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.


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


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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In The Midst of Life…

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” In the midst of life, we are in death” says the Prayer Book.

About twice a month, S has a late night activity and I put the children to bed and indulge in watching a show. As you can imagine, I get through series very, very slowly, and I try to pick them carefully so I can savour them between episodes.

The past few months, I’ve been watching Poldark, the story of an eighteenth century gentleman in Cornwall. It is based on a series of novels and like many of the historical series from Masterpiece it does a good job of portraying life at that time in addition to telling a particular story.

A good series must involve a good bit of tragedy and Poldark is no exception. Cousins feud, people are arrested and jailed or hanged for what seem to us petty crimes, the poor are always on the brink of starvation. Diphtheria breaks out in the neighborhood and several people including Ross Poldark’s toddler daughter die. It would seem that life is hard and short and cold in 18th century England.

Yet this show affirms life again and again. People long for and work towards reconciliation. Poldark claims that he does not want another child, given his financial circumstances and the likelihood of some disease or fever killing his child. But listen to what he says when his wife tells him that they are expecting a new baby:




I wonder watching this whether the easiness of twenty-first century life hasn’t made life less precious to our perceptions. If our expectation that life will just sort of flow along hasn’t made us unwilling to do or affirm those things that might cause us to suffer or grieve.

The thing I think we have to do is accept that life is likely to knock us down at some point and prepare for those moments. Not in a fatalistic way, but in building up our hearts to live strongly whether we grieve or laugh.

This of course requires much grace and determination but if we are to live as people of hope then we must purpose to choose hope even in our hopelessness.


Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,?we[a]?have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.?2?Through him we have also?obtained access by faith[b]?into this grace?in which we stand, and?we[c]?rejoice[d]?in hope of the glory of God.?3?Not only that, but we?rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering?produces endurance,?4?and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,?5?and?hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love?has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

?Romans 5:1-5
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Tot School and Kindergarten/First Grade

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Here we are, halfway through the school year and I’m just now writing? posts about what we are doing at the various levels!

I guess it’s been that kind of year- tremendous busyness with lessons at home, co-op, activities, and church responsibilities. I keep thinking I’ll get some writing done when things are quieter, but they don’t get quieter, so I’m just putting time aside to write.

Now that we’ve been here for a few years, I’ve finally gotten a good sense of how to use the spaces, and done some judicious discarding of furniture and so on and I feel like we are able to really have a learning environment that meets each child at their level.

For Daisy and Jack this means a corner in the living room, with alphabet cards and a low table where we can work together. The big world map is there too, and each of them has a set of six cubbies which I keep stocked with Montessori style work trays. Daisy’s are pretty standard toddler trays with an emphasis on hand-eye coordination, practical skills, and number work since she’s fascinated by that right now. She also has some little workbooks, and a tray for cutting and gluing. I print some materials for her as well, mostly things that look enough like what Jack is doing that she feels like she has “schoolwork”.


The workbooks she uses are from an Amish publisher and can be purchased from Rainbow Resource and are very simple, and designed to get her thinking about things like what colors objects should be and how to color in the lines and count. I’ve used them with all the older children and find they are both inexpensive and easy to use or set aside as the mood takes her.

Jack’s work is a little more complex since he is almost 6 and is in what I call his “learn to read year”.? As I’ve done with the other children, I’m using Rod and Staff’s excellent Bible Nurture and Reader Series for reading and phonics and he is coming along fairly well. I expect him to be reading independently by the end of the school year. The program uses a mixture of traditional phonics and sight words to get the children reading interesting stories (all drawn from the Bible) fairly quickly, which eliminates the trouble many new readers have of not being able to read anything that they? would actually LIKE to read!


For math we are finishing up the Reception Year of the Mathematics Enhancement Program (MEP)?and in another seven lessons we will move on to Book 1 of MEP.? He is super excited about moving into Book 1 since I had the pdf files printed and coil bound and his math book matches Bull’s (MEP Year 2).? We have also been doing some traywork with the Montessori Golden Bead materials which has been very helpful in his understanding of how numbers fit together and how to make teens and larger number from groups of tens and ones. I’ve given him two other math related trays this quarter: one with a number puzzle to cut and reassemble for the number families to 100, and one with a set of pattern blocks and cards with activities and pictures to make with them.

