The Road to Morning Time: A Pregnant Pause

There are some aspects of pregnancy that are hard to recollect now. Brain damage from sleep deprivation will do that to a person. While this brand of selective memory loss is certainly essential for the perpetuation of our species, there are some parts of pregnancy that were so joyful (or dark) for me that I will probably never forget them.  My children were still very young when my sixth and final pregnancy  began nearly five years ago. Everyone was still four and under. It feels crazy just writing that.  But that was my life back then– My Big Fat Gestating, Lactating, Homeschooling life. (Officially calling dibs on that for a future book title).

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Morning Time was short and sweet back then. A prayer, a song, a story and they were off. When we first started morning time, food was the major draw and I was the only one at the table not wearing diapers.  After a solid year and half things were slowly progressing upwards. I finally felt like my PPD/PTSD was at a manageable level and I was enjoying life with my boys. We were on the home stretch of grad school and flat broke. We lived in this little yellow bungalow I had loved since I was a girl. Hubby built a brick pathway and a white picket fence around the front so I could plant a beautiful garden. It was healing  to be out there with the boys. We would often bring in flowers to set on the table and they became part of the simple beauty of our morning time. I didn’t have a plan for each and every day, but we were consistently reading something and we were always singing hymns we learned at Bible Study Fellowship.  I woke up craving that simple time every morning. 10-20 minutes of peace before the boys were unleashed upon 1100 square feet.

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Then I got pregnant.

Again.

I kept it to myself for two weeks, trying to shield my poor husband who was wearily working through his dissertation. I probably would have kept the secret longer but my girl Whitney Houston died and as we watched the livestream of her funeral my hormones took over and I weepingly confessed all.

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You know that bone deep exhaustion that comes with those first weeks of building a human inside your uterus? When all you want to do is hibernate but the tiny humans that live with you are flat out not having it? Then the morning sickness kicks in and you spend most of your day heaving in the bathroom while little fingers are poking in from under the door and a little lisping voice is asking “Mommy! Mommy! Wath that noithe? Are you vomiting again?”  Yeah, Morning Time is hard to do when all that is happening!

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This was the season in our lives when Morning Time briefly became Afternoon Time. We didn’t start our days out together singing. We started our days out caring for one another. Even the littlest one recognized that Mommy was ill and needed help. My hubby would get up before the sun to do some research, then he would wake the boys, change their diapers and feed them breakfast before heading out the door for another day of grad school. I would often walk out of the bathroom after a bout of morning sickness to find the hallway littered with “gifts.” Treasured cars, trucks, dinosaurs, animals, all waiting for me, carefully put in place by three tiny boy warriors with hearts growing in empathy for their mama. This was the season when one of my sons emerged as a natural caretaker. When someone needed something and I was unwell, he would go and solve the issue or find what was needed. One son emerged as our resident encourager. He would walk over and sweep the hair off my forehead as I lay on the couch nursing the baby and he would say “My poor sweet girl, you are doing such a great job Mom.”  Then there was the baby, just over a year old. He didn’t care when we had morning time, he cared when he had Mommy Time.

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Mommy time always trumps Morning Time.

After all the nausea passed and the day was half over, the boys would go down for their naps. I would rest a little and when they awoke we had our Afternoon Time. It was a sweet way to transition out of nap time. A snack, a song, a story, a prayer, a handful of flowers. It was peaceful and purposeful. It was not part of the original plan, but its what worked for that season.

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On the really bad days, there was no Afternoon Time, and the world kept turning and the children kept growing and we would try again the next day.

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We moved across the country when I was about six months pregnant. This upheaval led to two months without Morning/Afternoon Time. The longest stretch we ever went without.  It was a hard period in our family history, but we were blessed to be near my husband’s family and to have access to a wonderful amount of nature!

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Once we were settled into our new space I realized that I was ready to have Morning Time again. We had barely gotten into the habit when our last little boy came lightning fast into the world and everything turned upside down again for a few months.

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But by now we had seen and tasted the beauty of Morning Time. We all loved it. We all needed it. Morning Time was here to stay. Now I set my eyes on stretching their ability to linger at the table, to long for more beauty and more stories. I was mere months away from meeting Charlotte Mason and the boys were growing by leap and bounds. In many ways we were crossing a bridge together, the bridge that would take us to a whole new world of learning that would change us forever.
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Stay tuned for our next installment of the Road to Morning Time: Bridging the Transitions.

