What Are We Learning? Form 2A and 2B

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When Mouse and Buggle were younger, I schooled them as if they were twins for the most part. Last year it became clear that they needed to move away from each other in pursuits and expectations both in academics and in life in general!  Boys and girls just mature differently and when you throw in their particular learning quirks and differences in interests they really need a year or two to do things on their own!

Since I don’t really want to teach five separate versions of everything every day- I’ve combined Mouse and Bull in some subjects and Bull and Buggle in others so that each has about an hour of work that they are the only student for and the rest is done with someone else (sometimes with the older child teaching the younger as they learn together).

Form 2A- Bull

Bull is 8.5 this year, and is moving into more and more independent learning with me just providing a framework and help as needed. He is capable of incredible focus and diligence but is somewhat lacking in confidence, so we are working on being willing to try something before wailing about it.  He still has some trouble with speech and articulation but Memory work and recitation is helping with that quite a bit.

On His Shelf:

I organized the children’s books on individual shelves this year, with the older children being able to read anything on the younger children’s shelves as “free reads” and no one reading above their own shelf.

Bull’s shelves have a mix of history, natural history, and free reads:

History:

Looking at Ancient History – R. J. Unstead

Ancient Construction- Michael and Mary Woods

Famous Men of Greece

Famous Men of Rome- Both from Greenleaf Press

A Picture History of Ancient Rome- Richard Erdoes

In Foreign Lands- Beth Hughson and Oda Gostick

Life in the Ancient World- Bart Winer

Nature and Science:

The Secret Life of the Forest- Richard M. Ketchum

A Picture Book of Nature- Samuel Nisenson

Rocks and Dirt – Ellen McHenry

The Story of Soil- Dorothy Holmes Allen

Free Reads-

The House of Sixty Fathers- Meindert DeJong

The Hittite Warrior- Joanne Williamson

The Aeneid for Boys and Girls- Alfred Church

The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy

The Golden Fleece- both by Padraic Collum

Theras and His Town- Caroline Dale Snedecker

Herodotus and the Road to History- Jeanne Bendick

Catechism and Religious Education

Baltimore Catechism No 1- He is doing about 1 chapter every 2 weeks, so there is plenty of time to memorize as well as read and answer the study questions.

Two Lives of Saints:

Saint Anthanasius- F. A. Forbes

Augustine- The Farmer’s Boy of Tagaste- P. De Zeeuw

and in order to help him understand the Mass more fully:

The Saints Who Pray With Us in The Mass- Archbishop Amleto Cicognani

Math is MEP Book 3 which I expect him to finish around Christmas time, and then move into Book 4 .

Latin is the last third or so of Song School Latin 2. He should finish that around Christmas as well and will begin Latin for Children Book A.

Music is covered by a piano lesson at co-op and singing during Morning Time. That is a very hard subject for him, since his ear is not terribly developed, but he enjoys singing and is gradually becoming more tuneful!

Memory is done for 15 minutes every day. This year I have given him a collection of poems like Jabberwocky which appeal to his sense of humor and fun and are fairly short as he does better with a quick payoff for the effort.

Fourth-Grade-Memory-Work.pdf (154 downloads)

 

At this point in his school career, he does most of his lessons on his own, with the exception of math where he needs some encouragement in confidence and occasionally an actual explanation of a concept. Latin also requires a fair bit of input from me as he hasn’t quite gotten his mind around the how of learning a language and gets frustrated quickly. I spend about 30 minutes with him on those two subjects and then another 15-20 during the history block to listen to his narrations and give dictations.

Finally, he is taking Geology at co-op (I’m teaching using Ellen McHenry’s Rocks and Dirt which I highly recommend). He’s also taking a geography class based on the Holling C. Holling book, Seabird.

Altogether his learning this year is full of interests and creativity as well as the foundational work that will set him up for new interests and creative endeavors in future years.

Mouse is my Form 2B student but as this post is already quite long, I think I’ll have to publish a Part B!

 

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What Are We Learning?: Preschool and Form 1

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Two weeks into this term of school and I wanted to share a bit about what the three and six year old are learning and will be learning.

Our terms run for twelve weeks so this is what I have planned for the fall- since Advent is a holiday season for us as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child.

