Saturday, May 30, 2015

2014-15 School Review

We are done with school! We have five glorious weeks off! Ok, so we do have a little history and state study to finish off, but that's fun.

I am gathering items for the boys' portfolio, which is always a good reminder of how much work was actually done, and that they indeed did progress. Some days, especially during the long, dark winter, it feels as if all is a failure.

So, how did the year pan out?

Miss Z...

Miss Z turned three in December, but she pestered me all year to "do school." Really. I am all for letting preschool kids play and read, but she wanted more. In the midst of everything else, I did a few book and activity themes (like this), which she loved, and was fun, but also a lot of work for me (or it felt like it was). After Easter, I started her along the alphabet path, thinking to take a month per letter, but I found that a month was too long, so we are using two weeks for one letter. She constantly amazes me at what she grasps and remembers. Each child is so unique.

Miss L...

With turning 5 last June, and having the attention span of a puppy, I kept Miss L's kindergarten routine simple and light, and here she is catching on relatively easily to math and reading. I had her jump onto other "fun" subjects, but for her main schooling, it was all about our faith, reading, handwriting, and math.

For math, she used MCP Math level K, which is a simple book. Honestly, I feel at this age, anything that gets the child understanding numbers, recognizing numbers, direction (like over/under/in/below), grouping, patterns, writing numbers, coins, and beginning addition and subtraction is sufficient.

For reading, Hooked on Phonics is working for her to get started with reading. She still tries to guess at many words, but in the past two weeks alone, I have seen a difference in her reading. And that's how reading goes... you can only do so much and then it just clicks. At least, for my kids, that is how it's been.

For handwriting, Miss L used Memoria Press and Handwriting without Tears. I wanted to like Memoria Press, but I keep coming back to Handwriting without Tears. The kids like the layout and they seem to respond better to it.

For religion, we spent time praying, reading a kid's Bible, and doing Liturgical activities. Of course, her answer now for any question that involves, "Who?" is "God."

Mr. D...

What a fun year with Mr. D! He went from barely reading to reading chapter books, from basic math to beginning multiplication and division, and his creativity is really starting to open up. He loves to draw, and seems to have a natural talent for it. In short, he seems to be one of those lucky kids that has a knack for school and skills. Don't worry, it's not all roses and sunshine with him. He is very stubborn. Very. That's all I will say about that.

For math, he continued on with MCP Math (level B). The book worked just fine for us for this year. He did well with it. Each new concept he would look at it, tell me it was too hard to do, refuse to do it, and then (being stubborn myself) he would do it, ace it, and ace the rest of the concept. He rarely missed a problem. Occasionally he would refuse to do work because he felt the publisher laid out the page wrong or could have done a concept a different way. Yeah. He's going to be fun as he grows.

For reading, he read out loud from Seton's Faith and Freedom readers, which he really enjoys. Once he was able to read more independently (this spring), I had him do both oral and silent reading. He is enjoying the Magic Tree House series at the moment. After each book, he goes online to answer questions about the book and earn a sticker for his passport.

For handwriting, it was about perfecting his cursive handwriting, using a mix of Memoria Press and Handwriting without Tears.

Now that he is reading, I had him pick up additional language arts -- spelling (CHC spelling), language (CHC's Language of God), and Handwriting with Ease 1. We also used Playful Poems as a supplement which he enjoyed. It utilized listening skills, comprehension, drawing, rhyming, and word "puzzle" games.

Of course, he did plenty of "fun" stuff throughout the year: creating art, playing music (learning the recorder), put together circuit boards, etc.

Finally, throughout the year, he prepared for his first confession and First Holy Communion. He made a notebook, went through the St. Joseph catechism (no.0), and used Faith and Life (grade 2).

Mr. A...

This year was a pretty good year for Mr. A. Outside of regular (if prolonged) illness, he suffered few headaches and other weird days, which helped immensely with school.

