Tuesday, September 23, 2008

birthday jammin'

And here are some blackberry jam making chronicles.

Dominic is two years old!!! Before we had a chance to serve his football cake, he dug into it... trying to throw a spiral I guess.

Here he is talking to his peeps on his "cell phone" that Grandma got him... she knows him well!

New outfit, also from G-ma!

And my latest mei tai carrier that I made... Steve says it looks like a 50's linoleum floor. Hahaha! Speaking of that! Click on this link and vote for my poem so I can win a Freehand mei tai please!!! I think mine is like the third one down currently. (Just make sure you click the thumb's UP not thumb's DOWN!)


living books

I borrowed the phrase "living books" from the Charlotte Mason philosophy... here's a great little article describing just what a living book is.

The main core of our entire education program at this stage in life is reading great books. I am so indebted to a couple of sources in helping me to understand the role of literature in the formation of a child and I'm thankful for the great, great resource books on this topic that offer fantastic booklists for children. I love reading booklists in general; but there are some specifically great ones that I can count on 100% to offer great titles to read to the children. The library or school may have booklists and such but they aren't ALWAYS going to include to best or exclude the worst. That is to say, we read books that reinforce our children's understanding of the moral order of the universe and foster appreciation for what is good, noble and true. There's something so loving about reading a long lovely story with a child cuddled next to you, staring out the window with the wheels in his head turning as he imagines the story unfolding. These reading times do more than serve as a form of 'entertainment'-- they expose the kids to rich vocabulary, they teach them that wonderful adventures take place in books so learning to read is anticipated with greater excitement, and most of all, they build a relationship between us... a bridge of comfort and love that will always be remembered fondly. Reading books will be associated with pleasant thoughts and more than anything, I pray my kids are avid readers and critical thinkers and hungry for truth. If they are booklovers... they can always read their way [back] into the faith. The beauty of our faith is that it relies on knowledge and history and truth. There are no gimmicks. If they can read a book, they can discover for themselves where He who is Truth lives.

Anyway, here is a running list of what we've read... not including the hundreds and hundreds of picture books and regular fairy tales and folk tales. The boys' favorite titles, that have made a lasting impression on them and on their imaginative play, are in bold.

James and the Giant Peach
Charlotte's Web
Stuart Little
The Twits
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Pinocchio (this was much more challenging than I would've suspected!)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
My Father's Dragon
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Farmer Boy

... and now, we are reading a lovely fascinating story by one of the greatest storytellers of yesteryear: George MacDonald. "The Princess and the Goblin." I hadn't even heard of MacDonald until I read Michael O'Brien's fascinating MUST READ FOR ALL CHRISTIAN PARENTS: "A Landscape with Dragons: the battle for your child's mind." (I'm not 100% in agreement with EVERYTHING O'Brien says here (more like 99%) but it opened my eyes to the way I evaluate books) And now, in reading this book, I can really see deeper into what it is that makes one book merely interesting and delightful for the child, and a book that is truly great and exposes children to noble thoughts and thrilling ideas. G.K. Chesterton called this book one that "made a difference to my whole existence." And so far the kids are enthralled. (Well goblins will do that to any little boy!)
On another note: we just received the most wonderful craft book! I've looked through a dozen different arts/craft books for kids but most were "same ol', same ol' " or just kind of uninspiring. But author Kathy Ross has hit a goldmine with her seasonal crafting books. We have "Crafts to Make in the Fall" and hope to get all of her other season craft books too. I just love the way the book is laid out. I was surprised at first at how thin the book was... only 30 crafts or so. But they are fun, and rather simple and with great illustrations. And they are original too! So this has been a pleasure...

Monday, September 8, 2008

first week of school

While other children were boarding the big yellow bus on their way to the classrooms, we started our lessons here at Sacred Heart Academy also. But it is troublesome, I admit, trying to answer questions about curriculum and such. As it is, there's not a nice tidy box we fit in with our homeschooling philosophies. We are life learners. Classical, Charlotte Mason influenced, unschoolers? Hmmm. And I'm not so arrogant as to pretend we have everything set in stone for the next 12 years. We're taking it a day at a time, a child at a time... and the more we read and the more we experience, the more fine tuning will be done to our home education goals.