Practical Life:

Daisy is now 3 and Jack is 6 which means that they can both participate in some of the same lessons. Three to six is a common age range in a Montessori classroom and I’m trying to implement many of the same lessons in practical life.

A big one is having them learn to cooperatively make their own snack about mid-morning. The big kids have lessons from 8:45-12:30 most days which makes lunch much too late for the little guys without a substantial snack. Last year I was able to stop teaching for a bit and make something for them- but this year I don’t have that luxury and with a little bit of work done before lessons start, they really can do it themselves.

During my kitchen work in the morning I prepare a tray:

I usually try to focus on one set of fine motor skills each week. In September they are working on cutting up cucumbers and other vegetables for dipping one week, and spreading the next. This was a spreading tray. They had lukewarm tea for their drink which I did have to pour as I need to get a teapot of the right size for them.  Yes, most of the sugar was eaten with a spoon!

I put the tray in the toy kitchen area of the kitchen.

After they are done with lessons and (usually) have gone outside for a bit, they come in and prepare their snack.

I do have to keep a little ear out for quarrels, but they generally do a decent job of setting things out, eating, and clearing the things back onto the tray.

The next step is to give a cleaning work of wiping the table and sweeping or mopping the floor. Daisy and I need to visit the local thrift store for a small bucket and I need to replace the child sized broom we had as the last one met an untimely demise!

There is a great sense of accomplishment in feeding themselves and cleaning up, and this is a better time for them to practice those skills than when one of the big kids is cooking breakfast or I am making supper and supervising my 4:30 Workers at the same time!

Other practical life work:

Jack has six regular chores every day:

  1. empty the trashcans
  2. empty the compost
  3. take out the recycling
  4. put away any shoes
  5. put away the prayer books and hymnals after Morning Prayer
  6. clean up his school things

Daisy generally jumps in and helps him or tries to beat him to some of the jobs. She is in a very orderly phase right now so we are trying to build good habits while they are still a pleasant desire of hers.

Additionally, I give her pouring practice or other practical life work while Jack is doing his more academic lessons.

Read Alouds

This year we are trying to get most of Jack’s lessons done before Morning Time at 8:45. The Form 2 kids (Bull in 2A and Mouse in 2B) need a bit more of my attention at the moment and Buggle (Form 3) has hit that stage of study in which we need to discuss what he is reading in some depth (so much fun by the way, this is why I teach the children to read!) so it really helps the flow if Jack is done by 9:30 or 9:45.

The little children and I gather at about 7:15 for Catechism, Memory, and Reading, first me to them and then Jack to us.

This shelf is full of the books we are reading this year. I generally read from a couple of different selections for 3-5 minutes apiece giving the children the opportunity to narrate back to me after each selection. Currently we are reading an Aesop Fable or two each day, a little chapter book called Three Boys and a Tugboat that I picked up at a book sale, The Book of Insects from Memoria Press, and then Jack reads to us from his Rod and Staff First Grade Reader and the little plaid storybooks that go along with that curriculum. They take turns narrating, Daisy first usually and the Jack fills in what she didn’t get or what he thinks was more important.

Table Work

Jack’s table work this term is mostly phonics, reading, and MEP (the math curriculum from the Math Enhancement Project)  He is flying through Book 1 in MEP and will start Book 2 in January. Two pages a day and he has a good grasp of how numbers interact with each other and can regroup by addition and subtraction with relative ease. We didn’t really practice much over the summer and while he is slightly slower than he was in the spring, he hasn’t really lost any of the concepts he learned.

Once or twice a week we also do some notebook work on Insects since that is his great love and science/nature study for the year. Daisy and he frequently go out looking for specimens to bring in a play with for a while before releasing them again. We are beginning to learn the songs for Song School Latin 1 then next term we will start to work in the book.

During Morning Time he finishes whatever writing he hasn’t done already- usually handwriting and some copying in phonics or reading, and works on coloring whatever picture he is working on for the week.

He also spends a little time each week updating his notebook for the Animals: Their Lives and Homes class he is taking at our co-op.

This is a MEP exercise in figuring out how many cubes are actually in a stack of blocks if you can’t see all of them in the drawing.

Daisy is doing MEP Reception this year, and is so pleased to be doing the book that she watched Jack finish last year. We only do it a couple of times a week (all that is planned for in the curriculum) but it is neat to watch her mind expanding.

Like most preschoolers with older siblings doing school she wants table work too, so we are slowly working our way through the Pathway and Rod and Staff Preschool books. No rush, and we don’t work every day. The other great thing is dot-to-dots at the moment, and I was very happy to find this book of simple ones from Dover Publications.

It is a fairly rich diet but only takes about an hour and a half or so. The rest of the morning is spent outdoors, in the sandbox, or hunting insects, or if the weather is really bad in the basement play area. They play very nicely together about 80% of the time, and I’m trying to work on having audiobooks or little craft projects available for the times when they need a bit of a break from the high intensity of their play.

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Are You Savouring Your “Tiny Moments”? Do You Know Where To Find Them?

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This past summer has been hard for so many of us! Long, hot, and filled with turmoil at home, in the political scene, and for us, Catholics, in our church as allegations and accusations fly. We are about to begin … Continue reading

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Creativity and Covenant- The Theme Of The Year

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Over the summer I had the opportunity to spend some time reading and thinking about life in general and about how to approach what I think of as the “middle years”.  Here we are in many ways past the “household of small children keep your head above water” stage and entering into a time of slowly relaxing the reins and going beyond direct instruction to help the children develop what they have been taught into internal habits and principles of self-discipline.

That’s a major transition in thinking and interacting for all of us and at the same time the younger ones still need that direct instruction, consistent application of consequences (good and bad) and plenty of foundation laying.  The questions cycle in my mind: how to balance the needs of the younger and the needs of the older? How to develop an environment that is neither too childish nor too mature? Where are the checks and balances? How do we all walk towards Christ and holiness in a daily way?

I’ve been reading and reading and thinking and thinking and in that pursuit came to two books: one an old favorite and one a new discovery that I have been taking in in small doses with much pondering.

The old favorite is Edith Schaeffer’s What is a Family?  and the new book is Sofia Cavaletti’s Religious Potential of the Child (6-12 Years Old) . Both books speak about the importance of teaching and living an authentic religious life with children, of helping them preserve and expand on the wonder that they understand as young children as they grow into adults.

Edith Schaeffer talks in particular of the way that the family serves as a micropicture of God in His various attributes, a place where people can develop godliness together through work and play and a place where creativity is nurtured. She explains that as human beings made in God’s image we have an inborn desire for beauty and creativity and that as we function within God’s covenant of a family we are able to spark one another and encourage one another through great disappointments and great triumphs. What a wonderful picture and inspiration to family life!

Sofia Cavaletti expands on that theme to speak specifically of how the older child takes the wonder that they have discovered in being taught about and experiencing God’s love and seeks to categorize it and understand how it all fits together. Where the young child thrives upon such understandings as Christ as the Good Shepherd, or Mary as the Blessed Mother of the Church, the older child wants to understand how what they do and say interacts with what God does and says. The covenants of the Bible and the unfolding of God’s plan in the world at large and for them in particular help them to retain and expand on their own experience of faith and what they have been taught and observe.

So this theme of Creativity and Covenant- how we reflect God and make Him known (Creativity) and how we communicate with God and He with us (Covenant) seems to me to be a theme that all of us can relate to this year.

With that in mind I’ve put some specific plans in motion:

  • More direct instruction using the Baltimore Catechism for the 8, 10, and 11 year olds. This includes memorizing the questions and answers and doing the Scripture reading that goes along with it as well as discussion.
  • Simpler direct instruction for the 3 and 6 year olds using the Baltimore Catechism for First Communion, Kendra Tierney’s My Little Book About Confession, and Maria Montessori’s The Mass Explained For Children. This mostly takes the form of my reading aloud and the little two narrating back.
  • Some specific study of covenantal history during Advent and Lent using a Jesse Tree and some other resources.
  • Time built into our schedule for creative pursuits, both individually during quiet time and as a group during Friday lessons and Advent.
  • Taking time to do creative things myself so that there is a living example of adult creativity.
  • Stepping up our housekeeping game so that clutter and chaos don’t distract from other pursuits.

It’s not easy. In fact I expect, that there will be days when we all just want to throw the whole thing over. That’s part of life- the frustration when the project doesn’t work or others fail to see the beauty we see, or constantly interrupt our concentration. Life sanctifies us if we are willing to grasp that painful, purifying grace.

Will you join us?

Will you post your creative projects and your understandings of covenant using the hashtag #creativityandcovenant?  Fridays are our days for group creative pursuits and I’d love to see what we all can do with this theme.

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Finishing Strong! Individual Student Strengths and Struggles (Free Checklist Download)

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Today’s installment of the Finishing Strong! Series?is all about looking at a particular child’s strengths and struggles and using those to inform curriculum choices and plans for the next year. Strengths can make lessons easy – even too easy at times- and struggles can make every lesson a wrestling match between a child and the material to be mastered or between our children and ourselves! In order to accurately determine what kinds of work we should be asking our children to do, we need to identify their strengths and weaknesses from the physical (motor skills, sensory perceptions) to the purely mental (executive function, language processing ). Some struggles may require professional help, while others simply need a healthy dose of time, patience, and creative instruction.

Home Evaluation

As mother-teachers we often have a sense of our children’s abilities, but it is important to sit down and list them. For one thing, their struggles often loom larger in our minds than reality would indicate and for another many times strengths can be used to offset weaknesses.? We need to the reality check and the guideance to be able to meet each child at his level and come alongside them as they grow.

Homeschooling gives us the freedom to give a child an exercise ball to sit on, spend time reviewing harder concepts, or offer work beyond their “level” in order to meet their interests and motivation in a particular subject.

Professional Services

I spend a good bit of time talking to parents about diagnosable learning struggles and many times I hear that the child has had an issue in an area for years while the parents hoped they would “grow out of it” or where unsure where to look for help. The availability of help varies a good bit from state to state, but state level homeschool organizations will know the law for their state and often have some resources themselves. HSLDA also has special needs councilors and is able to advise on state law.

My general rule for deciding to look for educational services or evaluations is: If the child has struggled in a particular area for 1-2 years and changes in instructional method or curriculum have made little to no difference, then it is time to seek an outside evaluation.

Here are a couple of resources that may be helpful:

The Testing Lady/Sarah Olbris?offers testing and evaluation as well as portfolio review (in Virginia)

Dr. Judi Munday? Testing and evaluation, help with writing individualized student education plans

Using the Student Strengths and Struggles Form

Download the? Student-Strengths-and-Weaknesses-1.pdf (387 downloads) and answer each question as quickly as possible. When marking a “Yes-No-Sometimes” form like this it is important not to overthink the answers. Simply put the answer that comes to mind first even if it makes you or your child “look bad”. We aren’t trying to impress anyone here but to get an accurate snapshot of a student’s typical interactions with their lessons and learning environment. You don’t have to show these to anyone. They are for your information and planning process.

Once you have filled out the form, make a few additional notes:

My child prefers crayons to pencils when coloring.

My child does fine when I read aloud while he is coloring

These kinds of notes may well become the accommodations that you provide in the next school year.

This afternoon I’ll be doing a Facebook Live video at 2 pm. I’ll post the video here afterwards.

Tomorrow we’ll start talking about what all of this means to the plan for the new year!

 

Don’t forget to enter the Giveaway for the Family Pass to the 2018 HEAV Convention

Simply post a comment about how you evaluate your children’s strengths and weaknesses!

 

 

 

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Finishing Strong! Evaluate Before You Plan (Free Evaluation Form Download)

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Before we can begin to plan for the next academic year, we first need to know how the current year went. Evaluation is an important part of any project and homeschooling is no exception. In this context, evaluation takes several forms:

  • Whatever form of evaluation needed to satisfy state homeschooling laws- this make take the form of standardized testing, a portfolio review, or a written progress report or report card. These forms of evaluation are important because they keep us in compliance with state laws, but they often are not that helpful as guides for future planning. They can even be misleading. Children don’t always test well even when they know the material and sometimes they test so well that the test can give an inflated idea of abilities (as when an 8 year old tests as reading at an 11th grade, 5th month level).
  • Some evaluation is informal- the child in question learned to read and completed their phonics curriculum. Good information to have and probably all that needs to be communicated to a grandparent or other concerned person, but not necessarily enough information to indicate what level the child should work at the following year, or where he or she might need additional practice.
  • Written evaluation of each child, for each subject as well as for behavioral or character goals (another post). I use this form? School-Year-Evaluation-Form.pdf (363 downloads) which you can download for your own use. I use one form for each child, briefly listing as points what went well and what was more difficult, or failed utterly!

