First Day


The first day went pretty well! When I was making my coffee early this morning, I heard someone thunder down the stairs, and James came bursting into the kitchen and practically skidded to a stop. I said, “Good morning, Bud! What are you so excited about?” He said, all out of breath, “I’m excited about homeschool!” Isn’t that how every first day of school should go?

We got to everything I planned, didn’t feel too rushed or like I tried to fit in too much. Sophia (and really Miriam too) made Morning Time a little chaotic, but that’s just what happens when you homeschool with a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Sophia was exceedingly helpful after that, though—she fell asleep from the beginning of regular lesson time until well after lunch.

I decided homeschoolers totally get to take first day of school pictures too. It will be fun to add these to their end-of-year folders and see how they’ve grown over the year!

1st day - james 1st day - Miriam

A few shots from Morning Time (we went out and picked new roses for Our Lady):



Miriam was characteristically uncooperative with the picture-taking. But the bloopers are almost better than the one I chose. I kind of love the Shirley Temple pose.

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Circle TimeIMG_4121 - Version 2 IMG_4122

Their new journals (I take dictation) and a new read-aloud (which we started and finished today). They were totally entranced by this story. I ordered the other two in the trilogy during quiet time.


We had tea and an art project in the afternoon after quiet time. Really, I just started out making tea for me so that I would stay awake, but I rarely get away with that. They love it when I make them tea. I’ve had this little tea pot set since college, a gift from my roommate. It sat in a box for many years, but now it is the perfect thing for making about a cup and a half of black tea for me and a couple little cups of herbal tea for them.


We did something called the “Scribble Art Challenge” from The Artful Parent. We all started our own pictures using oil pastels, and after a few minutes all passed our pictures to the right. Then we worked on the new picture. Then passed again. Eventually you get your own picture back and see how it’s changed.

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James said his picture was of the Audubon Society (where we spend Friday mornings on the trails) and asked for help spelling it.


I’m so glad I get to spend this year learning with these little monkeys.



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Rainbows in the Kitchen

There are two new pretties in the kitchen area. First, I tried my hand at my first window star in honor of the new school year. It’s kind of funny, because in a fit of bad attitude recently, I was muttering in my head about Waldorf and all those stupid rainbows. Rainbows everywhere. Can’t buy anything Waldorfy without there being a dang rainbow on it. Waldorf-inspired homeschooling = rainbows all over your house! And then I decided to make a window star and was all, oooh, let’s make a pretty rainbow one!

I don’t think I overlapped them quite right, but it looks cute and colorful in our window.


The other pretty also includes rainbows. Rainbow colored coffee cups. Because my husband spoiled me rotten with a beautiful espresso machine for our anniversary. You guys, I never would have decided on my own to get one of these, but it is so awesome. Coffee-shop level coffee in two minutes, whenever we want. I’ve been drinking six shots a day. A latte first thing in the morning. An Americano later in the morning. Iced latte with my homemade vanilla syrup in the afternoon. The rainbow comes in with the set of coffee cups I got for my mommy-friends so we can identify whose drink is whose.



So pretty. I’m getting him a tree with a custom metal identifying tag. You can tell who got the better end of this deal.

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A Wedding

Recently, James and I had the talk about how, no, he would not be able to marry Miriam when he grew up. He’s still a little worried about that, not because he particularly wants to marry Miriam, but he wonders if he will ever find any one else to marry. I try to assure him that he doesn’t need to worry about that for a long time.

This has not stopped him and Miriam from pretending though. Recently, I heard a lot of hysterical giggling and found they were playing “wedding,” complete with crowns! The giggling was because they kept smooching each other and then laughing so hard they could hardly stand up!

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James is FIVE!

Since five is a big deal, you know, we did a lot of celebrating, and there are a corresponding number of pictures in this post.

First, we made a cake. He requested chocolate cake (we did cupcakes) with chocolate frosting. Smart boy.

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He will dutifully show you five fingers, but he prefers to actual form a “5” with his hands if given the choice.


I really think Miriam was even more excited about his presents than he was.


Most presents received an excited “hooray!” and a round of applause from her.

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James also requested a family walk after opening presents. We were dogsitting my parents’ dog – a favorite of the family – Kaya, so she came with us.


James, after many requests, got his own doll for his birthday. After a few vetoed names, he became Jonathan.