We are using a few of the Christian Light Education science units??partly for extra reading practice and partly because he is quite interested in nature (especially insects) and these books make it easy for me to feed his curiosity without having to assemble a bunch of resources on my own.

Handwriting is Handwriting Without Tears which is easy enough for him to do on his own and clear enough? that he can easily see how he should form his letters.

In addition, he does Memory work with the rest of the children- but shorter pieces, and listens and participates in our Catechism and Saints session at the start of the day.


Jack also takes four classes at our weekly co-op: Art, Gym, Science,and Music and Movement. He enjoys these and is clearly learning and can tell me about them.




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The Busy Toddler: Learns Math Skills

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Lately Daisy (AKA The Busy Toddler) has been fascinated by counting. She can say her numbers in order up to ten, but only has a concept of the amounts represented by the numbers up to about six.? Anything above that simply gets assigned a large sounding number (the current favorite is eleven thirty-two for some reason). She can count the fingers on one hand, but then begins again at one in order to count the other hand.

Pretty typical for this age, but I thought I’d add some pre-math learning into her day, in order to capitalize on her interest.



Here are her current works:

Domino matching: This is a great tactile and math exercise at this age. Our dominoes are porcelain so they are heavy and smooth, and make a satisfying click against each other.? They are color coded as well as patterned for the various numbers. At this point Daisy matches the colors to make her pattern, but her natural curiosity about counting will lead her to count the dots and she will begin to learn the number patterns as well.

This activity requires a good bid of concentration. She first has to set up her work space, then work with the dominoes, and then clean things up.

She does this work on her purple blanket which stays folded in a cabinet when not in use. In order to work, she first takes it out, and spreads it flat which takes some time as she is particular about it being flat and does not usually want any assistance.

She then takes the dominoes out of their drawer, opens the tin and dumps them on the mat to arrange and rearrange as long as she finds the work satisfying. Sometimes she will call me to see what she has done, but at other times she goes through the whole process from taking the blanket out; to putting the dominoes away and stuffing the blanket back in its cabinet (she can’t quite fold it yet) without any interaction with someone else. I try to leave her to work and to keep the other children from breaking her focus.

Skills learned: Following a process, matching of colors and eventually patterns, hand-eye coordination in placing the dominoes, attention to detail


Shape sorting: Working with representations of shaped objects (pictures of boxes, blocks, and balls for example) as well as with actual three dimensional shapes helps children to develop spatial relationship skills. Daisy loves to do puzzles and her shape ball and is now working with a tray of shape sorting pictures. Here she divides a pile of smaller images by sorting them according to the basic shape they show.

I made this tray with a printable file and am slowly introducing the concept by giving her just two shapes to sort by. Eventually I will give her the whole set of ten shapes and all the sorting pieces, but that would be overwhelming at this point.

You can find the printable file here at Mama’s Learning Corner

Skills learned:?visual discrimination, hand-eye coordination, sorting and categorizing


Pattern Block Puzzles:

These were a Christmas gift. I had seen them at a friend’s house a year or so ago, and found them on sale on Amazon. She loves them and when she has conquered them I have more advanced ones (currently on Jack’s shelves) for her to continue to learn with. I will probably also do some extension work with them by having her trace the shapes and so on as her writing abilities develop.



You can find them on Amazon:

Skills learned:?visual discrimination, hand-eye coordination, shape recognition



One-to-one Correspondence:?This tray is designed to help Daisy learn to associate the name of a number, a numeral, and an actual amount of something. I took me about five minutes to set up (Sharpie marker and post-its on a tray!) and she uses the counting chips to cover the dots while counting them aloud. I thought this one would be short lived but she comes back to is over and over, so it (or some version of it) will stay in the rotation for a while.

Skills learned:?counting objects, concepts of numbers, numeral recognition, hand-eye coordination

We will stick with these activities for a while, until it becomes clear that she is ready to move on to more complex concepts such as counting about five! I expect too that she will glean a good bit from Jack’s tray work as she loves to watch him work!