For faith study, he used Faith and Life 4 and I had him do a basic saint study each month. He used this basic form to gather information. This next year he will take another step and put info together to start the writing process. Handwriting, language, and now writing has a been a long, slow process for Mr. A. I see his younger siblings taking steps that Mr. A took so much longer to take. He is a lesson for me in patience, in faith, and to take each child as he or she is, to challenge at his or her level, and not to compare. It is a tough lesson!

He worked on Math-U-See Gamma (multiplication). He originally started off with Teaching Textbooks, but the spiral format just does not work for him. I'm sticking with Math-U-See for him for the long haul.

For reading, he read books he chose and I chose. I also had him work on comprehension using CHC's Rare Catholic Stories (and study guide) and the Father Brown Readers (and study guide).

Handwriting was perfecting cursive, just like his brother. Both boys seem to enjoy cursive handwriting.

Other language arts... spelling (CHC), language - CHC's Language of God plus a side track to bolster his skills with Funny Fairy Tale Grammar, and Handwriting with Ease 2. He also studied common Latin and Greek roots the first half of the year, followed by Vocabulary from Classical Roots (in perusing this series, I did find some anti-Catholic statements in the higher-stage books).

Mr. A may have to work harder at school than his brother, but he has a big heart, loves to read and play piano, is eager to learn about our faith (and the saints), helps out when I need him, and likes to be in charge.

Both boys worked on map skills (this, at their level) alongside history, which covered the Crusades through the Protestant Revolt and Catholic Reformation in the 16th century (we used RC history as our starting point). For science, we finished off our insect study started last spring and did a bird study this winter and spring.

As much I ranted against the checklist, it works for my boys. It helps them work independently, and some days competitively. While I prefer hands-on fun, it isn't always possible, and you know, school is work. It isn't always fun. And that's ok.

But for now, I am closing the books and taking a break.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Morning Reflection (23): Silence (Ha!)

I am back to reading The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur. In it, one section gives monthly "retreats" or reflections to work on for the month that Elisabeth herself wrote down to work on. The first month is silence: to only speak when spoken to, to answer questions directly but without self-elaboration (especially pertaining to her health), and to only talk to promote the good and beautiful.

Naturally I thought I could use a bit of silence. I could do that.

A few days in, it feels good (oh that feeling word again). I feel calmer, the kids seem calmer even.

But wait... I have KIDS. The silence didn't last long. I wanted more, but I was constantly talking.

And then... there's Facebook, a place full of temptation to talk about nonsense, or good sense (but still wasting time), or drop my sage advice, because you know, I am so wise. (I hope you realize that's sarcasm.)

The more I failed at this silent retreat, the more I realize I need it. And the older I get, the more I realize that I should just shut up and listen more.

So, does anyone have advice on creating silence in a home full of kids?

Ok, on to other things...

Blog News... I created a Facebook page so if you want to follow that way, go ahead and like my page. I will share blog updates on there.

School Time... One more week of official school and then we are off for five weeks! Woo-hoo! I am so tempted to scratch this next week, but really, not much is left to do. I know by the end of five weeks I won't be ready to start school, but the kids will need the routine.

I am working on putting up a school year review post. Those kind of posts take me forever to do. And naturally, I have planned out and ordered next year's books so I can actually take off this next month too. I would like to put up those plans as well. Anyone have spare time to share?


Outside My Window... The sun is out! And it's in the 50s! I took a longer walk this morning and it felt so nice to work up a little sweat instead of shivering. We turned off the heat when we had our "summer" spring spell (temps in the 90s), and I didn't want to turn it back on when we went into our "fall/winter" spring spell so our house was chilly (low 60s). We put the fireplace to use though which is always nice, though not desired this close to June. And if you're confused by the types of spring spells, you haven't lived in Ohio or a place similar. :)


...for the souls of my children, that they always remain close to the heart of Jesus.

...for the soul of my husband, for the gift of faith.

...for my parents, as they make a big change in their lives.

