only does each child or baby get my attention and love, they get the love of a daddy and four other kids.  As a result, our baby is turning out to be very spoiled!  And each child gets a little one on one time at some point every day, especially if I see they need it.  But for the most part, they love playing and spending time as one big family.

3. How do you keep up with cleaning and laundry?

The kids pitch in.  Simple as that.  Even the 2 year old helps with unloading and loading the dishwasher.  My almost 8 year old loves to mop and the 4 year old absolutely loves cleaning toilets.  Yeah, weird, but she does.  And they all have to put away their own laundry.  It’s never too early to teach a child how to do chores.  I also don’t fret if a towel isn’t folded properly or a spot on the table was missed when being wiped.  The kids will get better with practice and they are really proud of what they can accomplish.  Yes, there are complaints sometimes, but don’t we all complain about chores?

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4. Do you take them all grocery shopping?

Yes, yes I do.  It’s hard sometimes, but we manage.  I give them a snack before we leave, avoid going during nap time, and give them little jobs in the store like bagging produce or picking out bread.

5. How do you get time to yourself especially since you homeschool?

In the afternoons the two smallest children sleep and I send the three older ones off to play outside or in their rooms (they rarely complain of being bored because they have each other to play with).  I use that time to work, clean, do home improvement projects, do yard work, or sometimes even *gasp* sit down and read a good book with a cup of tea!  Also, kids sometimes sleep at night and their bedtime is way earlier than mine.  Isn’t that amazing!

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6. What’s the hardest part about having 5 kids?

Honestly, the comments from other people.  I know I should just shrug it off, but after hearing it over and over again, it sometimes hurts.  Even the comments people don’t think are mean can hurt.  When someone turns down their mouth and points up their nose and says, “Well, there’s no way I could do it.”  Yeah, that hurts.  The message I’m getting with that statement is, “you’re crazy!”  I didn’t have all these kids to make a statement or because I want the attention.  I had them because I said yes to God.  I’m answering my call with my whole heart.  I’m singing the song I was meant to sing.  But I’m not singing it for you, I’m singing it for Him.  I guess I need to remind myself of that more often!