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The Busy Toddler: Cutting and Gluing Tray

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Daisy has discovered scissors and glue. ?In some ways this is my worst nightmare. Some of the children took a very long time to learn what they could and couldn’t cut and glue. In fact some of the older ones are still not very clear on this point. Still, it’s developmentally appropriate for Daisy to be learning to use scissors at 2.5 years so it’s up to me to figure out the best way to give her opportunities to learn not only how to use the tools in terms of technique but also the proper etiquette.


This year, we are doing lessons all over the downstairs ( which has made our days so much more peaceful!), and the younger two and I have a designated space for lessons. We have a low table and a set of cubbies for books and work trays. What could fit into this space better than a tray for cutting and gluing?

I had a drawer organizing tray that just wasn’t working in the drawer I had it in, so I cleaned it out and pressed it into service.


One thing I have learned after five toddlers using scissors is that it is much easier for them to cut if what they are cutting is a fairly small sheet. Therefore I stocked Daisy’s cutting tray with 1/3 sized sheets cut from printer paper, strips of cardstock, and circles,squares, and triangles cut from colored paper. There is paper for her to cut, or if she just wants to glue there are some loose parts ready for her.

Of course, the drawer organizer is too wide to fit in the cubbies (aargh!) so it has to sit on top of them. The scissors and glue stay in her school box for now and I put them in her tray when we begin lessons. I expect in a week or two, I’ll be able to leave them in the tray for her to use as she pleases. She is doing quite well with remembering to only cut and glue the things in the tray, and to sit while she has scissors in her hand.

Basic tray:

  • strips of cardstock
  • 1/3 sized sheets of printer paper (cut by folding a stack of paper into thirds and cutting it)
  • purple triangles and squares
  • brown circles
  • safety scissors
  • one glue stick (the kind that goes on purple and dries clear)


  • cut the larger pieces into smaller ones
  • glue colored paper pieces onto larger white pieces
  • cut the glued on papers back into bits
  • pick up and throw away scraps

Extensions: (Things I’ll add as she learns)

  • gluing shapes in particular places
  • cutting on lines and then gluing things
  • making patterns with shapes
  • making pictures with shapes

Daisy finds this tray to be very absorbing right now and will spend as much as 30 minutes cutting, gluing and throwing away scraps! This is a huge help when I am trying to teach something tricky to the other children as her level of attention to her own work means she is quiet and much less distracting! I love to watch her work and really appreciate the concept of trays helping her learn to keep her work space tidy.


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The Busy Toddler: Learns Preschool Skills!

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Now that we have a week of school under our belts, I’m working on figuring out just what preschool skills I want Daisy (AKA The Busy Toddler) to learn!

After this many years of homeschooling with little children underfoot and “helping” I’ve finally learned that I need to have lesson plans for my littlest ones if they aren’t going to derail the older children’s lessons. Of course, when I say “lesson plans” I’m not necessarily talking about academics as much as I am thinking of an order and rhythm to her morning and something pre-planned so that I don’t have to stop the lesson I am teaching to think about what she should do next.

It’s lovely if she learns and since she spends a good bit of the five-year old, Jack’s, lesson time doing this:


I am sure she is going to absorb quite a bit!

I’m mostly talking about her learning to play by herself (hard when you are number five and there is always someone around for entertainment), and do some of the fine motor, pre-math, and pre-reading exercises that will make things easier for her in a year or two.

I also want her to feel included since we spend about half our day on lessons, and that shouldn’t mean that her age appropriate need for attention and interaction gets pushed aside.

Her morning looks something like this:


She sits at the dining room table with the rest of us for prayers and then moves with Jack and I to the child sized table in the living room, where we have lessons. She has her own workbox, which I restock with printables every week or so, and I try to give her the same kind of things in the same order every day.

He does reading and phonics while she does a dot marker page (all I’m concerned with right now is building the hand/eye coordination to accurately “hit the target”) and she joins us in figuring out which pictures start with whatever sound we are working on in his lesson. She doesn’t really know her sounds or even her letters (except for her first initial and those of the rest of the family) but she loves to throw away the pictures that we don’t need! Listening in like this will help her to build an understanding of letters and sounds going together.

