Prepping my Dialectic Dyslexic for Challenge A

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Me: “Are you excited for Challenge A next year?”
My Boy: “I’m a Dyslexic Dialectic! I’m thrilled and terrified!”

8 years into our walk with Classical Conversations and we now find ourselves on the threshold of Challenge A. I’m his Director next year and he is my student in the class and at home. What a gift.

A few weeks ago someone asked how I was planning my year out for my eldest, who has been open with our sharing of his homeschool walk with Dyslexia. I thought I’d share the process with you in this post.

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Whenever I am lost in the mire of information that tends to follow the triple letter learning disabilities, I remember to go back to the core of what it is we are aiming for. This is always the first step in my planning. What is the end goal and are my tools lining up to serve the end goal? This has helped me shave off hours of unnecessary therapy hours, look for more creative avenues for achieving goals and, most importantly, keep pressing towards a beautiful education.

As my eldest moved towards Challenge A, my thinking during the last year fell along these lines:

How can I use the tools within Challenge A to give my son a beautiful and robust education this year and how can it help shape who he is becoming and his understanding of whose he is and where he is going?

I began by reading “The Question” by Leigh Bortins, who addresses the above question in her opening chapter, and discovered all the tools presented inside to be workable for my neurodiverse family. The book is packed with practical help. Learning and practicing the five common topics over the last year was certainly helpful. But the greatest value for me was reading the book cover to cover multiple times, which helped me remember my goal over and over.

It would be an impossible expectation to say: I want my son to know everything by the time he graduates. Instead, my goal is teach him how to learn anything by gathering knowledge, asking good questions and applying wisdom. This year is not about his reading speed, its about teaching him to look for truth and goodness and beauty. Its setting a foundation of wisdom. Rather than try to learn everything, we’ll be equipping him to be able to learn anything.

Classical education is hard.  It’s beautiful, it’s worthy and its hard. Truth, goodness, beauty, sweat and tears. For nuerodiverse kids, you can add an extra few helpings of sweat and tears. I don’t say that to discourage, merely to acknowledge the fact that classical education is work! And yet, the longer I am in CC the more equipped and encouraged we both feel, even as we go about the inescapable reality of hard work.

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In a typical classroom setting, students are often measured against one another and most measurements are scaled towards discovering what a student doesn’t know so they can be penalized accordingly. Part of the beauty of learning in a classical Christian community is the weekly demonstration of gathering with fellow students to share what they do know and discover truth together by pooling their collective knowledge banks and asking questions of one another. Naturally, every student has his strengths and weakness, but all together they contribute what they can and cover each other in beautiful ways. We can already see, just in the friendships already established in the group, that when they shine, they spur each other on. This is hard work, but it is good work indeed. He’s not behind when he’s working beside them.

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So let’s get to work.

We spent the last year getting a good handle on potential stress areas, equipping him to verbalize his frustrations and needs in a clear respectful way, and we gave him extra tools for conquering the daily ins and outs of learning to the best of his ability. Here are a few steps I took over the last year to start preparing for Challenge A.

First, I thought about what a typical week looks like for my boy, his particular challenges (Dyslexia & mild Dysgraphia, low executive function) and the subjects that require a lot from him. I thought about his strengths (incredible auditory processing skills, high memory retention, etc) and the things that breathe fresh life into his lungs. He is twice-exceptional, meaning he is gifted and has a learning disorder. Its been the work of years to get the gifts and disorders to work in tandem and we are still working on it! (See this book and this book).

Next, I invited him into the conversation about his schedule and routine. His schedule is written in pencil right now, all these plans are tentative. He’s a child, not a machine. We also have to live through it a bit before we can fall into a rhythm together. I asked him what parts of the day are most important to him and what he wants to spend his free time on. I’m so glad I asked this question. It really changed the way I approached his schedule and helped us take those steps towards letting him begin to plan on his own. We’ve put chores and daily goals in pockets of time that won’t interfere with the things he really wants to do during the day. He told me that beach days are a must, now and forever. We put those things in first and then we scheduled (tentatively) our order of study.

Finally, I thought about the language of the dialectic/challenge years and the language I used in teaching here at home, and I tried to align myself more and more with the language of the dialectic years. We had already been doing this for many years, but it was helpful to keep mindfully refining.

After contemplating all this I wrote out the six challenge A strands and thought about what each one would require from him in terms of time and energy. I began a rough outline of thoughts for each strand. Its important to note that this is my plan for my particular child. I am sharing more for the thought process itself rather than the actual nuts and bolts of what we did. I have linked items here just to save time later in case people ask for links. But this isn’t meant to be a shopping list.

The six strands within Challenge A are:

Logic (Math)
Grammar (Latin)
Research (Science)
Reasoning (Analogies/Fallacies)
Exposition (Writing and Literature)
Debate (Cartography)

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GRAMMAR: LATIN
Years ago I spoke with my friend Bev about the Latin portion of Challenge and knew that my boy would benefit from a head start. He needed time to develop the muscle for this one. If the words looked familiar it would take him less time to decode the letters before beginning to decode the language itself. This year we finished our third course with Memoria Press Latin (Prima Latina and Latina Cristiana 1 {2xs}) and the benefit has been tremendous. The boys would watch the instructional DVD, complete their workbook, quiz each other with flashcards, play games and finish reviews and quizzes at the end of the week. When we finished the final exam last week I teared up with thankfulness at the solid foundation they received from Memoria Press. We cracked open the Henle book and he took a great big sigh of relief! “Mom! I already know most of these words!” It wasn’t said with a hint of bragging, it was complete gratitude that he had a better handle on one of the strands.

NOW HEAR THIS! If you did not study Latin beforehand its ok! Remember that what the students learn in Challenge A is repeated again first semester of Challenge B. Then in Challenge 1 all of the Latin from Challenge A & B is repeated. Its a bit like Essentials in that you get three rounds with parts of the same Henle 1 book. 

Here are some other things I have put in place to help him with the Latin strand this year. These are small practical helps. If your child is Dyslexic, than you likely have discovered that making accommodations to ease small areas of tension or difficulty help free their head space for the enormously difficult task of being able to process what they’re reading.

Flashcards: In Challenge A, students make flashcards for their Latin vocabulary. I’ve heard repeatedly from Directors everywhere that making flashcards by hand helps a great deal in furthering memory and retention. This is one example where I needed to count the cost of this exercise for my son and make a call as the parent/teacher! Because he already has a head start in Latin and because writing is such an exhausting ordeal for him, I decided to purchase a set of ready made cards so that he could save that writing energy for other strands.

The Books: My friend Angela, Challenge Director extraordinaire, held a Latin Boot camp over the course of several summers. Her first piece of advice? GET THAT  BOOK SPIRAL BOUND! That Henle book is small and thick and does not lay open with ease and adds one more element of frustration. We spiral bound both books and they now lay flat when open. We also took tabs and labeled all the sections for declensions, conjugations, tenses, etc. It was worth the work! They are easier to navigate and lay flat for study time.

Latin Workspace A: its an optional resource but again, any time I can limit the amount of writing he has to do I go for it!

Tools: Colored reading strips, no bleed highlighters, visual edge slant board (recommended by his behavioral optometrist).

CARTOGROPHY
A few years ago we started to kick up our cartography game here at home. We would practice often with our Pin it Maps and CC memory work. Pin it maps were a very helpful resource because the words were positioned on flags instead of a flat lay on the map. He could distinguish features and locations far more easily with the pins. We also purchased a globe to keep on hand so we could look things up whenever we read about a new place. It really helped that geography interested the boys greatly! They each always wanted to be the boy that got to find the spot on the globe.