Miriam has Dahlia, the doll she appropriated from Sophia, in her fabulous baby carrier.

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Coming back to our house at dusk. I love that big oak tree over our house.

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We also made a tent to read in before the thunderstorms were due to arrive the next day.

IMG_3830 Two weeks later, we had another birthday celebration with good friends. IMG_3886 IMG_3897

Sweet Masha holding her mama’s hand.


James had so much “help” with his candles we had to light them three times to give him a shot at them :)

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Later, we were invaded by what we could only guess were gypsies coming to steal the baby.

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Happy birthday, sweetest of little boys! Five years with you has been better than I ever could have asked for.

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Oregon Zoo

When I asked James what he wanted to do in the week before kindergarten started, he said without hesitation, “Go to the zoo!” Despite the fact that we can obviously go to the zoo on any “school” day too, I figured that was as good a request as any!


Believe it or not, this was Sophia’s first time in a stroller, at least that I know of. I had to get all the spider webs off of it :) She seemed to like it just fine! I covered it with her wrap and her blankie so it would seem familiar.


Miriam wasted no time in figuring out that she could hitch a ride on the stroller too.


Which means she could squish hug Sophia whenever she wanted.


Waiting for the sea lion to come floating up from the bottom.

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There’s a blurry bear there in the background :)


Baby toes! I can’t help myself. You can see there is red paint on her toes from when she got in to her sister’s art project.



Oh, look, there is a leopard extremely close to my baby’s toes. Thank goodness for whatever that fake glass stuff is.


Look at all those Stellalunas!


Swinging like the monkeys.


Flamingos really do look so ridiculous standing on that one tall skinny leg.


James tried it out. Tricky.

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More baby toes. Sorry :)


James wants to paint this guy.


Fake glass stuff: bad for photos, good for not getting eaten by that mean-looking guy. He looks little, but he was about five or six feet long.


Sleeping baby, tired three year old. Time to go home.


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Kindergarten of the Good Shepherd – Full 2014 Plans


After months of thought and planning, I feel like I finally have our plans for the upcoming year as finalized as they are going to be. I’m not sure how useful they would be to anyone else. These aren’t the kind of plans that get pinned all over Pinterest so that moms can breathe a sigh of relief that someone has done all their planning for them. That would be nice, but what I really have here is my own sketched out plan that I think will work for my own family. I use this blog as place to record our family’s days, and as a place to store my own thought processes in regard to mothering and teaching my children. If they are of any use to anyone else, then I thank God for that, and please feel free to use what is useful in your own family.

Before I get started, this is our overview for September (PDF). There are a lot of abbreviations that might not make sense, and it is still a work in progress, as this is a document that I change frequently as we go through the week and month, but at least you can see how I’ve organized the overview.

Below I have detailed the various aspects of our home education for this year of the Kindergarten of the Good Shepherd. If I were to label what “kind” of home education it is, I would say it is inspired by the Charlotte Mason philosophy and Waldorf kindergartens, with a few habits that we hope to form as we move into a more classically-inspired education as the children get older. My priorities are hands-on exploration and creativity, lots of time outdoors, and hours of reading aloud of good children’s literature.

The Daily Rhythm


Here is a PDF of our daily schedule. I’ve changed it a bit since I posted it last time to make room for an afternoon hour together outside before quiet time. I like to paint alongside my children when they do watercolor painting, and so I painted two sheets of watercolor paper and wrote out our daily and weekly schedules on them to keep at my desk. I posted about how I came up with a daily schedule that matched our natural daily rhythms here.


The Book Basket


I’ve added to this since I posted it last too. Click to open a PDF of our September book basket books, including the books that live there permanently. I’ve got an October book basket list going too.


Morning Time



It works best for us to have a period of “learning time” before we do normal things like get dressed and eat breakfast. Mostly, Mama needs time to drink her coffee :) So our “Morning Time” will consist of reading whatever chapter book we are reading together (I keep a running list of chapter books we are reading here), and then morning prayers, with the daily life of a saint from the Horologian. What will be new this fall is reading a chapter from the real Bible (as opposed to only reading from the Children’s Bible Reader), learning verses and prayers by memory (memory work plans are below), and learning a hymn each week. I’m excited to have this CD to learn the hymns of the great feasts through the year, especially since we are re-learning a lot of hymns in the translations and melodies used by the Greek Archdiocese.