Right now I can tell you that I'm heavily influenced by a couple thinkers for this period in our lives: John Holt and Charlotte Mason. Add to these names the more than a dozen other education and philosophy and homeschooling books I've read, and I'm beginning to get a pretty clear idea of what I want to accomplish here. Thankfully, Steve is behind me 100% on all of this and entrusts these 'curriculum' decisions to me. Ultimately the goal is clear:

  • I want to inspire in them a love of learning and the know-how to learn absolutely anything they want to learn. (Light a fire rather than fill a bucket concept here.)
  • I want to form their characters in a way that glorifies God and equips them with the proper understanding of who they are and who they are meant to be.
  • I want to give them the resources they need to accomplish that.
Everything else is gravy so long as we keep the ultimate goal in mind. Reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.... these all fall easily under the above umbrella when introduced to the children in the proper way.
So we aren't homeschooling because we think our academics will be superior (even though, they will be.)

We aren't homeschooling because we want to shelter them from bad influences (even though proper formation will occur more readily in a home environment).

We aren't homeschooling to be religious zealots (even though we'll get to avoid the artificial separation of God and other subjects).

We are homeschooling because it is more than an education at home idea... it is a lifestyle that we want to cultivate.

Seeing how Xavier is now six years old, we've gotten plenty of comments and questions about "What are you guys doing for school?" Or "Are you starting homeschooling with him this fall?"

Frankly, we've started homeschooling him since birth. Remember... it's a holistic lifestyle, not just an abrupt termination of fun and play for an introduction to desks and worksheets. So I don't really know how to answer those people. I'm not of the opinion that Kindergarteners need any kind of fancy curriculum. What he needs is a lot of books, large muscle movement, books, meaningful play, books, real life interactions with different people, books, meaningful work, books, casual nature observation, oh and books.

So THAT is my homeschooling plan for this year. Just this week at 'school' we accomplished a lot. I'm so thankful that we have the freedom to do these things:

We played on the foggy west beach, throwing rocks in the water.

  • We researched and made a big pinata for Xavier's birthday.

We baked and decorated a monster cake.

We went on a hike in the woods with Papa.

We're reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Farmer Boy."

  • We've been reading lots of picture books.

We went to the Open House at the Fire Department where the boys got to crawl in and out of the engines and fire boat, see a Jaws of Life demonstration, meet lots of great firefighters.

We played legos (always a serious subject).

We went to "K4J" kid's club at church.

And we're still on the hunt for a good piano instructor for Xavier.

So life is good. Tomorrow we'll do some copywork, go berry picking... and of course, read books.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the kitchen

So I don't have any great "before" pictures so we'll have to make do. Suffice it to say that this was the original 1957 kitchen with built in wood cubboards. None had tall enough shelves to hold a box of cereal... it was the ideal canned foods kitchen. Ugly, wierd pull-out drawers, an entirely rotted floor, so we had to rip all the way down to the sub-floor. A wall oven that couldn't fit some of my cookie trays, and definitely not a large turkey... unusable space; poor layout. Junky, pink laminate coutertop, gorged out, degraded lineoum floor that still looked filthy even when it was clean.

So pretty much anything would be an improvement. Steve has done a fantastic job and he's been working so hard on this for the past 6 weeks. I married a good man. We are at the point now where it's not quite finished... (there are some detailing things to do like base boards, transition pieces, paint touch-up etc.) but it's functional and I suspect the details will happen once they HAVE to happen (i.e., when we get ready to sell the house.) But I am pleased and so... here are some pics of the journey:

The closest thing I could find to a before picture, too bad you can't see the floor:

This is Steve's buddy Brian who traded lots of man-hours in help for many suppers and some beer.

Xavier learning the trade:

"You might be a redneck if you hook up your dishwashing machine to the hose in the backyard during a kitchen remodel."

Steve, The Perfectionist.

And the results!

I have a full-size oven range! I can't wait for Thanksgiving!

Look at this gorgeous (kid-mess friendly) ceramic tile we put in:

So, it's still a tiny kitchen, but it's no longer the wart of the house... it's officially "quaint" and a pleasure to be in!

One of the final touches, this lovely pewter hardware we sprung for: