Pumpkin Time

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We went to the lovely Lakeview Farms today to search for pumpkins. It’s a great pumpkin farm – not too much like an amusement park, with just enough to make kids think it’s awesome. You take either a train or a boat out to the pumpkins, which both Miriam and Sophia were rather freaked out about (and I was freaked out by having three kids five and under on a boat by myself, so we took the train both ways), but we all managed. And I loved that there was nothing scary. Even the dark tunnel the train goes through is full of happy pumpkin people rather than skeletons and zombies, something friends tell me is a change from last year. Nice change, Lakeview! I approve.

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Morning Time

I go back and forth between wanting to post here every day and not feeling like I have anything to say or post about. I do like having this blog as a record of our days, though, so I’ll try and make more of an effort.

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I have been meaning to post more about how our Kindergarten of Good Shepherd is going. For the most part, very well. We certainly don’t get to everything on the plan but I knew that would probably be the case. I prefer to over-plan and then let go of some of it. But what may be my favorite part of what we are doing is our Morning Time.

The first poem we memorized together is:

Little drops of water
Little grains of sand
Make the mighty ocean
And the beauteous land

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above

And the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages.
Of eternity.

Mrs. J. A. Carney (1845)

I think about this poem a lot when it comes to our Morning Time. In fact, I got the idea for this being the first poem to memorize from the Morning Time guru herself, Cindy Rollins. It says something very true about what we do for Morning Time. Just a little bit, every morning, adds up to a lifetime of good literature, prayer, Scripture reading, Scripture memorization, hymns, Psalms, and the lives of saints. Nothing we do is very complicated. There is no grand plan. I keep myself from complicating it at all, even when I want to. Partially this is because of my children’s short attention spans. Partially this is because grand plans don’t ever last very long, and I want this to be for the long haul. And partially it is because I believe the Church can speak for herself through the Scriptures, hymns, and prayers, and I don’t need to insert myself into it.

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Our mornings start with a read-aloud from our current chapter book. It eases us into the day. I have my coffee and the kids are still in PJs. It means I don’t have to start the day by getting sleepy kids to immediately stand in front of the icon corner and pay attention, and I don’t have to do anything more strenuous than sit on the couch, drink my coffee, wake up a little, and read out loud.

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When we are done, I tell them it’s time for prayers. We light the candles and sometimes the incense and say morning prayers. They morning prayers in our prayer book are rather long, so I don’t do all of them, but sometimes try to add back in a few parts to see how they do. They are memorizing the prayers as we do this, and I can stop in many parts and let James take over. I am usually very surprised at how many parts he does have memorized. He started by just being in charge of the Lord’s Prayer, but then I noticed that if I stopped just about anywhere, including the Creed, he’d just keep going. s

When we were learning this hymn, James wrote down the first line and asked to put this in our memory box.

When we were learning this hymn, James wrote down the first line and asked to put this in our memory box.

We sing It is Truly Meet and then whatever hymn we are singing that week. I try to choose one new hymn each week, mostly according to a feast that week. We don’t memorize them in the same way we memorize Scripture, since they are tied to time. We just sing it once or twice a day for the week, then put it in the appropriate month in our memory box for when it comes around next year.

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Then I read the saint or feast of the day from the Horologian, and sometimes also sing the hymn for the day.

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Then we sit and read a section of Scripture. It is short, not a whole chapter, but a complete event or teaching. We are going through Luke. I like the idea of reading according to the lectionary, but again, I’m keeping it as simple as possible. Just read the next section. Sometimes we discuss it a little so I can make sure they understand what we read.

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Then we get out our memory box again and go over our Scriptures. We use this Scripture memory system, so there are usually a few to review. We just read the current verse twice and the review verses once. At some point I start saying the verse with them and stop. When they can easily finish it themselves, it goes into review and we choose a new Scripture for the Daily tab. They are pretty quick memorizers. I think they did all of Psalm 23 in a week. They are definitely faster than me.

Then they blow out their candles and we go make breakfast!

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I love that our prayer corner is just as much theirs as it is for the grownups. They have (mostly) learned to be careful and respectful of this space. It is their job to make sure the flower on the table (“Mary’s flower”) stays fresh, so when it wilts they go outside and choose another one. And sometimes I see that they have left another little gift of their own, like this tiny violet they left for the Good Shepherd.

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We have large collection of icons that are not hung in the icon corner, and we switch them out on the little stand when their feast comes around.

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As for Sophia, she usually sleeps through all this. When she doesn’t, she is often right here :)

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Christopher Hitchins on the King James Bible

This was an interesting post by the Circe Institute, on atheist Christopher Hitchen’s perspective on the King James Bible. I’ve been thinking about this lately as we’ve started reading from the Bible (as opposed to the children’s Bible) every morning and also starting memorizing Scripture. I have considered whether we should use the KJV for both for the reasons outlined in this post – cultural reference, familiarity with beautiful, poetic language, the timelessness. I have no theological attachment to the KJV, of course, but it is an educational (and spiritual, if you consider that education should rightly be the education of the soul) goal of ours to offer our children rich and poetic language. So far I have always been happy with the Bible I chose in college – the Revised Standard Version (the “Catholic” edition in order to have our full canon). It satisfies my requirements for both accuracy and language. But I may be a little inconsistent when it comes to memorization. I’ve already switched our memory card for Pslam 23 to the KJV after the first reading of it – it seemed almost vulgar in any version but the KJV that I learned myself. I think that also Philippians 4:8 – which I consider the guiding verse for our entire homeschooling venture – will be memorized in the KJV. And perhaps when the children are older I will make a point to spend a year or two doing our daily readings in the KJV so that it is familiar and they are able to understand the many references to it.