We eventually began using the Draw the World Series by Kristin Draegar which took our free hand drawing to the next level. I know some parents that use this series during Challenge A, but I don’t want to add more work to this strand. We will keep using these during the summer months and once CC starts again we will switch to the Cartography book.

There were no tricks in our cartography study these last few years. He would use the white board side of his slant board to draw the same countries over and over and then would pull out a sheet of paper, place it on the board and try to draw again from memory. The greatest thing we did was to make geography a habit. Every day, we did at least 10 minutes of geography. While he doesn’t have the whole map memorized yet, he does know his way around a map.

Things in place for Cartography next year-

Timing: This is one strand that my son has expressed a lot of interest in. Because of his deep fascination with political maps and history, he is very familiar with the world map. This strand is something he is looking forward to! I have blocked off time in his schedule accordingly. This strand will go between two more difficult strands to give him a break and a switch to other hemisphere skills.  I have scheduled it during a block of time when his siblings will likely finish their work early so I will “be around” either cooking, doing laundry, or tiding up, but available should he need help.

Scribe/witnessing: After drawing and placing things, I have a hunch that he will be a bit tired. I plan to let him either show me his map and point and verbally tell me where everything is OR I can point to things, he can tell me what they are and I will write it down for him. As long as he demonstrates that he knows it! In class he will have to draw and label maps with the group so he will get plenty of time to practice the skills together, but at home when he is trying to finish the lion’s share of weekly work, I am fine with making these adjustments.

Scaling: This is one strand where I am fully prepared to scale terms when necessary.

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EXPOSITION: LITERATURE AND WRITING
We read the Challenge A books out loud as a family over the course of 2 years.  This book list is purposefully easy so that students have more time to focus on the writing portion of exposition and the ease of the list made it a great fit for family read aloud time. Now, my son was a late reader and we had a very rough start with learning how to read. I had to repent from the many mistakes I made and I’m so thankful that my son now loves reading. It takes him longer than some of his younger siblings, but he still loves it. Having these books tucked in his memory before the year starts, takes some of the pressure off. He is already looking forward to experiencing them again.

As for the writing portion of Exposition, I am pleased with the foundation we received in IEW. We did not add anything else to our grammar or writing load, it was more than enough by itself. Additionally, after three years with Essentials he has learned how to portion off his work and be faithful with small bites every day. But even those small bites, take a lot of time.

I am constantly taking note of his mental energy throughout the day. He has several pockets of time where he is more focused and productive and other times when he needs a reset or a break. This is crucial information for me to have, especially as I try to faithfully homeschool my three other children (including one with special needs) while providing support and attention for my eldest. Exposition is one of the strands I have to be available for. Not only to help ask questions but to make sure he stays focused.  Therefore, I need to be wise about when we schedule this strand.

He is easily distracted and his mind is constantly asking for writing/reading breaks.  We have had great success in breaking up tasks within tasks and setting timers for him to complete the smaller tasks.  For example, if today’s writing portion has three steps, I’ll set the timer for 10 minutes and he will work until the timer rings. Then he gets a five minute break. Then he does another ten minute work round. He might finish all three tasks in three rounds, but sometimes he needs four or five rounds. Some days he doesn’t need a timer at all. He just naturally breaks up the tasks and does the work. It just depends on the assignment and the day.

Looking ahead through the LTW manual, I see several areas where I can help him out by scribing when he gets tired. This leaves room for him to free up his brain to think and process the writing rather than trying to think while decoding.

Tools for next year:
Audiobooks: Though he does have physical copies of the books to follow along with, we have been able to find most of the Challenge A books on other digital platforms (most for free-like Hoopla!) He loves listening to audiobooks and this will be a great strand to switch too after a more intense strand that tires him out.  I’ll schedule his “listening time” between two more taxing strands to provide a reset for him.

Focused Attention from Mom: Its in the schedule! While I will be helping him with other strands, this is one that will require a lot of focused attention from me. Planning ahead for this is critical! (I’ll be sharing in a future post about how I schedule my personal tasks for the day alongside my children’s tasks for the day).

 

RESEARCH: Science
He is bursting with excitement for this oneIf you follow “Jack” on instagram then you know how much he loves animals and science. This is a strand he knows he can contribute a great deal to. One area where he can stretch in is learning to not share everything he knows about an animal, but letting others answer too. This is probably the strand that will end up teaching him the most about group dynamics and productive conversation. His three years in IEW will also come in handy when he gathers all his information into papers to present each week

Creative Resources:
Again, thinking in terms of his energy limits for the day, we may be utilizing some of his favorite documentaries along with familiar books to serve as “source texts.”  

Put Spelling on the Back Burner:
Spelling is a huge source of stress for most Dyslexic kids. We have a deal about spelling. We don’t let it become a barrier to deeper learning. In other words, I don’t want him so panicked about spelling that he doesn’t write the paper or finish the outline or label the map. He gives it his best go and we’ll circle back later to adjust spelling. Usually I have to read the word and spell it out loud for him several times for it to slowly click.  ( One of the reasons we use IEW’s auditory based spelling program)

Make it a Puzzle:
Another trick we have when filling out a sheet with a word bank is to cut out the words and let him fill in the blanks with the word strips. (Thanks Essentials!)

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LOGIC: Math
We’ve spent the greater part of our homeschool life with Right Start Math. I have the Saxon book for Challenge A and will be drawing out problems little by little as we slowly transition over to Saxon this summer. But I am fully prepared to be flexible here too. Saxon might not work right now, and thats ok. We’re nearing the end of Right Start’s available curriculum. Once we finish G, he will have to transition over to Saxon, so we are taking baby steps in that direction while he wraps up his last year of Right Start.

Tools:

Family Conversations:
This is one area we want to invite Dad into. We’re practicing the five common topics as much as possible this summer during our math study. I never had a conversation about a math problem once during the course of my entire formal education. No one ever asked me to consider the problem and define its terms or explain the laws behind or compare it to something else. There is so much we are going to learn together this year. I can’t wait!

Numeracy:
We’re going to keep playing N2K and Quick Flip Arithmetic and all the other games in the Right Start Game book. Math Fluency is a big one for us.

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Reasoning
We’ve dabbled with logic during morning time and its always been a family favorite. Because this strand only requires one hour for the whole week, we’ve decided to tack it on to the end of morning time so we can take one small bite a day while the little guys clear off the breakfast dishes and finish up their morning chores. I am really looking forward to this sweet time together. No special adjustments for this one. Just time with my boy and a chance to grow in humility, wonder, and wisdom alongside him.
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I’m sure I’ll revisit this post later in the year with updates. For now, this is what we have done and plan to keep doing in the months leading up to Challenge. I’ve reached out to some other Moms of nuerodiverse CC kiddos and encouraged them to leave suggestions in the comments below.

 

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I’ll be posting soon about how I’m organizing our homeschool for the coming term and you’ll see more on there about getting my boy ready for Challenge A.

 

 

 

 

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Affiliate links included in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3rd round of Cycle 3

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Next year my eldest is moving up to Challenge A and I will be his Director. I plan on sharing posts about how we are preparing ourselves and how we are planning to make the most of his Dyslexia superpowers, but right now I want to share about my second born son, who is entering his final year of Foundations. It will be his third time going through Cycle 3 and the first time he and his older brother won’t be in the same class. I didn’t want him to start his year disgruntled and detached and so I took the time to hash out what we wanted next year to look like for him. This is a post about how we are approaching this coming year together.