One of the very best homeschooling talks I’ve listened to is The Long Haul, by Cindy Rollins. It is the talk at the top of the page. It is all about Morning Time and using it to fit in the parts of an education that are so easily pushed aside but are so crucial – faith and scripture, hymns, art, poetry, music, literature, Shakespeare. I found it applicable even for kindergarten, as it inspired me to make sure my children were surrounded by the true, the beautiful, and the good from the very beginning of their educational journey. Cindy has sadly taken down her excellent blog recently, but most of her writing on morning time is still archived here at Morning Time Moms. This series 31 Days to Morning Time is a great place to start.

Memory Work


We’ll also be sprinkling a little memory work throughout the day. During Morning Time, we’ll work on learning scripture by heart, using this method from Simply Charlotte Mason. Making 31 tabs for the days of the month was a bit much for me, so I made daily, even, odd, and weekly tabs. After the weekly tab, passages will go in to general “review.” For a really great introduction to this form of memory work, and on why it’s important to do memory work at all, listen to this talk, Memorization and the Soul: Why, What, and How (free download). Really, you won’t regret listening to it.

For many, memory work is a subject unto itself, and anything to be memorized is memorized together. I didn’t want to put scripture, poetry, and, say, political documents (um, not that we’re doing those in kindergarten) all together. Scripture will be memorized as part of morning prayer. We’ll do hymns then too. Hymns have their own place in the memory box, but they are divided up by month. It didn’t make sense to do hymns the same way as scripture, since they are tied to the liturgical year. So we’ll just sing the same hymn every morning for a week, and then move on. They will get memorized over the years. And we can just start again with the same set of cards next September. I had all sorts of angst over where to put hymns for Lent and Pascha, since that part of the year is moveable. Should it have its own section, in addition to the 12 months? Should I put them in March and hope that sort of covers it? And then I realized there was nothing stopping me from moving the index cards around to whatever month I wanted them to be in. Seriously, sometimes I really make things harder than they need to be.

Poetry has its own section in the same box, identical to the scripture part. We’ll memorize poems as part of circle time, later in the morning. We’ve been reading and reciting poetry during circle time for two years already, so this just formalizes it a little and keeps track of what we really know. I think I’ll make a page here on the blog for scriptures and poetry we’ve memorized, so look for that if you’re interested. I do know what our first poem will be, as it perfectly encapsulates something I think is true about education and our homeschooling journey:

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)

And Psalm 23 will be our first scripture to memorize – the Lord is my Shepherd, perfect for our kindergarten.

Main lessons: Math, Reading, Children’s Garden of the Theotokos, Misc.

The biggest shift in for us between preschool and kindergarten will be a short period of lessons in the morning – math, reading, and activities from the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos Orthodox kindergarten curriculum. My goal is for these to be no more than 15 minutes each.

After hemming and hawing for months, I finally went ahead and ordered the primer level of Right Start math for James. No educational philosophy that I follow suggests formal math for kindergarteners, but I think James would like it and feel very proud of himself for figuring out how to manipulate numbers. This curriculum was developed by a Montessori teacher and seems very intuitive, with lots of games and manipulatives. We’ll just keep it low-key and to 15 minutes a few times a week.

We started going through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I don’t love it, but it does the trick and James loves doing “reading lessons.” He also reads the first couple BOB books and loves to spell things out, both by writing and using our moveable alphabet.


We’ve had the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos curriculum for a couple years, and use a bit more of it each year. I think this year we will be doing most of the activities. We will probably do the “unit study” activities during this time, and keep the festal activities during circle time, where we’ve always done them before, as Miriam is just as interested in these activities and they are short and active lessons.

Circle Time

Circle time will look more or less like what we’ve done for the last two years. In short, opening poem, Trisagion prayers, Children’s Bible Reader, Visual Catechism, short saint story from a children’s book, poems, songs, fingerplays, sometimes picture books. The only changes will be trying to fully memorize some poems. I’d like to increase our repertoire of folk songs and seasonal songs from the Mary Thienes-Schunemann books too. I consider circle time to be mostly geared toward Miriam now, although James is welcome to participate for as long as he wants!