For The Birds.

As a dad, I want my home to be full of LIFE– learning and discovery, excitement and joy, good music and delicious food.

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One way that we infuse our home with life is by keeping a variety of animals.  We are starting small and slow on our little hobby farm (For some larger-scale farm beauty check out our friends at Marmilu Farms), but we did develop a master plan for the property that incrementally includes chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, ducks, rabbits, bees, quail, pigs, goats, sheep, cows, horses, llamas, alpacas, ostriches, capybaras, lesser kudu, and velociraptors.  OK, well maybe not quite that much, but we’re learning as we go, and this is the story of how we stumbled wing-deep into turkeys.

Two months after moving on to this property, we picked up a handful of chickens.  Soon after, Elsie went to our local farm store for chicken feed and came back with chicken feed and two turkey poults. (Which, incidentally, helped create a new family rule: NO IMPULSE BUYS OF LIVESTOCK.)  Only one survived, but I built a small coop for it and after seven months we had a fantastic backyard-raised turkey dinner.  Our first foray with turkeys was a success!

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So when year two rolled around we upped the ante and brought home 3 poults from the farm store.  I expanded the first coop for them, they had plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and room to roam, and everything was fine and dandy.  Then one day when they were about four months old I heard a huge commotion coming from the coop, and as I walked over to investigate, what I saw was basically an avian version of a vintage WWF fight.  Two of the birds were duking it out, kicking, scratching, pecking, beating each other with their wings.  It took me a second, but then I realized “Ooooooh… I have two males and one female, and the males are fighting with each other because of her.” So the next day I sold a male to a coworker and revised our turkey strategy: initially we planned to fatten them up and eat them, but now that I knew I had one of each sex, I was just going to let them go and see what happened.  Sure enough, two months later they started mating, and one month after that she started laying eggs.  At some point in the process they picked up the names Tommy and Shelley, the former because male turkeys are called toms, the latter because her production of nearly one egg per day over the course of six months was simply amazing, not unworthy of a namesake like Mrs. Duggar.

Turkeys really are amazing animals, and the boys and I were endlessly fascinated with them.

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The assortment of feathers, the way they walk and eat, the way that Tommy would puff himself up and snort, and his inclination to dance.  We found ourselves regularly walking out to the coop to check on them for sheer entertainment, often several times a day, and they became an instant point of discussion with friends and family that visited.  We had many a deep conversation standing around that coop watching them.  And they continued their daily cycle of mating and laying.  My 6-year old once witnessed the act and later told us “I saw the turkeys play this kind of wrestling game.  Shelley sat on the ground and Tommy crawled up on her back and was waving his feathers and doing a weird dance on her back.  He looked like he was having a lot of fun, but she didn’t seem to like it very much.”

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With such a prolific production of fertilized eggs I excitedly bought an incubator with the dream of having a mini turkey farm, keeping some of the poults for ourselves (for more delicious backyard-to-table dinners down the road) and selling the rest for some extra cash on the side.  Little did I know how much the odds are stacked against the production of good, healthy poults!  If the egg is fertilized in the first place, the embryo has to grow successfully.  And even if an embryo develops properly, carefully maintaining the incubator at a certain temperature and humidity, it has to hatch itself.  Sadly, I had several poults die while hatching, as they were not strong enough to sufficiently crack through the shell and push themselves out.  And of those that did manage to hatch, some had defects or were ill and others wouldn’t eat or drink, and they ended up dying within the first few days.  The harsh reality of life and death shattered my turkey breeding idealism- I’d guess that for every dozen eggs I put in the incubator, only 2-3 would make it through to be healthy birds.  But boy did I try!  I borrowed a friend’s incubator and had them running in tandem for nearly five months, so that as one batch of eggs was hatching, the eggs in the other incubator would be halfway through, and so on.

The boys enjoyed the whole process as much as I did and were exposed to important life lessons in the meantime.  They liked watching me give the birds their food and water, and would accompany me on the daily trek to retrieve the egg.  Once the incubators were running, I would catch them sneaking into the room to check on the eggs through the incubator window, even if they were still weeks away from hatching.  And as the hatch day approached, I taught them how to candle the eggs with a flashlight to check on the development.  And if you ever want your normally rambunctious kids to sit still and channel their energy into excited shrieks and yells, let them watch something hatch out of an egg!  Some poults started and finished the whole process in about two hours, others took nearly two days, and others died halfway through.  And, of course, watching a new hatchling is fascinating, so they all took shifts on Turkey Patrol.