...for my brother, as he contemplates a big change as well (and for his family to support him).

...for all those who are alone, without mother or father, brothers or sisters.


Health News... Thanks to a friend's Facebook post, someone inspired me to try daily fasting. (Haha, I know, following advice on Facebook in light of my comments above.) This kind of fasting involves eating during a specific window only. It doesn't limit what or how much, just when. I tried it, and the difference is amazing.

Another thing I am doing (with the nicer weather) is taking daily morning walks, anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on how I feel. Some days I can't do anything, but hopefully in the long run, more exercise will mean less of those days, or at least bouncing back more quickly. On alternating days, I have do longer stretching (yoga stretches) and just this past week, I added in strength.

More details on my Daily Footsteps blog.


Today... We have a day of home chores to do:

--checking to see if a chain link fence can be removed easily (not cemented in) and removing it if so.
--Raking up yet more leaves (the price of having lots of mature trees).
--Hacking at determined weeds in our front beds. They will not die. On a positive note, my kids love spraying full-strength vinegar + drops of dish soap onto the weeds trying to take hold along our brick walkway, and it actually works. You do have to keep up the spraying, but I plan on having the kids do it once a week or every two weeks.
--Laundry (by the way, our dryer seems to have died so laundry takes more planning and keeping on top of it until we find a new dryer).
--A visit to Mom's Barber Shop. These clippers have lasted us many, many years. I like the color-coding too to remember lengths for the boys. And at $25 -- the price when we bought them -- we have saved a ton of $$$ doing it ourselves at home.

This Week... Monday is Memorial Day. We have plans for a little cookout here and spend time with my brother-in-law and his family. I want to take the kids to the zoo on Tuesday, and off to Confession and Mass this week. Otherwise, wrapping up school and enjoying our days.

A Final Thought... May I grow to learn the difference.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Homeschool Science: Our Bird Study

The kids and I wrapped up our Flying Creatures science with a bird study from late winter through spring. It was simple, fun, and the kids are excited to spy birds outside. Each kid picked a special bird (found within the state) which definitely added to the fun and personalization of the study.

I broke each month into categories where we would read, talk about, or watch videos on the topic. I had them do some work for their science notebook, and wrapped up each section with a notebook page on the topic relevant to the bird they chose to study. Naturally, we went into the field when we could, though it was far less than I wanted to thanks to illness, a surgery, and timing in general.

I created a pdf for my bird study plans instead of listing it all below, but here are the monthly topics:

January: Bird Classification

February: Bird Anatomy

March: How Birds Live (Habitats and Diet)

April: How Birds Live (Communication, Mating/Nesting)

May: Migration

This is a perfect study to get into the field. Buy or borrow at least one pair of binoculars to take along with you, as well as a field guide. I like this one for the field (it's nice and light), and my boys liked this one to get them started and for checking off. Of course, my favorite book to flip through is The Sibley Guide to Birds, though it's heavy to carry around with you.

Another resource my kids thoroughly enjoyed was the game Bird Bingo. This game is always a favorite, but this set is extremely well-made, gorgeous, and seems durable. (Really, it looks and feels luxurious!) It was definitely a nice respite during winter, waiting for migration to begin.

Through it all, I read aloud to them from The Burgess Book of Birds for Children. I found it both informative and fun to read, as did my children, especially the boys. We have also started to watch the David Attenborough's The Life of Birds.

There are so many sites online to utilize to see nesting cams, bird songs, bird identification, etc. I listed some in my plans that we specifically used. I also created a list of county and state parks near me that were of particular interest for local (or migrating birds). That takes a bit of time to research but it's nice knowing where it's best to see birds at certain times. I found a state group that did most of the research for me so all I had to do was copy the info and tuck it into our science folder. 

Be sure to get out even in the winter! As you can see, we enjoyed ourselves!