Afternoons: Outdoors, Read Aloud, Quiet Time, Art, Handwork, Seasonal Crafts, and Practical Life

After sitting with the daily schedule for a few days, I decided one thing it was missing was enough time for us to be active outdoors. There is time throughout the day for the kids to run outside whenever they want, but I wanted a window of time for walks, gardening, trips to the playground, or just playing soccer. So I shifted things around until I made a full hour every day for “Outdoor Hour.” And what is different about this particular hour is that I am supposed to be outside with them! I send the kids outside all day long, but don’t join them enough.

We’ll move from outdoor hour to read aloud time (because reading aloud is very important to our family) and from read aloud time to quiet time. As an introverted homeschooling mom, I would be doomed without quiet time. We have always been very strict about naptime, and now that they clearly don’t need naps every day, we still enforce quiet time. At least an hour, every day. They go to various beds with books, and usually come and ask me for either a Sparkle Story or a “Dr. Chrissi” story. If they are tired enough, one or both might fall asleep.

Art, handwork, crafts, and practical life activities (just one of these per day) are planned for after quiet time. The children LOVE this but this will take a huge effort on my part to pull off. I think it is all very important, but I am usually about out of energy by this time. Just…pray for me, LOL! As an act of good faith, you can see that I’ve put art supplies within easy reach, which is a big step for this controlling, mess-averse mama.

On our schedule, I put one “free art” activity, mostly chosen from the excellent book The Artful Parent, one handwork project (see my Pinterest board for some ideas), one day of watercolors, one seasonal or nature craft, and one practical life activity. The practical life activity is just teaching them things that every kid needs to know (self-care, buttoning, tying shoes) or going over a bit of work that helps out around the house (folding napkins, washing windows, sweeping). It might also include cooking projects. It just helps me to have it on the schedule so that I remember to think of a few things they can do to be more independent and more helpful. I have a Pinterest board on that too if you’re interested.


Nature Study


Fridays are entirely dedicated to nature study. We’ll do our Morning Time and breakfast and then take off for the forest (we are lucky to live just minutes from the largest urban forest in the US). My rough plan is to focus on trees and leaves for the fall, weather for the winter, and birds and growing seeds in the spring (when we’ll also start our garden). These themes will be reflected in the book list, our nature projects, and what we look for during our nature walks. I’ll be getting the kids their first nature notebooks for pressed flowers and leaf rubbings. We’ll make prints from things we find in the forest or in the yard. Hopefully, we’ll all learn a little about identifying trees, wildflowers, shrubs, birds, and bugs. Fridays are our favorite learning days, I think. I have Pinterest boards for all these things too – just poke around and you’ll find lots. I’m thinking of getting this book if I find I need more ideas.

The million dollar question: What’s the plan for the speedy instrument of destruction baby?

Um, I dunno. This might work?


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Kindergarten of the Good Shepherd


I’ve got less than two weeks until our little kindergarten begins for the year (Miriam is preschool age, and we call it preschool for her because they both like to differentiate between their ages lately, but I like the Waldorf and Montessori idea of “kindergarten” being ages 3-6, so in my planning it’s all one and the same, with James just doing a little extra skill-based work).

I’ve thought for years about whether we’d give our homeschool a name. I think it’s a nice way to identify yourselves and take ownership of a learning community at home. There are many saints that I consider patrons of our education – St. Bede (a true Renaissance man), St. Sergius of Radonezh (who was taught to read by God himself), the Three Holy Hierarchs (Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom, for their great wisdom and the use of their classical educations in the service of God), St. Katherine of Alexandria (also classically educated, and used her gift of rhetoric to convert the philosophers to Christ).

But I don’t really want to name our homeschool St. [name] Academy. I thought of our most basic goal in educating our children - to order their affections towards truth, beauty, and goodness, which of course guides them toward the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness. I thought of using the Greek word for one of these, such as Aletheia (truth) Academy, but you can’t really elevate one of these virtues above the other. Holy Wisdom, or Agia Sophia, is what we are ultimately trying to guide our children toward, but that’s our parish school’s name and it seemed silly to steal it :) And, you know, we have a baby named Sophia.

Naming our homeschool has become too much of a commitment, and I was stymied with too many ideas, so I decided to dedicate just our kindergarten, just this year, to Someone. And for our little ones, my most basic goal is to help lead them to the Good Shepherd, whose love will ultimately guide them in all good things. And so for this year, we are the Kindergarten of the Good Shepherd.

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