If she gets bored she can move to her blanket- which is a prepared environment with books and toys that she enjoys and can play with on her own. Often she has her baby dolls and reads to them or some other small toy (animals, little people etc.) that we rotate every week or so. ?Blanket time usually lasts until we are done with phonics and reading and she joins us again for Science (Christian Light Publications First Grade Science) which I read aloud and ask Jack to answer questions. If there are questions that I think she can answer I will ask her (colors, shapes, what she can see in the room etc.) as this helps her to build observation and listening skills.

Then it’s break time and we get the first of her snacks!

When break is over, I try to do some specific lessons with her- matching of colors, counting, or color a picture while Jack does his handwriting or handwork. The ten minutes or so of my (mostly) full attention means she is willing to move to a less “mom attention” activity after a little bit.

So alternate among these kinds of activities throughout the morning. I may sit on the floor and do puzzles while giving a spelling test (as I did this morning) or she may just go from one activity to the other as her curiosity leads her.

One thing that has really helped with my ability to guide her mornings is learning to prepare a space that leads her into learning, and then step back and let her go from one thing to the next as long as she is using the materials appropriately. ?If I leave her alone (and she is well rested) she will generally work on her stuff with my input being limited to taking things out as she requests them (I don’t have space for access to everything), and reminding her of things like how to hold scissors, or the rules for what she may and may not cut! After about 40 minutes she needs a snack and a drink and then can work and/or play with Jack when he finishes for another 30-40 minutes. Then another snack and drink, some snuggles while I work with someone else and she is usually ready for one more bit of work before she is done and needs lunch and a nap.

I am trying hard this year to keep the Montessori concept of the “three hour work cycle” in my head and to remember that her will cycling through her works does not mean that she is bored with them, but rather that she is responding to her curiosity as it leads her to discover and attempt to relate various skills or bits of knowledge.

Her six top skills to master this year are:

  1. Using an inside voice instead of yelling, and being quiet when someone else is talking
  2. Using scissors
  3. Improving hand-eye coordination
  4. Knowing her colors and sorting things by color
  5. Counting objects to ten
  6. Waiting her turn when she wants what someone else has

Her daily rhythm should gently lead her in those directions.

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The Sweetness of Leisure

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leisure is the reward of virtue

I am attempting to have an “office day” today. I have some work and planning I need to catch up on, the toddler slept badly last night, and spring allergies are kicking my butt! As long as the children can play nicely they can have a holiday from lessons this morning.

Since it’s summer I’ve been trying to implement a few changes to chores and projects around the house. I find it easier to do that when we aren’t doing full on school and school year activities and by fall the routines should be established.

A few months ago Lynna Sutherland over at Homeschooling Without Training Wheels??mentioned a chore app she was using with her family?. I messaged back and forth with her about it and it sounded like a great thing for teaching the kids to be self- motivated about getting their routine work done.

I downloaded it and set it up for the three big kids. They did really like it and were motivated to do their jobs without my having to tell them, but with only one Kindle I found that interacting with the app was tricky (they can’t access the Kindle unless I log them in). Plus I was experimenting to see if I could use it help with some behavior modification (having kids check off as a “job” whether or not they had made a smooth transition from one part of the day to another- a place where we often have difficulties) and that wasn’t working at all.

But the kids really liked it and kept begging to use it.

After thinking about it for some time, I decided that the thing to do was to simplify and only use Chore Monster?for ?daily jobs for each child. ?At the same time I updated our daily job roster since Jack is now five and has regular chores rather than being an assistant to me or an older child or playing during job time.

I decided to give each child a number of daily jobs corresponding to their age:


  1. load dishwasher
  2. unload dishwasher
  3. clear/wipe counters
  4. set out breakfast (I list on the whiteboard what he is to put out)
  5. clear away breakfast and get out the stuff for Morning Time
  6. sweep bathrooms
  7. make bed
  8. tidy room
  9. take out recycling
  10. wash 3 big dishes/6 smaller ones/ or all the silverware (basically the stuff that doesn’t fit in the dishwasher)


  1. clean the living room
  2. clear table from lessons
  3. set out lunch (and often choose what we’re having, I’m planning to work with her on meal planning this summer)
  4. tidy/sweep the shoe closet
  5. set-up and put away the chairs, songbooks and papers from Morning Prayer
  6. make bed
  7. tidy bedroom
  8. wipe the bathroom sinks
  9. clear the supper table (the big three clear their own places plus one other so she just has to get what’s left)