If you use the plans, and have questions, ask away!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

First Holy Communion Notebook 2015

As part of his school year and in preparation for his first Reconciliation and Holy Communion, Mr. D created his own notebook just like his older brother did (see post one and two).

He used a simple 3-ring binder. I had him choose a Communion picture to put in the front and I created a side label so we can read it when it's on the shelf.

We started off the year going over basics of our faith. I printed the Nicene Creed and he helped decorate the page after talked about the parts of it.

Mr. D helped me at the computer and finished decorating it once printed.

There are so many Blessed Trinity crafts you could do. Mr. D wanted to cut out the shamrock and draw on it.

For his pages, I used a mix of narration, puzzles and games, drawings, copywork, and computer work.

(Note: I realize the Sacrament of Holy Orders is for men called to the priesthood. Mr. D was telling me what to type, and wanted to include those called to special vocations - our brothers and sisters - so the wording is a little goofy in how he told it to me.)

I had him do copywork throughout the year to include the following prayers: The Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Guardian Angel Prayer, Fatima Prayer, Blessing Before Meals, Act of Contrition, The Nicene Creed, Prayer Before Communion, and Prayer After Communion.

I made my own but Catholic Icing has a pdf packet for sale.

Order of the Mass game: put each part of the Mass in order.

Things I See in Church scavenger hunt. I created a photo collage once home.

The Bible, includes bookmarks with Bible book names.

God's Love Story -- this coloring book and story took the place of salvation history narration I did with Mr. A. Mr. D really enjoys coloring.

I added in work he did for CCD as well, like these 3 kings of the Old Testament puppets.

After all the basics of our faith, we started covering the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We did wrap this up with a "scrapbook" sheet remembering his first confession.

A Child's 10 Ten Commandments (image source).

Then, we covered the Sacrament of the Eucharist. First, he made this very decorative chalice and host craft (the host lifts to reveal Jesus's face -- here's the template).

Copywork: the words of the priest (and of Jesus) during the Mass, "Take this, all of you..."

We read stories about St. Tarcisius and Bl. Immelda, the patron and patroness of first communicants.

Mr. D put together a little page in anticipation of receiving holy communion for the first time.

A pocket for memories (made of two pieces of cardstock and staples):

A scrapbook page:

In his folder, he also has a confession book and a Mass book.

Other Resources We Used:

Making this together is a special thing, and in the end, a nice little scrapbook of memories of a wonderful time, one that reflects the individuality of that child.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Easter Gospel Study

I have said this before, and I will say it again, I love how the Catholic Church celebrates Easter for more than one day - for 50 days in fact!

In the past, we have transformed our Jesus Tree into an Easter Tree -- hanging up 50 plastic eggs filled with simple activities to do each day that celebrates the season, family, crafts, food, etc.

We have also used the Garden of the Good Shepherd sticker board -- daily prayers/reflections, stickers, and wrap up with a weekly themed meal. (More details here.)

This year, I wanted to simplify what we did so we could keep it up daily without burnout. Over half-way through the Easter season thus far, and we are still keeping at it!

So, what are we doing?

We start off with morning prayer time (more on that in another post). On Mondays, we reread the Gospel message and talk about it. Then sometime, usually on Tuesday, we create artwork to hang up based on the reading. I also had some family ideas to do each week, as well as this Easter countdown printable, and additional (but simple) Easter prayers to our morning prayer time.

I was inspired to do this from Tiffany at Family at the Foot of the Cross.

Easter Sunday: John 20:1-9

I got a little carried away in our reading so we added more than what was actually said at Mass. :) The kids opted to create empty tomb watercolors.

Family Fun: celebrate Easter with Mass, special dinner, Easter egg hunt, and family.

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday): John 20:19-31

The kids traced their hands, with wound marks in reference to doubting Thomas. I added Thomas's words below, along with a reference to Divine Mercy Sunday with the rays of mercy and the words, "Jesus, I trust in You."

Family Fun: Go to the park and come home to make "Divine Mercy Sundaes."