 

THE MEETING

We met together. This was a helpful place to start. I asked a lot of questions and realized that there were many areas about the coming year that needed clarity. It helped to make sure our definitions were aligned so that our conversations was pointed in the same direction. We also took time to address our expectations of each other and for the year. I let him know what things we would be working on this year to get him ready for Challenge A (2021-2022). We talked about accountability for the next year. I will be directing Challenge A but will still be teaching him, his 9 year old brother and his youngest brother, who has special needs and requires extra services (some led by me). He let me know that he was ready for more of a challenge this year and didn’t need much hand holding. So we talked about what that might look like…

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THE FOCUS
Over the summer we will be working on a 1-2 sentence “focus” statement for the year. He didn’t feel comfortable sharing it here, but it mainly deals with relaying our goals and expectation in a succinct way. This will be a good reminder for both of us in case either one or both of us drifts off course during the year.

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THE LINE UP

Together we drew up his lesson schedule for the coming year. Before we met I took some time to think about his areas of strength and his areas of weakness and found a few places were I could be more flexible. Coming to the meeting ready for flexibility and with an eye for strengths and weaknesses was incredibly helpful! (Knowing my own is also a game changer).

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Latin (Form 1)
The boys just finished Latin Cristiana 1 for the second year in a row. Last year they finished and when they took their final exam, I realized that they could benefit from another go around. So I purchased fresh student books and they went through the course a second time. They took their final exam today and aced it. I am so excited for them! While big brother moves on to Henle 1 with his Challenge A class, my second born will progress to Latin Form 1 with Memoria Press. I am so impressed with their curriculum. This will be their fourth year with the program and Memoria Press does an excellent job of introducing new vocabulary, layering grammar rules, working on declensions and conjugations and slowly developing their ability to translate.  We use a four day schedule with the program here at home.
Day 1: Watch the instructional DVD and complete the two workbook pages for that lesson.
Day 2: Latin Drill Sheets and Flashcards (usually a game)
Day 3: Latin Review sheets for that lesson
Day 4: Latin Quiz for that lesson, or test for the unit

Right Start Math (Level G)
We are still making our way through Right Start and have only one or two levels left in the program. This level is a beautiful course on Geometry and we are so eager to dive in. Once he is finished he’ll dive into Saxon. We already agreed that once he finishes (G) he can jump into Saxon, even if Challenge A hasn’t started yet. I love the freedom of choice in the math strand of Challenge and see no reason why I should hold him back. Go baby, go!

Geography
We’ve been using these wonderful Geography books along with our Pin it Maps for a few years now. Paired with our weekly Geography work at CC, we have grown quite a solid foundation over the years. This year he has set the goal to work through as many of these books as possible, in preparation for Challenge A’s cartography strand next year. This is a personal goal he has set for himself and not something I’m forcing on him. My boys are big fans of board games like Axis and Allies, enjoy discussions about the world wars and different expeditions, and always run to the map when we read about a new place. This is part of the drive that spurred him forward to set this goal.

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French
Another high up on his list of requests for this year. Because he is very self motivated and organized, I knew I could give him more freedom in this area. We carved out space in his schedule and purchased a Rosetta package that would suit his needs. This study will be entirely independent.

Essentials (IEW)
Once the fall hits he will begin his third and final year of Essentials. His next youngest brother will join him as a first tour student, and I will try not to cry since I won’t be their tutor for the first time ever. (My third born and I have already shed tears over the fact that I won’t be his tutor, but of the joy of knowing that I am still his Essentials TEACHER here at home). The Essentials class with Classical Conversations includes grammar, writing and numeracy. My second born has already worked through all three of the spelling rotations in the EEL and spent two years making corrections on the Bible sheets so he will be using Fix it! Grammar from IEW and I’ll be curating his spelling lists from misspelled words found in his daily written narrations.

Economics: The boy loves studying economics. Never would I ever have chosen to study economics at this point in time but he is so hungry for it we ended up diving in this year with the excellent book on Economics and accompanying guide. I’m still narrowing down which book to use next, but he will have time for economics this year which, along with French and a green light in math, has gone a long way in soothing his heart over not progressing into Challenge A with his older brother.

Morning Time
I will give a more detailed list of Morning Time plans for Cycle 3 when I post my quarterly book lists. This is the time of day when we read and recite scripture, sing hymns, read and recite poetry, study art/architecture, study nature, read fairytales or myths, work on memory work and enjoy a family read aloud. The littles drop off as the hour progresses and soon I am left with just the older two who have their Plutarch or Shakespeare reading and narration, depending on the day.

Piano

Tae Kwon Do

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History
I am already working on my Cycle 3 Quarter 1 list for this year (you can find my 4th edition list here). Because this is his 3rd time through American History, he has requested a reading list of “deeper dive” reading rather than progressing through a history spine that hits on the corresponding history for each week.  I told him we would settle on one of Genevieve Foster’s books and use it along with individual reads that paint a deeper picture of American History.

Here is his list of books for the year. Some of these are historical events, some provide a look into a different culture or time period. This list is curated to his strengths and his weaknesses, feeding what he loves and stretching him into new areas that are not his forte. He is a fast reader and we’ll probably add to this list as the year goes on. For now….

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome True Story About Brain Science by John Flesichman
Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
Water Sky by Jean Craighead George
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
The Wright Brothers by Russell Freedman
The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman
Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Elin’s America by Marguerite de Angeli
Prairie School by Lois Lenski
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Science
While we have nature study all year round, he has expressed an interest in Marine Biology next year. I told him that we aren’t in a rush to plan something out. We’re sitting on this one for awhile. I like to add things in layers, lest I buy more than we can handle in a year. We have a lot of layers going on already and I want to wait before we add one more. This will give him time to think a bit. He’s still wrapping up his current Chemistry study with MEL Science, so he has time yet!

I’ll add to the book list as time draws near or once he reads it all and we need to add more.

Coming up soon on Farmhouse Schoolhouse….

Cycle 3 Quarter 1 Booklist
Preparing for Challenge A: Student
Preparing for Challenge A: Parent
50 States Booklist
Classical Conversations and Neurodiversity

 

What It Looks Like Now

Its been weeks now that people have been messaging and asking if I would share a “Quarantine Schedule.”

This is an excerpt of a response I posted on Instagram:
After I posted about grieving during the pandemic, I received a few messages from people asking if I would post something a little more hopeful, or even helpful, like a quarantine schedule. Friends, here is a spoiler alert—I won’t be posting a schedule. That doesn’t mean we don’t have one, but the last thing I’d do is share a schedule that we definitely aren’t following. We’ve lost our co-op, therapy team and access to our community. Nobody here is breezing through this. Sure, I could put together an idealistic quarantine schedule and post it, but I certainly wouldn’t follow it. That’s never been my jam and I won’t start now…..

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I still stand by this. I have no schedule to offer because every day looks a little different for us. Instead, I’ll share what TODAY looked like. I will try to do this a few times over the next few weeks to give an idea of what homeschooling looks like now with so many of our support beams gone. Homeschooling without co-op, beach days, art museums, libraries, friends, field trips, or therapies. It is both richer and poorer in many ways.

On Wednesday April 23, 2020, our 42nd day of isolating at home, this is what happened. No apologies for the long post. If you asked for it, here it is. More than anything I want to document what these days look like. You’re welcome to tag along. I have linked materials here because I am not answering many messages these days. Some are affiliate links.

8:00AM I woke up late. Far later than I got up in my before corona days. This is because I have been staying up late into the night catching up with friends or reading with inadequate respect for tomorrow. I feel like I saw a meme that said that once….