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Oregon Renaissance Faire

The second annual Oregon Renaissance Faire and our second annual trip! (See last year’s photos, with a cute, very tiny Sophia, here). Again, we managed to choose the hottest of hottest days (mid-90s) to hang out all day in the fairgrounds, but we still had a lot of fun! The players all get a big kick out of dressed up kids, and especially like treating “Sir James” like a true knight. IMG_4378

One player was trying to figure out if Miriam was a gypsy or a princess. We all settled on gypsy-princess.IMG_4399 IMG_4401

This guy was really great. He had a whole armory in his tent, including armor he had made himself. He showed us all the different weapons and how they are used differently, and then gave James a swordfighting lesson! James was an excellent fighter.IMG_4415IMG_4419

James blocking…IMG_4426

…and making the kill shot!IMG_4436 IMG_4437IMG_4440 IMG_4450At the forge watching the blacksmith work.
IMG_4470James was in need of a new sword since the old one is missing, and we decided Miriam needed one too in order to be a gypsy-warrior-princess.IMG_4476 IMG_4479Miriam eating a turkey leg the size of her head.IMG_4481 IMG_4484At the joust.IMG_4489 IMG_4492You know me and baby feet. Can’t help it.IMG_4497 IMG_4498Sir James and Lady Miriam at their first swordfight.IMG_4506 IMG_4509 IMG_4511You know, a Charlotte Mason curriculum includes learning folk songs. I made a case to Paul for doing a unit on drunken pirate songs. He remains unconvinced. IMG_4516The tavern owners daughter and Blackbeard’s daughter fighting it out at the human chess game.IMG_4548 IMG_4551And right before we left, Sir James and Lady Miriam were both knighted by the queen herself. James really wanted to know how the queen decided he should be made a knight. We told him the armorer he fought probably told the queen how brave he fought. James seemed satisfied by this answer.IMG_4562 IMG_4563After their portrait with the queen, both James and Miriam turned and bowed low, receiving applause and many exclamations of “Well done, young sir and lady!”

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Playing Hooky

I’ve been feeling a little like I missed summer. We took our big trip to Ireland at the end of May, so we kind of used up our vacation time early. I could have/should have done more summery things. But we didn’t, and now we are in September, we have started our homeschool routine. But what better time to take advantage of the freedom of not having kids in school than during the first week of school? When it is still sunny and in the 90s? So we took off for Cannon Beach for the day.

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Sophia thought the sand was so awesome. The second I put her down she was doing her funny crab crawl all over the place, and kept trying to crawl straight for the ocean. The kids dug and made castles and ran away from the waves, and poked around in the tidepools by Haystack Rock.  We drank hot chocolate, dressed up in capes, chased the birds, and later went out to a very late lunch at a French cafe.

A whole day where no one had to be told to please be quiet, don’t do that, be careful, not even once. Totally free to run, barefoot, as far as one could possibly want. Free to get as dirty as possible, yell as loud as you want, run around in your underwear looking for sea creatures in the tidepools. If there is ONE thing I have found to be always true in this mothering journey, it’s that time in freedom outside calms and causes everyone to be peaceful. No conflicts, with me or with each other. Perfect trip for the first day of school.

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Watercolor Wednesday

We did our watercolor painting outside today. I should really be doing everything possible outside today, as the weather is gorgeous and will not last much longer. There is also the perk of the kids running off and having fun outside when they are done painting, rather than whining at me for a snack or something.

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After we were done painting, I gave the pan full of water that we soaked the watercolor paper in to Sophia to splash in. Miriam joined it.

Sophia: “Miriam, WHAT exactly are you doing?”

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It’s ok, I can just splash over here.IMG_4195

Hey, I am really good at this.IMG_4197

Sisters. I’m so glad there are sisters in our house. Maybe someday we can work on there being brothers in our house too. Wish upon a star.    IMG_4207 IMG_4209

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Don’t Trade the Best for the Good

This has been the lesson I’ve been learning most during these first few days of our home kindergarten. Way back when, I wrote about our goals and priorities in early childhood homeschooling. It helps to keep them in mind as we begin something a little more structured (but not much more). For the most part, what I’ve thoughtfully planned has proved to be a very good rhythm for us. Just enough planned activities to keep everyone occupied and learning new things, enough time to myself, enough outside time, enough free play time. But sometimes it is time for one of those planned activities, and the children are doing something else, and I have to decide what is the good and what is the best.

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For instance, yesterday I sent the kids upstairs for quiet hour. After the hour was up, handwork was planned. As I looked around to gather the children, I found that Miriam had fallen asleep and James had gotten out a small rake and was raking up the few leaves that have fallen so far. He was totally absorbed in his work, and when he saw me he told me he was, “making a great big pile of them, way up to my knees, so that I can run and jump in them, and kick them all around” which are lines from one of our circle time poems. I knew full well that he was doing absorbing work that definitely should not be interrupted, even for something “good” like the week’s handwork project. Handwork was skipped.

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Today during circle time, we read a story about St. Barbara and how she was locked up in a tower by her father. The minute we finished circle time, they were collecting blocks to make St. Barbara’s tower. The tower eventually became a castle where the saints can stay safe. I tone down saint stories quite a bit, but there is no getting around the fact that the martyrs became martyrs because of “bad guys,” and I often wonder how these stories affect them when they are so young. I could tell James was working out through play his feelings about there being bad people in these stories. James asked me to help him write “only saints allowed here” on a sign to put on his castle. I know by now that play is how they process and internalize the stories they hear, and I’d be foolish to interrupt that because it is officially time to do something else.

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We are not unschoolers and I’m sure homeschooling will always involve a lot of thought and hard decisions about when to encourage discipline and getting things done that need to be done, and when to back off and allow space for a different form of learning. For these little years, I think there will be quite a lot of backing off.

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