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They loved helping me feed and water the poults and watching them grow and change over the first few days and weeks, and experienced the sadness when I told them a sick newborn had died.  One day they came home and asked where the newly-hatched turkeys were, and I explained that I had sold them and that we would use that money to help take care of the other animals.  The boys gathered a whole range of valuable experiences with these turkeys, hands-on experiences that balanced nicely with their classroom studies.

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And what about Tom and Shelley now, you ask?  They were delicious!!

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But they gave us one last parting educational gift- Can you guess what those two things are in the picture below?  Incredibly… those are still-forming eggs!  When we butchered Shelley, we found those inside. It takes more than a day for a turkey hen to form an egg internally, so there is a pipeline of several forming eggs inside her at any one point.  AMAZING!

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A New Rhythm.

As our children grow, their rhythms change. Sometimes I feel like the moment I pin everything down, we have a three month respite before the boys and their needs change and I must plan again. Lately I have felt the need to come up with something with more longevity. In the middle of this last school year, I realized that the boys weren’t the only ones growing— I am too! My confidence in my calling as a homeschool teacher has slowly crept upwards over time. I am finding it easier to pray for direction and then step out boldly in faith. The truth is, after years of reading books and observing our children’s learning styles, we have found our own way of doing things.

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When we first started homeschooling, I asked someone, “What curriculum should I use?” They told me to get My Fathers World. I went out and bought it. You can read about our years with MFW in great detail here. MFW introduced me to Charlotte Mason, Classical Education, nature study, living books and gentle education. We enjoyed our K-3rd grade years with them to the fullest. This year I watched my children closely and as the months went by I knew in my heart that our learning styles and needs had grown away from MFW. It was a hard realization, but I knew that stepping more fully into a full blown CM/Classical homeschool study was the right thing for us. I reminded myself that these curriculums are tools, not masters. MFW will always have a special place in our hearts. We are so grateful for our years with them! (And you better believe my little one will be having his MFWK year two years from now!) For those that have been shoulder to shoulder with us for the last few years and are now continuing on to MFW CtG, have a beautiful year. We are so excited for you guys.

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What else is changing around here?

Well, we kissed Saxon math goodbye (for now). I wish I had dropped it sooner, but I was too afraid of my own math weakness to do so. I needed that scripted crutch. But this year I noticed that my older children did not understand the math questions they were answering correctly. Yes, you read that right. They were answering questions correctly without UNDERSTANDING the math they were doing. No bueno. I did a lot of research and finally settled on Right Start Math.  The change doesn’t start next year, its already started! We dropped Saxon mid-year and made the switch. The boys are ecstatic. Not only are they gaining a better grasp on math but they are begging to do math! They love all of the games that come with the program and are flying through their lessons while demonstrating deeper understanding of what they are learning. Hallelujah.

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Even more changes?

Our school year has always run from June-March with a one month break for Advent. The summers are too unbearably hot here and we really want to enjoy our beautiful springs fully, so we take our “summer break” earlier in the year.  When school ends in a couple of weeks we will be taking a one week break before jumping into our new schedule.

Six weeks on, one week off. We will be doing a special “Adventure term” in the spring, which will essentially serve as a summer break. The course load will be lighter but we will still be learning every day. We will also try something new for advent but this is still TBD.

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We have had so many people ask to see our upcoming schedule. For those who have no interest in that click away now. For those that want the nitty gritty, I have two grids to share. One grid for my two fourth graders and one for my first grader. I have not completely solidified the schedule for my youngest yet. I feel a bit like an orchestra conductor right now, I have all these movements and entrances I am weaving together but in the back of my mind I know I have a renegade piccolo just dying to jump in. My older boys have demonstrated such maturity and responsibility this year, I am handing the reigns over a bit more. I am planning out details by the six week quarter.  I drew heavily from 3 sources: Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and Consider This by Karen Glass. Here we go…

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Details
Now this schedule reflects our Classical Conversations community day on Mondays. We have a hiatus from CC between April and  August. So between cycles, we will have an exact copy of Wednesday each Monday. All of our “Essentials work” will be a continuation of our IEW Student Intensive A program, which we are currently using to prepare us for Essentials next year. Once August arrives, one child will be in Essentials and one will not. The child not attending Essentials will continue with the IEW writing program at home.