I follow my PTSD management protocol, try not to look at any news items or social media, remind myself that I have work to do and head out to the kitchen to get the morning chores rolling. I’ll admit that I have at least two or three days a week lately when I really do not want to do anything at all. I have to pray, read scripture and pull myself together to do the work at hand. Its painfully hard some days. Today when I walked out to the main part of the house the kids looked happy and eager for the day. That doesn’t always happen these days, but today it did which meant it would be an easier day. Children scattered to feed the animals or unload the dishwasher and then the boys began to make a breakfast quiche. I caved and looked at my phone and found a text from a friend who is struggling greatly. I teared up, sent her a verse, prayed for her and helped the boys put the quiche in the oven.

Little Boy Quiche Recipe
store bought crust
12 eggs
bits of eggshell
1/2 cup of cheese
salt
olive oil
oregano
(If you are under the age of 8, all the herbs you can find)
Bake at 375 till golden brown.

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8:45AM-9:45AM Morning time. Its been starting late these days. I’m ok with it.
We lit the candle and sang a call to worship. We’re currently memorizing a portion of the Sermon on the Mount and begin with it every day. Then we go round the table with our readings. I’m reading Exodus right now, the eldest reads the Psalm of the day, the second born reads a portion of Proverbs and the third born reads from John. The youngest closes by leading us in the hymn of the month which is “I need thee every hour.” This is something we do nearly every day.  Today we read a little extra from Exodus because it was a gripping part of the story.

We recited the Nicene Creed and said our catechism. By this point everyone had eaten and we were free to sip tea and practice our poems. We reviewed memorized poems from years past and learned a few more line from our new poem: “Bilbo’s Walking Song” by JRR Tolkien. The boys asked for this one since we can’t go anywhere except in our imaginations so we might as well walk with Bilbo. The little one asked, “I wonder what our friends are doing right now?”

We read a fairytale, Sleeping Beauty and talked about the duty of kings. Then we read a portion about stink bugs from our nature book (evolution viewpoint) and the boys were quite riveted. At this point the seven year old was rolling on the floor by the window so I moved us all to the library and set “The Silver Chair” (CS Lewis) on audiobook for the boys to listen to. The boys had dropped their dishes in the sink on the way to the library so I stacked them while we listened to Puddlegum and Jill and Eustace make way through the land of the giants. Afterwards I dismissed the youngest and we read a bit from “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat and “World War 1” by Richard Maybury and had a fifteen minute discussion about it. We were going to read from their economics book but my brain felt foggy. Thats been happening a lot these days.

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9:45-11:20AM I told the little one to go play or visit the animals and the older three to commence THE TRIO. This is what we call music, math and latin, which they rotate throughout three different rooms in the house. The third born began practicing piano and the older two began their Latin which today consisted of a review sheet and working through vocabulary flashcards. They recited declensions and did a little bit of translation work. Its difficult to capture the chaos of everything that took place within that sentence. The older boy works at a slower pace than the second born who flies through everything with haste. When they work together I have to spur one on so he stays focused and slow the other one down so he doesn’t make mistakes. The little one of course came back inside and was crawling all over me (and the flashcards) while the dueling personalities tried to sync up for recitations.  They (FINALLY) finished and went to work on math and music respectively while I worked with the third born on his Latin assignment which included new vocabulary words and a translation of the table blessing he is memorizing. He finished and began his math assignment today which happened to be a test. I caught up with the eldest and we worked on his math while the second born worked on his music. In about twenty minutes the older two switched places. I’m very thankful for our math curriculum these days. Its provided a good foundation for the boys these last few years and the short, focused lessons are a gift now more than ever. I sneaked in three small reading for my youngest: a fable from Aesop, a poem from Robert Louis Stevenson, an Elsa Beskow book and half a reading lesson.  Most boys wrapped up by 11:20 and we went outside to gather eggs, play with the cats, check on the fruit trees and work on the boys latest form for Tae Kwon Do.

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11:30-12:45PM We returned inside for our Tae Kwon Do Zoom class. The boys are almost finished testing for their form and will be graduating to the next belt. It is bizarre to think that they earned 95% of this belt away from class. We miss our studio, instructors and classmates deeply. While the boys trained, which they do with varying degrees of success, I prepared lunch. When the call ended we gathered in the library for another chapter of “The Silver Chair” on audiobook. It gave me enough time to eat my own lunch before reading the next chapter from our lunchtime read “A Tale of Two Cities.”  When we finished the younger boys cleaned up the lunch dishes while the older boys tidied up the library and school materials from the morning. I sat in my chair and closed my eyes for a few minutes and gathered my resolve, because as with the morning, the post-lunch lull is hard for me to fight through. Part of me wants to throw in the towel and watch Pride and Prejudice or waste the afternoon reading science or medical journals or my high school friend’s conspiracy theories.  I force myself to get up and head to the dining room for the next round.

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12:45-2:00PM
The older boys get their audiobook set up for History. Today they are learning about the impact of Gutenberg’s Printing Press. I wrote a subjective question up on the whiteboard for them to consider as they write up a narration that tells me about Gutenberg but also answers the question. They won’t get by on just facts, they need to think! While they worked I grabbed up my little guy and we worked through three lessons of his math (which he is suddenly flying through these days after a year of v e r y gentle learning) and a reading lesson. Once he is finished he decides to do a drawing lesson and then asks for a vintage Disney nature show and I grant his request. I returned to the table and approved the third born’s work and sent him off with his timer set to 45 minutes to do his SSA reading for the afternoon. I read the narrations of the older boys while they took a short break and I marveled at how old they are and how proud I am of them and made a mental note to go over how to spell that one word they really should know how to spell by now. The older boys and I open our Plutarch which today happened to be a more mature topic that caught me off guard because I didn’t read ahead the way I used to. We forged through and I think we did fairly well with it. After their written narrations were completed we moved on to our Economics lesson, which the boys ate up. They loved it and I am learning to love it.

2:00-2:45PM At this point the older boys took their list of independent work and headed to the classroom to complete it on their own. They are working intensely on their cartography skills, especially the eldest who is going into Challenge A next year.  It helps that they are intensely interested in their maps. They are less interested in spelling, but finished that list too. Their grammar work was also parsed, corrected and diagrammed before they wrapped for the day.

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2:45-4:30PM The older boys read their own SSA books (currently that’s an Andrew Peterson book and Children of Odin by Padraic Colum  and then we had tea. We decided not to read anything, instead I updated them on different countries we’ve been praying for and we talked about how the world will likely not be the same when we reenter it. I told them about the long unemployment lines and food bank lines and they asked questions. When we finished I told them they could do whatever they’d like until dinner time and they decided to watch a movie together since the heat outside was at its peak. I used this time to file insurance papers, close out therapy accounts, finish editing our co-op yearbook, ignore the giant pile of laundry in the guest room and throw ingredients in the crockpot for taco bowl night.

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The rest of the day felt like a vacuum. The eldest asked me to record the next episode for his animal show, Waiting for the Wild (instagram account @jackinthewilderness) and the youngest asked me to read him a few more stories. We ate dinner late, read our latest family read aloud together and went for a family walk around the neighborhood to visit the miniature donkey that lives a quarter mile away.

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We returned home and my husband reminded me that the NFL draft was tonight. I hate football, but today I was glad for it because the boys, in the absence of all sports, were eager to watch the draft with their dad and this left me with a free evening. I made a cup of tea and curled up in bed to watch two episodes of Julian Fellowes new show “Belgravia” and wrote emails to a few friends. I drafted a to-do list for the weekend and filled out the boys assignment books for tomorrow as well as my own schedule and then began this post.