  1. laundry- collect/run/bring up for me to fold
  2. sweep the two sets of stairs in the house
  3. make bed
  4. tidy room
  5. clear/wipe lunch table
  6. pick up outside toys and bikes
  7. tidy the “library” ( a section of the basement where we keep the children’s books)


  1. clean up the shoes/boots/rollerblades etc.
  2. take out the compost
  3. take out the bathroom trash and any other full cans
  4. set the table for supper (an important job for pre-reading skills)
  5. tidy his room after nap time

These jobs are all assigned points in the app and the children can check them off for me to inspect and approve. They receive points for jobs well done and jobs that don’t pass go back into their queue. Points can be used to redeem rewards like staying up until 8 pm etc.

In order to get around the “only one device” problem, I’ve made little lists for each child to use for reference if the app isn’t available.

I try not to say much beyond a casual “Have you done your chores?” hoping that the lesson of doing good work resulting in leisure time will develop naturally.

There is a great deal of learning to be done in this area. The children don’t easily see the connection between doing their lessons and chores well and having time to read, or follow their own pursuits. It’s normal to miss that connection (I miss it frequently myself) but I want them to see it and to pursue the rewards of diligence and application. We are raising adults here and the skills and habits of character I want them to have as adults are being built now. Self-discipline is hard but the fruits are sweet.

Want to learn more about teaching children? Enter the giveaway to win a Family Pass to the 2017 HEAV Convention.



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Some Days Just Are

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These words may have escaped my lips this morning.

Actually one child was already in his room for the third time- banished for an excessive lack of courtesy towards the other students who didn’t really appreciate him waving his hands in their faces and singing loud nonsense songs as he reached for a sharper pencil.

With five children ages 10-2 I expect a certain amount of noise and confusion. New things, changes in routine, or new topics of interest do (and to some extent should) elicit lots of questions, requests for clarification and so on.

But today was a typical day. No deviations from the established routine, and yet every (it seemed) interaction between the children either started or ended with bickering or someone minding someone else’s business!

My attention was divided too- the toddler is getting molars and weaning simultaneously and IS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER. Various attempts to distract her with snacks and a new sensory bin had failed miserably (although the five year old was happy to ditch his lessons in favor of the sensory bin!) and she just wanted to sit on my lap and howl; “Papa is at his office with purple chairs! I want to go with him!”

The final huffy exchange between the biggest kids over whether one of them had touched the other one’s work was the last straw! It was either send everyone to solitary confinement or really lose my cool (which had been slipping all morning).

OK. Everyone gets some cool down time. I comfort (but do not nurse ) the toddler. Call the big three down one at a time for a discussion of how each individually is contributing to the chaos and strife today and what they each need to change.

Clean up the school stuff. Move on to housecleaning rotations?paying particular attention to children working at their own tasks without commenting or otherwise minding someone else’s job. Step in quickly to stop the bossiness before it gets off the ground (I think I’m retraining a bad habit right now, so I’m redirecting but not giving consequences for the next couple of days, until they learn to recognize what they are doing.)

Lunch with a strict injunction against speaking during lunch since children who quarrel with each other about everything need to learn to ignore or accept their siblings table manners without yelling at them or correcting them- this is what we call a “Trappist Monk Lunch”.

Put the toddler to bed, lie down for twenty minutes myself after I eat my own lunch and catch up on Instagram.

In a few minutes we’ll get up from naps and see if everyone is ready to work together to get us out the door to the library for chess and new books…..

Some days are just this way. Too many sinners in a house all busy sinning as hard as we can. We hurt each other. We quarrel, we say rude things, we yell, and we pout. But grace leans in and brings us the chance to make amends. The chance to really forgive, to really overlook that super annoying sibling, to bless instead of curse.

To, slowly, so very slowly, climb the mountain to holiness.

These days encourage me. Not because of the progress we’ve made but because of the grace we receive.


Don’t forget to go here and enter the contest for a Family Pass to the HEAV Convention in just a few short weeks!



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The British Are Coming! (Win a Pass to the HEAV Convention!)

