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2016 Charlotte Mason School Planner

For the past week, I have been spending tons of time creating my homeschool planner.  This is the first year I’ve done this, and I’m excited to be organized and have better expectations laid out for myself and the kiddos!  I’m not exactly sure how to share my pages with you, but created a short video explaining what’s inside.  I hope you are inspired!


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Saying Goodbye to Try

The other day Betty said to me, “I want to do something I’ve NEVER done before!”  I literally blinked my eyes and stared at her in wonder.  Not for the first time, either.  This girl seems to say things which I feel like have come from somewhere deep inside my own heart.  Unspoken.  Then they find words  and come out of her mouth.  “Really?”  I answered, playing with her hair.  She’s been on big rollercoasters and flown inside a cessna airplane.  I could tell in her eyes she had a hunger to experience the thrill of something new.  Just like her mama.  So, even though she’s done it before, it had been a long, long time.  We decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and she asked to bring her bike.  It’s been about a year since she rode it, and she was nervous about falling down.  My favorite thing about our time together, wasn’t the fact that she did in fact ride the bike without me holding on.  No, my favorite thing was how she talked to herself while she rode.  “I can do this!  I can do this!  I can do this!” she breathed over and over while I slowly let go and ran beside her.  Cheering her on.  Watching her fly alone.  In her hounds-tooth dress and polka dot rain boots.  Her fear lay in a pothole somewhere between our house and 8th Ave.IMG_8061There’s something incredible about what we say to ourselves.  I dare you to listen to yourself when you’re thinking.  It’s incredibly enlightening.  Do you say things to yourself that you would never allow someone to say to your child?  Or to you?  Changing negative thinking has totally transformed my life and is transforming the lives of our children.

Interestingly, Paul didn’t say, “I think I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Nope.  We should never say we will try to do this or that.  Every time we try, we make a small exception for ourselves to fail.  And you know what?  You might mess up and fail.  But that should never keep us from picking ourselves back up and getting stronger.  I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I am so proud of these kiddos.  We completed our school year a couple weeks ago.  They have all grown and accomplished so much!  2016-05-06 14.08.57
Being out of school has been just what we all needed.  There has been a lot of imagination and rearranging and purging that comes when Mommy’s brain is free from thinking of school for a couple of weeks.  We started our vacation out right with a broken arm.  Broken in three places, no less.  That girl is incredibly tough. This is the second time this has happened in her short little life.    She doesn’t complain, and she really hasn’t let it stop her from doing anything.  When I told her to be careful on the playground, Betty piped up: “At least I can jump!  Because I have two arms and two thumbs and two elbows!”

New neighbors just moved in next door, and the boys had no qualms about asking them if they could have a bunch of their huge furniture boxes to make a small town with them.  The rest of the day was spent cutting and creating tiny houses.

Earlier this week, Elsie let out a big sigh in front of me and said,”I just want to run a business or something!”  She kept persisting, and finally her dream became a reality.  Older sister and a friend all chipped in to squeeze lemons and taste test the perfect lemonade.  We had some very enthusiastic salesmen and women, who were not afraid to ask the UPS man, the neighbors, and any passersby’s to buy a cup of refreshing lemonade.  Why?  Elsie, broken arm and all, determined it was to raise money for gymnastics.  This has been a huge dream of hers, and I’m so proud of her for looking ahead, past the “impossible” and seeing her arm healed enough to take gymnastics. IMG_8156
Many days are spent gardening and cutting fresh flowers, enjoying delicious berries, and being amazed at how my belly has popped out with pride and joy.  At 17 weeks, baby Chip is kicking and loving the berries I’m eating.  Most recently, Matthew put up a new fence on the one side of our yard.  It was an exhausting day.  But one of my favorite kinds of tired.

So very thankful and daily more in love with this guy.  He takes good care of us.  He feels great, which is something we never ever take for granted.  Once your health has been on the edge of survival wondering at the surety  of your next breath, you never go a day without praising God for one more day to enjoy this thing called life.  Every day my passion grows to help others who are hurting and sick and tired of being sick and tired.

For the next coupe of days I need to get my game on and face my least favorite past-time: packing.  The motivation of having five whole days with Matthew by my side, along with some of the most motivating, loving, encouraging people… I’m not going to TRY.  I will take a lesson from my sweet Betty and whisper: “I can do this.  I can do this.”  I can confidently face my suitcase and smile.

 


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2 Months, 1 Amazing Guy, 5 Kids, 1 Rabbit, and 22 Bobby-pins

We stood on the edge of the woods, arms around each other and Nadine started to quietly sing: “Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey, hey, hey, good-bye.”  Matthew and I hugged her close and sang along, our mournful song stretching past the trees and into the May evening with respect and emotion.  A pile of stones marks his grave, as this week we said goodbye to our first pet.  Toby was Nadine’s rabbit, and she loved and trained him well.  I will miss watching her train him on the front porch and take him for walks around the block on his little leash.  The words sharpie-d onto his grave-stone say it all:
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On a happier note, our school-year is done. We are schooling all year, which basically means we are taking a short break before starting again!  This allows for longer breaks during Christmas-time and the dreaded February blues.  Today I have an incredibly special place to school-plan.  While Matthew works on a side job, this is my view:
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I do not take this for granted and have spent most of my morning in awe of the fact that there is no one needing me.  In fact, I even managed to go to the bathroom without anyone yelling, “MOM!”  Because as every mother knows, the time when every child all of a sudden urgently needs them, is the moment the bathroom door closes.
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In the past few months of non-writing, there are mounds of funnies jotted into my phone’s notebook, along with lots of pictures.  Our spring has been full of gardening, school, organizing, and purging.  Recently, we’ve been going room-by-room throughout the house and deep-cleaning every nook and cranny.  This is useful for two things: to get rid of what is not needed, and to find lost things.  I don’t know about you, but there are a few items in our home which notoriously get lost throughout the year:  bobby-pins, scissors, pencils, pens, hair-ties, hair-brushes, and socks.  There is a small list of things of more value and meaning which have also gone missing, and this was another reason for the deep-cleaning.  Unfortunately, those things still haven’t been found, but we do have a FULL jar of pencils, pens, and scissors again.  As well as this nice array of 22 bobby-pins confiscated from one room alone:

My  heart is so full of thankfulness for the five amazing gifts God has given to us.  They bless our lives more than words or pictures can express.  But I will try to express it anyway.
Nadine has such a huge heart.  This was shown so clearly this week when she lost Toby.  How she carried him bravely from the accident and stayed with him and didn’t shy away from showing her grief.  She has been babysitting and absolutely loves kids.  Her passion for horses has not been abated, and she loves to spend her free time writing letters to her amazing friends.  She is keeping alive the art of creating home-made envelopes and giving the post office lots of service!  She holds the highest record on “bop-it”, which is like a concentration game: 250.  I think my record is 21.  She sang her first solo and did a beautiful job at their end-of-school play.  She is a strong girl, and loves to arm wrestle.  I love how she cleans up the kitchen at night for me, when I’m feeling like toast.  Her energy is exactly what I need sometimes.
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Elijah is growing up, like boys do.  Our recent trip to the Franklin Institute to see the “Art of the Brick” Lego display was pretty epic.  He and Jack have been building all sorts of things in their spare time, making guns that shoot legos, and vending machines that actually work.  It is beyond me.  He is often my side-kick in the kitchen.  He recently made some chicken curry that was pretty bombdiggity.  He did a great job a couple weeks ago, helping Matthew at our church to teach a lesson about lying.  He has a gift for music and I absolutely love listening to him jam on the guitar.  It is his new passion, and he brings us great joy to hear him play and sing.
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Jack finished up his year of wrestling, turned 9, and all sorts of other momentous things in April.  At the kids’ end-of-the-year school celebration with their co-op, they performed a musical called, “Rats”.  Jack was one of the rats, and I learned something I never knew about him before: that boy can act!  He was not afraid on the stage, and he actually hammed it up quite a bit.  He is fearless on his bike, which is sometimes not a good thing.  He loves to hold hands, and can give the best shoulder massages.  When I think of Jack, I think of a strong, tame, hug-gable tiger.
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Elsie is a fearless, yet at times, shy girl.  She has the most beautiful singing voice, and the ability to pick up songs on the piano naturally.  She did a great job at the end-of-the-year play as well.  When she has two wheels under her, she becomes very bold.  The other day our family went to the skate park together and she was the only girl in the entire park, fearlessly rollerblading between some crazy fast boys on jumps.  She prefers to be outside, and has the best imagination.  Her end-of-the-year science experiment with flowers and colored water worked out well, and it was fun watch the flowers turn into different colors.  She turned 7, got glasses, and seemed to grow up all in a matter of months.
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Betty, who is four (which really means “I’m almost five”), tops our charts with hilarity.  She adores school, her yellow crocs, and being a part of everything.  Like when the kids were all playing “Truth or Dare” in the car.  She piped up: “Truth or dare?  Truth is, I dare you to jump out of the window!”  Elijah calmly answered, “Betty, I’m not going to jump out the window.”  She probably crossed her eyes, which is something she does a lot of right now when she’s annoyed.  She recently learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, had her first three-legged race, and a host of other firsts that come with being under the age of five.  She tells stories which go on for many minutes.  The most recent one she told started off like this: “Long ago, when I was three…”  She loves “noodle” cookies (snickerdoodles) and “reading”.  When we were gardening last week she exclaimed, “There’s a lot of bees in this village!” I must have said, “Sweetheart” to her at some point because she looked at me with a dead-pan face (as she always looks when she says things that crack us up) and said, “Sweetheart?!   Why do you always call me sweetheart?”  I was so taken aback, I wasn’t sure how to respond!  April 2015 phone photos4
Another highlight of our spring was saying hello again to my parents who recently just arrived back from Africa.  It was fun house-sitting for them,  but much more fun having them back again.  You can read all about their trip here.