Here is the rest of that IG post I shared at the beginning of this post:

Here is the heart of our days: Its the practice of remembering. We remember the truths that anchor us to solid ground through catechism, song, scripture. Truth that leads us away from the shifting sand that seems to be everywhere these days. We remember the context of the story we are in and we keep our eyes fixed on the plot line of redemption and restoration playing out before us. We remember LIFE with stories and songs and art. We reach out to others as best we can and pour out however we can. We remember that our experience during this time, is NOT the same as everyone else’s. We are not all in the same boat and remembering this will help us with empathy later on. We are attending to the moment at hand, remembering that in a home of six souls not everyone will be ok at the same time and reminding ourselves to look up and look in. We are gathering around the table every meal to fill our bellies and fill our hearts with more stories that sharpen our appetites for the eternal. Yes, we are remembering. We are grieving— with hope. A walk in nature, a good western movie night, apologizing after losing tempers, caring for an animal, confessing fears and uncertainty, morning time squared, asking for help, eating more bread than we probably should, sticking around for one more chapter of The Silver Chair. Love dwells here. Sadness too. Brokenness and joy, all of it. We are remembering. Grace to you friends as you walk through this story with your children.

 

Recalibrating…

Our nearly 6 week long winter break is over and we feel refreshed and restored.

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I’ve never been one for resolutions, I am a gardener at heart and therefore spend most of the year weeding and tweaking things here and there. In January, I tend to recalibrate our schedules to make the most of the pleasant weather, make space for more individual projects (like Faces of History and the Science Fair) and start making early preparations for whatever new phases are on the horizon.

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I strive to be diligent in observing my boys as they grow. How are they learning best these days? Are they increasing in responsibility and ownership over their learning? How reliable are they? Is there a good balance between rest and learning? As all mothers know, these sorts of evaluations tend to stem into many different areas such as physical activity, diet, supplements, emotional health, etc.  Then you start multiplying the evaluations for each person in the home and the number of things to track increases more and more.

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For example, here is one small area we spent time recalibrating last fall: my children are involved in a sport that meets M-F in the late afternoon/early evening. This may surprise you to read, but it is wonderfully convenient for us! The boys adore the practice and exercise and I love that I get the chance to unplug and read for an hour while they are active and growing in discipline. They love ending their afternoon with friends. I love ending mine with a book.

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However, for this good thing to take place in a way that blesses our family, I must plan in advance. Before we leave the boys must 1) complete their individual work 2) finish blessing hour 3) set the table for dinner and 4) get themselves dressed and packed for practice. I usually have dinner in the slow cooker or take the boys’ preparation time as a pre-dinner prep time (if its a simpler throw together kinda meal). When we leave the house is relatively clean, dinner is in place or well on its way and I have a bit more peace knowing that when we return we can begin the rest of our evening on the same page. Upon return the boys all shower while I finish getting dinner together and then we sit down with Jeff for fellowship and dinner. We enjoy reading from whatever missionary’s biography we are reading at the time (wrapping up Livingstone right now!), then we clean the dishes, clear the table, the boys have music lessons with their dad and we relax before bed. **This is on a good day. Sickness, Small Group meeting, meltdowns from children (or parents), HUMAN NATURE can change the way this all pans out. On our good days, it works well and serves us well*** 

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To figure this one block of time in our schedule, I had to go through a few years of motherhood to figure out what style of planning worked best for me. I went through seasons of freezer meals and special planners and all sorts of tricks and tips from other mothers before realizing that few tips ever really worked for me long term. Knowing myself and how I work best and reaching for better habits, helped me better than anything else. Essentially, taking ownership and growing in discipline instead of looking for shortcuts and quick fixes. Here is where I landed:

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I have to think about my entire day before I go to sleep the night before. I take ten minutes to look over my schedule, write out what needs to be done, make sure things are in place for meals, enter reminders into my phone (ie. pack snacks or work for any therapists office if we have an appointment) and group them into bite sized chunks throughout the day.  I usually make 4-5 groupings depending on the day, making sure that the priority items are listed first.  Whenever the kids break from lessons, I begin to knock out everything I can from a grouping. Anything I don’t finish gets moved to the last grouping of the day. Most days, I can knock out about 80-90% of the list. Whatever is left over, gets moved to the next day and placed on a higher priority level. For example, I know that on Monday morning I need to wake up early, read my bible, wash and dress, pop our favorite quick quiche in the oven, set dinner into the crockpot, feed the animals, water the garden, brew the tea and lay out the supplements before 7AM. I’ll look on the schedule and remind whoever needs to set the table to get it done and just before the quiche comes out, I’ll make sure the lunch items are grouped together in the fridge so the 7 year old can find them easily (its his turn to make lunch!). We begin morning time fully immersed in learning and being together. I don’t have another grouping until later that morning, once we’ve returned from speech therapy and just before lunch.

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I’m on the latest Wild + Free podcast talking about being “Wild and Free in the Waiting Room.”

Guess what? Turns out this way of thinking works really well for *most* of my kids, too! One of the best homeschool tips I ever got was from Sarah Mackenzie (who got it from her friend, so pass it on!). It was quite simple. Invest in cheap spiral notebooks for the kids and write their school work (I also add appointments, errands, chores, etc) in it the night before and go over their next day’s work with them so they know what to expect and what is expected of them and if our big 12 passenger van will be transporting them anywhere. Over time my boys realized that they could group things to knock off the list  (copywork, spelling, chart work, geography, etc) and save longer tasks (Plutarch, math, narration essay writing) for longer pockets of time. They brought books along on errands and carved out spaces of time to complete their tasks. They started thinking ahead and planning for themselves. “Hmm, we’ll be at speech tomorrow. I’d better bring along a snack and water bottle to enjoy with my book while I wait!”
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This level of thinking did not happen right away, of course. They are male and under 12 years of age!  Like their Mama, they had to slowly come to value ownership of their time and take hold of discipline and skill over shortcuts. We’ve been using this system for over a year now and I’m happy to report that it was just the thing to transition the older boys into taking more responsibility in their learning and managing of their time. This was crucial for one boy in particular who struggles mightily with executive function. (This book was also a tremendous help!)

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Our first week back was lovely. Even though the kitchen flooded and we had to rip out flooring in the dining room and kitchen and I find myself without a dishwasher (the latest in the battle of adoption discouragement frontlines). We really enjoyed our time together. The older boys feel so grown these days. I don’t have to remind them to complete their work as often as I used to. They’re interests are expanding and growing. They’re outgrowing shoes at an alarming pace.

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A few quick highlights from our first week back…

We are enjoying Ernest Seton’s book “Wild Animals I have known” and are having deep discussions over Gerald Thompson’s book, “The Presidency“** in light of the upcoming impeachment trials. (** This is out of print and was written during JFK’s time as President) We’re continuing our catechism study and memorizing hymns. We started reading “A Tale of Two Cities” and the boys have flown their kites nearly every day. We’re digging further up and further in with latin and math. I am so pleased with the foundation we’ve laid using Right Start Math.

The boys are also learning to compose music with their Dad, a pianist and drummer, who is now trying to learn the guitar so he can teach it to his children. What an encouragement this is to me as I ponder the things I’m trying to teach myself right now so I can teach them to the boys in a few years.

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I found myself washing dishes for long hours while enjoying audiobooks. I managed to knock out 5 in two weeks! I nearly broke a glass listening to Shusaku Endo’s Silence and wept through Hannah Coulter again. The garden is growing and the radishes will be ready soon. On Friday we celebrated my eldest son’s 12th birthday with his friends at our favorite beach and they caught a moray eel of all things with a small net. It coiled and snapped at us, while we marveled at him. We still can’t believe it.