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On a typical day the boys will wake up, make their beds, brush their teeth, feed the animals, go for their run, wash up, set the table and begin Morning Time.

What will Morning Time be comprised of?

Morning Time Schedule
Opening Recitation/Gloria Patri 
Prayer Requests/Prayer
Nicene Creed

Hymn Sing

Scripture Memory
Spanish Lesson

Stories of America

Loop: Artist, Poetry, Shakespeare, Church History, Folk Songs, Nature Study, Biography***

Ancient History 

Loop: Bible Study Geography

Close: Prayer, Doxology

Loop List Example***
Artist: Whistler, Homer, Sargent
Poetry: Emerson, Whitman
Shakespeare: As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest
Church History: Trial and Triumph
Folk Songs
Nature Study:  Botany–trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, gardens
Biography: Mathematicians are People Too, Vol 2.
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Did that overwhelm you? Take a deep breath. Remember that most of these things only take a couple of minutes. We usually accomplish everything before Ancient History in about 40 minutes. This leaves us an hour and twenty minutes for the last two items.

You’ll notice that our schedule is divided into blocks. I have scheduled margin for each of these. Morning Time is the only one we will use the entire designated time for, with many of the subjects on a loop (Taken from Sarah Mackenzie!), that way we are never “behind” in Shakespeare or Art Study, we simply cycle through them over and over again until they are finished. The rest of the subjects have buffers around them because some days the toilet backs up or the dog vomits on the carpet or people’s stinky humanity gets in the way of our to do lists. On days when things progress well then the children have nice buffers of time between blocks to go play together.

As I mentioned before, we are using Right Start for math. We will also be using Memoria Press for Latin and I have yet to choose between Memoria Press and Apologia for Astronomy.

The older boys have two other loops: Language Arts and Independent Work. Each day they do one or two things off the loop and then the next day they go to the next thing on the loop.

Independent Work Loop
Paper Craft
Handwriting
Pin it Maps Geography
Crochet/Knitting
Typing
Correspondence
Independent Math Games
Paper Sloyd
Stop Motion Explosion

Language Arts Loop
Dictation/Spelling
Grammar
Reading
Writing

Our Read Aloud list for next year has not been completed yet.  I’ll share a list soon of all the books we plan to read aloud for 2017. We love Lit lunches!

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Friday is a day unlike any of the others. We are starting our day off with an in depth study of music. I’ll be sharing all about that in a later post as well.

The boys will have a bit of free time while I prepare everything for either our Friday Exam or a Nature Adventure of some sort. We’ll be alternating Friday Exams every other week. On days when we have nature hikes, we will be eating our lunches and reading our book outdoors.

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In the afternoons we will have Symposium. This is Sarah Mackenzie’s term for Morning Time when its done in afternoons. I have borrowed the name but this time will be quite different from Morning Time. Symposium will be our time to gather up and have round table discussions and debates about to dive deeper into our weekly studies. We’ll be making connections between our Classical Conversations work and our study at home. We’ll be pulling out a different timeline card each week to study and discuss. We’ll discuss our science experiments from community day and come up with new questions to test. I am so excited to start Symposium. I’ll be sharing more in depth about this in the future and I hope it will be helpful for those who always ask how we can blend CC and CM.

You will notice that Blessing Hour is still on our schedule. That is one thing (along with Morning Time) that I will never kiss goodbye!

The last component of our school day is our mixed martial arts training, which the boys adore. Its not scribbled in the grid but while the boys are on the mat, I’m enjoying a bit of scholé. I have read so many books while the boys grapple behind the glass. Its been wonderful to study topics that interest me in a quiet room while my boys release pent up energy.

For the 1st grader:
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Now, knowing my little guy he will want to do independent work during the “free play” slot. But he is still young enough that I want to make it his decision. His Right Start math and language arts lessons (Alternating Delightful Reading & Copy work) have been averaging about twenty minutes lately. Ive noticed that at 3pm every day he wants to be with me. He wants all of my attention. So now he has it. While the other children do their independent work, I will be enjoying Five in A Row with my boy.