Meeting our international travelers at the airport.  I love hellos!

Meeting our international travelers at the airport. I love hellos!

Matthew has been doing pretty well.  I don’t think I could be more thankful for him than I am right now, although I know tomorrow it will be more, because that’s how love is.  It grows with time.  And though we’re not old, we’re older than we were, and I have time on my side to say without a doubt: It just gets better.
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School Room Makeover

It’s been about a year since I gave a little tour of the downstairs of our home.  The past month has been full of much rearranging, as we attempt to utilize our space in the best possible way.  I’ve been waiting to post pictures when it was “perfect”.  Then it hit me how this will never happen, so it was time to just take pictures.  The biggest change is that we switched the living room and school room around.  As you walk in, you are greeted into our cheery school room:
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Each child has a locker, and we also store coloring books, craft items, and other untouchables (like tape!) in the top lockers.  I recently scored an amazing deal on Craigslist which included six IKEA expedit shelving units for the price of one!  The shelves under our chalk board contain all our schoolbooks and readers, divided by subject into each square.  The shelf as you walk in to the schoolroom contains space enough for everyone to have one bin for their shoes.  The flip side has squares and bins for my school books, clipboards, portfolios, and a few other things.  Each person has a filing cabinet with six drawers, divided into categories by school subject.

Here is a blurry wide-angle view, as my wide-angle lens is not a precise fit.
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Moving on to the living room… it is a tight squeeze to get a good picture.
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Through the living room, is the kitchen.  Earlier this month I woke up one morning and decided to paint our kitchen!  There was a new can of paint (bought for Nadine’s dresser makeover), and all the kids were sleeping.  What is a girl to do?  So, a quick makeover was in order.  It is super happy now.  We added a book shelf to store some larger items we use often but would love to not be on the counter-top.  Nadine painted the mirror and everyone helped to spray paint the chairs.  Matthew was pretty surprised when he got home that day!
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My favorite decoration is my “new” vintage hanging scale.  Eventually we will move it in front of the window so it’s a bit easier for everyone to pull fruit from its base.  But for now there was already a hook in the ceiling in the corner.
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Up next: a tour of the upstairs!  We now have an office and sewing room, thanks to Nadine giving up her personal space and sharing with her sisters.  It is still in the organizing stage, so I will post pictures when it is finished.  Hope you can stop by sometime!


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The Wind is Blowing Our Faces Into a Smile

There are many lost journal entries this month, as I’ve either been too exhausted to sit down and write, or I’ve been too wiped out by the end of the day.  One of those two.  Starting with tonight and working my way backwards, however, I will attempt to do a brief overview of our May Days.

The weather today has been awesome.  Matthew experienced hail the size of small golf balls where he was working, and we experienced sunshine and dark clouds, changing back and forth all day.  I had to explain to Betty five times tonight where all the snow went.

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Elsie is my helper.  I told her if she wore goggles while she chopped onions, they wouldn’t sting her eyes as much.  The other day when we were driving and smelling cow manure which wafted through the open windows, she said: If I could pop my nose off whenever something is stinky then put it back on when something smells good… Well, that would be great.  Speaking of smelly, Nadine had this descriptive offering of armpit odor: they apparently reeked of rotten chemicals with hotdogs dipped in mayonnaise.  Yum.