 

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Dishes, radishes, good books, dangerous sea creatures. How lovely it is to be back in the swing of things. The road ahead is uncertain this year. New therapies added to the mix, a young man starting Challenge A, our adoption still in limbo. I can only keep praying, surrendering, recalibrating and loving. Oh, I must keep loving! The truth is I can keep observing the boys and making my notes, but really, the best thing I can do to serve them well is to spend time with them and love them.

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Mad Scientists & Engineers Gift Guide

Happy Thursday friends! I’m wrapping up these guides (only two left to go!) and my own Christmas shopping.  Here are a few ideas for the budding scientists and engineers out there.

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I’m not a huge fan of toys that talk or make noise, but a few of my friends have purchased this microscope for their eager little scientists (ages 3-6) and raved about it, so I thought I’d link it here.  We never purchased one since we received a Brock Magiscope as a gift and that was a good scope to grow up with and even keep for the grandkids, but I did snap one of these up for my 3 y.o. nephew along with these binoculars.

 

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The Squishy Human Body from Smart Lab was brought in by a family in our Classical Conversations Co-op and it was such a hit! My youngest was absolutely fascinated and loved that the pieces were flexible instead of hard plastic. (At time of posting it’s nearly 50% off!)

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This organ apron is crazy cool and perfect for a little one interested in health and the  human body.

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This frog dissection kit has received a lot of love in our home and has held up extremely well!

 

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A subscription to MEL Science for kids 10+. We’ve been getting these Chemistry sets for over a year now and love them!

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Every year the boys ask for beautiful science books. This was one of our favorites.

A nice supply of owl pellets
-membership to the science museum

 

For the Engineers:

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We have loved using Snap Circuits for many years. They are currently on sale at time of posting but they usually have a good deal on these a few times leading up to Christmas. Snap Circuits is a wonderful stepping stone to more advanced kinds of kit.

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Magformers have been our go to for many years. (I’ve linked one kit, but be sure to check out the others!) The larger kits are pricey but every holiday season they go on sale, often up to 40% off. Its a good one to keep an eye on.  We have a large basket of these in the classroom just for play during study hours. They’ve been a great tool for us and very helpful during geometry lessons too.

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My boys love LEGO. My favorite LEGO lines is the Lego Technic series. With kits starting at $15, these sets are all about engineering gears and mechanical pieces. The boys are always thrilled to build their little working machines. The Power Functions Motor Kit is a wonderful option for kids that want to tinker and create their own machines.

 

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The Keva brand is another excellent option for creative building. This set is designed for building all sorts of contraptions and lends itself easily to free play.

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-Their own toolsunnamed-2

-A trip to Home Depot for PVC Pipes or wood or whatever it is they need to create things.  Let them make a big mess in your backyard. If you’re blessed with a Grandpa, ask him to come over and build a trebuchet or a trellis with your child. Let them get their hands dirty and full of blisters and cuts. Those with tinkering minds need time and room to fiddle and practice.

 

 

 

 

Storytellers & Bookworms Christmas Guide

 

Near and dear to my heart!! Here is a list for the storytellers and bookworms out there…

For the blossoming storyteller…

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Blank Hardback Books

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A colorful collection of journals

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A simple voice recorder for kids with dysgraphia, dyslexia, other writing difficulties or kids that simply want a place to quickly record ideas.

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Blank Comic Books are always a hit here in our home! Oh, the possibilities!

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Story Cubes

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This fantastic storytelling game

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A corkboard to use as a story board for laying out the direction of a story.

 

And now for the Bookworms…

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This rechargeableLED booklight (with eye care light setting) gives us 60 hours of reading per charge.

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My boys inhaled the fabulous Wilderking series by Jonathan Rogers. I’m planning on posting more about them soon. For now, I’ll simply say that they read through these books in just a couple of weeks. Then they listened to the audible recordings (perfomed by the author) and were absolutely enthralled. These stories sparked hours of outdoor play, adventure, drawings, reenactments, weapon making and reasearch on animal tracks, bogs and swamps.

 

Here are a few other books and series I’m heartily recommending….

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Now you might be tempted to think of these shorter books by SD Smith as just something to tide kids over till the next installment of the Green Ember series releases, but make no mistake, the adventures of Jo Shanks are highly anticipated stories here in our home and receive just as much fanfare as the central stories produce. A few weeks ago at co-op, I overheard my boys and their friends in heated discussion about The First Fowler and Ember’s End (releasing in 2020) and the anticipation is high for both stories! First Fowler releases on the 16th of December and we are counting down the days!

 

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For kids that love stories like Homer Price or Andrew Henry’s Meadow, check out the delightful Mad Scientists Club series by Bertrand Brinley (brought back into print by Purple House Press). Oh, how much laughter these stories have brought into our home. Its ushered in some pretty rascally ideas too!

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The Alvin Fernald series is in a similar vein and quite delightful. (Check out Alvin and the Secret Code if you have a child partial to mystery stories!)

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One of our favorite graphic novel series is the exceptional Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. The 9th book in the series was released on December 3rd and all four of my boys are hoping to unwrap it on December 25th. (We also love Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes and Asterix the Gaul).

 

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Lastly, one of our favorite stories from earlier this spring, Sir Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. My boys connected with the wildly imaginative Henry and were thrilled by all the shout outs to other greta books in the story.

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Chefs, Gardeners & Artists Christmas Guide

Time for our next Christmas Guide— Chefs, Gardeners & Artists

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***Please remember that I do not buy all of these things for my children. Nope. Not even close.***

 

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Opinel Kids Set: we’ve had these tools for several years and they have held up beautifully. Most of the boys have graduated to bigger knives now when they cook, but the younger ones still use and love these (ages 7 & 9). If you want an extra layer of safety, these cut resistant gloves work well!

 

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Raddish kids: We have greatly enjoyed this cooking subscription kit for the last three years. They’re running a Black Friday Subscription deal right now that looks wonderful!

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-Books about cooking and/or foraging. One of my boys will find this one under the tree this year since he’s been asking for more foraging recipe books. We’re hoping to get him plugged in with a local forager that can help provide guidance, further instruction, and help us forage safely. One of our favorite cookbooks for kids is Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen

-A gift card to your local grocery store for ingredients!

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  • Gummy Bear molds– If you make your own elderberry syrup at home you can use a recipe to make elderberry gummies! These also make adorable chocolate toppings to put on ice cream.

 

 

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Real gardening tools go a long way in fostering a love of gardening. The plastic sets never last long, are cumbersome to use, and often make the work even more difficult. Check into finding a set of real tools that are child size and easy to wield.

 

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Gardening gloves that fit well! We love leather ones like this pair. Make sure to pay attention to sizing.

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Sturdy hand tools. At the time of posting, these were 56% off.

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A beautiful Garden Journal from my friend, Alice Cantrell over at Twig and Moth.

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A lovely book for families who garden together.

 

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An art easel. Find an option that really works for your space and your child’s age. Always consider storage!

 

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A super pack of canvases! or if water colors are there medium of choice, consider getting a pack of water color paper instead of a spiral bound notebook since you get a bit more bang for the buck when its loose leaf!

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There are so many kits out there with quick drying clay! We love using this medium for projects.

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A desk that fits and can grow with them. (this one has all sort of adjustments that can be made to get the most optimal position for your child to work.

 

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Nice water colors in travel kit form for nature days.

 

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Nature Nerds & Wild Explorers Christmas Guide

Its about that time of year again!!! We’re kicking off our annual Christmas Guides with one for the Nature Nerds & Wild Explorers out there.