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My youngest and I are still trying to figure out our next step. We’ve used The Homegrown Preschooler for two years now. Many of the activities are second nature to us now since we have done them for so long. Truth be told, I think we’ll be using elements of HGP for years to come. But I may be slowly adding in a few more things if he demonstrates an interest in them. For now, its looking like YEAR THREE of The Homegrown Preschooler for us.

Did you read all the way till the end? Crazy pants. Take a deep breath and remember that all the above is what happens to work for my family with our combination of personalities, learning styles, farm life, etc. Please don’t feel like you need to copy all the above. Take little bits that make sense and make them your own. Pray. Make a plan. Pray again. Scrap the plan. Pray again. Talk to your husband. Eat Chocolate. Pray. Make a plan. You’ll get there!

I’ll be updating as time marches on.

MFW ECC: Japan

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For this unit we were able to take a trip to Japan! Well, actually, it was the Morikami Museum & Gardens, but the experience was so incredible, the boys felt like it was the real deal.

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We got to experience a day in the life of a Japanese child. We had already read several books about Japan so the children (and I) were pointing things out that we recognized. Everyone was very excited to ride the Shinkansen to school.
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When we “arrived at school” we looked at the welcome area, which provides each school child with two types of hardhats (one for travel, one for earthquakes) and a rack with school shoes. The boys were so intrigued by the thought of having specific shoes only to be worn inside a classroom.

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After school we headed home for a snack.

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The boys loved getting to walk through the home layout. The final room housed an exhibit about Japanese Pioneers in our state. It was so fascinating to see our world history study collide with our state history.

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The boys enjoyed sushi, teriyaki, cellophane noodles and one boy even tried red bean ice cream!

Next we explored the museum’s gorgeous Origami exhibit and Japanese library.
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The boys each sat down with their choice of book. How strange to be in a room full of books we could not understand but could still appreciate for their beauty.15977683_10154241532888616_3315540042468168257_n.jpg16174830_10154241532818616_6009781962429759794_n.jpg16105541_10154241532788616_5059677880631640289_n.jpg

I wish I could share photos of the origami exhibit but cameras were prohibited.

At this point my wonderful mother broke away with my two youngest children and the older boys and I went to catch a portion of the film “Between the Folds.”

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The museum’s description of the movie:

“Between the Folds” chronicles the stories of 10 fine artists and intrepid scientists who abandoned careers and scoffed at hard-earned graduate degrees – all to forge unconventional lives as modern-day paperfolders. The film paints an arresting portrait of the remarkable artistic and scientific creativity that fuels this ever-changing art form, fusing science and sculpture, form and function, ancient and new.

As these offbeat and provocative characters converge on the unusual medium of origami, they reinvent an ancient art, and demonstrate the innumerable ways that ingenuity and expression come to bear as we all struggle to understand and honor the world around us – as artists, scientists, creators, collaborators, preservers and simply curious beings.

If you have any way of tracking this film down and watching it—do so! My idea of origami was blown away by this film.

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We remember so much from this week, even though we did much less work at home. There is such value in these sorts of experiences.

We’ll be recapping our time in Russia, Australia and Antarctica soon!

MFW ECC: China

Have you ever had one brilliant living book take over an entire week of study? That happened to us with “You Can Write Chinese” by Kurt Wiese.
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We’ve had the unexpected blessing of a living book library opening up in our county. Its such a delight to walk into a library and know that my children can select any book from the shelves and it will be a beautiful living book. I asked our wonderful librarian Mrs. Michelle if she had any special recommendations for our study of China. She pulled Kurt Wiese’s book from the shelf with a gleam in her eye. “This is a new acquisition. No one has checked it out yet. You’ll have to let me know how it goes.”

We took our bin of books home and the next day I asked the boys to each chose one to read that afternoon. My eldest, who wrestles with Dyslexia, chose the Wiese book. The story follows a young American boy who is experiencing his first day of school in China. His teacher relieves the young boy’s anxieties over learning this complex new language by describing the characters of the language in story form.

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My son was emotionally overwhelmed by this book. He could understand Chinese. The characters made perfect sense to him. He was so thrilled to at encounter written language with ease. We read the book over and over again. Then, completely unprompted, he sat down and wrote a story…in Chinese.