Right now my dad is in Africa.  In fact, this week he was able to visit the station where I was born and raised.  Partly because I was feeling especially nostalgic, and partly because the kids have been begging to pop into our “old house”, I decided to do just that.  We stopped in, and it is now a dentist office.  Everything is bright blue from the outside.  The downstairs is completely different, but the upstairs was just the same.  It’s hard to believe I stood on those stairs in my wedding dress over 12 years ago!  In my old bedroom, the inside of my closet door still had the glow-in-the-dark paint signatures of my siblings and friends, from back when I was a teenager.  There were even a set of my nephew’s baby footprints, glowing in the dark when we shut the door and stood inside the closet.  The same day, my same nephew, had just flown his first solo flight!
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School is winding down, with our last week stretching out before us!  I have learned way more than the kids, I’m sure.  Nadine has become a much more confident reader.  Elijah has improved in his math skills.  Jack is reading and writing.  Elsie is also reading and writing.  Betty loves books and can write a few letters of the alphabet.  She told me the other day: I don’t want to take it easy.  I want to take a break.  They love games, and have really improved in so many areas.  I have a nice-sized list of things I am changing for next year.  As my ever-wise husband has told me: this teacher and mama must keep a tight ship.  This week Betty also overcame some of her fear of bugs.  She managed to pick up fuzzy “calipitters” for hours on end with her second cousin, and she also willingly let an ant crawl onto her hand.  She told me very excitedly the other day: Mom!  Mom!  Guess what?  Lady bugs climb on trampolines.
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Besides book work, we are out and about for so many activities.  Nadine’s horse club has been a huge blessing for her.  Elsie & Jack have even gotten a turn to ride when we pick her up at the end of the day.  Field trips, archery, friends, blowing bubbles, picking flowers, and riding bikes leaves mama pretty exhausted some days.  I am no longer the endless source of energy that I see in my children.  I remember having it.  I know it once existed.  But it has been sucked out of my veins and into their own.  So now they just borrow my phone to take pictures of their tired mama.Phone Photos4
We do have a lot of fun around here.  The beautiful moments of this month I think can be summed up in this one picture of Jack:Phone Photos5

Our windows are down.  The wind is blowing our faces into a smile.  Summer is just around the corner.


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Going to Space & Down Here on Earth

The past two weeks have been so full of life and surprises and furniture renewal.  Matthew bought me a new chair for my birthday.  As I sunk down into its beautiful grey comfort, I stared at my dresser.  Ugly couldn’t describe it fully.

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So, in typical head-long fashion, I set off to remedy this problem.  I’ve been stung by many a bee in my bonnet.  The finished product:DSC_0706
Five birds flying from the nest, represent our five kiddos, with Matthew and I sticking together for life.  The tree has our initials carved in it, reminiscent of the tree at our old house where I carved our initials, about four years before we were even married.
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Soon I will post pictures of how I didn’t stop at just the dresser, because once I saw how clean and new it looked, I thought the walls needed a face-lift as well.  This turned into a full-fledged makeover, which in turn led to another purging throughout the house.  Life multiplies in so many ways.

Our girls are growing up so quickly.
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Last weekend our family went rock-climbing.  The last time we went, those little feet belonging to the orange shoes were inside my belly!
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This time, they scaled the walls!
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A couple of weeks ago we had a medieval feast with some friends from school.  We are finishing up studying medieval times in history.  So we ate chicken and potatoes off of our trenchers, and drank sparkling grape juice out of our goblets.  Wooden bowls, no utensils (except spoons) and costumes made our feast super memorable.
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Other fun school activities included going to the Franklin Institute last week.  Our friend did a great job demonstrating an astronaut’s suit on a budget:
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Elsie was chosen to shoot off a bottle rocket.  Her little self was so cute up there on the stage.
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We had an amazing surprise that afternoon after our field trip.  More on that later.  Someone needs yogurt.  “Seriously, Mom,” she says to me.  (She’s three.)  “Just a little bit?”


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End of February Highlights

There is no such thing as an empty week in this household.  Snow forts, lots of books, and fun with friends were just some of the highlights.
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The girls are often dressing up… here are a few shots of Elsie twirling.  Her dream is to take ballet soon.
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The ice-caked trees never cease to amaze me with their beauty.  Entombed in glass, one day soon they will come back to life.
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Betty loves to help shovel snow.  Trouble is, there are no shovels her size.  My garden trowel is a good substitute for now.
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Jack had a small run-in with a shovel one night.
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School sometimes includes looking through the dictionary.  It’s not hard to believe how funny they found the word “underpants”.
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This week we also began nature journals.  I love how most of them spoke of spring, while drawing snowflakes.
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Betty enjoys playing the little games I find online.
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The highlight of my week happened on Monday when my dear sweet friend, Sarah (who lives in England), showed up at my front door.  She and I spent a few hours together in the city.   We’ve known each other for over half of our lives.  It’s a beautiful thing when entire continents and years can’t stop friendship from growing.
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