***Please remember that I do not buy all of these things for my children. Nope. Not even close.***

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1.  KANKEN: We are big fans of these Kanken backpacks. Each of the boys has one and they have survived numerous road trips, plane trips and nature hikes. They’ve been fully submerged in ocean water, caught in torrential downpours and hoisted up trees and probably even a few rooftops. These little packs are scrappy and easy to clean. We haven’t had to buy new backpacks since investing in these.

If you go for the nature pack, here are some useful items to place inside…

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– Rite in the Rain: These little waterproof notebooks are the best. Yes, they really are waterproof. I’ve accidentally sent them through the laundry a time or two and they came out looking perfect! The boys have used them for a few years now and they come in handy on nature hikes. They also use them for all their rascally boy plans and carry them on all out outings.

 

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– A compact knot tying kit. 
-A Swiss Army Knife
Specimen cases (this size has met the majority of our needs)
Survival bracelet or even a kit (Survival Kit)
-A small microfiber travel towel (always hands on water exploration days!)

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-a little inspirational reading material
-a bush craft guide
slingshot and a bag of dried beans for practice.
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-the best and loudest whistle out there (it saved our bacon once or twice!)
Binoculars
-a life straw
Bug Loupe
a hammock
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This may sound terribly obvious, but just in case….

You can also gift them climate appropriate adventure gear for your area. We bought wet suits this year and the boys loved getting to snorkel in the colder channels near the mangroves in early spring. Rain boots or jackets, thicker coats, wet suits, breathable shirts, wherever you life, consider getting one solid set of adventure gear for the kids.

 

 

Other Nature Nerd Gifts…

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2. Catch and Release Aquarium has been a faithful companion on all our greatest beach adventures.

 

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3. Window Bird Feeders. Oh the joy!

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4. Tell the kids you’ll be studying nature all year long! Thats a gift on so many levels.

5. Nature Books

6. Already in a nature group? Consider making a Shutterfly book or other scrapbook for your children, filled with photos of all your adventures. Decorate with stickers or have the group sign each other’s books. Children love these kinds of mementos.

7. Nature themed Board Games
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-Bug Bingo  (or Bird Bingo)
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-Match a Pair of Birds

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Butterfly Wings Matching Game

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8. A little adventure in your own backyard…

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9. Family Memberships to a zoo, botanical garden, science museum etc.

10. Plan a special road trip to a nearby national park! (Did you know that 4th graders have a special offer from National Parks? Check it out!)

Last but not least….

Subscribe to Wild Explorers! My boys loved going through the Wild Explorers adventure club program, earning badges and completing assignments. The monthly magazine is still a highlight each month!

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** Affiliate Links are used in this guide**

A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Quarter 3

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Yes, we use affiliate links!

We are weeks away from the midpoint of our Cycle 2 study. The boys have worked hard and we are all hungry for rest. The last few months our homeschool life has been turned upside down with the introduction of multiple therapies, intakes, etc. Some weeks we find ourselves sitting in waiting rooms dreaming of this….

and grappling with the reality of this…

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But the flexibility of homeschooling has been a gift to us and we certainly made the most of it this year. The boys learned what kind of work to pack while their little brother has his appointments. They trained themselves to get the base work done so that when we return home we can get cozy and read or have conversations or do the other things that just can’t be done in a waiting room.  I recently wrote an article for Wild + Free called “Wild + Free in the Waiting Room.” You can find it in their newly released HAVEN bundle.

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I’m getting a little misty-eyed realizing that this boy has a mere two quarters left in Foundations and Essentials. He’ll be off to Challenge A next year. I’ll be sharing a post soon about how we are preparing ourselves (and prepping our toolbox of Dyslexia tools) for next year. But first, we need to tackle quarter 3 of Cycle 2! I usually don’t plan for this quarter until the first week of January, but I could use a little book list cheer right about now, so here we go!

ART (WEEKS 13-18)
Rembrandt by Mike Venezia
Rembrandt’s Life of Christ
What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? by Richard Muhlberger
Thomas Gainsborough cards
Bijou, Bonbon and Beau: The Kittens Who Danced for Degas by Joan Sweeney
Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt
Edgar Degas by Mike Venezia
Dancing with Degas by Julie Merberg (Board book!)
What Makes a Degas a Degas? by Richard Muhlberger
I dreamed I was a ballerina by Anna Pavlova
Edgar Degas: Dance Like a Butterfly by Angela Wenzel
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork
Monet Paints a Day by Julie Danneberg
A Picnic with Monet  by Julie Merberg (Board book!)
Claude Monet by Mike Venezia
The Magical Garden of Clause Monet by Laurence Anholt
Van Gogh by Mike Venezia
Van Gogh and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt
Vincent’s Colors

 

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Week 13

Science:
Moonshot by Brian Flocca
Team Moon: How 400,00 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
If you decide to go to the Moon by Faith McNulty
Daring Dozen by Suzanne Slade
A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade
Hidden Figures by Margaret Shetterly
Mercury 6 Mission by Helen Zelon

Math:
Pastry School in Paris by Cindy Nueschwander
Room for Ripley by Stuart Murphy
For Good Measure by Ken Robbins
Millions to Measure by David Schwartz
Me and the Measure of Things by Joan Sweeney
Capacity by Henry Pluckrose

History:
Crossing on Time by David Macaulay
Steam, Smoke and Steel by Patrick O’Brien
All About Famous Inventors and Their Inventions by Fletcher Pratt
Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop
Kids at Work by Russell Freedman
Timeline
Prince Henry the Navigator by Leonard Everrett Fischer
Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
A Book of Discovery by MB Synge
The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz
Henry the Navigator by Charnan Simon
The Kidnapped Prince: The Story of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano
African Beginnings by James Haskins
Fine Print by Joann Burch
Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce
Ink on His Fingers by Louise A Vernon
The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster
The Royal Diaries: Isabel: Jewel of Castilla by Carolyn Meyer
Blood Secret by Kathryn Lansky

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Week 14
Science
What is the World Made Of by Kathleen Zoehfield
A Drop of Water by Walter Wick

 

Math
Measuring Penny by Loreen Leady
How Long or How Wide by Brian Cleary
Inch by Inch by Leo Leoni
How Tall, How Short, How Far Away? by David Adler

History
Where Poppies Grow: A World War 1 Companion by Linda Granfield
In Flanders Field by Linda Granfield
Rags, Hero Dog of World War 1 by Margot Raven
Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepherd
Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood: A World War 1 Tale (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales) by Nathan Hale

Timeline
Columbus by D’Aulaire
Courage and Conviction by Mindy and Brandon Withrow
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
-Chp 19-26 The Reformation
Peter the Great by Diane Stanley
The World of William Penn by Genevieve Foster (Absolute Monarchs)
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
Johann Sebastian Bach by Mike Venezia
Sebastian Bach by Opal Wheeler
Becoming Bach by Tom Leonard

 

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Week 15

Science
Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Bradley
Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Bradley

Math
Think Metric! by Franklyn Branley

History
Where Poppies Grow: A World War 1 Companion by Linda Granfield
In Flanders Field by Linda Granfield
Rags, Hero Dog of World War 1 by Margot Raven
Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepherd
Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood: A World War 1 Tale (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales) by Nathan Hale

Timeline
The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster
Jamestown, New World Adventure by James E Knight
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Sara Morton’s Day by Kate Waters
Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
-Chp 31 Jonathan Edwards
-Chp 32 George Whitfield
-Chp 33 John Wesley
-Chp 34 John Newton
Adventures from the Bay by Clifford Wilson
Hearts and Minds: Chronicles of the Awakening Church by  Mindy and Brandon Withrow
The Arts by Hendrick Van loon