 

 

Subjects are listed on the side and I write in my thoughts for each one.

 

 

 

 

 

A pattern emerges-

  • anything that requires holding a pencil in hand is harder for this student.
  • Math is going really well and should continue as is
  • I need to build time for lessons with me into the schedule for writing intensive subjects

I’ll do this four more times, then gather those results and start putting together a plan for 2018-2019!

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a Family Pass to the?2018 HEAV Convention!

Simply comment here on a success or a struggle from this past year to enter the giveaway. It ends next Tuesday, May 15th at midnight!

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Finishing Strong to Begin Again Strong!

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This kid is almost “done” for the summer! He has about ten pages of geography left and he took the book upstairs during quiet time so I’m thinking he’ll be done this week.

The others aren’t far behind him. Some subjects are done, others only have a tiny bit more to do. We’ve basically moved to our summer schedule of Morning Time, a few lessons, and household and yard projects in the morning and (hopefully) more “fun” stuff the rest of the day.

Next week I hope to give the house a good cleaning, put away most of the books and finish my evaluation of the past year.

In order to do that evaluation I’m spending some time with our assignment sheets from the past year, my bullet journals with their notes and ideas, my list of needed books ,and the websites of the vendors for the HEAV Convention!

With five children in varying levels from preschool to middle school (and one high school anatomy course) I want to be sure I’m not only covering the basics but setting my students up for high school and college.

Over the next weeks I’ll be posting a series (with helpful downloads) on how to evaluate and plan for a new homeschool year!

Topics:

And as I usually do, I’m giving away a Family Pass to the 2018 HEAV Convention!

Simply comment here on what finishing strong means to you to enter the giveaway. It ends next Tuesday, May 15th at midnight!

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And It Was Summer (or at least time for a summer schedule)

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One of the things that I have learned about myself in eleven years of parenting, is that I am easily distracted and driven off on wild rabbit trails! Any time we have the opportunity to just let things go, I will take it, and I always regret the long term results. Summer is a prime example of this: my heart and mind say ” oh let everything ease up” and the result is chaos. Projects are started and abandoned, children forget the most basic rules, and September is a cruel wrench to everyone’s system.

A couple of years ago I was talking to my mother and discovered that she had the same problem when we were growing up. Anytime she just let things go how they would even the essentials were neglected and she was left feeling like she had done nothing because the dreams of accomplishment she had never turned into executable plans. She said, ” I found I had to schedule the “time off” because otherwise I couldn’t figure out which of the things I wanted to do, I should start with.”

Yup. Me too.

Each year since then, I’ve tried a bit harder to devise a “loose but productive” schedule for our “non-academically focused seasons”.

In Advent, we use the regular lesson hours for hand crafts and gift making. We create special memories as we enjoy the freedom to create within the structure of set hours for that kind of work.

Summer is similar.

I want to spend time enjoying the outdoors during the brief New England summer, yet we also have household projects and some lessons that need to continue lest skills grow rusty. These aims combined with the daily tasks that keep a busy household functioning are the functions that drive our schedule.

Recently I changed our major chore time from the end to the beginning of the day. This simple switch has made lessons and supper prep time more peaceful, so I’m going to keep that in place.

Morning Time is a good pause in our morning to gather, and learn together. We keep it simple: the children color or do a simple craft of their choosing while I read from a book of saints and a chapter of Proverbs. Let’s keep that too, but add in some singing practice and learning of hymns.

Everyone needs to keep up their math skills, so that will come next along with reading practice for the little boys, Anatomy for Mouse since she is enjoying the course so much, and art or a music lesson for those who are ready to learn and willing to practice. Perhaps an hour and a half of lessons on most days.

After that we are free to go visit friends, go to the creek where we like to swim, or go farther afield, perhaps returning in time for a nap for the toddler or staying out until supper time. Other days, we will work on household projects ( I have some bedrooms to paint and there is always yardwork) or do creative stuff at home.