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We took a trip to Boston, this past week. ?Since we’re on our summer schedule (two hours of schoolwork, two hours of household work and projects, and free time and expeditions for the rest of the day), I’m trying to do some of the field trips for next year’s History studies. ?We don’t really like to go anywhere when the weather is crummy in the winter, so summer is the time to gather experiences.

Anyway, taking five children to the big city is a bit daunting, so S took a day off of work to come with us since he had been to Boston and seen many of the sites.

The big three have read about Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty so they were all excited to see some of the place where their books had taken place.

This is pretty typical of an expedition that includes Bull! Everyone else stands around in a boring manner and he brings the excitement!

This is pretty typical of an expedition that includes Bull! Everyone else stands around in a boring manner and he brings the excitement!

Jack and Daisy were thrilled to be going to the Public Gardens to see the Mallards and the Swan Boats. Since this was the week between their birthdays, we took a ride on the Swan Boat.

Asking the driver how she steers and propels the boat.

Asking the driver how she steers and propels the boat.



There were plenty of mallards, a pair of swans, and a nesting Canada Goose on the pond.

There were plenty of mallards, a pair of swans, and a nesting Canada Goose on the pond.


We spent about five hours tramping around the city, although we did take the metro at one point in order to save Jack’s legs which were getting tired. His siblings were pretty willing to carry him for a bit too.


This trip was not only a chance to see Boston but also a bit of a dry run for the field trips I’m planning when we travel to Virginia for the HEAV Homeschool Convention in just a few weeks. Since we’ll be in an area where so much Revolutionary and Civil War history is preserved I’m planning several days of visits to historical sites.

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


Here’s how to enter:

1. Comment on this post with an idea for a field trip near Richmond or Williamsburg.
2. Like the Facebook page for Sticks, Stones, and Chicken Bones and comment there with a field trip idea.
3. Join the Facebook Group for Sticks, Stones, and Chicken Bones and leave a field trip idea in the group

I’ll keep track of the likes etc. and Daisy will pull a name out of a hat on May 25th! Good luck!

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Co-ops: An Important Piece of Your Homeschool Puzzle! Interview with Pat Wesolowski

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Pat Wesolowski is an author, speaker, and homeschooling mother of nine who is now the homeschool specialist at Bryan College in Dayton, TN. Pat is the host of a podcast entitled ?Homeschooling Co-op Style.? She has homeschooled her nine children for the past 30+ years (with one left to graduate from high school). Pat has a heart for helping parents prepare their teens for life after high school and, for that reason, loves teaching workshops in order to encourage and equip homeschooling parents and students for a fun and successful homeschool experience. ?(from the HEAV Convention Speakers Page)

She is an expert on co-ops and is going to be speaking about them at convention. We “spoke” via email.








Sticks, Stones, and Chicken Bones (SSCB): Why did you decide to get involved in co-ops? ?

Right after I decided to homeschool a friend invited our family to join a co-op on native Americans. ?This was a unit-study style co-op and one that included children of various ages, studying together, and the moms all stayed to take part in the co-op. ?We loved, loved, loved it for many reasons. ?For one thing, the children were assigned to give a presentation each week. ?They learned how to speak well in front of a safe and friendly audience, enabling them to never develop a fear of public speaking! ?The moms shared the workload and we enjoyed socializing just as much as our children did. ?After that wonderful experience we were sold on homeschooling co-op style and I ended up organizing many, many co-ops over the next 30 + years of homeschooling.

SSCB: What benefits did you see for your children?

?So many benefits. ?As mentioned above, they grew up giving public presentations so they did not develop a fear of speaking in public. ?They enjoyed getting together with friends and they were motivated to do their work well. ?Learning alongside children of various ages was also very beneficial. ?The older children came alongside and helped the younger children. ?Once the older children were old enough to teach and lead, they did!

SSCB: What benefits did you find for yourself? ?

Sharing the workload was huge! ?Being a part of my children?s presentations and watching them learn was always such a blessing. ?Planning for co-op, because my children loved the experience, made my job easier! ?They were motivated to get their work done and to do it well. ?The students usually ?raised the bar? which relieved the parents of having to nag our students to do their work well. ?

SSCB: I think people are often nervous or afraid that participating in a co-op will make them look like bad parents or educators because of the ways their children behave or because they are ?behind? in some area: how can co-op organizers and leaders address those fears? ?