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Week 16
Science
Isaac Newton: Physics for Kids by Kerrie Hoolihan
Newton and Me by Lynne Mayor
Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion by Andrea Gianopolus
Isaac Newton by John Hudson Tiner

Math
Squares, Rectangles and other Quadrilaterals by David Adler

History
** I have included books that directly correlate to the history sentence and several living books that are set during World War 2. (*) denotes a book that would work well for younger students.
Victory in the Pacific by Albert Marrin
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolen (*)
Hannah’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx (*)
The Little Ships by Louise Borden
The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
The Greatest Skating Race by Louise Borden
The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum
Hiroshima by Laurence Yep
Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy
House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert De Jong
The Avion my Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hunter
Twenty and Ten by Claire Bishop


Timeline
George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster
Story of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 14 James Cook
George Washington by Cheryl Harness
George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz
The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
Stories of America Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
–Chp 16-22 Revolutionary War
–Chp 23 Voyage of Our Ship of State (Constitution)
–Chp 25 America Grows (Lewis and Clark)

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Week 17
Math
Sam’s Sneaker Squares by Nat Gabriel
Perimeter, Area and Volume by David Adler
Square by Mac Barnett

Science
Isaac Newton: Physics for Kids by Kerrie Hoolihan
Newton and Me by Lynne Mayor
Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion by Andrea Gianopolus
Isaac Newton by John Hudson Tiner

History
A Boy Named FDR by Kathleen Krull
Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Janet Benge (Plenty of information on Hitler’s rise to power)
Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill by Stephen Mansfield
Franklin and Winston A Christmas that Changed the World by Douglas Wood

Timeline

The Story of Napoleon by HE Marshall
The Year of the Horseless Carriage by Genevieve Foster
Story of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 16-19 Napoleon
-Chp 20 Bolivar the Liberator
Stories of America Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 27 How the English and the Americans Fought Again
The Town that Fooled the British by Lisa Papp

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Week 18
Math
Triangle by Marc Barnett
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
Triangles by David Adler

History
The United Nations Website
Declaration of the Rights of the Child
History of the United Nations
VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP
Timeline
Stories of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 25 Commodore Perry Opens the Door to Japan
Stories of America Volume 2 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 1 Heading West on the Oregon Trail
-Chp 3 The Sad Story of Slavery
Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornelian
Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
Charles Darwin by Jennifer Thermes
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shoguns by Rhoda Blumberg

Nature Study Book & Supply List

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When I first sat down to compile this list it was quite dark outside. The crickets were still busy with their evening symphonies and the bravest birds were just beginning to rouse. My favorite part of the day. The small stretch of minutes when night and day mingle a bit. I sit at my desk and look out the window at the large bougainvillea, elephant ear palms and gorgeous patch of ripening beauty berry just in front of me. Within an hour of the sun’s rising I have been visited by several small cuban tree frogs, roused from their amphibious dreams by a frolicking dog,  and a wide array of birds. Our resident Mockingbird came bouncing past at a quarter before 7, trilling as loudly and obnoxiously as possible. A pair of cardinals came to check on the ripening beauty berry and brought a smile to my face when I beheld their mischievous flirtations and listened to their calls, which have always reminded me of a car alarm.  The ibis will soon fly by over the water and within minutes the dragonflies will all appear as if from nowhere and begin their day long hovering over the farm in search of mosquitos. Now everything within the window frame is tipped in that radiant morning gold and there is an abundance of noises in the form of chirps, calls, buzzings, croaks, and the tell tale rustling of leaves from the black racers darting out to find a patch of warm sunshine. Nature study, even just by peering out the window, has such a miraculous power to refresh and restore, simply by being itself and pointing to the Creator.

 

Sometimes we venture out doors and enjoy the incredibly rich and varied nature study opportunities here in South Florida. Some days (mostly unbearably hot summer days), we open a book and enjoy nature in other part of the world that way.

 

 

These are some of the books, mostly non fiction, that we have enjoyed during our Nature Study time over the years. I know this list is quite large and it may seem alarming that I said “some.” Keep in mind, you don’t need all these books. Remember: 1) I rescue books and have a large collection of out of print books from the golden age of children’s literature. I have not included out of print books in this list. (See ** at the end of the post) 2) I have a child that is passionate about nature study and has procured quite an extensive collection of his own over the last half decade of birthdays, Christmas and end of year gifts.

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Books to help inspire Mamas towards more Nature Study:
The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (Thank you Terri for recommending this one!)
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Core Resources:
Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.
Lynn Seddon’s Exploring Nature with Children (I had mine printed and bound at OfficeDepot and will be using it for many, many years)
Lynn Seddon also has journals available here and here.
Phrenology Wheels

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References We’ve used and loved:
The Naturalist’s Notebook: Observation and Five Year Journal by Nathaniel Wheelwright
Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Walker Leslie
The Curious Nature Guide by Claire Walker Leslie
The Nature Connection by Claire Walker Leslie”
Julia Rothman Collection

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The Laws Guide to Drawing and Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws
The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws
Watercolor with Me in the Forest by Dana Fox
(Watercolor with Me in the Ocean by Dana Fox -releasing November 12, 2019!!)

Nature Journals to love and imitate:
Drawn to Nature: Through the Journals of Claire Walker Leslie by Claire Walker Leslie

Nature Journals for the little kids:
Nature Journal by Alice Cantrell

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Guides for more sophisticated Venturing Out:
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

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Take Along Guides:
Tracks, Scats and Signs by Leslie Dendy
Trees, Leaves and Bark by Diane Burns
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring
Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies by Mel Boring
Fun With Nature by Mel Boring
Wildflowers Blooms and Blossoms by Diane Burns
Berries, Nuts and Seeds by Diane Burns

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Frogs, Toads and Turtles by Diane Burns
Snakes, Salamanders and Lizards by Diane Burns
Rabbits, Squirrels and Chipmunks by Mel Boring
Seashells Crabs and Sea Stars by Christine Tibbetts
Rocks, Fossils and Arrowheads by Laura Evert

One Small Square Series by Donald Silver
Woods
Backyard
Cactus Desert
Swamp
Seashore
Night Sky
Cave
Pond
Tropical Rain Forest 
Arctic Tundra
Coral Reef
African Savana 

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Biomes
What is a Biome? by Bobbie Kalman
A Walk in the Deciduous Rain Forest by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Tundra by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Desert by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Prairie by Rebecca L johnson
A Walk in the Rain Forest by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Boreal Forest by Rebecca L Johnson

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Bird Study for Littles
Mama built a Nest by Jennifer Ward
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring
Feathers, Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
What Makes a Bird a Bird? by Mary Garelick
A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sills
The Bird Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta
Feathers for Lunch by Lois Elhert
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W Burgess
Beaks! by Sneed B. Colard III
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston
Birdsong by Audrey Wood
Our Yard is Full of Birds by Anne Rockwell
Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell

Ocean Study
Picture Book List: Beaches and Oceans

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ON THE SPOT SUPPLIES
I know I’ve blogged before about what we keep in our nature packs and even made a Christmas Guide for outfitting an Explorer pack, but these are a few Nature Study basics we keep in our packs to help us study things we find.
Small plastic Container Boxes for keeping nature finds intact. (Those cicada moldings will crumble to bits without these! ha!)
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Plastic gloves for handling bones
Plastic bags for storing said bones
Tweezers
Rite in the Rain Journals (Small field journals for quick note taking, totally water proof!)

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Footprints: Boy and Ibis

***There are many fantastic living nature books out there that are sadly out of print. You might be able to find a few in the $30-$40 but most have shot much higher in the last few years. If you are yearning to find some great living books from that golden age of children’s literature, check here to see if you have a living library near you.