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The background to this story is all the time spent in prayer, begging God for victories in homeschooling for our son. In many ways, his dyslexia is a gift. His mind is incredible. He sees, understands and creates things the rest of us cannot. His mind is otherworldly, but it  has to go through the torturous experience of learning how to process things in this world. My heart is often heavy for him. We do our best to encourage and gently challenge him. We have seen steady improvement and had wonderful days that end with celebration and praise. This was one of those days. After weeks of consistent lows, I prayed that God would hug my boy with a victory. He set a 72 year old book in our path to bolster my son’s confidence.

Needless today, this book was never far from his sight that week. He wrote a new story every day and I made sure to set everything aside so I could sit down and listen to his retelling with undivided attention. I smiled. He glowed.

Here are a few of the other books the rest of us enjoyed this week.

BOOKLIST 

You Can Write Chinese by Kurt Weise
The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong
Li Lun, Lad of Courage by Carolyn Treffinger
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Growing Up in Ancient China by Ken Teague
We’re Riding on a Caravan by Laurie Krebs
Little Pear by Eleanor Francis Latecomer
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo
Gladys Aylward by Janet Benge
Hearts and Hands: Chronicles of the Awakening Church by Brandon Withrow
Homesick by Jean Fritz
Wild China –BBC Production

The Road to Morning Time: Starting Out

My heart still squeezes a bit when I think of those first months of Morning Time. Partly because I was in a really bad place and partly because my kids were so itty bitty and all I wanted was to be a good mom to them.

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Back in 2010 I was in the throes of dealing with PTSD. My husband was in grad school. We had zero money and three kids aged 3 and under. I had a bookshelf that was 90% twaddle and I was pretty convinced I was going to ruin my kids.

I remember feeling overwhelmed going from place to place with the boys, because someone always seemed to be pushing something on us. That “something” usually cost lots of money and it was almost always “something” we  were told we needed in order to be good parents. You can ONLY eat organic, you MUST buy all these oils from plants you’ve never even heard of, and it is ESSENTIAL that your child receive chiropractic care after their prenatal suzuki lessons. Ok, I am being a *leetle bit sarcastic* here. But you get the point. Nothing wrong with any of the above listed things, it just felt like everyone wanted me to prove my good intentions for motherhood by dropping tons of money we didn’t have.  It taught me the lesson early on that you don’t need a lot of money to be a good parent. What their hearts truly need, can’t be bought or purchased. With money out of the equation, I had to make the intentional choice to create a culture of love for my children using my words and actions. But how to fight through darkness to this place of love and light?

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I’ll be completely honest and say that my panic attacks were terrifying. I often crack jokes on here to minimize things, but there was nothing funny about PTSD. My attacks came with terrible frequency and were the single most discouraging thing I have ever had to face. They made me feel like a bad mom, even though deep in my heart I KNEW that was not the case.

What does this have to do with morning time?

I never had panic attacks first thing in the morning. They usually happened between the early afternoon and late evening hours. Early in the morning, I still felt like maybe I could be a good mom. I still had hope. I wanted to make the most of it!

If you read our first post on Morning Time, you’ll remember that I mentioned the exciting revelation of preparing food and luring my children to the same spot in our small home each day so I could teach them all at the same time. I chose the morning hour, not for any philosophical reason, but because I could survive it. I chose to feed them simply because it would make them stay. I chose to make it as beautiful as my means would allow so that it would nourish them. Those were the roots of our morning time. Pure survival with a tiny dash of hope.

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When I think of beauty born from darkness, I think of morning time. It was the highlight of our days. They are the memories I pray my children stored in their hearts.

It wasn’t fancy or academically rigorous. It was simple and humble and honestly life-giving. Its where we first started bonding over stories. Its where my boys began to appreciate things like intentional meals, shared conversation, and special touches that make a house a home. Their eyes, ears and hearts were slowly opened to ideas bearing truth, goodness and beauty. They heard about honor, mercy, justice, courage, love, kindness, humility and good humor.

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I would set out a vase of flowers from our garden, or whatever weeds they had ripped from the yard–roots intact! I would gather the few books I knew in my heart weren’t twaddle. The Bible, AA Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry, and a book of Aesop’s fables. On days when I had the wherewithal to make a bigger breakfast, I’d make the most out of the extended minutes and read a bit out of each book. On days when I could only offer up a few bowls of cereal, I read what I could while they quickly guzzled their food.