I could respond to this and write pages and pages. ?One of the huge concerns I see among homeschooling moms is the fear of getting behind. ?I would love to snap my fingers and dispel that fear. ?In our home we were determined to help our children love learning and then equip them with the skills necessary to be independent learners. ?That way, should we leave anything out that they needed, they could find it themselves. ?We taught them to memorize this answer when they were asked for information they did not know, ?I haven?t needed that information up until now. ?I know how to find the answer. ?Would you like me to look that up and get back with you?? ?Besides, if your child was ?behind? in one area or another, it does not take long to be intentional about pursuing a solution to that situation so they can ?catch up? if that is a concern.

SSCB: Sometimes another parent or a teacher will observe an area of concern with a student. Do you have suggestions on how this should be handled? ?

??I would suggest the parent making the observation pray about the situation and then come to the student?s parent privately to express those concerns. ?After that, unless the student?s behavior is disruptive to the co-op, I would leave it there. ?If behavior is disruptive to the co-op, then the parents should meet together to discuss a solution.

SSCB:?One of the ?problems? at our organizing meetings (parent taught, co-operative, academic style co-op) is all of the good ideas that we inspire in each other. We could easily have fifty classes a year if we implemented all of them! What are some ways to keep a co-op on vision when the ideas start to fly? ?

We limit our ideas to a unit of study per co-op and then let the creative ideas fly when planning the classes. ?The unit is chosen by the one organizing or by a consensus of the families involved. ?We have done co-ops on a myriad of studies including the following: ?American Girl, Magic School Bus, The Civil War, Top Ten Wars, Geography, The Scopes Trial, A Search for Truth, Inventions and Inventors, Missions, Vocations and Callings, The Medieval Period, Persuasive Speech, Famous People, Top Ten Lists, Cross Cultural Cruise, Worldviews, and more!

SSCB: Often homeschooling organizations are wonderful in the first generation, but fail or peter out once the original founders grow weary or move on. How can leaders help new members find their place in building the group/co-op? ?

Have them come and observe or take part in a co-op. ?It?s easy to fall in love with homeschooling co-op style once you give it a try. ?We have a guide for starting a successful co-op. ?It used to be called ?Co-oping for Cowards? because we found so many moms were afraid to give co-oping a try. ?Now it?s called ?Better Together.? ?There are so many different types of co-ops and hybrid opportunities available these days that a parent can usually visit, observe, and decide which situation best fits their family?s needs. ?I hosted a podcast for a year and the talks have been archived and are free to listen to on-line. ?They are found at this link: ?http://ultimateradioshow.com/show-hosts/homeschooling-co-op-style/ ?I also have a Facebook page for homeschooling co-op style: ?https://www.facebook.com/dpkproductions/


My own question ?. So, if you homeschool co-op style, using unit studies, how do you put together a transcript for high school students? ?My children were always surprised to see the subjects I included on their transcripts because we did not segregate and separate most subjects (math being an exception). ?However, because we did study unit study style, these classes were almost always included in our co-op studies: ?English, research, public speaking, writing, history, geography, science, debate, Bible, character, logic, character, and current events. ?Many co-ops included different subjects, also integrated into the unit study (leadership, conflict resolution, etc.) ?I have put together a free resource for parents of high school students in order to help parents prepare their students for life after high school. ?It can be downloaded at this link: ?www.bryan.edu/ebook ???When doing research for this publication I discovered that parents are free to design their student?s high school years according to what best prepares them for their future plans (whether college, career, vocation, etc.). ?There are no set ?laws? regarding what subjects we are to teach. ?This frees a parent to help plan their student?s high school years in a way that best prepares for his/her future!
I love to teach workshops on co-oping (and more) and would be glad to send a bio and list of workshops to those interested in getting together. ?I will be at several homeschool conventions this year. ?Email me for a list if interested. ?Thanks so much! ??pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu

SSCB: As a co-op organizer myself, I am really looking forward to your workshop at the convention- provided the toddler cooperates! Thank you so much for “speaking” with me.

To learn more about the Home Educators Association of Virginia and the Annual Convention please visit ?heav.org/convention



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