3rd Sunday of Easter: Luke 24:35-48

The kids made "watercolor earths" (water-based markers on a coffee filter, with rubbing alcohol or water dropped on to spread color). In the Gospel reading, Jesus says the words, "Peace be with you" to his disciples. He also told them how he was meant to suffer and die, to fulfill the words of the Old Testament, and that all this would be taught to all nations.

Family Fun: Family hike followed by inviting others to a Sunday dinner. (We were sick this weekend so missed out on this fun!)

4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday): John 10:11-18

This is a familiar Gospel to many, I think. The kids certainly like it. I had them use paint to make finger-paint sheep with black paper body part shapes.

Family Fun: Go to the zoo. (Again, darn illness!)

5th Sunday of Easter: John 15:1-8

Here's another familiar Gospel reading. The boys opted to draw their own branches, vines, and fruit. I had the girls work together. I added a little cross, grapes, and chalice as a reference to Mr. D's First Holy Communion on this day.

Family Fun: Celebrate Mr. D's First Holy Communion!

And here's what it looks like in our little dining room corner:

There are three more Sundays left in Easter, and I will be sure to show you the finished wall.

Let's Catch Up, Shall We?

Why, hello there!

I have had a nice, long break from the computer, with minimal social media as well, and I really enjoyed it. But, today is a rainy, gloomy day, and I felt the need to update my blog, and start back up again, even if it's a post here and there.

First, the gloom of this post has lifted, thankfully. Days of sunshine helped immensely (you were right, Ana Maria!), and lots of prayers in thinking about our homeschool. While I may wish to have a different vision, those checklists work really well with my boys, and if it works well, why in the world would I want to change that? More on our homeschool in a future post...

Next, my sweet Mr. D celebrated his First Holy Communion this past Sunday! He was scared and excited, so darn cute in his suit (which he picked out - I don't force the suit), and can't wait for this next Sunday's Mass.

Mr. D's banner he made for CCD.

Just like his brother, Mr. D created a First Holy Communion notebook throughout the year, which I plan to share in a future post as well. We changed a few things. I think he did a great job on it too!


I have slowly redone our morning "circle" / prayer time, and it is working well. For the Easter season, we are focusing on the Sunday Gospel readings and the Fatima message. More on this one right after this post is up.


In our homeschool history, we started U.S. history and geography, which is very exciting. European history peaked with Medieval Times and slowly lost its appeal (winter may have influenced this, as it does everything else).

We're wrapping up our bird study, which I have personally really enjoyed, and I think the kids did too. I wanted to do more hands-on in the field, but you know, life and health like to interfere with fun.

The rest of school is same old, same old, and the kids are working to wrap it up this month so we can have a nice month-long break in June. Except for today. It's an artsy day, a creative day, a play-in-the-rain kind of day.


Healthwise for me... it's pretty much stable - some days great, some bad, most somewhere in between. Hormones exacerbate symptoms so I am in limbo on what to do. Not just any doctor will do when dealing with endometriosis ("woman's issues"). Otherwise, the warmer weather (the sun!!!) helps immensely. I'm starting to wonder if I should leave the gray skies of Ohio, or at least skip out for a few months of the year. My parents are moving south and my brother is south so this is a real possibility. And it's not only for me. One particular child continues to have issues with vitamin deficiencies and oddball health issues. Warmer weather always seems to help.


I continue to reflect on Elisabeth Leseur's journal. One can tend to feel isolated, physically and spiritually, when dealing with chronic illness/pain or surrounded by people of little to no faith. The truth is, we all walk a path of isolation of some sort, at some point. In what other way are we to follow the path of Christ to the Cross?

Aside from her journal, one part of the book above has monthly "retreats." I haven't read that part until now. The first month is "silence" - speaking only when necessary, speaking only kind and uplifting words, and answering questions straightforward and without complaint. This is perfect for what's been on my mind recently.

And with that, one finally thought...