I’m hoping to hire a mother’s helper one morning a week, so I can focus on some much needed office work, but otherwise our days should flow about like this for the most part. A related form to that of our school days but more relaxed and hopefully rejuvenating and refreshing to all.

 

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Finally! Nearing the End!

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Spring has sprung right into summer here in New England! Freezing weather last week and now the children are running around barefoot.

Lessons are nearly over for the “school year” and most days somebody is finished with a subject or two until fall.
I’m in the thick of my yearly wrap-up proceedures- making notes, filing finished work, pulling together the report card I send to the city, and best of all planning what we will do this summer and next year.

I’m making lists of books I need to purchase and books I can probably borrow from the library. I’m trying to remember to update my various computer files so that the next time I need a list of memory work for a 3rd grader I won’t have to hunt down poems! I’m sorting through my bins in the basement to see what I want to sell or give away to make room for new materials, and I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to do some important stuff like uodate this blog!

At this point I think we will be done with everything but math (and reading for the little boys) by the end of next week. I plan to continue math through the summer anyway- the boys are all on a roll with it, so I want to keep that momentum and Mouse is a bit behind where I’d like her to be do to my not realizing that she needed some attention training until a couple of months ago (she can do the work without much trouble but has a hard time staying focused).

Jack and Bull will finish their reading curricula this summer too. Bull because he’s about done with 3rd grade and I don’t typically do a reading curriculum in 4th grade so I want him to be finished, and Jack because he’s just about to really hit the “I can read everything” point and I want him to get there before starting 2nd grade. At this point it’s just a matter of learning a few more blends and phonograms and practicing every day. Doing a lesson a day in his book will get us there so, why not?

I’m planning for my annual trip to Virginia and the Home Educator’s Association Convention?as well as speaking at the Connecticut Homeschool Convention?on the topic of Managing Behavioral and Relationship Challenges with Neurotypical and Non-neurotypical Siblings.

All in all it looks like an exciting? (and busy) summer!

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Of Yearning and Discontent

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discontentThis first week of Lent has hit me hard.? I’m short tempered, discouraged and fairly certain that we are going to be going around in the same old circles for the next million years.

Rationally I know that’s really not the case, but between Lenten sacrifices, the tease of warm weather followed by snow and sleet, children who are ready to be done with every kind of work or responsibility and all the other stuff, I feel done and maybe even overdone.

Hmp!

Today, I’m sitting here drinking my tea (with no sugar because somehow I thought that would be a better Lenten family practice than giving up meat which makes my psoriasis flare) and realizing that somehow I picked Lenten sacrifices this year that all effect the little bits of space I give myself throughout the days. Not real smart.

My pot of tea morning and afternoon is still drinkable but sugar makes it a pleasure that relaxes for a sip or too. Choosing not to read fiction is something I’ve done before and find useful but at the end of the day when my mind is tired non-fiction can be more than I’m equipped to understand and requires attention and effort when I want to rest.

My soul is filled with longing for ease and tranquility, and when I look around I see clutter, quarreling and general discontent. I’m the captain of this ship called “Homelife” and I feel like we are in a fog on a rocky lee shore!

How to save it?

I’m trying lots of things that pull me towards the cure for discontent. As I tell the children “we get to make choices and we can decide what our reaction to circumstances is.”

Those choices aren’t always easy and sometimes (like today) I have to purpose to make the same choice again and again and again and again……..

Play some music

Speak kindly

Give a consequence for quarreling calmly and sweetly every time

Be consistent

Set an example

Give hugs

Stick to the plan

Smile

Say something funny to break the mood

Wrestle with the eight year old (he thinks its better than hugs)

Meal plan so the load of decision making doesn’t break your brain

Insist that jobs be done well

Call kids back to do jobs until they are done well

Have impromptu movie nights or lunch at Costco (lunch for 6 people for $11!)

Keep praying

Read Scripture

Pray some more- even without words

Remember that self-care is important

Be kind to myself and others

Refuse to accept a verdict on a day of “I didn’t get anything done”

Loving these people is DOING something

Try again tomorrow and the next minute and hour

Recognize and remind myself that discontent that leads to striving for godliness is a GOOD thing

Write things on the whiteboards and blackboards to remind us all of how we want to be

Yearn for spring.

It’s coming….

Even better Easter!

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