Some days they were thrilled and asked for “one more story!” and then jumping out of their seats while I was mid sentence. It never really hurt my feelings or discouraged me. I had a feeling deep down in my heart that this was a bit like learning how to walk or ride a bike. They were trying things out, testing to see how it worked, deciding whether or not they liked it yet.

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Little by little they learned to like it a lot.

My first big breakthrough was the day I discovered “Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt. This darling woman made a book filled with lists of all the wonderful stories I longed to share with my children. I now had a map for the library, an inside scoop, a cheat sheet!

The boys started to blossom as they heard these stories, but they were still jumping out of their seats too early. Each reading session was only ten minutes and I wanted so badly to finish just ten measly peasly minutes!!!

One day, I tried something new. When they left, I kept reading aloud as though they were still there. I read aloud until I finished that day’s portion. Then I closed the book and called them back to help tidy up the table and sweep up the crumbs beneath. After a week or two of reading to my children even after they had left the table, they started to squirm out of their seats, leave and return— and then linger a bit. Diaper clad bottoms would lean against chairs or dangle over the sides of chairs and my words would roll around the room while they wiggled and weighed their options. After another six weeks they started staying in their chairs until the story was done. One day the eldest chirped up, “And now for a wittle bit more stowies, Mama.”  A meager three minutes a day stretched to 15 minutes after nearly 9 months of morning times. This may not sound like much progress, but keep in mind —THREE BOYS AGED THREE AND UNDER. It was miraculous! Whats more, it was a HAPPY 15 minutes.

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That first year we only read picture books, the Bible, poetry and fables, and it was wonderful. Messy, imperfect, hilarious, humbling and wonderful. More than half the year was spent with no more than 6-8 minutes of morning time and we grew it ever so slowly.

After the year had passed I set my sights on doing something a bit more “official” than before. I was motivated and ready. My panic attacks were still lurking around, but the mornings were victorious. I was gaining confidence little by little. “Official” sounded good and I was almost positive that if I prayed hard enough, it would happen!

And then I found out I was pregnant again…

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Stay tuned for the next stop on The Road to Morning Time— the pregnant pause.

MFW ECC: INDIA

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India. We studied India several months ago and I am just now getting around to recording it. We integrated India into our morning time, drinking masala chai on a few occasions and reading all the Kipling we could get our hands on. We also did a nice study on the life of Ghandi. We found an excellent Ghandi book recommendation on Simply Charlotte Mason, see the booklist at the end of the post for details. We also enjoyed looking through some of the books on this list of popular Indian books for children.
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This was definitely a book heavy week! So many adventures to be had in far away India.

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The boys wanted to hike in our local preserve and “just pretend its India for a bit.” I said very little to them during the hike. The ran out of the car and lost themselves in play for an hour or so. It was beautiful to see them still thriving in imaginary play between their studies. IMG_8600.jpg

On the third day of our studies I set out numerous spices for them to smell and taste. I prepared a few recipes ahead of time for them to prepare and try. The boys loved getting to try their hand at these recipes! Our favorite by far was this beef and mint samosa dish (we did not make the accompanying sauce). We kicked off a mini kitchen frenzy with many of these recipes and experienced a long stretch of days with the boys wanting to cook (and juice!) everything.

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Then we were slapped with back to back rain, with mom under the weather for the end of the week. So I picked up some of my favorite film adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett books, “A Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden” for us to watch while we caught up on some of our handwork projects. These films gave us further opportunity to discuss colonization, which we initially discussed during our study of Africa.

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The final day of our study dawned bright and beautiful. We made a simple curry dish for lunch and finished off the last of the books on our list.

Then we read Steve Jenkins wonderful book about Mt Everest and took a 360 degree tour of Mt Everest thanks to Project360! (You can also take a 360 degree look at the Taj Mahal)
My boys were not up for this particular experience, but if your children are interested pick up some Kokila Mehandi Cone for Henna tattoos.

The boys were definitely up for a messy color fight with Rangoli Festival (Holi powder)  in the backyard.

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We capped off our studies by taking our daily tracings of India and making one last tracing in various colors and smearing our favorite spices on the map to scent them. (This site is drowning in ads, but if you look at the left hand side you will find many helpful maps of India for your studies).
India Booklist:
Ghandi: The Young Protestor Who Founded a Nation by Phillip Wilkinson
The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young
The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman
The Rajah’s Rie by David Barry
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Tusk and Stone by Malcom Bosse
Amy Charmicheal by Kathleen White